Under-Reporting of Slavery and Abuse in Pacific Fisheries

By Wendy Laursen 2015-10-04 21:01:12

“Would you buy a can of tuna that you knew had been caught by slaves and canned by slaves?” asked Dr Patricia Kailola, acting CEO of Pacific Dialogue, at Pacific Tuna Forum in September 2015.

Despite a lack of reporting, human rights issues, as reported elsewhere, occur in the Pacific, she says, including trickery by recruiting agents, original contracts replaced by fraudulent contracts and/or in language not understood by crewmen, papers held by senior crew, debt bondage (crew obliged to ‘pay off’ the cost of their travel and papers), lack of adequate first aid equipment, lack of adequate food, very long working hours (18 hours or more per day), no days off, beatings for not understanding instructions, non-payment of wages, inadequate sleeping areas and absence of clean drinking water.

Deaths at sea are caused by health factors, accidents with fishing gears, inadequate safety gear and by murder. Kailola cites some examples that have occurred over the last few years:

• A Tuvaluan court found two Fijians guilty of murder of a senior crew member; “Justice Ward said the Fijians resented the fact that they were being fed with bait fish and boiled rice while the Chinese crew members and the captain were fed better food … [and] for being sworn at often” and that the men “had repeatedly suffered … unpleasant treatment from the deceased for a considerable time previously and had a degree of accumulated resentment.”

• In August 2013, an Indonesian man died after “going berserk” on a Japanese longliner in Tahitian waters. He had been at sea for more than 18 months without having contact with his family.

• A Papua New Guinea fisheries observer, Charles Lasisi, was murdered several years ago. His remains were recovered west of Wewak (north-western PNG). His legs and body were bound with chains.

Increasingly in recent years, reports are being published about poor conditions and abuse of crew on fishing vessels, primarily in South-east Asia, said Kailola in a discussion paper. Fewer published observations have been about the working conditions in fish processing plants.

“The remarkable feature of all of these reports, is that not one of them reports on, or refers to (beyond a mention), crew conditions in the Pacific Islands region – home to the largest tuna fishery in the world and perhaps, the world’s largest high seas fishing fleet,” she said.

Kailola highlighted that international conventions on labor rights are practically impossible to enforce on the high seas. Additionally, the Maritime Labour Convention does not cover seafarers working on fishing vessels and some conventions specific to fishing vessels have not yet entered into force due to the lack of minimum requisite ratifications by countries.

“Despite the Pacific Ocean’s size, the tuna fishery it supports cannot for much longer continue without scrutiny. Three resources comprise this fishery, not two: the fish, the vessels, and the manpower (on boats, and on shore). The industry’s willingness to recognize this third resource can be the missing key to resource sustainability and national food security. Attention to “people power” can reduce effort in the fishery and hence support resource sustainability,” says Kailola.

Pacific Dialogue is an NGO working in the fields of human rights and conflict resolution. Several non-government organizations including the International Collective in

Support of Fish Workers (ICSF), Human Rights at Sea (HRAS), Slave Free Seas (SFS),

EmancipAsia, Greenpeace, Human Rights Watch, and the Environmental Justice Foundation involve themselves with crew conditions on fishing vessels, as do some international organizations such as ILO, IMO and the International Transport Workers Federation.

The paper is available here.


Digital Windfarms Promise 20 Percent Productivity Gain

By MarEx 2015-10-04 18:49:21

Few people embody the backyard inventor better than Charles Brush. In 1887, he built behind his mansion in Cleveland, Ohio, a 4-ton wind generator with 144 blades and a comet-like tail, and used it to power a set of batteries in his basement. Although by today’s standards the huge, 60-foot machine was massively inefficient, it started a new industry that pushed generations of engineers to make it better. Now GE has decided to go further and improve on the entire wind farm in one fell swoop.

“Every wind farm has a unique profile, like DNA or a fingerprint,” says Keith Longtin, general manager for wind products at GE Renewable Energy. “We thought if we could capture data from the machines about how they interact with the landscape and the wind, we could build a digital twin for each wind farm inside a computer, use it to design the most efficient turbine for each pad on the farm, and then keep optimizing the whole thing.”

GE calls the concept the “digital wind farm.”

The concept has two key parts: a modular, 2-megawatt wind turbine that can be easily customized for specific locations and software that can monitor and optimize the wind farm as it generates electricity. GE says that the technology could boost a wind farm’s energy production by as much as 20 percent and create $100 million in extra value over the lifetime of a 100 megawatt farm. That value will come from building the right farm at the right place and then using data to produce predictable and power and further optimize the farm’s performance.

“The world’s electricity demand will grow by 50 percent over the next 20 years, and people want to get there by using reliable, affordable, and sustainable power,” says Steve Bolze, president and CEO of GE Power & Water. “This is the perfect example of using big data, software and the Industrial Internet to drive down the cost of renewable electricity.”

The Industrial Internet is a digital network connecting, collecting and analyzing machine data. GE believes that the Industrial Internet could add $10 to $15 trillion to global GDP in efficiency gains over the next two decades.

Each digital wind farm begins life as a digital twin, a cloud-based computer model of a wind farm at a specific location. The model allows engineers to pick from as many as 20 different turbine configurations – from pole height, to rotor diameter and turbine output – for each pad at the wind farm and design its most efficient real-world doppelganger. “Right now, wind turbines come in given sizes, like T-shirts,” says Ganesh Bell, chief digital office at GE Power & Water. “But the new modular designs allow us to build turbines that are tailor-made for each pad.”

But that’s only half of the story. Just like Apple’s Siri and other machine learning technologies, the digital twin will keep crunching data coming from the wind farm and providing suggestions for making operations even more efficient, based on the software’s insights. Longtin says that operators will be even able to use data to control noise. “If there is a house near the wind farm, we will be able to change the rotor speed depending on the wind direction to stay below the noise threshold,” he says.

The data comes from dozens of sensors inside each turbine monitoring everything from the yaw of the nacelle, to the torque of the generator and the speed of the blade tips. The digital twin, which can optimize wind equipment of any make, not just GE’s, gobbles it up and sends back tips for improving performance. “This is a real-time analytical engine using deep data science and machine learning,” Bell says. “There is a lot of physics built into it. We get a picture that feels real, just like driving a car in a new video game. We can do things because we understand the physics – we build turbines – but also because we write software.”

The digital wind farm is built on Predix, a software platform that GE developed specifically for the Industrial Internet. Predix can accommodate any number of apps designed for specific wind farm tasks – from responding to grid demand to maximizing and predicting power output. Bell says: “This is the start of a big journey for the wind industry.”


DHL Works to Prevent Wildlife Smuggling

By MarEx 2015-10-04 18:33:39

Key employees from DHL in Singapore took part in a workshop designed to help logistics providers prevent the smuggling of wildlife.

The workshop was organized by the NGO TRAFFIC to raise awareness of the risks which illegal wildlife traffickers pose to transport and logistics companies and to identify and discuss measures which can be taken to combat the illegal trade.

DHL Express prohibits the transport of all live animals, as well as ivory and other wildlife products which are not allowed to be traded internationally.

Participants learnt about wild animals and plants commonly smuggled in Southeast Asia and the methods often used by traffickers to hide contraband during the program which was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through the Wildlife Trafficking Response, Assessment and Priority Setting (TRAPS) Project. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority Singapore (AVA), provided details on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) and on the AVA’s enforcement efforts.

TRAFFIC will continue to provide information to DHL on illegal wildlife trade through similar workshops planned for DHL employees in other Southeast Asian countries.

DHL, part of Deutsche Post DHL group, is the leading global brand in the logistics industry, with more than 325,000 employees in over 220 countries and territories worldwide.

Songbirds at Risk

Experts meeting at Asia’s first Songbird Trade Crisis Summit this month are calling on Asian governments to bring about an immediate end to the illegal and unsustainable trade that is decimating the region’s wild bird populations.

“The volume of trade is so high that once common wild birds are vanishing at an alarming rate, literally trapped out of existence,” said Dr Chris R. Shepherd, Regional Director for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.

“We urge governments in the region, especially Indonesia, to take immediate and decisive steps to shut down the illegal trade in bird markets and take legal action against offenders.”

Co-organized by Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), TRAFFIC and Cikananga Wildlife Center, the inaugural Asian Songbird Crisis Summit, held in Jurong Bird Park, Singapore, gathered over 35 experts on birds found in the Greater Sunda region to identify the most threatened songbirds and propose actions to save them from extinction.

Over the course of the three-day summit, experts agreed upon a priority list of 30 songbird species in the Greater Sunda region that are verging on extinction if the illegal trade is left unchecked, and identified 12 species needing immediate action.

Only three of these high-priority birds are currently categorized as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List: Javan Green Magpie, Black-winged Myna and Bali Myna. This suggests an urgent need to reassess the status of many of these priority species.

At the centre of the songbird trade is Indonesia, a country with an insatiable demand for songbirds. Of the 184 endemic Indonesian species identified being sold in TRAFFIC’s new report on Indonesian bird markets, 22 are listed as being protected by national law, and all are collected outside of the nation’s zero harvest quota.

Indonesia has the highest number of endemic bird species in the world and the highest number of bird species in Asia. It also has among the highest number of threatened birds globally (131), second only to Brazil (164), a country over five times its size.

To mitigate the crisis, the summit experts proposed actions to be jointly undertaken by academics, NGOs and zoological institutions. They include better education and community outreach, the establishment and expansion of ex situ assurance and breeding colonies such as those currently found at Jurong Bird Park, and further research into the taxonomy and wild populations of the birds. Such efforts must also be complemented with better trade monitoring, enhanced legal protection and effective enforcement.

“We’re in real danger of losing once common songbirds, but hardly anyone is noticing in the shadow of the global focus on poaching of Africa’s rhinos and elephants—but this is no less of a crisis for Asia’s wildlife,” said Dr Sonja Luz, Director of Conservation & Research at Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

“Wildlife Reserve Singapore is committed to conserving priority Asian songbirds through our continued support for in situ projects, and to work towards holistic and collaborative conservation action.”

This meeting has kick-started a long-term collaboration that summit members hope to develop into a specialist group under the IUCN.

“Swift action by the regional governments and conservation organizations is needed to save these beautiful songbirds from being silenced forever,” said Professor Nigel Collar of BirdLife International.


High-Pressure Wash Developed for Oil Spills

By MarEx 2015-10-04 18:15:18

NTNU student entrepreneurs have joined up with an inventor from SINTEF to commercialize a new, green method for cleaning up oil spills.

While the media generally only picks up on big catastrophes, like the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, many other spills occur. There were 40 smaller maritime oils spills in Norway alone during the course of last year.

The current standard cleanup method uses chemicals to disperse the oil into small enough particles for natural bacteria in the ocean to be able to digest.

However, research on this process shows that the chemicals can actually slow or stop the breakdown process, and adding unnatural chemicals to delicate ecosystems is less than optimal.

“We really don’t know enough about how these chemicals affect the microbial ecosystems in our oceans, and there is some discussion as to whether these compounds prevent bacteria from being able to properly break down the oil,” says Anette Andersen of ChemFree, a new startup created by Andersen and two other students from NTNU’s School of Entrepreneurship.

As its name suggests, ChemFree does not rely on unwanted chemicals for cleanup. The technology involves spraying sea water into an oil spill with enough force to disperse the oil in tiny particles, allowing it to be properly broken down by ocean bacteria. Think of it like a giant high pressure washer.

Lab tests show that this method actually disperses smaller particles than chemical methods do, meaning that it is even easier for the ocean’s bacteria to do its work.

Andersen, and her colleagues Nina Heir and Karl Nevland, have spent three years in different study programs at NTNU, and then started a year ago in the NTNU School of Entrepreneurship’s two-year master’s program. Their goal with ChemFree is to have created a workplace for themselves by the time they finish their master’s degrees.

The man behind the original idea is Stein Erik Sørstrøm, who works at SINTEF, where the technology is in development. ChemFree is patented, and the rights to it will be transferred from SINTEF TTO (SINTEF’s commercialization arm) to ChemFree as soon as the new company is up and running.

The team has had good results during lab tests of the technology. The next step is to test the technology at full scale, using a prototype that is currently being developed. It will be tested this autumn.

ChemFree won the prize for best international contribution, as well as the prize for best master’s project in the international finals of Green Challenge in Copenhagen earlier this summer.

“Monetary prizes like this are incredibly valuable for a startup company. Previously, we’ve received aid from Spark and Trønderenergi, which has allowed us to travel around the world and meet with potential future clients. Meetings like this could easily be a deciding factor of our company’s success,” says Heir.

The students’ project won third place in the Norwegian Climate LaunchPad finals, which were arranged at NTNU in May.

As part of their entrepreneurship studies, Heir and Nevland spent three months at Boston University, where they were able to establish important contacts within the oil cleanup industry in the U.S. and Canada.

Source: Gemini


Majority of Mooring Accidents Caused by Lines Parting

By MarEx 2015-10-04 17:28:20

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s (AMSA) latest safety bulletin “Thinking – mooring safety” details AMSA’s mooring data, describes mooring incidents and provides examples of ways industry can improve follow-ups to incidents.

In the last five years, AMSA received 227 mooring related incident reports. Fifty-one, 22 percent, of these incidents resulted in injury. While there were no mooring related fatalities recorded during this period in Australia, mooring fatalities have continued to occur internationally.

The analysis shows that design and equipment safety played a significant role in 62 percent of the reported mooring incidents. Of particular note is that 51 percent of the identified design and equipment safety factors were the result of a parted mooring line. Shipboard conditions, such as heavy weather, workload and crew competency played a role in 22 percent of mooring incidents. Individual actions and organizational influences played a role in nine and seven percent of incidents, respectively.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has investigated a number of mooring incidents in Australian waters and has identified communication as a common contributing factor.

At times, little consideration is given to the increased risk that exists when various work groups do not have a clear understanding of each other’s tasks and actions. The communication within a single work group (for example, a bridge team), is relatively straightforward. However, when a number of teams or groups involving the bridge team, ship mooring parties, tug crews, lines boats and shore gangs are involved, effective communication is critical. These groups are separated by distance and line of sight, while language, culture, radio communication, background noise and other factors can further complicate matters.

Some key points from the bulletin are:

• make use of the hierarchy of controls and always try to eliminate hazards where possible

• ensure all equipment, especially mooring lines, are maintained in good condition

• maintain clear and effective communications between all stations

• take the opportunity to learn from incidents, whether they are yours or others

• be proactive and identify weaknesses that could lead to accidents during normal operations.

The safety bulletin can be found here.


New Berthing Tool Uses Laser Technology

By MarEx 2015-10-04 16:44:37

A laser-based tool has been developed to boost berthing safety. The E.U.’s DockingMonitor project, which concluded in August, aims to improve automated port safety systems by combining berthing aid with a drift monitoring system.

The project, led by Denmark’s Marimatech AS and Norway’s Teknologisk Institutt, was launched in September 2013 and conducted for two years.

The berthing aid uses high-end laser distance measurement and image processing and sends an alarm signal in the event of collision danger. Data from the system can be transmitted to displays, PCs and handheld devices while the integrated alarm system alerts jetty and ship crew if there is potential danger.

The ability to efficiently and accurately measure drift along the jetty during cargo transfer is a new feature that is currently not directly available.

DockingMonitor can particularly be useful in reducing the risk of oil spills during the berthing, loading and unloading of oil and LNG tankers, says the project team.

While there is a low incidence of oil spills occurring while tankers are at berth, such accidents often lead to large oil spills. About 20 percent of such accidents reported worldwide resulted in spill quantities of more than 700 tons.

In order to develop the drift new system, the team analyzed various motion measuring algorithms and selected the most suitable. After acquiring the necessary lighting and optical equipment, researchers conducted performance tests with a robot system and dummy hull. More realistic trials were also conducted at the Port of Oslo using a 3D scanner.

More information about the project is available here.


Watch: Debris Found in El Faro Search

By MarEx 2015-10-04 16:17:46

Search and rescue teams on Sunday located debris which appeared to belong to the cargo ship El Faro that went missing in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin with 33 mostly American crew members aboard, the U.S. Coast Guard and the ship’s owner said.

Life jackets, containers and an oil sheen were spotted by U.S. Coast Guard aircrews flying over the Bahamas on the third day of their search for the container ship.

The owners of the El Faro, Tote Maritime, also said two vessels it sent to the scene had found a container “which appears to be from the El Faro.”

There had been no sighting of the El Faro or any life boats, Tote Maritime Puerto Rico president, Tim Nolan, said in a statement.

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the 33 individuals aboard the ship and their families,” he added.

The Coast Guard could not confirm that the objects belonged to the El Faro, which sent a distress call on Thursday in the Bahamas but has not been heard from since.

“The debris is scattered about over several miles,” said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Ryan Doss with the Miami station. “It’s going to take some time to verify. The items would appear to be consistent with the missing ship.”

El Faro, a 735-foot (224-m) container ship with 28 U.S. citizens and five Polish nationals on board, was headed to San Juan, Puerto Rico, from Jacksonville, Florida when it reported losing propulsion and that it was listing and taking on water, the Coast Guard said.

Joaquin battered the central Bahamas archipelago for more than two days with 130 miles (210 km) per hour winds, a potentially catastrophic Category 4 hurricane on a scale of 1 to 5.

Doss said weather conditions in the search area had greatly improved on Sunday which would enable Coast Guard ships or a helicopter to retrieve the debris for verification.

“There is unrestricted visibility and ideal search conditions right now,” he said.

The Coast Guard and U.S. Air Force sent out four C-130 search and rescue planes at dawn on Sunday, and three Coast Guard cutters were headed to the area.

On Saturday, pilots working in high winds and seas found three life rings in waters to the northeast of Crooked Island in the Bahamas, about 75 miles (120 km) from the ship’s last known position. One was confirmed to belong to the El Faro.

Conditions in the area on Friday and Saturday hampered search efforts, with 20 to 40-feet seas and winds in excess to 115 miles (185 km) per hour, the Coast Guard said.

In video released by the Coast Guard, one pilot said visibility was less than a quarter of a mile (0.4 km) while flying low at 1,000 (300 m) feet.

“This was the most challenging weather conditions anyone on our crew had ever flown,” said Coast Guard pilot Lt Dustin Burton after returning Saturday from his mission.

It is not known whether the El Faro was able to recover propulsion at some point.

There were no further communications after a distress call received at about 7:30 a.m. (1130 GMT) on Thursday, the Coast Guard said. The search and rescue efforts have covered more than 30,000 square miles since then.

“We are very surprised that we lost all communication with the ship,” Mike Hanson, a spokesman for Tote Maritime Puerto Rico, said.

The ship was equipped with an onboard transponder as well as a satellite phone and GPS devices on the containers, he said.