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August 18, 2021 / 5:10 PM All American Marine, Inc. (AAM) and the vessel owner SWITCH Maritime (SWITCH) are pleased to announce the launch and operational trials of Sea Change, a 70-foot, 75-passenger zero-emissions, hydrogen fuel cell-powered, electric-drive ferry that will operate in the California Bay Area. This will be the first hydrogen fuel cell vessel in the US, representing a monumental step in the US maritime industry’s transition to a sustainable future. The ferry was developed and constructed to demonstrate a pathway to commercialization for zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell marine technologies. While still working on permitting of hydrogen fuel systems for maritime vessels with the US Coast Guard, the completed ferry will exhibit the viability of this zero-carbon ship propulsion technology for the commercial and regulatory communities.

The project is funded by private capital from SWITCH, an impact investment platform building the first fleet of exclusively zero-carbon maritime vessels to accelerate the decarbonization and energy transition of the US maritime sector. “By working closely with the US Coast Guard, with innovative technology partners, and with best-in-class shipyards such as All American Marine, we can make the transition to decarbonized shipping a reality today,” said Pace Ralli, Co-Founder and CEO of SWITCH. “We don’t have to wait.” SWITCH’s mission-driven platform seeks to work with existing ferry owners and operators around the country to help facilitate their adoption of zero-carbon vessels to replace aging diesel-powered vessels, leveraging significant experience from the technologies used in the build of this first ferry.

AAM is a leading builder of hybrid-electric vessels in the United States and was chosen to complete this project because of their experience building unique, high-quality vessels. AAM’s new state-of-the-art shipyard has an expanded capacity and production capabilities for additional, larger and more complex vessels. The construction and completion of Sea Change further exemplifies AAM’s position as a leading technological innovator in the North American marketplace, and a leading manufacturer of vessels with custom propulsion and design characteristics to create the best performing vessel in its given class.

“Hydrogen-fuel cell technology will prove to be a robust alternative to conventional powertrain technologies,” said Ron Wille, AAM President & COO. “AAM is continuing our tradition of building vessels on the leading edge of technology using advanced propulsion methods, which is why we are so proud to have to completed construction on such a revolutionary vessel.”

The vessel is equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell power package provided by Zero Emissions Industries (formerly Golden Gate Zero Emission Marine), comprised of 360 kW of Cummins fuel cells and Hexagon hydrogen storage tanks with a capacity of 246 kg. This system is integrated with 100 kWh of lithium-ion battery provided by XALT and a 2x 300 kW electric propulsion system provided by BAE Systems. The hydrogen fuel cell powertrain system affords the same operational flexibility as diesel with zero emissions and less maintenance. The vessel design originates from Incat Crowther, and the construction supervision and management is led by Hornblower Group.

This project has received important municipal support including a $3 million grant from the California Air Resources Board (CARB), administered by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), that comes from California Climate Investments, a California statewide initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, strengthen the economy, and improve public health and the environment – particularly in disadvantaged communities. Additionally, the project received the first ever loan guarantee under BAAQMD’s Climate Tech Finance program, which seeks to reduce greenhouse gases by accelerating emerging climate technologies. In partnership with the California Infrastructure Economic Development Bank and the Northern California Financial Development Corporation (NorCal FDC), the Climate Tech Finance team led a technology qualification and greenhouse gas analysis that deemed SWITCH eligible for a loan guarantee. This loan guarantee supported SWITCH in securing a $5 million construction and term loan with KeyBank, which enables SWITCH to bring this important project to completion.

Our team would like to thank all the individuals, companies and agencies that have helped make this vision a reality, especially during the challenging times of the COVID pandemic. Special thanks goes out to the United States Coast Guard Marine Safety Center (MSC), USCG Office of Design and Engineering Standards (CG-ENG), USCG Sector Seattle, USCG Sector San Francisco, who continue to support the permitting and development of sustainable maritime technologies that put the US maritime sector at the forefront of global innovation.

August 16, 2021 / 6:00 PM Panama renewed an agreement on maritime transport with China, granting more advantages for ship owners who have registered their vessels under its flag, the Panamanian Embassy to Korea said in a statement.

The agreement, which was first signed in May 2018 for three years, was renewed and came into effect July 20 after negotiations between the Panamanian and Chinese governments.

The maritime transport agreement strengthens trade between the two nations as well as offering benefits to ships under the Panamanian registry when they enter ports in China.

Panama has the biggest registry of ships sailing under its flag, as the country’s open system offers easier registration, cheaper foreign labor and no income tax.

As of 2020, 9,596 out of 56,000 ships in the world’s merchant fleets, or 17 percent of the total, were under the flag of Panama. Most merchant ships flying the Panamanian flag belong to foreign owners who wish to benefit from Panama’s ship registry program and convenient international maritime trade.

HMM Algeciras, Korea’s largest container vessel owned by HMM, also flies the Panamanian flag. 

The renewal of this agreement represents a series of unique advantages for ship owners that have registered their vessels under the Panamanian flag, such as measures to facilitate and expedite maritime transport to avoid unnecessary delays; promoting maritime and port development; ensuring the safety of navigation and protection of the environment; improving business relations and scientific and technological exchanges; promoting the supply of services to Panama-flagged vessels; and maintaining close relations that allow free and unimpeded access of Panama-flagged vessels for cargo traffic to and from China.

August 12, 2021 / 1:20PM Maine Maritime Academy is now requiring its students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 this fall.

With the Castine school’s announcement, nearly all Maine college students will need to be vaccinated before fall classes begin.

Maine Maritime previously recommended the campus community get vaccinated, but with the summer surge of the delta variant among the unvaccinated, the college changed course Thursday morning.

“We were very much hoping to have a return to campus that resembled a traditional ‘back to school’ experience. Unfortunately, the emergence of the Delta variant has complicated our plans and required continual adjustments in how we think, learn, and work,” Maine Maritime President William J. Brennan said.

Thursday’s announcement only applies to Maine Maritime students, who must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1. Maine Maritime welcomes students back to campus later this month.

The school will host a vaccination clinic on Aug. 27 for those students who have yet to be vaccinated. The Johnson & Johnson and the Pfizer vaccines will be available, and a follow-up clinic will be scheduled later in the fall for those needing a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. The clinic will be open to the staff and faculty and the general public.

Brennan said that Maine Maritime is exploring whether it may mandate COVID-19 vaccines for faculty and staff.

“We are currently evaluating contractual obligations, but it is my hope that our employees recognize their responsibility to our community — and to our students in particular — and make their decision to get vaccinated without an employer or government mandate,” Brennan said, noting that more than 80 percent of the school’s employees have already verified their vaccination status.

That news came just hours before the Maine Community College System reversed its stance on COVID-19 vaccines and now mandates them for students. Previously the community college system wasn’t going to mandate vaccines even if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration made its authorization permanent.

On Wednesday, Thomas College in Waterville said it is mandating COVID-19 vaccines for students, staff and faculty in the fall. Most higher education institutions in Maine have mandated vaccines, including Bates College in Lewiston, Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Colby College in Waterville, the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Husson University in Bangor, the Maine College of Art in Portland, St. Joseph’s College in Standish, Unity College, the University of Maine System and the University of New England in Biddeford. 

Very few Maine higher education institutions have opted to not mandate vaccines. Beal College in Bangor isn’t requiring COVID-19 vaccines, but the private school said it offers most classes online and has no student housing.

August 11, 2021 / 12:40PM Somalia has rejected pressure for a diplomatic resolution to a longstanding maritime dispute with Kenya, maintaining the matter will be decided by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Despite a charm offensive by Kenya, Somalia reckons the ICJ must provide the final verdict on the dispute that has been running for close to a decade in which the neighbouring countries both claim ownership of large territories of the Indian Ocean with prospects of vast oil and gas deposits.

Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Minister Raychelle Omamo made a maiden visit to Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, where she held talks with Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble and sought to push the agenda of an out-of-court settlement with a deal brokered by the African Union. However, Somalia stuck to its guns saying that the maritime dispute between both nations will be decided by The Hague-based court whose ruling is eagerly awaited after formal hearings in March this year. Kenya boycotted the hearings after accusing the ICJ of unfairness and unwillingness to delay the proceedings as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Somalia has underscored that an existing maritime dispute between both nations will be decided by The Hague-based International Court of Justice, or ICJ, despite several requests by Kenya to reach a settlement out of court,” said a statement from the prime minister’s office.

The two east African neighbors dispute over 38,000 square miles of territory in the Indian Ocean with prospects of vast oil and gas deposits, a matter Somalia wants the ICJ to arbitrate. The dispute has also led to frosty diplomatic relations over accusations and counter-accusations about interference with domestic affairs, territorial integrity, trade and security.

The statement noted that the two ministers “emphasized the importance of taking concrete measures to show respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence, which are the cornerstone of the relationship between the two countries.”

Somalia filed the case at the ICJ in 2014 on the basis that Kenya was encroaching on its marine territory and has repeatedly rejected calls to withdraw it and allow for a diplomatic resolution to the dispute. 

Both countries are claiming ownership to the territory and have gone ahead to invite international companies to explore for gas and oil.

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