Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

Joyous Holidays!

Merry Christmas!

Happy New Year!

Thank you for checking out my blog this year!

I going to take a few weeks off to enjoy the holiday season with my family. I hope you all will do the same!

I will start posting again in January 2008!

Many sincere thanks, Michael J. Stolarczyk

Monday, December 17, 2007

Beluga builds first cargo vessel with innovative auxiliary propulsion system

“You have to have the courage to try out something new,” as Niels Stolberg, CEO of Beluga Shipping GmbH, comments the first application of the innovative SkySails towing kite propulsion system on a cargo vessel worldwide. This courage is based on the certainty that the SkySails system is the only sail system in the maritime shipping sector to date that can be used in commercial operation without any restrictions in vessel use.

The cross-sectoral relevance of this innovation in the field of propulsion technology at sea is also indicated by the social position of the ship’s godmother, Eva Luise Köhler, wife of the Federal German President. She will award the vessel her name, MV “Beluga SkySails”, during the christening ceremony at Überseebrücke in Hamburg on Saturday.

Of all known concepts for effective and sustainable alternative propulsion of merchant vessels, SkySails represents the only suitable model: no bothersome masts on deck, no restriction of stowage space, no hindrances to loading and discharging, no risk to the crew, cargo or ship as well as reliable overall performance.

Utilisation of wind energy by means of the towing kite makes it possible to provide relief to the main engine – 10 to 15 percent less bunker consumption is expected in the initial phase of operation. The MV “Beluga SkySails” is equipped with a kite measuring 160 square metres. Later, when the sail is scaled up to 320 square metres in the course of the coming year in order to increase efficiency on the high seas, potential savings of 20 to 30 percent are definitely feasible and realistic. Beluga Shipping GmbH initially reckons with a reduction in the existing bunker costs for the vessels diesel fuel within a low four-digit US dollar range per day of operation of the towing kite system.

In the case of two larger multi purpose heavy lift project carriers of the Beluga P1- series, which are to be equipped with SkySails systems in the near future, too, and are currently under construction, kites having a sail area of as much as 600 square metres will then be used. On this basis, fuel savings in the dimension of up to ten tons daily can be anticipated according to present-day estimates, corresponding to a reduction in ship voyage expenses of over 6,000 US dollars.

Application of the innovative auxiliary propulsion technology is a response to the constantly increasing oil prices, which have been climbing from one record high to another for some time now. According to world economic experts in the field, further price increases can be expected in the future and will have to be coped with in the course of the growing volume of world trade. The former threshold of 100 US dollars will soon be surpassed in all likelihood.

Application of the towing kite propulsion system points to a sustainable way out of direct dependence on the oil price. Furthermore, the MV “Beluga SkySails” even combines ecology and economy on the high seas. The carrier serves as an up-to-date link between economic efficiency and preservation protection of resources. The maritime sector numbers among the most important and most advanced branches of industry, especially in Germany. On the other hand, shipping contributes greatly to pollution of the environment worldwide. The first multipurpose heavy-lift project carrier to draw propulsion power from wind energy is almost revolutionary.

Even before her maiden voyage from Bremen to Venezuela with project cargo on board the MV “Beluga SkySails” opens a new chapter in shipping history. The new vessel will be practical proof that the hybrid propulsion system is possible on water and is able to achieve what many felt was absurd in this combination, i.e. reducing emission and at the same time lowering the voyage costs. The MV “Beluga SkySails” is the visible result of a pioneering spirit that creates innovations, promoting economy and ecology. You just have to have the courage to try out something new.

I met Niels a few times while posted in Europe, and upon my return to the USA. The dude is simply a visionary. To think he is going back to "original technology" to create an innovative, environmentally aware form of fuel conservation in the shipping business is no suprise. Wow, this is just great stuff.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

CSI and SS/L Will Create NASA COTS Proposal


Laguna Woods, CA, December 11, 2007 — Constellation Services International, Inc. (CSI) is collaborating with Space Systems Loral (SS/L) to pursue a funded Space Act Agreement with NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. The two companies are working together, with SS/L as the prime, to produce a commercial cargo system to re-supply NASA’s International Space Station (ISS), and to create new commercial space services and applications.

Charles Miller, CSI’s Chief Executive Officer stated “CSI is pleased to announce that Space Systems/Loral has baselined our space transportation intermodal approach for the current COTS competition. We are very excited by this relationship”. Bill Nations, SS/L Vice President added, “SS/L is the market leader in the GEO commercial satellite business and CSI has a unique, patented system for delivering cargo to the ISS. Together we bring NASA a flexible, low-cost solution based on highly
reliable existing technology and a commercial business approach.”

The SS/L version of CSI’s LEO ExpressSM cargo system uses the SS/L 1300 satellite bus as a tug, while retaining most of the original intermodal spacetug advantages. SS/L is currently the world leader in commercial GEO comsats with 40% of the world market for satellites of 8 kW or higher.

Forty-eight spacecraft based on the SS/L 1300 satellite bus are currently operating on orbit, four are awaiting launch and fourteen more are in production. SS/L has also produced 129 Orbital Replacement Units for the ISS to date, including Batteries, Battery Charge/Discharge Units and Sequential Shunt Units.

According to Miller, “Because of recent problems with generating private capital for ISS cargo servicing projects, the question on everybody’s mind now is ‘Can any company really raise all the money needed to complete a high-risk commercial space project in partnership with NASA?’” Miller continued “As a well-established company that is known for its technical and commercial excellence as well as its entrepreneurial approach, Loral is probably better positioned to achieve the COTS goals than any other bidder in the competition.”

SS/L publicly announced the details of its COTS proposal at the Space Investment Summit 3 on December 6th in San Jose, California. SS/L distributed a “SS/L COTS Fact Sheet” that summarized the SS/L COTS concept, and which can be found at

Tom Moser, CSI’s Vice President for Government Programs and a former NASA Space Station program director stated “Space Systems/Loral is trusted and respected in the commercial space industry, and has been involved in several successful NASA programs. SS/L provided eight GOES weather satellites and was awarded the Goddard Contractor Excellence Award in the process”.

Moser continued “Tommy Holloway, another former NASA Space Station program manager, recently testified to Congress that ‘If a proven logistics support system is not available, I would commit to the future capability that is determined by engineering analysis to have the highest chance of success’.

Based on sound engineering and business analysis, SS/L probably has the highest chance of success among all of the current COTS competitors.”

Constellation Services International, Inc. is an entrepreneurial orbital spaceflight services company that is focused on commercial opportunities in Earth orbit. CSI has raised over two million dollars in private investment, and has received over three million dollars from three NASA contracts to further develop the patented LEO ExpressSM Space Cargo System, including its role as prime contractor for
the NASA Alternate Access to Space program (AAS). The LEO ExpressSM Space Cargo System completed a NASA System Design Review in July 2003. NASA’s AAS program concluded “CSI provided convincing evidence that both designs were feasible.”

For more information on CSI or CSI’s LEO ExpressSM Space Cargo Service, visit

"LEO Express" is a trademark and service mark of Constellation Services International, Inc.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Retail Container Traffic Is Falling...

As discussed previously, within this blog...we have plenty of big ships...but the market will not have the space/container demands matching the the past few years...

Traffic at U.S. ports that handle most of the nation's retail traffic fell below last year's levels for the fourth month in a row in November, estimates the National Retail Federation and the economic consulting firm Global Insight.

They produce the monthly "Port Tracker" report, and attribute the decrease to careful management of inventories by retailers in anticipation of a restrained holiday shopping season.

"The slow pace of container traffic growth is forecast to continue due to weakness in the U.S. economy," said Paul Bingham, Global Insight economist. "All covered U.S. ports are operating without congestion from the harbors to the gates and are rated low for congestion through spring."

"Retailers are carefully managing their inventories so that they won't be forced into unplanned discounts," said Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy. "Matching supply to demand is a basic principle of sound business practices."

The ports surveyed handled 1.46 million TEU of container traffic in October, the most recent month for which actual numbers are available. That's down 1.3 percent from September's 1.48 million TEU, and 3.5 percent from the record high 1.51 million TEU set in October 2006.

October is traditionally the peak month of the year as retailers stock up for the holiday season, but the figures left September as the peak month for 2007.

November was estimated at 1.36 million TEU, down 3.5 percent from a year ago. If the estimate holds true when actual numbers come in, it will mark the fourth month in a row that cargo failed to meet last year's levels. (August was down 1.4 percent from August 2006 and September was down 1.9 percent from September 2006.)

Ports covered by Port Tracker are Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Tacoma and Seattle on the West Coast; New York-New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston and Savannah on the East Coast; and Houston in the Gulf. All the ports are rated "low" for congestion, the same as last month.

Monday, December 03, 2007

CMA-CGM To Purchase U.S.Lines

U.S. Lines is set to become the latest small-scale carrier to join France's CMA CGM Group after the Marseilles company announced today that a takeover agreement has been reached. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

U.S. Lines was established in November 2003 after Ed Aldridge, a former APL and Sea-Land executive, and other managers bought the famous brand. The original U.S. Lines run by Malcolm McLean ceased trading in 1986.

The company has an estimated annual turnover of $145 million, employs 113 staff and moves about 100,000 TEUs each year on a U.S. West Coast/Australasia/Hong Kong triangular service in partnership with CMA CGM subsidiary ANL.

U.S. Lines also has seven chartered vessels, mostly in the 1,100-TEU range and one of 1,350 TEUs, a leased container fleet of 23,600 TEUs and offices in Los Angeles, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong.

CMA CGM said U.S. Lines would continue to operate under the same name and be managed by its existing global management team.

Earlier this year, CMA CGM, the world's third-largest container line, acquired Taiwanese Intra-Asia carrier Cheng Lie Navigation Co. Ltd. (CNC) and Moroccan state-owned Compagnie Maroccaine de Navigation (Comanav) to continue its strategy of buying strong regional players such as Delmas and ANL.

"The acquisition of U.S. Lines is in line with the aim of reinforcing the position of the ANL offer. The complementarity of U.S. Lines with ANL allows a more global solution on the triangular trade connecting the U.S. West Coast, Australia, New Zealand and Southern China," CMA CGM said in a statement.

Hmmmm...I knew Ed Aldridge liked French food...but not the management style. This is kind of shocking news. I thought it was really cool that Ed resurrected the brand made famous by Mr. McLean...and he and his crew did a great job of building the brand and operation. I'm kind of bummed that it will go to one of the big carriers as a "small-carrier" acquisition. Old school thinking I guess...which I still share, homage to the dwindling cast of characters from the ocean carrier days of yore.