Vietnamese Container Ports Top 2014 Growth

By Wendy Laursen 2015-05-20 19:31:02

Alphaliner’s latest top 30 container ports list shows Vietnamese ports experienced the strongest growth in 2014.

Volumes handled at Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and its deep water gateway of Cai Mep rose 16.7 percent to reach 6.39 Mteu. The North Vietnamese port of Hai Phong also recorded a 14.3 percent growth rate to reach 3.45 Mteu.

By comparison, the top 30 container ports in the world handled a combined volume of 370

Mteu in 2014, giving an annual increase of 5.3 percent. Throughput growth improved from 2013, when the same ports reported total volumes of 351 Mteu.

Vietnam’s impressive growth is set to continue in 2015, says Alphaliner, with HCMC terminals recording a 12.6 percent increase in volumes handled in the first quarter of this year. HCMC has attracted 11 new intra-Asia services since January, resulting at berth congestion at the main Cat Lai terminal in HCMC.

HCMC is developing its first special economic zone in the south of the city designed with a maritime focus. Under a $470 billion master plan to develop HCMC, approved by the nation’s Prime Minister, the city will be developed in all four directions but with a focus on the south and east where busy seaport and logistics activities are concentrated.

HCMC has 38 terminals, and local media reports that the city generated over $705 million last year, a rise of 15.3 percent over the previous year. Growth has been facilitated by infrastructure projects such as the Soai Rap dredging project which enables faster navigation and the ability to handle larger ships.

The region’s seaports are expected to handle up to 200 million tons of cargo in 2015, 305 million tons in 2020, and 650 million tons in 2030.

Vietnam recorded a trade surplus for the first time in 2015, as exports outstripped imports by $150 million in April, according to the General Department of Customs.

Seals Subject to Unsafe Noise Levels

By MarEx 2015-05-20 18:31:10

Noise from pile driving during offshore wind turbine construction could be damaging the hearing of harbor seals around the UK, researchers have found.

They say more research is needed on how noise affects marine mammals’ hearing and into engineering solutions to reduce noise levels.

There are currently 1,184 offshore wind turbines around the coast of the UK, between them generating around 4GW of power. The next round of construction, which began in 2014, will see hundreds more turbines installed to generate a further 31GW, yet we know little about the impact of construction noise on sea mammals’ hearing.

The team of ecologists from the University of St Andrews attached GPS data loggers to 24 harbor seals while offshore wind turbines were being installed in the Wash in 2012. The data loggers collected information on the seals’ locations and their diving behavior, relaying the information onshore via the mobile phone network.

They then combined this data with information from the wind farm developers on when pile driving was taking place to produce models which predicted the noise each seal was exposed to, and compared this with noise levels that other studies show cause auditory damage.

The model revealed that half of the tagged seals were exposed to noise levels that exceeded hearing damage thresholds.

Offshore wind turbines are installed using pile drivers – essentially large hammers that drive the foundation posts into the seabed – which produce short pulsed sounds every few seconds.

The lead author of the study Dr Gordon Hastie of the University’s Sea Mammal Research Unit said, “These are some of the most powerful man-made sounds produced underwater, noise capable of travelling large distances underwater.”

Although we have some information on the effects of noise on harbor seals’ hearing, very little is known about the impact of the pulsed sounds produced by pile driving. However, a wealth of data exists on the effect of noise on humans and other terrestrial species, data which shows that powerful pulsed sounds can damage mammals’ hearing.

“Like most marine mammals, harbor seals have very sensitive underwater hearing at a much broader range of frequencies than humans,” said Hastie. “Seals probably use underwater hearing during the mating season and to detect and avoid predators. They may also rely on their hearing for navigation and finding prey.”

The team’s results are important because seals are protected under European law and any impacts that might affect their conservation status need to be assessed prior to the construction of wind farms.

Hastie said, “Our predictions highlight that seals may routinely be exposed to potentially hazardous levels of underwater noise during pile driving, with potential implications for the conservation status of some populations. To reduce these potential impacts, regulators and industry are currently investigating engineering solutions to reduce sound levels at source, and methods to deter animals from damage risk zones in order to potentially reduce auditory damage risk.”

The team now hopes to validate their predictions by making hearing measurements on seals using special seal headphones, monitoring individual seals’ movements at sea and collecting long-term data on their growth, reproduction and survival.

Harbor seals live around the coasts of the North Atlantic and North Pacific from the subtropics to the Arctic. Around 30 percent of European harbor seals are found in the UK. An epidemic of phocine distemper virus cut numbers along the east coast of England by half in 1988, and although a second outbreak in the Wash in 2002 resulted in a decline of 22 percent, the population has increased dramatically since 2009.

Harbor seals weigh in at around 80-100kg and are long lived, living up to 30 years. They dive from the surface to depth to catch a variety of prey, from sand eels and herring to octopus and squid. They haul out in sheltered waters, usually on intertidal sand banks and estuaries, pups are born in June and July and the seals moult in August.

Malaysia, Indonesia Let Boat People Ashore Temporarily

By Reuters 2015-05-20 18:19:43

Malaysia and Indonesia said on Wednesday they would offer shelter to 7,000 boat people adrift at sea in rickety boats but made clear their assistance was temporary and they would take no more.

More than 3,000 migrants have landed so far this month in Malaysia and Indonesia. Together with Thailand, they have pushed away many boats that approached their shores despite appeals from the United Nations to take them in.

In a joint statement in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Indonesia emphasized that the international community also had a responsibility to help them deal with the crisis.

The migrants are mostly Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar and Bangladeshis – men, women and children who fled persecution and poverty at home or were abducted by traffickers, and now face sickness and starvation at sea.

“What we have clearly stated is that we will take in only those people in the high sea,” Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said. “But under no circumstances would we be expected to take each one of them if there is an influx of others.”

Both countries said they would offer “resettlement and repatriation”, a process that would be “done in a year by the international community.”

The United Nations, which has been calling on governments in the region to rescue those drifting at sea, welcomed the move and urged that people be brought to shore without delay.

The United States was prepared to provide financial and resettlement aid to help deal with the crisis, Acting State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf told a briefing in Washington.

Washington was also prepared to take a leading role in any multi-country effort organised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to resettle the most vulnerable migrants, she said.

THAILAND OPTS OUT

Aman said temporary shelters would be set up, but not in Thailand, a favored transit point for migrants hoping to work illegally in Malaysia.

Thai authorities have said they will allow the sick to come to shore for medical attention, but have stopped short of saying whether they would allow other migrants to disembark.

Still, Thailand said on Wednesday that it would not force boats back out to sea.

“Thailand attaches great importance to humanitarian assistance and will not push back migrants stranded in the Thai territorial water,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

Thailand has called a regional conference on the issue in Bangkok for May 29.

“We maintain our stance that we are a transit country. In the meeting we said that our country has more problems than theirs,” Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha told reporters in Bangkok.

Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch welcomed the joint statement, which he said “should mark the end of the region’s push back policies against Rohingya and Bangladeshi boat people,” but added it was disturbing that “Thailand was missing in action.”

Hours before the ministers met, hundreds of Rohingya and Bangladeshi landed in Indonesia’s Aceh province.

“We have to find ways to resettle them as soon as possible without creating a new moral hazard,” Dewi Fortuna Anwar, political adviser to Indonesia’s vice president, told reporters in Jakarta.

“If migrants start thinking of Indonesia as a transit point or as having a higher chance of getting resettled, that would create another problem that we have to prevent.”

She said the main responsibility lay with Myanmar, which the United Nations said last week must stop discrimination against Rohingya Muslims to end a pattern of migration from the corner of the Bay of Bengal into the Andaman Sea and Malacca Strait.

“ROOT CAUSES”

The United States echoed these calls, with a senior State Department official pointing to conditions in Rakhine state as driving Rohingyas to flee.

“Ultimately (Myanmar) must take steps to address the root causes that drove these people (to sea) and we need long term sustainable solutions, development, protection of basic human rights if we’re really going to answer the problem,” Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a conference in Jakarta.

Blinken is due to visit Myanmar on Thursday to discuss the unfolding crisis.

Most of Myanmar’s 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims are stateless and live in apartheid-like conditions. Almost 140,000 were displaced in clashes with ethnic Rakhine Buddhists in 2012.

Myanmar terms the Rohingya “Bengalis”, a name most Rohingya reject because it implies they are immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh despite having lived in Myanmar for generations.

Myanmar’s foreign ministry said in a statement published by state media on Wednesday that the government was making serious efforts to prevent people smuggling and illegal migration.

This included patrolling by the navy and air force in Myanmar’s territorial waters, it said.

China Fishing Illegally in West Africa: Greenpeace Study

By Kathryn Stone 2015-05-20 17:42:55

Chinese fishing companies have flocked to the coast of west Africa over the last three decades to engage in illegal and ecologically destructive fishing practices, according to a Greenpeace report issued Wednesday.

The study is the culmination of a two year investigation into China’s Distant Water Fishing (DWF) companies. According to the report one-fifth of the Chinese owned distant water fleet currently operates off the coast of Africa, putting the number of fishing operations at 462 in 2013. This number shows a significant increase from the 1985 figure of just 13 vessels.

At least 74 of these fishing vessels have been implicated in 82 cases of illegal activities ranging from operating in prohibited areas to falsifying gross tonnage. Greenpeace asserts that the infractions are present in private and state-owned companies at every level of operation. Even one of the largest Chinese DWF companies has been implicated in the violations, the organization claims.

Between October and November of 2014, while the country fought an Ebola outbreak the Greenpeace ship MY Esperanza documented over 16 cases of fishing in prohibited zones in the country of Guinea alone. Over the 26 days that the vessel was at sea this averaged out to one report of illegal or undocumented activity every two days.

Rashid Kang, head of Greenpeace East Asia’s China Ocean Campaign stated that “while China extended a hand in friendship during the Ebola outbreak, rogue Chinese companies were unlawfully exploiting West Africa’s marine environment. They were taking advantage of weak enforcement and supervision from local and Chinese authorities to the detriment of local fishermen and the environment.”

The organization also adds that China has begun to rectify fishing policies in domestic waters but “are exporting the destructive fishing model” to Africa because of weak governmental regulation and fishery management systems in the region. Additionally, the type of vessels most commonly being used are bottom trawlers which the organization claims are “one of the most destructive fishing methods in the modern fishing industry.”

Greenpeace has also investigated illegal African fishing practices of the EU, Korea and Russia over the past decade. However, in a statement released today the organization held up the EU as an example for Chinese behavior in Africa. “If China wants to be a genuine friend of Africa, it should follow the path of EU’s Common Fisheries Policy, which is slowly rectifying the EU’s own history of irresponsible fishing in the region,” said Ahmed Diamé, Greenpeace Africa Ocean Campaigner.” Over the last two decade changes to the Common Fisheries Policy have restricted where ships are allowed to fish and included steps to protect endangered fishing stocks.

Transformational Transportation Bill Introduced

By MarEx 2015-05-20 17:05:33

Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), together with 19 Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Democrats, introduced H.R. 2410, the Administration’s GROW AMERICA Act. The bill is a long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill that provides robust funding to address our nation’s infrastructure crisis. Democrats offered this six-year, $478 billion bill as Congress must develop a long-term transportation bill this summer.

“I am proud to support this bold new vision for the future of American infrastructure and mobility. The GROW AMERICA Act is a smart investment in job-creation, transportation safety, business growth, and environmental protection,” saidCongressman Garamendi, Ranking Member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. “We need this type of program in order to rebuild and renew our crumbling infrastructure, to provide economic certainty, and to make the U.S. more competitive in a global marketplace.”

A recent study by the Department of Transportation, Beyond Traffic, confirmed that America’s infrastructure is failing. Drivers spend more than 40 hours annually stuck in traffic. Sixty-five percent of the roads they drive on are in less than good condition; one out of four bridges they cross needs to be replaced; and 45% of Americans do not have access to public transit. The report also revealed that, over the next 30 years, Americans will ask more of our transportation system than ever before. The United States’ population will grow by 70 million; freight traffic will increase by 45 percent. Click here for information on California’s infrastructure needs and the increased funds the GROW AMERICA Act would bring to the state.

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the latest in a long series of last minute, short-term transportation bill extensions. The stop-and-start nature of these patches makes long-term transportation planning near impossible and imposes a cost in jobs, efficiency, and construction project price tags.

The GROW AMERICA Act offers a new way forward for:

· Highways – Provides $317 billion for programs under the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), an increase of 29 percent over current levels;

· Safety – Increases safety across all modes of transportation, which includes almost tripling the budget of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s automobile defects office, providing $4.7 billion for truck and bus safety programs under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and $16 billion for Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP);

· Freight – Establishes an $18 billion multimodal freight program so American businesses can compete effectively in a global economy and grow;

· Rail – Provides $28.6 billion for programs under the Federal Rail Administration (FRA);

· Mobility – Raises transit investment by 76 percent and increases connections so that more Americans have access to jobs and education;

· Efficiency – Puts in place a transparent and clear permitting process to speed up project delivery;

· Financing – Increases innovative financing by strengthening Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) and Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan programs, by making more Private Activity Bonds (PABS) available, and by nearly doubling funding for the TIGER grant program; and

· Research and Innovation – Provides $3.4 billion to leverage research and innovation to move people and goods more safely and efficiently, while minimizing impacts on the environment.

More information on the GROW AMERICA Act can be found at: http://www.dot.gov/grow-america.