News Archive - May 2005

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Pakistan to claim compensation for Tasman Spirit oil spill: Pakistan will claim a compensation of $2 billion from the last owners of Tasman Spirit, the oil tanker which ran aground off the coast of Karachi in 2003. The incident spilled about 30,000 tons of crude oil, devastating the marine life and ecosystem, and damaging the country's economy. Retired Major Tahir Iqbal was the guest speaker at a national symposium on the incident. He categorically stated that Pakistan would try all options to get the compensation from the owners of the ship. Pakistan claims that the owners had an incorrect ship certification, were using an old ship to transport a large amount of oil, and delayed removing the oil once the ship was grounded. The ship's owners have accused Pakistani authorities of maintaining the harbor channel improperly and providing an incompetent pilot. See "Pakistan to claim $2bn from Maltese shipping firm," Asadullah, The International News, 5/31/05.

"Hot pursuit" agreements considered for Malacca Strait: The latest discussions between Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines have included the topic of "hot pursuit" agreements. This would allow regional navies to chase suspected terrorists and pirates across international maritime boundaries. Government officials in Malaysia have confirmed they are actively discussing the option. Fears of terrorism center on the possibility that a large ship could be pirated and sunk at a shallow point in the Malacca Strait, blocking the waterway and having a devastating effect on world trade. Last year, the International Maritime Bureau recorded 37 pirate raids in the channel despite coordinated patrols by Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. See "'Hot Pursuit' Agreement Would Protect Vulnerable Waterway," Mark Mayne, Crosswalk.com, 5/31/05.

ASC wins Australian Navy contract for air warfare ships: Australian Submarine Corp (ASC) has been chosen to build the Australian Navy's new warships. ASC beat out Victorian shipbuilder Tenix and a third bidder in a unanimous recommendation from the Source Selection Board. Over a thousand jobs are expected to be created in South Australia; subcontracts should create another jobs throughout the country. ASC built the Collins Class submarines which were plagued by problems, while Tenix built the 10 Anzac frigates successfully and on time. Nevertheless, the Government is confident of the project's success. See "Adelaide wins $6bn navy tender," The Australian, 5/31/05.

Fatigue is still a big factor in ship accidents: The annual report put out by the UK's Maritime Accident Investigation Branch shows that fatigue among sailors is still a contributing factor to many accidents. The report's author, Stephen Meyer, also points out poor judgment as a contributing factor — this being a classic symptom of fatigue. The main concern was the lack of staff on cargo vessels plying the short sea trade. Even if the "normal" two watchkeepers did nothing but their bridge watches, they would work an 84-hour week. But the normal workload includes paperwork, cargo work, maintenance, and much more. Many fear that it will take a big accident, involving a ship carrying passengers or volatile cargo, to make any changes. See "Fatigue factor in ship accidents," BBC News, 5/31/05.

Chinese sub may have caught fire in South China Sea: A Chinese Navy Ming-class diesel-powered hunter-killer submarine apparently stalled after a fire broke out aboard the vessel while it was submerged in the South China Sea. As of Monday afternoon, the submarine was being towed above the water. The Japanese and US governments have been monitoring the vessel, and it is unknown whether there were any casualties. The accident occurred in international waters about halfway between Taiwan and Hainan Island on Thursday. The area in which the accident occurred is strategically important for China as the South China Sea includes Spratly Islands, which several countries lay claim to. See "Chinese sub towed after accident," The Yomiuri Shimbun, 5/31/05.

Ocean Conservancy scorecard released: The Ocean Conservancy's scorecard, based on fish stock reports from around the United States, assesses how well fish stocks are being managed to save them from being overfished. The scorecard found the councils overseeing West Coast fisheries did the best job, while those in the South (Gulf of Mexico and the South Atlantic) and East Coast have been less successful in dealing with overfishing. Results also point out several best management practices, including preventing or eliminating overcapacity, and establishing and enforcing science-based catch limits that effectively constrain total mortality of target species to levels below maximum sustainable yield fishing rates. You can review the draft version of the Overfishing Scorecard on the Ocean Conservancy's site.

Concept ship showcases green technologies: Shipping firm Wallenius Wilhelmsen (WW) is looking for ways to lower its fuel costs and cut pollution. The firm is showcasing a "green" concept ship, the Orcelle, at the World Expo in Japan, which opened at the end of March. Designed by naval architect Per Brinchmann, the Orcelle has sails to catch wind energy, underwater pods to harness wave energy, and solar cells to charge up fuel cells to power electric motors. In addition to cutting pollution from marine diesel fuel, the Orcelle design also eliminates the need for ballast water, which can negatively impact ecosystems by introducing invasive species. The design should support a ship that carries up to 10,000 cars and trucks. Although the Orcelle may never be built, WW believes that much of the technology showcased on the ship could find its way into vessels over the next 20 years. See "Shipbuilders look back to age of sail," Reuters, The Australian, 5/29/05.

US fishing limits discussed: The US Magnuson-Stevens Act was passed in 1976 to address declining fish stocks and foreigners fishing in American waters. It set up regional panels to regulate the industry in waters between 3 and 200 miles of the country's coasts. Fishermen and environmental groups both credit the act with rescuing some threatened fish stocks. Some members of Congress plan to extend federal limits on commercial fishing, but both sides are looking for changes now that the law is likely to come up for review. New England fishermen, in particular, have blamed the limits for crippling their livelihoods. Supporters believe the law needs to be tightened further, because some of the regional panels have been less effective than others. Alaska's quota system is held up as a good example, while the New England region is described as having limits that are too timid. See "Lawmakers favor keeping fishing limits," Alan Wirzbicki, The Boston Globe at Boston.com, 5/29/05. (Registration required.)

China's seaward expansion is damaging the coastline: Building on coastal property and reclaiming land from the sea can have disastrous consequences to the coastlines and the fragile ecosystems they support. But China is doing just that at a frenetic pace. As a result, in the past decades about half of mangrove swamps and 80 per cent of the coral reef have been damaged, and the nation's beach areas have shrunk by half over the past five decades, especially in recent years. To put a halt to this destruction and better protect the environment, an oceanic observation system using marine satellites will be set up by 2009 as part of an ongoing national survey project. See "Coastal regions 'expand' into sea," Xie Chuanjiao and Wang Ying, China Daily, 5/26/05.

House defense budget cuts Navy shipbuilding: The US House of Representatives passed a $441 billion defense budget for the fiscal year beginning October 1. One of the House's moves is to try to control rising costs of Navy shipbuilding. Although Congress rarely imposes cost caps on defense programs, the House agreed to spending limits on the Navy's three top shipbuilding programs: the DD(X) destroyer, Virginia class submarine, and Littoral Combat Ship. The Senate's version of the budget doesn't impose a cap on the DD(X) program. The Senate will vote on its version of the bill after the Memorial Day recess. The two versions will be reconciled later in a conference committee. See "House Passes $441 Bln Defense Budget That Cuts Boeing Systems," Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg.com, 5/26/05.

Vietnam's fishermen need more skills and better equipment: The number of fishermen in Vietnam almost doubled between 1990 and 2004. Most of these fishermen stay close to shore and use small mesh fishnets, since they don't have the means to invest in deep sea equipment. As a result, many marine resources are being depleted. In the past two years, unsustainable and illegal fishing practices has reduced the population of anchovies by half. In 1996, the government launched a national deep-sea fisheries development program, in part to reduce commercial fishing in coastal waters. But the program has brought only marginal results. The government has also set up marine protected areas, but these have also had little impact. See "Vietnamese fishing in troubled waters," Tran Dinh Thanh Lam, AsiaTimes Online, 5/25/05.

US port security program is flawed: The US Department of Homeland Security's effort to extend its antiterrorism campaign overseas by enlisting help from importers and foreign ports has reduced inspections in the US of cargo coming from certified importers and facilities. But the department has failed to confirm whether most of those importers have tightened security or whether thousands of high-risk containers headed to the United States were inspected at ports overseas. For example, of the 5,000 applications from importers that have been accepted so far, US customs officials have only verified that 597 companies were taking the required security measures. And, since late 2002, some 10 percent of "high risk" containers did not get inspected at foreign ports before they left. In fact, some Congressional officials believe the program has been so flawed that it may have made it easier at times to smuggle unconventional weapons into the country. See "Loopholes Seen in U.S. Efforts to Secure Overseas Ports," Eric Lipton, The New York Times, 5/25/05 (registration required).

Small weapons cache found in shipping container: Indian police seized 37 revolvers, 1,280 rounds of ammunition and a silencer from a shipping container at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port. Police say the stash was hidden in 27 barrels of grease, and bound for a local criminal gang. The suspect container came from either Singapore or Dubai; it isn't clear where the weapons were stashed inside. Although the cache is small, it illustrates how easily illicit weapons and supplies could be smuggled around the world. Containers are an easy target, since only between 1-3 percent are checked worldwide. See "India arms cache stokes maritime smuggling fears," Stefano Ambrogi, Reuters at Yahoo! News, 5/24/05.

Australia wants to halt research whaling: Australian prime minister John Howard has warned Japan of a global backlash after reports the country was intending to kill twice as many minke whales as last year. Commercial whale hunting was banned in 1986, but since 1987 Japan has exploited a loophole allowing it to kill whales for scientific research. But critics claim this is an excuse for the Japanese to continue to sell and eat whale meat, a cultural delicacy. Diplomatic pressure will come to a head next month when Tokyo is expected to put forward its plans at the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission in South Korea. Howard's interest may be related to the fact that whale watching attracts over 1.5 million tourists a year to Australia's east coast. See "Australia trying to halt research whaling," Associated Press at The State.com, 5/24/05.

Panama works to save its forests, and canal: Each trip, or lockage, through the Panama canal means 52 million gallons of water are shifted from Gatun Lake to the Pacific Ocean. On a busy day, there may be as many as 40 lockages. The canal depends on the lake and its water, and they in turn depend on the health of the surrounding watershed forest. But in the last few decades, half of it has been lost to logging and slash-and-burn agriculture. If Panamanians vote to upgrade or expand the canal this fall, the reliability of Gatun Lake's water supply will be even more crucial. The Panama Canal Authority and an array of scientists are now studying Gatun Lake's hydrology, to restore its watershed and to teach the people who live there the importance of preserving it. See "To Save Its Canal, Panama Fights for Its Forests," Cornelia Dean, The New York Times, 5/24/05 (registration required).

Ship's crew detained in Boston for dumping oil: Nine Indian crew members of Panamanian-flagged cargo vessel Elena have been detained by the US Coast Guard and ordered to stay in Boston following alleged dumping of untreated oil sludge into the ocean. According to Coast Guard investigations so far, Elena has been making improper discharges over the past six months. One crew member reportedly stated that the ship was producing more sludge because of an equipment malfunction. An affidavit claimed that several crew members admitted that the ship's pump system had been modified to discharge oily sludge. None of the nine crew members has been charged in the case, but they are being described as material witnesses. See "Indian shipping crew in the dock in Boston," S. Rajagopalan, HindustanTimes.com, 5/23/05.

Bangladesh faces third maritime accident in a week: A trawler with more than 100 people on board sank in stormy weather in Bangladesh on Thursday, leaving at least 30 missing; about 70 people swam ashore or were rescued by passing boats. It was this country's third major maritime accident in a week. The wooden fishing boat went down in the mouth of the Meghna River in coastal Bhola district, 65 miles south of the capital, Dhaka. Seasonal storms, accompanied by strong winds and heavy rain, also sank two overcrowded ferries in the past week. The trawler accident came four days after a ferry carrying a wedding party sank in neighboring Patuakhali district, killing at least 88 people. Rescuers, meanwhile, were still trying to salvage another ferry that capsized on Tuesday with 250 on board in central Manikganj district, leaving at least 33 dead. See "Ferry accidents: Search resumed," News24.com, 5/20/05.

US SEALs study Norwegian stealth ships: Norwegian shipyard Umoe Mandal has a lucrative contract to supply Norway's navy with six stealth "Skjold" (Shield) speed boats by 2008. But the shipyard has also received increasing interest from the US Navy SEALs. One of the Skjold boats was on loan to US special forces after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Now the shipyard has entered into a contract with the Navy SEALs so they can evaluate how the craft might meet American needs. Although the shipyard is calm about the study deal, it's possible the SEALs might order as many as 10 of the stealth vessels. In the event of a contract, Umoe Mandal is ready to buy into a small shipyard in the US to meet political pressure for national participation in military projects. See "Navy SEALs to Mandal," Roar Valderhaug, Aftenposten Norway, 5/19/05.

Canadian military concerned over peridite: Lt. Chris Saunders was killed and eight others suffered from smoke inhalation after Canada's submarine HMCS Chicoutimi caught fire. Peridite, used in a glue that holds insulation to walls, and believed to be a carcinogen, was used on the sub. A safety officer wrote in 2001 about potential problems with peridite when there was work done on Chicoutimi's sister sub, Victoria, according to documents obtained recently. Doctors have been monitoring those who survived the Chicoutimi fire. The results are confidential but it has been reported that four sailors show signs of contamination that could lead to respiratory problems. See "Sub sailors inhaled toxins," Broadcast News at canada.com, 5/19/05.

Canadian submarine limps back to port: HMCS Victoria returned to port after sparks were found coming from one of her electric motors on two separate test runs — just days after it was returned to active service. The Victoria is the first of Canada's troubled submarines to go back into service after the fatal fire on board HMCS Chicoutimi last October. The Victoria wasn't submerged at the time, and the sparks didn't start a fire; the motor was immediately shut down. The boat was able to slowly return to port on its own power. The sub went back to sea off British Columbia yesterday but again sparks were found coming from the defective motor. It again returned and is now in the harbor where repairs are being made. See "Engine forces sub HMCS Victoria back to port in B.C.," Canadian Press at myTELUS, 5/19/05.

Shipbreaking may move to Tyneside: Dutch company NV Ecodock is working with Nemoc (North East Marine Offshore Cluster) to set up an independent ship recycling company. Nemoc is a consortium of 15 companies. NV Ecodock is backed by several Dutch companies from the shipping, construction and recycling industries, including shipping giant P&O Nedloyd. Although only in existence for two years, NV Ecodock plans to establish a network of 30 to 40 sites. It is building its first yard in Eemshaven in the northern Netherlands, and is believed to be looking at the Amec yard in Wallsend, as well as the mothballed A&P site as it examines options for its new facility. The company says it just has to get approval from its shareholders before committing to the investment in the partnership with Nemoc. See "Shipbreaking deal moves step nearer," Graeme King, The Journal at icNewcastle, 5/19/05.

Queen Mary 2 walkway accident investigation continues: Chantiers de l'Atlantique, a division of Alstom Marine, built the Queen Mary 2, and Endel built a walkway that allowed visitors to pass from the dock to the vessel. On November 15, 2003, five weeks before the QM2's maiden voyage, the walkway collapsed and 15 people died. About 30 others were injured. These two companies are now being investigated for manslaughter — this is a step short of being charged. Judges declined to investigate any individuals working for the companies at the time. Experts have raised questions about the conception of the walkway, although apparently Endel first delivered the wrong size and quickly replaced it. See "Qm2 Walkway Accident - Firms Investigated for Manslaughter," PA News at Scotsman.com, 5/17/05.

SIEV-X people smuggling trial begins: Khaleed Shanayf Daoed, an alleged organizer of the SIEV-X, will go on trial in the Brisbane Supreme Court today. He faces two charges of helping organize the illegal entry of people into Australia. The SIEV-X sank en route from Indonesia to Australia on October 19, 2001. Only 45 people were saved, 353 lives were lost. One of the most surprising things about the event is that the sinking went undetected for three days while an intensive Australian maritime surveillance operation was underway. Many are hoping that the trial will help provide answers about the sinking. See "SIEV-X accused faces trial," ABC News Online, 5/17/05.

US port security trust fund proposed: Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), chair of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, has proposed creating a trust fund for port security improvements financed through fees assessed on importers. Shippers currently pay various local fees at US ports, but there is not federal security fee. Christopher Koch, president and chief executive of the World Shipping Council, believes the new fees might be accepted if they were targeted to pay for specific security enhancements. Stevens' proposal came as a Government Accountability Office report released Tuesday said delays in security clearances for key port officials are a major factor in flawed information sharing between agencies. See "Stevens proposes port-security trust fund," Erica Werner, Associated Press at Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 5/17/05.

Australia looking into possible abalone "slave" ship: Hong Kong-based shareholders in the Destiny Abalone Group reflagged the Destiny Queen from Australia to Hong Kong, and fired all but four of the 30 Australians on board, replacing them with foreign crew late last year. It is now based 30 nautical miles offshore in the Spencer Gulf, and moves three miles every two weeks. Many fear that this floating abalone harvesting farm is actually a "slave" ship. The Group says they pay their crew, but not how much. The ship skirts several laws and avoids permit requirements by anchoring in South Australia, not going into ports, and staying in waters outside immigration jurisdiction. The workers never go ashore, so don't need visas. The Rann Government, which issued the original permit allowing the farm to operate, is now working to close loopholes it believes allows the venture to "unfairly" compete with land-based Australian abalone farmers. See "Rann bid to scuttle 'slave ship'," Michelle Wiese Bockmann, The Australian, 5/16/05.

US "Ghost" ships may be stuck in the UK: Four decommissioned US ships are in Britain's Teesside, rusting further while Able UK waits to hear if its permit applications will be approved so the company can scrap them. Able's plans — designed to turn the company into a viable scrapyard for defunct European ships — includes a major dredging project, and building a new dock and dock gates, a dam, a railway track and a wind turbine factory. But according to documents seen by the Guardian, all of Britain's leading environmental groups will announce this week that they object to the plans. In scathing analyses of the company's 350-page environmental statement, most of the groups say that it is not providing enough information to make a decision. See "Scrapped US ships left high and dry in Teesside boatyard," John Vidal, The Guardian, 5/16/05.

"Dead zones" worldwide are growing with fertilizer use: The number of "dead zones" in the world's seas — areas starved of oxygen, and devoid of marine life — have doubled every decade since 1960. The United Nations Environment Programme says that there are now 146 of them worldwide, mainly around the coasts of rich countries. Many are caused by fertilizer that flows down rivers into the sea. The world's biggest dead zone is in the Baltic, where sewage and nitrogen fallout from burning fossil fuels combine with fertilizers to over-enrich the sea. Nearly a third of the world's dead zones are off the United States, but they also cluster round the coasts of Europe and Japan, and have reached China, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand. World fertilizer use has soared tenfold over the past 50 years, mirroring the increase in dead zones. See "Increase in 'dead zones' starving the world's seas," Andrew Buncombe and Geoffrey Lean, The Independent, 5/15/05.

Shipping and cargo traffic is soaring: Some maritime analysts expect world trade to double within a generation. In order to handle the growing cargo traffic, seaports, railways, roads and other transport systems need to be expanded. At the meeting SeaCargo Americas, shipping executives pointed to growing congestion at seaports, shortages of truck drivers and backups at railways among a host of strains facing the United States, Brazil and other countries in the Americas because of double-digit growth in the volume of ocean cargo handled yearly. The trade show also focused on ways to meet growing mandates for security after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. See "Ocean Trade Increasing, Say Participants in Miami, Fla., Trade Conference," Doreen Hemlock, South Florida Sun-Sentinel at Environmental News Network, 5/13/05.

Growing container traffic is already being felt on the US East Coast, which is starting to receive more cargo as West Coast ports get crowded. The Virginia Port Authority, for example, is working on a massive renovation of Norfolk International Terminal's south end, and plans to build a fourth marine terminal on the east side of Craney Island in Portsmouth. The port has about a dozen of the most advanced cranes in operation and, by this summer, will have a 50-foot inbound channel, which is the deepest on the East Coast. But even with all these upgrades, J. Robert Bray, the port authority's executive director, believes the port may still not be able to keep pace with expected growth. See "Rising Asian cargo expected to stress East Coast ports," Carolyn Shapiro, The Virginian-Pilot, 5/13/05.

Climate change has already forced fish north to cooler water: Scientists at the University of East Anglia and researchers at the Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science in Lowestoft studied North Sea fisheries data from 1977 to 2001, as well as records of sea temperatures, general climatic patterns and the effects of the Gulf Stream. The researchers found that 21 species had shifted their distributions in line with the rise in sea temperature, and 18 species had moved much further north. According to the study, published in the journal Science, the North Sea cod population has moved 73 miles towards the Arctic while haddock have moved 65 miles north. The study raises concerns that some already overexploited fish stocks are under further threat from climate change. Many of the species studied also moved to deeper waters as they shifted north, or simply moved deeper, possibly to get to cooler water. The findings demonstrate how sensitive fish stocks are to climate change. See "North Sea fish on the move to cooler waters," Ian Sample, The Guardian, 5/13/05.

Pentagon urges closing 33 major US military bases: The Pentagon on Friday recommended the closure of 33 major US military bases and the realignment of 29 more. Some maritime bases on the list are the historic Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine, the Naval Station Pascagoula in Mississippi, and Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut. The Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission will evaluate Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's plan and make possible additions or subtractions. Their list, in turn, will be sent to President Bush by September 8. If he accepts that plan, he would forward the list to Congress, which can approve or reject it entirely without changes. The complete "List of bases recommended for closure" is available from CNN (Associated Press, 5/13/05).

Dozens of problems with British Columbia submarine: Documents from Canada's Department of National Defence show that dozens of mechanical problems have been found on HMCS Victoria, and several were severe enough to cause safety concerns. Victoria, based in British Columbia, is one of four submarines Canada's Navy bought from Britain in 1998. The report on the boat is 312 pages long, and includes information on an exhaust system malfunction that "poses a clear danger to engine room watch keeping personnel." Lt.-Cmdr. Hubert Genest, a public affairs officer with Maritime Forces Pacific, said that while he couldn't comment directly on the statements made in the document, it was his understanding that most of the repairs have already been made. See "Mechanical defects plague sub," Brad Badelt and Nicholas Read, CanWest News Service at Victoria Times Colonist, 5/12/05.

Most want Sydney Harbour to stay a working harbor: The leases on the wharves at east Darling Harbour in Sydney will end next year, and the State Government has announced they will be redeveloped into a mixture of commercial, residential properties and open space. Residents, harbor workers, union members and business owners all attended a Town Hall meeting last night to object to the decision to move container freight terminals away. For one thing, eighty per cent of all goods that come to the Harbour are consumed within 25 miles from Sydney, and the Government hasn't offered up an economic study to back up their plan. Sydney's Lord Mayor Clover Moore believes the New South Wales Government made their decision to quickly. See "Meeting hears of opposition to harbour proposal," ABC News Online, 5/12/05.

Many big companies are battling port bottlenecks in the US: California's Los Angeles Ports complex is expected to become overcrowded again during the peak shipping season for the upcoming holidays. With 150 massive cranes and 61 cargo terminals spread along 57 miles of waterfront, the complex is the most advanced in the US. Even so, it hasn't kept pace as imports surged 43 percent in value in the past five years, according to the US Department of Commerce. Last year, the issue was too few port workers. This year deliveries may be clogged by an influx of new ships that are twice the size of the largest ships five years ago. Rail lines serving the complex are bound to become a choking point. Some companies are already finding alternatives; traffic has already jumped 40 percent at the Port of Seattle this year. See "Imports Choke Los Angeles Port, Rattling Hewlett-Packard, Nike," Peter Robison, Bloomberg.com, 5/12/05.

Shrimp boats may be capped in the Gulf of Mexico: The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council has narrowly passed a measure to cap the number of commercial shrimp boats in federal waters for at least a decade. Under the proposal, which still must be approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service, only fishermen who have obtained federal licenses by Dec. 6, 2003, would be eligible to take their boats into federal waters farther out. Most shrimpers stay close to shore, in state waters. The move is intended to control overfishing and better manage resources. The industry has been struggling since 2001 as a surge of pond-raised imports have undercut the value of the domestic harvest. See "Council votes to cap shrimp boats in Gulf," Associated Press at Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 5/11/05.

South Africa is training submariners: South Africa is working hard at getting enough crew members trained to take control of its three new submarines. The first, S101, is due early next year. The S102 is expected early in 2007, and the S103 about a year later. Each submarine requires a complement of about 45, including 30 fighting crew. The South African navy decommissioned its previous fleet of Daphne submarines about two years ago, which caused a gap in training platforms. The core crew of the S101 is being trained in Germany; additional officers are training in India. Eventually, the Navy plans to have four full crews broadly representative of South Africa's racial demographics. See "Navy training submariners," News24.com, 5/10/05.

Armed escorts in the Malacca Strait: The Malacca Strait, bordered by Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, is one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, and the location of many pirate attacks. While Asian governments struggle to contain the piracy menace on the region's waters, a controversial and lucrative industry is emerging centered on armed escort boats providing security for commercial vessels. The International Maritime Organization, the Federation of ASEAN Shipowners' Association and a senior Malaysian security official have all expressed reservations about the security boats in recent weeks. But their popularity among shipping companies is undeniable, with some paying more than $100,000 for security services. Many maritime officials wonder if these private armed guards are legal, and other critics argue that armed escorts risk inflaming a pirate incident. See "Armed escorts in demand in Asia’s pirate-infested waters," Karl Malakunas, Dawn International, 5/9/05.

Proof that Gulf Stream is cooling: Scientists have long predicted a link between global warming, a change in the Gulf Stream, and cooling temperatures in northwestern Europe. New research shows clear experimental evidence of the phenomenon. Peter Wadhams, professor of ocean physics at Cambridge University, used ships and Royal Navy submarines to take measurements across the Greenland Sea. He found that the sinking of supercooled water in the Sea has weakened to less than a quarter of its former strength. With that mechanism slowing, the circulation of warm water around the globe will slow. Britain, which lies on the same latitude as Siberia and ought to be much colder than it is, gets warmed by the Gulf Stream by 5-8C. One possibility is that Europe will freeze; another is that the slowing of the Gulf Stream may keep Europe cool as global warming heats the rest of the world — but with more extremes of weather. See "Britain faces big chill as ocean current slows," Jonathan Leake, Times Online, 5/8/05.

Crew blamed for grounding US sub: US Navy investigators report that a series of mistakes both at sea and in preparations onshore helped cause the nuclear submarine San Francisco to crash into an undersea mountain in January, killing one sailor and injuring 97. In a new report, the Navy pins most of the blame on the top officers of the submarine, but investigators also reported that deficiencies in navigation charts and in giving the submarine its routing helped set the stage for the accident. The submarine's captain and six other crew members were relieved of duty after the accident, as they had the primary responsibility for keeping the vessel safe. Navy officials said the crew should have cross-checked all the charts for the area and taken more frequent depth soundings. See "Navy cites crew error in sub accident," Associated Press at CNN.com, 5/8/05.

US not needed to secure Straits of Malacca: Last year Thomas Fargo, the former Chief of the United States Pacific Command, suggested using US special operation forces to help safeguard the Straits of Malacca from potential terrorist attacks. Malaysia and Indonesia were not pleased with this suggestion. The newly-appointed Pacific Commander, Admiral William Fallon, apparently disagrees with his predecessor. Although Fallon believes keeping the straits secured is of global interest, he stated at a press conference, "I believe the nations of the region can do a very adequate job in taking care of this without our help." Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore last year launched joint patrols to curb piracy and deter maritime terrorism in the waterway in response to concerns of possible US intervention. See "US: Straits are littoral nations’ responsibility," Amy Chew, New Straits Times, 5/7/05.

Captain, crew cleared in Chicoutimi fire: The final report of the HMCS Chicoutimi board of inquiry has been made public by Vice-Admiral Bruce MacLean, the Commander of Canada's Navy. The report provides a detailed series of recommendations respecting the fire on board the Victoria-class submarine that resulted in the death of Lieutenant Chris Saunders. The captain and crew were cleared of any blame in the incident. The report recommended numerous improvements to Canada's submarine fleet, including more "splash proof" electrical insulation, better firefighting training for crew, and restrictions on when the sub's surface hatches can be open. See "Navy finds no fault in sub fire," Murray Brewster, Canadian Press at canada.com, 5/5/05.

US to deny entry to unprotected ships: Seven countries have such inadequate port security that US Coast Guard officials will deny US entry to ships that have visited them recently unless the vessels have taken precautions. The countries — Albania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Madagascar, Mauritania and Nauru — don't comply with the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code, which indicates they don't have effective anti-terrorism measures. Starting on May 23, ships that haven't met the Coast Guard's security standards will be denied entry to US ports if they've visited those countries within their last five ports of call. See "U.S. blacklists 7 countries for lax port security," Reuters, 5/5/05.

EU states should stop using fish as feed in tuna farms: WWF's Mediterranean Fisheries Coordinator has asked the European Commission, the EU executive, to ban non-Mediterranean fish for tuna farms, and use feed pellets instead. Between 15 and 25 pounds of fish are needed to produce one kilo of tuna. The feeder fish are usually small-sized species, such as herring, that are not native to Mediterranean waters. This practice risks spreading exotic viruses to the area. The risk is increased because fish farms have such a high concentration of fish. Japan is the final destination for more than 90 percent of the EU's farmed tuna exports. The Commission, which regulates EU fishing policy, said it would study WWF's proposal and ask the tuna industry for data. See "EU urged to stop feeding tuna farms with...fish," Jeremy Smith, Reuters, 5/4/05.

Proposed sonar training range causes concerns: The US Navy wants to create a range for sonar training. But sonar is known to have contributed to whale deaths, and has been linked with beachings of other marine mammals. The Navy says it is committed to balancing its training with the welfare of marine mammals, which are protected by the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act. The act prohibits the injury and harassment of mammals, but defining those terms, let alone proving the cause, is difficult. A site off the coast of North Carolina is one of three being considered, and may be at the top of the list. The area is near the location of an incident that took place in January, where more than 30 whales of various species were stranded and died on North Carolina's Outer Banks. See "Navy sonar under scrutiny," Kate Wiltrout, The Virginian-Pilot at HamptonRoads.com/Pilot Online, 5/3/05.

Ship proposed for near shore IT outsourcing: A startup company called SeaCode has proposed setting up software coders and engineers on a cruise ship three miles off the coast of southern California. Company founders plan to pay their engineers and software developers well, but they also believe they can skirt H-1B visa regulations by categorizing their specialists as "seamen" who would be able to visit the US mainland on shore passes. Critics have labeled the idea a "slave ship" and "sweatshop," but the founders say they have already secured financing for the venture. About half the job applicants so far are American, but SeaCode also plans to recruit in India, China and Russia. Non-American employees would likely receive much less than their counterparts on the mainland. See "Entrepreneurs Plan Cruise Ship For Near Shore IT Outsourcing," W. David Gardner, TechWeb News, 5/2/05.

Pentagon still sorting out the DD(X) program: The cost of the US Navy's DD(X) guided missile destroyer, which is being designed by a team led by Northrop Grumman Corp., keeps going up. The first two DD(X) ships were initially estimated at $4.9 billion, but now they're expected to cost about $6.3 billion. In order to try to cut costs, the program has been scaled back to just one destroyer a year from 2007 to 2011, from an initial plan to buy 24. Navy acquisitions chief John Young even suggested that construction of the ships be delegated to only one shipyard, in order to save costs, but Pentagon acquisitions chief Michael Wynne last month said that plan was premature. Pentagon spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin said Monday that the organization's Defense Acquisition Board postponed its planned April 29 meeting on the program to allow more time to review differing cost estimates. One industry official expects the meeting to be rescheduled for mid-May. See "Pentagon postpones meeting on new Navy destroyer," Reuters, 5/2/05.

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