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May 15, 2023

The United States has announced that it is sending reinforcements to the Gulf region following what it calls increasing harassment by Iran of ships in and around the Strait of Hormuz. The United States and its allies are reportedly considering the possibility of a return of convoys. On Friday, Iranian forces seized a 9,300 dwt product tanker, the Purity, marking the third tanker to be apprehended in just over two weeks. The tanker was claimed to have been illegally used by a foreign company for five years. This comes after the seizure of the Panama-flagged, Greek-owned tanker Niovi in the Strait of Hormuz on May 3 and the Marshall Islands-flagged suezmax crude tanker Advantage Sweet six days earlier.

The Philippine Coast Guard has set up five navigational buoys carrying the national flag in five areas within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone to assert sovereignty over the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. This move comes as China has become increasingly aggressive in the region and the Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr seeks warmer ties with the United States. The navigational buoys were installed from May 10 to May 12, including in the Whitsun Reef, where hundreds of Chinese maritime vessels moored in 2021. The coast guard’s spokesperson, Commodore Jay Tarriela, said that this move highlights the Philippines’ unwavering resolve to protect its maritime borders and resources and contribute to the safety of maritime trade. China has for years deployed hundreds of coast guard and fishing vessels in disputed areas, where Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam also have claims.

Maersk Tankers has appointed Tina Revsbech as its new CEO, taking over from Christian M. Ingerslev. Revsbech, who previously worked for Maersk Tankers for over 15 years in various senior positions, has over 30 years of experience in the shipping industry. She has previously served as CEO of BW Tankers, executive vice president at Fednav, and senior vice president at Torm. Revsbech aims to accelerate the growth of Maersk Tankers and further develop its service offerings to solidify its position as a leading tanker company. Chairman of Maersk Tankers, Robert Uggla, expressed confidence in Revsbech’s ability to lead the company during a time of significant disruption in global energy markets and a green transition in the industry.

South Africa’s Finance Minister, Enoch Godongwana, announced that his country has resolved a dispute with the U.S. over allegations that Pretoria supplied weapons to Russia. The U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, had claimed that a Russian ship picked up weapons in South Africa in December 2022, which may have breached Pretoria’s declared neutrality in the Ukraine conflict. The South African government denied these allegations, and the U.S. ambassador later apologized for any misimpressions his remarks may have caused. Godongwana stated that “a number of actions were taken” to ensure that the country’s relationship with the U.S. remains cordial. The issue was previously discussed in a meeting between Godongwana and U.S. Secretary of Treasury Janet Yellen in February 2023.

US private equity group Apollo has decided not to go ahead with its bid to acquire UK consulting and engineering firm Wood. After offering a final buyout price valuing Wood at about $2.1bn, Apollo withdrew the proposal when Wood rejected the offer. Wood’s board deemed the bid undervalued the company, and gave Apollo until May 17 to either submit a formal offer or walk away from the deal. Following the decision, Wood’s board expressed confidence in the company’s strategic direction and prospects, believing that Wood is well-placed to deliver substantial value for shareholders.

Korean shipbuilding giant HD Hyundai, formerly known as Hyundai Heavy Industries, has expressed interest in using two drydocks in Subic Bay, the Philippines, for overseas expansion. The facility, established nearly 20 years ago by Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction, was acquired last year by US private equity firm Cerberus Global Investment and has since been renovated. The Korean group already has one overseas yard, Hyundai Vietnam Shipbuilding, located in Khanh Hoa. With a huge orderbook, the group has also reopened a shuttered yard in Gunsan, South Korea.

A study conducted by the West Australia – East Asia Iron Ore Green Corridor Consortium suggests that ships powered by clean ammonia could be deployed on the iron ore trade routes between West Australia and East Asia by 2028 and reach 5% adoption by 2030. The study found that deployment of ammonia-powered ships, access to clean ammonia, and availability of bunkering infrastructure are within reach, provided the safety case for the use of ammonia as marine fuel is validated and accepted. The Pilbara region of Australia is considered a viable option for bunkering on the route, while Singapore is well-positioned to serve as a bunkering hub. If the corridor develops in accordance with the study’s scenario, more than 20 vessels could operate on clean ammonia on the corridor by 2030, scaling up to approximately 360 vessels by 2050.

Hengli Shipbuilding, the yard formerly known as STX Dalian, has received orders from Haixing Shipping for four 82,000 dwt bulk carriers, following last year’s orders for four 20,000 dwt bulk carriers. Hengli Heavy Industry Group acquired all the assets of STX Dalian last year, which had gone bankrupt in 2014 due to a financial crisis at its parent company in South Korea. Meanwhile, another shuttered Chinese shipyard, Jinhai Intelligent Manufacturing, is seeking to rent out its yard to another Chinese shipbuilder. China has seen many yards reopen during the past 12 months, including Weihai Samjin Shipbuilding and Rongsheng Heavy Industries, which is now rebranded as SPS Shipyard.

You can read previous issue of ‘Currents’ here.

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