The Italian navy and relatives of the 32 people who lost their lives released a wreath on January 13 on the second anniversary of the Costa Concordia disaster. On Giglio island, the accident was commemorated with a mass in the church that housed survivors on the night of the tragedy. Judges and survivors stood in silence at the theatre turned courtroom where Captain Francesco Schettino is accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the vessel before all passengers had been evacuated. The trial has been postponed due to a strike by lawyers in Italy and has been rescheduled for January 27. A stone plaque bearing the names of those who lost their lives has been posted on the Island (above right).
Where the Costa Concorida will be scrapped has yet to be announced but for obvious reasons, given the precarious state of the vessel, her insurers are hoping that it will be somewhere in the Mediterranean. An announcement on the winning tender is expected in March and the vessel is being prepared for moving in June. It was revealed last week that after an extensive tender process, a total of 12 yards spread over Italy, the UK, France, Norway, Turkey, the Netherlands, and China are competing for the contract to dismantle and recycle the vessel. That’s quite a chunk of steel to cut up.
As if white-washing the Brits in the just completed Ashes Series (cricket) were not enough, the latest secret weapon employed by the Aussies is to bake the opposition at the Melbourne tennis open. South-East Australia has been hit with extreme hot weather with temperatures comfortably above 40C this week causing play in Melbourne to be suspended as players and spectators wilted under the sun.
It appears that in the dispute between The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) and its expansion contractor GUPC, both sides have taken a step back from allowing the dispute to disrupt the construction schedule. ACP has also this week published a list of FAQ http://micanaldepanama.com/expansion/faq/ and has assured the International Chamber of Shipping that the dispute will not impact the transit toll proposals already published.
ACP has released a construction update on Youtube, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRZ-S-RJH6Q#t=424
One of the world’s largest LNG carriers, a 266,000 CBM Qatari owned Q-Max is to be converted to a capability to run on LNG. The country owns 14 modern Q-Max vessels and 11 smaller Q-Flex vessels with 216,000 cu m capacity hence if technically proven worthwhile this could be the precursor to a major program of hybrid dual fuel retrofits. Already extremely efficient, the fleet was installed with re-liquefaction units to return boil-off vapour to the cargo tank to maximize cargo volumes delivered.
Maersk has announced the revival of the SeaLand name for regional intra-Americas container services. North-south ocean services in the Western Hemisphere will be integrated into the new platform effective January 1 2015.
The crew of the Royal Navy ship HMS Protector also celebrated an unusual Christmas in Antarctica whilst conducting the ship’s annual survey patrol on behalf of the UK Hydrographic Office and to provide logistical support to the British Antarctic Survey Organization. The crew marked the day by playing soccer and then enjoying a traditional dinner on the ice complete with trimmings (anything for a photo-op). The British Antarctic Territory is the UK's largest overseas territory.
On a related note, Nordic Bulk Carriers has been speaking of their intention to schedule more transits of the Northwest Passage following the successful voyage last September of their ice strengthened Nordic Orion when carrying coal from Vancouver to Finland.
After becoming trapped by Antarctic pack-ice on Christmas Eve, the Russian expedition ice-breaker Akademik Shokalskiy’s 52 scientists and tourists were eventually lifted off by a helicopter dispatched by the Chinese ice-breaker/research vessel Xue Long (Snow Dragon) and transferred by launch to the Australian ice-breaker Aurora Australis on January 2. Thereafter both the Akademik Shokalskiy and Xue Long remained trapped by heavy pack ice crew until a change in wind direction on January 7 provided an opening for escape prior to the planned arrival on the scene of the American icebreaker Polar Star. The vessel responsible for this truly international effort, the Akademik Shokalskiy had been chartered by the Australasian Antarctic Expedition to follow the route explorer Sir Douglas Mawson travelled a century ago. Scientific advances made during that expedition included work in cartography, geology, meteorology, aurora, geomagnetism, biology and marine science.
The Danish ro-ro vessel Ark Futura sailed this week from the Syrian port of Latakia with the first batch of that country’s chemical weapons under a UN-backed disarmament arrangement. The vessel loaded an initial shipment of nine containers which are to be transferred to the U.S. Navy’s Cape Ray for destruction. The overall plan is as follows:
1. The Syrian authorities are responsible for packing and safely transporting the chemical weapons from 12 sites across the country to the port of Latakia. Russia has supplied large capacity armoured trucks, while the U.S. has sent container drums and GPS locators.
2. Russia will provide security for loading operations at Latakia, for which the U.S. has supplied loading, transportation and decontamination equipment. China has sent 10 ambulances and surveillance cameras, and Finland an emergency response team in case of accidents.
3. Denmark and Norway are providing cargo ships and military escorts to take the chemicals to an as yet unnamed port in Italy. Russian and China will also provide naval escorts.
4. In Italy, the "most critical" chemical agents will be loaded onto the US Maritime Administration support ship Cape Ray to be destroyed by hydrolysis in international waters. Less-toxic chemicals will be shipped by Norwegian and Danish vessels for disposal at commercial facilities.
Japan’s Fair Trade Commission has handed down rulings to several major car carrier owners for allegedly violating anti-trust law. The action comes more than a year after investigations into possible price-fixing first began. K-Line, NYK and Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics are all believed to be initially affected but others may follow. Similar investigations are continuing in Europe and North America.
The loaded chemical tanker Maritime Maisie suffered a catastrophic fire last week after colliding with the car carrier Gravity Highway which was on sea trials off the coast of Busan, South Korea. Fortunately, all 91 personnel, 27 from the tanker and 64 from the car carrier, were rescued by coast guard and navy crews with no major injuries.
Also between Christmas and New Year, the fully loaded Qatari chartered and part-owned Q-Flex LNG carrier Al Gharrafa was in collision with the container ship Hanjin Italy (capacity 10,114 TEU) in the Singapore Strait. There were no crew injuries on either vessel, no damage to the LNG cargo containment system and no pollution, however as can be seen from the pictures, the bow of the Al Gharrafa is in need of a little repair work and the Hanjin Italy will need to take a time out for a few weeks to get straightened out. Arrangements are being made to discharge her containers in the Singapore area.
The Investigation into the incident that resulted in the flooding of the engine room on the mega container ship Emma Maersk (15,500 EU) last February has concluded that a series of technical failures compromised the watertight integrity of the vessel as she was about to begin a southbound Suez Canal transit. Three propeller blades of a stern thruster broke off and the consequent excessive vibration resulted in the breakdown of structural watertight barriers, due in part to cable penetration seals which had been incorrectly installed. The situation was further compounded by problems with the emergency bilge suction and the fact that the crew found themselves responding simultaneously to multiple emergency alarms.
However, the report goes on to state “that the events of the accident did not result in more severe consequences were due to the behaviour of the crew who managed to adapt to the situation and prioritise the recovery effort to meet the unfolding events. Due to the adaptive behaviour of the crewmembers, the shipboard organisation remained resilient despite the breakdown of the structural barriers, and even though no one had complete knowledge about the situation. The master had knowledge about the navigational situation, but limited knowledge about the events in the engine room. The chief engineer only had knowledge about the situation in the engine room”.
Whilst the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) maintains that it is committed to completing the waterway’s expansion in 2015, it is clear that all is not well with the finances surrounding the project. The lock construction consortium Grupo Unidos del Canal (GUPC) had threatened last week to suspend work on construction of the third set of locks claiming $1.6bn in cost overruns which are the responsibility of ACP. This spat has actually been escalating since ACP rejected the contractors’ original concrete mix for the locks, which set back the target completion date from October 2014 to June 2015. The locks are estimated to be around 65% constructed, with the overall expansion about 72% complete.
Following a Spanish government attempt to mediate in the dispute, ACP was more conciliatory this week and proposed that it and GUPC jointly contribute $283 million to the project which would allow GUPC to continue construction on the locks while claims for cost overruns are resolved under the three-step process established under the original contract between the two sides. However, Mr. Salini Impregilo, Chief Executive of GUPC partner company Pietro Salini did not mince his words in reminding ACP that the consortium is “not a charity”. He also suggested that ACP “stop telling fairy tales”.
To the north, and perhaps to nobody’s surprise, Nicaragua has announced that the start of construction of a $40 billion rival canal has been postponed to 2015. The government last year approved a plan that would see Chinese based financing of the project. Work was originally intended to start this year and take less than six years to complete the 286km new coast to coast waterway.
Shanghai handled a record 33.6 million TEU in 2013, an increase of 3.4% over 2012. For its part, Singapore also set a new record at 32.6 million TEU, up 2.9% on 2012 and a record tonnage of 557.5 million tons of cargo overall. Despite the cancellation of a few supplier licenses, Singapore also maintained status as the world’s largest bunkering port with 42.5 million tons sold.
The US Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) this week hosted a so called “global summit” to discuss the proposed P3 Network comprising Maersk, MSC & CMA CGM. Regulators from the US, the European Commission and China were reported to have had “open and candid discussions” on their differing regulatory frameworks and the potential effects of carrier co-operation on international trade. It appears that no significant conclusions were reached. The proposed Alliance would initially entail the pooling of 252 ships representing 2.6m TEU of capacity to be deployed in the Asia-Europe, Transpacific and Transatlantic trade lanes. Meanwhile, the G6 Alliance agreement update was submitted to the FMC on December 2 and will become active on January 16, unless the FMC submits questions within the timeline.
The Baltic Exchange has announced changes to its Capesize Index that aim to reflect both the larger Capesize ships now in use and sustained, intensified growth in trade between South Africa, Brazil, China and the rest of Asia. The Baltic says its new set of specifications describe a ship that “would produce the most reliable benchmark over the coming years”. The Baltic Capesize 2014 will be:
The Baltic has also introduced three new routes; C14 from China-Brazil-China, C15 from Richards Bay to Qingdao in China and C16 rom north Asia to Europe. Trial reporting on the new routes and vessel description will begin in late January/early February, with a lifting of the trial anticipated by the end of March 2014.
The November 24 agreement between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany on Iran’s nuclear program has clearly not dampened the U.S. appetite to go after Iranian sanctions busters. The concession granted to Iran eases sanctions on insurance and transportation services to those countries already granted Iranian import waivers but does not extend to oil sales to other countries. This week, Singapore-based Singa Tankers and Siqiriya Maritime Corp, based in the Philippines were in the U.S. State department’s line of fire “for providing material support to the National Iranian Tanker Corp.” which is alleged to include disguised bank transfers. Also this week, an alleged UK intelligence agent was arrested in Iran after allegedly passing on details of the country's covert tanker operations.
In return for curtailing its nuclear activities, Iran is benefiting from approximately $7 billion in sanctions relief over the next six months which includes lifting oil exports to around one million barrels/day. At the time of the agreement, Iran was estimated to have the equivalent of 18 VLCC’s of oil in offshore storage and this has already started to move but it will obviously take time to fully reactivate the NITC fleet, which represents 6% of global VLCC capacity and 2% of Suezmax capacity.
Following a campaign last several months including several formal representations and an International Chamber of Shipping letter to the Chinese Government, the application of Value Added Tax (VAT) to international maritime services has been cancelled. KPMG, the Hong Kong Shipowners’ Association and the Asian Shipowners’ Forum all worked effectively to resolve this issue.