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5 April

Baltimore bridge incident details emerge

The Dali remains in place as operations continue. Credit: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

New details have emerged in the first court filing around the Baltimore bridge accident, as the owner and manager of the Dali filed a petition under the Shipowners Limitation of Liability Act to ask for “exoneration” from liability over the disaster. 

Grace Ocean Private Limited is the Singapore-registered owner of the ship, and fellow Singaporean company Synergy Marine is the “manager” of the container ship and is therefore responsible for staffing and communication between Grace Ocean and the ship’s time charterers. “At all relevant times, Synergy had substantial control of and exercised dominion over the Vessel,” according to the filing. 

The filing at the US District Court in Maryland gives details of the moments leading up to Dali’s collision with the Francis Scott Key Bridge and of the value of the ship, its cargo, and estimates of the cost of damage and repairs. 

The petition asked the Court to recognise the crash did not occur due to negligence or a fault of the owners and managers of the ship. 

9 May

Nicaragua cancels controversial plan for interoceanic canal

The Government of Nicaragua has cancelled plans from a Chinese businessman to construct a $50bn canal through the country after years of inactivity and protests against the project, which would have rivalled the nearby Panama Canal. 

The country’s National Assembly repealed the 50-year concession to build the canal granted to a company owned by telecoms businessman Wang Jing, bringing the project to an official end after a failure to progress despite a 2014 groundbreaking ceremony. 

However, the government, acting on the wishes of President Daniel Ortega, also enacted changes to a law appointing government officials leading the canal authority, alluding to a possible new plan for the canal. 

Planned to span 278km, the canal was at one point scheduled for completion in 2019 but questions around the viability of its construction and its impact on the environment persisted since its inception, with no construction work ever completed. 

Beginning at Puerto Punta Aguila on the Caribbean coast and ending at Puerto Brito on the Pacific, the original route for the canal would have passed through many protected areas and notable waterways, including Lake Nicaragua. 

7 May

Saudi Arabia launches bid for largest shipyard in the Middle East

Saudi Arabia's Government has revealed its intention to attract the world’s biggest players in shipbuilding and bulk carrying to a new Special Economic Zone (SEZ) on the Persian Gulf coast. 

The new SEZ will be hosted in Ras al-Khair, just north of Jubail. It will encompass the King Salman International Complex for Maritime Industries and Services, which will be 12 million square metres when complete, making it the largest in the region. 

Four joint venture holding companies have been set up in advance of the shipyard’s opening, including International Maritime Industries (IMI) owned by The Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco), Lamprell, Bahri (Saudi’s major shipping carrier), and Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI). 

The SEZ port zone will also cover an “offshore hub” in Ras al-Kair, aimed at attracting global companies to work (tax-free) in the Kingdom – much like existing SEZs covering other industry hubs. Aramco has already signed up for 20 offshore rigs and Bahri has commissioned at least 52 new vessels before the yard and its surrounding infrastructure is completed

The development of Ras al-Khair is part of the wide-ranging Saudi Vision 2030, the Crown Prince’s plan to diversify the oil-reliant economy by the end of the decade. 

3 May

Shipping moves into a new normal avoiding the Red Sea

The shipping industry has settled into a new normal with routes avoiding the Red Sea according to industry experts, despite the Houthi militant group vowing to escalate attacks in the region. 

Analysis from online freight marketplace Freightos found that while the adjustments made by the industry continued to disrupt, the worst of the backlogs and shortages seen at the beginning of the Red Sea crisis have largely dissipated. 

An update from the company said issues mainly persisted in ports that were now being used more frequently than usual, as shipping operators changed their routes to avoid the Red Sea, where the Houthi group have been attacking ships seen to be associating with Israel and the US has been retaliating in Yemen.

Stabilisation for the industry highlights the new normal away from the Red Sea, which used to be a key region for shipping thanks to passage provided by the Suez Canal previously allowing ships to avoid having to travel around southern Africa’s Cape of Good Hope.  

16 April

HMM to double fleet by 2030 in major expansion plans

South Korean shipping operator HMM will double its fleet to 240 vessels by the end of the decade, as revealed in its mid-to-long-term strategy published shortly after a sale of the company to Harim Group fell through. 

The 2030 strategy will see HMM attempt to increase its market share with a significant expansion, growing its container business capacity from 920,000 TEU to 1.5 million TEU, and its bulk business from 6.3 million DWT to 12.28 million DWT.

The company also revealed that it was assessing the viability of moving forward its net zero ambitions from the current target of 2050 to 2045, with the strategy including orders for more sustainable vessels and the securing of a low-emission fuel supply network.

HMM said that it will now focus on delivering the initial plans outlined in its 2030 strategy, which will also include investment into digitalisation and the expansion of its service network, before revealing further details later this year.