US demands commercial vessels send Gulf transit plans in advance

British cruise line P&O has canceled cruises around Dubai and the Arabian Gulf until at least March next year after Iran seized a British-flagged tanker in the region. (Supplied)
Updated 08 August 2019

US demands commercial vessels send Gulf transit plans in advance

  • P&O cancels Dubai and Gulf cruises amid escalating geopolitical tensions in the Strait of Hormuz

DUBAI: The US maritime agency has told US-flagged commercial vessels they should send transit plans in advance to American and British naval authorities if they intend to sail in Gulf waters following several incidents over tankers involving Iran.

The seizure of commercial vessels and attacks on tankers near the Strait of Hormuz have unsettled shipping lanes that link Middle Eastern oil producers to global markets.

The US, which has increased its military forces in the region, has blamed Iran for blasts on several tankers near the Strait, a charge Tehran denies.

Britain said on Monday it was joining the US in a maritime security mission in the Gulf to protect vessels after Iran seized a British-flagged tanker.

“Heightened military activity and increased political tensions in this region continue to pose serious threats to commercial vessels,” the US Maritime Administration (MARAD) said in an advisory on Wednesday.

“Associated with these threats is a potential for miscalculation or misidentification that could lead to aggressive actions,” it added.

Ships should also alert the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations in the event of any incident or suspicious activity. It warned they could face interference to their global positioning systems (GPS).

MARAD said in at least two incidents involving commercial vessels and Iran since May 2019 ships had reported interference with their GPS and “spoofed” communications from unknown entities falsely claiming to be US or other warships.

It advised crews to decline Iranian forces permission to board if the safety of the ship and crew would not be at risk but said they should not forcibly resist any boarding party.

Traffic through the Strait, through which about a fifth of the world’s oil passes, has become the focus for a standoff between Iran and the US after President Donald Trump quit a 2015 nuclear pact and reimposed sanctions on Tehran.

Iran says the responsibility of securing these waters lies with Tehran and other countries in the region.

“The maritime coalition that US is trying to form will create more instability and insecurity,” Iran’s Defense Minister Amir Hatami was quoted as saying by Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency on Thursday during phone calls with his counterparts from Qatar, Oman and Kuwait.

Washington is lobbying other nations to join the coalition along with Britain, which has the largest naval presence in the area after the US.

Earlier, P&O Cruises said it had canceled cruises around Dubai and the Arabian Gulf after Iran seized a British-flagged tanker in the region.

Citing increased tensions, the company said it has canceled its planned program in the region from October until at least March next year and all guests be issued a full refund.

“As a British company flying the Red Ensign it is not advisable for us to maintain our planned Dubai and Arabian Gulf program this winter season,” said Paul Ludlow, P&O Cruises president.

“We have therefore taken the unusual step of withdrawing Oceana from the region for the upcoming season.”


Gulf Marine CEO quits after review sparks profit warning

Updated 22 August 2019

Gulf Marine CEO quits after review sparks profit warning

  • Tensions in the Arabian Gulf, a worrisome global growth outlook and uncertainty over oil prices have recently dampened investor confidence

DUBAI: Gulf Marine Services said on Wednesday Chief Executive Officer Duncan Anderson has resigned as the oilfield industry contractor warned a reassessment of its ships and contracts showed profit would fall this year, kicking its shares 12 percent down.

The Abu Dhabi-based offshore services specialist said a review by new finance chief Stephen Kersley of its large E-class vessels operating in Northwest Europe and the Middle East pointed to 2019 core earnings of between $45 million and $48 million, below $58 million that it reported last year.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that Anderson, who has served as CEO for 12 years, was asked to step down. Anderson could not be reached for comment.

The company, which in the past predominantly operated in the UAE, expanded operations and deployed large vessels in the North Sea and Saudi Arabia nine years ago and listed its shares in London in 2014.

Tensions in the Arabian Gulf, a worrisome global growth outlook and uncertainty over oil prices have recently dampened investor confidence.

The North Sea has seen a revival in production in recent years due to new fields coming on line and improved performance by operators following the 2014 oil price collapse.

Still, the basin’s production is expected to decline over the next decade, according to Britain’s Oil and Gas Authority.

“(The CFO’s) review has coincided with a pause in renewables-related self-propelled self-elevating support vessels activity in the North Sea, which will impact several of the higher day-rate E-Class vessels,” Investec wrote in a note.

Gulf Marine appointed industry veteran Kersley as chief financial officer in late May as it sought to halt a slide which has seen the company’s shares fall nearly 80 percent last year and another 23 percent so far this year.

The company said market conditions remained challenging and that it was still in talks with its financial advisors regarding a new capital structure.

“Management, the new board and the group’s advisors, have been in negotiation with the group’s banks on resetting its capital structure and progress has been made,” it said in a statement.

Last year, Gulf Marine said contracts were delayed into 2019 as the company was seen to be in breach of certain banking covenants at the end of 2018.

The company said it was still in talks with its banks and individual lenders with hopes of getting a waiver or an agreement to amend the concerned covenants.