Seattle and Tacoma Ports Unite

By MarEx 2015-08-09 04:07:41

Commissioners from the ports of Tacoma and Seattle have formally launched The Northwest Seaport Alliance, the first of its kind in North America.

The Northwest Seaport Alliance unifies the two ports’ marine cargo terminal investments, operations, planning and marketing to strengthen the Puget Sound gateway and attract more marine cargo to the region.

Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), the federal agency that oversees the shipping industry, voted unanimously to approve the agreement last month.

FMC Chairman Mario Cordero said, “This alliance would become the third-largest trade gateway in North America, behind the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the Port of New York/New Jersey. The Pacific Northwest is a key region for inbound and outbound United States cargo, moving cargo not only for the regional trade, but also cargo headed to destinations throughout the entire U.S. Midwest, and this Alliance will help the region remain competitive into the future.”

While the ports remain separate organizations that retain ownership of their respective assets, they formed a port development authority (PDA) to manage the container, breakbulk, auto and some bulk terminals in Seattle and Tacoma. The airport; cruise business; marinas, such as Fisherman’s Terminal; grain terminals and industrial real estate, such as the Northwest Innovation Works and Puget Sound Energy facilities and Terminal 91 uplands, will remain outside the alliance.

The PDA will be governed jointly by the two ports through their elected commissions.

“Creating the Northwest Seaport Alliance, the third largest cargo gateway in North America, is truly historic and signals a new era of cooperation between our ports,” said Port of Seattle Commission co-President Courtney Gregoire. “Combining our strong cargo terminal operations will make our region more competitive in the global economy and create new jobs in Washington.”

“We have moved from fierce competitors to bold collaborators to form a new business model for the greater good of our region,” said Don Johnson, Port of Tacoma commission president. “We recognize how critical the maritime industry is to our state’s economy, and we are proud and excited to strengthen it even more.”


Panama Canal Restricts Ships Due to Drought

By MarEx 2015-08-08 17:13:09

The Panama Canal said beginning September 8th it will temporality restrict ships to a maximum of 39 feet (11.89 m) due to the drought caused by El Nino. This could affect about 20 percent of the water’s traffic transiting between Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

The Authority also advised that further restrictions will be imposed if the canal depths remain low. The months of June and July were the driest period in about 102 years. The water levels in Lake Gutan and Alhajuela, which feed the canal, are extremely low.

The current draft for ships is 39.5 feet and on September 8th it will be reduced to 39 feet and if the drought persists the Authority said will be cut the restriction to 38.5 feet. Dry weather conditions in March 1998 saw authorities take similar actions.

The Canal Authority gets more than $1 billion per year in transit fees.


Biggest Customer Welcomes New Suez Canal

By MarEx 2015-08-07 18:48:15

All through the 20th and 21st century Egypt has acted as the bridge between Europe and Asia. From 2004 to 2014 container volumes transported via the Suez Canal has grown around 70 percent and the expansion confirms the Suez Canal Authority’s continuous commitment to accommodating growth in trade.

As the largest customer of the Suez Canal with more than 1,400 transits in 2014, the Maersk Group has welcomed the expansion of the Suez Canal and the advantages it entails.

Maersk Group representative and CEO of Maersk Drilling, Claus V. Hemmingsen participated in the official opening of the Suez Canal along with COO of Maersk Line, Søren Toft.

“The Suez Canal is a key corridor on the East/West trade. Maersk has used the corridor for more than 90 years, and we welcome the easier transit and reduced transit times that the new expansion will bring,” says Hemmingsen.

Container Ship Transits

The Suez Canal accounts for roughly 7.5 percent of world sea trade and container vessels account for over 50 percent of the canal’s tonnage passage. Maersk Line contributes with 20 percent of the container transits, and virtually all Maersk Line’s Asia-Europe cargo goes through the canal. This includes everything from Chinese textiles and Indian Basmati Rice to German machinery or French wine passing through the Suez Canal.

Prior to the extension, the southbound transit took 18 hours and the northbound took 11 hours. After the opening of the extension, both ways will only take 11 hours. With the current expansion the next generation of vessels should also be able to transit safely and without delay.

“The development in the number of transits through the canal underscores the need of having a canal that guarantees quick passage both ways and helps relieve bottlenecks, accommodating growth in trade and vessel sizes – an effort we welcome from all our partners and suppliers,” says Hemmingsen.

Future Trade

The company says that while trade is not growing as fast as previously and the Asia-Europe trade growth has stagnated, trade growth and volumes will increase overall.

In the short-term Westbound volumes (i.e. from Asia into Europe) are currently declining. This is a direct effect of the weak Russian economy as well as European retail inventories depleting following last year’s strong build-up. Maersk expects both of these negative effects to gradually fade in second half of 2015.

Otherwise, the European economy is doing relatively well, especially Spain, U.K. and North Europe (not the least Germany). Eastbound volumes (i.e. from Europe into Asia) have been declining during the last 6-12 months.

Chinese imports of raw materials remain frail not just from Europe, but also globally. The reason is first and foremost depletion of inventories, says Maersk, but the Chinese housing market is also weak (e.g. marble out of Turkey has fallen 10 to 20 percent). In 2015, weak Chinese demand will continue to dampen Eastbound volumes. In 2016, Chinese inventories of raw materials are assumed to reach critical low levels which should lead to a needed lift in Chinese imports, says Maersk.


Illegal Fishing Vessel Crew Fined

By MarEx 2015-08-07 18:14:24

The crew of the illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing vessel Perlon – detained by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency in May this year – has been convicted of offences under the Malaysian Fisheries Act.

A Malaysian court has fined the master and the crew of the Perlon approximately $445,000 and ordered forfeiture of the catch valued at approximately $1.3 million.

Earlier this year in April, following a boarding of the vessel by Australian customs officers, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority was able to alert South East Asian countries of the possible arrival of Perlon into their ports, which resulted in the initial detention of the Perlon by Malaysian authorities.

Australia’s Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton said the conviction sent a strong message that the international community was united in the fight against IUU fishing vessels.

“The Australian Border Force and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority will not only continue to target IUU fishing vessels in the Australian maritime domain, but continue to work with international counterparts to share information and support investigations and prosecutions to ensure justice is done,” Dutton said.

In November last year the Australian government released the second national plan of action (RPOA) to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

Australia and Malaysia are two out of the eleven RPOA partner nations.

IUU fishing threatens food security, undermines the sustainability of natural marine stocks and disrupts the economic stability of communities which rely on sustainable fisheries.

The Australian government is committed to targeting vessels involved in this trade, investigating the actions of people suspected of involvement, interrupting the supply chain of illicit catch and dismantling the business model of IUU operators.


USCG Watches Coke Ship Sink

By MarEx 2015-08-07 15:39:32

The U.S. Coast Guard arrested a self-propelled semi-submersible vessel carrying more 16,000 pounds of cocaine 200 miles off the coast of Mexico. Authorities estimate that the cocaine is worth about $181 million. The four suspected smugglers were arrested.

The seizure took place after a Navy aircraft spotted the vessel and alerted the Alameda-based Coast Guard Cutter Stratton. The semi-submersible vessel seizure is the largest of its type in the Coast Guard’s history.

While the cutter Stratton was towing the semi-submersible vessel, it began to take on water and started to sink. The USCG crew was able to recover about 12,000 pounds of the cocaine before it finally sank into more than 13,000 feet of ocean. The vessel is considered lost.

USCG officials say drug smuggling semi-submersible type vessels are generally low-tech submarines with only a cockpit and exhaust pipe for breathing. The USCG issued a statement saying its goal is to disrupt organized crime networks using these sorts of methods to smuggle drugs into the U.S.


Crew Stranded in Spain

By MarEx 2015-08-07 15:32:07

The M/V Prosperity has been arrested by Spanish authorities at Algeciras Port. It is a Moldovan-flagged 8,865 dwt cargo ship with eight Bulgarian mariners. The crew has not been paid since boarding the ship two months ago.

The Bulgarians were hired by a Bulgarian-based shipping agency in Varna. The Prosperity was enroute to the Apennines.

The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry has contacted the stranded mariners informing that food and water will be provided to them.