News Archive - March 2004

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The US Navy's long-term plans: Attendees of a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing this week heard complaints from both Republicans and Democrats that the Navy hasn't made a compelling case for its long-term shipbuilding plans. Top Navy leaders want a 375-ship fleet, but the Bush Administration has yet to endorse it. American Shipbuilding Association President Cynthia L. Brown warned lawmakers that shipbuilding companies may be forced to close without steady work, leaving the country unable to build the ships it needs in times of war. But throughout the meeting, there was no sign of consensus on how many or what kinds of ships the nation needs or how much Congress should be prepared to spend on them. See "Lawmakers split during hearing on Navy’s ship request," Dale Eisman, The Virginian-Pilot, 3/31/04.

Hunters Point Naval Shipyard to be cleaned up: The US Navy will clean up toxins, including radioactive waste, asbestos and PCBs, at the old Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. Parcels of land will be given to the city of San Francisco for development. The first 78 acres is close to receiving regulatory approval and could be transferred to the city as early as May. The deal appears to end more than a decade of friction between federal and local officials over the fate of the site. See "Navy reaches land deal with San Francisco," Lisa Leff, Associated Press at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 3/31/04.

"Dead zones" grow in polluted oceans: Delegates attending the meeting of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) in South Korea this week were warned about growing "dead zones" in the world's oceans, where plants and animals cannot live. These areas have doubled in the past decade, and experts say the oxygen-deprived areas could pose a greater threat to the world's fish stocks than over-fishing. Scientists stated that a rapid escalation in nitrogen and phosphorus levels in water, caused by fertilizer use and vehicle and factory emissions, has created almost 150 oxygen-starved dead zones around the world. One of the worst places is the Gulf of Mexico, where an area of nearly 50,000 square miles has been classified as deoxygenated and unable to sustain life. The problem is directly linked to nutrients or fertilizers brought to the Gulf by the Mississippi. Other dead zones have been appearing off South America, China, Japan, southeast Australia and New Zealand. See the "Global Environment Outlook (GEO) Year Book 2003," published by UNEP.

Bow Mariner salvage ends: Salvage operations to locate and remove the 18 missing crew and fuel oil from the sunken Singapore-flagged tanker Bow Mariner ended last Friday, with no seamen located. The operations were called off after an analysis of high-resolution video and extensive hull soundings of the vessel's fuel and cargo tanks from nearly 60 hours of searching using a sophisticated ROV. None of the missing crew was found and the vessel's fuel and cargo tanks were determined to be empty. The Bow Mariner sank in the Atlantic Ocean 50 miles off the Virginia coat in 264 feet of water on February 28 after an explosion and fire that left three crewmen dead and 18 Filipino and Greek crewmen missing, while six were rescued. See "Salvage operation of Bow Mariner ends," StockHouse USA, 3/29/04.

ILO adopts fingerprinting for seafarers: The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has taken a major step for security measures by adopting a new "biometric" identity verification system for some 1.2 million maritime workers, most of whom are from developing countries, who handle 90 per cent of the world's trade. The new measure is essential for the implementation of the revised seafarers' identity documents convention adopted by the ILO last June. It is also hoped the system will help protect workers' rights. "This new measure brings the most modern electronic identity technology to the uncharted waters of security in the high seas," said Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, director of the ILO program responsible for the measure. See the press release "ILO takes major step to ensure security of seafarers" from the ILO, 3/26/04.

The growing business of aquaculture: According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the average American ate nearly 16 pounds of seafood in 2002, up 7 percent from the year before. Some researchers believe that new technology in the aquaculture industry can help meet the growing demand. The Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, the US Department of Agriculture, and other organizations are trying to boost production. One experiment is to grow seafood outside the ocean — this would allow the marine fish business to move away from the expensive coastline. Another experiment raises flounder in tanks in greenhouses, to trick the fish into spawning more often. Other techniques to boost production include breeding fish within a species that have shown to be faster-growing, more nutritious or more disease-resistant. Some industry experts believe that farm-raised fish could eventually dominate that market. The aquaculture industry has seen a 300 percent increase in the last two decades and has become the fastest-growing segment of US agriculture production. See "Saltwater fish being raised outside ocean," Jill Barton, Associated Press at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 3/26/04.

China grows in shipbuilding, shipping: China's ambition is to become the world's biggest shipbuilder by 2015. The country is also investing significant funds in port facilities, to strengthen its position as one of the world's major trading nations. Speaking at the Asia Pacific Maritime Summit, Shuo Ma, vice president of the World Maritime University in Sweden, stated that China's share of the world shipbuilding market grew from a mere 0.8 percent in 1982 to 13 percent in 2003. He believes that China can achieve its goal, but only with work, and reforms. Specifically, the Chinese government needs to implement reforms in state-owned companies to improve productivity, and streamline bloated staff numbers. A possible revaluation of the Chinese currency against the US dollar could also undermine Beijing's competitiveness. See "China vies for top shipbuilding spot," Business Report, 3/25/04.

Possible delay for US ratification of the Law of the Sea Convention: Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) has met with some conservatives who are worried that US participation in the Law of the Sea Convention could compromise the United States' authority over its own shipping lanes. As a result, ratification of the United Nations document could be delayed. Until Inhofe's meeting on Wednesday, most industry members anticipated that the proposal would readily pass the full Senate; treaty proponents believe it will protect US interests by helping guarantee access to the continental shelf beyond 200 miles and protecting navigational freedom. Seabed-mining rights appear to be the last sticking point. See "Sea law hits rough waters in US Senate," Oil & Gas Journal, 3/25/04.

Biological system used to monitor water: Bluegills — sometimes called the couch potato of the fish world — are being used to monitor water quality. Eight fish are placed in a self-contained box for three weeks at a time; a side stream from the water supply being tested is run through the fish monitoring box. The US Army's Center for Environmental Health Research then watches the fish sentinels' gill movements for signs that they have come into contact with any suspect chemicals. At any signs of fish distress, an alarm is triggered. While the system can't pinpoint the type of chemical bothering the fish, it can alert scientists to a problem requiring further tests. The system, due to be launched in September, should prove less expensive than many current monitoring systems, since it can monitor many chemicals at the same time, continuously. See "Testing the Waters: Fish or Foul?," Louise Knapp, Wired News, 3/25/04.

World ports struggle to meet security requirements: No one denies that a sea borne terrorist attack could be devastating, and the ISPS code, set to go into effect on July 1, will help address the issue. But many ports — and particularly small ones — are scrambling to meet the tight deadline. As Stephen Flynn, a retired Coast Guard commander and a maritime security expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, put it, many developing countries feel that the US is "exporting the cost of protecting itself onto some of the wold's poorest countries." For example, although it's the largest shipping port in the Caribbean, Puerto Cortés is sprawling and run down. Honduras is spending $4 million on security gear for the port, but the deadline is looming. With the US Coast Guard serious about banning non-compliant ships, and even blacklisting ports, people there are worried. Mauro Membreño, chief of Honduras's new National Commission on Port Security, fears that if the United States were to bar ships from the port for even a week, "our national economy would collapse." US Port authorities note that President Bush's budget for port security in the coming year is $46 million, while the costs of compliance in the United States alone will reach $7 billion. See "U.S. Law Puts World Ports on Notice," Tim Weiner, The New York Times, 3/24/04 (registration required).

Cause of Bow Mariner sinking still unknown: The Singapore-flagged Bow Mariner, carrying 3.2 million gallons of ethanol, sank off the Virginia coast on February 28. As the flag state, Singapore must prepare a report for the International Maritime Organization, but Singapore investigators asked the Coast Guard to take the lead in the investigation. There has been no suggestion of criminal charges, but since four of the six survivors have invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, investigators haven't been able to determine what happened (the two survivors who have spoken don't know what caused the ship to sink). Lawyers hired by the vessel's owners and operators are trying to ensure that nothing in the US investigation can be used against the men in Singapore, and are trying to negotiate a deal that could offer the men immunity from prosecution in exchange for their testimony. A hearing will take place on April 9. See "Surviving crew of exploded ethanol ship try for immunity," Kim O'Brien Root, KRT Wire at The State, 3/24/04.

Russia launches oil storage facility on the Barents Sea: Russia's state oil firm Rosneft is launching a huge offshore crude oil storage facility on the Barents Sea today. The tanker will store oil from Russian firms shipped from Barents Sea and White Sea ports in small cargoes before being reloaded onto large tankers for re-export to world markets. The storage facility should simplify logistics in the region, and lower freight rates. Until now, tankers too big to enter the region's shallow water ports have anchored near Murmansk for days while dozens of small vessels filled them up. Rosneft plans to export around 55,000 barrels per day of crude oil starting in June, when four tankers will shuttle between Arkhangelsk and Murmansk. See "Russian vessel to store oil offshore for tankers," Reuters at the Houston Chronicle, 3/24/04.

Swan Hunter hopes for navy contract: The Wallsend-based shipbuilder Swan Hunter is hoping to win a contract from the UK's Ministry of Defence to build a hospital ship. The yard is currently building two Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels. As they are due to be delivered in 2006, it was feared the yard would stand idle until work begins on two giant aircraft carriers in 2008. The hospital ship contract would not only safeguard existing jobs, it would create up to 200 new jobs. A decision on the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Joint Casualty Treatment ship contract is expected in the coming months; the work is expected to last two years. See "Swan's close in on ship deal," Guy Anderson, The Journal at icNewcastle, 3/24/04.

US ports get bad marks for the environment: The environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council has just released a report calling seaports the largest urban polluters in the United States. Ports are major hubs of economic activity, and many are undergoing expansions to accommodate even greater cargo volumes. Marine ports are also among the most poorly regulated sources of pollution in the United States. Looking at factors such as air and water quality, land use by ports, and the impact on nearby communities, the study rated 10 major US ports from "A" to "F." The port of Houston gets a failing grade; the port of Oakland ranks the highest, with a B-. The study provides an overview of policy and practical pollution mitigation recommendations. A follow-up report, to be published in summer 2004, will offer detailed analysis of technical recommendations for the benefit of port operators, regulatory agencies, and community-based environmental and health advocates. See "Harboring Pollution: The Dirty Truth about U.S. Ports," Natural Resources Defense Council, March 2004.

Russian navy chief retracts warning about battle cruiser: Russia's navy chief Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov said Tuesday that the battle cruiser Peter the Great is unfit for service and is especially dangerous because it is equipped with a nuclear reactor. But he later said his statements were misinterpreted by the media. The Admiral went on to say that the nuclear security service on the cruiser meets all the necessary requirements — but the ship's living quarters are below standard. The Kommersant newspaper reported Tuesday that Admiral Kuroyedov's decision to declare the ship unfit was the result of a power struggle among top Russian admirals. See "Russian navy chief flip-flops on ship safety," Associated Press at CTV News, 3/23/04.

Ship recycling campaign launched in the UK: Campaign groups including Greenpeace, politicians and union leaders are launching a drive to recycle ships in the UK rather than send them to Third World countries to be dismantled. While the initiative followed the controversy over the US "ghost ships" sent to Teesside last year, Greenpeace said the worse scandal involved UK ships being sent to Third World countries where they were scrapped by children. The Government is being urged to develop a state of the art ship recycling industry in the UK, and to help stop British ships being sent to countries including India and Bangladesh to be broken up under dangerous and polluting conditions. See "Call to break up ships in the UK," Finlo Rohrer, BBC News Online, 3/23/04.

Russian nuclear battle cruiser could explode: The battle cruiser Peter the Great has been called back to port after an inspection last week revealed serious problems. Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov, the head of Russia's Navy, told reporters, "The ship is in such a state that it could explode at any moment... This includes the nuclear reactor." Apparently the ship passed superficial inspections, but is structurally unsound. Although sources are fairly specific that the situation is dangerous, several political causes are also being discussed. For example, it is speculated that Admiral Kuroyedov could be targeting Admiral Gennady Suchkov, the Northern Fleet's former head, or he could be acting on a personal conflict with retired Admiral Igor Kasatonov. The cruiser is normally based near the northern port of Murmansk, although it isn't clear if that is where the ship is currently headed. See "Russian nuclear warship 'could explode'," Agencies and Richard Colwill, Times Online, 3/23/04.

Kvaerner shareholders endorse 3-way split: The Norwegian parent of the Kvaerner Philadelphia Shipyard said shareholders had approved its proposed three-way split. Under the plan, designed to address debt problems, a new holding company will be created, called Kvaerner ASA. Two specialized companies will also be formed, both controlled by Kvaerner. The firm immediately initiated an initial public offering of shares in the first of the new companies, Aker Kvaerner ASA, which will focus on engineering and construction for the oil and gas industries. A shipbuilding company will be formed later this year, according to the plan. Norwegian industrialist Kjell Inge Roekke will control all three companies. See "Shareholders accept plan to divide Aker Kvaerner ASA," FreeRealTime.com, 3/22/04.

IMO calls for early implementation of ISPS Code: Speaking at the opening of the Sub-Committee on Flag State Implementation, IMO's Secretary-General, Mr. Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, has reminded Member States of the importance of the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code. Stating that the Madrid atrocities of 11 March 2004 "should serve as a grim reminder of the vulnerability of all modes of transport to acts of terrorism," Mr. Mitropoulos urged member nations to implement to implement the ISPS Code as soon as possible. Although the ISPS is set to enter into force on 1 July 2004, the Secretary-General pointed out that "this deadline means nothing to terrorists who may decide to strike." See "IMO sec-gen calls for early implementation of ISPS Code," The Star, 3/22/04.

Japan to ratify International Maritime Traffic pact: The Convention on the Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic was established by the International Maritime Organization in 1965, enforced in 1967, and ratified by 94 countries. Although Japan signed the convention in 1965, it hasn't ratified it. Apparently prompted by complaints from the business sector over the paperwork involved in shipping freight cargo, the Japanese government will submit related bills to an ordinary Diet session to be convened in 2005 and will seek Diet approval for the convention's ratification within the same year. In addition to reducing the number of forms that must be completed for foreign ships and freighters to dock in Japan from more than 100 to eight, the convention also enables customs officers to conduct more thorough checks for materials that could be used for the development of weapons of mass destruction. See "Govt to seek ratification of intl maritime pact," Daily Yomiuri, 3/20/04.

More worries about the ISPS deadline: While speaking at the Seatrade Cruise Shipping Convention, US Coast Guard Rear Adm. Thomas Gilmour was adamant about the International Ship and Port Security Code: "A ship will not operate in US waters after July 1 without" compliance. While some industry experts were quick to point out their own conformity — such as J. Michael Crye, president of the International Council of Cruise Lines — others worry that foreign ports may not meet the requirements. Developing countries are particularly worried about meeting the standards, since they often don't have funds to support the new plans. If ships are not in compliance or have visited ports that do not meet security standards, the Coast Guard could take several actions, including issuing fines or even denying entry. See "Port security in doubt," Ina Paiva Cordle, The Miami Herald, 3/19/04.

Putting iron in the ocean won't fight against global warming: In 1999, Philip Boyd and a team of New Zealand and international scientists distributed an iron compound in solution into a section of the Southern Ocean. The result was a dramatic increase in phytoplankton stocks during the developing bloom. The scientists hoped that simply adding iron to the ocean might be the answer to extracting greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Unfortunately, further tests showed that over the long-term, the iron-induced bloom decreases. In order to enable the blooms to persist for long enough to have an impact on atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, silicate would also have to be added, in a ratio of 5:1. This is impractical. See "Study rules out iron-seeding to fight warming," Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 3/19/04.

Harvesting icebergs for fresh water: Unesco predicts that the average supply of water worldwide will shrink by a third over the next two decades. Desalination is too expensive for the planet's biggest use of water — irrigation — so scientists are exploring other options. The idea of using icebergs as a water source was first suggested in the 1950s. The amount of iceberg water that annually melts into the sea is close to the world's annual consumption of fresh water. The European Union's water scarcity research program has received a number of proposals for iceberg harvesting, including one from a consortium that suggested towing Arctic icebergs with tugboats. Another plan, set to be tested next summer, will use a marine kite to to tow a small iceberg. The 250,000 ton test iceberg will be wrapped in a protective skirt to reduce erosion and melting. See "The iceman cometh," The Guardian, 3/18/04.

ISPS could force oil prices higher: The International Maritime Organization's new International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS) goes into effect on July 1 of this year. But more and more maritime interests are worried that they won't meet the deadline. For example, maritime security sources have reported that many OPEC producers, including Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Kuwait and Indonesia, will not meet the deadline. Since the US Coast Guard could turn away any ship that isn't security-certified, including oil tankers and gas carriers, this could cause higher crude prices, especially in the US. Little is known about readiness of other OPEC nations like Iran, Algeria, Iraq, and Venezuela, and major non-OPEC producers like Mexico, although industry experts and observers said they were unlikely to be on schedule. See "Sea Anti-Terror Law Could Disrupt OPEC Oil Exports," Reuters at tehrantimes.com, 3/18/04.

Hoegh Fleet Services pays oil dumping fine: Norwegian shipping company Hoegh Fleet Services has pleaded guilty to charges that it obstructed an investigation into illegal dumping of oil. The company pleaded guilty to seven counts related to the misconduct, including obstruction of justice and making false statements to federal inspectors, and is to be sentenced in June. The company will pay a $3.5 million fine. As part of the plea agreement, Hoegh also agreed to develop a comprehensive environmental compliance plan for its fleet of 38 vessels that call on US ports. Since most illegal dumping occurs at night in international waters, it's difficult to determine how much oil is involved, but the Justice Department contends illegal dumping is rampant within the maritime industry. Officials have been going after vessel operators more lately, and more than 21 ships in the Northwest and Alaska have been caught at the practice over the past year. See "Norwegian shipping company agrees to $3.5 million fine," Associated Press at The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 3/17/04.

Speeding up communications: The new Vocera badge, created by Vocera Communications, works a bit like the "com badges" that appeared on the newer shows from the Star Trek TV series. Badge wearers touch the device, say who they want to talk to, and are connected. The system uses the Voice-Over-Internet Protocol or VOIP, although it can also be integrated with desktop phones and mobiles. When the 300-bed St. Agnes Healthcare facility in Baltimore deployed the Vocera system, its nurses saved more than 1,100 hours a year, and the entire organization saved some 3,400 hours. Sailors aboard the Navy's sea-based battle laboratory ship, the USS Coronado, are also testing the Vocera communications system. See "Your Trekkie Communicator Is Ready," Arik Hesseldahl, Forbes, 3/16/04.

EU plans to protect dolphins: Worldwide over 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises die unintentionally in fishermen's hauls, according to a study released last year. In response, European Union nations are considering requiring fishermen to install acoustic "pingers" on their boats to scare away the marine mammals. The rules would be applied in the Baltic Sea, North Sea, English Channel, and other waters off northern and western Europe; the new rules would also phase out drift nets in the Baltic Sea. The pingers could cost up to $7,400 per boat, so some smaller boats may be exempted. But some fishing organizations support the expense, since catching a dolphin or porpoise can damage gear, and cost the boat in catch. See "EU mulling measures to protect dolphins," Paul Ames, Associated Press at Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 3/16/04.

Blohm + Voss and HDW may merge: The two northern German shipyards Blohm + Voss (owned by ThyssenKrupp) and HDW (owned by One Equity Partner) are reportedly in advanced merger discussions. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports that the yards may finish negotiations in the next few months. Although unions usually resist mergers in Germany, that is unlikely in this case, as a merger is seen as a chance to maintain both yards. Many hope a merger could allow the German shipyards to compete with Asia in the commercial market. See "Major German shipyards close to merger," United Press International at The Washington Times, 3/15/04.

Madagascar buries victims of ferry disaster: Madagascar's passenger ferry Samson capsized and sank on March 7 during the cyclone Gafilo. The ferry was believed to have been carrying 113 crew and passengers. 60 dead were buried on Saturday in a ceremony attended by Madagascar Prime Minister Jacques Sylla and Comoran diplomats. Until Saturday, maritime officials believed the only survivors were two people who washed ashore on Monday, but rescuers discovered two additional survivors over the weekend. The circumstances of their rescue were not immediately clear. The Comoran government is setting up an inquiry into the disaster. See "Madagascar buries 60 after ferry sinks," Reuters at The New Zealand Herald, 3/14/04.

The struggle between dredging and water quality: About a third of container ships cannot enter or leave Australia's Port Phillip Bay with full loads because the entrance to the bay and the channel are too shallow. Instead, the ships have to divert to other ports to unload before coming to Melbourne. Businesses, farmers and trade unions are pushing for the channel to be deepened by 2007. They argue that economic growth, thousands of jobs and Melbourne's status as the nation's premier container port are at risk unless the project goes ahead. But Graham Harris, one of Australia's top environmental scientists, has warned that the dredging would harm the bay's ecosystem and water quality. Despite these warnings, all indications show the Government will go ahead with the project. See "Deep trouble in bay proposal," Richard Baker, The Age, 3/13/04.

The changing waterfront: The waterfront has traditionally been a good place for men with criminal pasts to get a job. But when a 2002 law designed to protect ports from terrorism goes into effect, that will change. The law requires criminal background checks for longshoremen and other dockworkers, who could lose their jobs if they have a conviction in their past. Union and industry officials said the background checks probably will mirror those used in airports, where workers can be fired if they have been convicted of any of 28 felonies, ranging from murder to drug use. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is still working on a list of offenses that will be cause for dismissal. Roland Day, the walking delegate of International Longshoremen's Association Local 333, said TSA has taken the wrong approach to securing the waterfront. "They should give some kind of training to longshoremen to be the first line of defense instead of trying to exclude us," he said. "If something explodes, we are going to be the first to die." See "Longshoremen worry that port security proposals could hit them hardest," Joe Eaton, Capital News Service at The State.com, 3/12/04.

Ship breaking revived in Pakistan: Since the government of President Pervez Musharraf cut taxes on Pakistan's ship breaking companies by about a third, eight ships have arrived at the Gaddani scrapyard. Nowhere near the dozens that clogged the shore during Gaddani's heyday in the 1970s, but enough to worry environmentalists and labor organizations. With unemployment high in Pakistan, many are grateful for the jobs, and potential growth in the ship breaking industry with the new tax cuts. Workers here get an average wage, but there is no safety gear, no health plan, no on-site medical facility, one ambulance to take the injured on an hour's drive to the nearest hospital — and plenty of toxic materials, fumes, and hazards. Shaheed Patel, the foreman in charge of scrapping the supertanker Sea Giant — the second-largest ship ever built — said Pakistani ship breakers have cleaned up their operations, but even he acknowledged that environmental standards aren't high in Pakistan. See "Ship breaking stirs environmentalist fears," Paul Haven, Associated Press at The Washington Times, 3/12/04.

Grand jury will question Bow Mariner crew: The Singapore-flagged ship Bow Mariner, carrying 3.2 million gallons of ethanol, exploded and sank off the coast of Virginia last month. Three crewmen died and 18 others are missing and presumed dead. A federal grand jury will question the six surviving crewmen. It is expected that four of the crewmen may invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, as they have with Coast Guard investigators. The Coast Guard has been able to interview the chief cook and messman, but investigators said they provided little insight because they were in the galley. Once the wreck site is cleared of debris, another vessel will take underwater photographs, and eventually send divers down to retrieve the remaining victims. See "Lawyer: Jury to question tanker survivors," Associated Press at Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 3/12/04.

Search continues for water taxi victims: The 36-foot pontoon boat Lady D capsized with 25 people aboard Saturday when strong gusts flipped the boat over. Navy Reserve personnel were able to rescue 22 of 25 people aboard. The National Weather Service issued a "special marine warning" urging boats to seek shelter at 4:05 p.m. — five minutes after the Lady D capsized. Since then, divers have been searching the harbor bottom for the bodies of the three missing. A Navy camera, capable of taking photographs underwater in murky conditions, is now being used to help the search. Divers aren't expected to enter the frigid water unless the Navy device photographs a body. The camera is also going to be used to check 14 sites identified by a submersible remote-controlled robot, lent by Tyco Telecommunications. See "Navy camera joins search for three water taxi victims," Bill McCauley and Doug Donovan, Baltimore Sun, 3/12/04. A partial list of those aboard the water taxi is also available.

Washington state to use containment booms during fuel transfers: Last December's 4,800-gallon oil spill at Chevron's Point Wells transfer facility forced Washington state to investigate its oil-transfer rules. As a result, new rules will be written by 2006. Specifically, the Department of Ecology has until the end of the year to report to the state legislature on its recommendations for changing oil-transfer rules. By 2006, it must write rules "including standards requiring deployment of containment equipment prior to transfer ... when determined to be safe and effective." The measure awaits only the governor's signature, which is expected, and budget writers' inclusion of $200,000 in the state budget to cover the costs. See "State told to draft oil-spill safeguards," Craig Welch, The Seattle Times, 3/11/04.

Whaling deemed cruel: A new report published by a global coalition of animal welfare societies demands that all whaling be stopped on the grounds of cruelty. The main method of killing whales currently used is to shoot them with a grenade-tipped harpoon. Instantaneous death cannot be guaranteed: a second harpoon or a rifle is sometimes needed; whales take an average of two minutes to die, with many taking much longer; and the fate of wounded or lost whales is unknown. The coalition of over 140 organizations from more than 55 countries is calling for a stop to all whaling. Highly evolved animals like cows or sheep are treated humanely in slaughterhouses. But there is no means available to apply the same standards to whales at sea. More than 1400 whales are expected to be killed in 2004 in commercial and scientific whale hunts by Norway, Japan and Iceland. See "Anti-whalers say cruelty of killing requires ban," Shaoni Bhattacharya, New Scientist, 3/9/04.

Royal Navy called on to guard UK ships from pirates: The number of pirate attacks on UK ships has risen from a couple each year in the mid-1990s to six in 2003. The Government is working with the United Nations, European Union and maritime industry officials to combat the problem. But the ship officer's union, Numast, has called for the Royal Navy to protect the British merchant fleet in areas where there is a known danger. The Royal Navy has expressed its determination to defend Britain from seaborne attacks, but Maritime Minister David Jamieson has pointed out that due to the geographical spread of the problem, it would be difficult for the Navy to counter all possible threats. Royal Navy ships acting in aggressive situations on international waters could also cause diplomatic problems. See "Piracy poses threat to world trade as maritime attacks hit record levels," The Independent, 3/8/04.

NATO fights for maritime security: Admiral Gregory Johnson, US Commander of NATO forces in southern Europe, and commander of US naval forces in Europe, is concerned that maritime security is not strong enough. As an example, a security mission in the Mediterranean, code named Active Endeavour, has up to eight navy vessels keeping tabs on cargo flow in strategic locations. The operation has helped NATO build a picture of Mediterranean ship traffic which could eventually become part of a global database. Unfortunately, NATO members with naval patrols elsewhere did not share information with the Mediterranean operation. NATO is setting up two command centers which will take turns to run major overseas operations and if necessary deploy NATO's new fast response force to tackle global emergencies. Backing for the response force is likely to prove a litmus test of members' commitment to NATO. See "NATO Chief Says Maritime Security Flimsy," Crispian Balmer, Reuters at Yahoo! News, 3/8/04.

Crews search for water taxi victims: The Seaport Taxi, a 36-foot pontoon boat, overturned Saturday afternoon in Baltimore Harbor when the area was struck by a sudden storm with wind gusting to 55 mph. The boat was equipped with life preservers but passengers are not required to wear them. Navy reservists rushed to the scene to help with rescue efforts. Of the 25 people on board, one died, and a man, a woman and a child were still missing. Five people remained in hospitals Monday, two in critical condition. Recovery crews equipped with dogs, sonar equipment and helicopters are still looking for the three missing people, but water temperatures and poor visibility in the harbor are slowing the process. Federal authorities are looking at the poor weather at the time of the accident, as well as the boat's condition and the actions of its two crew members. The National Transportation Safety Board is putting a timeline together, to determine, in part, if the water taxi left a stop at Fort McHenry before or after a small craft advisory was issued. See "Search under way for missing water taxi victims," CNN, 3/8/04.

ISPS deadline may be changed: The International Code for the Security of Ships and Port Facilities (ISPS Code) goes into effect on July 1. As the deadline comes nearer, it is becoming clear that not all ships or maritime facilities will be able to meet it. The Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) recently performed a survey amongst its members on behalf of the IMO, which supports these fears. Although the IMO has stated they will not push back the July 1 deadline, there appear to be signs that the organization may change its mind. First is that the timetable for implementation was never realistic. Second is that many thousands of ships will clearly miss the deadline. Third is that the Recognized Security Organizations are already behind in approving required paperwork. And fourth is that the recent retirement of William O'Neil as secretary general of the IMO may allow the new incumbent, Efthimios Mitropoulos, to take the decision without losing too much face. See "U-turn appears likely on ISPS deadline," Frank Kennedy, Gulf News Online, 3/8/04.

New York City's docks too short for large cruise liners: When the Queen Mary 2 arrives in New York in late April, it will need special permits to allow it to extend 200 feet beyond what the cruise industry is calling an outmoded pier. Permits aside, the situation creates navigation hazards, and raises concerns about the ship's stability in its berth. Carnival Cruise Line, owner of the QM2, wants New York to be the liner's American homeport, but only if the city acts quickly to build a state-of-the-art terminal. Carnival began negotiations with the city to build a suitable berth for their new ship even before the QM2 was completed, but the city seems to be dragging its feet. Royal Caribbean Cruises has already struck a tentative deal to move its ultralarge Voyager ships from New York to new berths at Bayonne, New Jersey. Industry studies show that every time a Royal Caribbean ship ties up in New Jersey, New York loses about $1 million in fees, taxes, food and supplies. See QM2 will show how docks come up short," Brian Kates, New York Daily News, 3/7/04.

More bodies recovered from SuperFerry 14: Search teams found seven more bodies from the SuperFerry 14, bringing the total recovered to 17, with 118 still missing. Rescue workers have searched close to 80 percent of the ship; the remaining section contains a lot of debris, and search teams are waiting for heavy equipment. Officials have played down a claim by the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group that it put a suicide bomber on the ship, although there is still a possibility that a bomb in the economy section, which has not been reached by divers yet, could have triggered the fire. It is still unclear if the explosion occurred before or after the fire broke out. A special marine board of inquiry into the incident is scheduled to convene next week. See "7 more bodies found in SuperFerry 14," Jose Aravilla and Rainier Allan Ronda, The Philippine Star, 3/6/04.

Charges for dangerous shipments may cause problems: The TT Club, a British-based maritime and transport mutual insurance organization, has suggested that port operators and shipping companies stop collecting surcharges on containers carrying dangerous goods. Some shippers don't declare that their shipments contain dangerous goods in order to avoid paying the extra charges. As a result, there have been ten shipping accidents in the past five years related to the misdeclaration of dangerous goods. The International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code was made mandatory by the International Maritime Organization on January 1, 2004, and covers such matters as packing, marking, labeling and stowage of dangerous goods, with particular reference to the separation of incompatible materials. However, the code doesn't specify surcharges, and dropping them may keep people safer. See "Call to scrap charges on dangerous shipments," Keith Wallis, The Standard, 3/6/04.

40-year-old cargo vessel catches fire: The Honduras-registered mv Wah Yu Ni No 1, being delivered to Bangladesh to be sold as scrap metal, caught fire 12 nautical miles off Pulau Pisan on Friday. The cargo vessel was 40 years old. The ship's second engineer, who discovered the fire, said it started from the engine's sixth cylinder head, adding that an exhaust leak could have started the fire.   Although the crew tried to put the fire out, they had to abandon the ship.  A passing fishing boat picked them up; none of the 11 Indonesian and one Bangladeshi crew members was injured. See "Ship bound for Bangladesh catches fire," Marsha Tan, The Star Online, 3/6/04.

Changes in environment also influence fish stocks: Marine biologists at last week's Royal Society meeting believe that environmental changes, such as global warming, may have as much of an impact on fish stocks as overfishing. Scientists investigated the impact on the marine food web of varying water temperatures and wind strengths in the North Atlantic. They found that fluctuations in the abundance, size and composition of plankton result in long-term changes in the numbers of large, commercially important fish, such as North Sea cod. These findings are being brought to the attention of the British government, as it is finalizing a report on the future of UK fisheries, which will set out Britain's fisheries management strategy for the next 15-20 years. To develop a sustainable fisheries policy, it will be crucial to determine how much of changing mortality patterns is due to fishing operations, and how much to environmental trends. See "Climate findings let fishermen off the hook," Quirin Schiermeier, Nature, 3/4/04.

Merchant mariners investigated for terrorist ties: Mariner credentials, issued by the US Coast Guard, certify that ship workers are qualified. The documents are also required for crew members to operate at US ports. But a 14-month federal investigation suggests that the system isn't infallible: nine people with these credentials were identified as possible associates of terrorist groups. No details about the suspects have been released, but a federal law enforcement official, who asked not to be identified, said the names of the nine either matched or were similar to people on terrorist watch lists maintained by the government. The review of the Coast Guard's roster also flagged thousands of alleged cases of credential fraud, and about a dozen mariners who were the subjects of arrest warrants. The investigation was conducted by the Coast Guard and the FBI. See "Coast Guard, FBI probe of merchant mariners finds terrorist ties," Kevin Johnson, Associated Press at USA TODAY, 3/4/04.

Visualizing computer security breaches: David Ford, a senior research coordinator for the Defense Information Systems Agency, has posted a paper in Cornell University's electronic repository describing how principles from thermodynamics could be used to simplify data produced by intrusion detection systems (IDS). IDSs often overwhelm systems administrators with data. Many companies have developed products to visualize the data, however, Mr. Ford is looking to apply procedures from an established science to the problem, and compares network traffic to the behavior of molecules in a cup of coffee or the charge of a magnet. "The basic idea is that a computer network is a complex system, and people know how to deal with complexity from a mathematical point of view," Ford said. See "Navy researcher has novel security visualization," Joab Jackson, Government Computer News, 3/4/04.

Finland wants to examine Italian shipyard subsidies: Shipyards in different European countries are suspected of being subsidized in different ways. For instance, France is believed to offer a number of tax concessions, allowing shipbuilders to reduce their prices by more than ten percent. Finland, which does not give direct subsidies to its shipbuilding industry, currently wants to investigate Italian shipyards, as Italy is believed to pay special subsidies to shipyards that build and register their vessels in Italy. Finnish shipbuilders suspect that unfair subsidies have cost them a number of potential shipbuilding contracts, including contracts for Carnival Cruise Line, and Finnlines. In general, the EU shipbuilding industry has lost ship orders over the past seven years. See "Finnish Ministry of Trade and Industry to examine Italian shipyard subsidies," Helsingin Sanomat, 3/3/04.

Divers find three bodies from Philippine ferry: Divers have recovered three bodies from the Superferry 14, giving hope to relatives that the remaining 131 missing will be found. The cause of last Friday's explosion and fire continues to be investigated. The government says it has found no trace of explosives, casting doubt on a claim by the Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf that it put a suicide bomber aboard. However, the coast guard confirmed that a man identified by the al-Qaeda-linked group as the bomber was among the missing. See "3 bodies pulled from Philippine shipwreck," Associated Press as USA Today, 3/3/04.

New flying wing underwater glider: A prototype for an unmanned underwater vehicle, dubbed the Flying Wing Underwater Glider, might be capable of traveling thousands of miles under water. The Office of Naval Research, which is funding the project, plans to use them to conduct surveillance, perform reconnaissance missions, and gather data. Civilian applications could include ocean science research, environmental study and fisheries monitoring. The vehicles could also map currents or follow marine animals without disrupting their behavior. Navy tests are scheduled for March and April. The Flying Wing isn't the first glider to "fly" underwater, just the first of its kind. Thomas Franklin Swean Jr., is the team leader for Ocean Engineering and Marine Systems Science and Technology at ONR; the prototype wing is being built by Legnos Boat Building of Groton, Connecticut. See "Underwater Travel Takes Wing," Wired News, David Snow, 3/3/04.

Kvaerner will reorganize operations: After what Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten called "troubled businesses" of the Oslo-based conglomerate Aker Kvaerner ASA, the company has announce plans to reorganize operations. The Aker Kvaerner board proposes to split the concern into three units: a shipbuilding company, an energy company and a holding company, which would control the Philadelphia shipyard and hold majority stakes in the other two companies. The proposed change, if approved by shareholders and banks later this month, will have no immediate impact on the Philadelphia operation. Manuel N. Stamatakis, chairman of the Philadelphia Shipyard Development Corp., said he sees no immediate cause for alarm, although he admits it is a very complicated transaction. Problems at the Philadelphia yard led to the larger-than-expected losses on the first ship, which was sold to the Matson Navigation Co. of San Francisco. But productivity has improved on the second ship, which is expected to be delivered to Matson in July. See "Kvaerner proposes creating 3 firms," Henry J. Holcomb, Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/2/04.

GAO says Norwegian Cruise Line has monopoly in Hawaii: Senator John McCain, chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, asked the US General Accounting Office to look into the exemption that Norwegian Cruise Line received to operate foreign-built ships in Hawaii as US-flagged vessels. The report, "Maritime Law Exemption," was to look into the exemption's potential impact on competition and the effects of granting other cruise lines similar exemptions. The GAO report defines NCL's Hawaii operations as a monopoly, and says the exemption gives the company an unfair advantage, and makes it difficult for potential competitors to enter the market. But the report also noted that even if similar exemptions were granted to other companies, most cruise lines would be deterred by the higher cost of operations and capital associated with a US-flagged vessel and unstable market conditions. "NCL will have little power to raise prices on these itineraries because of competition from other vacation options," the report said. You can download the full report, GAO-04-421(a PDF file), from the General Accounting Office, released March 1, 2004. You can also download the highlights from the report (also a PDF file).

Philippine ferry wreck examined: Divers have explored the wreck of the Philippine ferry SuperFerry 14, sometimes even entering through portholes, but have found no sign of any of the more than 100 people still missing. While the cause of the fire remains a mystery, the government is playing down theories of a terror attack after the Abu Sayyaf group of Muslim rebels was reported to have claimed responsibility. A six member marine inquiry board has been set up to investigate the causes of the fire. The number of survivors has been confirmed at 712, leaving 186 unaccounted for, although some passengers are thought to have returned home without informing rescue officials. See "No sign of life in Philippine ferry wreck," Roli Ng, Reuters, 3/1/04.

Search continues for crew of Bow Mariner: The US Coast Guard is continuing its search for 18 crew members missing since late Saturday when the tanker Bow Mariner exploded off Virginia's Eastern Shore. Three crew members were killed, and six were rescued from a life raft three hours later, but cold water temperatures make finding anyone still alive less likely as time goes on. The Coast Guard will investigate the accident, which occurred in international waters. Authorities said that most of the ethanol, the tanker's cargo, had evaporated during the explosion, but fuel from the ship's storage tanks has formed a 9-square-mile oil slick. Computer models predict that the spill will continue to wash out to sea and not wash up on the Maryland and Virginia shores, but the nearby Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge could be in danger if conditions change. See "Coast Guard scours for 18 missing in tanker explosion," S.A. Miller, The Washington Times, 3/1/04.

Shipbreaking: Advances in cleaning, cutting, and disposal technologies may keep many of the James River "ghost fleet" of decommissioned Navy ships from being towed to other countries for dismantling. A silica-based biodegradable power wash created by chemical company Amstar EnviroChem disables chloride molecules in PCBs, leaving behind only briny water. The X-paK, a tool developed for Nu-Corp International Technologies, separates hull oil from water using a mix of heat and pressure, allowing a breaking company to refine the oil onsite and reuse it. Additional technologies that can help clean up old, rusting ships include a wire saw (used by SMIT Salvage to slice the Tricolor into nine pieces) that cuts hulls cleanly, laser scan techniques that tell breakers exactly where to cut, and a mobile shear that can do the work of hundreds of men. These techniques have local shops, like Bay Bridge Enterprises, located near Chesapeake Bay, ready to go to work. Congress recently mandated the fleet's removal by 2006. See "Ripping Steel," Christopher S. Stewart, Wired Issue 12.03, March 2004.

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