U.S. Approves Shell’s Arctic Drilling Plan

By Reuters 2015-05-11 15:45:29

Royal Dutch Shell’s return to oil drilling in the U.S. Arctic for the first time since 2012 took a big step forward on Monday when the Obama administration approved the company’s exploration plan.

The Department of Interior conditionally approved Shell’s plan to explore for oil in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska. Shell has already spent about $6 billion on exploration in the Arctic.

The Arctic is estimated to contain about 20 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and natural gas, but its recovery could be decades away.

Shell proposes to drill up to six wells in water about 140 feet (40 meters) deep, using two vessels that can serve as relief-wells for each other in case of an emergency.

“We have taken a thoughtful approach to carefully considering potential exploration in the Chukchi Sea,” said Abigail Ross Harper, the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, in a release.

As part of the conditional approval, Shell must obtain permits from the federal government and the state of Alaska in order to begin drilling this summer. Shell has not drilled in the Arctic since a mishap-filled 2012 season, when the company was forced to evacuate its Kulluk drill rig, which eventually ran aground.

One of the vessels that Shell plans to use this summer, the Noble Discoverer, also had problems in the harsh Arctic waters in 2012. At one point it had to be towed to port after experiencing vibrations in a propeller shaft.

Several environmental groups are concerned about drilling in an harsh, pristine region with little capacity for emergency response. “Our government has rushed to approve risky and ill-conceived exploration in one of the most remote and important places on Earth,” said Susan Murray, an official at Oceana, a leading voice against Arctic drilling.

Even if Shell gets all the permits it needs, its Arctic aspirations may face a hurdle further south. Last week, the city of Seattle ruled that its port must apply for a permit to allow Shell to make it a hub for drilling rigs headed to the Arctic.

Asian Nations Respond to Increased Piracy

By MarEx 2015-05-11 15:09:03

Chief of Navy for Singapore, Rear-Admiral Lai Chung Han, told local news sources today that the littoral states, consisting of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia are in discussions to increase patrols in the lower areas of the South China Sea, the areas most affected by the recent influx of maritime piracy.

The decision to increase maritime security in the area comes after The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) urged the littoral states to increase survellance for the area following heightened reports of piracy for 2015.

Since 2013 the number of total attacks against ships has increased significantly from 29 incidents to 38 over the same period. The increase is largely due to a heightened onboard attacks in the Straits of Malacca and attacks at ports and anchorages in Vietnam. ReCAAP is particularly concerned with the escalation of “very significant” incidents such as the recent fuel siphoning situations. A February 14 incident aboard the product tanker Lapin involved the siphoning of 2,000 tons of bunker oil as well as an explosive package, which was later determined to be fake.

From 2011 to 2014 only one “very significant” incident was reported, but for the same period in 2015 five of these major situations have occurred. As the report states, “A total of five incidents of cargo discharged were reported in 2014, of which four were incidents involving siphoning of fuel/oil, and one was theft of scrap metal from a barge.”

Also, over half of all reported attacks have taken place in a hotspot of activity in the South China Sea, the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. Though as the organization notes, “incidents reported in the Singapore Strait were relatively less severe in nature compared to that reported in the Malacca Strait.”

Speaking again to local news outlets, the Chief of Navy emphasized that in addition to normal pirate attacks in the region, the littoral states also must be aware of the possiblity for terrorist activity in the area. This is a real concern for the area as Al Queda has recently threated major shipping lanes including the Strait of Malacca. Chung Han stated that a terrorist attack would also be difficult to distinguish at first from a pirate attack.

One main drawback to the patrols being proposed by the South Asian countries is the that they would be in close disputed territorial claims in the South China Sea. In recent years, China has overwhelmingly laid claims to areas in the South China Sea, increasing tensions with other neighboring Asian countries.

Kidnapped Crew Members Finally Released

By MarEx 2015-05-11 13:04:24

Three Nigerian crew member that were kidnapped in April were released exactly one month after their intial capture. French oil services company Bourbon said on Monday that the three people kidnapped after one of its speedboats was boarded off the Nigerian coast on April 8 had been released.

“They are in good health and arrived at Port Harcourt on May 8,” Bourbon said in a brief statement. “This news comes as a great relief to all Bourbon employees as a whole, who share the joy of the families.”

The crew members had been abducted on board a Surfer 1440 boat.

Bourbon operates a fleet of light, fast cruisers called Surfers that are used to move professionals to offshore oil and gas sites, especially in West Africa. This type of speed boat can carry up to 20 people and light packages to the oil facilities.

Maersk to Place $1.7b Container Ship Order

By MarEx 2015-05-11 12:36:23

Maersk Line is currently in talks with South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. (DSME) for an order of 11 ultra-large container ships, worth around $1.7 billion.

The Korean company is close to winning an order for some 11 container ships of 20,000 TEU (20-foot equivalent units) from Maersk for about $151 million per vessel or more, South Korean newspaper Korea Economic Daily reported last week, citing unnamed shipbuilding industry sources and foreign media.

British ship broking house Clarkson also confirmed the deal, which is worth $1.66 billion in total. The ships would be delivered in 2017, Clarkson said in a shipping industry report on Friday.

The spokesman for DSME declined to confirm or deny other details, adding that nothing has been decided. “Maersk Line never comments on rumors,” a spokesman from Maersk Line, the container shipping unit in Danish conglomerate A.P. Moller-Maersk, said.

In 2011 DSME won orders from Maersk totaling $3.9 billion for 20 Triple –E container ship, which at the time were the largest container vessels ever ordered. The last two vessels from this order are set to be delivered by July 2015.

After the initial Maersk order in 2011, other major shipping companies soon followed suit by updating their fleet with newer, larger capacity container vessels.

So far this year Costco Holdings announced it would place in order for at least ten 19,000 TEU vessels and Orient Oversees Container Lines similarly placed an order for the largest container vessels, six 21,000TEU newbuildings from Samsung Heavy Industries.