Worldwide there are approximately 3,000 merchant ports and the work of the Harbour Master can vary widely from country to country and from port to port even within the same country.
MV Grace 1, more…
In the Med
The story continues to evolve more than a week after the ship was embargoed in Gibraltar on suspicion of violating EU sanctions against Syria, where the UK believed it was heading with two million barrels of crude oil. Her Master and Chief Officer were arrested on 4 July and the following day two other officers were taken into custody. It is understood from The Gibraltar Chronicle that all have now been bailed and released with conditions.
Early on the afternoon of 13 July Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, the Hon Fabian Picardo, spoke with the Foreign Secretary, the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt, about the political issues surrounding the detention of the Grace 1 last week.
Mr Picardo said in a statement issued from Gibraltar on 13 July at 1857 GMT: ‘I was pleased to discuss with the Foreign Secretary the political issues surrounding our initial detention of the Grace 1, the investigation that is ongoing and the extended period of detention presently ordered by the Gibraltar Supreme Court.
‘Mr Hunt called me ahead of speaking with the Foreign Minister of Iran, Mr Javad Zarif. I therefore asked the Foreign Secretary to clarify to the Iranian authorities on my behalf that all the decisions made by Gibraltar in respect of the detention of the Grace 1 were made exclusively with a view to the Syrian destination of the vessel, the Baniyas oil refinery which is subject to EU sanctions, and without any regard to the origin of its cargo.
‘That was the exact basis on which the United Kingdom Armed Forces, through a detachment of Royal Marines, were deployed to provide military assistance to our authorities last week.
‘I also asked that the Foreign Secretary should communicate to the Iranian authorities that Gibraltar remained determined to enforce the EU sanctions against Syria through our Court processes but that we would be prepared to facilitate the release of the detained assets to a rightful claimant if we were satisfied that we had received guarantees that it would not be going to Syria or to any entity sanctioned under the relevant EU regulations.
‘I emphasised that the Foreign Secretary should feel free to say that I would be happy to meet any relevant officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran who wished to discuss or clarify matters further either in London or Gibraltar. I consider this may be a useful way of avoiding any further misunderstandings as to the motivations of our actions in respect of the Grace 1 and its cargo.
‘I have spoken again this evening to Foreign Secretary Hunt after his call with Foreign Minister Zarif and have been pleased to hear of Iran’s constructive approach and their wish also to resolve this situation, which comes at a time of heightened international tensions.’
In the Gulf
From the Persian Gulf where HMS Montrose escorted BP’s British Heritage after attempts by Iranian patrol craft to impede the tanker’s passage earlier in the week we learn that Montrose will be replaced by HMS Duncan currently on exercise in the Black Sea with Romanian and US partners as the former goes to a period of planned maintenance.
At the same the pundits writing in the letters page of The Daily Telegraph wasted no time in criticising the ruling Conservative Party (currently undergoing leadership hustings) of the folly of running down the Fleet such that the destroyer / frigate numbers have been reduced from 55 hulls to 19 since 1987, a time of heightened tension in Gulf waters.
We’ve been here before
For the historians what became known as the Armilla Patrol (see: https://www.revolvy.com/page/Armilla-patrol ) kept shipping safe in these days during what was the Iran-Iraq War (see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_h9mLqeCygA ). At one time the Patrol escorted 342 ships in the first six months of 1988.
A record of a (UK) House of Lords (Upper House) debate on the Armilla Patrol can be found here: https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/lords/1988/jun/15/armilla-patrol
On 19 February the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) published its Position Paper on the European Green Deal objectives in ports.
The publication of this position paper fits into the European Shipping Week (ESW), taking place in Brussels from 17 February. In the framework of the ESW, ESPO and the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) organised on 19 February a workshop on Decarbonising the shipping industry: What’s already happening and how can we help accelerate it?
The Executive Summary of the ESPO Position Paper reads as follows:
Following reports received regarding the impacts on the shipping industry of the sudden and rapid outbreak of the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), IMO issued a Circular Letter* on 19 February advising Member States and others on implementation and enforcement of relevant IMO Instruments.
The letter urges Flag State authorities, port State authorities and control regimes, companies and ship masters to cooperate, in the current context of the outbreak, to ensure that, where appropriate, passengers can be embarked and disembarked, cargo operations can occur, ships can enter and depart ship yards for repair and survey, stores and supplies can be loaded, certificates can be issued and crews can be exchanged.
The principles of avoiding unnecessary restrictions or delay on port entry to ships, persons and property on board are contained in articles I and V and section 6 of the annex to IMO’s Facilitation Convention.
IMO will continue to monitor the situation closely and will provide additional information as and when appropriate.