Seacurus Daily: Top Ten Maritime News Stories 15/12/2014
1. Migrant Crisis Spreads
The Gulf of Aden (GoA) is now second only to the Mediterranean as a focus for seaborne migration, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) revealed last week. In the first 11 months of 2014, the UNHCR recorded 82,680 crossings, mostly by Somalis, Eritreans and Ethiopians, who use Yemen as a staging-post to reach Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. The sharp rise in numbers of migrants making the dangerous crossing near the Bab el Mandeb strait was blamed on "ruthless" traffickers. Experts believe there is a need "to strengthen regional and national law enforcement mechanisms" to tackle people-smugglers.
2. Bad Owners Caught on Film
Unions from states surrounding the Black Sea are promoting a new film exposing the dire and disgraceful conditions under which many seafarers live – and die – there. The powerful new film, "Dark Side of the Black Sea", has been made to expose the number of lives being put at risk by the use of substandard ships. Available in English, Turkish and Russian. Unions have used a week of action as a tool to promote the film to transport workers and to bring the trade union and human rights issues to the attention of a wider audience. Among activities have been ship visits, distribution of DVDs, seafarers’ calendars and magazines.
3. Responding to Seafarer Needs
Seafarers’ charity Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) is responding to the pastoral needs of a group of seafarers after a seafarer died on their ship. A 42-year-old Russian electrician was reported missing earlier in the week. He had gone overboard and died, leaving a wife and two daughters. An autopsy had taken place in Spain, whilst the ship had briefly docked there. The ship arrived in Tilbury late on Thursday night and was visited by the port chaplains from the Apostleship of the Sea and the German Seaman’s Mission. The vessel’s crew was distraught and anxious in the aftermath of their colleague’s death.
4. Norwegian Support for Nigerian Militants
In a shocking move, the Norwegian government has sold a fleet of its decommissioned, but still sophisticated, battleships and combat boats to a former Niger Delta militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, who for years led a devastating insurgency against the Nigerian government in the oil-rich region. As a leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, Mr. Ekpemupolo, well known as Tompolo, confronted the Nigerian military, killing many and disrupting oil and gas production. An amnesty deal, in 2009, ended the fighting – but there is still massive concern at the arming of ex-militants which such potent weapons.
5. Classification Societies Look Ahead
The International Association of Classification Societies chaired by Philippe Donche-Gay of BV held its December Council meeting in London. The flagship Common Structural Rules project for bulk carriers and oil tankers was discussed and a presentation delivered to industry representatives who attended the closing session. The rules will enter into force on July 1, 2015. The expert group on structural safety of containerships reported on a post MOL Comfort review which it has carried out. This work has resulted in the development of two new IACS Unified Requirements on longitudinal strength and load cases for direct analysis of container ships. http://goo.gl/EKvMHa
6. Science Fiction Comes to Life
The U.S. Navy is adding to its list of science-fiction-turned-reality projects again this week with the testing of an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) that looks and swims exactly like a fish. The Navy said this week it had completed tests of the new ‘GhostSwimmer’, part of the chief of naval operations’ Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC) project called ‘Silent NEMO’, which experiments with uses for biomimetic, unmanned underwater vehicles in the fleet. “GhostSwimmer will allow the Navy to have success during more types of missions while keeping divers and Sailors safe,” said Michael Rufo, director of Boston Engineering’s Advanced Systems Group.
7. Working Together on Security
The Chinese and US navies have implemented a code of conduct that covers unplanned encounters at sea. The code, ratified earlier this year, was put into effect as the two navies launched their latest anti-piracy exercise in the Gulf of Aden on Thursday. Analysts said the exercise was an opportunity to put the code into practice and an encouraging indication that both navies want to minimize the risk of misunderstandings. In April, more than 20 countries with interests in the western Pacific, including China, the United States, Japan and the Philippines, agreed unanimously on the Code for "Unplanned Encounters at Sea".
8. Drunken Sailors Consigned to History
The Royal Canadian Navy on Friday imposed an almost total ban on sailors drinking at sea, after a warship had to be recalled from an international exercise because inebriated crew members got into trouble. Sailors had hitherto been allowed to drink off duty. Now, they will only be able to sample alcohol on special occasions such as Christmas, if the captain gives permission. In addition, beer vending machines will be removed from vessels.“The consumption of alcohol will be prohibited while ships are at sea,” Royal Navy Commander vice admiral Mark Norman told reporters. “Unfortunately alcohol does contribute to misconduct"…indeed.
9. Demand Stimulates Idle Box Fleet into Life
Container Shipping has received a boost as strong demand has erased the idle fleet, as bunker costs have come down too. The peak season of the year also saw the greatest volatility of the year. Following the steady freight rate development on the Far East to Europe route up until September. This has been a shock to analysts who believed the industry was not going to imitate the freight rate development of last year, as it was following such a tight line until then, matching supply with demand. At the same time, almost all of the fleet that was standing idle was re-activated, which was quite an achievement.
10. NATO Efforts to Reach Out
The future Task Force Commander for the EU’s counter-piracy Operation Atalanta, Rear Admiral Jonas Haggren (Swedish Navy), visited the NATO Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM) this week to meet with MARCOM Chief of Staff Rear Admiral Giorgio Lazio for discussions concerning counter-piracy operations and other maritime security issues. NATO has contributed to the international counter-piracy effort off the Horn of Africa since December 2008. The mission has expanded from escorting UN and World Food Programme Shipping to protecting merchant traffic in the Gulf of Aden under Operation Allied Protector.
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