Maritime Industry News 2015: The Year in Review

^As 2015 comes to a close, Kemplon Engineering looks back at some of the news and issues that captured maritime industry headlines this year.

The Migration Crisis is one of the most pressing issues of 2015… and a defining one for global humanitarian aid. The year saw a particularly large number of migrant fatalities at sea. Thousands of people from Africa and the Middle East lost their lives while crossing treacherous waters to European entry points like Italy and Greece, all in a desperate attempt to flee war or hardship.
2015’s heartbreaking stories about the migration crisis include ‘Ghost Ships’ – cargo vessels abandoned by human traffickers and set dangerously adrift while overloaded with hundreds of migrants and refugees; a single sinking on the Mediterranean that led to as many as 900 deaths from a vessel later found with corpses still on the decks of the wreckage; and the drowning of Aylan Kurdi – a 3-year-old Syrian boy who was photographed facedown on the shores of Turkey, where his body had washed up after the overcrowded rubber dinghy he and his family had boarded capsized in rough waters. The iconic image would later became a rallying cry all over the world, for more proactive humanitarian action to aid refugees and migrants.

In Southeast Asia, a migration crisis for so-called ‘boat people’ was unfolding too. Thousands of poor Bangladeshis and Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar, where they are not considered citizens, were reportedly turned away from shore in countries like Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia – sending them back out to drift and possibly to death at sea.

But there is inspiration and courage to be found in this issue too – from private citizens welcoming refugees and governments finding innovative solutions to processing and housing migrants, and from many merchant ships credited with deviating from their commercial pursuits to save distressed migrants at sea.

Image “Police Line” courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image “Police Line” courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Terrorism and Security. The news was also flush with land-based incidents of violence and unrest, which ultimately created waves in the maritime world. In Tunisia, 21 people – many of whom were cruise passengers on a shore excursion – died in a terrorist attack on a museum. The country would be hit by another just months later, when 38 people lose their lives in the hands of a lone gunman at a popular resort. The incidents would cause a blow to the country’s vital tourism industry, with cruise players like MSC, Costa, Holland America and AIDA Cruises suspending stops.

Ports of call were suspended at other points of the globe too, for various security reasons. MSC Cruises pulled some stops in Ukraine and Egypt due to political unrest, as Costa Crociere did for stopovers in Turkey following attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, and other terrorist activities against the country’s security forces. Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas and Celebrity Infinity, as well as the Disney Wonder, canceled calls to resort destination Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, amid reports of violence.

Figure 1Image “Candle” courtesy of antpkr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Figure 1Image “Candle” courtesy of antpkr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Maritime Disasters and Accidents. The news was also heavy with unfortunate incidents from various sectors of the maritime industry and at different points of the globe.

Dozens of people died when state-owned ferry Aung Ta Gon-3 sank in Myanmar in bad weather. The MB Kim Nirvana was just 200 metres from port in a province in the Philippines when it capsized. Over 60 people are said to have died. In Egypt, a cargo ship collision with a chartered party boat on the River Nile left 40 people dead. In China, over 400 perished when the Eastern Star capsized on the Yangtze River with hundreds of passengers on board – many of them elderly tourists. Also in China, an explosion at a waterfront chemical warehouse in Tianjin Port left hundreds dead and injured, many of them first responders. Cargo ship El Faro was lost this year too, during Hurricane Joaquin. The tragedy claimed the lives of 28 Americans and 5 Polish contractors. The disaster is said to have been the worst to occur in 30 years, for US-flagged cargo shipping vessels.

Image “Old Clock” courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image “Old Clock” courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

2015 also saw some milestones in Maritime History and Archaeology. In the United States, efforts have been made to ‘raise the wreck’ of the CSS Georgia. The 1862 ironclad warship, a historically significant wreck, was being salvaged in an effort to save it from the path of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. In Florida, local company 1715 Fleet-Queens Jewels, LLC made a staggering find in shallow waters – treasure from a 1715 Spanish shipwreck, including 110 silver coins and buttons, 40 feet of gold chain, and 52 gold coins… one of which is a rare and prized piece valued at about $500,000.

In the waters of the Philippines, one of the largest and most powerful battleships ever to sail the seas, World War II Japanese ship Musashi, may have finally been found – decades after it was sunk by reportedly no less than 20 torpedoes and 17 bombs. And in the U.K., it has finally been announced that the SS City of Cairo – downed by a German submarine in 1942 and located in 2013 – was found by a British team under contract to the government… with coins worth $50 million.

Image “News Of World” courtesy of Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image “News Of World” courtesy of Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As for International Affairs, Asian Territorial Disputes remained big news. China has taken heat from its Asian neighbors and the United States for reclamation and construction activities on disputed island territories. Vietnam offered a ‘patriotic cruise’ to the controversial Spratly Islands, also courting the ire of other claimants. US-Cuba Relations, on the other hand, have moved in a more positive direction. Improving relations had implications for the maritime industry, such as business opportunities emerging from potential ferry routes, and cruise players like MSC making a play for the country’s tourism.

Image “Ship In Sea” courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image “Ship In Sea” courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Speaking of the Cruise Industry, they came up with some breathtaking launches and exciting announcements this year. Carnival had kicked off its first Super Bowl Ad, echoing the words of President John F. Kennedy in calling people back home to the sea. Previews of the Carnival Vista and Regent Seven Seas’ Explorer, both slated for sailings in 2016, were released to much anticipation. It was also a banner year for entertainment and cruising collaborations, bringing iconic and in-demand brands like Frozen to the high seas, with an announcement for 2016 Star Wars-themed cruises announced this year. River cruising had its moment too, when Viking Cruises christened 12 new ships in simultaneous celebrations in Amsterdam and Rostock, Germany.

Trailblazing Carnival Corp. also developed an $85-million port project in the Caribbean, Amber Cove, and introduced a new brand, fathom, a line offering “voluntourism” or social impact travel, set for a launch in 2016.

Image “Earth In Hand” courtesy of posterize at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image “Earth In Hand” courtesy of posterize at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Environment. 2015 saw positive developments for the green movement in the maritime industry too. In an Asian first, Hong Kong set comprehensive new regulations to limit ship emissions in their ports. In cruising, mega-brand Carnival Corp. entered into a multi-billion-dollar agreement for new cruise ships powered by LNG. The US Trade and Development Agency is also exploring LNG options, and had awarded the Panama Canal Authority with a grant in support of their plans to add an LNG import terminal.

Image “Life Buoy Preserver Of Sos Isolated On Cyan Background” courtesy of cbenjasuwan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image “Life Buoy Preserver Of Sos Isolated On Cyan Background” courtesy of cbenjasuwan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Amazing Rescues and Survival Stories. 2015 also wowed with amazing stories of search and rescue. 37-year-old sailor Louis Jordan was rescued by a German-flagged container ship 200 miles off the coast of North Carolina after two months at sea; and 28-year-old Emily Morgan of Utah was 23 weeks pregnant and cleared for cruise travel by her physician when she boarded an Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Independence of the Seas… where she gave birth to 1 and 1/2-pound baby Haiden, who survived by his strength and the determination of his family and ship personnel.

We too, at Kemplon Engineering, had a big 2015 – April marked our ten-year anniversary as a provider of marine engineering and custom metal fabrication services in Florida. We celebrated with a company luncheon, and handed out special gifts for the members of Team Kemplon who have been so pivotal to our success.

Ebbs and flows, highs and lows… yet we continue to greet the coming new year with eagerness, and the hope that 2016 may be abundant with positivity and good outcomes for our loved ones, our clients, and the industry we are so proud to serve. Happy New Year from Kemplon Engineering!

If you enjoyed this summary of 2015’s headlines, why not take a look back at these and other stories at length on our blog? You may also want to learn more about us through our website. From welding and fabrication, precision machining, pipe fitting, laser cutting, and more, we just might have the solutions you need for your projects and ideas. You may also reach us at at info@kemplon.com, or by phone at (877) 522-6526. We would love the chance to work with you!