The EU to Allocate €270 million to Member States for Customs Control Equipment Over the Next Three Years

The first call for proposals was launched in October 2021, resulting in a total funding of more than €270 million for over 240 strategic Border Crossing Points and customs laboratories across the EU. This will allow Member States to purchase, maintain or upgrade state-of-the-art customs equipment such as new scanners, radiation monitors, teams of sniffer dogs and other non-intrusive detectors for border crossing points as well as a variety of laboratory equipment for goods analysis.

Part of the Integrated Border Management Fund, CCEI supports Member States to finance detection equipment for goods crossing the EU’s external borders. The initiative has the twin aims of improving customs performance by contributing to adequate and equivalent results of customs controls throughout the EU, while helping EU customs authorities act as one single entity. The instrument is part of the long-term EU budget for 2021-2027, with a financial envelope of €1 billion.

Explosion at Jordan’s Aqaba Port Kills 13, Injures Many

A gas leak at Jordan’s port of Aqaba killed 13 and injured more than 260 others, according to a state media report. A crane malfunctioned while moving a storage container filled with chlorine gas, the state reported. CCTV footage captured the event and showed the container being hoisted into the air and then slipping off of the crane hook and the ensuing explosion of yellow gas.

The cloud of yellow gas is seen spreading through the ship, over the ground, and sent bystanders and workers running for safety.

State media said as of Monday night, 123 of the injured were still being treated at hospital for chemical exposure. Some of those were in critical condition.

Chargebacks911 Takes to the Skies With AirlinePros in a New Partnership to Tackle Fraud

Chargebacks911, the leading dispute technology specialists, today announces its new partnership with AirlinePros, a representation and distribution firm for airlines and travel suppliers, to defeat fraud and friendly fraud for travel industry merchants.

Like other major online merchants, travel industry partners including airlines, hotels, and online travel agencies, took a big hit from chargebacks filed wrongly against them during the pandemic. People are traveling once again, with the bounce-back beginning in 2021, with global passenger numbers up almost 30% to 2.3 billion. However, this was still only around half of 2019’s 4.5 billion travelers. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), it will be 2024 before passenger figures return to 2019 levels. In part, this is due to a lack of personnel such as pilots, which leads to cancellations and disruption that ultimately means customers are dissatisfied and therefore seek refunds.

AirlinePros recognized the struggles their partners were experiencing and sought with Chargebacks911 to solve this problem and assist travel providers worldwide to reduce the losses associated with chargebacks wrongly filed against them. Data sets provided by Chargebacks911 will include negative and positive information about disputes and chargebacks, which help fight friendly fraud as well as cases of true criminal fraudulent activity.,” Achma Asokan Foster, CEO, AirlinePros, said. “For us, this is a key issue that we’ve identified for the airline industry on an ongoing basis. So, we acted by bringing in the expertise, experience, and knowledge of Chargebacks911, to deal with the thousands of chargebacks resulting from the disruptions due to the pandemic and any other reason. We believe that Chargebacks911 will play an important role both in a preventative capacity and improve the overall customer experience for our client airlines and the industry at large.”

Harlan Hutson, director of Strategic Partnerships at Chargebacks911, adds: “Chargebacks911 is well-versed in supporting merchants in the travel space, with deep knowledge and understanding of how the industry works when it comes to fraudulent activity. Airlines are particularly unique in this world, with added complexities and multiple players along the chain, so we are delighted to be able to offer our unparalleled expertise and solutions to AirlinePros clients as it works to get the industry back to normal.”

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship Traverses Atlantic

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship Traverses Atlantic

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) completed an historic transatlantic voyage from Plymouth, UK to its North American arrival in Halifax, Nova Scotia on June 5.

The ship had no human captain or crew onboard and is the first self-directed autonomous ship to traverse the Atlantic Ocean.

Marine research non-profit ProMare along with IBM designed and built the ship. IBM took the role of lead technology and science partner, using their automation, AI and edge computing technologies to power the ship’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) Captain. That technology allowed the AI Caption to “guide the vessel and make real-time decisions while at sea,” IBM says.

Six AI-powered cameras, 30 sensors and 15 Edge devices, gave input which was then turned into actionable recommendations for the AI Captain to interpret and analyze, “making it possible for the AI Captain to adhere to maritime law while making crucial split-second decisions, like rerouting itself around hazards or marine animals, all without human interaction or intervention,”

IBM says.Rob High, IBM Fellow, VP & CTO, Networking & Edge Computing says the Mayflower Autonomous Ship’s challenges – saving time and costs, making trustworthy predictions, and solving complex data problems – are not unique. He stressed that the MAS represents “how technology like AI-powered automation can take intelligent data and make it actionable to make informed business decisions, in any industry.”

President Biden Adds $234.3 Million to Beef Up America’s Port Infrastructure

President Biden Adds $234.3 Million to Beef Up America’s Port Infrastructure

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) announced that up to $684.3 million is now available for Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP) grants, to be awarded on a competitive basis to projects that improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of the movement of goods into, out of, around, or within a port. This marks the most, annual funding for PIDP in history and will help improve our supply chains, speed up the safe, efficient, and reliable movement of goods, and ultimately work to make goods more affordable for Americans.

On February 23, 2022, MARAD issued a notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) announcing the availability of $450 million for the PIDP program under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The FY 2022 Appropriations Act appropriated an additional $234.3 million in funding for the program and this money has been added to the NOFO.

“Under President Biden’s leadership, we are making a once-in-a-generation investment in our ports and intermodal infrastructure to move goods faster, strengthen supply chain resiliency, support economic vitality at both the national and regional levels, and address climate change and environmental justice impacts,” said Acting Maritime Administrator Lucinda Lessley.

The $684.3 million in funding for FY 2022 PIDP grants is the highest level of funding ever made available for the program. Projects that improve the movement of goods to, through, and around ports at coastal seaports, inland river ports, and Great Lakes ports are eligible to receive funding. In addition, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also expanded the list of eligible projects to explicitly include projects that reduce or eliminate port-related criteria pollutant or greenhouse gas emissions.

Overall, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will invest $17 billion in ports and waterways, as well as rebuild America’s roads, bridges and rails; upgrade and expand public transit; modernize the Nation’s ports and airports; improve safety; help tackle the climate crisis; advance environmental justice; and invest in communities that have too often been left behind. It will drive the creation of good-paying jobs and grow the economy sustainably and equitably to help everyone get ahead for decades to come.

Applications for the grants continue to be due on May 16, 2022 by 11:59 p.m. EST, and previously submitted applications can be revisited due to the amendment following the increase in funding.

IMO Secretary-General Urges Support for FSO Safer Plan

IMO Secretary-General Urges Support for FSO Safer Plan

International Maritime Organization (IMO) Secretary-General Kitack Lim has urged further financial support for a UN-coordinated operational plan to address the threat of a major oil spill from the FSO Safer, moored off Yemen, after a pledging event in The Hague saw donors pledging $33 million in new funding.

“In the face of an impending environmental disaster, we must do all we can to prevent it. We must act now,” Secretary-General Lim said. “The time is now. The risks are high. We must act to avert disaster.”

IMO has been supporting contingency planning efforts in the region to prepare for a possible spill from FSO SAFER and to limit the impacts should one occur. An oil spill from FSO Safer would be a humanitarian and environmental disaster, with huge economic impacts for the shipping and maritime industry throughout the region.

The plan to mitigate the risk by transferring the oil to a safe temporary vessel needs financial resources, Lim said.

There is now $40 million available for the operation, which includes previously committed funds. The decaying floating storage and offloading unit is moored off the coast of Yemen and holds around a million barrels of oil. It could break apart or explode at any time.

The pledging event, hosted by the Government of the Netherlands and the United Nations, marked the start in the effort to raise the $144 million that the full plan requires, including $80 million for the emergency operation to transfer the oil to a safe temporary vessel. Also critical to the plan’s success is the installation of a long-term replacement capacity.

USMMA Superintendent to Retire

USMMA Superintendent to Retire

Superintendent of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Vice Adm. Jack Buono will retire after a maritime career that has spanned more than 45 years.

Vice Adm. Buono, a 1978 Kings Point graduate, has spent the past three and a half years at the Academy helm, and will relinquish command at a ceremony in June. His successor has not been announced.

“For Ginger and I, serving as the Superintendent and First Lady of the Academy has been the honor of a lifetime,” said Buono. “The young women and men who come here are truly the best and brightest America has to offer. I am amazed at their resilience and perseverance, and know the future of the maritime industry is in good hands with them at the wheel.”

Buono arrived at USMMA in November 2018, after retiring as the President and CEO of SeaRiver Maritime, Inc., an ExxonMobil marine subsidiary headquartered in Houston, Texas.

As superintendent, Vice Adm. Buono guided the Academy through the COVID-19 global health pandemic, graduating two classes during the height of the crisis – on time, and COVID-free – with the expectation he will do the same with a third graduating class this year.

“I’d like to thank all those involved in the day-to-day operations at the Academy,” said Buono. “From the staff, faculty and coaches, to the alumni and the parents, to the support staff members that keep the lights on and the water running, I want each of you to know how proud and thankful I am to have served as the leader of this great institution.”

Vice Adm. Buono assumed command of the federal service academy in the aftermath of some difficult times and immediately articulated his expectations for the regiment and the organization. During his change of command ceremony, he challenged the regiment to be strong supporters and advocates for one another. He implored them to take care of one other as shipmates, setting the groundwork for improvements in institutional culture at the Academy.

He brought deficiencies in the Academy’s infrastructure to the attention of the leadership at MARAD and DOT, creating the conditions for broad modernization at the Academy in the future. He also led the implementation of The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Strategic Plan 2018-2023: Navigating Towards the Future Together, making it the benchmark for day-to-day operations at the Academy.

“While we won’t be leaving until sometime after graduation for the class of 2022, Ginger and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Regiment of Midshipmen, the staff, the faculty and the USMMA community-at-large, especially the USMMA Alumni Association and Foundation, and the National Parents Association for your unwavering support these past few years,” said Buono. “We enjoyed our time here, we will remember all of you fondly, and we look forward to continuing to support the regiment, and the Academy into the future.”

Single Window for Ship Data Exchange to Become Mandatory

Single Window for Ship Data Exchange to Become Mandatory

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) Facilitation Committee has adopted amendments to the Facilitation (FAL) Convention which will make the single window for data exchange mandatory in ports around the world, marking what it is calling “a significant step in the acceleration of digitalization in shipping.”

Other amendments adopted include lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic and add new and amended Recommended Practices to prevent corruption and illicit activities in the maritime sector.

The Facilitation Convention was adopted in 1965 and contains standards and recommended practices and rules for simplifying formalities, documentary requirements and procedures on ships’ arrival, stay and departure. The Convention has been updated continuously, embracing digitalization and automation for procedures.

The amendments adopted at the Facilitation Committee (FAL 46) session, which met 9 to 13 May, are expected to enter into force on 1 January 2024.

On other matters, the Committee approved the updated Compendium on Electronic Business; approved guidelines to tackle illicit international wildlife trade; and completed its regulatory; scoping exercise on maritime autonomous surface ships (MASS).

Mandatory Single Window

The amendments update the provisions of the FAL Convention on mandatory electronic data exchange in ports for ship clearance. The amendments to the annex of the Convention will make it mandatory for public authorities to establish, maintain and use single window systems for the electronic exchange of information required on arrival, stay and departure of ships in ports. In addition, public authorities will have to combine or coordinate the electronic transmission of the data to ensure that information is submitted or provided only once and reused to the maximum extent possible.

The Committee approved related guidelines on authentication, integrity and confidentiality of information exchanges via maritime single windows and related services; and revised guidelines for setting up a maritime single window.

Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic

The updated annex to the FAL Convention includes provisions derived from lessons learned during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Contracting Governments and their relevant public authorities are required to allow ships and ports to remain fully operational during a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), in order to maintain complete functionality of global supply chains to the greatest extent possible. Public authorities are required to designate port workers and ships’ crew as key workers (or equivalent), regardless of their nationality or the flag of their ship, when in their territory.

Tackling maritime corruption

Updates to the FAL Convention take a systemic approach to addressing the issue of corruption associated with the ship-shore interface in ports. Contracting Governments will be required to encourage public authorities to assess the risks of corruption and address them by developing and implementing preventive measures to strengthen integrity, transparency and accountability. The Committee approved related Guidance to implement and adopt procedures against maritime corruption.

IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business

The Committee approved an updated version of the IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business (the IMO Compendium). The new version includes the following five new data sets: “Ship reporting systems”; “Ship and company certificates”; “Ship registry and company details”; “Inspections” and “Port State Control inspection history data”.

Guidelines to Tackle Illicit International Wildlife Trade Approved

The Committee approved guidelines for the prevention and suppression of the smuggling of wildlife on ships engaged in international maritime traffic. The guidelines are expected to serve as a tool to combat wildlife trafficking in the maritime sector and its implementation must be in accordance with international law, in particular, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Progress on MASS Regulations

The FAL Committee approved the outcome of the regulatory scoping exercise (RSE), which analyzed relevant ship safety treaties under the remit of the Committee to assess how maritime autonomous surface ships (MASS) could be regulated.
The Committee concurred with the establishment of an MSC-LEG-FAL Joint Working Group on MASS to provide advice on and consider ways to address common issues identified by the three committees.

Woolpert Contracted to Acquire Topographic, Bathymetric Lidar Data, Imagery for Tonga

Woolpert Contracted to Acquire Topographic, Bathymetric Lidar Data, Imagery for Tonga

The Pacific Community (SPC) has contracted with Woolpert to acquire topographic and bathymetric lidar data and aerial imagery that can be used to develop digital elevation models for the Kingdom of Tonga. The information and derived products will support nautical charting for navigation safety, infrastructure planning and rehabilitation, and disaster resilience and recovery.

This project complements and expands on similar geospatial data acquisitions Woolpert has performed throughout the Pacific, including a project currently underway in Vanuatu. The lidar data will support various sector agencies including the Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications (MEIDECC); Ministry of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources; Ministry of Infrastructure; and Tonga Ports Authority.

The project is part of SPC’s Pacific Resilience Program, funded by the World Bank, which is working to strengthen early warning systems and enhance natural disaster and climate change resilience across Pacific Island countries prone to natural disaster events such as cyclones, storm surges, coastal inundation, earthquakes and tsunamis. In January 2022, Tonga was the site of the world’s most powerful volcanic eruption in 30 years when Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai unexpectedly erupted, generating atmospheric waves and tsunamis across the Pacific Ocean. A reported estimate of 85,000 people in Tonga were impacted by the event, which caused $90 million USD in damages.

Woolpert is employing data, imagery and resources from multiple partners to optimize the utilization and application of this collection. Satellite imagery collected by Planet, a Woolpert partner, following the eruption is helping determine whether water clarity is suitable for Woolpert to proceed with required bathymetric lidar acquisition components. The topo-bathymetric lidar data and imagery is being acquired with survey aircraft provided by Kiwi Air, an aviation firm based in New Zealand.

Constance Solemani, Woolpert geospatial project manager, noted that the new data may support change detection analysis when compared to data previously collected for Tonga in 2018. This comprehensive dataset will help measure and monitor the full impact of this disaster, support future impact-based forecasting, identify transport paths for better emergency management, reduce risks to these vulnerable communities and refine disaster resilience planning.

The acquisition in Tonga is expected to be complete by July, with final delivery scheduled for October.

U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Rear Admiral (Ret.) Ann Phillips as 20th Administrator of the Maritime Administration

U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Rear Admiral (Ret.) Ann Phillips as 20th Administrator of the Maritime Administration

Rear Admiral (Rear Adm.) Ann Phillips, USN, Ret., has been confirmed and sworn in as the 20th Administrator of the Maritime Administration (MARAD). Nominated by President Biden on October 21, 2021, Rear Adm. Phillips was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on May 10, 2022. She is the first woman to lead MARAD as administrator.

“From her distinguished naval service to her leadership on coastal infrastructure, Rear Admiral Ann Phillips has championed America’s maritime sector throughout her career,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “Her experience and expertise will be invaluable as we address supply chain bottlenecks, implement the maritime investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, ensure the safety and success of midshipmen at the Merchant Marine Academy, and combat climate change in the maritime sector. I thank Deputy Administrator Lucinda Lessley for her tremendous service guiding MARAD as Acting Administrator and look forward to all that she and Ann will accomplish together at the agency in the years ahead.”

As head of the Maritime Administration, Phillips will advise the Secretary of Transportation on commercial maritime matters, to include the movement of goods, supply chain, as well as the U.S. maritime industry, environment and compliance, ports and waterways infrastructure, and strategic sealift. She will engage public and private stakeholders in the maritime industry and oversee the U.S Merchant Marine Academy.

Phillips will also oversee MARAD’s programs to improve and modernize the nation’s maritime network by administering the unprecedented investment in our ports and waterways made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, including $2.25 billion to be awarded over the next five years through our Port Infrastructure Development Program and $25 million for the America’s Marine Highway Program.

“It’s an honor to work alongside the professionals who make up the MARAD team, and, to serve the American people, Secretary Buttigieg and the Biden-Harris Administration,” said Administrator Phillips. “I understand the critical role that our commercial Merchant Marine plays in our national and economic security. In my nearly 31-year Navy career, I have witnessed many of the challenges facing our maritime sector and look forward to working with my colleagues to address them. This is an exciting time for MARAD as we work to expand and strengthen America’s waterborne transportation system and workforce.”

Phillips served most recently as Special Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Adaptation and Protection, Commonwealth of Virginia, developing Virginia’s first Coastal Resilience Master Plan. Prior to her appointment to the Office of the Governor, she served nearly 31 years on active duty and has extensive experience operating with multi-national maritime forces, including NATO and Partnership for Peace nations, and serving overseas in Guam and Lisbon, Portugal.

Her final flag command, Expeditionary Strike Group TWO, included 14 ships and 10 subordinate commands – all the Amphibious Expeditionary Forces on the East Coast of the United States. Earlier she served on the Chief of Naval Operations’ Staff as Deputy Director and then Director of Surface Warfare Division. Previous to those positions, she had the honor to commission and command the USS MUSTIN (DDG 89), and to command Destroyer Squadron 28.