U.S. Consumers in Seafood Slavery Lawsuit

By MarEx 2015-10-07 02:59:19

By Juliette Aplin, The Futures Centre

Consumers in California have filed two separate class-action lawsuits against Mars and Nestlé for failing to acknowledge the use of forced labor in the supply chains. The consumers claim they would have not bought products from the Iams, Meow Mix and Fancy Feast ranges “had they known that the fish was allegedly harvested using forced labor.”

Both Nestlé and Mars source seafood from Thai Union Frozen Foods PLC, one of the world’s largest seafood producers, operating in Thailand and Indonesia. Thai Union was recently named in a New York Times article exposing the use of trafficking and forced labor amongst fisheries operating in the South China Sea.

It is estimated that together, Mars and Nestlé imported 28 million pounds of seafood from Thai Union Frozen Foods PLC into the US in 2014.

The two lawsuits closely follow a similar claim made against Costco for knowingly sold prawns from a supply chain using forced labor.

Further attempts to address the issue of forced labor within the seafood industry are also currently taking place in the U.S. through legislative action. Democrat Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut has proposed a bill to introduce greater transparency and accountability in corporate supply chains. If passed, this legislation would require companies to disclose anti-trafficking policies and ensure their supply chains are free from slavery and human trafficking.

In addition, a letter from US Congress’ House of Representatives has been sent to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), urging the agency to focus not only on illegal fishing, but on preventing “trafficking and slavery in the fishing industry.

So What?

Exposure of poor labor conditions across the seafood industry has increased over the past few years with investigations from Associated Press, the New York Times and The Guardian documenting cases trafficking and dangerous (sometimes even fatal) working conditions.

On the one hand, these three class action lawsuits indicate a failing in voluntary, industry-led standards to monitor labor conditions in the supply chains supplying Amercia’s seafood. However, on the other hand, they represent a rising consumer consciousness calling for greater transparency and accountability from large corporates involved in the seafood industry.

Should sustainable seafood certification schemes become more rigorous in including the social impact and human labor conditions involved in seafood supply chains? How far will initiatives such as Greenpeace’s annual retailer scorecard or the traceability tool being developed by the Marine Stewardship Council go in helping to stop the systemic exploitation?

Will legislation and security forces be able to protect civilians from trafficking and slavery in future, particularly in the context of increased migration?

Further from the consumer’s gaze is the issue of labor involved in supplying the fish fed to animals – from livestock to pets. According to the New York Times, “the United States is the biggest consumer of Thai fish, and pet food is among the fastest growing exports from Thailand. The average pet cat in the United States eats 30 pounds of fish per year, about double that of a typical American.”

Source: Consumers call for an end to forced labour in seafood supply, The Futures Centre

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Ivory Coast Begins Abidjan Port Upgrades

By MarEx 2015-10-07 02:37:03

On Tuesday, Ivory Coast began construction of a four-year, 560 billion CFA franc ($962 million) project to build a second container terminal and widen the canal leading to its main port in the commercial capital Abidjan.

Among the busiest in sub-Saharan Africa, the port serves Ivory Coast, French-speaking West Africa’s largest economy and the world’s top cocoa producer and is also a gateway for landlocked nations to the north.

China Harbour Engineering Co Ltd was awarded the construction contracts for both projects with the bulk of the cost covered by a loan from China’s Eximbank.

Construction of the new container terminal, which will be managed by consortium led by France’s Bolloré, will last 48 months and cost 409 billion euros ($461 billion).

It is expected to allow Abidjan to increase container traffic from 1.2 million TEU to three million TEU by 2020.

In 2004, Bolloré Africa Logistics was awarded the 15-year concession for the first container terminal at the port of Abidjan. Anticipating the productivity needs created by the country’s growth, the company has undertaken a modernization program at the terminal.

The upgrades to the canal linking the port to the Atlantic Ocean will be completed in 36 months at a cost of 151 billion CFA francs.

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Safety to the fore at Singapore forum

The 8th Co-operation Forum opened in Singapore on 5 October to discuss challenges faced by the maritime industry including cyber security and the trend towards a sustainable global maritime transport system.
The second day of the two-day forum saw the launch of a hydrographical survey of the straits of Malacca and Singapore previously reported by IHS Maritime.
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Shell CEO Sees First Signs of Oil Price Recovery

By Reuters 2015-10-07 02:14:18

Oil markets are beginning to recover but the scale of global oversupply means prices may rise only slowly, the chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell Plc said on Tuesday.

“I see the first mixed signs for recovery of oil prices,” Ben van Beurden told an oil industry conference in London.

“But with U.S. shale oil being more resilient than we originally thought and a lot of oil still in stock, it will take some more time to rebalance demand and supply,” he added.

Oil prices have collapsed over the last year in the face of heavy oversupply, with benchmark Brent crude falling to below $50 a barrel from a high above $115 in June 2014.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries led by Saudi Arabia has increased production in an attempt to build market share, leaving some other producers, including shale companies in North America, operating below break-even costs.

Van Beurden said many U.S. oil producers would struggle to refinance while prices remained so low, leading to lower output in the future: “Producers are now looking for new cash to survive and they will probably struggle to get it.”

Longer-term, there was a risk that low levels of global production could bring a spike in oil prices, he said.

If prices remained low for a long time and oil production outside OPEC and the United States declined due to cuts to capital expenditure, there was not likely to be any significant spare capacity left in the system, he said.

“This could cause prices to spike upwards, starting a new cycle of strong production growth in U.S. shale oil and subsequent volatility,” van Beurden said.

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MARAD Chief Defends Jones Act

By MarEx 2015-10-06 20:57:06

Speaking at the 2015 Jones Act Shipping Forum in New York, U.S. Maritime Administrator Paul “Chip” Jaenichen affirmed the overwhelming support for the Jones Act in Congress, the Maritime Administration and the Obama Administration.

In his address, Jaenichen said that for almost a century, presidents from both parties have supported the Jones Act including, President Barack Obama, President George W. Bush, President Bill Clinton and President Ronald Reagan.

“We have four presidents from both political parties over a three decade span backing and reinforcing their support of the Jones Act. I ask you, what other kind of issues would trigger that level of political census?” said Jaenichen.

In his remarks, Jaenichen said emphatically that the Jones Act is subject to many “tall tales, embellishments and outright falsehoods or misrepresentations,” such as Puerto Rico’s attempt to blame the Jones Act for its financial woes.

“The unvarnished truth is that Puerto Rico has built a mutually beneficial relationship with Jones Act carriers and the Jones Act – providing just one quarter of maritime service to the island (based on both tonnage and the number of annual vessel calls) is in no way, shape or form responsible for Puerto Rico’s economic difficulties… no more than the foreign flag shippers that service the island. It’s just another Jones Act tall tale,” said Jaenichen.

Jaenichen also noted that while these falsehoods “may weaken the popularity of the Jones Act, it will never diminish our federal government’s overall support for the Act.”

Echoing Jaenichen’s strong remarks about the rock solid support for the Jones Act in Congress was Tom Allegretti, chairman of the American Maritime Partnership (AMP). In his remarks, Allegretti stated that the strong support for the Jones Act trade is due to the industry’s longstanding positive impact on national, economic and homeland security, affirmatively noting that any attempt to include an amendment of the Jones Act in pending legislation is a “vote subtractor” that can hurt Congressional progress.

“Some in Puerto Rico have suggested that a Jones Act exemption be included in the legislative package under the erroneous theory that the Jones Act is bad for Puerto Rico. But here’s the kicker: If Congress did that – include an anti-Jones Act amendment in the package – the chances of the overall package getting enacted into law would diminish. That’s because the presence of an anti-Jones Act amendment would reduce or subtract the number of Members of Congress who would vote for the overall bill. So Puerto Ricans would be undermining, and maybe even sabotaging, their own assistance package by including an anti-Jones Act amendment in it,” said Allegretti.

This Congressional mathematics was apparent earlier this year when Senator John McCain filed a Senate floor amendment to repeal the Jones Act, which was overwhelmingly disputed by Members in both Chambers of Congress. “Ultimately, several weeks later, facing almost certain defeat, [Sen. McCain] withdrew his amendment and did not offer it. We believe his amendment would have failed overwhelmingly. Even Sen. McCain jokingly admitted that his strategy for repealing the Jones Act was to “pray to the patron saint of lost causes.” In other words, there is no appetite in Congress to change the Jones Act,” said Allegretti.

Last December, Congress enacted the strongest endorsement of the Jones Act in history in a resolutions included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014.

“When everything is taken into consideration, the primary purpose of the Jones Act is to ensure a healthy domestic maritime sector for the Department of Defense to utilize in times of need, and it works. End of story,” said Jaenichen.

“Every time the Jones Act is smeared, demonized or becomes a scapegoat for another problem, it threatens our national defense, our economy, our way of life and it threatens our Merchant Marine.”

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Hydrographic Survey of Malacca Strait Underway

By MarEx 2015-10-06 19:28:46

A hydrographic survey of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS) has been launched this week by the three littoral States – Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore – and the Malacca Straits Council of Japan.

This initiative was one of the key recommendations that arose from a study conducted by OMC International – a maritime engineering consultant – commissioned by the littoral States of the SOMS in 2013 on real-time monitoring of under keel clearance in the SOMS.

The data from the survey will be used to produce large-scale Electronic Navigational Charts (ENCs) covering five areas in the Straits critical to navigation. This will complement existing ENCs of the SOMS and will provide the shipping industry and authorities with high resolution bathymetry information relating to the depth of waters.

Singapore’s Chief Hydrographer and Director (Port Services) of MPA, Dr Parry Oei said, “This survey is an excellent example of cooperation between user and littoral States in ensuring safety of navigation and protection of environment. It is timely as the Straits continue to grow in importance. Results from the survey would help update charts and also allow authorities and users of the Straits to have a better understanding of the seabed topology and its surrounding for safer and more efficient passage planning.”

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U.S. Sets Out 150 Oil Spill Research Priorities

By Wendy Laursen 2015-10-06 19:09:45

The U.S. Interagency Coordinating Committee on Oil Pollution Research (ICCOPR) has approved the Oil Pollution Research & Technology Plan (OPRTP) for FY2015-2021 and selected 150 priority research needs that should be addressed to improve oil spill management.

The report sets out the current state of research and examines key events, such as Deepwater Horizon, where lessons have been learned. It also covers research needs for better understanding of Arctic operations. Some of the incidents examined in the report include:

M/V Selendang Ayu

During a large storm in December 2004, the M/V Selendang Ayu, carrying a cargo of soybeans, lost power and grounded on the west side of Unalaska Island, Alaska, where it broke into two and released 337,000 gallons of IFO-380 fuel oil, marine diesel, a small amount of lube oil as well as its soybean cargo.

Response measures included employing SCAT, an assessment process used for all spills where shorelines are impacted, and manual shoreline cleanup. The potential of an additional release from the floating half of the vessel triggered testing and approval for dispersants and in situ burning (ISB), which were not employed.

After the initial response, cleanup was halted until April 2005 due to deteriorating winter weather conditions. In the spring, most shorelines were manually cleaned and dry mechanical tilling and berm relocation techniques were used where appropriate. Response actions continued during the weather-permitting seasons until June 2006.

This incident highlighted the difficulty of response operations in the Arctic environment and the availability of suitable response technologies in cold, icy conditions. The After Action Review for the M/V Selendang Ayu incident discussed the following specific R&D needs (Wood & Associates, 2005):

• improve information sharing, including identification of response equipment and resource availability.

• develop methods to determine the transportation and fate of oil in Arctic waters.

• develop measures of containment for application in Arctic conditions.

• develop technology improvements for Arctic shorelines and weather conditions.

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

In April 2010, an estimated 205.8 million gallons of oil began flowing from a subsea well blowout that followed an explosion and collapse of the Deepwater Horizon platform.

Response to the Deepwater Horizon spill was diverse and conducted on a larger scale than any previous efforts. Different response mechanisms were deployed depending on the day, the weather conditions, and the amount and location of oiled shoreline. This included: subsea and surface dispersant use, booming, and skimming. Application of 1.84 million gallons of dispersants, both aerially and sub-sea at the wellhead, was unprecedented, as was the use of controlled in-situ buring (a global record of 411 individual burns were conducted).

This spill was the first where dispersants were applied subsea at the wellhead. Existing options failed to satisfy the public expectations, which led to the testing and evaluation of more than 120,000 response technologies through the Alternative Response Technologies Evaluation System (ARTES) Program.

The incident report (USCG, 2011) highlighted the following R&D needs:

• ensure minimum standards and consistency for Gulf of Mexico Area Contingency Plans (ACPs).

• identify Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs).

• develop improved technology and response protocols for well blowouts.

• develop systems to better meet the needs of oil spill response organizations.

• establish standards and processes for rapid collection, processing, correlation, analysis and distribution of satellite imagery and oil thickness sensors to direct spill response operations with real-time data.

• develop improvements for subsea oil detection.

• develop and use enhanced SMART monitoring technologies and protocols in offshore environments.

• develop technology to determine oil slick thickness.

• develop improved and more efficient skimmers and mechanical recovery equipment.

• use a fully operational Common Operating Picture (COP) available during drills, exercises, and actual events.

• develop protocols for thorough, independent testing and evaluation of response technologies prior to being used on a spill.

• study the toxicity of dispersants as a function of oil and dispersant types, and different environments.

• study dispersant efficacy including volumetric limitations of applications.

• study dispersant efficacy in mitigation of environmental impacts.

• develop methods and programs to monitor and track large, dispersed oil plumes.

• conduct a case study analysis of all aspects of dispersant use including environmental effects of dispersants and dispersed oil.

• study the effectiveness of dispersants under different environmental conditions (e.g., subsea).

• study where ISB can be used as a response option and areas where it can be subject to expedited approval.

• study the performance of various fire boom designs and improve technologies for water-cooled and reusable booms.

• develop outreach programs for, and incorporate state and local emergency managers into, spill preparedness and response.

• Spill of National Significance (SONS) doctrine should be adapted to be more inclusive of state, local and tribal governments in a response.

Improved Response

“The research needs focus on the tools and technologies employed by the Coast Guard On-Scene Coordinators to address oil spills in the marine environment,” said Bill Vocke, who works for the Coast Guard’s incident management and preparedness policy directorate and also serves as ICCOPR’s executive director.

“Addressing these priority needs will not only improve our capabilities to respond to spills but also improve prevention, preparedness and injury assessment/restoration capabilities,” said Vocke.

The committee intends to update the plan every six years to reflect advancements in oil pollution technology and changing research needs.

However, the U.S. Coast Guard notes that the plan does not establish any regulatory requirement or interpretation, nor does it imply the need to establish a new regulatory requirement or modify an existing regulatory requirement.

The plan is available here.

Some of the research priorities announced

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India to Offer Offshore Wind Leases

By MarEx 2015-10-06 15:27:44

India is moving towards harnessing offshore energy via wind. Last month, the Indian government revealed plans to adopt an offshore wind policy that will pave the way for the nation to develop offshore wind energy products and research and opportunities in its Exclusive Economic Zone.

The India government will offer tenders for offshore wind leases next year, but the Defense Ministry must approve the contractors prior to the contracts being awarded.

The National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) has been tasked with identifying viable offshore wind energy blocks. According to India’s Renewable Energy Secretary, developers that offer the lowest tariffs for energy developement will be given contracts.

National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) of India will collect lease fees survey, construction and operations of wind farms.

The Indians have made it clear that leases will automatically be relinquished if the contractor is unable to begin commercial production within an unspecified period of time after signing a contract. India’s wind policies are meant to establish a regulatory framework to begin planning projects.

“The development would help the country in moving forward towards attaining energy security and achieve National Action Plan on Climate Change targets,” the government said in a statement.

India currently has 23GW of onshore wind capacity and aims to produce 175GW of clean energy by 2022.

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India to Accept Offshore Wind Leases

By MarEx 2015-10-06 15:27:44

India is moving towards harnessing offshore energy via wind. Last month, the Indian government revealed plans to adopt an offshore wind policy that will pave the way for the nation to develop offshore wind energy products and research and opportunities in its Exclusive Economic Zone.

The India government will offer tenders for offshore wind leases next year, but the Defense Ministry must approve the contractors prior to the contracts being awarded.

The National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) has been tasked with identifying viable offshore wind energy blocks. According to India’s Renewable Energy Secretary, developers that offer the lowest tariffs for energy developement will be given contracts.

National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) of India will collect lease fees survey, construction and operations of wind farms.

The Indians have made it clear that leases will automatically be relinquished if the contractor is unable to begin commercial production within an unspecified period of time after signing a contract. India’s wind policies are meant to establish a regulatory framework to begin planning projects.

“The development would help the country in moving forward towards attaining energy security and achieve National Action Plan on Climate Change targets,” the government said in a statement.

India currently has 23GW of onshore wind capacity and aims to produce 175GW of clean energy by 2022.

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