News Archive - November 2003

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USS Cole sails back into service: Just over three years ago, the guided missile destroyer USS Cole was attacked as it refueled in Yemen, two suicide bombers driving an explosives-packed boat into the ship's hull. Seventeen Norfolk-based sailors were killed and the vessel was crippled, but it did not sink. Apart from extensive repairs, which cost $250 million, 17 polished brass stars commemorating the dead were embedded in the floor near the destroyer's galley, where most of the damage occurred. The Cole pulled out of port Saturday for the destroyer's first overseas deployment since the attack. It will join two other destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea. See "USS Cole back to sea 3 years after bombing," Associated Press at Chicago Sun-Times, 11/30/03.

SS Republic may yield more than expected: The SS Republic sank during a hurricane in 1865 as it was heading for New Orleans with 20,000 gold coins on board tagged for the reconstruction of the defeated Confederacy. But Odyssey Marine Exploration, a Tampa-based company that discovered the shipwreck in July, may recover as many as 30,000 gold pieces. Even without the extra coins, Odyssey Marine stands to gain quite a bit from the wreck. The company gained legal possession of the site under the "admiralty arrest" principle, barring anyone else from laying claim to the treasure; and, because the wreck is in international water, the salvage group won't have to share the wealth with coastal state governments. Salvage efforts will take about another three months to finish. See "Civil War-era shipwreck starts giving up its riches," Associated Press at CNN, 11/29/03.

Death toll nears 200 in Congo ferry crash: On Tuesday night, the Dieu Merci and another boat collided in a violent storm on the Congo River, throwing the 450 to 500 passengers into the water. Although only 30 people were recorded on the boat's written manifest, the death toll could rise above 200; government officials believe 222 people escaped, many of them saved by local villagers. Both vessels broke up in the strong waves, and bodies are still being recovered down river. This is one of the deadliest ferry disasters in Africa. See "Death toll climbs to 182 in Congo ferry disaster, could go higher," Associated Press at USA Today, 11/28/03.

Rainbow Warrior leaves Alang: After spending some 20 days off the coast of Alang as part of a "Corporate Accountability tour of India," Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior is on its way to Mumbai. A press statement from the ship said "the vessel left after a successful campaign in which it identified and notified the Indian and British authorities about the beaching of the British vessel Genova Bridge with hazardous materials on board." See "'Rainbow Warrior' sets sail for Mumbai," The Times Of India, 11/28/03.

Great Barrier Reef may be threatened by algae: The Great Barrier Reef, considered one of the natural wonders of the world, could be under threat from a new form of algae. The species, Chrysocystis fragilis, has been dubbed the "golden noodle" alga because of its color and shape. The blooms have been seen on reefs for the past three summers. Efforts to remove the algae showed that the underlying coral was noticeably bleached, suggesting the coral had died. Further research is needed to asses how big a threat to the Great Barrier Reef the algae might be. See "Algae threatens great coral reef," Helen Briggs, BBC News, 11/27/03.

Report on the future of Sydney Harbour: Following Premier Bob Carr's announcement that Sydney would stop being a working port in 2012, when the last lease expires on the container terminals, an audit report concludes that the State Government has failed to coordinate a public land strategy. NSW Audit Office investigators state that no single body was accountable for land strategy results, and the public was kept from deciding what lands should be retained and how these were to be dealt with. In addition, land sales were handled without considering the cumulative impacts on the harbor as a whole. The report emphasizes that the harbor is of national importance, and should be properly maintained. See "Harbour vision lacks serious plans," Geraldine O'Brien, The Sydney Morning Herald, 11/27/03.

Congestion in the Bosporus straits: New regulations in the Bosporus straits, enacted for safety and environmental reasons, restrict night-time traffic, larger vessels, and vessels carrying dangerous cargo. But Russia, which is exporting growing numbers of oil products through the area, is getting concerned about mounting delays. Transportation Minister Sergei Frank wants to work closely with his Turkish counterparts to find a solution to the growing congestion problem. Turkey's coastal safety organization has also urged major oil exporters to find other routes for their exports to reduce congestion. See "Russia Wants Action on Oil Backlog in Bosporus," Stefano Ambrogi, Reuters at The Moscow Times.com, 11/26/03.

Questions asked about New York ferry system: Ray Hagemann, a former investigator for the Staten Island borough president, has stated that years of cronyism and lax safety enforcement were behind last month's fatal ferry crash. Maintenance failures, safety violations, lack of knowledge regarding rules and regulations, and a lack of accountability were standard in the organization, Hagemann stated. The city has declined to respond to Hagemann's remarks. The News has also found that during the past decade, the Coast Guard failed to discipline any licensed ferry crewman for anything. Only two letters of caution and two verbal warnings - both informal actions - show up in federal records. See "Ex-prober: Ferry safety lax," Bob Port, New York Daily News, 11/25/03.

Marine drug discoveries: Thanks to some current high profile reports, researchers expect an increase in ocean exploration, netting drug discoveries and other benefits. For example, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Fort Pierce, Florida, has patented more than 100 compounds, most of them derived from marine sponges for cancer treatment. Any or all of them could be licensed to pharmaceutical companies. Earth's oceans, which cover three-fourths of the planet, also harbor most of its life, and a number of government agencies, including the bipartisan House Oceans Caucus are beginning to plan legislation to allocate more funds for ocean exploration. Drugs, foods, chemicals and sources of energy might all be found in what is still a relatively unexplored part of the planet. See "Ocean Research Going Swimmingly," David Snow, Wired News, 11/25/03.

National Transportation Safety Board slow to report: A Newsday review indicates that the National Transportation Safety Board can take more than two years to conduct an accident investigation. The NTSB has about 430 staffers, but just 12 to 15 are in the Marine Safety unit, the fewest in any of the agency's four investigative divisions. The delay in NTSB probes can be unfair to people affected by the accidents, and unfortunately, as time lags the momentum for bringing about effective change is often diminished. In fact, in the case of the Staten Island ferry investigation, the criminal investigation and city reforms could be resolved before the NTSB report even is issued. See "NTSB Ferry Probe Could Be Lengthy," Graham Rayman, Newsday.com, 11/22/03.

India's Alang ship breaking yard may face competition from China: Alang is the world's largest ship breaking yard, but many worry about worker safety and environmental hazards. Perhaps in response to potential competition from Chinese yards, a member of the Gujarat Maritime Board has stated that Alang will get a major facelift in the form of treatment, storage and disposal facilities in order to minimize the pollution from hazardous materials. Two years ago, Hamburg Sud, a German company, brought modern ship breaking equipment to Chinese yards, and the country is building modern graving dock facilities for steel recycling. These facilities are being built in association with companies such as The Peninsular & Orient Steam Navigation Company, and British Petroleum, which should provide China a steady supply of ships for breaking. Alang has seen a decrease in the number of ships anchored there. See "Alang's ship-breaking industry faces the dragon's threat," Joydeep Ray, Business Standard, 11/21/03.

IMO creates offices in Asia to monitor safety: The International Maritime Organization has set up a new regional office in the Philippines to cater to East Asia; a second office for South Asia will be established in India early next year. The United Nations group wants the regions to improve security and safety of ships, check pollution and upgrade the standards of seafarers. The bulk of the world's seafarers come from Asia - mainly the Philippines as well as Vietnam, China, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh. See "UN shipping watchdog to set up Asian bases," ABC Radio Australia News at Go Asia Pacific, 11/21/03.

Canada worries about coastal dead zones: Scientists from the New Brunswick Conservation Council, an environmental lobby group, and Dalhousie University said a study of 10 estuaries along New Brunswick's northern and eastern shores found that most of the saltwater inlets are dying under slimy coats of algae fed by nutrient pollution. If action isn't taken soon, these coastal areas will turn into dead zones. Nutrient pollution is made up of nitrogen compounds released from such sources as fish plants, farms, pulp mills and human sewage. The Dalhousie and conservation council study will be sent to the federal Fisheries and Environment departments. Most agree that there need to be federal regulations that restrict release of nutrients into marine waters, similar to regulations put in place to control nutrient pollution in Lake Erie. See "N.B. environmentalists warn pollution turning bays into dead zones," Chris Morris, Canadian Press, 11/20/03.

"Ghost ships" are just the start: The controversy of the US "Ghost fleet" arriving at Able UK's dock in Teeside foreshadows a growing problem. Many countries are pressing for phasing out single hulled tankers, which are considered a risk to maritime and coastal environments. If international schedules are followed, some 2,000 single hulled tankers will be put out of commission by 2015. A phase out of that scale will put pressure on recycling facilities around the world. UK's Environment minister Elliot Morley has argued that Able UK's facility is legal, and will comply with the highest environmental standards. Whatever happens to the US "Ghost" ships, the issue will have to be resolved for other ships. See "'Ghost ships' issue debated," BBC News, 11/19/03.

St. Nazaire's residents mourn Queen Mary 2 accident: Residents of St. Nazaire, France, President Jacques Chirac, and Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin visited a temporary mortuary set up at the shipyard on Sunday. Fifteen people were killed, and up to 32 were injured when a metal gangway linking the dock and the nearly completed Queen Mary 2 collapsed. Most of the victims were relatives or friends of shipyard workers and cleaning crew workers on the ship. Alstom spokesman Philippe Bouquet-Nadaud stated that the gangway had been used several times the night before without incident. Officials aren't speculating about the causes of the accident. The tragedy was a blow to Alstom, which is heavily in debt. See "Chirac and Raffarin visit site of gangway tragedy," AP at Taipei Times, 11/18/03.

Greenpeace activists not arrested: The attempt by the Gujarat Maritime Board to arrest Greenpeace activists taking part in their "Corporate Accountability tour of India" has failed, since the Navy and Customs department refused GMB's request for help. Apparently, the GMB doesn't have its own boats, and the environmental group's campaign vessel Rainbow Warrior could easily escape to the safety of international waters. Greenpeace is anchored off the Alang coast in Gujarat, currently protesting a UK ship beached there for scrapping. GMB sources said Greenpeace should have started their protest before the ship breaking deal was finalized. See "GMB fails to seize Rainbow Warrior," Business Standard, 11/17/03.

Port Pelican gets approval for Deepwater Port License: The Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration has granted a Deepwater Port License to ChevronTexaco Corporation's subsidiary Port Pelican LLC, to construct, own and operate an offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving and regasification terminal. The development, also known as Port Pelican, will consist of an LNG ship receiving terminal, LNG storage and regasification facilities, and pipeline. Port Pelican will be the first Deepwater Port in the US since the 1976 Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, and will be the first natural gas deepwater port in the world. See "ChevronTexaco Given Green Light to Build First Offshore LNG Terminal in the United States," PR Newswire at FreeRealTime.com, 11/17/03.

2003 Review of Maritime Transport released: The United Nation's Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) publishes the Review of Maritime Transport, an annual publication that provides comprehensive, timely statistics and information on maritime and ancillary services. Their 2003 report, just released, states that global sea trade rebounded last year, exceeding the previous record set in 2000. The recovery is predicted to continue this year, despite initial concerns over increased costs brought about by worldwide implementation of the International Code for the Security of Ships and Port Facilities (ISPS). See "Sea-borne trade set for record year," Frank Kennedy, Gulf News Online, 11/17/03.

NY Ferry pilot Richard Smith meets with officials: Assistant Captain Richard Smith was piloting the Staten Island ferry Andrew J. Barberi when it hit a pier on October 15, killing ten passengers and injuring others. Smith fled the scene, and tried to commit suicide; he was released from the hospital last Thursday. Although he met with federal investigators today, officials have not yet disclosed what he said. See "NY Ferry Crash Pilot Faces Officials for First Time," Reuters, 11/17/03.

Greenpeace exposes toxins in Alang, faces arrest: On November 12, Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior arrived at Alang on the first leg of its "Corporate Accountability tour of India." The activists plan to report specific instances of violations to authorities. In fact, the group reported that the Genova Bridge, owned by V Ships Commercial, London, was beached at Alang on November 9, laden with toxic substances. Greenpeace is demanding that the International Maritime Organization make clean ship recycling mandatory, globally binding and in compliance with the Basel Convention. However, the Gujarat Maritime Board has apparently sought help from Navy and Customs officials to arrest the activists. See "Book UK ship, not us: Greenpeace," The Times Of India, 11/15/03.

Second US Navy ship arrives in Britain - two more will follow: The Canisteo, the second ship in the controversial US "ghost fleet," docked in Britain today while a question mark remained over whether this would be their final destination. The ships will at least spend the next few months at Able UKs Hartlepool yard. Both vessels were being thoroughly checked by the Environment Agency today. See "Second Ghost Ship Docks, But Their Future in Doubt," Tom Wilkinson, PA News, Scotsman.com, 11/13/03.

Despite environmentalists' concerns they contain toxic materials, two more ships will also be allowed to dock in Britain for the winter, because it is too risky to send them back to the US in the winter. The Canopus and Compass Island are currently crossing the Atlantic, and are due to arrive in Hartlepool next week. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said Saturday that "The US authorities accept that the four ships will have to return to the United States next spring, unless environmentally suitable and legally acceptable methods for their disposal have by then been identified." See "2 Condemned 'Ghost Fleet' Ships to Dock," Jill Lawless, Associated Press at Yahoo! News, 11/15/03.

Accident on Queen Mary 2 kills at least 11: Eleven people have died and 20 were injured at a shipyard at Saint-Nazaire, France, when a gangway collapsed on the construction site of the giant ocean liner Queen Mary II. The ship is being built by Alstom Marine's Chantiers de l'Atlantique for the British ship operator Cunard Line, which is owned by Carnival Corp. The luxury cruise liner is by most accounts the largest and most expensive passenger ship ever built. It is due to be handed over to Cunard shortly before Christmas, and to embark on a 14 day maiden voyage from Southampton to Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Monday, January 12, 2004. See "11 Killed On Queen Mary 2," Associated Press at CBS News, 11/15/03.

Staten Island ferry crash investigation handed to federal prosecutors: Officials decided on Friday that federal prosecutors will take over the investigation of last month's deadly Staten Island ferry crash. Federal laws are stronger than state laws. Differences include a possible 10-year prison sentence under a federal maritime manslaughter statute, while the state's negligent homicide charge carries a 4-year maximum sentence. The move could help investigators, who have been frustrated by refusals by both the ferry's captain and pilot to answer questions about the crash. The investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board into the cause of the crash is separate from the federal criminal investigation. See "Federal Authorities to Probe NY Ferry Crash," Reuters, 11/14/03.

Karachi Shipyard Engineering Works will not be privatized: Pakistan's Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali has stopped the privatization process of the Karachi Shipyard Engineering Works (KSEW), and directed the Ministry of Defence, Pakistan Navy and Ministry of Finance to study the possibility of merging KSEW with the Pakistan Navy. The Prime Minister pointed out the strategic importance of the facility during a presentation there on Thursday. He requested proposals for revitalizing the shipyard. See "PM Directs To Stop Privatization Of KSEW," Pakistan News Service, 11/14/03.

Steel recovered from the Prestige: A Spanish expedition, using ROVs, has cut and retrieved a section of hull plating from the starboard side of the wreck of the Prestige. The plate, now in the custody of the court in Corcubion, had a minimum thickness at least equivalent to the design scantling of 20.5 mm. As reported in the Spanish press, the sample also appeared to confirm that the interior coating of the plate was in good condition and that the plate had been subject to only mild exterior pitting from corrosion. "This evidence strongly refutes the continuing public allegations that have been made regarding the condition of the Prestige at the time of the casualty," said ABS spokesman and vice president Stewart Wade. See the ABS press release "Steel Recovered From Prestige Refutes Allegations Of Poor Maintenance," 11/14/03.

One year after the Prestige disaster: A year ago, the oil tanker Prestige broke apart off Spain's Atlantic coast and sank, spilling some 63,000 tons of oil. Environmentalists — including a harsh report from the World Wildlife Fund — and citizen activists complain that serious problems remain, while government officials claim that environmentalists are exaggerating. Both sides agree that European shipping industry regulations don't go far enough to prevent future oil spills. Last month European countries failed to agree on a Spanish-led Initiative to penalize those responsible for oil spills; international shipping regulations still haven't established ownership rules for tankers like the Prestige, which flew a Bahamian flag and was operated from Athens by a company registered in Liberia; measures to provide safe havens for ships in trouble also haven't been established.

Robotic divers recently managed to seal the tanker, preventing any further spills. A trial test to pump oil from the sunken tanker also proved successful. The Spanish government hopes to pump out an estimated 14,000 tons of oil remaining in the ship's hold next summer, when the Atlantic waters are calmer. The case against the Prestige's Greek captain continues; he was freed in February on a $3 million bail, but he is not allowed to leave Spain. See "Spanish Environmentalists Mark Anniversary of Oil Spill," Lisa Bryant, Voice of America, 11/12/03.

Safety in the increasingly crowded Bosphorus Straits: A new maritime security system went into operation on the Bosphorus this week, capable of monitoring vessels as small as 20 tons all the way from the Black Sea to the Aegean. The Bosphorus is among the most crowded sea ways in the world, and the most dangerous. While officials think the new tracking system will improve safety, few see it as a solution to the increasing congestion in the area. Oil tankers are the biggest concern: in 1995, 2,871 tankers went through; by 2001, the figure stood at 6,516. With the recent discovery of huge oil fields in and around the Caspian Sea, the Bosphorus' role as a liquid pipeline is set to increase. New regulations only allow large ships through in the daytime, and only one ship of 250 meters into the Straits at any one time. If oil throughput grows to 65 million tons per year, as some predict, that would mean closing the Straits to other traffic 300 days a year. This, of course, would be devastating for all the Black Sea countries that depend on the Straits for trade. See "Bosphorus shipping pilots test new security system for maritime traffic," Nicholas Birch, The Daily Star, 11/12/03.

Will anyone eat a genetically engineered fish?: Elliot Entis's "AquAdvantage" salmon has been genetically modified to grow to its full size in half the time for a normal fish. He and his company, Aqua Bounty Technologies, are hoping that the US Food and Drug Administration will soon rule that his salmon is safe to eat. The US government has no specific laws that regulate genetically modified plants or animals. As a consequence, the FDA regulates genetically modified animals as "new animal drugs," or veterinary drugs, under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Unfortunately, the act doesn't mandate the kind of rigorous environmental review that critics contend is necessary. The primary concern is that biotech salmon could escape into the wild and breed with native species, creating offspring that might not be healthy and could even die off. Entis said his scientists have answered the most serious environmental concerns because his fish are eventually sterilized. But that still leaves the final question: Will anyone eat a genetically engineered fish? See "One fish, two fish, genetically new fish," Andrew Martin, Chicago Tribune, 11/12/03.

First "Ghost ship" arrives in Teesside: The 58-year-old oil tanker Caloosahatchee, the first ship of an aging US Navy flotilla, arrived Wednesday at the Able UK shipyard to the jeers of protesters who don't want the vessels scrapped there, fearing pollution. British courts have prevented any scrapping work to begin, but this ship and the Canisteo will be allowed to dock. See "'Ghost ship' docks on Teesside," BBC News, 11/12/03.

The future of Canada's lighthouses: In an age of digital global positioning systems on board vessels, Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans officials believe most of its 160 lighthouses are no longer needed, and they are being phased out in a program that could end in 2006. But the romance and history of the lighthouses has led officials to a new plan: the DFO is offering to sell the lighthouses to qualified community groups for $1. Community groups commit to operating the lights and making the facilities available to the public, and then use the sites for anything from sea kayaking to breeding grounds for peregrine falcons. So far eight lighthouses have been handed over to community groups. Many of the lighthouses are "jewels" that would be popular tourism destinations, but others in more remote areas may end up being sold off to the highest bidder, with the proceeds used to refurbish the more accessible structures. See "When the lighthouses go dark," Kevin Cox, The Globe and Mail, 11/10/03.

"Ghost fleet" ships near Britain: The first two US Navy vessels destined for demolition in Britain passed through the English Channel off France on Monday. Last week a British court ruled that plans to scrap 13 ships from the James River fleet would be put on hold until legal challenges from environmental groups are heard. But these first two ships will likely stay in Hartlepool, since winter weather conditions would make a return trip dangerous. The fate of the second two ships, which are about a week behind, is unclear. See "'Ghost fleet' passes France," Associated Press at CNN, 11/10/03.

Greenpeace ship heads for 'toxic' Alang: Environmental activist group Greenpeace has brought its campaign ship Rainbow Warrior to India this week, to try to put pressure on multinational corporations to be globally accountable. At issue is the plight of nearly 40,000 workers in one of the world's biggest shipbreaking yards, located at Alang on the Saurashtra coast. Ship owners around the world bring old vessels here to take advantage of low prices. According to Greenpeace estimates, only 10 per cent of Alang's workforce have received any training to deal with toxic materials, and there is a clear-cut shortage of personal protective equipment. Although officially the casualty figures are much lower, Greenpeace estimates that 4 to 5 people are dying every month at the yard. Research also indicates that sediments in Alang were more contaminated than the most heavily industrialized port area. See "Rainbow Warrior drops anchor in Mumbai," The Times Of India, 11/8/03.

Sparrows Point yard revived: Barletta Willis LLC, a Boston-based investment group, plans to revive the BMI shipyard in Sparrows point. Robert Willis, who has a background in venture capital and technology, is handling the financing. The Barletta half of the investment team is a Boston civil engineering and heavy industrial business called the Barletta Cos. The group expects to close on the sale in January, hire a shipyard operator, and put some $20 million into the site to make it operational; they envision a long-term investment of about $200 million over five years. Some work at the yard might involve building specialty boilers that generate electricity. Willis also sees the property being leased for general industrial use, as well as by companies that may need to ship products or raw materials occasionally. They may also open a small vocational school on site. See "Point shipyard to be revived," Lorraine Mirabella, The Baltimore Sun, 11/8/03.

House weakens "buy American" provision: The House approved a military spending bill that cuts back on restrictions of foreign purchases by the Pentagon. The original proposal dictated that all critical components in a weapon would have to be American made, and an overall system had to be 65 percent American — these provisions came from concern that the United States had become too dependent on foreign companies for its defense needs. But the Pentagon and large defense contractors complained that international projects would be endangered by rigid "buy American" rules; European allies criticized the provisions as protectionist. Instead, the 2004 defense authorization bill calls for the Pentagon to produce a study assessing how much the US depends on foreign suppliers, and to provide incentives to contractors to encourage use of domestic machine tools. The provision that requires that 50 percent of a weapons system be American made remains. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week. See "'Buy American' Provision Weakened," Renae Merle, Washington Post, 11/8/03.

Tasman Spirit oil spill studied: Major Tahir Iqbal, Minister of State for Environment, visited the oil-affected zone of offshore waters of the Arabian Sea this week. The area still shows effects of the oil spill from the tanker Tasman Spirit, which dumped some 30,000 tons of crude oil into the sea when it ran aground near Karachi last July 27. Scientists in the area are working on the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) program, sponsored by the Environment ministry with the assistance of UNDP. Sampling is expected to be finished by the end of the year, with an assessment of the spill possibly available by the end of February. It is clear that the effects of the oil pollution will be long lasting, and restoration of the ecosystem to its pre spill level will take many years. See "Marine life still shows effects of oil spill," Dawn, 11/7/03.

"Ghost fleet" in limbo: The plans to scrap 13 ships from the "ghost fleet" of retired US Navy vessels were thrown into limbo Wednesday, when Britain's High Court ruled they could not be dismantled in England until legal challenges by environmentalists are heard next month. On Thursday, Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett stated that while ideally the ships should be returned to the US until all regulatory issues are resolved, winter weather conditions might make that impractical. The first two ships will be stored somewhere in the region temporarily, and negotiations are underway to see if the second two ships — which are a week behind — might still be turned back to the US. The long-term future of the ships is in doubt, since it could take Able UK several months to get permission for dismantling them. The Hartlepool council has also voted against the ships coming to the port. See "Toxic US ships to be sent home but safety problem remains," John Vidal, The Guardian, 11/7/03.

WWF suggests nine PSSAs in the Mediterranean Sea: WWF has released a report, one year after the sinking of the oil tanker Prestige, that warns the crisis is not over. Sixty percent more oil was spilled than was initially estimated, there is still a significant amount of oil remaining in the wreck, and oil is still drifting offshore and periodically landing on the coast. Damage to various maritime-related economic sectors and the environment may last for over a decade, and cost approximately $5.7 billion. If a disaster like the Prestige happened in the enclosed Mediterranean Sea, it would take 80 years for only the surface waters to renew. Paolo Guglielmi, Head of the Marine Unit at WWF Mediterranean Programme, has pointed out that regular, deliberate and illegal discharge of oil during tank washing or ballast water exchange operations from ships that traverse the Mediterranean every day adds up to 15 Prestiges every year. To help combat damage, WWF recommends the creation of nine Particularly Sensitive Areas (PSSAs) in the Sea, with strict regulations within each area. See "15 Prestiges every year in the Mediterranean - WWF," WWF Mediterranean, 11/6/03.

House bill would make it harder to show harm to marine mammals: Environmental groups sued the Navy in 2001, saying sonar tests harmed marine mammals. The courts curtailed the areas where the Navy could conduct their tests, and ordered the two sides to negotiate a compromise — this entailed limiting the tests to stretches of the far western Pacific. But all the while, the Pentagon said it would pursue legislation in Congress to exempt it from the marine mammal act's rules. This happened Wednesday, when the House Resources Committee added two words — biologically significant — to a bill reauthorizing the 31-year-old Marine Mammal Protection Act, saying it was necessary to help the Navy experiment with long-range, low-frequency sonar used to detect new quiet diesel-powered submarines. Opponents say the wording will make it harder for prosecutors to prove cases of harassment under the act because they'll find it difficult to show any specific action is "biologically significant" to a single animal or a group of mammals. The House committee bill may also provide loopholes that will allow commercial and industrial interests to operate under fewer restrictions, such as oil companies. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has yet to come up with its version of a new marine mammal act, so congressional action isn't likely this year. See "House panel joins fight over whales, sonar," Edward Epstein, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/6/03.

Finland set to establish maritime "economic zone": A bill to establish a maritime "economic zone" that extends Finland's territorial waters will soon go before Parliament. The main impetus behind the bill is to allow Finnish officials to take action against polluting ships. Currently, environmental violations committed in international waters fall under the jurisdiction of the country under whose flag the ship sails, rather than the country or countries affected by the pollution. Until now, Finland has been largely powerless to stop ships that dump bilge water and water from washing oil tanks near its territorial waters. If passed, the law would extend Finnish jurisdiction to the middle of the Gulf of Finland and the Gulf of Bothnia, which is currently the outer limit of Finland's fishing zone. There would also be a slight extension in the southern part of the area. See "Finland to extend monitoring of maritime violations beyond territorial waters," Helsingin Sanomat, 11/5/03.

DoT concerned about plan to ship nuclear waste around Cape Horn: Southern California Edison, which operates a nuclear power plant 50 miles north of San Diego, wants to ship 600 tons of nuclear waste around the tip of South America on a 90-day, nonstop voyage through international waters to a dump in Barnwell, South Carolina. The Department of Transportation must grant the final voyage for what would be the longest journey for a piece of nuclear waste in US history, and they have raised safety concerns; the US State Department has been asked to review the case. If the shipment is approved, the vessel would pass Cape Horn, which is considered to be one of the world's most dangerous nautical passages. Although advance notification of coastal states isn't required, the Transportation Department is pressing Edison to contact coastal states; Chile, particularly, requires safety and contingency measures for all radioactive shipments through its waters. The Transportation Department is particularly concerned that the utility company has made "minimal" arrangements for salvaging the reactor vessel if it falls into water more than 300 feet deep, especially considering the itinerary is mostly over the open ocean. See "Nuke Waste Move Plan Hits Snag," Associated Press at CBS News, 11/5/03.

Restrictions on Muslim seafarers questioned: The United States, and now Singapore, have recently implemented visa restrictions on Muslim seafarers on ships going to US ports. This move has been denounced by Muslim countries which attended the recent meeting of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Escap) in Bangkok. Because the US controls nearly 40 per cent of the world's cargo movements, nearly all vessels have to call at US ports. And, since it takes more processing time to get the visas, shipping lines are becoming reluctant to hire Muslim seafarers. Agents from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Hong Kong have demanded that the US and Singapore revise or lift their visa restrictions on Muslim seafarers; some ship owners and shipping lines are also calling for change. See "US, S'pore visa curbs on Muslim seafarers slammed," Business Times, 11/4/03.

High Court challenge to US "Ghost fleet" ships: Friends of the Earth will ask the High Court on November 5 to block the arrival of the four decommissioned US Navy "Ghost fleet" ships that are on their way to Britain. The environmental group hopes the court will quash a modification to a waste management license allowing the vessels to be broken up in a Hartlepool yard. In another challenge, three Hartlepool people are applying to the court for an immediate injunction to prevent work on the vessels. The UK Environment Agency has already told Able UK, owner of the yard in Hartlepool, that its dry dock license was no longer valid. Hartlepool councilors have called for Transport Secretary Alistair Darling to send the ships back to the US, but the Department for Transport only has authority to assess the vessels' seaworthiness. See "Minister told 'stop ghost fleet'," BBC News, 11/4/03.

Staten Island ferry crewman talks: According to the only nearby crew member, Andrew J. Barberi pilot Richard Smith did not slump over the controls at the time of the October 15 ferry crash, and captain Michael Gansas was not in his required position in the wheelhouse. Mate Robert Rush is the only witness to the wheelhouse events who has spoken with investigators. He did not testify Tuesday before the subcommittee on Coast Guard and maritime transportation because US Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf said his appearance could interfere with the criminal investigation of the crash. Neither Smith nor Gansas has been interviewed by investigators. See "Worker: Ferry Captain Absent Before Crash," Associated Press at ABC News, 11/4/03.

British cruise liner Aurora hit by virus: An outbreak of a Norwalk-like virus hit P&O Cruises' Aurora, apparently shortly after the ship left Southampton for a Mediterranean cruise on October 20. At the vessel's stop in Croatia, sick passengers were confined to quarters but those without symptoms were allowed to complete a shore visit. Greece barred the vessel from docking when it arrived on October 31, although health ministry officials in Athens allowed the Aurora to resupply before leaving. On November 3, Spain completely closed its border with Gibraltar. The Norwalk virus is rarely fatal, but highly contagious. The ship is carrying 1,790 mostly British passengers and 841 crew; just over 500 people have been infected. P&O have said that most people have recovered from the bug and that fewer new cases are appearing, with only six new cases reported yesterday. UK's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has criticized the border closure as "unnecessary and disproportionate." See "Spain closes Gibraltar border over bug-hit cruise ship," PA News at The Independent, 11/3/03.

"Smart" buoys share weather data: New "smart buoys" being deployed in the Gulf of Maine are part of an experimental open-source observation system called GoMOOS (Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System). A working prototype for a planned national ocean-observation system, the program is also a test bed for new marine and weather technology. Along with measuring things like wind speed, wave activity, air and water temperature and water salinity, the system is collecting data on phenomenon that have never been measured before, such as Arctic Sea smoke. Along with using open-source technologies — much of it runs on FreeBSD, for example — the project has an open-source attitude: data is available to anyone. GoMOOS is working with other weather and marine organizations to develop data standards so information can easily be shared, and it also collaborates with open-source programmers to develop new ways of using open-source technology. See "Seafaring the Smart Way," Michelle Delio, Wired News, 11/3/03.

Just don't call them carp: The invasive Asian carp has taken a firm hold in the Illinois, Mississippi and Missouri rivers. According to figures from the Illinois Natural History Survey, more than 55 tons of the fish have been pulled out of the rivers each year since 1994. Experts have put up electrical barriers and are considering other ways to prevent the carp from making it into the Great Lakes, where they may end up starving out native species like perch and whitefish. Rick Smith, president of the Illinois Big River Fish Corp., is trying to drum up food industry interest in the carp. The first lesson he's learned is to drop the word "carp," since that reminds people of pond goldfish. Instead, the company calls them "Asian fish." See "Those fighting Asian carp now want us to eat them," Newsday.com, 11/2/03.

UK withdraws approval for US "Ghost Fleet" to dock: The first four of the US "Ghost fleet" ships are due to complete their Atlantic crossing within two weeks, but there may be problems with permissions. The UK Environment Agency has said approval had initially been granted on the assumption that all relevant permission would be in place for dry dock dismantling, but that it had been withdrawn when it became clear several plans, including planning permission, had not been put in place. Able UK managing director Peter Stephenson has stated that all approvals have been applied for, and the yard is "confident they will be in place by mid-November" when the ships arrive. The Environment Agency said the ships could dock on Teesside if the appropriate permissions were granted. The ships are still on their way to the UK. See "'Ghost fleet' faces setback," BBC News, 11/1/03.

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