August 3, 2021 / 12:10 PM  A "potential hijack" was unfolding off the coast of the United Arab Emirates' Fujairah region on Tuesday, Britain's maritime trade agency reported, without giving details on the vessel or vessels involved.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) had in an earlier warning notice, based on a third party source, advised ships to exercise extreme caution due to an incident around 60 nautical miles east of Fujairah.

The area in the Arabian Sea leads to the Strait of Hormuz, through which about a fifth of the world's seaborne oil exports flow.

The U.S. The Navy's Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain, did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

On Tuesday afternoon at least five ships in the sea between the UAE and Iran updated their AIS tracking status to "Not Under Command", according to Refinitiv ship tracking data. Such a status generally indicates a ship is unable to manoeuvre due to exceptional circumstances.

Reuters could not confirm this Refinitiv data had any connection to the reported incident.

Last week an attack on an Israeli-managed tanker off the coast of Oman killed two crew members and was blamed on Iran by the United States, Israel and Britain. 

Iran denied involvement in that suspected drone attack and said on Monday it would respond promptly to any threat against its security.

The United States and Britain said on Sunday they would work with their allies to respond to the attack on the Mercer Street, a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned petroleum product tanker managed by Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime.

Iran and Israel have exchanged accusations of carrying out attacks on each other's vessels in recent months. 

Tensions have increased in Gulf waters and between Iran and Israel since 2018, when then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled its economy.


August 2, 2021 / 1:20 PM  Maritime tensions are escalating in the Middle East following the deadly attack on a tanker connected to an Israeli billionaire in the Arabian Sea.

Two crewmembers, a Briton and a Romanian, died on Thursday when the Mercer Street tanker was attacked by an armed drone believed to be operated by Iran off the coast of Oman. The US, Israel and the UK are blaming Iran for the attack, which Tehran denies. Speaking Sunday at a cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Iran was denying the attack “in a very cowardly manner” and that Israel has intelligence evidence that it was behind the incident.

“I say absolutely that Iran is the one that carried out the attack against the ship,” Bennett said. “The thuggish behavior of Iran is dangerous not only to Israel but also to the global interest in freedom of shipping and international trade.”

Iran denied involvement in the attack on Sunday. “The illegitimate occupying regime of Israel must stop the false accusations,” the country’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said in his weekly news conference, according to semi-official news agency Mehr.

“This is not the first time that the Zionist regime has made such accusations against Iran. This regime has taken violence and insecurity with it wherever it has gone,” Khatibzadeh added.

But both the US and the UK have joined Israel in accusing Iran of carrying out the attack. In a statement issued Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration was “confident” Iran was responsible and was considering “next steps.”

 “Upon review of the available information, we are confident that Iran conducted this attack, which killed two innocent people, using one-way explosive UAVs, a lethal capability it is increasingly employing throughout the region,” the statement says. UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also released a statement Sunday condemning the attack and saying the UK believed it is “highly likely” that Iran carried it out.


July 29, 2021 / 1:20 PM Two public container terminals at Port of Houston will remain closed Wednesday after what officials said was a hardware failure.

The issues at the Bayport and Barbours Cut container terminals were first reported Tuesday, just before the gates were set to open at about 7 a.m. 

In a letter, Port of Houston executive director Roger Guenther explained that's when they experienced a "major failure of the storage devices that support all applications used to operate" the terminals.

Although staff were able to get the terminals working again by 10 a.m. Tuesday, their backup procedures failed around two hours later.

Since then, the terminals have been inoperable.

Ships that were already in the loading and unloading process have been able to continue working, Guenther said. But new vessel starts have not been possible as the truck gates at both container facilities remain idle.

Guenther said in the letter that the port has the necessary hardware, but getting things back up and running is a different story. The configuration and restoration of all the components involved has been a slow process.

When the terminals resume operations, port officials plan to have daily extended gate hours including weekends, he added.

The Houston Ship Channel is a major artery for America's oil, gas and chemical production.

It's also the largest petrochemical complex in the country.

The 52-mile ship channel comprises more than 200 private and eight public terminals.

Guenther stressed that the issues had no impact on the greater ship channel, adding that the problem is confined to only the two public container terminals. 

Guenther also emphasized the hardware failure was not due to a cyberattack.


July 28, 2021 / 4:00 PM Methanol as a commercially and technically viable marine fuel is gaining greater traction over other alternative bunkers, including LNG, as more shipowners adopt the clean burning fuel as price spreads narrow and production ramps up.

Speaking at a virtual conference last week, Greg Dolan, CEO of the Methanol Institute, a trade body whose shipowner members include Maersk, Stena Bulk, MSC, MOL and Oldendorff Carriers, predicts that methanol production costs will fall to become more competitively priced than traditional diesel bunker and other alternative fuels.

Dolan suggested that the move to methanol would also help shipowners avoid the proposed carbon tax on diesel, which could be between US$250 and $450/t of CO2. 

“There’s a call by many including the world’s largest shippers for a carbon tax on diesel fuels. That would dramatically change the pricing picture for marine fuels and the only available alternative fuel options today are advanced biofuels, LNG and methanol,” he said.

As a transitional fuel, methanol is supported by the International Maritime Organization in its recent adoption of safe handling guidelines under the IGF Code for low flashpoint fuels.

“This has been an important milestone in the growth of methanol as a marine fuel,” Dolan said. “And while LNG paved the way for methanol, methanol adoption can be a model for ammonia and hydrogen in the future.”

According to Dolan, methanol production increased last year to 100Mmt, doubling production in a decade. He said production could reach 500Mmt by 2050, as predicted in a joint Methanol Institute/International Renewable Energy Agency report released earlier this year.

Commenting on those shipowners that have already announced plans to include methanol within their fuel pool, Dolan told attendees at the Maritime AMC-organised Alternative Fuels webinar that first movers, such as Maersk, understand “there is little time left to wait on potential solutions that might fulfil 100% of their 2050 goals. They know we don’t have 30 years to wait.”

Maersk announced in March that its first methanol-burning vessel will launch in 2023, seven years ahead of schedule. The company also mooted an order for twelve 15,000TEU methanol-fuelled containerships.

Another advocate is Proman Stena Bulk. The joint venture between shipowner Stena Bulk and methanol producer Proman is planning to build six 50,000dwt tankers with methanol dual-fuel engines for delivery in 2023.

A further three vessels owned solely by Proman, scheduled for delivery in 2022 and 2023, will be traded globally for shipping chemicals and clean petroleum products.

Anita Gajadhar, Managing Director Proman Marketing, Logistics and Shipping, said: “For us, methanol is a proven fuel capable of meeting the shipping industry’s carbon reduction targets. When you look at the long-term pricing, it is competitive when compared to alternatives, like MGO. It is easy to bunker, it is safe to bunker, and it is widely available as a bunker in 122 ports.”

Gajadhar claimed that methanol is currently being traded at a price lower than LNG in some ports, and is less expensive than biofuel, currently traded at US$1,200/t or more.

“Methanol is actually going to be a little bit cheaper than some of the biofuels that are available in the market today…. In terms of CAPEX, it is also a lot cheaper to modify vessels for methanol than it is for LNG,” she said.

Methanol-fuelled newbuilds also cost less than a LNG-burning ship, according to engine builders MAN Energy Solutions and Wärtsilä.

Kjeld Aabo, Director New Technologies two-stroke promotion, MAN Energy Solutions, told attendees that a 54,300m3 capacity product tanker running a methanol-fuelled engine would add about 10% to the newbuild price. The same vessel running on LNG would cost 22% more than a conventional HFO-burning ship.

The engine builder, which first unveiled and tested a methanol dual-fuel engine in 2016 and has a current orderbook of 23 ME-LGIM engines, said methanol combustion emits 8% less CO2 than an HFO Tier II engine.

SOx emissions are reduced by 97% and NOx up to 60%. And since the methanol molecule contains no carbon-carbon bonds, it does not produce particulate matter or soot when burned resulting in smokeless operation.

“I really believe there will be a big market for methanol in the future and the technology on the engine side is there,” said Aabo.

Toni Stojcevski, General Manager, Project Sales & Development, Wärtsilä, agreed but warned “if we are going to be compliant in 2050, with a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, then we need to prepare and start executing today.”

While Wärtsilä introduced a methanol engine in 2013, Stojcevski revealed that the engine builder expects to have an ammonia-fuelled engine operating next year and a pure hydrogen engine in 2025. The company also plans to launch a new methanol-burning engine based on its proven W32 series in late 2023. This will be available for newbuilds and retrofits.

Closing the webinar Dolan said: “Methanol engines are available. The fuel is available. The infrastructure is there and it’s affordable. We can act now.” 

Source: Maritime AMC

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