From ASEAN and G20 to APEC, as World Leaders Meet in Person Again, 3 Reasons to Root for Multilateralism

By Wang Huiyao | Founder of the Center for China and Globalization (CCG)

Over the past two weeks, Asia has played host to the most intense sequence of multilateral summits since the pandemic began, as national leaders gathered for meetings organized by ASEAN, the G20 and APEC. Although overshadowed by geopolitical tensions, the meetings marked a welcome return to in-person summit diplomacy, and the better-than-expected outcomes show hope yet for multilateralism.

The conclaves began in Phnom Penh with the annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. At the first of such in-person events in almost three years, ASEAN leaders took the positive step of agreeing in principle to admit East Timor as the 11th member of the organization.

As leaders moved on to Bali for the Group of 20 summit, expectations were low after ministerial meetings in the run-up had failed to produce consensus. Earlier in the year, given fractures in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there was a question mark over whether the G20 could even go ahead or survive in its existing form.

In the end, the summit surpassed expectations by producing a joint declaration after intense negotiations, with leaders finding the compromises necessary to unite in declaring that “today’s era must not be of war” and pledging to uphold the multilateral system.

The summit also saw a positive face-to-face meeting between China’s President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden, their first as leaders, signaling a willingness to halt the downward trajectory of China-U.S. relations.

In Bangkok, the 21 leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum also pledged to uphold and strengthen the rules-based multilateral trading system. Importantly, the group agreed on a multi-year work plan for an Asia-Pacific free trade area.

Reflecting on these three summits, three takeaways give reason for cautious optimism that multilateralism can yet be revived and play a major role in solving our challenges.

First, and perhaps most obviously, the return of in-person summit diplomacy is a welcome uplift for global cooperation. Virtual formats played a useful interim role at the height of the pandemic but were never a substitute for getting leaders in the same room. That is especially when it comes to interactions on the sidelines, often as important as the main event.

China’s return to diplomacy at the highest level was a further boost, both for the nation and the rest of the world.

In addition to Xi’s highly anticipated meeting with Biden, the Chinese leader met over a dozen other leaders at the G20 and APEC summits, including a warmer-than-expected first meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his first meeting with an Australian prime minister since 2016.

Leaders got to meet their new counterparts for the first time or build on existing relationships, which can only help global cooperation.

The second takeaway is that as grave as our challenges are, the threat of escalating conflict and severe economic pressures on all nations seem to be focusing minds and increasing the willingness to engage and cooperate—out of necessity if nothing else.

The G20 summit was the second major one this year to surpass expectations after the 12th World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in June surprised observers by agreeing on a plan to reform the organization and its dispute settlement mechanism. The G20 statement reiterated support for this WTO reform plan, which will be critical to get the free trade agenda back on track and provide a much-needed boost for the global economy.

Third, and perhaps most significantly for the long term, the recent summits marked an acceleration of the trend towards multi-polarization in international diplomacy, and in particular, the rising influence of non-aligned “middle powers” to shape multilateral outcomes.

The middle powers represented at ASEAN, the G20 and APEC have huge stakes in avoiding a bifurcation of the global economy that might result from a new cold war. They don’t want to be forced to pick sides and many show a growing willingness and ability to build bridges and restore positive momentum for multilateralism.

Indonesia is a prime example. The country’s strategic heft and non-aligned credibility make it well-placed to bridge different camps. President Joko Widodo made a big political bet on the success of the G20 and has won praise for the deft diplomacy that kept the organization alive and got it to a joint statement.

The Indian delegation reportedly also played a big role in achieving consensus on language in the statement, with the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa)—as well as Indonesia—turning out to be crucial swing voters in securing the joint statement. One Indian official said it was “the first [G20] summit where developing nations shaped the outcome.”

There is scope for this trend to continue next year as middle powers continue to rise in stature, and India and Indonesia take over the presidency of the G20 and ASEAN, respectively. Brazil will host the G20 the year after.

Over in Sharm el-Sheikh at the COP27 UN climate summit, another middle power—the host Egypt—also won praise for helping to shepherd a historic financing deal for poor countries affected by climate change. But the ultimate failure to reach a commitment to phase down fossil fuels was a sobering reminder of the huge difficulties that remain in forging the global consensus needed to overcome our shared challenges.

World-Watching: The Problem with the Current Russia Sanctions Regime

[from Project Syndicate, by Mohamed A. El-Erian]

There is much debate about the effectiveness of Western sanctions, the Ukraine war’s implications for markets and the global economy, and what the West’s next steps should be. While there are few good options, some are clearly worse than others.

Cambridge — It has been five months since Europe and the United States imposed tough economic and financial sanctions on Russia, a G20 country that was the world’s eleventh-largest economy on the eve of its invasion of Ukraine. While the sanctions have been gradually strengthened in the intervening months, debate rages about their effectiveness, the war’s broader implications for markets and the global economy, and what the West’s next steps should be.

On the first question, although the sanctions have been less effective than Europe and the U.S. had hoped, they also are proving more onerous than the Kremlin claims. Russia’s central bank expects GDP to contract by 8-10% this year, while other forecasters expect a larger fall, together with longer-lasting damage to growth potential. Imports and exports have been severely disrupted, and inflows of foreign investment have essentially stopped. Shortages are multiplying, pushing inflation higher. At this point, the country no longer has a properly functioning foreign-exchange market.

The sanctions would have bitten much harder had the West not opted for a carve-out of Russia’s energy sector, and had many more countries joined the U.S. and Europe in the effort. Because that didn’t happen, Russia has not felt nearly as much pressure as it would have. Moreover, it has been able to continue trading through various side and back doors that will likely become increasingly important as long as the sanctions regime, as currently designed, continues.

Nonetheless, it is only a matter of time before the Russian economy experiences a harder hit. Inventories of imported goods – including many critical technological and industrial inputs – are dwindling fast, and many sectors are becoming less resilient. The cumulative damage to Russia’s economy over time will be significant and long-lasting – a fact that has not yet been fully captured by consensus medium-term forecasts.

The second question concerns global spillovers from the war and the sanctions regime. Most observers agree that Russia’s invasion has increased not just energy insecurity but also food insecurity, highlighting the fallout from the war’s disruption to Ukrainian agricultural exports. But there is still much debate about the West’s use of the economic nuclear sanctions option: the curbs placed on Russia’s central bank and on Russia’s use of the international payments system.

These curbs are far more intrusive than the usual mix of restrictions on sanctioned government and private sector trade and on individuals’ financial dealings. Yet, because they are not subject to any internationally agreed standards, guidelines, or checks and balances, they fall outside the purview of relevant global-governance bodies such as the Bank for International Settlements, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization.

In a time of war, such oversight might seem like a nicety. But some worry that the sanctions could significantly reduce the dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency and the U.S. financial system’s role as the primary global intermediary for other countries’ savings and investments. After all, a growing number of countries undoubtedly now feel more vulnerable to the reach of U.S. sanctions.

But it is impossible to replace something with nothing, which means that no significant loss of dollar or U.S. financial primacy will occur in the immediate future. Rather, the sanctions will lend further momentum to the gradual process of global economic fragmentation, which was also fueled a few years ago by the tariffs imposed by the Trump administration. More countries now have even more of a reason to pursue greater financial resilience and inherently inefficient forms of self-insurance.

That brings us to the third debate. With no end in sight for the war, what should the West do next? Fearing the implications for energy prices and the supply of gas to Europe, many in the West are tempted to call for a moratorium on any new sanctions – or even for additional carve-outs. Others, however, favor additional measures to hold Russia accountable for its indiscriminate attacks on Ukrainian civilians.

In any case, maintaining the current sanctions regime is not problem-free, owing to the twin objectives of pressuring Russia and limiting the economic disruption to Europe. Moreover, as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen recently said, it feels as if Russia is “blackmailing” Europe by threatening to disrupt gas supplies at any moment. No wonder the Commission is urging member countries to cut consumption by 15%.

Under the current sanctions regime, the West risks falling between two horses. While easing sanctions could help alleviate concerns about Europe’s economic outlook, this option is a non-starter, given the atrocities that Russian forces are committing in Ukraine. But if the West is serious about pressuring Russia through truly crippling economic and financial sanctions, it needs to bite the bullet and eliminate the carve-outs for energy.

Doing so would undoubtedly have a severe short-term economic impact on European economies and the rest of the world, amplifying the “little fires everywhere” syndrome that I warned about in May. It is therefore critical that governments use their available fiscal space to provide targeted support to vulnerable segments of the population, as well as to fragile countries; and multilateral agencies must support developing countries through aid and a more operational debt relief framework. If done properly, this option would yield better outcomes in the medium and long term than the current strategy.

Muddling through risks bringing about the worst of all possible worlds. It is insufficient to dissuade Russia from continuing its illegal war; it is fueling deeper fragmentation of the international monetary system; and it is not even protecting Europe from a winter gas disruption.

Mohamed A. El-Erian, President of Queens’ College at the University of Cambridge, is a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the author of The Only Game in Town: Central Banks, Instability, and Avoiding the Next Collapse (Random House, 2016).

Russia-Watching: Economic Dysfunctionalities

[from the Russian Analytical Digest]

This issue deals with dysfunctionalities in the Russian economy. The first three contributions look at the direct impact of sanctions. Ilya Matveev provides an overview, while Andrei Yakovlev compares the government’s anti-sanctions measures to its reaction to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Janis Kluge offers a more detailed picture of the short- and long-term effects of the unfolding sanction regime. Michael Rochlitz then goes on to explain the lack of strategic planning in the country’s economic policy. Finally, Olga Masyutina and Ekaterina Paustyan provide a case study of inefficient governance mechanisms looking at waste management.

Read the full issue [archived PDF].

Analyses

Sanctions against Russia: No Blitzkrieg, but a Devastating Effect Nonetheless

by Ilya Matveev

In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, over 40 countries have introduced sanctions against Russia. The new restrictions concern finance, trade, logistics, and personal sanctions against businessmen and officials. In addition, more than 1,000 companies have ceased or limited their activities in Russia. In this article, Ilya Matveev argues that the sanctions, despite their unprecedented scale, have not led to the collapse of the Russian economy, yet their effect is dramatic, multi-faceted, and will increase over time.

Read the full issue [archived PDF].

Fighting the Pandemic and Fighting Sanctions: Can the Russian Economy Now Benefit from Its Experience with Anti-Crisis Measures?

by Andrei Yakovlev

Faced with tough international sanctions in reaction to its war against Ukraine, the Russian government has resorted to measures developed during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to stabilize the economy. This short analysis discusses the rationale behind this approach and demonstrates its limits.

Read the full issue [archived PDF].

Russia’s Economy under Sanctions: Early Impact and Long-Term Outlook

by Janis Kluge

Four months after a coalition of Western states imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia, the Russian economy seems to be holding up better than expected. The Central Bank has managed to stabilize the country’s financial system and Russian officials are trying to project optimism about the future. However, this optimism is likely to be short-lived. The sanctions’ effects are only just beginning to unfold: supply-chain problems are intensifying and demand is falling quickly. In the longer run, Russia’s economy will become more primitive as it partially decouples from international trade. To avoid social tensions, the government will intervene to support Russian businesses, leading to more protectionism and a larger state footprint in the economy.

Read the full issue [archived PDF].

Why Russia Is Lacking an Economic Strategy for the Future

by Michael Rochlitz

Even before the economic crisis caused by Russia’s full-scale attack against Ukraine and the ensuing sanctions, the Russian economy was plagued by a number of growing problems. As a result, Russia’s economy has hardly grown for almost a decade, with an average annual growth rate of just 0.5% between 2013 and 2021. However, the Russian government does not have a strategy for addressing the fundamental economic challenges that are looming just over the horizon. There also seem to be no public debates about these challenges, whether in the policy circles around the government or among the wider public.

Read the full issue [archived PDF].

The Political Economy of Waste Management in Russia

by Olga Masyutina and Ekaterina Paustyan

The problem of household waste is one of the numerous environmental challenges facing Russia today. The 2019 nation-wide waste management reform was designed to tackle this problem by promoting recycling. However, the reform is stalling, due in large part to the nature of state-business relations in Russia. The lack of transparency in the public procurement process and the importance of personal connections between businesses and the federal and regional authorities undermine the implementation of the reform and produce suboptimal outcomes in the fight against waste.

Read the full issue [archived PDF].

India and the Russia-Ukraine War: The Paradox of Military Dependence, Traditional Loyalty and Strategic Autonomy

[from India in Transition, published by the Center for the Advanced Study of India (CASI) of the University of Pennsylvania, by Arndt Michael]

India, long-established as the world’s most populous democracy, has been quite instrumental over the years in assisting various countries dealing with democratic struggles. This support has included a blend of bilateral and multilateral initiatives, and especially economic development projects. Yet, India’s recent attitude toward the Russian attack on Ukraine and its concomitant behavior in the United Nations Security Council (as a non-permanent member) seems to contradict its support of democracy. By abstaining, rather than explicitly voting in favor of UN resolutions condemning Russian aggression at the beginning of the war, India angered several UN member-countries.

In order to substantiate its abstention from voting, India felt compelled to issue a so-called “Explanation of Vote” (EoV). In it, India asked for a “return to the path of diplomacy” and an immediate cessation of “violence and hostilities.” Crucially, India stated in the EoV that “the contemporary global order has been built on the UN Charter, international law, and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states…all member states need to honor these principles in finding a constructive way forward. Dialogue is the only answer to settling differences and disputes, however daunting that may appear at this moment.” 

While these statements and the call for dialogue are in accordance with India’s professed stance toward the relevance and objectives enshrined in the UN Charter, the discrepancy between rhetoric and practice is still conspicuous. At first glance, a “good” relationship with Russia seems to be more significant than the expectations of the world-community as represented in the United Nations. And, more importantly, by abstaining, India seemingly violated one of its central foreign and strategic policies: to always strive for strategic autonomy.

However, from a strategic perspective, India is precisely replicating what it did when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. For India, its own national security is at stake, as well as its current and future geostrategic influence in Asia and the world. The military dependence that currently exists between India and Russia is nothing short of gigantic and has created a dangerous conundrum. Since the “Indo–Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation” was signed in 1971, defense agreements and long-term supply contracts have been in place. And while India and Russia have shared a strategic relationship since October 2000, this was upgraded in December 2020 to a “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership.” 

Although there was a marked reduction of Russian imports in past years, official data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reveal that between 1996-2015, the Russian proportion of Indian military imports was almost 70 percent, and between 2016-20 it still hovered around 49 percent. In fact, 70 percent of all Indian military equipment currently in use has been directly produced in Russia, was manufactured with the majority of parts coming from Russia, or licensed by Russia. In 2020, this included the majority of Indian tanks, the only aircraft carrier (the INS Vikramaditya, a heavily modified Kiev-class aircraft carrier) with all of its combat aircraft MiG-29s, six frigates, four destroyers and the only nuclear-powered submarine. Additionally, eight out of fourteen Indian Navy submarines belong to the Russian Kilo-class. The Indian Air Force flies Sukhoi Su-30MKIs and Mil Mi-17s, which, respectively, constitute the largest share of the combat aircraft and utility helicopters, in addition to Russian tanker planes. India also just recently purchased the S-400 missile system.

Even though India has begun to reorient itself militarily toward other countries—the U.S., Israel, France and Italy—and has substituted foreign imports by slowly developing its own capabilities, a large number of new Indo-Russian projects are in the conceptual or implementation stages. In December 2021, in the frame of the so-called “2+2 Dialogue” (foreign and defense ministers), India and Russia began a new phase in their militarytechnological cooperation. Incidentally, India has used this very format for furthering cooperation in strategic, security and intelligence issues with four of its key strategic partners: Australia, the U.S., Japan and the newly added Russia. Russia and India agreed upon a further deepening of mutual military relations for ten years (until 2031). What is new is that next to the traditional purchase of Russian weapons systems, many common research projects and the development of new weapons systems—with their production taking place equally in both countries—have been agreed upon. This production includes new frigates, helicopters, submarines, cruise missiles and even Kalashnikovs

The depth of this mutual engagement, and especially India’s dependence, highlights a huge dilemma that might not only have drastic strategic consequences, but also long-lasting regional repercussions. The worldwide sanctions issued against Russia aim at the Russian economy and military. When it comes to the procurement of such crucial components as microchips or airline parts, Russia is soon expected to face shortages, essentially crippling its capacity to repair, construct, or have spare parts available (let alone construct new equipment). Unless other countries, such as China, circumvent international sanctions and step-in, the expected Russian inability to take care of its own military will have a spill-over effect. Russia is unlikely to be able to fulfill its contractual obligations toward India, and the lack of spare parts also has the potential to cripple India’s own military with regards to the Russian weapons equipment. The procurement agreements and common projects are, hence, all in jeopardy and India, now more than ever, depends on Russian goodwill. 

Next to military dependence, there are other concomitant effects in the economic and political sphere that influence Indian voting behavior. The worldwide sanctions have already led to dramatic increases in oil and gas prices, with India relying on imports of up to 80 percent. India will, therefore, have to pay much more for such crucial imports. Military imports from other countries aimed at substituting Russian equipment will also be much more expensive. All of this deals the Indian economy another blow—an economy that has been especially hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. And politically, Indian hegemony in South Asia has been markedly under pressure, in no small part because of the ChinaPakistan axis. In the eyes of India, this axis poses a serious threat to an already highly volatile IndoPakistan relationship. In addition, the IndoChina relationship reached a new low in May 2020 when Chinese infrastructure projects along the Himalayan borderlands led to fighting and the killing of soldiers. In addition, the Chinese claims to the South China Sea are categorically disputed by India. Chinese overtures toward Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and especially Pakistan in the frame of the Road Initiative are also regarded with growing discontent, as India claims that China is following a policy of encircling India.

In its 75th year of independence, India is following a classic realpolitik in trying not to alienate Russia while pledging rhetorical support for Ukraine. The contradictory consequence is that Russia has now offered more discounted oil, gas, and investments, while at the same time, the UK has suggested its military relationship with India could be upgraded—and has offered weapons made in the UK. For the Indian political establishment, India cannot forgo Russian support, militarily or as a producer of cheap oil and gas. Going forward, India’s military will need to protect its national security and project Indian influence and power well beyond its borders.

Arndt Michael is a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, University of Freiburg (Germany), author of the multi-award-winning book India’s Foreign Policy and Regional Multilateralism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), and co-editor of Indien Verstehen (Understanding India, Springer, 2016). His articles have been published in Asian Security, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, Harvard Asia Quarterly, India Quarterly and India Review.

WANG Huiyao: To Save Global Trade, Start Small

[from the Center for China and Globalization]

by WANG Huiyao (王辉耀), Founder of the Center for China and Globalization

The global economy is being rocked by war, sanctions and spiraling commodity prices—not to mention the ongoing strain of the pandemic, geopolitical tensions and climate change. These compounding risks present a serious challenge to the system of open trade that the World Trade Organization was designed to uphold. But it also offers a chance for the beleaguered organization, which is holding its first ministerial conference since 2017, to prove its continuing relevance.

The WTO has traditionally focused on combating protectionism—measures designed to insulate producers from international competition. Now, though, the biggest threats to free trade come from policies meant to safeguard national security and protect citizens from risks, such as those related to health, the environment or digital spaces.

Former WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy has called this growing use of export controls, cybersecurity laws, investment blacklists, reshoring incentives and the like “precautionism.” It’s been on the rise since the start of the pandemic, when many countries moved to restrict exports of medical supplies and other essentials. COVID-19 has also raised concerns about the vulnerability of supply chains, particularly those dependent on geopolitical rivals.

The world’s two biggest trading nations, the United States and China, have both engaged in precautionism. The U.S. is actively pursuing a policy of “friend-shoring”—shifting trade flows from potentially hostile countries to friendlier ones. China’s “dual circulation” strategy aims in part to reduce dependence on foreign imports, especially technology, while its government has long imposed limits on data flows in and out of the country.

With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the momentum toward friend-shoring has grown. Meanwhile, food shortages and surging prices have triggered another round of precautionary measures: Since the war began, 63 countries have imposed a more than 100 export restrictions on fertilizer and foodstuffs.

While the impulse driving such policies is understandable, the trend could cause great harm if allowed to run unchecked. It will increase inflation and depress global growth, especially if it involves costly redeployment of supply chains away from efficient producers such as China. A recent WTO study estimated that decoupling the global economy into “Western” and “Eastern” blocs would wipe out nearly 5% in output, the equivalent of $4 trillion.

As a recent study by the International Monetary Fund points out, the way to make global value chains more resilient is to diversify, not dismantle them. Turning away from open trade will only make states more vulnerable to economic shocks such as war, disease or crop failures.

The WTO is an obvious vehicle to rally collective action on these issues. However, like other global institutions, it has been weakened by years of deadlock. At this week’s meeting, countries should start to build positive momentum with some small but symbolically significant breakthroughs to show the WTO can still mobilize joint action.

Given current threats to food security, at the very least members should agree not to restrict exports of foodstuffs purchased for the World Food Programme. A step further would be a joint statement calling on members to keep trade in food and agricultural products open and avoid imposing unjustified export restrictions. There should also be closer coordination to smooth supply chains and clogged logistics channels.

Another low-hanging fruit is finally securing a  waiver covering intellectual property rights for COVID-19-related products. This proposal has languished for over 18 months but has now been redrafted to address concerns from the U.S. and European Union. Signing it would go some way to expanding global access to vaccines, which are still sorely needed in many parts of the world.

Beyond this week, the WTO secretariat and members need to develop a work program to reform the organization. This should include developing a framework to ensure that if states do take precautionary measures, they do so in a transparent, rules-based manner that does not slide into more harmful forms of protectionism.

Reviving the WTO’s defunct dispute settlement mechanism is a clear priority. Twenty-five members have agreed to an interim arrangement that would function in a similar way. More members should join this agreement, ideally including the U.S., and start negotiating the full restoration of a binding mechanism. They should also set clear criteria for carveouts for legitimate precautionary measures related to national security, healthcare and environmental issues.

No one should expect big breakthroughs in Geneva. But practical agreements on immediate priorities such food security and vaccines would at least help to reassert the WTO’s relevance and show that the world’s trading partners are not simply going to give up on multilateralism. At this dangerous moment, even small victories are welcome.

Shipping and the World

[from Seatrade Maritime News]

Asyad Dry Dock Expanding Capacity As Demand Grows

Oman shipyard Asyad Dry Dock is expanding its capacity by 20% with a new floating dock as its current facilities are fully utilized.

by Marcus Hand

The shipyard, formerly Oman Drydock Company, is now part of the Asyad Group, the logistics arm of the Oman government. Management of the yard has been combined with shipowner Oman Shipping Company, and overseen by Dr. Irbahim Al Nadhairi, Chief Executive Officer, Shipping & Drydock.

“We have integrated the shipping and drydocking as the shipping service. The companies are still two legal separate entities but then we share the same executive team to be more efficient,” Dr. Ibrahim told Seatrade Maritime News in an interview at Posidonia 2022.

On the shipping side of the business the group owns a fleet of 65 ships with plans to increase the fleet to over 100 vessels over the next five years. He explains that with such a size of fleet the shipowner needed a quality shipyard so it made sense to work together.

Asyad maintains most, if not all its fleet at the shipyard in Oman, accounting for around 15% of its business. While part of the same group Dr. Ibrahim says it does not send its ships to the yard “by default,” and they have to make sure it is competitive as it needs to be for their third-party customers.

Business has been growing for the shipyard and it experienced a spike in the first half of this year as Chinese capacity has been taken out of the market by COVID restrictions pushing work to yards in other parts of the world. “So, we could see there was a big hike in the number of ships, not only for Asyad Dry Dock, but the entire region as well,” Dr. Ibrahim said.

“The next 12 months I believe the ship repair industry will still continue to flourish on our side.”

The shipyard’s two 600,000 DWT drydocks are already operating at full capacity and this year sees it adding a floating dock with the capacity to handle vessels up to Panamax size.

“We’ve recently acquired a floating dock which is of Panamax size and we reckon that about 40% of the business in ship repair is within that Panamax size. The floating dock gives us around 20% extra capacity,” he said. It will increase the number of ships the yard can repair from 200 to around 240.

The floating dock is expected to arrive in Oman in the next six weeks, and following some dredging works be operational by the start of Q4 this year.

Greek owners are major clients of the shipyard and account for around 40% of business, and Dr. Ibrahim said they added two more Greek clients last week. “It seems we have a good reputation in the Greek market and between now and end of Q3 we have 27 ships in orderbook from the Greek market.”

Globally its customer base includes MSC, AP Møller-Mærsk, CMA CGM S.A., Hapag-Lloyd, and Mitsui OSK Lines (株式会社商船三井). Maersk currently has currently two vessels in the yard.

Being able to deliver services efficiently and on time is of critical importance in the financially booming container sector.

“Today when you talk about bringing a container ship into a shipyard time really is money,” Dr. Ibrahim said. If a container ship owner says a ship will be in the yard for 15 days the owner will expect work to be completed in 12 days.

‘Further Action Is Needed’ As MEPC 78 Gets Underway

IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim hailed the 78th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee as an opportunity to be brave and lead by example on decarbonization.

by Gary Howard

MEPC 78 has a packed agenda with the opportunity to consider and progress IMO’s work on cutting greenhouse gas emissions from ships.

At the last MEPC meeting, a revision process was agreed to strengthen the IMO’s initial GHG strategy which was adopted in 2018. A strengthened version of that initial strategy is due in mid-2023 at MEPC 80.

Speaking to Seatrade Maritime News in May, Stamatis Fradelos, Vice President, Regulatory Affairs at ABS said that important influencers in the IMO like the United States, EU, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand are calling for net zero emissions from shipping by 2050 and introducing a level of ambition for 2040.

“Whilst progress has been made on many of the measures set out in the Initial Strategy, I am sure that we can all agree that further action is needed. Your discussions this week will chart the way forward for the decarbonization of international shipping,” said Lim.

“It is therefore of utmost importance that IMO continues to deliver concrete progress in transitioning international shipping from fossil fuels to low and zero-carbon alternatives.”

Member states at MEPC 78 will also consider adoption of guidelines to support short-term measures on GHG emissions, including correction factors for carbon intensity, EEXI calculation methodology and revised SEEMP.

Calculations on the GHG impact of fuels will be discussed, as ISWG-GHG 11 reports progress on developing lifecycle GHG assessment guidelines. Well-to-wake and tank-to-wake calculations are in scope, with the aim of giving fuel users a full picture of the impact of the production and use of the fuels they choose.

“Your constructive discussions on these topics will enhance the Committee’s evidence-based decision making when further considering proposals for mid-term GHG reduction measures,” Lim told Member States.

“I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest appreciation to all Member States, and observer delegations, and especially the Chair of the Working Group on reduction of GHG emissions from ships, Mr. Oftedal of Norway, for the extraordinary effort and dedication in ensuring the successful outcome of both intersessional meetings.”

Houston Begins $1.1Bn Ship Channel Widening

The Port of Houston kicked off its the long-awaited billion dollar dredging scheme, the Houston Ship Channel Widening and Improvement Project 11 last week.

by Michele Labrut

The $1.1bn expansion of the Houston Ship Channel, which has been in planning for more than a decade is finally underway.

After more than a decade of planning, Project 11 will allow the ship channel to accommodate an additional 1,400 vessels per year and could generate up to $134bn more annually in economic impact once completed. The channel currently accommodates about 8,200 vessels and 215,000 barges each year, hauling more than 247m tons of cargo.

“This project will enable Port of Houston to continue to grow and respond effectively to whatever the future demand in the supply chain has to offer,” Port of Houston Executive Director Roger Guenther said in a statement.

Port of Houston is a 40-2 km-long complex of nearly 200 private and public industrial terminals along the 583.6 km-long manmade Houston Ship Channel, which connects the port to the Gulf of Mexico.

Project 11 will widen the Houston Ship Channel by 51.8 m along its 41.8 km Galveston Bay reach, to 213.3 m wide. It will also deepen upstream segments from a current depth of 13.7 m to a depth of 14.7 m. Dredging began last week. The Houston Ship Channel winds from the Gulf of Mexico through shallow Galveston Bay and up through the port.

“This project is important on many levels, including improving the efficiency of our nation’s supply chains, promoting navigational safety, and creating environmental benefits through the innovative use of dredged material,” Michael Conner, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), said in a statement.

Port of Houston and the Army Corps of Engineers signed an agreement in August giving the port permits to start dredging the federal waterway. Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. was awarded a $95m contract in October, which also includes oyster mitigation and construction of a bird island. The channel widening and deepening project is scheduled to be completed in 2025.

EU Transport Commissioner Focuses on ‘Solidarity Lanes’ and Sanctions

As the global food crisis deepens and millions of tons of Ukraine’s grain remain blocked in the Black Sea, EU Transport Commissioner Adina-Ioana Vălean has declared that all transport modes will be considered in setting up new Solidarity Lanes that bypass the Black Sea.

by Paul Bartlett

Her comments come as disrupted grain movements risk a global food crisis.

Speaking to journalists immediately prior to yesterday’s opening ceremony at Posidonia, she said that trucks, tracks, trains, transshipment and storage facilities will all contribute to new supply chains to ensure that exports from one of the world’s largest grain exporters can resume, at least in part, as soon as possible.

She said that the setting up of Solidarity Lanes would have important commercial implications for shipping and could even lead to changes in the sector’s business models

Vălean also rejected criticism from prominent Greek shipowners who had claimed earlier in the day that sanctions imposed on Russia in the wake of its invasion on Ukraine won’t work. At a Maritime Leaders Summit staged by Capital Link on Monday, George Prokopiou and Evangelos Marinakis had both said that sanctions against Iran and Venezuela had been shown not to work and similar moves against Russia would not be effective either.

However, other sources pointed to the scale of the sanctions package that has severely impacted the Russian economy by disrupting key revenue generating sectors. Energy exports are the most obvious example and although Russian oil is still easily sold in India and China, for example, it is at deep discounts to global prices.

Meanwhile, LNG exports have also been hit and development of Arctic LNG supply chains have also been severely affected. Within the next few months, Vălean said that Russian oil exports would be further disrupted by the withdrawal of insurance cover on shipping and transport arrangements.

World-Watching Energy: Gas Future Demand

Future of EU Gas Demand

[from E3G, by Euan Graham, Kamila Godzinska]

The EU is implementing an ambitious package of measures to reduce its reliance on Russian gas, targeting both supply and demand. REPowerEU will accelerate the EU’s move away from reliance on gas imports over the next decade.

When it comes to U.S. gas exports, while this will lead to an increased reliance on liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the short term, the outlined strategy doesn’t imply any long-term LNG market growth. The U.S. can supply Europe with sufficient LNG without building new infrastructure. New findings show that, with clean technologies and energy efficiency, EU gas demand will decline before newly proposed projects are actually completed — 15-20 years — and long payback periods mean LNG export projects may never recover the capital investment.

[LNG projects timeline]
Indicative construction and payback timelines for new LNG terminals, contrasted to additional LNG demand set out in REPowerEU. LNG demand between 2025 and 2030 reflects the potential of increased action on demand-side as set out by E3G.

Read the full briefing [archived PDF] on the future of EU gas demand.

Education and the World As “Rorschach Test”

The Rorschach test is a projective psychological test in which subjects’ perceptions of inkblots are recorded and then analyzed using psychological interpretation, complex algorithms, or both. Some psychologists use this test to examine a person’s personality characteristics and emotional functioning.

It is also called “an Inkblot test.”

We use this test as a metaphor that suggests that people see what they want to see and choose to see.

Here’s an example based on the Verdi opera La Forza del Destino. The black intellectual leader, William E.B. Du Bois, sees it as a veiled racial story where Professor Niall Ferguson of Stanford/Harvard tells the story of how he emerged from a performance of the opera on the very day that Britain devalued the pound sterling in 1992.

Black Wednesday refers to September 16, 1992, when a collapse in the pound sterling forced Britain to withdraw from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (European Monetary System).

Thus the opera, La Forza del Destino is both a Verdi opera and a kind of “raw material” for personal and private interpretation with Du Bois seeing racism and Ferguson seeing national or financial fate.

La Forza del Destino or The Power of Fate, (often translated The Force of Destiny) is an Italian opera by Giuseppe Verdi. The libretto was written by Francesco Maria Piave based on a Spanish drama, Don Álvaro o la fuerza del sino (1835), by Ángel de Saavedra, 3rd Duke of Rivas, with a scene adapted from Friedrich Schiller’s Wallensteins Lager. It was first performed in the Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre of Saint Petersburg, Russia, on 10 November, 1862 O.S. (N.S. 22 November).

(Wikipedia)

Synopsis—Act 1

The mansion of Leonora’s family, in Seville.

Don Alvaro is a young nobleman from South America (presumably Peru) who is part Indian and who has settled in Seville where he is not very well regarded.

He falls in love with Donna Leonora, the daughter of the Marquis of Calatrava, but Calatrava is determined that she shall marry only a man of the highest birth. Despite knowing her father’s aversion to Alvaro, Leonora is deeply in love with him, and she determines to give up her home and country in order to elope with him. In this endeavor, she is aided by her confidante, Curra. (Me pellegrina ed orfana—“Exiled and orphaned far from my childhood home”).

When Alvaro arrives to fetch Leonora, she hesitates: she wants to elope with him, but part of her wants to stay with her father; she eventually pulls herself together, ready for their elopement. However, the Marquis unexpectedly enters and discovers Leonora and Alvaro together. He threatens Alvaro with death, and in order to remove any suspicion as to Leonora’s purity, Alvaro surrenders himself. As he flings down his pistol, it goes off, mortally wounding the Marquis, who dies cursing his daughter.

This is the racial aspect on which W.E.B. Du Bois focuses.

Niall Ferguson, by contrast, sees a different “Rorschach inkblot” and hones in on the financial policy story which went like this:

Soros’ Quantum Fund began a massive sell-off of pounds on Tuesday, 15 September 1992. The Exchange Rate Mechanism stated that the Bank of England was required to accept any offers to sell pounds. However, the Bank of England only accepted orders during the trading day. When the markets opened in London the next morning, the Bank of England began their attempt to prop up their currency as per the decision made by Norman Lamont and Robin Leigh-Pemberton, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer and Governor of the Bank of England respectively. They began buying orders to the amount of 300 million pounds twice before 8:30 AM to little effect.

The Bank of England’s intervention was ineffective because Soros’ Quantum Fund was dumping pounds far faster. The Bank of England continued to buy and Quantum continued to sell until Lamont told Prime Minister John Major that their pound purchasing was failing to produce results.

At 10:30 AM on 16 September, the British government announced a rise in the base interest rate from an already high 10 to 12 percent to tempt speculators to buy pounds. Despite this and a promise later the same day to raise base rates again to 15 percent, dealers kept selling pounds, convinced that the government would not stick with its promise. By 7:00 that evening, Norman Lamont, then Chancellor, announced Britain would leave the ERM and rates would remain at the new level of 12 percent; however, on the next day the interest rate was back on 10%.

It was later revealed that the decision to withdraw had been agreed at an emergency meeting during the day between Norman Lamont, Prime Minister John Major, Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd, President of the Board of Trade Michael Heseltine, and Home Secretary Kenneth Clarke (the latter three all being staunch pro-Europeans as well as senior Cabinet Ministers), and that the interest rate hike to 15% had only been a temporary measure to prevent a rout in the pound that afternoon.”

For W.E.B. Du Bois, the story within the story of the Verdi opera is the color-line that governs the world, while Ferguson sees the story as a “dramatic” instance of financial and economic force or working out of trends that becomes a destiny.

Hence people see what they choose to see and interpreting and seeing are wrapped up in each other.

Students should assimilate this aspect of the world.

Note: one source of the Du Bois interpretation of the opera comes from the University of Chicago book, Travels in the Reich: 1933-1945 (edited by Oliver Lubrich, 2012) which has a chapter on Du Bois in Germany in the thirties where he plunges into music and opera and highlights this Verdi one.

Education and the Problem of Dishonest History

One reason a kind of educational repair or re-education is so necessary is that the simplest truths of world history are never presented clearly and openly.

Here’s an aspect of “global inequality” that is completely overlooked or considered taboo:

One dimension or axis of world history is the world-historical “land question”—which groups “grabbed” gigantic pieces of the land surface of the earth and which didn’t.

Thus: Canada, China, Russia, Brazil, America and India represent territorial “mega-grabs” which typically means “world heft” is in the hands of these big countries which are “monstrous” compared in size to the Andorras, Portugals, Liechensteins and Jamaicas of this world. This question of “who grabbed what” is not allowed in high school or college and is usually “swatted away” by phrases like “manifest destiny.”

The problem is of course that any Putin can and will say that absorbing part or all of Ukraine is Russia’s “manifest destiny.”

A Putin can also invent his own regional “Monroe Doctrine” (i.e., stay out of my sphere of influence as randomly defined by me) and thus we have local (in this case, Russian) reinventions of America’s “Manifest Destiny” and the “Monroe Doctrine.”

This inchoate “relativism” at the heart of human affairs guarantees instability and mayhem and “historical inequality” (i.e., who gets to be “anarcho-lawless” and who doesn’t).

There can’t be a real education without putting on the table, in front of him or her, on their “educational plate” all of these truths, from the personal to the impersonal to the world historical.