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May 13, 2023

The United States envoy to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, has accused the country of shipping weapons to Russia in a possible breach of Pretoria’s declared neutrality in the Ukraine conflict. Brigety said that a Russian cargo ship docked at the Simon’s Town naval base in South Africa for three days in December and loaded weapons and ammunition. He said that the United States was “confident” that the weapons were then transported to Russia. South Africa has denied the allegations, saying that it has a “longstanding policy of neutrality” and that it would never provide weapons to a country at war.

The allegations have raised concerns about South Africa’s relationship with Russia. Russia is one of South Africa’s most important allies on the continent, and the two countries have close economic ties. The United States has repeatedly warned countries against providing material support to Russia, cautioning that those who do may be denied access to the world’s most important markets.

The U.S. Navy has named its next-generation hospital ship USNS Bethesda, honoring the history and community of healthcare professionals at Naval Support Activity Bethesda. The lead ship in the new class will be capable of providing hospital-level medical care in support of distributed maritime operations (DMO). The Bethesda-class expeditionary medical ships feature a shallow draft, enabling them to reach shallow austere ports directly.

They will also come equipped with a flight deck capable of accommodating military helicopters. The Navy says the ships will offer a wide range of medical capabilities, including triage and critical care facilities, three operating rooms, a medical laboratory, radiological capability, blood bank, dental services, mental health support, OB/GYN and primary care, rapid stabilization and evacuation of multiple casualties, as well as combat search and rescue operations including recovery at sea. Their primary mission will be to provide rapid and responsive sea-based critical care, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, non-combatant evacuation operations, and special operations.

UBS’s acquisition of Credit Suisse is raising questions about the future of the ship lending business. UBS has the tenth-largest lending portfolio in the industry, at around $10bn, and Credit Suisse has been holding the top shipping financier position in Greece, Europe’s largest shipowning nation, for the seventh year in a row. It is unclear whether UBS will continue to lend to the shipping industry, or if it will sell off its shipping loan book. Shipowners are concerned about the uncertainty, and are urging UBS to continue to support the sector.

Plans to develop a new multi-purpose deepwater port facilities at Port Fourchon, a key hub for U.S. Gulf of Mexico energy activities, have taken a major step forward with the recent signing of a multi-party agreement. The facility will cater to a wide range of services, including deepwater rig, drillship, and heavy lift installation vessel repair and refurbishment, wind farm fabrication, assembly and repair, general heavy industry fabrication, project cargo and logistics, as well as decommissioning. The development is a “game changer” for the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, and will provide a central location for servicing deep draft vessels, final assembly and load out for offshore wind farm facilities, and the decommissioning of existing and future offshore facilities.

New Zealand has filed charges in relation to the fatalities at its ports following two tragic incidents that occurred last April. Wallace Investments, the stevedoring company, is facing one charge in connection with the death of Atiroa Tuaiti. Maritime NZ has filed two HSWA charges against the Lyttelton Port Company in relation to the death of Donald Grant. The charges serve as a reminder of the importance of maintaining stringent safety measures and adhering to regulations to safeguard the lives of those working in maritime environments.

Malaysia’s marine service provider RMS Synergy has established a joint venture company with Vietnamese OSV owner and operator Hai Duong Petroleum and Marine Corporation (Haduco). The joint venture, Haduco RMS, has secured a long-term charter of an anchor handling tug supply (AHTS) vessel. RMS Synergy and Haduco plan to work together to capitalise on the growing demand for OSVs by the oil and gas operators in Malaysia. Petronas alone has indicated that it will require over 200 vessels to support drilling and projects and close to 150 more to support production operations in 2023. The joint venture is a significant step forward for both companies and represents an important step for securing long term business in Malaysia.

Skarv Shipping Solutions, a joint venture between Peak Group and Grieg looking to pioneer green short-sea dry bulk trades, has received NOK130m from the Norwegian government fund, Enova, to help it acquire three ships for use along the Norwegian coast. The 4,000 dwt vessels will potentially reduce emissions by up to 90% compared to traditional vessels, thanks to innovative technologies like batteries, ammonia engines, rotor sails, and energy-efficient hull design. The engines, likely to be supplied by Wärtsilä, will be among the world’s first four-stroke ammonia engines. The funding from Enova is a major step forward for Skarv Shipping Solutions and will help the company to bring its green short-sea dry bulk trades to market.

New York and Copenhagen-listed offshore driller Noble has won a $500m contract from Brazil’s Petrobras for the ultra-deepwater drillship Noble Faye Kozack. The 2013-built rig, formerly Pacific Khamsin, has been fixed for two-and-a-half years for drilling operations at the BM-S-11 and Tupi fields offshore Brazil starting in the fourth quarter of 2023. The unit is currently under contract with Louisiana-based LLOG working in the US Gulf of Mexico for $420,000 per day until August.

The deal will see Noble drillship reenter Brazilian waters and mark the company’s first collaboration with Petrobras in many years. A separate announcement also revealed a 60-day one-well contract with Shell for the drillship Noble Voyager offshore Mauritania. The contract starts in continuation of the rig’s current employment with Shell and comes with extension options attached for up to two years. The contract wins are a positive development for Noble and come at a time when the offshore drilling market is starting to show signs of recovery.

You can read previous issue of ‘Currents’ here.

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