Category Archives: Greenwich Maritime Institute

China’s rising energy imports: boosting global seaborne trade

Shipowners around the world have greatly benefited from China’s huge appetite for energy commodity imports, often involving long-distance voyages, over the past decade. Amid rapid expansion of economic activity and industrial output, China needed to supplement domestic energy resources with imported supplies, on an ever-increasing scale.

An optimistic view points to this strong upwards trend continuing. But how realistic is that prospect, in the light of accumulating signs indicating slowing economic growth in the years ahead? And what will be the impact of plans to enlarge the role of China-owned ships within these trades?  Image

Seaborne imports of coal, oil and gas into China, the main energy commodities received, are estimated to have reached about 620 million tonnes in 2013, based on calculations by Clarksons Research and Bulk Shipping Analysis. This massive total, comprising about 15 percent of all world seaborne trade in these categories, resulted from fast expansion in the past ten years. From about 130mt in 2003, the total almost doubled by 2008 and then more than doubled in the next five years. The annual increase last year apparently was about 9 percent.

Among the commodities, coal has been the star performer. China’s imports by sea of steam coal (used mainly in power stations but also in other industries) and coking coal (used in the steel industry) exceeded 300mt last year, growing from a small 10mt ten years earlier. Steam grades currently comprise roughly three-quarters of the coal volume. Seaborne imports of crude oil and oil products (refined oil) are almost as large, reaching over 290mt in 2013, more than doubling over the decade. Gas imports are much smaller, but growing quickly. The largest category of gas imported by sea – liquefied natural gas (LNG) – rose from nil a decade ago, to reach about 18mt last year. Imports of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) total around 3-4mt annually.

A vast energy market

With a population of 1.35 billion people, the world’s most populous country, and a very rapidly growing and industrialising economy over many years, China’s demand for energy has risen enormously. Among the different contributors, coal is dominant, supplying about two-thirds. Oil is the second largest, at under one-fifth. The remainder is comprised of mainly hydro-power and natural gas, accompanied by nuclear power and renewable sources.

The largest portion of energy consumption consists of power stations generating electricity. These power plants are predominantly coal-fired, but alternative fuels used are gas and uranium (nuclear generation), supplemented by hydro-electricity. Generation from renewables, especially wind, is becoming much more significant. Several other industries also use steam coal. In the steel industry mills based on the blast furnace method producing pig iron, for conversion into steel, consume coking coal. The main contribution of oil is within the transport fuel market – road vehicles, aircraft and ships.

A large part of China’s market is supplied by domestic energy producers – coal mines, and oil and gas fields. Home production of the three fuels has increased over the past decade. But demand from consumers rose more rapidly than producers were able to raise their output. Rising imports trends resulted.

Coal is produced on a gigantic scale in China, the world’s largest producer (as well as consumer) of this energy source. Last year’s output was about 3.7 billion tonnes and although only slightly above the previous year’s figure, it was double that seen ten years earlier. The country’s remarkable economic development has been underpinned by coal, but resulting pollution has led the government to re-evaluate its contribution and to encourage use of alternative, cleaner, fuels.

Domestic crude oil production has also risen, reaching an estimated 213mt in 2013, about 25 percent higher than the volume seen a decade earlier. Most of China’s output is derived from mature fields where it has proved difficult to improve yields. Elsewhere, both onshore and offshore in coastal waters, extra oil production is evolving positively. Currently, the natural gas production sector is much smaller, although output has more than tripled in the past ten years, reaching an estimated 115 billion cubic metres in 2013. This upwards trend is being strengthened by the official policy to promote gas consumption. A small but growing contribution is obtained from shale gas deposits.

Adding to the positive impact on coal import demand, of a shortfall between the amount consumed and the amount produced, were more specific influences. Coal movements over long distances (from mines located mainly in the north, to consuming areas in the south or to the coast for onward transhipment) have been constrained by rail transport capacity and freight charges. Imports became even more competitive when international prices and the delivered cost (including ocean freight) was below domestic prices. Limited volumes, in domestic mines, of the high-grade coking coal used by the steel industry also boosted imports. Conversely, rising land movements from Mongolia were partially offsetting.

Huge imports of oil, gas and coal

China’s need to secure increasingly large volumes of the main energy commodities, from foreign suppliers, has been a great advantage for the global shipping industry. Employment opportunities for bulk carriers, tankers and gas carriers have mushroomed so much that, in all these trades, Chinese import demand is one of the principal influences and a major focus of attention for shipowners and operators.

A key question, therefore, arises. Will this favourable pattern persist, and to what extent, not only in the immediate future but further ahead? Given that, arguably, there are no other signs of growing import demand for these energy commodities around the world of a similar magnitude to that of China, the significance of the answer is crucial for shipping markets. What we can, perhaps, foresee is a somewhat mixed picture evolving, with strong positive elements.

Assumptions about China’s economic growth, and the pattern of its components, are a vital aspect. In both 2012 and 2013, gross domestic product (GDP) increased at a 7.7 percent annual rate, compared with an average 10 percent growth in the previous twelve years. An extended slowing trend is almost universally expected by forecasters, but opinions vary about the pace.    

Prospects for seaborne oil imports are widely seen as promising. Consumption of oil in China is growing rapidly, especially in the transportation sector where surging road vehicle numbers are boosting demand for motor gasoline and diesel oil, a trend which is expected to continue. In a recent report Australia’s Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (BREE) emphasised that increasing household incomes are likely to enable a rising proportion of Chinese families to purchase cars, substantially adding to fuel usage.  However, a partial offset is envisaged: steps being taken to lower the economy’s energy-intensity by improving the efficiency of energy use, and also by encouraging consumption of alternative fuels.

Expansion of oil refining capacity, at coastal locations, is another clear sign pointing to strongly advancing seaborne crude oil imports. Further large capacity additions are scheduled during 2014, following last year’s increase. Moreover, China is implementing plans to substantially expand both strategic (state-owned) and commercial crude oil reserves, and new strategic inventory tankage is opening this year. But a proportion of the incremental quantities required will be derived from domestic production. And imports are not entirely delivered by ship: pipeline connections with adjacent countries Kazakhstan and Russia are alternative, land-based routes. Increased refinery capacity may both restrict imports of refined oil products and boost exports.           

The outlook for seaborne imports of gas also seems bright. China’s natural gas consumption is set to grow vigorously, with added support from the government’s intention to encourage usage in preference to other hydrocarbons. As well as increasing domestic production, pipelines bringing gas from neighbouring countries, including the huge-capacity pipeline linking China with Myanmar which opened in 2013, will contribute large supplies. But nine LNG terminals at ports are already operating, and a further five are under construction, adding justification for expecting a strong upwards trend in seaborne imports, as emphasised in a recent report published by the US Energy Information Administration.

Overshadowing this view is shale gas. If China’s known gigantic reserves can be developed to ramp up production quickly on a colossal scale, then all other energy consumption and seaborne import predictions for fuels may be proved invalid. This scenario seems unlikely to happen in the near or medium-term future. Exploitation of shale gas is problematical in China. The geology is much more complicated than in the USA, where shale gas has been developed rapidly, requiring the drilling of many more wells. Expertise and equipment on the scale required for truly massive exploration and production could remain limited in China for some time, while the large water supplies also needed are not always available. Moreover, the essential pipeline connections for distributing the gas nationwide are not yet in place.

The prognostications for seaborne coal imports into China are more hazy. Some forecasts a few years ago indicated a strong expansionary trend continuing for many years. That view has proved correct so far, but there are now much greater uncertainties surrounding the outlook. The Chinese government’s intensifying emphasis on shifting energy consumption towards cleaner fuels is prominent, amid a slowing economy.  This policy focus could reduce the large volumes (60mt in 2013) of low-grade, highly polluting lignite which is imported mainly from Indonesia. Also, an intention to make the economy’s capital investment spending and infrastructure-building a lower priority, implies that the heavy industry with high energy usage supplying materials such as steel will not be growing as quickly as seen in the past.

These prospective changes have implications for power stations, steel mills and other industries using coal. Although the balance of factors still, arguably, suggests that further growth in China’s seaborne coal import demand is a realistic idea for the years ahead as a trend, the pattern of annual progress may not be steady and could be subject to large variations.                  

Another feature of shipping demand related to energy commodity imports into China is the trade distances involved. Currently, large cargo volumes are seen on long-haul routes, but there are many examples of short-haul routes as well. Middle East countries together are the largest oil supplier, while Qatar alone supplies a high proportion of LNG imported. Seaborne crude oil imports from West Africa (especially Angola), Venezuela and Russia are prominent. Gas is imported also from Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and other countries. Within the coal segment, Australia and Indonesia are the biggest suppliers, accompanied by Russia, Vietnam, South Africa and others. Any changes in these patterns affect tonne-miles and required shipping capacity.

Promising signs for shipping

This analysis suggests that the clearest indications of future growth, in China’s imports of energy commodities, during 2014 and probably for an extended period, are visible within the crude oil and LNG trades. These commodity purchases seem set to continue increasing strongly despite an envisaged slowing of the economy’s growth rate. There is some justification also for optimism about further coal imports expansion, but the reasoning is more tenuous, especially given the government’s focus on restraining industrial pollution as a means of improving the environment and air quality.

Finally, how much of this increased cargo volume will be carried by China-owned tonnage? Many additional bulk carriers, tankers and gas carriers are joining the fleets of shipowners based in China. Orders for newbuilding vessels listed by Clarksons Research, mostly scheduled for delivery by the end of 2016, amount to a large volume. Among these, Chinese shipowners at the beginning of March this year were awaiting delivery of 38 capesize bulk carriers totalling 8m dwt; 27 VLCC (very large crude carrier) tankers totalling 8.2m dwt; and 6 VLGCs (very large gas carriers) totalling 1m cubic metres capacity. Numerous other ships were on order.

The China-owned share of the global fleet participating in energy commodity import trades has been growing strongly, and seems set to continue enlarging. Nevertheless, shipowners of other nationalities probably will be carrying larger quantities of expanding trade volumes, even if their percentage share is diminishing.

 Richard Scott

China Maritime Centre, GMI and MD, Bulk Shipping Analysis

A Story Dated Back to 1877: recollecting the maritime nexus between China and Greenwich

In October 1877, six odd-looking young Chinese “clad in richly figured flowing garments” wandered in the streets of Greenwich, with their long pigtails swaying behind their half-bald heads. Their destination was the Royal Naval College (RNC).

The six Chinese soon left Greenwich in a year or two. The RNC itself was amalgamated into the Joint Services Command and StaffCollege in 1998, leaving GMI to continue its “maritime history of Greenwich and connections with the Royal Navy” on the same ground. The site is now renamed with an adjective “Old” put in front of “Royal Naval College”, suggesting a strong nostalgic aura. All visible or physical remainders of these Chinese visitors seem to have vanished in the abyss of centuries of history as if they had never been to Greenwich. But –

137 years later, four ordinary-looking Chinese came to the same place. They were so similar to other Chinese tourists now crowded around the World Centre that no one would ever pay them a glance, until they set up their tripod, raised their huge round reflectors and operated their shooting “cannons” (specialist cameras). They were a TV crew invited by Greenwich Maritime Institute (GMI) and China Maritime Centre (CMC) to retrospect the adventure of the six Chinese in the RNC. They were thus made explorers of a piece of long overlooked history of the Sino-Anglo maritime interactions.

The sky was unusually clear all the time – in late January. The tranquility of Greenwich campus was broken only by occasional cries of jolly seabirds. The sublime buildings of the ORNC, the thin prime meridian line between the east and the west hemispheres and the maritime tide regularly running through the Greenwich U-turn of the Old Father Thames idly enjoyed sunshine like taciturn aged sea dogs in the Greenwich Hospital. Veterans were reluctant to open their toothless mouths to strangers, especially after experiencing the vicissitude of the Royal Navy and the British Empire on which the sun never set.

But GMI and CMC knew their forefathers’ secrets behind the mist of history, – their ditty bags had been thoroughly searched for numerous times. They confirmed to the TV crew that the six young men from China were early foreign naval students trained in the RNC. Their names are Yan Fu, Fang Boqian, He Xinchuan, Lin Yongsheng, Ye Zugui and Sa Zhenbing.

They were also the earliest overseas students ever dispatched by Chinese government in the 5k-year history.

With the time-honoured centralised, self-sufficient, looking-inward, complacent Confucian social structure, Chinese authorities and commoners still took for granted in the mid 19th century that the Celestial Empire was the centre of the cosmos (interestingly Greenwich claims so now!) and that it would be a special bounty granted to its vassal states if their literati subjects were admitted to be fostered with and benefit from the unchallengeable superiority of the only civilised nation. Never had they considered from a reverse angle. They did not perceive how far they had been left behind by the achievements of the Industrial Revolution taken place in Britain until they were unexceptionally defeated by invading guns and warships. While the Qing government eventually suppressed the Long-haired Rebels sweeping more than half of China’s territories with the assistance of modern weapons mainly provided by British mercenaries, a maverick decision was immediately made to study the “sophisticated western science and techniques”. Imaginably this initiative greatly toppled Chinese people’s traditional confidence in their cultural supremacy and encountered fierce critiques. Nevertheless, a naval and shipbuilding enterprise (comprising a “ForeSchool” engaged in shipbuilding education, an “AftSchool” in naval navigation and associated shipyards to construct steamships) was founded in 1867 in Mawei, Foochow, Fujian Province. MaweiNavalCollege retained shipwrights from France and naval officers from Britain to teach its difficultly recruited students including the six ones.

With endeavours rendered by the “foreign” teaching staff, the new-fashioned education proved very successful. The Six graduated together with their fellow students to become the first-generation naval officers in modern sense in China. However, in an era of rapid naval development, Qing government soon realised that the capability to manoeuvre individual warships was far from sufficient. It needed naval officers with modern knowledge and global strategy to command its newly forged fleets and to protect its coastlines. After lengthy consultation between China and the British Admiralty and Foreign Office and subject to “preliminary exams”, the most promising six Chinese naval officers were accepted by the recently established RNC for further training in 1877. They were taught the subjects including mathematics, physics, steam and steam engine, field fortification, etc. In the following decade, more Chinese naval officers graduated from Mawei Naval College were sent to Greenwich for advanced training.

Again, in Greenwich, Royal Naval Officers demonstrated their enthusiasm and professionalism to the Chinese students. On 3 October 1880, a certificate of award was issued by the Qing government in the name of the Chinese Emperor Guangxu (at the age of 9) to compliment John K. Laughton (the then Naval Instructor at the RNC) for his significant contribution to the Chinese naval officers’ successful completion of training courses. People who are interested in the details can approach our neighbouring NationalMaritimeMuseum to see the original award, referring to the Object ID “AAB0519”.

All the earliest Chinese graduates from the RNC later played influential roles in different dimensions in the course of Chinese modernisation.

After transfiguring himself from the President of the later Tianjin Naval School to a great enlightenment thinker in China in the late 1890s, Yan Fu introduced, inter alia, Adam Smith’s leading work “The Wealth of Nations” and Thomas Henry Huxley’s “Evolution and Ethics and Other Essays” to Chinese readers. He stayed in the position of the first President of the “Grand Capital University” (a combination of Ministry of Education of the Qing Empire and BeijingUniversity) until November 1912. Yan Fu’s favourite pupils in Tianjin included a naval officer named Li Yuanhong, later becoming the second President of the Republic of China.

Sa Zhenbing, in his naval career, was promoted to the Commander in Chief of the Imperial Admiralty. He revisited Greenwich 32 years later in company of His Imperial Highness Prince Zaixun to discuss with Admiral President Sir John Durnford of the RNC a rehabilitation programme for Chinese navy. But this was not yet the culmination of Admiral Sa’s success. He was nominated the Prime Minister in 1920. After the Communists took power of China in 1949, Admiral Sa still enjoyed the new government’s respect in the last three years of his life. He was one of the exceptionally prominent statesmen that could have survived all upheavals of three reigns of different natures.

Ye Zugui and Lin Yongsheng were promoted to the rank of Admiral. However, Admiral Lin soon sacrificed his life for his nation in a decisive naval battle. Other RNC trainees later formed a reputable “Fujian/Mawei Alliance” consisting of admirals and senior naval officers tenaciously dominating Chinese Navy until 1945.

Tracing footsteps of these remarkable historic naval images, the TV crew from the other end of this continent arrived on 20 January 2014 at GMI, the successor of the RNC’s maritime history & policy research and education heritage in Greenwich. To make sure that the Chinese guests would be satisfied with the visit and filming, GMI/CMC staff had exercised considerable effort to obtain permits for their access to the Painted Hall and the Chapel of St. Peter and St. Paul (managed by the Greenwich Foundation), the National Maritime Museum, the National Archives in Kew, etc. Dreadnought Library’s specialist librarian of maritime knowledge arsenal Irene Barranco also extended her effective assistance on a very short notice.

In the interview with the director of the documentary programme Ms. Guo, GMI Director Professor Chris Bellamy briefly reviewed the early evolution of British naval education. Then he highlighted the British government’s key considerations to establish a new naval education institution in the home of the Royal Navy in the early 1870s. “Naval officers’ traditional knowledge of navigation and the skills in combating at sea were found not enough at this age”, Prof. Bellamy said, “when dramatic technical development and reshaping of the international political and diplomatic pictures demanded much more reflections of senior naval officers than ever.” Virtually Prof. Bellamy was explicating in his simplified language to Chinese audience the spirit of the RNC’s motto “Tam Marte Quam Minerva” (as much by wisdom as by war).

GMI’s naval historian Dr. Chris Ware was invited to depict, in the corridor in front of GMI’s classroom, the Windsor Castle, QA, a snapshot of major naval forces in the world at a time when steam-powered steel-hull warships were looming to overtake conventional sailing ships. The gross tonnage of steamships registered in the UK would soon surpass that of sailing ships in 1885. Emphasising the particular historic context, Chris continued to illustrate before the video camera the emerging notion of sea power, the interactions between naval force and seaborne trade, the importance of the Royal Navy in formulating new orders of the world after the Napoleonic wars, the influence of naval strategy on shipbuilding technologies, etc. Chinese viewers may particularly be interested in Dr. Ware’s analysis how a continental country could borrow the sophisticated expertise of great maritime power to protect its coastal interests.

Launched on 20 July 2012 in GMI in response to the recent surge of China’s maritime interest, CMC is keen to pull these two maritime powers closer to each other. Despite profuse preparations done for production of the programme, Dr. Minghua Zhao, the CMC Director, happened to be traveling back in China when the crew started their fieldwork in Greenwich. Therefore she authorised Yifan Liao (a GMI/CMC PhD student) to accommodate the crew on CMC’s behalf.

Yifan led a walk around the ORNC campus, showing to Chinese audience the east corner of the north pavilion of King Charles Court, where most lectures for the Chinese naval students were held. Yifan explained, “From the riverside windows of these classrooms, Young Yan Fu and Sa Zhenbing would be able to observe many ships running up and down the River Thames every day. Apart from the courses provided by the RNC, we can imagine how much the Oriental students were impressed by the Victorian achievements and prosperity represented by the powerful Royal Navy and Merchant Navy they saw in Greenwich.” While being asked why he was interested in the history of the RNC and Yan Fu (a domain seemingly irrelevant to his current research), Yifan replied, “The maritime heritage of Mawei and Greenwich is not ancient, remote legend to me. It’s living blood injected into my vein by my Fujian origin, my maritime family and education.”

After filming in Greenwich, the crew moved to Kew and Portsmouth to continue the exploration before they went back to China. It would take another half year to complete the postproduction. This series programme will then be shown by the end of 2014 on CCTV (China Central TV Station) with a nationwide coverage of billions of Chinese viewers. They will for the first time be able to see how the early Chinese naval officers were nurtured with modern science in Greenwich on the screen. GMI and CMC also expect that this documentary will help encourage more researchers and stakeholders to focus on this fascinating story linking Greenwich to China and the past to the future.

Yifan Liao, PhD Student

China Maritime Centre, Greenwich Maritime Institute

New Book: Sea Devils – Pioneer Submariners

Congratulations to MA Maritime History graduate John Swinfield, who has recently had his latest book published.

Sea Devils is a compelling account of pioneer submariners and their astonishing underwater contraptions. Some made perilous voyages, others sank like stones. Craft were propelled by muscle-power or had steam engines with chimneys. Some had wheels to trundle along the seabed, others were used as underwater aircraft carriers.

John Swinfield traces the history of early submarines and the personalities who built and sailed them. From a plethora of madcap inventors emerged a bizarre machine that navies of the world will reluctantly acquired but viewed with distaste. It matured into a weapon that would usurp the mighty battleship, which had for centuries enjoyed an unchallenged command of the oceans. In its long and perilous history and the submarine became subject to fierce business, military and political shenanigans. It won eventual acceptance amidst the chaos and carnage of the First World War, in which pathfinder submariners achieved an extraordinarily high tall of five Victoria Crosses, Britain’s highest military decoration.

Sea Devils brims with daring characters and their unflinching determination to make hazardous underwater voyages: an immensely readable, entertaining and authoritative chronicle of low cunning, high politics, wondrous heroism and appalling tragedy. (Quoted from book cover)

John is a writer, historian, documentary film maker and former Fleet Street and TV journalist. He completed his MA Maritime History with the GMI several years ago and won the Marine Society prize for outstanding dissertation in maritime history. He built on the work he completed for that dissertation and subsequently published, Airship: Design, Development and Disaster published by Conway Maritime and the United States Naval Institute Press.

Sea Devils Image

A Student Perspective: Shipping Policy, who should drive it?

Before addressing the issue at bar, a definition of shipping policy under consideration here would be in order. It is an established fact within the transport world that shipping is conducted through a variety of channels: notably– by air, road, rail and sea. However, the shipment in focus here refers to that which is undertaken by sea and regulated by policies affecting sea-borne trade. This means basically those policies affecting the shipping business relative to vessel safety whether in port or on the high seas, including crew wellbeing and the marine environment.

The definition above presupposes that there are many stakeholders (cutting across the political, environmental and security spheres) affected by shipping policies. Hence, shipping policies formulation should take their concerns into consideration. While there are many stakeholders (as in governments cum regulators, ship-owners, ship-builders, Seafarers, etc), they are divided into two broad categories here for the purposes of drawing out the issues under consideration. These are: governments as in regulatory bodies or IMO on the one hand, and ship-owners as in industry on the other.

With these clarifications, I now my turn attention to the issue of who should drive shipping policy? Should it be the ship-owner or the regulatory authority? Should it be the regulatory authority, there are constant accusations from ship-owners that regulators are insensitive to the needs of industry and only keep adding unnecessary burden on ship-owners. If ship-owners, they are accused of putting profits above the wellbeing of the crew and care of the environment, and therefore cannot be left alone. This is at the core of the debate. As a way of general statement, there is no simple solution, neither is one better than the other!

From my perspective, I am in full concurrence that shipping policy-formulation should be participatory and should involve key stakeholders and interest groups. However, inasmuch as implementation is expected to be sustained and succeed, regulators should drive the process. The reason being, ship-owners, no matter how well intentioned their management practices are, would naturally pursue their bottom-line (i.e. profits) above rigid rules when such situations arise. There are myriads of instances within the shipping world that support this viewpoint. For example: findings in the BP Gulf of Mexico rig explosion in 2010 finally boiled down to the neglect of safety standards by company operatives; moreover, the perennial poor treatment of seafarers by some ship-owners, thereby given rise to MLC 2006, which came into force August 2013, supports this argument.

In closing therefore, I hold the view that regulators should drive shipping policy. However, this should be in consultation with industry-players as they are the implementers of any resultant policies. Industry would do well in advancing their goals by being proactive in their management policies and practices that put vessel safety and crew wellbeing at the top of their priorities. By so doing, shipping policies would not be mostly reactive and imposed by governments, but proactive and thereby prevent the formulation of regulations that are less sensitive to industry concerns.

After all, the ultimate goal of shipping policies, no matter who determines its formulation or drives its implementation, is to keep seaborne trade safe and secure: thereby making it attractive to those desiring to make living out of it.

Harry Conway, MA International Maritime Policy Student

Public Seminar – The Challenge of Designing New Vessels for the 21st Century Tidal Thames

The next public research seminar of the 2013-14 programme will be taking place on Wednesday 12th February 2014. 

During this presentation Alan Cartwright of Warsash Maritime Academy will reflect upon the challenges and factors of designing vessels for the tidal Thames and how the Port of London Authority (PLA) has been leading the research and development of both technology and operations. 

After enjoying a rewarding career as a General List engineer officer in the Royal Navy, Alan Cartwright was appointed to head the Marine Engineering Department of the Port of London Authority in January 1998.  During his service with the PLA, Alan led a number of substantial projects, all focused on introducing more capable and environmentally efficient vessels for operations on the tidal Thames.  Under Alan’s direction and with the PLA’s support, pioneering research work was undertaken by Southampton University into minimising vessel wash and resistance for shallow water operations.  This led to the design and build of the PLA’s first class of low-wash, low-emissions patrol launches, Richmond and Chelsea, which operate in the upper reaches of the tidal Thames.  The innovative concept, research and vessel build was recognised by the Royal Institution of Naval Architects and Lloyd’s Register, winning first prize at their international Ship Safety Award, 2008.

Development of the low-wash / low-emissions concept provided the opportunity to rationalise the PLA’s vessel fleet of patrol and pilotage vessels, in which further research work was undertaken by Newcastle University, leading to the build of four combined service catamarans by specialist boat builder Alnmaritec Limited, of Northumberland.  The Bridge Class of pilotage and patrol vessels (Lambeth, Southwark, Kew and Barnes) has now been in service for three years, demonstrating great operational flexibility and immense fuel and emissions savings.

Since 2011, Alan’s primary focus has been on the design and build of a new and very capable Moorings Maintenance Vessel, to replace the PLA’s old salvage ships Hookness and Crossness.  This complex and very capable vessel, to be named London Titan, is now at an advanced stage of build at Manor Marine, Portland, Dorset.  In December 2013, Alan moved on from the PLA, to start the third phase of his maritime career, as Commercial Manager of Warsash Maritime Academy, the world renowned provider of Merchant Navy education and training.

Location: Edinburgh Room (075), Queen Anne Court, University of Greenwich, Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London, SE10 9LS

Time: The seminar will begin at 6pm with refreshments available from 5.30pm

Anyone is welcome to attend this free event and no booking is required. If you would like any further information however please telephone the GMI Office on 020 8331 7688 or email

Programme of Free Evening Seminars in Maritime Policy, Security and History

Greenwich Maritime Institute holds a range of events, seminars and conferences including the popular Public Research Seminar Series which are held in Greenwich at monthly intervals.

Experts are invited to give a presentation on areas that relate to the three broad themes that the GMI specialises in: Maritime History, Maritime Policy and Maritime Security. Presentations are then followed by questions from the audience. Anyone is welcome to attend these free seminars although advance booking is required via

This year we are pleased to announce a variety of topics such as:

  • Licensing Private Maritime Security Companies
  • Navy, Identity & Leisure in 20th Century Britain
  • Loss of the RB Angus
  • 1412 – The Year China Discovered the World
  • Designing New Vessels for 21st Century Tidal Thames
  • Human Rights Considerations in the Maritime Industry
  • China’s Ship Recycling


GMI Research Seminar Series 2013-14 – Download the brochure in PDF format

Michael Everard CBE Receives Honorary Doctorate from University of Greenwich

We are pleased to announce that Michael Everard CBE, a senior figure in the UK and international shipping communities, received an Honorary Doctor of Business Administration from the University of Greenwich on Wednesday 24 July 2013.

Within his career Michael served as Chairman of F.T.Everard & Sons between 1988 and 2006, a family firm which during the twentieth century became leading owners of coastal vessels and small short-sea tankers. It was unique in remaining in private ownership and management for over a century. At the time of the company’s sale to James Fisher plc, in 2006, it owned eleven tankers.

Michael has also served as President of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers; as Chairman of the UK Chamber of Shipping; as Vice-Chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping; and as Vice-Chairman of Council and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Mission to Seafarers.

Michael has been actively involved with the University of Greenwich through his membership of the Greenwich Maritime Institute Advisory Committee, where he acts as a ‘critical friend’, providing advice and assistance and facilitating industry contacts. He also sits on the Greenwich Forum an independent body established in 1973 formed to promote Britain’s awareness of the sea which is administered by the Greenwich Maritime Institute.

Alev Adil, the University’s Orator, says: “Michael Everard has always set the highest industry standards in terms of safety, quality and innovation in the shipping business. Today we’re celebrating his long and distinguished career and his involvement with the Greenwich Maritime Institute, where he regularly shares his extensive knowledge of shipping policy issues with our postgraduate students.”

Honorary degrees are awarded to individuals of distinction who have made a major contribution to the work of the university, or who have earned prominence for activities associated more widely with education, business, culture, creative work and public service and the Greenwich Maritime Institute are delighted that Michael was able to accept this prestigious award last week.

Michael Everard Pic

Conference Announcement – China’s Growth as a Maritime Power: Challenges and Opportunities for Global Sustainability

Conference Leaflet - Announcement 1

GMI Responsible for Lion’s Share of Articles in Tier 1 Maritime History Journal

In the May 2013 issue of Mariners’ Mirror, a tier 1 journal, GMI graduates and staff are responsible for a large proportion of the items published.
Dr Peter Skidmore who completed his PhD with the GMI in 2009 had the following article published ‘Vessels and Networks: Shipowning in North-West England’s Coasting Trade in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries’. Dr Skidmore’s PhD focused on the maritime economy on the north west of England in the later eighteenth century.

Mr Ken Cozens, MA Maritime History graduated from the GMI in 2006 has published another article with his colleague Gary Sturgess, ‘Managing a Global Enterprise in the Eighteenth Century: Anthony Calvert of The Crescent, London, 1777-1808’. This builds on previous work and publications that they have completed together on mercantile networks.

Finally there is an excellent review of Dr Cathy Pearce’s book ‘Cornish Wrecking, 1700-1860: Reality and Popular Myth’. Dr Pearce completed her PhD with the GMI in 2007 and is now attached to the Institute as an Honorary Research Associate. She will be contributing to the delivery of a short course on ‘Maritime Crime: Piracy, Smuggling, Wrecking and Water Whodunnits’ on 12th June 2013.

GMI is very proud to have a high proportion of graduates in addition to the current staff that publish frequently in top journals. Look out for the next issue of Mariners’ Mirror which will feature an article by Dr Chris Ware, Lecturer in Naval History.

Suzanne Louail

Mariners Mirror May 13

China’s sparkling maritime business achievements

The China maritime business story over the past ten years has been dazzling. By the end of 2012 Chinese shipowners’ share of the world’s entire merchant ship fleet had risen to 10 percent. This Chinese fleet is now more than three times its size one decade earlier. Last year shipbuilders in China produced 43 percent of the world’s newbuilding ship deliveries (based on deadweight tonnage), up from a relatively small six percent share at the start of the 2000s. Equally impressively, importers in China last year received an enormous volume of cargo by sea, comprising almost one-fifth of all world seaborne trade, compared with a six percent proportion a decade earlier.

An opportunity is approaching to examine this amazing narrative and its causes in more detail. At Greenwich Maritime Institute on 10th June, a one-day short course entitled ‘A Leading Global Player: Maritime Business Activities in China’ will look closely at the trends and assess the current position. Any clues to how events will unfold in the period ahead also will be discussed.

What has made these achievements so remarkable is not only the sheer magnitude, but also the speed at which expansion occurred. During a period of a little over ten years, China has transformed the global maritime business scene, overtaking other major players to become the most prominent and influential participant in several key activities. A dizzying velocity of sustained growth year after year became a defining feature, a pattern which was not widely foreseen. Few people would believe a forecaster predicting advances of that intensity or longevity.

Chinese shipowners, shipbuilders, ship recyclers, and importers and exporters of commodities and products carried by sea have become the principal, immediate focus of attention in international shipping markets. The first question asked by market operators, brokers and analysts in weighing up the current position and attempting to predict a pattern of events in the future is usually “what are the Chinese doing”?

From a global freight market viewpoint, the most prominent aspect has been the vast expansion of seaborne bulk commodity imports into China. In their offices during the late 1970s and early ’80s, some shipbrokers and analysts sat around talking about the possibility of China one day (within the foreseeable future) becoming a key factor affecting global bulk trade movements. Labelling this agreeable vista as a ‘great white hope’ did not seem too exaggerated. But the reality would take a long time to appear. Although in the 1990s there were distinct signs of a strong upwards trend from a low base, it was not until well after the millennium celebrations that China rapidly started becoming the most influential element.

In the early 2000s China’s dry bulk commodity imports averaged 8 percent of the global total. The 2002 figure was 217 million tonnes. Ten years later, in 2012, the total reached 1300 million tonnes, according to data compiled by Clarksons Research, raising the Chinese share of global dry bulk trade four-fold to 32 percent. This astonishing performance was driven by enormous expansion of iron ore imports for the steel industry. Other commodities also contributed strongly. Coal, for power station usage (steam coal) and for steel mill consumption (coking coal), was a key growth component, especially towards the end of the period. Rising soyabeans purchases and import volumes of several ‘minor’ bulk commodities were additional features.

The Chinese shipbuilding scene merits particular attention as well. When the 2000s began newbuilding vessel deliveries of all types from China’s shipyards totalled 3-4 million deadweight tonnes annually, a modest volume. In 2012 the total was massively larger at 65m dwt, comprising over two-fifths of the global total. Two years earlier, in 2010, China had become the world’s largest shipbuilder based on deadweight tonnage, overtaking South Korea. Then, last year, China also became number one on the basis of both deadweight tonnage and the dollar value of output.

Explanations for these striking developments (and for other prominent trends including oil imports, container trade and ship recycling) and perceptible pointers to the future will be examined intensely in the forthcoming GMI course. What is well known is that China’s economy has been a star performer, raising living standards sharply for a large proportion of the population. Sustained export competitiveness has been a notable achievement, both in shipbuilding and in sales of many other products including the vast quantities of consumer goods bought by countries around the world. Infrastructure building has greatly augmented growing Chinese domestic demand for manufactured goods, in turn adding to requirements for more raw materials and other commodities than could be provided from internal resources. Benefits for the world’s shipowners from the resulting imports have been very obvious.

Richard Scott
GMI Visiting Lecturer and MD, Bulk Shipping Analysis


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,262 other followers

%d bloggers like this: