Modi Heads to Bangladesh with China on his Mind

By Reuters 2015-05-27 18:48:27

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take border settlement and water sharing deals to Bangladesh next month as part of his drive to erode Chinese influence in South Asia, although Dhaka is likely to remain dependent on Beijing for military equipment.

India, which has had an uneasy relationship with China for decades, has long fretted over Beijing’s military cooperation with its South Asian neighbors, especially Pakistan.

It is also worried China is creating a so-called “string of pearls” across the Indian Ocean by funding port developments in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Modi has won parliamentary approval for an agreement that will transfer a small amount of territory to Bangladesh that previous Indian governments failed to ratify for fear of a domestic backlash. The issue dates back to British India’s partition in 1947.

The prime minister has also persuaded a regional Indian leader to drop her opposition to share water equally from a key river that flows through India before reaching Bangladesh.

“There have been some contentious issues like the land border agreement which, frankly, we should have done years ago,” said an Indian official involved in Modi’s June 6-7 visit.

The migration of tens of thousands of people from Bangladesh into India has long been a sensitive issue in India, with Modi’s Hindu nationalist party making it a key campaign plank.

But since coming to power, Modi has fallen silent on the migration issue and has instead focused on securing India’s strategic objectives in Bangladesh.

Srikanth Kondapalli, a China expert at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, said China had built close ties with Bangladesh as part of its South Asia diplomacy and that this was a concern for India.

“The number of PLA visits to Bangladesh is nearly the same as to India,” he said, referring to China’s People’s Liberation Army. “Modi is trying to counter it with his neighborhood outreach.”


Modi has reached out to all of India’s neighbors since he took office a year ago except Pakistan.

But any Indian concerns about Bangladesh’s growing military ties to China, including the planned sale of two Chinese diesel-electric submarines, are likely to fall on deaf ears in Dhaka, said a former Bangladeshi military officer and an Indian expert.

China was the source of 82 percent of Bangladesh’s arms purchases from 2009-2013, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), making Dhaka one of the top three buyers of Chinese weapons in the world.

SIPRI data showed Bangladesh bought anti-ship missiles, tanks, fighter aircraft and other arms from China between 2008 and 2012. Last year it commissioned two new frigates from China.

“China became the largest supplier of military hardware to Bangladesh when relations with India were strained,” said retired Bangladeshi brigadier general Shahedul Anam Khan.

A government official in Dhaka said Bangladesh’s first submarines, costing $206 million in total, could be delivered before 2019. China was expected to provide training, said Chinese experts on the country’s ties with South Asia.

What worries Indian military planners is that China might see Bangladesh, which shares the Bay of Bengal with India and Myanmar, as an ideal place for its warships and submarines to dock.

India was alarmed last year when Chinese submarines did the same in Sri Lanka. A new government in Colombo has since ruled out submarine visits in the near future.

China’s Defence Ministry’s had no immediate comment on military ties with Bangladesh. Cooperation between the two countries was normal, China’s Foreign Ministry said.

Bangladesh has never hosted a naval ship from China and has no plans to, according to a government official.


China is helping Bangladesh upgrade its main Chittagong port while the China Harbour Engineering Company has been seen as the frontrunner to win a contract to build an $8 billion deep water port on Sonadia Island off the Bangladeshi city of Cox’s Bazaar in the Bay of Bengal.

India’s Adani Group is also bidding for the project.

The Bangladeshi government official said it was unclear when a decision on Sonadia would be made, adding that port operators from the United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands were also interested.

“China, in my opinion, is the best option,” said Munshi Faiz Ahmad, a former Bangladesh ambassador to China, adding that Chinese firms had built big infrastructure projects in a number of countries including Bangladesh, where they have constructed power plants, bridges and roads.

The Indian navy is watching China’s growing military ties with Bangladesh closely.

It’s setting up missile batteries and radar surveillance on Sagar Island, near the Indian-Bangladesh border, with plans to develop a deep sea port there that would provide easy access to the Bay of Bengal, military officials said.

“The worry is not Bangladesh’s military capabilities,” said former Indian ambassador to Dhaka, Pinaki Chakravarty. “It is about Chinese influence next door.”


Shen Neng 1 Owners Headed for Court

By Wendy Laursen 2015-05-27 18:34:02

On April 3, 2010, the Chinese-registered bulk carrier Shen Neng 1 caused the largest known direct impact on a coral reef by a ship grounding.

When the ship ran aground at Douglas Shoal, north-east of Gladstone, Australia, it damaged an area covering 0.4 square kilometers (0.15 square miles). Of this, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) estimates 115,000 square meters (0.04 square miles) of the shoal were severely damaged or destroyed.

The vessel also left toxic anti-fouling paint on the reef and on substantial areas of loose coral rubble created by the grounding. The ship’s hull was seriously damaged by the grounding, with the engine room and six water ballast and fuel oil tanks being breached, resulting in a small amount of pollution into the water column as well.

Despite ongoing attempts to have the ship’s owner pay for damages, Australia has been unsuccessful in securing funds from the shipowner Shenzhen Energy Transportation or its insurer to clean-up and remediate the site.

The Australian government has therefore decided to take legal action in Federal Court. The proceeding has been listed for trial for 15 days commencing in April 2016 in Brisbane.

Australia is seeking damages from the shipowner for the cost of remediation of the shoal or, as an alternative, orders requiring remediation of the shoal by the shipowner.

GBRMPA has voiced its great disappointment over the need to involve court action, particularly given the nature and scale of the incident, and the authority remains concerned about the long-term health of the shoal.

GBRMPA’s first priority in remediating the shoal would be to attempt to remove the remaining anti-fouling paint and residue. This would allow some natural recovery processes to begin.

In the meantime, the government remains committed to making every attempt to obtain a negotiated outcome with the shipowner for the clean-up and remediation of the shoal, said GBRMPA in a statement.

Investigation Findings

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) investigation found that the grounding of Shen Neng 1 occurred because the chief mate did not alter the ship’s course at the designated course alteration position. His monitoring of the ship’s position was ineffective and his actions were affected by fatigue.

The ATSB identified four safety issues during the investigation:

• there was no effective fatigue management system in place to ensure that the bridge watchkeepers were fit to stand a navigational watch after they had supervised the loading of a cargo of coal in Gladstone;

• there was insufficient guidance in relation to the proper use of passage plans, including electronic route plans, in the ship’s safety management system;

• there were no visual cues to warn either the chief mate or the seaman on lookout duty, as to the underwater dangers directly ahead of the ship; and

• at the time of the grounding, the protections afforded by the requirement for compulsory pilotage and active monitoring of ships by REEFVTS, were not in place in the sea area off Gladstone.


NSA Looks to Maritime Laws for Internet Regulation

By Reuters 2015-05-27 15:00:09

The U.S. National Security Agency chief called on Wednesday for an “open, reliable and safe” Internet governed by international rules akin to the Law of the Sea, while deflecting critics who say NSA spying has undermined public trust in the cyberworld.

Admiral Michael Rogers spoke a few days after the U.S. Senate rejected a bill to extend spy agencies’ bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records, putting the programme in doubt shortly before its expiry on June 1.

Addressing a cyberwarfare conference in Estonia, Rogers adopted the diplomatic language of a grassroots online governance activist, hailing the Internet’s openness and value as a shared, public good.

“I’d like to see if we can create something equivalent to the maritime world in the cyber world that enables us to keep moving information, keep moving commerce, keep moving ideas on a global basis,” Rogers told a largely military audience.

“Can we create a ‘global commons’, so to speak, that enables open, reliable, safe and resilient communications, a flow of information and ideas?” he said. “(This should be) in a framework that maximises its use for all of us.”

He contrasted his view, which he said reflected U.S. government policy, to those of countries which argue that the Internet should be governed by the same rules of national control prevailing in sovereign states for centuries.

The deeply secretive NSA’s brief is to monitor information and data from foreign countries, and the Internet has given it unprecedented insights into the daily activities of billions of phone and computer users worldwide.

But the Internet’s decentralised and anonymous nature has also left citizens vulnerable to cyberattack by everyone from teenage vandals to criminals to military forces.

Critics in the audience welcomed Rogers’ embrace of certain open Internet principles but questioned the NSA’s role in massive surveillance of web surfing habits around the world.#

They also challenged calls by Rogers and other top U.S. and British officials to weaken encryption by enabling legally authorised wiretapping of the Internet.

Richard Hill, a former staff member of the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union, said Roger’s comments were “exactly contrary” to U.S. policy that seeks only cooperation furthering Washington’s security agenda.

Rogers acknowledged that U.S. military strategy views cyberspace as another theatre of operations similar to land, sea and outer space.

Asked to respond to a recently announced cyber warfare non-aggression pact between China and Russia, he said he had not read the details but was not too concerned since nation states routinely entered into agreements on a variety of subjects.


Chilean Strike Hits Imports and Exports

By MarEx 2015-05-27 14:31:02

A customs strike in Chile that began last week has started to affect exports and imports, particularly in the perishable goods markets.

The strike by customs officials, who say they want the government to approximately double their workforce, began on May 20, and the union says it will continue indefinitely until an agreement is reached.

It rejected a government proposal for a smaller increase in the workforce at the weekend.

“We have had dialogue but it has been tense … what we want is a signal that this will be resolved in the short term but that hasn’t arrived,” Jorge Thibaut, secretary general of the national association of customs workers (ANFACH) said to journalists on Wednesday.

Ports in particular have been affected by the strike. Last Friday there were reports of up to 900 trucks with problems accessing Valparaiso port facilities and wait times for truck drivers were estimated at over 30 hours.

The president of the Fruit Exporters Association of Chile (Asoex) Ronald Bown Fernandez expressed his concern over the situation by urging the government and custom officials to find a quick solution to conflict. According to Asoex, Chile exported over two million tons of fresh fruit last season through the Port of Valparaiso and neighboring Port of San Antonio. Fernandez estimated that the financial losses due to shipping problems were around $16 million. Chilean exporters of fruit such as apples and grapes were hit in February by a port strike on the U.S. West Coast.

Additionally, the Salmon Chile Group has stated that their industry has seen over $30 million in losses as a result of the strike.

Miners said late on Tuesday that the impact to their industry to date had been minimal.

“In the northern zone there have been no great difficulties and in the central zone, the move has led to delays in loading our products, but we have been able to comply with our contracts,” said a spokeswoman for Codelco, the world’s No. 1 copper producer.

Codelco’s main mines in central Chile are El Teniente and Andina.

Small business owners in the South American country have also complained that crucial import stocks were being held up.


Efficient Technology: Just Add Oil and Water

By Kathryn Stone 2015-05-27 13:17:10

A New Zealand ferry company is bending the old rule of never mixing oil with water in an effort to find more fuel efficient technology.

The Interislander ferry Arahura is currently running trails using Fuel Oil Emulsion (FOE) technology, which combines oil and water in a process that leads to more complete engine combustion with less harmful waste discharge. The company is experimenting with the technology in the hopes of increasing the operating efficiency of vessels across its entire fleet.

Multiple industry studies have shown that FOE significantly reduces NOX and particulate matter emissions in engines using the technology. In addition to the environmental and financial saving associated with FOE, the reduced emissions also contributes to safer working conditions and results in cooler running engines that require less maintenance.

Malcom Sims, the engineer in charge of the project seemed hopeful about FOE’s capabilities saying “The outcome looks as though it could reduce our use of fuel and the level of emissions as well as giving a significant financial saving.”

The current trial will take place over a three month period and is a follow-up to a 2013 demonstration, which showed significant promise for the technology. In the first trial FOE showed fuel savings between three to five percent, which could slash fuel consumption by up to 2 million liters a year.

If the trials prove successful, Interislander may look into adopting the technology across all its vessels. Sims stated that, “While these are still early days, there is definitely scope for potentially installing the technology across the fleet.”

The 13,621 gross-ton Arahura was chosen for the study because of its over three-decade operational history. According to Interislander, the vessel provides a reliable platform that will allow the tests to be carried out in a controlled manner.

FOE technology can be easily applied to already existing vessels as no engine modification is required to utilize the technology. Additionally, the fuel emulsion can created just prior to combustion by combining oil and water with an additive that allows the emulsion to form and remain stable.

Funding for the project is being provided by an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority grant, which encourages business to carry out demonstration projects on emerging efficient technologies that could have widespread applications. The current trial is being independently monitored and consists of a one-month baseline test with traditional fuel to use as a comparison.


Union: Callao box ops affected

Replacement labour used by APM Terminals (APMT) to fill in for striking dockworkers at Peru’s Port of Callao has started to affect container operations, according to the labour union’s spokesman.
Juan Carlos Vargas, spokesman for the Peruvian dockworkers’ union SUTRAMPORPC, disputes APMT’s