China Moving Controversial Oil Rig, BY MAREX


No.5- China Oil Rig

Vietnam said on Wednesday a Chinese oil rig at the center of an increasingly bitter territorial dispute appeared to be on the move again, as China denied Vietnamese accusations that it had sent warships to the scene. The rig’s deployment triggered anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam last month that killed at least four workers. Scores of Vietnamese and Chinese ships, including coastguard vessels, have squared off around the rig despite a series of collisions after the platform was towed to the area in early May. In a statement, Vietnam’s Directorate of Fisheries said the rig had shown signs of moving towards the east and southeast. China had 119 vessels in the rig’s operating area, it added, including six naval ships and four circling military aircraft.

However, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying dismissed as “completely incorrect” the accusations that China had sent six warships, adding that the rig operations were commercial in nature.

“Because Vietnam keeps forcefully and illegally carrying out interference, we have sent official Chinese government ships to guarantee security on the scene, but we have not sent military ships,” she told a daily news briefing.

 The Haiyang Shiyou 981 rig is drilling between the Paracel islands, which China occupies, and the Vietnamese coast. Vietnam has said the rig is in its 200-Nautical mile exclusive economic zone and on its continental shelf.

 China says it is operating within its waters. China claims about 90 percent of the South China Sea, but parts of the potentially energy-rich waters are also subject to claims by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Hua said Vietnam had sent a large number of armed ships to interfere in the rig’s operations, though she would not confirm whether the rig had moved. She added that rig operations, which started on May 2, are expected to go on until the middle of August.

“We hope that it can be completed smoothly and safely,” she said, accusing Vietnam of having stirred up last month’s violence against foreign companies. 

“Vietnam’s government incited certain domestic lawbreaking elements to smash up and burn foreign companies, including Chinese ones…There has still been no compensation for this,” Hua said.

In a separate statement, China’s defense ministry accused the United States of stirring up regional tension, especially through joint military exercises and by sending “wrong messages” on territorial disputes.

 “This has made regional peace and stability even more chaotic,” it said, in comments responding to a Pentagon report last week on China’s military spending and ambitions that Beijing has already condemned.

The United States was the real threat, it added, pointing to U.S. cyber-warfare and missile defense capabilities and the fact that U.S. defense spending far exceeded China’s. 

Oil is Drying Up in Besieged Libya, marex


No. 4- Libya

Libya is still able to supply its 120,000-bpd Zawiya refinery without drawing on oil from two offshore fields, an oil ministry official said on Sunday. On Wednesday, a spokesman for state-owned National Oil Corp (NOC) said Libya might have to use oil from offshore fields Al Jurf and Bouri to feed the refinery which supplies western Libya with fuel products.

The offshore oil is one of the last export sources for a government struggling with a wave of protests at oilfields and ports that began last summer. But a senior oil ministry official told Reuters Brega port in the east was still producing enough to supply the refinery. The Al Jurf and Bouri offshore fields, producing around 80,000 bpd, have been unaffected so far by 10 months of nationwide oil protests.

Many petrol stations in the capital Tripoli are closed. Oil officials blame the fuel shortage on bad weather delaying the arrival of fresh imports.

 The situation should improve within 24 hours after the arrival of a tanker last night, an official in state firm Brega, which supplies the local market, told local television stations.

 As for the rest of the North African country, protesters are still blocking either the export terminals or the oilfields themselves in order to prevent any other exports.

 A group of federalists, led by 2011 civil war veteran Ibrahim al-Jathran, allowed two of the four eastern ports they were blocking since end-July 2013 to reopen after an initial government deal in April. But oil guards blocked one of them again last week. They have prevented two tankers from loading at Hariga over unpaid salaries, though oil officials said these have now been transferred. The other reopened port of Zueitina ran out of crude in May after storage was emptied by eager buyers while production at the connecting oilfields has not yet resumed. Zawiya refinery depends on oil from the major western El Sharara oilfield, which has been shut down since March. Crude coming from the eastern Brega port was being used as an alternative feedstock. Copyright Reuters 2014.

Italy Drowning in Human Flood, BY MAREX


No. 3- Italy

Italy has rescued about 5,200 men, women and children and recovered three dead bodies from overcrowded boats in the Mediterranean Sea since early Thursday. Calm seas have led to this latest wave of migrants who have left North African shores for Italy over just three days, a navy spokesman told Reuters, with merchant ships and a Maltese vessel also aiding in the rescue efforts.

The merchant tanker Norient Star recovered three bodies from one of the migrant boats, the spokesman said, adding that he had no details about the cause of the death or identity of the victims. Three merchant ships, including the Norient Star, took aboard a total of 700 migrants, a navy statement said, and is taking them to ports in Sicily.

The surge in arrivals is straining the ability of the Italian naval mission – called Mare Nostrum or “Our Sea” – to patrol the waters between Africa and Italy on its own. It has prompted local officials in Sicily, where most of the migrants are taken, to call for more European support. “Europe can’t just turn its back on us,” Lillo Firetto, mayor of the Sicilian port city of Porto Empedocle, said in a television interview on Sunday. “This isn’t just Sicily’s border, but it’s Europe’s border, too.”

Italy has repeatedly asked for more European Union countries to join Mare Nostrum, which is Europe’s biggest ever search-and-rescue mission, but so far only Slovenia has chipped in, offering one ship for two months late last year.

 Mare Nostrum began last October after 366 migrants fleeing African countries drowned when their boat capsized a mile from Sicily. After the tragedy, the EU pledged 30 million euros ($40.85 million) in emergency funding, mainly targeted to fund immigration facilities on land. The number of boat migrants who have reached Italy this year has already topped the total of more than 40,000 for the whole of 2013. The pace of arrivals is on track to exceed the record of 62,000 set in 2011 during the Arab Spring uprisings.

Two-thirds of the migrants, who come from dozens of countries and include Syrians fleeing civil war and Eritreans evading military conscription, leave Italy for other EU countries, the Interior Ministry said. “The ones who arrived yesterday left immediately. We saw them walking down state-road 115,” Firetto said in the televisions interview.

Given the thousands who have arrived in just the past few days, Firetto said he was very worried that the situation would get worse in coming weeks.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has urged the United Nations to intervene in Libya, where criminal gangs charge migrants more than $1,000 each for a spot on unsafe vessels, to try to limit the departures.

The recent flood of boat migrants has helped revive Italy’s anti-immigrant Northern League party, which had lost much of its support over the last two years due to corruption scandals and leadership changes., Copyright Reuters 2014.

Missing Tanker Sent Piracy Distress Call BY MAREX


No. 2- Missing Tanker

A Liberia-flagged oil tanker has gone missing off the coast of Ghana and a senior port official told Reuters on Saturday the captain sent a distress call to say the vessel was attacked by pirates. The Liberia-flagged MT Fair Artemis last made contact with its manager, Fairdeal Group S.A., at 6 p.m. (1800 GMT) on Wednesday when it was operating off the coast of Ghana, the company said. The ship failed to make contact the next day.

Pirate attacks jumped by a third off the coast of West Africa last year, pushing up insurance costs for shipping firms operating in a key commodities export hub. “Our primary concern … is for the safety of those on board the vessel. We would like to assure their families and all stakeholders that we are fully committed to returning the crew and vessel to a safe port,” said Fairdeal fleet director John Gray in a statement. A spokesperson for the company said on Saturday the ship remained missing but gave no further details.

A senior official at the port in Tema, east of Ghana’s capital, told Reuters: “We had a distress call from the master of the ship yesterday (Friday) saying he was 36 nautical miles away from our waters after he was hijacked and looted in Togolese waters early Wednesday.” The official declined to be identified. West African piracy has its roots in an uprising in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta that has given rise to criminal networks. Gangs target cargo, which is often fuel, and rob or kidnap crew members. The gangs threaten oil security in the Gulf of Guinea beyond Nigeria including in Ghana and Ivory Coast, where offshore discoveries have sparked interest from international oil firms and prompted efforts to turn the zone into an oil and gas hub. There are signs the pirates are growing more daring as they attacked a tanker in January off the coast of Angola and sailed it to the Nigerian coast in what was the most southerly attack on record. A spokesman for Ghana’s armed forces said the Navy was on the lookout for the vessel, which was built in 2009. Copyright Reuters 2014.

Crew Released After Three Years, No Ransom Paid BY MAREX


No. 1- Piracy

Eleven crew members held hostage by Somali pirates for more than three years have been released, regional and United Nations officials said on Saturday.The number of attacks by Somali pirates has fallen over the last two years due to increased naval patrols and the presence of well-armed security teams on ships. However, 38 crew members remain in captivity, the U.N. company structures . said.

 The 11 men freed on Friday were crew on Malaysian-owned cargo vessel MV Albedo which was hijacked 900 miles (1,500kms) off Somalia in November 2010 while sailing from the United Arab Emirates to Kenya.

 “They are all healthy,” said Abdi Yusuf Hassan, the interior minister of Galmudug region. He said no ransom was paid.

 MV Albedo’s 23-man crew was made up of sailors from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Iran when it was seized.

 Seven of the ship’s crew were released in 2012 while four others drowned when the ship sank last year.

Media reports have suggested one hostage was killed soon after the vessel was hijacked. Nick Kay, the U.N.’s envoy to Somalia, said the 11 crew have been flown to Kenya and will be sent back to their respective countries in coming days.“I remain deeply concerned that 38 other crew members are still being held hostage by Somali pirates,” Kay said in a statement. “I call on those who continue to detain these crew members to release them without further delay so they can rejoin their families and loved ones.”

Greek Shipowners Invest Most in Newbuildings , marex

No. 74- Greek Owners

Greek ship owners are not only the most active nation when it comes to sales and purchases, they are also investing the most in newbuilding contracts. Since 2010, contracts made by owners in Greece have totalled USD 51 billion, consistently dwarfing the likes of Norway and China as buyers. Chief Shipping Analyst at BIMCO, Peter Sand, says: “The Greek ship owners’ interest in newbuilding contracts has continued into 2014, where 73 new contracts valued at USD 4.3 billion have been signed. Due to a focus on higher value ship segments, they consistently top China on value, despite losing out on the total number of contracts signed for all years but 2013”. 

 China has signed a total of 98 newbuilding contracts in 2014. In 2013, ship owners in China signed 270 contracts, but Greek ship owners went up to 284.

 The single most significant year for Norwegian shipping investors was 2012. Offshore investments made that year were so outstanding that Norway topped both tables, with 133 new contracts valued at USD 17.8 billion. In comparison, China topped both tables in 2010 with a somewhat different focus as 643 contracts were signed at a value of USD 17.3 billion.

“2012 was a weak investment year for all, heavily impacted by very poor commercial market conditions for all main shipping segments. Improving conditions in 2013 meant that the appetite returned to investors across the board. 2014 is off to a much slower start, but the ranking remains unchanged”, adds Peter Sand.

Baltic Ace Salvage Operation Begins BY MAREX

No. 72- Baltic

Dutch companies have started a weeks-long operation to raise the Baltic Ace car carrier, which collided with a cargo ship in 2012, killing 11 crew and sending 1,400 cars to the bottom of the North Sea, the government said on Tuesday.

 Boskalis and Mammoet Salvage were contracted to remove 540,000 liters of fuel, extract the automobiles and raise the wreck from a depth of 11 meters for roughly 67 million euros ($91 million).

 The Baltic Ace went down in stormy weather 65 kilometers (off the Dutch coast. It collided with the Corvus J container ship on Dec. 5, 2012, in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the North Sea.

 The Dutch, a dominant maritime power during the Golden Age, have developed expertise in salvaging wrecks. They recovered the Russian nuclear submarine, the Kursk, and the Costa Concordia cruise liner.

 After the fuel is pumped out of the Baltic Ace, the ship will be cut into six pieces and lifted to the surface with giant cranes, the Dutch Department of Public Works said in a Statement.

 The Baltic Ace was managed by Stamco Ship Management, based in Piraeus, Greece, and owned by Isle of Man-based Ray Car Carriers. It was insured for between $50 million and $60 million. ($1 = 0.7349 Euros).  Copyright Reuters 2014.

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Sewol Ferry Disaster Fugitive Denied Asylum , marex

No. 71- Sewol

A South Korean businessman and Christian sect leader, wanted on charges tied to a ferry disaster in which more than 300 passengers drowned, sought asylum at a Seoul embassy but was rejected, prosecutors said on Tuesday.Yoo Byung-un, 73, is wanted on charges of embezzlement, negligence and tax evasion stemming from his control of a web of business interests centred on an investment firm owned by his sons that owned the operator of the doomed Sewol that sank on April 16.“By international law, Yoo Byung-un is not a refugee but is a fugitive with an arrest warrant outstanding, so anyone who helps him flee will be deemed to be aiding his escape and will be firmly punished,” a prosecutor said. A person acting for Yoo contacted an embassy and asked about the possibility of Yoo seeking political asylum, he said. He was turned down. Prosecutors declined to disclose which embassy was contacted by Yoo’s representative, or if there were others.The Sewol, overloaded and travelling too fast on a turn, capsized and sank on a routine journey from Incheon on the mainland to the vacation island of Jeju.

Most of the 476 passengers were children and teachers from the same school on the outskirts of Seoul. Divers are searching for 16 missing bodies.

The captain and surviving crew members were caught on video escaping the sinking ship while the children, wearing life jackets, stayed put in their cabins, as they had been told, awaiting further orders.

Authorities have offered a reward of half a million dollars for information leading to Yoo’s arrest but he and his first son have eluded a massive manhunt that included a search of a religious commune south of Seoul where Yoo once had a photography studio. The second son is in the United States.

Prosecutors believe the Yoos are responsible for business decisions related to the renovation of the ferry and its operation that led to the country’s worst maritime disaster in 20 years. All 15 surviving crew members of the Sewol have been charged. The captain and three senior crew members face homicide charges. Nine crew were indicted for negligence and two on the lesser charge of abandoning the vessel. Copyright June 03, 2014

Whale Strandings Linked to Malnutrition,marex


No 71- Whales

The rise in the number of stranded whales in Western Australia has led a group of veterinary researchers, working in collaboration with the Department of Parks and Wildlife, to investigate why this is occurring.

Speaking at the Australian Veterinary Association’s annual conference, Murdoch University researcher Dr Carly Holyoake said that an unprecedented number of humpback whales, predominantly calves and juveniles, have stranded on the west coast of Australia since 2008.

“Between 1989 and 2007 the mean number of humpback whales ashore was between two and three. In 2008 there were 13 strandings, followed by 46 in 2009 and 16 in 2010. In 2011 there were 17 strandings consisting of 14 calves and three juveniles, representing a rise in the number of young whales perishing than in previous years.

 The aim of the project was to find out why this was happening through post-mortem examination. All the strandings occurred between Exmouth and Stokes Inlet, east of Esperance, so all individuals were born at least 1000km south of the regular breeding grounds in the Kimberley region.

 “Post mortem examination and analysis of the fat content of blubber samples revealed most calves were in an extremely malnourished state. Most had very low blubber fat, which is required for energy, thermoregulation and for buoyancy. One individual also had pneumonia which would have made it difficult to breathe and may have contributed to its death.”

 There were several theories proposed for the high rate of calf strandings in 2011:

 Increased population size and inherent high mortality rate in humpback calves.
Mothers giving birth in unsuitable areas due to environmental conditions.
Mothers in a poor nutritional state giving birth to malnourished calves.

 The researchers concluded that the most likely cause of the humpback calf strandings was due to  poor nutrition It is also significant that the calves were born several thousands of kilometres south of the known breeding grounds.

 Humpback whales feed almost exclusively on krill in the Antarctic and it is unknown what effect an expanding krill fishery in conjunction with climate warming might be aving on the abundance of krill. 

“It‘s likely that a reduction in the abundance and distribution of feed in the Antarctic may have resulted in longer foraging time which led to a delay in migration times and reduced fat reserves in some pregnant cows,” Dr Holyoake concluded.

Singapore Blames Human Error for Collisions, marex


No. 70- MPA

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) has concluded that human error and poor judgment were the main cause of the three incidents that resulted in oil spills in Singapore workers this year.  MPA has conducted investigations into the incidents and also formed a Safety Review Committee (SRC) to review the overall system of navigational safety in Singapore’s port waters and Singapore Strait. Members comprised experts from MPA, Ministry of Transport, the local academia and shipping industry. The findings of the investigations showed there was lack of situational awareness of the bridge teams, including the pilots, although MPA’s Port Operations Control Centre (POCC) had provided advisories and warnings of the traffic situation to the bridge teams. The bridge teams also did not make use of all available means at their disposal, such as the Automatic Identification System (AIS), Automatic Radar Plotting Aid (ARPA), Radar, and Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) to avoid the collisions. Appropriate disciplinary actions will be taken against the members of the bridge teams, including the pilots, for contravening the relevant regulations. The SRC also reviewed the overall regime of navigational safety in Singapore’s port limits. The SRC found no significant increase in the number of incidents between 2007 and 2013, nor was there apparent correlation in the occurrence of incidents and growth in vessel movements in the Singapore Strait or port waters. The number of incidents over the last few years remained low and averaged about 0.012 and 0.016 per 1,000 vessel movements in the port waters and Singapore Strait respectively. The existing systems and procedures put in place by MPA have helped to keep the incident rates low. Notwithstanding, the SRC recommended adopting the following key measures to further enhance the safety of navigation in the port and in the Singapore Strait:

  1. Instilling a strong safety culture
  2. MPA should work with the industry to develop an integrated safety management framework to drive the overall efforts to promote a strong culture of safety awareness, including the conduct of regular safety briefings to the shipping community.
  3. Enhancing communication and information sharing

PSA Marine should enhance the information sharing between pilots and ship masters, including the timely dissemination of passage plan to the ships. There should also be procedures for its pilots to follow when communications failure occurs between the pilots on converging ships, or between the Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS) and their ships.

iii. Improving safe passage in high risk areas

MPA’s VTIS should consider providing more active advisories to vessels navigating at high traffic density areas in the port of Singapore and in the Singapore Strait. MPA should also work with the shipping community to ensure ship masters are present on the bridge when their ships are transiting critical areas in the Singapore Strait.

To implement the above measures and ensure efforts are sustained, MPA will form two working groups:

i.The MPA-PSA Marine Safety of Navigation Working Group.
ii.The MPA-SSA (Singapore Shipping Association) Safety of Navigation Working Group.

MPA will also be shortly launching a Safety Campaign with the shipping community to raise the level of awareness on navigational safety. It will also review and improve navigational safety in critical areas such as key fairways and pilot boarding grounds.

MPA Chief Executive, Andrew Tan said, “MPA places a strong emphasis on the safety of navigation and takes a serious view of any incidents in Singapore waters. Moving forward, we will work more closely with all our industry partners to review our safety management procedures and implement additional measures to enhance navigational safety. We will also not hesitate to take appropriate actions against those who infringe our safety regulations.”

Patrick Phoon, chairman of the Safe Navigation and Environment Committee of the Asian Shipowners’ Forum and president of the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) said, “We welcome the efforts taken by MPA and the Safety Review Committee to look at the causes to these incidents holistically. The SSA will work closely with MPA to implement the recommendations from the Safety Review Committee to enhance navigational safety within our port waters and the Singapore Strait.”