In a surprise move, the Seattle and Tacoma port commissions have this week announced plans to unify management of the two ports under a single “Seaport Alliance” in an effort to compete more effectively with their neighbours. The Alliance will manage marine cargo terminal investments and operations, planning and marketing, while the individual port commissions will retain their existing governance structures and ownership of assets. Following due diligence period, the two commissions intend to submit a more detailed agreement to the FMC by the end of March 2015. During the due diligence period, John Wolfe, Port of Tacoma CEO, and Kurt Beckett, Port of Seattle Deputy CEO, will continue to lead their respective ports with Mr. Wolfe expected to emerge as the unified CEO.
The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) held hearings last week in Baltimore with a view to gaining a better understanding of the reasons for the acute container handling congestion impacting some U.S. ports. The FMC heard a number of explanations including the domino effect of shippers unwilling to pay higher rates, ocean carriers seeking to reduce costs by building larger and more fuel-efficient ships, in turn demanding lower handling rates from terminals. The terminals themselves are then struggling to finance the capital needed for investments needed to efficiently handle the bigger ships while everyone is piling pressure on the truckers. Also highlighted was the problem of holds placed on containers for inspections by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at a time when budget restrictions have stretched CBP’s staff too thin to keep up with increased volume. Trucking companies also warned that truck drivers are leaving the business because of increasing difficulty earning a living. Does any of this sound familiar?
A battle royale is taking shape ahead of next week’s 67th meeting of the IMO’s Marine Environmental Committee (MEPC) in London The International Chamber of Shipping estimates that ship owners are being pressed to invest around $US100 billion in new ballast water treatment systems once the Ballast Water Management Convention enters into force, probably sometime in 2016, but with no assurance that the new type approved systems will be viewed as fully compliant by all national governments. Also in question is the criteria to be used for sampling ballast water during Port State Control inspections, and the need for “grandfathering” of type-approved equipment already or about to be fitted.
Canada has submitted an attempted compromise proposal including the concept of “minor exceedance” of the Convention’s discharge standards but this is not considered likely to go very far. The ICS submission to MEPC 67 can be found here.
The Captain of the South Korean ferry Sewol that capsized and sank in April with the loss of 304 lives had his day in court this week. Captain Lee Joon-seok, 68, said he was in a very confused state of mind during the incident and apologized for his failure to rescue his passengers in the country’s worst maritime disaster for many decades. Captain Lee was among 15 crew members accused of abandoning the heavily listing ferry after telling the passengers to stay put in their cabins. Four, including the captain face homicide charges while a separate trial is under way for officials of the company that operated the vessel. The billionaire businessman owner of the company, went missing shortly after the disaster and was later found dead.
A Vietnamese oil tanker MT Sunrise was hijacked by around a dozen pirates less than one hour after leaving Singapore late last week destined for Vietnam. She was carrying 5,226 metric tons of oil products, about 30% of which she was relieved. This latest incident has added to S.E. Asia’s already alarming 2014 hijacking statistics.
Piracy in home waters aside, Singapore is set on further building on that country’s hugely successful construction of a maritime cluster by turning its attention to development of marine insurance and ship finance capacity. The notion of a Singapore war risk mutual is taking hold and plans are underway to establish the country as the premier ship finance centre in Asia. Kudos to Singapore for leading the way.
After a time out of four months, the next phase of the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has begun in the southern Indian Ocean. A ship equipped with specialized sonar technology, the GO Phoenix, has arrived in a remote stretch of ocean where the plane is believed to have ended its flight. Using satellite data, experts have concluded that the airliner ended its journey in the Indian Ocean, north-west of Perth. Contracted by Malaysia, the GO Phoenix, began its work this week 1,100 miles off western Australia where it will tow underwater sensors over the sea floor scanning for traces of jet fuel and using sonar and video to try to locate the plane. The GO Phoenix will be joined later this month by two additional specialized ships. The head of Australia's transport safety agency, which is leading the underwater search, said he was "cautiously optimistic that the next phase, jointly funded by Malaysia and Australia, would eventually locate the plane”.
Now that the numbers are in, congratulations to all who participated in the September 2014 Cycling for Seafarers which raised approximately $49,000 and/or the fundraiser banquet at RVYC which raised a further $20,000. In addition, at the latter event, Methanex/Waterfront Shipping handed Senior Port Chaplain Nick Parker a cheque for $5,000 on behalf of the company and a tremendously supportive staff. The generosity and support of everyone concerned will go a long way to keeping the Mission on track for another successful year in meeting the needs of the thousands of seafarers who visit the port of Vancouver every year. Photos from the banquet taken by photographer, Dave Roels, are available at BC Shipping News.
TSI Terminal Systems Inc has now formally re-branded to GCT Canada Limited Partnership. This change provides the Canadian operation with a consistent identity to that of the company’s operations in the United States. GCT Canada operates both the Deltaport and Vanterm container terminals. In the US the company operates the Bayonne, New Jersey and Staten Island, New York terminals. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Ontario Teachers pension Plan.
Another US lumber company is now in Canadian hands following the purchase of Southern Lumber Co. Inc. by Canfor for a reported for $48.7 million. Canfor announced the acquisition on September 30 and all is expected to be concluded by the end of Q1 2015. Southern Lumber is based in Hermanville, Mississippi and processes high quality southern yellow pine. This acquisition follows the trend set by West Fraser and Interfor in recent years following several years of acrimonious softwood lumber disputes which restricted Canadian access to U.S. markets during periods of weak market demand. Founded in 1983, Southern Lumber Company is a family run business and is considered to be one of the most efficient lumber operations in the U.S. Southeast and had long been one of the few independent lumber manufacturers in the state.
The joint shipping pool operation announced by Saga Forest Carriers Intl AS (Saga) and Westfal-Larsen Shipping AS (Westfal-Larsen) on July 4th, 2014, started its operation October 1st, 2014. The pool will operate 50 open hatch gantry vessles and two conventional vessels with two newbuilds scheduled for delivery in 2017.
South Korea’s Pan Ocean Co Ltd has been put up for auction with those bright people who know a lot about these things putting a value of around $600 million on the company. The company was formerly known as STX Pan Ocean when part of the STX Group declared insolvency in 2013. Pan Ocean reported operating profit of 115.3 billion won during the first half of this year, from a 93.8 billion won loss in the same period of 2013. Binding bids must be placed by Dec 11. Cheque books at the ready?
The lost Franklin expedition ship found in the Arctic last month has been positively identified as HMS Erebus from which Sir John Franklin commanded the ill-fated 1845 expedition to find the Northwest Passage. The Prime Minister made the announcement personally this week in the House of Commons. HMS Erebus and HMS Terror disappeared after they became locked in ice in 1846.
On October 16th, the Vancouver Maritime Museum will host Marc-Andre Bernier, chief of the underwater archaeology team for Parks Canada tha found the Franklin Expedition, for a special presentation on Arctic Shipwrecks and the Franklin Expedition. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Vancouver Maritime Museum website.
Zim Line has assured customers that it is committed to the Port of Oakland despite the fact that two hostile protests over the last two months have forced the company’s vessels to cancel port calls. A pro-Palestinian group Block the Boat for Gaza is protesting against the actions and policies of Israel towards Gaza and says its next protest will take place on October 25.
Federal, provincial and territorial Ministers of Transportation and Highway Safety approved actions to change regulations for commercial heavy trucks that will support the trucking industry and economic competitiveness. The Ministers also endorsed updates to the National Safety Code (NSC), which sets out inspection criteria for trucks, trailers and buses, to be implemented by each government. These measures will support the safe and efficient movement of goods by improving fuel efficiency; reducing GHG emissions and providing greater flexibility for shippers travelling across provincial and territorial boundaries.
The long awaited Class NK investigation report into the loss of MOL Comfort last year, much of which is highly technical, has declared that the vessel split and sank in a “very rare casualty due to rough weather conditions and problematic vessel operation and management”. The investigation further comments that the casualty could be a ship-specific matter relating to excessive lateral loads such as bottom sea pressure and container weights possibly aggravated by significant differences between MOL Comfort and other vessels in terms of ultimate hull-girder strength against the wave-induced vertical bending moment specified in class rules.
Under Japan’s Product Liability Law, vessel owner Mitsui OSK Lines, together with cargo and insurance interests, is seeking around $131.6m from builder Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for alleged negligence and defects in the vessel. For its part, Mitsubishi, the shipbuilder, has rejected any responsibility for the incident saying that MOL Comfort’s design and construction complied fully with class rules and the ship “was provided with the fundamental level of safety”.
A group of around 500 Nicaraguan farmers has clashed with police during a protest against the proposed Nicaragua Canal which would involve confiscation of their land. A spokesperson voiced “we do not want the canal to be built and nobody should come in here and take over our land”. If built, the project will compete with the Panama Canal by linking the Caribbean with the Pacific. A contract has been awarded to the Chinese company, HK Nicaragua Development (HKND). Nicaragua itself is rated the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere behind Haiti and No. 114 in the World Economic Forum’s ranking of 144 countries for infrastructure.