Body Recount for Chinese Cruise Disaster

By Reuters 2015-06-14 23:34:04

Just 12 people survived the Yangtze River cruise ship capsizing in which 442 people perished, state media reported, giving a final toll for the disaster and blaming an earlier miscount of the survivors on confusion between government agencies.

All the bodies that had been missing since the Eastern Star capsized during a freak storm on June 1 have now been found, the official Xinhua news agency reported over the weekend. The number of survivors was lowered from 14 earlier, after realisation that there had been some duplication in the count.

“Different government bodies made repeated calculations of the number of survivors, thus leading to a miscalculation,” Tang Guanjun, head of the Yangtze River Navigation Affairs Administration, told reporters late on Saturday, Xinhua said.

A 60-strong team looking into the capsizing has collected a “multitude of first-hand evidence” and has interviewed many people including the captain, who survived, the government said last week.

Police have detained the captain and chief engineer for questioning as part of the investigation. An initial probe found the ship was not overloaded and had enough life vests on board.

The company which operated the ship has apologized for the disaster and said it would fully cooperate with the investigation. The government has pledged there would be no cover-up.


First Cruise Ship Visit for Dili

By MarEx 2015-06-14 20:37:46

In a demonstration of Timor-Leste’s progress as a free and independent nation, P&O Cruises’ Pacific Jewel made the first ever cruise ship visit to the national capital Dili over the weekend.

Carnival Australia CEO Ann Sherry and Steve Bracks, special adviser on governance to the Timor-Leste Prime Minister, hailed Pacific Jewel’s visit as a significant step forward for the country.

“After years of struggle, Timor-Leste finally won its independence only in 2002, but even five years ago few could have imagined nearly 2,000 cruise tourists going ashore in Dili,” Sherry said.

“Australia has strong ties to Timor-Leste on its path to nationhood and there is no doubt that Australians have been willing the Timorese people and their country to succeed. So, the arrival of the first cruise ship is an affirmation of Timor-Leste’s potential as an attractive cruise destination and the part tourism can play to build its economy.”

Saturday’s Timor-Leste call during Pacific Jewel’s return from dry dock and major refurbishment in Singapore was an opportunity to test Dili’s capacity to host a superliner visit.

The tender call was eagerly anticipated by the Dili community who were excited to welcome their first ever cruise tourists.

On the eve of the visit, former Victorian Premier, Steve Bracks, who, since 2007, has been a special adviser to the Timor-Leste Prime Minister, said it sent a powerful signal about the country’s progress.

“Having hundreds of cruise visitors come ashore in Dili to experience the sights, sounds and culture of Timor-Leste is another positive stepping stone in the country’s progress as a free and independent nation,” Bracks said.

Pacific Jewel’s visit to Dili has been keenly anticipated by the government and the local community who are keen to make tourism a much valued feature of the local economy in a country that has so much to offer visitors in cultural experiences.”

In May 2002, Timor-Leste became the first sovereign state of the 21st century following a long and traumatic struggle for independence. Australia played a key part leading up to independence. In 1999, current Governor General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, led an international peacekeeping force which oversaw the transition to independence.

Sherry said Pacific Jewel’s Dili call was consistent with Carnival Australia’s efforts in recent years to open up new cruise destinations in countries such as Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

“In addition to taking our passengers to otherwise remote destinations offering fabulous scenery and cultural experiences, cruise tourism can become a valuable part of island economies,” Sherry said. “I hope that Timor-Leste’s potential to take its place on the cruising map can be realized.”

A second P&O Cruises’ call to Timor-Leste is scheduled for September 2016 when Pacific Eden will visit Dili.

In another initiative enabling remote communities to participate in the economic benefits of cruising, the P&O Pacific Partnership with Save the Children raises funds for education and health facilities in the South Pacific.

Carnival Corporation also recently unveiled a tenth cruise brand – fathom – introducing ‘social impact travel’ enabling people to work with communities on economic, environmental and educational needs. fathom’s maiden voyage from Miami on a seven-day cruise cycle to the Dominican Republic will depart in April next year.


Human Traffickers Claim Australian Navy Pay-Off

By Reuters 2015-06-14 02:29:28

Australia would have stooped to a “new low” if reports that its navy paid people-smugglers bound for Australia thousands of dollars to turn back their boat are true, an Indonesian government official said on Saturday.

Australia has vowed to stop asylum-seekers reaching its shores, turning boats back to Indonesia when it can and sending asylum-seekers to camps in impoverished Papua New Guinea and Nauru for long-term detention.

A boat captain and two crew members arrested this week on suspicion of human trafficking told Indonesian police Australian authorities had paid each of them A$5,000 ($3,860) to turn back their vessel with 65 migrants on board.

The passengers, including children and a pregnant woman, were from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton have both denied reports of payment to the smugglers but Prime Minister Tony Abbott has declined to comment, citing operational security.

“Under Australian’s push-back policy we have been consistently saying they are on a slippery slope,” Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Armanatha Nasir told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference.

“Should this situation be confirmed and it turns out to be true, it would be a new low for the way the government of Australia handles the situation on irregular migration.”

Nasir said it would be the first time such an incident occurred involving Australian authorities.

Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi raised the issue with Australia’s ambassador to Indonesia, Paul Grigson, on the sidelines of a foreign policy conference in the Indonesian capital.

“He promised to bring my question to Canberra,” Marsudi told reporters. “We are really concerned, if it is confirmed.”

Indonesia plans to ask Australia for clarification, he said.

The United Nations and human rights groups have criticized Australia over its tough asylum-seeker policy, which Abbott defends as necessary to stop deaths at sea.


Container Ship Efficiency Not Always Paying Off

By Wendy Laursen 2015-06-12 21:35:22

Nor-Shipping saw a number of innovations for improving the energy efficiency of container ship designs, but with low fuel prices and the latest spending spree on mega-container ships, the industry is undergoing a shift that may see a stall in the benefits shipowners will gain for their efficiency dollar.

“The difference between elderly ships without the latest energy efficiency features and the new ships is still definitely there, but the effects, in dollars, have become less,” says Dirk Vissar, Senior Shipping Consultant at consultants Dynamar B.V. of the Netherlands.

Impact on Slow Steaming

The second half of 2014 saw a big drop in fuel prices, enough for many to anticipate a lessening of slow steaming. As fuel prices drop, a point is reached where it might be advantageous to remove a ship from a loop and speed up the rest. Some analysts put this point at a fuel price of $350 for the Far-East to Europe trade and around $400 for the Transpacific trade. There is no unambiguous assessment of the point, as it depends on many factors.

There are overheads involved in taking a ship out so fuel prices need remain low for a reasonable length of time before it is worth making the change. It may be better to keep ships in slow loops until they are disposed of.

So, the anticipated increase in vessel speed hasn’t really materialized. “Slow steaming is here to stay,” says Visser. “The industry has shaped its procedures to slow steaming (and so have shippers). Some vessels have been sailing a little bit faster. If they lose time in one port, they tend to make it up by steaming a bit faster to the next port. However, we see that the services between Europe and the Far East, for example, are still being run with the same number of ships as they did before the oil prices started coming down.”

Day Rates Continue to Drop

Freight rates remain low as shipping companies struggle in a market characterized by vessel oversupply and deliveries of ultra-large ships. “Freight rates have come down tremendously over the years, and that is driving the move to larger ship sizes that tend to reduce slot costs,” says Visser. Under the present market (low cargo offerings versus overcapacity), the lower slot costs of each yet larger vessel are passed on straight to the shipper in the form of yet a lower rate, barely covering fuel costs.” This turns the multimillion investment in an 18,000 TEU ship into an investment into lower rates… and ultimately worse…”

The world cellular container ship fleet grew by 6.3 percent during 2014 to reach 18.37 million TEU as at 1 January 2015, according to Alphaliner figures. The 1.1 million TEU growth in capacity was driven by the delivery of newbuildings totalling 1.47 million TEU, up from the previous year’s 1.38 million TEU.

Port congestion

Larger vessels are having an effect on port operations, says Visser. This has generated debate in the industry on how much the increase in average vessel size and the rise of multi-partner shipping alliances can be cited as causes of congestion. The World Shipping Council recently released a report stating that port congestion can and does arise from multiple causes. “Closer dialogue and joint problem solving is what is needed to address those issues, and solutions will not be found by pointing fingers. Every participant in the supply chain will have a role to play.”

Visser agrees there is no simple answer. Improved vessel efficiency has helped shipping companies lower operating costs, but this has been partially negated this year and last year by one-off port congestion in some areas including the U.S. West Coast and Manilla. Waiting times lengthen voyage time and lead to the need to use more ships.

So, despite the best intentions of an industry looking to improve its operational performance and its environmental footprint, things don’t always work out as planned, he says.


LA, NZ and Guangzhou Establish Ports Alliance

By MarEx 2015-06-12 20:59:16

The Port of Los Angeles has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ports of Auckland, New Zealand, and Guangzhou, China, at a Tripartite Ports Summit sponsored by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City of Los Angeles.

The document establishes the Tripartite Ports Alliance, which represents a new level of cooperation between the three port authorities that had initially committed to working more closely together in November 2014.

Los Angeles, Guangzhou and Auckland are sister cities and strategic trading partners that share similar economic goals. The newly formed alliance provides a platform for growing trilateral cooperation to foster trade, innovation and investment opportunities between the public and private sectors of the three regions.

Objectives within the memorandum of understanding include sharing of best practices and expertise; strengthened communication and collaboration on investments, technologies and environmental policies and working together to enhance capabilities of each port in order to boost their respective regional economies.

“We commend Mayor Garcetti’s leadership and foresight in helping to form this alliance during his trade mission to Asia last year,” said Ambassador Vilma Martinez, Los Angeles Harbor Commission President. “The Port of Los Angeles looks forward to collaborating with the ports of Auckland and Guangzhou on a series of initiatives, including promoting commercial and business opportunities as well as sharing innovative best practices.”

Held in Los Angeles, the two-day Tripartite Summit focused on business-to-business matchmaking for key sectors, including transportation, infrastructure development and design, retail and consumer products, biomedical technology, among other sectors. Mayor Chen Jianhua of Guangzhou and Mayor Len Brown of Auckland have brought leading high-level government and business delegations to the event. The summit is the first of three to be held under the Alliance.

The Port of Los Angeles has a strong commitment to developing innovative strategic and sustainable operations that benefit Southern California’s economy and quality of life. As North America’s leading seaport in terms by container volume and cargo value, the Port of Los Angeles facilitated $290 billion in trade during 2014. Port operations and commerce facilitate more than 148,000 jobs (about one in 12) in the City of Los Angeles and 531,000 jobs (or one in 16) in the five-county Southern California region. The San Pedro Bay Ports support more than one million California jobs and 3.1 million nationwide.


Taiko Crew Receive Historic Award

By MarEx 2015-06-12 19:38:40

A historical event took place in Bergen, Norway, on Friday when crew from the ro-ro Taiko received an operational medal for assisting the Norwegian Armed Forces and the Norwegian government in completing the U.N. mission to remove chemical weapons from Syria.

In December 2013, Taiko was hired by the Norwegian Government to transport Syrian chemical weapons abroad for destruction. Also involved in the mission were the Danish cargo ship Ark Futura, the Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen-class frigate HNoMS Helge Ingstad and the Danish Absalon-class support ship HDMS Esbern Snare as well as Chinese, Russian and British warships. Taiko loaded chemicals at the Syrian port of Latakia, for transport to Finland and the U.S. for destruction.

“This is a historic day,” comments a proud Jan Eyvin Wang, president and CEO of Wilh. Wilhelmsen ASA, the owner of Taiko. “No civilian seafarer or commercial vessel have been awarded a medal from the Norwegian Armed Forces since the Second World War.”

During the mission, a total of 43 civilian seafarers from Wilhelmsen served on board Taiko together with representatives from the Norwegian Armed Forces.

“We see this as a recognition of the crew’s competencies to solve the mission,” says Wang. It is the first time a commercial vessel and crew has been under a military command for such a long time.

“The mission was important for Norway and the U.N. Given the nature of the operation, it was complicated and we needed close coordination between Armed Forces, specialists in handling chemical weapons and the competence of the crew on board Taiko regarding loading and discharging cargo,” says John Gunnar Refsnes, military captain on board Taiko and military commander for Taiko during the operation. “Close co-operation, teamwork and top competence were essential to succeed.”

“Collaborating with the Navy has been a true pleasure,” says Espen Derbakk, master on Taiko. “We have learned a lot from each other and together we were able to pull off a rather complicated mission. Although the cargo was somewhat special for us, we could utilize our combination of high quality seamanship and efficient cargo handling.”