The Maritime Advocate–Issue 771

Posted:

1. Mask of Cassandra
2. Been nuclear
3. Emissions cuts
4. The new normal: healing rifts
5. Signal Ventures
6. Ports “missing out”
7. New antifouling standard
8. Ammonia as fuel
9. Seafarers’ vaccinations
10. Singapore partnership
11. Safety score

Notices & Miscellany

Readers’ responses to our articles are very welcome and, where suitable, will be reproduced:
Write to: contactus@themaritimeadvocate.com

 


 

1.Mask of Cassandra

By Michael Grey

Nearly a year into the wretched pandemic and it is difficult to determine any real cheer amid the winter snow. Some fifty odd flag states have queued up to declare their allegiance to the Neptune concordat that defines seafarers as “key workers” but it is clearly a lot easier to sign the bit of paper than to implement its provisions and let these essential folk freely come and go. We perhaps should feel a bit happier that we now live in a PDT (post Donald Trump) era, but as I read President Biden’s prescription for mandatory mask wearing aboard all commercial vessels, it didn’t seem that an age of sweetness and light had dawned.

It seemed an odd thing to be decreeing, so very early in his presidency, beset with so many national and international problems, with the US Coast Guard now tasked to ensure compliance. But then, fear of disease being imported from over the seas has pretty well become internationally entrenched and largely accounts for the less than charitable treatment of seafarers during this past miserable year. So we shouldn’t necessarily suggest that the US is being any more prescriptive, now that mask refusnik Trump is out of the way, than any other country.

From the accounts of pilots and others who board ships regularly, seafarers have been disciplined wearers of Covid-protective clothing when they are encountered. At the same time one should not forget that for a seafarer a ship is his or her home away from home and the authorities maybe ought not to be too intrusive about the wearing of masks, once the ship is free from the land. That is especially the case when they find it so hard to get to their real homes and have to overstay their contracts by weeks or months. You would like to think that they could remove them to eat or drink, and sleep unencumbered. I would hope this might be made clear in the small print of the President’s requirements and the Coast Guard’s more detailed prescriptions.

Mind you, as the pandemic progresses and the variants become more various, the protocols become more bizarre. Just today I was reading some scientist was suggesting to counter a new especially virulent strain, we should wear two masks at once. Even if this prevents the bugs either coming or going, surely it would gradually bend one’s ears forward, so that after another year of this nonsense, the whole population would be bat-winged. And would two masks be enough, as the fast-mutating virus procreates?

There was an article by a working pilot describing how the pleasure of his working day was diminished by all this mask-wearing and lack of human contact. A smile and a handshake on boarding and leaving a ship, along with an offer of a cup of coffee – all things of the past, but how much to be regretted. It’s the same for everyone, but mumbling through a mask and trying to transmit expression with one’s eyes is a measure of our misery, as we obey our governments’ dictats and recall our lost freedoms.
 
Perhaps most depressing is the way that the slightest prospect of better things ahead is so immediately and firmly sat on by the scientists who have been grotesquely empowered by the pandemic to rule our lives. Some cheerful news about the “roll-out” of vaccines is instantly refuted by some laboratory rat who bustles forward in his white coat to tell us that our misery must continue regardless, probably for years ahead, according to some gloom relishing scientific Cassandra on the radio the other day.

You must take your amusement where you can find it. Mine is in observing the degree of “social distancing” that is observed on our pavements when taking our permitted dose of daily exercise. Of an age, and carrying a stick, I find that there are those who will leap into the gutter or even cross the road rather than invade my two metre “separation zone”. One exceptionally zealous mask-wearer jumped into the road with such alacrity that he was nearly flattened by a truck. Had the driver been less alert, he would have been able to comfort himself, with his dying breath, that his Covid precautions had been obeyed to the last.

Michael Grey is former editor of Lloyd’s List.
 


2. Been nuclear

By Mike Allen

As a former Cold War submariner and nuclear plant operator, I read Messrs Chan’s & Tam’s informative article, “Going Nuclear”, with great interest.

The unique feature of nuclear propulsion in the early 50s, as opposed to land based power generation, was that oxygen was not required.  A submarine would no longer have to run its diesel engines, either on the surface or dived using a snort mast, to charge the batteries for electric propulsion submerged.  The boat (submarines are always referred to as boats, regardless of size) would become a true submarine as opposed to a submersible.  The pressurised water reactor (PWR) had established its place in history.
Now the commercial world is taking an interest for a very different reason, the absence of carbon emissions.  However, the challenges facing a commercial entity to provide nuclear propulsion as an alternative are very different to those of a government able to draw on a defence budget.

On cost alone, a shipowner taking delivery of a new building does not, at the same time, pay for the vessel’s fuel from launch until she goes to scrap.  With full life reactor cores obviating the need for refuelling, that is now what could well be happening.  Nor, traditionally, do shipowners continue to own vessels for the whole of their service life.  Increased maintenance costs and special surveys often dictate the need for sale.  Given the huge initial cost, as well as increasing mid-life maintenance charges, it is difficult to envisage a second hand market for nuclear vessels.

The authors have drawn attention to port facilities and planning being in place.

There are also the crewing and manning issues to be considered. A shipowner has very little, if any, control over fuel costs, charterparty rates etc.  Just about the only cost which can be controlled is crewing.  It is highly unlikely that could be the case for the owner of a nuclear-powered vessel nor will it be a matter of simply contacting a crewing agency to man the vessel.

Taking my own experience, having completed a mechanical engineering BSc, my colleagues and I went to the Royal Naval College at Greenwich for an eight month post graduate nuclear physics course.  At that time, when you came across the borough border there was a sign, “Welcome to Greenwich, a nuclear free zone”. Apart, that is, from the reactor in the College, about 30 metres from the main road.  Ironic or what? 

Having learned the theory, we then went to Dounreay, not far from John o’ Groats.  In a large green Nissen hut was a full size nuclear submarine built from the reactor compartment aft at huge cost to enable operational reactor and live steam training on the safety of dry land.  That was complemented with simulator training.  There is a limit to the emergency procedures which can be practised on the live plant and, as with the aircraft industry, simulator training forms an essential part of the initial and continuing training of nuclear plant operators.  Emergency operating procedures have to be second nature, there is no time to consult a manual.  Correct and instantaneous reaction is critical, particularly if you are 300 metres underwater.

Then off to sea in a nuclear boat to put it all into practice, still very much the trainee and under close supervision until you are finally considered competent to take the watch.
 
The safety record of nuclear submarines over the last 70 years has been very good.  This is no doubt testament to the initial and continuation training of the crews of various nations.  No government can take short cuts but how will a commercial organisation take on this task?  It is almost incredible to think that a shipowner would contemplate the huge investment in time and expenditure necessary to train crew to such a standard long before the first cargo has been loaded onboard and the vessel can start to earn her keep.  And where will the first crew or crews gain prior seagoing operational experience before they step onboard?  Nor will it be only engineers onboard.  There will be a requirement for health physics expertise to monitor the reactor chemistry and radiation levels.

Could it be that the reactor providers will negotiate a package with shipowners where they provide the operational crew as well as the equipment and be responsible for ongoing simulator training?  If so, how will that affect the hull and machinery, P&I insurance as well as the master/crew relationship if they are not the shipowners’ employees?

Whilst new advances such as Molten Salt Reactors will no doubt change some of operational aspect with PWRs, the “nuclear” is really just the flame under the boiler in what is essentially a steam plant. Turbines, condensers, air ejectors, will be back onboard, all the equipment not seen in the commercial world for very many years, nor, indeed, the crew who used to operate them.
 
Then there is the type of vessel.  Even if the cruise industry is able to revive itself post Covid, reactors and passengers, particularly litigious ones, are not a good combination.  Might it be box ships where the power available can provide for good service speed?  But container terminals are generally close inshore.  Could it be the tanker trade, going from offshore terminal to offshore terminal where the political considerations are not so critical?  It is not easy to see a natural fit.

Although a nuclear “true believer”, I very much doubt that fissile material will be established and powering ocean going trade in my time. 

Mike Allen is a LMAA Arbitrator and Mediator.


3. Emissions cuts

On 1 January 2020, new reduced limits on sulphur in fuel oil brought about a 70% cut in total sulphur oxide emissions from shipping, ushering in a new era of cleaner air in ports and coastal areas by using less polluting fuels.

One year on from the introduction of new reduced limits on sulphur content in fuels, indications are that the transition has been extremely smooth, according to the International Maritime Organization.

The upper limit of the sulphur content of ships’ fuel oil was reduced to 0.5% (from 3.5% previously) – under the so-called “IMO 2020” rules in the MARPOL Convention. 
“Through 2020, just 55 cases of 0.50% compliant fuel being unavailable had been reported in IMO’s Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS),”   Roel Hoenders, head of air pollution and energy efficiency at IMO says.

“Given that more than 60,000 ships plied the world’s oceans in trade last year, this was a remarkably low percentage of ships encountering difficulty in obtaining compliant fuel. We had a great deal of preparation during 2019 and before, from all stakeholders and all indications are that there have been no significant issues with supply of low sulphur fuel oil.” Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, the introduction and implementation of IMO 2020 did not cause any disruptions in trade, the IMO says.  

The majority of ships trading worldwide switched from using heavy fuel oil (HFO) to using VLSFO. Generally speaking, these are new blends of fuel oil, produced by refineries to meet the new limit, in accordance with IMO guidance and ISO standards. Through 2020, and into 2021 to date, IMO has not received any reports of safety issues linked to VLSFO.

Nonetheless, during 2020, an IMO correspondence group considered fuel oil safety issues in general and the need for further mandatory requirements to ensure fuel oil supplied meets the required standards and quality. The report of the group (MSC 102/6) is available on IMODOCS and will be discussed at the next session of IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), MSC 103 in May 2021.

Prior to that, the eighth session of the Sub-Committee on Prevention of Pollution from Ships (PPR 8), scheduled to meet remotely from 22 to 26 March 2021, will further consider VLSFO fuel quality issues, including possible effects on black carbon emissions.

 Provisions in regulation 18 of Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) regulate fuel oil quality. The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) covers issues such as flashpoint (SOLAS regulation II- 2/4.2.1).

Fuel oil non-availability (FONAR) reports can be viewed on IMO’s Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS), under Regulation 18.2.5 notifications.
 

 


4.The new normal: healing rifts

By Jonathan Lux

As businesses face a new year and a world still coping with massive change and disruption, we look at the role mediation can play in healing rifts and hastening the return to commercial wellbeing.
With the fallout from Covid-19 still being felt in most sectors, many businesses are experiencing problems either directly or with supply chains or other related enterprises. As contracts are breached and difficulties cause a ripple effect, 2021 will, without doubt, be a period of readjustment.

In the short-term, revenues are widely expected to be down early in 2021, with growth for the year likely to be small. The Bank of England and the Office for Budget Responsibility anticipate a tick-shaped recession/recovery, with the sharper downturn followed by a lengthier upturn, with recovery between mid-2021 and mid-2022.

As businesses assess the damage, many will make fundamental changes. In this period of settling into a new normal, disputes are likely as companies become unable or unwilling to meet contractual obligations or wish to renegotiate terms.

Weaker enterprises may fail, with a knock-on effect for supply chains. Payment terms may become impossible for some businesses to meet.

Often, there is little to be gained from taking a confrontational approach. Litigation, or the threat of litigation, will not magically alter difficult circumstances. As well as being expensive and time-consuming, legal action often permanently destroys what was previously a beneficial commercial relationship.

The answer is engaging in expert mediation. You can be sure that, unlike a court case, you will not have a result imposed upon you. In mediation, you will reach a solution with the other party that you are both able to agree upon. The mediator will guide you and offer their commercial expertise in suggesting possible ways forward, but it is for those involved to find the answer.

You may also find a way to continue in a relationship with the other party. The mediator will help you both to look at the bigger picture and understand what is possible for each of you. You will have control of the process throughout and at no point will you be required to agree to anything if you do not wish to do so.

Businesses who are open to being flexible and working with partners to find innovative solutions stand the best chance of emerging from the crisis stronger and better able to cope with disruption in the future. Engaging a mediator will help those involved in commercial disputes to resolve problems and allow them to move on and focus their time and energy on planning for the future.

Early assistance from a mediator usually offers a stronger chance of success, with parties more willing to work out a compromise before positions become entrenched.

Jonathan Lux heads Lux-Mediation. 
E-mail: mediation@lux-mediation.com
 

 


5. Signal Ventures

Signal Ventures, the investment arm of the Signal Group, is seeking entrepreneurs and start-ups in the maritime sector to join its ecosystem of technology partners. Led by Greek entrepreneur Ioannis Martinos, Signal Ventures focuses on B2B, Software as a Service (SaaS), advanced analytics, optimisation and artificial intelligence technologies for the maritime and trade sectors.
 
Signal Ventures offers its partners access to data processing capabilities, vessel port calls, emissions, port and weather information, venture capital, mentoring and hands-on team building support. Incorporation, accounting, legal and HR activities are also part of the mix. The ecosystem already includes technology start-ups active in ship bunkering, oil and dry bulk analytics, and marine weather.
In 2019 the overall maritime tech sector was estimated to be worth USD106bn, expected to rise to US$278bn by 2030 according to Inmarsat statistics. Startup driven innovation will be core to this growth, Signal says.

For details see www.thesignalgroup.com/signal-ventures
 


6. Ports “missing out”

Port management software provider Innovez-One says the vast majority of ports are missing out on the benefits of digitalisation, creating ‘last mile’ risks. Most ports are still using manual and paper-based processes without access to digital technology, creating a polarised ports environment and risks in the last mile of a voyage.
 
Innovez-One estimates that of the 4,900 ports in the world, the majority are not yet using digital technology for even the most basic processes; 80% of ports continue to rely on manual, legacy solutions such as whiteboards or spreadsheets to manage critical marine services such as towage, pilotage and launch boats. This leaves many ports commercially vulnerable and less able to compete in an increasingly digital world.

Innovez-One has designed and engineered its proprietary software, marineM, an AI-powered platform for managing sea ports and nautical services operators’ entire operations, linking together each stage of the towage and pilotage chain.
 
While the phrase ‘smart ports’ has been used regularly within the maritime industry for a number of years, the benefits of digitalisation remain the preserve of only a few, large ‘Tier 1’ ports that have the profile and financial muscle. This has created a polarised landscape within the port sector.
 
Many ‘Tier 2 and below’ ports still use manual, paper-based processes or Excel spreadsheets to arrange and execute jobs and rely on personal interaction and paper-based transactions as the norms for shipboard, ship-port interface and port-hinterland-based exchanges. This leads to a range of inefficiencies in ordering, execution, and billing, as well as a lack of sustainability and competitiveness, according to the company.
 
Alarmingly, this dynamic makes the ‘last mile’ of a journey at sea a weak link in the global logistics chain, opening up risks of delays, late payments, increased fuel consumption and emissions, reduced revenues, and even safety concerns stemming from a lack of traceability. For the 20% of ports where this is not the case, they have often been able to rely on their own in-house software, Innovez-One says.
 
The ramifications and missed opportunities for ports from increased efficiencies, revenues, sustainability and competitiveness are significant. In particular, towage operators are missing out on the opportunity to make substantial savings of their annual fuel costs by reducing the mileage of tugs while saving yearly maintenance costs and personnel cost savings of their towage vessels.
 


7. New antifouling standard

Cleaning a ship’s submerged parts from barnacles and other growths, while the ship is in the water, can transfer invasive species to local marine environments unless it is properly cleaned and the debris is captured. To combat this problem, and to provide clarity and quality assurance to shipowners, ports and government authorities, BIMCO and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) have published the first industry standard on in-water cleaning of ships.

“This standard will help protect the environment in the port. Not only that, it will also help every organisation that is part of this process by raising the minimum standard of cleaning several notches higher and ensure that the end result is both a clean ship, and safe working practice,” says David Loosley, BIMCO secretary general.

The standard and the accompanying approval procedure is now available on the BIMCO and ICS websites.

The organisms growing on the ship increases its drag through the water and can reduce fuel efficiency of the ship by as much as 35%, leading to higher fuel bills and higher CO2 emissions. It is therefore important to remove the growths every couple of years.

A number of countries and regions have put biofouling management high on the agenda, with regional and national regulation on the drawing board or already in place. This includes the USA, Australia, the Baltic Sea region, New Zealand, Hawaii and California.

John Stawpert, Manager (Environment and Trade) at the International Chamber of Shipping added: “This new industry standard establishes a benchmark for safe and environmentally sound underwater hull cleaning, an issue that is of increasing concern to the international community. We hope that this first step by industry bodies will allow cleaning companies to demonstrate that their products protect the marine environment, and that shipowners can be confident that their ships are cleaned to a safe and effective level around the world. With these industry standards port authorities can also have confidence that underwater hull cleaning can be completed with minimal risk to the environment by independently approved cleaning companies working to proven high standards.”

According to the industry standard, at least 90% of the macro fouling must be captured by the cleaning company, and effluent water coming back into the sea will have removed organisms and materials down to a microscopic size (0.000001 metres).
 
 For BIMCO and the partners involved, the next step is to implement the standard on a small scale and several shipping companies have already signed up to participate.
 


8. Ammonia as fuel

The Korean Register (KR) has published a technical report outlining the safety regulations and resulting design implications for ammonia fueled ships.  The report provides essential information for industry stakeholders such as shipowners, shipyards, and equipment companies for the construction of ammonia-fueled ships.

Ammonia, a zero-carbon fuel is relatively easy to store and handle, and is attracting worldwide attention along with hydrogen, as a next-generation energy source with the potential to account for more than half of new ships using clean fuel after 2050.

KR’s technical report analyses the characteristics of ammonia comparing it with other next-generation fuels. It provides vital information on the appropriate safety measures for ammonia when used as a conventional fertilizer, refrigerant and industrial fuel, together with the safety regulations for onshore storage facilities and measures to be taken when loading ships with ammonia, as cargo.

The report also examines the development status of ammonia fuel cells and internal combustion engines, giving an in depth analysis of key international requirements such as the IGC Code and IGF Code, which will influence further rule development.

KR published its first technical report ‘Forecasting the Alternative Marine Fuel – Ammonia’ back in 2019 when ammonia was still unfamiliar as a marine fuel. In the second half of 2020, KR completed a risk assessment, granted Approval in Principle and signed an MOU with EMEC ship design company, Man Energy Solutions, a ship engine manufacturer, and Navig8, all with the aim of promoting the use of alternative, cleaner fuels.

Click here for the report.
 


9.   Seafarers’ vaccinations

The Cyprus Shipping Deputy Ministry (SDM) has formally proposed a practical, global approach to delivering Covid-19 vaccinations to seafarers in response to the worldwide crew change crisis. Over the past year, the need to class seafarers as key workers has received widespread support, with Cyprus now suggesting the foundation of a feasible solution to inoculations.

In letters to the EU Transport and Health Commissioners and IMO Secretary-General, Cyprus Shipping Deputy Minister, Vassilios Demetriades outlined the two strands of the proposed programme and emphasised the need for a practical, feasible and collective approach to addressing the issue of seafarer inoculations. The letter emphasised Cyprus’ determination to work with all interested parties at a global level to enable crew changes to take place, even with stricter measures being deployed during this second stage of the pandemic.

There are challenges with the logistics of a vaccination programme for seafarers, including the country of origin or residence of the seafarers, transport and customer restrictions, availability of the approved or authorised vaccines, the two-stage vaccination process, and the subsequent time required for a seafarer to be considered as inoculated. Therefore, Cyprus believes there should be a distinction on the basis of the duration of the sea voyage. The suggested programme comprises two main strands:

•  For short sea shipping, national measures remain workable and regional cooperation easier to achieve.

•  For deep-sea shipping, Cyprus believes that vessels operating on long-distance intercontinental routes should be designated as an isolated Covid-19 zone; a “bubble”. The focus should therefore be on seafarers ashore. Cyprus suggests a coordinated global approach to ensure adequate numbers of approved or authorised vaccines, acceptable to all governments, are available to seafarers for inoculation in their country of residence before they travel to join their respective ships.

For more information on the Cyprus SDM and its proposal, please visit the website here.
 


10. Singapore partnership
 
The Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration (SCMA) has announced that it has agreed to deepen its collaboration with Baltic Exchange Asia. An agreement has been signed through which both the organisations aim to provide a framework to achieve a sustainable, long-term relationship. Both organizations have agreed to cross-promote each other’s events and offer preferential registration rates to each other’s members. In addition, there will be cross-representation – SCMA will be a corporate member of Baltic Exchange Asia, and Baltic Exchange Asia shall likewise be a corporate member of SCMA.

SCMA’s main offering is the resolution of maritime and trade related disputes through arbitration. The Baltic Exchange Asia through its activities, where appropriate, will support SCMA in promoting arbitration as a dispute resolution tool among Baltic Exchange members and the larger maritime community. Baltic Exchange Asia’s main offerings are index production as well as promoting Baltic Exchange membership, escrow services, dispute resolution support, executive training, and networking for shipping professionals. Where appropriate, SCMA will promote the use of the Baltic Exchange Asia’s escrow service to its users and members. Baltic Exchange Asia will also be offering its escrow services to SCMA members at competitive rates, details of which will be announced separately. SCMA will, in turn, endeavour to promote the other offerings of Baltic Exchange Asia. 

Contact Information: Winnie Chew, Business Development Manager, SCMA, at +65 6324 0556 or email winnie.chew@scma.org.sg
 


 
11. Safety score

RightShip, the world’s largest maritime risk management and environmental assessment organisation, has   announced that its new Safety Score and Platform has gone live.  The announcement follows a comprehensive familiarisation period which enabled users to understand what the new Safety Score meant for their operations. Now the new Safety Score and Platform is live, RightShip’s Qi platform has been made ‘read-only’ and the Risk Rating removed, before Qi will go offline on 15th February 2021.

RightShip has spent the last two years building and refining the Safety Score; a metric that enables the entire industry to responsibly improve the safety of vessel operations.

The Safety Score ensures there are minimum standards that all vessels must meet, as well as clear actions to take to improve a vessel’s score. This creates a level playing field for all vessels and provides a clearer pathway for improvement at all levels of the Safety Score.

It also supports RightShip’s vetting customers, including charterers, ports and terminals, by providing key insights on a vessel or operator’s performance as the first step in their due diligence process.

Customers can access the new Safety Score on the RightShip Platform via RightShip.com or  ComingSoon.RightShip.com