Maersk orders nine MR tankers

Maersk Tankers, the product tanker unit in the AP Moller-Maersk group of Denmark, says it has ordered nine medium-range (MR) vessels from the Samsung Heavy Industries Ningbo shipyard in China.
“The order, with a contract value of approximately USD300 million, is for nine MR vessels with a capacity

Solar Powered Phone Network for Emergencies

By Reuters 2015-09-21 03:46:19

Pakistani researchers have developed a portable, solar-powered mobile phone network for use in disasters like floods and earthquakes when regular communications are often disrupted.

Researchers at the Information Technology University (ITU) in Lahore, together with a team from the University of California, have developed a prototype “Rescue Base Station” (RBS) for Pakistan – the country’s first emergency telecoms system that would work on normal cell phones.

“When the RBS is installed in a disaster-struck area, people automatically start receiving its signals on their mobile phones. They can manually choose it and then call, send messages and even browse (internet) data free of charge,” said Umar Saif, ITU vice chancellor and an adviser to the project.

The RBS is a lightweight, compact rectangular box fitted with an antenna, a signal amplifier and a battery, which can be carried easily and even dropped by helicopter in hard-to-reach disaster zones. It has a solar panel to charge the battery, to keep it working in places without electric power.

An alternative communications system like this could help save lives when disasters strike by connecting survivors with rescue workers and government officials.

The RBS has yet to be deployed on the ground, but the ITU expects it to be used in the next six to eight months in partnership with the National Disaster Management Authority and a local telecoms company.

Saif said the RBS signal can be received within a 3 km radius, and people in the area can easily register by sending their name, occupation, age and blood group to a special number.

“This helps generate an automatic database of people in distress, and eventually helps both the rescue and relief teams and the victims,” he said.

Pakistan has 116 million active cellular subscribers out of a total population of 185 million, according to official data.


Potential users of the RBS system can get the information they need in just a few seconds by sending a text message to specific numbers appearing on their mobile phone.

For example, if a person needs to contact a fire brigade, they text the words “occupation: firefighters” to the relevant number. They will then receive names and contact details for local firefighters in just a few seconds and can call for help, Saif said.

Or if someone needs access to blood supplies, they send a message saying “blood group, B positive”, for instance, and receive contact information for people nearby with that blood group, so they can ask for a donation.

Saif said RBS teams on the ground plan to collect information about disaster-affected people in a database, and pass this on to rescue teams, doctors and government departments that can provide assistance.

“(They) can also send weather forecasts and disaster alerts to subscribers, and help them evacuate troubled areas,” said Ibrahim Ghaznavi, an ITU researcher and one of the RBS developers.

The RBS, which operates using open source software, offers all the features provided by regular cellphone companies, he added.

Ghaznavi said it costs around $6,000 to develop an RBS, and the Pakistan prototype has been funded by a Google Faculty Research Award.


The RBS team is now working with Endaga, a U.S.-based company that connects rural communities through small-scale independent cellular networks, and a local telecoms firm to commercialize the project, he added.

The aim of the collaboration is to help phone companies keep their communications systems functioning in a disaster until their regular networks are restored.

Pakistan is a disaster-prone country, which needs $6 billion to $14 billion to help it adapt to climate change impacts, such as unusually heavy rains, droughts and melting glaciers, through to 2050, according to a 2011 study funded by the U.N. climate secretariat.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies developed a customized communications system called the Trilogy Emergency Response Application (TERA) in Haiti when it was struck by a massive earthquake in 2010.

But that system could only send text messages to its subscribers on their mobile phones, unlike the RBS which allows users to call, send texts and even browse the web for free.

Cutting-edge technologies like the RBS could help save more lives by delivering timely advice to disaster-hit people, said Pervaiz Amir, country director for the Pakistan Water Partnership.

“Local researchers should be encouraged to develop innovative solutions to help people in distress,” he said. But the RBS needs to be tested in the field under different conditions before being deployed on a wider scale in actual disaster zones, he added.

Amir said the RBS could be useful for rescue and aid activities, especially in remote rural areas of Pakistan where natural disasters regularly disrupt poor communications systems.


Japan Votes In New Defense Policy

By MarEx 2015-09-20 20:41:41

Japan’s parliament voted into law on Saturday a defense policy shift that could let troops fight overseas for the first time since 1945, a milestone in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to loosen the limits of the pacifist constitution on the military.

Abe says the shift, the biggest change in Japan’s defense policy since the creation of its post-war military in 1954, is vital to meet new challenges such as from a rising China.

But the legislation has triggered massive protests from ordinary citizens and others who say it violates the pacifist constitution and could ensnare Japan in U.S.-led conflicts after 70 years of post-war peace. Abe’s ratings have also taken a hit.

The legislation “is necessary to protect the people’s lives and peaceful way of living and is for the purpose of preventing wars,” Abe told reporters after the bills were approved by the upper house. “I want to keep explaining the laws tenaciously and courteously.”

Japan’s ally the United States has welcomed the changes but China, where bitter memories of Japan’s wartime aggression run deep, has repeatedly expressed concern about the legislation.

China’s Foreign Ministry said the move was “unprecedented”.

“We solemnly urge Japan to learn the lessons of history … uphold the path of peaceful development and act cautiously in the areas of the military and security, and do more to help push regional peace and stability rather than the opposite,” it said.

The bills, already approved by parliament’s lower house, were voted into law by the upper chamber in the early hours of Saturday despite opposition parties’ efforts to block a vote by submitting censure motions and a no-confidence motion against Abe’s cabinet in the lower house. All were defeated.

A key feature of the laws is an end to a long-standing ban on exercising the right of collective self-defense, or defending the United States or another friendly country that comes under attack, in cases where Japan faces a “threat to its survival.”

Thousands of demonstrators have rallied near parliament every day this week, chanting “Scrap the war bills” and “Abe resign”. Large crowds were still protesting into the early hours of Saturday.

The protests have called to mind those that forced Abe’s grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, to resign 55 years ago after forcing a U.S.-Japan security treaty through parliament.

The revisions also expand the scope for logistics support for the militaries of the United States and other countries, and for participation in peace-keeping.

The changes still leave Japan constrained in overseas military operations by legal limits and a deeply rooted public anti-war mindset.

“Even if the constitution is revised, among the Japanese people no one is thinking of going to foreign lands for the purpose of exercising force,” former defense minister Itsunori Onodera said in an interview earlier this week. “I think Japan will maintain that stance from now on as well.”

Critics, however, say the changes make a mockery of the pacifist constitution and deplore what they see as Abe’s authoritarian mode of pushing for enactment of the bills.

Opposition to the legislation brought together both liberals keen to preserve Japan’s pacifist principles and conservative critics of what they consider Abe’s authoritarian tactics.

“The content, process and doctrine of the security bills … risk reversing the path we have walked for the past 70 years as a country of peace and democracy,” Yukio Edano, secretary-general of the opposition Democratic Party, told parliament’s lower house ahead of the no-confidence vote against Abe.

Abe won a second three-year term as ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) chief earlier this month and faces no immediate danger of being unseated, but voter distaste for the new laws could hurt the ruling bloc in an election next year.

“The people’s revolt will continue toward the next election one way or another,” said Keio University professor Yoshihide Soeya.

Australia has welcomed the new reforms. “These reforms will allow Japan to make a greater contribution to international peace and stability, including by exercising its UN Charter right to collective self-defense,” said Julie Bishop, minister for foreign affairs.

“Enhanced security cooperation with Japan is a priority for Australia. These reforms will make it easier for us to work with Japan overseas on peacekeeping operations, and humanitarian and disaster relief.

“Japan has been an exemplary contributor to peace and stability for seventy years. As Prime Minister Turnbull and Prime Minister Abe confirmed in their telephone conversation yesterday, Australia fully supports reforms that increase Japan’s role in our shared interests in regional and international peace and security.”


Carbon Pricing Schemes Not Effective Enough

By Reuters 2015-09-20 17:08:37

The number of carbon pricing schemes worldwide has almost doubled since 2012, but most taxes or markets have prices too low to prevent damaging global warming, the World Bank said on Sunday.

Carbon pricing, including emissions trading schemes from California to China, now covers about 12 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in a sign of momentum before a U.N. summit on climate change in Paris in December, it said.

The number of carbon pricing instruments, both implemented or planned, has risen to 38 from 20 since 2012. South Korea began carbon trading this year, for instance, and both Chile and South Africa plan taxes on carbon emissions.

“There is a growing sense of inevitability … that there will be a price on carbon” for governments and businesses,” Rachel Kyte, a vice president and special envoy for climate change at the World Bank, told a telephone news conference.

The study showed that prices, meant to shift investments from fossil fuels towards cleaner energies such as wind or solar power, ranged from less than a dollar a ton of carbon dioxide in Mexico to $130 a ton in Sweden.

In more than 85 percent of cases the price was less than $10, “considerably lower”, the report said, than levels needed to help limit temperature rises to a U.N. goal of two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.

The World Bank did not suggest a target price.

The combined value of the carbon pricing instruments was estimated at $50 billion a year worldwide, with $34 billion from markets and the other $16 billion in taxes.

A year ago, 73 countries and more than 1,000 companies and investors called for a price on carbon. Kyte said the group was becoming a “powerful coalition” that would make announcements before Paris. She gave no details.

A parallel report by the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), with input from the International Monetary Fund, also laid out new principles for carbon pricing that it called FASTER.

“Carbon pricing is central to the quest for a cost-effective transition towards zero net emissions in the second half of the century,” said Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD.

FASTER stands for Fairness, Alignment of policies and objectives, Stability and predictability, Transparency, Efficiency and cost effectiveness and Reliability and environmental integrity.


Cross between Propeller and Waterjet Trialled

By Wendy Laursen 2015-09-19 20:29:23

A New Zealand inventor has developed a new counter-rotating propeller system that operates above the water line.

The Dpulsar system, invented by Barry Davies, has been trialled on a U.S.-designed and built Motus motorbike engine. The hull has been made by Lancer Marine (Auckland) especially for the project.

The Dpulsar is claimed to be highly efficient in all its speed ranges. Davies says Dpulsar bridges the technology gap between propellers and waterjets.

The high mass output of the unit is not accelerated in a nozzle, as in a water-jet, and there are no straightening vanes. Instead, two contra rotating helical style propellers are contained within a tube, and water is sucked into an under hull grate and pushed out the stern in a solid mass.

“There are few, if any, environmental down-sides and it’s extremely safe for water-creatures as well as humans.”