Friday, 28 August 2009

Industry Snapshots

Egyptian fishermen turn the tables on Somali pirates, killing at least two of them and sailing home with the rest imprisoned on board. Held for four months, the 34 fishermen were taken hostage by Somali pirates in April. Egyptian Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmed Rizq said in a statement that the crew "have safely entered the Red Sea waters on their way home with all 34 fishermen on board, along with eight Somali pirates." There are conflicting reports about the rescue; one says that the fishermen attacked the Somali pirates with machetes, tools and the pirates' own guns. Some reports say that seven bodies of pirates have been found washed up on Somali beaches, and that the owner, Hassan Khalil, of the boat hired local Somali gunmen to effect the rescue. Egyptian security agencies may also have been involved. Incidentally, two of the owner’s sons are part of the fishermen crew. One of them, Hamad, told Egyptian media over the phone that the pirates had treated them harshly, and that many of the crew were “in a horrible mental state".

Kolkata Port Trust revives plans to develop Sagar Island port for handling dry bulk and container cargo. Continuing problems of navigation at Haldia have resulted in the Shipping Ministry looking at Sagar as an alternative option, media reports suggest. Earlier plans of putting up a container terminal at Diamond Harbour have come to nought, as there are difficulties getting the required land from the Ministry of Defence.

Maersk CEO Nils Smedegaard Andersen says that shipping will lag global recovery. Talking to reporters in Copenhagen, the CEO of the world’s biggest container company felt that although the worst was ‘probably over’, any shipping recovery would be slower due partly to shipping capacity increases. "Given deliveries of vessels in container shipping and tankers, it is likely that the shipping cycle will be somewhat slower in improving, but we are optimistic that the things that we are doing for the long term are right," he said. Maersk has reported huge losses for the first half of this year; its cost cutting program, mainly involving workforce paring, has saved it between $1 billion and $1.5 billion so far.

Vijay Chibber report recommends major changes to the Shipping Ministry. A panel set up early this year has proposed measures for
increasing efficiency at major ports. Areas covered include port corporatisation, delegation of power, land use and captive use of port facilities, public private partnerships (PPP), dredging, environment and security clearances. Particular recommendations include increased operational freedom to the management of major ports, a suggestion that the government accord one time clearance for security firms and a country wise clearance for crews, besides commercialisation and corporatisation of major ports in a timeframe, amendment of the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963 and the Indian Ports Act, 1908. Additionally, in a move that may have far reaching consequences, the panel recommends an alternative to the present PPP bidding: the ‘Swiss Challenge Method’ bidders selection. The report also says that the procedures for present PPP projects need to be simplified to enable quick decisions. Dredging should, as far as possible, be granted by long term depth guarantee contracts, with preference given to the Dredging Corporation of India for maintenance dredging. Industry analysts say that many of these changes have been on the anvil for a while and that some of these reforms are needed urgently so that ports can make speedy and pragmatic decisions.


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