1. Welcoming wellness
2. Winter of discontent
3. War risk
4. Impatient shippers
5. STS tanker transfers
6. CII debacle
7. Seafarer abandonment
8. Crew burdens
9. Wage debate
10. Anti-suit injunctions
11. Israeli sulphur limits
12. Fire dangers
Notices & Miscellany
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1. Welcoming wellness
By Michael Grey
There is not a great deal of reason to feel encouraged these days, after a 2022 which has seen so many things go badly wrong in the world. But one might be enthused by the signs of a more sympathetic attitude to the seafaring workforce, which has borne the brunt of so much during the miserable months, as the pandemic has raged around the globe.
There has, for a start, been some useful progress on the vexed problem of abandoned crews, something which has become something of a scandal, as the number of instances has grown steadily in recent years. It is something that rarely seems to reach the mainstream press; the ships tucked away in deserted parts of big ports or in remote anchorages, deteriorating beyond the hope of any gainful further employment, but with the crews clinging on to the ship upon which their unpaid wages might depend, when it is eventually sold. Debts increase, the lawyers argue, the certificates lapse, the crew becomes dependent on the goodness of volunteers and the welfare organisations, and the months pass.
In his Christmas letter, the secretary general of the Mission to Seafarers, the Revd. Canon Andrew Wright tells of a chaplain’s visit to one of these abandoned seafarers who had been reunited with his family after 28 months stuck on one of these wretched ships. But he is just one of a worrying number of people left in limbo, after their ships had been arrested by creditors, or detained by regulators.
Just as an example, a few minutes before this was written I was reading about a crew of thirty Philippine seafarers marooned for several months on an abandoned livestock ship, stuck in the Australian port of Portland. The ship is to be auctioned, but as always, there remains huge doubts as to whether there will be enough left to pay the A$1m owed to the crew. It doesn’t exactly appear to be a vessel with many prospects for a purchaser. The crew might be a little better off than some because of the jurisdiction – others around the world are stuck in truly awful places, where the law will prove to be of little assistance to wronged individuals. So, any progress by the ILO-IMO-SRI to mitigate the miserable uncertainty of abandoned crews is a bit of seasonal good cheer.
There is also some reason to applaud the work that is being done by a number of agencies to give more prominence to what might be described as seafarers’ “wellness” and welfare. In particular the recognition that seafarers are just like anyone ashore in their vulnerability to mental problems, which have been getting a lot of celebrity endorsements in recent times. It has been a long time coming, as attitudes to mental illness needed to experience something of an evolutionary change, but there are now many hopeful signs.
It took some determined work by committed individuals and organisations to shine a light on the incidence of mental breakdown and suicides of seafarers, something not exactly helped by the fragmented and inadequate methods of gathering data in an international workforce of a global industry. Seafarers, this itinerant, over-the-horizon workforce, had been expected to “just get on with it” as they always had been, even though their world was changing to smaller, often less cohesive crews, different attitudes to long tours along with the challenges of loneliness and a growing connectivity with their families that promised much, but often proved elusive or unaffordable.
There is a growing number of agencies that are providing practical help for troubled individuals, while senior officers and those who can influence crew welfare are now given useful information to recognise the first signs of stress. It is a good start.
Christmas, far from one’s family, really can be a “challenging time”, writes the ceo of Mental Health Support Solutions MHSS, which was established to provide support to mariners. It is, Jannik Grothues observes, “a time of year when people are more likely to feel undervalued” and he urges maritime employers to put additional effort into supporting their seagoing employees. He offers some suggestions for making the season rather more pleasant for those far from home, and you wouldn’t argue with any of them. We shouldn’t just think of it as “just another day”, even if it is!
There are plenty of good employers of seafarers who recognise that the promotion of wellness among a happier workforce represents a good investment, which will head off manning crises and promoting recruitment and retention. Some of the big ship managers have been exemplars in this sort of work, and as hard-nosed companies operating in a highly competitive market, they know it pays dividends. If employees, ashore or afloat, feel that they are valued, rather than being treated as assets to be “sweated”, (to use a disgusting business college inspired term) it really makes a difference.
Let us hope that happiness afloat increases as we launch into the new year, and all the very best from this correspondent, for 2023.
Michael Grey is former editor of Lloyd’s List
2. Winter of discontent
The dry bulk market could be set for a downbeat 2023 with the pain potentially extended into 2024, according to the latest quarterly dry bulk market report* from Maritime Strategies International.
Behind the falling earnings picture is the faster than expected unwinding of port delays that kept the market buzzing during 2020-21, with port operations perhaps not far from approaching ‘normality’. While ballast and laden durations on specific trade flows may increase, MSI believes that any positive year on year impact on market balances in 2023 will be more than offset by reduced port delays.
MSI forecasts an improvement in fleet efficiency next year, recognising that the process is unlikely to be linear and both Covid-19 (and the policy responses to it) and geopolitical and trade influences will continue to be factors with the potential to affect fleet utilisation in significant ways.
“To put it one way, where Capesize markets have led towards the end of this year, others will soon follow.” said Plamen Natzkoff, dry bulk analyst with MSI. “We expect a cyclical downturn in the market over the next two-three years, characterised by pronounced weakness in bulk carrier earnings driven by the continuing erosion of support factors and tepid trade growth,”
On balance, a negative view for market balances and earnings chimes with increasingly bearish sentiment for the global economy; indeed, a more drastic downturn in economic output remains a realistic prospect, explored through MSI’s Low Case outlook. But, for dry bulk at least, China still has potential to surprise on the upside.
In recent reports, MSI has pointed to the potential for a near-term steel-intensive stimulus by the Chinese government, albeit predicated on a fall in energy costs and commodity prices, and a loosening in Covid restrictions.
Recent weeks/months have seen China taking a rising share of cheaper energy from Russia, whilst weaker demand around the world and easing supply chains have undermined commodity prices. Finally, a recent loosening of Covid restrictions hints at a rising possibility that a steel-intensive stimulus may be on the cards.
“Whilst MSI finds itself unquestionably at the more bearish end of recent dry bulk market commentary from brokers, owners and other analysts, our forecast for dry bulk spot markets in 2023 is not far different from current FFA contracts,” adds Dr Natzkoff. “Our analysis suggests that, without the benefit of a relatively small orderbook, market balances won’t begin to tighten again until 2025 with the potential for more meaningful growth in earnings from 2026.”
* The MSI Q4 2022 Dry Bulk Report, ‘Winter of Discontent’ is available now – for more information see https://www.msiltd.com.
3. War risk
War risk cover for P&I claims has now been affected by the ongoing situation in Ukraine, as the UK Club has pointed out in an online brief. “Due to the impact of losses from the Russian/Ukrainian situation affecting the availability of global insurance and reinsurance capacity, the Club’s reinsurers are no longer able to secure reinsurance for war risk exposure to Russian, Ukrainian or Belarus territorial risks.
“The Club’s own reinsurances renew on January 1st and reinsurers have advised the Club that as a consequence they will no longer be able to support the Club for this exposure. As a result the Club is forced to alter the scope of coverage afforded to Members for Charterers Liability and ship owners’ extended and ancillary covers.
“Notice is hereby given that, with effect from January 1st 2023, the following coverage changes will be implemented in respect of War Risks coverage on all non-mutual business including but not limited to Charterer’s Liability Cover, Non-Poolable extended and ancillary covers to Mutual entries and Fixed Premium P&I Cover. Coverage changes do not apply to mutual entries for P&I and PLR war covers.
This policy excludes all loss, damage, liability, cost or expense:
(a) caused by or arising from or in connection with any Russia-Ukraine conflict and/or any expansion of such conflict; or
(b) in any area or territory or territorial waters where Russian armed forces, Russian-backed forces, and/or Russian authorities, are engaged in conflict within the territories (including territorial waters) of the Russian Federation, Belarus, Ukraine and any disputed regions of Ukraine, the Crimean Peninsula and the Republic of Moldova.
(c) arising from capture, seizure, arrest, detainment, confiscation, nationalisation, expropriation, deprivation or requisition for title or use, or the restraint of movement of vessels and cargo in the territories (including territorial waters) of the Russian Federation, Belarus, Ukraine and any disputed regions of Ukraine, the Crimean Peninsula and the Republic of Moldova.
For more details see the UK Club website.
4. Impatient shippers
As global trade declined during the second half of 2022, in response to severe economic headwinds in many countries and the continued effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the GSF/MDS Transmodal Container Shipping Market Review reflected the impacts on the activity and fortunes of shippers of unitised goods in international trade.
The latest edition of the Container Shipping Market Quarterly Review published recently, reports data from the third quarter of year – a time of marked increases in consumer and producer price inflation, historically large increases in interest rates by central banks and high levels of stock inventories in many importing countries. Global energy prices edged higher amid disruptions to supplies arising from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
However, the impacts of widespread lock-downs and stay-at-home orders in China to contain the spread of Covid 19 do not appear to have significantly affected export volumes according to its national trade statistics.
Key highlights of the review include:
Trade volumes of goods capable of being transported in containers continued the decline observed at the end of the second quarter , but the drop in overall volumes was much less than that reported by the container shipping sector. This is attributed to commodities, such as coffee, scrap metal and plywood, that can also be carried in bulk or semi-bulk form, switching away from containerised movements where shipping rates remain relatively high.
Despite falling for a second quarter, carriers’ unit revenues (earnings per container moved) were still 2.8 times higher than pre-Covid rates whereas unit operating costs have only risen by a factor of 1.5 over the same period. Cost pressures have largely been higher charter rates and a slow rise in fuel costs that has since receded. Container shipping lines remain highly profitable despite a falling market.
Spot rates fell by a fifth during the period, leaving many shippers ‘burnt’ by their decisions to commit to long-term contacts earlier in the year and questioning the many sources in the industry who confidently predicted that disruptive congestion and capacity shortages would continue through 2022 and beyond.
Adding to shippers’ frustrations, service levels remained at historic lows, with the predictability of arrivals still at only 85 per cent, meaning 1 in 6 sailings arrived later than normally expected.
The modest improvements recorded in the number of scheduled port calls made, at 90 per cent, is a welcome positive that can be partly attributed to the rising number of sailings that were ‘blanked’ during the period and didn’t sail at all, so easing the pressure on intermediate ports. Many of these saw an improvement in the proportion of expected capacity actually calling at the ports monitored but the proportion of lost capacity is still at historically high levels.
Mike Garratt, chairman of MDS Transmodal commented: “In quarter 3, 2022 we saw the mean rates charged by the major lines continuing to suppress the proportion of container traffic they carried while the role played by new entrants was small. During quarter 3 we have seen several of these recent entrants leave the market as spot rates have fallen sharply, while leaving mean rates paid much higher. With a combination of stagnant demand and few ships now being delayed by port congestion, one would expect competition for shippers’ business to lead to a recovery of the share of the overall cargo market carried by container.”
James Hookham, Director of Global Shippers Council, added:“The quarter saw the downturn in volumes recorded at the end of Quarter 2 turn into a sustained decline – conditions that have not been seen in the container shipping market for over ten years. Many shippers are experiencing the behaviour of the market under such conditions for the first time.
“Blanked sailings, slow steaming and other capacity management measures will add to the catalogue of frustrations accumulated over the previous 30 months of record high rates and poor levels of service”.
“The widening gap between spot rates and contact prices agreed six months prior to these data will anger shippers further and demands a flexible and immediate response by carriers if their dream of securing a majority of their business on contract ted terms is to be achieved.”
“The big question going into 2023 will be how much of their diminished volumes will shippers commit to renegotiated contracts and how much will they reserve for the spot market, which is expected to fall to below pre-Covid levels in the next few weeks?”
“Countering this trend will be efforts to manage capacity through ‘blanked sailings’ However, the extent to which spot rates are being supported by this permitted co-ordination between consortia partners is playing out just as competition authorities in Europe and North America are evaluating existing anti-trust measures and considering possible options for the future”.
5. STS tanker transfers
West P&I have published details of an updated version of the Tanker STS Transfer Operations. Members are reminded that ship to ship (STS) operations conducted in other than “good weather and in safe and sheltered waters” are unduly hazardous and unsafe and so outside of cover under Rule 19
6. CII debacle
On 16 November 2022, BIMCO published the CII Operations Clause for Time Charter Parties after the clause was adopted by the Documentary Committee. BIMCO has since initiated a process of gathering feedback on its application from members and industry stakeholders. A number of commentators have reacted negatively to the clause.
The BIMCO CII clause has been developed to help address the commercial complexities of the CII regulation entering into force on 1 January 2023, BIMCO said in a statement. The regulation was adopted at the IMO despite attempts by the industry to point out the potential pitfalls of the CII formula.
Since the publication of the CII clause, BIMCO has held talks and met with members and stakeholders to seek feedback.
“We have received constructive comments, both positive and negative, from many of our members. This insight is invaluable for already published clauses and the development of future clauses. We will continue to seek solutions to help our members operate commercially in a complex regulatory environment,” says David Loosley, BIMCO’s Secretary General & CEO.
Following recent dialogue with members, BIMCO understands that many stakeholders are still struggling to interpret the complexities of the CII regulation. BIMCO is offering comprehensive training along with free webinars to explain how the clause works in practice and how to understand the CII regulation.
BIMCO will continue to monitor developments as the CII regulation enters into force, the organisation said.
7. Seafarer abandonment
New measures to improve conditions for seafarers, including those who have been abandoned, have been adopted at a meeting involving governments and maritime workers and employers’ organizations, according to the International Labour Organization.
The Guidelines seek to address the significant rise in cases of abandonment of crews reported to the ILO, which have risen from less than 20 cases per year between 2011 to 2016, to 40 in 2019, 85 in 2020, 95 in 2021 and 114 cases as of mid-December 2022. The Guidelines aim to improve coordination among countries, including flag states, port states, states in which seafarers are national or resident, and states in which recruitment and placement services operate, in order to resolve abandonment cases more quickly, including getting seafarers paid and repatriated home to their families.
The new guidelines draw on relevant ILO international labour standards, notably the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, as amended (MLC, 2006), including its most recent amendments; an earlier joint ILO-IMO resolution adopted in 2001; relevant IMO international frameworks and agreements; and relevant trends and developments in regional and national law and practice.
Under the MLC, 2006, flag states – countries where ships are registered and/or whose flag the ships are flying – must ensure a financial security system is in place for ships under those flags. The new guidelines encourage flag States to verify, at least annually, the validity of this financial security. Port states are encouraged to pay particular attention to this financial security during their inspections of foreign ships that visit their ports. States where recruitment and placement services operate are also called upon to regularly verify that those services include a system to ensure the protection of the seafarers they recruit and place.
The new guidelines set out procedures to be taken by states if a shipowner fails to fulfil their obligations to arrange and cover the cost of repatriation of seafarers, outstanding wages and other contracted entitlements, and the provision of essential needs, including medical care. In these circumstances seafarers are then considered abandoned. These procedures include developing, in cooperation with seafarers’ and shipowners’ organizations, national Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to explicitly define the liabilities and obligations of the competent authority and the roles to be played by the various national stakeholders. These stakeholders include the relevant national seafarers’ welfare boards, shipping agencies, seafarers’ and shipowners’ organizations, seafarer welfare organizations, seafarer recruitment and placement services, and others.
The ILO–IMO meeting also discussed the importance of the joint ILO-IMO database relating to abandoned seafarers, and the need to update and improve it.
8. Crew burdens
Marie Kelly who leads Gard P&I Club’s London defence team has recently set down her thoughts on the challenges facing seafarers in the current environment. “We are all well aware that the sea is unpredictable and that seafaring can be a dangerous and stressful occupation.
There are some things such as bad weather or sea conditions that are difficult to avoid but the lives of crew members and shipowning/management teams are also made far more stressful by situations caused by the failure of states to agree common policies or to implement them or treat seafarers with consideration and humanity. To read about her thoughts on the challenges facing seafarers, what can be done to address them, and gaps in legal coverage relating to rescue at sea, visit the Gard webite https://www.gard.no and go to the insights section.
9. Wage debate
In the run-up to Christmas, the Seafarers’ Wages Bill was debated for the first time in the House of Commons, having already been debated in the House of Lords. The UK Chamber of Shipping notes that those interested can read the debate or watch it online (skip to 17:59).
The Bill passed with cross-party support and will return for further scrutiny by a committee of MPs in the New Year. As was the case in the House of Lords several MPs from the opposition raised the argument that the 120 calls threshold should be lowered to 52. The Chamber is working to ensure that MPs are fully aware that the 120 calls threshold is appropriate and should not be reduced.
The Chamber will provide a further update on the Bill once it completes its next stage, which is due to happen by 17 January 2023.
10. Anti- suit injunctions
Ince’s Peter McNamee and Reema Shour have put together an opinion piece on a recent case involving E-Star Shipping and Delta Corp. In E-Star Shipping and Trading Company v. Delta Corp Shipping Ltd (MV Eships Progress)  EWHC 3165 (Comm), The Court highlighted the difference between an anti-suit injunction and an anti-enforcement injunction and made it clear that the latter will not in practice be granted because comity requires the English Court to respect a foreign court’s decision where it has issued a detailed considered judgment following contested proceedings.
According to Ince, the decision also demonstrates that, while the English Court will grant an anti-suit injunction against foreign proceedings in breach of an arbitration agreement, the anti-suit applicant must demonstrate, to a high degree of probability, that: (1) a binding arbitration agreement exists; and (2) the parties against whom the injunction is sought are parties to that agreement.
The dispute arose out of a chain of charterparties. EShips were head owners. They time-chartered the vessel to Delta, the defendant in these proceedings. There was then a string of sub-charters, including a voyage charter to the claimant, E-Star. E-Star subsequently entered into various fixtures and sub-charters with other entities.
The vessel loaded bagged rice in India, bound for discharge at various ports in Africa. Hire was not paid up the chain and discharge of the cargo was consequently delayed at the first discharge port, Durban, because bills of lading were not available. EShips initially exercised rights of lien and, after the cargo was eventually discharged, suspended the vessel’s service, bunkered the vessel at its own cost and sailed for Abidjan.
A settlement agreement was then purportedly agreed between various parties that required payment of certain sums to EShips, following which the vessel would continue on her voyage and discharge the remaining cargoes at various ports. The terms of the time charter to Delta were to remain unchanged. The settlement agreement provided for English law and London arbitration. It also stated that: “This agreement becomes effective only upon signature by all parties. All parties signing this agreement warrant that they are duly authorized by the company on behalf of whom they are signing.”
The settlement sums were not paid in full. At Benin, EShips sought to exercise a lien on freight with Delta’s cooperation. However, Benin law did not allow a shipowner to keep goods on its ship on account of a failure to pay freight. Therefore, Delta obtained an order for discharge of the cargo out of the vessel and into the Court’s custody.
A group of Benin shippers and receivers (Benin plaintiffs) sought to have this order set aside and to obtain their goods without payment of any further sums. Only the shippers, but not the receivers, had been party to the settlement agreement. The Benin Court nonetheless ordered that the Benin plaintiffs should pay freight to Delta, failing which the cargo would be sold at auction. However, the Benin plaintiffs subsequently obtained an order putting in place a holding measure and for the money to be paid into the Benin Court pending an appeal.
While E-Star was named as a defendant in the Benin proceedings, it did not participate in them and subsequently sought anti-suit relief from the English Court on the basis that the settlement agreement provided for London arbitration. For the full story see htps://www.incegd.com/en/news-insights/
11. Israeli sulphur limits
North P&I points out that vessels calling at Israeli ports will need to burn marine fuels with a 0.10% maximum sulphur content under new regulations taking effect in February 2023. Although the Mediterranean Sea Emission Control Area for Sulphur Oxides and particulate matter was recently adopted at MEPC 79, it will not take effect until 2025. The State of Israel, in enacting the new regulations, will put in place measures similar to the EU directive for ships at berth. Accordingly, the limit for sulphur in fuel oil used on board ships whilst in all Israeli ports and/or designated anchorage areas should be not more than 0.10% mass by mass (m/m). The new rules will enter force on 23 February 2023.
See more details on the sulphur cap at https://www.nepia.com/topics/2020-vision/
12. Fire dangers
Skuld’s Anatoliy Frank has put together some advice on preventing fires on board ships due to hot works being undertaken. The club says “the number of incidents that result in fire in cargo holds caused by hot works is not very high, although such cases still happen from time to time. The most common situation is when a shore gang is contracted to cut or weld stoppers, D-rings, or other lashing points on the weather deck or tweendeck of the vessel. In such cases the vessel is responsible for arranging a fire watch to monitor hot works and take prompt action in case of fire. Unfortunately, the vessel’s fire watch is not always correctly positioned or properly prepared for hot work.
Belated fire watch actions may result in a situation whereas fire cannot be extinguished by own means and shore-based fire brigade assistance will be needed. In a worst-case scenario the entire cargo can be damaged by either fire or the water used for extinguishing the fire.”
He says simple preventive measures can help owners to avoid a fire and the following should be observed:
- The crew, together with shore contractors, should carefully inspect the area prior to hot works being performed
- In cases where hot works are conducted on the weather deck or tween deck, the cargo beneath should be protected from sparks that may fall through gaps between pontoons of the hatch cover
- Firefighting equipment should be deployed where hot work is taking place and in lower compartments
- Permission from local authorities should be obtained before commencement of hot work
- The vessel’s Hot Work Permits form should be filled in by the Chief Officer before hot works start
- A fire watch with VHF radio should be posted at the place of hot work, and in the lower compartment
- Gaps between the hatch cover’s pontoons or tweendeck should be closed so that no sparks caused by welding or grinding may penetrate into the lower compartment.
During hot work, heavy smoke can be produced that may also penetrate the lower cargo compartments. The crew must make sure that continuous ventilation of all enclosed areas is properly arranged to have a healthy atmosphere inside the compartment. Atmosphere testing should be performed frequently by trained ship’s personnel.
As charterers might be carriers under the Bills of Lading, the charterers’ supercargo should be requested to check with the crew if all above preventive measures are in place and Hot Work Permit has been issued prior to hot work being performed.
Once hot works are completed, the work area should be monitored for at least 30 minutes or until the risk of fire no longer exists. The ship’s Hot Work Permit should contain information about completion of hot work and demobilisation of fire watches.
Notices & Miscellany
UK Chamber of Shipping Members Survey 2022
The UK Chamber’s annual members survey is now live and the organisation would very much welcome feedback to help improve what they do and provide members with the appropriate services and benefits they value the most.
Questions asked include what communication channels they prefer, what business issues they would like the Chamber to prioritise, the areas the Chamber should improve and much more.
The survey can be accessed here. Members Survey
Korean Register chairman
The current Chairman and CEO of Korean Register (KR), Lee Hyungchul extends his tenure for three more years, as he was elected as the company’s twenty-fifth Chairman and CEO at the extraordinary meeting of KR’s general assembly on December 22, 2022.
Please notify the Editor of your appointments, promotions, new office openings and other important happenings: firstname.lastname@example.org
(With thanks to Paul Dixon)
You Know alcohol should be served at work because…
1. It’s an incentive to show up.
2. It reduces stress.
3. It leads to more honest communications.
4. It reduces complaints about low pay.
5. It cuts down on time off because you can work with a hangover.
6. Employees tell management what they think, not what management wants to hear.
7. It helps save on heating costs in the winter.
8. It encourages carpooling.
9. Increase job satisfaction because if you have a bad job, you don’t care.
10. It eliminates vacations because people would rather come to work.
11. It makes fellow employees look better.
12. It makes the cafeteria food taste better.
13. Bosses are more likely to hand out raises when they are wasted.
14. Salary negotiations are a lot more profitable.
15. Suddenly, burping during a meeting isn’t so embarrassing.
16. Employees work later since there’s no longer a need to relax at the bar.
17. It makes everyone more open with their ideas.
18. Everyone agrees the work is better after they’ve had a couple of drinks.
19. Eliminates the need for employees to get drunk on their lunch break.
20. Increases the chance of seeing your boss naked.
21. It promotes foreign relations with the former Soviet Union.
22. The janitor’s closet will finally have a use.
23. Employees no longer need coffee to sober up.
24. Sitting on the copy machine will no longer be seen as “gross.”
25. Babbling and mumbling incoherently will be common language.
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