Japan Votes In New Defense Policy

By MarEx 2015-09-20 20:41:41

Japan’s parliament voted into law on Saturday a defense policy shift that could let troops fight overseas for the first time since 1945, a milestone in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to loosen the limits of the pacifist constitution on the military.

Abe says the shift, the biggest change in Japan’s defense policy since the creation of its post-war military in 1954, is vital to meet new challenges such as from a rising China.

But the legislation has triggered massive protests from ordinary citizens and others who say it violates the pacifist constitution and could ensnare Japan in U.S.-led conflicts after 70 years of post-war peace. Abe’s ratings have also taken a hit.

The legislation “is necessary to protect the people’s lives and peaceful way of living and is for the purpose of preventing wars,” Abe told reporters after the bills were approved by the upper house. “I want to keep explaining the laws tenaciously and courteously.”

Japan’s ally the United States has welcomed the changes but China, where bitter memories of Japan’s wartime aggression run deep, has repeatedly expressed concern about the legislation.

China’s Foreign Ministry said the move was “unprecedented”.

“We solemnly urge Japan to learn the lessons of history … uphold the path of peaceful development and act cautiously in the areas of the military and security, and do more to help push regional peace and stability rather than the opposite,” it said.

The bills, already approved by parliament’s lower house, were voted into law by the upper chamber in the early hours of Saturday despite opposition parties’ efforts to block a vote by submitting censure motions and a no-confidence motion against Abe’s cabinet in the lower house. All were defeated.

A key feature of the laws is an end to a long-standing ban on exercising the right of collective self-defense, or defending the United States or another friendly country that comes under attack, in cases where Japan faces a “threat to its survival.”

Thousands of demonstrators have rallied near parliament every day this week, chanting “Scrap the war bills” and “Abe resign”. Large crowds were still protesting into the early hours of Saturday.

The protests have called to mind those that forced Abe’s grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, to resign 55 years ago after forcing a U.S.-Japan security treaty through parliament.

The revisions also expand the scope for logistics support for the militaries of the United States and other countries, and for participation in peace-keeping.

The changes still leave Japan constrained in overseas military operations by legal limits and a deeply rooted public anti-war mindset.

“Even if the constitution is revised, among the Japanese people no one is thinking of going to foreign lands for the purpose of exercising force,” former defense minister Itsunori Onodera said in an interview earlier this week. “I think Japan will maintain that stance from now on as well.”

Critics, however, say the changes make a mockery of the pacifist constitution and deplore what they see as Abe’s authoritarian mode of pushing for enactment of the bills.

Opposition to the legislation brought together both liberals keen to preserve Japan’s pacifist principles and conservative critics of what they consider Abe’s authoritarian tactics.

“The content, process and doctrine of the security bills … risk reversing the path we have walked for the past 70 years as a country of peace and democracy,” Yukio Edano, secretary-general of the opposition Democratic Party, told parliament’s lower house ahead of the no-confidence vote against Abe.

Abe won a second three-year term as ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) chief earlier this month and faces no immediate danger of being unseated, but voter distaste for the new laws could hurt the ruling bloc in an election next year.

“The people’s revolt will continue toward the next election one way or another,” said Keio University professor Yoshihide Soeya.

Australia has welcomed the new reforms. “These reforms will allow Japan to make a greater contribution to international peace and stability, including by exercising its UN Charter right to collective self-defense,” said Julie Bishop, minister for foreign affairs.

“Enhanced security cooperation with Japan is a priority for Australia. These reforms will make it easier for us to work with Japan overseas on peacekeeping operations, and humanitarian and disaster relief.

“Japan has been an exemplary contributor to peace and stability for seventy years. As Prime Minister Turnbull and Prime Minister Abe confirmed in their telephone conversation yesterday, Australia fully supports reforms that increase Japan’s role in our shared interests in regional and international peace and security.”

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Carbon Pricing Schemes Not Effective Enough

By Reuters 2015-09-20 17:08:37

The number of carbon pricing schemes worldwide has almost doubled since 2012, but most taxes or markets have prices too low to prevent damaging global warming, the World Bank said on Sunday.

Carbon pricing, including emissions trading schemes from California to China, now covers about 12 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in a sign of momentum before a U.N. summit on climate change in Paris in December, it said.

The number of carbon pricing instruments, both implemented or planned, has risen to 38 from 20 since 2012. South Korea began carbon trading this year, for instance, and both Chile and South Africa plan taxes on carbon emissions.

“There is a growing sense of inevitability … that there will be a price on carbon” for governments and businesses,” Rachel Kyte, a vice president and special envoy for climate change at the World Bank, told a telephone news conference.

The study showed that prices, meant to shift investments from fossil fuels towards cleaner energies such as wind or solar power, ranged from less than a dollar a ton of carbon dioxide in Mexico to $130 a ton in Sweden.

In more than 85 percent of cases the price was less than $10, “considerably lower”, the report said, than levels needed to help limit temperature rises to a U.N. goal of two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.

The World Bank did not suggest a target price.

The combined value of the carbon pricing instruments was estimated at $50 billion a year worldwide, with $34 billion from markets and the other $16 billion in taxes.

A year ago, 73 countries and more than 1,000 companies and investors called for a price on carbon. Kyte said the group was becoming a “powerful coalition” that would make announcements before Paris. She gave no details.

A parallel report by the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), with input from the International Monetary Fund, also laid out new principles for carbon pricing that it called FASTER.

“Carbon pricing is central to the quest for a cost-effective transition towards zero net emissions in the second half of the century,” said Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD.

FASTER stands for Fairness, Alignment of policies and objectives, Stability and predictability, Transparency, Efficiency and cost effectiveness and Reliability and environmental integrity.

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Cross between Propeller and Waterjet Trialled

By Wendy Laursen 2015-09-19 20:29:23

A New Zealand inventor has developed a new counter-rotating propeller system that operates above the water line.

The Dpulsar system, invented by Barry Davies, has been trialled on a U.S.-designed and built Motus motorbike engine. The hull has been made by Lancer Marine (Auckland) especially for the project.

The Dpulsar is claimed to be highly efficient in all its speed ranges. Davies says Dpulsar bridges the technology gap between propellers and waterjets.

The high mass output of the unit is not accelerated in a nozzle, as in a water-jet, and there are no straightening vanes. Instead, two contra rotating helical style propellers are contained within a tube, and water is sucked into an under hull grate and pushed out the stern in a solid mass.

“There are few, if any, environmental down-sides and it’s extremely safe for water-creatures as well as humans.”

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Vale’s Plans to Win in a Cut-Throat Market

By Reuters 2015-09-19 19:19:42

Two kilometers out to sea, workers battle treacherous currents to build a huge dock capable of loading the largest iron ore ships on earth, a vital step as Brazil’s Vale fights for dominance in a tumbling market.

The work in the northeastern city of Sao Luis is a small part of an iron ore project that stretches 1,000 kilometers from the Amazon rainforest in Para to the Atlantic coast and costs almost twice as much as the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.

The mammoth undertaking will secure Vale SA as the world’s number one producer of the main raw material in steel making. In a cut-throat market where prices have halved since last year, it will reduce costs as well.

With a name like a space project, S11D will be delivered in the second half of next year.

The $17 billion price tag has scared some investors, who point to the pressure on Vale’s balance sheet as earnings fall. Analysts also express concern its iron ore will sink a market already oversupplied by mega mines delivered by Australian rivals BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.

But workers here shrug at the idea the project could be slowed in order to balance the market.

“We are following a very mature plan. There has been no order to speed up or slow down,” said Adriano Mansk, who is responsible for the port work.

Chief Executive Murilo Ferreira, who was making a personal visit the same week, believes Vale’s future hangs on S11D. It is “untouchable”, he has told analysts.

By the end of July, 60 percent of the terminal’s back end expansion and 58 percent of the new loading dock had been completed, according to latest figures.

Work is on track, Mansk said.

The expanded port will be able to handle 230 million tons per year, as the new mine and rail increase annual production by 90 million tons, the equivalent of about 7.5 percent of the whole global sea-borne market.

TRAIN PIT STOPS

The increased production will put unprecedented strain on Vale’s rail network and has led the miner to rethink maintenance on its 11,000 train wagons.

Instead of disconnecting individual wagons to replace wheels or axles, the whole train will now enter a workshop the size of multiple sports halls. There the wheel system on a wagon can be removed and replaced by equipment installed below floor level.

The train then moves forward, allowing the next wagon to stop over the equipment and be fixed in the same way.

A nearby workshop for the locomotives resembles a Formula 1 pit stop. While iron ore is unloaded from wagons, trains are re-fueled and checked for faults and given minor repairs.

“If I’d been stuck with the old system, I would have need a much bigger fleet (to deal with the extra output),” Mansk said.

Out at sea, it has been the Atlantic tides that posed the biggest problem.

When the tide changes and the currents are at their strongest, the water at Vale’s port resembles a raging river rather than a mooring spot.

In order to keep ships secured while they are being loaded, Vale is installing a huge web of pulleys, cables and steel. Electronic sensors monitor the tide, tightening and loosening the cables to keep the ship still.

By next year, Vale says the largest project in its history will be delivered. It is working like a company that believes its future depends on it.

The opinions expressed herein are the author’s and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.

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