Police Eye Foreign Firms in Petrobras Scandal

By Reuters 2015-06-25 14:07:33

Brazilian federal police are investigating foreign companies that may have paid bribes to obtain contracts with state-run oil firm Petrobras but were not part of a suspected cartel of local engineering firms, an agent said on Wednesday.

Federal agent Erika Marena told Reuters there is “clear indication” that in order to win contracts foreign firms “directed bribes to Petrobras or Petrobras executives.”

But by stopping short of holding those foreign firms responsible for running a cartel, Marena’s comments suggest police are building their toughest case against the Brazilian industrial conglomerates whose executives have been jailed.

A lead prosecutor in the case, Carlos Fernando dos Santos Lima, told Reuters on Tuesday more than a dozen foreign firms were suspected of corruption, including South Korea’s Samsung Heavy Industries Co Ltd, Swedish builder Skanska AB , Danish oil and shipping group Maersk and British engineer Rolls-Royce Holdings.

Lima and Marena said several foreign companies have offered to collaborate, anxious to keep their names clean.

The Maersk Group reiterated in a statement its policy of working against corruption. The other companies named by Lima have declined to comment on the case.

“Sadly this method of getting money by some people in public service will be found in other state-run firms,” she said. There is “no doubt” state-run electric utility Eletrobras was a victim in the scheme as well as Petrobras, she said.

Eletrobras said it had not had access to the investigation but had hired a law firm this month to do an internal audit.

Defense lawyers have criticized the investigation and especially the federal judge responsible, Sergio Moro, for allowing lengthy pre-trial detention of executives, including the chief executive of Odebrecht SA, arrested on Friday.

Odebrecht, Latin America’s largest construction firm, has questioned the evidence used to justify the arrests.

Moro had to throw out one piece of evidence involving a $300,000 transfer into an overseas account controlled by Barusco when Odebrecht said it was actually a bond sale.

Marena said that particular piece alone “did not back up” the investigation and said police were looking at other overseas accounts in which Barusco and another former Petrobras executive Paulo Roberto Costa reported receiving bribes from Odebrecht.

“There is no limit to where this investigation could go,” Marena said.


Tests for Oil Spill Response Drones Underway

By Kathryn Stone 2015-06-25 12:27:06

Final testing for a new fleet of drones aimed at rapid oil spill detection at sea are set to begin June 25 in Cartegena, Spain.

Five drones comprised of both autonomous water vehicles and aerial drones will be taking part in the experiment coordinated by the Universidad Politecnica de Cartegena. This week’s tests will mark the culmination of the experimental phase of the European URready4OS Project, which began in 2014.

The goal of the project is to establish a flexible, inexpensive robotic network that will enable European Civil Protection Authorities to launch a rapid response to oils spills. Autonomous vehicles in both the water and air will work cooperatively to detect a simulated oil spill and relay the information back to land based processing stations. This week’s test will create a mock oil spill using colored fluids, then monitor the efficacy of the robotic team’s detection and monitoring efforts.

The project aims to locate underwater oil plumes at their source in hopes of increasing emergency response preparedness and mitigating oil spill damage along coastal regions.

Javier Gilabert, coordinator for the project said that the spill response industry has lacked a tool fully capable of determining the size and scope of an oil spill. However, he claims that the new fleet of autonomous vehicles will fill this need thanks in large part to several sensors installed on the underwater vehicles.

The experiments will take place over the course of two days with drones provided by Croatia, Spain and Portugal. A team of 20 international researchers as well as a dozen companies will take part in the tests.

In total the project has cost € 580,000 ($650,000) with 75% of funding provided by the European Commission.

Upon successful completion of the demonstration, the project team will maintain the robotic fleet to be deployed for rapid spill response. Additionally, the group hopes to be able to increase the fleet to extend to other EU countries as well as further refine the vehicles to respond in deep water situations.


Gener8 IPO prices low

Tanker owner Gener8 Maritime has begun trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol ‘GNRT’ after pricing its initial public offering (IPO) at a sizeable discount.
The Peter Georgiopoulos-led company priced its IPO of 15 million shares at USD14/share, 22% below the midpoint of its

Ports Praise Passage of New U.S. Trade Bill

By MarEx 2015-06-25 09:55:49

American port alliance, AAPA, praised the U.S. Senate for passing a bipartisan trade bill, intended to promote exports and create new economic opportunities.

“The prosperity of the United States is inextricably entwined with that of the rest of the world and international trade agreements provide stability and equity enabling increased trade,” said AAPA President and CEO Kurt Nagle in support of the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015), which the Senate just approved and the House approved on June 18.

TPA-2015 establishes rigid rules for international trade negotiations to help the U.S. deliver transparent, resilient trade agreements that will boost American exports and create new economic opportunities and jobs for American workers and producers. Nagle commended Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for introducing the bipartisan, bicameral trade legislation, noting that ports provide critical transportation infrastructure for the movement of America’s exports and imports.

Nagel added, “Port cargo activity accounts for over a quarter of the U.S. economy and provides more than 23 million American jobs. AAPA believes this new trade legislation will help open the door to new markets for American goods and services, boost economic growth and generate additional well-paying jobs nationwide.”

As the unified and recognized voice of seaports in the Americas, AAPA has both independently, and in partnership with the Trade Benefits America coalition, strongly urged federal lawmakers to make TPA-2015 a priority. This is to enable the Administration to begin finalizing international trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), both of which AAPA support.

“Ports are gateways to our regional and national economies, and connect American farmers, manufacturers and consumers to the world marketplace,” Mr. Nagle said. “America’s ports are eager to help facilitate the increased trade that will be brought on by TPA-2015 and the trade agreements that will follow.”

Working in consultation with Congress, the Administration is pursuing a strong trade negotiating agenda, which consists of the following:

· The United States is negotiating agreements with 11 Asia-Pacific economies, 28 Member countries of the European Union, 22 other countries for a trade in services agreement (TISA), and 161 Members of the World Trade Organization.

· Combined, if successful, U.S. negotiations with the Asia-Pacific and the EU presents an opportunity to set high standards and open markets with nearly 1 billion consumers, covering nearly two-thirds of global GDP, and 65% of global trade. Services negotiations cover about 50% of global GDP, as well, and over 70% of global services trade.

· Renewing TPA, which expired in 2007 in order to get the best result in these negotiations for American workers, farmers, and businesses, consistent with Congressional priorities.


European Ports See Drop in Vistors, Spending

By Reuters 2015-06-25 08:41:27

European cruise destinations such as Santorini, Lisbon and Oslo suffered dwindling visitor numbers and spending last year for the first time in a decade as Americans cancelled trips to the Baltic and Mediterranean over geopolitical concerns.

Visits to European ports of call were down 7 percent after almost 9 percent growth a year earlier, a report issued by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) on Thursday showed.

Passengers and crew spent 3.64 billion euros ($4.08 billion)at ports in Europe last year according to the report, 4.2 percent less than in 2013.

American tourists, concerned about unrest in North African and adjacent eastern Mediterranean countries and about tensions between Russia and Ukraine, shied away from booking trips to the region, Michael Ungerer, chairman of CLIA Germany, told Reuters.

Tourists from Europe — accounting for 30 percent of worldwide passengers and ranking second behind the United States — backed off from certain destinations as well, Ungerer said.

“The Black Sea region has been removed completely from our schedules,” he said, and destinations in the Gulf and in Asia had meanwhile become increasingly popular.

Europe is the world’s second-largest cruise destination after the Caribbean, but some cruise operators like Carnival and Royal Caribbean cut capacity there last year.

The number of Europeans booking cruises remained stable at 6.4 million in 2014 as declining bookings in Britain, Italy and Spain — partly affected by weak economies — were offset by a growing number of bookings in Germany.

Germany for the first time replaced Britain as the largest European market with a market share of 28 percent. “The Germans still have some catching up to do and the range of offers there is growing faster than anywhere else,” Ungerer said.

Worldwide, cruise operators served 22 million passengers last year, an increase of 3.4 percent over 2013.

CLIA said that as cruise operators, especially from North America, return capacity to Europe, markets there should recover.


China Says Manila Roping in Others in Maritime Dispute

By Reuters 2015-06-25 08:29:39

China’s military on Thursday accused the Philippines of trying to “rope in” other countries to the dispute over ownership of the South China Sea and stir regional tension after Japan joined a military drill with the Philippines.

According to Japanese and Philippine officials, a Japanese surveillance aircraft, with three Filipino guest crew members, this week flew at 5,000 feet (1,524 m) above the edge of Reed Bank, an energy-rich area that is claimed by both China and the Philippines. It was accompanied by a smaller Philippine patrol aircraft.

Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun, asked about the exercises, said that bilateral military cooperation between countries should benefit regional peace and security and not harm the interests of third parties.

“Certain countries are roping in countries from outside the region to get involved in the South China Sea issue, putting on a big show of force, deliberately exaggerating the tense atmosphere in the region,” he told a monthly news briefing.

“This way of doing things will not have a beneficial effect on the situation in the South China Sea.”

The exercise by Japan and the Philippines comes as Manila conducts separate drills with the U.S. military that began last week.

China claims most of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims

Japan worries that China’s domination in a region through which much of its sea-borne trade passes would isolate it. Tokyo is also locked in a dispute with Beijing over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

However, China and Japan have been gradually rebuilding ties after Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held ice-breaking talks in Beijing last year.

Yang said that China and Japan had resumed discussions last week about setting up an air and maritime communication mechanism, designed to reduce the risk of accidents and misunderstandings.

Both countries agreed to step up preparatory talks on setting up this mechanism, he added.