MARITIME BRIEFS

MARITIME BRIEFS

121 HOSTAGES RELEASED

FROM SRI LANKAN FERRY

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - Tamil Tigers released 121 passengers from the hijacked vessel "Iris Moana" this week, an official of the International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday, according to a Kyodo news service report.

There was no information about the 15 remaining passengers or the crew of eight, the report said, citing comments of ICRC official Paul Fruh.

Military officials believe they are being held hostage by the Tigers, who seized the ferry Aug. 28.

The ICRC has been asked by the government to mediate with the rebels and obtain the release of the vessel and passengers.

FESCO LEAVING LA

TO CALL AT LONG BEACH

LONG BEACH, Calif. - Far Eastern Shipping Co., which has been calling at the Port of Los Angeles since March 1994, is moving its Southern California operations to the neighboring port of Long Beach.

Fesco this year expanded its fleet and began offering more frequent service between the U.S. West Coast and Australia and New Zealand. The Russian-flag line now operates four vessels in the trade, three with a capacity of 1,012 20-foot equivalent units and one with a capacity of 1,300 TEUs.

Fesco's first call at Long Beach will be Wednesday.

CHINA OFFERS US A DEAL

ON 7TH FLEET, HONG KONG

HONG KONG - A Hong Kong-based magazine said Wednesday that China has offered to permit U.S. warships to continue calling at Hong Kong after the 1997 hand-over, in return for a consulate in Hawaii.

The Far Eastern Economic Review said in a prepublication statement that Beijing had told Washington it also would permit the United States to maintain a defense liaison office in Hong Kong if it gives the go-ahead for the Honolulu consulate.

"The demand has put the U.S. in a quandary. While it is keen to maintain the Seventh Fleet's access to Hong Kong and its defense observation post at the U.S. consulate, it is deeply ambivalent about allowing China an official presence in Hawaii," the magazine said. "Honolulu would give China a perfect perch for monitoring U.S. naval movements in the Pacific."

U.S. consulate officials in Hong Kong weren't immediately available for comment.

SHANGHAI VOLUME FELL

4 PERCENT IN FIRST QUARTER

SHANGHAI, China - Port officials said Wednesday that throughput in China's largest maritime gateway continues to decline. In the first quarter, volume dropped 4 percent year-on-year to 42.81 million tons.

In August, Shanghai handled 14.87 million tons, up 3.2 percent on the same month last year, but down 2.5 percent from July.