U.S. Wants to Boost Yemen Shipping

By Reuters 2015-09-30 22:55:00

The United States has told the United Nations that it wants commercial shipping to conflict-torn Yemen to increase and cautioned that vessels should only be inspected when there are “reasonable grounds” to suspect illicit arms shipments.

The remarks from U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appeared to be an indirect dig at Saudi Arabia, whose coalition fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen has been running naval inspections that have caused shipping to Yemen to grind to a halt.

“We recognize that U.N. agencies and other humanitarian organizations need to freely import humanitarian assistance through Yemen’s seaports and airports and pursue needs-based distribution,” Power said in the letter, dated September 28.

She said that President Barack Obama and Saudi King Salman both agreed to “fully support and enable the U.N.-led humanitarian relief efforts” in Yemen, and that the Saudi leader has pledged that Riyadh would allow “unfettered access” to all forms of humanitarian aid, including fuel.

Power added that the United States was offering an additional $89 million in humanitarian aid for Yemen, raising the total U.S. aid commitment for the crisis to $170 million.

“We … anticipate increased commercial activity in the future, with inspections occurring only when there are reasonable grounds to believe a vessel is carrying arms,” she said. “This will be critical to restoring the vital imports that provide the bulk of the country’s food, fuel and other life-sustaining supplies.”

Before Saudi Arabia and Arab allies intervened in March to try to restore Yemen’s president to power and roll back the Iranian-allied Houthi militia, Yemen imported more than 90 percent of its food, mostly by sea.

Since then, many shipping companies have pulled out. Those still willing to bring cargo to Yemen face incalculable delays and searches by coalition warships hunting for arms for the Houthis. The point of a new U.N. inspection regime, announced earlier this month but not yet up and running, is to increase the flow of goods into the country.

Western officials have complained privately for months that the Saudis have been making the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen worse with their naval inspections and appear determined to press ahead with military action at all costs.

U.N. officials have repeatedly warned that the Yemen humanitarian crisis was escalating dramatically.

Power said Washington supports the U.N. Security Council’s call “for all sides in the conflict in Yemen to comply with international law and take all feasible precautious to minimize harm to civilians and civilian objects.”


Action Furthers Shipbreaking Debate

By Wendy Laursen 2015-09-30 20:31:11

ClassNK has issued statements of compliance to two ship recycling facilities in Alang, India, verifying that the facilities are in line with the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, 2009.

It is the first time statements of compliance have been issued to ship recycling facilities in South Asia, and for many in the industry it is the sign of change in what has been called the “dirty side” of shipping.

The yards are R. L. Kalthia Ship Breaking and Priya Blue Industries. Although the convention has not yet entered into force, Kalthia and Priya Blue have both carried out substantial improvements to their facilities in a bid toward safer and greener ship recycling as well as developed the Ship Recycling Facility Plans required certification.

Critics of ship breaking practices in India say that many yards operate under dangerous and polluting conditions. Workers labor on tidal sands to dismantle the vessels, breathe in toxic fumes and asbestos and fall victim to accidents. Many live in shacks close to the yards often without basic sanitary facilities or drinking water supply.

An Important Distinction

The world’s largest cash buyer, GMS, has welcomed the compliance news for the two yards.

GMS has long been a supporter of recycling yards in Alang and was instrumental in organizing a 14-strong Japanese industry and government delegation visit to India earlier in the year so that officials could see for themselves the improvements being made by some of the more forward-thinking ship recycling yards.

A separate visit, also organized by GMS, hosted a delegation from the Danish Shipping Association (DSA) to witness those improved yards. The visit helped the DSA make the important distinction between yards that use beaching and comply with the Hong Kong Convention on Ship Recycling and those that do not, says GMS.

Dr Anil Sharma founder and CEO of GMS said: “I am so pleased that both these yards have finally won Hong Kong Convention status. This really does prove beyond doubt that not all beaching is bad. GMS has argued that declaring blanket bans on beaching without viewing individual upgraded sites is short-sighted and these statements of compliance really do vindicate our position.

“This news will have a positive effect by encouraging other yards in Alang and the rest of the Asian sub-continent to follow suit and upgrade their facilities to achieve similar recognition.”

Corporate Support

However, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform continues to call for urgent action to stop dangerous working conditions. In September, four workers died following a gas cylinder explosion in a shipbreaking yard in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Four others were critically injured in the accident that occurred at the Shital Ship Breaking yard.

“The conditions in the shipbreaking yards are not line with international standards for environmentally sound management, occupational health and safety rules, and fundamental labor rights. If Indian shipbreakers want to be part of a global industry providing services to international shipping companies that are more and more conscious of environmental and social issues, they have to live up to these standards,” says Patrizia Heidegger, Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

The platform reports that U.S. shipping company Matson has now committed to recycling its old ships in responsible yards. In Europe, the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association and its 160 members recently voted to prohibit Norwegian-owned ships from being scrapped on South Asian beaches. This move follows other large foreign shipowners that have also adopted “off-the-beach” ship recycling policies, including Norwegian ship owners Grieg, Wilhelmsen and Høegh, along with German Hapag-Lloyd, Danish Maersk Lines, Royal Dutch Boskalis, Canadian CSL Group and Singaporean China Navigation Company. The U.S. government has likewise maintained a long-standing policy that requires its own ships to be recycled domestically and off beaches.


Singapore Funds LNG-Fuelled Newbuilds

By MarEx 2015-09-30 18:51:46

Singapore has launched a S$12 million ($8.44 million) fund to help shipping companies build vessels fuelled by LNG.

Companies will be able to tap the fund for up to S$2 million ($1.4 million) per vessel, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said in a statement on Wednesday.

Companies have to be incorporated in Singapore and the vessels must be flagged under the Singapore Registry or licensed for activity in the Port of Singapore for at least five years. The funding will be capped at two vessels per company.

Applications are now open, with the launch of the LNG Bunkering Pilot Programme (LBPP) targeted for early 2017.

MPA has been collaborating closely with partner agencies, industry stakeholders and technical experts to develop LNG bunkering standards, procedures and infrastructures. The port sought proposals on LNG bunker supplies in late July to complement the country’s profile of itself as an LNG hub and as a step towards meeting its own deadline of supplying the super-chilled fuel to ships by 2020.

In 2014, Singapore’s bunker industry recorded more than 42 million tons in bunkers sales volumes, maintaining its position as the world’s top bunkering port.


Cause of Panama Canal Leak Identified

By MarEx 2015-09-30 18:08:25

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has announced that the leak that occurred in the concrete sill between the lower and middle chamber of the Canal’s expanded Pacific Locks was the result of insufficient steel reinforcing.

The information came from Grupo Unidos por el Canal, S.A. (GUPC), the contractor responsible for the design and construction of the Third Set of Locks.

GUPC wrote that the localized seepage was the result of insufficient steel reinforcement in the area which was subjected to stress from extreme condition testing. After careful examination of all the other sills in both lock complexes, GUPC stated that in addition to reinforcing the sill that presented the issue, they would also reinforce the first and second sill in the Cocoli Locks and the first three sills in the Atlantic-facing Agua Clara Locks as a preventative measure, though these sills have not presented any issue.

GUPC also verbally indicated that the completion date for the Expansion Project will remain April 2016, as planned; however, the ACP is awaiting formal confirmation from GUPC, in the form of a comprehensive report.

GUPC’s contract with the ACP states that the group is responsible for all corrections that may be required. The contractor has an obligation to ensure the long-term performance on all aspects of the construction of the locks and to complete the Expansion Project following the quality standards established in the contract.

Filling of the locks began on June 22, and the ACP announced in late August that the canal had sprung a leak.


Maersk Joins Hapag-Lloyd in Dangerous Goods Initiative

By MarEx 2015-09-30 17:53:19

Hapag-Lloyd and Maersk Line have agreed to cooperate in increasing the safety of dangerous goods. In a meeting held in Hamburg on Wednesday, Maersk Line showed its desire to implement a tracing system similar to Hapag-Lloyd’s watchdog program.

This watchdog together with the Hapag-Lloyd FIS (Freight Information System) is continuously examining cargo data to identify anything conspicuous. It has a database of more than 6,000 keywords that is constantly being added to and refined. Dangerous goods that are declared imprecisely, incorrectly or not at all have the potential to pose a major risk to crews, ships, the environment and other cargo on board.

“By implementing a system similar to Hapag-Lloyd’s watchdog program, we will be able to increase safety on board of our 600 vessels and at the terminals we call,” says Soren Toft, Chief Operating Officer of Maersk Line. “We will also improve our risk profile and in the same time we will be sending a strong message to the shippers who put safety at risk.”

Hapag-Lloyd has been developing the watchdog program since 2011. With their many years of experience, Hapag-Lloyd’s dangerous goods and IT experts played a key role in creating effective search routines. The dangerous goods department was established almost 50 years ago and was the first in the shipping industry. Since then, Hapag-Lloyd’s internal specifications on dangerous goods have repeatedly formed the basis for statutory regulations and have thus become mandatory for the entire industry.

“Experience, know-how and secure processes are crucial for a safe transport of dangerous goods”, says Anthony J. Firmin, Chief Operating Officer of Hapag-Lloyd. “We are very happy that we were approached by other shipping lines to learn more about our watchdog program. The cooperation with Maersk Line is a very important step forward for increased safety and security of our entire industry.”

Last year, Hapag-Lloyd discovered 2,620 cases of incorrectly declared dangerous goods that were prevented from being shipped. Dangerous goods experts at Hapag-Lloyd investigated over 162,000 suspicious cases which were recorded using the watchdog software.


E.U. Allows Warships in Migrant Crisis Response

By MarEx 2015-09-30 16:42:57

In the latest attempt to stem the steady flow of migrants seeking European asylum, the E.U. will allow the use of warships to detain vessels and illegal human traffickers crossing the Mediterranean. Beginning October 7, Operation Sophia, named after a baby born at sea on August 22, will allow European warships to use all necessary measures to arrest human traffickers and seize vessels.

Operation Sophia’s one caveat is that E.U. warships are not allowed to cross into Libyan waters. Operating in Libyan waters would require an agreement from the Libyan government, which is in a state of civil unrest with two factions vying for international legitimacy.

The operation currently involves four ships including an Italian aircraft carrier and four planes, as well as 1,318 staff from 22 European countries.

The first phase of this E.U. operation began in late June as Greek, Italian and Swedish Coast Guard crews struggled to handle the influx of migrant ships transiting the Mediterranean on a daily basis. The phase included reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence gathering by speaking to refugees rescued at sea to compile data regarding human trafficking networks.

Europe is in the midst of its greatest migrant crisis since World War II as political unrest in Libya and Africa has driven millions of people from their homelands onto often unseaworthy vessels in hopes of gaining European asylum.

Europe has received more than 700,000 asylum applications this year and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation predicts that number will exceed 1 million by December. Nearly 200,000 of those migrants have attempted to cross the Mediterranean this year and more than 2,500 of them have died trying.

The majority of the people crossing the Mediterranean this year have landed in Italy (about 97,000) and Greece (about 90,000). Despite the rapidly rising death toll, migrants are undeterred as they desperately line up hoping they will be the fortunate individuals who complete the journey unscathed.

Though many see the E.U.’s increased effort as a solution to Europe’s migrant issues, not everyone is convinced. Human rights activists contend that war, violence and political upheaval are the root of the crisis, not traffickers who will always find a way to illegally transport their desperate clients.


Scope of canal repairs widens

Repairs to the Panama Canal’s new locks will be more extensive than previously indicated, while the completion date remains uncertain.
In August, severe leakages were found in the concrete sill separating the lower and middle chambers of the Cocoli Locks on the Pacific side. The Panama Canal