Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Industry Snapshots

Royal Princess catches fire and Twitter revolution hits the seas: Last Thursday, a fire broke out in the Engine Room on the cruise ship owned by Princess Cruises as she was departing Port Said, Egypt. The crew later extinguished the fire and nobody was hurt, although one passenger was treated for chest pains. The ship was towed back to port even as passengers remained at Muster Stations. Investigations are in progress; there were 733 passengers and 393 crew on board. Interestingly, the unlikely hero of the incident, as far as the media is concerned, seems to be Greg Surratt, a pastor from Charleston, South Carolina. Right through the incident, Surratt was posting updates on the social media site Twitter, much in the news in connection with the post election protests in Iran. Surratt’s ‘tweets’ overshadowed the updates posted elsewhere, including the scanty information put up on Princess’ own website. Concerned family and cruise fans logged on to Twitter over the weekend to get updated information on the incident and see Surratt’s photographs. The cause of the fire is officially unknown, but a weekend post from the tweeter says, "Heard from very good source cause of fire: fuel pump. Not as good a source: involved explosion. Several sources: we are very lucky."

Dreary Drewry report on the container market: Put out a week ago, a report by maritime consultants Drewry is pessimistic about the prospects for the boxship fleet. “With nearly half of the year gone, the industry is looking at the edge of a deep abyss,” it says. Highlighting recent poor performances by well known companies like Zim and CSAV, Drewry says that freight rates are not set to recover anytime soon; Zim reported operating losses of $119 million recently, and CSAV was bailed out by German interests. Drewry is particularly concerned about Asia where cargo volumes have dropped 14 to 18 percent over last year as exports have dropped on the back of poor demand. The report says that the eastbound Trans Pacific freight rates are showing no signs of recovery. One fallout: the container shipbuilding industry. “Depressing economic conditions do not favour shipbuilders. Asset values are on the wane and many existing contracts are being renegotiated to account for delays or possible cancellations,” Drewry says, quoted in Fairplay.

Training institutes mushroom in Kerala to tackle shortage in logistics industry, reports the Economic Times. The newspaper thinks that the upcoming Vallarpadam container terminal, Vizhinjam container port, Petronet LNG terminal and several proposed container freight stations will add to the requirement for qualified and trained personnel. Organisations such as the Falcon Group are already tied up with Dubai Port World to offer the first such Post Graduate qualification. ``The specialty of our course is that it has three months internship where the students can get hands on training,’’ says N.A. Mohammed Kutty, MD of Falcon Group. The Indian Institute of Logistics is will also open its third centre in Kochi, after Chennai and Vijayawada. `` We don’t guarantee placement for them but we help them to build a career. Though the entry salary may be low as Rs 10,000, there is no limit up to which they can go,’’ says director Capt. V.J. Pushpa Kumar. Also on offer, an MBA in partnership with VEL’S University, Chennai and accredited by the London School of Business Management.

A “Hoot” against criminalistion: “The horns of ships in Vancouver harbour sounded out at one minute passed noon Thursday to protest changes to Canada’s environmental regulations which shipping companies and unionised employees say will unfairly target them for prosecution,” reports the ‘Vancouver Sun’.
Organised by the ITF (representing mariners), the International Ship Owners Alliance of Canada (representing ship owners) and the Council of Marine Carriers, Vancouver (representing tug and towing operators), the protests were against Canadian Bill C16 currently being debated in the Senate. The industry is protesting the bill’s “reverse onus” stance, which presumes that an accused is guilty unless he or she can prove otherwise. ITF’s Peter Lahay says that officers and crew will be at grave risk if this bill is implemented, as they could be liable for jail terms up to three years and hefty fines of up to $12 million a day in the event that they cannot prove their innocence in case of an accidental spill. “It could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for someone to defend themselves against these charges. That’s why we say the officers who lay the charges should have the burden of proof,” said Lahay. The ICS and ISF have already said that the legislation is inconsistent with MARPOL and UNCLOS provisions. Industry watchers say that, along with recent legislation in the European Union, this bill could have far reaching consequences for ship owners and crews. It seems that the Sword of Damocles of criminalisation hanging over seafarer’s heads is slated to get even sharper.

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