Two US security officers attached to the infamous container ship Maersk Alabama were found dead in Port Victoria, Seychelles, this week. The two were discovered in a cabin. Maersk Alabama gained notoriety when she was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009 resulting in a five-day standoff with the U.S. Navy. A post-mortem examination has been scheduled to determine cause of death and the US Coast Guard has reportedly opened an investigation.
A Saudi national being held at Guantanamo Bay since 2002 pleaded guilty this week to involvement in the suicide bombing of the French flagged VLCC Limburg in 2002 off the coast of Yemen in which one crewmember was killed and 12 injured. Although not directly involved in the actual bombing, the accused was convicted of helping to plan the bombing, including buying the boats involved even though at the time of the attack he was already in US custody.
Given the state of the market, the large number of containerships being offered for demolition is starting to put pressure on the scrap market. Around20 Panamax containerships are believed to be on the chopping block already with many more available at the right price as owners focus on modern and more fuel efficient tonnage. As can be seen from the graphs, rates other than in China are at the healthy $450-500 per light deadweight ton (ldt) level, however should it be sustained the tsunami of scrapping that is currently underway is sure to put downward pressure on rates.
Ever desperate to milk the cow that feeds it, and most of the population for that matter, the Suez Canal Authority has announced new tolls for tankers with increases of up to 2.6% effective May 1. Last year, fees for tankers rose between 2.5% and 5%. On a more positive note and following completion of a dredging program the Canal has decided to allow containerships of up to 13,000 TEU to join the second southbound convoy of the day, a move which could reduce eastbound transit times by half a day. Qualifying vessels will have a maximum LOA of up to 370m, beam 50m and a draft of 14.6 meters, larger vessels have to pay a surcharge. The similarity with maximum dimensions for container ships transiting the Panama Canal once the lock expansion program is complete are unmistakable.
A newly formed IMO subcommittee focusing on the human element at sea has been in session this week. On the agenda was the Polar Code, reviewing maritime distress systems and developing what will eventually become the gas-as-fuel code for vessels running off low-flashpoint fuels such as natural gas and methanol. The Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping subcommittee was formed in 2013 in response to significant disagreements on such issues as standards of vessels and qualifications of crew operating vessels in polar regions including the ability to understand the risks of operating in or near ice if they have no prior experience. IMO Secretary General Mr. Koji Sekimizu wants the mandatory polar code to be completed this year and to come into force in 2016.
Chicago is reportedly considering drastic measures to prevent the Asian Carp infiltrating the Great Lakes. One option under consideration is to completely block the city's canal system at an estimated cost of $18 billion to stop Asian carp entering Lake Michigan. The species was originally introduced to southern US states more than three decades ago to control algal build-up in sewage treatment plants but they escaped into the Mississippi River and populations rapidly expanded before making their way north. At more than one metre in length, they have largely displaced indigenous fish species along the way.
The Marine Exchange of Puget Sound is hosting Shipping 101 – “Global Commerce, International Transportation and Trade” in Seattle on March 3 thru 7, 2014.
This course was hosted about a year by the Marine Exchange in Seattle for the first time in this region. The course information is all posted on the Marine Exchange website – www.marexps.com, more specifically at http://www.marexps.com/about/shipping_101.
The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is demanding that the Spanish-Italian-Belgian-Panamanian consortium Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC) which suspended construction two weeks ago in a contract dispute over $1.6 billion of cost over-runs resume work on the third set of locks. In response, the consortium has issued a statement claiming that “GUPC has been making proposals and responding to proposals on an almost continual daily basis. GUPC has continued to make efforts on the a proposal sent to ACP to reach agreement and allow completion of the expansion project in the shortest time possible.” For its part, ACP has frequently referenced a Plan B but in reality the appointment of a replacement consortium at short notice would be a tall order. There are actually three levels of independent arbitration set out in the original $3.1bn contract signed in 2009 between ACP and GUPC but the current dispute has yet to pass the second stage. In a press conference on Thursday morning ACP claimed that it has reached a partial agreement with GUPC to end the dispute (whatever that means) even as it continues to seek alternatives to complete construction.
A bipartisan Bill from Congress The Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014 seeks to reform the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) and require the Maritime Administration to create a National Maritime Strategy. The Bill would reauthorize the FMC at current funding levels ($22.8 million) but prevent FMC commissioners from serving more than one year after their five-year term expires, limit their tenure to two terms and defines conflicts of interest. The push back from Congress is a reflection of the perceived unnecessary intrusion of the FMC on a number of files whilst simultaneously over-seeing continued shrinkage of the U.S. merchant fleet.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense is promoting a plan to develop a “Center of Arctic shipbuilding” in Murmansk either through the development of a new shipyard or re-investment into existing yards. These yards have long supported Russia’s Northern Fleet which is in expansion mode but needs re-investment to support offshore oil and gas development of the Russian arctic and the rapid expansion of trade through the Northern Sea Route during summer months.
The Italian government has blasted an Indian decision to try two Italian marines accused of killing two fisherman under the country’s anti-piracy and anti-terrorism act. The decision can only serve to further strain relations between the two countries and appears to be in response to street protests calling for harsh penalties for the marines. The anti-piracy and anti-terrorism act provides for capital punishment but it has been made clear by India that death sentences would be excluded as a possible penalty. Italy’s justice minister responded by saying “the government will fight the use of the law in all ways possible and our commitment to bring home Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone is stronger than ever.” The two men are on bail living in the Italian embassy in New Dehli but cannot leave India. NATO this week warned India that using anti-terrorism legislation to try the marines would undermine international efforts to combat piracy.
Mitsui OSK Line (MOL) has initiated legal action against Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) the builder of the 8,100teu MOL Comfort, which broke in half and sank in the Indian Ocean in July last year. The company is also seeking compensation from MHI for the cost of strengthening the hulls of six sister ships, after inspections by ClassNK found “buckling-type deformations” on their bottom shell plates. Should the claim succeed there is the likelihood of thousands of consequential claims related to responsibility for the loss of 4,382 containers.
In yet another case of unreturned phone calls to an owner seeking a port of refuge, Singapore’s Aurora Tankers the owners of the chemical tanker Maritime Maisie, which was in a collision in late December are still seeking a solution. The vessel burned for 19 days before salvors were successful in extinguishing the fire but efforts to bring the vessel to Japan or South Korea for safe harbour and transfer her remaining hazardous cargo have no so far been successful after salvors concluded that it would be too dangerous to do so at sea. The effectiveness of IMO Resolution A 949 (23) on port of refuge which was accepted 10 years ago is once again being seriously questioned.
Acting on a tip-off, the Colombian authorities have located an estimated 75 kgs of cocaine hidden in three suitcases on a US flagged Capesize coal loader Athens bound for the UK. The haul which is estimated to be worth around $6.6 million was discovered in the engine room. No crew members have been arrested as there was no evidence linking them to the find.
The unprecedented weather which has been battering Europe’s breakwater (the UK) for several weeks shows no sign of improvement. Large areas of the country are under water and the armed forces have been extensively deployed in emergency flood relief. In one ingenious move, containers have been placed on the coastline at Dawlish in SW England in a desperate move to prevent further coastline erosion which has already resulted in the breaching of the main rail line into the area.
The UK’s National Gallery has made its first acquisition of a painting by the American artist George Bellows. The 1912 painting, Men of the Docks, depicts a group of workers standing by the waterfront in Brooklyn.The museum paid $25.5m) for the painting. Mr. Bellows, who died at the age of 42 from appendicitis, documented the hardship of working life as New York emerged into the 20th Century.
The former Chair of Hapag Lloyd, Mr. Hans Jakob Kruse has died at the age of 84 following a long illness. Mr Kruse was one of the drivers and high profile personalities in container shipping throughout the 1970s and 1980s. He was also a founder of the International Council of Containership Operators (The Box Club) whose membership is restricted to the chairmen and chief executives of the world’s major container lines. He held many industry positions, including chairman of the Maritime and Surface Commission of the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris, chairman of the supervisory board of Tui, a member of the supervisory boards of Deutsche Aerospace Airbus, Mobil Oil, Hamburg, and a member of the advisory council of Deutsche Bank.