|.: 11-Apr-2016 :.
Expanded Panama Canal to enter service on June 27 with draft restrictions
The Panama Canal's third set of locks will begin commercial operations on June 27, albeit with draft restrictions owing to a severe El Niño-triggered drought, the interoceanic waterway's administrator said Friday.
Jorge Quijano said the inauguration would take place the day before, adding that initially the draft of ships navigating through the new locks and channels will have an upper limit of 41 feet (12.5 meters), less than the maximum draft of 50 feet (15.25 meters) when the canal’s lakes are at normal levels.
A ship's draft is the vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of its hull.
The centerpiece of the canal's expansion program, launched in 2007 with an initial budget of $5.25 billion, the third set of locks will enable the canal to accommodate "New Panamax" ships.
Those modern ships hold up to 13,000 20-foot-long containers and are three times bigger than what the canal can currently handle.
With the draft restrictions, however, those ships will not be able to be filled to capacity.
The date of the official inauguration was pushed back on several occasions due to repairs, strikes and contractual disputes between the Panama Canal Authority, or ACP, and the consortium responsible for building the third set of locks.
Dutch shipping company DSD fined for illegal oil tanker discharge
Dutch shipping company DSD was fined $2.5 million in U.S. federal court for operating a crude oil tanker without the proper environmental safeguards in the Gulf of Mexico, and lying to the Coast Guard about it.
The company was convicted of eight felonies. Additionally, four crew members were also charged. Three have been convicted and sentenced to up to six months in jail. A fourth crew member has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
The sentences were announced by the U.S. Justice Department on Friday. It stems from a November 2014 spot inspection of DSD's 56,000-ton crude oil tanker the M/T Stavanger Blossom by the Coast Guard. Officers determined the ship lacked what is known as an oily water separator. Crude oil tankers generate large amounts of oil-contaminated wastewater, which is illegal to discharge without first being filtered.
If accidental discharges happen, they are supposed to be recorded in a log the crew is legally bound to maintain. When the Coast Guard boarded the ship for a spot inspection, officers said it did not have the proper environmental equipment and the crew had forged the logs to hide the fact they were illegally discharging the oily wastewater.
The Coast Guard said the ship had discharged 20,000 gallons of oil-contaminated water in just the last two months of its operation.
Additionally, prosecutors presented evidence that showed DSD officials were aware the ship was operating illegally. A company memo dating back to 2010 showed evidence DSD officials were aware of the potential problem, but continued to allow the ship to operate in violation of U.S. and international laws for another 57 months.
A U.S. district judge ordered DSD to pay $500,000 of the $2.5 million fine to fund marine research in the Gulf Coast region. Additionally, DSD was placed on three years' probation. The four crew members named will have their merchant marine licenses revoked and will no longer be allowed to work on cargo vessels in the future.
North Korea: Jamming GPS Signals
Recent reports from correspondents advise that North Korea has been disrupting GPS signals along the border with its neighbour South Korea. This latest cyber-attack by North Korea has reportedly affected aircraft and ships operating within the area.
Between 2010 and 2013, North Korea launched electronic attacks intermittently, causing disruptions for a total of 1,402 South Korean aircraft and ships.
Members with ships navigating within the vicinity of the North - South Korean border should advise their crews to exercise caution.
Source: North of England P&I Club