Tuesday, December 31, 2019

No Sulphur - Lead me out of the Dark Climate Change

So finally, Y2K20 is here, and for the new year's resolution merchant ships vow to cut down on smoking sulphur.
In deed its gonna be a landmark year in the history of fuels. Before this, 1996 was another such year when another element lead(Pb) was eliminated from gasoline for use in on-road vehicles. 
Notwithstanding the great challenges in compliance and implementation of the use of low sulphur fuels in marine industry, the things are expected to fall in place after teething problems.  One thing is for sure to start with, use of sulphur deficient fuels will hike up the logistics cost per ton, which will be paid by the end user as usual. But then, preservation of climate has a cost attached to it. You can eat your cake and have it too, provided you have means to replenish it. Cutting down on sulphur at sea is one such move. A move to make sure, when it falls from the sky, its not just an acid rain.
I thank the maritime fraternity to have taken this bold step in the right, oops left direction. Ha ha...
Climate has been screaming for the past few decades and trying to tell greed driven people to slow down in their pursuit of mirage and not to treat it with impunity. With extreme weather getting better of people worldwide, the climate activists are being taken more seriously lately. And in 2019, TIME actually stopped and chose Greta Thunberg as its face of the year to highlight the issue. There are some effective steps being taken by governments and organisations to moon walk over the carbon foot prints.

Led by hate and greed, the last decade saw an outright rise of communalism, racism and nationalism worldwide. I sincerely hope, 2020 proves to be a tipping point for the right movement to be impeached and stalled.  

Saturday, December 29, 2018

HELLO 2019

The year 2018 began with fear of nuclear war as USA and North Korean presidents claimed they had the nuclear launch buttons on their table. The WW III question was, whose button was bigger and more powerful than the other's.

But, by the grace of God, prudence prevailed and by the middle of the year both presidents were seen shaking hands, rather than pressing buttons.

However, one earth one family dance has gone horribly out of sync.  Nations and people have forgotten Pink Floyd's number and have started to build walls around them once again. Globalization of trade and economics is victim of left-right politics. Erased trade barriers are seen being re-built by the governments.

What has not changed is advent of technology. The www  is growing without boundaries. Be it alibaba, amazon or flipKart, all are seeing growing consumer base in multifolds. On the other hand, robotization of processes is at acme. Driven by economy of scale, mammoth is achieving extended dimensions.  The motto stands; Citius, Altius, Fortius.

This year, we saw a huge swing in Oil Futures briefly as a scary reminder of how vulnerable we are to energy crunch.

Nature kept reminding us that we were on an overdrive in our usage of resources. Consumerism is OK but not at the cost of the basic necessities like fresh air and water. The environment needs attention. The year 2019 is the penultimate year before IMO fuel regulation kicks-in in 2020. Chaos as usual will herald opportunity.

Wish you all a happy new year, 2019!!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Choo, Choo 2017, Chuggin' Down the Track

Wish you all a Happy New Year 2018!

After few ominous and bleak years, its time to say farewell to the bitcoin year 2017. A year which pulled the global economy  out of the doldrums and set the global  economic growth engine in motion with modest momentum.

US economy is looking stronger than it had in recent times.  Employment rate is higher than ever followed by strong consumer and business sentiment.

Eurozone is also buoyant if not equally pompous.  China, the behemoth of world economy is also expected to retain its modest growth rate along with the other emerging Asian economies.

India, after implementing some major reforms in financial and tax systems is all set to cruise with accelerated growth rate.

Middle-East is a happening place again after Oil prices saw stability last year and now have a bullish out look.

Inflationary economy across the board is sure to pump up the commodity market and thus the shipping in general.

All in all the atmosphere on the new year’s eve is exuberant and optimistic.

But the current optimism is not without  the inherent fear of unknown as the human civilization is going through the transition phase of the tech revolution.  As Jack Ma says, "The first technology revolution caused World War I. The second technology revolution caused World War II. This is the third technology revolution."

Infact, its already smouldering out there in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya and few other nations of Africa while North Korea remains a nuclear hazard. Besides, there is realignment of powers taking place under Capt. Trump's command.

I am of the  firm belief the technology is on a definite path of handing over the reins of life to the machines for good. AI primed robots will be the carriers of consciousness after few decades.

And as a preface, human greed is converting into bitcoins. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Merchants of Death

He maintained course as he thought he was the law
& he maintained the course as he thought he was on the right side of the law.
Both maintained their course and hence the intercourse.
The US Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with NYK chartered boxship MV ACX Crystal during the Mid watch in the early AM hours on Saturday, 17th June, 2017 in the congested Japanese coastal waters.
In a full impact lateral collision the much heavier Merchant ship's bow severely damaged the starboard accommodation of the US naval ship. It was the bulbous bow of the merchant vessel which ploughed into the crew quarters & machinery space area below the waterline of the warship causing flooding, trapping and eventually death of seven US marines who may have been sleeping at that hour.
Prima facie, the onus rests with the watchkeepers at the pilothouse of the warship. As per the ROR, the warship was the give way vessel and the merchant ship was the stand on vessel being on her starboard side and it was the duty of the naval ship to safely manoeuvre her round ACX Crystal. But that was not to be. However, a probe has been ordered and the details of the findings will expose what transpired at the bridges of the two ill fated vessels.
Meantime a weird thought; the destruction of the naval destroyer by a merchant carrier has once again raised the possibility of use of commercial carriers in the modern terror/warfare. It started with 9-11, 2003 and lately commercial road vehicles have become the favourite weapon of the terrorists to execute their sinister & deadly game plans.
Considering the size of ships, the trend could be scary and the damage colossal when it comes to shores. MV ACX Crystal was just 30,000MT dead weight ship. Let's consider a VLCC loaded with 300,000MT of crude oil having TOE of 3 million tons of TNT ie equivalent to 150 Fatman, the Nagasaki nuclear bombs. If the vessel hits a port at full speed and with few detonators going off simultaneously, it will wreck an unprecedented havoc in a vast coastal area. It may probably do more damage then a state of the art aircraft carrier. Increasing automation and unmanned ships may increase the threat as hacking the navigation and manoeuvering software may lead to such situations at will.
I think the world's national defense forces should do some brain-storming and construct a contingency plan to counter and prevent induction of commercial equipment in neo warfare.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Passing the Baton 2017

A year full of shocks and surprises is passing the baton to yet another Happy New Year 2017.

2016 was a turbulent yet interesting year for shipping. Oil prices and BDI saw record lows in a decade. It was the year when bankruptcies, mergers & acquisitions; all were happening at the same time. It was particularly a bleak year for the offshore oil n gas industry mainly due to ingress of Iranian barrels, while it was the big boys bullying at the box shipping. Dry bulk sector got up after biting dust whereas, oil tankers maintained their average earnings. The cause of poor freight show has been but not limited to mainly oversupply of tonnage, which has grown leaps and bounds in the last decade.

Its not only shipping, but our entire planet weathering winds of change. Be it environment, politics, technology or lifestyle. While climate is seeking the red corner, world politics is seeking the right-wing.  ISIS, Brexit, Modi, Duterte, Trump, Chinese territorial ambition, North Korea's nukes obsession etc, all indicate to the hostile re-alignment of world forces in the coming years.

In spite of the overhanging sword, Shipping Mario will  keep cruising through the troubled waters, so I wish.

A happy & safe New year 2017 to all.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Year of Monkey Business

New year 2016 has dawned but the world economy wears a fatigued looks and businesses are yawning...

21st Century started with boom and bust of information technology. Boom or bust, the information technology was to become the order of the day. The world was swept over by IT at the speed of light. It transformed human behaviour and life style.  In bid to survive the metamorphosis brought about by the information technology, it was imperative for each and every element and structure of the human society to undergo a rigorous evolution process. Obviously, there are some tough nuts in every walk of life. Every change is resisted by inertia or status quo.  The purpose of this inertia is to hold the continuum thru the entire animation. But this change has to be rather quick and abrupt. Hence a majority failed to accept and evolve. And this majority has now turned rebellious (ISIS). We see the war clouds hanging over the centre stage. Nature too has been increasingly hostile due to prolonging of the previous act (industrialisation).

We are going through a difficult phase of change-over before we settle down to the new dawn.
IT era means, 80% of the world population languishing in poverty, ignorance and destitute to fall in to the global main stream. To absorb this huge influx into the existing mainstream would mean an incredible stress on natural resources. Hence, the only logical solution would be :
1. a substantial natural resource friendly change in human lifestyle and processes 
2. a substantial shrinking of human population.

The speed of the transition would have to be faster and thus it may be a painful interlude before the paradise is regained. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

One over-reaction leads to another

Tanker market has just witnessed a grand Q3 of year 2015. In an over-reaction to the US decision to finally lift the sanctions on Iran, crude oil prices stooped to the levels they didn't deserve thereby setting in a strong contango mood in the market. The result was obvious -  a mad rush for storage. This sudden demand in tanker market has catapulted tanker freight rates to the levels last seen in 2007/8.

Some guys born at mid day (highly optimistic) are already crying the oil will hit USD200pbbl from here. But the market indicators are suggesting otherwise. Piling inventories, growing supplies, slowing economies, and advancing technology are casting dark shadows over wishful optimism in oil market. Besides, at some point in time, global warming and oil prices will tend to have the same relationship as sugar prices in a diabetic world unless the world resigns to the consequences. Thus sooner or later the oil traders will fall on the backfoot and so would the tanker freight rates.