February 9, 2015


Our Round up of the news in January 2015

Expanded role for UNCLOS

World governments have agreed that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) should be expanded to include a new legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine life in areas beyond their national jurisdiction.

The proposed new ocean regulations could potentially include regulations on area-based management tools, such as marine planning and marine protected areas, environmental impact assessment requirements, the transfer of marine technology and the regime for managing marine genetic resources.

The decision came out of a meeting held at the end of January in which governments recommended the development of draft text that could be considered by a formal intergovernmental conference, subject to approval at the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly.

Industry pressure group the World Ocean Council says there is still time for ocean industries to engage in the process. It says industry involvement is critical to help ensure that policies and regulations are developed with full and balanced information; are based on good science and risk assessment; are practical and implementable and engender the involvement and support of the ocean business community.

The Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping, Peter Hinchliffe said the WOC is playing an important role by monitoring, analysing and reporting on the ocean policy and planning on behalf of the ocean business community. “It is important that ocean industries are informed and constructively engaged in ocean governance developments. The WOC merits the support and involvement of companies concerned about the future of their ocean operations.”

Database to track ‘missing’ seafarers and fishermen

An international database of ‘missing’ seafarers and fishermen has been created by pressure group Human Rights at Sea. HRAS aims to build an accurate international database of the status of seafarers and fishermen missing at sea and make it widely available.

The database enables people around the world to input key information and update details through a moderated and encrypted platform.

The database will be used to support legal investigations into specific cases of abuse, injury or even death at sea and will be accessible through multiple websites, ultimately in multiple languages.

David Hammond, barrister and founder of Human Rights at Sea, said the delivery of the first publicly available phases of the Missing Seafarers Reporting Programme “has been an immense effort from all those involved. This platform will become an HRAS flagship programme and its global importance has not been lost on any of the entities involved in its conceptual and practical development.”

Ops, not costs concern SECA traders

Events and publishing company Fathom has published the results of a survey on operations in the IMO’s Emission Control Area since the reduction in the maximum allowable sulphur in marine fuel from January 1, 2015.

Fathom reported that nearly 70% of ship owner and operator respondents said that operational problems resulting from a change in fuel properties were by far the biggest concern and potential challenge.

The impact of the increase in costs of fuels containing only 0.1% sulphur came a close second.

COO of Ireland-based product and chemical tanker owner and operator Ardmore Shipping Mark Cameron said the provision of ship owner and operator-specific education and other resources that can aid the understanding of the operational challenges of sailing in ECAs was welcome.

“Sulphur content of 0.1% represents more significant challenges to ship owners and operators than solely compliance. If they do not fully understand the operational considerations and prepare their vessels accordingly, serious mechanical issues can result that can in turn result in potentially serious loss of power incidences.”

Ardmore is one of the growing number of operators who are part of the Trident Alliance, a coalition of ship owners and operators committed to robust enforcement of maritime sulphur regulations. Cameron said Ardmore wanted to “play our part in encouraging the wider shipping industry to support the robust enforcement of these rules, both for the public health and environmental benefits, and to ensure a level playing field for all shipping companies”.

Satellites keep eyes on illegal fishing

UK-based technology Satellite Applications Catapult has launched a satellite tracking system which aims to crack down on pirate fishing which sees as much as 20% of the world’s catch taken illegally by poachers.

Project ‘Eyes on the Sea’ will enable experts to watch satellite feeds of the waters around Easter Island and the western Pacific island nation of Palau, which lack the resources to monitor the illegal fishing taking place in their waters.

The technology analyses sources of live satellite tracking data, enabling monitors to link to information about a ship’s country of registration and ownership history to identify suspicious vessels.

The project is being driven by environmental groups including the Pew Charitable Trusts, whose spokesman said the system “will enable authorities to share information on those vessels operating outside the law, build a comprehensive case against them, track them into port or within reach of enforcement vessels, and take action against them.”

The programme’s backers plan to expand it to other countries over the next three years to tackle illegal fishing reportedly worth $23.5bn annually. In some regions, as much as 40 percent of the total catch is thought to be taken unlawfully, according to the Trust.

A spur to energy saving investments

Flag state, the Liberian Register, has said it will discount fees for vessels which take part in a green ship initiative that could see owners have fuel-saving systems installed without upfront costs.

LISCR which runs the Liberia flag has teamed up Efficient Ship Finance (featured on Great Circle in December) to offer a scheme under which ship owners can install energy saving devices such as ducts, propeller bulbs, fins, protracted tip propellers, engine improvements, hull coatings and software

ESF will provide the capital needed for each project, and assume responsibility for technology performance and fuel volatility risk. In return, ship owners and operators will pay a portion of the recorded fuel savings or additional hire where they are not responsible for fuel costs.

Liberia believes the initiative is the first of its kind offered by a ship register and includes a special add-on for vessels operating in emission control areas. Factors such as ship type, age, fuel consumption, trading pattern and speed are also taken into account.

As an additional incentive, LISCR is offering tonnage tax discounts for ships participating in the initiative, with a 50% discount being offered in the first year, and up to 25% in the subsequent two years.

More freight, more carbon too

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has predicted that changing trade patterns could increase average transport distances by 12%, with the North Pacific outstripping the North Atlantic to become the world’s busiest maritime trade lane.

In its International Transport Forum Outlook 2015 report, the OECD predicts that shifting trade patterns will see freight quadruple by 2050, with North Pacific routes growing faster in freight volume per tonne-mile than the North Atlantic. Intra-African trade will grow by 715%, and intra-Asian by 403%.

The OECD pointed out that this would lead to growth in maritime CO2 emissions of 290% unless reduction measures are put in place. Freight transport would therefore overtake passenger traffic in terms of CO2 contributions, adding to pressure for the industry to put in place a mandatory reduction programme.

International Transport Forum Secretary-General José Viegas said the increase in global freight demand represented an unprecedented challenge for the world’s transport systems.

He said the industry needed to improve capacity management and load factors to reduce idle time through the supply chain. There was a need for increased investment in multi-modal connections and better preparation for an influx of ultra large boxships and bulk carriers.

More vessels means more casualties

Information provider IHS Maritime recorded a 10% increase in maritime casualty incidents in 2014 compared to 2013. The 2014 total for incidents topped 1,639, up from 1,489 in 2013.

Of all the casualty incident types, hull and machinery damage, wrecking and stranding, ship-on-ship collisions and contact damage showed the biggest increases. 2014 saw a 23% year-on-year increase in collisions alone – with the busy waters of the South China Sea witnessing the highest number of collisions.

IHS Maritime & Trade’s Fleet Capacity model predicts that 1,484 vessels will this year be added to the main global trading fleet, which stood at 42,604 in 2014. This trend will continue at roughly 3% per year and will pass the 50,000 mark by 2020.

“As the world’s trading fleet expands, so too will port congestion and vessel ages. It is likely that 2015 will see further increases in the number of casualty incidents,” said senior analyst Gary Li.

The main locations of casualty incidents continued to be the trading zones of Europe and Asia Pacific. IHS data shows that 2014 saw double digit year-on-year increase in the number of incidents in the top-10 trading zones, with the UK and the North Sea seeing a 19% increase, while the Eastern Mediterranean and the South China Sea both saw 12% increases.

Is Syriza on shipping’s side?

Is Greece’s new left-leaning government set on a collision course with the country’s shipping industry in pursuit of greater tax revenues? It seems that taking on the European Union over debt forgiveness is an easier battle than a face-off with the country’s maritime establishment.

Though Syriza had previously threatened to take on ship owners and their generous tax allowances, once in power it has apparently decided it has more pressing – or perhaps more practical – problems.

“We are here to solve problems, not to create new ones,” Economy Minister George Stathakis, who oversees the shipping portfolio told the media. “There will be dialogue, discussion, and we will look for the best possible solution,” said Stathakis, who as well as being an economist also comes from a ship owning family.

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