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August 2020 Review

Shipping made headlines in the mainstream media throughout August for all the wrong reasons. On August 4, a gigantic explosion decimated Beirut port. The source of the inferno was 2,750 tonnes of ammonia nitrate that had originally entered Beirut on a decrepit vessel that was abandoned in Lebanon seven years ago. The final death toll from the accident is expected to be above 200, while insurers are bracing for a $3bn bill.

The Japanese-owned Wakashio newcastlemax, which grounded on a reef off Mauritius on July 25, gained global infamy this month after it leaked 1,000 tonnes of bunker fuel and split in two. The Mauritius government was attacked for its slow response to the accident, while the captain and first officer have been arrested.

Terminal operator DP World now controls the largest feeder company in the world. The Dubai outfit – via its European shipping line, Unifeeder – bought out India’s Shreyas Shipping and Logistics and Transworld Feeders to add to recent Singapore acquisition Feedertech. The cumulative vessel fleet of Unifeeder totals 81 ships with 138,000 teu.

The crew change crisis sparked by Covid-19 travel restrictions showed no sign of abating. Cases of crews downing tools around the world in protest at the enforced stay onboard increased rapidly over the past few weeks. Belgian tanker giant Euronav described the ongoing seafarer impasse as “the largest ever humanitarian and logistical crisis facing the maritime sector”.

Speaking with Splash TV this month, Kitack Lim, the secretary-general of the International Maritime Organization, said it was vital to carry out a review of the status of seafarers once the pandemic recedes.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) released its keenly awaited fourth greenhouse gas study. Despite thousands of pollution cutting measures carried out by the industry over the past decade, the study observed shipping’s climate impact has grown 10% in just six years. Moreover, shipping emissions are projected to increase by up to 50% until 2050, relative to 2018, the study warned.

Tensions reemerged in the Red Sea with Iran taking control of some ships in response to the US targeting tankers bound for Venezuela carrying Iranian crude.

Japanese shipping line Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) teamed with compatriot yard Japan Marine United and local class society Nippon Kaiji Kyokai (ClassNK) to try and commercialise the use of an ammonia-fuelled ammonia gas carrier as well as an ammonia floating storage and regasification barge. Korean yard Hyundai Mipo Dockyard has set a 2025 date to try and sell its first ammonia-fuelled ship, while Samsung Heavy Industries is working with MISC on its own ammonia-fuelled tanker design.

Saudi Arabia and Oman joined the growing list of countries to ban the discharge of washwater from open-looped scrubbers. Scrubber restrictions are now in place in around 20 countries around the world. Peter Sand, chief shipping economist at international shipowning organisation BIMCO, suggested this month that due to the continued narrow bunker price spread the debate on scrubber economics was “all but gone now”.

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