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From Floats to Concrete: Britain’s New Port in the Falklands

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The contract signed between the administration Falkland Islands (the Malvinas) and the BAM Nuttall company envisioning a new port constructed in Port Stanley has been subject to most noticeable scrutiny on the island in recent decades. There is reason why this have caused such a stir, as there are concerns suggesting that the construction of new deep-water port on the island by the United Kingdom could seriously affect the status quo and the balance of power in the region, making the Falklands a base for Britain’s economic expansion in the Antarctic. Of particular interest is the extent to which these plans comply with the spirit and letter of the UN General Assembly resolutions on the Falklands as well as the possibility of the UK expanding its military footprint in the region. That said, it is still too early to talk about whether or not the new port will shift the balance of power or bolster Britain’s standing in the region in any significant way.

At present, the critical ingredients of British transport infrastructure in the Falklands are the Mount Pleasant Complex (RAF Mount Pleasant) with its small port of Mare Harbour and the civilian port in Port Stanley, located next to the capital of Stanley. In the autumn of 2018, the Falkland Islands Government launched a tender for the construction of a new port, citing the poor state of the existing infrastructure.

By April 2020, the government signed a contract with BAM Nuttall Ltd. to replace the Falklands Interim Port and Storage System (FIPASS) with a new facility. The requirements for the new port included: jetty berthing capacity of 400m × 60m to replace the existing floating piers; a roll on, roll off facility to include a ferry and coastal shipping services; and a minimum design working life of 50 years.

It should be noted that none of the publicly available sources (except for some media outlets) mention that the new port is to be a deep-water complex. Among the project requirements is the provision that the port’s depth should be “at least the same as the depth currently available at FIPASS.” The new port is expected to be operational by 2024, replacing the existing infrastructure without interrupting traffic and port operations.

The contractor, BAM Nuttall, notes in the project description that the new facility will “benefit key users in the fishing, tourism and shipping sectors.” It makes no mention of fundamentally new opportunities in, say, the extraction of hydrocarbons or any plans in this area. Still, the project is a huge undertaking and will cost an estimated $85 million, which is almost half of the Falklands’ GDP, while the construction of the pier will require 900,000 tons of stone to be delivered.

However, a deep-water port is exactly what is needed to supply the oil and gas industry, although this would require considerably more work and financing. A similar port could be constructed in Port William, a city located north of Stanley Harbour, and the Purvis Narrows connected to it. While the inadequacy of the existing infrastructure and the need to build a deep-water port have been pointed out before (and announced in 2012), the idea never went beyond media speculation at the time (at least, when we analyze the available sources).

Nevertheless, there are concerns over the new port’s construction in Argentina. In particular, the government is worried that the new port could replace Ushuaia as the “main gateway” to Antarctica. However, a simple comparison of the proposed infrastructure of the new port (again, looking at the project’s key requirements) and that of Ushuaia Port reveals that the British development is – at least in terms of what has been made public – inferior, both in terms of berthing capacity (400 metres versus 679 metres) and pier depth. The Ushuaia Port pier is 10.4 metres deep, while the specifications of the existing harbour in Port Stanley mean that the pier cannot reach depths lower than 6 metres without extensive dredging works.

Looking at what the Falkland Islands need in terms of renovated port facilities, it may be worth exploring the history of the existing infrastructure of the FIPASS port. Construction of the port began shortly after the end of the 1982 Falklands War, prompted by the need to deliver large volumes of cargo to the islands for the construction of the Mount Pleasant Complex and the adjacent Mare Harbour naval base. The archaic infrastructure of Stanley Harbour, having remained untouched since the First World War, meant that ships arriving at the island were unloaded by means of floats and barges. This was good for landing operations but ill-equipped to deal with the deliveries of general cargo. This led to a sharp increase in freight costs due to the extended idle time of ships when unloading.

The solution came in the form of ITM Offshore technologies for the oil production infrastructure in the North Sea. Six large and interconnected floats, approximately 90×27 metres in size and with a deadweight of 10,000 tonnes each, were installed in two rows along the coast in Port Stanley. They were connected to the shore through a 180-metre pier and another smaller float that served as a kind of coupler and section for unloading ferries. Two floats were used as a quay wall, while the remaining four were used as storage facilities, also housing port personnel. Other companies involved in the construction were MacGregor Navire (access roads), Harland & Wolff (residential accommodations) and Nuttall, which would later become part of the BAM Nuttall group, the one to be awarded the contract under discussion in this article, and which equipped the quay walls that hold the entire structure in place.

The floats were brought to the islands on two heavy load carriers – the Dvyi Teal and the Dvyi Swan, along with a floating crane used to build the port. Construction was conducted by ITM Offshore specialists and British military engineers. The structure was deemed a “Flexiport,” implying that it could be completed or reconfigured with the addition of new floats. Its construction made it possible to speed up logistics processes dramatically: the first ship that arrived – the 2500-tonne bulk carrier MV Lesterbrook delivering 5000 tonnes of cargo and sixty 40-foot containers to the islands – was unloaded in just 30 hours. Previously, it took 21 days to unload this rather small ship using floats and barges, while larger vessels could remain in port for over a month.

The construction of the port cost ₤23 million (approximately ₤50ml at current prices) and, as British estimates suggest, the money was recouped in two years. FIPASS was then donated to the Falkland Islands Administration.

The floats are now approaching the end of their life cycle, which means they are set to be disposed of once the construction of the new port is complete.

Looking at the new project as a whole, we can say that certain improvements in terms of numbers have been made, such as in extending the berthing length to 400 metres and increasing the width of the pier, which will make loading/unloading operations easier. However, this is not the case as far as quality goes, as no provisions have been made for a deeper pier, making it impossible to unload large cargo ships. Besides, there is no information that would allow us to conclusively say whether the new facility will be used for military purposes (the Mare Harbour jetty currently fulfils this role) or whether there are plans to equip the port for large logistics operations related to possible oil and gas production on the shelf. In the form of specific planning documents or contracts, there is no indication that the long-hoped-for deep-water port will be constructed for these purposes. Given the geographical conditions and scope of the work, though, any movement on the part of the United Kingdom towards the construction of a deep-water port in this area would immediately be noticed by all interested parties, even if it tries to hide it from prying eyes.

Given the above, we can say that the British endeavor to modernize the port infrastructure in Port Stanley does not seem to violate the spirit and letter of Paragraph 4 of UN General Assembly Resolution 31/49 dated December 1, 1976—a document that calls on both sides “to refrain from taking decisions that would imply introducing unilateral modifications in the situation while the islands are going through the process recommended in the above-mentioned resolutions.”

Still, unexplored opportunities that the new infrastructure will open up for British industry and shipping will inevitably lead to boosted economic activity in fishing and tourism, if with some major limitations, though – local cargo transportation and the exploration of shelf resources. In future, this may entail renewed activity concerning the construction of a deep-water port and its transition from paper to practice. This issue will become increasingly important as the deadline for the revision of the Madrid Protocol draws closer to 2048, after which it may become possible to extract mineral resources in the Antarctic Treaty System area (beyond the 60th parallel south).

From a political perspective, the works in the Falklands fit into the general context of British politics in the wake of Brexit, which revolves around finding itself in a world where great powers are increasingly at odds and where activity at sea is on the rise. In the case of the Falklands, this may again rock relations with Argentina, a nation busy fortifying its naval forces by purchasing French-built patrol ships capable of operating in the open ocean.

From our partner RIAC

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Europe

The Economist: “Europe looks like… a sucker”

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© European Union 2019 – EP

Don’t be fooled by the rush of good news from Europe in the past few weeks. A brutal economic squeeze will pose a test of Europe’s resilience in 2023 and beyond, – predicts “The Economist”.

There is a growing fear that the recasting of the global energy system, American economic populism and geopolitical rifts threaten the long-run competitiveness of the European Union and non-members, including Britain.

Energy prices are down from the summer and a run of good weather means that gas storage is nearly full. But the energy crisis still poses dangers.

Gas prices are six times higher than their long-run average. On November 22nd Russia threatened to throttle the last operational pipeline to Europe. Europe’s gas storage will need to be refilled once again in 2023, this time without any piped Russian gas whatsoever.

The war is also creating financial vulnerabilities. Energy inflation is spilling over into the rest of Europe’s economy, creating an acute dilemma for the European Central Bank. It needs to raise interest rates to control prices. But if it goes too far it could destabilize the Eurozone’s weaker members, not least indebted Italy.

Too many of Europe’s industrial firms, especially German ones, have relied on abundant energy inputs from Russia. The prospect of severed relations with Russia, structurally higher costs and a decoupling of the West and China has meant a reckoning in many boardrooms.

That fear has been amplified by America’s economic nationalism which threatens to draw activity across the Atlantic in a whirlwind of subsidies and protectionism. President Joe Biden’s ‘Inflation Reduction Act’ involves $400 bn of handouts for energy, manufacturing and transport and includes make-in-America provisions.

In many ways the scheme resembles the industrial policies that China has pursued for decades. As the other two pillars of the world economy become more interventionist and protectionist, Europe, with its quaint insistence on upholding World Trade Organization rules on free trade, looks like a sucker.

Many bosses warn that the combination of expensive energy and American subsidies leaves Europe at risk of mass deindustrialization.

Compared with its pre-COVID GDP trajectory, Europe has done worse than any other economic bloc. Of the world’s 100 most valuable firms, only 14 are European.

America’s financial and military support for Ukraine vastly exceeds Europe’s, and America resents the EU’s failure to pay for its own security.

America is irritated by Europe’s economic torpor and its failure to defend itself; Europe is outraged by America’s economic populism.

…High-level relationship – where will it all lead to?

International Affairs

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More Europeans will perish from energy crisis than Ukraine war death toll

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More people will perish in Europe this winter because of unaffordable household energy costs than those who have died on the battlefield in the Ukraine war, according to research by the British weekly newspaper The Economist.

Last week, the United Nations said the official civilian death toll from the Ukraine war has risen to nearly 6,900, with civilian injuries topping 10,000.

Whilst the death of military forces in Ukraine has been difficult to verify, the number of soldiers thought to have died in Ukraine is estimated at 25,000-30,000 for each side.

The Economist modeled the effect of the unprecedented hike in gas and electricity bills this winter and concluded that the current cost of energy will likely lead to an extra 147,000 deaths if it is a typical winter.

Should Europe experience a particularly harsh winter, which is something likely when considering the growing effects of climate change, that number could rise to 185,000. That is a rise of 6.0%. It also reports that a harsh winter could cost a total of 335,000 extra lives.

Even in the rare case of a mild winter, that figure would still be high with tens of thousands of extra deaths than in previous years. If it is a mild winter, research by The Economic indicates the death toll would be 79,000.

The Economist’s statistical model included all 27 European Union member countries along with the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and Norway.

It is anticipated that Governments across Western Europe would be alarmed and concerned by these shocking figures published by the study.

But it remains to be seen what measures these governments will take to prevent so many extra fatalities in their own countries because of the energy shortage.

The energy crisis itself began when Europe, which was heavily reliant on Russian gas, imposed heavy sanctions on Russian energy exports following Moscow’s war in Ukraine. Before the war, Russia supplied 40-50% of the EU’s natural-gas imports. One of Europe’s strongest economies, Germany for example, had become dependent on Moscow’s gas flows and had no Plan B.

The move clearly backfired on Western economies, with inflation reaching record levels not seen in decades, mainly as a result of the soaring energy prices. That has left pensioners and other poorer as well as middle-class income households facing a choice of putting food on the table this winter or heating their homes.

The study by The Economist says that despite European attempts to stockpile as much gas as possible to fill their storage facilities, many consumers are still being hurt by the rise in wholesale energy costs.

It adds that even as market prices for fuel have slightly declined from their peaks, the real average residential European gas and electricity costs are 144% and 78% above the figures for 2000-19.

As it is being hurt the most, Europe could take serious and concrete efforts to push both Kyiv and Moscow to the negotiating table and hold peace talks that would bring an end to the war.

That would ease a lot of problems facing the continent – and the world – from energy shortages to the global food supply chain disrupted by the war.

However, critics argue, this would backfire on many Western arms manufacturers who are making lucrative profits from their weapons shipments to the warzone.

There are many officials and other influential figures in the West, especially the U.S. congress (despite America not being included in a study by The Economist), who have links to arms manufacturers; which makes the possibility of peace somewhat unlikely.

While the United States has sent weapons to the tune of $40 billion dollars, European countries show no sign of opting for peace with the new British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the latest to announce plans of maintaining or increasing military aid to Ukraine next year

The other course of action is for Western governments to ease the cost-of-living crisis by spending more on social welfare and hiking the tax rates for the rich.

This would save lives by allowing families to heat their homes but many Western governments are taking the opposite route, by claiming they need to cut spending in order to strengthen economic growth in the long run. 

As things stand, the new research by the Economist will add to the fears already facing families in Europe ahead of the winter season. The lower the temperatures will be in Western Europe, the more likely it will be that higher-than-usual death tolls are going to hit the continent. 

As The Economist notes, although heatwaves get more press coverage, cold temperatures are usually deadlier than hot ones. Between December and February, 21% more Europeans die per week than from June to August.

The report says that in the past, changes in energy prices had a minor effect on mortality rates in Europe. But this year’s hikes to household bills are remarkably large.

The Ukraine conflict has exposed other massive costs that have accompanied the violence. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that the world economy in 2023 will be US$2.8 trillion smaller than was estimated in December 2021, before the fighting erupted in February.

The British weekly newspaper, which built a statistical model to assess the effects of the sharp rise in energy prices, forecasts deaths based on weather, demography, influenza, energy efficiency, incomes, government spending, and electricity costs, which are closely correlated to prices for a wide variety of heating fuels.

It used data from 2000-19, (excluding 2020 and 2021 because of covid-19) and says the model was highly accurate, accounting for 90% of the variation in death rates.

High fuel prices can exacerbate the effect of low temperatures on deaths, by deterring people from using heat and raising their exposure to cold.

It says that with average weather, the study found a 10% rise in electricity prices is associated with a 0.6% increase in deaths, though this number is greater in cold weeks and smaller in mild ones.

In recent decades’ consumer energy prices have had only a modest impact on winter mortality, because energy prices have moved or swung back and forth in a regular rhythm.

In a typical European country, increasing fuel prices from their lowest level in 2000-19 reduce the temperature from the highest level in that period to the lowest which means colder weather increases the death rate by 12%.

The study cites the case of Italy, where electricity bills have surged to nearly 200% since 2020, extending the situation, which it said was a linear relationship that yields extremely high death estimates. It has been reported that the country will suffer the most extra deaths. The results show that Italy, which has an older population along with soaring higher electricity prices makes it the most vulnerable. 

Other countries such as Estonia and Finland are also expected to suffer from higher fatalities on a per-person basis. People in Britain and France will also be affected. The model for the effects of fatalities from high energy costs did not include Ukraine.

However, damage to the energy infrastructure in Ukraine as a result of the war, will also certainly have a dire humanitarian effect on Ukrainians as well.

Over the past weeks, many reports have emerged citing Europeans as saying they will be forced to switch the heating off because of the high fuel prices, essentially exacerbating the effect of cold temperatures on deaths by raising people’s exposure to low temperatures.

The most vulnerable people in Europe, the elderly and those living alone or on low pay to medium paychecks will pay the highest price: Death.

Tehran Times

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Significance of first EU-Bangladesh political dialogue

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Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen with Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service Enrique Mora. Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bangladesh Oct. 2021

The European Union (EU) and Bangladesh held their first “political dialogue” on Thursday (November 24) in Dhaka to “elevate” their partnership by providing strategic direction and stepping up their cooperation on foreign and security policy.

Md. Shahriar Alam, state minister for foreign affairs of Bangladesh, leads the delegation there, while Enrique Mora, deputy secretary general of the European External Action Service (EEAS), represents the EU.

It was the first-ever political discussion in an effort to strengthen their ties at a time when Bangladesh’s influence is rising around the globe. All have an opportunity to discuss all sorts of political issues that they have shared concerns on.

When Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen and the Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS) met in Brussels in October 2021, the two parties decided to begin the political dialogue.

For the first time, a political dialogue between Bangladesh and the European Union (EU) has been held in the capital Dhaka which bears some significance message for Dhaka and Brussels both. Various issues were discussed in the dialogue. However, things like democracy, fundamental rights, rule of law and human rights have gained importance. Bangladesh and EU have pledged to work together on these issues.

Besides, both sides agreed to sign a Partnership Cooperation Agreement (PCA) in view of 50 years of relations between Bangladesh and the European Union. It is reported that the agreement will include issues such as connectivity, defense, cyber security framework and addressing the risks of climate change. And the basis of this new legal framework will be human rights.

There is no doubt that the economic and political alliance of 27 developed countries of Europe will bring benefits to Bangladesh in various fields if cooperative relations are developed with the European Union. Such relationships are also important in the current global context. So, we welcome this initiative. It has not yet been determined when the partnership agreement will be signed.

However, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam has expressed hope for its implementation in the context of 50 years of relations with the European Union. He said, ‘We have agreed to work on a partnership and cooperation agreement. It has a negotiation process. Taking into account the growing capacity, growth and journey of Bangladesh with the European Union, there is an opportunity to deepen and expand the relationship between the two sides.

One thing that has become clear through this dialogue is that the European Union’s interest in Bangladesh is gradually increasing. It was also understood in the speech of EU representative Enrique Mora at the end of the dialogue. He said, ‘We are reconsidering our relationship with Bangladesh for two reasons. One is the incredible growth and achievement of Bangladesh. That’s why we want to cooperate on various issues. The other is that we have important interests in the Indo-Pacific region. Our objective and strategy are to take a bigger position here. To achieve this goal, we want to increase the partnership with the countries of the region.

A country’s foreign policy is determined based on the country’s national interests. Just as the European Union has interests in strengthening relations with Bangladesh or countries in the region, Bangladesh also has interests in strengthening relations with the EU. Bangladesh’s policy makers have to adopt the strategy of how to make maximum use of this opportunity. There is an opportunity to expand the commercial relations of Bangladesh with the developed countries of Europe. Bangladesh needs the cooperation of those countries in the field of education, science and technology.

On issues like the Rohingya crisis, Bangladesh can expect the support of the EU in various international forums, including the United Nations. Bangladesh can also ask for special benefits for tourism in EU countries. Therefore, the potential of mutual cooperation created through the Bangladesh-EU dialogue, the sooner it becomes a reality, the better.

The EU recognized Bangladesh’s renewed national confidence and growth momentum and expressed interest in working with Bangladesh to address issues of mutual interest, including by emphasizing the Indo-Pacific.

The fields of collaboration between Bangladesh and the EU are growing, and both nations have a variety of international and bilateral interests. While convening the first-ever “political dialogue” between the two sides in this location, Bangladesh and the European Union (EU) indicated a strong desire to take their current relationships to the next level.

State minister Alam and EU representative Mora announced at a joint news conference that they have expressed a willingness to sign a “partnership cooperation agreement” to improve Bangladesh’s relationship with the EU. Alam stated at the briefing that “They (EU) do have such a pact with main economies of ASEAN.”

The state minister reported that during the meeting they also discussed finding a political solution through the repatriation of the displaced people from Bangladesh to Myanmar and examined the Rohingya situation from a security viewpoint.

Additionally, both parties discussed a number of topics of shared interest, such as security cooperation, free and fair Indo-pacific, the Ukraine crisis, food security, trade facilities, and the issue of continuing duty-free access for Bangladeshi goods to the market after Dhaka graduates from the LDC status. Charles Whiteley, the ambassador of the EU to Bangladesh, was also present.

The EU will also have a scheme for duty-free benefits called “GSP Plus. But EU puts some conditions. Bangladesh has made significant economic and social advancements in recent years. The most significant achievement Bangladesh might make in the next years will be leaving the LDC category. But the issue still stands: Will Bangladesh’s commerce sector be equipped to handle the challenges when it leaves the Least Developed Country (LDC) category in 2024? The most difficult part of the journey to seamless graduation appears to be losing privileged market access in many export destinations.

The largest buyer of Bangladeshi goods has historically been the European Union (EU), which accounts for 64% of all clothing exports and 58% of all exports overall. As a least developed country (LDC), Bangladesh has benefited from the finest Generalized Scheme of Preferences of the European Union programs with zero tariffs. One of the nations to make use of the EU’s preferred market access is Bangladesh. Therefore, following LDC graduation, Bangladesh must maintain its tariff preference in all significant markets, but especially in the EU market. The country’s exports would increase if favorable tariffs were used to maintain export competitiveness. As a result, there would be more manufacturing, more export revenue, more employment opportunities for women, and ultimately less poverty.

 Both parties should prioritize the issue. As Bangladesh is on the way of development, EU should support Bangladesh to be a developed country.  Bangladesh has been included in a new EU initiative named “Talent Partnership’.

Bangladeshi migrants are increasingly choosing to go to Europe, particularly to Italy, Greece, Spain, and Portugal. The EU insists on stopping unauthorized immigration, and both are working to do so.  Although there is still space for improvement, Bangladesh has achieved great strides in the area of labor, and the EU is pleased with it.

The EU has supported Bangladesh strongly on the Rohingya issue and this is discussed in the meeting. Bangladesh looks for financial aid for climate change adaptation as well as technology support for renewable energy. The discussion centers on the need for a free and open Indo-Pacific region and cooperation in counterterrorism initiatives.

After the loss of the duty-free and quota-free market access facility in the EU under the Everything but Arms (EBA) scheme in 2029, Bangladesh shall work to take advantage of the Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) facility of the European Union (EU).

Bangladesh is going to sit in political dialogue with the European Union (EU) for the first time. The deepening and broadening of relations with the EU and the current complex geopolitical context necessitate a political dialogue.

In addition to discussing bilateral relations, political discussions were held on the three issues discussed in the Bangladesh-EU Joint Commission meeting since 2001 namely development cooperation, trade and good governance and additional issues of human rights. The purpose of this political dialogue is to give a strategic direction so that the stakeholders understand what they have to do.

Security issues was discussed on a large scale in this forum. The security agenda covers terrorism, cyber security, peacekeeping, food and energy security, climate change, international crime and more.

The two sides discussed about creating and expanding the cooperation relationship on the issues between the two sides. The EU has already announced its Indo-Pacific Strategy. Bangladesh’s position on the Indo-Pacific is being worked on. Besides, there are various mechanisms of cooperation between the countries of this region. The region’s importance was greater than ever as the world’s center of power shifted towards Asia. Regional cooperation is very important to the EU and they want to know how Bangladesh is positioned in the region – that is normal. Enrique Mora also said that Bangladesh has become an important state with excellent economic progress.

More important for Bangladesh is Rohingya repatriation. On the other hand, the situation in Myanmar is normal for the EU. EU countries have been supporting the solution of the Rohingya crisis since its inception. But after the military seized power in February last year, restoring democracy in Myanmar became paramount to them and the Rohingya issue took a back seat. The two sides must highlight their respective positions and discuss how to work to resolve the issue. It is not the only issue of Bangladesh. Again, this is not a bilateral issue between Bangladesh and Myanmar. He said, this is an international problem. The international community should be concerned about this. EU IS putting pressure on Myanmar’s military authorities by suspending various types of sanctions and development aid, including arms. The EU reiterated its gratitude for the continued generous role and actions of the Government and people of Bangladesh to temporarily shelter more than 1.1 million Rohingya forcibly displaced from Myanmar for more than five years.

However, to ensure mutual advantage, EU and Bangladesh can cooperate in a variety of fields and approaches. This initial political discussion may open the door to further fortifying the bonds.

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