Washington Probes Missing El Faro

By MarEx 2015-10-06 10:37:21

Representatives from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have arrived in Jacksonville, Florida as part of the ongoing investigation of the M/V El Faro, which is lost at sea after being caught in the path of Hurricane Joaquin. One crewmember is confirmed dead and U.S. Coast Guard officials are searching for the box ship’s remaining 32 crewmembers.

The El Faro departed from Jacksonville last week en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico, before disappearing in what maritime experts called the worst cargo shipping disaster involving a U.S.-flagged vessel in more than 30 years. USCG officials have stated that they are no longer searching for the vessel after discovering a 225-square-mile debris field over the weekend. Life jackets, containers, oil sheen and a life raft were among the items spotted by USCG aircrews flying over the Bahamas.

NTSB member Bella Dinh-Zarr acknowledged the investigation would be difficult with the ship having sunk in an unknown location after its last known location off Crooked Island in the Bahamas.

“It’s a big challenge when there’s such a large area of water and at such depth,” Dinh-Zarr said. “We hope for the best and that the ship will be recovered.”

On Monday, the ship’s owner Tote Maritiime said the vessel was undergoing engine room work before it sank off the Bahamas.

Tote Services President Philip Greene said he did not think the engine room work was linked to a propulsion problem reported by the ship’s captain.

NTSB investigation is separate from that by the U.S. Coast Guard and will check the vessel’s maintenance records and other paperwork.

El Faro, a 735-foot box ship with 28 U.S. citizens and five Polish nationals on board and reported losing propulsion and that it was listing and taking on water two days into its journey on October 1.

Records show that the U.S. National Hurricane Center issued a warning about the likelihood of Joaquin becoming a hurricane at 5 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, nearly three hours before El Faro left port.

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Japan Closing in on Submarine Contract

By MarEx 2015-10-06 10:08:05

In another move highlighting the growing ties between the nations, a Japanese consortium has placed a $35 billion bid to construct submarines for the Royal Australian Navy. While France’s DCNS Group and Germany’s Thyssen Krupp Marine Systems (TKMS) have offered proposals, several analysts believe Japan is the only bidder with submarines large enough to meet Australia’s demands.

Japan’s consortium includes the Japanese government, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries.

If granted the contract, Japan has offered to construct a state-of-the-art submarine concept which would be larger than its 4,000-ton Soryu-class submarine using new designs and sustainment centers in Japan as well as Adelaide and Perth. In addition, Japan has offered to train hundreds of Australian engineers in Kobe, its manufacturing hub, as well as Australia.

Australia is seeking a long-range submarine, about 4,000-tonnes, bigger than the 3,300-tonne Collins that it currently deploys. To compete against Japan’s 4,200-tonne Soryu class, TKMS is submitting a 4,000-tonne Type 216, and DCNS is offering a smaller, non-nuclear variant of its 5,300 tonne Barracuda-class submarines.

Agreeing to construct the submarines in Australia was one of the prior points of contention which appeared to give the European bidders an edge in the negotiations. DCNS and TKMS had both previously pledged their intention to build submarines entirely an Australia, but Japan had been slow to state this intention until recently.

Manufacturing jobs have become a heated political issue in Australia, and the Japanese Defense Ministry recently stated that its hybrid option of building subs in Australia and Japan would be the cheapest option for Australian taxpayers.

Australia’s interest in strengthening its naval fleet appears to be driven by rising Chinese assertiveness in the region.

In June, India, Japan and Australia participated in trilateral maritime dialogue in New Dehli. The talks were attended by Indian foreign secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Japanese vice foreign minister Akitaka Saiki and Australian secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Varghese.

Two Chinese submarines were spotted near Sri Lanka and Pakistan in July, which drew criticism from China’s littoral nations. Australia completed the AUSINDEX-15, its first bilateral maritime exercise with India, last month. The Australian High Commission in Delhi has stated that the exercises will include anti-submarine warfare and coordinated anti-submarine drills.

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Search continues for El Faro survivors

Rescue crews have stopped looking for El Faro but continue their search for survivors four days after the cargo ship ran into Hurricane Joaquin.
“We’re assuming the vessel has sunk in its last known position” in the Bahamas, US Coast Guard Chief of Response Mark Fedor said on 5 October.
Fedor said
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Bulk carrier detained in Singapore

Portugal-flagged bulk carrier Alexandrit was arrested in Singapore on 2 October under the instruction of local law firm Oon & Bazul.
The reason for the arrest was not known.
The ship was detained on 2 October at 17:45 h local time, based on Singapore Supreme Court records.
IHS Maritime’s
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