U.S. Coast Guard Bill Passes House of Reps

By MarEx 2015-05-18 21:11:22

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1987) by a unanimous voice vote on Monday. Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, co-authored this bipartisan legislation and welcomed its passage.

The bill supports and strengthens the Coast Guard in its critical missions to save lives, safeguard our shores, and protect marine resources. “Some of the Coast Guard’s legacy cutters are fifty years old. These vessels are well beyond their estimated service life and have become increasingly unreliable and much more expensive to maintain and repair. We can, and we should, do better by our Coast Guard,” says Garamendi.

“The authorized funding levels for the Acquisitions, Construction and Improvement Account in this legislation will allow the Coast Guard to keep this recapitalization initiative on track.

“America’s Coast Guard and Merchant Marine play an indispensible role in our national security and economic prosperity. This bipartisan legislation supports their work and I applaud its passage,” said Garamendi. “H.R. 1987 would provide crucial budget stability for our Coast Guard, strengthening its ability to recapitalize its offshore fleets of ships and aircraft.

“The funding level, while far from ideal, will support this recapitalization and help the Coast Guard meet more of its mission goals. The bill also helps us find and implement best practices for meeting personnel needs, measuring performance and using new technology.”

Garamendi believes the bill directs the Secretary of Transportation to develop guidelines to promote the use of U.S. flag ships and U.S. mariners in the imminent export of LNG.

Details of the bill are available here.


Floating LNG Platforms Could Be Unmanned

By MarEx 2015-05-18 20:09:33

DNV GL has developed a new unmanned floating LNG concept that overcomes many of the challenges currently faced by those looking to unlock the potential of remote offshore gas fields.

Called Solitude, the concept demonstrates how technological advances can be combined into a solution that offers some 20 percent reduction in annual OPEX, only adding a few percent increase in CAPEX and at the same time increase the overall safety. Most of the technology needed is already within reach, says DNV GL.

FLNG technology is developing rapidly as part of the industry’s quest for resources in more remote waters. A number of concepts have been discussed, but only a few are currently under construction, as many oil and gas companies have experienced double-digit growth in both capital and operational expenditure over the last decade.

Foreseeing the need for more remote projects to be able to overcome even more challenging cost barriers, whilst still meeting increasingly stringent safety and environmental standards, DNV GL embarked on an Extraordinary Innovation Project to explore the future of LNG technology.

“Solitude has been developed with maintainability foremost in mind,” says Elisabeth Tørstad, DNV GL CEO Oil & Gas. “By changing the focus from maximum efficiency to maximum reliability, and selecting robust processing options with built-in redundancy, we were able to develop a solution that ensures production levels and boosts the economic viability of FLNG projects.”

Solitude makes use of advanced but mainly available technology to provide its power. Power that would otherwise be generated by high-maintenance gas turbines can for example be generated by fuel cells. This improves power generation reliability and reduces the unit’s environmental footprint.

Equipment throughout the FLNG is modularized and monitored from shore with much of the routine maintenance and fault correction carried out by self-programming autonomous inspection and maintenance units (robots). The topside has a system of rails that run along each process train, providing these robots with access to all the equipment.

Wireless sensor networks act as eyes, ears and noses, feeding information to a condition monitoring system that overseas fault detection, proactive maintenance and repair planning.

As there would be no one living on board or working on the topside during normal operation, the associated personal safety risks are eliminated. When people do enter for large maintenance campaigns, the topside would be prepared for a safe working environment. A new support and accommodation vessel concept and its associated docking system on the FLNG further boost the safety of interventions.

“Existing frontier oil and gas projects have resulted in tremendous technological developments, particularly in the subsea realm, and Solitude draws on this,” says Tørstad. “Operators are already controlling subsea installations and simple, fixed offshore installations from shore. Given the on-going advances in autonomous systems and remote operations, unmanned offshore installations are a natural development over the next few decades.

“While Solitude is a holistic concept, many of its solutions can be implemented independently – and some are already available today,” says Tørstad.

“These projects are our way of thinking out loud. Our aim is to present high-level concepts that can form a basis for discussion and be further developed in collaboration with the industry. We see Solitude as a new opportunity for the future.”


Shipping Resumes on St. Lawrence Seaway

By MarEx 2015-05-18 17:08:41

Ship traffic has resumed today after the Algoma Spirit, a 34,685dwt bulker, ran aground in the St. Lawrence Seaway Saturday afternoon, stopping all transportation over the weekend.

Shipping was halted Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday, following the incident. The Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation reports that the incident occurred around 4pm on May16 and that commercial navigation was officially suspended at 4:11pm. According to Canadian news sources, the vessel lost power and subsequently grounded near Cornwall, Ontario.

The ship was refloated Sunday shortly before midnight and two tugs escorted the Algoma Spirit to St.-Zotique Anchorage. No injuries or pollution resulted from the grounding and navigation on the waterway resumed early morning Monday. The SLSDC reports that “vessel traffic is currently moving normally”.

In late April a cargo ship named Juno that was carrying sugar from the Bahamas to Toronto ran aground on the U.S. side of the seaway. Traffic on the waterway ground to a halt then as officials rushed to refloat the vessel.


Iranian Warships Escort Yemen-Bound Cargo Ship

By MarEx 2015-05-18 15:26:48

Two Iranian warships have rendezvoused with the Yemen-bound Iran Shahed cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden, the vessel’s captain said in remarks published by Iran’s Tasnim news agency on Monday.

“The 34th fleet has made contact with us and told us that they will keep an active presence alongside the aid ship,” Massoud Ghazi Mirsaid was quoted as saying by Tasnim, referring to a destroyer and a support vessel in the Gulf of Aden.

The warships will escort the cargo ship all the way to the port of Hodaida in western Yemen, which it is expected to reach on May 21, Mirsaid added.

“Iran’s recent measures in the Strait of Hormuz have one clear message to Saudi Arabia. No one can ignore Iran’s key role,” said an Iranian official, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.

“Whether reformist or hardliner, Iranian leaders have consensus on securing Iran’s influence in the region,” said the official.

“They (the United States and its Gulf allies) don’t expect a key regional power like Iran to remain silent over its aid ship being prevented from entering Yemen.”

Tehran and Riyadh have long been locked in a proxy war, competing for regional supremacy from Iraq to Syria and Lebanon to Yemen, where Riyadh backs Yemen’s exiled government against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

In a bold operation by Gulf Arab states, the Saudi-led coalition backed by the West on March 26 began pounding Houthi rebels and allied army units that control much of Yemen as well as inspecting all ships in a bid to stop weapons smuggling.

Tehran denies training Houthi fighters and supplying arms, as claimed by Riyadh. The standoff has intensified since the coalition declared that it had to inspect all aid for Yemen including that sent by Tehran.


Seattle Port Sees Latest Shell Protests

By MarEx 2015-05-18 14:46:42

Around 200 protestors gathered Monday morning near Terminal 5 at the Port of Seattle to block access to a shell rig that will resume oil exploration activities this summer in the Arctic.

The protests today follow action over the weekend in which hundreds of activists in kayaks gathered on Seattle Bay holding signs saying “Shell No” and “Climate Justice.”

Seattle City Council Woman Kshama Sawant was among the protestors at the port this morning. She told KIRO Radio “I’m joining in solidarity with the environmental community. Any drilling of oil in the Arctic represents grave danger to all humanity.”

On her twitter page Sawant claims that elected leadership has failed Seattle and that the protest are a non-violent act of civil-disobedience meant to address the failure. Additionally, the politician states on her website that, “We know if we build a strong enough opposition, we can send this climate destroyer packing and unable to make the necessary repairs to return to the Arctic.”

The environmentalist community has been quick to condemn Shell’s plans of drilling in the Arctic due to concerns over a potential catastrophic spill that could be nearly impossible to clean up. Furthermore, they claim that drilling in the area could affect fragile, climate regulating sea ice in the region.

President Barrack Obama has come under intense scrutiny as well by many in Seattle and across the entire country. However, he has defended his decision in Shell’s favor by stating that in the wake of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, “Shell is being held to extremely high standards for the drilling it’s planning northwest of Alaska in the Chukchi Sea.” Obama went on to say, “Based on those very high standards, Shell had to go back to the drawing board, revamp its approach and the experts at this point have concluded that they have met those standards.”

Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management gave conditional approval to Shell’s return to exploration in the Arctic, which was suspended after a mishap-filled 2012 season. Some Alaska lawmakers welcomed the decision because, they said, it would bring money and jobs to the state.

The Port of Seattle released a statement over the weekend saying that impacts to its facilities from the protests ‘are expected to be significant.’ However, a port spokesman noted that operations at Terminal 5 are minimal on Monday and the biggest reported delay was the shutdown of a road leading into the terminal.

Despite the opposition, Shell has said it was moving ahead with plans to keep the rigs in Seattle until mid-summer, when the drilling fleet and its crew plans to return to the Arctic.