Thailand rejects Kra Canal idea

Senior officials have underscored the Thai government’s clear rejection of plans to build a canal crossing the Kra Isthmus in southern Thailand.
“It won’t happen because it’s not feasible,” Chula Sukmanop, then-director general of the Marine Department told IHS Maritime.
The second problem is the

Floating Farms Proposed for City Sustainability

By Wendy Laursen 2015-10-11 19:16:05

The world population is predicted to grow to 8.3 billion in 2030 and to 9.1 billion in 2050. By 2030, food demand is predicted to increase by 50 percent (70 percent by 2050).

An architect in Spain has come up with a concept that he feels will help meet this demand: instead of producing more farms on land, he wants them to float in the sea near the world’s cities.

“Facing the current challenges of cities growing, land consumption and climate change, I believe projects like the Smart Floating Farms can help change some of the existing paradigms which have led us to the present situation and open new possibilities which can improve the quality of human life and the environment,” says Javier F. Ponce, architect, founder and CEO of Forward Thinking Architecture.

Based on a multi-layered floating farm design, which combines aquaculture (fish), hydroponics, soil-based crops and photovoltaics to harness solar power, Ponce believes his solution can bring food where it is most needed. He says, suitable cities include New York, Chicago, Seattle, Tokyo, Singapore, Mumbai, Jakarta, Cairo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sao Paulo, Doha, Osaka, Bangkok, Shenzhen, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Istanbul, Los Angeles, Montreal, Jeddah, Kuwait city, Seoul, Karachi, Sydney and more.

“This is not science fiction,” says Ponce. “It is a serious and viable solution. It is not meant to solve all of humanity’s hunger problems or to replace existing traditional agriculture. This is not the idea at all. The driver behind the project is to open a new initiative which can be complementary and compatible with other existing production methods in order to help reduce food risk associated problems in different areas of the globe.”

The concept calls for a top level on the floating platform that integrates sophisticated computer power and green energy production facilities (photovoltaics combined with skylights) to generate power for a lower level hydroponic farm growing crops. The waste byproducts from these crops would be used to feed fishes on a third level. The waste from the fish farm would be recycled as fertilizer for the hydroponic farm, thus creating a self-sufficient cycle, says Ponce.

The facilities would be protected from waves by a series of inflatable wave protectors.

Ponce says the concept is designed with well tested materials, technologies and systems that are already in use around the globe.


Louisiana Tribe Dissatisfied with BP Payout Offer

By Wendy Laursen 2015-10-11 16:09:29

A Louisiana Indian tribe has filed a lawsuit against BP, Transocean and Halliburton over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, arguing the company is liable for damage to the tribe’s cultural and natural resources.

The Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe sued BP last Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

New Orleans attorney, Joel Waltzer, representing the tribe, says that the tribe opted to not accept the compensation offered by BP which he says amounted to less than $75,000.

“The spilled oil directly impacted vast portions of the Gulf of Mexico coastline, including (the tribe’s) aboriginal lands,” tribal chiefs Charles Verdin and Donald Dardar alleged in the lawsuit, reports Houma Today. “These are lands historically occupied by tribal members and ancestors, and include tribal cemeteries, sacred sites, Indian mounds, archaeological sites, village sites, shell middens and traditional fisheries.”

The tribe lives in the wetlands of southern Louisiana and depends on its fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexio. Some claim that fins numbers have dwindled and that catches now include deformed fish. The local shrimp industry has also been affected.

More than six square miles, or about 3,840 acres, of coastal land, shorelines and water bottoms were directly damaged by oiling and other contaminants, the suit says.

The move coincides with the announcement last week that BP will pay more than $20 billion in fines to resolve nearly all claims from the tragedy, marking the largest corporate settlement of its kind in U.S. history, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said last week.

The agreement, first outlined in July, adds to the $43.8 billion BP had previously set aside for criminal and civil penalties and cleanup costs. The company has said its total pre-tax charge for the spill is now around $53.8 billion.

The fines – to be paid to the federal government, five Gulf Coast states and hundreds of municipalities over 18 years – will fund environmental restoration and economic development programs to address the worst offshore spill in U.S. history.

“This agreement will launch one of the largest environmental restoration efforts the world has ever seen,” Lynch said.

The spill fouled 1,300 miles of coastline and dumped more than three million barrels of crude into the sea, hurting fishermen and prompting overhauls of safety rules and emergency plans in one of the world’s most prolific offshore oil basins.

The core of the agreement includes $7.1 billion for natural resource damages, $5.5 billion for Clean Water Act fines, and $4.9 billion in payments to states.

The Macondo well blowout and the fire on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig on April 20, 2010 killed 11 workers.

This 2014 documentary from Five.TV describes the tragedy.


Oily Water Separators Don’t Require Further Regulation

By MarEx 2015-10-11 15:29:39

Oily water separators that are compliant with MEPC 107(49) regulations are sufficient technology for their purpose, conclude the authors of the final report from MAX1 Studies, a six-month study commissioned by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and managed by the maritime consultancy firm Martin & Ottaway.

The study examined two questions:

1. How effective are shipboard oily water separators (OWS)?

2. What can be done to further increase the effectiveness of shipboard oily waste management?

Historically, improvements to these systems have been hampered by a lack of open communication and technical cooperation. Therefore, this effort particularly focused on cooperative evaluation and analysis, especially through identifying and engaging stakeholders to consolidate possible divergent points of view.

The study found that the majority of complaints with OWS technology involve problems generally associated with OWS designed to comply with MEPC 60(33). As ships constructed after 2005 must be fitted with units that comply with MEPC 107(49), MEPC 60(33) units are no longer manufactured.

Therefore, the authors conclude that improving OWS technology should not be a regulatory priority, since MEPC 60(33) units will eventually be overtaken by improved MEPC 107(49) units without any additional intervention.

With regard to making continual improvements to MEPC 107(49) equipment, the authors suggest that the best method to address remaining issues is not to amend regulations to make a particular technology required, but rather to incentivize manufacturers to continue to improve OWS technology.

To assist manufacturers with making OWS improvements, shipowners and crews must also work to improve the customer feedback loop, which continues to show insufficient reporting of issues back to the manufacturer.

Remaining issues include the time-intensive nature of OWS cleaning/maintenance and false negatives/positives with oil content meter (OCM) equipment. Specifically, technical advances in OCM oil detection accuracy would find a ready market in the industry. False OCM alarms can become a serious operational issue, since possible false alarms make OWS systems difficult to troubleshoot, which results in ineffective crew efforts at resolving the alarm.

Crews should be trained to recognize this reality and to stop using an OWS that does not respond properly, issue a service report, and request that it be resolved at the next port, states the report. The study indicates that port state control officials would welcome this type of report and operational feedback.

A number of reported issues with MEPC 107(49) units can also be improved through adequate crew training and ensuring that an appropriate OWS system is selected for its intended operational environment. For a shipowner, these types of systems considerations will likely provide the greatest improvements to MEPC 107(49) OWS operations, states the report.

“We emphasize that there is no indication that further regulatory efforts at improving OWS technology are required. In fact, any regulatory change would most likely be counterproductive, since it would be destabilizing, requiring many years for implementation and creating confusion and possibly new myths,” state the report authors.

The report offers the following pathways to increase the effectiveness of shipboard oily waste management, which were reached through review of existing literature, extensive consultation with stakeholders, and technical and systems analysis:

• Increasing and improving crew training (in OWS operations and MARPOL regulations)

• Addressing availability and cost issues with port reception facilities

• Moving towards drier bilges

• Increasing and improving crew dialogue with shore management (making crews feel comfortable as part of the solution)

• Exploring options for electronic record keeping

• Cultivating a “culture” of compliance/trust/communication/transparency

For the most part, these suggestions are best applied through reliable, data-driven, transparent implementation by shipowners in consultation with relevant stakeholders such as regulatory bodies, shore personnel and ships crews, within the existing regulatory structure.

The study found that some shipowners are already solving these problems effectively, reducing stress on the system for all stakeholders. “Today’s regulations are resulting in increasingly drier bilges and improved OWS capability, reducing discharge of oil to water by total volume. With improved compliance this trend of reduced total discharge will only accelerate.”

The report is available here.


China Finishes Lighthouses in Disputed South China Sea

By Reuters 2015-10-10 00:38:22

China has completed the construction of two lighthouses in the disputed South China Sea, the official Xinhua news agency reported, as tensions in the region mount over Beijing’s maritime ambitions.

A completion ceremony was held for the lighthouses on Cuateron Reef and Johnson South Reef in the Spratly islands, Xinhua said late on Friday. The United States and the Philippines have opposed the construction.

China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year, and the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have overlapping claims.

China said on Friday it would not stand for violations of its territorial waters in the name of freedom of navigation, as the United States considers sailing warships to waters inside the 12-nautical-mile zones around islands it has built in the Spratly chain.

Washington has signalled it does not recognize Beijing’s sovereignty over the several islands China has built on reefs in the Spratly archipelago and says the U.S. navy will continue to operate wherever international law allows.

The issue is central to increasingly tense relations between the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies.

Beijing has said construction in the region is to help maritime search and rescue, disaster relief, environmental protection and navigational security. It has also said it will continue to build other installations to better serve countries in the region and vessels navigating those waters.


The Last of the Old Generation or the Start of the New?

By Wendy Laursen 2015-10-10 00:28:02

Last week saw the announcement that the delivery of Allseas’ huge platform installation and decommissioning vessel, Pioneering Spirit, has been delayed until the first half of 2016.

The ship, formerly named the Peter Schelte, is the world’s largest vessel in terms of its gross tonnage, 403,342gt, its breadth, 123.75m (406 feet), and its displacement, 900,000 tons.

Ship broker Seabrokers says the 382m (1,250 feet) vessel, which has a maximum lift of 48,000 tonnes, was due to enter into service in the North Sea this summer but will now be delayed largely due to the late delivery of lift beam components.

Allseas has reportedly advised Shell and Statoil of the revised delivery schedule, as the vessel was due to remove platforms for Shell in the Brent field and to carry out an installation contract on the Johan Sverdup field for Statoil.

Douglas-Westwood analyst, Mark Adeosun, author of The World Subsea Vessel Operations Market Forecast 2016-2020, says the vessel has unique versatility. While it has been built largely for the decommissioning market, it is also capable of subsea construction and pipelay operations. “Decommissioning is where the uniqueness of the vessel shines through,” says Adeosun. “It will be used to lift the 24,000 tonne Brent Delta topside, something that no other vessel could achieve in a single lift. The weight and size that this vessel can lift really sets it apart from other vessels in the market.”

There’s a “but” though. “The competitiveness of the vessel, in terms of its daily charter rate (DCR), is unproven. The vessel’s DCR is likely to be high in order to offset its operating expenditure. The vessel is arguably over complicated and could price itself out of the pipelay and construction market. Until more actual contracts have been awarded, it is difficult to really draw a conclusion on its competitiveness,” says Adeosun.

Entering a Challenging Market

Pioneering Spirit will be entering challenging market conditions. Subsea vessel providers have been taking additional measures to help strengthen their financial position and stem oversupply in the market by deferring newbuilds.

Douglas-Westwood believes that it is unlikely that day rates have bottomed out. Instead, across the global subsea vessel fleet, a 2014-15 decline of at least 30 percent in day rates is not unlikely before prices stabilise.

Vessel supply has increased in recent years due to the current build cycle, which was originally driven by high oil prices and increased demand for higher specification vessels. Recent order intakes have been relatively low, and this is not expected to change for some time, marking an end to the current newbuild cycle.

“The most recent build cycle marked advancement in the vessel fleet with the delivery of larger and higher specification vessels which are required for the challenges of deepwater development,” says Adeosun. In recent years, subsea vessel owners have been more interested in building higher specification vessels which has led to under investment in low specification vessels.

Operators are also retiring older vessels with lower capacities and higher operating costs, particularly vessels delivered during the first build cycle that took place between 1973 and 1987.

The evolution of vessels supplied in the recent build cycle (2006-2015) has improved the capabilities and dynamism of available units. Vessels have become increasingly multi-purpose in order to reduce over-dependence on a specific market, says Adeosun. All vessel types except pipelay vessels are capable of carrying out both subsea construction and IRM services. Hence, the flexibility of Pioneering Spirit despite its primary purpose.

A New Start

With eventual market recovery towards 2020, subsea vessel day demand is set to grow at a 5.2 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the next five years. Global subsea vessel operations expenditure is expected to increase by 29 percent compared to the preceding five-year period, totalling $97.7 billion from 2016 to 2020.

Field development (36 percent) and inspection, repair and maintenance (IRM) (40 percent) are expected to remain the principal drivers of global subsea vessel demand and expenditure. As production in shallow water basins declines, activities in deeper water are set to increase.

North America, Africa and Latin America are to account for 47.5 percent of global expenditure between 2016 and 2020. The “golden triangle” remains vital to subsea vessel demand despite falling oil prices, project delays and political instability associated with Africa. The development of East African gas basins in the Indian Ocean will contribute to subsea vessel demand in the latter years of the forecast period.

“It is pertinent to state that a handful of big projects will not be able to turn the market around to recovery,” says Adeosun. “However, the further development of big projects is a good indication that exploration and production companies are expecting to see a recovery in the market environment at some point in the future.”

Big deepwater projects such as Shell’s Bonga South West in Nigeria, Petrobras’ Libra and Lula deepwater development in the Santos Basin, BP’s Mad Phase II and the commencement of offshore activities at ENI’s Area 4 in Mozambique are examples of deepwater development that will restore positivity in the market. Major pipeline projects such as the Nord Stream 2, the SAGE pipeline and the Sepat gas pipeline are also forecast to drive vessel demand until the end of the decade.

Asia will be the single largest market with an anticipated 18.7 percent of expenditure over the next five years, largely driven by shallow water IRM and pipelay-related activities. Australasia has the fastest growth rate of all of the regions at a 46.8 percent CAGR due to massive offshore gas field developments. Activity in the Middle East represents nine percent of the total predicted global subsea vessel expenditure.

Where Pioneering Spirit will be in 2020 is yet to be seen. It could be leading a new era of multi-purpose subsea construction vessels, or it could remain a reminder of past glory set to work almost exclusively in the decommissioning market.