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Greek-based Empire Bulkers and Joanna Maritime plead guilty to oil pollution charges

If proposed plea agreement is approved by the court, the companies will be fined total USD 2 million and serve four years of probation, says U.S. Department of Justice.

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Empire Bulkers Limited and Joanna Maritime Limited, related companies based in Greece, on Tuesday (May 24) pleaded guilty today to knowing violations of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships and the Ports and Waterways Safety Act related to the Motor Vessel Joanna, said U.S. Department of Justice. 

The guilty pleas took place today in federal court in New Orleans, Louisiana, before U.S. District Court Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon. 

If the proposed plea agreement is approved by the court, the companies will be fined USD 2 million (USD 1 million each), and serve four years of probation subject to the terms of an environmental compliance plan that includes independent ship audits and supervision by a court appointed monitor.

“Deliberate violation of environmental and safety laws pose a serious threat to U.S. ports and waters, as well as to those working on ships,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. 

“These corporations knowingly engaged in dangerous and deceitful misconduct that warrants robust enforcement of the law.”

“This prosecution sends a clear and deterrent message that those who cut corners and break the law will be vigorously prosecuted,” said U.S. Attorney Duane Evans for the Eastern District of Louisiana. 

“These companies will be under close supervision going forward.”

In pleading guilty, Empire Bulkers and Joanna Maritime admitted to knowingly falsifying the ship’s Oil Record Book, a required log, that concealed overboard discharges of oil contaminated waste made in violation of MARPOL, an international treaty to which the United States is a party. 

The criminal violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships was discovered by a U.S. Coast Guard inspector who noticed that a valve handle used to sample the oil content of overboard discharges was out of position during a March 2021 inspection in New Orleans, according to a joint factual statement filed in court. 

A metal piece found welded inside enabled overboard discharges to occur while the sample being evaluated by the Oil Content Monitor was being diluted with fresh water.

A Coast Guard advisory issued in 2008 as well as a notice from the manufacturer of the monitor warned about this exact method of tricking the oil content monitor. 

Overboard discharges are only permissible if they are processed through an oily water separator and measured by the oil content monitor to contain a concentration of oil less than 15 parts per million (ppm) without dilution. 

The entries made in the oil record book relating to overboard discharges and presented to the Coast Guard falsely indicated that discharges had occurred through 15 ppm equipment. The ship owner and operator also admitted that discharge entries in the oil record book had been co-signed by an engineer that did not have anything to do with the operations or have knowledge of their accuracy.

The Coast Guard discovered an unreported safety hazard during the same inspection. After Coast Guard was on the vessel, ship representatives sought permission to maneuver from the Bonnet Carre Anchorage to the CCI Buoys further upriver where cargo operations were scheduled to take place. 

Coast Guard inspectors travelling with the ship during the voyage noticed drops of oil in the engine room. They followed the trail of oil which led near the purifier room. 

When they looked inside, the purifier room, the Coast Guard discovered that the discharge line from the pressure relief valves had been disconnected and crimped closed thus disabling both pressure relief valves. The safety relief valves on the fuel oil heaters serve a critical safety function because they allow pressure to be released and oil diverted to a waste oil tank. 

In papers filed in court, the defendants admitted that the plugging of the relief valves and the large volume of oil leaking from the pressure relief valve presented hazardous conditions that had not been immediately reported to the Coast Guard in violation of the Ports and Waterways Safety Act. 

Had there been a fire or explosion in the purifier room, it could have been catastrophic and resulted in a loss of propulsion, loss of life, and pollution, according to the factual statement.

Related: Empire Bulkers, Joanna Maritime, Chief Engineer face oil pollution charges

 

Photo credit: Marine Traffic / Peter van Gils
Published: 30 May, 2022

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Technology

SMW 2024: MPA partners with S&P Global and Bunkerchain in digital ship identity

MPA signed a MoU with S&P Global and Bunkerchain to use Singapore as test bed to trial and pilot use of digital ship identity in maritime applications such as digital port clearance and digital bunkering.

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SMW 2024: MPA partners with S&P Global and Bunkerchain in digital ship identity

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) on Tuesday (16 April) announced it signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with S&P Global Market Intelligence and Bunkerchain to pilot the use of digital ship identity in the republic. 

The signing took place at the ‘Accelerating Digitalisation and Decarbonisation Conference’ at Singapore Maritime Week (SMW) on the same day.

The parties agreed to use the Port of Singapore as the test bed to trial and pilot the use of digital ship identity in maritime applications such as digital port clearance and digital bunkering.

Digital identity refers to the unique representation of an entity in the digital world, which consists of various attributes and data that distinguishes it from others.

“Electronic transactions may be vulnerable to various risks as such identity fraud and data integrity breaches,” MPA said.

“Digital ship identity plays a crucial role in making electronic transactions more secure, trusted, and efficient in the maritime sector. When deployed in tandem with electronic signatures, these digital technologies will eliminate the need for physical ship stamps and wet ink signatures, and accelerate the transition towards a truly digital, secure, and paperless operations.”

MPA, together with Esri Singapore, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s Institute of High Performance Computing and the Technology Centre for Offshore and Marine, Singapore, also developed a digital twin proof-of-concept of a methanol bunkering leak incident. 

“The digital twin runs on an interactive web application that integrates weather and ocean current predictions and AIS data to present visualisation of chemical plume dispersions in the event of a bunkering incident involving alternative fuels,” it said.  

“The capability can help enhance planners’ understanding of the behaviour of the plume clouds under various conditions and guide the development of safety and incident response plans and standards.”

The port authority also announced a collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS), an Amazon.com company, to support the maritime industry’s digital transformation and green transition. 

MPA will tap on AWS services including cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), and digital twins to enhance the industry’s efficiency, safety, and sustainability outcomes. 

As part of the collaboration, MPA and AWS will develop the maritime Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI–ML) Digital Hub, the first-of-its-kind in ASEAN region. 

The AI–ML Digital Hub will leverage AWS cloud to enable the maritime industry to pilot innovative AI and generative AI (GenAI) capabilities to trial on the Green and Digital Shipping Corridors, optimising routes and fuel consumption, carbon emissions accounting, and just-in-time arrivals to help ships operate more efficiently, reduce greenhouse gases emissions, and enhance safety of operations.

A memorandum of understanding was signed between Mr David Foo, Assistant Chief Executive (Operations Technology), MPA and Ms Elsie Tan, Country Manager, Worldwide Public Sector, Singapore, AWS.

Related: SMW2024: 18th Singapore Maritime Week opens with ‘Actions meet Ambition’ theme
Related: SMW 2024: MPA to set up facility for maritime workforce to train in handling new bunker fuels
Related: SMW 2024: Singapore-Rotterdam Green and Digital Shipping Corridor partners to implement first-mover pilot projects

 

Photo credit: Bunkerchain
Published: 16 April 2024

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Bunker Fuel

SMW 2024: Singapore is preparing port for multi-fuel future, says Transport Minister.

‘Our industry has brought in new bunker tankers capable of bunkering higher blends of biofuel and methanol, paving the way for greater emissions reduction for vessels,’ says Chee Hong Tat.

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SMW 2024: Singapore is preparing port for a multi-fuel future, says Transport Minister.

Singapore has moved decisively to ensure energy and fuel resilience as international shipping looks to alternative fuels to meet global decarbonisation targets, said Singapore’s Minister for Transport Mr Chee Hong Tat on Monday (15 April).

In his speech at the Singapore Maritime Week (SMW) 2024 opening ceremony, he said Singapore is preparing its port for a multi-fuel future.

“Our industry has brought in new bunker tankers capable of bunkering higher blends of biofuel and methanol, paving the way for greater emissions reduction for vessels,” he said.

“MPA has also issued Expressions of Interest (EOI) for the alternative fuels ammonia and methanol over this past year.

“For our ammonia EOI, we have shortlisted six consortiums, and are studying their comprehensive proposals for the supply of ammonia for bunkering and power generation in Singapore.”

Chee added reliability and resilience also mean that Singapore upholds the highest standards for safety, efficiency, and quality. 

“Enterprise Singapore, through the Singapore Standards Council, has been working closely with industry partners to introduce national standards to support the digitalisation of bunkering supply chain documentation, as well as on methanol and ammonia bunkering.”

“As a major maritime and bunkering hub, Singapore is committed to continue serving as a trusted node for international shipping.”

Chee said this when elaborating on Singapore’s focus to grow the republic as a hub for reliable and resilient maritime operations, one of three important areas the republic will prioritise on growing its maritime sector. 

The other two areas are to grow Maritime Singapore as a hub for maritime innovation and as a hub for maritime talent development.

“Looking ahead, we expect some turbulence along the way, but we are confident that the global maritime industry will continue to grow,” Chee said.

“And Singapore as a hub port and International Maritime Centre can benefit from this growth and the opportunities it brings, including in emerging areas like digitalisation and decarbonisation.”

However, Chee warned Singapore shouldn’t take its success for granted and to continue improving productivity and competitiveness while staying relevant to changing requirements to be able to meet the needs of local and international stakeholders. 

“But we must not rest on our laurels, or make the mistake of thinking that these positive outcomes will happen on auto-pilot. A rising tide can indeed lift all boats, but the boat and its crew can only benefit if they are well-prepared when the water level rises,” he said.

Related: SMW2024: 18th Singapore Maritime Week opens with ‘Actions meet Ambition’ theme
Related: SMW 2024: MPA to set up facility for maritime workforce to train in handling new bunker fuels
Related: SMW 2024: Singapore-Rotterdam Green and Digital Shipping Corridor partners to implement first-mover pilot projects
RelatedSMW 2023: EOI for ammonia power generation and bunkering closing by 30 April
Related: Singapore gets its first dedicated methanol bunkering tanker “MT MAPLE”
Related: Singapore: Vitol Bunkers takes delivery of specialised biofuel bunker barge “Marine Future”

 

Photo credit: Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore
Published: 16 April 2024

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Biofuel

Banle Energy arranges B24 bunkering services for “YM Utility” in Yantian

Transaction supports the first B24 biofuel supply in Shenzhen and Yang Ming’s inaugural B24 biofuel bunkering supply in China, says firm.

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Banle Energy arranges B24 bunkering services for “YM Utility” in Yantian

Banle Energy International Limited, a subsidiary of CBL International Limited, on Monday (15 April) announced the arrangement of B24 biofuel bunkering services for Yang Ming's vessel YM Utility at a port in Yantian, Shenzhen on 14 April.

“By providing Yang Ming with our B24 biofuel bunkering services, this transaction supports the first B24 biofuel supply in Shenzhen and Yang Ming's inaugural B24 biofuel bunkering supply in China,” the firm in a social media post. 

“As a company actively promoting the use of biofuels, we are making a significant contribution to the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from international shipping.”

“The B24 biofuel blend, as indicated by a study, is projected to reduce approximately 20% of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions when compared with conventional fuel oil.”

As the firm focuses on expanding its operations in Europe, the firm added it will continue to forge strategic partnerships and explore new opportunities to provide efficient and reliable solutions.

 

Photo credit: Banle Energy International Limited
Published: 16 April 2024

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