Somali pirate attacks this year already higher than in the whole of last year, says the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre. In 2008, 111 attacks resulted in 42 hijacked vessels; there have already been 114 attacks with 29 hijacks in the first few months of 2009. An increase in pirate attacks off the Eastern coast of Somalia and higher levels of violence during attacks have been seen. Pirates seem to be firing more easily on vessels, with 54 such incidents reported in the first few months of 2009 compared to 39 in the whole of last year. Seafarers are at higher risk in other ways too: the number of hostages taken is already 478 this year, compared to 815 in 2008. “The level of attempted attacks shows that the pirate gangs have stepped up operations in order to secure a higher success rate. The number of cases in which shots were fired could indicate an increased willingness on the part of the pirates to use aggression to meet their ends,” says IMB’s Mukundan.
Panama creates registry for laid up vessels, reducing fees by almost half while reducing inspection and crew requirements for vessels taken temporarily out of service. In a statement, authorities said that the special registry will have a one year validity, renewable once on expiry. Owners who lay up vessels under this registry will still be required to comply with minimum safety and pollution prevention regulations, and will not be able to ‘use the vessel for navigation’. “We consider it was necessary to take administrative actions to mitigate the crisis and reduce ship owners’ actual financial load,” said a Panamanian official.
Baldry no more a bellwether of the world’s economy, says UNCTAD. According to the Geneva based United Nations Conference on Trade & Development, the Baltic Index has not followed industrial production for the last many years, and is out of touch with reality. The BDI, an index that tracks commodity freight and therefore signals the demand for law material, was long regarded as a first indicator of the state of the global economy, as demand for raw material was supposed to reflect consumer demand. Alas, no more. UNCTAD says, "Observing the development of the BDI and its increased volatility over recent years, it is perhaps no longer the excellent indicator that it was during the period 1985-2002. The BDI as a compendium of charter rates reflects not only changes in demand for raw materials but also changes in the supply of shipping capacity. This contributes to the fluctuations of the BDI and thus reduces the usefulness of the BDI as a leading indicator for industrial production." Many agree, saying that with too many players speculating in the market with no interest in the shipping industry, and with the huge oversupply of tonnage globally, the Baldry’s heydays as the ‘hidden indicator of the markets’ may well be over.
Obama scraps Loran C to save US$35m annually. US officials said later that the LoranC was now obsolete, having been replaced by the GPS. The move is supposed to save almost 200 million US dollars over the next five years. Some US senators have objected, pointing out that the proposed transition to eLoran was supposed to augment security, safety and environmental protection as well as to create a backup for the GPS, and that the programme needs to be continued.
International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships approved by sixty three governments. The UN convention on greener ways of scrapping ships sets standards for scrap yards and recycling units worldwide. The move comes even as some member States and NGOs ask for even higher industry standards, demanding that ships be not broken on open beaches without removing all hazardous material on board. Many of the recycling yards are located in South Asia, where over a thousand ships are scrapped annually and where labourers are regularly exposed to environmental hazards. Besides higher safety and environmental standards and practices, industry will have to invest in better training and protective equipment as well.
Total Lubmarine develops biodegradable lubricants for ships. The well known marine lubricants company says that ships will now be able to sail with much lesser damage to the environment. The products developed after many years of research include Carter Bio, a high gear performance lubricant; Biohydran TMP, a high-quality hydraulic lubricant; and Biomultis SEP 2, an extreme pressure multipurpose grease. Patrick Havil of Lubmarine, says, “The commercial incentives to use such lubricants are now greater than ever, and include the possibility of reduced fees for ‘green’ ships in certain ports.”