News Archive - March 2003

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Kvaerner Philadelphia Shipyard floats a boat: On March 30, 2003, the container ship Manukai was floated out of a flooded dry dock at Kvaerner Philadelphia Shipyard, and then maneuvered into another nearby dock for its final construction phase. This is the first ship to be built in Philadelphia in 34 years. See "Shipyard marks milestone with cargo vessel's debut," Nancy Petersen, Philadelphia Inquirer, 03/30/03.

Coast Guard settles into new role: On March 1, the Coast Guard was transferred from the Department of Transportation to the new Department of Homeland Security. Their previous focus on boater safety, and search and rescue has now changed to homeland security. Coast Guard officials insist they haven't abandoned other duties. But many analysts say that even working at their current heightened capacity, the Coast Guard's efforts for maritime security are still insufficient. The job is simply too big. See "On the nation's water, a daunting new war against terror for the Coast Guard," Verena Dobnik, Associated Press at Cleveland.com, 3/28/03.

EU tries to prevent oil spills: In December, EU governments agreed to ban single-hulled ships like the Prestige from carrying heavy crude, but that agreement was not legally binding and application has been patchy. EU transport ministers met again on March 27, and formally agreed to ban all single-hull oil tankers using EU ports and vessels flying European flags around the world. The ban will take effect by July, if it gains quick approval from the European Parliament. The EU will press the 162-nation International Maritime Organization to make the ban global when it meets in July in London. See "EU will ban single-hull tankers in response to Spanish spill," Associated Press at USA Today, 3/27/03.

Salvage effort for stricken ship: The RMS Mulheim was traveling from Cork to Lubeck, Germany, when she ran aground between Land's End and Sennen on March 22. The crew were airlifted to safety, and the leaking diesel fuel has dispersed, but authorities are having a difficult time clearing the wreck of its cargo - scrap plastic, which was being taken to a landfill. The vessel itself is not expected to survive the salvage operation and incoming storms, and a spokesman for the Environment Agency is calling it "a damage limitation exercise." A barge, a conveyer belt, and a pump will all be used to try to clear as much of the scrap away as possible. See "Bid to Remove Cargo from Stricken Ship," Louise Barnett, PA News at Scotsman.com, 3/27/03.

Pacificat fast ferries sell for US $13 million: Three high-speed aluminum-hulled vessels that were once considered the elite of the B.C. Ferries fleet were sold at auction for $19.2 million Canadian on March 24. They were built with $454 million of British Columbia taxpayers' money. Washington Marine Group, the contractor that did 70 percent of the work on the ships, bought them in less than 10 minutes, in an international, unreserved auction. The ships suffered propulsion problems, were built with vehicle decks that couldn't accommodate trucks and at 37 knots, their designed operating speed, they washed out shorelines and damaged docks. Unions representing ferry and marine workers were unsuccessful in delaying the auction. They argued the Liberal government had not explored other alternatives to keep the ferries in service and maximize the return to taxpayers. See "B.C. fast ferries buyer identified," CBC News, 3/25/03.

Chinese women train for a career at sea: The few women sailors currently operating in China are old, so the new group of female maritime trainees that started on March 16 are noteworthy. Like men, the women have to be admitted to a maritime university, and pass a physical exam, but apart from a height requirement, there is no reason women can't do the job. Cao Huichang, captain of the training vessel Yu Feng, said that today the daily work of a vessel, such as piloting and scanning, seldom requires a sailor to use physical strength. Some of the female trainees are following in their fathers' footsteps. See "Women Maritime Trainees All at Sea," Wu Nanlan, China Internet Information Center, 3/24/03.

Port security funding: US Senators Ernest F. Hollings (D-SC) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have reached a compromise that has led the Senate to support a plan to provide $1 billion a year for port security. President Bush's budget recommendation called for only $200 million. Hollings had been pushing a plan to get the money by cutting Bush's proposed tax reduction plan. Graham agreed to the plan only when the tax cuts were left alone. Instead, the money would come from future federal budgets. The House must also approve the additional funding. See "Senate approves port security funding," Associated Press at The State.com, 3/22/03.

So far war is not delaying oil tankers: So far, oil tankers are loading with no delays at major Gulf ports, even as US-led forces are going into Iraq. Shippers have said the only real impact of the war so far is a rise in insurance rates. But these rises are still much smaller than in the 1991 Gulf War. See "Gulf oil loadings smooth as troops advance," Reuters at Gulf News, 3/22/03.

Pacific Sky needs repairs: Corrosion has caused vertical splits down the intersections of the bulkhead and each side of the hull on P&O's cruise liner Pacific Sky. The corrosion was hidden by vertical ducts. Large pieces of steel plate are now being cut out of each side of the hull and replaced at Babcock's shipyard at the Devonport naval base in Aukland. Routine repairs last month in a Brisbane drydock were inspected on March 3 by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which has sent its most senior ship surveyor to Auckland to view the latest discoveries. A Lloyds certifier cleared a temporary repair which got the ship to Aukland, and is also overseeing current repairs. P&O is planning the ship will be ready for a Pacific cruise scheduled to leave on April 13. See "Free trips still on offer as ship cut apart," Mathew Dearnaley and Jo-Marie Brown, The New Zealand Herald, 3/21/03.

Spain to sue ABS over the Prestige disaster: According to shipping industry sources, the Spanish government will sue ABS over the Prestige disaster. Spanish authorities have made plain recently that they would go on the offensive against those they hold responsible for the incident, including ABS, in other jurisdictions around the world. The circumstances of the Prestige casualty and similar law suits against class societies in the past would suggest 'negligent misrepresentation' as the main cause of action. Executives at ABS were unavailable for comment, but the company has argued that Spain ensured the vessel's destruction in denying the ship safe refuge. See "Spain hires US firm to sue ABS over Prestige," Lloyds List at Hoover's Online, 3/20/03.

RISK Alert system in Philadelphia: RISK Alert, a new system being tested in the Philadelphia area, monitors the massive volumes of cargo crossing oceans on thousands of huge ships registered in many countries. Each law enforcement unit can specify which situations it wants to know about - such as the presence of certain crew members or deviation from planned schedules or routes. It also can choose how the warnings will be delivered - by fax, computer and even radio pager. Although testing of RISK Alert will not be complete until May, government and business officials already are discussing its expansion to other seaports. See "Security tightens by monitoring ships and cargo," Henry J. Holcomb, Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/19/03.

Submarines too expensive?: Pentagon Undersecretary for Acquisition Edward "Pete" Aldridge has suggested shipyards are billing the Navy for excessive costs on the Virginia-class submarine program. The submarines are built jointly by Northrop Grumman Newport News in Virginia and the Electric Boat yard owned by General Dynamics in Groton, Connecticut. A spokesman for the shipyard team had no immediate comment, but company executives have said repeatedly that the Navy's low rate of production forces higher costs. At the rate of one submarine per year, they have said, material cannot be bought in large enough quantities to save money. They have called for more authority to buy parts in bulk. See "Pentagon: Sub builders over charge," David Lerman, Dailypress.com, 3/13/03.

Fishing is country's most dangerous profession: The latest statistics from the US Department of Labor state that fishing has the highest fatality rate of any occupation - at a time when the Coast Guard is focusing more on homeland security than on safety. A USA TODAY analysis of US Coast Guard statistics reveals that Alaska's waters are the most deadly; in accidents with a known cause, about 50% of the fatalities occurred when a boat sank or capsized; about 35% of all deaths occurred in January, April and December; and while there are more small fishing boats being used, a greater number of fishermen usually die in accidents involving large boats. The Coast Guard recently admitted that the number of fishing deaths ''is still unacceptably high in comparison to other segments of the marine industry.'' According to a November 2002 General Accounting Office report, the number of dockside examinations of fishing boats in the Coast Guard region extending from Maine to New Jersey dropped 50% after Sept. 11. See "Despite law, fishermen face deadliest job risks," Gary Stoller, USA Today, 3/11/03.

St. Lawrence Seaway opening delayed: Severe ice conditions have forced Canadian and US officials to delay the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway by six days. The Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System will now open on March 31, 2003. This is the first recorded delay in the waterway's reopening since its inauguration in 1959. See "Ice Delays Spring Opening of St. Lawrence Seaway," Reuters at Yahoo!News, 3/11/03.

Ports need more funds for security: Although Congress has allocated about $500 million for securing the nation's seaports, experts argue that billions of dollars are needed, to track goods from the point of origin to their destination. Ports are particularly vulnerable because they are only equipped to inspect about 3 percent of the containers that enter the US every day. And, since more than 90 percent of goods imported to the US arrive by sea, shutting down the port system would devastate commerce, and the economy. So far, no one has decided who should pay for security upgrades. See "U.S. ports need billions more than allocated for terror prevention," V. Dion Haynes, KRT NEWSFEATURES at The State.com, 3/10/03.

An article in Hoovers Online (from Lloyds List) provides a detailed overview of President Bush's latest budget proposal for fiscal 2004. It includes information on ports, the Army Corps of Engineers, Customs, the Coast Guard, the Maritime Administration, and shipbuilding. See "Budget reveals winners and losers in security gold rush," 3/9/03.

Potential war should not affect oil shipments: Ola Lorentzon, managing director of Norway's Frontline, the world's largest oil tanker firm, is not concerned by a potential US-led attack on Iraq. He stated "The consensus in the industry is that Iraq just does not have the striking power to hurt other producers." Iraq has no navy and controls only a small stretch of coastline in the northern reaches of the Gulf. Military analysts agree there is little chance of disruption in strategic choke points, like the distant Strait of Hormuz. See "Business as usual in war say oil shippers," Gulf Daily News, 3/7/03.

Safe havens for troubled tankers: Most agree that despite all current and planned attempts at amelioration, the sunken tanker Prestige is likely to go on polluting coastlines for an indefinite time, making it one of Europe's worst and probably most expensive environmental disasters. Most also agree that, had Spain allowed the stricken tanker to sail to a port, the potential for damage could have been lessened. The accident has again brought up the idea of providing safe havens for ships in trouble, and setting higher standards for ship construction, and inspections. So far, countries are making slow progress toward a solution. See "When a tanker's in trouble, where can it go? Nowhere," Barry James, International Herald Tribune, 3/6/03.

NATO expands naval operations: Reacting to the latest assessments of terrorist threats to several shipping lines in Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has decided to expand its naval operations against maritime terrorism. The NATO warships have undertaken a new mission to escort Allied civilian ships through the Straits of Gibraltar. This new mission is part of NATO's continuing support for the campaign against terrorism, and is a significant extension of the existing Operation Active Endeavour. See the press release "NATO escorts shipping in Gibraltar," NATO, 3/5/03.

Prestige casualty analyses: Because any physical evidence was destroyed or lost, the initiating cause of the damage to the tanker Prestige will probably never be determined. But ABS has released a comprehensive report that explores various theories in detail, in the hopes that the information will improve safety at sea, and prevent future accidents. The Report concludes that, "Had the vessel been afforded a safe refuge...it would have remained intact and afloat for a sustained period, certainly long enough to lighter the oil cargo off the vessel and prepare it for subsequent repair." The Report further calls for international guidelines for safe refuge of damaged vessels. For an overview see the press release "ABS Releases Report on "Technical Analyses Related to the Prestige Casualty"," ABS, 3/4/03. The report is available for download as a PDF file (1.2 MB).

Teaming effort established for LCS program: Fred Moosally, president of Lockheed Martin's Naval Electronics & Surveillance Systems, has stated that his company's new team created to capture the US Navy's Littoral Combat Ship program "harnesses world class expertise in naval architecture, LCS-sized ship construction, systems engineering and program management to help the Navy fill its littoral warfare needs." Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor of the team, with Gibbs & Cox, Bollinger Shipyards and Marinette Marine sharing significant roles as principal team members. See "Lockheed Martin, Gibbs & Cox, Bollinger Shipyards and Marinette Marine Team For Navy LCS Program," PRNewswire at Hoover's Online, 3/4/03.

24 hour-a-day terminal operations studied: The Port of Long Beach maritime services committee is considering a study that could lead to 24 hour-a-day terminal operations. The Waterfront Coalition, a collective of 65 major US importers, is hoping to generate sufficient truck trips to support second- and third-shift operations in the ports. One of the major gains of the program would be to help freeway congestion. The trucking industry has long requested that the ports' marine terminals remain open for longer hours. See "Plan to Run 24-Hour Port Is Studied in Long Beach, Calif.," Hoover's online, 3/1/03.

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