News Archive - July 2005

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Australia's submarine problems continue: The Weekend Australian newspaper has published leaked minutes from a May 2002 Navy meeting which detail a litany of equipment problems and faults with the country's Collins-class submarine fleet. The subs have been plagued by more serious safety issues than the Government and Navy have admitted, the newspaper says, and three of the boats have suffered potentially "catastrophic" problems at sea. An Australian Defence Force (ADF) spokesman says the issues discussed in the 2002 meeting have been acted upon either by eliminating the risks or mitigating against them. But Labor blames the Federal Government for failing to provide adequate funding to fix the faults. See "Government 'to blame' for navy report," The Australian, 7/30/05.

IMO adopts North Sea ship emissions control, other topics: The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) accomplished several tasks at its recent July meeting. The organization adopted amendments to the Regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships in MARPOL Annex VI, including a new special emissions control area for the North Sea, which is expected to be fully implemented in November 2007. MEPC also agreed to develop a new mandatory instrument to cover ship recycling, and taking into account current technology. A review will be completed by 2007. The MEPC also adopted four new particularly sensitive sea areas (PSSAs): the Baltic Sea area, the Canary Islands, the Galapagos Archipelago, and the Great Barrier Reef PSSA will include the Torres Strait. The Committee also discussed ballast water issues. See "North Sea ship emissions control area adopted at environment meeting," International Maritime Organization, 7/29/05.

Container scanning tested in Hong Kong: A new system is being tested in Hong Kong that quickly scans shipping containers for possible high risk contents. The Hong Kong Terminal Operators Association has deployed scanning machines supplied by Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego. Trucks that haul the port's containers pass through two of the giant scanners. One checks for nuclear radiation, while the other uses gamma rays to seek out any dense, suspicious object made of steel or lead inside the containers that could shield a bomb from the nuclear detector. Data is recorded for immediate review, and stored for use later. Although US Customs has programs in place to work closely with foreign ports, the security of oceangoing containers falls to the country of origin. If more big ports joined the program, it might mean a more accurate system of global information exchange. The US Department of Homeland Security said this week it would work with Hong Kong's port authorities to continue to develop the screening project, but didn't say whether it would consider such a system at US ports. See "Hong Kong port project hardens container security," Alex Ortolani and Robert Block, The Wall Street Journal at Post-Gazette.com, 7/29/05.

Study finds fewer species of fish: Researchers who studied decades of catch records from Japanese fishing fleets say fishing has greatly reduced the diversity of fish in the world's open oceans, leaving ocean ecosystems less resilient against environmental changes like global warming. The scientists, who report their findings in today's issue of the journal Science, say it has been known for some time that fishing has reduced species diversity in coastal areas. But they say their study is the first broad look at diversity across open oceans. The researchers found five hot spots where fish remain abundant, and stressed that these areas should be protected. They also found that concentrations of many big fish lined up closely with the only other known global mapping of ocean life — that of single-celled zooplankton. See "Overfishing Leads to Decline in Big Fish," John Heilprin, Associated Press at Woodland Daily Democrat, 7/28/05.

Washington state studies oil spill response: A rule requiring more oil spill cleanup ships is likely to go into effect in the state of Washington in June 2006. In fact, State Ecology Department Director Jay Manning believes that the oil industry should start building a larger oil spill fleet immediately. But petroleum companies aren't pleased with Ecology's conclusions from a new study, and want more time to study the proposal. The study also suggested grooming fishing vessels as a secondary fleet of oil spill response ships, similar to programs used in Alaska and British Columbia. But while fishing vessel owners may be amenable, the plan could be complicated by the different seasons that send ships away from their home ports. See "State pushes for more oil spill cleanup ships; industry wants more time," Curt Woodward, Associated Press at Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 7/28/05.

India loses an oil platform to fire: India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC) reports that one of their oil platforms was destroyed in a fire off the country's west coast on Wednesday. Twelve people died, and 367 were rescued from ONGC's Bombay High North platform, which caught fire when a support vessel lost control in rough seas and collided with it. Six divers remain trapped in the support vessel, and one or two people may still be missing. ONGC is India's largest company by value, and the platform produced a sixth of the country's oil. Officials should be able to restore 70 percent of the platform's output within a month, and it will be replaced with a new structure by the end of next year. Other platforms in the Bombay High field are functioning normally. No oil spills have been reported, and any leaks would probably have been consumed by the flames. See "Twelve die, hundreds rescued in Indian oil rig fire," Himangshu Watts and Hiral Vora, Reuters at swissinfo, 7/28/05.

Preventing water wars: Only 3 percent of water on this planet is fresh, and most is locked up as ice, soil moisture and deep groundwater. What is available to people comes down to less than 1 percent. Today, more than a billion people lack access to safe drinking water; that number will grow to between two and seven billion by midcentury. The United Nations agency Unesco is studying isotope hydrology, which reveals clues about a water source that can guide sound water-use policy. After some 25 years of cooperative work, the agency is putting together a detailed portrait of the planet's water resources that could help prevent future crises and reduce regional frictions that may erupt in water wars. See "With a Push From the U.N., Water Reveals Its Secrets," William J. Broad, The New York Times, 7/26/05 (registration required).

US Navy will use 'paperless' navigation system: For centuries, ships have traveled by manually plotting the ship's estimated position on a paper chart, and projecting its course and speed from the last known location. But the US Navy has launched an initiative to equip its entire fleet with the Electronic Chart Display and Information System - Navy (ECDIS-N) by the end of 2009. This new system no longer relies on traditional paper nautical charts. The Aegis guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George is the first ship authorized to use the system; Los Angeles class submarines are undergoing the certification process now. ECDIS-N is based on the Voyage Management System software programs developed by Northrop Grumman's Sperry Marine business unit, and operates with Digital Nautical Charts, a global database of digital charts produced by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. See "U.S. Navy Announces Plans to Convert Fleet to 'Paperless' Navigation," StockHouse USA, 7/26/05.

Energy bill may ban Great Lakes drilling: A permanent ban on oil and gas drilling in the Great Lakes was agreed to Tuesday as part of a broad agreement on the energy bill. The bill is expected to be voted on by the US House and Senate later in the week. A temporary ban on drilling was set by Congress in 2001 and has been extended twice. The moratorium is set to expire in 2007. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, had sought the prohibition amid concerns that the Great Lakes could be threatened by an oil spill. The Lakes supply drinking water to more than 30 million people and make up about 20 percent of the world's fresh surface water. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, has opposed Stupak's approach, arguing that the powers should be left to the states in the region. Michigan, New York, Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio have drilling bans in their states, but the bans are not found in Indiana, Pennsylvania and Minnesota. See "Measure to ban Great Lakes drilling included in energy bill," Ken Thomas, Associated Press at Newsday.com, 7/26/05.

Greenpeace wants halt to deep seas bottom-trawling: Greenpeace has issued a fresh call to Canada to stop the practice of bottom-trawling, saying the international organizations that manage fish stocks were doing nothing to stop the destruction of ocean beds. The practice destroys everything along the seabed at depths of over a mile. But Greenpeace says that the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), which covers Canadian waters, and other such groups were very poor on protecting species. A Greenpeace statement said an estimated 60 percent of bottom-trawling took place in the northwest Atlantic, most of it in the NAFO area, and just beyond Canada's 200-mile limit. Greenpeace added that the organization has "done an incredibly bad job of managing the fish for the last 25 years." See "Greenpeace calls on Canada to support a moratorium on high seas trawling," Canadian Press at Canada.com, 7/25/05.

Crew of Somali food aid ship to be released: The MV Semlow was taking food aid to Somali victims of last December's tsunami when it was hijacked by pirates on June 27. The pirates demanded a substantial ransom for its release. After weeks of frustrating negotiations, the hijackers got word to diplomats on Monday that the eight Kenyan crew members would be released, although the Sri Lankan captain and Tanzanian engineer would remain with the ship to operate it. The World Food Programme cargo and the vessel itself will remain in the hands of the hijackers. See "Pirates Say Crew Of Hijacked UN Aid Ship To Be Released," AFP at TerraDaily, 7/25/05.

Australian submarine seconds from disaster in 2003: A new report reveals that a near tragedy on an Australian submarine prompted by an onboard flood persuaded the navy to reduce the depths to which its six Collins-class vessels dive. The HMAS Dechaineux was just 20 seconds from sinking irretrievably to the bottom of the Indian Ocean with 55 sailors onboard while off Western Australia in February 2003. According to the report, the submarine began flooding when a sea water hose in the lower engine room failed while it was at its deepest diving depth. The deepest diving depth, as well as the depth at which the submarines now operate, is classified information. At the time of the accident, the navy admitted Dechaineux had taken on water but hid the true gravity of the situation. See "Submarine 20 seconds from death," Cameron Stewart, The Australian, 7/23/05.

China gets contract from Japan to build a bulk carrier: The China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) has announced it will be building a bulk carrier for Japan-based Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd ("K" LINE). Built by the Shanghai-based Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding Corporation, a subsidiary of CSSC, the Capesize bulk carrier will be the largest ship of its kind, and designed entirely by the Chinese. Last year marked the first time a Chinese shipbuilder won a contract from Japan, which produced more than 37 per cent of the world's newly-built ships last year. China's vessel production has grown an average of 26 per cent over the past five years. The country lacks a supporting large marine components industry, but apparently the Shanghai-based Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group) Co Ltd will soon work with a Japanese company to build a joint venture for engines. See "CSSC signs contract with Japanese company," Li Jing, China Daily, 7/21/05.

New destination proposed for "Ghost Fleet": The US Maritime Administration must scrap some 77 decommissioned Navy ships by September 2006. One holdup is the cost, and another is environmental rules. If the ships are scrapped overseas, the Environmental Protection Agency would have to waive federal laws that forbid exporting hazardous waste. The Daily Press of Newport News reports that Environmental Recycling Systems, a shipyard in Aliaga, Turkey, has proposed scrapping the ships in yards in Turkey and Mexico. Dismantling the ships in developing countries is cheaper because of lower labor costs and high demand for scrapped materials. But Denny Vaughan, ERS senior partner, says that their shipyards shouldn't be compared to those in India and Bangladesh, which have been shown to have deplorable conditions. ERS workers wear protective clothing, and conform to EPA standards. See "Rest of Ghost Fleet could be scrapped in Mexico, Turkey," Associated Press at HamptonRoads.com/Pilot Online, 7/20/05.

US Navy's DD(X) program under fire: US Congressional Budget Office analyst Michael Gilmore told members of the House Armed Services Projections Subcommittee on Wednesday that the price of the first new DD(X) destroyer could be up to $4.7 billion. This figure is even higher than the $4 to $4.5 billion that Pentagon officials had suggested. Escalating costs of the program prompted the full House Armed Services Committee to propose capping the program at $1.7 billion in May, and several military and financial analysts to speculate whether the new ship is needed at all. See "Analysts question cost of new US Navy destroyer," Peter Kaplan, Reuters, 7/20/05.

Defense Department and Navy representatives had their say with the House Armed Services subcommittee on Tuesday. They stressed that the DD(X) destroyer was needed to deal with future military threats, and would cost less to operate in the long run than older-generation DDG destroyers. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vernon Clark told the subcommittee that the destroyer's stealth capabilities and more powerful guns made it vastly better than the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke destroyers. See "US lawmakers urged to press on with new Navy ship," Peter Kaplan, Reuters, 7/19/05.

UK fishermen worried about fuel efficiency rules: EU legislation will require that fishing boats meet new fuel efficiency rules by 2007. Many owners, already struggling to stay afloat due to tough conservation measures, worry that they may be forced out of business. The majority of vessels in the Scottish white fish industry, for example, are about 20 years old. For the most part, these older ships will have to renew their engines, which could cost up to 300,000 per boat. Currently, there is a lack of cash in the industry to meet the challenge, and a lack of confidence from the banks. The industry is hoping to receive aid from the European Commission. See "Skippers' fears over fuel rules," BBC News, 7/19/05.

Outsourcing helps US fisheries — really: Facing growing imports of low-cost seafood, fish processors in the Northwest are sending part of their catch to China to be filleted or deshelled before returning to US tables. The fish processing companies say using Chinese labor helps protect a US industry that is under threat from farmed seafood produced by China, Thailand, Vietnam and Chile. Removing bones from salmon by hand costs about $1 per pound for labor here, but only about 20 cents in China; extracting meat from crab shells by hand in China costs about one-tenth what it does in the US. And because labor is so much more affordable, Chinese workers spend more time at the task, recovering more meat; even factoring in transportation costs, processing in China is still cheaper for the most labor-intensive fish. See "U.S. fisheries outsource processing to China," Choy Leng Yeong, Bloomberg News at International Herald Tribune, 7/18/05.

Sentencing announced in New York ship dumping case: The oil tanker Fair Voyager is owned by Fair Voyager Maritime SA and operated by Fairdeal Group Management SA. Prosecutors have charged that between April and November, 2004, its crew dumped about 60 tons of sludge and 40 tons of oil-contaminated bilge water directly into the sea outside New York Harbor. In the latest developments in the case, the owner and operator pleaded guilty yesterday to six counts, including obstruction and perjury for attempting to conceal the dumping and obstruct a federal investigation. US District Court Judge Loretta Preska has ordered the owner and operator to pay a fine of more than $1 million, donate nearly half that to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and serve a four year term of probation. The captain has pleaded guilty to lying and is awaiting sentencing; three crew members have also pleaded guilty to charges. See "Shipping firms admit dumping toxic sludge outside NY harbor," Patricia Hurtado, NY Newsday.com, 7/15/05.

Japan awards drilling rights in disputed zone: Japan and China, increasingly competing for resources, have held talks about how to share drilling resources in the East China Sea, but have so far failed to agree. Japan has just awarded Japanese oil company Teikoku Oil Co drilling rights in a disputed area. Teikoku won't be able to begin drilling immediately due to safety issues. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao has warned that the move "will cause a serious infringement of China's sovereign right." Meanwhile, Japan is concerned that China, currently drilling in an area both sides agree is in Chinese waters, may be drawing gas from its own zone. See "Japan stokes China sea dispute," BBC News, 7/14/05.

BP's Thunder Horse platform is listing after hurricane: BP confirmed on Monday that the Thunder Horse semi-submersible platform, located in Mississippi Canyon Block 778 in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, 150 miles southeast of New Orleans, is listing at about 20 degrees following the passing of Hurricane Dennis. The Thunder Horse field is in development and has not yet begun production of hydrocarbons. The Department of Homeland Security's US Coast Guard, and Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service are coordinating with BP and other agencies on the ongoing operations to right the listing platform. BP has re-boarded the platform and established power on the facility. Current efforts are focused on removing water from the platform. See the press release "Thunder Horse Response Effort Continues," from BP, 7/14/05.

Bird droppings spread contaminants to the High Arctic: People living in the Arctic show high levels of pollutants, even though they aren't near industries producing the chemicals. Scientists had assumed the chemicals were spread by wind. But researchers from three Canadian universities and the Canadian Wildlife Service are now blaming bird droppings. The study focused on northern fulmars, which nest above the cliffs on Cape Vera, Devon Island, in Nunavut. Their droppings land in ponds below the cliffs, and are then washed into the ocean. Although the droppings themselves aren't worrisome, contaminants in them — including some like DDT that are no longer in use but persist in the environment — are bioaccumulated in the water, and in the fish that live there. See "Arctic bird droppings spread pollutants from ocean to land," CBC News, 7/14/05.

Ocean health is scrutinized on the west coast of North America: A number of scientists are raising alarms about rising ocean temperatures, dwindling plankton populations, and dead seabirds on the west coast of North America. The cycle starts with coastal ocean temperatures, which are 2 to 5 degrees warmer than usual, which may be related to a lack of upwelling. Upwelling is fueled by northerly winds that help bring cold water to the surface, starting the marine food chain by fueling algae and krill. Problems at the bottom of the food chain already seem to be adversely affecting juvenile salmon populations, which have dropped some 20 to 30 percent this season. Starvation stress could also be the cause for decreased breeding and increased bird deaths — on Washington beaches, surveyors have found between five and ten times the highest number of dead birds previously found. See "Scientists raise the alarm about ocean health," Associated Press at Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 7/13/05.

Somali food aid ship still in jeopardy: The MV Semlow was taking food aid to Somali victims of last December's tsunami when it was hijacked by pirates. The nine crew and captain are all reported to be safe. Talks between the UN's World Food Programme and the hijackers keep stalling. Now the food agency has warned it will stop shipments to central Somalia for ten years if the ship isn't returned in 48 hours. But observers fear the WFP ultimatum will not be heeded by the pirates, and may even jeopardize the reported talks with the Somali transitional government. See "WFP ultimatum over Somali ship," BBC News, 7/12/05.

France fined for breaking EU fishing rules: The European Court of Justice has been battling France over the mesh sizes of its fishing nets and rules on catching fish for fifteen years. In what are the biggest fines the court has levied against a member state, the court has now fined the country $24 million, and imposed an extra rolling penalty for endangering fish stocks. France feels the country is being singled out for criticism, saying that Spain and Portugal routinely catch undersized fish, and the UK fishes over quotas. See "France gets record fine over fish," BBC News, 7/12/05.

Australia drops huge maritime security zone: Australia's Prime Minister John Howard announced plans in December establish a 1000 nautical mile maritime security zone. The plan was part of tough border and maritime security measures being implemented throughout 2005. But the Australian Government has abandoned the proposed security zone because it has no legal jurisdiction to enforce it. Instead, ships will be asked to volunteer information about their identity, position and intended movement when they come within 500 nautical miles offshore. Indonesia and New Zealand had protested that the 1000 nautical mile limit encroached on their own 200 nautical mile economic exclusive zones. Australia also has no interdiction rights to board ships in international waters, outside its own EEZ. See "Maritime zone plans scrapped," Michelle Wiese Bockmann, The Australian, 7/11/05.

Trucking industry struggles to keep up with growing demand: The twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are about to start the OffPeak initiative, which should ease congestion at the busy ports by moving nearly half of the cargo at night and on weekends. Cargo volume at the California ports complex is expected to increase 12 percent this year over 2004, and triple over the next 20 years. The OffPeak initiative should alleviate near-term congestion by spreading out some of the trucking traffic during off-peak hours. Not everyone is happy about the plan: cargo containers retrieved during peak daytime hours will be charged extra by the ports, and trucking firms may charge more for after-hour deliveries to cover nighttime operations and reward drivers who take the unpopular shifts. The OffPeak program was devised last fall, after the ports were overwhelmed by cargo coming from Asia for holiday sales. See "Western Business: LA port complex to work late to ease jams of unrelenting Asian cargo," Alex Veiga, Associated Press at The State.com, 7/10/05.

Nationwide, the trucking industry needs 20,000 long-haul drivers to keep up with freight demands. If the shortage persists, the American Trucking Associations forecasts a 111,000 driver shortfall by 2014. Port carriers in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area are trying to reverse that trend. They, along with the Hampton Roads Maritime Association, have started new recruiting plans, with a variety of incentives for new drivers. These include better pay, lobbying for relaxed insurance regulations, more training programs and low-interest loans or federal grants to help drivers buy and operate their own trucks. See "Where have all the truckers gone?," Seth Seymour, The Virginian-Pilot at PilotOnline.com, 7/10/05.

Beset by an aging work force and high turnover, trucking companies that traditionally culled drivers from middle America are recruiting in urban Latino communities, advertising in Spanish, appealing to high-school students and setting up booths at job fairs. Latinos are the country's fastest-growing ethnic group, accounting for an estimated one in seven of the nation's 1.3 million long-haul truckers. Truck-driving schools also are responding to demand from the industry and from Latinos looking for better-paying jobs that do not require fluent English. See "Latinos in demand for big-rig trucking jobs," Marc Levy, Associated Press at The Salt Lake Tribune, 7/11/05.

Royal Navy cuts some global commitments: Last year Britain's Royal Navy announced it would cut its current fleet of 31 frigates and destroyers to 25. As a result, the Ministry of Defence has been reviewing its maritime commitments, and will have to cut back on some tasks. Currently, two frigates or destroyers have been involved in counter-terrorism patrols in the Gulf and Indian Ocean; starting late this year, there will only be one. The current destroyer or frigate assigned to Atlantic Patrol Task North, which fights against drugs in the Caribbean, will only be on station for three months of the year. Admiral Sir Alan West, the First Sea Lord, has warned that reducing the number of warships would put a strain on commitments. The MoD said that the changes in the Gulf and Indian Ocean had been made possible because other coalition forces were taking a greater share of counter-terrorism duties in the area. See "Cuts in the number of warships diminishing Navy's global role," Michael Evans, The Times Online, 7/7/05.

Billions needed to restore the Great Lakes: A task force appointed by President Bush has issued a preliminary blueprint on how to restore the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration's draft proposal calls for $13.7 billion to upgrade sewers and reduce wastewater pollution that closes beaches and disrupts the ecology of the lakes; and $2.25 billion to clean up 31 of the worst toxic sediment sites. The report also urges Congress to require ocean-going ships to treat ballast water before discharging it into the lakes to combat invasive species. The roughly $20 billion, five-year plan envisions $14 billion coming from the federal government and the rest from Great Lakes states and communities — all of which are facing budget shortfalls and deficits. If approved, the plan would be the largest environmental cleanup project in US history. Canadian governments will be invited to take part. See "Agencies Propose Great Lakes Cleanup Plan," John Flesher, Associated Press at Las Vegas Sun, 7/7/05.

The draft report is available from the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration in PDF format. The public is invited to submit comments on the draft report until September 9, 2005.

China to establish domestic pollution fund: Although China is party to the International Fund Convention on oil pollution, it is only applicable to Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. While the country expects to fully join the Fund Convention at some point, right now a domestic compensation fund is seen to be more practical. Liu Gongchen, deputy director-general of China's Maritime Safety Administration, says the MSA is working to establish a compensation regime for oil pollution from ships to guarantee financial support for cleanup operations and compensation for the victims of oil leaks. The administration plans to set up a fund by levying a charge on ship owners and cargo consigners. The fund will be set up as soon as the draft of the legal document is put forward for approval by the State Council. China has seen both a surge in marine transport, and a surge in the number of oil spills. Currently, the economic burden of dealing with spills falls on the government. See "Increased shipping brings oil pollution," Cao Desheng, China Daily, 7/6/05.

Base closures will help determine size of US sub fleet: Military analysts and congressional officials say this year's round of US base closures is as much about the Navy's plans to trim its submarine fleet as it is about eliminating excess bases. The Navy and Pentagon want to shrink the submarine fleet from 55 to 30-40 boats as part of a budgetary shift from Cold-War era hardware to counter terrorism efforts. The Pentagon's four-year force review, which could help settle the matter, isn't due until late this year or early next year — well after base closure decisions must be finalized. BRAC Commission Chairman Anthony J. Principi said Wednesday that commissioners will review fleet projections and are willing to make a decision that effectively determines the size of the sub fleet. See "Sub fleet's future hangs on BRAC decision," Matt Apuzzo, Associated Press at Newsday.com, 7/6/05.

Canada's new marine security program is flawed: Canada's Conservative MP Jay Hill is joining a number of organizations — including the B.C. Chamber of Shipping, Western Transportation Advisory Council, and the B.C. government — in protesting proposed new regulations that are part of the Marine Facilities Restricted Access Program. Some of the regulations are seen as overreaching, such as overly invasive and excessive background checks on port workers, with no avenue for appeal. Other proposed policies are considered contradictory, such as a requirement for workers to go through a metal detector many times a day while wearing steel-toed boots. Mr. Hill, who expressed concerns over the program the day the redevelopment deal for the Port of Prince Rupert was announced, believes that the government clearly has not consulted industry on the proposed regulations. See "Hill sides with dockers over port regulations," Leanne Ritchie, The Daily News at canada.com, 7/5/05.

US Coast Guard fleet needs to be replaced: Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), chairwoman of a Senate Coast Guard subcommittee, is among several officials that are pushing to speed up a 20- to 25-year, multibillion-dollar program to replace the Coast Guard's "deepwater" fleet, the 88 large ships and 186 aircraft capable of operating many miles offshore. This is particularly important now that homeland security has been added to the Coast Guard's responsibilities. But some of the Coast Guard's ships are more than 50 years old, well beyond the recommended age for replacement. The Bush administration wants to increase the amount of time it will take to replace the fleet to 25 years, presumably as a cost-cutting measure. But Senator Snow wants to replace the deepwater fleet over 10 to 15 years. Admiral Thomas Collins, commandant of the Coast Guard, says he supports the White House plan, but this month he told Congress his equipment is failing at unacceptable rates. See "Coast Guard plagued by breakdowns," Mimi Hall, USA TODAY, 7/5/05.

Ship grounded in Hawaiian marine reserve: The chartered research vessel Casitas has run aground near Pearl and Hermes Atoll in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. The area is a marine reserve. The ship has about 30,000 gallons of diesel fuel on board, so the Coast Guard is monitoring the ship. Although the ship was damaged, no spills have been reported so far. No people were injured in the grounding, and six of the 23 people on board remain to pump out water and try to refloat the ship. The Casitas is under charter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is conducting a study on marine debris cleanup with the University of Hawaii Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research. See "Research ship grounded," Helen Altonn, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7/3/05.

Pirate attacks affect insurance for shippers: According to the International Maritime Bureau, the Malacca Strait was the second-most dangerous area for pirate attacks on ships last year. The waterway was added to 20 other areas, including Iraq, Lebanon and Nigeria, deemed a security threat to shipping, according to a June 20 list from the Lloyd's Market Association's Joint War Committee. Ship owners have to inform underwriters that they plan to navigate the Malacca Strait. Lloyd's Market Association, which advises Lloyd's of London, the world's largest insurance market, has reported insurance costs may rise for ships that use it. See "Piracy in Malacca Strait may raise insurance costs," Bloomberg at The Star, 7/2/05.

US Naval Shipyard at Pearl Harbor may be targeted for closure: In May, the Pentagon proposed closing or reducing forces at 62 major bases and hundreds of smaller installations to save money and streamline the services. Dozens of other facilities would grow, absorbing troops from domestic and overseas bases slated for closure or downsizing. The commission reviewing the list has asked the Pentagon for more explanation about bases on the list, and may recommend that additional bases be added. One of those is the US Naval Shipyard at Pearl Harbor. The commission will conduct a public hearing on July 19 regarding adding any bases, and will send their revised list to the president in September. If the president approves the list as a whole, the list goes to Congress, which also must accept or reject it as a whole. The Government Accountability Office has found that the Pentagon's projected savings from the proposed closures may be too high. See "Panel Targets More Bases for Closure," Liz Sidoti, Associated Press at Yahoo! News, 7/1/05.

Although the commission hasn't made a formal decision regarding the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, the yard has been ready to discuss the possibility. Pentagon officials have admitted it was a tossup whether Pearl Harbor or Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine should be closed, and Portsmouth just received a Navy meritorious award. See "Future unclear at Pearl Harbor," Gregg K. Kakesako, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7/1/05.

Carbon dioxide is turning the oceans acidic: The Royal Society, Britain's leading scientific organization, is warning that carbon dioxide is turning the oceans acidic, which will likely harm marine life by the end of the century. The chemistry of carbon dioxide and sea water is straightforward: roughly a third of the carbon dioxide released into the air by the burning of fossil fuels is absorbed by the oceans. The gas then undergoes chemical reactions that produce carbonic acid, which is corrosive to shells. Coral will likely be the first affected, but plankton with calcium carbonate shells could also be harmed, disrupting the food chain. Depending on the rate of fossil fuel burning, the pH of ocean water near the surface is expected to drop lower by 2100 than it's been in the last 420,000 years. See "British Scientists Say Carbon Dioxide Is Turning the Oceans Acidic," Kenneth Chang, The New York Times, 7/1/05 (registration required).

India to launch dredging project: The Indian prime minister will inaugurate a deep sea dredging project on Saturday, called the Sethusamudhram Shipping Channel Project, to remove sand stone on two stretches along the channel between India and Sri Lanka. The new channel will have a depth of almost 40 feet and a width of almost 1000 feet for two-way traffic. When completed, the project will allow allow ships to travel between India's west and east coasts without circumnavigating Sri Lanka, saving about 36 hours in travel time, and fuel costs. Environmentalists worry that the project will damage a sensitive marine ecosystem. Sri Lanka is concerned about the environmental impact, and is also said to be worried about the loss of monopoly by Colombo port on container shipments in the region. See "India PM to launch dredge project," Leklapoodi Jagadheesan, BBC News, 7/1/05.

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