Thursday, June 19, 2014

El Nino on the way



There have been many stories in the news recently concerning the El Nino phenomena. This is mainly because it appears quite likely that a significant El Nino event will take shape in the coming months and persist for up to a year. With this in mind, it is worth taking a look at what this might mean for those planning ocean voyages during this period of time.

First, though, it’s worth running through a very basic review of what El Nino is. The phenomena has been present for centuries, but received its name in the late 19th century because it was noticed that along the northern portion of the west coast of South America sea surface temperatures turned noticeably warmer periodically and that when this warming occurred, it tended to occur late in the year. The name “El Nino” means “the child” and since the phenomena occurred around Christmas time, the name was connected with the celebration of Christ’s birth.

The warming of the waters in this area had significant impacts on the fisheries, typically leading to diminished catches of native species which depend on the upwelling of colder water. During an El Nino event, the cold water upwelling is diminished, and with it the supply of nutrients that it carries, thus leading to a reduction in the fishery.

In the second half of the 20th century when more comprehensive observations of the atmosphere and the ocean became available, especially as satellite measurements became possible, it was determined that the El Nino phenomena was much more widespread than just the waters off northern South America. In fact, the anomalously warmer waters extended over a good portion of the equatorial Pacific. In a non-El Nino year, sea surface temperatures are warmest in the western tropical Pacific. During an El Nino episode the warmer sea surface temperatures spread east through the central and eastern Pacific, and during particularly strong El Nino years, can reach the northern coast of South America.

More research into the phenomena has revealed that the warming sea surface temperatures are connected with other large scale changes in the atmosphere, including changes in average surface pressures over portions of the Pacific, which, in turn, lead to changes in wind patterns. Also, the effects of the phenomena are not limited to the equatorial Pacific, but rather stretch around the globe. The research has also led to the ability to forecast El Nino, and forecasters who specialize in this type of prediction are indicating the high likelihood of a significant event later this year into next year.

This brings us back to our original question: How will this affect ocean voyagers?

One of the biggest concerns is tropical storm and hurricane formation. During an El Nino episode, tropical cyclone activity in the North Atlantic basin tends to be diminished. This is due to shifts in the wind patterns which lead to stronger upper level winds in tropical latitudes, and these are not conducive to storm development. This could mean easier passages for voyagers who need to move through parts of the Atlantic where tropical storms and hurricanes could occur. On the Pacific side, though, the warmer waters spreading farther east typically will allow for an increase in tropical cyclone activity. This is particularly noticeable in the South Pacific as during their tropical season (December through March) storms have the potential to track much farther east into French Polynesia than in a non-El Nino year. This could mean a bigger threat for those contemplating a crossing from Panama toward Australia or New Zealand.

There are changes in the prevailing wind patterns in the tropical Pacific during an El Nino event as well. The typical easterly trade winds will tend to be a bit weaker, particularly closer to the equator and in more western portions of the Pacific. There can be periods of time where the winds become light and variable, and perhaps even acquire a westerly component for limited time periods. For those traversing these regions under sail, this can mean that the trade winds will be a bit less reliable than normal, and also that the wind speeds may not be as high which may mean reduced boat speed. Farther away from the equator the effect may not be as significant.

Changes in the jet stream configurations occur in subtropical and lower temperate latitudes as well, and these changes can produce stronger storms in the central and eastern North Pacific during an El Nino episode. This could lead to more frequent periods of strong winds and high seas in the coastal waters of the western U.S., and perhaps reduced opportunities for favorable windows for coastal passages. Similarly, there tend to be stronger storms in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Atlantic coastal waters of the southeastern U.S., particularly during the winter season, and this may reduce passage opportunities in these areas.

While the effects of El Nino that have been mentioned are reasonably well documented in the historical record, one must keep in mind that every El Nino episode is different in strength and in scope, and therefore the impacts of the episodes will be different in terms of magnitude, frequency, and in fact, whether they occur at all in any given event. Also, because the effects are measured and averaged over an entire season, this means that there will be some parts of the season where the effects are not as significant. For example, even though there tends to be more storminess in the fall, winter and spring in the eastern North Pacific, this does not mean that conditions for every day of the season would be poor for a passage from San Francisco to San Diego. Also, even though Atlantic hurricane activity is usually diminished during an El Nino episode, it does not mean that no hurricanes will occur, and in fact storms could still affect popular cruising areas.

For much more information, NOAA hosts a website with comprehensive information about the phenomena. Here is the link:

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

P3 Network not to take off as China objects it under merger rules

Source: Maerskline

The P3 Network will not be implemented following decision by the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) in China

Virtually stalling the new proposal of major shipping liners mainly aimed at increasing efficiency, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) on June 17 announced that they have not approved the P3 Network (P3).

P3 was a long-term operational vessel sharing agreement proposed by MSC, CMA CGM, and Maersk Line. The MOFCOM’s decision follows a review under China's merger control rules.
With the new ruling, the partners have agreed to stop the preparatory work on the P3 Network and the P3 Network as initially planned will not come into existence, a media statement from Maersk Line, one of the three partners, explained.

Commenting on the development, Mr Vincent Clerc, Chief Trade and Marketing Officer, Maersk Line, said, "In Maersk Line we have worked hard to address the Chinese questions and concerns. So of course it is a disappointment. P3 would have provided Maersk Line with a more efficient network and our customers with a better product. We are committed to continuing to be cost competitive and offer reliable services.”

Maersk Line has served China with reliable liner shipping for more than 80 years and remains dedicated to cooperate closely with the Chinese authorities and serve our customers.

Elaborating further on the implications, Mr Nils S. Andersen, Group CEO, Maersk Line, said, “The decision does come as a surprise to us, of course, as the partners have worked hard to address all the regulators’ concerns. The P3 alliance would have enabled Maersk Line to make further reductions in cost and CO2 emissions and not least improve its services to its customers with a more efficient vessel network. Nevertheless, I’m quite confident Maersk Line will accomplish those improvements anyway. It has delivered on those improvements over the last five quarters in the absence of P3 and I’m confident it will continue to do so.”

The media statement further said that the lack of implementation of the P3 Network will have no material impact on the Maersk Group’s expected result for 2014.

What is P3:

On 18 June 2013, Maersk Line, MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company S.A. and CMA CGM announced their intention to establish a long-term operational vessel sharing agreement on the East – West trades, called the P3 Network (P3). 
The overall aim with P3 was to make container liner shipping more efficient and improve service quality for the shippers due to more frequent and reliable services.

P3 was intended to be an operational, not a commercial, cooperation.

On 24 March 2014, the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) decided to allow the P3 Network agreement to become effective in the US, and on 3 June 2014, the European Commission informed the P3 partners that it had decided not to open an antitrust investigation into P3 and had closed its file. P3 was scheduled to start operations in the autumn of 2014.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Hamriyah invites Indian industry to invest in Sharjah


With a view to give new opportunities to Indian businesses, Hamriyah Free Zone Authority (HFZA) has organized a roadshow in Chennai on June 11 and welcomed them to invest in Sharjah.
Addressing the potential investors during the “Interactive Roadshow” on Hamriyah Free Zone, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Mr Saud Salim Al Mazrouei Director, Hamriyah Free Zone Authority (HFZA), said, “We make it practical for our investors in our industry-integrated zone. We always believe that red tape is not required. We want to offer the best practice from the government side.”
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is India’s top export market in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, and also a prime gateway to other markets, observed Mr Mazrouei.
“India is expected to replace the US as the UAE’s top export destination by 2030. Rising demand from India’s emerging economy and growing middle class opens myriad opportunities for all MENA,” Mr Mazrouei said.
Acknowledging that the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement signed on December 12, 2013, serves to protect investments in both countries, also sets out robust framework for bilateral engagement, Mr Mazrouei said that the trade between the two regions has grown quickly, reaching $75 billion in 2012-13, up from $43 billion in 2009-10.
“The two countries have been selected in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development list of top 10 most promising investor economies for FDI in 2012-14,” he added.

Located in the Emirate of Sharjah, and established in 1995, HFZA manages an area of 22 million sq metres of prime industrial and commercial land.

Mr Muhamed Basheer, Head of Business Development Dept, Hamriyah Free Zone AuthorityMr Saud Salim Al Mazrouei, Director, Hamriyah Free Zone Authority; Mr M Ponnuswami Member, CII (SR) International Linkages Task Force & CMD, Pon Pure Chem (P) Ltd and Mr J Chandrasekaran, International Desk, CII SR.

Mr Mazrouei stated: “It has direct access to the Arabian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. The Zone has pre-built warehouses, factories and office units for lease, and on-site accommodation for labourers. To address the needs of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the Zone offers executive and economical offices.”
Earlier, in his opening remarks, Mr M. Ponnuswami, Member – CII (SR) International Linkages Task Force and CMD, Pon Pure Chem P Ltd, noted that over the last two decades CII has been closely and continuously working with Hamriyah Free Zone to promote Indian industry’s capabilities in the West Asia region.
He underlined that Hamriyah, owing to its strategic location, has benefited many Indian companies. He emphasized the need to identify specific areas for cooperation – such as export of engineering goods and textiles, consultancy, and turnkey projects in the infrastructure sector.
Reminding the audience about the longstanding cultural and historical relations between India and the West Asia region, Mr Ponnuswami added that this region is of great significance since it represents India’s largest export market among all the geographical regions in the world.
“There are nearly 6.5 million Indians living and working in the West Asia region. According to a World Bank report, India received $70 billion in remittances during 2012 and a majority of the remittances came from the West Asia region. The region is also vital for India’s energy security and nearly two-thirds of our hydrocarbon imports are from this region,” he mentioned.
In his address at the roadshow, Mr Muhamed Basheer, Head of Business Development Department, HFZA, said that licences are issued at the Zone in less than two hours. The types of licences are industrial (for manufacturing and assembling), service (consultancy), and commercial (general trading, import/ export).

Sunday, June 8, 2014

MPHRP welcomes release Of MV Albedo seafarers

Source: MPHRP media release

Picture courtsy Robyn Kriel ‏@robynleekriel in Twitter

The Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) has welcomed the release and safe return of the remaining crew from the MV Albedo.
Commenting on their arrival into Kenya on 7 June 20124 MPHRP chair Peter Swift said: “After 1288 days in captivity we are delighted for them and their families after the terrible ordeal and hardship that they have suffered. At the same time our thoughts are also with the family of the Indian seafarer who died in captivity and the families of the four Sri Lankan seafarers who are reported as missing after the vessel sank in July 2013.”
“The generous support of MPHRP’s partners and friends, together with the extensive groundwork and cooperation of the UNODC and others, helped to facilitate the release of the 7 Bangladeshi, 2 Sri Lankan, 1 Indian and I Iranian crew members after they had been abandoned by the owner and with no direct support forthcoming from other parties. The efforts of all those involved in securing their release and safe return are greatly appreciated.”
It may be worth recalled here that the Malaysian flagged containership “MV Albedo” with a crew of 23 was hijacked by Somali pirates on 26 November 2010. The ship was effectively abandoned by its owner soon thereafter. One Indian seafarer died in captivity. In July 2012, following a local campaign, a deal was struck for the release of the 7 Pakistani crew members on board and they returned home safely.
In July 2013 the progressively unseaworthy vessel sank in a heavy storm. Subsequently 7 Bangladeshi, 2 Sri Lankan, 1 Indian and 1 Iranian seafarer were held hostage ashore, while the fate of 4 Sri Lankans on board at the time of the sinking remains unknown.
Elaborating further, MPHRP Acting Programme Director Hennie La Grange said: “For more than three years MPHRP has been supporting the families of the crew with regular contact and visits, has organised a series of combined and individual counselling sessions in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India, and has been providing, together with its partners, financial assistance to help with tuition fees, medicines and other living costs. On several occasions the Programme formally appealed to the Somali and international communities to press the hijackers to release the seafarers on humanitarian grounds. “
“MPHRP is meeting the seafarers and will help them to get home.  The Programme’s care of these seafarers and their families does not stop here.  Upon repatriation the seafarers will be helped to reunite with their families and to reintegrate in society.  Their complete recovery will entail a return to health after living in squalor for the past three and a half years and a return to gainful employment, hopefully at sea.  MPHRP will continue its efforts to facilitate the Albedo crew’s successful rehabilitation.”
La Grange also paid tribute to the personal efforts and dedication of MPHRP Programme Director Roy Paul and Regional Director Chirag Bahri to support and assist all of the affected families, often on a daily basis.  
Swift and La Grange also added: “Today we remember also the nearly 40 seafarers and fishers still held hostage in Somalia, all of whom have been held for more than two years – some for over four years – and encourage everyone who can do so to work tirelessly for their prompt release and to support and assist them and their families.”
The MPHRP is a pan-industry alliance of ship owners, managers, manning agents, insurers, maritime unions, and professional and welfare associations working together with governmental and intergovernmental organisations, which was established in 2010 to assist and support these seafarers and address many of the concerns that they express.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

PSA Chennai Terminal imposes restriction on export reefer boxes

Pic courtesy

With the inventory of imported reefer boxes growing day-by-day at its yard, Chennai International Terminals Pvt Ltd (CITPL), one of the two private terminals operating inside the Chennai Port and operated by PSA Singapore, has announced certain restrictions on export reefer boxes.
According to trade sources, CITPL in a communication to the EXIM fraternity has said that the average dwell days of reefer has gone up from 4 days to over 12 days in the recent weeks, hence, the terminal decided to accept Export Reefers for direct loading only.

In a discreet direction to the exporters of perishable goods like sea-foods and other agricultural commodities, CITPL said that all Export Reefer Containers will be on Hook Point Loading only. 
Besides, the communication also said that “It will be only a temporary arrangement and shall be in force with immediate effect for next few weeks or until the normalization of reefer inventory at the container yard after which the situation will be reviewed.”
Furthermore, the terminal operator also instructed the transporters to load the Reefer Containers with Generator Set only.  
According to sources, though there is a sudden surge in the import reefers via CITPL, same has not been the case of reefer deliveries and the mismatch has caused increased reefer inventory in their reefer yard.
Terminal has exhausted all the options like moving under enbloc to CFS and the entire terminal resources are put under severe pressure, the communication for trade further added.
The terminal operator also urged all the customers to speed up their evacuation of reefer imports so that sufficient space is created to receive incoming reefer traffic.