Fishing Vessel Beset in Antarctic Ice, by Marex

No. 3 Fishing vessel

By MarEx

A U.S. Coast Guard cutter is responding to a 207-foot fishing vessel with 27 people aboard beset in ice approximately 900 miles northeast of McMurdo Sound, Antarctica.   The Australian-flagged fishing vessel, Antarctic Chieftain, contacted Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand after becoming beset in ice. The vessel suffered damage to three of its four propellers when it became stuck in the ice and has lost its ability to maneuver. 

RCC New Zealand diverted U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, homeported in Seattle, to respond to the Antarctic Chieftain

The 150-person crew of Polar Star was deployed to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, as part of Operation Deep Freeze, which provides military logistical support to the U.S. Antarctic Program managed by the National Science Foundation.

“The seas of Antarctica are treacherous and unforgiving,” said U.S. Coast Guard Vice Adm. Charles W. Ray, the commander of Pacific Area. “This incident is a sobering reminder of the importance of the U.S. icebreaker fleet as we see increased human activity in the Polar Regions.” 

The crew had just completed their mission at McMurdo Station when they diverted to aid the vessel in distress. Polar Star will steam more than 330 miles to reach the vessel. In order to reach the fishing vessel, the cutter’s crew will have to break through several miles of nine-foot thick ice, endure 35 mph winds and navigate through heavy snowfall to reach the Antarctic Chieftain. The crew of Polar Star is scheduled to reach the Antarctic Chieftain Thursday at approximately 10 p.m. 

Polar Star’s crew will free the Antarctic Chieftain from the ice, and the New Zealand-flagged fishing vessel Janas is schedule to escort or tow the vessel to the nearest safe harbor once it’s freed. Janas is approximately 600-miles away from the Antarctic Chieftain’s position. 

“The considerable geographic distances and extreme environmental conditions make this a complex rescue mission; however, we’re confident in our ability to reach the Antarctic Chieftain and committed to ensuring the safety of life at sea no matter the challenges,” said Capt. Matthew Walker, commanding officer of Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star. 

The Polar Star is nearly 40-years old and the nation’s only heavy icebreaker capable of operating in the thick Antarctic ice for a mission such as breaking out the Antarctic Chieftain or clearing McMurdo Sound for the critical annual resupply of McMurdo Station. The 399-foot cutter is one of the largest ships in the Coast Guard and one of the world’s most powerful non-nuclear icebreakers. 

Maritime New Zealand manages RCC New Zealand, which is responsible for all major maritime and aviation search and rescue missions within New Zealand’s search and rescue region. Maritime New Zealand is responsible for search and rescue, maritime environmental protection, maritime transportation and numerous other maritime missions in New Zealand. 

Pacific Area is the Coast Guard’s regional command element and force provider for maritime safety, security, and stewardship in the Pacific. The Coast Guard’s Pacific Area encompasses six of the seven continents, 71 countries, and more than 74 million square miles of ocean – from the U.S. Western States to Asia, and from the Arctic to Antarctica.

Coast Guard Captain Sentenced over Sewol , by marex

No. 2 Sewol

By Wendy Laursen

A former South Korean Coast Guard captain has been sentenced to four years in prison following his actions during the capsizing of the ferry Sewol in April last year.

Kim Kyoung-il, a captain of a rescue boat at the scene, was convicted on charges of neglecting his duty to safely evacuate passengers from the sinking ferry. The accident claimed over 300 lives, most of them school children.

Gwangju District Court said that he failed to take proper measures at the scene and that he lied to reporters saying he made announcements for the passengers to evacuate.

“Kim simply asked his subordinates to rescue those who were readily visible and failed to evacuate hundreds inside,” Judge Lim Jeong-yeop said, reports Yonhap news agency. “With such negligence, he has scarred the families of the victims for life.”

The judge believed Kim’s actions were less grave than the ferry’s owner who was responsible for the overloading of the ship and the structural changes that made it unstable. Owner Kim Han-Sik was sentenced to 10 years, and other company officials have been sentenced to three to six years, according to AP.

The Sewol captain Joon-Seok was sentenced to 36 years for gross negligence. Other crew members received terms of up to 30 years.

Costa Concordia Captain Sentenced to 16 Years, by marex

No. 1 Concordia

By MarEx

An Italian court sentenced the former captain of the Costa Concordia cruise liner to 16 years in prison on Wednesday for his role in the 2012 shipwreck that killed 32 people off the Tuscan holiday island of Giglio.

Francesco Schettino was commanding the vessel, a floating hotel as long as three football pitches, when it came too close to shore and hit rocks off the island, tearing a hole in its side.

Schettino was convicted of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his passengers in one of the highest-profile shipping disasters in recent years.

However, he will not actually go to jail before the end of Italy’s long appeals process, which can take years after the court said he would not be imprisoned or put under house arrest until the whole appeals process is complete.

Investigators severely criticized Schettino’s handling of the disaster, accusing him of bringing the 290 meter-long vessel too close to shore. The subsequent shipwreck set off a chaotic night evacuation of more than 4,000 passengers and crew.

He was also accused of delaying evacuation and abandoning ship before all the 4,229 passengers and crew had been rescued.

Prosecutors had asked for a prison sentence of 26 years for Schettino, who has admitted some responsibility but denied blame for the deaths that occurred during the evacuation.

The court sentenced Schettino to 10 years for multiple manslaughter, 5 years for causing the shipwreck and one year for abandoning his passengers. In addition he received a one month civil penalty for failure to report the accident correctly.

He was left alone in the dock to answer for the disaster after the ship’s owners Costa Cruises, a unit of Carnival Corp , paid a 1 million euro ($1.1 million) fine and prosecutors accepted plea bargains from five other officials.

He and Costa Cruises were jointly ordered to pay a total of 30,000 euros compensation to each of the ship’s passengers as well as millions of euros in compensation to Italian government ministries, the region of Tuscany and the island of Giglio for environmental damage.

Earlier on Wednesday Schettino had rejected prosecution accusations that he had shown no sense of responsibility or compassion for the victims, saying “grief should not be put on show to make a point.”

The massive hulk of the Costa Concordia was left abandoned on its side for two-and-a-half years before it was towed away in the most expensive maritime wreck recovery in history. The last body was not recovered until last year.

Schettino’s defense team argued he prevented an even worse disaster by steering the ship close to the island as it sank. They said the sentence that was sought by prosecutors went beyond even sentences sought for mafia killers.

IMO Reviews Training Requirements

IMO’s sub-committee on the human element, training and watchkeeping (HTW) met between February 2 and 6 resulting in progress on the implementation of new passenger ship specific training requirements following the Costa Concordia incident.  

The sub-committee agreed, in principle, to draft amendments to regulation V/2 and section A-V/2 of the STCW Convention and Code, related to mandatory minimum requirements for the training and qualifications of masters, officers, ratings and other personnel on passenger ships.

The amendments, would require personnel serving on board passenger ships to have completed passenger ship emergency familiarization appropriate to their capacity, duties and responsibilities 

They would also require masters, officers, ratings and other personnel designated on the muster lists to assist passengers in emergency situations on board passenger ships to undergo passenger ship crowd management training  

New sections in the STCW code Section A-V/2 mandatory minimum requirements for the training and qualification of masters, officers, ratings and other personnel on passenger ships would cover “Passenger ship emergency familiarization”  and  “Safety training for personnel providing direct service to passengers in passenger spaces”. 

The sub-committee agreed to further review the draft amendments which are expected to be finalized at the next session.

Schettino’s Fate in Judges’ Hands, by Marex

No. 8 Concordia

By Kayla Turner

The trial of Costa Concordia captain Francesco Schettino has entered its final stages on Tuesday with the verdict of the three appointed judges expected by Thursday at the latest. Schettino is currently facing charges of multiple manslaughter and dereliction of duty in relation to the fatal January 2012 shipwreck. The prosecution and defense teams have now made their closing arguments.

Despite the anticipated large crowds, the room remained largely empty except for a small group of international press.

The prosecution reiterated its request for a sentence of 26 years and three months for the former captain, calling for a “fair punishment that reestablishes the truth concerning the tragedy of the Costa Concordia”. Prosecutors are insisting the captain’s failure to promptly order an evacuation of the cruise ship is the sole reason why 32 people died when the luxury liner partially capsized off Giglio island. However, Schettino’s defense claims equipment problems complicated the evacuation.

According to NBC News, Schettino maintains that he was thrown into a lifeboat when the vessel suddenly rolled onto its side. His lawyers are asking for manslaughter and abandonment charges to be dropped, and argue for shipwreck with “diminished responsibility,” stating that he wasn’t entirely responsible at the time of the crash. Normally abandonment carries a mandatory sentence of nine years; diminished responsibility could mean just five.

Schettino will be in the courtroom to hear the verdict and will reportedly make a statement afterwards. Earlier in the trial, the infamous captain left the courtroom briefly after apparently being angered by the prosecution’s denial that he had been a victim of a media witch-hunt. The prosecution also rejected claims by Schettino’s defense team that their client had been isolated during the proceedings.

Survivors and victims’ families are wondering if justice will actually be done if Schettino, the only defendant, is forced to the take all the blame. Five initial co-defendants – four ship officers and a Costa Cruises manager – entered a plea bargain for their role in the tragedy in 2013, resulting in no prison time. 

First Known Eastland Disaster Film Footage, by Marex

No. 1

By Wendy Laursen

Two 100-year-old film clips of the SS Eastland disaster in Chicago have been unearthed. 

Believed to be the first known clips of the disaster, they were found by U.S. University of Illinois graduate student, Jeff Nichols, reports The Chicago Tribune.

Early on the morning of July 24, 1915, the lake steamer Eastland cast off from its mooring along the Chicago River with 2,572 Western Electric Company employees and their families on board. It was to have been a pleasant Lake Michigan cruise and picnic, but instead it turned into Chicago’s worst single disaster with 844 people, mostly women and children, killed.

The ship was top-heavy, both by design and by subsequent modification, and as the passengers moved to the port side to watch other vessels departing, it rolled, trapping passengers on the lower decks.

At the time of the tragedy, the ship was not ballasted, making it more at risk of rolling. 

The clips are taken from Dutch news reels, mixed in with unrelated material.

The first clip shows first responders, and the second shows the Eastland being righted.

The last known survivor of the disaster, 102-year-old Marion Eichholz, died in November last year.

No.2A

No. 2

No. 3

NITC’s Attempt to Avert Sanctions Rejected, by Marex

6. NITC

By MarEx

A legal attempt by Iran’s main oil tanker firm NITC to stop the European Union from reimposing sanctions on it over its disputed nuclear program has failed in a London court, setting back Tehran’s efforts to ease trade restrictions.

Iran is engaged in nuclear talks with world powers as it tries to strike a final deal to lift the sanctions that have halved its oil exports to just over 1 million barrels per day since 2012 and hammered its economy.

EU governments were due imminently to re-include NITC, a major carrier of Iran’s oil, on a blacklist of people and entities targeted by the bloc’s sanctions, High Court Judge Nicholas Green said on Monday.

The NITC case is part of an effort by the EU to mount a challenge against Iranian companies that have been winning court cases aimed at lifting sanctions against them.

NITC had been on an EU sanctions blacklist since 2012 until a European court ruled in July last year that there were no grounds to keep it on the list. The firm announced in October that EU sanctions against it had been annulled. It is still blacklisted by the United States.

The sanctions had prohibited any trade between the EU, its companies and citizens, and NITC, including the provision of services such as insurance or banking.

However, with Brussels expected to imminently put NITC back on the blacklist, the tanker firm went to the London High Court on Friday seeking an urgent injunction to compel Britain to veto the EU decision, which has to be unanimous.

The court rejected NITC’s application for an injunction, and scheduled a hearing early on Monday for Judge Green to give the reasons for the ruling.

NITC officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

At the Monday hearing, the judge summarized the facts of the case and the arguments made by NITC and the British government.

He said government lawyers had argued that a British veto on EU sanctions against NITC would damage London’s credibility on the nuclear issue.

They also said such a veto would reduce the chances of a negotiated settlement with Iran by lending credence to the view held by some Iranians that Tehran did not need to negotiate seriously as the West’s sanctions regime would collapse anyway.

The judge said that NITC’s lawyers had put forward legal arguments which, while not overwhelming, could not be dismissed. However, he said those arguments should be considered by the Luxembourg-based General Court, the second highest court in the EU and the one that lifted the NITC sanctions last year.

The judge also said that for the court to force the British government to veto sanctions would have been “wholly exceptional” and risked causing “tangible difficulties for the policy behind the sanctions regime”. Copyright Reuters 2015.

New Petrobras CEO Appointed, by Marex

6. Petrobras

By MarEx

By picking a banker instead of an oil executive to run Petrobras, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff appears to have recognized that the state-run company’s biggest priority is to clean up its books and acknowledge how many billions of dollars it lost to a corruption scheme in recent years.

Yet her choice on Friday of confidant Aldemir Bendine also signals that Rousseff wants to maintain tight control over the company, which investors fear could prevent it from releasing a fully realistic estimate of graft-related losses.

With the economy sputtering, inflation above 7 percent and Brazilians preparing for increasingly likely electricity and water rationing this year, Rousseff’s approval rating is already the lowest of her presidency.

Having Petrobras (PETR4.SA) recognize as much as $22 billion in losses stemming from the price-fixing, bribery and political kickback scandal, the extent of which prosecutors began to reveal last year, is likely to increase Brazilian anger at government mismanagement, analysts say.

While some voice respect for Bendine, who was previously chief executive for state-run bank Banco do Brasil SA (BBAS3.SA), they expect he will lack the independence to break free of the politics surrounding the company’s accounting.

“A big loss would please the market but hurt Rousseff,” said Reginaldo Gonçalves, a professor of accounting at Faculdade Santa Ursula, a Sao Paulo university. “I don’t see getting a reliable (estimate of the loss) anytime soon.”

JUNE DEADLINE

Petrobras results have been delayed since November, when the corruption probe led to the arrest of executives from the company and its suppliers. Auditors refused to certify third-quarter results.

If the company fails to publish results by June, investors can declare the company in default, which could force Petrobras to repay or renegotiate as much as $54 billion in bonds.

Petrobras’ press office did not respond to requests for comment or for an interview with Bendine, who officially began the job on Monday.

Shares of Petroleo Brasileiro SA, as the company is formally known, have fallen more than 60 percent since September, and 5 percent since word of Bendine’s appointment first leaked early Friday.

Before becoming president in 2011, Rousseff spent seven years as Petrobras’ chairwoman, mostly during years when police say company executives conspired to overcharge billions of dollars for contracts.

Some of the money was kicked back to executives, politicians and political parties as bribes and campaign contributions, the largest part going to Rousseff’s own Workers’ Party, prosecutors say. Rousseff has denied knowledge of the corruption scheme at the time and urged a full investigation.

The political difficulties surrounding the loss will make Bendine’s turnaround effort even harder, investors say.

“Bendine faces a mine field of political noise,” said Bill Rudman, who manages emerging market stocks, including Petrobras, at Blackfriars in London. “With shares trading at distressed levels, there’s not much the government can do for investors.”

Bendine’s predecessor, Maria das Gracas Foster, abruptly resigned last week along with most of the company’s senior management team.

Foster and most of Petrobras’ board had agreed on Jan. 23 to take a net writedown of 61.4 billion reais ($22 billion) in the third quarter, but Rousseff, through government-appointed board members, vetoed it, saying it was too large, Reuters has reported. The writedown was rejected by the full board on Jan. 27.

Gil Castello Branco, founder and general director of Contas Abertas, a Brasilia-based corporate and government transparency group, said Bendine is loyal to Rousseff but will approach Petrobras as more of an outsider than Foster, who spent her career there.

Bendine may therefore be “far more likely to do Rousseff’s bidding (and) keep corruption-related losses small,” Castello Branco said. Copyright Reuters 2015.

WWF Pushes Great Barrier Reef Protection , by Marex

5.  WWF

By MarEx

Conservation group WWF is stepping up pressure on Australia to do more to protect the Great Barrier Reef, launching a global campaign ahead of a vote by UNESCO on whether to put the world’s largest coral reef on an “in danger” list.

UNESCO, which has given the reef a World Heritage listing, is due to decide in June whether to designate it as “in danger”, which could lead to restrictions on shipping and port expansions that could hit Australia’s trade in commodities and energy.

The WWF wants the government and state of Queensland to ban all dumping of sand dug up for port expansions anywhere near the reef, which is one of Australia’s main tourist attractions and runs 2,300 km (1,450 miles) along its east coast.

“These places need to be protected and not used as an industrial dumping ground,” WWF-Australia Chief Executive Dermot O’Gorman told Reuters.

The national government has already moved to ban all dumping of dredge spoil within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which covers a slightly smaller area than the World Heritage listed area.

But the WWF, which is the official name for the World Wide Fund for Nature, said most port dredging was outside the marine park zone.

“To be successful turning around the decline of the reef you need to see a ban across the whole World Heritage area,” O’Gorman said after releasing a report titled “The Great Barrier Reef Under Threat”.

The campaign is being designated a priority across the WWF’s 80 offices around the world.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt criticized the report as misleading, saying even with the ban on the disposal of dredge material in the reef marine park the government was focused on protecting the reef and would work with organizations like the WWF to do so.

“It’s disappointing that WWF’s report is so inaccurate and out of date and has the potential to mislead the international community,” Hunt’s spokesman, John O’Doherty, said in an email. Copyright Reuters 2015

Temporary Pause in Rena Salvage, by Marex

4. Rena

By MarEx

Following a request from the owners of the Rena to pause salvage work required by the Maritime Transport Act, the Director of Maritime NZ has decided to allow a temporary pause pending resolution of the resource consent application.

This pause will take effect only when the wreck reaches the state set out in the application.

The Rena’s owners lodged a resource consent application under the Resource Management Act to leave sections of the wreck and associated debris in place on Otaiti (Astrolabe) Reef and to provide for any future discharges of contaminants that may arise from leaving the wreck in place.

The owners’ application states that the wreck will be left in an “as benign as practicable state”. The application is set out here: www.renaresourceconsent.org.nz  

The application is expected to be heard later this year by commissioners appointed by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

In allowing a temporary pause, two notices imposed by the Director of Maritime NZ will remain in place declaring the wreck a “hazardous ship” (under section 47 of the Maritime Transport Act) and a “hazard to navigation” (under section 100A of the MTA). 

The notices – which have recently been updated to reflect the current state of the salvage operation – require debris removal, and removal of all known copper cargo, to be completed to a depth of 30m, and any release of hazardous substances to be monitored.

Maritime NZ Director Keith Manch said the owners were also required to continue to ensure any flotsam or debris escaping from the wreck would continue to be handled appropriately.

“This will be a temporary measure to allow the owners to go through the resource consent application process. Maritime NZ accepts that it is not reasonable to require further salvage work to be carried out, beyond what is required to reach the wreck state set out in the application, until resolution of that process.”

11 Rescued from Sinking Ship off India, by Marex

3. Sinking ship

In the early hours of Thursday, the Indian Coast Guard rescued all 11 crewmembers of a cargo ship bound for Maldives as it started sinking off India’s Vizhinjam coast. 

Once receiving the distress signal from the Maldivian MV Minnath, Coast Guard rescue teams deployed in two ships and were able to successfully rescue the entire crew. The water inside the vessel was pumped out, and two leaks were plugged – preventing the ship from sinking. It is being towed ashore. 

The vessel, which makes weekly trips to Maldives with perishables, mostly fruits and vegetables, had set sail from Vizhinjam on Wednesday evening. The ship had covered around 30 nautical miles before the crew noticed the flooding. 

According to The Hindu, which spoke with the ship’s owner Finesse Shipping Lines Private Limited, the crew noticed water entering the engine room through two cracks under the room around midnight. They immediately turned the ship around and were on the way back when the engine stalled around 1:30 a.m., about eight nautical miles off the Vizhinjam coast. The crew alerted the firm, who in turn alerted police and Coast Guard officials. With water beginning to seep into the engine room, the hull of the ship had begun to slowly sink.

The crew offloaded a few loads of bananas and watermelons into the sea that were packed near the hull to prevent further sinking. There was a total of 196 tonnes of perishables on board.