Volkswagen isn’t just trying to reduce emissions in its cars.
The automaker has launched the first of two LNG-powered overseas cargo ships that will replace two of the nine heavy oil-burning ships it currently uses on routes between Europe and North America.
The China-made Siem Confucius left Emden, Germany, on Tuesday with 4,800 cars onboard bound for Veracruz, Mexico. According to the automaker, which is still trying to clean up its image in the wake of the “dieselgate” scandal, the 200-meter-long ship reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent, nitrogen oxide by 30 percent, soot by 60 percent and Sulphur oxides by 100 percent compared to the conventional ships. It is the largest vehicle transporter of its size.
VW Group’s “goTozero” program is targeted at reaching carbon neutrality across the company by 2050 and reducing the lifetime greenhouse gas emissions of the production and operation of its vehicles by 30 percent compared to 2015 levels.
According to VW, the ships cruise at 16.5 knots (~19 mph) in eco mode and can also run on egas or biogas if necessary. The company currently schedules approximately 7,700 shipments annually around the world and will continue to update its fleet.
The recession currently underway globally is bound to have a negative impact on demand for ships. However, the scale of the recovery will also be key for the shipping industry, as some countries will bounce back quicker than others. Which ones will manage to do this, could be key for shipping. “The World Bank estimates that the global economy will fall by 5.2% this year, underlining that the Covid-19 pandemic has had rapid and massive consequences despite the implementation of unprecedented programs to support local economies”, Intermodal said in its latest weekly report.
According to Intermodal’s SnP Broker, Mr. Zisis Stylianos, “in its report on the Global Economic Outlook the World Bank points out that in the developed economies the decline will be in the order of 7%, while in emerging ones 2.5%. This is the deepest recession the planet has known since World War II, and 70 to 100 million people may find themselves below the poverty line. This revised forecast shows that the damage to the global economy will be worse than estimated in April by the International Monetary Fund that estimated a global contraction of 3% for 2020. China has announced it will not set a growth target for 2020, as the country will focus on stabilizing employment and ensuring the living standards of its citizens”.
The shipbroker added that “while addressing the 13th National People’s Congress, China’s Prime Minister, Li Keqiang, said the decision not to set a development goal was related to the uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the report shared at the conference, China will focus on maintaining security in the financial sector, foreign trade, foreign investment and domestic investment. The report also listed six areas the world’s second-largest economy should focus on, namely; job security, basic living needs, the functioning of market bodies, food and energy safety, stable industrial and supply chains and the normal functioning of first-level functions”.
Stylianos also noted that “in the oil sector, the U.S. government is seeking to put an end to oil exports, Venezuela’s main source of revenue, in order to weaken President Nicolas Maduro government. It may even extend its sanctions to a dozen more tankers. So many oil companies are reviewing their plans to charter tankers found in Venezuela over the past twelve months. According to Reuters, Chinese oil companies may soon cease chartering any tanker that arrived in Venezuela during the last year. The aim is to avoid blacklisting if the US decides to impose sanctions on more ships that engage in commercial activities with Caracas”.
“As far as the dry bulk sector is concerned, we are witnessing a very impressive increase in the BDI index in the past two weeks, with the strong momentum pushing the index above the 1500 points barrier. It is worth noting that on June 1st the BDI closed at 520 points and the Capesize index at 82 points with average daily earnings for the big bulkers at $ 3,648/day. Within 15 days both the BDI and BCI increased by more 139% 2,893% respectively, while the average daily fare of Capes went up by 448.9%. Based on the positive market sentiment and the momentum that is inspiring it, the recovery of the ground lost in the past months appears to be even closer now”, Intermodal’s analyst concluded.
A Biosecurity New Zealand-organised biofouling survey will involve compulsory hull checks for up to 40 arriving cargo vessels.
The ships randomly selected to take part in the survey will be required to undergo a dive inspection and answer questions about biofouling.
The aim is to build a profile of vessels that are most likely to be contaminated with foreign marine species, says Biosecurity New Zealand spokesperson Paul Hallett.
“Biofouling poses a grave biosecurity risk to New Zealand’s marine environment. We know that nearly 90% of marine pests arrive in this country as biofouling on the submerged surfaces of international vessels.
“The survey will pinpoint risk factors that influence the extent of biofouling on a commercial vessel visiting New Zealand. It will put us in a better place to target vessels that require further investigation.”
“We already scrutinise the biofouling history and voyage records from arriving vessels to determine the biosecurity risk. The survey results will allows us to further refine our risk analysis.
“The study will also benefit the shipping industry by providing quicker clearance for vessels that pose negligible risk.”
The survey will involve underwater inspection of vessel hulls and other submerged areas. The vessel operator will also be required to complete a questionnaire on the vessel’s maintenance and movement history.
Biosecurity New Zealand has contracted the Cawthron Institute to undertake the field surveys at a range of ports, starting in August 2020. The project is expected to take up to two years and involve surveying up to 40 vessels.
“We want the survey sample to be as representative of the industry as possible. For this reason, the survey will be compulsory for selected vessels. Biosecurity New Zealand will use powers under the Biosecurity Act to allow this.”
With the introduction of Craft Risk Management Risk Standard for Biofouling in May 2018, New Zealand became the first country in the world to introduce nationwide rules to combat the dangers of biofouling.
The government is being accused by the Opposition of failing to deliver on its road safety targets.
National’s transport spokesperson says the government hasn’t delivered. Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas
The government committed $1.4 billion at the end of 2018 towards a three-year programme to make roads safer – the goal of which was to stop 160 deaths and serious injuries each year.
But so far, according to written parliamentary questions, only $474 million had been spent on the Safe Network Programme by the end of March.
Progress is going well on rumble strips with almost 3,000km being installed out of its 3,500km target by mid-2021.
RNZ reported in July last year that just 16km of median barriers had been installed in a year.
But as of the end of May this year, 18km has been installed out of its 198km target.
Only 151km of side barriers had been built so far out of a target of 322km.
National’s transport spokesperson Chris Bishop said those figures weren’t good enough.
“When you go through all the numbers the government has talked a big game on road safety measures but has simply failed to deliver,” he said.
Spokesperson for road safety charity, Brake, Caroline Perry said the progress was disappointing.
“We’d obviously like to see these measures rolled out as quickly as we can, they are measures that are proven to reduce deaths and injuries on roads and so in order to save lives and improve road safety we need to see more of them in place,” she said.
Perry said Covid-19 would have had an impact on work, but what she really wanted to see now is more barriers being installed and more speed limit changes.
Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter said work will now start to speed up.
“Up until our government put the big focus on road safety and median barriers, it was incredibly difficult for the New Zealand Transport Agency to implement them, but that process has been streamlined and I expect it to really start to ramp up in the next few years,” she said.
Safer speed limits are a key element of the safe network programme, but only 35km of roads have had their limits changed so far.
Genter said that’s because the speed limit changes has been subject to a lot of consultation.
“I expect that with community input those decisions will be made soon,” she said.
When asked if NZTA will meet its targets in 2021, Julie-Anne Genter said saving lives is the most important target and she was confident that will be met.
Cargo ship crew arriving in Auckland from overseas ports are being told to stay on board their vessel to prevent the potential spread of Covid-19.
Under alert level 1, crews at sea for more than 14 days who have not declared illness are allowed to disembark, but Ports of Auckland says that’s too risky without health checks. Photo: 123RF
Ports of Auckland banned general shore leave for all seafarers arriving in the city when the country went into lockdown.
Under official rules for alert level 1, crews at sea for more than 14 days who have not declared illness are allowed to disembark with no health checks required.
But port spokesperson Matt Ball said this was too risky and it had asked the Ministry of Health for an assurance health checks will be made.
“They can simply walk out into downtown Auckland. There are no health checks or anything like that.
“It’s part of the international rules around shipping and in normal times it’s perfectly fine but at times like this there is potential, we think, for illness to get across the border so we’ve taken steps in addition to the official advice to prevent that.”
Ball said about 10 cargo ships per week arrived in Auckland, each with up to 20 crew on board, and in the last week there had been several cases of crew members arriving and reporting illness.
There had been no confirmed cases of Covid-19 coming through the port via freighters.
But the fact that crew members were reporting illness showed there must be roots of transmission from another port, with the potential for the illness to incubate for a while and be passed on to crew mates, he said.
“We think this needs to be explored fully to make sure that this route is completely closed off.”
He said the port was waiting on further guidance from the ministry about conducting health checks.
Ports of Auckland banned shore leave for crew arriving from Covid-19 hotspots early this year, and a blanket ban has been in place since the country went into lockdown.
“It’s important for the welfare of these crew that they are allowed to go onshore as long as it’s safe and that’s what we’re concerned about.
“We want to make sure it’s safe for the crew and the community,” Ball said.
Ship crew are free to come ashore if they meet health and isolation conditions, except in Auckland where the port company is the only one to ban routine shore leave due to Covid-19, under alert level one.
Elsewhere, if a ship has previously been at sea for 14 days and declares no relevant health problems among crew, there is no test or physical Covid-19 control as they come ashore.
“The Minister is currently seeking advice on further tightening up these requirements,” said a spokesperson for the Minister of Health David Clark, in response to a query from Stuff.
Major ports contacted by Stuff, at Tauranga, Wellington and Lyttelton follow the Ministry of Health and Maritime New Zealand rules, with decisions on shore leave, made by local public health authorities.
Ports of Auckland (POAL) is the only location where the port company made itself one of the gatekeepers, and it does not allow crew to come ashore, due to Covid-19 risk.
“We’re restricting general shore leave because we feel there are insufficient border controls in place and allowing general shore leave would be an unacceptable risk to the community,” said POAL spokesman Matt Ball.
“Crew of foreign vessels must not be transported onto or from the Ports of Auckland without permission from a General Manager from the Ports of Auckland, Customs and Auckland Regional Public Health Service,” said POAL’s ‘Covid-19 Controls for Contact with Visiting Foreign Vessels – alert level 1’ guide.
In a statement, a Port Taranaki spokesman said berths had been busy with methanol, log, bulk feed, and petrochemical vessels visiting the port, and ship crews were taking the opportunity to get off the water, stock up on provisions, and discover New Plymouth.
The “14-days at sea” criteria prior to a ship arriving at its first New Zealand port, is considered to be a Covid-19 self-isolation period under the guidelines applying to shipping.
“Shore leave is not permitted during the self-isolation period. If the crew need to interact with border or port staff they should follow the advice on personal protection for border staff,” said a spokesperson for Wellington’s Centreport.
A spokesperson at another port told Stuff that crew numbers on cargo ships were small, and at any time shipping companies were highly health-conscious.
Lyttelton Port Company told Stuff that while all shore leave had been banned under Covid-19 alert levels four and three, the decision now lay with Canterbury District Health Board.
“It has been reinforced to Port Companies around New Zealand by the Director of Maritime New Zealand that such leave for crew should be allowed if these criteria are met,” said Phil De Joux, LPC’s strategic engagement manager, in a statement.
A deeper channel needed to safeguard Auckland’s vital international supply lines
Ports of Auckland has applied to Auckland Council for consent to deepen the city’s shipping channel and a resource consent hearing on the matter will be held next week.
Auckland’s population is forecast to grow significantly, with a million more people expected to live here by 2050. More people means more demand for the products we all buy from overseas, which means more containerised imports and – bigger container ships.
Ports of Auckland must be ready to handle this growth.
The largest container ships calling in Auckland now carry up to 5,000 twenty-foot containers (TEU). Shipping lines want to bring 6-7,000 TEU ships here in the next 2-3 years and in future we will need to host ‘New Panamax’ ships that can carry around 12,000 TEU.
The channel is currently 12.5 metres deep at low tide, but New Panamax ships are 366 metres long with a maximum draft of 15.2 metres. Ports of Auckland is only applying to deepen the channel to 14 metres – so how will the ships get in?
The answer is tidal windows. In common use globally and at other New Zealand ports, a ‘tidal window’ simply means that deeper draft ships enter or leave port when the tide is high enough.
To create a tidal window suitable for New Panamax ships to access port safely we will need a channel which is 14 metres deep on the straights and 14.2 metres deep on the bends. Our berth will be dredged to 15.5 metres so ships can stay through a full tide cycle.
By using tidal windows, we can minimise dredging and reduce cost. It is the most efficient way to accommodate larger container ships.
The dredging will be done by the lowest impact method available – a digger on a barge. The digger will have a long arm to reach down to the seabed to scoop out material. The channel bed is mostly soft material like marine muds, mudstones and some sandstone and gritstone, which can be removed easily. No blasting is required.
Ports of Auckland asked for the consent application to be publicly notified by Auckland Council so that people could have their say on the project. Over two hundred submissions were received.
If consent is granted, work on deepening the channel could start in 2021.
Well-renowned, former senior shipping executive, Sandy Gibson, passed away on June 12 aged 75 years.
Commencing his career as an apprentice cadet with Union Steam Ship Company in 1959 and subsequently gaining his Masters’ Certificate, Mr Gibson came ashore to assume the role of cargo superintendent for Wilhelmsen Line.
He helped establish major shipping agency Seabridge New Zealand and became its managing director, while also serving seven years as a Port of Wellington director.
A member of the Wellington and Auckland branches of the New Zealand Company of Master Mariners and Master of the New Zealand Company, Mr Gibson became Ports of Auckland (PoAL) operations general manager and then Axis Intermodal general manager before retiring in 2005.
In a statement prepared for the Shipping Gazette, PoAL said its staff were saddened by the loss.
“He is remembered as a genuinely good guy, known for his calmness under pressure, his immense knowledge of the industry and his supportive and respectful character,” stated the port company.
“He was a significant figure in PoAL’s history, well-liked by customers, port stakeholders, colleagues and employees.
“Many at the port remember Sandy because of the time he took with people.
He was never too rushed to stop and chat. He was also always ready for a bit of fun and mischief.
“Sandy was instrumental in establishing PoAL’s Graduate Cadet Programme in 2008 which saw a number of young people enter the ports industry as a new career and who subsequently moved onto other industry-related positions in New Zealand and overseas.
“He was always giving of his time and his knowledge and had the sharpest mind, even in his later years. He visited the port at least once a year to collect his beloved PoAL calendar and to catch up on the performance of various shipping lines and their services and any changes in the industry.
“In 2018 he even came to the port to welcome in our newest set of container cranes. He loved the shipping and logistics industry and he was a true gentleman.
“In honour of his memory we are flying our flags at half-mast.”
What would shifting much of Auckland’s freight shipping operation do to Whangārei’s harbour? Conservationists say the risks are like throwing dice for the marine ecosystem.
Conservation advocates worry rerouting ships from Ports of Auckland to Whangārei’s Northport might stimulate the local economy but come at a cost to the harbour’s ecosystem.
The proposed shifting of the port is now a bottom line for New Zealand First in any possible future coalition agreement. After announcing his candidacy for the Northland electorate last week Shane Jones told TVNZ’s Q+A: “In the event that we’re back, a bottom line is definitely going to be the relocation of the Ports of Auckland to the north.”
But there’s concern from conservationists and scientists that more ships in Whangārei Harbour would mean more dredging, construction, noise pollution and potential ship strike as well as a change to water flows.
Northport chief executive Jon Moore’s response is that, unlike other ports Northport is accustomed to working with environmental rules and is the only port in the country to be built under the Resource Management Act.
“This means that all of the environmental management requirements of the RMA have been built into the port’s day-to-day operation,” he says.
Build it and they will come
While Northport may have established itself within RMA rules, compared to the Auckland’s waterfront operations it’s small fry. Currently just three ships at a time can tie up at Northport. In Auckland, depending on the size of the ships, there’s space for 11 to 13.
The number of ship calls per year also shows the gap between what the two ports are handling at present.
In the last financial year 1318 ships called in at Ports of Auckland (POAL). Around 127 were cruise ships and a few were Navy ships, but the majority carried freight.
Northport had 304 ship calls in the same time period. The nearby refinery, which uses its own berth a short distance from Northport, had 218.
To take even some of Auckland’s ships would require a substantial expansion.
Northport already has a resource consent to extend its 570 metre berth by 270 metres and reclaim 2.8 hectares of land but this small extension won’t come close to providing enough berths to cater for Auckland’s ship traffic.
A video on the Northport website showed potential options for expansion with six ships berthed. If completed in total this would add another 820 metres of berth extending either side of what currently exists and reclaim 25 hectares of land from the harbour.
Given the current conversations, it’s perplexing there’s no option on Northport’s vision of the future video which shows how much the port might need to expand to cope with its current ships as well as Auckland’s freight ships.
Even to fit the depicted three more ships would mean a big change in a small harbour which conservationists say has some outstanding features.
Also consented is deepening of the channel into the harbour. This dredging consent for 3.6 million cubic metres of sea floor is held by the oil refinery, not Northport. This is to ensure the channel is deep enough for larger ships. Newsroom understands while the work was consented in 2018 it has not yet begun.
A marine reserve sits just 650 metres from Northport and is home to seahorses, dwarf scorpionfish, octopuses and attracts predatory fish such as kingfish. The harbour also has significant shellfish beds.
There will be dredging
Based on the option shown on the video Northport’s, CEO Moore estimates it would “need to remove 1.14 million cubic metres (not a large amount as far as dredging operations go) to create a consistent depth of 14.5 metres from the western end of the berth to the eastern end” of the berths pictured.
This is in contrast to what’s said the report of the Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy Working Group published in December 2019. This was not written by Northport. It claimed while Auckland needed dredging to fit larger ships: “No such dredging is required at Northport as Suezmax ships already visit.”
Staff at POAL have estimated the dredging required in Auckland versus dredging which might be required at Northport. The estimation includes the channel dredging at Northport which the oil refinery already has consent for. For POAL the ability to dredge the channel is dependent on resource consent hearings this month.
Local ocean ecologist Glenn Edney said the amount of dredging potentially needed to cope with Auckland’s ships as well as what is already expected in Northpoint was likely to be unprecedented in the harbour.
The process would involve dredges suctioning sediment which has settled to the seafloor and placing it onto barges. During the process some can spill out.
“A lot of the dredging is fairly toxic. While it’s in the mud it’s trapped there and it’s relatively harmless. It’s only when it’s suspended in the water or on the surface it becomes a problem and of course that’s what dredging does,” Edney said.
Another effect of dredging is a likely change of water flow in the harbour as areas are deepened. This could affect the water flow around the marine reserve as well as the shellfish beds.
He’s sceptical of the ability of modelling to accurately predict the outcome.
“The environmental impact models will be standard models that will look at water flow and everything. Unfortunately the complexity of a dynamic living system like Whangārei Harbour defy our ability to model really accurately. We’re throwing the dice on the health of those significant shellfish beds.”
As well as water flow changes from dredging, Edney worries about the potential of silt stirred up by ship propellers. Shellfish are known for being filter feeders which can clean water, but they don’t cope well with silt suspended in water.
He said the shellfish are already struggling and there’s a rāhui on collecting them.
There’s a flow-on effect from shellfish abundance which impacts other sea life.
The shellfish attract stingrays to the harbour and females come to the harbour to give birth.
“When the stingrays are born, beautiful, cute little 25 centimetre replicas of the adult, the first thing they do is they go straight down to the sea floor in those shallow harbours and they feed on the young shellfish.”
It’s a case of pipi starting a food chain. While shellfish are a tasty lunch for stingrays, the stingrays’ oil-filled livers are a tasty treat for orca.
Listed as ‘nationally critical’ by the Department of Conservation, New Zealand’s orca are at the last stop on the threat classification system before extinction. Only 150 to 200 remain.
Marine biologist Ingrid Visser is based in the area. She’s part of the Orca Research Trust and like Edney she sees the ecosystem effects as a stack of cards.
“It’s not just pick-a-species, they’re all interconnected.”
She also worries about the impact of dredging on the harbour as well as noise, pollution and the risk of boat strike.
“We know that the orca, for instance, use it [Whangārei Harbour] for socialising, for mating, for giving birth, for feeding, for sleeping. It’s critical habitat for them. People say ‘they can just go somewhere else’. Well, no. They can’t because there are very few harbours left they can go into.”
Ship strike – marine hit and runs
Another concern is the increased likelihood of ‘ship strikes’. Just like when bugs make an unfortunate connection with a travelling vehicle’s windscreen, sometimes whales and other sea creatures collide with ships. Most of the time, the far larger ships don’t even realise they’ve hit a whale.
University of Auckland Associate Professor Rochelle Constantine explains that instead of hearing ships only when they’re close, the constant low frequency hum of ships can be heard underwater for many kilometres and the sound doesn’t get a lot louder as ships get close.
There’s a possibility this continual thrum becomes little more than background noise for sea mammals such as the Bryde’s whales she studied in the Hauraki Gulf and they tune the sound out as they go about their normal day of eating plankton.
“Our work showed that on average, just over two whales per year were being killed by ship strike. Those were just the whales that we found. So we knew there were probably more.”
Like orca, Bryde’s whale numbers are limited to the just below extinction point. Two ship strike deaths a year posed an enormous threat to the species, Constantine said.
She has worked on a voluntary protocol with the Hauraki Forum, the shipping industry including Ports of Auckland and the Environmental Defense Society.
By reducing speed to 10 knots in the Hauraki Gulf in areas whales were known to be in, the deaths stopped. Collisions probably still occur, said Constantine, but at 10 knots, they’re not as likely to be lethal.
Since the voluntary measures were adopted by the shipping industry the last recorded death was in 2014.
“In my ideal situation of looking at the environmental impact, the voice of the harbour would be at the table. That voice would be saying, ‘there’s too much uncertainty’.”
Constantine hopes any proposal to divert ships to Northport includes work to understand the sea life in the area.
“Before any of this occurs we would need to undertake a really good census of the habitat use in those waters coming into the Northport region to understand the main routes that ships will take into that port and then have a look and assess the risk profile.”
She said she had been involved in aerial surveys in the past up to Whangārei Heads and knows Bryder’s, blue, fin, sei, humpback, pilot and minke whales can be found in the area, as well as several dolphin species.
“It would be such a shame to undo all the hard work that’s been done over the last seven years. There are 15 whales alive today because the ships slowed down.”
Constantine also wonders about the impact of construction efforts on the harbour, saying the importance of the seabed is under-appreciated.
She said there was a difference between a localised, brief, disruption to one which is ongoing, never-ending or regular.
“Is more dredging required? Are they going to be making larger wharves that change the water flow? All these kinds of dynamics that make noise in the water, they result in shifts in sedimentation, destroying the seabed to make the port deeper.”
Vissner acknowledges work by Northport.
“Credit where credit’s due. Northport has been doing due diligence looking at what they can do to mitigate the issues. There’s a difference between mitigation and complete abstinence. We don’t have complete abstinence in the harbour at the moment, but that doesn’t mean we should be expanding it either.”
Edney wonders what the conversation would be like if the harbour enjoyed the same legal personhood as the Whanganui river and, through spokespeople, the opinion of the harbour was required to be taken into account.
“In my ideal situation of looking at the environmental impact, the voice of the harbour would be at the table. That voice would be saying, ‘there’s too much uncertainty’.”
The global shipping industry is warning of a potential risk to international trade given that nearly 400,000 shipping crew are stranded at sea or at home due to travel restrictions, reports the Financial Times.
“Maritime transport is the engine of globalisation. Around 80 per cent of world trade by volume is carried on vessels that range from container ships to fuel tankers and dry bulk carriers, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development,” notes the report.
“However, the smooth operation of the freight trade is being hindered by travel restrictions. These bar crew from disembarking to return to their home country, or from travelling to a port where their ship is waiting for a crew change. Many seafarers are also struggling to obtain entry or exit visas, while the suspension of commercial flights increases the difficulties in moving crew around. Those affected make up more than a fifth of the 1.8m seafarers who crew the world’s 96,000 commercial vessels,” it adds.