Archive for 12/23/2011 –

Tourists on the Great Barrier Reef will be able to get a fish-eye view of the marine life with the introduction of new mini-submarines.

Great Barrier Reef Submarines has begun offering the experience at Fitzroy Island, a 45 minute ferry ride from Cairns in Queensland.

Two passengers and a pilot can fit in the 4m wide, 1.8m high mini-submarine, which was designed in Canada.

Passengers enter the cockpit through an opening in the back of the hull guided by a safety diver and met are inside by the pilot. Once inside they sit on window seats either side of the cockpit cabin.

“The cabin is cosy but it’s surprisingly roomy for three people,” Great Barrier Reef Submarines owner Richard Chapman said.

“You duck dive into it and sit up to your waist in water but your upper body is in fresh air. “You’re in a bubble of air.”

While the mini-submarine is capable of going as deep as 40m, you only have to go 6m to get to the bottom of the reef in the area it is used.

Passengers have to equalise when the submarine dives or ascends, similar to scuba diving. Tours will be conducted during the day and at night and cost $150 for 30 minutes.

A pocket of air is trapped inside the cockpit of the sub, like an upside-down cup traps air when pushed underwater.

The air is replenished from the scuba tank supply.

Full story…

Hydro International – 

At the Eye on Earth Summit in Abu Dhabi last week, the Geographic Information System (GIS) software company Esri committed to build a database for the Cook Islands Marine Park to aid in the spatial planning of the 1 million Sq. Km. park, which was officially declared earlier this year by Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna.

This new commitment is in response to Prime Minister Henry Puna’s challenge, which was issued to the international community at the summit, to provide support to developing countries who have expressed a commitment to protecting the oceans.

The Cook Islands Marine Park is a large addition to the Pacific Oceanscape, an innovative commitment by sixteen Pacific Island governments to integrated marine conservation and sustainable management across approximately 40 million sq km of ocean.

Prime Minister Puna and the Cook Islands delegation was joined at the summit by Teuea Toatu, executive director of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) in Kiribati, and a delegation from Conservation International (CI) which has committed technical and scientific assistance to implement the Pacific Oceanscape since its inception.

Full story…

gCaptain – 

Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSA) is sending ships and planes loaded with chemical dispersants in an effort to clean up as much as 40,000 barrels of crude oil spilled into the Gulf of Guinea, the head of the company’s Nigerian operations said Thursday.

Shell said production at the 200,000 barrel a day Bonga field offshore Nigeria has now been completely halted after a leak occurred Tuesday during a tanker loading operation, resulting in what may be the country’s worst oil spill in more than a decade.

“To accelerate the clean-up at sea, we are deploying vessels with dispersants to break up the oil sheen at sea.

We are mobilizing airplanes that will support the vessels in this operation,” said Shell Nigeria Chairman Sunmonu.

The company said that “up to 50% of the leaked oil has already dissipated due to natural dispersion and evaporation,” but this hasn’t been independently verified. Nigeria’s Department of Petroleum

Resources and the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency weren’t immediately available for comment when contacted by Dow Jones Nigeria.

Shell said it believes the leak occurred during a routine operation to transfer crude oil from Bonga’s floating production, storage and off-loading vessel to a waiting oil tanker.

An export line connecting the vessel to the tanker was closed off and the oil flow halted.

Full story…

Parisa Hafezi and Hashem Kalantari – 

Iran will on Saturday start naval exercises in a region crucial for global oil supplies, state TV said, raising concern about a possible closure of the world’s No. 1 shipping route for crude in the case of military conflict between Tehran and the West.

Iran aims to flaunt its military might during the 10-day drill, dubbed “Velayat-e 90,” at a time of heightened Iranian-Western tension over Tehran’s nuclear programme that potentially could boil over into wider hostilities in the Middle East.

“The Velayat-e 90 naval manoeuvres will start on Saturday and will be held in a 2,000-square km span of sea,” Iranian navy commander Habibollah Sayyari told state television. “Velayat” is Persian for “supremacy.”

“The drill will display Iran’s defensive and deterrent power as well as relaying a message of peace and friendship in the Strait of Hormuz, the Sea of Oman and the free waters of the Indian Ocean,” said Sayyari.

Echoing the stance of others in Iran’s factionalised leadership, Sayyari said Iranian armed forces had the ability to shut the strategic strait through which 40 percent of the global oil supply flows, if ever the need arose.

“Iran’s military and Revolutionary Guards can close the Strait of Hormuz. But such a decision should be made by top establishment leaders,” he said.

Full story…

Maritime Journal –

It’s more doom and gloom from the forecasters when it comes to the state of the shipping industry as we near the end of 2011 – but there may just be a glimmer of hope too.

Last week, an article in the Financial Times warned that the looming year end is providing a deadline for shipowners and auditors to decide whether a company is viable or not as they continue to navigate troubled waters.

Simon Bennett from the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), said to Maritime Journal: “The effects of the economic downturn have been severely exacerbated by the huge quantities of new ships that have recently been delivered, many ordered when shipping markets were at their peak before 2008.

In short, there are too few cargoes chasing too many ships. Freight rates have plummeted, and many shipping companies are now struggling to meet the interest payments on their capital costs and are operating their ships at a loss.”

The eurozone crisis is a continuing worry for the market. This, coupled with fears across the industry about the negative impact of overtonnage fuelled by huge ship orders from China, is exacerbating the struggle.

Shipping markets are notoriously volatile and ICS say that at some point in the future, hopefully sooner rather than later, the supply/demand balance will eventually be restored and freight rates will eventually return to sustainable levels. But this will be at the price of a major restructuring over the next few years.

Mr Bennett added: “We can expect takeovers of weaker companies leading to greater market concentration, a further shift in ownership towards cash-rich emerging nations, and probably far greater involvement from governments than hitherto, whether in the form of investment by sovereign wealth funds, or the provision by governments of loan guarantees.”

Full story…