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The East African : Dec 8th 2014
44 ANTI-PIRACY COMPUTER PROGRAMME New software to boost region’s maritime security At the peak of pi≥acy in 2011 o≠ the Ho≥n of Af≥ica coast, the cost of doing business ≥ose as shippe≥s avoided the ≥oute By KENNEDY SENELWA Special Correspondent K enya and Seychelles are testing a new anti-piracy software that conveys live pictures of ship traffic, with the aim of improving maritime security off East African coasts. The Regional Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre of the Kenya Maritime Authority and the antipiracy unit of the Indian Ocean Commission in Seychelles, are testing the new software until October next year. It was developed by the Euro- pean Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC). The software provides live pictures of ships’ traffic, indicating current positions on a digital map by combining data from different vessels’ reporting and earth observation systems. “This way, the software can cre- ate a single maritime picture of the entire western Indian Ocean, offering a region-wide picture that can complement the smaller scale coastal displays used by individual countries,” said JRC. The software can be used to cre- ate maps using historical data like past piracy events or ship traffic density. JRC said the software will help to improve the region’s maritime surveillance capabilities taking into account existing infrastructure and identifying specific needs of affected countries. Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia, Dji- bouti, Mozambique, Seychelles, Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Yemen, Pakistan and the countries of the Persian Gulf have borne the brunt of piracy. At the peak of piracy in 2011 when Somali pirates roamed waters off the Horn of Africa, the cost of doing business rose as shippers changed trading routes and paid higher fuel bills, insurance premiums and security bills for guards on board. Cost of piracy Although hijackings in the re- gion have dropped since 2013, it is estimated that piracy could cost the global economy an estimated $18 billion annually, according to Pirates of Somalia: Ending the Threat, Rebuilding a Nation, report of the World Bank. International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said pirate attacks globally have fallen for the third consecutive year, but hijacking of small tankers ferrying refined oil products by armed gangs is escalating in the Southeastern Asian waters. Out of six vessels hijacked world- wide in the third quarter of this year, five were in Southeastern Asia. IMB’s director Pottengal Muku- ndan attributed the reduced incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery over the past few years to international navies deterring pirates off East Africa and im- FEWER PIRACY ATTACKS Armed Somali pirates in Somalia. Picture: AFP According to the International Maritime Bureau’s 2014 third quarter piracy report, there were 178 piracy incidents, down from 352 over the same period in 2011. In the first nine months of this year, pirates killed three crew members and kidnapped five from proved onboard security. With just 10 incidents reported in Somalia this year, there is a risk that international attention will turn away from the 40 hostages still being held for ransom by suspected Somali pirates. their vessels. Pirates took 369 seafarers hostage. A total of 17 vessels were hijacked, 124 were boarded and 10 were fired upon. There were 27 further reports of attempted attacks on ships reported to IMB. “Some of those crew members have been held captive there for more than four years now, with fading hope of immediate release. Seafarers should not underestimate the continuing threat of Somali piracy,” said Mr Mukundan. Oil’s plunge gives China chance to f≥ee ≥etail p≥ices By AIBING GUO Washington Post-Bloomberg THE PLUNGE in crude presents China with an opportunity to end control over retail fuel pricing. Fearful of slowing growth, China has pledged to give markets a decisive role in its economy. The drop in oil is a test whether the country will follow through on Premier Li Keqiang’s promise by giving PetroChina Co and China Petroleum & Chemical Corp, or Sinopec, the freedom to set prices. The companies are mandated by the state to keep retail fuel prices low. “A lower price environment provides the op- portunity to make the whole pricing mechanism independent and transparent,” said Lin Boqiang, an adviser at the nation’s top economic planning agency. That agency, China’s National Development and Reform Commission, currently reviews international crude markets every 10 days to decide domestic prices of fuels like diesel and gasoline. “Handing pricing to the market will take away the uncertainty for oil companies, who would change retail prices more swiftly according to crude price swings and effectively pass the cost burden to end customers,” said Han Xuegong, a business administration professor at Beijing’s China University of Petroleum. “It’s also a step forward in China’s market-based reforms.” China could give the job of deciding prices to an independent organisation, leaving the NDRC in a supervisory role, said Lin, who is also a director at the Xiamen University’s Energy Economics Research Centre. From an earnings perspective, the falling price of crude will be brutal for China’s oil companies. PetroChina, the country’s largest oil company, posted its lowest profit in eight quarters in the three months to October. Cnooc Ltd, the nation’s biggest offshore oil and gas producer, reported a 4.6 per cent decline in sales over the period, compared with a year ago. Brent, benchmark for more than half of the world’s crude trade, has dropped 37 per cent this year to below $65 a barrel, the lowest in more than five years. Its decline has accelerated after OPEC last month maintained output in the face of a glut. “The fourth quarter performance should be ugly for the two companies by any standards, as they primarily depend on high- margin profit from their exploration and production business to produce most of their profits,” said Wu Fei, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Bocom International. Sinopec may be more favoured as producing oil is a smaller proportion of its earnings than its peers, she said. Cnooc is most vulnerable as the explorer generates almost all of its profit from oil and gas production. A gas plant in Dar es Salaam. Picture: File The EastAfrican BUSINESS DECEMBER 6-12,2014 F≥esh push fo≥ oil, gas explo≥ation By HELLEN NACHILONGO Special Correspondent BRITISH GAS and Total Oil SA are expected to be among lead firms bidding for exploration licences around Lake Eyasi, as interest in the oil and gas potential of northern Tanzania gains fresh momentum. Javier Rielo, Total E&P head for East Africa is said to have held talks with Tanzania’s Energy and Minerals Minister Sospeter Muhongo in August, at which they discussed Total’s possible participation in the licensing round. Equally, a meeting between British Gas and Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC) has been scheduled for this December. TPDC is set to launch a fresh licensing round for the fields next year, following the collapse of the Swala Energy and Adamantine Energy consortium that previously held the rights. Ministry of Energy and Miner- als spokesperson Badra Masoud, confirmed that bids for exploration licenses around Lake Eyasi would be opened in 2015, with exploration activities expected to follow soon after. “The process is open to all and interested investors are invited to participate in the international bidding rounds,” said Ms Masoud, adding that relinquishment of the blocks has been done in accordance with the law. According to experts, the Lake Eyasi block is of interest to oil companies because it is geologically similar to the Lokichar basin in Kenya’s Turkana region where Tullow Oil and Africa Oil have found commercially viable quantities of oil. Other companies that are searching for gas in Tanzania include British Gas and Statoil ASA. An estimated 33 trillion cubic feet of gas has already been confirmed. Alongside neighbouring Mo- zambique, where explorers made the biggest discovery of the decade, more than 100 trillion cubic feet of reserves have been found, enough to meet the global demand for a year.
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