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May 27, 2023

China has placed three navigation beacons near the Spratly islands, following a similar move by the Philippines. The deployment aims to enhance navigation safety but underscores the ongoing dispute over territorial claims in the South China Sea. Tensions have risen in the contested region, which is crucial for global trade, as China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines all assert ownership.

British geospatial intelligence firm Geollect reports that numerous merchant ships’ Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) have been manipulated to display a pro-Russian war symbol off Crimea. The act of AIS spoofing is seen as an information operation supporting Russia’s military activities and expressing defiance against Ukraine and the West. Spoofed AIS data poses risks to maritime safety and highlights the need for improved tracking systems.

Kongsberg Maritime, in collaboration with Eidsvaag AS, has conducted a successful autonomous voyage using the Eidsvaag Pioner, a cargo ship supplying fish feed to offshore fish farms in Norway. The demonstration, part of the AUTOSHIP project, showcased various remote and autonomous technologies, including auto-undocking, autonomous navigation, and dynamic positioning systems. The project aims to advance autonomous navigation systems and related technologies to promote greener and safer sea transport.

Bollinger Shipyards has launched the lead ship of the Navajo-Class Towing, Salvage, and Rescue Ships (T-ATS) for the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command. The Navajo-class vessels will focus on long-range towing, rescue, salvage, humanitarian assistance, search and rescue, and oil spill response missions. The launch marks progress in replacing the U.S. Navy’s T-ATF fleet ocean tugs and T-ARS rescue and salvage ships. Bollinger is contracted for five ships in the class, while Austal USA is building an additional four vessels.

Danish shipping company Norden has diversified its business by acquiring Thorco Projects, a Danish shipping company specializing in general cargo. The acquisition will provide Norden with access to new customers in segments such as breakbulk, steels, and wind energy.

The financial details of the acquisition have not been disclosed. Thorco Projects, established in 2003 as part of Thornico Group, operates an asset-light business with a fleet of around 30 to 40 predominantly handysize vessels. Norden CEO Jan Rindbo expressed excitement about welcoming the Thorco Projects team and the opportunity to enhance the company’s global service across all non-containerized cargo types. Norden highlighted commercial synergies between the two companies, including overlapping trading routes that can lead to route optimization.

The Canadian government has announced a significant investment of CAD $2.5 billion to modernize the Canadian Coast Guard’s small vessel fleet. The funding will be utilized for the acquisition and ongoing replacement of small craft, barges, and work boats with new modern equipment, ensuring the safety of Canada’s coastal waters and inland lakes and rivers.

Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the Honourable Joyce Murray, stated that this investment is crucial to provide the Canadian Coast Guard with the necessary equipment to keep Canadians and waterways safe while generating well-paying jobs nationwide. The investment will cover various small vessels, including Mid-shore Multi-Mission Vessels, a Near-Shore Fishery Research Vessel, and Specialty Vessels. It also presents opportunities for smaller shipyards and suppliers across Canada, supporting employment in the marine industry. Canada’s National Shipbuilding Strategy, a long-term program aimed at revitalizing the shipbuilding industry and marine sector, has already contributed significantly to the country’s GDP and job creation.

PowerX, a Japanese power transfer vessel developer, has revealed the detailed design of the world’s first ‘battery tanker.’ The electric propulsion vessel, named ‘Battery Tanker X,’ will undergo field testing in 2026. It measures 140 meters in length and will be equipped with 96 containerized marine batteries, providing a total capacity of 241MWh. PowerX’s proprietary module design, incorporating lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery cells, ensures a lifespan of over 6,000 cycles.

The company’s battery system can be scaled to accommodate larger electric transport vessels in the future. The ship’s purpose is to facilitate short-distance maritime power transmission, complementing existing inter-regional grid transmission lines. PowerX plans to establish Ocean Power Grid, a new company, to own, sell, and operate battery tankers globally. The company aims to collaborate with partners and achieve carbon-neutral ports, demonstrating the potential of maritime power transmission and the installation of offshore wind farms in challenging areas.

CMA CGM, the French shipping company led by Rodolphe Saadé, is expanding its media holdings with the acquisition of La Tribune, a prominent business title in France. This acquisition adds to the growing portfolio of CMA CGM Medias, which includes newspapers like La Provence and Corse Matin, a minority stake in TV channel M6, and a holding in online media platform Brut.

CMA CGM aims to become a significant player in innovation and transformation within the media sector. While shipowners owning media titles is not uncommon, this move demonstrates CMA CGM’s interest in diversifying beyond its liner activities. Other shipping tycoons around the world, such as those in Greece and Norway, have ventured into media ownership alongside their shipping interests. This expansion into the media sector aligns with CMA CGM’s vision for growth and influence.

Russia has announced plans to begin year-round voyages along the Northern Sea Route (NSR) from 2024. The NSR is a shipping route that runs along the northern coast of Russia, from the Barents Sea to the Bering Sea. The route is becoming increasingly viable due to climate change, which is causing sea ice to melt.

The opening of the NSR could have a significant impact on global shipping. The route is shorter than the traditional route through the Suez Canal, which could save shipping companies time and money. However, the NSR is also more dangerous, as it is surrounded by ice and there are few ports along the route. Environmental groups have raised concerns about the environmental impact of increased shipping along the NSR. Ships emit greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change. Additionally, ships can spill oil and other pollutants into the Arctic Ocean.

Dutch shipping company Future Proof Shipping has launched its first hydrogen-powered inland container ship, H2 Barge 1. The ship is chartered by BCTN Network of Inland Terminals on behalf of Nike. H2 Barge 1 is a zero-emissions vessel that is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2,000 tonnes of CO2e per year.

The ship will sail between Rotterdam and BCTN’s inland terminal in Meerhout several times a week. The launch of H2 Barge 1 is a significant milestone in the development of hydrogen-powered shipping. The ship is the first of its kind in the world, and it demonstrates the potential of hydrogen to power ships in a sustainable way. I hope this is helpful! Let me know if you have any other questions.

You can read previous issue of ‘Currents’ here.

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