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#SeafoodExports - Food and Marine Minister Michael Creed and his Chinese counterpart have agreed an export certificate which will permit the resumption of live crab exports to the critically important Chinese market.

The Irish seafood sector has been extremely anxious to resolve a number of certification issues which have hampered the trade, and exports are expected to resume in the very near future, according to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).

The agreement was one of a number of issues settled between Minister Creed and Zhi Shuping, China’s minister with responsibility for the Chinese Quarantine and Inspection Service, during their meeting in Dublin this week at which they signed a landmark protocol for seafood, beef and thoroughbred horse exports.

The meeting on Tuesday (18 April) was the second formal bilateral meeting of the two ministers and comes after Minister Creed’s discussions with Minister Zhi in Beijing last September.

Commenting on the meeting, Minister Creed said: “China is now such an important partner for Ireland on agri-food issues and is our third largest trading partner in this sector,” said Minister Creed on the meeting, adding that the protocol signing “marks the culmination of intensive political, technical and diplomatic engagement with the Chinese authorities.

“I look forward to moving forward with the next steps as quickly as possible”

Irish agri-food exports to China have increased from some €240 million in 2012 to €780 million in 2016, a three-fold increase. This makes China the third largest market for Ireland’s agri-food sector in value terms after the UK and US for last year.

Published in Fishing

#VOR - Hong Kong will host the Volvo Ocean Race for the first time when the event visits in February 2018 during the 13th edition.

In a press conference today (Wednesday 13 April), VOR organisers announced a unique collaboration with the Hong Kong Sailing Federation to bring the race to Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour.

It is set to be the largest world-class sailing event ever staged in Hong Kong, already one of the world’s most prestigious sailing destinations.

The world’s premier offshore race will transform the old airport in Kai Tak, and introduce residents of Hong Kong to a wide range of race-related activities geared to educate as well as entertain both existing fans and newcomers to the race.

An in-port race will also be held in the port before the boats leave for the next leg.

Anthony Day, Council Member of the Hong Kong Sailing Federation, said: “This will go down in history as a milestone event for Hong Kong sailing and will provide a wonderful platform for us to engage more Hongkongers in the sport of sailing."

Antonio Bolaños Lopez, acting CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race before Mark Turner takes up the role later this year, added: “I am thrilled that the race is visiting one of the most beautiful ports in the world for the first time.

"We are delighted to welcome Hong Kong to the Volvo Ocean Race family and know that we will have a stopover that will be one of the highlights of the 2017-18 edition.

“I would like to pay special tribute to the Hong Kong Sailing Federation and the Hong Kong government for making our dreams of bringing the race here a reality.”

Hong Kong brings the confirmed list of stopovers so far for the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 edition to nine, which includes Alicante, Auckland, Cape Town, Cardiff, Newport in Rhode Island, Lisbon, Gothenburg and The Hague, which will host the finale after a successful pit-stop on the final leg of the 2014-15 race.

The Hong Kong stopover will mark the fourth time the Volvo Ocean Race has visited China, after Qingdao in the 2008-09 race and Sanya in the 2011-12 and 2014-15 competitions.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

#Seafood - Following a meeting today (5 November) with Chinese Vice Minister Niu Dun, who has responsibility for fisheries, Marine Minister Simon Coveney opened the largest ever Irish pavilion at the China Seafood & Fisheries Expo, which takes place in Qingdao this week.

Speaking at the event, Minister Coveney said: “Ireland has some of the finest seafood in the world, with a superior offering that is sustainably harvested from the pure, clean waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

"Business development and trade show events such as these are invaluable in building awareness of our high quality produce to an influential, targeted trade audience.

"China continues to be a growing market for Irish seafood and with exports increasing by over 300% since 2011 to reach €18 million in 2013. This strong trend in Irish exports to the region is continuing in 2014 with sales for the first 6 months up 56% compared to the same period last year.”

Organised by Bord Bia, Ireland’s stand will include representatives from a record 11 Irish seafood companies between today and Friday 7 November at the largest trade show in China, with more than 25,000 visitors expected from over 100 countries. 

In 2013, China's seafood trade surpassed €20 billion in value, cementing its position as the world's leading seafood trading country. Growing incomes and increased urbanisation have helped fuel a massive growth in demand for imported seafood.

China currently accounts for one quarter of the world’s seafood consumption, and the United Nation’s FAO projects that China will need an extra 16 million tonnes of seafood by 2020 to meet growing demand.

Minister Coveney added: “The strong Irish representation from both the pelagic and shellfish sectors in Qingdao today demonstrates the commitment of both industry and government to deepen ties and strengthen relationships with our Chinese customers.”

Traditionally, the Chinese market has been important for the Irish seafood industry predominantly for the sale of pelagic species such as boarfish, which was launched in China this year after a successful presentation at the 2013 expo.

However, in the last three years, significant effort has been invested by Irish processors and Bord Bia to identify and develop opportunities for premium shellfish in this growing market for seafood, notably for shellfish such as live and processed brown crab, langoustines, scallops and razor fish.

Bord Bia chief executive Aidan Cotter said: “The strong and sustained growth in exports in recent years demonstrates the continued success of Ireland’s leading shellfish processors in penetrating this valuable market. Exports of shellfish to China, for example, increased in value by over 200% between 2012 and 2013, while exports to Hong Kong increased by 117% during the same period.

"Bord Bia has ambitious plans to further grow the share of Irish seafood into China and has a number of programmes in place to assist Irish seafood processors in identifying, profiling and targeting new customers that are willing to pay a premium for quality seafood from Ireland.” 

Through its trade development programme, Bord Bia says it has been very successful in encouraging high-end retail and foodservice Chinese customers to visit Ireland to meet with Irish seafood processors on a one-to-one basis. 

These itineraries have been described as very effective in generating new business for the sector, providing Irish companies with an excellent opportunity to showcase their processing facilities and also allowing the customers to see first hand the world-class environment in which Irish seafood is produced. These visits can provide a guarantee to Chinese customers on traceability, sustainability and food safety, all key issues of growing concern to the Chinese consumer.

“Irish seafood has enjoyed ongoing and increasing market access to China," said Dr Susan Steel, chair of the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority. "International trade in food is based upon a reciprocated trust in food safety systems. The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority, as regulator, verifies the safety and sustainability of Irish seafood and we welcome this Chinese confidence in the robustness of the assurance systems we implement."

During the last three years, Bord Bia has welcomed more than 25 Asian customers to Ireland on customised itineraries. Many of these visits have delivered new business for Irish seafood processors, and in March 2015, as part of its Marketplace International event, Bord Bia will host an additional 17 Asian customers on a visit to Ireland.

The buyers will meet with Ireland’s leading seafood processors, and Bord Bia has set a target of securing €7 million worth of new business for the seafood sector arising from this event.

In September 2013, over €4 million worth of new business was secured with a range of Asian seafood customers who travelled to Ireland to attend Bord Bia’s Global Sustainability Conference.

Going into 2015, to build on the momentum and further increase exports of premium Irish seafood to China, Bord Bia will concentrate its promotional efforts on increasing awareness of new species from Ireland such as brown crab and Irish prawns. 

Targeting premium chefs, media and key opinion-formers, Bord Bia will co-ordinate a series of cookery demonstrations in Beijing and Shanghai, focusing on introducing recipes for these species that are new to the Chinese market. 

The campaign will assist the Irish processing sector to sell in their ranges to distributors servicing the premium restaurants and hotels in these two key locations. In addition, Chinese consumers will be educated and informed through a comprehensive programme of in-store tastings with a number of supermarket retail chains.

Published in Fishing

#IslandNews - Residents of the Aran Islands are currently in China accompanied by the mayor of Co Galway for a worldwide competition that's doubling as an opportunity to market the West of Ireland as a tourism destination.

The delegation from Inis Oírr are in the southeast coastal city of Xiamen representing Ireland in the 'sustainable communities' category of the Pride of Place competition, according to Galway Bay FM.

Published in Island News

#VOR - It's been confirmed that a Chinese team will race in the 12th edition of the Volvo Ocean Race.

The new Team Dongfeng, backed by automaker Dongfeng Commercial Vehicle and run by international events and marketing firm OC Sport, will set sail with the rest of the fleet from Alicante in the 2014-15 race.

It also marks the third entry for China in the round-the-world yachting challenge, following the Discover Ireland-backed Team Sanya in the last edition of the VOR that concluded in Galway in exciting fashion, and the joint Chinese-Irish entry Green Dragon in the 2008-09 race.

Headed by team director and VOR veteran Bruno Dubois, Team Dongfeng is expected to be more than just a nominal Chinese entry, with plans for a significant number of Chinese sailors among its final race crew.

They will follow in the wake of Chinese sailing pioneers Guo Chuan, who crewed Green Dragon in 2008-09, and Team Sanya's 'Tiger' Teng Jianghe in last year's race - not to mention success for Chinese sailing at the London Olympics with gold in the women's Laser Radial for sailor of the year Xu Lijia, despite Ireland's own Annalise Murphy's stellar performance in the buildup to the medal race.

“Our priority is the recruitment and training of the Chinese sailors," said Dubois. "This is very clearly the biggest challenge we have – to condense many years of experience of the average Volvo Ocean Race crew into just 10 months.

“But equally this process is at the heart of the project, we want to leave a real legacy that will both motivate the Chinese to want to embrace the sport of sailing, and be able to develop the talent so that, ultimately, a future campaign could be 100% Chinese.”

Team Dongfeng will surely receive a warm welcome when the fleet visits the Chinese port of Sanya, returning as a stopover in the 2014-15 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race after its debut on the calendar in the last running.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

#VOR - The Chinese port of Sanya is the latest addition to the route for the next Volvo Ocean Race.

The sunny city in southern China - and the "best kept secret in sailing" according to Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad - returns to the race with previously announced addition Lisbon after its debut hosting in the 2011-2012 edition,

"We were given an exceptional welcome by Sanya in the last edition, with the stopover providing a unique take on the race, and it's gratifying to know we will be back to build on our legacy," said Frostad.

Sanya also fielded a team backed by Discover Ireland in the last edition of the global yachting challenge - though they dealt with some misfortune only hours into the first leg of the race, suffering very serious hull damage as seen HERE.

Meanwhile, progress on the new design VOR 65 that will be raced in the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race made a great leap forward this week as the hull completed at Persico in Italy and the decking built at Multiplast in France made their way to Green Marine in Southampton for assembly.

The video above also includes a sneak peak at a mockup of the completed design that will hopefully take to the water in the coming months.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

#Titanic - An Australian mining millionaire has unveiled his plans to resurrect the Titanic for the 21st century, as The Irish Times reports.

Clive Palmer wants to build a new version of the ill-fated cruise liner - to be dubbed Titanic II - recreating the style and comfort of the original, but with modern navigational instruments and enough lifeboats for all on board.

"Titanic was a ship of dreams and Titanic II promises to be the ship where dreams come true," he told reporters at the Ritz Hotel in London last week.

Already he claims that 40,000 people have enquired about passage, and 16 individuals have offered $1 million each for a state room on the new liner for its maiden voyage after the vessel is completed in late 2016.

Titanic II will not be an exact replica of its predecessor, as it's planned to be four metres wider to provide greater stability, as well as featuring stabilisers and reverse propellers to provide for a more comfortable voyage.

It will also not be built at Harland & Wolff, the Belfast Lough shipyards that constructed the original White Star Line vessel, instead being contracted to the world record-holding large ship facilities at Jiangsu in China.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Titanic

#Kayaking - David Burns and Maghnus Collins yesterday celebrated the end of their 16,000-mile Silk Roads to Shanghai adventure across Asia by foot, bike, raft and kayak.

Ten days ago we reported that the duo were in Wugu on the Yangtze River, just 450km away from completing their epic 292-day journey from Istanbul to Shanghai - and becoming the first people to navigate Asia's longest river from source to sea by kayak.

But as Shanghai Daily reports, the Irishmen have reached their destination in one piece, and received a rapturous welcome from the city's Irish community at the Bund yesterday morning.

Burns and Collins, from Derry and Limerick respectively, negotiated the final leg of their charity challenge in sea kayaks, battling rapids and avoiding dangerous wildlife such as bears and wolves.

And on arrival in Shanghai they paid tribute to the kindness and generosity of the Chinese people they met along the way.

"Chinese people were incredible for the whole journey as they offered help everywhere," said Burns. "The fishermen gave us tea when we were cold and gave us food when we were hungry. We were well looked after."

Shanghai Daily has more on the story HERE.

Published in Kayaking

#Kayaking - Last April Afloat.ie highlighted two intrepid Irish adventurers on the first leg of a gruelling 16,000-mile charity trek across Asia - by foot, bike, raft and kayak - along the Silk Roads to Shanghai.

But as the New Year began last week - just over eight months later - the duo of Maghnus Collins and David Burns were just 450km away from completed their epic journey, as The Score reports.

Limerick man Collins told the sports website that he and Derry native Burns were at Wuhu, a city on the Yangtze upstream of Shanghai, and from where the pair will tackle the rest of the route along the river by kayak.

It's surely incredible enough that Collins and Burns ran the equivalent of 25 marathons in 27 days as they crossed Tibet to the source of Asia's longest river - but being the first ever kayakers to navigate the "incredibly dangerous" Yangtze from source to sea is almost beyond belief.

Little wonder, then, that they've so far raised €30,000 for Irish-based charity Self Help Africa, and will surely reach their target of €50,000 by the time they expect to reach the finish line this day next week.

The Score has more on the story HERE - and listen to an interview with Collins and Burns on Today FM's The Last Word with Matt Cooper (at the 41-minute mark of part 2).

Published in Kayaking

#TITANIC - Irreverent tech website Gizmodo has marked the 100th annversary of the sinking of the Titanic with a list of the 13 deadliest shipwrecks in history.

The list runs the gamut from well over a century ago, in the early days of passenger shipping - see the SS Sultana, a tragedy overshadowed by the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the end of the American Civl War - to more recent events.

Included are such as sad tales as that of the Empress of Ireland, the worst disaster in Canadian maritime history in which more than 1,000 died, and much closer to home the Lusitania, which went down off Kinsale in May 1915 after a torpedo attack.

But the worst was arguably suffered by the passengers of the steamship SS Kiangya - which blew up 50 miles north of Shanghai in December 1948, taking as many as 3,920 lives - and the horror that befell the MV Doña Paz in the Philippines in December 1987, where estimates put the death toll at an unbelievable 4,000.

Gizmodo has more on the story HERE.

Published in Titanic
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