Asia’s storm season threatens parked aircraft

Extreme weather is a growing concern for airports across Asia with larger numbers of aircraft grounded because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 04 June 2020

Asia’s storm season threatens parked aircraft

  • Hong Kong International Airport, home to Cathay Pacific Airway and Hong Kong Airlines, said it had 150 planes parked

SYDNEY: Airlines, airports and insurers across Asia are bracing for the prospect of unusually high damage as the region’s tropical storm season begins, as hundreds of aircraft grounded by the coronavirus pandemic can’t be moved easily.

Major airports in storm-vulnerable regions such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand and India have been effectively turned into giant parking lots as COVID-19 travel restrictions choke demand.

“If you have got those aircraft on the ground, you can imagine to get them back up and running in a short space of time is no easy thing,” said Gary Moran, head of Asia aviation at insurance broker Aon. “The challenge is you can have a typhoon or hurricane coming and there are going to be a lot of aircraft that aren’t going to be able to be moved in time.”

Airline insurers, already on the hook to refund large portions of crash risk premiums because of the groundings, now face the larger-than-usual risk posed by having lots of airplanes grouped together at airports, industry experts said.

“One event could create damage which costs millions to repair, maybe even closer to hundreds of millions depending on the aircraft that are involved,” said James Jordan, a senior associate at law firm HFW’s Asia aerospace and insurance practices.

In guidance to be issued to airport operators this week, seen by Reuters, the trade group Airports Council International (ACI) warns that flying the planes out of danger, the practice in normal times, may not be possible. It says extra precautions such as more tie-downs could be needed.

“Extreme weather events such as hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones are a seasonal hazard in many areas of the world, and in the pandemic context provide an additional layer of hazard with many airports accommodating larger numbers of parked aircraft,” ACI Director General Angela Gittens said.

Mumbai’s airport said on Wednesday that small private planes vulnerable to strong winds had top priority to be flown out or parked in a hangar as the city braced for a rare cyclone.

Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport has so many aircraft on the ground that is using a runway for parking, according to a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.

Taiwan’s aviation regulator said it had asked airports to hold typhoon preparation meetings 36 hours in advance this year, rather than the usual 24 hours, to give airlines enough time to make parking requests. It will open up taxiways if needed at Taipei’s main international airport, Taoyuan, to allow for 160 parked planes.

EVA Airways Corp. said its plans included securing aircraft, parking them in hangars and sending some to other airports in Taiwan and abroad. Taiwan’s largest carrier, China Airlines Ltd, said it had typhoon plans, but declined to provide details.

Hong Kong International Airport, home to Cathay Pacific Airway and Hong Kong Airlines, said it had 150 planes parked and precautionary measures had already been carried out as part of typhoon season preparations.

The measures include fueling up the planes to make them heavier, tying weights to nose gear and putting double chocks on aircraft wheels.

Osaka’s Kansai International Airport, whose runway flooded when Typhoon Jebi breached a seawall in 2018, said it had raised the wall and waterproofed facilities.


Quick action by OPEC+ stabilized oil markets during the coronavirus crisis, says IEF chief Joseph McMonigle

Updated 10 min 41 sec ago

Quick action by OPEC+ stabilized oil markets during the coronavirus crisis, says IEF chief Joseph McMonigle

  • Secretary general of the International Energy Forum was interviewed on the Arab News video show Frankly Speaking
  • McMonigle discussed rising oil prices, looming investment crunch and the fight against climate change among other big issues

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia and Russia have been commended by one of the thought leaders of the global energy industry for playing a “responsible, leadership role” via the OPEC+ alliance in stabilizing oil markets during the coronavirus pandemic.

Joseph McMonigle, secretary general of the International Energy Forum (IEF), the world’s biggest forum for energy policymakers, also spoke of the looming investment crunch in the oil industry and the crucial role that technology will play in the global battle against climate change.

He was interviewed on Frankly Speaking, the Arab News video show in which leading policymakers and business executives give their candid opinion on some of the big issues of the day.

McMonigle took over at the IEF last year after two decades’ experience in the global energy business, including a stint as adviser to the White House administration of George W. Bush.

“OPEC+ has been quite responsible in stabilizing oil markets during the pandemic, and of course like every other producer it had to adjust its demand lower, but really they took a leadership role right out of the box,” he said.

 

The Kingdom, alongside Russia, played a crucial role in limiting excess supply of crude onto fragile markets at the height of the crisis last year, when oil demand fell by 30 per cent and global crude prices plunged into negative territory in some markets.

“Really only due to their quick action were prices able to stabilize during the summer,” McMonigle said. “I think if we just said ‘Let’s wait and just see how market forces affect everything,’ I think it would have been a much more painful transition period.”

Nevertheless, he believes Saudi Arabia and OPEC do not want to see oil prices soaring too fast as the world recovers from the pandemic.

According to him, producers in the region and worldwide are conscious of the risks to economic growth from a “supercycle” in energy prices that some analysts have predicted.

“I don’t think that OPEC and the producers here in the region are necessarily so thrilled with supercycle type prices,” McMonigle said.

“I think they recognize, from the last time this happened, that it wasn’t good for the global economy, and I think they’ve realized now that healthy customers and a healthy global economy is the best for their industry and the best for the energy market.”

His comments came as crude oil prices hit new post-pandemic highs, with Brent crude, the global benchmark, up 20 per cent over the past month to stand at around $66 per barrel.

Some analysts have forecast the Brent will reach $75 in the summer, and could even spike to $100 as demand soars on economic recovery prospects and vaccines are rolled out across the world.

But with OPEC+ just days away from a crucial meeting to decide oil supply levels, McMonigle warned that lack of investment last year as prices plummeted could come back to bite the global industry.

“There’s not much we’re going to be able to do about demand returning faster and stronger than estimated but we can do something on the supply side, and that’s really going to take this investment that we talked about,” he said.

 

“If we’re in a full recovery at the end of the year from the pandemic I think you’re going to see demand be stronger and faster than forecasted, and so if you combine that with the investment crisis, I think the outlook for higher oil prices is quite good.”

The role of the IEF is to encourage dialogue and consultation between energy producers and consumers, and its work has been thrown into sharp relief by the pandemic energy crisis, as well as its effect on accelerating energy transition away from hydrocarbons.

“We have a much more diverse membership and so our agenda is expanded outside of just fossil fuels and we’re very involved in the energy transition and the role of natural gas and obviously paying very close attention to renewables,” McMonigle said.

The new emphasis on renewables — like solar, wind and nuclear energy sources — has struck a chord in Saudi Arabia, which has put in place some $10 billion worth of investment in the sector and announced plans to produce half its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

But McMonigle also emphasized the role hydrocarbons still have to play in the global energy mix and the importance of innovative technology to mitigate the effect of harmful emissions.

“I think it’s important to recognize that wind and solar energy alone can’t really help us meet our climate goals,” he said. “We really need a shift now by governments and industry to invest more in clean energy R&D, technology and innovation, with a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

At a recent meeting of the IEF with European Union energy policymakers, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman, the energy minister of Saudi Arabia, underlined the Kingdom’s commitment to renewable sources, and to the use of hydrogen as a fuel of the future.

 

“Hydrogen is a very hot and trending topic now and I think that’s because the EU has recognized intellectually that wind and solar just can’t do it alone, and we’re not going to just go off of fossil fuels. We need a replacement and so that’s why I think they’re investing so much in hydrogen, and Saudi Arabia is getting very involved in it,” McMonigle said.

Saudi Arabia has backed the framework of the Circular Carbon Economy (CCE) as a strategy to mitigate and remove the harmful emissions that cause global warming, and that framework was endorsed by G20 leaders at last year’s summit under the Saudi presidency.

McMonigle said that the key to CCE was investment in new technology. “Up until now really it’s just been the US, maybe also the UK, Norway and Australia that have invested in it, but if Saudi Arabia is going to get behind it in a big way that’s really going to advance the technology - not just on this but on the other technologies that will help us solve our climate crisis,” he said.

One crucial technology aspect is the direct capture of carbon from the air, which is a focus of significant Saudi energy research.

The effects of climate change and extreme weather conditions were recently demonstrated in the US, where the Texas electricity network was overwhelmed by severe low temperatures that also seriously affected the state’s oil industry.

Some experts have blamed the Texas policy of renewable investment for the crisis, but McMonigle disagreed.

“Certainly, renewable energy was affected, but natural gas generation was also affected as well. I think it’s a lot more complicated than just pointing out one or two fuel sources,” he said, highlighting the once-in-a-century nature of the Texas storm and the state’s unique regulatory structure as contributory factors.

Some critics of the hydrocarbon industry predict that the rise of electric vehicles (EV) will, in the long term, contribute to the decline of petrol cars and “peak” oil demand, encouraged by environmental legislation in some countries.

“There’s tremendous momentum behind EVs. Last year there were 2.3 million EVs sold globally — that's about one in every 40 cars sold was an electric vehicle or hybrid. These numbers are only going to grow and some forecasts suggest that global EV sales will make up more than 50 per cent in most vehicles segments by the year 2035,” McMonigle said.

But that does not necessarily mean the imminent end of oil as the main global energy source, he insisted.

“Fossil fuel and hydrocarbon demand is going to continue out to 2040 and maybe some of it gets affected by EVs. But you still have jet fuel, you still have diesel, you have petrochemicals that are driving a lot of the growth,” he said.

“The point here is that you know oil is going to be a dominant energy source for the foreseeable future.”

______________________

Twitter: @frankkanedubai

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KPMG: 98% of Saudi CEOs set to invest in cloud technology in 2021  

Updated 01 March 2021

KPMG: 98% of Saudi CEOs set to invest in cloud technology in 2021  

  • Artificial intelligence, robotic process automation and 5G also set for more investment, according to survey
  • 88% of Saudi-based CEOs see technological transformation as an opportunity rather than a threat

JEDDAH: Senior company executives in Saudi Arabia are embracing the digital revolution, with 98 percent planning to raise their investments in cloud computing this year, according to a new survey.
Cloud computing is at the top of the technology agendas for CEOs in the Kingdom, with investments in artificial intelligence, robotic process automation and 5G also popular, according to the global consultancy firm KPMG’s 2020 CEO Outlook survey.
While technological advances can bring security challenges, 88 percent of Saudi-based CEOs see technological transformation as an opportunity rather than a threat.
“The pace of technological adoption has quickened this year as organizations react to the new working reality. Most of the CEOs believe the pandemic has accelerated the creation of a seamless digital customer experience and [that the] creation of new digital revenue streams has advanced during the pandemic,” said Mazhar Hussain, chief disruption officer at KPMG in Saudi Arabia.
“Nonetheless, the pandemic has seen an uptick of cyberattacks, which has increased awareness and investment into cybersecurity. The number of vulnerabilities in most organizations’ operations has increased with remote work. Hence, companies must resist the urge to direct budget cuts toward preventative cyber measures and [view] the sharp increase in global cybercrime as a reason to keep advancing their cyber defenses,” he added.
At the same time, the pandemic has shaken CEO confidence in global economic growth, according to the KPMG survey. Almost 32 percent said they are less confident about global growth prospects in the next three years than they were at the beginning of the year.
While cloud computing investment is a priority, a survey in January by German business software company SAP found that while more than four-fifths (89 percent) of Saudi senior public sector executives agreed that data sharing helped them to improve on how they connected with citizens, many had not invested in training to implement this.
SAP found that while 83 percent of respondents said data sharing improved their innovation in current goods or services, only 22 percent did this with partners. And when it came to training, only 33 percent of respondents had retrained employees on how best to analyze data. This skills shortage was cited by 61 percent of respondents as being a barrier to meeting strategic change initiatives.


Global chip shortage offers silver lining to KSA’s local industry

Updated 01 March 2021

Global chip shortage offers silver lining to KSA’s local industry

  • The shortage has pushed chip stocks to record highs, and analysts expect that chips will continue to be in short supply at least through the end of 2021

RIYADH: A global semiconductor chip shortage as a result of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has increased the need for the Kingdom to boost its local production so it is less dependent on foreign manufacturers, a Kingdom-based IT expert said.

The shortage has pushed chip stocks to record highs, and analysts expect that chips will continue to be in short supply at least through the end of 2021.

Maribel Lopez, principal analyst at San Francisco-based Lopez Research, told MarketWatch the chip industry is facing “a perfect storm” of demand and supply issues that is unlikely to resolve soon.

“Unless we have a major economic meltdown, which is obviously possible, one of the things that’s happening right now is that almost anything you buy is going to have a chip in it,” Lopez said.

Reuters reported that chip prices could increase by up to 6 percent this year, but the delay has also seen production cut short. Carmaker Ford said it could see production cut by 20 percent as a result of the shortage of supply. Last week, US President Joe Biden announced $37 billion in funding to address the situation.

“The importance of semiconductors cannot be ignored due to their massive need in the Internet of Things, computers, smartphones, and consumer electronics devices. However, the global semiconductor scarcity and its unprecedented demand amid the pandemic have aggravated the situation for a wide array of industries. It has forced automotive, defense, industrial and other manufacturers to cut production and even shut down assembly lines,” Dr. Muhammad Khurram Khan, professor of cybersecurity at King Saud University and founder and CEO of the Global Foundation for Cyber Studies and Research in Washington, told Arab News.

He added: “If the current situation persists for the next few months, there are higher chances that the Kingdom may also observe a price hike for electronic items. So, it is better for local importers, businesses, and consumers to plan accordingly.”

The professor said that the current global supply shortage could be the catalyst for Saudi Arabia to invest more in this sector and develop its local capabilities.

“This would reduce dependence on imports, meet the local manufacturing demands, boost the economy, and create job opportunities in the Kingdom as per Saudi Vision 2030,” he added.


Gulf student demand for Ivy League varsity coaches surges

Updated 01 March 2021

Gulf student demand for Ivy League varsity coaches surges

  • Companies like Crimson Education coach students on how to improve their chances of being one of the few who receive an offer letter
  • Demand can differ from country to country, with those in the UAE preferring British institutions

DUBAI: Getting into a prestigious Ivy League university is no easy task. 
According to the latest figures, California’s Stanford University was especially picky, with a 2019 acceptance rate of just 4 percent. Columbia and Harvard followed with 5 percent, while Princeton and Yale were slightly easier with 6 percent of applicants getting offers.
The race to get these coveted places is also getting harder as the number of applicants has gone up and universities have become even stricter. Dubai-based Crimson Education has reported a surge in clients looking for help to gain access to institutions in the US, as well as into Oxford and Cambridge.
“The number of students who joined Crimson Education in the region over the past six months was 200 percent up from the same period the previous year,” Soraya Behesti, regional director for the Middle East and Africa at Crimson Education, told Arab News. “The company had a big push to hire new strategists in order to meet the surging demand. Crimson grew 250 percent from 2019 to 2020 and is projected to grow more than 150 percent this year.” 
The demand makes sense. 
A 2015 report from the US Department of Education found that the average salary of Ivy League graduates a decade after they finished university was $70,000 a year, compared to the average salary for non-Ivy League graduates of $34,000.
Companies like Crimson Education coach students on how to improve their chances of being one of the few who receive an offer letter, and Behesti said the acceptance rate among their clients was three times the global average.
There are also a number of trends which has seen demand for such services skyrocket in recent years.
“The number of students who applied early to Ivy League colleges skyrocketed in 2020, although the acceptance rate reached record lows,” Behesti added. “Applications to Columbia and Harvard’s early rounds increased from the previous year by 49 percent and 57 percent, respectively. Applying early to their top-choice university usually gives students an advantage but last year, the early round acceptance rate was closer to that of the regular round, with Harvard admitting just 7.4 percent of early applicants, from 13.9 percent in the previous year.”
Students have started enrolling for help earlier because of the increased competition, and Behesti said Crimson had seen a rise in demand from clients as young as nine.
“When we work with students from a young age, our sessions and objectives are not focused on universities per se, but building really strong foundations, developing a growth mindset, cultivating good study habits, learning entrepreneurial thinking and even developing core skills such as coding, debate or languages.”
Demand can differ from country to country, with those in the UAE preferring British institutions, while Saudi students show a preference for US ones, especially Columbia, Harvard and Yale. 
Having the right aptitude is good, but money also really counts. Crimson said that studying at an Ivy League university cost between $30,000 and $45,000 per year, although between 40 and 60 percent of students received some form of financial aid.
“For GCC students, governments offer attractive scholarships — but usually only for students who gain admission to the top 100 universities. We have worked with Emirati and Saudi students of all abilities, from A-grade academics to students struggling at school, to ensure their admission to the top 100 schools through academic tutoring, admissions support and extra-curricular coaching, thereby allowing them to receive government scholarships,” Behesti said.

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Turkish factory activity grows at slower pace in February

Updated 01 March 2021

Turkish factory activity grows at slower pace in February

  • The headline index reading fell to 51.7 in February from 54.4 a month earlier, data from the Istanbul Chamber of Industry and IHS Markit showed

ISTANBUL: Turkish factory activity grew at a slower pace in February as new orders contracted slightly, a survey showed on Monday, although manufacturers continued to expand production and add staff.
The headline index reading fell to 51.7 in February from 54.4 a month earlier, data from the Istanbul Chamber of Industry and IHS Markit showed, staying above the 50 mark that separates expansion from contraction.
Signs of improvements in demand led manufacturers to expand production despite a slowdown in new business and issues with the supply of raw materials.
Higher output and planned new production lines led firms to take on more staff, the panel said, extending the current sequence of job creation to nine months.
Input costs and output prices continued to rise but at a slower pace mainly due to higher raw material costs, with a strengthening of the lira helping lead to softer inflationary pressures.
“Although there were signs of softening new order inflows in February, the overall Turkey PMI remained in positive territory as firms shrugged off a pause in new order growth and continued to raise production and employment,” said Andrew Harker, economics director at IHS Markit.
“There was also good news on the inflation front. Although supply issues are causing higher raw material prices globally, an appreciation of the Turkish lira has helped to mitigate these pressures,” Harker also said.