Sunday, June 25, 2017

Troubles in the Australian Steel Industry

There are many issues being flagged in Australia with imported Steel that are not just about meeting standards but also about unethical practices towards trying to meet conformance stipulations. To understand the issues, we need to take a look at the worldwide industry and develop an understanding of how quality is being given the go-by in a situation of economic stress.

Steel Production Data
In 2014, China produced over 800 Million Tonnes of Crude Steel followed by Japan at just over 100 Million Tonnes. The third and fourth positions were held by the USA and India each at just under 100 Million Tonnes with fifth-placed South Korea also at around the 100 Million level. Australia was 35th on the list at 4.6 Million Tonnes. Global production was close to 1700 Million Tonnes in 2014. Australian Crude Steel production had dropped from close to 8 Million Tonnes in 2008 to 4.6 Million Tonnes in 2014. The declining trend also occurred with Aluminium.

Australian Producers
The main Molten Steel producers in Australia, Arrium and Bluescope are both spun-off units of BHP Steel, the first in 2000 and the second in 2002. Last year, when making a submission to the Senate Economic Committee, Arrium which has 75 percent share of the domestic construction and infrastructure market stated that “China was continuing to run loss-making facilities through subsidies” and that China was “relying on export markets to accept marginally-costed products.” In Australia’s overall crude steel production, Arrium contributes 44 percent or 2.6 Million Tonnes.

Reported Issues in Imported Steel
Arrium referred to a previous submission made by the Australian Steel Institute (ASI) on non-compliant imported products. The ASI had raised issues such as substandard welding, laminations in plates that could cause major failures, substandard corrosion protection, The ASI had also submitted that sections of local fabricators were forced to compromise on quality in their pursuit of competitive rates. Very grave issues were also raised by the ASI on fraudulent behavior. These included manipulated test certificates and welds that were done with silicone rubber and then being painted upon.

Why is Steel from China cheap
The issue of cost is quite intriguing as locally made steel would be available at lower freight cost when compared to steel that is shipped from China or India. The answer is that Chinese steel is being sold at lower than its production cost because the country is producing far more than it consumes. However, there are substantial issues that arise over the product lifecycle which clearly show that procurement cost when looked over the long term is costlier when it comes to overseas Steel.

Range of Complaints
Participating in an ABC broadcast in 2015, Ron Barrington, Managing Director, Cullen Steel, revealed an instance where the company was contracted to repair a bridge in Penrith, Sydney. Barrington revealed that the bridge which had a design deflection of 100 millimetrers was actually deflecting about 600 millimetres. Barrington said Cullen Steel determined the bridge to be about to collapse, had it removed and cut up, and constructed it back again. Other issues raised in the broadcast were that Chinese Steel had a higher content of Boron towards getting over anti-dumping regulations around the world. This would cause the steel to become brittle when welded without knowledge of the extra boron that had been added.

Australian Steel meets Australian Standards
According to the ASI, Australian standards cover the entire chain from mechanical properties, chemical composition, dimensions and mass tolerance. The ASI warns that if any of these standards are not adhered to, then the finished product will not live up to its rated performance.
Listing the advantages of utilising Australian Steel, the ASI points out that benefits such as customisation for local environmental conditions are not available with imported steel. The ASI states that the quality and adherence to standards of Australian steel can be fully relied upon by users. The ASI also points out that the industry has been innovating and has become a pathbreaker in certain niches. Quality control is being achieved through the transition to automated processes whereby designs are applied on numerically controlled machines which facilitates identification and traceability.

Successful Australian manufacturers
A successful innovation example is that of Bisalloy which is based in Wollongong. The company specialises in Quench & Tempered (Q&T) Steel plate and is a stand-alone unit. The High-Strength steel has exceptional hardness and is built to withstand the toughest wear and tear. The company’s Wear Steel is used in cutters and cutting edges, dump truck wear liners, rock buckets and earthmoving buckets. It has developed the steel plates used in Australia’s Collins Class submarines. It also makes Light-Weight High Strength Steel.

Devising new mechanisms for Inspection
Writing in Steel Australia March 2017 issue, Peter Golding, Chief Executive of the Galvanizers Association of Australia says imported parts are galvanized to differing standards. GAA along with the other galvanizing association GANZ and the Australasian Corrosion Association have developed an Inspector Program. The Program looks into the quality of fabricated steel products as it is crucial in achieving a high-quality galvanizing result. The Galvanizing industry’s Sorel Awards for 2016 were awarded to an utilization based on standards developed by the GAA. The award-winner had convinced its client ALDI Australia to replace red oxide coating with hot-dip galvanizing. The awards have weightage for technical and engineering innovation and economic benefit for the user among other criteria.

Effect on Economy from Imported Steel
According to ASI data, there has been a 5 percent drop in domestic steel used in fabricated construction since 2010. The ASI also states that when Australian Steel slips in local utilization, there would be a similar ‘multiplier effect’ on all associated industries. The ASI’s “Making Steel Stronger” Report states that each employee in the Steel industry is equivalent to six employees in associated industries.

Anti-Dumping Notices
Taking a look at some recent Anti-Dumping Notices by the Anti-Dumping Commission, an investigation was initiated into alleged dumping of alloy round Steel bar exported from China. A ‘Statement of Essential Facts’ on the investigation is due to be tabled no later than 19 July 2017. An ongoing investigation into galvanized steel exported from India, Malaysia and Vietnam that was initiated in October 2016 is continuing to receive submissions from the countries and exporters concerned.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Where is Nangarhar province, where the "Mother of All Bombs" was dropped

Nagarhar province in Afghanistan's east bordering Pakistan is 7,700 square kilometers in area, of the 652,000 square kilometers that Afghanistan spans. In terms of population though, it ranks third among the 34 provinces. Nangarhar has just over 1.5 million residents out of the total of 32 million population of the country. The capital of the province is Jalalabad. The Kabul river that passes through Kabul then flows through Jalalabad before entering Pakistan. One of the main tributaries of the Kabul river is the Kunar river. The Kabul is joined by the Kunar near Jalalabad.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

As the Syrian conflict drags on, Where did it begin, who controls where?

Arabs are the majority in Syria. They represent a mix of a pre-Islamic population with the Arabs of Mecca, Medina and other areas currently known as Saudi Arabia. Arabic tribes had inhabited the area currently known as Syria in the pre-Islamic era too and they had also had some kingdoms in the area.

The Alawites are Arabs belonging to the Shia group of Islam. In his younger years, the Prophet Muhammad undertook journeys to Syria along with his uncle on business. The Shias consider Ali ibn Abi Talid, the cousin of Prophet Muhammad, as being his spiritual successor while the Sunni group of Islam does not.

Alawites make up 11 percent of the population of Syria while the Shias, which includes the Alawites, make up 13 percent. Sunni Arabs make up 60 percent. while the total Sunni population is 74 percent.

Alawite Hafez al-Assad was the President from 1971 to 2000, under a one-party system. Under his rule, the political space was ceded to the Sunnis while the military was controlled by the Alawites. When the French had controlled Syria after World War I, Hafez's father had been a part of an Alawite proposal to be separate from Syria while seeking French protection.

After Hafez al-Assad died in 2000, his son Bashar al-Assad took over. A civil war started in the country in 2011, with the Sunnis fighting the government.

The country consists of 14 governorates. The As-Suwayda governorate in the south borders Jordan. Daraa is in the south-west corner of the country, also having Jordan to its south. Rif Damashq government forms the south-western corner of the country, and has Lebanon to its west. This governorate is made of the countryside around the capital Damascus. The capital is a separate governorate and sits atop(north of) all the three previous governorates. To the north of Damascus governorate lies the Homs governorate, the largest.

Homs makes up the center of the country and has Damascus to the south-west, Lebanon to the West, Jordan to the south  and Iraq to the south-east. To the north-west of Homs lies Aleppo governorate.

Aleppo and to its west, Idlib and Latakia governorates all have a border with Turkey. To the east of Aleppo are Raqqa and Al-Hasakah also having borders with Turkey. To the south of Raqqa and Al-Hasakah lies Deir-ez-Zor.

Al-Hasakah forms the north-eastern corner of the country while Deir ez-Zor forms the south-eastern corner. While Al-Hasakah has a border with Turkey to its north and Iraq to its east, Deir ez-Zor has Iraq to its east and south.

The Syrian government lost control of the south to the Syrian Opposition grouping. This area includes all areas south of Damascus till the Jordanian border. The same grouping, Syrian Opposition, also controls the north-west of the country in the governorates of Idlib and Aleppo. A portion of the far north-west is held by the Syrian Democratic Forces.

The north of the country bordering Turkey is controlled by the grouping called the Syrian Democratic Forces. The center of Homs, Aleppo and Deir ez-Zor is controlled by the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant or ISIL

The Syrian government controls all territory in the west, bordering Lebanon. The town of Khan Sheikhoun where the chemical attack took place, and to which the U.S responded with aerial strikes is in the north-western corner in the governorate of Idlib. The town lies in the south of the governorate.

As ETA disarms: What is the Basque Cause

The ETA organisation is laying down its final set of arms today. The group which has been fighting for a separation of the Basque regions from Spain, has ceased fire since 2010.

ETA was formed in 1959 and stands for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna which stands for Basque Homeland and Freedom. The period from 1939 to 1975 marked the rule of Military Dictator Francisco Franco. The ETA was formed to take on Franco after oppression faced by the Basque Nationalist Party previously. Franco'e regime oppressed many other groups as well including students. Franco tried to suppress Basque, Catalan and Galician languages while favoring Castilian. The Basque language almost died out as a result of Franco's policies. Franco selected a monarchical successor in the late 60s before his death in November 1975. One of the ETA's biggest actions was the assassination of the Prime Minister in December 1973. The country became more liberal with the death of Franco.

The Basque people live in a region that is at the intersection between Spain and France, with the northern Basque region lying in France and its southern part lying in Spain. The Basque language does not have any connections to any other language family. About 93 percent of speakers of the language live in Spain with the remaining 7 percent living in France. Basque is a pre-historic language, i.e., one that is older than 5000 years.

The prime metropolitan region in the Basque Country is the Greater Bilbao, the capital city of which is Bilbao. While the city has about 350,000 inhabitants, the region has 1 million people. The next-biggest city in the Basque Country is Vitoria-Gasteiz, followed by Pamplona renowned for its bull-running tradition.

Spain and France can be pictured as two squares placed one over the other, with the square on top which is France imagined as being moved to the right atop the square below which is Spain, until only a small portion lies atop while the larger portion lies without any base. This larger portion of France lies atop the Mediterranean Sea. The space to the left of France and to the top of Spain is made up of a water body of the Atlantic Ocean called the Bay of Biscay.

Running right across the border between Spain and France is the Pyrenees, a 491-kilometer stretch of mountain from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean Sea. And lying in between Spain and France on the eastern part of the Pyrenees is the small nation of Andorra. The capital of this small nation of 468 square kilometers and 85,000 people is Andorra la Vella which lies at the highest-elevation among all European capitals, at a height of just over 1000 meters.

The western end of the Pyrenees is Basque territory.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Cyclone Debbie's Operative zone

Tropical Storm Debbie has been forecast to impact Whitsundays, Mackay and Burdekin. Burdekin lies north of the city of Mackay. Whitsundays are a group of islands.

In the Whitsunday region, emergency alerts have been issued for Dingo Beach, Conway Beach, Cape Upstart, Bowe, Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour.

In the Burdekin region, evacuations have been carried out at Alva Beach, Groper Creek, Jerona, Wunjunga and parts of Rita Island.

Evacuations have been ordered over Mackay Urban North and Mackay Urban South, Midge Point, St Helens Beach, Seaforth, Haliday Bay, Ball Bay, Dunnrock/Mcewens beaches, Louisa Creek, Half Tide/Salonika Beaches, Grasstree/Campwin/Sarina beaches, Freshwater Point, Armstrong Beach.

Geography of Queensland
At its northern-most point, Queensland has the Torres Strait. A Strait is a narrow waterway that joins two larger water bodies. The Torres Strait runs between Australia and the island of New Guinea. A peninsula juts out of the island of Australia into this strait. This triangle-shaped piece of land that projects into the Torres Strait is called Cape York Peninsula. The northern-most point of the Peninsula is called Cape York. The length of the peninsula is about 660 kilometres while the widest is 430 kilometres.

To the left of the Peninsula is the Gulf of Carpentaria. To the right of the peninsula is the Coral Sea which is a part of the Pacific Ocean.

Among the regions of Queensland are the following

  • Cairns and Far North(The city of Cairns is on the right of the peninsula that makes up the far-north of Queensland, about 2000 kilometres from the capital of Brisbane, which is on the south-eastern edge of Queensland.
  • Central West(About a 12+ hour road journey from Brisbane)
  • Mackay and Whitsunday(at around the centre-point from Brisbane to Cairns)
  • Mount Isa and NorthWest
  • Brisbane and SouthEast
  • SouthWest and Darling Downs
  • Wide Bay Burnett(The hinterland of the south-east corner of the state)
The capital city of Brisbane can be said to lie right at the south-eastern corner of Queensland. Just north of the border with New South Wales, on the coast is the city of Gold Coast, which is 65 kilometres south of Brisbane. It is the second-largest city in Queensland after Brisbane. The Sunshine Coast is 100 kilometres north of Brisbane and has 60 kilometres of coastline.