Suez blockage could ‘take weeks’ to clear

Suez blockage could ‘take weeks’ to clear
This could lead to a shortage of containers vital for global trade, as well as a “shock” to the global supply chain. (File/AFP)
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Updated 30 March 2021

Suez blockage could ‘take weeks’ to clear

Suez blockage could ‘take weeks’ to clear
  • The 400 meter long Ever Given - owned by Taiwanese company Evergreen Marine Corporation - ran aground on March 23
  • The effects of the blockage are expected to remain a challenge to the shipping industry

It could take weeks to clear the tail-back of ships looking to use the Suez Canal, even as the gigantic container carrier Ever Given resumes its voyage through the world’s business shipping lane, data analysts have calculated.

“We currently expect a delay of at least 10 days to 2 weeks for all vessels reaching Suez henceforth and assuming the stuck container ship is refloated within the next couple of days for the transits to resume,” Ranjith Raja, oil research manager at data group Refinitiv, said.

The 400 meter long Ever Given - owned by Taiwanese company Evergreen Marine Corporation - ran aground on March 23, halting passage through the vital trade route and causing a log-jam of ships in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.

After the ship was refloated on Monday and was preparing to exit the canal, resuming its voyage to Rotterdam, the effects of the blockage are expected to remain a challenge to the shipping industry, already dealing with volatile market conditions.

“The canal has handled about 100 ships making the transit on a single day according to the 2020 transit data. However, there are limitations due to the size of the ships making the transit and the tidal factors that prevail on the day. Factoring these, it will take weeks to clear the jam that has accumulated till date and not accounting for the additional vessels that would be added for the week,” he added.

Refinitiv calculates that a total of 369 ships are currently waiting on either side of the canal to make the transit once the Ever Given is re-floated and the channel cleared. This accounts for a total of 25 million tons, an increase of 80 percent in the past five days. An estimated 85 ships are currently enroute to join the jam before the end of the month.

This could lead to a shortage of containers vital for global trade, as well as a “shock” to the global supply chain, especially in industries like manufacturing and car assembly, which relies on the “just in time” supply principle.

“Hence this isolated incident is expected to have subsequent cost implications and delays to the wider consumer goods mainly for the European, Middle East and Asian markets,” Refinitiv said.

The alternative for ships stuck in the canal is to go round the Cape of Good Hope route in southern Africa, which would add significantly to costs and increase security risks from piracy, with a resultant spike in insurance costs.

The impact of this sudden shortage of ships is global, with rates for containers rising on big global routes like Singapore to Rotterdam and from China to the US West Coast.

However, despite some volatility in the price of oil last week when the Ever Given’s problems became apparent, Refinitive does not expect a a major impact on the global crude markets.

“Given the crude oil volumes handled by the Canal and the current scenario of demand and inventory in Asia and in the West, it is unlikely that the blockage in the Suez Canal will have a significant impact on crude oil balances as well as prices,” it said.


Saudi Aramco part of $50 million funding for US software firm

Saudi Aramco part of $50 million funding for US software firm
Updated 3 min 35 sec ago

Saudi Aramco part of $50 million funding for US software firm

Saudi Aramco part of $50 million funding for US software firm
  • The extra $50 million brings Seeq’s total funding since its launch in 2013 to around $115 million

RIYADH: Saudi Aramco’s investment arm was among a group of investors who awarded SR187.5 million ($50 million) to a Seattle-based manufacturing and technology software company.

Seeq Corp. said it had raised the new funds as part of a Series C funding round as the group of investors backing the financing were Altira Group, Chevron Technology Ventures, Cisco Investments, Second Avenue Partners and Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures (SAEV).

The extra $50 million brings Seeq’s total funding since its launch in 2013 to around $115 million. While the breakdown of figures was not given, Seeq did say that SAEV was already an existing investor from previous funding rounds. Seeq enables engineers and scientists to rapidly analyze, predict, collaborate, and share insights to improve production and business outcomes for its products. It operates across many sectors, including oil and gas, pharmaceutical, chemical, energy and mining.

The Seattle-based company aims to use the new funds to develop its sales and marketing resources and expand its presence into international markets.

“By leveraging big data, machine learning and computer science innovations, Seeq is enabling a new generation of software-led insights,” Steve Sliwa, the CEO and co-founder of Seeq, said in a press statement.

According to its website, SAEV is described as the strategic technology venturing program of Saudi Aramco. Its mission is to invest globally into startup and high-growth companies with technologies of strategic importance to Aramco, to accelerate its development and its deployment in the company.


EU poised to unveil green investment list

EU poised to unveil green investment list
Updated 12 min 40 sec ago

EU poised to unveil green investment list

EU poised to unveil green investment list
  • Bloc aims to become carbon neutral by 2050 and mitigate climate change

BRUSSELS: The European Commission will next week present the first part of a “green taxonomy” list of energy sources and technology to be labeled as sustainable investments, but a question mark hangs over the inclusion of natural gas.

The classification system, to be published on Wednesday, is mandated under a 2019 agreement between member states and the European Parliament meant to define durable economic activities and green finance.

It seeks to define what the EU would deem as sustainable as it moves toward a goal of Europe becoming carbon neutral by 2050, with criteria focusing on mitigating climate change or preparing for it.

A second commission proposal is to follow later this year covering four other subjects — protection of water and marine resources, the circular economy, preventing pollution and biodiversity — all part of the EU’s “Green Deal” to reach that ambition.

For an investment to be considered “green” it has to meet one of these objectives without hurting any of the others.

The proposal is to become a “delegated act,” meaning it becomes law unless member states or the European Parliament reject it.

But a leak of the commission’s taxonomy list last month raised an outcry from NGOs, experts and MEPs, in particular over the inclusion of gas as a partially sustainable energy source.

Nine experts the commission consulted threatened to break off cooperation over the perceived “greenwashing,” according to a letter sent to the commission and seen by AFP.

The commission plan, according to the leak, is to have gas-fueled power stations labeled as “green” as transitional facilities up to 2025 where they replace ones using coal. One of the experts signing the letter, Sebastien Godinot, economist at the environmental protection NGO WWF, said that would give a “blank check” to gas operators and risk a long-term dependence on fossil fuels.

“This proposal could potentially create a direct incentive to build even more gas co-generation plants than already planned,” Godinot warned.

A Green MEP from the Netherlands, Bas Eickhout said: “A gas-fired power plant built now is there to stay for 40 years. So brings you way over the 2050 deadline.”

As a result, “we are going to object” to the commission proposal, based on the version leaked in March, Eickhout said.

Several sources said that the governments of Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Luxembourg and Spain had written a joint letter to the commission to voice their objection to including gas in the taxonomy.

Godinot noted that, while natural gas releases less carbon dioxide than coal, it also emits methane, considered a worse greenhouse emission.

Other points of discord are the commission’s approach to forestries and logging, seen by some as not rigorous enough, and it automatically classifying bioenergy as durable even when the biomass it uses comes from dedicated farmland.

A French news website, Contexte, said on Thursday that the commission has been forced to revise its document and could revert to an ordinary legislative process that would be much longer.

The commission did not confirm that. An EU source said the text it is to present is “still in development” and stressed how technical it was.

“Right now, we’re talking about a general approach to gas. Further analyses are needed,” the source said.


Egypt, Sudan airlines sign MoU to boost ties

Egypt, Sudan airlines sign MoU to boost ties
Updated 18 min 21 sec ago

Egypt, Sudan airlines sign MoU to boost ties

Egypt, Sudan airlines sign MoU to boost ties
  • The partnership aims to transfer Egyptian expertise in the aviation sector to Sudan

CAIRO: Egypt’s national carrier EgyptAir has launched a strategic partnership with Sudan Airways to strengthen aviation ties between the two countries.

Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Mohamed Manar and Khaled Al-Sheikh, deputy Sudanese ambassador to Egypt, attended the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signing ceremony.

Amr Abu El-Enein, EgyptAir chairman and CEO, and Sudan Airways Director General Yasir Timo signed the MoU.

The Egyptian minister highlighted the importance of the strategic partnership between the airlines and their role in enhancing trade exchange between the two countries. He said the MoU is part of Cairo’s strategy to strengthen bilateral ties in a range of fields, including aviation.The partnership aims to transfer Egyptian expertise in the aviation sector to Sudan.

Manar said the MoU includes training of employees with the Sudanese flag carrier, and helping the country modernize its aircraft fleet by managing network planning, developing maintenance operations, and providing advisory services in quality control and technical approvals. Under the agreement, Egyptian experts will train Sudanese officials in aviation security, ground services and other technical aspects.

The MoU also seeks to increase air traffic between the two countries, leading to increased economic opportunities for both.

A joint working group will have regular meetings to follow up on projects and contracts.

Timo also expressed his happiness at signing the MoU with EgyptAir, due to its expertise, human cadres and technical capabilities.


Musk’s SpaceX wins $2.9bn moon lander contract

Musk’s SpaceX wins $2.9bn moon lander contract
Updated 30 min 32 sec ago

Musk’s SpaceX wins $2.9bn moon lander contract

Musk’s SpaceX wins $2.9bn moon lander contract
  • NASA says the spacecraft will carry two American astronauts in 2024

WASHINGTON: NASA awarded billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s space company SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to build a spacecraft to bring astronauts to the moon as early as 2024, the agency said on Friday, picking it over Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and defense contractor Dynetics Inc.

Bezos and Musk — the world’s first and third richest people respectively, according to Forbes — were competing to lead humankind’s return to the moon for the first time since 1972.

Musk’s SpaceX bid alone while Amazon.com founder Bezos’ Blue Origin partnered with Lockheed Martin Corp., Northrop Grumman Corp. and Draper. Dynetics is a unit of Leidos Holdings Inc.

“NASA Rules!!” Musk wrote on Twitter after the announcement.

The US space agency awarded the contract for the first commercial human lander, part of its Artemis program. NASA said the lander will carry two American astronauts to the lunar surface.

“We should accomplish the next landing as soon as possible,” Steve Jurczyk, NASA’s acting administrator, said.

“If they hit their milestones, we have a shot at 2024,” Jurczyk added.

NASA said SpaceX’s Starship includes a spacious cabin and two airlocks for astronaut moon walks and that its architecture is intended to evolve to a fully reusable launch and landing system designed for travel to the Moon, Mars and other destinations in space.

SpaceX also responded on Twitter, writing: “We are humbled to help @NASAArtemis usher in a new era of human space exploration.”

SpaceX will be required to make a test flight of the lander to the moon before humans make the journey, NASA official Lisa Watson-Morgan told reporters.

NASA had been expected to winnow the lunar lander contest to two companies by the end of April, but instead it picked only SpaceX, a move that deepens their cooperation. On Thursday, NASA said it would send its crew to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX rocket on April 22.

The agency aims to create regular service to the moon and said it will have a separate competition for that contract.

NASA said in a news release that SpaceX’s HLS Starship, designed to land on the moon, “leans on the company’s tested Raptor engines and flight heritage of the Falcon and Dragon vehicles.”


Brazil needs $10bn a year in aid for carbon neutrality by 2050

Brazil needs $10bn a year in aid for carbon neutrality by 2050
Updated 38 min 43 sec ago

Brazil needs $10bn a year in aid for carbon neutrality by 2050

Brazil needs $10bn a year in aid for carbon neutrality by 2050
  • Deforestation in Brazil’s portion of the Amazon rainforest has skyrocketed under Bolsonaro

BRASILIA: Brazil’s Environment Minister Ricardo Salles told Reuters on Friday that Brazil would need to receive $10 billion annually in foreign aid in order to reach economy-wide net zero carbon emissions by 2050, instead of 2060 as currently planned.

Salles has regularly called for the international community to pick up part of the check for reducing Brazil’s carbon emissions, which predominantly come from deforestation.

His call for $10 billion a year in aid comes as Brazil negotiates a separate potential deal with the US to rally foreign funds to fight soaring deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

Salles said he does not expect a deal to be announced at next week’s US Earth Day summit, but that talks with the US would continue.

“There is not and was never the objective of negotiating some kind of deal to deliver on April 22,” Salles said in an interview.

Reuters reported on Thursday that a potential deal had reached an impasse, with Brazil demanding funding up front to increase efforts to fight deforestation while the US demanded results before opening its purse strings.

“We understand their logic, but they need some understanding that Brazil already has a lot of results,” Salles said.

He cited the fact that most of Brazil’s forest is preserved, which means emissions from the carbon they contain has been avoided.

Deforestation in Brazil’s portion of the Amazon rainforest has skyrocketed under Bolsonaro, hitting a 12-year high in 2020 with an area 14 times the size of New York City being destroyed, government data show.

Salles said just $1 billion per year out of the $10 billion would enable Brazil to reach zero illegal deforestation ahead of the existing 2030 target.

About one-third of that money would go toward contracting more environmental agents, probably drawing from the ranks of the national military police, Salles said.

The other two-thirds would be used to invest in sustainable development of the Amazon region, he said.

Vice President Hamilton Mourao, who Bolsonaro has put in charge of Amazon policy, said on Friday that reaching the 2030 target would require a 15-20 percent reduction in Amazon deforestation every year until then.

Mourao said the government is studying extending a military deployment to protect the Amazon if destruction does not come down that much by July.

The expensive military deployment is set to finish at the end of this month, having failed to restore deforestation and fires to levels prior to Bolsonaro taking office.