September 4, 2015


An unquiet summer for shipping

Summer is usually a quiet time for shipping but with both bulker and tanker markets on upward trends it looked like the good times would continue. The economic volatility that hit the global economy took some of the wind from shipping’s sails, though the effects have not so far been judged as terminal. And there was other news too – the latest from Greece, a mega merger in ship management and finally the launch of Inmarsat’s third GX satellite.

Breathing space for Greek owners

Greek owners got another stay of execution from potential tax increases as the Athens government called an election, once again seeking a public mandate for the highly unpopular austerity measures.

It seems increasingly likely that Greece’s shipping industry will be subject to an increase in tonnage tax of 4% per year, for both Greek flag and foreign flag vessels owned by Greek companies, for the next four years between 2016-20.

There would also be a tax rate reduction on foreign currency brought to Greece by overseas companies exclusively engaged in insurance, chartering, brokerage, and shipbuilding.

It was reported this month that Greek owners were preparing to move operations to Cyprus in response to a threat to end tax benefits such as zero taxes on profits from shipping operations or ship sales. These benefits are currently in the country’s constitution and changing them would require a two-thirds majority in parliament.

Theodore Veniamis, president of the Union of Greek ship owners told analysts IHS that any change in the existing tax regime will force owners to seek a friendlier tax environment overseas.

IBM delivers Singapore data

In another example of maritime embracing mainstream technology, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) announced a partnership with IBM to develop technologies aimed at improving its operations in line with vessel traffic growth.

Singapore remains one of the busiest ports in the world, with a vessel arriving or leaving every two to three minutes, according to MPA.

As part of the two-year deal, IBM will create a platform to integrate and view real time data across port operations in areas including vessel positions and weather data. Using IBM’s Traffic Prediction Tool, analytics will also be applied to forecast vessel arrival timings and potential traffic congestion.

The agreement will additionally develop new methods for event monitoring which can be used to detect unusual behaviour from vessels that might indicate illegal bunkering in the world’s biggest marine fuel supply location.

Univan-Anglo-Eastern merger

A merger between Anglo-Eastern Group and Univan Group is set to form one of the world’s largest third party ship managers. The deal is claimed to be the largest sector merger to date, resulting in a new company called Anglo-Eastern Univan Group.

Anglo-Eastern is already in the top three global ship management companies, and said the merger will offer further scale advantages to ship owners. Anglo-Eastern Univan Group will be headed by Anglo-Eastern’s Peter Cremers as Executive Chairman and Univan’s Bjorn Hojgaard as Chief Executive.

The newly merged entity will account for 1,700 shore-based staff; 24,000 seafarers; 600 ships under full management and another 100 ships under crew management.

In an article on Great Circle last year ship managers complained that they were struggling to differentiate their services and in some case, get paid at the right level, reflecting the fact that owners were pushing for greater value but at lower rates.

Next week, as part of London International Shipping Week, the second International Shipmanagement Symposium is likely to provide an interesting perspective on the merger and whether a wave of consolidation will follow.

Inmarsat I-5 F3 aloft at last

London-based international communications provider Inmarsat is finally celebrating the completion of the launch programme for its Global Xpress service after third satellite was positioned safely into orbit, paving the way for the introduction of global service later this year.

The GX project – one of the key planks in an expanded range of communications for maritime users – commenced in 2010 and the first satellite was launched in 2013. But repeated delays in the launch schedule caused the projected service introduction date to be pushed back.

Failures on the Proton launch vehicle extended the hold-ups, with Inmarsat finally able to get the second GX satellite into orbit in February this year. Plans for the third launch advanced only be delayed again by yet another Proton launch failure in May.

However the successful launch from Kazakhstan on August 31, means that the system architecture is in place only one year after planned deployment and preparations can continue for roll-out of the service.

GX is one of several new services planned for service start in the next few years, heralding a new era in ship to shore connectivity. The activity of the major service providers was discussed in this recent Great Circle article.

Panama under pressure on concrete cracks.

A video released by online news service gcaptain.com showed the formation of several cracks in the concrete of one of the new locks of the expanded Panama Canal.

The crack appeared in the sill of the new Cocoli Locks on the Panama Canal’s Pacific side and the video shows water gushing through the concrete across the width of the chamber near the top of the sill, just below one of the giant rolling gates that forms the barrier between lock chambers.

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) said the cracks should not impact the project completion timeline for the third set of locks but the scope of the repairs needed to fix the issue has not been revealed.

A further post on gcaptain appeared to show a concrete sample taken from the locks, which it said showed a lot of air in the concrete. Neither the ACP or its main contractor for the project, GUPC have commented in detail about the scope of the issue or the degree of repairs needed.


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