Chinese Passenger Ship Sinks, Hundreds Missing

By MarEx 2015-06-01 19:58:49

A passenger ship carrying 458 people, many elderly tourists, sank in China’s Yangtze River on Monday night during a storm and only 12 people had been rescued so far, state media said.

Premier Li Keqiang was heading to the scene of the accident in central Hubei province, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Xinhua, citing the Yangtze River navigation administration, said those rescued from the Eastern Star included the ship’s captain and engineer, who said the vessel sank rapidly after being caught in what it said was a cyclone.

Among those on board the ship were 406 tourists, aged from around 50 to 80, on a tour organised by a Shanghai tour group, and 47 crew members, the People’s Daily said on its microblog.

The newspaper said the boat had the capacity to carry more than 500 people.

The vessel was heading to southwest China’s Chongqing city from Nanjing, capital of east China’s Jiangsu Province. It sank at around 9:28 p.m. local time in the Jianli section of the river.

The Yangtze River navigation administration could not be reached for comment.

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Adriatic Oil: Croatia Weighs Tourism Threat

By Reuters 2015-06-01 19:33:45

When Croatia announced in 2013 it would set a tender to explore for oil and gas in its pristine Adriatic waters, the government evoked the hydrocarbon riches of Norway to win over the plan’s many detractors.

“If it’s not dangerous for Norway or Scotland, it shouldn’t be dangerous for us,” Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said in April, defending an effort he hopes could help turn around Croatia’s economic fortunes after six years of recession.

Milanovic was responding to public concerns that the project is a high-risk gamble that may forever change the way of life on Croatia’s more than 1,000 islands, hurt its lucrative tourism industry and harm the environment.

But with contracts expected to be signed with five selected concessionaires by July, opposition from local and international environmentalists, politicians and even pop stars, expressed in the campaign “SOS for Adriatic,” is only growing.

“It could be good if it means jobs for us on the platforms,” admitted Ivan Dominis, who handles tourist yachts in a small marina on the island of Dugi Otok, near a site being eyed for drilling.

Although the oil rigs must be at least 10km (six miles) away from the mainland and six kilometers (three miles) from any island, Dominis remained concerned.

“It doesn’t mean a disaster will happen, but only one incident is enough. We all live off tourism and fishing here. One spill and we’d never be able to clean the oil from the sea.”

Dugi Otok sits near Croatia’s Kornati national park, a nautical heaven of crystal clear waters strewn with dozens of small rocky islands and skirting one of the 10 planned areas of oil and gas exploration. Another area is near the famed medieval city of Dubrovnik.

Tourism in places like these has boosted Croatia’s image since the country of 4.3 million people broke from Yugoslavia in 1991. In 2014, the year after Croatia became the newest member of European Union, 12 million visitors generated around seven billion euros in revenues, or around 17 percent of national output.

But that has not been enough to keep the economy growing. Output has contracted by 13 percent since 2009, driving up unemployment to almost 20 percent.

The government hopes the country’s oil and gas potential can turn that around: preliminary studies suggest reasonably large amounts of natural gas in Croatia’s northern Adriatic, where it is already extracted, and oil in the south.

In January, Croatia awarded ten oil and gas exploration licenses: seven to a consortium of Houston-based Marathon Oil and Austria’s OMV, two to INA, co-owned by Croatia and Hungary’s MOL, and one to a consortium made up of Italy’s ENI and London-based Medoilgas.

WEIGHING RISKS

Croatia produces around 600,000 tons of oil per year, barely 20 percent of its needs, and some two billion cubic meters of gas, or 66 percent of annual consumption. The government believes it can produce more, though how much more will only be known once exploration gets under way in the next three years, with exploitation not likely before 2019.

Similar plans are afoot in Adriatic neighbors Montenegro and Albania. Across the sea, Italy has been pumping oil and gas from the seabed for decades. Italy extracted 521,742 tons of crude oil from the Adriatic in 2014, or 69 percent of its total offshore extraction.

Economy Minister Ivan Vrdoljak told Reuters the government was banking on around one billion euros ($1.12 billion) of investment and several thousand jobs in the first three to five years. Contracts with the chosen companies would likely be signed by July, Vrdoljak said.

Milanovic, whose job will be on the line in an election around the end of the year, says Croatia has a “patriotic duty” to determine what resources it has at its disposal.

The project also fits with Croatia’s ambitions of becoming an energy power in the region, with plans also under way to build a liquefied natural gas terminal on the island of Krk.

“Croatia still hasn’t decided whether it wants to develop industry or live off its natural beauty,” said Igor Dekanic, an oil engineering professor at Zagreb University, who supports the project.

“Realistically, I think the danger level is low and, if some quantities of hydrocarbons are found, the benefits will outweigh the risks,” he said.

Critics appear determined to block the enterprise, no matter what the economic windfall might be.

Croatia’s opposition green party, Orah (Walnut), plans to petition the government in June with demands for a new environmental study and a public debate, backed by the main opposition HDZ.

Greenpeace and other eco-groups also hope to force a binding referendum against drilling, although a government plan to change the rules on how to collect the necessary 400,000 signatures is likely to put up serious obstacles to its success.

Marathon Oil told Reuters it planned to talk to Croatian residents and politicians to assuage their fears.

“We’ve demonstrated our commitment to protecting the environment across our operations and through experience working offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, North Sea, offshore West Africa, offshore Alaska and other areas,” it said in an emailed statement.

But Orah’s leader, Mirela Holy, said the Adriatic could not be compared to the North Sea or Gulf of Mexico.

“The Adriatic is a shallow and closed sea,” said Holy. “Just one disaster here and we could forget the entire economy in the coastal region.”

One of Croatia’s most popular singers, Oliver Dragojevic, said in March he felt compelled to speak out against the plan.

“We love our sea, we love to brag about it, let’s not destroy it. We are a country of tourism, not of oil.”

($1 = 0.8939 euros)

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Strike at Peru’s Top Port May Stoke Inflation

By Reuters 2015-06-01 16:46:42

A dockworkers strike at Peru’s biggest port, Callao, has hit imports of basic goods in the Andean country and will likely stoke inflation, the main exporters association said Monday.

The 18-day strike has nearly frozen activities at the northern terminal of Callao at the edge of the capital Lima, prompting $100 million in lost revenues for merchants, the Exporters Association of Peru (Adex) said.

Some 26 ships are waiting to be unloaded and serviced and another 10 are expected to arrive this week, Adex said.

“This week there will be a shortage of essential products,” said Adex spokesman Juan Carlos Leon. “There won’t be enough flour, feed for chickens, industrial supplies.”

Inflation jumped a higher-than-expected 0.56 percent in May, leaving the annual inflation rate above the central bank’s target ceiling for a third straight month.

The strike has not affected mineral shipments, which pass through a different terminal, Leon said.

APM Terminals, owned by A.P. Moller-Maersk, operates the northern terminal, which handles 75 percent of Callao’s capacity.

Dockworkers on strike are pressing for better working conditions and protesting the use of a new computerized system for selecting shifts that aims to help police investigate drug smuggling. The union previously picked shifts.

Peru is the world’s top producer of cocaine, the White House has said. Local authorities have said they are increasingly finding cocaine packages hidden in containers of exported goods.

APM Terminals did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Sea Shepherd Buys Coast Guard Vessels

By MarEx 2015-06-01 16:38:21

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has secured two new ships to join its international fleet.

In January, Sea Shepherd USA purchased two recently decommissioned U.S. Coast Guard patrol vessels, the USCG Block Island and the USCG Pea Island. Both are 110-foot Island-class fast patrol vessels.

The two ships now renamed the Jules Verne and the Farley Mowat, purchased in Baltimore, are now berthed in Key West, Florida.

Sea Shepherd USA now operates three vessels. In addition to the two newly acquired fast patrol boats there is the sailing ketch the R/V Martin Sheen, currently finishing its engagement with Operation Milagro, protecting the endangered vaquita in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez.

The new Farley Mowat replaces the first vessel Farley Mowat that Sea Shepherd purchased in 1997 and retired in 2008. The new vessel was purchased with a bequest left to Sea Shepherd by longtime friend, Sea Shepherd International Chair and Canadian writer Farley Mowat, who passed away a year ago this month.

The Jules Verne is named in honor of the French writer who gave the world the inspiring story of Captain Nemo. The Jules Verne is partially sponsored by supporter John Paul DeJoria’s Peace, Love & Happiness Foundation.

In 1990, Sea Shepherd purchased a 95-foot Cape-class patrol vessel from the U.S. Coast Guard that it named the Edward Abbey. In 1999, the Edward Abbey was renamed the Sirenian and Sea Shepherd donated it as a permanent patrol vessel for the Galapagos National Park Marine Reserve.

“These two ships, the Farley Mowat and the Jules Verne, give Sea Shepherd USA a combination of speed and long-range capabilities,” said Sea Shepherd Founder Captain Paul Watson. “We have already offered the Jules Verne to assist the rangers at Cocos Island National Park Marine Reserve with anti-poaching interventions, 300 miles off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, and the Farley Mowat has been offered to patrol the Sea of Cortez in partnership with the government of Mexico to protect the endangered vaquita.”

Sea Shepherd has been operating ships for 37 years since 1978. In total, 15 ships have carried the Sea Shepherd flag on campaigns in all the world’s oceans. During this time, more than 5,000 people have participated as volunteers on board Sea Shepherd ships.

Sea Shepherd Global, based in Amsterdam, operates the vessels Steve Irwin, Bob Barker, Sam Simon, Brigitte Bardot and the Jairo Mora Sandoval. A sixth ship, as yet unnamed, is currently being constructed and will be launched in September 2016.

The History of Sea Shepherd ships:

1. Sea Shepherd: 1978 – 1979 (Flagged U.K.) (Retired)

2. Sea Shepherd II: 1980 – 1992 (Flagged U.K.) (Retired)

3. Divine Wind: 1987-1988 (Flagged Panama) (Sold)

4. Edward Abbey/Sirenian: 1990 – 2005 (Flagged USA/Canada) (Donated -Ecuador)

5. Cleveland Amory: 1993 -1994 (Flagged Canada) (Retired)

6. Whales Forever: 1994 – 1996 (Flagged St. Vincent) (Retired)

7. Ocean Warrior/Farley Mowat: 1997 – 2008 (Flagged Canada) (Retired)

8. Robert Hunter/Steve Irwin: 2006 – present (Flagged U.K./Netherlands)

9. Gojira/Brigitte Bardot: 2010 – present (Flagged Australia)

10. Bob Barker: 2009 – present (Flagged Netherlands)

11. Sam Simon: 2012 – present (Flagged Netherlands)

12. Jairo Mora Sandoval: 2013 – present (Flagged U.K.)

13. Martin Sheen: 2013 – present (Flagged USA)

14. Farley Mowat: 2015 – present (Flagged USA)

15. Jules Verne: 2015 – present (Flagged USA)

Sea Shepherd also maintains a fleet of small boats and surveillance and documentation drones.

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IMO to Adopt New Code for Gas-Fueled Ships

By MarEx 2015-06-01 15:29:04

The IMO is expected to adopt the IGF Code, a new mandatory code for gas-fueled ships, when the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) meets June 3 to 12 in London.

The IGF Code will provide mandatory provisions for the arrangement, installation, control and monitoring of machinery, equipment and systems using low-flashpoint fuels, focusing initially on LNG.

As a fuel with lower emissions than fuel oil and marine diesel oil, the use of gas as fuel, particularly liquefied natural gas (LNG), has increased in recent years. But gas as fuel poses its own set of safety challenges, which need to be properly managed. The IGF Code aims to minimize the risk to the ship, its crew and the environment, having regard to the nature of the fuels involved.

The Code addresses all areas that need special consideration for the usage of low-flashpoint fuels, taking a goal-based approach, with goals and functional requirements specified for each section forming the basis for the design, construction and operation of ships using this type of fuel.

Additionally, the IMO will address draft amendments to make the Code mandatory under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).

The proposed changes to the SOLAS amendments will provide a methodology for alternative design and arrangements for machinery, electrical installations and low-flashpoint fuel storage and distribution systems. Furthermore, they will add new regulations to require ships constructed after the date of entry into force to comply with the requirements of the IGF Code.

The MSC will also consider:

Cyber security- including a proposal to develop voluntary guidelines on cyber security practices to protect and enhance the resiliency of cyber systems supporting the operations of ports, vessels, marine facilities and other elements of the maritime transportation system.

Piracy and armed robbery against ships- The MSC will review statistics on reported incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships

Unsafe mixed migration by sea- The MSC will receive a report on the outcome of the inter-agency high-level meeting to address unsafe mixed migration by sea, which was held from 4 to 5 March 2015.

Ship routeing measures to be adopted- The MSC is expected to adopt new ship routeing measures aimed at protecting sensitive areas in the south-west Coral Sea off Australia.

Adoption of other amendments including-

Draft amendments to SOLAS regulations clarifying the provisions related to the secondary means of venting cargo tanks and the performance of ventilation systems.

Draft amendments to the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code, to improve the requirements relating to the provisions for concentrates or other cargoes which may liquefy.

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Standed Tanker Arrives in Port

By Kathryn Stone 2015-06-01 12:44:22

The disabled Afromax tanker Lady M finally arrived at the Port of Las Palmas Sunday after being stranded two weeks following an onboard fire.

The 115,418 DWT fuel tanker, owned and operated by Atlas Maritime, was carrying around 90,000 tons of fuel when a May 14 fire struck the vessel, disabling its engines. The incident occurred about 500 nautical miles off the Azores Islands.

Following the fire, the Lady M was denied entry into port until inspectors could determine the condition of the vessel and that it matched descriptions from the owner. According to European Union law, petroleum tankers are forbidden from docking in foreign ports without receiving prior permission. While ascertaining the exact situation onboard, the Coast Guard ordered the vessel to stay at a location about 60 miles off the Coast of Gran Canaria.

Greenpeace Spain expressed concern over this action last Friday citing that the Lady M was carrying 13,000 tons of oil more than the Prestige vessel, which in 2002 resulted in the largest oil spill for both Spain and Portugal. The organization urged Spanish authorities to permit the vessel entry in a nearby port to avoid any potential spill of the ‘dangerous cargo’.

Four tugs assisted in bring the vessel into the Port of Las Palmas Sunday and the port authority has reported that the hull is in very good condition and not at risk of spilling oil. On Monday the Lady M was subsequently transported to the Reina Sofia dock for repairs, which are expected to take between 10 and 15 days.

The vessel was traveling from the Perisan Gulf to Texas when the fire was reported and is set to resume course once repairs are completed.

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