Southeast Asian Piracy Continues Unabated

By Kathryn Stone 2015-06-11 16:09:38

The rise in piracy in Southeast Asia continues unabated, according to latest report by anti-piracy watchdog ReCAAP.

May saw a 19% increase in reported incidents compared with April. This figure also roughly corresponds to the increase in successful pirate attempts compared with May 2014. The majority of recent incidents reported occurred in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore hot-spot.

Image Courtesy of ReCAAP

Overall 2015 has seen the highest instance of actual pirate attacks in five years, with 75 reported incidents. It has also seen a record number of ‘very significant’ events involving siphoning of ship fuel oil.

Both the Ocean Energy product tanker and theOriental Glory had fuel stolen in May. The attack on the Ocean Energy occurred in the Malacca Strait and resulted in a loss of 2,023 metric tons of gas oil. The attack on the Oriental Glory happened in eastern Malaysia. Pirates stole over 2,500 metric tons of ship fuel in this second incident.

Attacks in other piracy hot-spots such as Somalia and the western Indian Ocean have decreased over the past two years due to heightened military patrols and the use of armed guards. However, the opposite has proven true in Southeast Asia. Of the 5,009 seafarers attacked by pirates in 2014 almost 73% occurred in the waters of Southeast Asia.

A recent Oceans Beyond Piracy report noted the distinct characteristics of Asian piracy attacks consisted of a blatant disregard for seafarer welfare, which included physical abuse in 28% of incidents.

ReCAAP has stressed for local law enforcement agencies to increase patrols and surveillance activities as well as to launch immediate actions against pirates involved in serious incidents and petty theft.

The May 2015 ReCAAP report can be accessed here


MH370: A 90-Degree Nose Dive?

By MarEx 2015-06-10 23:07:59

The plight of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history, but an interdisciplinary research team led by a Texas A&M University mathematics professor has theorized the ill-fated plane plunged vertically into the southern Indian Ocean in March 2014.

The researchers’ computer simulations lead to the forensic assertion that a 90-degree nosedive explains the lack of debris or spilled oil in the water near where the plane is presumed to have crashed.

Dr. Goong Chen is an applied mathematician who teaches and researches at Texas A&M at Qatar and Texas A&M University’s main campus in Texas. He led the interdisciplinary team of collaborators from Texas A&M, Penn State, Virginia Tech, MIT and the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI) in simulating and modeling what might have happened to the plane.

The researchers used applied mathematics and computational fluid dynamics to conduct numerical simulations on the RAAD Supercomputer at Texas A&M at Qatar of a Boeing 777 plunging into the ocean, a so-called “water entry” problem in applied mathematics and aerospace engineering. The team simulated five different scenarios, including a gliding water entry similar to the one Captain Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger skillfully performed when US Airways flight 1549 landed in the middle of New York City’s Hudson River, a feat that’s referred to as “the miracle on the Hudson.”

Chen said based on all available evidence — especially the lack of floating debris or oil spills near the area of the presumed crash — the mostly likely theory is that the plane entered the water at a vertical or steep angle.

In any rescue and recovery effort of airplane crashes in water, the look for floating debris and oil is key. For example, for the disaster of Air France’s flight 447 on June 1, 2009, 3,500 pieces of floating debris have been recovered.

So, Chen wondered, why has there been no debris found at all so far for MH370?

The fluid dynamic simulations indicate, for a vertical water entry of the plane, that there would be no large bending moment, which is what happens when an external force, or moment, is applied to a structural element (such as a plane), which then causes the fuselage to buckle and break up. As the vertical water-entry is the smoothest with only small bending moment in contrast with other angles of entry, the aircraft is less likely to break up on entry near the ocean surface, which would explain the lack of debris or oil near the presumed crash site.

Based also on the suggestions of other aviation experts, Chen said in such a situation the wings would have broken off almost immediately and, along with other heavy debris, would have sunk to the bottom of the ocean, leaving little or no trace to be spotted.

“The true final moments of MH370 are likely to remain a mystery until someday when its black box is finally recovered and decoded,” Chen said. “But forensics strongly supports that MH370 plunged into the ocean in a nosedive.”

The research was the cover story in the April 2015 issue of Notices of the American Mathematical Society.


Grounding Caused by Lack of Ice Experience

By MarEx 2015-06-11 17:36:30

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has released its investigation report into the March 2014 grounding of the bulk carrier John I finding that a lack of experience sailing in ice was a major contributing factor to the accident.

The John I entered ice-covered waters off the southwest coast of Newfoundland on its way to Montreal, Quebec, from Las Palmas, Spain. After the engine cooling water temperature began to rise, the crew opened the sea water strainer and found it was plugged. As the crew began removing ice and slush from the strainer, water began to overflow from the open strainer box. When the crew attempted to close the leaking sea chest valve to stop the flow of water, its operating mechanism failed.

Sea water began to enter the vessel in an uncontrolled manner, overflowing into the engine room. The master then ordered the vessel to be blacked out, causing it to drift.

The investigation found that warmed sea water from the engine cooling system was being partially discharged overboard and partially returned to the main sea water pump suction, rather than being recirculated to the low sea chest to prevent ice buildup. The strainer became plugged with ice and slush. The sea chest valve was prevented from fully closing, likely due to ice buildup, and the valve operating mechanism failed due to overstress when the crew forcibly attempted to close it, which led to the flooding.

The publication Ice Navigation in Canadian Waters is intended to assist vessels operating in ice in Canadian waters, and it provides ice navigation techniques such as the need for engine room suction strainers to be easily removed and kept clear of ice and slush.

Local regulations also require vessels to be equipped with a system that prevents icing and blockages in the sea chest to ensure a supply of cooling water is maintained. The master received the checklist entitled “Marine Safety Guide Checklist for Operation in Ice Infested Waters” that covered relevant preventative measures to be taken.

Although the master had indicated that all of the precautions included on the checklist had been taken, some important measures to protect the cooling system were not in place, states the report. Furthermore, while the chief engineer had created an onboard checklist for the operation of the sea water cooling system, a copy of the checklist could not be obtained and, therefore, it could not be determined whether the checklist was sufficient to prevent the build-up of ice.

Towing Delay

As the vessel drifted towards the shore, commercial towing assistance was requested, but delayed due to the weather. Upon its arrival on scene, the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) vessel Earl Grey offered to tow the John I away from the shore. Further delays were encountered while the John I‘s master conferred with the vessel’s managing company, the CCG and the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC).

When the master finally accepted the tow, the first attempt to establish a tow line failed, and the vessel’s proximity to the shoals did not allow for completion of a second attempt. The John I then ran aground on the shoals. The crew members were evacuated by helicopter. The vessel’s hull sustained minor damage.

The JRCC did not have the authority to direct the master of the John I to accept the tow. Neither the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Environmental Response nor Transport Canada, both of which had the authority to direct the vessel to accept the tow, were actively involved at an earlier stage when it was clear that the time to take action was running out and the environmental risks posed by the vessel going aground were increasing.

The delay in starting the towing operation was caused both by the master’s reluctance to accept the tow and by the way that authorities managed the situation. If all authorities responsible for dealing with an emergency are not involved in a timely and coordinated manner, there is a risk that response options will be limited and the situation will escalate, states the report.

The full report is available here.


10 Percent Jump in New Zealand Cruisers

By MarEx 2015-06-11 16:55:41

New Zealand has maintained its position as one of the world’s fastest growing cruise markets, with new figures showing a record 65,609 Kiwis enjoyed a cruise holiday last year.

New Zealand passenger numbers surged 10.6 percent in 2014, positioning the nation as the third fastest growing cruise passenger market in the world, after Australia (20.4 percent growth) and France (13.6 percent) and well ahead of major markets such as Germany (5 percent) and North America (2.7 percent).

The result means the number of New Zealand cruise passengers has more than doubled over the past five years, with the market delivering an average annual growth rate of 17.3 per cent since 2009.

Although the New Zealand cruise market is still small by international standards, the equivalent of 1.4 per cent of New Zealand’s population took a cruise last year (up 0.1 percent on 2013) giving the nation a greater market penetration rate than established cruise markets like Spain (1 percent) and France (0.9 percent).

The 2014 New Zealand Cruise Industry Source Market Report shows that the most popular destination for Kiwi cruisers was the South Pacific which attracted more than 20,000 passengers (31.4 percent of the market).

Europe ranked second on the cruise holiday list, with close to 12,000 Kiwis heading to the region for an ocean cruise last year (more than 18 percent of the market).

Meanwhile an increase in the number of cruises close to home fuelled a 45 per cent rise in the number of Kiwis cruising New Zealand waters (7519 passengers, representing 11.5 percent of the market).

Produced by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasia, the annual source market report is based on data received from CLIA’s cruise line members, which account for more than 95 percent of the world’s cruise passengers.

Speaking at the report launch, CLIA Australasia General Manager Brett Jardine said New

Zealand’s growth story was impressive. “While New Zealand is still an emerging source market for cruise passengers with a relatively small population, it outperformed most markets around the world last year in terms of growth,” Jardine said.

“These figures show us that more and more New Zealanders are recognizing cruising as a great value and relaxing way to travel and are responding to the expanding range of cruises on offer.”

Jardine said the outlook for the New Zealand industry was buoyant, with a growth rate of only seven per cent required to reach 100,000 passengers by 2020.

Key findings of CLIA Australasia’s 2014 New Zealand Cruise Industry Source Market Report include:

• River cruising’s growing popularity prompted a 31.2 percent increase in passenger numbers to 5,464

• Kiwis cruising to the Caribbean region, including the Bahamas and Panama Canal, grew 46.1 percent to 2,629 while numbers to the Other Americas region including Hawaii, Eastern Canada, Mexico and South America rose by 44.1 percent to 4,310

• The number of New Zealanders cruising to Australia dropped by 41 percent to 4,633 reflecting a decline in the availability of Australian itineraries from New Zealand

• The most popular cruise duration was 8-14 days, with more than half of all passenger numbers (34,000) opting for this length

• New Zealand cruise passengers spent almost 680,000 days at sea in 2014 with the average length of a cruise holiday estimated at 10.4 days

• The North Island accounted for 82 percent of New Zealand cruise passengers.

The report is available here.


Canada Approves Pipeline to Feed Pacific LNG Exports

By Reuters 2015-06-11 16:39:29

The Canadian government has approved TransCanada Corp’s proposed C$1.7 billion ($1.38 billion) North Montney Mainline natural gas pipeline that would connect natural gasfields in northern British Columbia with a Pacific Coast export terminal.

The North Montney line would feed into a second new pipeline, the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission line, that would serve an $11 billion liquefied natural gas export terminal, called the Pacific NorthWest LNG project, proposed by state-owned Malaysian energy company Petronas.

The federal natural resources department announced the North Montney approval late on Wednesday.

In April, the Canadian regulator, the National Energy Board (NEB), recommended that North Montney, which has interprovincial connections, be approved subject to 45 conditions, including those to related to engineering, aboriginal consultation and environmental impact.

The North Montney and the Prince Rupert lines are vital to Petronas’s plans to exportnatural gas from Canada to energy hungry clients in Asia. British Columbia’s provincial government approved the Prince Rupert line last year. It does not require federal approval.

Separately, TransCanada said the NEB had approved its C$220 million King’s North Connection project, which is part of its Canadian Mainline expansion project.


Court Rejects Environmentalists’ Claim Against Shell

By MarEx 2015-06-11 14:20:46

A federal appeals court rejected a claim seeking to halt Royal Dutch Shell’s drilling efforts off Alaska’s Arctic Coast.

A three-judge panel for San Francisco’s Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) had not acted unlawfully in approving plans for leases in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas in 2005, 2007 and 2009. The panel’s decision was split 2-1 with Judge D.W. Nelson claiming that BOEM should have reviewed Shell’s plans more closely in accordance with the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act before approving the leases.

The claim was brought earlier this month by Earthjustice on behalf of twelve environmental groups.

Many environmental advocates oppose offshore energy exploration in the Arctic, on concern that any spill might prove difficult to clean up once production begins. The state of Washington has also been the scene of numerous protests as activist seek to halt Shell’s drilling operations.

BOEM director Abigail Ross Hopper has stated that the organization has set forth a high set of standards in order to protect the Arctic environment and ecosystem. Shell said that it was confident its exploration plans would be able to withstand legal scrutiny.

Shell is currently readying its fleet to begin drilling this summer.