Vessels Diverted from Popular Port

By Kathryn Stone 2015-05-12 16:34:17

Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Disney Cruises have all diverted vessels away from the popular tourist city of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico amid escalating reports of gang violence.

The 2,501 passenger Jewel of the Seas and 1,754-passenger Disney wonder both cancelled calls in Puerto Vallarta Tuesday and on Sunday Celebrity Infinity’s stop in the city was cancelled. Royal Caribbean released a statement today saying, “The call to Puerto Vallarta was canceled due to the recently experienced episodes of violent civil unrest, stemming from criminal gangs that have engaged in armed conflict with local authorities.”

Around 50% of Puerto Vallerta’s economic activity revolves around tourism. Today’s announcement to further cancel stops to the port city coincide with a May 5 U.S. State Department alert warning U.S. citizens of ‘threats to safety and security posed by criminal groups in the country’.

Mexican gang violence has increased recently after law enforcement agencies have launched an aggressive campaign against know drug cartels in the region. Gunfire and arson was reported in areas around Puerto Vallarta earlier this months as police and gang clashed.

Royal Caribbean further added in their statement today that criminal violence in Mexico is a main reason why it and some of its competitors have not offered more cruises on the west coast of the United States.

In March of this year an attack against in the popular tourist destination of Tunis left 23 cruise passengers dead and dozens wounded in one of the worst tourist attacks in recent memory. Today’s decision by the cruise line is meant to circumvent any possible threats to cruise passengers visting the region.


Over 150 Reported Ill on Star Princess

By Kathryn Stone 2015-05-12 15:21:37

Over 150 people have been reported ill on the Star Princess, the latest cruise ship afflicted by an outbreak of norovirus.

The 108,800 gross ton princess vessel was on a 15-day Hawaiian cruise when reports of the outbreak surfaced. Of the 2,597 passengers aboard the cruise ship 138 have reported symptoms of gastrointestinal distress. An additional 18 crew members have also reported being sick.

This incident marks the ninth case of wide-spread sickness aboard a passenger vessel this year and the sixth confirmed case of norovirus.

Norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis or infectious diarrhea in the world. While not typically fatal the virus does contribute to 56,000 – 71,000 annual hospitalizations in the U.S. The CDC reports instances of the virus are more common in winter months and in the UK the virus often goes by the name, the winter vomiting bug.

It is most commonly spread by close contact with infected persons, surfaces or contaminated food and water supplies. Cruise ships are especially susceptible to outbreaks due to the closed natured of the communities onboard.

Less than a month ago the CDC reported that sickness aboard another Princess cruise ship, the Coral Princess, was caused by norovirus. Over 110 people aboard thet vessel were reported ill back in the end of April.

The Star Princess will be returning to San Francisco California on May 14 where a team of two CDC health officers and two epidemiologists will meet the ship. Princess cruises has been collecting samples of the virus to send to the CDC and will carry out a comprehensive sanitation plan when the vessel docks on Thursday.


Iranian Warship to Escort Yemen Bound Ship

By Reuters 2015-05-12 13:33:51

Iranian warships will accompany a cargo ship bound for the Yemeni port of Hodaida, which is held by Iran-allied Houthi fighters, a naval commander was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA on Tuesday.

The Iran-flagged Iran Shahed cargo ship set sail on Monday and could be intercepted by Saudi-led coalition forces, which are blockading Yemen as part of a military campaign against the Houthis.

“The 34th fleet, which is currently in the Gulf of Aden, has special responsibility to protect the Iranian humanitarian aid ship,” Admiral Hossein Azad said, referring to a destroyer and support vessel patrolling international waters off Yemen.

A five-day ceasefire in Yemen’s civil war is set to take effect at 11 p.m. (2000 GMT) to allow food and medicine into the blockaded country, which aid groups warn faces a humanitarian catastrophe.

The Saudi-led coalition has accused Iran of arming the Houthis and routinely intercepts cargoes bound for Yemen. Last month, coalition jets bombed the runway at Sanaa airport to prevent an Iranian cargo plane from landing.

Tehran says it is sending only humanitarian aid to Yemen.

The Iran Shahed vessel was sailing away from Iran’s coast into the Gulf of Oman at 1334 GMT, ship tracking data on Reuters showed.

Iran’s Fars news agency reported separately that seven activists from the United States and Europe, including from Germany, were on board the ship.

The vessel’s Tehran-based owner Valfajr Shipping, which was listed on shipping databases, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Update: U.S. Government Statement

The White House on Tuesday urged Iran to use a United Nations distribution hub in Djibouti to provide assistance to people in Yemen, after Tehran said it had sent humanitarian aid by cargo ship.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he expects Iran’s humanitarian assistance to occur within the United Nations process.


Executive Receives Reduced Sentence for Ferry Disaster

By Kathryn Stone 2015-05-12 13:33:06

A South Korean appeals court passed down a reduced sentence Tuesday for the CEO of the company operating the Sewol ferry, a vessel that sank last year killing more than 300 people.

A lower court sentenced Kim Han-Sik to 10 years in prison in November on counts of accidental homicide and embezzlement. However, today’s ruling reduces the executive’s prison term to seven years.

An investigation into the disaster found that Kim, along with other officials belonging to the Chonghaejin Marine Co., had routinely allowed vessels to be overloaded and had allowed illegal ship modifications to increase passenger capacity. Additionally, the CEO had pocketed money from the company that prosecutors argued could have been used to increase safety on the ferries.

Kim argued that the court should reconsider the homicide conviction against him since he claimed to be acting under the direction of the company’s owner Yoo Byung-Eun. The appeals court rejected the homicide argument, but did lessen the jail sentence on the embezzlement charge citing that they believed Kim had not acted out of personal interests.

The Captain of the Sewol Ferry, Lee Jun-seok was convicted of murder in April of this year for fleeing the scene of the incident and failing to help passengers. In total, 304 people were killed in the ferry sinking, 240 of which were local high school students.


Container Shipping in Cuba Receives Logistics Boost

By Kathryn Stone 2015-05-12 10:44:35

Container shipping in Cuba is set to receive a significant boost as one of the world’s largest container ship operators entered into agreements Monday to build a logistics hub in Port Mariel. CMA CGM announced yesterday that it has signed an agreement with the Cuban government and Almacenes Universales SA (AUSA) for a 17 hectare facility that will handle the warehousing of goods as well as full and empty container storage.

Matthieu Friedberg, a vice-president of the shipping giant stated, “The platform of Mariel’s is a first step in Cuba’s land logistics development. It is also a new step in the acceleration of CMA CGM LOG’s international development.”

The Mariel seaport, largely subsidized by the Brazilian government began operations in January 2014 and has been dredged to a depth of 60 feet to accommodate post-Panamex vessels. When final development on the project is completed, the port is expected to have an annual capacity of up to 1 million containers, almost triple the capacity of neighboring Port of Havana. Cuban officials are hoping the Mariel port will become a major container hub for the Caribbean on par with current regional leaders.

Monday’s agreement between CMA CGM and the Cuban logistics company was signed in the presence of French President Francois Hollande, the first French president to visit the island since 1898.

France has been a long-time opponent of the U.S. embargo on Cuba, and on Monday Hollande urged the U.S. to end its decade-long embargo on the island nation. In January the Obama administration called for improved trade relations with Cuba, but congress has yet to act on any legislation to end the embargo.

CMA CGM LOG has had its sights set on international expansion in recent years with the opening of offices in six new countries and with the acquisition of one of India’s main logistics companies, LCL Logistixs. This new logistic facility places the company at a strategic position for international trade, especially as prospects of trade between Cuba and the U.S. increase.