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Somali gunmen hijack ship carrying food aid: The freighter MV Semlow was sailing from the Kenyan port of Mombasa to Bossaso in north-eastern Somalia when it was attacked by armed pirates. The gunmen are demanding $500,000 to free the 10 crew on board. The ship is carrying 850 tons of UN World Food Programme food aid donated by Japan and Germany for Somali tsunami survivors. The ship's owner says the hijackers have told him the crew were safe. The International Maritime Bureau has classed the waters around the country as some of the world's most dangerous. Warlords overran Somalia and carved it into fiefdoms after ousting dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. See "Pirates hijack tsunami aid ship," BBC News, 6/30/05.
Political pressures found at NOAA Fisheries: A survey conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has found that political and commercial pressure has caused the NOAA Fisheries department to alter its scientific findings. NOAA Fisheries is the US federal agency responsible for balancing hydroelectric dams against endangered salmon. The report suggests there is a serious problem with political pressures at the department; many NOAA scientists are political appointees. Steven Murawski, director of scientific programs and chief science adviser for NOAA Fisheries, said the survey primarily represented the views of low-level staff who evaluate the work of others to develop management policy, not research scientists. See "NOAA Scientists Say Reports Altered," Jeff Barnard, Associated Press at Las Vegas Sun, 6/28/05.
US Navy's "super" sea trials prove successful: The USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98) has successfully completed the third-ever "super trial," a concept developed by industry and Navy as a cost savings measure. The super trial combines the builder's, weapons', and customer acceptance sea trials into one voyage. Funds saved by combining the three tests can be applied to future upgrades and maintenance. With the success of a third super trial — the first two occurred last summer and in November — the US Navy expects to continue using the super trial testing method. The Forrest Sherman was built at Northrop Grumman's Pascagoula shipyard, and is scheduled to be delivered in August. See "Photo Release -- Northrop Grumman-built Forrest Sherman (DDG 98) Completes Third-ever 'Super' Sea Trial," StockHouse USA, 6/27/05.
US House tackles oil spills: The single-hulled Greek tanker Athos I spilled 265,000 gallons of oil in the Delaware River near Philadelphia last November after its hull was ripped open by an old, forgotten anchor. The US House of Representatives has just passed the "Delaware River Protection Act," aimed at preventing just this sort of accident. In part, the measure would increase liability limits on single-hull tankers under the Oil Pollution Act, require ships to report objects that are lost overboard to the Coast Guard for immediate recovery, and establish new actions to deal with spilled oil. The measure now goes to the Senate for consideration. See "House passes oil spill prevention measure," Newsday.com, 6/27/05.
New technology available for tidal power: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Maine, Massachusetts, Alaska, Washington and California are taking part in a landmark study on tidal power by the Electric Power Research Institute, an independent, non profit center based in California. The study, which should be complete by March 2006, aims to answer whether it makes sense for these regions to invest in tidal power technology. The new tidal turbines, being tested in pilot projects right now, are like land-based windmills turned upside down and dropped in the water. Because water is so dense, they can be quite small, and because the rotors turn slowly, they should have little environmental impact. See "Decades-old dream of tidal power resurfaces with new technology," Chris Morris, Canadian Press at Canada.com, 6/27/05.
Canada considers rewiring submarines: An investigation into the fire aboard the HMCS Chicoutimi has raised concerns about the placement of high-voltage cables. Two sets of cables are located low on the sub's wall, near deck level. As a result, they face the possibility of short-circuiting if immersed in sea water — which is what happened on the Chicoutimi. Newly-obtained documents show that engineers are considering moving the lines, possibly to the ceiling, away from potential hazards. They are connected through watertight bulkheads, so any changes might compromise that safety feature. Meanwhile, insulation around potentially vulnerable electrical junctions has already been increased. If approved, the rewiring wouldn't be done until each boat undergoes a mid-life refit, sometime after 2008. See "Navy ponders rewiring sub cables in wake of Chicoutimi," Canadian Press at myTELUS, 6/26/05.
Balancing power needs with salmon survival: Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) is angry at a recent ruling by US District Judge James Redden requiring the Bush administration to spill additional water over four hydroelectric dams in the Columbia and Snake rivers to help young salmon migrate to the sea. In response, he has inserted language into a pending energy spending bill that would eliminate the agency that documents how effective the government's effort to save the salmon has been. Craig believes the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) spends an excessive amount of money on fish and wildlife recovery, and that Redden's ruling — which would cost BPA customers about $67 million — doesn't balance the Northwest's power needs with those of endangered salmon. Some think Craig's real target is to completely overturn Redden's ruling. See "Senator targets agency in salmon flap," Matthew Daly, Associated Press at Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 6/24/05.
South Korea's plan to build WIG vessels is finalized: South Korea has finalized plans to build wing-in-ground (WIG) vehicles through a meeting of science-related ministries, presided over by Science-Technology Minister Oh Myung. Russia first tried to develop WIG vessels in the 1960s, and other countries followed suit, but previous research focused on relatively small passenger ships. South Korea aims to build large ships capable of carrying 100 tons of freight, and traveling over 200 kilometers (almost 125 miles) per hour. The water craft are expected to revolutionize the logistics business by offering large-volume transportation services that are cheaper than aircraft and faster than conventional cargo ships. South Korea will invest a significant amount into the program, and also plans to export the vessels. See "Korea Plans to Develop Super-Fast Flying Boats," Kim Tae-gyu, The Korea Times, 6/23/05.
Safety of LNG terminals questioned in Wales: Pembrokeshire may soon become home to new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, making Milford Haven the UK's third busiest port for LNG. The port authority has run risk assessments, and plans to give pilots specialized training. But BBC Wales' Manylu program has reviewed best practices literature from the Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators (Sigtto) that suggests a terminal near Milford Haven may be unsuitable for big LNG tankers. Sigtto is not a statutory body, and offers only guidance. Manylu also spoke to two former pilots who believe the area is a pinchpoint, and that an LNG tanker could pose an unacceptable risk. Manylu also obtained some evidence that the UK government took an interest in the developments when the planning applications were submitted. See "Concerns over gas tankers' safety," BBC News, 6/23/05.
Norway mapping agency cleared of charges in Rocknes case: Police had accused Norway's National Mapping Authority of failing to point out dangerous underwater rocks that the Norwegian freighter Rocknes hit before capsizing on January 19 2004. Eighteen of the 30 crew members, most Filipinos, were killed. But on Wednesday, the prosecutor found the agency had published new maps showing the rocks in 2003, and published the new information the same year in its regular Notice to Mariners report, and both were available before the accident. However, the investigation revealed weaknesses in communication between the agency that makes the sea charts, and the National Coastal Directorate, which employs the ship's pilots who use them. See "No prosecutions in Rocknes case," Haakon E. H. Eliassen, Aftenposten Norway, 6/22/05.
China launches test missile from submarine: China's military launched a long-range ballistic missile from a submarine in a test about ten days ago. The successful test doesn't necessarily mean China can deploy the missile, but it means the country is a step closer. The missile is believed to be able to carry a nuclear warhead for 6,000 miles, far greater than any sub-launched missile in China's inventory. Previously, China has had only one submarine capable of launching nuclear missiles, called the Type 092, or Xia, class. But it is widely known that China is building a new class of nuclear missile submarine, called the Type 094. However, the test was performed sooner that US intelligence expected. Successful cruises by the Type 094 would give China a new strategic deterrent against the United States, but US defense officials say China still can't hide their submarines from sophisticated sonar and other sensors. See "U.S.: China successfully launches missile," John J. Lumpkin, Associated Press at Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 6/22/05.
Rules changed on depletion of fish stocks: The US Fisheries Service has proposed fishing guideline revisions that it says will speed the restoration of depleted fish stocks. But other fisheries experts say that in some cases, the proposals could have the opposite effect. The service is an arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The proposal will be open to public comment until August 22 before being finalized. Some of the proposed changes include ending overfishing within the first year of a rebuilding plan, and setting a target catch for a species at less than the maximum sustainable yield. See "Agency proposes changes in fishing rules," Randolph E. Schmid, Associated Press at Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 6/22/05.
US lawmakers frustrated at efforts to secure borders: Four federal departments - Homeland Security, Defense, Energy and State - are involved in a global campaign to try to prevent terrorists from smuggling a nuclear weapon into the United States. Scientists and a government auditor warned a House committee on Tuesday that the efforts being made so far have been ineffective. Nationally, less than a quarter of the radiation detection devices needed to check all goods crossing the borders have been installed, federal officials said. In New York, for example, none of the cargo that moves through the largest ship terminal or goods leaving the port by rail or barge are inspected for radiation. The committee meeting ended with few solutions found. See "U.S. Borders Vulnerable, Witnesses Say," Eric Lipton, The New York Times, 6/22/05 (registration required).
Whaling body rejects Japanese bid for commercial whaling: Culture and conservation will clash during this week's meeting of the International Whaling Commission, with some nations pushing for more whales to be caught (led by Japan), while others remain firmly opposed. Japan failed Tuesday in its bid to push through a document aimed at eventually resuming commercial whaling. The measure, which would have required a three quarters majority, was voted down by 29 votes to 23. Japan, which wants the international group to manage commercial whaling on a sustainable basis, was disappointed. The country felt its document was a reasonable compromise, but opponents found the proposal to be "an insult." See "IWC rejects whaling proposal," The Australian, 6/21/05.
Canadian submarine fleet shut down longer than technically necessary: The Canadian Navy kept their used submarine fleet sidelined for seven months after a deadly fire broke out aboard the HMCS Chicoutimi. It turns out this was more of a political decision than a military one. Navy engineers and electrical experts deemed Canada's three other used submarines safe, and recommended they be put back to sea within weeks of the fire. A defense analyst said keeping the entire fleet sidelined for seven months hurt training in a submarine program that was already behind schedule. Some also feel that the break was a blow to the morale of the navy. But senior military officers insisted on further technical improvements, thinking that even the smallest mishap would have soured more people on the program. See "No need to sideline sub fleet: report," Murray Brewster, CP at CNews, 6/19/05.
Shrimp trawling harms the red snapper fishery: According to federal records, shrimpers in the Gulf of Mexico kill between 38 and 65 million fish as bycatch each year; the catch amounts to between 93 and 97 percent of their total catch. Shrimp trawling has been proven to catch and kill more than 80 percent of the juvenile red snapper in many areas of the Gulf. Shrimpers are supposed to be using bycatch reduction devices, but a recent study shows that most are either not using the devices, or have modified them to increase their take of shrimp. Unfortunately, the National Marine Fisheries Service recently released a red snapper management plan which did nothing to control the enormous waste of the juvenile snappers by the shrimping industry. See "Shrimping Tough On Red Snappers," Frank Sargeant, 6/19/05.
International link to the pirate attack in the Malacca Strait: On Tuesday a group of armed pirates, believed to be Indonesian, hijacked the Malaysian-registered MT Nepline Delima in the Malacca Strait. The pirates were captured, and two crew members from the oil tanker have been detained. Police now believe that the highjacking was well planned, involved at least the two crew members, and may involve an international syndicate. Acting Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Musa Hassan said it would have been impossible to sell the 30,000 barrels of diesel without an international link. See "Global link to tanker hijack," Sira Habibu, The Star Online, 6/17/05.
China denies it is building an aircraft carrier: Zhang Guangqin, vice-minister of China's Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence, has categorically denied reports that the country is building an aircraft carrier in Shanghai. He said that China adheres to peaceful development, and pursues a "defensive national defense policy." Only 10 per cent of the vessels built in China are for military use. However, pointing out that China has a vast maritime territory to protect, he did not rule out the possibility that the country would build its own aircraft carriers in the future. China is currently working toward becoming the world's leading shipbuilder (of commercial ships) by 2020, although supply chain development is lagging behind. More than 60 per cent of the raw materials and accessories used in China's shipyards are imported. See "Official: We're not building aircraft carriers," Li Jing, China Daily, 6/16/05.
China's investment in shipbuilding is being noticed around the world. Experts in the field say China's growth in shipbuilding is preventing a pinch in global cargo movement, since shipyards elsewhere are stretched to near capacity. But not all maritime consultants think China will be able to capture the top spot in shipbuilding. Matthew Flynn, a maritime consultant in Hong Kong, agrees that while China is adding huge shipyard capacity, it lacks highly skilled management that can allow those shipyards to increase productivity. See "China determined to become world shipbuilding force," Tim Johnson, Knight Ridder Newspapers at Yahoo! News, 6/16/05.
Regulators vote to tighten trawling rules: The Pacific Fishery Management Council, which regulates US West Coast fishing, voted Wednesday to permanently ban bottom trawling in depths beyond about 4,200 feet and dozens of shallower areas believed to be critical habitat for groundfish such as rockfish, ling Cod and Dover sole. The new regulations apply in federal waters that extend from three miles to 200 miles off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington. California and Washington have banned trawling in state waters that extend three miles from the shore. Other types of fishing are allowed in the no-trawl zones. The council will recommend action to the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is expected to implement the new regulations early next year. See "Regulators tighten regulations on Pacific bottom trawling," Terence Chea, Associated Press at The State.com, 6/16/05.
US federal judge demands protections for the right whale: US District Judge William Alsup of San Francisco has ruled that the Bush administration must decide what restrictions to place on shipping, commercial fishing and oil and gas operations in the Bering Sea off Alaska, in order to protect the Pacific right whale. The government should have determined critical habitat — areas where activity that would interfere with the species' recovery is prohibited — soon after its listing in 1971 as an endangered species, or at least by 1996, as promised in a 1991 recovery plan, Alsup said. No critical habitat has ever been designated for the Pacific whales. Administration officials most recently refused to do so in 2002, saying they needed more information. Alsup's ruling requires the administration to act by October to designate habitat that will help the whale survive. The rules must be ready to take effect by June 30, 2006. See "U.S. told to protect right whale right now," Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/16/05.
Reports from the Federation of American Scientists: The mission of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) is to provide the public, media and policymakers with high-quality information to better inform debates and decisions on science-related issues. In addition to other information products, they publish Congressional Research Service Reports on various topics, including Conventional Weapons Systems. Reports (in PDF format) related to US Navy operations include "Navy Ship Procurement: Alternative Funding Approaches - Background and Options for Congress," updated May 11, 2005, "Navy Ship Acquisition: Options for Lower-Cost Ship Designs - Issues for Congress," May 11, 2005, and "Coast Guard Deepwater Program: Background and Issues for Congress," updated May 12, 2005.
Royal Malaysian Navy uses training simulator: The Royal Malaysian Navy has just started using a a simulator system to enact a four day war game without deploying a single vessel. The German-designed Action Speed Tactical Trainer (ASTT) system instead has some 200 officers split into two teams battling each other via 18 different computer workstations. Fleet Operations Commander Vice Admiral Datuk Mohamad Nik said the ASTT system would enable military exercises or war games to be carried out regularly instead of annually. The Navy may also use the ASTT system to train other systems, such as anti-submarine and underwater warfare. The simulator system is already in use by The Netherlands, Indonesia and Bangladesh, so far. See "Naval battle sans vessels," M. Husairy Othman, New Straits Times, 6/15/05.
Antarctica gets insurance against ecological disasters: Representatives from 45 governments are attending the 28th conference on the Antarctica treaty, which opened on June 6 and is due to end Friday. The delegates have agreed upon an annex to the existing Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty that will hold companies and nations financially responsible for "environmental emergencies" in Antarctica. According to the new annex, an operator that creates an ecological crisis in the region will be required to take immediate action to rectify the situation. If it fails to do so, it will still need to bear the cost of any action taken by others. The deal was hailed as a major breakthrough after years of discussion to safeguard the highly sensitive ecological balance of the Antarctic continent. The agreement must now be adopted at national level. See "New laws make Antarctic polluters liable," Reuters, 6/15/05.
Boeing launches maritime broadband service: The Connexion by Boeing broadband service, already offered by several airlines, is being launched for maritime use in 50 ships operated by the London-based Teekay Shipping Corporation. The maritime satellite service will provide multiple simultaneous users with data rates of up to 5 mbps on downlinks and 256 kbps on uplinks. The agreement between Teekay and Boeing authorizes Teekay to add 40 more ships at a later date. The firms began testing the service last summer, and they expect the service will be launched in the fourth quarter. See "Teekay Shipping Signs Agreement to Be International Launch Customer for the Connexion by Boeing(SM) Maritime High-Speed Internet Service," PRNewswire, 6/15/05.
Report: one third of UK's Armed Forces don't meet readiness targets: The National Audit Office (NAO), the UK Government's financial watchdog, recently reported on the Armed Forces' ability to be ready for action. All services are degraded, although the Navy is reportedly in very bad shape, as the Ministry of Defence has deliberately run it down in order to concentrate on bringing the Army and RAF up to the required state of readiness. The NAO reports that the Navy's readiness status will recover "in a best case" from 2006-07, but in a worst case not until after 2010. The MoD's aim was to preserve a core capability near-term to deploy a medium-scale task group for an operation, but the NAO fears the material state of the fleet will degrade. Michael Ancram, the Shadow Defence Secretary, said: "The risks that the MoD have been taking are utterly unacceptable and entirely driven by the Treasury's ambition to save funds by depleting the capability and the readiness of our Armed Forces." See "Fleet cutbacks have left Royal Navy 'unable to react swiftly'," Michael Evans, The Times Online, 6/15/05.
Radioactive leak at Devonport Dockyard: About five gallons of water containing Cobalt 60 was spilled last Friday during the refit of the nuclear submarine HMS Victorious at the Devonport Royal Dockyard Limited in Plymouth. It was the second incident within a week, but the UK Environment Agency said there was no hazard to the public. Dockyard owner DML said the spills were contained within the dock, and there was no effect on staff in the immediate area of the plant or to the environment. An investigation is currently under way. See "Radioactive Spills Probed at Nuclear Sub Dock," Chris Court, PA News at Scotsman.com, 6/14/05.
Pirates attack in the Malacca Strait: The seventh reported pirate attack in the Malacca Strait this year involved ten pirates armed with rifles and a Malaysian-registered tanker carrying diesel and oil products. The pirates, who are believed to be Indonesian, held the crew hostage for nearly 12 hours. One of the tanker's 19 crew members jumped overboard, fled with the pirates' motorboat, and alerted mainland authorities. The pirates surrendered once police and naval forces laid siege to the ship. There were no injuries. See "Pirates in Malaysian waters surrender," Sean Yoong, Associated Press at Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 6/14/05.
US submarine fleet size discussed: Testifying before a House Armed Service subcommittee, Vice Adm. Charles L. Munns said current shipbuilding projections put the nation at risk. Under some projections, today's fleet of 54 attack submarines dwindles to 33. Munns believes there are already more missions than submarines to complete them. Other Navy admirals believe that a shrinking submarine force could jeopardize the future of the military-industrial complex. The hearing was held at the Navy's submarine base in Groton, which the Pentagon has recommended closing. Although the hearing didn't focus on the closure, the issue was brought up. Some pointed out that if the nuclear facility is decommissioned, it can't easily be reopened. Others pointed out that cleaning up the base would cost more than would be saved by closing it. See "Navy's top sub commander warns against reducing fleet," Matt Apuzzo, Associated Press at Newsday.com, 6/13/05.
Report stresses risk of Russia's old submarines: The 60-nation European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) funded British consulting firm National Nuclear Corporation (NNC) to study Russia's scrapped nuclear submarine fleet. After years of Russian authorities covering up discussion of the abandoned nuclear submarines and waste sites littering the Barents Sea area, Russia's nuclear energy ministry cooperated with the NNC for this report, and even published some secret documents for the first time. The report presents a troubling picture, saying that certain nuclear installations are in such bad shape that a chain reaction might occur. Radiation levels are higher than recommended limits in several sites, and the 118 scrapped nuclear submarines in the Barents Sea pose a real threat. See "Report Breaks New Ground On Nuclear Threat Posed By Russia's Northern Fleet," Olga Nedbayeva, AFP at Space Daily, 6/10/05.
Offshore oil transfer plan has local Scottish council worried: The local Fife Council has said the proposal from a Sunderland company to transfer oil between ships in the Firth of Forth was one of the most serious threats Fife had faced. The company wants to transfer oil from Russia to other vessels bound for China or eastern Europe, and plans more than 100 transfers per year. The ships would be anchored less than four miles from the shores that hold more "Blue Flag" beach awards than any other local authority in Scotland. Fife Council held a special meeting on Friday to draw attention to the proposal. See "Council fights oil transfer plan," BBC News, 6/10/05.
Maritime terrorism risks still exist: Outgoing US Coast Guard port security chief Rear Admiral Larry Hereth discussed maritime security issues with Reuters in a departure interview. Despite security improvements since September 11, 2001, lax seafarer identification and vulnerable containers remain problems. Hereth pointed out that only five percent of the roughly nine million containers that come to the US are examined upon arrival; checks are based on risk assessments based on cargo manifest data. But that document doesn't have revealing upstream data, like who ordered the container, or who loaded it. Authorities also fear militants could steal or forge sailors' ID cards and use them to gain access to sensitive areas. Until the US can establish a better ID card, the country prevents seafarers without visas from coming ashore — which most, including Hereth, thinks is unfair to the mariners. See "IDs, containers seen as maritime terrorism risks," Caroline Drees, Reuters, 6/9/05.
Fishing nets kill 1,000 marine mammals daily: Conservation group WWF has released an assessment of fishing practices by leading marine scientists that points to the accidental catching of cetacea in fishing gear — bycatch — as one of the gravest global threats to marine mammals. Almost 1,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises die daily in fishing nets. The report says nine dolphin and porpoise populations need immediate action if they are to survive the threat of commercial fishing nets. Some species are being pushed to the brink of extinction, and urgent action is needed. The WWF report will be submitted to the International Whaling Commission's scientific committee, which will be meeting later this month in South Korea. See "Group sounds alarm over trapped dolphins," Hrvoje Hranjski, Associated Press at The State.com, 6/9/05.
SIEV X organizer found guilty, questions remain: After a three-week trial, Khaleed Daoed has been found guilty of people smuggling in the case of SIEV X, which capsized in 2001 resulting in the deaths of 353 men, women and children. His role included taking money from refugees in Indonesia and helping them arrive at and board the ill-fated boat, which later capsized. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison; sentencing will take place after a psychological report is completed. But refugee advocates say the trial has raised more questions, which can only be answered by a formal inquiry. One of the biggest questions is why Indonesian police — or men dressed as Indonesian police — were present when the boat was loaded. Advocates also want the Australian Government to release the SIEV X passenger list. See "People smuggler's conviction sparks SIEV-X inquiry push," ABC News Online, 6/8/05.
The deep sea needs rules: Leaps in technology have made the darkest reaches of the sea easier to explore, necessitating new rules to govern the deep ocean, UN researchers have said. Now that so-called bioprospecting has become more feasible, governments must address the fact that there are few rules governing sea beds in international waters. Most research of these ecosystems is still largely done for science, but the UN report forecasts that the potential of "blue gold" in the deep could draw more commercial exploration. Scientists fear that deep sea ecosystems, which includes sea mounts and hydrothermal vents, could suffer permanent damage if not treated properly. See "Ocean 'bioprospecting' needs rules - U.N. experts," Alister Doyle, Reuters, 6/8/05.
Ocean Noise Coalition speaks out for marine life: The Ocean Noise Coalition, comprised of some 120 different organizations, reported on numerous studies that link man-made high-intensity sounds to injuries sustained by marine life. The coalition urged the United Nations on Wednesday to protect whales, dolphins and other marine life from the powerful sound waves used in oil and gas exploration and by the world's navies to navigate and detect submarines. The European Parliament and the International Whaling Commission are among groups recognizing intense ocean noise as a threat to marine life and backing international controls. But other countries have been less receptive to controlling noise, and the US, for example, insists that sonar use can't be regulated since it is a matter of national security. See "Coalition urges UN curbs on harmful ocean sounds," Reuters, 6/8/05.
Pentagon releases more base closure documents: Senator Susan Collins, the chairwoman of the US Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and Senator Joseph Lieberman, the committee's ranking Democrat, threatened to subpoena the Pentagon last week after it missed a deadline for releasing documents, and then released documents that fell short of expectations. The Pentagon has suggested closing a number of military bases, and the committee wants to see the data behind the decisions. Only a complete release of data including e-mails, memoranda, spreadsheets, analyses, raw data, handwritten notes and telephone logs would be acceptable to the committee, and Collins and Lieberman say they retain the right to issue subpoenas if future releases fall short. For now, though, the Pentagon has started releasing relevant documents, and is working on declassifying sensitive materials. See "Collins withholds subpoena as Pentagon releases more data," Associated Press at BostonHerald.com, 6/7/05.
Rumors that Royal Navy aircraft carriers could be partly built in France: A 100-day review of the UK's future aircraft carrier program ends this Friday. The Government is expected to receive its conclusions within weeks. The current rumor circulating is that the Government and industry are considering proposals for the French to carry out a third of the work on each of the three ships — two for Britain and one for France. The reports triggered angry protests at the Commons today. Critics insist that the move would be a disaster for British shipyards, which need steady work to stay open. Defence Minister Adam Ingram said the project was still being assessed, but repeatedly stressed the need to explore “mutual benefits” with France. See "'Benefits' of Sharing Carrier Building with France," Vivienne Morgan, PA News at Scotsman.com, 6/6/05.
US disabilities law will now cover foreign cruise ships: The US Supreme Court ruled Monday that foreign cruise lines sailing in US waters must provide better access for passengers in wheelchairs. Considered a victory by advocates, the decision expands the scope of the landmark federal disabilities law, and will have wide implications for the cruise industry. Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that cruise lines need not comply with Title III of the American with Disabilities Act to the extent it creates too much international discord or disruption of a ship's internal affairs. Justice Clarence Thomas noted that required modifications would not extend to changes to a ship's "physical structure." The case will be sent back to lower court to determine what is ultimately required of cruise lines. See "Court Expands Scope of Disabilities Law," Hope Yen, The Associated Press, Washingtonpost.com, 6/6/05.
Japan and China continue talks over maritime boundaries: Japan and China held two days of talks to discuss maritime boundaries in the East China Sea. Their respective exclusive economic zones — recognized internationally to include 200 nautical miles offshore coastal countries — overlap in much of the East China Sea. At risk are possible underwater oil and gas reserves. Japan asked China to halt its gas exploration projects and to hand over relevant data; China declined. China proposed exploring the area jointly; Japan declined. No specific progress was made, although the two sides have agreed to more talks. See "China, Japan in maritime spat," Andrea R. Mihailescu, UPI at The Washington Times, 6/4/05.
China expands its shipbuilding capabilities: The Jiangnan Shipyard Corp, a subsidiary of China State Shipbuilding Corp (CSSC), has started construction on a project that will move the yard to Changxing Island, and expand its shipbuilding capacity to 4.5 million deadweight tons. In the second phase of development, CSSC's subsidiaries will add more yards on Changxing Island. China hopes to turn Changxing into the world's largest shipyard by 2015. The country's shipbuilding industry has achieved an annual average growth of 17 percent over the past few years, and now accounts for a quarter of the world's shipbuilding market. Japan and South Korea each account for one third of the global shipbuilding market. See "Shipyard to break records," Xie Ye, China Daily, 6/4/05.
South Korea, Japan end high seas showdown: Seoul and Tokyo reached a deal on Thursday to end a two day standoff where coast guard vessels from both countries had lashed themselves to the South Korean eel fishing boat Shinpung-ho. Under the deal, the trawler's skipper will issue a statement that his boat violated Japan's maritime economic exclusion zone, did not respond to questioning and fled the scene. The trawler's skipper will also provide a bond to Tokyo to be levied if his crew is formally found guilty of fishing, and Seoul promises it will take proper legal procedures. The incident is the latest in a string of events that have strained relations between the two countries. See "S. Korea, Japan Ends Maritime Standoff, Ryu Jin, The Korea Times, 6/2/05.
Toxic US ships may move to Scotland: In June 2003, the scrap and recycling firm Able UK won a contract to tow 13 US naval reserve ships to northern England for demolition. So far, four have arrived in England, but Able is in dispute with environmental agencies over plans for a scrap yard facility in Hartlepool. Meanwhile, Able has announced plans to build a $45 million facility in an unused shipyard in Nigg, in northern Scotland. Able UK's Peter Stephenson said the company was considering the Scottish yard for use in decommissioning old North Sea Oil platforms. But some think the company may scrap the US ships there if Hartlepool doesn't work out, and environmentalists fear for the fragile eco-system. See "'Ghost ship' firm eyes Scots yard," BBC News, 6/2/05.
Group sues for documents on effects of sonar on whales: The Bush administration is withholding evidence about severe harm caused to whales, dolphins and other marine life by high-intensity military sonar, according to a lawsuit filed in New York. Ocean mammals around the globe have been found dead or dying following the massive sonic blasts. The lawsuit was brought under the Freedom of Information Act by Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a national conservation group. It seeks thousands of pages of documents related to mass strandings and mortalities of marine mammals exposed to military sonar. NRDC requested the material more than a year ago, but so far government agencies have turned over only 12 documents totaling fewer than 25 pages. See "Conservation group sues gov't over whales," Associated Press at Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 6/1/05.
East Timor says more talks are needed: East Timor's Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri has said that while a broad agreement has been reached with Australia over the oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea, there are key details still to be worked out. He feels the two countries will need one or two more rounds of talks to finally define their seabed boundaries. In any case, it could be at least six years before the country sees any revenues from the deal. Australia has generally reported that an agreement over the maritime boundary between the two countries has already been concluded. See "East Timor sees 6-year wait for Timor Sea revenues," ABC News Online, 6/1/05.
South Korea, Japan stand off over fishing boat: Four patrol ships from South Korea's Coast Guard, and three Japanese maritime police ships played a game of tug-of-war over the Korean fishing boat Sinpung-ho. Japan claims the boat was operating in its exclusive economic zone, and tried to take control of it, apparently smashing the pilot house and injuring some fishermen. The Korean Coast Guard took eight fishermen out of the boat; two Japanese policemen fell into the water during the scuffle. The confrontation has shown signs of developing into a diplomatic row, since neither side appears willing to make any compromises. See "S. Korean, Japanese Patrol Boats Stand Off Near Ulsan," Kim Rahn, The Korea Times, 6/1/05.
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