Thursday, 31 October 2013

U.S. appeals court revives lawsuit vs United Airlines over wheelchair

A United Airlines' Boeing Co's 787 Dreamliner plane approaches to land at New Tokyo international airport in Narita, east of Tokyo, on its flight from Los Angeles, January 17, 2013. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

A United Airlines' Boeing Co's 787 Dreamliner plane approaches to land at New Tokyo international airport in Narita, east of Tokyo, on its flight from Los Angeles, January 17, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Toru Hanai

By Dan Levine

SAN FRANCISCO | Wed Mar 13, 2013 6:39am EDT

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday revived a lawsuit against United Continental Holdings Inc's United Airlines that was brought by a woman who claimed she was not promptly provided a wheelchair in an airport when she asked for one.

The opinion, from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, said federal law did not pre-empt the woman's personal injury claims under state law.

A representative for United could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mark Meuser, an attorney for plaintiff Michelle Gilstrap, who has difficulty walking, said some lower court judges had disagreed about whether individuals should be able to bring claims for injuries in an airplane or terminal.

"This is a really big deal for disabled Americans across the country," Meuser said.

Gilstrap had difficulty walking due to a collapsed disc in her back and osteoarthritis, according to the court opinion. During two separate plane trips in 2008 and 2009, she alleged that United failed to supply a wheelchair on some occasions.

She also said United agents yelled at her, doubted whether she really needed a wheelchair and ordered her to stand in line, which she could not do because of her condition.

Gilstrap sued, and a Los Angeles federal judge dismissed her case. In Tuesday's three-judge ruling, the 9th Circuit said Gilstrap could not pursue her claims under the Americans for Disabilities Act.

However, the court ruled that Gilstrap's claims, including emotional distress and negligence, under state law were not pre-empted by the Air Carrier Access Act. The appeals court remanded the case for further proceedings.

The case in the 9th Circuit is Michelle Gilstrap vs. United Air Lines Inc., 11-55271.

(Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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Carnival puts cruise fleet under microscope after ship fire

The Carnival Triumph cruise ship is towed towards the port of Mobile, Alabama, February 14, 2013. REUTERS/ Lyle Ratliff

The Carnival Triumph cruise ship is towed towards the port of Mobile, Alabama, February 14, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/ Lyle Ratliff

By Jane Sutton

MIAMI BEACH, Florida | Wed Mar 13, 2013 6:51am EDT

MIAMI BEACH, Florida (Reuters) - Carnival Corp (CCL.N) (CCL.L) has launched a comprehensive review of its entire fleet after a fire crippled one of its ships last month, and will share its findings across the industry, Carnival Cruise Lines' chief executive told a conference on Tuesday.

The engine-room fire disabled the Bahamian-flagged Carnival Triumph in the Gulf of Mexico, leaving it adrift with more than 4,000 passengers and crew aboard. The accident made headlines around the world and comedians had a field day with the ensuing plumbing problems.

"We've started a comprehensive review of our entire fleet," Carnival Cruise Lines President and Chief Executive Gerry Cahill told the annual Cruise Shipping Miami conference.

"It will take us a little bit of time to complete it but you can rest assured that it is our highest priority in the entire organization, it is the thing we are most focused on and we will come up with some solutions that we can implement across our fleet," he said.

The company has assembled teams of fire safety experts, naval architects, electrical and mechanical engineers and engine manufacturers to conduct its own investigation, Cahill added.

The Triumph was on its way back to Galveston, Texas, when a leak in a fuel return line caused a fire in the aft engine room. The ship has two independent engine rooms but the fire damage knocked out both, Cahill said.

A diesel generator kicked in to run emergency services, but could not run what Cahill described as "hotel services", most notably the plumbing in the cabins.

Cahill said the company investigation would focus on fire prevention and suppression, engine-room backup systems, and on figuring out what hotel service facilities could be run with emergency generators.

Carnival is cooperating with ongoing investigations by the U.S. Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board and the Bahamian government, as well as a review by the Cruise Line International Association CLIA.L, he added.

Carnival Corp is the world's largest cruise line, with 100 ships under brands that include Carnival, Cunard, Holland America, Princess, Seabourn and Costa.


Cruise executives frequently say the attention lavished on their competitors' new ships creates a rising tide of demand that benefits them all. Accidents cause similar ripples throughout the industry.

"The recent Triumph incident affects all of us," said Christine Duffy, president and chief executive of CLIA, which represents 58 cruise lines worldwide. "Even though such incidents are rare, we don't underestimate their impact."

Nonetheless, industry projections are chronically rosy. Cruising is a $36 billion industry worldwide, part of a $9.9 trillion global travel industry that represents 9 percent of global GDP, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Some 20 million people took cruises last year and CLIA projects this year's total will rise 3.3 percent to hit 20.9 million.

"We have been the fastest-growing segment inside the travel industry," Duffy said.

Despite tough economic times, passenger numbers have risen every year over the last decade, she said. North America is still far and away the biggest source of cruise passengers, though the percentage from outside North America rose to 31 percent last year, from 9 percent in 2000.

Industry officials expect strong growth in China and other parts of Asia, where tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of people are moving into the middle classes and eager to see the world.

"They may not be comfortable going on their own but are comfortable going on one of our ships," Duffy said.

The industry has added 168 new ships since 2000. Twenty-five more oceangoing and river-cruising ships will come on line in the next two years, but the pace is slowing, ending a glut of berths that had led to discounting.

Kevin Sheehan, chief executive of Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH.O), which recently went public, predicted the industry would soon "move pricing to more respectable levels".

If the economy holds steady or improves slightly "then this industry will outperform", Sheehan said.

The cruise line chiefs say their industry is resilient, in part because it has good overall safety.

Sheehan called it "the safest, safest, safest vacation experience that anybody could ever have".

Pierfrancesco Vago, chief executive of MSC Cruises, a privately owned European line, suggested vacationers have short memories. Last year's Costa Concordia accident caused bookings in Italy to plummet, especially scaring away first-time cruisers, he said.

Bookings are still erratic, but are growing again, in part because cruising is perceived as good value, he said.

"It's amazing how this 2012 has been forgotten. We've seen already the new wave season, 2013, that the first-comers are coming back again," Vago said. "2013 is looking much better, stronger."

(Editing by David Adams and Dale Hudson)

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London keeps global edge as top transport finance hub

Tower Bridge on the Thames River is seen from The View gallery at the Shard, western Europe's tallest building, in London January 9, 2013. REUTERS/Luke Macgregor

Tower Bridge on the Thames River is seen from The View gallery at the Shard, western Europe's tallest building, in London January 9, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Luke Macgregor

By Jonathan Saul

LONDON | Fri Mar 15, 2013 11:27am EDT

LONDON (Reuters) - London remains the top financing centre for the global transport industry, although it faces stiff competition from New York and capitals in Asia Pacific as companies seek to tap more funding sources, a survey showed on Friday.

Some 37 per cent of respondents from the global aviation, rail and shipping sectors ranked London as the key financial centre for transport, followed by New York at 14 percent and Singapore at 7 percent, the survey by international law firm Norton Rose found.

"London and New York remain key financial centres for the transport industry but are looking over their shoulders at Asia which is growing in importance," said Harry Theochari, global head of transport at Norton Rose.

Of those canvassed, 43 percent from the rail industry said London was most favoured as a financing hub, followed by 40 percent in the shipping sector and 31 percent in aviation.

The annual survey by Norton Rose, now in its fourth year, is one of the transport sector's leading barometers of market conditions, especially for the shipping community.

While London has a 300-year history as a leading finance, insurance and legal centre for the shipping industry, the survey said companies were looking at alternatives due to tough trading conditions, exemplified by a warning last month from Frontline (FRO.OL), one of the world's biggest tanker operators.

Frontline said it may miss bond repayments due in 2015 and be forced to restructure again if the market's depression continues.

"A dramatic reduction in the availability of debt finance in the London market means that shipping is increasingly turning to structured finance and private equity," Theochari said.

"This gives New York a distinct advantage, as it has the largest capital markets in the world and far greater access to private equity than any other global financial centre."

The survey canvassed views from 1,006 participants from a range of companies involved in transport including financiers, ship owners and operators, manufacturers, builders and industry advisors. Those polled comprised 383 from the aviation sector, 314 from rail and 309 from shipping. (Editing by David Holmes)

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Filling up on petrol station offices

n">( - Seeking a place to work out of the office that is quieter than a bustling coffee shop and provides drinks, printers, Wi-Fi and even petrol?

Regus, a provider of ready-to-use office space, thinks it has the answer.

It has teamed up with Shell Germany to open up workplace hubs and lounges in 70 petrol stations in and around Berlin that will provide Wi-Fi hotspots, scanners, printers, phone charging and even meeting rooms, depending on the space available.

"You already see people working in Starbucks, hotel lobbies. They want facilities they're not getting there though, such as printers, phone charging, the ability to sit somewhere quiet and make a phone call," Phil Kemp, global managing director for Regus Third Place told Reuters.

The hubs are what Regus terms the 'third place' for workers, the first and second being the office and the home. Working in this way is a trend that is being driven by the explosion in tablet computers and smartphones.

"People are no longer bound by the nine-to-five, or having to physically be in an office," Kemp said.

"With a mixture of the office, home and third place, you can be there to pick up the children from school, get to that important event and cut down on commuting times," he added.

The Shell deal is part of a wider strategy to bring these third places to air, road, rail and retail locations all over the world.

Regus has already set up hubs within four Staples office stores in the UK, and has a series of workhubs on the rail network in the Netherlands. It is in talks with airports too, but has not announced any deals yet.

"We're trying to do this globally; we'll focus on Western Europe and the United States initially and then look to spread further," Kemp said.

Regus doesn't break down numbers for its Third Place activities, saying it is too soon as the unit is still in the start-up phase. Overall the group has revenue of 1.24 billion pounds, generated from over 1,500 locations in 100 countries.

(Reporting by Victoria Bryan. Editing by Peter Myers)

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Norway's Arctic idyll shivers at oil plans

A fishing boat enters the harbour at the Arctic port of Svolvaer in northern Norway March 4, 2013. REUTERS/Alister Doyle

A fishing boat enters the harbour at the Arctic port of Svolvaer in northern Norway March 4, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Alister Doyle

By Alister Doyle and Balazs Koranyi

SVOLVAER, Norway | Tue Mar 12, 2013 9:06am EDT

SVOLVAER, Norway (Reuters) - Oil companies seeking new Arctic areas for exploration face a battle with environmentalists, fishermen and hotel owners over Norwegian islands where jagged snow-capped peaks rise sheer from the sea.

With oil production falling to a 25-year low this year and the state depending on oil revenues, Norway's ruling Labour Party is warming to drilling in Lofoten's pristine waters, setting up the issue as the year's biggest political fight ahead of elections in September.

"We've already got the winning lottery ticket by living in Norway. We shouldn't want to be even richer," said Erling Santi, a fisherman in Svolvaer, Lofoten's main town.

"Oil drilling could drive the fish away," said Santi who is also the managing director of Saga Fish, a cod packing plant.

Norway is one of the world's most prosperous nations with per capital GDP in excess of $100,000 but the fortunes of remote Lofoten, 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) north of Oslo, have been mixed. Unemployment remains above the national average and its young leave the area in search of jobs.

Lofoten has been off limits for exploration since Norway first struck oil in 1969, reflecting fears about nature in a scenic Arctic region that is a spawning ground for the world's richest cod stocks and home to sea eagles and puffins.

BP Plc's (BP.L) Gulf of Mexico spill in 2010, the worst offshore spill in U.S. history, may have added to scepticism.

After Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg came down in favour of studying drilling last month, Norway's top three parties on left and right are now open to the idea, pitting them against smaller parties and many of Lofoten's own residents.

The fight will also be a test for how the industry and politics handle the move northward, with sights firmly set on the high Arctic, including the frozen Svalbard archipelago.


Backers say oil and gas finds are getting scarcer and that new technology means the risks of accidents are low enough to explore waters off Lofoten and the neighbouring Vesteraalen islands where cod has been king since Viking days.

"We need Lofoten but most of all, Lofoten needs the oil industry," said Knut Saeberg, chief financial officer CFO.L of North Energy (NORTH.OL), which is based in Alta higher in the Arctic. He said Lofoten needed jobs to counter a drift away.

Eivind Holst, the Conservative mayor of the Svolvaer region where the crest of arms depicts a large cod, said he was in principle in favour of oil and gas, partly as a source of jobs.

Lofoten's population has fallen to 24,000 people from above 30,000 in the early 20th century, with many moving to cities.

"There isn't necessarily a contradiction between running an industry and enjoying nature. It just has to be done carefully," he said. "Tourists don't come to Lofoten to see oil platforms in the midnight sun."

A ban on seismic surveys in the cod spawning season early each year and use of sub-sea installations were among measures that would protect fish stocks and tourism if the planned assessment gave a green light, he said.

A government report suggested that oil and gas in Lofoten could create 400 to 1,100 new jobs to the northwestern region. Hammerfest to the north has boomed as the landing area for gas from Statoil's (STL.OL) Snoehvit field, he noted.

"The longer you wait, the fewer benefits you get," he said. "And there hasn't been an accident like the Gulf of Mexico here - knock on wood." He rapped his knuckles on a wooden table for good luck.


Oil output by Norway, the world's number seven exporter, fell to 1.5 million barrels per day in January and even a string of big finds, set to come online in the second half of the decade, will only halt the rate of decline.

"The industry needs access to new areas on a regular basis to sustain activities," said Einar Gjelsvik, chief executive of Noreco, an oil producer. (NOR.OL)

Lofoten could hold 8 percent of Norway's undiscovered oil and gas resources, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate says.

It says that seismic tests have identified 50 prospects off Lofoten that could hold recoverable reserves or around 1.27 billion barrels of oil equivalent.

"We are developing new technology to reduce the risk," said Leif Borge, CFO of Aker Solutions (AKSO.OL). "Down the road, it's probably an important area."

Norway's worst oil spills were the Ekofisk Bravo blowout in the North Sea in 1977 that spilt 80,000 barrels and a spill of 27,500 barrels at the Statfjord field.

"You can never be relaxed about safety but you can see that Norway's controls are so much better than the Gulf of Mexico," said Geoff Turbott, CFO at Lundin Petroleum (LUPE.ST). "Opening the area is many years away and even from then, the first drilling is 3-4 years away."

An opinion poll by InFact in February showed that 49 percent of almost 1,100 people in Nordland county, which includes Lofoten, opposed oil and gas production off the islands with 34 percent in favour and others undecided.

It also showed that 44 percent favoured an environmental impact assessment with 43 percent opposed. Lofoten's people will be consulted but will not decide on oil and gas.

Lofoten has Arctic winter darkness that complicates drilling but the warm Gulf Stream current keeps it ice free. It is warmer than where the Exxon Valdez tanker ran aground off Alaska in 1989, even though it is further north.

Less chilly waters mean any oil would break down faster. "The problems for drilling here are the fish, the birds and the coastline," said Truls Gulowsen, head of Greenpeace Norway. "It's not typical of the Arctic."

The relative warmth makes Norway an exception for Arctic drilling - Shell has abandoned drilling off Alaska for this year after a string of setbacks in 2012.

Tourism operators fear that oil and gas could undermine business. "The oil can wait. We have had some big oil finds in recent years," said Ola Skjeseth, the biggest local hotel manager who runs 500 beds around Lofoten.

He said he was especially opposed to any oil or gas terminal on the islands, saying it would contradict publicly funded advertising campaigns that call Lofoten "the world's most beautiful coast" with white beaches and saw-tooth mountains.

And in winter, more tourists are starting to visit, hoping to see the northern lights, particles from the sun that can produce a show of green, pink and violet across the night sky.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's decision to favour an environmental impact study aligns Labour with the opposition right-wing Conservatives and the Progress Party. That makes a study likely after the September election, unless the balance of power falls to a small party opposed to drilling.

Mayor Holst said that a melt of Arctic sea ice caused by global warming was a bigger environmental threat than oil and gas because it raising risks of shipwrecks, including tankers, on a likely new route between the Pacific and the Atlantic.

That would be a turnaround for Lofoten, which has sometimes benefited from shipwrecks. Some old buildings in Svolvaer are built with timber washed from 19th century Russian wrecks - cold means trees don't grow big and thick enough on the islands.

(Editing by William Hardy)

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BlackBerry plans security feature for Android, iPhone

A BlackBerry salesperson displays a BlackBerry Z10 during the launch of the BlackBerry 10 smartphone in Mumbai February 25, 2013. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

A BlackBerry salesperson displays a BlackBerry Z10 during the launch of the BlackBerry 10 smartphone in Mumbai February 25, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Vivek Prakash

By Euan Rocha

TORONTO | Fri Mar 15, 2013 10:48am EDT

TORONTO (Reuters) - BlackBerry will offer technology to separate and make secure both work and personal data on mobile devices powered by Google Inc's Android platform and by Apple Inc's iOS operating system, the company said on Thursday.

The new feature could help BlackBerry sell high-margin services to enterprise clients even if many, or all, of their workers are using smartphones made by BlackBerry's competitors. That may be crucial for the company as it has lost a vast amount of market share to the iPhone and to Android devices, such as Samsung Electronics Co's (005930.KS) Galaxy line.

Jefferies analyst Peter Misek said he expects BlackBerry's device management software to gain traction this year, and boost revenue next year.

"Supporting devices with the best, most secure, and easiest-to-use mobile solution should enable RIM to transform into what we believe is an attractive model," he said in a note to clients.

The offering could help BlackBerry shore up its profitable services business. BlackBerry's shares plunged in December after it said it would change the way it charges for services, cutting fees for customers that do not need advanced security and other enhanced features.

The new Secure Work Space feature will be available before the end of June, and will be managed through BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10, the platform that allows BlackBerry's corporate and government clients to handle devices using different operating systems on their networks.

BlackBerry said the feature fences off corporate email, calendar, contacts, tasks, memos, web browsing and document editing from personal apps and content, which could be less secure.


In a bid to regain market share and return to profit, BlackBerry introduced a new line of smartphones powered by its BlackBerry 10 operating system earlier this year.

The touch screen version, dubbed the Z10, is on sale in more than 20 countries, while a device called the Q10, with a physical keyboard, will be available in April.

The new devices have a feature called Balance, which keeps corporate and personal data separate. It allows information technology departments to manage the corporate content on a device, while ensuring privacy for users, who can store and use personal apps and content on the same phone without corporate oversight.

With Secure Work Space, "we're extending as many of these (Balance) features as possible to other platforms," David Smith, BlackBerry's head of mobile enterprise computing, said in a statement.

BlackBerry's move comes as Samsung, whose Galaxy devices have gained great popularity, attempts to make itself a more viable option for business customers with security features such as Samsung Knox and SAFE, or Samsung for Enterprise.

BlackBerry said Secure Work Space means clients would not need to configure and manage expensive virtual private network VPN.L infrastructure in order to give workers' devices access to data and applications that reside behind corporate firewalls.

"Secure Work Space also offers the same end-to-end encryption for data in transit as we have offered on BlackBerry for many years, so there is no need for a VPN," Peter Devenyi, head of enterprise software, said in an interview.


The new feature could also help stem declines in BlackBerry's service revenue. That business has long been a cash cow for BlackBerry because of the large clients that pay to use its extensive network and security offerings.

However, the company has been under pressure to reduce its infrastructure access fees, and opted to do so during the transition to BlackBerry 10. Due to the changes, BlackBerry's service revenue is expected to decline over the course of this year.

Giving its large array of corporate clients the ability to manage BlackBerry devices, along with Android smartphones and iPhones on their networks might encourage both corporate and government clients to continue to pay for and use BlackBerry's device management services.

BlackBerry plans to report quarterly results on March 28.

Last week, Chief Executive Thorsten Heins said sales of the Z10 had surpassed BlackBerry's expectations in emerging markets such as India, where cheaper entry-level phones are typically popular.

On Wednesday, the company said it had received an order for 1 million BlackBerry 10 smartphones - the largest order it has ever had from a single customer - and its shares jumped.

BlackBerry's volatile stock closed up 8.2 percent at $15.65 on the Nasdaq on Wednesday, while its Toronto-listed shares rose by a similar margin to C$16.04.

The shares pared gains on Thursday, falling 2.3 percent to $15.29 in late morning trading on the Nasdaq. In Toronto, its shares were 2 percent lower at C$15.72. (Reporting by Euan Rocha and Allison Martell; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, Lisa Von Ahn and Peter Galloway)

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