News Archive - September 2003

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Introducing The Afterguard: A new Internet site — The Afterguard — has been created to be an international forum for discussing worldwide shipbuilding events, policies, and practices. Named for the strategists on a sailing yacht who provide wisdom, guidance, and strategy during a race, the site is authored by several well-known and well-respected industry members, each contributing articles according to their own interests. Produced in a "web log" format, the site will be frequently updated with new articles. The site also invites comments and discussion from readers. Hosted by NSnet.com, it is our hope that this new site will become a dynamic forum for discussing maritime industry issues, and a repository for the knowledge and experience that the authors, and commenting readers, have gained over the years. Please visit URL http://blog.nsnet.com/ — read and comment on the articles already posted, and visit regularly for more. You can also read "About the Afterguard" for more information.

Australia still has work to do to comply with port security: Transport Minister John Anderson has acknowledged it will be difficult for Australian ports to comply with the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code, set to go into effect July of next year. Although no major gaps have been found, a lot of upgrades, tweaking, and enhancements will be needed. Anderson intends that the Government will work together with the Association of Australian Ports and Maritime Authorities in order to "safeguard against anyone who might be politically motivated towards violence." See "Anderson wary on port security," The Australian, 9/30/03.

Appledore Shipbuilders faces closure: England's last remaining commercial ship building yard, Appledore Shipbuilders in North Devon, will be shut down. Appledore was founded in 1855, and has built more than 350 large ships, including trawlers, ferries, dredgers, bulk carriers, and naval ships. Several years ago, a replica of the Golden Hind was constructed there. But the yard completed its last ship nearly a month ago, and more than 500 people will lose their jobs. Some 700 people, including residents from the nearby village of Appledore, protested the closure. But the company has too much debt to continue. See "Redundancy for ship workers," BBC News, 9/30/03.

Baltimore Marine Industries to be sold: Bankrupt Baltimore Marine Industries, the company that attempted to resurrect Bethlehem Steel Shipyard, is on the market. At its peak, Baltimore Marine — which built and repaired ships — employed 775. In recent years, however, the sluggish economy and the general downturn in the ship repair business hit the company hard. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June and laid off all 200 of its employees. The 250-acre property sits on the waterfront in Sparrows Point. Michael Fox International Inc. will hold an auction of the real estate and equipment on November 4. More information is available on the Michael Fox web site.

Sealand Express owners declare General Average: The Sealand Express ran aground on August 19, and was refloated after a strenuous salvage operation by Smit Marine South Africa. The ship's owners, United States Ship Management Incorporated, have now declared General Average. The General Average principle allows a ship owner to force all parties with an ownership interest in any aspect of the voyage to help pay for a salvage operation. This means that even an individual who had goods aboard the Sealand for shipping overseas would have to pay out a percentage of their value to help cover the costs. General Average is one of the oldest principles in maritime law, dating back centuries before marine insurance. Suppliers of the containers and fuel oil aboard will also have to chip in. See "Salvage Bill shocker," Henri Du Plessis, Cape Argus, 9/29/03.

Outlook grim for Philippine maritime industry: The Philippine Maritime Industry Authority has ordered ship owners to convert their mostly wood fleets to steel-hulled vessels, but has provided no funds to do it. Wooden-hulled ships of 100 gross tonnage and above must be replaced by 2006, and ships from 3 to 35 gross tonnage must be replaced by 2010. The Cebu-based Visayan Association of Ferryboats and Coastwise Service Operators says most of its members can't afford the upgrades. The Philippines depends heavily on shipping goods from one island to another, but their aging fleets are increasingly sinking or colliding with other vessels. See "Sinking maritime industry in Philippines," Pacific Business News, 9/29/03.

Middle East region may not be ready to implement ISPS Code: A random poll of 84 ship owners and operators in the Middle East region has indicated that over 65 per cent have made no preparations for implementation of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code. Of this number, 44 per cent indicated little or even no knowledge of the regulations that come into force on July 1, 2004. While the implementation of the required security provisions will cost money, the IMO is adamant that no 'stay of execution' to the July 1st deadline will be made. Companies that have been slow to respond to the ISPS requirement will face serious repercussions. See "ISPS Code — industry not prepared for deadline," Frank Kennedy, Gulf News, 9/29/03.

Hoegh Minerva's case highlights illegal dumping: Vincent B. Genovana, second engineer on Leif Hoegh & Co. Shipping's Hoegh Minerva, has pleaded guilty to doctoring records and ordering crew members to lie to investigators to cover up illegal dumping of oil-laden waste water into the Pacific Ocean. This is the latest conviction in a federal crackdown on illegal dumping. The Department of Justice maintains illegal dumping is rampant within the maritime industry, and more than 21 ships in the Northwest and Alaska have been caught by federal regulators in the last year. A 2002 National Academy of Sciences report estimated that 65 million gallons are dumped every year. Justice Department and Coast Guard regulators suspect the true figure is much higher. Officials hear from defense attorneys that their clients have gotten the message, but new violators keep being discovered. See "Inquiry deepens into illegal dumping of oily waste by cargo ship," Craig Welch, The Seattle Times, 9/27/03.

Ship sewage regulations enter into force: International regulations for the prevention of pollution by sewage from ships enter into force on 27 September 2003 - nearly 30 years after their adoption. The regulations are contained in the optional Annex IV of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973. Annex IV contains a set of regulations regarding discharge of sewage into the sea, ships' equipment and systems for the control of sewage discharge, provision of facilities at ports and terminals for the reception of sewage, and requirements for survey and certification. The revised Annex IV, approved in March 2000, is scheduled to be adopted in March 2004. See "International ship sewage regulations enter into force," press release from the International Maritime Organization, 9/27/03.

Earthjustice sues to keep "Ghost fleet" ships out of the UK: The Basel Action Network and Sierra Club, represented by Earthjustice, filed suit today in DC Federal District Court to stop the US Maritime Administration from allowing the towing of the first 2 of 13 toxic "Ghost Fleet" vessels to England, for scrapping. Under the Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA), it is illegal to export PCBs, which are present on the ships. The suit contends that the Bush Administration has basically ignored the TSCA, which prohibits EPA from lifting the ban without an open public process to determine that the export and handling of the PCBs will not threaten human health or the environment. The environmental groups are especially concerned that this transfer will set a dangerous precedent, particularly considering the Administration's apparent interest to export the bulk of the "ghost fleet" to China, where workers are paid low wages and face poor work conditions. See "Earthjustice: Bush Administration Violates PCB Export Ban; Groups File Suit to Halt Export of Toxic 'Ghost Fleet' to England," US Newswire at Yahoo!News, 9/26/03.

Lasers will help protect Houston's 610 bridge: Laser technology currently being used at offshore oil platforms in the North Sea will soon be used at the Loop 610 bridge spanning the Houston Ship Channel. The 610 bridge — also known as the Sidney Sherman Bridge — was heavily damaged in December 2000 at a cost of more than $600,000, and again six months later, at a cost of $800,000. A policy was put in place after the accidents that required vessel booms to be stowed or cradled once they were bound for a location past the 610 bridge. The new Photogrammetric Camera Vessel Height Detection System, which uses sensors and cameras, will help validate that the ships are below the maximum height for navigating under the bridge. See "Bridge will have high-tech sentries," Bill Hensel Jr., Houston Chronicle, 9/26/03.

UK conditionally approves passage of "Ghost fleet" ships: Britain's Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has ruled that the first two vessels from the US Navy's retired "Ghost fleet" can enter UK waters only after repair work is performed. The surveyor also recommends the ships not be allowed to leave until further internal and external inspections have been completed, and calls for a new assessment of the conditions the ships are liable to encounter on their four-week journey across the Atlantic. Under the contract with the US government, the first ships must leave before mid-October to avoid heavy seas. The report conflicts with US government surveys and claims by Able UK that the 13 ships had been passed fit to travel by the US, Lloyd's underwriters and others. See "Toxic fleet heading for UK to die is unfit for voyage," John Vidal, The Guardian, 9/25/03.

A Reuters report, picked up by CNN, is more favorable to the transfer, and quotes MCA chief spokesman Mark Clark stating the ships "could pose a risk but once the work is completed they will not represent a threat to the UK shoreline any more than other legitimate shipping movements." Although Britain has given approval, French, Irish and Belgian maritime authorities still have to approve the plan. See "UK allows transit of toxic 'ghost fleet'," Reuters at CNN, 9/26/03.

Alleged mutiny could transform maritime labor laws: On February 2, workers on the Seattle-based Ocean Phoenix rebelled against an expanded workday. Normally, the workday on a fish processing vessel is 16 hours, with half an hour for lunch and two 15-minute breaks. But this year, a few days out of port, Premier Pacific company officials told the workers they would be working an extra half hour in order to try out a new processing strategy. Some workers said the first few days on the extended shift pushed them over the edge of exhaustion, so they first wrote letters to management, and later refused to go back to work until the 16-hour shift was restored. Company officials say the workers quit and broke a fundamental tenet of maritime law when they disobeyed the skipper's order. But the workers, who were set ashore in Alaska within a day, have now mounted legal challenges that could help define labor rights for more than 2,000 factory workers who process fish in offshore vessels. See "Crew accused of mutiny over 16.5-hour workday," Hal Bernton, The Seattle Times, 9/25/03.

"Ghost fleet" survives Hurricane Isabel: More than a fourth of the 96 ships in the James River Reserve Fleet shifted during Hurricane Isabel, but none broke from their anchors or leaked fuel. A new anchoring system consists of tension wires that connect the ships to each other in a formation of seven rows. The Maritime Administration also hired two commercial tugs to be on standby near the fleet during the storm. The tugs are now putting the ships back in place. Overall, 26 of the ships shifted during Isabel, compared to 60 ships that moved as much as 1,500 feet during Hurricane Floyd in 1999. See "Ghost Fleet bumps around, but weathers hurricane well," Dave Schleck, The Daily Press, 9/24/03.

Michigan hopes to limit non-native species in Great Lakes: US Representative Candace Miller (R-MI) has introduced a bill that would require foreign commercial ships to dump 95 percent of their ballast water in the ocean before entering the Great Lakes. The measure is a response to the US Environmental Protection Agency's decision not to require permits for ships discharging ballast water in the lakes. The bill is designed to prevent non-native, potentially destructive species from invading the lakes. Miller is also looking at legislation that would require ship operators to chemically treat the silt in the bottom of their ballast tanks to kill any remaining marine animals and plant life. Water ballast from passing vessels has introduced more than a dozen aquatic plants, fish and mollusks to the Great Lakes in the last several decades. See "Bill would ban foreign ships' ballast water," Gene Schabath, The Detroit News, 9/24/03.

Commercial whaling may have harmed ocean ecosystem: For years, scientists have debated the cause of ecological changes surrounding Alaska's Aleutian Islands, where the Pacific meets the Bering Sea. Alan Springer of the University of Alaska's Institute of Marine Science in Fairbanks, now theorizes that the ecosystem collapse has its roots in the late 1940s, when whaling crews started using modern techniques to kill whales, decimating their population. This caused a cascading effect: the orcas that used to hunt the whales were forced to turn to other prey, and moved down Alaska's aquatic food chain, triggering a domino effect. While commercial fishing and climate changes probably played some role, over harvesting of whales was the driving force. Other scientists say the new theory is logical, but virtually impossible to prove. Unfortunately, there is little that can be done to restore the ecosystem, no matter what the cause is. See "Whaling decimated ecosystem, study says," Marla Cone, Los Angeles Times at The Seattle Times, 9/24/03.

Determining location of Norway trials: The May 25 explosion on Norwegian Cruise Line's SS Norway at the Port of Miami-Dade killed seven workers and injured 17; most were Filipinos. An April 10 decision by the highest court in the Philippines could make it difficult for Norwegian to argue that 10 lawsuits filed by Filipinos should be required to resolve their suits in their homeland. If the suits are heard in Miami, the victims might collect millions of dollars in a jury trial. A Miami federal judge has set a hearing on that dispute for Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz is expected to hear arguments over the jurisdiction of the cases. See "Norway crewmen, kin want U.S. trials," Jay Weaver, The Miami Herald, 9/23/03.

Largest Arctic ice shelf breaks up: The Ward Hunt ice shelf, located 500 miles from the North Pole on the edge of Canada's Ellesmere Island, has broken into two main parts and a series of massive ice islands. This is the largest ice separation in the Arctic, occurring in an area of the eastern Arctic long thought to be more protected against the gradual warming of the planet. This type of catastrophic event, affecting the largest ice shelf in the Arctic, provides more evidence that the Earth's polar regions are responding to ongoing and accelerating rates of climatic change. See " Huge ice shelf in Canadian North splits," CBC News, 9/23/03.

Cosco plans to grow its fleet: China Ocean Shipping (Group), the mainland's largest maritime company, plans to more than double its fleet from the current 550 ships by 2020, and has started sounding out the financial market in its first steps to raise cash for new building plans. The firm is trying to decide if it will let its British subsidiary, Cosco UK, own or manage ships. Some ships may also be flagged in Britain, in order to benefit from the UK's favorable maritime tax climate. Cosco may also list companies in Asia, London and New York as part of its fund-raising effort. See "Vessels at Cosco unit may fly UK flag in fleet move," Keith Wallis, The Standard, 9/22/03.

Spanish navy blamed for giant squid deaths: Shock waves from scientific tests carried out by the Spanish navy ship Hesperides have been blamed for the deaths of four giant squid. In the last few days three giant squid have washed up on Spain's northern Asturias coast, and a fourth was still floating offshore Thursday. Josep Gallard, a leading scientist working on the ship, denied techniques used to study the ocean floor were harmful. See "Spanish navy shocks blamed for giant squid deaths," Reuters at CNN, 9/22/03.

Planned interisland ferry system for Hawaii: Timothy Dick, founder of Hawaii Superferry, is working with partners to create an interisland ferry system for the Hawaiian Islands. Several attempts have been made to start up a ferry system in the state, but this new group believes they have technology and experience in their favor. They will be using a heavy "wave-piercing catamaran," about 320 feet long and 90 feet wide. It has four engines that will keep the vessel cruising at 42 knots. It will be able to carry 900 people, and about 250 cars, trucks and buses. The ship will also carry freight. Enterprise Honolulu, a business development specialist company, believes the proposed ferry system could turn Hawaii into a single-market area, rather than separate islands. But, since there have been a few failed attempts at getting a ferry system started for the islands, there is some skepticism. And, Hawaii Superferry still has to obtain financing. See "Next exit, Kahului," Russ Lynch, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 9/21/03.

"Ghost fleet" move hits new snag: A controversial plan to tow 13 dilapidated American ships across the English Channel to be scrapped at Able UK has encountered a new problem. The local Hartlepool Council is examining the legality of the site itself — if the existing planning permission were ruled invalid, then Able UK could have to reapply for decommissioning permits. Meanwhile, the UK Department of Transport's Maritime and Coastguard Agency is still deliberating over whether to give the ships' passage approval through British waters. See "U.S. 'Ghost Fleet' Bound for Britain Hits New Snag," Reuters at Yahoo! News, 9/19/03.

British Columbia's ferry system struggles with safety concerns: The Queen of Coquitlam returned to service in June after a six-month, $18 million refit, which included installing a new emergency evacuation system using chutes — the existing swing-arm life rafts, which served as an alternative escape route for people unable to use the chutes, were all removed. Transport Canada initially approved the system, but has reversed that approval. The current safety restriction limits the number of infants and people with severe disabilities to no more than ten until additional life rafts have been installed on the vessel. All other B.C. Ferries' vessels will be assessed in about a month, and could have similar restrictions placed on them until new 16-passenger life boats are purchased and installed. See "Safety concerns cut ferry capacity," CanWest News Service and Times Colonist, Canada.com, 9/19/03.

Dungeness crab shows up multiple-source pollution: The Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe must abandon commercial oyster harvests during this year's lucrative winter growing season, as tidal circulation is compounding the problem of multiple-source pollution. This is the first time the harvest has been abandoned, although Washington state health officials have had to close off from 50 to 200 acres of oyster beds in Dungeness Bay since 1997. A growing retirement community and general increases in population in the area have replaced farmland with parking lots, driveways, and other surfaces that speed the transport of contaminants to sea. But with hundreds of sources contributing to the problem, some say local government leaders have focused largely on the simpler problems and have demanded more studies rather than tackle the toughest issues now. See "Closed: sign of pollution's spread," Craig Welch, The Seattle Times, 9/17/03.

Ship management is difficult after September 11, 2001: Ports have severely tightened security measures in the past years. Chemical and petroleum terminals have been stricter than most, since the potential devastation of a terrorist incident at a chemical terminal or refinery is so high. They have been barring tanker crews from coming ashore at all. This has posed some difficult management problems for foreign-flagged ship owners, and called into question what could be described as inhumane conditions. Chemical tankers generally demand high concentration from its officers and crew, and denying crews shore leave leads to unhappy, angry, and depressed workers who can't do their jobs well. See "Nation's ports refuse entry to container-ship crews," Henry J. Holcomb, Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/16/03.

Sealand Express successfully refloated: The American-registered container vessel Sealand Express, which ran aground in Cape Town's Table Bay during a storm on August 19, was pulled off the sandy bottom by two salvage tugs and successfully refloated on September 13. Surveyors are inspecting the ship for damage, but low visibility is hindering an external inspection. Once the containers are offloaded, the ship will be dry docked for a proper inspection. Insurers are still assessing the cost of the salvage operation, which could run into millions of rands. The operation took three and a half weeks, and involved a dredger, a helicopter, three tugs and environment protection measures. See "Sealand Express salvage will cost 'millions'," Independent Online, 9/15/03.

Shipbreakers in poorer Asian states get little support: The Gaddani beach in Balochistan is a major shipbreaking site, but locals point out that the government seems ill prepared to tackle more business that might come from the ban on single hull vessels. There are no civic facilities for workers or residents of the area, there isn't enough electricity to run streetlights, there is no hospital in the area, there are no gas connections, and there is little regulation of environmental concerns. Yet, governments have gained money from the industry. See "Shipbreaking industry suffers from neglect," Bahzad Alam Khan, DAWN, 9/15/03.

New map highlights areas at-risk for oil spills: A new survey by Helen Thomas at the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) has mapped the quantity of oil shipped through various regions of the world compared with how well each region is prepared to deal with any crisis. The data suggests that the Black Sea and the Red Sea are at the top of the list of regions most at risk from an oil spill. Although results are preliminary, the map's authors hope the survey will help organizations such as the International Maritime Organization and UN Environment Program's Regional Seas program to prioritize their resources. See "Map flags up oil-spill black spots," Carolyn Fry, New Scientist, 9/13/03.

"Ghost fleet" ships not ready to leave: The company towing two James River "ghost fleet" ships to a scrapyard in the United Kingdom canceled scheduled Coast Guard inspections Thursday. The Maritime Administration did not know the specific reason for the holdup, and officials at Post-Service Remediation Partners — the New York-based company that is coordinating the deal with British scrap company, Able UK — were unavailable for comment. The Basel Action Network and the Sierra Club notified the EPA on Tuesday that they plan to seek a federal court order to block moving the obsolete ships to the UK, and James City County lawyer Morton Clark notified federal officials this week that he too plans to sue the Maritime Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency over the ships. But these legal issues did not cause the cancellation. See "'Ghost fleet' ships not ready to leave," Kimball Payne, Daily Press, 9/12/2003.

Tugs try to pull Sealand Express off beach: Tugs will try to refloat the stranded Sealand Express at high tide early on Friday morning — and if they are not successful, again in the afternoon. The South African Maritime Safety Authority ordered all other ships in the bay to move out to sea as a precaution. In addition, salvage operators Smit Marine put dispersants into the ship's fuel tanks; the dispersants will help minimize environmental damage if the tanks become damaged. See "Table Bay cleared as tugs poise to yank Sealand Express free," Melanie Gosling, Cape Times, 9/12/03.

ONR developing digital radio receivers: Communication problems effect military, emergency, and consumer efforts. For example, the World Trade Center tragedy was exacerbated by the fact that the fire department and the police department used different radio systems that weren't compatible with each other. The Office of Naval Research is developing a new all-digital radio-receiver technology that is designed to solve some of these problems, as well as boost transmission capability. The digital receivers will be part of the Department of Defense's joint tactical radio system program (or JTRS), intended to develop a common radio system to be used throughout the US military — like New York emergency organizations current military radio systems are not compatible with each other. See "Military Racing to Fix Radio Mess," Michelle Delio, Wired News, 9/11/03.

Census of Marine Life project started: Funded in part by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Census of Marine Life seeks a fundamental understanding of all life that relies on the largely unexplored seas covering most of Earth, increasingly beleaguered by pollution, overfishing and climate change. Scientists from two dozen nations are participating, and will study Pacific shorelines, the North Atlantic sea floor, the Gulf of Maine, hydrothermal vents, coastal salmon runs and the worldwide habits of large fish and mammals. The project, which could cost as much as $1 billion over the next ten years, will feed data into an open database. The information could be used for a variety of reasons: to identify threatened species or locations for marine parks; to help identify new materials and compounds, ranging from medicines to industrial adhesives; or to find more efficient fishing sites, or shipping lanes. See "Unprecedented census of the seas begins," Associated Press at CNN.com, 9/11/03.

Upgrading an aircraft carrier: As with most high tech equipment, the USS Ronald Reagan will be outdated almost the day it first sets sail later this year. Since it will be in service until 2053, the Navy built the vessel with future upgrades in mind. The weapons will be the first hardware to become outdated; new systems will bolt into a standard-size weapons bay, and will be unplugged and replaced when obsolete. The vessel's design budget allowed the Navy to wait until six years into the ship's construction to select the tech-related components; in fact the Navy scheduled the ship's first upgrade before it left the shipyard. And since there's no way to tell what the future might require, designers added 20 extra feet and empty loft space above each floor. See "The Best Defense Is a Good Upgrade," Douglas McGray, Wired Magazine, Issue 11.09, September 2003.

Tricolor leaks oil: The Norwegian freighter Tricolor sank last December in one of the English Channel's busiest shipping lanes. Salvage efforts include cutting the ship into nine sections, which are then hoisted to the surface by cranes. But the process is risky, and fresh fuel oil has now leaked from a cut line. The salvage company says the leak has stopped, and the slick is being cleaned successfully, but environmentalists aren't as optimistic. See "Belgium fights slick from wreck," Andrew Osborn, The Guardian, 9/10/03.

Laptop with Australian maritime security information stolen: Thieves used an electronic ID card to enter the Canberra headquarters of the Australian Transport Department on August 22, before forcing their way into the security section. They stole cash, personal property, office equipment, and a laptop. The computer contained a presentation on Australia's maritime security. A spokeswoman for the department stated that no classified information was taken. See "Maritime security info stolen," NEWS.com.au, 9/10/03.

New camera system won't scare deep-sea creatures: Researchers from Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution are attempting to investigate deep-sea life without frightening the fish. Unlike other camera systems that rely on bright lights, the researcher's new camera system — called Eye in the Sea — uses a red light that can't be seen by undersea animals. The system detects the bioluminescent light that many deep-sea creatures give off, and automatically turns on its video camera. The Eye can also be programmed to film surrounding areas at prescheduled intervals. See "Nothing Fishy but the Fish," Michelle Delio, Wired News, 9/8/03.

Washington state struggles over ballast water: Last week, the federal Environmental Protection Agency decided not to regulate ship ballast discharges, arguing the task was better left to the Coast Guard. The problem, Washington state officials say, is it will be years before the Coast Guard gets a system set up and the kinks worked out. Washington state has its own rules, which require ships coming from overseas to exchange water 200 miles out at sea. But the state relies on ship operators to "self-report," and a survey published this year — not entirely embraced by ship operators — concluded that crews on one-quarter of the 81 ships studied acknowledged violating rules on purpose. See "Regulations not halting aquatic invaders," Craig Welch, The Seattle Times, 9/8/03.

K-159 could pose radiation problems: A high-level Russian official has reported to Time magazine that the sunken nuclear submarine K-159 presents a menacing threat. The wreckage is under crushing pressure, its hull is deeply corroded, the spent nuclear fuel was never unloaded when the boat was decommissioned, it sank in an area crisscrossed by commercial shipping lanes and fishing boats, and weather will likely mean that salvage operations can't begin until May. The official is also skeptical that the Russian Naval Command will be able to pay for the recovery. See "The K-159 Sinking: Worse Than the Kursk?," Yuri Zarakhovich, Time, 9/8/03.

WTC steel to be used in USS New York: About 24 tons of steel from the ruins of the World Trade Center is being melted down to form part of a new Navy ship that will be named the USS New York. This symbolic gesture is meant to honor the victims and heroes of the September 11, 2001 tragedy. The vessel is being built at Northrop Grumman's shipyard in Avondale, Louisiana, and will be completed in about three years. See "Steel From WTC to Form Part of Navy Ship," Associated Press at Newsday.com, 9/8/03.

Increase in piracy prompts high-level talks: There were a total of 234 pirate attacks in the first six months of this year, 37% more than in the same period last year and the highest total since statistics began in 1991. In response to these "appalling" numbers, British ships' officers' union Numast has contacted Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and the International Maritime Organization about the increased activity of the pirates. Numast general secretary Brian Orrell believes that this amount of violence would not be tolerated in other industries. See "Piracy Fears Prompt Top-Level Talks," Peter Woodman, Scotsman.com, 9/7/03.

"Ghost fleet" will cross English Channel: Peter Stephenson, managing director of Able UK, has stated that the 13 retired ships from Virginia will pass through the English Channel on their way to be scrapped. It was widely believed that because of the size and instability of the hulks, they would be towed across the Atlantic and then around the tip of Scotland. This plan had Ireland, Scotland, as well as France and Spain nervous, but seemed preferable to towing the ships through the busy Channel. However, Stephenson said the route through the Channel had been chosen by marine experts and advisers who were the best in the business. The route has yet to be approved by British authorities. See "Toxic 'ghost fleet' to sail across Atlantic," Reuters at CNN, 9/4/03.

Norwalk virus hits Regal Princess: Princess Cruises' Regal Princess cut one day off its 16-day voyage due to an outbreak of the Norwalk virus — a gastrointestinal ailment that is usually not life-threatening. The virus sickened at least 302 of the ship's 1,538 passengers and 45 of its 679 crew members. Officials from Princess Cruises played down the scope of the illness and its effect, saying most people enjoyed the trip. The cruise line gave all passengers a $300 credit, and it will refund the price of the lost day of travel. The height of the outbreak occurred on the third day at sea, and by the 15th day only two people were still sick. Passengers who came down with the virus were urged to stay in their rooms for 72 hours, the period when Norwalk-type agents are most contagious, but not all people complied. See "Viral Stowaway in Brig, Cruise Ship Staggers Home," Patrick Healy, The New York Times, 9/3/03.

"Ghost fleet" move sparks debate in the UK: The deal to bring Virginia's 13 "ghost fleet" vessels 4,500 miles across the Atlantic is expected to create 200 jobs at Able UK's Hartlepool yard. But environmental groups are worried about the possible risks. A leading US salvage expert, who has surveyed most of the ships involved in the contract, has warned that there is a risk that some of the ships will be breaking up by the time they reach Teesside. Oil and pollution slicks are expected to follow the ships along the way. The vessels will not be allowed to go through the busy English Channel, but the Irish government and the Scottish executive have also voiced concern about the pollution threat posed by the fleet as it passes through their coastal waters. See "Rusting, toxic 'ghost fleet' on way to UK," John Vidal, The Guardian, 9/3/03.

US EPA won't regulate ships' ballast water: After a snail's pace political process addressing a highly time-sensitive environmental crisis, the Bush administration announced on September 2 that the US Environmental Protection Agency will not regulate ballast water discharges — a main source of new invasions across North America and the world — from ships under the federal Clean Water Act. US regulations require ocean-going ships to exchange their ballast water in the deep open ocean, but apply to less than 20% of ocean-going ships entering the Great Lakes each year. The remaining 80% of ships accessing in the Great Lakes, and all ocean-going ships accessing US coastal waters, do not have to comply with this regulation. It is likely a lawsuit against EPA will follow. See "Bush administration says EPA won't regulate ships' ballast water," Paul Rogers, Knight Ridder at Fort Wayne Magazine, 9/2/03.

US Coast Guard may stop going to war: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld may decide to keep the US Coast Guard from participating in future wars. One point of contention is the Coast Guard's decision to decline sending its cutters to protect Navy ships during a Persian Gulf mission last year. Rumsfeld has also noted that the Coast Guard has its hands full attending to its homeland security mission. The Coast Guard's mission has changed over the years, from overseeing the operation of US ships and ports, protecting fisheries and rescuing boaters, to preventing terrorists from attacking US shipping and waterways. The Coast Guard opposes Rumsfeld's idea, as the organization takes pride in having taken part in most of the nation's armed conflicts over the past 200 years. See "Coast Guard's wartime duty may be over," John Mintz and Vernon Loeb, The Washington Post. 9/1/03.

Nordic and Baltic states try to protect the Baltic Sea: Nordic and Baltic states will apply to the International Maritime Organization to declare the Baltic Sea a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA). This status would help avert oil spills in the area. Russia, the second biggest oil exporter in the world, opposes the idea, and plans to create its own proposals for controlling rising tanker traffic. In the Barents Sea, oil transport from Russia could multiply to 40 million tons annually by 2010, or four or five tankers per day from the current one per day. See "Baltics Seek Caps on Oil Via Tankers," Moscow Times, 9/1/03.

Tasman Spirit clean up continues: The Greek-registered tanker Tasman Spirit, carrying 67,532 tons of oil from Iran, ran aground outside of Karachi on July 27. Efforts to salvage the oil was started in the first week of August, and was interrupted as the ship developed cracks and finally split into two. The lighterage operation is now almost over, which will leave experts free to start clean up of the coast and marine life. The oil spill totaled about 30,000 tons of crude oil; it is the first of its kind in the country's history and could be ranked second in the world after the Exxon Valdez disaster. See "Agencies set to launch major beach cleaning drive," Mukhtar Alam, DAWN, 9/1/03.

South Africa turns poacher ship away: Australian and South African law enforcement officials seized the Viarsa last week; the ship had 85 tons of Patagonian toothfish on board, apparently caught unlawfully in Australian waters. Australian sailors will soon be brought to the vessel to take it to Fremantle, Australia for trial. The Viarsa will not be allowed closer than 22 km to South Africa's coastline, in order to prevent the ship's owners from taking legal action against the crew's arrest. Objectors at an international maritime law tribunal could dispute bail, or insist that legal proceedings take place more quickly. The crew could also apply for asylum in South African territorial waters. See "Viarsa not welcome in SA," Carel van Dyk, News24.com, 9/1/03.

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