News Archive - January 2003

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Tricolor may remain in Channel until autumn: Although many had hoped the sunken freighter Tricolor would be removed from the Channel - one of the world's busiest shipping lanes - by May, it could remain there much longer. Citing bad weather and the ship's size, Smit Salvage, which will probably be awarded the contract to clear the wreck, has moved its schedule back until early August or September. Salvage efforts will also be hampered by traffic in the area. Three vessels have already hit the wreck, and thousands of birds and other wildlife have been harmed by spilled oil. See "Wreck to remain 'until autumn'," Samuel Smith, BBC News Online, 1/31/03.

BAE Systems and Thales to build carrier: UK's BAE Systems and France's Thales have won the Royal Navy's contract to build two new aircraft carriers. Thales will provide the main design, with BAE Systems as the lead; most of the work will take place in the UK. The contract is worth almost $5 billion. The two carriers will be built in several sections at several different shipyards, and will be brought together for final assembly in Rosyth. Some critics have doubts about the "shotgun marriage" between the two contractors, but unions have welcomed the decision. See "BAE Systems wins carrier deal," BBC News, 1/30/03.

Opposition to Fore River shipyard sale: The Maritime Administration has received criticism over their auction of the Quincy Shipyard. The winning bid was submitted by auto dealer Daniel Quirk, who was allowed to enter the bidding only hours before the auction. Officials were hoping the land would be used for economic development, industry, and job creation, but fear that Quirk will use the property as a parking lot. Although Quirk has no firm plans yet for the property, he has assured people he plans to do more than store cars there. See "Criticism mounts over shipyard sale," Robert Preer, The Boston Globe, 1/30/03.

Piracy is up: The vulnerability of shipping to terrorist attacks is highlighted in a report on piracy and other criminal attacks at sea issued by the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB). 370 attacks on shipping at sea were reported in 2002 - up from 335 in 2001. Most attacks occurred while ships were at anchor. Indonesia again experienced the highest number of attacks, with 103 reported incidents in 2002. Piracy attacks in Bangladesh ranked second highest with 32 attacks and India was third with 18 attacks. In South America, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Guyana all showed a marked increase in attacks. IMB recommended that port authorities designate approach channels under coast guard or police supervision from which all unauthorized craft would be banned. See "Global Ship Piracy Up Again, Terrorism Feared-IMB," Stefano Ambrogi, Reuters at ABC News.com, 1/30/03.

Tricolor is hit for a third time: The car carrier Tricolor, which has been hit by two ships since it sank in the English Channel in December - and had a couple of other close calls - has now been hit by a salvage tug contracted to remove oil from the partially-submerged ship. The tug was picked up by a wave and hit the wreck on a tank holding oil. The crack was patched up and the oil lieak contained early on January 23. It is not clear how much fuel seeped out. See "Third Ship Hits Sunken Tricolor in English Channel," Reuters at Excite News, 1/27/03.

The US Commission on Ocean Policy: The US Commission on Ocean Policy knows that the nation's oceans, coasts and marine resources are in trouble. Pollution, coastal development and intensive fishing have caused severe harm to many US marine ecosystems and to the economies of many coastal areas. But consensus on how to reshape policies to preserve and revitalize the environmental and economic health of the oceans is proving elusive - and the Commission's final report is due in less than six months. The Commission was created by The Oceans Act of 2000, with a mandate to develop a comprehensive national ocean policy that balances the environmental and economic issues affecting oceans and coastlines. Currently, ocean policy is a mix of federal, state and local authorities and regulations. Although charged with providing a path forward for ocean policy at the federal level, the commission is trying to align its recommendations with many of the existing state and local structures that are in place. See "U.S. Oceans Commission Wrestles With New Policies," J.R. Pegg, Environment News Service, 1/24/03.

Spain faces another oil spill: An oil barge sank off southern Spain on January 21. Salvage teams saved two crew members from the ship, but the captain was found dead, and the barge sank as it was being towed toward the port of Algeciras. The ship went down a mile from the Spanish coast in about 150 feet of water. Spain was quick to react to this threat of a new environmental disaster. Inspections of the hull indicate that the slick from the ship appears to have come from the ship's engines, and not its cargo. Thick diesel oil has already reached the shores of Gibraltar. See "Sunken Spanish barge leaking oil; captain found dead," Daniel Flynn, Reuters at Environmental News Network, 1/22/03.

Commercial seafarers disappearing: The US merchant fleet used to be the largest in the world. In 1951, the Sailors' Union of the Pacific had about 9,000 members. Today, there are just 800 members, and many are close to retirement. Last year, US ships carried less than 4% of the cargo entering and leaving US ports, according to the Maritime Administration. What little work there is would disappear if not for the 1920 Jones Act, which comes under regular attack by international and US business interests. Maritime Administrator Capt. William Schubert and others view the nation's dependence on foreign ships and crews as a security risk, especially now in the context of terrorism alerts and the possibility of war in Iraq. See "America's Dwindling Merchant Fleet Is Sending Out an SOS," Nancy Cleeland, Los Angeles Times, 1/19/03.

Northwest Passage opens up: Climate experts are predicting that the Northwest Passage may be completely free of ice during the summer in some fifty years. This once-deadly route, which would shave nearly 5,000 miles off the trip from Europe to Asia, has already seen ships passing through, and may soon attract cruise ships, oil supertankers, and even US warships. The biggest concern is an oil spill in places more pristine and harder to reach than Alaska's Prince William Sound, only now recovering from the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster. Although Canada has stringent shipping rules for its northern waters, compliance is currently voluntary. Another concern is illegal fishing. See "Melting Ice, Winds of Change," Usha Lee McFarling, Los Angeles Times, 1/19/03.

Norwegian Cruise Line could win in Hawaii: Senator Daniel Inouye has put a provision into the federal government's spending bill that would allow Norwegian Cruise Line to re-flag three foreign-flagged cruise ships as US-flagged ships. The proposal was approved by the Senate, but may face more opposition in the House. The proposal dates to 1997 exemptions to federal law that paved the way for American Classic Voyages to run foreign-built, American-flagged ships in Hawaii while building two domestic vessels. American Classic filed for Chapter 11, Norwegian bought the two unfinished vessels, and now Norwegian is willing to run the two ships (plus one other) in Hawaii, staffed by American workers. As US-flagged vessels under Inouye's proposal, the two "Project America" ships would not have to meet the requirements of the Passenger Services Act. See "Senate OKs Inouye ship plan," Tim Ruel, Star Bulletin, 1/18/03.

Submariners eat well: Serving on a submarine, for up to 90 days at a time, is considered to be one of the toughest assignments in the military. To help make up for that, the Navy's chefs prepare what is widely considered to be the military's best food. Submarine cooks study at one of the nation's top chef schools, and often train in some of the best-known restaurants in the country. As a result, submarine crews gain an average of 10 pounds during a deployment. See "Sub Grub Is Navy's Five-Star Secret," Peter Pae, Los Angeles Times, 1/18/03.

Tough sanctions against marine pollution: In a letter to European Union governments, EU Commission President Romano Prodi stated he will consider criminal sanctions against all those responsible - including ship owners and shippers - for pollution. Currently, some EU member states simply fine offenders. The EU has already banned single-hull tankers carrying heavy fuel oil from entering EU ports in an attempt to prevent a repeat of the Prestige disaster. But Europe's biggest shipping nations, Greece, Britain and the Netherlands, are dragging their feet as they fear the rules may lead to a shortage of ships. See "EU plans tougher sanctions against marine polluters," Reuters at Yahoo!Finance, 1/18/03.

Fore River shipyard sold to auto dealer: Quincy auto dealer Daniel Quirk was the winner in the foreclosure auction of the Fore River Shipyard held by the US Maritime Administration. Quirk doesn't have specific plans for the 130-acre property, but will relocate his Quincy Auto Auction to the yard for the short term. If Quirk closes on the sale, he will pay $9 million. See "Quincy auto dealer Quirk wins bidding for shipyard," Jeffrey Krasner, The Boston Globe, 1/17/03.

Crew of fishing boat disappears: The Australian Navy discovered the long-line fishing boat High Aim No. 6 on January 9, empty, drifting, on full throttle, and with the main gas tank dry. No possible explanations have yet been proven, and many consider it a mystery. There was no blood on the boat, no evidence of a struggle, highly valuable equipment was still on board, and the hold was full of tuna. The only item missing is a high-frequency radio, suggesting that someone didn't want the crew to radio for help. But pirates would certainly have taken the boat and the tuna. See "A Fishing Boat Falls Prey to Mutiny? Pirates?," Raymond Bonner, The New York Times, 1/17/03 (free registration required).

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Live giant squid sighted: Olivier de Kersauson, taking part in the round-the-world Jules Verne Trophy, discovered a giant squid clamped to the hull of his boat off the Portuguese island of Madeira. Giant squid, Architeutis dux, have never been seen alive by scientists. The squid released its grip when de Kerauson stopped the boat. The creature was between 22 and 26 feet long. See "Giant squid 'attacks French boat'," BBC News, 1/15/03.

West Coast ports union vote: Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union finished voting Monday on a contract covering West Coast ports. The votes will be tallied January 22. The six-year contract only needs a simple majority to be approved, and would go into effect immediately. Included is no-cost health insurance, a 60-percent pension increase, and a pay raise. See "Longshoreman Vote on West Coast Contract," Associated Press at Newsday.com, 1/13/03.

Baltic sea lanes blocked by ice: Thick ice created by lower temperatures than have been seen in decades has hampered cargo deliveries in most Baltic ports. The worst hit was the port of St. Petersburg, Russia, which had about 60 vessels waiting outside, with another hundred stuck inside. Ten icebreakers were called in to free the ships. See "Ice blocks cargo traffic at St Petersburg port," Reuters at Yahoo Finance, 1/14/03. The Gulf of Finland is completely ice-bound, and all but one of Finland's icebreakers are in operation. Even if the weather changes, the Gulf is expceted to be difficult for at least two weeks, due to packed up ice. Researcher Jouni Vainio of the Finnish Maritime Administration believes the ice will remain for at least another two months. See "Gulf of Finland completely frozen over," Helsingin Sanomat, 1/13/03.

McMurdo Station faces extreme ice conditions: Normally, the National Science Foundation's logistics and science hub in Antarctica, McMurdo Station, is about 15 miles from open water. Harsh ice conditions currently place the station about 40 miles from the ice edge. As a result, the US Coast Guard vessel Healy is being sent to join the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Sea, already deployed to the Station, to help ensure that resupply and refueling ships can reach the scientists. See "Facing Extreme Ice Conditions, Coast Guard, NSF Deploy Second Icebreaker to Antarctica," National Science Foundation, 1/13/03.

Prestige tanker in good condition: Apostolos Mangouras, captain of the sunken tanker Prestige, has stated that the vessel had been in "perfect condition" and "very well maintained" before sinking. Mangouras believes that something struck the ship, creating a crack, and causing the vessel to list 25 to 30 degrees. A poorly-welded hull section has also been named the culprit. See "Captain: Sunken oil tanker suffered blow," Associated Press at The State.com, 1/08/03.

Meanwhile, patches of oil have washed ashore in northern Portugal. Tests are being run to determine if the oil is from the Prestige. See "Portuguese tidy up as oil spills further," The Sydney Morning Herald, 1/08/03.

Port of Montreal gets gamma-ray scanner: The Port of Montreal, Canada has installed a new gamma-ray machine. The VACIS - Vehicle And Cargo Inspection System - penetrates deeper than a traditional X-ray machine, is more reliable, more mobile, and can display the contents of a large container in less than a minute. A VACIS machine was installed in Vancouver in 1999, where it allowed for a 1,200 increase in the numbers of containers inspected - although no significan seizures were made. See "Port gets $2-million spying machine," Catherine Solyom, The Gazette, at Canada.com, 1/08/03.

Passenger-only ferry plan revived in Seattle: Kitsap Transit has hired Art Anderson & Associates to update a 1999 plan to implement passenger-only ferry service between West Sound and Seattle. The proposal was originally written after Washington State Ferries first threatened to terminate its fast-ferry service more than three years ago. It is being revisited now that the State will fail to collect taxes from the failed Referendum 51. The study is exploring smaller and lighter boats, which have lower wakes. See "Kitsap Transit will update its '99 foot-ferry plan," Christine Morente, SunLink.com, 1/08/03.

Russia will lose part of its Navy: Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov, Russia's senior Navy officer, has announced that one-fifth of its ships will have to be scrapped. For the past six years, the navy has received only 12 percent of its required budget. Decommissioning dozens of vessels should free up funds for existing ships, and potentially pay for new ships in the future. In 2001, President Vladimir Putin approved a plan to restore Russia's naval forces, but since then, various cuts have been made in the navy's budget. The plan is now seen as an attempt by Putin to restore the morale of a navy still devastated by the loss of the Kursk. See "Cash-Strapped Russia To Scrap One-Fifth Of Its Navy," Patrick Goodenough, CNSNews.com, 1/07/03.

Network for Navy war officers: The Surface Warfare Officer Network (SWONET), which debuted a year ago, is a Web portal for Navy surface warfare officers to exchange information with other officers, get training documents, and stay in touch with family and friends. The network was created as a way for the Navy to communicate better with junior officers. Discussion groups are the most popular feature. Connection speeds on the network vary greatly between some of the Navy's smallest ships - which have a fraction of the bandwidth of a home dial-up connection - and larger ships and command posts, where video streaming is available. See "Web site links Navy war officers," Sonja Barisic, Associated Press at The Nando Times, 12/27/02 (free registration required).

Sonar mystery solved: For decades, a mechanical twang has confounded Navy sonar operators in the North Pacific Ocean. The mystery has finally been solved, during an expedition to identify and count marine mammals near the Hawaiian Islands. Researchers at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California, have identified the noise as a call produced by minke whales. This expedition was the first to document the distribution of marine mammals within the 200-mile US Exclusive Economic Zone around the Hawaiian Islands. See "San Diego-based researchers uncover source of sonar puzzle," Terry Rodgers, The San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/27/02.

Prestige oil hits France: Oil from the sunken Prestige hit French beaches on January 4. Most of the tanker's oil went down with the ship, and has been leaking from the wreck at a rate that could keep it a hazard for many months. France has taken over from Spain in coordinating the clean-up at this point. Spanish media have estimated the oil slicks moving towards France cover an area the size of New York City. See "Cleanup boats rush to aid as oil mars French coast," The New Zealand Herald, 01/05/03.

The provincial court of A Coruna is keeping the ship's captian, Apostolous Mangouras, in jail with bail set at $3.1 million, saying there is evidence he disobeyed Spanish authorities in refusing to have the tanker towed away from the coast. The court is also urging investigations into whether government decisions during the crisis made matters worse. Some experts believe there would have been less damage if the Prestige had been towed into port and the oil pumped off. But Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar insisted no port would have accepted a ship in such condition. See "Spanish court keeps tanker captain in jail," Associated Press at CNN.com, 01/04/03.

DDG 93 to be christened: DDG 93, soon to be christened Chung-Hoon, is the 20th Aegis destroyer built for the US Navy by Northrop Grumman's Ship Systems Sector. Construction began on January 17, 2001, and the ship will be commissioned in 2004 after dockside and at-sea testing. The christening is scheduled for January 11 at 10 a.m. CST at Ingalls Operations; the public is invited. The ship honors Rear Adm. Gordon P. Chung-Hoon, (1910-1979), recipient of the Navy Cross for his courageous leadership after a devastating kamikaze attack in 1945 left several of his crew dead and his ship, USS Sigsbee (DD 502), severely crippled. See "New Aegis Destroyer to be Christened Chung-Hoon at Northrop Grumman," Stockhouse USA, 01/03/03.

Channel sinking: The cargo ship Tricolor, which sank after it collided with the container ship Kariba in the English Channel on December 14, was carrying 3,000 luxury cars - estimated to be worth more than the ship itself. The wreck is lying just below the surface of the water in the middle of one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. The cargo ship Nicola collided with the sunken Tricolor on December 16, but was able to go to Hamburg under its own power. At least two other vessels have had near misses with the sunken ship, and on January 1 the cargo ship Vicky ran onto the ship and was stuck for several hours. Apparently, the crew was unaware of the problem, although officials have released adequate warnings. See "Crash ship crew 'oblivious' of wreck," BBC News, 01/02/03.

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