September 30, 2014


A round up of the news in September

In this month’s round-up there are more warnings about the slow pace of ECDIS adoption, a boost for counter-piracy operations, an opportunity to buy into the maritime satellite market and a call for greater innovation from one of the industry’s most respected analysts.

ECDIS tanker adoption too slow claims UKHO

The United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO) used the SMM exhibition in Hamburg to release figures it claims show that the majority of SOLAS tankers have yet to adopt ECDIS. Regulations on the mandatory carriage of ECDIS for all tankers over 3,000gt are set to come into force from 1st July, 2015 but the UKHO says 58% of the 8,500 ships required to comply have as yet failed to do so.

The UKHO data suggests that some 3,600 tankers, or 42% of the global fleet, use an ENC service, leaving almost 5,000 that do not. Perhaps more interestingly, the survey found a significant divergence in the ENC use dependent on vessel size.

While some 44% of crude oil tankers and 63% of LNG carriers had adopted ECDIS, just 23% of the global product tanker fleet of about 1,700 vessels is using an ENC service. The UKHO pointed out that with less than 12 months to go until the latest amendments come into force, owners and operators should be aware of the time needed to adopt ECDIS.

Airbus puts Marlink up for sale

Airbus Defence and Space has surprised the communications market by putting its maritime satellite communications and direct sales subsidiary Marlink up for sale. Marlink is perhaps the world’s leading distribution partner for maritime satellite services with interests in VSAT and L-Band services and associated software.

The company said it wanted to refocus the business more squarely on military and systems and services and had identified its commercial satellite communications services as having ‘better chances for growth and market success in different ownership structures’.

The Airbus Group acquired satellite communications provider Vizada (which owned Marlink) in 2011 at a cost of almost $1bn, adding the business to its Astrium division, which was subsequently renamed Airbus Defence and Space. News agency Reuters said the businesses for sale had revenues of about E2 billion and could generate as much as E1.5bn in sale proceeds.

Speculation has now turned to likely buyers, among them maritime communications giant Inmarsat which already owns a direct distribution channel and could view the Marlink customer base as a ready-made user base for its GlobalXpress VSAT service.

LNG as fuel closer to reality

The prospect of a clean fuel zone in the Baltic and North Sea Emissions Control Areas (ECAs) has come closer after GNS Shipping/Nordic Hamburg exercised two options on LNG-powered short-sea containerships for long term charter to Containerships Group of Finland.

GNS already had two ships on order with shipyard Yangzhou Guoyu Shipbuilding and has executed the options to strengthen its strategy for ECA trading. The ships will trade exclusively in the ECA zone, from Finland to Russia, Northern Europe and the UK, fuelling either in Rotterdam or St Petersburg and the owners believe their decision represents an economic and environmental advantage.

Since feeder tonnage in this market tends to be older, the costs of retrofitting scrubber technology or converting ships to LNG power are prohibitive for most owners. Containerships thinks it can reduce its fuel costs compared to using the conventional low sulphur fuel it would be required to burn after the 0.1% sulphur restriction comes into effect on January 1, 2015.

The vessels feature an innovative design which reduces the impact of LNG bunker tanks on container capacity, with a layout arrangement between two cargo holds. Both the main and at least one auxiliary engine will use dual-fuel technology, providing cleanly-generated electricity for the ship’s 300 reefer containers.

Shipping’s carbon footprint shrinks

The International Chamber of Shipping used this month’s Climate Summit in New York to report that total greenhouse gas emissions from the global maritime transport industry are estimated to have been cut by over 20% between 2007 to 2012

The world’s shipping industry, which transports an estimated 90% of all world trade, is thought to have produced only about 2.2% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions during 2012 compared to 2.8% in 2007, the ICS said.

The estimates are contained in the third comprehensive study of the industry’s GHG emissions prepared by the International Maritime Organization, which will be considered by its Marine Environment Protection Committee in October.

ICS Secretary General, Peter Hinchliffe, remarked that the latest IMO study, which uses satellite tracking, suggests there had been “a significant reduction in absolute CO2 emissions from ships due to the introduction of operational efficiency measures across the whole fleet. This includes operating at slower speeds, combined with more fuel efficient designs on board the large number of new build vessels that have recently entered the market”.

The reduction in CO2 per tonne of cargo carried per kilometre is even more impressive than the headline IMO figure for absolute GHG reduction, he added, because cargo moved by sea has continued to grow since 2009.

Regional security boost as US joins ReCAAP

The United States has become the 20th nation to join the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP).

Established in 2006, ReCAAP is the first government-to-government agreement to promote enhanced collaboration for fighting piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia

The agreement is designed to enhance regional co-operation through information sharing, capacity building and co-operative arrangements. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Paul Thomas, the assistant commandant for prevention policy, will represent the United States as a governor on the ReCAAP council.

“The United States’ acceptance as part of the ReCAAP Governing Council continues our administration’s move to deepen our diplomatic, security and people-to-people ties with key Asian multilateral organizations,” he said.

2014 has seen something of a shift in piracy activity with a slowdown in East African activity matched by growing concern over attacks in Southeast Asia, where 17 small tankers were attacked for their cargoes. The Asian Shipowners Forum Safe Navigation & Environment Committee had previously called for government action on piracy in Southeast Asia and East Africa.

Confidence down again

Perhaps it was the post-Posidonia hangover or pre-SMM wobbles but the latest Shipping Confidence Survey from accountants Moore Stephens found overall confidence levels in the shipping industry fell slightly during the three months to August.

They are still higher than the corresponding period 12 months ago, and confidence among charterers actually reached a six-year high, presumably reflecting a market in chronic oversupply.

The amount of anticipated significant new investment over the next 12 months was down over the three-month period, as were levels of expectation with regard to improved freight rates in the dry bulk and containership sectors. Once again, the dominating concern among respondents was the perceived adverse effect on the market of an excessive amount of tonnage.

Charterers expressed a significant increase in confidence this time as did owners, but managers, brokers and uncategorized respondents brought the totals down.

Where is shipping’s Steve Jobs?

Doyen of maritime industry analysts and author of textbook Maritime Economics, Martin Stopford has suggested that the introduction of new technology in shipping is in need of a new generation of tech-savvy middle and senior managers to make it happen.

Dr Stopford said the introduction of new technology is hindered by the industry’s current wide-spread lack of technical knowledge. “I don’t know who in the maritime business has the capability, the budget and the resources to put that sort of thing together. What shipping needs is a Steve Jobs,” he said in the latest edition of ABB Generations.

The late Apple CEO offers a good example of transforming the company through understanding the market, adapting technology and sticking with an idea, said Dr Stopford.

“We need people at board level who understand technology and have the vision and authority to make it work at the very top of the company. It will take at least 10 years to breed a new generation of middle and senior management in shipping who really understand how to put all the pieces together.”

He added that the shipbuilding industry was suffering from the same symptoms, with fundamentally the same ship design being built since 1985. While there were bright spots – in communications, cargo handling, navigation and propulsion, the reality he said was that “owners of shipping companies are often not very technical. They don’t know what’s possible, and if you’re delivering an electronic engine to them and the chief engineer can’t work it, how do you escape from that conundrum?”

Dr Stopford’s argument is for something closer to Job’s iconoclastic approach that turned around a failing Apple Computer and launched a string of innovative products that have become embedded in consumer lifestyles. Visionary management is needed, creating a new breed of technologically literate companies that are able to break the mould he said, and those who were unable to re-engineer themselves, were doomed to disappear.

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