Scientists Ask Obama to Rethink Seismic Blasting, by Marex


No. 11 Obama

By MarEx

The Obama administration’s decision to allow the use of seismic air guns for oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic Ocean has raised serious concerns with marine scientists. Seventy-five of the top scientists from not only the U.S. but around the world addressed the President in a letter urging him to reconsider the oil and gas exploration program due to the “significant, long-lasting and widespread impacts on the reproduction and survival” of whales and other marine life.

Whales are of significant concern due to the fact that they rely on sound waves to communicate, travel and feed. The seismic blasts emit noise that is capable of masking the whale calls for over thousands of miles underwater, experts argue. The North Atlantic right whales were specifically brought up in the letter, as there are only 500 of the endangered species remaining in the area where the seismic blasts would take place.

The seismic project could also disrupt the commercial fish populations, and has even driven away commercial species in other countries, which resulted in enormous catch-rate drops. The blasts could potentially terminate fish eggs and larvae and interfere with breeding.

Last year, the Department of the Interior authorized over 20 million “shots” that would take place over an extended period of time by oil companies exploring oil and gas deposits below the ocean floor. Applications have been filed for blasts that extend from Delaware to Florida, including other deeper waters farther out at sea. Serious concerns were initially raised in regards to this issue when the Obama administration announced authorization of offshore gas and oil drilling for the first time in 30 years earlier this year.

The seismic blasts, when initiated, fire off every 10-12 second over a period of weeks or even months at a time.

The government has stated that no applications will be allowed unless measures are taken to reduce harm to marine species.

IACS Acts on MOL Comfort Report , by Marex

No. 10 MOL

By Wendy Laursen

The final report issued by Japan about the MOL Comfort break up concludes that the sea loads experienced by the vessel at the time of the casualty exceeded hull girder ultimate strength.

MOL Comfort was a 2008-built Bahamian-flagged 8,110teu container ship chartered by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines. It cracked and then broke in two in June 2013 sailing in heavy seas about 200 nautical miles off the coast of Yemen. 

The report prepared by the Committee on Large Container Ship Safety (CLCSS) indicated that simulation work carried out demonstrated that the hull was weaker than the lateral and vertical bending loads it experienced at the time of the cracking. It suggests that the hull fracture originated from the bottom shell plates in MOL Comfort’s midship section.

The simulation included whipping motion loads. Whipping is the vibration of hull girders that occurs when the bow breaks free of the water and then re-enters.

The report recommends that International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) rules for container ships over 8,000teu should include lateral loads in the assessment of overall structural strength. They should also include whipping effects in longitudinal strength calculations.

IACS has confirmed that it has received the report and will study its recommendations. It will then make its findings public. 

IACS launched an expert group on the structural safety of container ships at the beginning of 2014, which carried out a post MOL Comfort review, also taking into account a number of past casualties.  

This work has resulted in the development of two new IACS Unified Requirements (URs) –    UR S11A which is a longitudinal strength standard for container ships  –    URS 34 dealing with functional requirements for direct analysis by finite element method of container ships, including a set of loading conditions. 

A statement released by IACS states that this ongoing work had already taken into account the CLCSS recommendations, because they take into account the effect of lateral loads on bi-axial buckling of stiffened panels (a phenomenon preceding loss of ultimate strength as correctly indicated in the report) and whipping on vertical bending strength. 

With respect to the third recommendation of the report (representation of technical backgrounds), IACS confirmed that class societies rules already consider the strength of the ship under specified operating and environmental conditions corresponding to its entire life.  

The two URs will be finalized in the coming months, but IACS warns that their URs are minimum common technical requirements to be incorporated into the rules of each individual member. URs are not intended to address all the strength aspects of hull structures, which remains the function and responsibility of each class society.  

Mitsui OSK Lines is currently suing the vessel’s builder Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for damages. Claims against the shipbuilder have exeeded $500 million.

Sri Lanka Hardens Position on China , by Marex

No. 9 Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s foreign minister Mangala Sararaweera

By MarEx

If last week’s visit to Beijing by Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera was meant to allay fears that the island nation’s new government was distancing itself from China, it failed.

If anything, Samaraweera’s comments on the prospect of Chinese submarines using Sri Lanka as a stopover on long-distance westward missions and of bankrolling it through big loans underlined Colombo’s hardening position, experts said.

That would be welcomed by India, which, as Sri Lanka’s neighbor and traditional protector, had grown alarmed at its lurch towards China under the leadership of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, ousted in a shock election defeat in January.

“Some people say the (Sri Lankan) government had put too many eggs in the China basket,” said Sinderpal Singh, an India expert at the National University of Singapore.

“It’s a symbol to say ‘we would like to recalibrate our policy to one equidistant between India and China’.”

During his trip, Samaraweera said he did not envisage any more visits by Chinese submarines in the near future.

India voiced concern in November when Rajapaksa’s government allowed a Chinese submarine and warship to dock in Colombo, seven weeks after another submarine called at the same port.

One of the submarine dockings coincided with a state visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, himself wary of China’s increasingly assertive projection of naval power.

“…We will ensure that such incidents, from whatever quarters, do not happen during our tenure,” Samaraweera said of the potential diplomatic embarrassment.

Samaraweera made the remarks to the press and did not discuss warships or submarines during talks with Chinese officials, according to a member of the Sri Lankan delegation.

And while his comments do not preclude the future use of Sri Lankan facilities by Chinese submarines, they pointed to greater caution both in economic and military relations.


Also in Beijing, Samaraweera said there were concerns about some of the $5 billion in Chinese loans to Sri Lanka.

“During the run up to the last presidential campaign, the people of Sri Lanka raised many, many questions about the interest rates especially, and also in certain cases about the manner in which these loans were raised,” he said.

“So we will, as a government committed to transparency, want to go into each of these matters.”

The country’s finance minister will visit Beijing after President Maithripala Sirisena’s state visit to China, slated for March 26-28, Samaraweera added.

In response to his comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing that China’s loans to Sri Lanka were made based on a consensus reached during talks and were provided at Sri Lanka’s request.

China has invested heavily in Sri Lanka in recent years, funding airports, roads, railways and ports.

Sirisena unnerved China shortly after coming to power with a re-examination of some projects that it has invested in, including a $1.5 billion “port city” in the capital Colombo.

India is worried about potential security threats posed by Chinese ownership of the freehold of 20 hectares of land next to the main commercial port in Colombo. India uses Colombo as a transhipment port.

Samaraweera addressed Beijing’s concerns during his visit, saying that any decisions on affected projects would be made only after consulting China first.


Hua said Chinese naval vessels made port visits to Sri Lanka en route to duties off the coast of Somalia.

“These are all normal, open and transparent activities made by relevant Chinese naval vessels,” she told the briefing, adding that Sri Lanka had approved past visits in advance.

“My understanding is that the Sri Lankan government’s policies support international anti-piracy activities and welcome any friendly countries’ naval vessels to dock at Sri Lanka’s port,” she said.

Some military experts questioned the assertion that the submarine visits were for anti-piracy operations.

“The Chinese gave the excuse that the subs are required for piracy patrol, which nobody bought. So it was a sort of pressure tactic in the Indian Ocean,” said retired Commodore Ranjit B. Rai, ex-director of India’s naval intelligence and operations.

Despite signs of strain in relations, analysts believe any Sri Lankan moves would have only limited impact on China’s push into the Indian Ocean.

Ni Lexiong, a naval expert at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, pointed out that China had strong ties with Pakistan and the Maldives.

“This is reflective of major powers putting pressure on Sri Lanka behind the scenes, particularly the United States and India,” he said.

“The significance of this is mostly symbolic. There are other friendly countries where Chinese submarines can refuel.” Copyright Reuters 2015.

MOL Orders World’s Biggest Container Ships

No. 7 MOL Containers

By Wendy Laursen

Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL) has announced the signing of a deal for the construction of four 20,150 TEU container ships with Samsung Heavy Industries. The capacity of the ships makes them the biggest container ships ordered to date.

MOL also concluded an MoU for the long-term charter of two 20,150 TEU container ships with Shoei Kisen Kaisha (SKK). The two container ships will be built at Imabari Shipbuilding in Japan.

The six vessels will be launched and delivered in 2017, and will serve the Asia-Europe service.

The newbuildings will feature various highly advanced energy-saving technologies, which will further reduce fuel consumption and cost, in comparison with the 14,000 TEU vessels that MOL currently operates.

The four ships ordered from Samsung Heavy Industries reportedly cost $155 million each.

Imabari Shipbuilding secured other orders for 20,000 TEU container ships earlier this year and is building a new dry dock facility to accommodate them.

Maersk, MSC, CMA CGM, China Shipping Container Line, United Arab Shipping Co and Evergreen have, or will soon have, ships with over 18,000 TEU capacity.

Drewry reports that the total capacity of ships 18,000 TEU and above, either active or on order, has now passed the one million TEU mark. 

Main Specifications

Shipbuilding company            Samsung Heavy Industries     Imabari Shipbuilding

Length                                                400.0m                                    400.0m

Breadth                                               58.8m                                     58.5m

Designed draft                                     14.5m                                     14.5m

Load draft                                           16.0m                                      16.0m

TEU capacity                                      20,150 TEU                              20,150 TEU

Main engine                                        MAN B&W G95ME                   MAN B&W G95ME

BW LPG Exercises Purchase Option on Vermilion First

No. 6 BW LPG

by Joseph R. Fonseca

BW LPG Limited exercises purchase option over Very Large Gas Carrier Vermilion First. The VLGC Vermilion First has been on a time charter with BW LPG since the acquisition of the charter from AP Moller-Maersk in 2013. The Vermilion First was built in 2010 at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Nagasaki Shipyard, and has a capacity of approximately 77,324 cubic metres. BW LPG has exercised a purchase option which became available under the charter in Q1 2015. The transaction will be settled from free cash and the revolving credit facility. Aggregate consideration for the transaction is USD 73 million. Delivery is anticipated within this month (March 2015). The vessel will continue to be available for spot and CoA cover.

Tensions Flare at Refinery Picket Lines,Posted by Joseph Keefe

Personal friendships are turning sour as some workers cross picket lines in the lingering U.S. refinery strike, with companies pushing laborers to return to work by saying they could lose their bonuses.

A month into the biggest U.S. refinery walkout in 35 years, money is tight as strike pay from the United Steelworkers union is a fraction of normal wages. About 6,550 workers are on strike at 15 plants, including 12 refineries with a fifth of U.S. capacity. Companies are relying on temporary replacements to keep plants open. Up to 70 employees, out of 800, at Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s Deer Park, Texas, refinery have decided to return to work, prompting feelings of betrayal, sources with knowledge of the situation said. “I don’t know if I could go back. I don’t know if I could look them in the eye,” one striking worker said of returning to work with those who have crossed the picket line. Another striking worker, who like his peer declined to be identified, complained of frayed personal ties. “Friendships are gone,” he said. Shell has said it did not initiate contact with laborers who returned to work. Many of them were on strike, but are not formal union members under Texas’ right-to-work laws. On Monday, Tesoro Corp., which has been hit by walk-outs at three of its West Coast refineries, appeared to ask employees to give up the strike by saying those at work would receive their 2014 bonuses. “This week those of us at work and eligible will receive the monetary recognition of our 2014 efforts in the form of (a bonus),” Tesoro executive Keith Casey said in a letter to employees, a copy of which was shared with reporters. Striking workers in Texas said the mood was tense. “Before we went out, all we heard from the managers was ‘We’re one site, we’re one team.’ Now they won’t even talk to us,” said a third striking Deer Park worker. Negotiations between the USW and Shell, which leads talks for the oil companies, will resume on Wednesday. A deal was nearly reached last week but collapsed. The USW has pushed for higher pay and more jobs under a three-year contract that would include tougher rules to prevent fatigue, which the union has tied to accidents. But focusing on fatigue could hurt overtime. Some workers earn about $70,000 a year before extra time.

Reporting by Erwin Seba