News Archive - April 2003

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New environmental initiatives cause strain: Concern has emerged that the International Maritime Organization, the regulatory body of the shipping industry, may struggle to digest new environmental intitiatives along with shipping industry associations. Andreas Chrysostomou, chairman of the Marine Environment Protection Committee, worries that his committee can't push through all the work on the table at the next meeting. 'A part of the agenda of the last meeting remains outstanding,' he said, 'at a time when we are also supposed to be finishing a convention on ballast water management, dealing with single-hull tankers, finalizing work on recycling of ships and anti-fouling paint guidelines.' His current hope is to finish the agenda at the next meeting in July, but worries that some issues may not be fully aired on a tight schedule. See "IMO under strain from green rules," Lloyd's List at Hoover's Online, 4/29/03.

Sea rescue reform: Norway plans to propose reforming maritime laws concerning the rescue of people at sea during the next meeting of the International Maritime Organization. The new rules would strengthen the docking rights of ship captains whose vessel rescues refugees in trouble at sea. The proposed reforms are triggered by the 2001 incident in which the Norwegian ship Tampa was turned away from docking in Australia after it had picked up more than 400 refugees from a sinking boat. The proposed law would allow the ship's captain to drop off refugees in the country closest to the rescue point. See "Norway to propose reform for sea rescues," The Sydney Morning Herald, 4/29/03.

EU wants to ban all single-hulled ships: The European Union plans to introduce mandatory double-hulled bunker tanks for all new vessels, including container ships. The EU has already banned single-hull tankers ahead of the deadline set by the International Maritime Organization. The justification for double-hulled ships of all sorts is that large cargo ships often carry heavy fuel oil in quantities which considerably exceed the cargo volumes of small oil tankers. See "EU to introduce double-walled bunker tanks for all ships," Business Times (Malaysia) at Hoover's Online, 4/28/03.

Foreign sailors constrained by port security: Three changes in immigration and port policy are responsible for the confinement of up to a third of foreign sailors docking at ports in Camden and Philadelphia: sailors must get visas before leaving home instead of getting a temporary permit; anyone considered a security risk for past problems is detained; and private oil terminals are enforcing their own security measures to deter potential terrorists. Rev. James Von Dreele, head of the Seamen's Church Institute, understands the need for security, but worries that foreign sailors are beginning to feel like prisoners. See "Post-Sept. 11 security leaves foreign sailors stranded," Newsday.com, 4/27/03.

Norway worried about increased oil tanker traffic: Worried about increased Russian oil traffic along the Norwegian coast, Norway has decided to seek United Nations help to force oil tankers far from land. Oslo will ask the UN's International Maritime Organization to declare the Barents Sea a PSSA (particularly sensitive sea area), like the Great Barrier Reef. PSSA status would allow Oslo to ban ships from coming within 50 nautical miles of its coast, and set demands for tanker quality. Environmental groups support the plan, although Norway's application is unlikely to be considered before 2004. See "Norway Wants Russian Tankers Far from Coast," Alister Doyle, Reuters, 4/25/03.

Cod fishing curtailed again in Canada: Almost 11 years after Canada's Department of Fisheries imposed a moratorium on cod fishing off Newfoundland, Fisheries Minister Robert Thibault announced on April 24, 2003 the outright closure of what remained of the cod fishery in Newfoundland, the Maritime provinces and Quebec. The laid-off workers are expected to be offered a "modest" compensation package. The shutdown could cost the region as much as $30 million in lost annual revenues. See "Ottawa closes East Coast cod fishery," CBC News, 4/24/03.

Finland considers stricter enforcement for oil dumping: Last year 75 cases of deliberate oil discharges were detected in Finnish waters. Punishments under Finnish law are mild, and the burden of proof is difficult. But several alternatives are being considered. The countries with shoreline on the Baltic Sea have all agreed to measures to prevent the dumping of oil and other waste at sea. Germany has started imposing quick administrative fines, which has proven a useful deterrent. Another remedy would be to extend the Finnish economic zone further into the open sea; a bill to establish such a zone is expected to go to Parliament in the autumn. See "Finland can do little to prevent deliberate oil spills at sea," Helsinki Sanomat, 4/23/03.

Port security is still an issue: While Congress has committed $8 billion to airport security, seaports have been promised only about $350 million of the more than $6 billion the Coast Guard estimates they will need in the coming 10 years to secure ports from terrorism. US Senator Fritz Hollings, (D-South Carolina), co-author of the Maritime Transportation Security Act, has tried several times to increase funds for port security, but so far he's been unsuccessful. Gary Merrick, the Coast Guard officer primarily responsible for port safety and security at the Port of Charleston, says he has nearly triple the number before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Still, in handling nearly 800,000 incoming cargo containers annually through a facility that covers about 20 square miles, Charleston continues to be "very vulnerable." A Port Security Committee here recently found more than 100 possible threats to the harbor area. The list has not been made public. See "U.S. ports still vulnerable," Daniel Machalaba, The Wall Street Journal at The State, 4/22/03.

Relaxing the "Buy American" laws: The Bush administration is asking for authority to waive domestic-purchasing requirements as part of a proposed "Defense Transformation for the 21st Century Act." Cynthia Brown, president of the American Shipbuilding Association, fears that the initiative endangers the jobs of thousands of US workers, and could leave the military at the mercy of foreign suppliers. The Pentagon has asserted there are no plans to buy major systems from foreign firms, and that the Act will provide more flexibility in purchasing. See "Shipbuilders upset that Pentagon may buy foreign goods," Dale Eisman, The Virginian-Pilot, 4/22/03.

Ballard will share underwater discoveries in real time: High-profile ocean explorer Roger Ballard has received a $500,000 federal grant to establish a system to transmit images and data from underwater research to students and other researchers around the world. Ballard, founder of the Institute for Exploration at Mystic Aquarium and discoverer of the wreck of the Titanic, said that the technology will allow his group to "take millions to the ocean floor." The first project site will be in the Black Sea and will begin transmitting in July. See "Grant will help undersea explorer share real-time discoveries," The Associated Press at The Nando Times, 4/19/03.

Hydrogen fuel power to be demonstrated: Millennium Cell, Inc., Seaworthy Systems, and Duffy Electric Boat Company are teaming up to show the utility of hydrogen fuel for generating power for ships and facilities in ports. The "Hydrogen on Demand" system is expected to be installed in a water taxi in Newport Beach, California, harbor sometime in August of this year. This new hydrogen fuel system, which generates hydrogen from sodium borohydride, minimizes many of the logistical issues associated with hydrogen as it is compatible with the existing infrastructure for liquid petroleum fuels, produces about the same amount of energy per gallon as that of gasoline, and is completely safe to produce, store, and transport. See "Millennium Cell Teams up with Seaworthy Systems & Duffy Electric Boats to Demonstrate Hydrogen on Demand in Water Taxi," Business Wire at Hoover's Online, 4/16/03.

Norwegian buys US-built cruise ships: Norwegian Cruise Line has purchased the SS Independence in a public auction from the US Maritime Administration, which took it over after American Classic Voyages Inc. declared bankruptcy. NCL has also acquired the SS United States. Although NCL has not finalized its plans for either ship, many speculate they will end up in Hawaii. NCL is putting together a Hawaii operation under the US flag, allowed by a congressional exemption based on the failure of American Classic's Project America plan to build two US-constructed cruise ships. The company said that allows it to buy and operate these recently-purchased ships. See "Norwegian buys SS Independence," Russ Lynch, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 4/15/03.

New teams established for LCS program: Mary Petryszyn, Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems' vice president of Warfare and Ship Systems Integration, has announced "Team LCS," a consortium of companies that will work on the US Navy's next-generation surface combatant - Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). Serving as the innovator of a fully integrated LCS solution, Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems will lead mission analysis, systems architecture, ship systems integration as well as leverage proven processes into the consortium. The consortium includes, among others, John J. Mullen Associates Inc., Goodrich, and Atlantic Marine. See "Raytheon Leads Team in Bid to Design Navy's New Littoral Combat Ship," PRNewswire at Hoover's Online, 4/15/03.

Textron Marine & Land of New Orleans, Louisiana, an operating unit of Textron Systems, and EDO Combat Systems of Chesapeake, Virginia, have also announced an integrated team for the US Navy's LCS program. Dick Millman, president, Textron Systems said "The Textron-EDO team brings truly unique littoral-based skills in the several most important technologies with solid foundations in all aspects of the program." The Textron-EDO LCS team includes Bell Helicopter Textron,Textron Power Transmission, VT Halter, Electronic Design (L-3 Communications), George G. Sharp, AMSEC Rosenblatt, BBN Technologies, Purvis Systems, Cyberaid, Maritime Dynamics, David M. Bourg, and Vorus and Associates. See "Textron Systems and EDO Corporation Announce Formation of Team for Navy's LCS Program," Business Wire at Hoover's Online, 4/11/03.

Mulheim salvage still has problems: The RMS Mulheim ran aground between Sennen and Land's End more than two weeks ago. Weather conditions have made salvage operations difficult. Pollution experts trying to remove cargo are now saying they will have to get rid of the platform rig set up alongside the vessel. A grab claw and other equipment from the rig have already been washed into the sea. It is feared that the rig could also end up on rocks unless it is moved. Up to half of the ship's cargo, scrap plastic, has already fallen into the sea. See "Salvage rig attempt abandoned," BBC News, 4/11/03.

EU countries propose MARPOL amendments: All fifteen Member States of the European Union have agreed on changes to provisions of the MARPOL Convention. The changes call for further acceleration of the phase-out timetable for single-hull tankers, an immediate ban on the carriage of heavy grades of oil in single-hull tankers, and for the Condition Assessment Scheme to be applied to tankers of 15 years of age and above. Studies and meetings will be held to formalize the proposal. IMO Secretary-General O'Neil expressed satisfaction at the submission of the proposals to amend the MARPOL Convention. In the aftermath of the Prestige sinking, Mr O'Neil repeatedly expressed the firm position that IMO should always and without exception be regarded as the only forum where safety and pollution prevention standards affecting international shipping should be considered and adopted. See "EU countries propose MARPOL amendments in Prestige response," IMO, 4/11/03.

Big Sunflower River is most endangered: American Rivers has named Mississippi's Big Sunflower River the nation's Most Endangered River for 2003, citing the prospect that the US Army Corps of Engineers will drain 200,000 acres of floodplain wetlands and scour more than 100 miles of river bottom to enhance production of subsidized crops. The annual America's Most Endangered Rivers report highlights acute threats to the listed rivers rather than their chronic problems. The Klamath River in Oregon and California, and the Ipswich River in Massachusetts round out the worst three. See "Most Endangered Rivers of 2003 Announced," US Newswire at Yahoo! News, 4/10/03. Or, go to the American Rivers web site.

Carnival will change ballast water handling: The Environmental Law Foundation, Bluewater Network, San Diego BayKeeper and Surfrider Foundation sued four cruise lines last year for allegedly dumping ballast water illegally in California. Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises and Holland America reached out-of-court settlements in the least few months, and Carnival Corporation has just agreed to change the way it handles ballast water. One of Carnival's two ships in California will take on fresh water as ballast, and the other will pick up and discharge water from a narrower area. None of the cruise lines admitted to wrongdoing, and all are working on technology to either treat ballast water, or determine new management methods. See "Carnival settles ballast-water case," Dale K. DuPont, The Miami Herald, 4/10/03.

France to create environmental protection zone: The French Parliament has adopted a measure to create an environmental protection zone to preserve their southern Mediterranean coast. The measure, which President Jacques Chirac is expected to sign soon, will create a protection zone extending up to 90 miles from France's Mediterranean coast. Captains of ships caught washing out oil tanks in the zone risk fines of up to $600,000, and their vessels could be seized until the fine is paid. The government expects the law to take effect before the summer. See "France takes step to punish polluters," John Leicester, Associated Press at The Boston Globe, 4/8/03.

How common is illegal dumping?: At issue is how cargo and container ships deal with waste oil, solvents and lubricants that leak and accumulate in a ship's engine room. Typically, the water and oil are separated, and the oil is stored as sludge in a tank. Some ships burn the sludge, while others store it until the ship docks, where it is off-loaded for proper disposal. Still others dump it at sea, and falsify records to cover it up. David Uhlmann, the Justice Department's environmental-crimes chief in Washington, D.C., worries that the dumping problem appears "rampant and...pervasive within the maritime industry." A National Academy of Sciences study estimated last year that ships worldwide generate 500 million gallons of this sludge. Washington inspectors suspect the study significantly underestimated the problem. Still, the organization that represents cargo vessels in Washington state argues that most shipping companies have too much to lose to commit such willful crimes. See "Ships dumping sludge at sea," Craig Welch, The Seattle Times, 4/7/03.

Fuel cell-powered submarine makes maiden voyage: The first fuel cell-powered submarine, built at the Howaldtswerke Deutsche Werft (HDW) shipyard, made its maiden voyage from the port of Kiel, Germany. The technology allows the submarine to run silently under water for two or three weeks without resurfacing. Since it doesn't generate heat or noise from exhaust fumes it is also virtually undetectable. HDW is currently owned by US investment group One Equity Partners but the technology is a key defence asset for Germany. German government restrictions may limit the technology's export potential, and the current political climate between Washington and Berlin is creating a particular problem over the US's promise to sell non-nuclear subs to Taiwan. See "Silent, deadly fuel-cell sub makes maiden voyage," Nick Tattersall, Reuters at Excite.com, 4/7/03.

Prestige clean-up: Spanish company Repsol YPF will try to remove 37,000 tons of oil from the sunken tanker Prestige in a three-step approach that has never been tried before. The Prestige, laden with 77,000 tons of oil, sprang a leak off the coast of Spain last November, and about half its load spilled into the ocean. First, Repsol will attach a valve to the wreckage, nearly 2.5 miles below the surface, and capture the fuel oil in giant bags. Next, it will build a canopy to trap oil heading for the surface. As a last resort, Repsol will try to pump oil out of the wreckage. No budget has been set for the ambitious project. See "Spanish Oil Firm to Extract Fuel from Sunk Tanker," Reuters, 4/4/03.

Salvage effort continues for RMS Mulheim cargo: Workers are still trying to remove the remaining cargo from the RMS Mulheim, which ran aground on March 22. The cleaning process is being hampered by rough seas, and the ship is in danger of breaking up. Another problem is that about half of the ship's cargo of shredded plastic has escaped. Volunteers have collected several bags of debris from nearby beaches, and an air and sea search has been launched, but wildlife experts and public groups are questioning the handling of the salvage operation. See "Bid to Track Down Grounded Ship's Escaped Cargo," Louise Barnett, PA News at Scotsman.com, 04/04/03.

Singapore collision due to 'error': The Singapore naval vessel RSS Courageous turned into the wrong shipping lane in January and had its rear crushed by the Dutch-registered ANL Indonesia. A senior director of Singapore's Maritime and Port Authority has stated that "The principal cause of the collision was the errors of judgment in assessing the situation... on the part of the RSS Courageous." The incident is described as the worst naval accident in Singapore; four servicewomen were killed and eight other people were injured. See "Singapore naval ship found responsible for collision," Xinhua News Agency, 04/04/03.

French flag plans causes uproar: Henri de Richemont, a French senator and maritime lawyer, has suggested creating a new register to replace the French Southern Antarctic Territories register. This new register would require only the captain and his second to have French nationality, while the existing register, also known as the Kerguelen register, provides for 35% of crews to have French nationality. Mr. de Richemont has argued that the Kerguelen register is 30 to 35% more expensive than other European second registers. So far, the French owners' organization has supported the new register, but a seafarers' union leader has called the proposal a flag of convenience which would destroy French seafarers' jobs. The French government has not yet commented on the issue. See "Fury over French flag plans," Lloyds List at Hoovers Online, 04/03/03.

Northrop Grumman receives Deepwater contracts: Northrop Grumman Corporation's Ship Systems sector has been awarded two US Coast Guard Deepwater contracts totaling $129 million. The contracts are for the detail design and long lead material procurement for the first new National Security Cutter (NSC). The detail design effort will be conducted at the New Orleans Engineering Center of Excellence. The Integrated Deepwater System is a multi-year program for the Coast Guard that will modernize and replace aging ships and aircraft, and improve communications, command and control, and logistics systems. See "Northrop Grumman Receives Detail Design, Long Lead Material Funding for Deepwater," PRIMEZONE at Stockhouse.com, 04/02/03.

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