Friday, 5 June 2009

Industry Snapshots

Ukrainian crew on ‘Ariana’ being tortured by Somali pirates, claim relatives in a report in ‘Russia Today’. A mother of one of the crew says that her son was made to call her and ask for help in a possible bid to speed up ransom payments. “Pirates want money as soon as possible so they want the news about torture to be spread. Sailors are being flogged and put on the metal deck while the temperature there is about 50 C. I heard bolts clanking,” she said.

Shipping Minister takes charge, promises growth in 90 days. Mr. G.K. Vasan took over the Ministry of Shipping last week, promising six new berth development projects within the next three months. Speaking to reporters soon after he was briefed by Ministry of Shipping officials including Secretary APVN Sarma, Mr. Vasan said that another twenty such projects would be initiated within that period. “In the next three months, we hope to award six concessions for ports and initiate process for 20 other concessions,” the Minister said, adding that the Government was bound to complete the Sethusamudram project subject to the Pachauri committee report and the Supreme Court verdict. “This is one of the most important projects for Tamil Nadu and for the country. Sethusamudram is a dream project for Tamil Nadu. It will be my endeavour and the Government’s to complete the project for the economic development of the country particularly Tamil Nadu,” Mr Vasan is quoted in the Hindu Business Line as saying. The Minister also promised to strengthen the Indian Maritime University.

Indian tanker fleet looking at tough times for the rest of the year, says a Reuters report, pointing to low oil prices, low freight rates and low demand as contributory causes. The report says that the next few quarters will see profit margins shrink and that rates may not ‘touch the 2008 peaks’ soon. The report comes as tanker freight rates shrink to almost half of last year’s peaks. "We believe the tanker market is going through an unusual period because of inventories and weak seasonal demand”, says Mr. Yuddhishthir Khatau, MD of Varun Shipping, echoing sentiments of other Indian operators. Oil prices, which were around $150 a barrel last summer, are around $ 58 today. The climate has affected the bottom lines of many companies, including Essar, Mercator and Varun. Companies have been forced to rethink their acquisition and expansion plans while they wait for asset prices to drop and the market sentiment to improve. "We are looking at a pretty dark tunnel. 2009 is almost going to be a washout in terms of recovery”, says Mr. Bharat Sheth, managing director of GE Shipping, a company that posted a 16 percent Q4 drop in profit last month.

Mottled dawn for “Pacific Dawn”: After days of anxious uncertainty over a suspected outbreak of swine flu aboard, the Carnival cruise ship “Pacific Dawn’ was allowed by the Queensland government to berth at Brisbane last weekend. Passengers not living in the State had not been allowed to disembark at the time of writing this report: Australia is concerned about possibly infected passengers and crew spreading the virus that has already hit a couple of hundred people in the country. Local health officials in Queensland have confirmed to the ‘Courier Mail’ that passengers who do not live in the State will be quarantined and not allowed to disembark. Reports suggest that the ship, on a cruise to the Great Barrier Reef, has more than fifty confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus on board. She was denied entry to berth at a couple of Queensland’s ports earlier; Carnival has announced plans to reimburse some passengers who have been inconvenienced. The ship has more than a hundred passengers from Queensland; although these will be allowed to disembark, they are being asked to isolate themselves at home for a week. It is believed that the others will be allowed to disembark in Sydney on Monday, June 2. There may be as many as 2500 passengers and crew aboard.



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