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From the News Desk: Sanctions shockwaves create volatility, but also opportunity

Our regular round-up of the stories behind the headlines. Follow the links to read a selection of insights hand-picked by the Lloyd's List Newsdesk

Last week’s US sanctions on two Cosco Shipping Energy Transportation subsidiaries sent shockwaves through the market, triggering tightened supply and opportunities for the more nimble players. But amid the noise and political fireworks let’s not forget the crew or the longer term projects of decarbonising our future and creating a more balanced industry

THE ripple effect of Washington’s highly provocative move to slap sanctions on China shipping behemoth Cosco in the pursuit of its Iran crackdown is only now starting to emerge, but rest assured there is still more to come.

Bunker suppliers, banks, marine insurers, charterers and port states have all had to rapidly reassess and reduce exposure to Cosco entities, in the wake of last week’s move by the US Treasury. While Cosco Shipping Energy Transportation saw its share price plunge Monday, tanker rates for everyone else near doubled in the wake of the news as oil traders and companies shunned Cosco tankers in a bid to distance themselves from any potential fallout that might see them locked out of the US financial system.

That rush only adds to the existing tanker dynamics at play, including last-minute pre-2020 sulphur plays, the supply concerns in the wake of Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq attacks and the seasonal demand of a northern hemisphere winter starting to take effect.

All bets are off when it comes to the fourth quarter, but the tanker markets are starting to look a little spicy.

For those more interested in why this latest sanctions snafu is happening, our editor Richard Meade has a few thoughts on the matter. It’s a complicated picture, with much of the dynamics at play having nothing to do with shipping, but given that the Trump administration has made no secret of its increasingly hardline stance on any shipping entity prepared to trade oil to Iran, the question we should be asking is why was Cosco caught off-guard by this, and why now?

Answers to be found here and in case you missed our recent Transparency in Shipping Forum, which provided some invaluable context to the whole debate around sanctions, shipping risk and shipping’s persistent problems with opaque business practices, you can listen to the whole event here.


Stena Impero sails for safer waters, but risk remains

Stena ImperoAs Washington’s latest sanctions salvo opened a new chapter in shipping’s long-running Iran saga, a related and particularly harrowing chapter was thankfully ending. The UK-flagged Stena Impero, the product tanker seized by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on July 19, was finally freed on Friday.

Thus ended a fraught 70 days for Swedish owner Stena Bulk, and weeks of trauma for the crew, who disembarked in Dubai over the weekend and will shortly be reunited with families and loved ones.

Sadly, not enough people in power and any side of what passes for political dialogue have been thinking about the crew in this shameful episode.

And while the crew’s release is very welcome news for everyone involved, it does not end the risk to seafarers in the region. The UK government is still smarting from the fact that Stena Impero was “unlawfully seized by Iran and part of a pattern of attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation,” as UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab put it following the release.

The fact that Mr Raab has not seen an AIS signal on Lloyd’s List Intelligence from the Adrian Darya 1 since September 2 (after it went dark upon entering Syrian waters, disregarding the assurances offered to the UK that its oil would not head there) has only compounded the concerns both inside the UK government and shipping boardrooms across the industry.

Mr Raab can rest assured that Lloyd’s List Intelligence customers can track sanctioned vessels and will be the first to know when the Adrian Darya 1 reappears, no doubt having offloaded its cargo via ship-to-ship transfer.


Time to talk seriously about shipping’s moon shot

Funnel with smokeSince the IMO adopted its greenhouse gas strategy in April 2018, pledging to slash emissions by at least 50% by 2050, little has changed in the regulatory landscape. But the new coalition working to develop commercially viable zero-emissions vessels by 2030 could push regulators to accelerate their work, and for that reason alone it deserves our collective attention.

Coming so soon after the finance community pushed out its landmark Poseidon Principles, it seems clear now that there is a visible coalition of the willing prepared to take a leading position on the industry’s future.

As ever, such shifts come with opportunity but it’s also laden with risk and uncertainty. Understanding the dynamics at play is, we would humbly suggest, pretty damn essential right now. With that in mind, a good place to start would be this week’s Lloyd’s List Podcast, which is brimming with expertise to provide the context you need to decipher what decarbonisation means to you.

And while you're there, don't forget you can now subscribe to the Lloyd’s List Podcast via iTunes and Spotify, as well as most other podcast providers. And make sure you are registered for a free account on Lloydslist.com so you can receive our Daily Briefing e-mail.


Don’t let the noise distract you from the IMO’s message about empowering women

IMO HQGiven everything else that has been happening over the past week it was perhaps easy to forget that Thursday, September 26 was World Maritime Day, a time normally when social media comes alive with hashtags as the fish bowl posts platitudes related to the theme.

The theme was ‘empowering women’ and many worthwhile comments were sadly overshadowed at the time by the sound of the Iran-US conflict being played out in the tanker markets. So the very least we can do in this edition of From the Newsdesk is urge you to read Janet Porter’s take on this necessary generation shift here, because despite the noise (made mostly by men) valuable progress is being made and it requires the attention of us all.

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