Jones Act Tanker Owner Seeks Refinancing. marex

No. 7 Jones Act

The Jones Act tanker that set records for day rates may now be refinanced, as its private equity owner seeks to profit after an unexpected jump in rates for U.S.-flagged ships that could be reaching a plateau, market sources said. The American Phoenix has been inspected and valued since late last year by interested parties, including several American banks and the shipping arms of major oil companies, said people familiar with the discussions. Alterna Capital Partners, the Connecticut-based majority owner of the American Phoenix, is seeking to refinance at a time when the ship’s valuation has climbed thanks to record rates for Jones Act tankers because of the shale boom. Ships moving between U.S. ports are required to be Jones Act compliant – U.S.-flagged, U.S.-built, and U.S.-crewed – making them three times more expensive than international vessels.

The banks are considering financing for the vessel, which could take the form of a leasing arrangement, equity or debt. Alterna is also seeking at least $150 million to sell the 350,000-barrel vessel, sources said. 

That price tag represents a premium of $25 million over the purchase price of a dozen or so recently ordered new-build tankers set to be delivered starting in 2015. The owners of the Phoenix may be exiting just as easing of the export ban, a flood of new Jones Act tonnage, and investment in alternative transport like railcars could soften rates in the next year. The surge in oil production has led to increased scrutiny of a 40-year-old law banning the export of crude. This year, U.S. officials told energy companies that they may export a variety of ultra-light oil known as condensate if it has been minimally refined, in an apparent marginal loosening of the ban. Jones-Act tankers would not be needed for these shipments. Several industry executives cautioned that Alterna’s investigating options could be a function of the private equity investment cycle, rather than a call on the Jones Act market. “It’s the big home run they have in their fund, and they’re trying to raise another fund, so they’re trying to liquidate it,” said one Jones Act investor. 


The Phoenix rose under unusual circumstances. Mid Ocean Tanker Company, a partnership between Alterna and minority owner and operator Mid Ocean Marine rescued the partially built hull from the scrapyard, buying it out of bankruptcy in Louisiana court proceedings for $12.65 million. The owners poured an additional $60 million to $80 million into its construction, according to shipping industry sources. 

Alterna leased the American Phoenix to Koch Shipping and Supply in July 2012 for $55,000 per day, at a time when daily U.S. crude oil production stood at 6.3 million barrels. Since then, it has been watching skyrocketing Jones Act rates from the sidelines. Less than two years later, U.S. crude production rose to 8.4 million barrels per day, and rates in the Jones Act spot market had nearly doubled. The ship set a record in June 2013 when it was leased to Exxon Mobil Corp. from Koch Shipping and Supply for $100,000 a day. In May, Exxon renewed its lease for another year, this time at $120,000 a day, shipping sources said. 

Any sale or refinancing would transfer Koch’s existing contract to the buyer, as well as a subsequent five-year charter to a major U.S. oil company, said a source familiar with the transaction.

Representatives from Exxon and Alterna declined to comment. A representative of Mid Ocean Marine could not be reached for comment. By Anna Louie Sussman (C) Reuters 2014.

Ship Loads First U.S. Condensate Export Cargo in 40 Years, Marex

No. 6 Condensate Cargo

An oil tanker has started loading a cargo of condensate, or ultra-light oil, the first such export from the United States since the easing of a 40-year-old ban on U.S. crude exports, two sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

 Westport Petroleum Inc, the Franklin, Tennessee-based shipping arm of Japanese trader Mitsui & Co, chartered the BW Zambesi, an LR1 tanker, also known as a Panamax class vessel, in mid-July for the voyage. The tanker, owned by BW Group, docked at the Galveston terminal in Texas on Tuesday, AIS data on Reuters showed.

 In a July 22 statement, BW stated it was ultimately uniquely positioned because when the opportunity for the first cargo of condensate became available, it could provide both clean and dirty LR1 product tankers on demand due to deft handling of contracts and deployment of a sizeable fleet. Christopher Gomez, Senior Commercial Manager (Americas), said: “It has been many months of hard work for the BW Houston office leading up to this milestone.  We are very proud to have secured the charter, and thank our customers for their trust in BW’s quality fleet of vessels, and their support for us.”

 It will load just over 400,000 barrels of condensate and is expected to arrive in Asia in early September, one source said. South Korean refiner GS Caltex has bought the cargo from Mitsui. The Crude Oil Export Ban under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act 1975 was a specific response by the US Congress after the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo to conserve US natural resources and increase energy efficiency. The Act also set up the first Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for auto makers as well as provisioning for the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve stockpiling of crude to dampen and prevent supply disruptions.

It is important to note the ban has not been lifted, but rather – forty years later – US regulators have developed their interpretation of what is considered ‘crude’ under the Act.  By lightly processing under specific processes, condensate is no longer considered crude oil and therefore not impacted by the ban. Condensate is a less dense, volatile mix of oil and light ends that exist in gas form within the oil reservoir but condense into a liquid at a lower surface pressure and temperature.

UN Blacklists Operator of North Korean Ship, marex

No. 3 North Korea

A U.N. Security Council committee on Monday blacklisted the operator of a North Korean ship, which was seized near the Panama Canal last year for smuggling Soviet-era arms, including two MiG-21 jet fighters, under thousands of tons of sugar.

The North Korea (DPRK) sanctions committee designated Ocean Maritime Management, which operated the Chong Chon Gang, the ship that was detained a year ago. The U.N. designation means the company is now subject to an international asset freeze and travel ban.

“Ocean Maritime Management Company, Ltd (OMM), played a key role in arranging the shipment of the concealed cargo of arms and related materiel,” the committee said in an implementation assistance notice, obtained by Reuters. “The concealment of the aforementioned items demonstrates intent to evade U.N. sanctions, and is consistent with previous attempts by the DPRK to transfer arms and related materiel through similar tactics in contravention of Security Council prohibitions,” the committee said.

A Panamanian court on Friday ordered the release of the Chong Chon Gang‘s three North Korean officers. Thirty-two North Korean sailors and the ship were released by Panama in February.

North Korea is under an array of United Nations, U.S. and other countries’ sanctions for repeated nuclear and ballistic missile tests since 2006 in defiance of international demands to stop.

A U.N. report issued in March said North Korea has developed sophisticated ways to circumvent United Nations sanctions, including the suspected use of its embassies abroad to facilitate an illegal trade in weapons.

“The investigation also uncovered information indicating that DPRK Embassy officials in Havana were engaged in making arrangements for the shipment,” the Security Council committee said of the Chong Chon Gang shipment.

“The committee encourages states to continue to exercise enhanced vigilance over DPRK diplomatic personnel,” it said.

After the weapons were discovered on the Chong Chon Gang, Cuba acknowledged it was sending “obsolete” Soviet-era weapons to be repaired in North Korea and then returned to Cuba. The Security Council committee said it was concerned that this military-to-military cooperation violated U.N. resolutions, which it said “prohibit the transfer from the DPRK by its nationals or from its territory of advice, services or assistance related to the maintenance or use of prohibited arms and related materiel.”

 “This prohibition covers many activities including repair, diagnosis, monitoring, physical and chemical tests, and any related services for such items,” the committee said. Copyright Reuters 2014.

Former Military Sealift Command Manager Sentenced for Bribes , marex

No. 2 Court

Kenny E. Toy, 54, the former Afloat Programs Manager at the United States Navy Military Sealift Command, was sentenced to serve 96 months in prison for receiving bribes. Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, United States Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia, Special Agent in ChargeRobert Craig of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) Mid-Atlantic Field Office, Acting Executive Assistant Director Charles T. May Jr. of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Atlantic Operations and Special Agent in Charge Royce E. Curtin of the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office made the announcement today after sentencing by United States Chief Judge Rebecca Beach Smith of the Eastern District of Virginia.

On Feb. 12, 2014, Toy pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with one count of bribery.   According to the statement of facts filed with Toy’s plea agreement, Toy was employed as the Afloat Programs Manager in the N6 Command, Control, Communication, and Computer Systems Directorate at the Military Sealift Command, which is the leading provider of transportation for the United States Navy.  In approximately November 2004, Toy joined an extensive bribery conspiracy that spanned five years, involved multiple co-conspirators, including two different companies, and resulted in the payment of more than $265,000 in cash bribes, among other things of value, to Toy and to Scott B. Miserendino Sr., a former government contractor who performed work for the Military Sealift Command.

At his plea hearing, Toy admitted that he accepted monthly cash bribes of approximately $3,000, as well as a flat screen television and a paid vacation to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, from co-conspirators Dwayne A. Hardman, Roderic J. Smith, Michael P. McPhail and Adam C. White, all of whom were employed at a government contracting company referred to as Company A in court documents.  Toy also admitted that he accepted a $50,000 cash bribe in May 2009 from Hardman and another co-conspirator, Timothy S. Miller, both of whom were employed at a government contracting company referred to as Company B in court documents.  In exchange for the bribes, Toy provided favorable treatment to Company A and Company B in connection with Military Sealift Command related business.

As part of his guilty plea, Toy also admitted to engaging in a scheme to conceal his criminal activity.  Toy admitted to causing more than $88,000 to be paid to Hardman in an attempt to prevent Hardman from reporting the bribery scheme to law enforcement authorities. Toy was also ordered to serve a supervised release term of three years following his prison sentence, and ordered to forfeit $100,000. Earlier this year, four other individuals pleaded guilty in connection with the bribery scheme.  On Feb. 18, 2014, Hardman, the co-founder of Company A and Company B, pleaded guilty to providing bribes to Toy and Miserendino.   On Feb. 19, 2014, McPhail, a former employee at Company A, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery.   On April 4, 2014, White, a former vice president at Company A, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery.   On March 5, 2014, Smith, the former president of Company A, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bribe public officials.   On June 23, 2014, United States District Judge Henry Coke Morgan sentenced Smith to serve 48 months in prison followed by one year of supervised release and ordered him to forfeit $175,000.

 On May 23, 2014, a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia indicted Miserendino and Timothy S. Miller, a businessman whose company sought contracting business from the Military Sealift Command.   The indictment charges Miserendino with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, one count of bribery, one count of conspiracy to commit obstruction of criminal investigations and to commit tampering with a witness, and one count of obstruction of criminal investigations.   The indictment charges Miller with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and two counts of bribery.   Trial is set for Sept. 30, 2014, before Chief Judge Rebecca Beach Smith.

 Charges contained in an indictment are merely allegations, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

 The case was investigated by the FBI, NCIS and DCIS.   The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Emily Rae Woods of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen W. Haynie of the Eastern District of Virginia.

U.S. Won’t Seize $100m Kurdish Oil Cargo, marex

1. Kurd Crude

A high-stakes dispute over a tanker carrying $100 million in Iraqi Kurdish crude took a surprising turn on Tuesday when a U.S. judge said she lacked jurisdiction given the ship’s distance from the Texas shore and urged that the case be settled in Iraq.

Federal magistrate Nancy K. Johnson said that because the tanker was some 60 miles (100 km) offshore, and outside territorial waters, an order she issued late on Monday for U.S. Marshals to seize the cargo could not be enforced.

She said the dispute between Iraq’s central government and the autonomous region of Kurdistan should be resolved in Iraq.

Overnight Johnson signed an order directing the marshals to seize the 1 million barrels of crude from the United Kalavrvta tanker anchored in the Gulf of Mexico. Tuesday she scheduled a conference to give the two sides a chance to state their case. 

The ship could simply sail away, though it also could offload its cargo for delivery to another U.S. Gulf of Mexico port outside of Texas, lawyers said.

Baghdad’s lawyers had laid claim to the oil in a lawsuit filed on Monday, saying Kurdistan sold the crude without permission from the central government. 

The latest dispute over exports reflects Iraqi Kurds’ emboldened steps toward seizing greater political and economic autonomy, with oil sales seen as central to Kurdish dreams of independence that Baghdad opposes.

While the sides fought the legal battle in Houston, they pressed the political fight in the courtroom of public opinion.

Iraq warned companies against trying to buy other shipments of Kurdish crude after it won the seizure order, while Kurdish leaders asserted their right to sell the oil but said they would face obstacles.

“The Ministry of Oil in Baghdad continues to interfere directly and indirectly with KRG oil sales,” said Karwan Zebari, an official with the Kurdistan Regional Government’s representation in Washington. 


A lawyer in Houston for the Kurds said the regional government would file its own claim of ownership for the cargo, a sign the legal standoff might continue.

Meanwhile, a Kurdish government official said export plans would be hurt. 

“We have to acknowledge that the ruling of the U.S. court will definitely have negative consequences on the region’s attempts to market its oil,” he said of the order to seize the cargo. “Buyers now will start to step back and think twice before purchasing Kurdish crude.”

Washington has publicly opposed direct oil sales by the autonomous region, fearing they could contribute to the break-up of Iraq. It has stopped short of banning U.S. companies from buying the oil while warning them of potential legal risks.

Officials from the State Department and the U.S. Marshals Service said the judge’s order could only be applied if the ship entered U.S. territory.

In this case, that would be 12 nautical miles from shore, said Martin Davies, a law professor and the director of Tulane University’s Maritime Law Center in New Orleans.

If the oil’s owner wants to stay out of U.S. courts, “they just have to order the ship to stay out,” he said. While the rulers of Iraq’s northern Kurdish enclave have long aspired to independence, their position has strengthened in recent months as Kurdish Peshmerga troops have outperformed Iraqi soldiers against Islamist militants.

Kurds have also succeeded in cementing their control of land and oil reserves around the resource-rich city of Kirkuk, while Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi’ite Arab who has been an adversary of Iraqi Kurds, has fallen out of favor in Washington.

At least one cargo of Kurdish crude was delivered to the United States in May to an unidentified buyer, and four other cargoes of Kurdish crude have been delivered this year in Israel. The case is Ministry of Oil of the Republic of Iraq v. Ministry of Natural Resources of Kurdistan Regional Governate of Iraq et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, No. 3:14-cv-00249.  Copyright Reuters 2014

Aussie Takes Japanese Dolphin Killing Town to Court, marex

18 Dolphins

The first legal hearing in the court case against Taiji Whale Museum began on Friday. The lawsuit asserts that the Taiji Whale Museum violated the Japanese constitution when it turned away foreign visitors earlier this year due to their appearance.

The hearing was an initial hearing, and there are likely to be several more hearings before a judgment is made. In a statement to the court, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Takashi Takano, said, “Is Japan a country open to the world? This is the issue questioned in this case… The museum is a public institute run by our taxes… It is unforgivable for them to accept only those whose thoughts are likable for them. It is against various statutes including the Constitution and International Covenants on Human Rights.”

A statement was given by Sarah Lucas, plaintiff and CEO of Australia for Dolphins. Lucas described visiting the Museum with her father, Alastair Lucas, who is a businessman and philanthropist in Australia. She said that her ticket was purchased by a Japanese colleague and she did not see the ticket officer. However, shortly after entering, Lucas said she and her father were “rudely and aggressively escorted from the premises, and were not offered refunds”. She said that her father and her had been quietly observing the dolphin show and “were not doing anything wrong”.

 Lucas said that, as they had been unable to view the museum, she and her father visited again several days later. Lucas said that they had never seen or spoken to the ticket officer on duty before but, with a single glance, the ticket officer produced a sign saying “no anti-whalers are allowed inside the Museum”. Lucas said the sign was written in large English letters and seemed to be intended only for foreigners. She said the ticket officer was not at all rude or impolite, and seemed very reluctant and embarrassed about using the sign.

 Lucas said she did not consider herself to be an anti-whaler: “I do not know what the museum means by the term “anti-whaler”, and I do not consider myself to be one. I might be termed “anti-whaling”. I am certainly not “anti-whaler” or anti any other human”.

 Counsel for the defendant gave a statement during the hearing and argued that the plaintiffs were denied entry to the museum because they did not obey directions given by the museum officer and would have caused a disruption. However, video evidence was presented to the court, which demonstrated that the plaintiffs were not causing trouble and merely asked the museum attendant if they could buy a ticket.

19. Dolphin 2

Lucas said in her statement: “I am concerned about the conditions at the Taiji Whale Museum. It is my view that cetaceans are kept in conditions at the museum which are very cruel. However, this is just my opinion. The point I wish to make is that I would never have disrupted the museum in any way. I would never under any circumstances cause any trouble in or damage to the museum. I am not a disruptive person, and have never made disruptions in any public place, and nor has my father. I believe the museum had no right to assume, based only on a single glance, that my father and I are troublemakers or bad people.”

 Lucas said it is important that animal welfare observers are able to enter the Taiji Whale Museum to monitor the dolphins: “In every major zoo and aquarium in Japan and around the world, observers can go in and check on the conditions of the animals. I think it is very important that observers, so long as they behave peacefully and cause no disruption to other visitors, should be allowed to visit.”

 Lucas is the CEO of Australia for Dolphins, an organization working to gain legal protection for small cetaceans. She said that “Australia for Dolphins tries to bring an end to dolphin hunting around the world, and in particular in Taiji, because it is simply the worst cruelty that happens to animals in the world. The treatment of dolphins in Taiji would never be permitted in Japan to a cow or a sheep or a pig.”

 She added that the “most important principle of Australia for Dolphins is that it always behaves peacefully, respectfully and lawfully.”

Australian Appeals Tribunal Upholds Ship Detention Decision, marex

17. Barrier Reef

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal last week affirmed the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s detention of a Liberian flagged vessel SCF Yenisei, in Queensland in October 2013. 
The manager of the vessel sought to have the detention of the vessel downgraded at the tribunal, alleging the deficiency identified by an AMSA port marine surveyor was not serious enough to warrant detention. 
AMSA Ship Safety Division General Manager Allan Schwartz said the tribunal decision had affirmed AMSA’s decision to detain the vessel, which had sailed to Mackay via Hydrographers Passage from Kawasaki without the appropriate navigational charts. 
The vessel planned to continue to Brisbane but was detained after the AMSA surveyor identified that the vessel was using scanned and printed charts to transit Palm Passage of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park waters. 
“Having the correct charts to navigate through the Great Barrier Reef, which is notoriously hazardous and of high environmental significance, is critical to ensure the safety of the Reef, the ship and its crew,” Schwartz said. 
Schwartz said the tribunal’s decision confirmed that reliance on unofficial charts demonstrated inadequate voyage planning under the ships’ safety management system which leaves the ship in an unfit state to encounter the ordinaryperils of the voyage without posing a threat to the environment. 
This is the second appeal against an AMSA detention on inappropriate navigational charts in the last two years. The tribunal has confirmed the AMSA decision on each occasion. 
AMSA continues to remind masters and operators of ships coming to Australia that carriage of appropriate navigational charts is critical to safe ship operations and protection of the marine environment. 
AMSA conducts more than 3000 Port State Control inspections at ports across Australia each year. Last year 233 were detained for having serious deficiencies that put ships, lives or the environment at risk. 
“These inspections are part of AMSA’s mission to ensure safety at sea and environmental protection,” Schwartz said.  



Ex-BP Engineer Wins New Trial, marex


16 BP Engineer

An engineer convicted of obstructing justice in connection with the 2010 BP oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico won a new trial on Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval of New Orleans tossed out his December conviction of Kurt Mix, a former BP Plc employee, and concluded that conduct by one of the 12 jurors meant he did not have an impartial jury.“These extreme circumstances place the very sanctity of the impartial nature of Mix’s jury at issue,” Duval said.

 Joan McPhee, a lawyer for Mix, said she was “deeply gratified” by the ruling.

A spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Mix was convicted on one of two counts of obstruction for deleting hundreds of messages he exchanged with his supervisor and a contractor in the weeks after the spill.

He was part of a team that scrambled to plug the Macondo well and figure out how much oil was leaking in what became the worst offshore environmental disaster in U.S. history.

The Macondo well explosion on April 20, 2010, killed 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and triggered an 87-day oil spill in which millions of gallons of crude flowed into the Gulf of Mexico. Mix was the first of four current or former BP employees charged with crimes connected with the well incident to be tried.

After the trial, Mix’s lawyers had interviewed several jurors without first notifying him, according to Duval. Some jurors told them that a juror had told them she heard something outside of the jury room that would allow her to not “lose any sleep” in finding Mix guilty.

In his decision on Thursday, Duval noted the jurors were under strict instructions not to disclose information about jury deliberations, and said the interviews were “inappropriate and contrary to the law of this district and circuit”.

But in light of the interviews, Duval called the jurors to testify about what happened. Five members of the panel said the juror in question said she had heard information outside of the courtroom that gave her “comfort” in finding Mix guilty.

Duval said the juror’s actions were in “contravention of the court’s instructions” and came at a “critical time in the deliberations”.

“The jury further failed to head the court’s instructions in that after this information was imparted to the jury, the jury failed to inform the court of its occurrence,” according to Duval.

Duval said based on the jurors’ testimony alone, Mix “was not tried by an impartial jury” and deserved a new trial.The case is U.S. v. Mix, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, No. 12-cr-00171. Copyright Reuters 2014.


Small-Scale LNG and the Jones Act , marex

15 LNG

By Todd Thurlow

The shale gas revolution continued in 2013 with monthly natural gas production in the lower 48 states reaching 74.5 Bcf/d in July, the highest level of marketed production since 1973. Similarly, domestic oil production grew by 1.0 million barrels per day in 2013, the largest annual increase in history. This growth in domestic crude production, to 7.44 million barrels per day, was driven primarily by tight oil production growth in the Bakken and Eagle Ford shales. As a result, prices for both natural gas and petroleum products in the U.S. remained fairly stable, as shown in Exhibit 1. 

Exhibit 1: Recent Natural Gas and Diesel Prices

No 20
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.

As Exhibit 1

illustrates, the price spread between natural gas and wholesale diesel of approximately $18/MMBtu remained fairly constant throughout 2013.

At the same time, the pace of LNG export license approval by the Department of Energy (DOE) accelerated with five new LNG projects receiving approval to export LNG to Non-Free Trade Agreement countries. But what has happened on the domestic, small-scale LNG front ?

Small-Scale LNG Market Development

At this time last year, the wealth of positive press highlighting new liquefaction plants, truck fleets, and marine vessels indicated continuing strong expectations. Numerous studies from notable groups suggested a strong, realizable value proposition. However, since that time some in the press have become more cautionary; industry notables such as Shell and Blu LNG have slowed their development or tabled plans, and adoption remains in the single digits.  Development activity remains high and there is plenty of capital available for projects, but the process of bringing SSLNG projects to market is taking longer than expected. Exhibit 2 characterizes the current status of small-scale liquefaction facility development and suggests there is almost 5,500 kgpd of liquefaction capacity in development across the country, of which less than three percent is under construction. 

Exhibit 2: Small/Mid-Scale Liquefaction Facility Development Activity

No. 21
The good news, as Exhibit 2 illustrates, is the robust liquefaction project pipeline, the total of which exceeds the installed capacity of the current fleet of small scale liquefaction facilities. This pipeline clearly reflects the continued belief in the natural gas fuel value proposition. Established players like Stabilis Energy, Clean Energy, Applied Natural Gas, and Noble Energy continue to pursue liquefaction projects along with new entrants like Westpac and Waller Marine.

However, the reality is that LNG fuel adoption has been slower than hoped in part because of the commercial differences between how consumers historically purchased fuel and the needs of project-financed infrastructure. Project developers initially sought 15-year supply contracts with take-or-pay provisions to support project financing, while end users historically purchased fuel on a spot-basis or under contracts with terms rarely longer than one year. 

However, suppliers are adapting by leveraging LNG supply from peak shavers and other existing sources to build a customer portfolio large enough to support development of a new liquefaction capacity. At the same time, investors willing to bear market risks are actively considering funding liquefaction projects entirely with equity, for a time, while demand builds to levels sufficient for traditional bank financing. This more incremental, organic business development approach has contributed to the slow pace of SSLNG project development.


Marine Segment

After years of decline in the U.S. Jones Act fleet, newbuilds are once again on the rise. The fleet, nearly 200 vessels strong in 2000, is now less than half that size. Yet a combination of vessel age, pending emission regulations, and new market demand are forcing changes, and widening natural gas fuel oil price spreads are convincing operators that LNG might be the answer.

The average age of the Jones Act fleet is 22 years, with many vessels well beyond the typical operating life of most ocean-going vessels. Replacement decisions, always complex, are made more so by sulfur dioxide limits taking effect next January and nitrous oxide limits taking effect soon thereafter, challenging the selection of fuels and emissions abatement technologies.  

Further, while regulatory limits are clear, enforcement is not. Though some speculate that regulatory enforcement will be intermittent at best and penalties insufficient to drive behavior, last August California levied fines against several operators. More recently, the EPA and U.S. Coast Guard started finalizing ECA enforcement guidelines. While vessel age drives replacement decisions for some vessel types, others are seeing increased market demand.

As a result of aging assets and new demand, 42 “LNG-ready” vessels are under development or construction for the Jones Act market including 23 tankers or Ro/Ro container vessels, 13 ferries, and six offshore supply boats. Given the average age of the Jones Act fleet, it’s not surprising that newbuilds feature prominently and many will be LNG-ready. 

Exhibit 3: U.S. Jones Act “LNG-Ready” Vessel Announcements

No. 22

                                                           Source: Pace Global

To meet growing LNG fuel demand, suppliers are stepping up on the East, West, and Gulf Coasts. In the East, Jacksonville, Florida is emerging as a first mover with TOTE signing an LNG fuel supply deal with Wespac Midstream. This deal spawned several other announcements from big-name industry participants like Clean Energy and Sempra interested in serving the Jacksonville market.  

Along the West Coast, the first LNG cargo was delivered to Hawaii. For some time, high fuel prices and tightening emissions regulations drove interest in LNG from the local utilities and the Governor. For the moment, LNG importation remains at a standstill as utilities determine how best to deliver it, though numerous large and small players vie for this prize.  Hawaiian LNG will provide the marine community another cargo to carry and LNG fuel on both ends of a journey. Further, Hawaiian LNG will likely be supplied from the mainland U.S., requiring deliveries by Jones Act carriers. As there are no Jones Act LNG carriers, this poses both a challenge and an opportunity.


Along the Gulf Coast, Harvey Gulf launched its first of six planned duel-fueled offshore supply vessels. While Shell retreated from its planned Geismar, Louisiana liquefaction plant, other local liquefaction projects continued development, notably the large export facilities, most of which will have excess LNG fuel available for local markets. Large liquid gas markets and extensive infrastructure along the Gulf Coast allow suppliers to deliver at attractive prices.  


What does all this activity mean to the marine community? The underlying fundamentals driving the value proposition remain strong and are beginning to overcome the vessel owner’s challenges. In the short run, owners will request EPA waivers and switch to distillate, technology permitting. However, judging from previous efforts, those waivers will require clear plans and timelines for meeting the regulations, and some will choose LNG.

First to convert in the U.S. will be the coastal fleet. While tightening emissions limits are the immediate cause, the need to replace aged vessels coupled with the competitive advantage LNG provides and the risk of more stringent standards will drive fuel-switching. Operators serving dedicated routes on contract will convert first, since their business models provide predictability and time to accrue savings to offset incremental capital. Further, U.S. port operators may follow key European ports like Rotterdam in offering fee reductions for LNG-fueled vessels.

Inland vessels convert next. As vessels age and replacements are considered, inland operators will consider competitiveness and fuel options. Larger operators will develop new LNG-ready designs, perhaps taking advantage of new midstream refueling regulations. If Europe is a guide, the first LNG-only powered harbor tug is in operation.

In our view, over the next few years LNG will provide a significant portion of U.S. marine fuel demand. Vessels will convert when economically advantaged and will become anchor tenants for liquefaction plants and supply chains. Few owners recognize the strategic role they play in an LNG fuel project as an anchor tenant, and the value their fuel contract and credibility can bring a supplier. 

Without this understanding, some announced their intentions before negotiating a fuel contract, thus eroding their bargaining position. – MarEx

Todd Thurlow is Vice President of Pace Global, a leading energy consulting company.

UK Questions Offshore Helicopter Safety, Marex

14 Helicopter

The Transport Committee published its report into offshore helicopter safety. 

A full, independent, public inquiry must be convened to address whether commercial pressure from oil and gas companies affects the safety of offshore helicopter operations. This inquiry must also examine the role of the Civil Aviation Authority, say MPs on the Transport Select Committee. 

On 23 August 2013, a helicopter crashed into the sea while on approach to Sumburgh Airport on Shetland. Four passengers were killed. This crash prompted the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) to undertake a wide-ranging review into offshore helicopter safety which reported in February. 

Launching a report examining the lessons to be learnt from recent accidents and that CAA review, Louise Ellman, Chair of the Transport Committee said: 

“After five accidents since 2009, offshore workers’ confidence in helicopter safety is understandably low. 

Despite work by the CAA, serious questions remain unanswered about offshore helicopter safety in the competitive commercial environment of the North Sea. We fear a creeping complacency may be affecting safety standards.“The role and effectiveness of the CAA has not been adequately examined. Only a full and independent public inquiry would have the power and authority to investigate properly.” 

MPs highlight how the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) investigation into the Sumburgh crash uncovered a number of serious issues. In particular, AAIB found pre-flight safety briefing did not accurately explain how to use the type of Emergency Breathing System (EBS) supplied on the helicopter.

Commenting on this Louise Ellman said:

“Survivors of the Sumburgh crash told us that they did not use the emergency breathing system provided on the helicopter because the information given to them by the safety video was flawed.

It is appalling that it took a fatal accident in such circumstances before inadequacies in safety briefing were identified.

Workers in the offshore industry have the right to know everything possible is being done to keep them safe. We call for the CAA to ensure that helicopter operators review all safety arrangements to guarantee all are fit for purpose.”

Conclusions :

The Committee also concludes:

Regulatory inertia at the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is exposing offshore workers to unnecessary risk by slowing down the implementation of safety improvements. The UK Government must uphold and entrench the CAA’s ability to act quickly and unilaterally.

There is no conclusive evidence that Super Puma variant helicopters (which make up some 60% of the UK offshore helicopter fleet) are less safe than other helicopters. Nevertheless, operators, manufacturers and industry safety groups should continue to engage with the offshore workforce to address their concerns in this area. 

The CAA review of the Sumburgh crash found that since 2008 more incidents were reported in Norway than in the UK despite the Norwegian fleet being smaller. The CAA must conduct a joint review with its Norwegian counterparts to examine this disparity and report back within 12 months.The Government must push the European Aviation Safety Agency to implement changes recommended by the AAIB more rapidly and become more transparent in its dealings.

In addition, the Committee urges:

AAIB to keep crash survivors better informed on the progress of investigations in future. 

CAA to meet survivors to hear their experiences and to consider their suggestions for safety improvements.

CAA to use its chairmanship of the Offshore Helicopter Safety Action Group to lead the reduction of risk for passengers across the industry through improved standardization of customer requirements for helicopter operators.

Operations managers in the North Sea to prioritize safety by facilitating a culture of approachability and openness at all levels.

CAA to set out how it will address problems that mean passengers wearing safety equipment will currently struggle to evacuate through egress windows after a helicopter has capsized in the sea.