News Archive - February 2003

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Collisions in the Baltic Sea: Finland has been concerned about ice levels in the Baltic Sea this season - the area has been experiencing some of the thickest pack ice in memory. The country has sent its own icebreakers to keep sea lanes open, and asked that other countries ensure their own ships remain safe. The icy conditions have caused two ships to collide with each other twice this week. Neither the tanker Yevgeniy Titov nor the cargo ship Bremer Saturn have been damaged badly, and no oil spills have been reported, but the ships are still stuck in the ice. See "Oil tanker, cargo ship collide again in Baltic Sea," Planet Ark, 2/28/03.

Seattle area passenger ferry service will continue: The Washington state Transportation Commission voted last week to eliminate the Washington State Ferries' foot ferry fleet effective June 15. But the passenger only ferry service between West Sound and Seattle will be bolstered by over $400K in federal funds, approved by the Puget Sound Regional Council for use by Kitsap Transit. Most of the money is earmarked for the design of docks and floats to support the fleet, and another sum will go toward design work on the new vessel - the design work will be performed by Art Anderson Associates. Kitsap Transit hopes to have a replacement fast ferry service up and running by the summer of 2004, although some changes in state laws and local sales taxes will have to be in place before it can happen. See "Kitsap Transit Gets $442,000," Anne Pickering, The SunLink.com, 2/28/03.

Coast Guard joins Homeland Security Department: US Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge took the leadership of the US Coast Guard from US Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta  in a "change of watch" ceremony in Washington, D.C. on February 25, 2003. The Coast Guard is one of 22 government departments that will be under the auspices of Homeland Security by March 1. Mr. Ridge called the Coast Guard "one of this country's most valuable assets." See "Coast Guard joins Homeland Security Department," CNN.com, 2/26/03.

The Coast Guard has published their "Maritime Strategy for Homeland Security," (a PDF file). From the document: The Maritime Strategy addresses the Coast Guard's responsibility as the lead federal agency for the Maritime Homeland Security mission to prevent terrorist attacks, reduce America's vulnerability, and minimize the damage from attacks that do occur in the US Maritime Domain.

Ridge cites infrastructure problems: Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge addressed the nation's utilities commissioners on February 26, and warned that security is not yet good enough at many critical facilities like power plants. Ridge said the Homeland Security Department has two new units dedicated to improving the detection and prevention of terrorist attacks. The nation's seaports may be more vulnerable than airports. See "Ridge: Plant, Port Security Lacking," nbc6.net, 2/26/03.

McMurdo gets new refueling scheme: Several years' worth of unusual ice conditions in McMurdo Sound are keeping a fuel tanker from reaching its regular pier at the National Science Foundation's McMurdo Station. Instead, fuel lines have been rigged across 3 1/2 miles of sea ice to the Military Sealift Command's tanker MV Richard G. Matthiesen. The process of transferring the fuel from the Matthiesen to McMurdo is expected to take several days. See "NSF Choses Alternative Method to Refuel Its Main Antarctic Research Station," National Science Foundation, 2/26/03.

Barrow-in-Furness no longer a company town: Barrow-in-Furness, 300 miles north of London, once depended on the shipyards for employment. But despite the fact that BAE Systems won a substantial role in a contract to build two aircraft carriers in conjunction with the French company Thales Group, growth in town is being more and more driven by the service industry, and young people are leaving for better opportunities. BAE Systems denied any link between the talks about the aircraft carriers and the recent job cuts in Barrow, but some reports suggest the job cuts would show how lean the company planned to be. In addition, most of the construction will be performed by BAE's Scottish yards, leaving Barrow with a submarine contract dogged with long delays and big cost overruns. See "Job Cuts at the Shipyard Send the Young Away," Alan Cowell, The New York Times, 2/25/03 (free registration required).

Changes to shipping issues and logistics: While addressing the Freight Transport Association summit in London, Edward Emmett, president of the US National Industrial Transportation League, disclosed that while many agencies affecting shipping issues will be "substantially reassigned" to the Department of Homeland Security, those agencies will still have separate budgets until January of 2004. Until then, there may be problems with details of working with US Customs, the US Coast Guard, and others. Mr. Emmett also admitted that after the events of September 11 "the US now views its protection as everybody's business." Since the US is such a large exporter and importer, this stand is fairly reasonable. One of the biggest impacts will be felt by shippers and carriers who will now have to adjust to electronic information exchange. See "US shipper warns of conflicts over security," Financial Times Limited at Logistics Management, 2/24/03.

Opposition to Fore River shipyard sale continues: Construction executive Jay Cashman has filed suit in Boston federal court alleging the US Maritime Administration botched the auction of the Fore River Shipyard. Auto dealer Dan Quirk won the auction for $9 million, but was allowed to participate at the last minute, and doesn't plan to use it for maritime activities. Cashman bid $5.7 million. See "Losing bidders sues over shipyard auction," Associated Press at the Boston Herald, 2/20/03.

Ban on fishing techniques urged: More than 400 leading scientists are urging the United Nations to issue a moratorium on longline and gillnet fishing. More than 70 percent of global fish populations are now considered overfished or on the brink of being overfished. The criticized industrial fishing techniques not only damage targeted fish stocks, but also harm non-targeted animals. Bottom trawling has also been called ecologically harmful. In many cases, modern fishing techniques are destroying undersea habitats before scientists even have a chance to study them. A new study presented by Lance Morgan of the Marine Conservation Biology Institute and Ratana Chuenpagdee of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science compares data on the ecological impacts of the ten major commercial fishing gears used in the US. See "Ocean Crisis Caused by Destructive Fishing," Cat Lazaroff, Environment News Service, 2/18/03.

Game simulation tests Navy combat strategies: The Office of Naval Research believes that modern warfare revolves around communications networks and instant communication among a wide range of military teams aboard ships, in the air and on the ground. An ongoing simulation project at Michigan State University is helping military planners figure out how those teams function. Led by Professor John Hollenbeck, the project collects data from some 600 students a year. Results from MSU are further tested by military commanders using top secret versions of the software at the Naval War College in Rhode Island, and those results are used in full-scale war games. See "Navy learns from MSU students' play," Mike Wendland, Detroit Free Press, 2/17/03.

Ice increases danger of Russian tankers: The Baltic Sea has been experiencing some of the thickest pack ice in memory. As a result, Finland has deployed all nine of its icebreakers to keep sea lanes open. The country is also urging Russia to stop the use of unsafe tankers - specifically, the Minerva Nounou and the Stemnitsa. Although both tankers are double-hulled, they are reinforced against ice only at the bows, which makes them vulnerable to crushing from the sides. Russia has consented to providing a pair of their icebreakers when the tankers load up, but has otherwise designated them safe to operate in icy water. See "Helsinki Urges Moscow to Use Safer Oil Tankers," The Associated Press at The MoscowTimes.com, 2/13/03.

Littoral combat ship gets go-ahead: The U.S. Navy has announced it will award three contracts of up to $10 million each in July for a preliminary design concept for the new littoral combat ship (LCS), which will be part of the DD-X family of new combat ships. A formal request for proposals will be published later this month. The new warship will carry out a variety of missions close to shore, and will be able to swap out equipment modules for specific missions. Each ship should cost no more than $220 million. The Navy wants the first ship in the water as early as 2005. The Naval Sea Systems Command will host an unclassified informational session for interested companies in Washington on February 20. See "U.S. Navy moving ahead with littoral combat ship," Andrea Shalal-Esa, Reuters at Excite, 2/10/03.

Old maps showed old fishing boundary: Six US crab vessels appear to have strayed into the Russian waters of the Bering Sea because they were using dated maps. The international maritime boundary for this area was redrawn in 1991, but some computerized charts used by crabbers apparently didn't reflect that change. The six vessels had more than 220,000 pounds of crab confiscated, but the National Marine Fisheries Service doesn't plan to pursue criminal charges. See "U.S. crab vessels strayed due to dated maps," Hal Bernton, The Seattle Times, 2/9/03.

Dredging delays on the Delaware: The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection permit for the Weeks Marine Inc. disposal site is being held up by Senator Stephen M. Sweeney, who is trying to protect the Delaware River from the dredged spoils from outside of the state. Sweeney fears that Weeks will try to make more money from dirtier dredge material from New York. One ship has already bumped the river bottom, others are forced to dock only at high tide and unload before the water gets too low. Other stymied projects are at docks used by ships bringing crude oil to local refineries, at cooling-water intakes at electricity-generating stations, and at the Kvaerner Philadelphia Shipyard, where two vessels are under construction. See "Dredging of Delaware delayed by fight over N.J. permits," Henry J. Holcomb, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/7/03.

Oil tanker runs aground: An aging, single-hulled oil tanker carrying 10.6 million gallons of diesel fuel has run aground off the southern coast of Sweden. So far, no leaks have been reported. The Acushnet, a 590-foot tanker registered in the Bahamas, was passing through the Kattegat sea Friday on its way to the Atlantic when it ran aground. According to Danish naval authorities, the tanker was supposed to sail through a channel 56 feet deep, but the water was only 33 feet deep where the accident occurred. See "Diesel Tanker Runs Aground Near Denmark," The Associated Press at ABCNews.com, 2/7/03.

Security for ferries: The Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, which will go into effect in 2004, will require new measures such as security checks for passengers and vehicles, and having armed security on board. But small ferry operators on Lake Erie are concerned that the rules will treat all vessels alike. Officials assert that the regulations will take into account the differences between small ferries, cruise ships, or vessels near military bases. Edmund Welch, legislative director of the Passenger Vessel Association of Arlington, Virginia, points out that a ferry boat would be much harder to use as a weapon than the small speedboat used against the USS Cole. Running passengers through metal detectors would increase ticket costs, and slow down transportation. See "Ferries could face security checks," Associated Press at Cleveland.com, 2/7/03.

Prestige captain hailed as a hero: Apostolos Mangouras, captain of the ill-fated Prestige, is in jail on a €3 million bail. The shipping industry says the bail is set much too high, and violates his right to reasonable bail under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. They call him a hero, and say he spent seven hours on the slippery foredeck of the sinking ship, trying to avert disaster. Now a London shipping insurer is considering setting a precedent by posting bail for Mangouras on humanitarian grounds. See "Prestige captain, hailed as hero, still in jail," Daniel Trotta, Reuters at Yahoo!Finance, 2/5/03.

Although the spill continues to pollute Spanish shores, the French Nautile submarine completed its series of 18 dives to repair the sunken Prestige on February 3. Spokesman Bruno Barnouin has stated that the repairs ought to reduce the amount of oil leaking from the ship's hull by 99 per cent - but even the remaining amount being leaked is considered an environmental threat. Several different repair methods were used, and while the patches may last up to 40 years, they could deteriorate more quickly. The Spanish government is now considering several proposals to remove the oil from the tanker; a decision is expected on February 15. See "Submarine stems sunken tanker's oil leaks," Will Knight, New Scientist, 2/5/03.

A preliminary report from the Bahamas Maritime Authority suggests that Spanish authorities could have avoided much of the environmental damage by tugging the stricken oil tanker to the relative shelter of a port, rather than out to sea. But Spanish officials have defended their decision, pointing out that local port authorities refused to accept the tanker. See "Experts: Spain Wrong to Tow Stricken Tanker to Sea," Daniel Trotta, Reuters at The State.com, 2/7/03.

New gadgets secure containers: An electronic device designed by Savi Technology of California is being tested out on shipping containers in Seattle. The device tracks a container's movements, catalogs its contents, and can even call the cellphone of the port director if the container is tampered with. The company has been using similar technology to help the Defense Department track its global shipments of arms and munitions. See "Devices to secure ship containers," Eli Sanders, The Boston Globe, 2/6/03.

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