Thursday, 23 June 2011


Naked Irish adventurer blames whale.  Twenty nine year old Keith Whelan, also known as the 'Naked Adventurer', was rescued recently off the Australian coast. Keith says his boat may have been hit by a whale; the incident injured him and caused him to abort his odyssey to row naked across the Indian Ocean. Keith called his UK based support team and called for help after his accident; the Australian Maritime Safety Authority was then contacted.

Keith was injured while asleep after his head hit a protruding bolt in the cabin of the boat. He suffered a gash to his head and initially thought the boat had been hit by a big wave or a ship. Later, after speaking to the crew of the cargo ship Fujisuka that rescued him, the adventurer said a whale might have hit his boat.

The Fujisuka was diverted to rescue Keith about eight hours after the incident. His troubles were not yet over, though; Keith ended up underwater during the rescue for a few moments before being hauled up to safety.

"I'm disappointed to no longer be on route to Mauritius," the adventurer said.  "It's been a two year project for me." He added that he was fully clothed when rescued, and reminded everybody that he was rowing nude only to prevent chafing burns.

Biometric database for Alang workers?  The State government of Gujarat plans to set up a biometric database of workers at Alang, reports the Economic Times. The largest ship breaking yard in Asia will see the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) spearhead the initiative that will require, for security and worker welfare reasons, that every labourer at Alang be registered, photographed and be given a computer generated ID card. After this is done, "before he enters into a recycling plot, he would have to get himself verified on a biometric instrument put up at the gate," says a government official.

The cost of the project is estimated to be about one crore, and seems to be aimed also at deflecting criticism of the working conditions of migrant workers at Alang. "Currently, when an accident takes place, it is with great difficulty that we come to know about the antecedents of each worker. With the data base intact, we can know if the worker was provided with necessary safety equipment," the official said.

Alang's estimated 35,000 labourers often work under horrific conditions at the many ship breaking 'plots' there. The government wants to improve the system so it can prosecute plot owners that presently circumvent safety and labour laws easily. The database will contain details of the workers' vocational training records to determine suitability for working at Alang, their health status, blood groups etc, and will be shared with the local police.

Diversify or bust? The Indian Shipping sector has been the worst performing one in recent times, statistics show; it is the only sector that has recorded negative sales growth in the March quarter year-on-year. Quarterly sales were down 8%, at Rs3,003.41 crore; operating profit - at Rs545.4 crore- was down 25% and net profit (Rs 49.02 crore)  was down  a huge 87%.  This has happened despite the fact that the country's exports and imports have jumped 34% and 13% respectively in the period.

Experts say that Indian companies are already diversifying to combat this slump, with one analyst saying that there is a possibility that Indian shipping will not exist in its present form for long as the focus shifts to new areas like dredging, logistics and offshore.

Shreyas Shipping & Logistics is one that has benefited from diversification. It has recovered from a net loss of Rs 15.71 crore for FY10 to a net profit of Rs 12.78 crore in FY11. Other companies that have diversified have also seen their moves paying off. Income from diversified sectors as a percentage of total revenue is increasing at firms like Mercator Lines, whose foray into coal mining and trading activities has proved fruitful, according to ET. "For the second consecutive year, the coal business has posted a handsome growth in revenue of over 250% this year and in EBIDATA over 900%," the company says.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that many companies are looking at the offshore sector, planning either direct or ancillary businesses in a space that is seen to be growing in a country heavily dependent on oil imports. Included are companies like SCI, Varun, Essar and Great Eastern, which is selling three VLCCs and plans to use the proceeds to buy two jack up rigs. "The outlook for drilling units is currently looking that much better than the outlook for, say, crude carriers," GE shipping's CFO G Shivakumar said.

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