SEACAT Anti-Pracy Exercises Begin

By MarEx 2015-10-06 12:24:32

On October 5th, the U.S. and six other nations began a five-day naval exercise. The Singapore-based Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training Exercise (SEACAT) wants more ability to combat the growing amounts of piracyincidents in the region.

SEACAT did its first anti-terrorism exercise in 2002, and has expanded the program to include piracy and smuggling.

The joint exercise will included more than 100 U.S. sailors and personnel from Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. Bangladeshi navy officials will also observe the exercises. Meanwhile, participating naval officers will receive simulated reports of suspicious activity in the Straits of Singapore and Malacca, the Andaman Sea and the South China Sea in order to run simulated response tactics.

The South China Sea has experienced a marked increase in piracy and robbery this year as well.

In July, the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) said that incidents of piracy and armed robbery had risen 18 percent during the first half of 2015 over last year. There were about 106 incidents reported between January and June 2015 verses a total of 90 in 2014.

The U.S. Navy said it also sees the exercise as an opportunity to contribute to the region in disaster relief, humanitarian aid and search-and rescue operations. The U.S. Navy said an increased presence of warships in the region could intercept suspicious vessels and improve responses times.

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Port of Piraeus Sale Delayed

By Reuters 2015-10-06 11:08:49

Greece will put off by a few weeks the sale of a majority stake in its largest port, Piraeus , after a September 20 snap election held up work at ministries, government officials said on Tuesday.

Setting a date to submit binding bids for Piraeus port is one of the actions that Athens needs to complete to conclude its first bailout review and qualify for more funds from its 86 billion euro bailout.

China’s Cosco Group, Dutch container terminal operator APM Terminals and Philippines-based International Container Terminal Services have until October 30 to submit binding bids for a 51 percent stake in the port operator OLP.

But the early election has held up work and the deadline may be pushed back, government officials said.

“We will fall behind by about 20 days because the concession agreement that the shipping and finance ministries have to sign is causing a short delay,” a government official close to the matter said on condition of anonymity.

The shipping ministry still needs to review the draft agreement before it is presented to investors, another official said, adding that the re-elected minister had received the relevant material only “very recently.”

Cosco currently manages two cargo piers at the Piraeus Port under a 2009 concession agreement. Athens operates one pier at the port, which is currently 74 percent state owned.

Under the deal, would-be buyers will also have the option to acquire an additional 16 percent stake in OLP over five years after completing mandatory investments.

Divisions among local authorities over the terms of the concession agreement could also hold up the process. Port workers, who fear job cuts, have threatened to block the sale with protests and strikes and have taken legal action against the project.

Dock workers staged repeated strikes against the possible sale of the country’s two largest ports in 2008-2009.

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Water Depth Will Hinder El Faro Search

By MarEx 2015-10-06 10:37:21

Representatives from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have arrived in Jacksonville, Florida as part of the ongoing investigation of the M/V El Faro, which is lost at sea after being caught in the path of Hurricane Joaquin. One crewmember is confirmed dead and U.S. Coast Guard officials are searching for the box ship’s remaining 32 crewmembers.

The El Faro departed from Jacksonville last week en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico, before disappearing in what maritime experts called the worst cargo shipping disaster involving a U.S.-flagged vessel in more than 30 years. USCG officials have stated that they are no longer searching for the vessel after discovering a 225-square-mile debris field over the weekend. Life jackets, containers, oil sheen and a life raft were among the items spotted by USCG aircrews flying over the Bahamas.

NTSB member Bella Dinh-Zarr acknowledged the investigation would be difficult with the ship having sunk in an unknown location after its last known location off Crooked Island in the Bahamas.

“It’s a big challenge when there’s such a large area of water and at such depth,” Dinh-Zarr said. “We hope for the best and that the ship will be recovered.”

On Monday, the ship’s owner Tote Maritiime said the vessel was undergoing engine room work before it sank off the Bahamas.

Tote Services President Philip Greene said he did not think the engine room work was linked to a propulsion problem reported by the ship’s captain.

NTSB investigation is separate from that by the U.S. Coast Guard and will check the vessel’s maintenance records and other paperwork.

El Faro, a 735-foot box ship with 28 U.S. citizens and five Polish nationals on board and reported losing propulsion and that it was listing and taking on water two days into its journey on October 1.

Records show that the U.S. National Hurricane Center issued a warning about the likelihood of Joaquin becoming a hurricane at 5 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, nearly three hours before El Faro left port.

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Washington Probes Missing El Faro

By MarEx 2015-10-06 10:37:21

Representatives from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have arrived in Jacksonville, Florida as part of the ongoing investigation of the M/V El Faro, which is lost at sea after being caught in the path of Hurricane Joaquin. One crewmember is confirmed dead and U.S. Coast Guard officials are searching for the box ship’s remaining 32 crewmembers.

The El Faro departed from Jacksonville last week en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico, before disappearing in what maritime experts called the worst cargo shipping disaster involving a U.S.-flagged vessel in more than 30 years. USCG officials have stated that they are no longer searching for the vessel after discovering a 225-square-mile debris field over the weekend. Life jackets, containers, oil sheen and a life raft were among the items spotted by USCG aircrews flying over the Bahamas.

NTSB member Bella Dinh-Zarr acknowledged the investigation would be difficult with the ship having sunk in an unknown location after its last known location off Crooked Island in the Bahamas.

“It’s a big challenge when there’s such a large area of water and at such depth,” Dinh-Zarr said. “We hope for the best and that the ship will be recovered.”

On Monday, the ship’s owner Tote Maritiime said the vessel was undergoing engine room work before it sank off the Bahamas.

Tote Services President Philip Greene said he did not think the engine room work was linked to a propulsion problem reported by the ship’s captain.

NTSB investigation is separate from that by the U.S. Coast Guard and will check the vessel’s maintenance records and other paperwork.

El Faro, a 735-foot box ship with 28 U.S. citizens and five Polish nationals on board and reported losing propulsion and that it was listing and taking on water two days into its journey on October 1.

Records show that the U.S. National Hurricane Center issued a warning about the likelihood of Joaquin becoming a hurricane at 5 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, nearly three hours before El Faro left port.

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Japan Closing in on Submarine Contract

By MarEx 2015-10-06 10:08:05

In another move highlighting the growing ties between the nations, a Japanese consortium has placed a $35 billion bid to construct submarines for the Royal Australian Navy. While France’s DCNS Group and Germany’s Thyssen Krupp Marine Systems (TKMS) have offered proposals, several analysts believe Japan is the only bidder with submarines large enough to meet Australia’s demands.

Japan’s consortium includes the Japanese government, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries.

If granted the contract, Japan has offered to construct a state-of-the-art submarine concept which would be larger than its 4,000-ton Soryu-class submarine using new designs and sustainment centers in Japan as well as Adelaide and Perth. In addition, Japan has offered to train hundreds of Australian engineers in Kobe, its manufacturing hub, as well as Australia.

Australia is seeking a long-range submarine, about 4,000-tonnes, bigger than the 3,300-tonne Collins that it currently deploys. To compete against Japan’s 4,200-tonne Soryu class, TKMS is submitting a 4,000-tonne Type 216, and DCNS is offering a smaller, non-nuclear variant of its 5,300 tonne Barracuda-class submarines.

Agreeing to construct the submarines in Australia was one of the prior points of contention which appeared to give the European bidders an edge in the negotiations. DCNS and TKMS had both previously pledged their intention to build submarines entirely an Australia, but Japan had been slow to state this intention until recently.

Manufacturing jobs have become a heated political issue in Australia, and the Japanese Defense Ministry recently stated that its hybrid option of building subs in Australia and Japan would be the cheapest option for Australian taxpayers.

Australia’s interest in strengthening its naval fleet appears to be driven by rising Chinese assertiveness in the region.

In June, India, Japan and Australia participated in trilateral maritime dialogue in New Dehli. The talks were attended by Indian foreign secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Japanese vice foreign minister Akitaka Saiki and Australian secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Varghese.

Two Chinese submarines were spotted near Sri Lanka and Pakistan in July, which drew criticism from China’s littoral nations. Australia completed the AUSINDEX-15, its first bilateral maritime exercise with India, last month. The Australian High Commission in Delhi has stated that the exercises will include anti-submarine warfare and coordinated anti-submarine drills.

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