Daily Archives: September 29, 2011

The Mottled Relationship: Iran and Latin America

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by admin
September 27, 2011

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was invited to visit President Hugo Chávez on September 24, but the trip was postponed as the Venezuelan head of state recovers from cancer.
• Ahmadinejad partially empties UN Hall with some of his harshest statements.
• Iranian influence in Latin America is sometimes more fiction than fact.
• Befriending Iran’s repressive regime is somewhat contradictory for Latin American governments that openly crow their respect for democracy and human rights. Does Brazil really mean to have a creditable relationship with one of the most disreputable players and human rights violators?
• In an ironic twist, Chávez is credited for mediating with the Iranian government to free two American hikers.
• The attacks against Israeli centers in Argentina in 1992 and 1994 continue to be a source of tension, but in Buenos Aires, business comes first.

The Islamic Republic of Iran and Latin America have been fostering closer relationships for more than a decade, working towards building cohesive diplomatic relations and strengthening economic agreements. These ties began with Cuba’s championing of the 1979 Iranian revolution, and today those connections also extend to Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and the ever-controversial Venezuela, with these amplified ties being sedulously cultivated by Tehran. Due to Iran’s internal politics, such as its controversial nuclear program, its contemptible human rights record, and its often tense, if not minatory, relations with the U.S., initiatives between Tehran and the Western Hemispheric states have come under heavy critique. As a result, there is speculation and differing interpretations over the existing level of influence that Iran currently enjoys in several nations of Latin America.

A Brief Overview

Ironically, as relations with the U.S. and European countries have deteriorated, Iran’s relations with the Global South have, if anything, noticeably progressed. Perhaps as a direct result of the U.S. placing Iran within the ‘axis of evil’, the Persian state began pursuing relationships with African governments and, within the last decade, an increasing number of Latin American countries, as a strategy to counteract U.S.-backed ostracism and efforts to diplomatically isolate Tehran. The apparent reasons for these alliances are:

(a) to gain economic advantage as well as much-needed relief and collegiality to cope with the consequences of U.S.- imposed sanctions;
(b) to counterbalance the geopolitical effect of U.S. policy in both the Muslim World and Latin America;
(c) to garner a sympathetic attitude and support for its nuclear program;
(d) to gain recognition in an increasingly prominent part of the Western Hemisphere, and in Washington’s sphere of influence, in order to achieve political prestige in the international community. This also helps, in part, divert the attention among the Iranian people, particularly in the aftermath of the 2009 Iranian election fraud that prompted massive repression of the dissenting democratic opposition.

The most pertinent questions, however, remain to be answered: Has the long term impact of these increasingly intimate relationships, such as the one between Caracas and Tehran, been fully analyzed? Are the initiatives and maneuverings carried out by some Latin American governments solely due to their impetuousness and lack of long-term goals? Notwithstanding the immediate economic advantage of gaining new markets, the long-term political ramifications and disadvantages of doing business with what the free world considers a horrendously corrupt regime places the Latin American region into a precarious situation. Latin America’s good will initiatives and human resources could be more wisely expended in dealing with nations that do not carry out egregious abuses towards its own citizens.

Case Study: Argentina

In March 1992, the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires was the subject of a bomb attack. It has been established that a pickup truck loaded with explosives, and driven by a suicide bomber, smashed into the front of the embassy, killing thirty-three and wounding as many as 242 persons. In July 1994, the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA; Argentine Israelite Mutual Association) building in Buenos Aires was the target of an attack that killed eighty-five people, while scores more were injured.

The violent Islamist militant organization Hezbollah has been regarded as the culprit behind these attacks, but there have been rumors that the Iranian government, including some members of the current administration in Tehran, may have been more directly involved. The Persian state has repeatedly declared its innocence regarding its involvement in both attacks. In July 2011, Iran’s Foreign Ministry stated that “the Islamic Republic of Iran, as one of the major victims of terrorism, condemns all acts of terror, including the 1994 AMIA bombing, and offers sympathy with the families of the victims of the explosion […] Iran’s Foreign Ministry expresses regret that 17 years on from the occurrence of this crime, the truth behind it has not been revealed yet and the identities of its real perpetrators are still shrouded in mystery.” Furthermore, an article published by Press TV (a semi-official Iranian news agency) in July argues that, “under intense political pressure from the United States and the Israeli regime, Argentina formally accused Iran of carrying out the attack on the Jewish community.” Most independent observers, however, dismiss this rhetoric merely as tactical method to confuse the subject.

Tensions between Iran and Argentina took a new twist in early June 2011, when Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi visited Bolivia. General Vahidi is wanted by Argentina for allegedly masterminding the 1994 bombing. Buenos Aires asked La Paz to apprehend the Iranian official, but he returned to Tehran before any decision by the Bolivian government could be made. As Iran continues to promote its influence in Latin America, the controversy over the Argentine bombings will continue to be a sore point for the foreseeable future. The Argentine-Persian relationship, or lack thereof, presents a fascinating case study of a state trying to improve relations with another while at the same time attempting to overcome a violent recent past that includes state-sponsored terrorism.

Trade and Investments

During recent years, Iran has expanded its economic cooperation with many Latin American states, entering into substantial trade agreements with Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil and, somewhat surprisingly, Argentina. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) stated in a report issued in December 2009 that Brazil is Iran’s largest trade partner in Latin America. Last year, Iran’s state radio announced that bilateral trade with Brazil had increased to more than USD 2 billion in 2009-10, an increase from USD 500 million in 2005, and was forecast to reach USD 10 billion in the next 5 years.

Argentina is Iran’s second largest trading partner in the region, despite the fact that Buenos Aires has accused Tehran of the 1992 and 1994 bombings. Trade relations remained at marginal rates throughout the 1990s, but commercial activity never ceased entirely, and by 2008 bilateral trade had soared to USD 1.2 billion, dramatically overshadowing the 2007 figure of USD 30 million.

In addition, relations between Iran and Venezuela are a mixed bag of actual achievement and diplomatic rhetoric. According to the IMF report, and in spite of highly cordial political and diplomatic relations, bilateral trade between Venezuela and Iran did not advance in the same way as it did for other Latin American countries. For example, while Brazilian and Argentine trade with Iran has increased by 88 percent and 96 percent since 2007 respectively, Venezuela’s trade increased by only 31 percent in the same period. Following the increase in trade with Brazil and Argentina, Venezuela became Iran’s fifth largest trade partner in the region.

Moreover, Iran has pursued deeper trade and diplomatic relationships with Bolivia as well. Trade and energy agreements between La Paz and Tehran, signed in September 2007, confirmed the increasingly friendly nature of ties between the two countries. Iran’s involvement in the Bolivian economy extends to investment in and technological support for industrial projects such as dairy factories, agriculture, mining, and hydroelectric dam construction. Additionally, in July 2009, Tehran agreed to provide USD 280 million in low-interest loans to La Paz. Finally, Peru is also a growing importer of Iranian products, as is Ecuador. The expansion of trade ties follows an overall regional trade ‘offensive’ by Iran in recent years. IMF data analyzed by the Latin Business Chronicle indicates that Iran-Latin American trade skyrocketed by 209 percent in 2008, totaling a robust USD 2.9 billion. What this data tells us is that there is certainly a potential for trade to grow between Iran and several Western Hemisphere states, however Iran’s trade numbers are dwarfed by the region’s other trade partners, like the U.S., China and Europe.

Geopolitical Interests

To Washington’s increasing concern, the Brazilian Deputy Foreign Minister Maria Louisa met with her Iranian counterpart, Ali Ahani, in Brazil in early August 2011. The Brazilian official described Iran as one of “the important partners of Brazil” and an “influential” country. Louisa noted that Tehran and Brasilia would attempt to increase the level of mutual ties “considering the developments of the two countries in different fields.” The Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister, for his part, hailed “the friendly and good relations” between both states and said that the governments of Iran and Brazil are eager to expand ties. Given the grim status quo between Washington and Tehran, at some point in the near future, the White House is bound press the issue, and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff may have to choose whether her government will pursue closer relations with Washington, or with Tehran.

According to the Iranian International Newspaper Ettelaat, Iran has nearly doubled the number of embassies and cultural centers it maintains in Latin America. The number of embassies increased from six in 2005 to ten in 2010, and Tehran is building cultural centers in seventeen Latin American countries. Additionally, Iran has successfully negotiated no-visa agreements with Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Bolivia. It can also be argued that although relations have been strained with Argentina since the terrorist bombings, the continued trade between the two countries is a signal that geopolitical interests have gradually taken precedence over efforts to apprehend the perpetrators of the attacks. Argentina’s reaction to the visit of Defense Minister Vahidi to Bolivia does point out that Buenos Aires has not forgotten Iran’s alleged role, but that ultimately other initiatives have taken priority.

Nevertheless, if we consider Iran’s repressive regime, its brutal crackdown on dissenting voters, and the continued suppression of what most nations, particularly in the West, consider a wholly organic and legitimate uprising, it is difficult to comprehend the continued warming of relations with its Latin American partners. Nations are certainly free to pursue close relations with any states they wish, but it is baffling, considering the Iranian government’s repressive record when it comes to its own population, that Latin American governments, many of which repeatedly publicly proclaim their respect for human rights, want to befriend a thoroughly toxic nation like Iran. So what could be the reasons why Latin American countries continue to welcome the Iranian government’s overtures? Simply put, Latin American nations want an alternative to what some regional players see, at times, as U.S. imperialism. This is exemplified by the Chávez and Ahmadinejad pact signed in 2007 to formulate an “Axis of Unity”, particularly against the U. S.

In order for Iran to gain the geopolitical strength that its revolutionary leaders so fervently aspire to obtain, the country continues to play its U.S- as-an-imperial power card as aggressively as possible. It also plays a powerful role in pushing its Latin American partners into recognizing Palestine as a counterbalancing force against U.S. and Israeli influence. When it comes to assessing geopolitical gains, the common denominator between Latin America and Iran is economic advancement, rather than the counterbalancing of geopolitical power. Venezuela’s President Chávez is the exception to this rule, as, even though Venezuelan-Iranian economic relations are fairly robust, a major factor for this close rapprochement is that Chavez and the Iranian government are fairly ideologically aligned (at least regarding their views on Washington).

Support for Iran’s Nuclear Program

Venezuela, Cuba, and Syria were the only three countries that supported Iran’s nuclear energy program when the UN voted on it in 2006. However, there is little doubt that support has been increasing throughout Latin America due to Iran’s diligent pursuit of such backing. Now Bolivia and Brazil are also offering their measured support for Tehran’s civilian nuclear program. In addition, the ever-vociferous Venezuelan leader has officially stated that Iran has a legitimate right to its nuclear program and that Venezuela supports Tehran’s quest for peaceful nuclear technology.

The Future of the Iran-Latin America Alliance

Chávez’s present personal medical issues, and the recent U.S.-imposed sanctions on Venezuelan oil company PDVSA (Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. – Venezuelan Petroleum S.A) for dealings with Iran, could serve to weaken the Venezuelan-Iranian nexus. This is because Venezuela’s current ideological views – particularly its foreign policy – ultimately derive from Chávez, and it is unclear what a post-Chávez Venezuela would look like. Would his political party maintain its unity and continue Chávez’s ideology, or would another course be taken? In addition, the Venezuelan military has declared its support for Chávez to the point that some organizations are concerned as to what would happen if another political party were to win the upcoming presidential election. What this means for Tehran is that its closest ally in Latin America is not Venezuela but rather its leader, and it is difficult to foresee how diplomatic ties would be affected by a transition of leadership.

Late September 2011 saw an interesting development, as the Iranian government recognized mediation initiatives by Chávez to free two American hikers held in an Iranian prison since 2009. According to statements by the Venezuelan Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Temir Porras, the Venezuelan government agreed to help Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal after receiving a request for help from the hiker’s friends. It has also been reported that Noam Chomsky signed a letter asking for Chávez’s help.

Although various news sources have reported an increase in the establishment of Iranian embassies in Latin America, a Latin daily source indicates that, at least in the case of Nicaragua, such plans have failed to come to fruition. This is particularly interesting as there had been rumors circulating that Iran’s embassy in Managua is, or was supposed to be, some kind of massive intelligence hub involving an unusually large number of staff, which, by default, would put U.S. interests in the region at risk. In reality, the Iranian Embassy in the Central American country may be nothing more than somewhat large.

In mid-June, an Iranian analyst published a piece in the Iranian newspaper Jaam-e Jam entitled “Failure of the United States to break relations between Iran and Brazil.” The analyst explains that Iran’s initiatives in Latin America “change the quiet backyard of the United States to a dangerous backyard for that country, because the expansion of Iran’s economic and political relations with the countries of that region is indicative of the failure of U.S. efforts to impose sanctions and threats on Iran.” The analyst also discusses how relations between Tehran and Latin America affect Israel:

Changing the United States’ quiet backyard to a dangerous backyard has also created major concerns for Tel Aviv, in addition to Washington. Such worries have intensified to the point that Shimon Peres, the head of the Zionist regime, left for a visit to Latin America, which is considered the first official visit of this sort to Latin America in the course of several decades, only a few days before the visit of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The bottom line seems to be that Latin America sees Iran’s involvement in the region in terms of economic interests. Additionally, it may allow the region to gain a foothold in the Muslim world, with the secondary benefit (at least possibly in Venezuela’s case) of reducing U.S. influence in the region. Meanwhile, as interpreted by the aforementioned Jaam-e Jam analysis, Tehran sees its rapprochement with Latin America mostly in terms of its impact on Washington and Tel Aviv.

Finally, it is interesting to observe that Brazil, Latin America’s powerhouse and a nation that is currently attempting to obtain a permanent seat on the United Nation Security Council, has also increased the pace of diplomatic ties with Iran. Brasilia has gone on record to declare its support for Tehran’s civilian – albeit controversial – nuclear program. It may soon become apparent to Itamaraty diplomats that they will have to choose between Washington and Tehran as their primary overseas partner.

Conclusion

In the interest of creating a just and prosperous hemispheric community, it is important for regional nations to continuously evaluate the scope and breadth of the burgeoning economic aid pacts and political gains being devised between Latin American countries and Iran. This survey must also include a gauging of the inherent merits of these gains and an evaluation of whether they are more fictive than real. A closer examination of the Islamic Republic of Iran depicts an undemocratic governing body heavily burdened by religious dogma, underdeveloped financial standards, institutional corruption and self-imposed non-transparency, a legal system hardly worthy of the name, the absence of any civil liberties, and atrocious human rights violations.

Iran’s current leadership can hardly be described as providing a suitable alternative to traditional U.S. domination and a sphere of influence. Even if counterbalancing U.S. power in Latin America can become more than a fantasy, and grow into a viable plan to amplify the resonance of democracy in the region, the advantages derived from an arrangement with Iran must be weighed against the costs of introducing another form of despotic influence into the democratically fledgling Latin American region.

Original Article

Greens want terror oil in your gas tank

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By Bernard L. Weinstein

Canada, not the Middle East, is the No. 1 supplier of oil to the United States, a symbiotic relationship that has existed for decades. What’s more, the Canadian province of Alberta is home to the world’s third-largest petroleum reserves. Viewing America as the most logical market for its expanding production, the government of Alberta and the TransCanada Corp. are proposing a pipeline called Keystone XL to bring crude oil from Alberta to refineries along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast.

Although the State Department concluded in August that there would be no significant negative environmental impacts from the pipeline, it has hosted a series of hearings in communities from Montana to Texas in recent weeks. A final hearing is scheduled for Washington on Oct. 7.

The economic benefits from constructing the pipeline have been well publicized: $20 billion in new investment, 13,000 new American jobs in construction and related manufacturing, and more than 100,000 spinoff jobs during the two-year construction period. But more important than the short-term stimulus, which certainly is needed in today’s moribund economy, the completed pipeline will help increase America’s energy and national security.

Today, most of the crude oil processed by Gulf Coast refineries comes from Mexico and Venezuela. Production in both countries has declined in recent years, and while U.S.-Mexico political relations are friendly, U.S.-Venezuela relations are anything but. By contrast, Canada is a strong and reliable American ally, as well as a key North American Free Trade Agreement partner.

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline certainly is not unique. TransCanada already operates a pipeline from Alberta to Cushing, Okla., and the XL would simply shorten the route while adding an extension from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast. Lower transportation costs associated with the XL would save Gulf Coast refiners almost $500 million annually, which, in turn, could mean lower prices for consumers at the gas pump. What’s more, the planned route of the XL would link oil producers in the booming North Dakota Bakken region to the national pipeline network, providing efficiency gains of $36 million to $146 million annually, according to a recent study by the Energy Policy Research Foundation.

Despite the strong economic and energy security case for permitting the Keystone XL, opposition to the project has been growing. Last month, several hundred protesters were arrested in front of the White House, including a number of Hollywood celebrities. The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have expressed their opposition to Keystone XL (in full-page newspaper ads paid for by the Natural Resources Defense Council) as has New York Times food critic Mark Bittman. Both pro- and anti-pipeline advocates are back on the streets of Washington as the Oct. 7 hearing date approaches.

Although opponents argue the pipeline is inherently dangerous because of potential harm to farms, wildlife and water aquifers as it cuts across Montana, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, in truth, the anti-XL campaign is aimed against expansion of the Alberta oil sands. Environmentalists claim production in the oil sands is contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, destroying the arboreal forests and killing migratory birds. On a recent visit, I saw no evidence of these claims. Indeed, relative to both the geographic and carbon footprints of most onshore and offshore oil production, the Alberta oil sands compare quite favorably.

If the Keystone XL project is blocked, the pace of oil sands development in Alberta won’t diminish. Recent investments by Chinese companies suggest a growing alternative market across the Pacific. But without the pipeline, America will be unable to benefit from cost-efficient Western Canadian oil while Gulf Coast refiners remain dependent upon unstable suppliers.

Bernard L. Weinstein is associate director of the Maguire Energy Institute and an adjunct professor of business economics at Southern Methodist University.

Original Article

Modec Receives FPSO Order from Petrobras, Brazil

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MODEC announced today that Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. (“Petrobras”), through its subsidiary Tupi B.V., on behalf of Consortium BM-S-11, has signed a Letter of Intent (LoI) for the supply, respectively, charter, and operations of a Floating, Production, Storage, and Offloading (FPSO) vessel for the BM-S-11 block (Cernambi South) in the giant “pre-salt” region of the Santos Basin with its water depth of 2,300m.

The BM-S-11 block is under concession to a consortium formed by Petrobras (65%), BG Group​ (25%), and Petrogal Brasil S.A – Galp Energia (10%).The LoI was issued to the Schahin Group and MODEC, Inc., who have partnered for the latest leased FPSO. This is the second venture between the Schahin Group and MODEC, Inc.

The Schahin Group and MODEC, Inc. are responsible for the engineering, procurement, construction, mobilization, and operation of the FPSO, including topsides processing equipment as well as hull and marine systems. SOFEC will design and provide the spread mooring.

MODEC will convert the VLCC Sunrise J into the FPSO Cidade de Mangaratiba MV24. The FPSO will be capable of processing 150,000 barrels of oil per day, 280 MM standard cubic feet of gas per day and has storage of 1,600,000 barrels of total fluids. Scheduled for delivery during the 3rd quarter of 2014, the FPSO will be installed in the Cernambi South area.

This is the eighth vessel MODEC will provide and operate in Brazil. MODEC is currently operating the FPSO Fluminense, the FPSO Cidade do Rio de Janeiro MV14, the FSO Cidade de Macae MV15, the FPSO Cidade de Niteroi MV18, the FPSO Cidade de Santos MV20 and the FPSO Cidade de Angra dos Reis MV22. The FPSO Cidade de Sao Paulo MV23 is currently under construction and scheduled to be installed in the fourth quarter of 2012.

“We are very happy to be awarded the third vessel for the pre-salt discoveries. And we are committed to carry out the project by maximizing Brazilian local content in order to contribute to the foundation for the development of heavy industry in Brazil,” said Toshiro Miyazaki, President and CEO of MODEC, Inc.

The Schahin Group has a significant presence in the drilling services market and has been working with Petrobras Group and Consortia of which Petrobras has been participating since 1982. The Schahin Group is pleased to expand in to production services via the partnership with MODEC and Petrobras Group and Consortia in which Petrobras participates.

Original Article

Bermuda: AOD to Increase Water Depth Capacity for its Jack-ups

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Asia Offshore Drilling Limited (the “Company”) has decided to increase the water depth capacity from 350 feet to 400 feet for its three jack-up rigs under construction. This investment will increase the marketability of the rigs, allowing them to successfully operate in more offshore areas.

The additional capital expenditure to extend the legs is estimated to be below US$ 5 million per rig. These upgrades will have some impact on the delivery schedule of the first two rigs, as the first rig will be delivered in the first calendar quarter of 2013 and the second rig will be delivered by the end of the second calendar quarter of 2013. The delivery of the third rig remains unchanged at the end of the third calendar quarter of 2013.

The Board believes these upgrades will improve the long-term return on investment for the Company’s shareholders. The Company has an option for construction of one more jack-up rig at Keppel FELS that matures on September 30, 2011. The Board has resolved to not exercise this option. Given the prevailing uncertainty and volatility in the financial markets, the Board’s objective is to enhance the quality, marketability and value of the existing rigs rather than incur additional financial  risk by ordering a fourth rig. The decision not to exercise the option will ensure that the Company remains fully financed up to the delivery of the first rig in 2013.

Original Article

$737 million in green-tech loan to company connected to Pelosi family?

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by Ed Morrissey

As Tina wrote yesterday, Americans still favor government subsidies to companies unable to otherwise compete in the green-tech industry.  That may be especially true of Nancy Pelosi and her family, but not exactly for reasons of environmental improvement.  Let’s start with this report from The Hill, via Gateway Pundit and Instapundit, on the latest approved green-tech loan from the Department of Energy:

DOE announced a $737 million loan guarantee to help finance construction of the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, a 110-megawatt solar-power-generating facility in Nye County, Nev. The project is sponsored by Tonopah Solar, a subsidiary of California-based SolarReserve.

The Energy Department said the project will result in 600 construction jobs and 45 permanent jobs.

Forty-five permanent jobs?  That puts the cost per permanent job at over $16 million, a figure that could employ perhaps a hundred people had the capital remained in the hands of the private sector that produced it.  Whatever else these green-tech loans are, they certainly are not job-creation stimulus.

But that’s not the best part.  As both Gateway Pundit and American Glob discover, one of SolarReserve’s “investment partners” is Pacific Corporate Group, through its Clean Energy and Technology Fund.  And PCG’s executive director is Ron Pelosi — brother of Nancy Pelosi’s husband.  Suddenly, this deal makes a lot more sense than spending $737 million for forty-five jobs.

This surely is just a coincidence … in the same way that the push by the Obama administration to approve a loan to a failing Solyndra backed by one of his big campaign bundlers was just a coincidence.  Recall Reason TV’s excellent video yesterday on the urban-renewal movement, in which governments seized property ostensibly to improve neighborhoods but parsed out the spoils to the politically connected ?  That’s exactly what’s going on with this program, and with Barack Obama’s demands for more blank checks for stimulus.  The only thing Obama’s stimulating is the pockets of his cronies.

Original Article

Polarcus Alima: First Seismic Vessel to Pass along Northern Sea Route

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Polarcus Limited announced today that the Company’s ultra-modern 12-streamer 3D seismic vessel, POLARCUS ALIMA, has achieved a significant first in the seismic industry, having successfully transited to Asia-Pacific via the Northern Sea Route (NSR).

Her passage commenced on 15 September from Hammerfest in Norway after completion of seismic operations in the Barents Sea, taking her on a 3,000 nautical mile route along the northern coast of Russia to Cape Dezhnev in the Bering Straits.

The voyage was completed in just nine days. After passing the Bering Straits on 24 September POLARCUS ALIMA is presently continuing her onward passage to New Zealand to commence operations expected to run for up to 7 months in total. The voyage was made possible in part due to the vessel’s Arctic-ready capabilities, a unique feature of the Polarcus fleet in the seismic industry. Under the Russian Federation’s 1990 Regulations for Navigation on the Seaways of the Northern Sea Route, vessels making the passage are required to hold an ICE-1A or higher ice class.

The expected time savings in transit between Norway and New Zealand compared to the traditional route through the Panama Canal amounts to some eight days. The savings versus the Suez Canal, a necessity for some larger seismic vessels, amounts to thirteen days. The passage via the NSR therefore presents significant time-related benefits for Polarcus and its clients.

This is the first known passage of a 3D seismic vessel along the Northern Sea Route. Preparations for the voyage were carried out in close cooperation with Tschudi Arctic Transit AS through its Russian – Norwegian JV company Arctic Bulk AG, Atomflot, and the Northern Sea Route Administration in Moscow.

Commenting on the successful transit Rolf Rønningen, CEO Polarcus, said: “The successful navigation of Polarcus Alima along the Northern Sea Route has been achieved through the dedication and hard work of our in-house operations personnel, the Northern Sea Route Administration, and our crew onboard the seismic vessel. The result of this outstanding teamwork has been to achieve significant savings in fuel, emissions, and most significantly time during a milestone transit that effectively provides Polarcus a viable new sea bridge between two important operational markets.”

Original Article

South Korea: Alpha Orders LNG Carrier from STX

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Alpha Tankers & Freighters, a Greek shipowner, ordered a liquefied natural gas carrier at STX Offshore & Shipbuilding Co., shipping newspaper Lloyd’s List said, without stating where it obtained the information.

Alpha Tankers & Freighters converted an order for two capesize bulk carriers, with delivery of the tanker due in April 2015 and an option placed for a second, the paper said.

It’s the 25th LNG carrier ordered by shipowners in Greece in 2011, according to Lloyd’s List.

Original Article

Australia: Tap Oil Selling Zola Stake

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Tap Oil has put its stake in the big Zola gas discovery, which is likely to play a part in the expansion of Chevron’s $29 billion Wheatstone LNG project, up for sale.

It is understood the Perth company has engaged Miro Advisors to market the 10 per cent stake in Carnarvon Basin permit WA-290-P.

The decision comes just days after Chevron and its Wheatstone foundation partners, including Apache Corp, sanctioned development of a two-train 8.9 million tonne a year LNG operation near Onslow. The partners have regulatory approval for five trains.

The Zola-1 well, which is thought to have hit a field containing up to two trillion cubic feet of gas, is located within striking distance of the path of the Wheatstone trunk line, which will link the project’s fields with the Onslow LNG plant.

Apache (30.25 per cent) is the operator of WA-290-P.

Santos (24.75 per cent), OMV (20 per cent) and Nippon Oil Exploration (15 per cent) are the other equity holders and expected to be interested in Tap’s 10 per cent stake. It is unclear whether the WA-290-P partners hold pre-emptive rights over each other’s stakes.

Tap managing director Troy Hayden would not discuss his WA-290-P plans but pointed to the portfolio restructure that he started since joining the company in December.

“We are always trying to add value,” he said yesterday.

Zola’s attractiveness to other gas players will have increased now that Chevron has sanctioned Wheatstone because it provides a tangible development option for Zola’s gas. However, any go-ahead for Zola’s development, as part of Wheatstone’s expansion, is not expected for several years. The necessary delay is thought to have prompted Tap to try to realise its stake in the permit now.

By Peter Klinger, The West Australian

Original Article

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