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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. "

24 Mar 2018

Latin America maritime cooperation centre launched

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"The Latin America Maritime Technology Cooperation Centre, part of a global network established under an ambitious IMO-EU project to further efforts to combat climate change, has been launched in Panama (13 March). The centre, hosted by the Universidad Marítima Internacional de Panamá (UMIP), is one of five such centres established under the GMN project, which is funded by the European Union (EU) and run by IMO. The centres, in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific regions, act as regional focal points for a wide range of activities. These include, improving compliance with existing and future international energy-efficiency regulations; promoting uptake of low-carbon technologies and operations in maritime transport, and establishing voluntary pilot data-collection and reporting systems to feed back into the global regulatory process. In doing so, they will play their part in supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Latin America Maritime Technology Cooperation Centre – or MTCC-Latin America – was launched at the host institute at a special event attended by representatives of the European Union, the Government of Panama, non-governmental organizations and academia as well as representatives from 17 countries in the region. Speaking at the launch event, IMO’s Jose Matheickal said, “The global network of MTCCs will promote understanding and knowledge of technologies and operations to improve energy efficiency in the maritime sector and will help to navigate shipping into a low-carbon future.” Also speaking during the launch ceremony was the Minister of Maritime Affairs of Panama and Administrator of the Panama Maritime Authority, Mr. Jorge Barakat, who congratulated IMO for its efforts toward the promotion of a more energy-efficient maritime industry and reaffirmed the support of the Panama Maritime Authority. He said, “The Panamanian maritime administration is proud and pleased with the inauguration of this regional centre.” The launch was followed by the first regional workshop to be run by MTCC-Latin America (13-15 March). Participants will be updated on the GMN project, share experiences of implementing IMO’s energy efficiency regulation and discuss constraints and opportunitie"

22 Mar 2018

Thome Outlines Key Strategies for Success at CMA

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"Gautam Kashyap, Thome’s Vice President for Business Development, outlined the Group’s strategies for success at the 2018 Connecticut Maritime Association shipping conference. “Ship Management is changing and the right mix of digitalisation, automation and data analytics are key criteria towards providing greater efficiency, transparency and value-added services to clients in the future,” he said. Ship Managers will need to invest heavily in new technology to keep up with changes in the market and Thome has already started this process by developing an Operations Hub, based at its headquarters in Singapore, which enables situational awareness for both duty-personnel and Thome’s crisis teams. This is the first stage in a three-stage process enabling remote tracking of individual ships in the fleet, passage planning, security risk assessment, weather routing, video conferencing, integrated vessel management system (NAU) implementation, and individual on-board CCTV remote monitoring. Two additional stages of improvements in the hub are planned. Stage two will further improve efficiency and availability through operational support functions like cargo handling, port turnaround and energy efficiency monitoring. Stage three will concentrate on advanced support covering areas like cyber security, machinery condition assessment and trouble shooting. Crew and onshore training is also crucial and Thome has a very comprehensive programme in place to ensure that all staff receive correct and relevant training for their roles which are updated on a regular basis. In conclusion, Mr. Kashyap felt that a company’s size would be a critical factor in being able to meet customer demands and industry requirements in the future. Thome has grown from humble origins to having a fleet of over 400 vessels, a crew pool of over 12,000 seafarers, a shore team of over 800 people and 11 worldwide offices. This means the Group can compete on a global scale and is ready for the challenges of the future. "

19 Mar 2018

Steel tariffs strain India’s ties with Trump

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"The relationship between Narendra Modi and Donald Trump is facing its biggest test yet after the US president’s decision to raise tariffs on imported steel and aluminium started a broader fight over each other’s trade policies. India and the US have both accused the other of breaching World Trade Organization rules. Officials in New Delhi say the new US tariffs go beyond agreed limits, while Washington is challenging export incentives offered to Indian companies. Officials from 24 different WTO countries will meet at an informal session on Tuesday in New Delhi to discuss these and other issues. Biswajit Dhar, head of the Centre for WTO Studies in New Delhi, said: “We are coming to a position where these issues must be addressed, and the mini-ministerial meeting is the ideal place to do it. ” Mr Trump and Mr Modi formed a rapport when the US president visited New Delhi last summer. But that has not stopped Mr Trump from singling out India for what he calls unfair trade policies. Last month he called Mr Modi a “beautiful” and “fantastic” man, but added that the US was “getting nothing” from the trading relationship between the two. He has repeatedly complained that India imposes a punitive import duty on Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Mr Trump has since unveiled tariffs of 25 per cent on steel imports and 10 per cent on aluminium, angering many of its closest allies, including the EU, which is considering bringing a complaint to the WTO. India is not a big exporter of either metal to the US, accounting for about $1.5bn of sales — 2 per cent of the US’s total steel and aluminium imports. But officials in Delhi were furious about the tariffs, and concerned that it might be a precursor to further action that could hit some of its more significant exports, such as pharmaceuticals. They also argue that the exemptions granted to countries including Mexico and Canada flout the “most favoured nation” principle under which countries must not impose different tariffs on others. “This would completely break the ‘most favoured nation’ system,” said one official. “If there was a dispute settlement hearing at the WTO, it would be decided in a minute. ” New Delhi has so far proved reluctant to bring a case to the WTO, however, with the commerce department’s most senior bureaucrat suggesting it might instead seek an exemption alongside other US allies. India’s commerce secretary Rita Teaotia told reporters last week: “The tariffs have been imposed on security grounds and some of the key trading partners have been excluded from that. “On the basis of India’s strategic partnership with the United States, we are certainly not a security threat to the United States, and an exemption for India on the same grounds should also be available. ” Ms Teaotia said the issue would not formally be discussed at next week’s meeting, though experts say it may be discussed on the sidelines. In the meantime, however, Washington has launched its own WTO complaint against India, alleging that several of its export subsidy schemes flout the organization’s rules. The six schemes are worth about $7bn, according to the US. Robert Lighthizer, the country’s trade representative, said: “These export subsidy programmes harm American workers by creating an uneven playing field on which they must compete. ” New Delhi wants more time to phase out the subsidies, but officials admit they might have to restructure or scrap some of them quickly. Nor is this the first time the US has complained at the WTO about Indian subsidy schemes. Last year, Washington argued successfully that New Delhi broke WTO rules when a government scheme required solar developers to use a certain proportion of Indian-made supplies. Some in India are pushing hard for New Delhi to ignore the US complaint and file its own against Mr Trump’s new tariffs. “Along with many other countries, India is a victim of the US taking actions that are clearly against WTO rules,” said Mr Dhar. “They should approach the WTO with their complaint together. ” But for now, at least, the Indian government appears reluctant to allow the dispute to escalate. Ms Teaotia said: “I believe we both have very significant interest in each others’ markets. We are friendly countries. We wish to engage with each other and certainly wish to do business with each other.” "

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