Greek Shipping Minister Survives Reshuffle

By MarEx 2015-07-21 20:16:55

Greek Prime Minister Alexi Tsipras has kept economy minister George Stathakis and shipping minister Thodoris Dritsas in his cabinet after a reshuffle.

Tsipras has tried to rally his Syriza party before a vote in parliament on Wednesday on the second package of measures demanded by international creditors to open talks on a new bailout deal.

Stathakis, whose brother is a shipowner, is one of the most senior party ministers, reports Seatrade Maritime, and Dritsas is known to oppose the privatization of the port of Piraeus.

Two other ministers and three deputy ministers were replaced.

Reuters reports that Tsipras has faced a revolt in the left-wing Syriza party over the mix of tax hikes, market reforms and spending cuts demanded by lenders but is expected to get the package through parliament with the support of pro-European opposition parties.

Talking to Syriza officials on the eve of the vote, he said he aimed to seal the bailout accord, which could offer Greece up to 86 billion euros in new loans to bolster its tottering finances and ward off the threat of a forced exit from the euro.

“Up until today I’ve seen reactions, I’ve read heroic statements but I haven’t heard any alternative proposal,” he said, warning that party hardliners could not ignore the clear desire of most Greeks to remain in the single currency.

“Syriza as a party must reflect society, must welcome the worries and expectations of tens of thousands of ordinary people who have pinned their hopes on it,” he said, according to an official at the meeting.

Earlier government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili said the government expected to wrap up bailout talks with the lenders by August 20 with negotiations expected to begin immediately after Wednesday’s vote in parliament.

Officials from the creditor institutions – the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund – are due in Athens on Friday for meetings with the government, Deputy Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas said.

Wednesday’s vote in parliament follows a first vote last week on the so-called “prior actions” on the mix of economic reforms and budget cuts demanded of Greece as a condition before the start of full bailout talks.

The bill was passed but a revolt by 39 Syriza lawmakers who refused to back the measures raised questions over the stability of the government, which came to power in January on an explicit anti-austerity platform.

The heads of the centrist To Potami party and the socialist Pasok party both said they would back the Tsipras government over the bailout accord but demanded a clear “road map” from the prime minister about what would happen after that.

Denouncing the bailout, Syriza hardliner Rudi Rinaldi resigned from the party’s 13-member political committee, saying loading more austerity on to the stricken Greek economy would pile on more hardship but not keep the country in the euro.

“It is ideological, political and strategic default for Syriza,” he said.

Together with his coalition partners from the right-wing Independent Greeks, Tsipras has 162 seats in the 300-seat parliament. But last week’s rebellion cut his support to just 123 votes and any further defections may be seen as undermining prospects for reform.

Some government officials have suggested that if support dropped below 120 MPs – the minimum required to win a confidence vote if parliament voted with the lowest allowable quorum of 240 lawmakers – Tsipras would have to resign.

But it is unclear whether he would step down. If a confidence vote were actually held, he would almost certainly win with the backing of the pro-European opposition parties.

Following last week’s vote, European authorities released billions of euros in emergency funding to allow Athens to meet debt payment deadlines and reopen banks closed three weeks ago to prevent a run on deposits collapsing the system.

Offering some encouragement, ratings agency Standard and Poor’s lifted its long-term sovereign credit rating on Greece to ‘CCC+’ from ‘CCC-‘, saying it believed default was no longer inevitable in the next six to 12 months following the move.

It said the chance of Greece leaving the euro zone was now less than 50 percent.

With normality slowly returning after the banks reopened on Monday, the government tabled the second bailout bill, which will focus on justice reform and banking issues.

The bill to be passed on Wednesday adopts into Greek law new European Union rules on propping up failed banks, decreed after the 2008 financial crisis and aimed at shielding taxpayers from the risk of having to bail out troubled lenders.

The so-called bank recovery and resolution directive (BRRD) imposes losses on shareholders and creditors of ailing lenders, in a process known as “bail-in”, before any taxpayers’ money can be tapped in a “bail-out” bank rescue.

The bailout bill also includes the adoption of new rules for the country’s civil justice system, aimed at accelerating lengthy judicial processes and cutting costs.

It also deals with sensitive issues affecting forced home foreclosures, which banks have committed not to proceed with before the end of the year.

Greek shipowners are waiting to hear if legislation increasing tonnage and corporate tax will be enacted.

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DSME Denies Job Cut Plan

By Wendy Laursen 2015-07-21 19:53:31

Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) said on Tuesday that its restructuring will focus on selling noncore assets, not workforce reduction.

The Korea Herald reports that rumors about possible job cuts emerged over the weekend after company CEO Jung Sung-leep announced a restructuring program to cut costs, including relocating manpower and job rotation.

The shipyard has suffered a reduced income as a result of the global drop in shipbuilding, and it is expected to post an operating loss of up to three trillion won ($2.6 billion) in the second quarter.

The company is being investigated for potentially concealing a cumulative loss of around two trillion won ($1.72 billion) from its balance sheet last year.

The state-run Korean Development Bank (KDB), DSME’s largest shareholder with a 31.46 percent stake, decided on Sunday to launch a large-scale debt restructuring process, reports the Korea Herald. DSME’s largest creditor The Export Import Bank of Korea has stated it will support KDB in securing liquidity for the yard.

Despite its financial concerns, DSME received an order for a new LNG carrier this week. Greek shipowner Chandris placed the order for a 173,400 cubic meter LNG carrier after ordering a first vessel in December 2014.

Last year, the company won 37 orders from a total of 66 LNG carrier orders in the global market, showing unequaled competitiveness, reports Business Korea.

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Dredging NZ Sentenced After Death of Worker

By MarEx 2015-07-21 19:11:23

Dredging NZ has been fined NZ$79,500 ($53,000) and ordered to pay NZ$42,000 ($29,000) in reparation after the death of a worker, crushed on a dredging barge in West Park Marina, Auckland, New Zealand, on November 19, 2013.

Peter Bateman died after being crushed between an excavator and the wall of a hopper, on a barge being skippered by Brent Darrach.

Dredging NZ was sentenced in Auckland District Court after pleading guilty to a charge laid by Maritime New Zealand under section 6 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, that as an employer it failed to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of employees at work.

In May, Darrach was fined NZ$10,000 ($6,500) and ordered to pay reparation of NZ$18,000 ($12,000) after pleading guilty to a charge under section 19 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, that as an employee he failed to take all practicable steps to ensure no action or inaction of himself while at work harmed any other person.

The company operates barges fitted with an excavator and a hopper, or walled bin, in which to collect excavated material.

The accident happened when Bateman left the barge he was operating to board Darrach’s barge to travel as a passenger a short distance to the wharf.

The barges are moved by using the excavator arm to pull and push off the seabed. Bateman died when the excavator rotated, crushing him between the back of the excavator and the hopper wall.

Dredging NZ had no protocols for operation of the vessels, particularly where passengers were involved. The danger zone within the turning area of excavator was not marked on the barge and Bateman was standing within this area when the accident occurred.

“There was no designated place on board where passengers were directed to sit, and no procedure for the operator to follow to ensure passengers, or nearby personnel, were well clear of any hazards,” Maritime NZ Director Keith Manch said.

“Alternatively, the company could have had in place a policy ensuring that passengers were not carried on barges while they were operating.

“This was a tragic event that could have been avoided if appropriate safety systems were in place.”

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Two Anti-Whaling Activists Arrested

By MarEx 2015-07-21 17:54:21

Two volunteer crewmembers from the Sea Shepherd ship, Sam Simon, have been arrested in the Faroe Islands.

Susan Larsen of the United States, driver of the small boat, Farley, and Tom Strerath of Germany, navigator of the same small boat, were arrested at approximately 0900 local time on Tuesday.

Sea Shepherd has issued a statement outlining its view of the incident:

“Shortly before the incident, the Sam Simon and the Farley were investigating a flotilla of approximately 15 local boats that was on the move, heading north past Klaksvík. The Danish Navy vessel, HDMS Triton was also in the region.

“Though no pilot whales could be seen in the area by Sea Shepherd, the activity is generally indicative of a pilot whale drive hunt.

“Shortly after, the flotilla of boats stopped moving north, at which time the Sam Simon and the Farley also stopped moving.

“One of the small boats from the flotilla then approached the bow of the Sam Simon, moving southwards along the portside of the conservation ship, to its stern. The crew on board the small vessel threw a line in the propeller of the Sam Simon, intentionally disabling the Sea Shepherd ship.

“At this time, the Farley was approximately one nautical mile on the portside of the Sam Simon. It is understood that Faroese police boarded the small boat and arrested the two volunteers, and have since taken them to Klaksvík police station.

“Reports in local media indicate that local whale hunters had spotted and were attempting to drive a pod of pilot whales. However, it is believed that the pod escaped.”

Charges

Sea Shepherd has confirmed that both volunteer crewmembers are being charged under section (9) ‘Public Order Provisions’ of the Faroese Parliamentary Act No. 56 (the Pilot Whaling Act).

Section (9) states:

(1) Everyone who takes part in whaling at sea or on shore have [sic] a duty to obey requests, directions, order and prohibitions from a district administrator, a whaling foreman or another authorized person with powers conferred by the Parliamentary Act or an executive order issued under the authority of this Parliamentary Act to organize whaling and establish rules on public order in this connection.

(2) The provisions set out in subsection (1) moreover applies to persons who do not take part in the whaling as such but by their acts or failure to act, disturb, obstruct or prevent that the whaling may proceed as usual.

A court date has been set for this Thursday.

Food Culture

Whaling has been practiced in the Faroe Islands since about the time of the first Norse settlements on the islands in around the 10th century. It is regulated by the Faroese authorities. Around 800 long-finned pilot whales and some Atlantic white-sided dolphins are killed annually, mainly during the summer.

The hunts, called grindadráp in Faroese, are non-commercial and are organized on a community level. Anyone can participate, but special training is necessary to kill the whale with the spinal lance. The police and Grindaformenn are allowed to remove people from the grind area.

The hunters first surround the pilot whales with a wide semicircle of boats. The boats then drive the pilot whales into a bay or to the bottom of a fjord. Not all bays are certified, and the slaughter will only take place on a certified beach.

Many Faroese consider the hunt an important part of their food culture and history. Animal rights groups criticize the hunt as being cruel and unnecessary.

Whale Defense

Despite being an anti-whaling member nation of the European Union, subject to laws prohibiting the slaughter of cetaceans, Denmark continues to show its support for and collaboration with the Faroese whalers.

Sea Shepherd is currently in the Faroe Islands for its sixth pilot whale defense campaign, Operation Sleppid Grindini.

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