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U.S. Federal Reserve Beige Book: Richmond District (Text)

The following is the text of the
Federal Reserve Board’s Fifth District– Richmond.

FIFTH DISTRICT-RICHMOND

Overview. Recent reports on economic activity in the Fifth
District mostly described conditions as either unchanged or
slightly improved. The more upbeat reports came from the retail
sector, which rebounded in November, and the tourism sector,
which continued to post moderate improvement. The agricultural
sector also enjoyed a good harvest. Reports on manufacturing
activity indicated little change over the last month, following
several months of contraction. Likewise, the service sector was
generally characterized as being flat, although a few bright
spots were noted. Other sectors, including finance and real
estate, reported generally mixed conditions. We received a wide
variety of reports on the labor market, ranging from lower
employment in the retail sector to several firms having trouble
finding workers. Retail prices rose more rapidly than in our
last report, as did service prices and commodity input prices.

Manufacturing. District manufacturing activity was little
changed in November. Our latest survey showed virtually no
change in shipments and orders across firms, after having
indicated declining activity over the past four months. A
furniture manufacturer reported a slight firming of new orders,
but noted that cancellations had increased. He added that the
net change was small and that uncertainty about the economy was
holding back demand. Similarly, a textile mill producer said
that his company expanded production to a seven-day workweek in
order to accommodate new orders. Unfortunately, they ran out of
yarn and cut back to a five-day week until suppliers could catch
up. An electrical component producer said that flooding in
Thailand had lowered production. He added that his company will
have serious trouble meeting his customers’ orders during the
next three-to-six months. Also, an electrical equipment
manufacturer cited a significant slowdown in order intake due to
uncertain global economic situations. He stated that firms were
slowing the rate of their order placement. Raw material prices
grew at a somewhat faster pace than a month ago, according to
survey respondents, while prices for finished goods grew more
slowly.

Retail. Retail sales rebounded in recent weeks, with apparel and
department store sales leading the improvement. However, some
retail and wholesale contacts remained cautious regarding
inventory and expansion. A contact at a large pharmacy in South
Carolina
and a distributor to department stores both reported
solid sales growth. Several auto dealers reported stronger sales.
A jeweler in Charlotte, North Carolina remained guarded about
the economy, and remarked that he is “only buying what is
necessary.” In addition, a large chain store for homebuilder
supplies plans more expansion overseas than domestically. Retail
prices rose at a somewhat faster pace since our last report.

Services. Firms reported generally flat revenues since our last
report, although a few contacts indicated that demand
strengthened. A Baltimore contact noted that local unemployment
had reduced the demand for daycare services, and several
advertising firms and telecommunications-related businesses
reported little change in demand. In contrast, revenues were up
significantly for some restaurateurs in the Charlotte, North
Carolina
region. In addition, a central North Carolina hospital
began to add a broad range of specialty physicians and
associated staff, and other District healthcare facilities hired
technical personnel to meet changing federal requirements for
healthcare facilities. Non-retail services prices rose more
rapidly in recent weeks.

Finance. Loan demand in the District continued to be mixed. A
major lender in the District reported that small business loans
at his bank were improving, with much of the demand stemming
from the need to expand production and upgrade office equipment
and software. An official for a small bank cited a strengthening
commercial loan pipeline, resulting from larger banks in his
market area shedding customers. A banker who specializes in
export financing noted an uptick in demand, but added that many
small businesses were not able to meet the bank’s lending
standards. Several bankers noted continued strength in mortgage
refinancing. However, few lenders were issuing new mortgages,
and bottlenecks in the appraisal process were delaying closings.
In contrast, a central Virginia banker described loan demand as
relatively weak, with most applicants failing to meet
qualification standards. And a banker on the Eastern Shore
reported that loan demand remained weak, with “no demand for
business expansion loans.” Several bankers and small commercial
contractors stated that getting approval for new construction
loans was extremely difficult, due to tight credit standards and
a poor outlook for profitability.

Real Estate. Indicators of real estate activity around the
District were mixed since our last report. Several Realtors
reported that sales activity had increased somewhat but housing
prices were about the same or down slightly from a month ago.
Brokers in Richmond and Fredericksburg noted many showings but
few resulting contracts. Sales in the low price range were
generally reported as faring much better than sales in the upper
ranges. However, a contact in northern Virginia stated that
sales at the upper end of the price range were doing much better
in his area. A Realtor in the D.C. area said that his inventory
and new listings were down considerably. In addition, a
homebuilder in the Carolinas said that existing home sales
continued to fall, but added that new home sales were up in
Charleston, SC, which he attributed to empty nesters relocating
to that area. Also, a custom builder in southern Maryland
described his business as enjoying the biggest improvement in
demand that he had seen in three years.

We received varied reports on commercial real estate and
construction. While construction was generally weak throughout
much of the District, several new manufacturing projects were
announced in North Carolina. Smaller projects were being built
faster due to abundant labor availability. Contractors reported
that refurbishing of commercial properties was up in both
Maryland and the Carolinas, but no one was adding new capacity.
A general contractor in the Baltimore area reported that he was
having his ―best year ever‖ after partnering with a larger firm.
However, a builder in the Baltimore area said that his market
was flat. Also, a Virginia contractor noted that commercial and
federal work has dried up in most areas of the state, with D.C.
capturing much of what little work there is. A real estate
manager in West Virginia reported that office demand in that
state was down and construction activity was weak. A developer
in North Carolina stated that many developers were running out
of cash and that getting bank financing was a challenge. Finally,
a Maryland developer noted that BRAC-related work was ending and
his company had little backlog.

Labor Markets. Assessments of labor market conditions were mixed
since our last report. Several employment agencies reported
average-to-somewhat-stronger demand for temporary workers in
recent weeks, particularly in the information technology and
manufacturing sectors. Finding skilled workers continued to be a
major concern. A Virginia contact noted that skill shortages and
unwillingness of candidates to move to his area were becoming an
increasing problem for his firm. Similarly, a manufacturer in
North Carolina stated that his company was ―having a tough time
hiring good people.‖ He added that many workers would not accept
a job because their unemployment benefits were too good. Another
agent in North Carolina said mobility issues were a major
concern because potential hires could not sell their homes. A
builder in West Virginia was fearful that his area was losing
critically skilled workers, who will be needed whenever the
housing sector recovers. According to our latest survey, hiring
was flat at services firms, and wage growth on average slowed.
Retailers continued to shed employees, and average retail wages
over the last month grew at about the same pace as in October.
Hiring by manufacturers stabilized over the last month, while
the average workweek was unchanged and wage growth strengthened.

Tourism. Contacts generally reported slightly higher hotel
bookings in recent weeks. A Myrtle Beach contact stated that
higher hotel occupancy rates pushed up revenues, although the
revenue gains remained below pre-recession highs. A contact in
Annapolis, Maryland stated that local hotel bookings were up,
but discounting was prevalent, and while the Annapolis Boat Show
was well attended, sales there were light. A Virginia resort
hotelier remarked that ―the phones have been flooded, but people
are still looking for the best deal.‖ Tourism remained solid in
other areas as well. For example, a hotel manager at a resort in
western Virginia noted that season ski passes were selling at
about the same rate as a year ago. Reservations were already
being made for other local winter recreational events, and the
weeks surrounding Christmas were booked. Contacts at District
tourist attractions indicated that attendance rose since our
last report. Most contacts reported no change in room rates.

Agriculture. Recent weather conditions allowed farmers to make
steady progress in harvesting and small grain planting
throughout most of the District. The corn harvest was nearing
completion in Virginia and was winding down in Maryland, with
farmers in those states saying that yields remained mostly good.
The cotton harvest was getting into full swing in North Carolina
and was ahead of schedule in South Carolina. In addition, the
apple harvest was completed in Maryland and nearly completed in
Virginia. Farmers in the District were harvesting their early
soybean crop, which was reported to be in fair-to-good condition.
Small grains had been planted and were off to a good start in
much of the District.

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Car dealership will sell Moncks Corner-made boats

A local car dealer is floating a new sales idea.

Palmetto Ford of West Ashley, in conjunction with Sea Fox Boats of Moncks Corner, plans to park some boats on its truck lot by year’s end.

Palmetto Ford will sell the locally made boats at its Truck World operation on Savannah Highway and is considering adding them beside its Quick Lane automotive service shop on Johnnie Dodds Boulevard in Mount Pleasant, said Graham Eubank, president of the family owned car dealership.

photo

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Graham Eubank

“I think there is an opportunity there to represent their boats in a little bit better way,” Eubank said. “It’s a great line, and they have a lot of neat products. Their new Bay boats are really nice and will do really well here. We will be the only dealer from Beaufort to Orangeburg to Georgetown.”

Eubank expects to house eight to 12 boats at each location.

“For those wanting one custom-made, I can have a boat built in 14 days, so we don’t need to stock as many,” he said.

The new boat ventures would operate as Sea Fox Boats of Charleston and Sea Fox Boats of Mount Pleasant, but the inventory will be owned by Palmetto Ford, said Fred Renken, president of the boat manufacturer.

“I will sell the boats to him,” Renken said. “We will offer our full support and training.”

Eubank will supply his own staff of marine professionals to sell the boats, he said.

The business arrangement came about after Renken severed ties three weeks ago with Hankel Marine, which had been the exclusive dealer in the Charleston region for Sea Fox Boats.

Renken said the business deal with Hankel didn’t work out and mentioned it to Eubank, a longtime friend.

“He said he was interested, and it went from text messaging to coffee at Starbucks,” Renken said.

Renken hopes to capitalize on Eubank’s retail experience to help him sell more boats.

“In today’s world, it’s very important to be able to get financing for your boat purchase,” Renken said. “Graham’s expertise in retail is very strong.”

Though not near the $60 million in sales Sea Fox experienced in 2006 before the boat market capsized, Sea Fox’s boat sales are up 50 percent this year and should be about $33 million by year’s end, said Renken.

“Sales aren’t back to where they were, but they are getting better,” he said.

Renken expects to see sales of about $45 million next year, driven mainly by the company’s new Bay series.

“The momentum with this new series is really having an effect on the company,” Renken said.

While the idea of a car dealer selling boats locally might be new, Renken said a car dealer in Florida has been selling the Sea Fox brand for 10 years.

“It’s been very successful,” he said of the Florida operation.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.


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3 die as boat’s fuel tank explodes

4 others hurt, 3 fishing boats destroyed in fire believed to be caused by smoking by victims

The blaze that destroyed the fishing boat and two trawlers at the Angkasa Baru jetty on Sunday night.

 THREE people were killed and four seriously injured after a fuel tank in a fishing boat exploded at the Angkasa Baru jetty here on Sunday night.

 Two victims, including a woman, were burnt to death while another woman drowned following the 9.30pm explosion, which saw  a huge ball of fire.

 The fire also destroyed the fishing boat and two fishing trawlers docked nearby.

 It was learnt that the three victims were in the fishing boat during the explosion.

 Their bodies were found between 6.50am and 11.30am, yesterday.

 “Police believe the three victims were in their 20s and 30s and the two women were Filipinos.

 “However we have yet to ascertain their identities,” said district police chief Deputy Superintendent Dawi Ossen.

 Those injured were identified as Richard Mohd, 21, Hamid Gabin, 35, Muhd Ayob Buyong, 50, and a 27-year-old woman, Mylen Masarap.

 Based on initial investigations, Dawi said the victims could have been smoking near the fuel tank which caused it to explode.

 He also said investigation showed that fuel transferring work was being carried out on the boat before the incident.

 However, Dawi said it was unsure whether any smuggling activity involving the commodity was taking place.

 “We do not know why the victims were there or what they were doing or where they were heading.”

 Dawi said survivors of the blast managed to jump into the water.

 Meanwhile, district fire and rescue chief Jamaludin Hussin said the department received a distress call at 9.37pm and deployed 10 firefighters to the scene.

 He added firefighters managed to control the fire only   about  1.30am.

 Jamaludin said the fire caused an estimated loss of RM1.6 million, adding that the cause of blast was being investigated.


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Countdown to 2012: Not so plain sailing

Countdown to 2012: Not so plain sailing

Jasmine Gardner

30 Nov 2011

Walking into Portland Harbour at Weymouth I’m repeating a little chant in my head. “Port-left, starboard-right; stern-front, bow-back. Wait, I’ve got that wrong.”

I feel ashamed. I’m about to meet Olympic keelboat sailing gold medallists Iain Percy and Andrew “Bart” Simpson and I can’t even tell the front of the boat from the back.

First things first, Percy buys me a cup of tea.

It’s cloudy and cold outside and it’s worth getting warm in advance. The boys have also loaned me cold- and wet-weather gear, and as a result I look ready to go snowboarding.

Percy, on the other hand, is streamlined in skin-tight neoprene trousers. Tanned, bearded and weathered, his visible thigh muscles are the reminder that he’s an athlete, not a fisherman.

“In sailing, people can get their hands caught in things that could rip your finger off in about half a second,” he warns me. Great. Simpson tells me to prepare to get wet.

As we set off it seems, well, like plain sailing really. I’m sitting on the side of the boat doing very little and we’re zooming across the harbour.

Once I have to take control, however, I soon realise that Percy and Simpson are going to take great pleasure in watching me struggle. “Pull this in as fast as you can,” Percy instructs me, handing me a rope that controls the mainsail. I pull hard. It doesn’t move. “Keep going,” Percy shouts. Even when the wind drops it takes all my strength to move it a couple of inches. Both Olympians are smirking. If this were a race, I’d have just lost it for all of us.

Next, Percy and Simpson put my legs to the test. With a strap around my feet I’m to hike out off the side of the boat. This means leaning back over the side, holding myself flat like a plank using my thigh and stomach muscles. It hurts – a lot – but it’s apparently essential to balance the boat at speed.

At the Olympics, boats must race both upwind (zig-zagging into the wind) and down. The winners get one point, second place gets two and so on. The 10 boats with the lowest score out of 11 races go into the medal race and the lowest overall score wins.

“You can’t be strong enough,” says Percy. “You have to suspend your body out of the boat as far as you can. The stronger you are the further out you are, and the further out you are the faster you are.”

But strength is not all you need for sailing. Percy points out markers on land and in the water that help him judge the wind and the conditions. “You see that darker patch of water?” asks Percy. I nod, but truly I’m baffled. “That indicates a stronger patch of wind. When we hit that there will be a bump.” Sure enough, a second later, there’s the bump.

All over the boat, Percy has scribbled notes. They make no sense to me but they are his code to tell him what to think about when on the water, to test out whether changes to the boat might improve their speed.

“There’s a lot of tinkering and tuning that can make a difference. We used the same electronics that Citron [Percy and Simpson’s sponsor] uses in its rally car, measuring minute changes 50 times a second, which then might make you change one nut by a turn,” Percy explains.

“Sailing tests you on lots of different levels. You’ve got a technical challenge because all the small tuning changes on the boat make a difference and you’ve got a tactical challenge trying to read the wind and look at the way the clouds are changing.”

Unfortunately for me, I don’t qualify on any of those levels.

The vital statistics

Iain Percy

Age: 35
Home town: Southampton
Measuring up: weight 94 kg, height 1m 87cm.
Relationship status: girlfriend
Training hours: “Sailing has the longest days of all sports. We have to work out in the gym, train on the water and work on the boat. We start with a roping session in the morning, get the boat ready, leave at 11am, and are on the water for five hours. Then it’s strength and conditioning training before getting back on the boat. We finish at 9pm.”
Sporting bling: Sydney 2000 Olympics gold (Finn class), Beijing 2008 Olympics gold (Star class).
Starting block: hooked after a “learn to sail” holiday as a child.
Olympic dream: “We’re very much focused on gold. We enter a competition to win and we’re really pissed off if we don’t. You don’t think about standing on the podium. You think about all the little things that are going to get you there.”

Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson

Age: 34
Home town: Sherborne, Dorset Measuring up: weight 102kg, height 1m 86cm. “You want the slightly lighter person at the helm.”
Relationship status: married with a one-year-old son.
Training hours: 12 hours a day, five days a week (or six days a week in the build-up to a race) working on the boat, strength and gym training and training on the water.
Sporting bling: Beijing 2008 Olympics gold (Star class).
Starting block: Went to a boat show at Alexandra Palace as a child, got pushed into a boat and was instantly hooked.
Olympic dreams: “We want to win gold but you can’t think that you will because you probably won’t if you do. But we’re very focused on the job. One hard year of training and we’ll be in a really good place to win.”


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Dismal bonuses expected for Wall Streeters

It’s better to be a yacht salesman in Greenwich than Long Island these days, a top Wall Street compensation expert said.

Alan Johnson, managing director of New York-based compensation consultancy Johnson Associates, said Long Island, home to many of New York’s elite investment bankers, could see its residents losing 30 percent of their bonuses and collecting half of their total compensation in deferred stock over two years.

Meanwhile, hedge fund and asset managers based in Connecticut are seeing pay stay roughly flat or only absorbing a 10 percent decline, he said.

Johnson released his third quarter compensation analysis earlier this month. A number of factors are hampering pay, which is partially to blame for keeping in check the prices of luxury homes and goods.

“Over the last few years, the big investment banks have increased base salaries,” he said, explaining overall compensation will not be going back to the days of unfettered bonuses. He and other experts said government regulation requiring less risk have limited banks’ ability to dole out huge bonuses.

For the rest of the industry, it’s more about performance, and the market has been volatile, crimping pay there.

But Johnson said there’s another reason conspicuous spending might be off in the next couple of years that could impact Connecticut’s real estate market in particular.

“Connecticut is the epicenter of McMansions on steroids,” he said. “Part of the problem is it’s uncool to have those silly, gratuitously big homes.”

Fairfield County and the state’s fortunes remain tied to Wall Street performance, which so far has fueled a resurgence of prices and sales for luxury items, but a ceiling appears to have been hit right as Wall Street looks like it could be relapsing, according to economist Nick Perna, of Ridgefield-based Perna Associates.

“That’s the big question,” Perna, also an adviser to Webster Bank, said. “Is a Wall Street relapse a prelude to something bigger?”

The financial services industry recovered more quickly than expected after 2008, Perna said, and left much of the rest of the economy behind until this year, as brokers, traders and bankers joined the rest of the workforce that has struggled with stagnant pay and a tight job market.

“You can look at this cross-eyed if you want to,” Perna said, indicating some might be tempted to take joy in Wall Street woes. “But declines in pay have an impact.”

He said housing and economic activity could be hurt and if this is a prelude to a larger economic tumble, then everyone is going to pay.

Perna said his biggest concern is Europe and the debt problems in Italy.

The weakness on Wall Street has shown up in employment reports of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. All three states said employment in financial services fell in October from September.

But it’s not guaranteed that this is the start of a downturn.

“This is still the best market in the country,” said Bill Biebel, a broker at Greenwich-based Southpaw Yacht Sales.

He said yacht buyers are paying close to list prices for boats in the $200,000 to $400,000 range, and most of the sellers are getting out because they aren’t using it as much anymore and can no longer justify the expense of upkeep.

“It’s not like the average guy who is getting rid of (a boat) to make the car and house payment,” Biebel said. “My guys are telling me they would rather charter a boat twice a year than own,” he said.

Basically, people are being cautious and are shoring up their personal balance sheets.

In the real estate market, Candace Adams, president of Prudential Connecticut Realty, said there are a variety of reasons for price modulation in the state.

“Our market in Fairfield County seems to be stable,” she said.

She said the number of sales are about the same level as they generally are this time of year and the reasons for selling run the gamut from job transfers, down sizing or upgrading and job and income losses as well.

In the third quarter of this year, it took on average 152 days to sell a home in Fairfield County, an increase of 3.4 percent from a year ago when it took 147 days, according to Prudential’s statistics. The median price rose 3.3 percent to $497,000. Sales were down for the quarter. The state overall saw a 6.5 percent increase in the length of time houses stay on the market before sale as the median price declined 1.2 percent to $257,000.

It took less time to sell a home in Darien, Easton, Greenwich, and New Canaan in the third quarter. Of these communities, only Greenwich saw prices decline, however, as the median value of a home fell 3.1 percent to $1.69 million. Sales prices also slipped in Bridgeport, Danbury, Stamford and Norwalk.

What this adds up to is a market for value-seekers, she said, in almost all ranges.

Adams said she has short sales taking place in homes in the $1 million to $2 million range, but again that’s not necessarily because of job loss or income drops. Like Biebel, she said some people are just exiting overpriced homes in order to get their finances under control and the banks are being more accommodating.

Adams expects the housing market across the state will remain precarious until the job situation improves.

While people of all economic stripes remain cautious, holiday parties and decorations remain in vogue, according to James McArdle III of Greenwich-based McArdle’s Florist and Garden Center.

“There’ doesn’t seem to be a reluctance to spend for the holidays,” he said. “We had a very good Thanksgiving; we were up over last year.” McArdle decorates homes with flowers and plants and he said December decorating appears on track to surpass last year as people are determined to enjoy the season, buying garlands, wreaths and container gardens.

“We had a record breaker for the first weekend on Christmas trees,” he said.


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Fuel mafia which facilitated 26/11 still flourishes

Three years after the Mumbai attacks, crews are still buying smuggled fuel in the high seas

Late on the afternoon of November 23, 2008, a brightly-painted fishing boat from Porbandar pulled up alongside the Karachi-registered merchant ship al-Husaini. Four members of the Kuber’s crew were shot dead as they came on board. Its captain Amar Singh Solanki was then forced to pilot the ship and 10 Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists to the bay off Mumbai’s southern tip — where his throat was slit minutes before the 26/11 attacks began.

Precisely what led the fishing boat to the al-Husaini remains one of 26/11’s last unsolved mysteries. But based on information gathered from fishing crews in Maharashtra and Gujarat, investigators now believe the Kuber’s crew was lured to their death, like the fish they hunted.

The bait was fuel: diesel smuggled out of Iran, and sold by Karachi-based organised crime groups for half its Indian onshore price. Faced with declining catches and high operating costs, crew on hundreds of boats in India’s 1,80,000-strong fishing fleet supplement their income by running bootleg fuel.

The Porbandar port authorities say Kuber brought in a 1,000 kg catch when it docked overnight on November 13. It had just 50 kg on board when it was found floating off Mumbai after 26/11 — a poor haul that possibly led Solanki into seeking to buy smuggled fuel from al-Husaini.

In the three years since 26/11, despite multicrore investments in coastal security, the scale of smuggling has grown — and with it, the threat to India’s cities.

“Let me put it this way,” says a senior Mumbai Police official, “it just isn’t possible for us to search each boat that enters each port. Each boat, though, poses a potential threat.”

Muhammad Khan, fugitive owner of al-Husaini, would likely have known that the Lashkar hit-squad would have little trouble luring an Indian fishing boat to take it, unnoticed, into Mumbai. Khan, India’s intelligence services believe, used his Karachi-registered merchant fleet to run contraband across the Indian Ocean. Al-Husaini captain Shahid Ghafoor is also thought to have been a veteran trafficker, shipping cargo for organised crime groups.

For much of their careers, men like Khan and Ghafoor ran gold, electronics and narcotics — but in recent years, there has been much more money to be made in trafficking the black, foul-smelling fluid.

Petrol and diesel smuggling into Pakistan has been booming ever since the middle of the last decade, spurred on by record oil prices. Fuel smuggled from Iran is widely available in Pakistan’s cities: in Karachi, smuggled petrol is reported to retail for between Rs.34 and Rs.38 a litre, and diesel for between Rs.28 and Rs.32. In Quetta, Iranian petrol and diesel, both retail for Rs.30 and Rs.33, while consumers in the port town of Gwadar can buy it for as little as Rs.24 and Rs.30. In towns like Taftan, along the Iran-Pakistan border, prices can run as low as Rs.20.

Iranian petrol and diesel thus retail for just half, or even a third, of the post-tax legal price in Pakistan — which has, unsurprisingly, led public transport operators to switch over to smuggled fuel on an ever-larger scale.

Earlier this year, Pakistan’s Sarhad Petroleum Cartage and Dealers’ Association, a trade body, publicly warned the government it would be compelled to start selling smuggled fuel. Mansoor Sharif, an Association official, told journalists that sales at petrol pumps in the Balochistan province had in some cases dropped to just 50 litres a day.

Last year, the Mumbai Police held alleged ganglord Muhammad Ali Sheikh, who is now being tried for the murder of his key rival, Saiyyad Madar Chand —breaking, they claimed, the diesel mafia’s backbone. There is plenty of evidence, though, that the trade goes on: Ever since February this year, the police have made 49 arrests related to fuel-smuggling and seized nine boats. In an August 2011 case alone, the police recovered a staggering 50,000 litres.

India is investing a staggering Rs. 5.23 billion on an ambitious coastal security programme — not counting Rs. 63.3 million paid to the Coast Guard for building three new bases, Rs. 627.7 million for new ships it will operate, and separate investments in the Navy’s capacities — fishing boats have yet to be mandatorily fitted with equipment that will record their movements.

India’s failure to learn from past experience enabled Kuber’s tragic 26/11 voyage. Fishing boats engaged in the narcotics trade carried the explosives and weapons used in the 1993 serial bombings. Little effort was made to improve monitoring of the fleet, though — and 26/11, it would seem, changed little.



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Moeller Marine Advises Boating Manufacturers to Consider Potential Risks of …

Compliant Barrier Marine Fuel Tank

Acting now if you haven’t alreay done so is essental.

Sparta, TN (PRWEB) November 29, 2011

Staying competitive in a challenging business environment requires extreme attention to detail. Recent calls to Moeller Marine’s OEM support lines show that many recreational boat manufacturers have missed a significant detail about marine fuel tanks. Specifically, new environmental regulations from EPA and the state of California designed to reduce emissions to the environment are imminent, and failure to comply can be catastrophic.

Significant new regulations dealing with evaporative emission requirements in marine fuel tanks and fuel systems are on the horizon. According to Gary Eich, Director of Operations at Moeller Marine, “The major changes to fuel systems center around reducing the permeability of the fuel tank, eliminating open tank venting, and reducing the potential for spillage during refueling.”

Eich further explains, “We believe the requirement is for barrier conversion to be 100% complete by January 1, 2012. Further, conversions to diurnal systems need to be finished by July 1, 2012 based on our best available information. If your fuel systems are not compliant, you may not be able to deliver new boats after these dates.”

Converting existing fuel systems requires some time. Earnie Cook, Director of Product Development at Moeller Marine, advises that, “A tip study must be done, some system design is the norm, and hardware must be selected. From a tank design perspective, conversion requires the addition of a few ports in the tank for required hardware or the addition of barrier materials.”

Moeller Marine, a leading manufacturer of permanent and portable gas tanks for OEM and aftermarket applications has been testing, redesigning and producing barrier lined tanks since late in 2009. George Moore, also of Moeller, notes, “The normal cycle for this type of conversion project is four to eight weeks, depending upon your fuel system integrator and their current workload.”

The critical steps include design review, obtaining information from the system integrator, drawing preparation and approval, tooling revisions, and generating a prototype piece for further review and approval.

Given the rapidly approaching deadlines, firms are well advised to make sure that their fuel tanks and systems meet the new EPA and California state requirements so that their business is not interrupted.

“If you have any questions about the new requirements, please contact Moeller Marine,” says Eich. “We have the capabilities to assist in your redesign. If you are an existing Moeller Marine customer, contact your Regional Sales Representative. Both OEM and aftermarket firms need to be up to speed on the new legislation, which applies to both portable and permanently installed tanks.

Note: Moeller Marine barrier lined tanks have the required certifications necessary to be introduced into commerce. Moeller plastic tanks are non-corrosive and long lasting.

Moeller Marine Products is the largest manufacturer of rotationally molded, injected, and thermoformed parts in the recreational marine industry. Moeller Marine Products provides virtually every boat builder with their plastic fuel tank requirements, ranging from bass boats to ski boats to offshore salt water fishing boats.

Moeller Marine is a division of The Moore Company, founded in 1909 and still focused on innovation. Sister divisions include Moeller Plastics, Darlington Fabrics, The George C. Moore Company, Fulflex, and AMER-SIL.

The Moore Company continues to manufacture products in the United States. International manufacturing facilities complement domestic capabilities while serving regional markets around the globe.

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Fishing boat sinks; cause unknown

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department has not determined why a fishing boat sank over the weekend in Newport Harbor, harbor patrol officials said Monday.

A vessel assist company managed to pull the 40-foot fishing trawler up and tow it to a shipyard Monday afternoon after a failed attempt Sunday night, said Sgt. John Hollenbeck.

The boat, which Hollenbeck described as “derelict” and run down, was reported sinking in the harbor about 7 a.m. Sunday by eyewitnesses. Harbor patrol deputies responded and dropped a 300-foot containment boom around the area to capture the boat’s leaking fluids on the water’s surface.

Hazardous materials teams were called in, but the incident wasn’t serious, officials said.

“There was no major leakage that got out into the harbor,” Hollenbeck said.

No one was on the boat when it sunk and no one was injured. Authorities are investigating what caused the boat to sink.

— Joseph Serna

Twitter: @JosephSerna


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Cyber Monday: How the small merchant competes

Retailers had their fingers crossed in hopes Cyber Monday would build on the buying momentum of a record $52 billion Black Friday.

An estimated 122 million shoppers were planning to take advantage of online deals. They were spending on the heels of a shopping rush that stretched over three days and some diverse consumer landscapes.

Getting more attention in its second year with a major Facebook push and support from the Small Business Administration was the American-Express-sponsored Small Business Saturday. Groups such as the National Retail Federation, which supplied the 122-shopper, $52 billion estimate from Black Friday, haven’t offered results for how well the initiative worked.

But that doesn’t mean small merchants aren’t trying to ride the holiday shopping wave in every way available.

Case in point: Wardrobe 360 in Gastonia.

The store, which includes The Bunny Patch for consigned children’s clothes in addition to the trendy teen resale shop, doesn’t sell its garments, acces-sories or gift items online. But Manager Sarah-Grace Harley was encouraging customers to take advantage of Cyber Monday specials nonetheless.

The strategy: Offer deals via phone or email, paid for with a credit or debit card.

A Cyber Monday photo album on the store’s Facebook page hyped monogrammed mouse pads and tote bags along with new headbands, hats and other goods.

The specials Wardrobe 360 was offering come straight out of the major retailer playbook.

Phone and email purchases scored coupons and, for orders of more than $50, free shipping. A free gift came with orders that eclipsed $100.

A taxing question

When you’re buying from retailers and re-sellers with stores in North Carolina, you can count on paying sales tax at checkout.

That’s not the case with all online purchases.

Amazon is the biggie. It doesn’t collect state sales taxes except in states where it actually has offices, relying on a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that pro-hibits a state from forcing a business to do so unless it has a physical presence there.

The e-commerce giant has been fighting states for years over the issue and it’s gotten the attention of a lot of cash-strapped governments.

It matters to buyers because in North Carolina, individuals and businesses that don’t pay sales tax on a purchase technically owe a use tax in its place.

To do so, however, taxpayers are supposed to report on themselves with a special Consumer Use Tax Return.

Michael Dean, president of Gastonia’s Rapid Cash Refund, says he’s never come across a client who wanted to claim an online purchase on end-of-the-year taxes.

Most of the people he works with are a lot more interested in getting money back from the government. But Dean, whose company will celebrate its 20th year in 2012, thinks we can count on the state to figure out a way to collect sales tax shoppers have, until now, gotten out of paying.

“With everybody hurting for money, they’ll probably try hard to do that,” he said.


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