A round-up of this month's engineering news from around the world with a regional focus on the Middle East.
General Motors announced it will stop making cars and engines in Australia by the end of 2017 due to high production costs and competition. The decision directly affects 2,900 workers employed by GM. The decision comes after it was revealed its Australian subsidiary Holden, once a dominant player in Australia’s car market, has lost its position to imported cars.
A new family of compact hybrid rockets under development by Norwegian rocket propulsion specialist Nammo will provide thrust for the Bloodhound supersonic car following the decision to partner with them rather than UK-US firm Falcon Project, who had previously validated the concept of using a hybrid rocket in the car.
Russia’s first Arctic offshore field Prirazlomnoye started production of oil, almost a decade behind its initial schedule. Russian authorities detained 30 Greenpeace activists in September who carried out a protest against the development by attempting to scale Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya offshore ice-resistant stationary platform.
Nigeria installed eight automated surveillance towers in its waters, equipped with high-frequency radio and long-range cameras able to spot ships up to 30 miles away, in order to tackle a surge in pirate attacks. The data the towers collect is beamed to a central naval-intelligence room and then checked against ships’ registration, flag and other information.
China temporarily lifted a 14-year ban on selling foreign-made video game consoles, opening the world’s third largest video game market to foreign firms. But analysts predict console makers may struggle to take advantage in a country where an entire generation has grown up without consoles, leaving PC games with almost two-thirds of the market.
7 to 10 January
The Consumer Electronics Show saw the unveiling of everything from health monitoring wristbands to mobile apps that can park cars and 3D printers that produce sweets. But the organisers also warned that global spending on technology will slip 1 per cent in 2014 as falling smartphone and tablet prices undercut sales growth.
Italian officials announced that the crippled cruise ship Costa Concordia will be floated off the seabed in June so it can be towed away to be scrapped. Thirty huge air-filled balloons will lift the 114,500-tonne vessel off the seabed near Giglio, where it has lain since being hauled upright in a complex ‘parbuckling’ operation in September.
Underdog Saab won a £2.75bn deal to supply 36 new fighter jets to Brazil, securing the biggest foreign contract in its history. The Swedish company defeated rivals including US Boeing and French Dassault, as it offered better pricing and favourable technology transfer conditions. Sources said the chances of Boeing, previously a favourite in the 10-year negotiations, were damaged by the US spying scandal.
A 745-mile pipeline project carrying oil from Canada’s Alberta province to the coast of British Colombia has been recommended for construction by an expert panel despite fierce opposition from local inhabitants and environmentalists. Energy company Enbridge, proposing the £3.5bn pipeline, is expected to hear the final decision on the project from the Canadian government by the summer of 2014.
Alan Turing, the man who cracked the German Second World War Enigma code, was given a royal pardon 61 years after his conviction for homosexuality. The 1952 conviction for ‘gross indecency’ led to Turing, one of the godfathers of modern computing, losing his job at the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) where he had continued to work after the war’s end. He committed suicide one year later.