Singapore to Host UNCLOS Disputes

By MarEx 2015-09-02 23:20:11

Singapore and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea have signed a joint declaration that allows Singapore to be a venue in Asia for the settlement of disputes relating to the law of the sea.

Singaporean Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Law, Ng How Yue, and the President of the Tribunal, Judge Vladimir Golitsyn, signed the agreement earlier this week.

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) is an independent judicial body, established by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to hear any dispute concerning the interpretation or application of the UNCLOS.

Singapore became a party to the convention in November 1994. Currently, there are 167 parties to the convention – 166 states and the European Union.

The joint declaration underscores the commitment of both sides to safeguarding the international rule of law in the region. In line with this commitment, the Singapore government will provide appropriate facilities to the Tribunal whenever it is desirable for a special chamber of the Tribunal or the Tribunal to sit or exercise its functions in Singapore.

Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Law, K Shanmugam said: “The Joint Declaration is a clear endorsement of Singapore as a neutral venue for the effective settlement of international disputes. It also demonstrates Singapore’s commitment to the international rule of law by facilitating access to ITLOS in order to serve the needs of the states of this region, with a view to promoting the peaceful settlement of disputes relating to the law of the sea.”

The East and South China Seas are the scene of escalating territorial disputes between China and its neighbors, including Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The International Court of Justice and ITLOS are two forums where claimants can file submissions on such disputes. In 2013, the Philippines initiated arbitration over its territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea. This has been taken up by ITLOS despite China’s refusal to participate.


Sail for Water on Around-The-World Mission

By Wendy Laursen 2015-09-02 20:29:07

Sail for Water, a general interest NGO, has combined a unique project defending a fundamental human right with an extraordinary sport challenge. Three young men are promoting universal access to clean drinking water during a round-the-world tour on a sailing boat.

Their mission, to begin this month, is to distribute 1,000 filters in 1,000 days, to help 100,000 people worldwide.

Sail for Water was born from an alarming and revolting truth, says spokesman Nicolas Sainte Claire Deville:

Water, spring of life, is the leading cause of death in the world.

Every year, 3.6 million people die from unclean water-related diseases.

90 percent of these are children under 14 years old.

Unclean water kills one person every 10 seconds.

The NGO is in partnership with another NGO – Waves for Water which has been acting against unclean water for more than five years and has already distributed more than 100,000 filters in a dozen of countries.

Sail for Water’s aim is to continue this work of distributing filters and will push it forward in areas that, according to WHO and UNICEF, are severely affected by unclean water.

Sail for Water is a collaborative adventure which aims to get its members completely involved, to raise awareness of the vital importance of the cause they defend and the utility of their engagement. Thus, donors have the possibility to target their commitment by choosing the country where they want the filters they funded to be distributed, or by joining the crew for a local action, on the field.

The crew will broadcast a fortnightly web series during their voyage.

With the PointOneTM filter, communities in need are able to construct and adapt their filter to any plastic containers in less than five minutes, then gravity does the rest. The kit includes everything needed to attach the filter: a bucket, a filter, a tube, a few seals, a tool to adapt the bucket to the filter and a plastic syringe to clean and maintain the filter.

Sail for Water is the project of three young and passionate men, animated by the desire to change things; three young people ready to brave the oceans on board the Williwaw, a 12 meters ship, to bring a drop of hope to those in need.

Thomas Degermann – 25 years old

Captain of the ship and technical manager

Thomas, as a true lover of the sea and of watersports, has always lived on the coastline. He worships values such as pushing oneself to the limits, sharing and discovering. An engineer by training, he is in charge of the upkeep and the repairs on the Williwaw during the trip.

Romain Stefani-Sainte-Claire Deville – 28 years old

First mate and President of Sail for Water

Although he held a managing job for the last four years, Romain has chosen to move beyond this comfortable stable position to fulfill his desire of helping out people in need.

Nicolas Sainte-Claire Deville – 24 years old

Crewman, in charge of missions and partnerships

Born sailor, sail lover; Nicolas is the youngest of the crew. His goal is quite simple: the discovery, the sharing and the involvement. Recently graduated from a Business school, he is in charge of the partnerships of Sail for Water.

Williwaw is a solid English sloop-rigged boat built in 1977. It has already travelled more than 40 000 nautical miles. Its extreme resistance and good navigation qualities were enough for the crew to adopt this old sea warrior, says the team. Discovered in the south of France at Lavandou Harbor, the Williwaw is now readying to depart from Toulon, France.

More information is available here.


Hapag-Lloyd Won’t Ship Whale Meat, Lions

By Wendy Laursen 2015-09-02 19:57:15

There’s hardly anything that can’t be shipped in a container. However, Hapag-Lloyd has prepared a list of goods it won’t transport for ethical reasons.

The list, which includes whale and dolphin meat, includes items that the company believes deserve to be safeguarded even if they aren’t yet protected by international laws.

The refusal goes for customers wishing to ship sealskins or hunting trophies, such as lions or other large animals.

Hapag-Lloyd likewise refuses to transport turtles or mink skins, and it even goes further than the legal regulations in place by also excluding genetically modified microorganisms.

A recent incident involving a shipment of leather boots shows just how thoroughly the blacklist is enforced. Although the shipment seemed rather innocuous, it emerged from the cargo documents that a care product would be enclosed with every pair of boots – and that this product contained an oil extracted from mink carcasses.

Whether deliberately or inadvertently, customers sometimes make false declarations about their cargo. To detect such cases, Hapag-Lloyd uses a special software that constantly sifts through shipment information to detect anomalies. This “watchdog” program is outfitted with a set of more than 7,000 search terms, primarily related to hazardous materials, that is continually expanded and refined. In 2014 alone, the software raised more than 162,000 red flags, of which roughly 2,600 proved to be well-founded.


Five Chinese Ships Sail Near Alaska

By Reuters 2015-09-02 18:29:51

Five Chinese Navy ships are sailing in international waters in the Bering Sea off Alaska, the Pentagon said on Wednesday, in an apparent first for China’s military that came as U.S. President Barack Obama toured the U.S. state.

Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said it was the first time the United States had seen Chinese navy ships in the Bering Sea.

“We respect the freedom of all nations to operate military vessels in international waters in accordance with international law,” Davis said.

The appearance of the ships is an example of the expanding reach of China’s navy and overlapped with a three-day visit by Obama to Alaska as part of his efforts to raise awareness about climate change.

Two U.S. defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States had identified a Chinese amphibious ship, a replenishment vessel and three surface combatant ships.

None of the ships had been seen acting in an unprofessional or unlawful manner, the officials said, adding that the United States had become aware of their presence in recent days.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said no threatening activity had been detected, and added that the Pentagon was monitoring the movement of the ships “but the intent of this is still unclear.”

China has ramped up defense spending to modernize its forces and wants to develop an ocean-going “blue water” navy capable of defending its growing interests as the world’s second-largest economy.

On Thursday, China is to hold a massive military parade featuring some 12,000 troops, the highlight of events there marking 70 years since World War Two ended in Asia.

Dean Cheng, a China expert at the Heritage Foundation think-tank in Washington, D.C., said the presence of the ships in the Bering Sea was designed to send a message to Washington about China’s growing military might.

“It is living up to what the Chinese have been saying, ‘We are now a blue water navy. We will operate in the far seas and we are a global presence’,” Cheng said.

Melting sea ice has spurred more commercial traffic and China has sought to become more active in the Arctic, where it has said it has important interests.

Shorter shipping routes across the Arctic Ocean would save Chinese companies time and money.

It was not clear whether the presence of the Chinese ships was timed to coincide with Obama’s visit or if it followed a recent Chinese-Russian navy exercise.

While the world’s two largest economies have important mutual interests, like trying to rein in North Korea’s nuclear program, disagreements exist between them including over China’s claims in the South China Sea.

China’s military buildup, which includes developing stealth fighters and anti-satellite missiles, has unnerved the Asia-Pacific region and Washington, especially since President Xi Jinping took office in 2013 and started taking a tougher line on maritime territorial disputes.

Xi is expected to spend about a week in the United States during the second half of September.

The Heritage Foundation’s Cheng said the presence of the ships in the Bering Sea sent a message ahead of Xi’s visit, which has been preceded by threats of U.S. action over cyber attacks.

“That message is, in a nutshell, ‘Stop pushing us. We are not going to be lectured’,” Cheng said.


Melting Ice Caps and New Shipping Lanes

By MarEx 2015-09-02 17:07:58

While the disappearing Arctic ice cap is a foreboding global issue, it also has the potential to boost the shipping industry by redrawing global shipping routes. The melting Arctic has created new shipping lanes in previously unnavigable routes between Northwest Europe and countries such as China, Japan and South Korea.

According to a report by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the retreating ice caps are opening lanes that could complement conventional routes used during the summer. The Northern Sea Route (NSR) is clear during the summer but the CFR expects that it will be available year-round by 2030.

The NSR became ice-free in 2007 and is gaining traction as an alternative route. The number of vessels using the NSR has steadily increased in the last five years. In 2010, only four cargo ships used the route. That number jumped to 53 last year.

The NSR reduces transit time from Japan to north European countries by 37 percent, from South Korea by 31 percent, China 23 percent and Taiwan 17 percent.

The “Suez of the North”?

Egypt expects its newly-expanded Suez Canal to allow 34,000 vessels to transit each year, but that lofty number may not be achieved if Russia has its way. Russia is investing nearly $5 billion into Arctic infrastructure to make the NSR the “Suez of the North.”

In April, Moscow formed the Russian Arctic Commission to develop its economic interests in the area. The main objective of the commission is the harmonization of government activities and the establishment of regional authorities.

Russia is also building ten relief ports along the Siberian coastline for ships that need repair, and China recently signed a free trade agreement (FTA) with Iceland in anticipation of using the NSR.

Of course, if Russia is successful in making the NSR the new Suez, this could lead to a drop in shipping volume through the original Suez. Prior to its expansion, the Suez Canal handled about eight percent of world trade. The CFR report states that the volume could fall by about two-thirds if Russia is able to successfully utilize the NSR.

Potential Roadblocks

But there are still a few hurdles to cross before the NSR becomes the Suez of the North. Weather is the primary hurdle because the environment is harsh even in the summer. And because of the unpredictability of weather and ice, ships often require icebreaker escorts. Ships are also required to take out additional insurance policies when using the NSR. These costs often offset the NSR’s potential fuel savings. Furthermore, Russia’s control over most of the NSR troubles some shipping executives, who believe Moscow will abruptly raise prices.