Friday, 20 March 2009

Industry Snapshots

Goa’s offshore casinos under scrutiny. The spat between the BJP and the Congress coalition government over ‘offshore’ casinos in Goa has been going on for some time now. The BJP alleges corruption in the awarding of licences to casino operators, and says that the six casinos anchored in the Mandovi River should be moved further away. Capt. Hazari, former director of SCI and an alumnus of the World Maritime University in Malmo, was in Panjim this month. He commented that the definition of ‘offshore’ was internationally accepted as ‘12 nautical miles from shore’. “India’s territorial waters end at 12 nautical miles from the shore. By definition, the offshore casinos should be anchored beyond this distance,” he said. Capt. Hazari’s comments are expected to boost critics’ who argue that the anchored casinos are an obstruction to the free flow of traffic in the river. These casinos are also under fire for other reasons: customs and excise officials are investigating tax evasion and the Goa Pollution Board alleges that these ships are discharging untreated sewage into Goan waters.

Cosco Busan pilot pleads guilty to two environmental misdemeanour charges in exchange for two other felony charges against him being dropped. Capt. John Cota pleaded guilty to the lesser charges of illegally discharging oil and killing birds as the Cosco Busan hit the San Francisco Oakland Bridge in November 2007, when he was the pilot on board. The plea bargain may see Cota serve between two months and ten months in jail. About 50,000 gallons of oil was spilled in the incident. Prosecutors had alleged that Cota was responsible for the accident, citing improper use of navigational equipment and communication with the Chinese bridge crew as Cota’s main errors. "Captain Cota's actions that day fell below the standard of care," the prosecutor said. Cota’s lawyer, in his brief, told the court that others shared the blame. "The crew was incompetent. The Coast Guard made mistakes," he said. The National Transportation Safety Board has said that Cota's abilities were hampered by the medication he was taking, but added that the crew of the Cosco Busan was poorly trained, and the Master did not oversee the pilot’s performance satisfactorily. Other factors mentioned by the NTSB included poor communication between the pilot and the Master and poorly trained crew. Meanwhile, the management company involved was charged with ordering one crewmember to alter documents after the incident.

US study says shipping industry major contributor to climate change, claiming that ships worldwide pollute as much as half the cars in the world. The report, published in the Journal of Geophysical research, calls for an improvement in the quality of fuel at sea, saying that the 100,000 commercial ships worldwide pollute half as much as the world’s 600 million cars. US researcher Daniel Lack of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that this amounts to the emission of a million kilograms of particle pollution into the air every year, claiming that pollution from ships is not noticed as much as from cars. "But these ships are actually burning really low quality fuels. They are literally burning the bottom of the barrel. After oil refining, there's a black sludge left and that's what ships are burning, so they're burning a really dirty fuel," he says. Professor Lack claims his study “exposes shipping as a major polluter and more regulation is needed to ensure the industry cleans up its act”.

Containers now being moved from JNPT to Dharamtar Port by barge instead of the land route, reports Livemint. Lower costs and time are cited as two main reasons. “Transportation by sea is faster, cheaper and safer. Plus, waterside operations makes the cargo free from the congestion bottlenecks on the land side,” Livemint quotes Nrupal Patil, director, Dharamtar Infrastructure Ltd as saying. Consignments bound for the hinterland in Maharashtra and Gujarat will go by shallow barges to Dharamtar, less than 30km from JNPT, instead of Panvel or Bhiwandi. Dharamtar, traditionally a bulk port in the Amba River, had recently upgraded its services to including container handling equipment. Two barges operate at the port, which can take a maximum draft of only four metres. More are in the pipeline, as the present total capacity of 130TEU between the two barges is seen to be insufficient. The railways are slated to become operational later this year, and will undoubtedly improve connectivity to the rest of the country. Tuscan Ventures Sameer Varma says, “Most major container shipping lines accept and deliver cargo at Dharamtar Port now.” Amongst the customers: Nitco Tiles Ltd and Indian Seamless Metal Tubes Ltd.


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