North Korean Blacklisted Ships Call Russia

By MarEx 2015-08-27 16:53:42

Several sanctioned North Korean vessels owned by Ocean Maritime Management (OMM) have been seen using Russian ports. OMM was sanctioned for its involvement in smuggling weapons through the Panama Canal in 2013.

Marine traffic records indicate the M/VHui Chon is a regular visitor of Russia’s Port Vanino and was inspected multiple times in other Russian ports in July. Earlier this month, the M/V Kang Gye was seen transiting back to North Korea after calling Port Nakhodka in Russia.

The Hui Chon and Kang Gye are suspected of being two of several OMM-owned vessels that have changed their names and ceased transmitting their AIS positions.

OMM has also been under U.N. and U.S. sanctions since 2014, and the U.S. Department of Treasury alleges that OMM operates through a variety of front companies to evade those sanctions.

In July, the Treasury also blacklisted Senat, a Singapore shipping firm for connections to OMM. The Treasury alleges that Senat supported OMM in arranging the previously mentioned arms shipment on the M/V Chong Chon Gang ship, which was seized in Panama in 2013.

Senat contends it has no more connection with OMM and has not done business with the North Korean company since the seizure of the Chong Chon Gang.


Tianjin Port Officials Arrested

By MarEx 2015-08-27 14:33:07

The fallout from the August 12 explosion that decimated China’s Port Tianjin and killed more than 145 people continues. Government authorities have arrested 11 municipal officials and port executives accused of corruption. Wu Dai, head of Tianjin Municipal Transportation Commission, and Zheng Qingyue, president of Tianjin Port Holdings Co., Ltd and various safety officials are now charged.

Prosecutors allege the 11 officials were negligent in their supervisory role over Riuhai Logistics Co. Ltd, the company that illegally transported and storage hazardous chemicals in the port. The safety officials are accused of failing to regulate and oversee Riuhai for safety infractions and illegal operations.

Riuhai was opened in 2011 and operated without licenses for several months. Three of the company’s executives were arrested within a few days of the explosion. Chinese police are also investigating Tianjin Zhongbin Haisheng, a company suspected of assisting Riuhai acquire permits.

The explosion exposed safety issues regarding the proximity of chemical storage warehouses to local residential areas. In addition to the warehouse at the center of the explosion, Riuhai also operates two other warehouses that are within one kilometer of schools, hospitals and residential areas. China’s safety regulations forbids chemical storage warehouses within one kilometer of the protect zones.

Last week, Tianjin’s Port Group denied ties to Riuhai saying it was not responsible for overseeing their operations. But, there are reports that indicate the Port Group approved Riuhai’s warehouse facilities as it does with other companies operating within the port structure.

Click here for MarEx’s previous coverage of the Tianjin disaster.


Hawaiian Thermal Plant First in U.S.

By MarEx 2015-08-27 14:17:27

Hawaii has installed a fully closed-cycle Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) plant, which is the first in the U.S. It was funded by the U.S. Office of Naval Research and developed by Makai Ocean Engineering, a Hawaii-based design and engineering company. At a cost of nearly $5 million, the 100-kilowatt plant will power about 120 residences.

OTEC produces electricity by using deep cold ocean water and warm surface waters. The plant pumps large quantities of cold ocean water and warm surface water to run a power cycle through a steam-driven turbine, which produces electricity at an onshore power station.

While OTEC plants are still limited in the number of homes it can power, Makai maintains that these type facilities have immense potential. Nearly 70 percent of the sunlight is captured by the oceans and the surface layers absorb most of the ultra-violet energy. With sunlight a limitless resource, OTEC plants can extract the energy and does not require storage systems.

Hawaii currently imports almost all of its energy, but has a goal to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. Hawaii has already installed several wind power plants and smart grid systems in an effort to achieve this lofty goal.

The United States entered OTEC research in 1974 with the establishment of the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority. The U.S. Naval office considers this project as a prototype. Makai says the next hurdle is to secure investment and develop a commercial-scale plant.

In 2013, Japan’s Saga University constructed the first OTEC plant off of the Okinawa prefecture in the East China Sea. The Okinawa project generates about 50 kilowatts of electricity.

Currently, there are additionally OTEC plants proposed for development in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Hainan and Japan.

Click here for Makai’s OTEC report.