U.S. Consumers in Seafood Slavery Lawsuit

By MarEx 2015-10-07 02:59:19

By Juliette Aplin, The Futures Centre

Consumers in California have filed two separate class-action lawsuits against Mars and Nestlé for failing to acknowledge the use of forced labor in the supply chains. The consumers claim they would have not bought products from the Iams, Meow Mix and Fancy Feast ranges “had they known that the fish was allegedly harvested using forced labor.”

Both Nestlé and Mars source seafood from Thai Union Frozen Foods PLC, one of the world’s largest seafood producers, operating in Thailand and Indonesia. Thai Union was recently named in a New York Times article exposing the use of trafficking and forced labor amongst fisheries operating in the South China Sea.

It is estimated that together, Mars and Nestlé imported 28 million pounds of seafood from Thai Union Frozen Foods PLC into the US in 2014.

The two lawsuits closely follow a similar claim made against Costco for knowingly sold prawns from a supply chain using forced labor.

Further attempts to address the issue of forced labor within the seafood industry are also currently taking place in the U.S. through legislative action. Democrat Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut has proposed a bill to introduce greater transparency and accountability in corporate supply chains. If passed, this legislation would require companies to disclose anti-trafficking policies and ensure their supply chains are free from slavery and human trafficking.

In addition, a letter from US Congress’ House of Representatives has been sent to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), urging the agency to focus not only on illegal fishing, but on preventing “trafficking and slavery in the fishing industry.

So What?

Exposure of poor labor conditions across the seafood industry has increased over the past few years with investigations from Associated Press, the New York Times and The Guardian documenting cases trafficking and dangerous (sometimes even fatal) working conditions.

On the one hand, these three class action lawsuits indicate a failing in voluntary, industry-led standards to monitor labor conditions in the supply chains supplying Amercia’s seafood. However, on the other hand, they represent a rising consumer consciousness calling for greater transparency and accountability from large corporates involved in the seafood industry.

Should sustainable seafood certification schemes become more rigorous in including the social impact and human labor conditions involved in seafood supply chains? How far will initiatives such as Greenpeace’s annual retailer scorecard or the traceability tool being developed by the Marine Stewardship Council go in helping to stop the systemic exploitation?

Will legislation and security forces be able to protect civilians from trafficking and slavery in future, particularly in the context of increased migration?

Further from the consumer’s gaze is the issue of labor involved in supplying the fish fed to animals – from livestock to pets. According to the New York Times, “the United States is the biggest consumer of Thai fish, and pet food is among the fastest growing exports from Thailand. The average pet cat in the United States eats 30 pounds of fish per year, about double that of a typical American.”

Source: Consumers call for an end to forced labour in seafood supply, The Futures Centre

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Ivory Coast Begins Abidjan Port Upgrades

By MarEx 2015-10-07 02:37:03

On Tuesday, Ivory Coast began construction of a four-year, 560 billion CFA franc ($962 million) project to build a second container terminal and widen the canal leading to its main port in the commercial capital Abidjan.

Among the busiest in sub-Saharan Africa, the port serves Ivory Coast, French-speaking West Africa’s largest economy and the world’s top cocoa producer and is also a gateway for landlocked nations to the north.

China Harbour Engineering Co Ltd was awarded the construction contracts for both projects with the bulk of the cost covered by a loan from China’s Eximbank.

Construction of the new container terminal, which will be managed by consortium led by France’s Bolloré, will last 48 months and cost 409 billion euros ($461 billion).

It is expected to allow Abidjan to increase container traffic from 1.2 million TEU to three million TEU by 2020.

In 2004, Bolloré Africa Logistics was awarded the 15-year concession for the first container terminal at the port of Abidjan. Anticipating the productivity needs created by the country’s growth, the company has undertaken a modernization program at the terminal.

The upgrades to the canal linking the port to the Atlantic Ocean will be completed in 36 months at a cost of 151 billion CFA francs.

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Safety to the fore at Singapore forum

The 8th Co-operation Forum opened in Singapore on 5 October to discuss challenges faced by the maritime industry including cyber security and the trend towards a sustainable global maritime transport system.
The second day of the two-day forum saw the launch of a hydrographical survey of the straits of Malacca and Singapore previously reported by IHS Maritime.
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Shell CEO Sees First Signs of Oil Price Recovery

By Reuters 2015-10-07 02:14:18

Oil markets are beginning to recover but the scale of global oversupply means prices may rise only slowly, the chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell Plc said on Tuesday.

“I see the first mixed signs for recovery of oil prices,” Ben van Beurden told an oil industry conference in London.

“But with U.S. shale oil being more resilient than we originally thought and a lot of oil still in stock, it will take some more time to rebalance demand and supply,” he added.

Oil prices have collapsed over the last year in the face of heavy oversupply, with benchmark Brent crude falling to below $50 a barrel from a high above $115 in June 2014.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries led by Saudi Arabia has increased production in an attempt to build market share, leaving some other producers, including shale companies in North America, operating below break-even costs.

Van Beurden said many U.S. oil producers would struggle to refinance while prices remained so low, leading to lower output in the future: “Producers are now looking for new cash to survive and they will probably struggle to get it.”

Longer-term, there was a risk that low levels of global production could bring a spike in oil prices, he said.

If prices remained low for a long time and oil production outside OPEC and the United States declined due to cuts to capital expenditure, there was not likely to be any significant spare capacity left in the system, he said.

“This could cause prices to spike upwards, starting a new cycle of strong production growth in U.S. shale oil and subsequent volatility,” van Beurden said.

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