Rolls-Royce hit by further setback to fixing Boeing 787 engines

As of late February, Rolls-Royce said 35 Boeing 787s were grounded globally due to engine blades corroding or cracking prematurely. (AFP)
Updated 20 September 2019

Rolls-Royce hit by further setback to fixing Boeing 787 engines

  • The company faces £1.6 billion ($2 billion) in extra costs and disruption as a result of the engine problem
  • As of late February, Rolls said 35 787s were grounded globally due to engine blades corroding or cracking prematurely

Rolls-Royce will take longer than expected to fix problems with its Trent 1000 engine, frustrating efforts to get Boeing 787s grounded by the glitch flying again and knocking the British company’s shares.
Rolls-Royce, whose engines power large civil and military planes, said on Friday it had sped up turbine blade replacement for some models, leading to additional removals and delaying a reduction in the number of grounded aircraft to single figures until the second quarter of 2020.
The company faces £1.6 billion ($2 billion) in extra costs and disruption as a result of the engine problem, which is due to the poor durability of components, and the latest delay spells further frustration for its customers and investors.
Rolls-Royce, whose customers include more than 400 airlines, 160 armed forces and 70 navies, said in August that it would spend another £100 million to fix the issue.
“We perceived a risk that further action would be required, potentially leading to higher costs being incurred ... today’s announcement that guidance for the Trent 1000 cash costs in 2019 and 2020 remains unchanged comes as a relief,” Jefferies analysts, who rate the stock as “buy,” said.
Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East said in August that a target of fewer than 10 aircraft on the ground at the end of the year might take a bit longer to achieve as a result of an additional repair load resulting from faster deterioration of a blade on the Trent 1000 TEN.
The Trent 1000 TEN is the latest version of an engine that has had a problematic entry into service. As of late February, Rolls said 35 787s were grounded globally due to engine blades corroding or cracking prematurely.
“We deeply regret the additional disruption that this will cause our customers and we continue to work closely with them to minimize the impact on their operations,” Rolls-Royce said.
Airlines have faced disruptions because of the groundings, with Norwegian Air’s strategy switch to prioritize profits over growth hampered by the global grounding of Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft and long-running problems with Rolls-Royce’s engines on Boeing Dreamliners.
Singapore Airlines has also grounded two 787-10 jets fitted with the Trent 1000 TEN engines.
Rolls-Royce is keen to avoid further problems with the engine and in March dropped out of the race to power Boeing’s planned mid-market aircraft.


Tanker off UAE sought by US over Iran sanctions ‘hijacked’

Updated 16 July 2020

Tanker off UAE sought by US over Iran sanctions ‘hijacked’

  • The circumstances of the hijack are still unclear and the boat has been tracked to Iranian waters

DUBAI: An oil tanker sought by the US over allegedly circumventing sanctions on Iran was hijacked on July 5 off the coast of the UAE, a seafarers organization said Wednesday.

Satellite photos showed the vessel in Iranian waters on Tuesday and two of its sailors remained in the Iranian capital.

It wasn’t immediately clear what happened aboard the Dominica-flagged MT Gulf Sky, though its reported hijacking comes after months of tensions between Iran and the US

David Hammond, the CEO of the United Kingdom-based group Human Rights at Sea, said he took a witness statement from the captain of the MT Gulf Sky, confirming the ship had been hijacked.

Hammond said that 26 of the Indian sailors on board had made it back to India, while two remained in Tehran, without elaborating.

“We are delighted to hear that the crew are safe and well, which has been our fundamental concern from the outset,” Hammond told The Associated Press.

Hammond said that he had no other details about the vessel.

TankerTrackers.com, a website tracking the oil trade at sea, said it saw the vessel in satellite photos on Tuesday in Iranian waters off Hormuz Island. 

Hormuz Island, near the port city of Bandar Abbas, is some 190 kilometers (120 miles) north of Khorfakkan, a city on the eastern coast of the United Arab Emirates where the vessel had been for months.

The Emirati government, the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the US Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet did not respond to requests for comment. Iranian state media did not immediately report on the vessel and Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In May, the US Justice Department filed criminal charges against two Iranians, accusing them of trying to launder some $12 million to purchase the tanker, at that time named the MT Nautica, through a series of front companies. 

The vessel then took on Iranian oil from Kharg Island to sell abroad, the US government said.

Court documents allege the scheme involved the Quds Force of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which is its elite expeditionary unit, as well as Iran’s national oil and tanker companies. The two men charged, one of whom also has an Iraqi passport, remain at large.

“Because a US bank froze the funds related to the sale of the vessel, the seller never received payment,” the Justice Department said. “As a result, the seller instituted a civil action in the UAE to recover the vessel.”

That civil action was believed to be still pending, raising questions of how the tanker sailed away from the Emirates after being seized by authorities there.

Data from the MT Gulf Sky’s Automatic Identification System tracker shows it had been turned off around 4:30 a.m. on July 5, according to ship-tracking website MarineTraffic.com. Ships are supposed to keep their AIS trackers on, but Iranian vessels routinely turn theirs off to mask their movements.

Meanwhile, the 28 Indian sailors on board the vessel found themselves stuck on board without pay for months, according to the International Labor Organization. It filed a report saying the vessel and its sailors had been abandoned by its owners since March off Khorfakkan. The ILO did not respond to a request for comment.

As tensions between Iran and the US heated up last year, tankers plying the waters of the Mideast became targets, particularly near the crucial Strait of Hormuz, the Arabian Gulf’s narrow mouth through which 20 percent of all oil passes. Suspected limpet mine attacks the US blamed on Iran targeted several tankers. Iran denied being involved, though it did seize several tankers.