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16 Jul 2018

War for geopolitical supremacy named trade war

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"The Trump administration’s declaration of a trade war with friends and foes alike should not have come as a total surprise. The unpredictability and instability created by this presidency has long become a source of concern and is resulting in new international alliances being formed and old adversaries coming together in a changing geopolitical landscape. US President Donald Trump’s abrupt announcement on slapping steel and aluminium tariffs on the European Union, Canada and Mexico as well as China came after messages from Washington that the Western allies may get exemptions and the confrontation with Beijing was winding down. The contradictions and confusion are due both to deep divisions between the president’s economic advisors and the frequency with which he himself has been changing his mind. A classic example of this has been Treasury secretary Steven Mnunchin saying that the punitive measures against China had been put “on hold” only for Mr Trump’s trade advisor, Peter Navarro, to dismiss the statement as an “unfortunate sound bite”. The president refused to take any action over the undermining of a senior member of his cabinet by Mr Navarro just as nothing was done after reports that members of the American team negotiating with Beijing were found to be shouting at each other in the corridor outside. The first retaliatory shots on this commercial conflict are being fired with the European Union issuing a list of US products to face tariffs, from Harley Davidsons to peanut butter. Canada is planning to impose duties of up to 25 per cent on $13bn (£9.7bn) worth of American goods including steel, yoghurt and whiskey and Mexico focusing on steel, pork, fruit and cheese from the US. Amid rising alarm and stock markets crashing, Mr Trump holds that “trade wars are good”. Some countries are not keen to wait around to find out where all this ends, and are instead taking precautionary steps. China and India, engaged in decades of acrimony, have seen a hurried bolstering of relations. Iran, with Trump reneging on the nuclear agreement and threatening a new raft of sanctions, has turned to Russia and China for trade and security. Mexico is seeking allies in Latin America to counter the re-emergence of US bullying. The European Union’s decision to hit back is another sign that plummeting relations with Washington are unlikely to get better as long Mr Trump is in the White House. One of the most significant developments was the summit in Wuhan, Chairman Mao’s old summer retreat, between Xi Jinping of China and India’s Narendra Modi coming not long after their countries’ troops were involved in a standoff at the disputed border area of Doklam. Beijing may be the primary target of US tariffs, but there have been vocal threats from Washington of swingeing duties on Indian goods as well. Both China and India have benefited greatly from globalisation with technological and social progress intrinsically linked to the strides being made economically. The GDPs of the two countries will exceed those of the G7 nations in the next two decades and has led to increased rivalry between the world’s two most populous nations. But they are being drawn together by deepening apprehension that Mr Trump’s actions will have a cataclysmic effect. It is ironic that India is being pushed towards China by Washington after years of efforts by successive American administrations to turn Delhi into a strategic ally against Beijing through a raft of economic, political and military initiatives. The US only recently succeeded in getting India to become part of a revamped quadrilateral alliance with America, Japan and Australia to combat Chinese hegemony in the region. Mr Trump has often spoken of the special relationship he has quickly forged with Mr Modi, with the Indian prime minister becoming the first foreign leader to have a working dinner at the White House during the current administration. But Japan’s Shinzo Abe was also said to have had such a special relationship – that did not stop the US president from accepting bilateral talks with Kim Jong-un against the position of Tokyo and, indeed, of previous US administrations, that the North Korean regime must give specific undertakings before such a meeting is held. Iran is another subject of confrontation between the US and its allies. The other signatories to the nuclear deal – Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – have repeatedly stated that it is working, as does the UN. Strategies are being discussed on how to counter the Trump administration threat to penalise companies which continue to trade with Iran. But Washington seems to think that the European states will be cowed into backing down. John Bolton, Trump’s new national security advisor, has asserted “Europeans will see that it’s in their interests to come along with us. As the American sanctions kick in … it will have an even broader effect.” We have yet to see whether the European nations admit defeat on this. But there are other economic powers who have important trade with Iran. The country is third biggest supplier of oil to India’s booming economy while China is the biggest importer of Iranian oil. Both Beijing and Delhi have said they will continue buying oil as have other major consumers, South Korea and Japan. China is on its way to becoming a major beneficiary of America’s Iran policy, with the strong possibility that it will take over the $5bn contract for the South Pars gas fields with the French multinational, Total, likely to pull out because of the threat of US fines. Tehran is now looking towards Russia and China: the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union has signed a deal with Iran to lower tariffs on hundreds of goods and becoming part of a free-trade zone."

21 Jun 2018

Port of Oakland employee groups to award 18 scholarships

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"Port employees have donated more than $1 million since programs began Port of Oakland employees will award 18 scholarships by this summer. The Port Employees’ Scholarship Program and the Asian Employees Association at the Port of Oakland (AEA) raised nearly $39,000 for high school seniors in May. The organizations have given out nearly $1.2 million to more than 500 students since their founding in the 1990s. The scholarships are for high school seniors preparing for college or vocational training. They help fund post-secondary education for Oakland high school students and qualified children of Port employees. “The Port Employees’ Scholarship Program was created to encourage our youth to extend their education beyond high school and contribute to the betterment of the Oakland community,” said Ramona Dixon, Chair of the Port Employees’ Scholarship Program Committee. The top award granted by Port employees is $5,000. Edwin Burgos Perez from Coliseum College Prep Academy in Oakland is the recipient. This is the 25th anniversary of the AEA scholarship program. “I’m grateful to my colleagues who understand first-hand the value of higher education and generously support our cause,” said AEA President Cheryl Ho."

20 Jun 2018

Protecting marine life from ship noise

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"Ship noise has been shown to be the main contributor to underwater noise on a global scale, with recognized negative impacts on marine life. Scientists and researchers from international organizations, States and expert groups have been sharing the latest information on ocean noise, including its detrimental impact on species such as whales and dolphins, at the informal annual meeting on oceans and the law of the sea, at United Nations headquarters, New York, United States (18-22 June). The theme for this year’s meeting is ""Anthropogenic underwater noise"". IMO’s Stefan Micallef and Fredrik Haag outlined IMO’s work to date on ship noise. Mr. Micallef noted that IMO had adopted a mandatory code to reduce noise on ships as well as voluntary guidelines aimed at reducing underwater noise from commercial shipping to address adverse impacts on marine life. Other measures, such as ship routeing measures in designated Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas, can help reduce local ship noise. Noise has also been discussed in the context of the work of the London Convention and Protocol on the protection of the marine environment from pollution from dumping of wastes and other matter. IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee is encouraging Member States to continue to share experience and understanding of ship noise and its impacts on marine life and to put forward possible mitigation measures. Mr Micallef and Mr Haag are representing IMO at the 19th Meeting of the UN Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (ICP-19)."

14 Jun 2018

ITF and FTA collaborate to repatriate seafarers from UAE

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"Since 2016, the ITF has been assisting seafarers on board three vessels, all owned by Venous Ships Mgmt in the port of Khor Fakkan in the United Arab Emirates (UAE): • City Elite – IMO 9486908, Liberia flag • Al-Nouf – IMO 9422990, Liberia flag • Lowdale (renamed as Mercury) – IMO 891779, Palau flag The seafarers on board these vessels have endured inhumane conditions as the owner systematically abandoned them without wages, without food and water and without fuel to power the basic necessities like refrigeration and air conditioning. During 2016 and 2017 several of the crew left the vessels without being able to confirm if they had received partial wages or any wages at all. Once again in 2018, the ITF was contacted by 14 crew members from the three vessels, some of them having been on board for nine months at anchorage outside the port. On 19 March 2018, the Federal Transport Authority (FTA) of the UAE took the bold decision to ban Venous Ships Mgmt from operating any of their vessels in UAE ports or waters for repeated seafarer abandonment. The FTA and ITF have worked closely to coordinate the repatriation of the seafarers, which the ITF part-funded, and now after months of suffering the nine Sri Lankan and five Indian seafarers are home."

05 Jun 2018

Under the sea, Microsoft tests a datacenter

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"Microsoft is leveraging technology from submarines and working with pioneers in marine energy for the second phase of its moonshot to develop self-sufficient underwater datacenters that can deliver lightning-quick cloud services to coastal cities. An experimental, shipping-container-size prototype is processing workloads on the seafloor near Scotland’s Orkney Islands, Microsoft announced today. The deployment of the Northern Isles datacenter at the European Marine Energy Centre marks a milestone in Microsoft’s Project Natick, a years-long research effort to investigate manufacturing and operating environmentally sustainable, prepackaged datacenter units that can be ordered to size, rapidly deployed and left to operate lights out on the seafloor for years. “That is kind of a crazy set of demands to make,” said Peter Lee, corporate vice president of Microsoft AI and Research, who leads the New Experiences and Technologies, or NExT, group. “Natick is trying to get there.” Lee’s group pursues what Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has called “relevant moonshots” with the potential to transform the core of Microsoft’s business and the computer technology industry. Project Natick is an out-of-the-box idea to accommodate exponential growth in demand for cloud computing infrastructure near population centers. More than half of the world’s population lives within about 120 miles of the coast. By putting datacenters in bodies of water near coastal cities, data would have a short distance to travel to reach coastal communities, leading to fast and smooth web surfing, video streaming and game playing as well as authentic experiences for AI-driven technologies. “For true delivery of AI, we are really cloud dependent today,” said Lee. “If we can be within one internet hop of everyone, then it not only benefits our products, but also the products our customers serve.” Spencer Fowers, senior member of technical staff for Microsoft’s special projects research group, prepares Project Natick’s Northern Isles datacenter for deployment off the coast of the Orkney Islands in Scotland. The datacenter is secured to a ballast-filled triangular base that rests on the seafloor. Photo by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures. From France to Scotland Project Natick’s 40-foot long Northern Isles datacenter is loaded with 12 racks containing a total of 864 servers and associated cooling system infrastructure. The datacenter was assembled and tested in France and shipped on a flatbed truck to Scotland where it was attached to a ballast-filled triangular base for deployment on the seabed. On deployment day, the winds were calm and seas flat under a thick coat of fog. “For us, it was perfect weather,” said Ben Cutler, a project manager in the special projects group within Microsoft’s research organization who leads the Project Natick team. The datacenter was towed out to sea partially submerged and cradled by winches and cranes between the pontoons of an industrial catamaran-like gantry barge. At the deployment site, a remotely operated vehicle retrieved a cable containing the fiber optic and power wiring from the seafloor and brought it to the surface where it was checked and attached to the datacenter, and the datacenter powered on. Cutler said there were sighs of relief as these risks were eliminated. As if on cue, the last wisps of fog lifted. The most complex task of the day was the foot-by-foot lowering of the datacenter and cable 117 feet to the rock slab seafloor. The marine crew used 10 winches, a crane, a gantry barge and a remotely operated vehicle that accompanied the datacenter on its journey. “The most joyful moment of the day was when the datacenter finally slipped beneath the surface on its slow, carefully scripted journey,” said Cutler. Once the datacenter made it to the seafloor, the shackles were released, winch cables hauled to the surface and operational control of the Northern Isles passed to the shore station. Everything learned from the deployment – and operations over the next year and eventual recovery – will allow the researchers to measure their expectations against the reality of operating underwater datacenters in the real world. Microsoft’s Project Natick team gathers on a barge tied up to a dock in Scotland’s Orkney Islands in preparation to deploy the Northern Isles datacenter on the seafloor. Pictured from left to right are Mike Shepperd, senior R&D engineer, Sam Ogden, senior software engineer, Spencer Fowers, senior member of technical staff, Eric Peterson, researcher, and Ben Cutler, project manager. Photo by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures. Powered by renewable energy The Northern Isles is a chapter in the continuing story of Project Natick, one that tells a tale about researching whether it’s possible to use the existing logistics supply chain to ship and rapidly deploy modular datacenters anywhere in the world, even in the roughest patches of sea. “We know if we can put something in here and it survives, we are good for just about any place we want to go,” said Cutler. The European Marine Energy Centre is a test site for experimental tidal turbines and wave energy converters that generate electricity from the movement of seawater. Tidal currents there travel up to nine miles per hour at peak intensity and the sea surface regularly roils with 10-foot waves that whip up to more than 60 feet in stormy conditions. Onshore, wind turbines sprout from farmers’ rolling fields and solar panels adorn roofs of centuries-old homes, generating more than enough electricity to supply the islands’ 10,000 residents with 100 percent renewable energy. A cable from the Orkney Island grid sends electricity to the datacenter, which requires just under a quarter of a megawatt of power when operating at full capacity. Windmills are part of the landscape in the Orkney Islands, where renewable energy technologies generate 100 percent of the electricity supplied to the islands’ 10,000 residents. A cable from the Orkney Island grid also supplies electricity to Microsoft’s Northern Isles datacenter deployed off the coast, where experimental tidal turbines and wave energy converters generate electricity from the movement of seawater. Photo by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures. Colocation with marine renewable energy is a step toward realizing Microsoft’s vision of datacenters with their own sustainable power supply, explained Christian Belady, general manager of cloud infrastructure strategy and architecture in Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise division. Energy self-sufficient datacenters, he noted, could be deployed anywhere within reach of a data pipe, bringing Azure cloud services, for example, to regions of the world with unreliable electricity, and eliminate the need for costly backup generators in case of power grid failures. “Our vision is to be able to deploy compute rapidly anywhere on the planet as needed by our customers,” said Belady, who has long advocated research that explores the marriage of datacenters and energy generation to simplify and accelerate the build out of cloud computing infrastructure. Backbone of the internet Datacenters are the backbone of the internet, the physical clouds of cloud computing where customers leverage economies of scale to securely store and process data, train machine learning models and run AI algorithms. Demand for datacenter resources across the computing industry is growing exponentially as corporations increasingly shift their networks and computing needs to the cloud, and internet-connected intelligent devices ranging from smartphones to robots proliferate. “When you are in this kind of exponential growth curve, it tells you that most of the datacenters that we’ll ever build we haven’t built yet,” said Cutler, underscoring the need for innovation in the race to build out what is fast becoming a critical piece of 21st century infrastructure. The underwater datacenter concept was originally presented in a white paper prepared for a Microsoft event called ThinkWeek that encourages employees to share out-of-the-box ideas. Lee’s group was intrigued. Just 12 months after launching Project Natick in July 2014, the team had deployed a lab-built proof-of-concept prototype in calm, shallow waters off California. The proof-of-concept vessel operated for 105 days. Encouraged by the results and potential industry impact, the Project Natick team pushed ahead to design, manufacture and test the full-scale module deployed in Scotland. Cutler said the latest version is designed to remain in operation without maintenance for up to five years. Project Natick’s Northern Isles datacenter is partially submerged and cradled by winches and cranes between the pontoons of an industrial catamaran-like gantry barge. At the deployment site, a cable containing fiber optic and power wiring was attached to the Microsoft datacenter, and then the datacenter and cable lowered foot-by-foot 117 feet to the seafloor. Photo by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures. Datacenter and submarine synergy Phase 1 of Project Natick showed the underwater datacenter concept is feasible; Phase 2 is focused on researching whether the concept is logistically, environmentally and economically practical. At the outset of Phase 2, the Microsoft team knew that scalable manufacture of submarine-like datacenters would require outside expertise. That’s why Microsoft chose to work with Naval Group, a 400-year old France-based company with global expertise in engineering, manufacturing and maintaining military-grade ships and submarines as well as marine energy technologies. The Microsoft team presented Naval Group with general specifications for the underwater datacenter and let the company take the lead on the design and manufacture of the vessel deployed in Scotland. “At the first look, we thought there is a big gap between datacenters and submarines, but in fact they have a lot of synergies,” said Eric Papin, senior vice president, chief technical officer and director of innovation for Naval Group. Submarines, he noted, are essentially big pressure vessels that house complex data management and processing infrastructure for ship management and other systems integrated according to stringent requirements on electricity, volume, weight, thermal balance and cooling. Engineers slide racks of Microsoft servers and associated cooling system infrastructure into Project Natick’s Northern Isles datacenter at a Naval Group facility in Brest, France. The datacenter has about the same dimensions as a 40-foot long ISO shipping container seen on ships, trains and trucks. Photo by Frank Betermin. Submarine technology In fact, Naval Group adapted a heat-exchange process commonly used for cooling submarines to the underwater datacenter. The system pipes seawater directly through the radiators on the back of each of the 12 server racks and back out into the ocean. Findings from phase 1 of Project Natick indicate water from the datacenter rapidly mixes and dissipates in the surrounding currents. Spencer Fowers, a senior member of technical staff for Microsoft’s special projects research group, said one key design specification was for the vessel itself to have roughly the dimensions of a standard cargo container used to move supplies on ships, trains and trucks to optimize the existing logistics supply chain. Once the datacenter was bolted shut and all systems checked out in France, the team loaded the datacenter onto the back of an 18-wheel truck and drove it to the Orkney Islands, ferry crossings included. In Scotland, the vessel was secured to the ballast-filled triangular base and towed out to sea for deployment from the gantry barge “Like any new car, we will kick the tires and run the engine in different speeds to make sure everything works well,” Fowers said. “Then, once we are completely ready to go, we will grab one or two of our clients and hand them over the keys and let them start deploying jobs onto our system.” Spencer Fowers, senior member of technical staff for Microsoft’s special projects research group, prepares Project Natick’s Northern Isles datacenter for deployment off the coast of the Orkney Islands in Scotland. The datacenter is secured to a ballast-filled triangular base that rests on the seafloor. Photo by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures Applied research The Project Natick team will spend the next 12 months monitoring and recording the performance of the datacenter, keeping tabs on everything from power consumption and internal humidity levels to sound and temperature levels. The world’s oceans at depth are consistently cold, offering ready and free access to cooling, which is one of the biggest costs for land-based datacenters. Underwater datacenters could also serve as anchor tenants for marine renewable energy such as offshore wind farms or banks of tidal turbines, allowing the two industries to evolve in lockstep. For now, Project Natick is an applied research project, focused on determining the economic viability of operating containerized datacenters offshore near major population centers to provide cloud computing for a world increasingly dependent on internet connectivity."

13 Apr 2018

Stena Drilling Ltd. receives first DNV GL MPD class notation

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"DNV GL has revised its classification rules for Managed Pressure Drilling (MPD) systems and introduced two new class notations DRILL(MPD) and DRILL(MPD READY). Stena Drilling Ltd. (SDL) is the first drilling contractor to receive the notation Drill(MPD) for their harsh environment drillship Stena Carron. Managed Pressure Drilling (MPD) is an adaptive drilling process that allows greater control of the annular pressure profile throughout the wellbore. This can help operators drill new wells safely and more efficiently and in some cases to drill previously undrillable wells. Since 2013, DNV GL’s offshore standard DNVGL-OS-E101 Drilling Plant has covered the design and commissioning requirements for MPD systems. “Stena Drilling Ltd. is continuously seeking opportunities for end customers and operators and by obtaining the DRILL(MPD) notation for our vessels we believe we can demonstrate to operators that there is a robust, efficient, fully integrated and safe system in place and ready to carry out Deepwater MPD operations,” says Alex Bruce, Stena Drilling Ltd. MPD project manager. “The certification process assessed all the components roles within the system in an operational environment as well as the effect on existing systems on board, ensuring that the isolation, redundancy and safety systems met the standards of the new notation. We are very proud to have been the first offshore drilling contractor to gain this notation and it is a clear sign of our commitment to conform to the highest available quality standards.” The Stena Drilling Ltd. drillship Stena Carron was the first vessel to receive the DRILL(MPD) from DNV GL and has already successfully drilled two ultradeep wells with its DNV GL certified MPD system. MPD certification to the MPD READY notation is also planned for two more SDL drillships, Stena IceMax and Stena DrillMax. “Over the last few years we have seen significant advances in the drilling sector,” says Ernst Meyer, Senior Vice President, Director of Offshore Classification at DNV GL – Maritime. “With MPD for example, it is possible to drill through more narrow pressure margin formations and to drill more efficiently than with traditional methods. The new revision to our drilling facilities standard introduces a barrier-management approach which facilitates the certification of the most advanced drilling technologies of today and the future. Additionally, we have integrated software simulator testing into regular system certification, which improves our ability to efficiently evaluate the total performance of the control system.”"

31 Mar 2018

Improved Propeller Inspection and Metrology Joint Industry Project

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"TrueProp Software LLC of Durham, NH USA is excited to announce the launch of the new Improved Propeller Inspection and Metrology Joint Industry Project (JIP). This novel six-member JIP will address the development of methods and software code for improvements in propeller inspection, geometric modeling, and compliance standards. A group of six companies – led by TrueProp Software LLC, and including HydroComp, Inc., Linden Propeller, Padgett-Swann Machinery, Wildcat Propellers, and Argonaut Enterprises – kicked off this project on February 23rd, 2018. The propeller specialists at HydroComp will be the lead investigators. Geometric inspection of a propeller’s blade shape is a critical step in the quality assurance for new propeller manufacture and propeller repair. This JIP aims to resolve a number of identified deficiencies in metrology, compliance criteria, and inspection practices to achieve the following objectives: improved workflow productivity, cost savings, better product outcomes, and connectivity for new and legacy inspection devices. Members will participate in development, application, and testing of new modules in the TruePropTM propeller inspection software. About TrueProp Software LLC TrueProp Software LLC develops software for marine propeller inspection. Established in 2016, TrueProp is the only device-agnostic software available for propeller inspection and repair. Our driving philosophy is to provide the propeller manufacturing, sales, and repair community with the highest quality tools for inspection, repair guidance, and compliance reporting. "

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