News Archive - April 2004

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The US Navy's network-centric warfare plan: US Navy officials described the current status of their FORCEnet program at a symposium in San Diego this week. FORCEnet will use Internet Protocol-based "open" architecture that enables warfighters to post and extract data from a Web-like service automatically and in real-time. A distinct shift away from the linear communications the military uses now, the "plug-n-fight" concept will enable forces to upload data or software to a weapon system or operational planning tool en route to a battle zone. The concept has seized the attention of contractors and Navy program managers, who have been told the Navy will not buy anything that is not FORCEnet compliant. Although some necessary changes will occur in technology acquisition, many of the changes needed to use FORCEnet are at the policy level. See "Navy building toward Web-like battle communications," San Diego Daily Transcript at Yahoo! News, 4/29/04.

World port organizations sign agreement: The International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA). The agreement provides a framework to pursue cooperative projects of mutual interest, including port security, port development, cooperation with government agencies, and environmental quality issues. Both organizations believe it is important to cooperate further in the current environment, where trade is growing dramatically, and ecological concerns are coming to the forefront. The IAPH is also pursuing agreements with other regional maritime organizations, such as European Sea Ports Organization (ESPO) and the Pan-Africa Port Corporation (PAPC). See the press release "IAPH, AAPA Sign Historic Agreement," from the International Association of Ports and Harbors, at PrimeZone, 4/28/04.

Rift reopens between BAE Systems and Ministry of Defence: The latest event leading to rumored government frustration towards BAE Systems is a heated exchange this week between Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary, and Mike Turner, BAE's chief executive. BAE believes it should become the automatic prime contractor on defense work, awarded on a cost plus basis. This request has been flatly turned down by ministers. BAE and the government have already argued over the Astute submarine and Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft programs, both of which were over budget and late. The final straw came at the start of this week when BAE confirmed it was considering selling its naval ship and submarine building business, at a time when the company and the MoD are conflicted over how to proceed with building two new aircraft carriers. The government has the right to veto any sale on the grounds of national security. See "BAE chief and Hoon in fierce row," Mark Odell, Jean Eaglesham and Peter Spiegel, Financial Times, 4/27/04.

Boat bombings lead to tighter security: The suicide bombing attacks on oil terminals in the Persian Gulf on Saturday have spurred the American military to significantly tighten security. Before the attacks, the military posted announcements advising boaters to stay clear of the area. But now, a senior military officer at the Pentagon said, "We're going to be more inclined to shoot first." Although the damage was relatively minimal, the attacks exposed a potential weakness in naval security, and have prompted tighter enforcement of exclusionary zones, and the examination of boarding and interception procedures. The military has also dispatched an emergency response force of about 50 Marines to the terminals, with orders to remain in the area for the near term. See "U.S. to Change Tactics After Gulf Attacks," By Josh White and Bradley Graham, The Washington Post 4/27/04.

Meanwhile, insurance companies, tanker operators and oil companies have all viewed the attack on Iraq's offshore oil pumping stations with alarm. After the terrorist attack on the French-flagged oil tanker Limburg off Yemen in October 2002, insurance rates tripled and Yemen's maritime business slumped. A similar rate hike would be a major setback to Iraq's struggling oil export business. See "UPI Energy Watch," StockHouse USA, 4/26/04.

Buyers interested in BAE Systems' naval division: American defense company General Dynamics, which announced a takeover bid for tank-maker Alvis Vickers last month, is rumored to have made an offer for the naval division of BAE Systems. BAE, which is prime contractor for the Royal Navy's two new aircraft carriers, has confirmed it is evaluating offers for the division, although the company won't confirm the bidder's identities. General Dynamics and UK-based shipbuilder and support services group VT — formerly known as Vosper Thornycroft — are rumored to be interested. BAE's naval division has been dogged by budget problems on the aircraft carrier project. If the division is sold, observers believe it may be a slight advantage to companies such as Swan Hunter which are looking to carry out work on the carriers contract. See "Shipyards sale could tip balance," Howard Walker, The Journal at icNewcastle, 4/26/04.

Testing "smart containers": "Smart containers" are equipped with sensors that can detect illegal drugs and chemical, biological and nuclear materials, and then relay data through Bluetooth wireless technology to handheld and fixed readers, and via satellite to a command and control center. Some "smart" shipping containers are already being tested at the Port of Tacoma and the Port of New York and New Jersey, but a new center for homeland security research and development in Ayers Island, Maine, will be conducting their own tests. Possibly the first time the system has been tested using multiple sensors on actual cargo, Virgnia-based System Planning will attach, or build sensors into, containers in at least eight shipments through August 2004. Shippers agreed to participate on the condition that their shipments wouldn't be slowed down. Researchers hope the tests will help protect one of America's most vulnerable target: its import supply chain. See "Warning: May Contain Explosives," Mark Baard, Wired News, 4/26/04.

Boat bombers hit oil facilities: Three boats launched an apparently coordinated suicide strike on Iraqi oil installations in the Persian Gulf on Saturday. The attack on Iraq's two main terminals in the gulf is thought to be the first such maritime strike during the insurgency that began after US troops invaded Iraq last spring. The country's oil pipelines have been a frequent target of sabotage. The boat attacks recalled the style of the assault on the US destroyer Cole in Yemen four years ago, and the French tanker two years ago. Investigators are trying to determine the launching point of the attacks. The Al-Basra Oil Terminal, the largest in the country, was closed after the attack; it might re-open on Monday. The other, smaller terminal, Khawr al-Amaya, reopened Sunday morning. See "Iraqi Oil Terminal Closed After Attack," Louis Meixler, Associated Press at Las Vegas SUN, 4/25/04.

East Timor, Australia talks not resolved: East Timor became independent in 2002. A poor country, it hopes to take advantage of offshore oil and gas revenues. But Australia wants to keep the border that was agreed with Jakarta in 1975. East Timor says the border should lie at the mid-point between the two countries, as prescribed by international law. The first formal round of talks between the two countries ended last Thursday, without any apparent agreement. East Timor worries that Australia is dragging its feet in negotiations — Australia has proposed the next meeting be held in September, even though East Timor wants monthly meetings. See "East Timor says Australia lagging in maritime border talks," ABC Radio Australia News at Go Asia Pacific, 4/23/04.

US Navy "prepositions" itself: Currently, the US Navy deploys 14 or 15 MPF (maritime prepositioned force) ships in three squadrons. These ships were built in the mid-1980s, and must be in port to offload their supplies or meet Marines flown to a nearby air base. The Navy is proposing two squadrons of six or more new MPF ships, capable of launching operations ashore from ships at sea, without necessarily establishing toeholds at the water's edge. The "Sea Basing" concept would mitigate the vulnerability of fixed land bases. The design of the planned new ships is still under study. They would be the size of aircraft carriers, and would carry Joint Strike Fighter jets, but they would be able to fit through the Panama Canal. The Navy will seek funding as early as 2007 to start building the ships. See "U.S. Navy seeks more muscle at sea," Jim Wolf, Reuters, 4/23/04.

EU, US agree on customs cooperation for sea cargo: Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy of Ireland, current holder of the 15-nation European Union's rotating presidency, and US Customs and Border-Protection Commissioner Robert Bonner signed an accord today that agreed on closer customs cooperation over sea-cargo containers. The agreement establishes a working group to advise on security controls of international trade, standards for identifying high-risk shipments and the need for regulatory changes. The accord expands a 1997 EU-US customs agreement to cover trade security, and it also complements US security initiatives in place after the September 11 attacks. See "EU, U.S. Sign Customs Accord to Protect Sea Cargo," Bloomberg.com, 4/22/04.

Exploring the link between oceans and health: The National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (both US-based) will create four joint Centers for Oceans and Human Health. For the first time, the centers will bring together experts in biomedical and oceanographic sciences. Researchers will study things like the effects of harmful algal blooms and marine pathogens, and they might help develop new sensors for early warning systems. Scientists will also study the oceans' vast potential for drug discovery. The centers will be located at the University of Washington, the University of Hawaii, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, and the University of Miami. See the press release "Four New Research Centers to Explore Link Between Oceans and Human Health" from the National Science Foundation, 4/22/04.

US Commission on Ocean Policy releases preliminary report: The US Commission on Ocean Policy has released its Preliminary Report with detailed findings and recommendations for a coordinated and comprehensive national ocean policy. A public comment period will run through May 21, 2004. The over arching theme of the Commission's preliminary recommendations is ecosystem based management. The Commission concluded that it is critical that ocean and coastal resources be managed to reflect the complex interrelationships among the ocean, land, air, and all living creatures, including humans, and consider the interactions among the multiple activities that affect entire systems. The Preliminary Report was released by the US Commission on Ocean Policy on 4/20/04.

British Columbia port strike: A strike by 800 tug and barge workers has caused major disruptions to shipping up and down the entire British Columbian coast, snarling traffic in the Port of Vancouver and threatening the forest industry. The tug and barge workers walked off the job on Thursday at midnight after contract talks with the Council of Marine Carriers broke down. Most cargo ships entering or leaving port require a tug to help maneuver into the terminal. As of yesterday morning the Port of Vancouver was refusing to accept some out-bound cargo and at least three container ships gave up waiting for the strike to end and set off for rival ports in the United States. Ottawa has appointed a mediator. See "Mediator assigned to port strike," Canadian Press at National Post, 4/20/04.

New York to improve cruise ship terminal: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced agreements with Norwegian Cruise Lines and Carnival Corporation to improve Manhattan's main terminal and create a new pier for cruise liners in Brooklyn borough. The agreements call for the two cruise lines to bring at least 13 million passengers to Manhattan and to the new Brooklyn pier through 2017, and pay at least $200 million in port charges to support the improvements. The city will spend $150 million to renovate the terminal, which was completed in 1935 and has not had a major overhaul since the 1970s. Once the renovations are complete in 2009, the terminal will be able to accommodate three large cruise ships at the same time. See "Mayor announces improvements for cruise ship lines," Elizabeth Sanger, Newsday, 4/19/04.

Piracy takes a new twist: A Malaysian registered cargo vessel reports that the Indonesian naval patrol boat Kal Youtefa (Kal-i-502) allegedly beat their master and third officer, and held them for ransom. The captain negotiated the ransom, and the third officer was held captive until the master handed over the money. The International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur is still waiting for a response from the Indonesian authorities. The cargo ship was intercepted off Jayapura in Irian Jaya, on its way to China. See "Indonesian naval boat linked to piracy," Keith Wallis, The Standard, 4/17/04.

New surface already peeling from aircraft carrier's decks: The recently resurfaced flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln started peeling earlier this year before a single jet had a chance to land on the aircraft carrier. Workers noticed the new surfaces were peeling in February, only six months after installation; the surface usually lasts about two years. It will cost about $1.4 million to replace. Puget Sound Naval Shipyard officials are investigating why the surface began to peel so quickly. Todd Pacific Shipyards installed the first surface, and is working to install the second surface. The work should be completed next month. See "USS Abraham Lincoln flight deck repair will cost $1.4 million," Associated Press at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 4/15/04.

Japan tightens marine pollution law: Japan has tightened a marine pollution insurance law in a move that could see almost all North Korean ships barred from its ports. The Japanese parliament unanimously approved the Law on Liability for Ship Oil Pollution Damage, which requires all foreign vessels of 100 tons or more to be insured for liabilities relating to oil pollution or clearing wrecks. The bill followed an accident in which an uninsured North Korean freighter ran aground off the Japanese port of Hitachi and leaked fuel oil; the clean up cost $US 6.1 million. North Korean ships don't have a similar requirement — a 2002 survey found that 73 percent of all ships entering Japanese ports were insured; but only 2.8 percent of North Korean ships had liability insurance. See "Diet targets North Korean ships via oil-spill insurance law," The Japan Times, 4/15/04.

Rare right whales spotted off Florida: A rare sighting of right whales in the Gulf of Mexico has been confirmed for the first time in more than 20 years. Right whales are among the world's most endangered species, and are the most endangered species of whale. A University of Florida student photographed two whales Friday about a mile and a half off Panama City Beach on the Florida panhandle while fishing. Whale experts inside and outside the National Marine Fisheries Service recognized the animals as right whales, probably a female and her calf. See "Scientists Confirm Rare Whale Sighting," Associated Press at Yahoo! News, 4/15/04.

America's most endangered rivers: American Rivers released their list of America's Most Endangered Rivers of 2004. The organization highlights ten rivers each year in order to draw attention to many threats facing rivers today, including pollution, wetlands destruction, hydropower dams, inadequate sewer treatment systems, excessive water withdrawals, and urban sprawl. America's waters became progressively cleaner for decades after Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, but recent data indicates that this trend has reversed itself. The Colorado River, confronting mounting problems with radioactive, toxic, and human waste, topped this year's list of ten rivers. Also on the list were Big Sunflower River, Snake River, Tennessee River, Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, Spokane River, Housatonic River, Peace River, Big Darby Creek, and Mississippi River. See the press release "Most endangered American rivers of 2004 announced" from American Rivers, 3/14/04.

New limits for cruise ship waste water suggested: Currently, federal law dictates that ships be at least three miles offshore before they dump raw sewage and "gray water" from sinks, dishwashers and laundries. California Representative Sam Farr has introduced a bill that would extend that distance to twelve miles — because the federal government has authority over waters within 12 miles of the country's coastline. Farr's bill follows incidents in which cruise ships were found to be dumping and polluting waters too close to shore. The bill also would give federal regulators much-needed enforcement power, and provide cruise company employees protection if they turn in their employers for breaking the rules. The legislation is opposed by the cruise line industry, which says it is making environmental improvements, and that its standards already exceed those imposed by the United States and international agreements. See "Bill would set new federal limits on waste from cruise ships," Edward Epstein, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/13/04.

Exchanging ballast water may not be enough: Colin Levings led a comprehensive study on invasive species, published this spring in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. Ballast water is believed to be a major point of entry, and so has been targeted by the International Maritime Organization. But Levings' study points to limitations of one of the major recommendations: exchanging ballast water at sea. While mid-ocean exchange greatly reduced the number of stowaways, the researchers found it did not eliminate them. University of Windsor Professor Hugh MacIsaac has documented a related problem with ships in the Great Lakes. Even when vessels enter the lakes carrying no ballast water, they carry worms, eggs and other life. Levings believes that treating ballast water is the best method, but given the volume of water involved, and the toxic nature of most treatment systems, the task will be daunting. See "Ships' ballast carries foreign invaders," Margaret Munro, CanWest News Service at the Times Colonist, 4/12/04.

Upcoming seal hunt sparks protests: This year's harp seal hunt will begin soon, which has sparked the US Humane Society, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and others to take out a full-page ad in The New York Times, claiming that Canada "still permits the clubbing of baby seals." Canada's Minister of Natural resources, John Efford, replied that this is "absolutely wrong." In fact, Canada has banned the killing of the white-coated harp seal pup. Instead, hunters must wait until the pups begin shedding their white fur, and are weaned and fending for themselves. In general, the seals are killed after about 25 days. While this might still seem young, the truth is that there are about eight million harp seals off the coast of Newfoundland, harming stocks of herring, mackerel, turbot and other fish, and harming the economy of Newfoundland, Eastern Quebec and the Maritime provinces. Environmental groups have begun shying away from protesting seal hunting as their numbers grow. See "Anti-seal-hunt ad sparks angry retort," Brian Laghi, The Globe and Mail, 4/10/04.

US ports still underfunded: The US Senate argued on Thursday about how to raise money to fund security improvements at the nation's commercial ports. The US Coast Guard needs about $7.4 billion to comply with the port security needs signed into law in 2002. But the administration never proposed spending until this year, when it asked for $46 million for port security. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has said that the private sector is going to have to help pay for security. But maritime interests already pay more than $15 billion in customs fees. Only about $4 billion is spent on ports, with the rest going to a general fund and used for unrelated programs. While it seems easy to use all these fees for port security, it would be tough to pull that money away from the other programs. A plan to raise money through fees for the maritime industry was voted down in committee after a spirited debate. See "Port of Houston, others remain short on security funds," Gebe Martinez, Houston Chronicle, 4/9/04.

Navy contractor employees face immigration charges: Thirty-one employees of Continental Maritime were arrested on Thursday on immigration charges. The arrests cap a two-month investigation of the company; the total number of people detained in the sting is 43. Most of the suspects entered the US illegally and used counterfeit documents to get hired. Continental Maritime is a unit of Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Newport News division. The workers had access to military installations and vessels; most worked in ship maintenance jobs, including welding, painting, mechanics and pipefitting. See "Navy contractor workers arrested for immigration violations," Associated Press at The News & Observer, 4/8/04.

Security breach discovered at Port Canaveral: Twenty-two employees of construction company H&M Industries, which is building a large cargo facility in Orlando, have been charged with illegally obtaining security badges at Port Canaveral, Florida. The badges were obtained by using fake social security numbers or fake IDs. Eight of those arrested were illegal aliens who had no social security numbers, and are not allowed to have badges of any kind. While agents don't believe the illegal workers had malicious intent, the ease with which they illegally obtained badges calls into question the security measures in place at the Port. See "Huge Security Breach Uncovered At Port Canaveral," MSNBC, 4/6/04.

Securing the Panama Canal: From a global perspective, the Panama Canal is considered a "medium-risk" site — not terribly vulnerable, but attractive. Panamanian officials believe a terrorist strike would likely focus on shutting down canal traffic, rather than targeting human lives. Since nearly 4.5% of global seagoing trade passes through the waterway, shutting the canal down could be devastating to the world economy. Panama's government security chief Ramiro Jarvis said no specific threats had been made, but public access to areas closest to the canal is cut off temporarily when vessels deemed high-risk by a shipping database pass through. See "Panama Canal tightens security," Reuters at The Straits Times, 4/6/04.

Private sector must fund security for ports: Citing the $1 trillion that US ports do in business every year, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has said that the private sector is going to have to help pay for security. The federal government plans to spend about $3 billion on security programs this year, but that won't cover all the bills. Sam Ruda, who heads the maritime division for the Port of Portland, said user fees likely will be needed to help pay the cost of increased security. See "Ridge: Private Cos. Must Help Fight Terror," Associated Press at ABCNEWS.com, 4/5/04.

Traffic through British ports is falling: While the number of shipping containers moving around the world grew by 15% in 2003, container movements through some English ports fell by more than 2%. One of the reasons is lack of capacity, which in turn has led to congestion, both within and outside ports. In addition, some ports have been slow to install newer, taller cranes needed to handle the newer cargo ships. Developers, including British Ports and P&O Ports have applied to build three new container terminals. Since the European Union's habitats directive obliges governments to assess the potential damage to nature caused by such big developments, and to choose the least damaging alternative, it could be some time before a decision is made. See "View From London: Port congestion routes British government into tricky situation," Edward Russell-Walling, Gulf News, 4/5/04.

A look at the US Navy's HSV 2 Swift: The US Navy's HSV (High Speed Vessel) 2 Swift is a 294-foot, aluminum-hulled catamaran that may just be the most technologically advanced vessel produced to date. Nearly every function of the ship, from navigation and steering to engine and damage control, is conducted and monitored using commercial, off-the-shelf hardware and software. Only three people are on the bridge at once, while a standard Navy ship requires eight to ten crew on the bridge. The ship runs on auto pilot 90% of the time; it is the only ship in the Navy currently authorized to run the paperless chart system; the ship provides both classified and unclassified network connectivity and has an experimental wireless LAN that allows anybody who comes aboard to simply plug in their laptop — it was designed to allow a commander to conduct mission planning while en route to a crisis area. See "New Navy vessel's revolutionary IT," Dan Verton, Computerworld, 4/2/04.

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