Top Ten Maritime News Stories 20/01/2015

Seacurus Daily: Top Ten Maritime News Stories 20/01/2015


1. Ransom Payments to Pirates Protected

Nautilus has welcomed a UK government pledge not to outlaw the payment of ransoms to secure the release of seafarers held hostage by pirates. The Union had written to ministers to express concerns over the potential for proposed new counter-terrorism laws to restrict or prevent future general average or kidnap and ransom policy payments to secure the release of ships and seafarers held by pirates. In a response to Nautilus, Home Office minister James Brokenshire says the government intends to maintain the distinction between ransom payments made to criminals and those made to terrorists. ‘The situation is different in piracy cases…doing so is not illegal under UK law.’



2. Double Trouble With New Collision

Two vessels, the "Maersk Etienne" and "Coral Opal", collided when performing a dangerous manoeuvre in Irbe Strait near Miķeļbāka. Both cargo ships sustained considerable damage in the collision, including Coral Opal’s ballast tank, which suffered a leak. No injuries were reported by Coastal Guard’s Marine Search and Rescue Coordination Centre. A full visual assessment was then performed. In addition, Latvian authorities organized to have a support helicopter be sent from a nearby Air Force Base in order to make photos of the accident and check for any signs of oil leaks into the sea. No oil leaks were found. Coral Opal is set to dock in Ventspils Freeport. Maersk Etienne, on the other hand, has been sent to Riga.



3. Elections Could Lead to Piracy Spike

A general election in Nigeria on 14 February is poised to bring a spike in piracy in the Gulf of Guinea as politicians seek campaign funding, say analysts. A fact which could be borne out by the reported hijacking of a tanker in Ghanaian waters at the weekend. "Pirate attacks are likely to rise before and after the forthcoming elections," Cassie Blombaum, intelligence analyst at Guardian Global Resources, told IHS Maritime. Analysts believe proceeds from piracy are being used to fund political campaigns, fuelling offshore attacks around election times. Elections will take place this year in Togo, Burkina Faso, and the Ivory Coast, although national elections are expected to pose the greatest threat.



4. Commercial Battle Lost over Brilliante Virtuoso

A number of Lloyd’s insurers have lost a $64.4mn UK Commercial Court battle over a shipping loss that has been linked to the murder of a British loss adjuster. The four-week trial in the UK court related to the loss of the Liberia-registered "MV Brillante Virtuoso" in 2011, following an apparent boarding and attack by pirates off the Somalian coast.

Its then owner, Marshall Island-registered Suez Fortune Investments, claims a fire started by the pirates led to a total constructive loss. There had been rumours that there was something strange about the loss since ship surveyor, Capt David Mockett, was murdered in the Yemen after allegedly finding no bullet holes or rocket propelled grenade damage.



5. Gas Carrier Stuck in Mud 

Efforts so far have failed to shift a fully laden liquid natural gas carrier that ran aground on a mud bank near Bonny, Nigeria, last week. Teekay Shipping’s 104,169gt "Magellan Spirit" grounded in soft mud on 5 January while exiting the Bonny Island LNG Terminal under pilotage and laden with 165,600m³ of cargo. Teekay spokesman Jonathan Anthony said in a statement that the ship’s crew and cargo are safe. Initial attempts to refloat the vessel using tugs proved unsuccessful, so now Teekay and its appointed salvor SMIT plan to remove some of the cargo from Magellan Spirit. There have been concerns that the vessel could be subject to piracy.



6. Human Rights Activists Even Question Ruling

The Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) international maritime initiative has delivered its verdict on the payment of compensation to pirates held by the French authorities. The two cases concerned nine Somali nationals, who in 2008, having hijacked two French-registered vessels off the coast of Somalia and having themselves held hostages, were arrested and held by the French Navy before being transferred to France where they were taken into police custody and prosecuted for acts of piracy. The Court examined whether the pirates’ right to liberty and security had been safeguarded from the moment of their arrest. HRAS concluded that it is somewhat bizarre, if not absurd, that the Court ordered France to pay out.


7. BIMCO Leads New Dry Bulk Vetting System

BIMCO is now calling on shipping companies to participate in its new vetting system designed to gather information on the quality of the facilities and service at dry bulk terminals – and use it to drive improvement at terminals around the world. To gather the information, seafarers must complete a quick survey each time they leave a terminal – this can be submitted online or saved offline to send later. The identity of the ship or company sending the survey will be kept confidential by BIMCO. Once BIMCO has enough survey data, it will create and publish information on the quality of the following facilities and services at the given terminals. Terminals will be given a star rating providing a quick overview.



8. Offshore Industry Hit Hard by Low Oil

With the oil price hovering around just $45 per barrel shipowners may be rejoicing but for those in the offshore marine industry things are looking rather less promising. Cosco Corp’s latest profit warning related to a $90m one off charge after it decided to discontinue an Octobuoy at Cosco Nantong project for ATP Oil & Gas in the UK which had failed to pay its debt claims. “The steep fall in crude oil prices over recent months has had an adverse impact on the global offshore marine industry. This has made it even more difficult to secure a buyer for the Octabuoy as industry players have cut back even further on new orders,” Cosco Corp said.



9. Greeks go on Japanese Spending Spree

With Japanese-built vessels being the most sought after, Greek ship owners invested into 340 secondhand vessels over the course of 2014, according to data compiled by shipbroker Intermodal. They also placed orders for 127 newbuildings, a decrease of almost 30% compared to 2013. according to Intermodal’s Research Analyst, Eva Tzima, Greek owners were reported as buyers in 340 of the 2014 reported second-hand sales and as sellers in 153 of them. According to Tzima, “this trend clearly shows that despite the volatility in the freight market, Greeks were still keen on snapping second-hand tonnage during the year. At the same time they have shown a clear preference on Japanese quality units".



10. Sunda Straits Collision "Tis But a Scratch"

Indonesian-flagged liquefied gas carrier Gas Melawi collided with ferry Menggala in Sunda Strait, Indonesia on Sunday, January 18th, local media report. There have been no injuries reported to either of the crews. However, the collision is said to have damaged the ferry’s hull. No leaks have been reported. According to Merak Subagio, Head of Jemla Ferry, operator of the ferry, the vessels just “scratched each other” and the two parties resolved the damage compensation issue “amicably”. Damage assessment is underway, nevertheless, initial estimates indicate that the repairs will amount to approximately US$1.5Million.




Daily news feed from Seacurus Ltd – providers of MLC crew insurance solutions


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S Jones
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