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June 8, 2023

Container terminals at the Port of New York and New Jersey closed early due to thick smoke from Canadian wildfires. Air quality alerts were issued, and the region experienced reduced visibility. The closure aimed to ensure public safety, with authorities urging people to avoid outdoor activities.

Labor-related disruptions on the West Coast are causing delays for container ships, potentially leading to another cargo logjam. Shortages of workers, specifically “lashers” responsible for securing containers, have resulted in schedule setbacks. Negotiations between port employers and dockworkers have been ongoing for over a year, impacting ports from California to Washington.

Scientists have confirmed the arrival of El Niño, a weather phenomenon with far-reaching effects on shipping. El Niño, characterized by above-average sea surface temperatures, influences weather patterns globally. Potential implications include drought in the Panama Canal, increased cyclone activity in the Pacific, and suppressed hurricane activity in the Atlantic. NOAA will continue monitoring El Niño to provide accurate predictions of its impacts.

Despite a rise in consumer spending, US container imports are projected to be 22% lower in the first half of 2023 compared to the previous year. Disruptions at West Coast ports, resulting from labor disputes, have raised concerns among retailers. The decline in container import demand contrasts with continuous growth in consumer demand, leading to questions about the discrepancy. The National Retail Federation calls on the Biden administration to intervene and facilitate a resolution.

French carrier CMA CGM has secured a deal to acquire stakes in two COSCO-operated terminals in Spain. The undisclosed agreement allows CMA CGM to obtain 49% of Cosco Shipping Ports (CSP) Valencia and 38% of CSP Bilbao from TPIH Iberia. CSP Bilbao serves as a link between Spain and major ports in northern Europe and has a capacity of 950,000 teu, while CSP Valencia, one of Spain’s largest container terminals, handles approximately 3.5 million teu and serves as the primary gateway to Madrid. This strategic move enables CMA CGM, under the leadership of Rodolphe Saadé, to expand its presence to more than 50 port terminals and projects, offering comprehensive shipping and logistics solutions in Spain, including inland transport solutions facilitated by existing assets in Algeciras and Seville.

Battery manufacturer Corvus Energy has made a significant impact at this year’s Nor-Shipping trade fair near Oslo with the introduction of its groundbreaking fuel cell system. Developed as part of the H2NOR research project initiated by Corvus Energy and Toyota, among other partners, the Corvus Pelican Fuel Cell system has the potential to revolutionize the maritime industry.

Leveraging Toyota’s proven fuel cell technology, which has been successfully used in over 20,000 cars, the Pelican system is adaptable for installation on any vessel, offering enhanced safety measures suitable for marine applications. This modular and flexible system is designed to ensure gas safety in all conditions, providing an efficient and secure energy solution for shorter and medium-distance routes. Geir Bjørkeli, CEO of Corvus Energy, believes that hydrogen is the optimal choice for achieving zero-emission sailing and emphasizes the system’s safety, flexibility, and modular design as transformative elements in marine power. Furthermore, Corvus Energy is developing CoPilot, an application that optimally distributes power between fuel cell systems and batteries, supporting system integrators in maximizing efficiency. The company’s collaborative efforts with Norwegian partners, including Equinor, Norled, Wilhelmsen, LMG Marin, the NCE Maritime CleanTech cluster, and the University of South-Eastern Norway, have received substantial funding from state agency Innovation Norway and the Research Council of Norway.

Labor-related disruptions on the West Coast of the United States are leading to significant delays for most container ships, exacerbating concerns about potential cargo congestion. Richard Palmer from the Marine Exchange of Southern California reports that nearly all container vessels are experiencing schedule setbacks of approximately one to two days. The main reason behind these delays is a shortage of “lashers,” the longshoremen responsible for securing containers on ships. While some agencies attribute the delays to a lack of workers, others have refrained from commenting or providing specific reasons.

The extended labor strife on the West Coast, the most protracted since 2015, has already led to intermittent disruptions and terminal closures at ports such as Los Angeles and Long Beach. The previous labor contract expired in July of the previous year, and negotiations between the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association have been ongoing since May 2022. The ripple effects of disrupted schedules can impact other ports along the ships’ routes. Despite the potential for congestion, Kip Louttit, the executive director of the Marine Exchange of Southern California, assures that a queuing system will prevent a repeat of the gridlock and air pollution experienced during the peak of the pandemic. Ships without a berthing time within three days of arrival will wait in a designated offshore safety and air quality area, as established by the existing protocol. The White House has expressed support for the collective bargaining process and encourages both parties to continue negotiations until a resolution is reached.

Norwegian cruise operator Hurtigruten has unveiled new details about its ambitious project, “Sea Zero,” aimed at creating the world’s most energy-efficient zero-emission cruise ship to operate along Norway’s rugged coastline. Since its introduction in March 2022, the Sea Zero initiative has made significant progress, with initial concept plans now publicly disclosed. The first phase of the project involved identifying potential technologies for zero-emission cruise operations. Hurtigruten Norway, in collaboration with a consortium of 12 maritime partners and the renowned research institute SINTEF, conducted extensive research to align with their sustainability objectives. The future vessel is envisioned to be fully electric, with batteries rechargeable from shore and equipped with wind-assisted propulsion. It will introduce several industry-first features, including retractable sails with integrated solar panels, contra-rotating propellers, and multiple retractable thrusters.

Additional innovations such as air lubrication, advanced hull coating, and proactive hull cleaning will enhance energy efficiency. The ship’s three autonomous wing sails will incorporate 1500m² of solar panels and have a total wind surface of 750m², retracting to a maximum height of 50 meters. Artificial intelligence will be employed to optimize docking and undocking methods, improving in-port operations, particularly in adverse weather conditions. Guests will actively participate in reducing energy consumption through a mobile app that controls cabin ventilation and monitors water and energy usage. With a length of 135 meters (443 feet), the zero-emission ship will accommodate 500 guests and 99 crew members across 270 cabins, including a spacious cargo hold for transporting goods and cars. Hurtigruten aims to have the first vessel ready by 2030, and ultimately, convert its entire fleet into zero-emission ships. The Sea Zero project is now in a two-year phase of testing and development, focusing on battery production, propulsion technology, hull design, sustainable practices, and onboard hotel operations with a target of achieving a 50% reduction in energy consumption compared to the current fleet.

You can read previous issue of ‘Currents’ here.

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