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Elite Salvagers Set to Tackle Massive Ship Blocking Suez Canal

(Bloomberg) — An elite team is set to tackle the monumental challenge of freeing the massive container vessel that’s blocking the Suez Canal, as a backlog of ships continued to build up for a third day in what is arguably the world’s most important waterway.Work to re-float the Ever Given and free up oceangoing carriers hauling almost $10 billion of oil and consumer goods was expected to begin early Thursday in Egypt. Tugs and diggers failed to budge the vessel on Wednesday, and dredgers are still trying to loosen the vessel before any attempt to pull it out, the ship’s manager said.Still, the best chance for returning shipping to normal may not come until Sunday or Monday, when the tide will reach a peak, according to Nick Sloane, the salvage master responsible for re-floating the Costa Concordia, the cruise ship that capsized on the coast of Italy in 2012. Sloane works as the senior salvage master for Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Resolve Marine Group.It’s taxing to even grasp how big this ship is. About a quarter mile long (400 meters) and weighing in at 200,000 tons, its sheer size is overwhelming efforts to dig it out. A huge yellow excavator, itself about twice as tall as its driver, looked like child’s toy parked next to the ship’s bulking bow.The struggle to dislodge the ship is now falling to SMIT Salvage BV, a legendary Dutch firm whose employees parachute themselves from one ship wreckage to the next, saving vessels often during violent storms. Japan’s Nippon Salvage Co. has also been hired to assist in the re-floating, according to a person familiar with the matter.This ship is so heavy that the salvors may have to lighten it by removing things like the ballast water, which helps keep ships steady when they’re at sea. Fuel could also be unloaded.How to Dislodge a 200,000-Ton Ship From a Canal Wall“Dislodging a grounded ultra-large container ship in the Suez Canal will be challenging due to the confined nature of the canal’s shipping channel,” said Rockford Weitz, director of the Fletcher Maritime Studies Program at Tufts University. “This presents additional complications in comparison to a grounding on a reef or shoal.”The Suez Canal Authority hasn’t commented on the work or given any indication of when traffic could resume.About 12% of global trade goes through the canal, making it so strategic that world powers have fought over the waterway since it was completed in 1869. For now, all that traffic is backed up with the Ever Given aground in the southern part of the canal, creating another setback for global supply chains already strained by the e-commerce boom linked to the pandemic.“Every hour, more vessels — including container ships, oil tankers, RoRo vessels, and bulk carriers — are being backed up in the Mediterranean to the north and the Red Sea to the south,” said Jett McCandless, chief executive officer of supply-chain tracking company project44. “It’s another big blow to global trade in an already back-logged and battered supply chain year.”A rough estimate shows the blockage is costing about $400 million an hour, based on calculations from Lloyd’s List that suggest westbound traffic is worth around $5.1 billion a day and eastbound traffic approximately $4.5 billion. On Wednesday, 185 vessels were waiting to cross the canal, according to shipping data compiled by Bloomberg, while Lloyd’s estimates there’s 165.About 34 container vessels chartered by Maersk Corp. and other shipping lines are either stuck in the canal or en route, according to project44. Preliminary reports show 10 crude tankers carrying a total of 13 million barrels could be affected by the disruption, according to Vortexa Senior Freight Analyst Arthur Richier.The incident began on Tuesday when strong winds blasted through the region and kicked up sands along the banks of the 120-mile canal. The waterway is narrow — less than 675 feet wide (205 meters) in some places — and can be difficult to navigate when there’s poor visibility.But Ever Given stayed its course through the canal, on its way to Rotterdam from China. As gusts that reached as high as 46 miles an hour swept up dust around it, the crew lost control of ship and it careened sideways into a sandy embankment, blocking nearly the entirety of the channel. It’s still in the same position as when it ran aground, according to Inchcape.At the heart of all of this is the ship’s massive scale. Container vessels have nearly doubled in size in the past decade as global trade expanded, making the job of moving such ships much harder when they get stuck.Even while key routes — including the Suez Canal — have been widened and deepened over the years to accommodate the mega-sized vessels, the work to dig them out after they get stuck takes enormous power.The canal is among the most trafficked waterways in the world, used by tankers shipping crude from the Middle East to Europe and North America, as well as in the opposite direction.The blockage highlights a major risk faced by the shipping industry as more and more ships transit maritime choke points including the Suez, Panama Canal, the Strait of Hormuz and Malacca Strait. Such occurrences could become more common as ships get bigger and waterways get more congested.Oil companies are starting to prepare for the worst. On Wednesday, there was an uptick in interest from oil companies looking to book tankers with options to avoid the canal, according to a broker, and several bid for space on the pipelines that allow bypass of the waterway completely.For now, that’s a just-in-case move. Container ships will most likely have to wait it out, as the main alternative is the unattractive option of sailing around the southern tip of Africa. However, at least one shipment of liquefied natural gas from the U.S. has potentially diverted course toward the Cape of Good Hope and away from Suez, Wood Mackenzie analyst Lucas Schmitt said in a note on Thursday.The disruption comes at a time when oil prices are already volatile. Crude surged above $70 a barrel earlier this month on Saudi production cuts, only to slump to near $60 this week due to setbacks in Europe’s coronavirus vaccine program. Brent crude rose more than 5% on Wednesday.Ever Given’s crew are safe and accounted for, and there have been no reports of injuries or pollution, according to the ship’s manager, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement. The vessel is also carrying cargo for logistics company Orient Overseas Container Line Ltd., according to Mark Wong, a company spokesman.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.

The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.

With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.

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Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.


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Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to tasneema@ndtv.com.

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Facebook Owner Meta Launches New Platform, Safety Hub to Protect Women in India

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Meta (formerly Facebook) on Thursday announced a slew of steps to protect woman users on its platform, including the launch of StopNCII.org in India that aims to combat the spread of non-consensual intimate images (NCII).

Meta has also launched the Women’s Safety Hub, which will be available in Hindi and 11 other Indian languages, that will enable more women users in India to access information about tools and resources that can help them make the most of their social media experience, while staying safe online.

This initiative by Meta will ensure women do not face a language barrier in accessing information Karuna Nain, director (global safety policy) at Meta Platforms, told reporters here.

“Safety is an integral part of Meta’s commitment to building and offering a safe online experience across the platforms and over the years the company has introduced several industry leading initiatives to protect users online.

“Furthering our effort to bolster the safety of users, we are bringing in a number of initiatives to ensure online safety of women on our platforms,” she added.

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StopNCII.org is a platform that aims to combat the spread of non-consensual intimate images (NCII).

“It gives victims control. People can come to this platform proactively, hash their intimate videos and images, share their hashes back with the platform and participating companies,” Nain said.

She explained that the platform doesn’t receive any photos and videos, and instead what they get is the hash or unique digital fingerprint/unique identifier that tells the company that this is a known piece of content that is violating. “We can proactively keep a lookout for that content on our platforms and once it”s uploaded, our review team check what”s really going on and take appropriate action if it violates our policies,” she added.

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In partnership with UK Revenge Porn Helpline, StopNCII.org builds on Meta’s NCII Pilot, an emergency programme that allows potential victims to proactively hash their intimate images so they can”t be proliferated on its platforms.

The first-of-its-kind platform, has partnered with global organisations to support the victims of NCII. In India, the platform has partnered with organisations such as Social Media Matters, Centre for Social Research, and Red Dot Foundation.

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Nain added that the company is hopeful that this becomes an industrywide initiative, so that victims can just come to this one central place to get help and support and not have to go to each and every tech platform, one by one to get help and support.

Also, Bishakha Datta (executive editor of Point of View) and Jyoti Vadehra from Centre for Social Research are the first Indian members in Meta”s Global Women”s Safety Expert Advisors. The group comprises 12 other non-profit leaders, activists, and academic experts from different parts of the world and consults Meta in the development of new policies, products and programmes to better support women on its apps.

“We are confident that with our ever-growing safety measures, women will be able to enjoy a social experience which will enable them to learn, engage and grow without any challenges.

“India is an important market for us and bringing Bishakha and Jyoti onboard to our Women”s Safety Expert Advisory Group will go a long way in further enhancing our efforts to make our platforms safer for women in India,” Nain said.

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Facebook Adds New Trend Insights in Creator Studio, Which Could Help Shape Your Posting Strategy

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Facebook’s looking to provide more content insight within Creator Studio with the rollout of a new ‘Inspiration Hub’ element, which highlights trending content and hashtags within categories related to your business Page.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

As you can see in these screenshots, posted by social media expert Matt Navarra, when it becomes available to you, you’ll be able to access the new Inspiration Hub from the Home tab in Creator Studio.

At the right side of the screen, you can see the first of the new insights, with trending hashtags and videos from the last 24 hours, posted by Pages similar to yours, displayed above a ‘See more’ prompt.

When you tap through to the new hub, you’ll have a range of additional filters to check out trending content from across Facebook, including Page category, content type, region, and more.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

That could be hugely valuable in learning what Facebook users are responding to, and what people within your target market are engaging with in the app.

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The Hub also includes insights into trending hashtags, within your chosen timeframe, which may further assist in tapping into trending discussions.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

How valuable hashtags are on Facebook is still up for debate, but you’ll also note that you can filter the displayed results by platform, so you can additionally display Instagram hashtag trends as well, which could be very valuable in maximizing your reach.

Much of this type of info has been available within CrowdTangle, Facebook’s analytics platform for journalists, for some time, but not everyone can access CrowdTangle data, which could make this an even more valuable proposition for many marketers.

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Of course, overall performance really relates to your own creative, and thinking through the action that you want your audience to take when reading your posts. But in terms of detecting new content trends, including hashtag usage, caption length, videos versus image posts, and more, there’s a lot that could be gleaned from these tools and filters.

It’s a significant analytics addition – we’ve asked Facebook for more info on the rollout of the new option, and whether it’s already beyond test mode, etc. We’ll update this post if/when we hear back.

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