Norwegian Shipowner Indicted for Environmental Crimes

By MarEx 2015-05-14 16:10:18

A U.S. federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted a Norwegian-based shipping company and four employees on charges of obstruction of justice and environmental crimes.

According to a Mobile, Alabama court, DSD Shipping and four engineering officers used a bypass pipe- also known as a magic pipe- to circumvent pollution prevention equipment aboard the oil tanker M/T Stavanger Blossom back in 2014. Additionally, they are accused of concealing the discharge of oil and oil-contaminated waste water from the vessel into the sea and of discarding the oil-filled plastic bags overboard. International and U.S. law requires that vessels use pollution prevention equipment to preclude the discharge of oil and chemicals.

Prior to an inspection by the U.S. Coast Guard, Xiaobing Chen one of the engineers onboard ordered crew members to remove the bypass pipe and hide all evidence of illegal waste discharge. DSD shipping also maintained a fictitious oil record book that failed to report any records of oil disposal and which also contained false entries stating that pollution prevention equipment had been used when it had not been. This type of log is regularly inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard to check for overboard discharges.

DSD Shipping faces fines of up to 500,000 for each of the seven counts listed in the indictment, and the engineering officers implicated in the crimes may each face sentences up to 20 year in prison.

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A Deeper Mississippi River on The Horizon

By Kathryn Stone 2015-05-14 14:36:59

The U.S. government is taking steps to allow for larger post-Panamex sized vessels along the lower Mississippi River as the date for the opening of the expanded Panama Canal draws closer.

On Wednesday the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced its plans to draft a supplemental environmental impact report looking into expanding an area of the Mississippi River Ship Canal between Baton Rouge and the Gulf of Mexico. The plan will deepen the section section of the river from 45 feet up to a maximum of 50 feet in order to accommodate larger vessels destined for the Panama Canal. The Army Corp expressed interest in the project by stating that, “there may be economic justification in expanding port projects to accommodate post-Panamax vessels.”

The plan has been under consideration since the 1980s, when an environmental impact study originally recommended deepening the navigational channel between Baton Rouge and the Gulf of Mexico to a depth 55 feet. However, with the completion of the Panama Canal set for next year, the government is again focusing attention on assuring Mississippi River ports can accommodate these vessels. In December 2014 House Majority Whip Steve Scalise emphasized ‘critical nature’ of deepening the river in order to keep the United States as trade leader both domestically and internationally.

Shipments on the Mississippi River are made up largely of grain supplies heading from the U.S. heartland to foreign markets. The World Trade Center of New Orleans and groups representing maritime interests released a report in December which showed that a group of five ports in Louisiana handle around 75% of the U.S.’s grain exports. China in particular is a huge importer of U.S. rice as rice prices in China are held high to protect domestic farmers. According to the Army Corp of Engineers “The ports located along the lower Mississippi River, being the dominant ports for the export of grains from the U.S., will likely play a key role in meeting these future needs if they are ready with a post-Panamax sized channel.”

Fortune Magazine released an article earlier this month detailing the river’s proposed expansion in which it highlighted strong economic benefits of commerce down the river. The article noted that barge shipping down the Mississippi is extremely costs effective, with river shipments costing about half the amount as transportation by train. Additionally, since the cargos are largely carried by river currents and don’t require more than a few towboats, they are more environmentally friendly than other alternatives.

For the new report the Army Corps of Engineers will look at trades figures and population trends to identify the best expansion depth for the project between the current 45 feet and high-estimate of 50 feet.

The Army Corps will be holding three public scoping meetings between May 26 and 28 in Belle Chasse and New Orleans. Any immediate progress on expanding the Mississippi, however, may still be a few years out as a draft of the completed report is not expected to be release to the public until late 2016.

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Crane Collapses at Bremerhaven Port Killing Operator

By Kathryn Stone 2015-05-14 11:21:23

A crane operator has died today after plunging around 50 meters (164 feet) into the hold of the container vessel, Maersk Karachi.

The accident occurred shortly after midnight on Thursday morning as a 52-year old crane operator was loading and unloading cargo at the Port of Bremerhaven. According to local police, the container crane boom collapsed dropping the crane cabin and its operator onto the ship below.

Authorities were initially unsure if the man had died in the accident, but after several hours of delicate efforts they recovered the body of the 52-year old. The recovery efforts took much of the morning and required heightened caution due to the ship’s instability. Some portions of the vessels and a container bridge are still at risk of collapse.

German news sources are reporting that a floating crane will support debris removal and stabilization efforts. The extent of damage to the vessel is still unknown, but some estimates say the total could be in the millions.

The waterway has been shut down and operations have been suspended to allow for structural engineers to evaluate the salvage efforts.

The port of Bremerhaven is the fourth-largest container port in Europe, handling over around 5.8 million TEU of cargo according to 2014 figures.

In February 2014 the Maersk Laberinto allided with the docked Maersk Missouri in an area at the port of Bremerhaven in close proximity to the accident reported today. Both vessels only sustained minor damage, but a container bridge was left at a high risk of collapsing.

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Swiber profit drops 99.9%

Singapore-listed offshore services provider, Swiber Holdings (Swiber) posted a profit of USD70,000 down 99.9% year-on-year for the first quarter ended 31 March 2015, due to the depletion of the company’s order book last year.
Revenue fell 17.3% to USD164.9 million in 1Q15 as compared to USD199.5
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Teekay Tankers’ rates surge

NYSE-listed Teekay Tankers reported higher-than-expected profits for the first quarter, driven by its highest rates in years.
The product and crude tanker owner reported a net income of USD39 million for 1Q15 versus USD26.4 million in 1Q14. Adjusted earnings of USD0.34/share topped the Wall Street
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Iran Fires on Singaporean Vessel

By Reuters 2015-05-14 09:05:22

Iranian naval vessels fired what appeared to be warning shots over a Singapore-flagged ship in international waters in the Gulf on Thursday, prompting it to flee to United Arab Emirates waters, U.S. officials said.

The Alpine Eternity, a 29,130 gross tonnes oil products tanker, has safely reached the UAE port of Jebel Ali after coming under attack in the Gulf, its manager said.

The UAE sent Coast Guard vessels toward the ship once it reached UAE waters and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy ships turned away, one U.S. official told Reuters, adding the account was based on preliminary information.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, were unaware of any U.S. Navy involvement.

A spokesman for the vessel’s Norwegian manager Transpetrol said it was attacked at sea at 0800 GMT on Thursday on its way to the UAE port of Fujairah.

“The nature of the attack is still unclear,” the spokesman said. “She reached UAE waters and she is in the port of Jebel Ali now. The vessel is safe and there are no injuries to crew.” The spokesman said the attack had been reported to Singaporean authorities.

A second U.S. official said there were about five Iranian ships and described the shots as “small arms fire.”

“Once the ship went into UAE territorial waters, the Iranian ships broke off,” the official said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

U.S. President Barack Obama and leaders from Gulf nations are set to meet Thursday in a rare, high-profile summit on U.S. efforts to broker a nuclear deal with Iran. The United States and five other world powers are in talks with Tehran to curb its nuclear program.

Iran, currently in a standoff with a Saudi-led coalition over security inspections of one of its own cargo ships, last month intercepted a Marshall Islands-flagged vessel in the Strait of Hormuz. It forced that ship into Iranian waters by firing shots across its bow.

Saudi-led forces have imposed inspections on ships entering war-torn Yemen in an attempt to prevent weapons being smuggled to the Iran-allied rebel Houthi group that controls much of the country.

Iran complained to the UN Security Council of the Saudi-led coalition’s forces hindering its attempts to send aid to Yemen as a standoff loomed on Wednesday over an Iranian cargo ship bound for the Arabian Peninsula.

Gulf Arab nations in the military coalition have since March 26 been bombing Houthi militia and allied army units that control much of Yemen as well as inspecting ships in a bid to stop weapons smuggling.

Iran said on Wednesday it would not allow coalition forces to inspect the humanitarian shipment. Saudi Arabia has accused Tehran of arming the Houthis, charges the Islamic Republic denies.

Millions of barrels of oil pass through the Bab el-Mandeb and Strait of Hormuz every day to Europe, the United States and Asia, waterways which pass along the coasts of Yemen and Iran respectively.

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Greece Unblocks Piraeus Port Sale, Accepts Bids

By Reuters 2015-05-14 08:54:50

Greece has asked three firms to submit binding bids by September for a majority stake in the country’s biggest port, Piraeus, a senior privatisation official told Reuters on Thursday, unblocking a major asset sale.

Greece had shorlisted China’s Cosco Group and four other groups for a 67 percent stake in Piraeus Port last year but the sale was halted after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s leftist government came to power this year.

Pressing ahead on the sale is expected to be one of the major concessions offered by Tsipras to EU and IMF lenders during ongoing talks to secure aid.

Athens late on Wednesday wrote to investors with an amended invitation to bid for 51 percent rather than the previous 67 percent stake, the official said.

Only three of the five initial bidders – Cosco, Dutch container terminal operator APM Terminals, and Philippines-based International Container Terminal Services – are still interested in the port, the official said.

“It will be for 51 percent with an option to reach 67 percent in five years if they invest 300 million euros,” he said. “We want to name the winner at the end of September or early October.”

The new leftist-led government is trying to renegotiate a 240-billion-euro bailout and has said it will review asset sales, but wants the state to remain involved in any privatizations.

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“Very Off-Broadway” Arbitration Event an Industry Hit

By MarEx 2015-05-14 08:31:32

On May 1, the New York Maritime Consortium (a coalition of leaders from New York Maritime Inc. (NYMAR), the Society of Maritime Arbitrators (SMA), the Maritime Law Association (MLA) and the Association of Shipbrokers and Agents (ASBA)) hosted an event called “Seven Days in May: Resolving your Arbitration Insecurities” and Maritime TV was there to record it and provide video sequences for the on-stage production. A real world scenario involving a marine casualty was played out culminating in an arbitration hearing and award. In the words of NYMAR Chairman, Clay Maitland, it was a “Very Off- Broadway production”.

Industry professionals played the roles of participants in the events and hearing, which highlighted the benefits of New York arbitration. Throughout the program, which featured a combination of stage performances and video production written by Freehill Hogan & Mahar’s Don Murnane, the audience was asked to vote on how they would have acted in the circumstances and how they would resolve the disputes. The results of each vote were immediately tabulated and displayed. The event was approved for 3 hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits.

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