News Archive - July 2004

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Call for tighter shipping safety on UK coastline: A Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) study was set up after the cargo ship Jambo sank off Wester Ross in Scotland last June. The MAIB reported last December that a chief officer had fallen asleep while alone on the bridge, and that a seaman assigned to the watch had been absent from the bridge for at least an hour before the vessel got into difficulties. A new MAIB report, studying 65 collisions along the coastline, has found the Jambo incident was only "the latest in a series of remarkably similar accidents." Finding that general standards for lookout procedures are poor, the MAIB has called for a tightening of watch keeping and lookout procedures. The recommendations to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency are an attempt to get the International Maritime Organization to review regulations. See "Sleepy ship lookouts blamed for collisions," John Innes, The Scotsman.com, 7/30/04.

Black Sea expedition tests new underwater equipment: Scientists led by Robert Ballard visited an underwater site last summer off the northern Turkish coast. Some believed the site could help solve the age-old question of whether the Black Sea's flooding was the event recounted in the Biblical story of Noah. Unfortunately, the site was contaminated by drifting wood, which foiled attempts to date the ruin or the flood. But the expedition used a new underwater excavator for the first time, which proved to be a great success. Hercules, a 7-foot robot, ushered in a new era in ocean archaeology. Its pincers are outfitted with sensors that regulate the amount of pressure exerted — allowing the robot to dig carefully around objects, and retrieve artifacts carefully. The team also used high-definition cameras, a new Internet bandwidth and satellite hookups to link scientists and schoolchildren live to the mission. The team was also able to take a closer look at "Shipwreck D," thought to be the best preserved ship of the Byzantine period ever located. The trip was sponsored in part by National Geographic. See "Black Sea Trip Yields No Flood Conclusions," Richard C. Lewis, Associated Press, 7/30/04.

Underwater surveillance system gets real-world test: A surveillance system designed at the University of South Florida's Center for Ocean Technology is getting a real-world test in New York Harbor during the upcoming Republican National Convention. The device is an underwater sonar and video system that can detect objects as small as a foot in diameter, transmit 3-dimensional images, and pinpoint their location in up to about 328 feet of water. The US Coast Guard will outfit one of its ships with the device, to sweep piers, seawalls and ferry landings for explosives during the convention. If the device works well, it could become a standard security feature at ports across the country. USF scientists had hoped to test the surveillance system at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, but the system wasn't ready. See "USF Surveillance System To Protect At Convention," Gary Haber, Tampa Bay Online, 7/30/04.

Tiny submarine makes big splash: Researchers at the Australian National University have built the world's smallest submarine: a 40cm-long (about 16 inches), self-controlling submersible called Serafina. The tiny submarine, no bigger than a toy, can dive to around 16,500 feet, turn, somersault and perform a range of scientific tasks. Its designers say the sub could be used in shipwreck recovery, in search and rescue, and it may have military uses. The Serafina has a plastic hull, five propellers and rechargeable batteries that will last for up to a day. Its small size makes it less expensive to produce and deploy, and easier to pressurize. One downfall of the size is that it could be eaten by an aquatic creature. See "Scientists develop 40cm submarine," The Australian, 7/30/04.

Los Angeles port complex to add 3,000 dockworkers: After weeks of negotiations between the International Longshore & Warehouse Union and shipping company representative Pacific Maritime Association, Los Angeles area ports have agreed to add 3,000 new dockworkers. Both sides hope the plan will help alleviate delays at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, caused by a boom in cargo shipping from China. The plan calls for promoting 1,000 current "casual" workers to a higher-skilled jobs status that brings them one step closer to becoming fully registered Longshoremen. The union will also fill some 3,000 additional casual worker slots. After the new hires are brought in, it will take three to four months to get them fully trained. See "LA-area ports to add 3,000 dockworkers amid cargo logjam," Alex Veiga, The Sacramento Bee, 7/29/04.

More cooperation for the Malacca and Singapore straits: Last week, naval vessels from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia began their first coordinated patrols in the Malacca Strait. In a meeting yesterday, Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan and Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak agreed that their two countries should "review and explore new ways to enhance cooperation in the field of security." Although the three littoral states were not yet ready to launch joint patrols with multinational crews, Singapore and Malaysia would look at extending intelligence-sharing and having more regular meetings between armed forces leaders. See "KL, S'pore focus on straits safety," Reme Ahmad, The Straights Times, 7/28/04.

Rare blue whale spotted: A rare blue whale sighting by marine researchers in Alaskan waters — the first confirmed sighting there in 30 years — raises hopes that the world's largest animal is continuing to make a comeback. Blue whales, which can reach 100 feet in length, were hunted nearly to extinction between the mid-1800s and 1965, when the species received international protection. Most recent population estimates show only about 12,000 blue whales worldwide. The sighting was made by researchers on board the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration vessel McArthur II, who are studying humpback whales. They were able to get close enough to the blue whale to obtain skin and blubber samples (via a hollow tipped dart gun), which will be used for genetic testing and pollution studies. They also took photos. See "Scientists Spot Rare Blue Whales in Alaska," Dan Joling, Associated Press, 7/28/04.

Update on Kvaerner: Kvaerner Philadelphia Shipyard has already built and sold two container ships to Matson Navigation Co. But a ship currently in dry-dock, and another that the yard will start building in August, have no buyer. Kvaerner Philadelphia CEO David E. Meehan says the company is building without a buyer because the yard has to learn to build ships cheaper and more quickly. The company is also counting on Jones Act requirements to make their product attractive to US shipping firms. Industry analysts agree there should be a strong market for a commercial shipbuilder like Kvaerner Philadelphia, but price and quality will always be an issue. Until the market starts to turn around, the the future of the shipyard — built and operated with some $400 million in local, state and federal funding — remains cloudy. See "Kvaerner on a limb," Larry Rulison, Philadelphia Business Journal, 7/26/04.

Pirates kill 30 seafarers so far this year: Although the total number of pirate attacks worldwide fell from 234 in the first half of 2003, to only 182 so far this year, fatalities have risen. Pirates killed 30 seafarers worldwide in the first six months of the year, which is the highest number of deaths in more than a decade. Only 16 deaths were reported in the same period last year. The numbers were released by the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Watch Center in Kuala Lumpur. The group urged governments to boost patrols in dangerous regions. Fifteen deaths occurred in Nigerian waters, where pirates armed with automatic weapons have launched 13 attacks so far this year. Most of the other fatalities were in Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh and the Philippines. Indonesia was the target of the most pirate attacks overall, with 50 reported in the first half of this year; this number doesn't include another 20 attacks in the Straits of Malacca. See "Pirate Killings Hit 10-Year Global High," Sean Yoong, Associated Press, 7/25/04.

Whalers pleased with outcome of IWC meeting: Whaling nations are pleased with the outcome of the International Whaling Commission's annual meeting, which set the groundwork for a cautious resumption of commercial hunting. Some environmental groups are less pleased, fearing the move could lead to a lifting of the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling. The IWC has a dual mission, both to manage the whaling industry, and conserve whales. Pro-whaling nations - primarily Japan, Norway and Iceland - believe stocks of some species are abundant enough to hunt. Japan has even threatened to form its own whaling commission in protest of the IWC's cautious nature. So this meeting was seen as something of a compromise. The proposed Revised Management Scheme was put forward as a scientifically sound way to set catch limits. But anti-whaling countries fear if the RMS is agreed upon, few countries could argue to keep the moratorium. Andy Ottaway of the UK-based group Campaign Whale fears that the "fate of the whales is hanging by a thread." See "Whalers think they scent victory," Alex Kirby, BBC News, 7/23/04.

UK announces military shakeup: In what is being called the biggest shakeup in the armed forces since the cold war, the UK's Ministry of Defence has announce it will overhaul their armed forces. The RAF will have to cut personnel, the navy will lose a fifth of its surface ships, and the army will lose about a quarter of its battle tanks. At a joint press conference with Geoff Hoon, the defense secretary, General Sir Michael Walker, the chief of the defense staff, insisted the proposals were driven by the need to counter new threats and not by cash flow. The emphasis is now on capability, not numbers of new equipment. But the budget may also be straining under the weight of some high-cost items, including the Eurofighter and two new aircraft carriers for the navy. The navy isn't losing much in terms of personnel, but only eight type-45 destroyers will be built, instead of the planned 12, and only 10 of 12 planned submarines will be built. Additional destroyers, frigates, mine hunters and coastal patrol vessels will be taken out of service between 2005 and 2008. See "RAF the big loser as forces modernise," Jamie Wilson, The Guardian, 7/22/04.

More workers needed at Los Angeles ports: Additional dockworkers are needed at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to cope with increasing cargo traffic. Although new security regulations that went into effect July 1 are blamed for some delays, the cargo logjam also stems from insufficient manpower at the ports, problems with the rail lines and transport infrastructure, and an increase in cargo from the Far East, particularly from China. The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shipping companies, had projected a cargo increase this year of 5 percent, but it's turned out to be about double that. So far, the International Longshore & Warehouse Union and shipping company officials have agreed to hire 2,000 so-called casual workers and establish a pool of more than 10,000 others, but a final agreement on how to add more workers has not been reached. See "Labor union wants more hires, security at L.A.-Long Beach ports," Alex Veiga, Associated Press at The State.com, 7/22/04.

Ghost fleet's future complicated by new lawsuit: The fate of the James River Reserve Fleet, or "Ghost" fleet of old US navy ships awaiting disposal, was going to be resolved starting in August, when a lawsuit filed last year by three environmental groups to keep some of the ships from being scrapped in England is scheduled to be heard by a federal judge in Washington, DC. But that suit has now been complicated by Morton and Lynn Clark from Williamsburg, Virginia, who are suing to have the ships removed and scrapped "without further delay." They fear that a storm or hurricane could easily cause an accident in the fleet. The agency responsible for maintaining the fleet, the US Maritime Administration, wants to consolidate the two lawsuits to save time and money. So now it appears that the fate of the Ghost fleet will be delayed until at least this fall, after the suit consolidation matter is settled. Mr. Clark is opposed to combining the cases, as the legal grounds are different. His suit alleges that the long-term presence of the Ghost fleet represents a violation of the Clean Water Act, while the suit filed by the Sierra Club, the Basel Action Network and Earthjustice charges that the agencies defied a law banning the export of hazardous wastes. See "Couple sue, fear possible mishaps with Ghost Fleet," Scott Harper, The Virginian-Pilot, 7/22/04.

IWC reports that sonar harms whales: There is "compelling evidence" that sonar used by the military to spot enemy submarines is to blame for increasing cases of whales being stranded on beaches and dying, the scientific committee of the International Whaling Commission said in a report this week. The IWC, a 57-country intergovernmental body which regulates whaling, said earlier in the week that oil and gas exploration off Russia's Pacific coast threatened a colony of gray whales with extinction due to sonar and pollution. Energy firms blast noise waves down to the sea floor to detect the presence of oil and gas reserves. The IWC report adds weight to theories that sonar harms the sea mammals, an hypothesis that has been disputed by both the military and by the oil and gas industry. The report may strengthen the hand of US conservation groups which are threatening to sue the Navy over its use of mid-frequency sonar. See "Undersea noise 'does harm whales'," Alex Kirby, BBC News, 7/22/04.

Freak waves are real: Over the last two decades more than 200 super-carriers have been lost at sea. Eyewitness reports suggest many were sunk by high and violent walls of water that rose up out of calm seas. But for years these tales were written off as fantasy; and many marine scientists clung to statistical models stating monstrous deviations from the normal sea state occur only once every 1,000 years. To prove or disprove the phenomenon, a consortium of 11 organizations from six EU countries founded MaxWave in December 2000, and the European Space Agency tasked two of its satellites to monitor the oceans. As it turns out, the waves exist in higher numbers than anyone expected: during a three week period they detected 10 giant waves, all of which were over 25m (81ft) high. In the next phase of the research, a project called WaveAtlas will take two years to create a worldwide atlas of freak wave events. The ultimate goal is to find out how the waves are generated, and which regions are at most risk. See "Ship-sinking monster waves revealed by ESA satellites," European Space Agency, 7/21/04.

Anti-piracy drive in Malacca Straits: A ceremony has been held in the Malacca Straits to mark the beginning of co-ordinated naval patrols between Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. The three countries all border the narrow Malacca Straits, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. The patrols are a response to fears that the straits are vulnerable to attack from pirates or terrorists. All three countries will contribute up to seven ships to the patrol, with each ship remaining under its own nation's commands. The narrow waterway carries more than a quarter of the world's trade, and almost all the oil imports destined for Japan and China. See "Malacca Strait nations start pirate patrols," Supriyatin, swissinfo, 7/20/04.

UK aircraft carrier decision put off: In a written statement to Parliament, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon revealed he is putting off making a decision to build two aircraft carriers until 2005. He stated "This extension will enable us to carry out further risk reduction work and increase the maturity of the design." The project will now move into its design and manufacture phase in 2005, with service entry dates remaining at 2012 and 2015. The Defence Ministry — which is BAE Systems' biggest customer — is considering reducing BAE's role in the project, with the vessels being built by a larger alliance of companies. The UK's 20 biggest defense projects, including Astute submarines, Nimrod planes, Eurofighters and Brimstone missiles, were £3.1 billion over budget and 144 months behind schedule in fiscal 2003. See "U.K. Aircraft Carrier Decision Put Off Until 2005, Hoon Says," Bloomberg, 7/19/04.

Military talks between two Koreas called off: South Korea says military talks with North Korea have been called off following an incident in the Yellow Sea last week. The meeting was to examine progress on the removal of propaganda material along the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two countries. Analysts believe it appears North Korea is delaying the talks to show it is not happy about the Yellow Sea incident. Last Wednesday a South Korean vessel fired warning shots at a North Korean vessel that Seoul says crossed a disputed maritime border off the west coast. North Korea's navy denied the charge and accused the South's navy of spreading misinformation. North Korea has never accepted the sea border drawn at the end of the Korean War in 1953, calling for a new maritime border; rare high-level military talks held this Spring marked cooperation between the countries. See "Inter-Korean talks called off after North Korean protest," AFP at Yahoo! News, 7/18/04.

MPs fear a shortage of coastguards around the UK coastline: More than 300 people died around the UK coastline in 2002. This represents a 28.1% rise since 1998, with the number of accidents rising by 17.3% during the same period. The Commons transport select committee has branded staffing levels at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency as "unacceptable." In their report, the committee stated that a third of rescue and coordination centers were staffed at or below minimum levels, and pointed to one fatal accident which might have been caused by understaffing and inexperience. Public and Commercial Services Union MCA Group president Dave Clempson has stated he raised the issue of understaffing with management, but they were "trying to keep down costs." The MCA said staffing had not affected safety, and will respond to the report once it had given it the "careful consideration" it needed. The MCA coordinates rescue operations on behalf of the transport department, although most are actually performed by a separate voluntary body. See "Rescuer shortage 'risking lives'," BBC News, 7/18/04.

US helps protect oil in West Africa: The US currently imports about 15 percent of its crude oil needs from West and Central Africa, and estimates suggest that the US will import about 25 percent of its oil from the region by 2020. The region struggles with poverty, ethnic strife, and corruption — some of which is directly related to disputes over the distribution of oil revenues. For example, political violence in the Niger Delta region is often directed at foreign oil workers and facilities. Assistant Secretary of Energy John Brodman warns that if the situation does not improve, these countries could become havens for terrorists. The US is already working with countries in the region to help ensure long-term political and economic stability. And the US Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee is also examining ways to secure stability in West Africa's oil-rich Gulf of Guinea. David Goldwyn, founder of the Washington-based Goldwyn International Strategies, has called for greater US diplomatic, military and economic engagement with the area. The US European Command has already begun the process. See "US Officials Express Concern Over Instability in West Africa's Oil-rich Region," Deborah Tate, VOANews.com, 7/16/04.

China builds new submarine: This week a photograph of a completed submarine in the water at China's inland Wuhan shipyard was posted on a Chinese Internet site. A defense official has confirmed it is the first Yuan-class submarine. US officials apparently had not known that China was building a new diesel-powered submarine. The discovery underscores Beijing's buildup of forces to dominate the Taiwan Straits and impose its will on Taipei, analysts said. The new boat appears to be a combination of indigenous Chinese hardware and Russian weapons. Mr. Fisher, an analyst with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, suggested this new indication of an imbalance of power on the Taiwan Strait in favor of Beijing should prompt the Bush administration to speed up the sale of the submarines it offered Taiwan in April 2001. See "Chinese produce new type of sub," Bill Gertz, The Washington Times, 7/16/04.

Russia cleans up radioactive waste: The Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation (AMEC) program was signed by the US, Norway, and Russia in September 1996, with the goal of resolving environmental problems caused by military activities that affect the Arctic region. The first facility to process radioactive waste in Russia has now started operations at the shipbuilding plant in Polyarny on the Kola Peninsula. The plant's temporary storage facilities hold the solid radioactive waste remaining after the disposal of 15 nuclear submarines; most of this material has relatively low levels of radioactive contamination. About 800,000 cubic meters of solid radioactive wastes are stored in the Murmansk region. See "Russia launches 1st radioactive waste processing plant," Interfax, 7/16/04.

Excess CO2 in oceans may cause problems: Carbon dioxide is one of the most important "greenhouse" gasses that many scientists fear is causing global warming. Although the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has grown significantly since 1800, it only accounts for about half the gas released into the air in that period. A team led by Christopher L. Sabine of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports in Friday's issue of the journal Science that the missing gas is dissolved in the ocean. An accompanying study by Richard A. Feely of the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory notes that dissolving CO2 in water forms an acid, and that process can affect ocean life. In laboratory tests, Feely found that the water near the ocean surface with added CO2 can cause shells of marine animals, including corals, snails and plankton, to dissolve. The process hasn't yet been studied in oceans, but the findings indicate a need for concern. See "Oceans Absorbed Missing CO2," Associated Press at Wired News, 7/15/04.

Environmentalists seek limits on sonar: In a letter to Secretary of the US Navy Gordon England, environmental and animal rights groups asked the Navy to take new steps to protect whales and other species from sonar designed to detect enemy submarines. The letter pointed out that dozens of whales off the coast of Washington, Puerto Rico, the Canary Islands, Portugal and other locations have beached themselves during Navy maneuvers. The letter was sent by the International Fund for Animals, the Humane Society of the United States, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Ocean Futures Society. A study published in the journal Nature last year said it appeared that marine mammals could be killed or harmed by sonar. Navy spokesman Lt. Mike Kafka said officials will review the letter and that the Navy remains "committed to protecting our nation and our natural resources while operating within the law." See "Navy urged to change sonar use," Jane Kay, The San Francisco Chronicle, 7/15/04.

Mediterranean water supply strained by tourist's demands: Environmental group WWF has released a new report warning that tourism is damaging fresh water supplies in the Mediterranean basin. A tourist staying in a hotel uses about one third more water than a local inhabitant. A golf course requires as much water annually as a city of 12,000 inhabitants — and Cyprus has eight new ones under construction. The total number of tourists heading for Mediterranean coastlines is expected to rise to between 235 to 355 million per year by 2025, or roughly double 1990 levels. The problem is compounded by the fact that the peak summer season for tourists coincides with the period when agricultural needs are greatest, and by the fact that local authorities have so far tried to meet demand by increasing supply, which in the long-term is not sustainable. The WWF report includes a long list of ways in which tourists, hotels and governments could cut water consumption. See "Tourism drains Mediterranean water supply," Estelle Shirbon, Reuters, 7/15/04.

International Whaling Commission to meet: In 1986, the International Whaling Commission imposed a moratorium on commercial whaling to let the mammals recover from centuries of industrial whaling which had left some species near extinction. Japan, Norway and Iceland want the moratorium lifted, and say there are enough of some species for a small annual catch, but a majority of IWC members still oppose any resumption of whaling. Members of Japan's ruling party now say they are prepared to go it alone and establish a new pro-whaling alliance, and the country may withhold part of their subscription to the IWC, to protest its conservation work. The IWC will meet from July 19-20 in Sorrento, Italy. It is expected the group will discuss bycatch issues, which is estimated to cause the death of 300,000 cetaceans annually. See "Japan plans pro-whaling alliance," Alex Kirby, BBC News, 7/14/04.

MoD ship orders could be cut back: UK Secretary of State for Defence Geoff Hoon is likely to announce that some procurement programs will be cut when he reveals spending plans next week. The Type 45 destroyer program could be reduced from twelve ships to eight — the MoD decision will help BAE determine whether or not it will keep its shipbuilding yards on the Clyde and its submarine facility at Barrow in Cumbria. Mike Turner, chief executive of BAE Systems, has said that BAE's shipbuilding business isn't expected to produce profits for the next three years, even though £750m worth of work was going through the yards. He blames this in part on lack of a UK strategy for naval shipbuilding. In April, BAE said it intended to seek offers for the two Glasgow yards and Barrow, but there is skepticism about whether this move is a device to put pressure on the MoD to agree to improved terms for the purchase of two new aircraft carriers. See "BAE braced for cutback in warship orders," Michael Harrison, The Independent, 7/14/04.

The US Coast Guard's fleet is aging: The US Coast Guard's ships and helicopters have been showing their age for some time. Now part of the Homeland Security Department, the Coast Guard's new duties have accelerated the breakdown of obsolete vessels - and funds set aside for purchasing new equipment are being spent on repairs. A recent study by the General Accounting Office, the investigative agency for Congress, found that the maritime service uses its cutters and aircraft 40 percent more than before the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Often overlooked at budget time, the Coast Guard was able to procure $17 billion for the Deepwater program in the late 1990s. But a recent Rand Corp. study said Deepwater, conceived before Sept. 11, would provide only 50 percent of the vessels and 67 percent of the aircraft the service needed to perform its expanded mission. And for now, the service is still using older ships that are slow, lack equipment, and require huge amounts of maintenance. See "Homeland security duties strain geriatric vessels," Frank James, Chicago Tribune, 7/12/04.

Virginia-class submarines late and over budget: During a hearing in front of the US Senate Armed Services Committee last week, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Vern Clark admitted that the cost of the first pair of Virginia-class nuclear attack submarines is growing, and the delivery dates will be pushed back. Unanticipated labor issues at the General Dynamics Electric Boat yard, and "first of class construction issues" are blamed for cost growth for SSN-774. Budget shortfalls are estimated at $42 million, and the delivery date has slipped from June to October 2004. Similar assembly issues have beset SSN-775, but construction of this boat has also been hampered by the fact that submarines haven't been built at the Northrop Grumman Newport News shipyard in a decade. The total government projected shortfall for this sub is estimated at $141.5 million, and the delivery date is expected to be pushed back six months. See "Virginia-Class Cost Growth Centers On First Pair of Subs, Navy Says," Lorenzo Cortes, FreeRealTime.com, 7/12/04.

Brazil still not in compliance with ISPS code: Brazil is the world's largest exporter of sugar, ethanol, coffee and orange juice, and the United States is the largest consumer of Brazilian goods. But Brazil's main ports are still not in compliance with the ISPS code, which went into force on July 1. Paulo de Tarso Carneiro, director of the department of ports at Brazil's Transport Ministry, blames red tape. Although the US Coast Guard can keep ships that have visited non-compliant ports from entering the country, and has barred some ships already, no Brazilian vessels have been reported to be blocked so far. See "Red tape delays security clearance at Brazil ports," The Business Times, 7/12/04.

African refugees finally allowed to enter Italy: After spending nearly three weeks on the German rescue ship Cap Anamur, 37 mostly Sudanese refugees will be allowed to disembark at a refugee center near the Italian town of Agrigent. The Italian government had at first denied the refugees entry — keeping them out with gun boats and helicopters — because they didn't have enough information about their identities. Currently, the country says it had refused entry because the ship had previously entered Maltese territorial waters; under EU rules, this would have made Malta responsible for accepting any asylum applications. See "Italy Allows Refugees to Leave German Ship," Deutsche Welle, 7/11/04.

Truck strike at Port of Miami stopped by Judge: US District Judge Patricia A. Seitz issued a temporary restraining order Friday, ending a two-week strike by 700 independent truckers at the Port of Miami-Dade. The judge stated that the port, the county, and a private terminal operator at the port would suffer "immediate and irreparable injury, loss or damage" unless the strike ended. The truckers, who began their work stoppage June 28 as part of a nationwide strike, vowed to continue the strike. The drivers are seeking higher wages. See "Florida judge orders end of truck strike," UPI at The Washington Times, 7/10/04.

South Korean shipping firms on high alert: South Korea's National Intelligence Service has placed the country's shipping firms on high alert, in response to a warning from an Islamic terrorist group that it would attack ships delivering US military equipment to Iraq. The NIS has been examining the reliability of the information, which was provided by US intelligence agencies. The warning may have been issued to try to prevent South Korea from sending an additional 3,000 soldiers to Iraq, planned for next month. South Korea has recently begun sending military equipment, as well. The country's Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries urged the shipping companies to take steps to head off possible offensives from terror-related organizations. See "Korean Shipping Firms on Terror Alert," Ryu Jin, The Korea Times, 7/9/04.

British nuclear sub visit to Gibraltar angers Spain: The British nuclear-powered submarine HMS Tireless docked at Gibraltar today despite protests by the Spanish government and environmental groups. The 20-year-old submarine raised diplomatic furor in 2000 when it broke down and had to be towed to Gibraltar for repairs. It took a year to fix the cracks in its reactor cooling system, provoking protests and concerns about possible environmental hazards. The Spanish Foreign Ministry contacted the British ambassador earlier this week to express its displeasure over the visit, but the Foreign Office stated that any Royal Navy ship is entitled to use Gibraltar port facilities. Britain did provide Spain with assurances of the vessel's safety record. The British presence in Gibraltar has irritated bilateral relations since the tiny enclave was wrested from Spain in 1704. The 300th anniversary of the British victory is to be marked on August 4. See "UK nuke sub defies Spain at Gibraltar," Dominique Searle, Reuters, 7/9/04.

Nigerian shippers protest age limit on vessels: Under cabotage guidelines recently enacted in Nigeria, it was proposed that vessels transporting refined petroleum products must be less than 15 years old. The Nigerian Shipping Companies Association (NSCA) argues that a 15 year old vessel is still a fairly new ship, and is a much stricter requirement than is placed on similar vessels anywhere else in the world. As long as the ship meets safety requirements of international law, such as SOLAS, the factor of "age" is not necessarily a precondition for the determination of safety and seaworthiness. If this condition of the Cabotage Act is enforced, shippers would have a hard time financing the purchase of new vessels, it would increase the cost of Nigeria's maritime commerce in general, it would severely curtail the available tonnage in Nigeria's coastal trade — as most vessels currently in service are already over the 15 year age limit, and the country's shippers would be placed in the embarrassing position of being able to trade everywhere in the world, except their own backyard. See "Shipping Firms Protest 15 Year Age Limit on Vessels," Godwin Oritse, allAfrica.com, 7/8/04.

African refugees denied entry into Italy: An estimated 5,000 immigrants from northern Africa drowned in the past year while tying to cross the Mediterranean to southern Europe. The German aid ship Cap Anamur rescued 37 Sudanese refugees two weeks ago, and set sail for the closest harbor, on the southern Italian island of Sicily. However, stating that the information on the identity of the refugees was insufficient, Italian authorities has denied them entry, and held them up with gun boats and helicopters. Cap Anamur director Elias Bierdel has condemned the delay, saying that the ship could be rescuing other people instead of waiting for the resolution of this particular problem. See "Italy Weighs Fate of Africans Stranded on Ship," Deutsche Welle, 7/7/04.

Port worker killed in South Carolina: William Edward Holst, a container checker at South Carolina's State Ports Authority, died Monday morning when a crane operator lowered a shipping container on him at the Wando Welch Terminal. That same day, William Rouse, a longshoreman at North Charleston's shipping terminal, suffered bruises after he was pinned between two containers on a ship. The incidents stopped work, according to leaders of two of the International Longshoremen's Association locals. While union contract rules require that a safety flagger observe container moves on and off docked vessels, there are no such guidelines for container moves inside the terminal yard. Although it's hard to say if a flagger might have saved Holst's life, the incident has re-ignited discussions of requiring flaggers inside the yard. The new requirement would have to be included in the master contract — due to expire September 30 — between the union and the shipping lines whose vessels the dockworkers load and unload. See "Dockworker's death highlights port safety issue," Associated Press at The State, 7/7/04.

First trial in USS Cole bombing opens in Yemen: A security court today opened the first trial in the bombing of the USS Cole, charging six Yemenis with planning the October 2000 attack, claiming they were members of Osama bin Laden's terrorist network. Among the six charged in Yemen today was accused mastermind Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is in US custody, but it was unclear where. The other five were in court. Al-Nashiri was accused of planning and funding the attack and training the cell members who carried it out. The judge allowed the accused men to appoint lawyers to appear on their behalf when the case resumes next Wednesday. The judge also wants the US to allow Al-Nashiri to appear at the trial. Representatives from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation were present at today's court session. See "Yemen Charges 6 in USS Cole Bombing," James Martone, VOANews, 7/7/04.

US stops ships under ISPS code: The United States denied entry to 19 ships and detained 30 in port between July 1 and July 5 under the new ISPS code, the Coast Guard said Tuesday. Over 1,200 ships approached US ports during the time period. The Coast Guard did not provide specifics except to say that the vessels "failed to comply with the new security requirements." All were foreign-flag vessels approaching ports including Baltimore, New York, New Orleans, Miami, Houston, Providence, R.I., and the islands of San Juan, Puerto Rico and Guam. Not all ports around the world are enforcing the new security code as vigorously as the US, for fear of obstructing commerce. See "Ports getting tough on ships," Audrey Hudson, The Washington Times, 7/7/04.

2 killed, 2 hurt in accident at Kure shipyard: Two workers were killed and two others injured at the Kure shipyard of IHI Marine United Inc., an affiliate of Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co. According to the police and IHI Marine United, about 10 workers were welding a 20-by-20-by-5-meter steel section to similar sections to construct the vessel's outer shell on Monday. Four workers had climbed onto scaffolding to weld the steel, which was suspended by a crane, to the other sections. Two of the workers fell with the steel section, and died. Two others suffered serious injuries. Police are investigating whether the incident was caused by professional negligence; it was also windy in Kure early Monday morning. See "Shipyard scaffold plunge kills pair; two hurt," The Japan Times, 7/6/04.

Iran will return Britain's boats: Six British marines and two sailors were detained for three days in Iran last month. Iran insists that the three boats were intercepted only after they entered Iranian waters on the Shatt al-Arab waterway that divides southern Iraq from Iran. But after the released unit was debriefed, British officials said it appeared they were "forcibly escorted" over the maritime border by Iranian troops. Britain can't prove this unless it receives the boats and sophisticated GPS navigational equipment, confiscated by the Revolutionary Guards. Iran has pledged to return the boats, but hasn't offered a specific timetable. See "Iran vows to return Britain's boats," AFP at Yahoo! News, 7/4/04.

California could be overwhelmed by international trade: California's neighboring ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach constitute the nation's busiest seaport, and the Southern California Association of Governments expects that trade through these ports will nearly triple by 2030. Unfortunately, the state's current transportation infrastructure will need to be overhauled to bear that growing burden. Several regions in the state are becoming overwhelmed by highway congestion, unclean air and traffic problems. As California's seaports become less reliable in servicing trade between Asia and North America, many shippers are going to other ports. In fact, in a study published in April by the San Francisco-based Public Policy Institute of California, economist Jon Haveman found that the share of US trade handled by California gateways, which had doubled between 1974 and 1995, has been diminishing ever since. See "Trade swamping our infrastructure," Jock O'Connell, Sacramento Bee, 7/4/04.

Ports are still vulnerable: The day the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code went into effect, Coast Guard Commandant Tom Collins said that US ports are still vulnerable to the kind of speedboat attack that crippled the USS Cole. While he believes port security has improved vastly since the attacks of September 11, 2001, when these far-reaching international maritime security measures were developed, he admits it would be very difficult to intercept a small boat loaded with explosives and on a suicide mission. There may be as many as 70 million recreational boats in the United States, in addition to pleasure boats and fishing vessels that come from foreign ports. International security standards that took effect Thursday do not cover any of them. See "U.S. Official: Ports Vulnerable to Attack," Associated Press at ABC News, 7/2/04.

So far, no major delays from ISPS Code implementation: Figures given to IMO by Member Governments indicate that more than 86% of ships and 69% of port facilities had their security plans approved by 1 July 2004 and the figures are rising rapidly. See the press release "Secretary-General Mitropoulos pays tribute to the efforts made to implement the ISPS Code" from the International Maritime Organization, 7/1/04.

Most of Asia's major shipping lines and key container ports had met the ISPS Code, and authorities appeared willing to overlook vessels arriving from non-compliant ports. In Europe, where most mega-ports were in full compliance, there were no reports of early snags with authorities appearing comfortable with the transition. In Australia, where all ships and ports involved in international trade met the ISPS deadline, maritime authorities were keeping a wary eye on suspect vessels but did not delay any. See "Smooth sailing in wake of terror law," Reuters at CNN Money, 7/1/04.

Of at least 265 vessels arriving at US ports, only six lacked the valid security certificates now required, and were denied entry. Admiral Thomas Collins, commandant of the Coast Guard, did not say what countries the ships had come from. See "U.S. bars six ships under new codes," Reuters, 7/1/04.

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