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23rd February 2018

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KiwiRail shakes off impact of Kaikoura earthquake to post improved earnings

Kiwirail posted half-year revenue of $292.7m, down 1.9 per cent down on the previous year.
Kiwirail posted half-year revenue of $292.7m, down 1.9 per cent down on the previous year.

Disruption to South Island rail services caused by the November 2016 Kaikoura earthquake masked a continuation in improved operating earnings from state-owned railway operator KiwiRail in the six months to December 31.

The company reported an operating surplus of $15 million for the period, which would have come in at $40m once the one-off costs associated with the closure of the main trunk line between Picton and Christchurch were stripped out.

While quake impacts would still be felt in the second half of the current financial year, KiwiRail was still on track to deliver operating earnings of between $30m and $50m, said chief executive Peter Reidy.

In the previous comparable period, which included the first few weeks of the outage caused by the massive Kaikoura quake, KiwiRail reported operating earnings of $11m, or $23m underlying once quake impacts were backed out.

As always, the national rail carrier did not report a statutory profit on its activities, reporting a $193m loss for the half-year.

That reflects the fact that revenue earned “above rail” is always far lower than would be required to fully maintain the capital-intensive network.

However, the importance of maintaining a rail network for wider economic and national interest reasons means both the previous and present government accept KiwiRail will always make accounting losses.

The result for the half-year was achieved on revenue of $292.7m, 1.9 per cent down from the $298.3m recorded in the last six months of 2016, and reflecting the fact that the Kaikoura link was only restored in September 2017.

Operating expenses, at $277.4m, were 3.5 per cent lower than in the previous comparable period.

Ports revenue from KiwiRail’s trucking and rail services was up 16 per cent on the half-year, which chairman Trevor Janes said was a “strong result” when placed against overall container volume growth of 7 per cent nationally in the same period.

Forestry revenues rose 8 per cent as the so-called ‘wall of wood’ from maturing plantation forests starts to come on-stream.

Dairy industry and coal volumes rose, contributing to a 6 per cent increase in bulk freight revenue.

Poor weather and “significant and unexpected” repair costs on the company’s ageing South Island locomotive fleet contributed to a “messy” six months, Janes said.

KiwiRail was “working closely with the government on the urgent need for longer-term funding for the organisation, which is critical for efficient procurement, planning and safety”.

The Interislander ferries showed a 12 per cent increase in commercial vehicle ‘lane metres’ as more freight had to travel by road while the rail outage persisted, while passenger revenue rose 7 per cent and yields on vehicle crossings improved.

Reidy said KiwiRail was targeting operating savings of $7m this year, building on $45m of productivity improvements in the last two years.

Announcements relating to the revival of some mothballed regional rail services are expected when the government unveils detail of its $1 billion a year regional economic development fund, in Gisborne, on Friday.

Lyttelton Port hears RMTU planning industrial action

Lyttelton Port of Christchurch (LPC) has heard that the Rail and Maritime Transport Union of New Zealand (RMTU) are planning industrial action.

LPC Chief Executive Peter Davie says the Company has made LPC RMTU members a very generous offer while asking them to accept small changes most of which have already been embraced by their MUNZ colleagues at the Port.

“We are offering annual salary increases of at least 3%. That is almost double the current rate of inflation (1.6%). They are asking for salary increases up to 15.45% for some of their members. These jobs in the Port are all well paid.

“We are a fair and reasonable employer but such salary demands by RMTU are unreasonable. These demands come on top of the substantial salary increases we have given their members over the last three years. The 187 employees who make up 40% of the LPC Container Terminal staff covered by these negotiations received total wage increases of 7.5% during that time.

“We concluded negotiations in 2017 with the other major Union at our Port, theMaritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ), which 60% of our Container Terminal staff belong to. We agreed with MUNZ more efficient roster alignment in the Container Terminal to support our operations and growing customer needs. We are keen to see these arrangements also adopted by the RMTU so we can continue to improve customer services and remain competitive with other New Zealand ports.

“With our ongoing volume growth there is the need for better mechanical maintenance coverage. We have agreed with the RMTU a roster for these staff which we both find acceptable but we reject their unrealistic wage demand.

“We were very disappointed to hear of the planned industrial action, as negotiations until now have progressed constructively. We would expect that the next step will be mediation and we remain hopeful that we can continue to make progress and reach agreement.”

Thousands of jobs at risk after ships with stink bugs onboard turned away from NZ ports

Tens of thousands of jobs in the car retailing industry are at risk as three ships float aimlessly in the Pacific.

The car carriers have been turned away from New Zealand ports after hundreds of marmorated stink bugs were found on board.

The pest has the potential to destroy the country’s fruit and vegetable industry.

No facility in New Zealand can effectively treat the infested ships.

Vehicle Importers Association chief executive David Vinsen says the car industry understands the danger to agriculture and MPI has done the right thing, but he says it’s causing a huge problem for his industry, which at this time of the year imports about 12,000 vehicles a month.

Vinsen says a disruption like this, even of one to two weeks, has enormous consequences and he’s worried about the jobs of tens of thousands of people who process and sell those vehicles.

Three ships, carrying cars from Japan, have all been turned around at New Zealand ports in the past week.

Vinsen says one has headed to Brisbane but has been told it can’t berth in Australia either.

He says the car industry and shipping companies need to know quickly what happens now.

The brown marmorated stink bug

• The pest is a voracious eater of horticulture produce including apples, grapes and tomatoes

• A wide range of crops would be unmarketable if damaged by the bug. In the US some growers have reported crop losses of up to 95 per cent

• It is resistant to many insecticides, making it difficult and expensive to control

• When it gets cold, the stink bug bunches up in dark spaces in homes making it a major public nuisance

Is it time for a Cook Strait bridge or tunnel?

The Cook Strait is a violent body of water. It’s an exception. Unlike other straits around the world, it has opposite tidal flows at either end. When it’s high-tide on the Tasman side, it’s roughly low-tide on the Pacific side and vice versa

Before the end of the last Ice Age, you might have been able to walk between the two islands – if there had been anyone around to do it. But for the last 20,000 years this strait has divided New Zealand in a way most countries have never known.

What if the country could become physically connected again? Is a Cook Strait bridge or tunnel pure fantasy?

What if the country could become physically connected again? Is a Cook Strait bridge or tunnel pure fantasy? Julian Lee ...

ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF
There would be far more to gain than just the novelty of being able to take a 27 hour 2,000 kilometre drive from Cape Reinga to Bluff: an immense increase in traffic between the two islands, the untold billions saved in shipping and flying costs, the Marlborough and Wellington areas thriving and booming from increased commerce, the tourist dollars, the sheer convenience of replacing a three-hour ferry ride (and its associated on- and off-loading times) with a short drive.

It’s an idea that’s so outrageous even some of our more seasoned politicians have never heard it being raised before.

But Stuff pitched the idea to Transport Minister Phil Twyford.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford suggested a tunnel would be ruled out by the Alpine Fault and a bridge by the strait's ...

BRADEN FASTIER/STUFF
Transport Minister Phil Twyford suggested a tunnel would be ruled out by the Alpine Fault and a bridge by the strait’s rough waters.
 “This is the first time I’ve heard the idea. I know there is a successful tunnel between the United Kingdom and France, but I would have thought our faultline would rule out a tunnel. It is also a very rough stretch of water, and I’m no engineer, but I suspect that would rule out a bridge,” he said.

Judith Collins, who has National’s transport portfolio, was impressed by the idea, but pointed out an obvious flaw.

“Wow, this is a hugely ambitious and audacious idea. Where would be the fun of a Cook Strait pie in the middle of a howling gale though?” she said.

The idea of having a bridge or a tunnel between Wellington, pictured, and the South Island was raised seriously just ...

ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF
The idea of having a bridge or a tunnel between Wellington, pictured, and the South Island was raised seriously just once by Premier Richard Seddon in 1904.

It seems to have been seriously raised only once by a New Zealand politician. A long time ago.

Hawke’s Bay Herald article from 1904 said that Premier Richard “King Dick” Seddon had been travelling all over the country bragging about how much money the Government had for grandiose projects, including a tunnel through the Cook Strait .

The unnamed reporter at the time felt it was inappropriate given the large loans New Zealand had taken from London. With a tongue-in-cheek, the reporter said that if Seddon told the public about the reality of the Government’s financial position, they might agree to his tunnel plan some time in the future.

One of the possible routes for a Cook Strait bridge or tunnel: Cape Terawhiti to the peninsula east of Picton, the ...

JULIAN LEE/GOOGLE MAPS
One of the possible routes for a Cook Strait bridge or tunnel: Cape Terawhiti to the peninsula east of Picton, the shortest route between the mainland and the North Island, 27km.
 These days something like 1.1 million people and 350,000 vehicles cross the strait every year with the two ferry companies, Interislander and Bluebridge. Should there be a drive option, many more would be guaranteed to use it – those who would normally fly or not take the trip at all.

With a bridge or tunnel, the prohibitively expensive and time-consuming trip from somewhere like Palmerston North to somewhere like Nelson becomes a drive that could be done in less than five hours.

Ask someone in the know and they will quickly explain that it is a pipe dream.

University of Canterbury structural engineering and materials professor Alessandro Palermo suggests that a "submerged ...

DUNCAN SHAW-BROWN
University of Canterbury structural engineering and materials professor Alessandro Palermo suggests that a “submerged floating tunnel” could be a better option for the strait.
 “I think given the geometry and the morphologies of the strait, a conventional bridge is not possible. The water is extremely deep and the cost will be prohibitive. Tunnelling will also be very expensive.”

That’s from University of Canterbury structural engineering and materials professor Alessandro Palermo – one of New Zealand’s top bridge specialists.

Palermo does have a proposal, but before that, what are we dealing with here? And most importantly, how much would these projects cost?

The Bluebridge and Interislander ferries, seen here in Picton, both take about three hours to cross the often violent ...

STUFF
The Bluebridge and Interislander ferries, seen here in Picton, both take about three hours to cross the often violent stretch of water.
 It is tempting to look at the strait’s narrowest point of just 22km for a potential crossing from Cape Terawhiti to Arapaoa Island in the Marlborough Sounds. That, however, means building a state-highway tier road through the extremely hilly country behind Karori all the way to the coast, another such road across undeveloped Arapaoa Island in the sounds, a bridge across the Tory Channel and another road to get back to State Highway 1.

A 27km bridge or tunnel from the cape directly to the mainland and bypassing Arapaoa, landing on the peninsula east of Picton, would still involve significant roadworks.

If, on the other hand, you wanted to build a link between the two closest developed points (Wellington city and either Picton or Blenheim), the distance is 64km to Picton and 65km to the shoreline just east of Blenheim.

The 2.4km Waterview Tunnel in Auckland, pictured, cost $1.4b, which equates to about $583m per kilometre. For a 27km ...

CALLUM MCGILLIVRAY/STUFF
The 2.4km Waterview Tunnel in Auckland, pictured, cost $1.4b, which equates to about $583m per kilometre. For a 27km tunnel, that’s $15.7b. For a 65km tunnel, that’s $37.9b.
 BRIDGE OR TUNNEL?

Bridges are much cheaper than tunnels. The catch? A bridge would have to withstand a highly turbulent Cook Strait, probable earthquakes and be high enough for ships to get through (or at least able to open up).

A 65km-odd bridge would be New Zealand’s biggest bridge by far. The current longest bridge is Canterbury’s Rakaia Bridge at just 1.8km.

One of the possible routes for a Cook Strait bridge or tunnel: Cape Terawhiti to Arapaoa Island, the shortest point ...

JULIAN LEE/GOOGLE MAPS
One of the possible routes for a Cook Strait bridge or tunnel: Cape Terawhiti to Arapaoa Island, the shortest point between the two islands, 22km.
 It’s so long, in fact, that if it existed it would be the sixth-longest bridge in the world.

But the cost of a bridge is not impossible for New Zealand.

The 38km Lake Pontchartrain Bridge in Louisiana, United States is the longest in the Western world. It cost roughly NZ$561m in today’s dollars. For a 60km-odd long bridge, that would be more than $1 billion.

Looking towards Wellington city - the starting point for a tunnel or bridge?

ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF
Looking towards Wellington city – the starting point for a tunnel or bridge?
 The 55km Bang Na Expressway in Thailand, which would be closest in size to a Cook Strait Bridge, cost about NZ$1.9b in today’s dollars when it was completed in 2000. Both are a steal compared to the estimated $3.4b cost of Auckland’s City Rail Link.

Tunnels, on the other hand, are much more expensive.

The 2.4km Waterview Tunnel in Auckland cost $1.4b, which equates to about $583m per kilometre. For a 27km tunnel, that’s $15.7b. For a 65km tunnel, that’s $37.9b.

One of the possible routes for a Cook Strait bridge or tunnel: Wellington to Picton, the shortest route between two ...

JULIAN LEE/GOOGLE MAPS
One of the possible routes for a Cook Strait bridge or tunnel: Wellington to Picton, the shortest route between two developed centres, 64km.
 Stuff pitched the strait drive options to the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA). A spokesman pointed out that using the Waterview’s costing was probably not worth while.

“Waterview Tunnel went through rigorous business case and cost/benefit analysis. It’s hard to imagine a serious case for a Cook Strait tunnel that would be more than 10 times longer and three times deeper than Waterview and considerably more expensive.

Nonetheless the NZTA was open-minded.

“To the best of our knowledge there’s never been a serious feasibility study of a Cook Strait tunnel, nor has there been a need for it,” the spokesman said.

“The costs to build and operate such a tunnel would be huge, but anything is possible with unlimited time, money and expertise.”

There does not appear to be a simple way to work out how much tunnels cost.

The Channel Tunnel, or “Chunnel” connecting Britain and Europe has the longest undersea portion of any tunnel in the world – its total length is 50.45km, just shy of what would be required under the Cook Strait. The Chunnel’s lowest point is 75 metres below sea level – the strait averages almost twice that depth at 128m.

The Chunnel cost £9b at the time of completion in 1994 – something like $30b in today’s New Zealand dollars.

Japan’s Seikan Tunnel is 54km connecting the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido across the Tsugaru Strait, which is much deeper than Cook with a maximum depth of 200m. Japan, like New Zealand, is a shaky country. It cost around NZ$10b in today’s money.

Stuff pitched the idea of crossing the strait to Treasury. A Treasury spokesman said: “In a hypothetical situation such as what you suggest, the Treasury would provide analysis and free and frank advice to the responsible ministers.

“We would factor in a number of aspects, such as cost-benefit analysis, alternative options and solutions for whatever issue the project is intended to address, impact on the Crown accounts, the government’s capital spending allowances, project funding alternatives (eg government-funded, privately funded, a public-private partnership etc), broader considerations such as environmental and social impacts, and other matters.”:

The spokesman also said how much money was in the kitty for transport infrastructure projects: There is $3.4b available this year and another $3.4b next year, but in 2020 there will be only $3.1b and the following year just $2.7b.

In other words, even if the government were to spend 50 per cent of the country’s capital allowances for transport over the next four years, a tunnel starting from Wellington might not even get to the water.

ANOTHER SOLUTION

Having to choose between a bridge that could fall over in the next earthquake and a tunnel that could impoverish the entire country would be enough to make most Kiwis spit their tea out. But perhaps there is a third way.

Palermo, the engineering professor who wrote off the idea of a traditional tunnel or bridge, has another, more modern idea. A “submerged floating tunnel” – a tunnel that floats on or near the surface of the sea and is anchored to the ground.

One has never been built, but the idea is being developed and explored in places like Japan and the USA.

Palermo said sea currents, earthquakes and tsunamis are the main challenges, but: “I think the concept could be feasible. Construction will not be easy, but not far different than building an off-shore petrol platform. The bridge could be manufactured with innovative ultra-high performance concrete and segments of the tunnel prefabricated in a specialised precast yard.

“The great challenge will be the anchors, but it will not be more challenging than an off-shore platform.

“Given the flexibility of the tunnel, its response to earthquakes may not be so problematic and the anchors could be designed to accommodate big ground displacement generated by fault rupture.”

Palermo said the ultra-high performance concrete will reduce the amount of concrete required and guarantee long-lasting durability – perhaps more than a century.

“I also like the possibility to create within the tunnel an outlook with structural glass windows and turning it into an iconic tourist attraction.

“Moreover, it could have a negative carbon footprint (this means that it doesn’t have embedded energy costs) if the impact of currents could be turned into energy to be used for the tunnel or possibly sold out to Wellington and Marlborough.

“It will not have a strong environmental impact and I think it could be seen in the future, especially if there will be a take over with electric cars.”

Palermo said the concept is still being developed and costs are unknown.

The closest New Zealand has ever come to physically uniting the country seems to be a bit of political banter loosely attributed a politician more than a century ago. Seasoned politicians from our own time have not even heard the idea raised once in the halls of Parliament – not even in the back halls.

If New Zealand were to really bridge a 20,000-year-old gap over one of the more problematic stretches of water the world has to offer, it may be time, rather than money, that might be the best bet.

 – Stuff

Ship and cargo causing a helluva stink for farmers

Federated Farmers is calling on the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to hold firm on a shipment which has been previously turned away from the Ports of Auckland.

The vessel, carrying motor vehicles from Japan, was deemed a biosecurity risk after the discovery of over 100 brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSB).

As no port in New Zealand has the capacity to fumigate the ship, it has been subsequently re-routed to Australia.

“That ship and its cargo should not be allowed anywhere near our shoreline until we have assurances that it is comprehensively fumigated with all the marmorated stink bugs destroyed,” says Guy Wigley, Federated Farmers’ Biosecurity Spokesperson.

“The threat to our primary industries is significant and the implications are huge. It could damage our economy to the tune of hundreds of millions.

“This scenario is effectively akin to the Foot and Mouth disease of the crop world- it makes arable and horticulture farmers very nervous and we have to trust in our biosecurity measures.”

Federated Farmers intends following the situation closely and is anticipating that MPI will make the right decision, on whether the shipment should be permitted to dock in the future.

“The Federation considers biosecurity a top priority and we always advocate for strict enforcement,” says Guy.

U.S. Ports Take Baby Steps in Automation as Rest of the World Sprints

At the Port of Los Angeles’s TraPac terminal, a series of massive cranes effortlessly hoist a steady stream of brightly-colored container boxes—some weighing up to five tons—from the decks of newly-arrived container ships, depositing them dockside. From here, the robots take over.

Automated cargo-haulers towering four-stories high glide among the waiting boxes, straddling and lifting them before wheeling them to the nearby “stacks.” Here the boxes are passed off to another massive robot—an automated stacking crane—that arranges them into meticulous stacks. When it comes time for a specific box to continue its journey inland, those same robotic cranes will find it and load it onto a waiting truck—no human operator necessary.

TraPac terminal—along with a terminal at the nearby Port of Long Beach—is among the first U.S. ports experimenting with robots, artificial intelligence, and other digital tools to choreograph the complicated dance that keeps goods flowing into and out of major U.S. ports. The technology—though not without its critics—is widely seen as the most efficient way for seaports to cope with rising global shipping traffic and massive new ships that haul more and more containers. By digitizing and automating activities once handled by human crane operators and cargo haulers, seaports can reduce the amount of time ships sit in port and otherwise boost port productivity by up to 30% by some estimates.

The automated facilities at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach—two of the nation’s busiest—are important proving grounds for technologies that have firmly taken root in European and Asian seaports but remains a relative rarity in the U.S. Only four U.S. seaport terminals currently use the technology. The other two, in Virginia and New Jersey, were the first in the U.S. to implement dockside automation. But while some of the world’s largest container ships make calls at East Coast docks, they rarely unload all of their cargo at a single port as they do on the West Coast.

That means West Coast shipping terminals are likely to automate faster than their East Coast counterparts, placing the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach at the front of a wave of automation needed to bring U.S. shipping logistics up to speed.

Doing so is not as easy as taking one facility’s automated systems and grafting them onto the next terminal, Port of Los Angeles executive director Gene Seroka says. “You’ve got probably 190 or 200 ports in the United States, you’ve got 25 ports of national significance as classified by the Army Corp of Engineers. Each one is different. Once you’ve seen one port, you’ve still only seen one port.”

Still, there are common components at every seaport where automation can make the work more efficient. Every seaport needs cranes to load and unload cargo, for instance, as well as a means of moving containers around the storage yard in an organized fashion so that specific boxes can be located at the specific time they are needed. These kinds of coordinating, organizing, and choreographing tasks are more efficiently handled by machines than by humans. It doesn’t hurt that robots and algorithms don’t require breaks, weekends, or health insurance.

For terminal operators, automation isn’t just about handling more cargo. Automated systems also allow seaports to boost the efficiency of one of their most limiting, finite resources: space. With only so much waterfront property to go around and the volume of cargo rising, seaports face a dwindling amount of real estate in which containers can be stacked and stored, even if only for a few hours.

“The real opportunity is densification,” says Dr. Asaf Ashar, an emeritus research professor at the University of New Orleans’ National Ports & Waterways Institute and an independent consultant for the shipping and transportation industries. “You can use existing land more efficiently.”

But automating seaports is also wildly expensive. The process doesn’t consist of any single thing, but a continuum of digital technologies, software systems, and robotic hardware. Deploying automation to any given port terminal can cost more than $2 million per acre, Seroka says. Upgrades to the Port of Long Beach’s automated terminal will cost in excess of $1.3 billion by the time the technology is all in place in over two years.

Automating the 210-acre TraPac terminal at the Port of Los Angeles will likewise cost more than $1 billion in public and private funds, and it’s not exactly clear when or if that investment will pay off. APM Terminals, a part of Dutch shipping giant A.P. Moeller-Maersk, told the Wall Street Journal that its automated terminal in Rotterdam—where terminals have embraced various levels of automation going back to the 1990s—has paid dividends, requiring just half the human labor that its conventional terminal at the same port requires. But when the same company opened the first semi-automated port in North America in Virginia in 2007, similar returns didn’t immediately materialize (APM Terminals has since sold the facility).

The high costs and shaky record of returns—not to mention pushback from labor unions intent on preserving seaport jobs—have left stakeholders in other U.S. ports leery of going all-in on dockside automation, allowing ports in Europe and Asia to become models of modern logistics. That in turn makes the experiments at Long Beach and Los Angeles all the more critical. The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are the No. 1 and No. 2 for container volume in the United States, respectively. In 2015, a total of 8.16 million TEU—the equivalent of 20-foot containers—moved into Los Angeles, while another 7.19 million TEU came through Long Beach, according to the World Shipping Council.

“Automation is a business decision and it really has to pencil out before any further work is pursued,” LA’s Seroka says. Making the math “pencil out” should grow easier as other digital technologies—artificial intelligence and big data analytics among them—are further integrated into the seaport enterprise as well. A pilot program currently underway at the Port of Los Angeles with GE—known as the Port Information Portal—digitizes maritime data and will ultimately create a computer dashboard that provides a window into the entire port supply chain. The test was recently extended to run for three years—a testament to the support the technology has garnered at the port, including from organized labor.

“With respect to digital technology, for cents on the dollar we can expand this port capacity,” Seroka says. “We can do it quicker than waiting for the current administration to work out an infrastructure plan, utilizing the land that is within inside our four fences, almost immediately.”

Norway is currently the world’s demonstration project for green transport solutions

January 24, 2018,  in TOI 

 

There is a technical revolution taking place today. Transport has broadly been run on liquid hydrocarbons the last 130 years. This is about to change. In the small country of Norway, every third new car sold is an electric vehicle and the world’s first electric ferry is crossing a Norwegian fjord 34 times every day. We are thus presently in the forefront of this change.

With just over 5 million inhabitants, in the big scheme of things we do not make much of a difference. But on the other hand, the biggest wave always starts with the smallest ripple. In Norway, the wave is gaining strength. Right now, India could look to Norway to see how green transportation solutions work in practice.

India is a big country. In every sense of the word. The Indian population is set to surpass China and become the largest in the world in the years to come. With a population of such a magnitude, many of India’s choices going forward will have global implications, also for Norway. It will come down to big countries like India, if this mounting wave will bring about the transformation in transportation that will save our planet and create business opportunities for all.

Illustration: Ajit Ninan

Norway is currently the world’s demonstration project for green transport solutions. We have the highest EV penetration rate in the world. Nearly 40% of new cars sold are EVs. Infrastructure, technologies and solutions are being developed, tested and assessed in Norway. Valuable lessons have been learnt from looking at customer behaviour. For example, the fear of running out of battery power, or range anxiety, has been highlighted as a barrier to EV uptake.

While many drivers experience range anxiety at first, this fear quickly subsides. In fact, only 4% of Norwegian EV drivers report having run out of battery power. Businesses and governments from all over the world are looking to Norway to gain insights into how the beginnings of a mass market for EVs functions in practice.

But how did Norway achieve this? It is the result of targeted and stable transport policies. Firstly, we have a clear goal of selling only zero-emission vehicles and buses by 2025. Secondly, we give tax exemptions to EVs and shift the tax burden to combustion engine cars instead. And thirdly, we invest in EV infrastructure, having built 8,755 charging stations – 1 per 21 electric or hybrid cars.

While the development of EVs are gaining attention, there is still little talk about transport on seas and rivers. Norway is a maritime nation with longstanding traditions of shipbuilding and offshore activities. We have been a global leader in pushing for higher environmental standards in shipping.

The Norwegian ship building industry and shipping industry is now taking steps to develop a new fleet of environmentally friendly ships. The new ships will use the same technology as an electric car but with a battery the size of a storage container, or a combination of battery power and liquid natural gas (LNG), or some other cleaner-burning fuel such as hydrogen.

Right now, we have the world’s first battery driven ferry operating a passenger ferry route crossing the Sognefjord in Norway. The power consumed by the MS Ampere for a single crossing of 6 km costs about Rs 400 – the equivalent of a cup of coffee at Starbucks, and yet it’s enough to transport 360 passengers and 120 cars.

For longer distances, ships fuelled by LNG are an important alternative. Norway has the world’s largest fleet of LNG ships. The environmental benefits are massive compared to diesel-fuelled ships – 30% lower CO2 emissions, 85% lower NOx emissions and absolutely no particulate emissions to pollute the air.

The number of vehicles on Indian roads is projected to grow from over 160 million to over 550 million in 2030. This begs the question: Will these cars run on diesel, or will they be electric? In order to service 390 million additional cars on the roads, new infrastructure must be developed. Will there be new gas stations built, or charging stations? For India and for the rest of the world, there is a big difference between these two choices.

There are certainly positive signs that India intends to go green going forward. An ambitious target has been set: 100% of new vehicles sold will be electric by 2030. We believe India should set a similar ambitious target for their shipping fleet.

In this country, you also have vast stretches of rivers and canals. The government’s focus on moving freight on ships on these inland waterways, rather than by trucks on the highways, could reap huge environmental benefits, both in terms of reducing local air pollution and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Greening the Indian transport sector will boost India’s energy security by becoming less reliant on imported oil. Currently, India spends over $235 million a day on oil imports. Increasing the share of electrical vehicles, especially in the big cities, will also help reduce the lethal smog encapsulating many Indian cities every year. According to the renowned medical journal Lancet, over 2.5 million Indians die every year because of the toxic air.

While the wave of greener transport solutions is gaining momentum in Norway, we need the weight of big countries, like India, to make it a tidal wave. Norway is eager to support India in this endeavour.

Tanker and ship collision near Shanghai leaves 32 missing

  • 7 January 2018

Thirty-two people are missing after an oil tanker collided with a cargo ship off China’s east coast, near Shanghai.

The Sanchi tanker, carrying 136,000 tonnes of Iranian oil worth $60m (£44m), caught fire after the crash and has been burning for nearly 24 hours.

China’s ministry of transport said the crew – 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis – were missing, with rescue efforts hampered by the fierce blaze.

“Sanchi is floating and burning,” the ministry said in a statement.

“There is an oil slick and we are pushing forward with rescue efforts.”

The 21-strong crew of the cargo ship were rescued, the ministry said.

Poor weather and plumes of smoke rising from the tanker are making rescue attempts difficult, Mohammad Rastad, the head of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organisation, told Iranian television.

It is the first major accident involving an Iranian oil tanker since international sanctions limiting the country’s oil exports were lifted in January 2016.

Korean coast guard handout shows the fire on the Sanchi off China's east coatImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThe tanker was on its way to South Korea

“This is a big spill,” oceanographer Dr Simon Boxall told the BBC.

“Potentially the entire load, 136,000 tonnes, could end up in the ocean, and that would put this in the top 10 spills of all time, so it is significant,” he said.

“The only positive side is that, at the moment, the winds are keeping the oil offshore. The chances of it reaching the shore are fairly slim. But we are looking at a lot of oil here and the water depth in that area is only about 50m to 60m, so in the immediate area it will have a dramatic impact.”

The collision happened on Saturday night, about 160 nautical miles (296 km) off the coast of Shanghai.

Eight Chinese ships have been sent to carry out the search-and-rescue operation, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported.

South Korea has also sent a coastguard ship and a helicopter to aid the relief effort.

The tanker had been sailing to Daesan in South Korea from Kharg Island in Iran, according to Reuters ship tracking data. It was carrying a cargo equivalent to slightly under a million barrels.

The Hong Kong-registered cargo ship, CF Crystal, was carrying 64,000 tonnes of grain from the US to Guangdong province in southern China. Its rescued crew were all Chinese nationals, the country’s transport ministry said.

The top 5 transport stories in 2017

This year saw multiple transport milestones: from the world’s first electronic freight trucks, to fully solar-powered trains, to landmark decisions to ban the sale of purely diesel and petrol-powered cars across the world.

Could this year mark the point when the transport sector truly charts a course for sustainability? Here are the top five transport stories in 2017.

1. End of the road for petrol and diesel cars

In a move that was heralded as a tipping point for the global automotive industry, China in September said it is working on a plan to end the manufacture and sale of fossil-fuel powered cars. The country, which is the world’s largest car market, did not announce a fixed timeline for this goal.

Other countries which made similar commitments this year include the United Kingdom and France, which plan to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040, and India, which announced a goal to sell only electric cars by 2030. This was a plan that some saw as ambitious, and others as unviable.

Sweden-based, Chinese-owned industry giant Volvo also announced that it will make only electric and hybrid cars from 2019 onwards, becoming the world’s first major car maker to abandon pure internal combustion engine cars.

2. Dockless debates

Traditional models of bicycle-sharing in cities where users can rent a bike from one location and return it at another station have been around for a while, but 2017 was arguably the year of dockless bicycle sharing.

Chinese companies such as Mobike, Ofo, oBike and ReddyGo expanded exponentially, in China and cities worldwide. Ofo for instance placed 100 bikes on the streets of Oxford, UK, and said it plans to have 20 million bikes on the road across 200 cities by the end of this year. Competitor firm Mobike also launched 1,000 bright orange bikes in Manchester. In Australia, China-backed ReddyGo in June brought “thousands” of bikes to Sydney, while oBike debuted in Melbourne.

Many acknowledge the schemes as an effective means of reducing air pollution and traffic congestion—especially in China’s notoriously smoggy cities—but the rapid proliferation of bike-sharing has created a situation where supply vastly exceeds demand, and users have abused the dockless model to indiscriminately dump bikes in public places.

3. Electric overhaul for freight

The company widely regarded as a leader in electric car innovation unveiled the Tesla Semi Truck in November, opening up the potential to electrify the global freight vehicle market.

Available in models with a range of 300 and 500 miles, the trucks will be available for purchase in 2019. Companies such as package delivery firm UPSUS retail giant Walmart, food firm Pepisco have collectively pre-ordered more than 200 models.

4. Here comes the solar train

Australia’s Byron Bay Railroad Company unveiled the world’s first fully electric, solar-powered train in December. The 100-seater train, which plies a three-kilometre round route in the northern New South Wales district, has a 6.5 kilowatt (kW) solar panel array on the train roof, and is fitted with a 77 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery storage system. This is enough storage for between 12 and 15 trips, according to reports.

Brian Flannery, the multimillionaire businessman who funded the solar train, noted that a train plying a longer route would need recharging stations along the way, and added that the technology might be well suited for use in inner city trams.

Meanwhile India, home to Asia’s largest rail network, in July unveiled its first solar powered train. These trains still use diesel to move, but all air conditioning, lighting, and information displays on board are solar powered. Indian Railways estimates that using solar on board the 11,000 trains it operates daily could save the company US$6.31 billion over the next 10 years.

5. Plastic roads

Though not a new technology, the concept of building roads using plastic waste gained mainstream popularity this year. Indonesia, which is among the top five plastic polluting countries in the world, tested out the practice of mixing shredded, melted plastic waste with tar to make more durable, cheaper, and stronger roads this year. The initial test along a 700-metre stretch of road was carried out at a university in Bali, and officials plan to expand the solution to major cities such as Jakarta and Surabaya soon.

Analysts also urged India, where at least 15,000 deaths were caused by potholes in 2016, to make more roads using plastic. Though the Indian government made it mandatory to incorporate waste in highways in 2015, some states have been slow to adopt the practice.

The plastic road movement also caught on the United Kingdom this year, when engineer Toby McCartney and his start-up MacRebur persuaded two English councils to use waste to build their roads in April.

World’s largest-ever vessel is set to sail in 2018

The world’s largest vessel, Shell’s recently delivered floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) vessel, was completed after five years of construction at Samsung Heavy Industries’ South Korea shipyard.

The vessel, measuring 1,600 feet in length and displacing as much water as five aircraft carriers, was then towed to Australia, specifically to Shell’s Prelude field, roughly 125 miles north of the Western Australian coast, CNBC reported.

In 2018, the Prelude will begin its job of extracting and processing natural gas at sea, Kallanish Energy learns. The gas will be pumped up from below the seabed to the floating platform, where it is then cooled.

Liquefied natural gas carriers, serving Asian customers, will then pull near the Prelude and fill their massive storage tanks with LNG chilled to -260 degrees Fahrenheit.

Despite its ship-like appearance, the Prelude is not in the strictest sense a ship as it carries no propulsion power and must be towed to its destinations, according to CNBC.

Its ability to produce and offload gas to large carriers eliminates a need for long pipelines to land-based LNG processing plants. The FLNG technology is also applauded for the ability to be used at various remote locations.

However, the increase in cheap gas primarily because of U.S. shale technology has left some industry watchers questioning the current value of an expensive offshore facility. In 2016, Shell itself decided not to pursue a further three FLNG projects with Samsung, CNBC reported.

Shell says it will produce at least 5.3 million tons per annum (MTPA) of liquids, including 3.6 MTPA of LNG, 1.3 MTPA of condensate and 0.4 MTPA of liquefied petroleum gas.

The ship has a deck longer than four soccer fields and storage tanks that would fill 175 Olympic-sized swimming pools, according to CNBC. Longer than the Empire State Building, Prelude also measures 211 feet — as wide as the wings on a Boeing 747.

Shell has never disclosed how much the vessel will cost, but industry analysts told Reuters its price would range between $10.8 billion and $12.6 billion.
Source: Kallanish Energy

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