Greenland Study Documents Ice Loss

By MarEx 2015-08-26 22:20:09

This summer, a refitted fishing boat is mapping the seafloor around Greenland as the first step in a six-year research program to document the loss of ice from the world’s largest island. NASA’s Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) field campaign is gathering data that will help scientists both to understand how the oceans are joining with the atmosphere in melting the vast ice sheet and to predict the extent and timing of the resulting sea level rise.

“A lot of the major uncertainty in future sea level rise is in the Greenland Ice Sheet,” said OMG principal investigator Josh Willis, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. At about 660,000 square miles (1.7 million square kilometers), the ice sheet is three times the size of Texas. It’s about a mile deep on average and contains enough water to raise global sea levels about 20 feet (six meters), if it were all to melt.

“The question is how fast it’s melting,” Willis said.

If the ice sheet were simply melting from the top down, researchers could track its disappearance more easily. However, ocean water melts ice too. The northwest Atlantic Ocean has been warming at an unprecedented rate for the last 10 to 15 years. Where that warm, salty water can reach Greenland’s glaciers, it accelerates their melting.

Finding out where that is happening is no easy task. Greenland’s coastline is more than 27,000 miles (44,000 kilometers) long,- longer than the distance around Earth at the equator, because of the island’s hundreds of long, narrow fjords, many containing glaciers. Just as the coast is scored by fjords, Greenland’s shallow continental shelf is gouged by underwater canyons cut by the glaciers of the last ice age.

In this part of the world, the warmest water is down deep in the ocean, but that water may be able to get into the underwater canyons and reach the glaciers.

Seafloor depths on Greenland’s west coast, measured by sonar aboard a research ship as part of the OMG project. Red and yellow are shallower areas, greens and blues deeper. The thin green line is the ship’s path. The data give a better idea of where warm ocean water can reach glaciers. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“We don’t know how deep almost all of the glaciers and the fjords are, nor where the deep canyons cut through the continental shelf,” said OMG co-investigator Ian Fenty of JPL. OMG is making the first high-resolution maps of the complete Greenland coast and continental shelf.

Aerial Analysis

The maps are just the opening act of the OMG campaign, however. From next year to 2020, NASA’s G-III research aircraft will take up the job of collecting data. The advantage of aircraft, Willis said, is that “we can encircle the island with observations of both the ocean and the ice. There’s really no other way to do that.” The G-III is based at Armstrong Flight Research Center, Palmdale, California.

Starting next spring, the plane will fly NASA’s Glacier and Ice Surface Topography Interferometer (GLISTIN) instrument over the periphery of the island each year. GLISTIN will make very precise measurements of the heights and extents of more than 90 percent of Greenland’s coastal glaciers that reach the ocean, enabling researchers to quantify how much each glacier melted and retreated during the preceding melt season.

In the early fall when sea ice is at its minimum, the G-III will circumnavigate Greenland’s continental shelf, releasing about 250 expendable sensors that measure the temperature and salinity of the water up to a depth of about 3,000 feet (1,000 meters) from the cold, fresh meltwater at the surface down to the warmer, heavier saltwater below.

According to Fenty, these comprehensive measurements will give scientists a real chance to answer questions they can only guess at with the limited observations they have now. “People have been going to Greenland, studying a few glaciers at a time, trying to make sense of the complex melting and glacier-retreat pattern observed by satellites,” he said. “But we really can’t, unless we take a far-reaching approach.”

Accelerated Rising

For thousands of years, sea level has remained relatively stable and human communities have settled along the planet’s coastlines. But now Earth’s seas are rising. Globally, sea level has risen about eight inches since the beginning of the 20th century and more than two inches in the last 20 years alone.

All signs suggest that this rise is accelerating.

While NASA and other agencies continue to monitor the warming of the ocean and changes to the planet’s land masses, the biggest concern is what will happen to the ancient ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica, which continue to send out alerts that a warming planet is affecting their stability.

“We’ve seen from the paleoclimate record that sea level rise of as much as 10 feet in a century or two is possible, if the ice sheets fall apart rapidly,” said Tom Wagner, the cryosphere program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We’re seeing evidence that the ice sheets are waking up, but we need to understand them better before we can say we’re in a new era of rapid ice loss.”

Finding the Level

NASA has been recording the height of the ocean surface from space since 1992. That year, NASA and the French space agency, CNES, launched the first of a series of spaceborne altimeters that have been making continuous measurements ever since. The first instrument, Topex/Poseidon, and its successors, Jason-1 and -2, have recorded about 2.9 inches (7.4 centimeters) of rise in sea level averaged over the globe.

In the 21st century, two new sensing systems have proven to be invaluable complements to the satellite altimetry record. In 2002, NASA and the German space agency launched the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) twin satellites. These measure the movement of mass, and hence gravity, around Earth every 30 days. Earth’s land masses move very little in a month, but its water masses move through melting, evaporation, precipitation and other processes. GRACE records these movements of water around the globe. The other new system is the multinational Argo array, a network of more than 3,000 floating ocean sensors spread across the entire open ocean.

The M/V Cape Race (inset) measured seafloor depths around Greenland this summer. Its complex path followed deep trenches dug by ancient glaciers. The track starts light and becomes darker throughout the survey. Sea ice at the cruise outset, July 24, is shown at left. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Record Launch for Ulstein Verft

By MarEx 2015-08-26 19:51:09

Ulstein Verft’s largest offshore vessel so far, the offshore construction vessel Island Venture, was launched on August 25.

The 160m Ulstein SX165 design vessel is jointly owned by Norway-based Island Offshore and US-based Edison Chouest Offshore. The latter will be managing the vessel. Thus, the vessel carries the Edison Chouest colors and logo.

Ulstein Verft, Norway, builds a wide range of highly-effective and sustainably efficient vessels that include offshore support, offshore construction, seismic and research vessels.


Asian Trade Boom Predicted

By MarEx 2015-08-26 19:32:25

Trade from China and Southeast Asia to North America and Europe is expected to boom in the next five years, according to new analysis released by IHS Inc.

The firm forecasts that China’s trade will continue to increase by more than five percent per year between 2015 and 2020. This positive medium-term trade growth comes despite more recent setbacks caused by the marked economic slowdown in China and weaker growth among other emerging markets in the current and near-term.

“These increases will not be the double-digit rises seen before the 2008 global economic crisis,” said Krispen Atkinson, principal analyst at IHS Maritime & trade. “However, an increase of over 30 percent in the next five years underscores China’s intent to remain a new trade hub-and-spoke lynchpin for the rest of the economic world, cementing the Maritime Silk Road Initiative via China and Asia within the emerging market universe.”

Bigger ships

One new trend is the move towards larger container ships to streamline the supply chain. The four alliances that dominate east-west trade are pushing the trend towards container ships capable of carrying 20,000 boxes (20 foot equivalent units), in their quest to reduce unit costs with ever more efficient vessels. Current container ships hold around 13,000 boxes, so the new super-containers capable of transporting over 50 percent more cargo. Their push has meant further capacity has become available in the trade.

Southeast Asia-North America trade boom

“China may be the major powerhouse in the region, but Southeast Asia is making significant headway,” Atkinson said.

Vietnam’s exports are estimated to increase by 44 percent by 2020. IHS forecasts a 44 percent increase in trade between Vietnam and North America and a 43 percent increase in trade between Vietnam and Europe in the next five years. “In terms of actual cargo, the figures are still low when compared with China’s, but these are still huge jumps for these economies,” Atkinson said.

Trade between these two regions is made up of manufactured goods, such as home appliances or mechanical hardware.

“Vietnam, India and many of the South Asian economies stand to benefit from recent energy and commodity price falls as net importers of these goods,” said Jan Randolph director of sovereign risk analysis at IHS. “They have significant industries and services sectors of their own that benefit from cheaper inputs and have currencies that are not coupled to a strengthening US dollar.”

East Africa-China trade boom

Trade routes from China to Africa are expected to see a marked increase over the next five years, with the highest growth expected to be seen from the East African to China route, incorporating Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

“Trade between East Africa and China is expected to increase by 91 percent by 2020,” Atkinson said. “It’s all around manufactured goods. East Africa is becoming a new hub for the Chinese.”

Chinese leadership has publicly announced its commitment to develop infrastructural and to promote regional integration in East Africa. “In the coming years, China’s relationship with East Africa will change,” said Natznet Tesfay, head of sub-Saharan Africa analysis at IHS County Risk. “Right now, the focus is on importing raw materials and exporting manufactured goods. But, Chinese investments in enhancing regional interconnectivity will enable it to take advantage of comparatively lower operational costs and to onshore manufacturing activity in East Africa.”


Schlumberger Acquires Cameron

By MarEx 2015-08-26 19:14:15

Schlumberger, the world’s largest oilfield service company, and engineering company Cameron have announced a definitive merger agreement in which the companies will combine in a stock and cash transaction. The agreement was unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both companies.

The transaction combines two complementary technology portfolios into a “pore-to-pipeline” products and services offering to the global oil and gas industry. On a pro forma basis, the combined company had 2014 revenues of $59 billion.

Schlumberger expects to realize pretax synergies of approximately $300 million and $600 million in the first and second year, respectively. Initially, the synergies are primarily related to reducing operating costs, streamlining supply chains and improving manufacturing processes, with a growing component of revenue synergies in the second year and beyond.

Paal Kibsgaard, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Schlumberger said, “This agreement with Cameron opens new and broader opportunities for Schlumberger. At our investor conference in June 2014, we highlighted how the exploration and production industry must transform to deliver increased performance at a time of range-bound commodity prices. With oil prices now at lower levels, oilfield services companies that deliver innovative technology and greater integration while improving efficiency, which our customers increasingly demand, will outperform the market.

“We believe that the next industry technical breakthrough will be achieved through integration of Schlumberger’s reservoir and well technologies with Cameron’s leadership in surface, drilling, processing and flow control technologies. Deep reservoir knowledge further enabled by instrumentation, software and automation, will launch a new era of complete drilling and production system performance.

“In addition, we will achieve significant efficiency gains through lowering operating costs, streamlining supply chains, and improving manufacturing processes while leveraging the Schlumberger transformation platform.”

Jack Moore, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Cameron, added, “This exciting transaction builds on our successful partnership with Schlumberger on OneSubsea and will position Cameron for its next phase of growth. For our shareholders, this combination provides significant value, while also enabling them to own a meaningful share of Schlumberger. Together, we will create a premier oilfield equipment and service company with an integrated and expanded platform to drive accelerated growth.

“By bringing together Cameron and Schlumberger, we will be uniting two great companies with successful track records, performance and value creation. We look forward to working closely with Schlumberger to achieve a seamless post-closing integration and long term value for all of our stakeholders.”

The transaction is subject to Cameron shareholders’ approval, regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. It is anticipated that the closing of the transaction will occur in the first quarter of 2016.

Goldman, Sachs & Co. is acting as financial advisor, and Baker Botts LLP and Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP are serving as legal counsel, to Schlumberger. Credit Suisse is acting as financial advisor and Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP is serving as legal counsel to Cameron.


NASA says: “The Ice Sheets Are Waking Up”

By MarEx 2015-08-26 18:10:12

Seas around the world have risen an average of nearly three inches since 1992, with some locations rising more than nine inches due to natural variation, according to the latest satellite measurements from NASA and its partners. An intensive research effort now underway, aided by NASA observations and analysis, points to an unavoidable rise of several feet in the future.

The question scientists are grappling with is how quickly will seas rise?

“Given what we know now about how the ocean expands as it warms and how ice sheets and glaciers are adding water to the seas, it’s pretty certain we are locked into at least three feet of sea level rise, and probably more,” said Steve Nerem of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and lead of the Sea Level Change Team. “But we don’t know whether it will happen within a century or somewhat longer.”

In 2013, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued an assessment based on a consensus of international researchers that stated global sea levels would likely rise from one to three feet by the end of the century. According to Nerem, new research available since this report suggests the higher end of that range is more likely, and the question remains how that range might shift upward.

The data reveal the height of the sea surface is not rising uniformly everywhere. Regional differences in sea level rise are dominated by the effects of ocean currents and natural cycles such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). But, as these natural cycles wax and wane, they can have major impacts on local coastlines.

“Sea level along the west coast of the United States has actually fallen over the past 20 years because long-term natural cycles there are hiding the impact of global warming,” said Josh Willis, an oceanographer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “However, there are signs this pattern is changing. We can expect accelerated rates of sea level rise along this coast over the next decade as the region recovers from its temporary sea level ‘deficit.’”

Scientists estimate that about one-third of sea level rise is caused by expansion of warmer ocean water, one-third is due to ice loss from the massive Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and the remaining third results from melting mountain glaciers. But, the fate of the polar ice sheets could change that ratio and produce more rapid increases in the coming decades.

The Greenland ice sheet, covering 660,000 square miles, nearly the area of Alaska, shed an average of 303 gigatons of ice a year over the past decade, according to satellite measurements. The Antarctic ice sheet, covering 5.4 million square miles, larger than the United States and India combined, has lost an average of 118 gigatons a year.

“We’ve seen from the paleoclimate record that sea level rise of as much as 10 feet in a century or two is possible, if the ice sheets fall apart rapidly,” said Tom Wagner, the cryosphere program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We’re seeing evidence that the ice sheets are waking up, but we need to understand them better before we can say we’re in a new era of rapid ice loss.”

Although Antarctica’s contribution to sea level rise currently is much smaller than that of Greenland, recent research indicates this could change in the upcoming century. In 2014, two West Antarctica studies focused on the acceleration of the glaciers in the Amundsen Sea sector showed its collapse is underway.

East Antarctica’s massive ice sheet remains the primary unknown in sea level rise projections. Though it appears to be stable, a recent study found under a major glacier two deep troughs that could draw warm ocean water to the base of the glacier, causing it to melt.

“The prevailing view among specialists has been that East Antarctica is stable, but we don’t really know,” said glaciologist Eric Rignot of the University of California Irvine and JPL. “Some of the signs we see in the satellite data right now are red flags that these glaciers might not be as stable as we once thought. There’s always a lot of attention on the changes we see now, but as scientists our priority needs to be on what the changes could be tomorrow.”

One of the keys to understanding future rates of ice loss is determining the role ocean currents and ocean temperatures play in melting the ice sheets from below its edges. A new six-year NASA field campaign took to the waters around Greenland this summer to probe how warming ocean waters are triggering Greenland glacier degradation. The Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) project is taking coastal ocean temperature measurements, observing glacial thinning at the ice’s edge, and producing the first high-resolution maps of the seafloor, fjords and canyons in the continental shelf surrounding Greenland.


Eight Killed In Collision

By MarEx 2015-08-26 16:54:39

Eight people are dead after a ferry capsized and sank after a collision with a fishing boat near India’s port city of Kochi. The ferry was transporting about 30 passengers from Vypin, a Kochi island to Fort Kochi. The Coast Guard, Navy and Marine police were dispatched for the rescue operation.

The survivors are being treated at a nearby hospital, but at least three of the rescued passengers are in serious condition.

The status of fishing vessel and its operators is unknown.


London Cruise Facility Angers Locals

By MarEx 2015-08-26 16:37:19

The Royal Borough of Greenwich and London Mayor Boris Johnson have approved a cruise ship terminal in Greenwich, England. It is expected that about 60 cruise ships will call at the London City Cruise port beginning in 2017.

The terminal will accommodate medium-sized cruise ships up to 820 feet long. The terminal area will have restaurants and bars and is expected to create about 500 new jobs. Contractors are also building around 480 new homes as well.

Environmentalists are opposed to the development of the cruise facilities saying the ships will create more pollution and release nitrogen dioxide into the atmosphere. The Greenwich Society claims a ships onboard generators can burn up to 700 liters of diesel fuel hourly and says that is equivalent to 400 idling commercial trucks.

The Society says that a potential solution would be to have the terminal use a cold ironing program or provide onshore power. But, at this time, the terminal does not plan to provide onshore power sources.

Mayor Johnson says his office is aware of potential negative impacts and has secured over $600 thousand (£400 thousand) towards environmental monitoring. Also, the cruise ships operating at the port must comply with the IMO emissions requirements, which were implemented January 1, 2015.

On January 1, EU Member States issued a directive stating that all ships in the Baltic, North Sea and English Channel use fuels with a sulphur content of more than 0.10%. Fuels with high sulphur content are still permissible if the ship is equipped with the appropriate exhaust cleaning systems.


Singapore Tough on Bunker Suppliers

By MarEx 2015-08-26 16:29:38

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) has fined JL Petroleum for supplying marine fuel in the world’s largest bunkering hub without a valid license. JL Petroleum plead guilty to charges of supplying marine fuel on 14 occasions in June 2013. Additionally, the company used Bunker Delivery Notes belonging to licensed supplier Excel Petroleum Enterprise for its deliveries.

The MPA canceled Excel Petroleum’s license on January 15, 2014 for its involvement in the case.The MPA did not disclose the amount JL Petroleum was fined. Bunkering licenses are required under item 64(b) of the MPA’s regulations and JL Petroleum was fined under regulation 78(b).

MPA said, in a statement, it has a zero-tolerance policy towards bunkering malpractice. In February, it suspended the licenses of Singapore-based Tankoil Marine Services and Hong Fatt Oil Trading for discrepancies and wrongful declarations in their bunker tanker records.

Singapore handles about 42.4 million metric tons of bunkers each year and there are currently 59 licensed bunker suppliers in the port.


More Oil Industry Fallout

By MarEx 2015-08-26 16:22:43

Maersk Oil, an oil and gas company owned by the A.P. Moller-Maersk Group, is cutting about 200 employees and will seek permission from Britain’s Oil and Gas Authority to close operations at its Janice installation. The Janice installation produces about 7,000 barrels per day from three UK North Sea oil fields. The staff cuts will affect permanent Maersk Oil employees as well as contractors.

Maersk Oil operates fields in the UK, Denmark, Qatar, Kazakhstan, the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, Algeria and Brazil with total production of 550,000 barrels of oil per day.

The Janice offshore installation is a 30-year-old rig and Maersk has operated the facility since 2005. If approved, production at the Janice installation would cease in the second or third quarter of 2016.

Maersk said in a statement once it received permission to cease production in the field it would start its decommissioning program for the Janice FPU (floating production unit). The company said it will also consider a move to a three weeks off, three weeks on offshore rotation which would be implemented in the second quarter of 2016.

On August 21, Oil prices fell below $40 per barrel for the first time since 2009. And the oil industry has felt the effects as operators have slashed jobs and cut operations costs.

In June, the Energy Information Agency (EIA) said the US petroleum industry lost about 6.5% of its jobs in the first half of 2015, which is about 35,000 of its 538,000 workers. Rig count in the U.S. are also down about 42 percent this year.

And in the UK, Shell eliminated about 6,500 and Centrica terminated 6,000 jobs. This month, the Wood Group, a Scotland-based oil and gas services company operating the UK North Sea said it was reducing its workforce by 5,000. The company’s net profit fell by 17 percent in the first half of 2015.

In July, the Sapiem energy services group announced that it would cut nearly 9,000 employees over the next three years. Sapiem is a subsidiary of Italy’s multinational oil and gas company ENI.