News Archive - August 2005

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Florida loses lobster fishery to Katrina: When Hurricane Katrina blew through the Florida Keys on Friday, it hit lobster fishermen hard. The head of Monroe County Commercial Fishermen Inc. and US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen are asking for federal assistance for the estimated hundreds of thousands of dollars in traps and lobster that commercial fishermen lost. But not all counties affected by Katrina have been named a federal disaster area, and so are not eligible for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) money. The area was also hit by Hurricane Dennis, which chased lobster into deeper water and made a difficult start to the season. See "Lobster fishery losses feared to be massive," Keysnews.com at MSNBC, 8/31/05.

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard may still face closure: Although the recent Base Realignment and Closure Commission has decided to keep the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard open, some fear that the yard doesn't fit well into the Navy's future plans. Owen Cote, an associate director with the MIT Security Studies program in Cambridge, Massachusetts, points out that the shipyard has depended on refueling the Navy's Los Angeles-class attack submarines for steady work. But these will be decommissioned over the next 15 years, and the new Virginia-class and Seawolf-class submarines don't require periodic refuelings. The Navy may not want to pump millions of dollars into upgrading the shipyard's facilities to accommodate new vessels. Portsmouth will know better what to expect from the future when the Pentagon releases its Quadrennial Defense Review. See "Shipyard work will dwindle under present Navy program," Foster's Daily Democrat at MSNBC, 8/28/05.

Canada to use a satellite to assert Arctic sovereignty: Arctic sovereignty is becoming more coveted as global warming melts the ice and opens new areas for oil and mineral exploration, and Canada is set to take part. Last year Canada's military held an exercise called Operation Narwhal, and stepped up Ranger patrols and patrols by navy vessels. The new Polar Epsilon project will use space to support the sovereignty and security of the Arctic region. The Canadian Space Agency is purchasing Arctic imagery from MacDonald Dettwiler Associates, which owns the Radarsat 2 polar orbiter, set to be launched next summer. The satellite will pass over the North Pole 14 times daily, recording images of ships, aircraft and pollution. Canada's investment in the satellite will be less than the cost of a new icebreaker. The country will also build ground receiving stations near Halifax and Esquimalt, B.C., to process and relay the images. See "Feds look to satellite to assert Arctic sovereignty," Stephen Thorne, CP at CNEWS, 8/28/05.

Australia's ports could be disrupted by new security regulations: Australia's new Maritime Security Identification Card, which will be applied to wharfies, seafarers and long-haul truck drivers servicing ships, will be launched in October. Transport Minister Warren Truss believes a large number of people working at sea ports have a criminal history, and will be denied security clearances under the new criteria. In fact, disqualification criteria for the maritime card are less rigorous than airport cards, for fear that too many workers would have to be dropped. However, airport workers have been screened for decades, and this is the first time mandatory screening of port workers has been introduced. Maritime Union of Australia national secretary Paddy Crumlin denied there was a high degree of criminality on the waterfront and said the new regulations would have a minimal effect on dock workers. The review of airport workers will be finalized by November, and port workers by January 2007. See "Security chaos on wharves," Michael McKenna and Blair Speedy, The Australian, 8/26/05.

Ocean life in danger of extinction: A growing number of marine biologists are finding themselves studying species in danger of disappearing. For years, many scientists and regulators believed the oceans were so vast there was little risk of marine species dying out. But now many biologists fear the planet is on the cusp of what Ellen K. Pikitch, executive director of the Pew Institute for Ocean Science, calls "a gathering wave of ocean extinctions." The large-scale industrialization of the fishing industry after World War II, a global boom in oceanfront development and a rise in global temperatures are all causing fish populations to plummet. But whether intentionally over fished, or accidentally caught up in nets intended for other catches, marine life has been most harmed by aggressive fishing. See "Marine experts fear world faces a wave of extinctions," Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post at TimesUnion.com, 8/25/05.

Taiwan rethinks budget for US arms: Taiwan's opposition Nationalist Party has used its political clout to hold up a special appropriation for a weapons deal with the US for more than a year. The Party fears it would start an arms race with China, and bankrupt the country. Wednesday, Taiwan's Cabinet withdrew its special arms budget. It will decide next week on a new proposal to finance the weapons. The general aim would move the Patriot missile allocation from the special budget to a regular defense budget, although details haven't been finalized. As the defense budget has more oversight provisions, the government may hope the new transparency will convince the opposition to drop its objections. In addition to six Patriot missile batteries, the arms package includes eight diesel-powered submarines and twelve anti-submarine aircraft. See "Taiwan Withdraws Budget for US Arms," Associated Press at Las Vegas Sun, 8/24/05.

Piracy continues to trouble the Malacca Strait: The Tuesday sea chase and recapture of the freighter Paulijing nearly three years after it was first reported hijacked emphasizes the dangers inherent in sailing through the Strait of Malacca. Insurers have already begun charging extra premiums for ships passing through; the risk for insurers has been that terrorists might ally themselves with seasoned pirates in Indonesia. But shipowners argue that there is a big difference between a pirate and a terrorist attack, and Noel Choong, director of the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Center in Kuala Lumpur, says that the number of pirate attacks in the area hasn't risen significantly in the past year. Both he and a representative of a private protection company say they've seen no evidence of terrorist activity. See "Terror fears put squeeze on ships in Asian strait," Keith Bradsher, The New York Times at International Herald Tribune, 8/24/05.

Canadian fishermen may be 'endangered': In a five-year study, the Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters have discovered that nearly half of the full-time fishermen in the country plan to retire over the next decade, and few young people want to take their place. The report suggests that the industry is entering a period of great change, if not crisis, in terms of the labor force. Industries throughout Canada are facing aging workforces; the problem is worse in rural sectors, and fishing may be hit hardest of all. It's difficult for young fishermen to gain the experience to run their own vessels, and the high cost of setting up in the industry is prohibitive. The Council didn't make specific recommendations, but urged industry and the provincial and federal governments to create and implement a plan to address the aging workforce. See "National study warns of aging fishing population, corporate concentration," Dene Moore, CP at CNEWS, 8/24/05.

New program to stem the loss of fish stocks worldwide: There are no global estimates for either the financial or environmental damage caused by illegal fishing, but there is general agreement, even at government levels, that it is a serious issue. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization adopted the International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing in 2001. A new program, called Profish, will help gather the data needed to back up the 2001 Plan. Profish will compile a global list of illegal fishing vessels, promote sustainable aquaculture, and help protect marine reserves. Some Profish activities, including the database of illegal vessels, should be up and running within three years. See "New plan targets illegal fishing," Richard Black, BBC News, 8/24/05.

US aims for greater 'Maritime Domain Awareness': A plan for the US Coast Guard to get greater "Maritime Domain Awareness" is included in a new security strategy under review at the White House. The strategy could get approval in six to eight weeks. The plan would put sensors on oil rigs and weather buoys to spot security threats at sea, and may use satellites, unmanned planes and commercial jets to monitor ships as far as 2000 nautical miles away. Pilot projects are already using radio receivers on privately owned oil rigs and government weather buoys, but these tests can only pick up routine Automatic Identification System (AIS) ship signals a few hundred miles out to sea. The Coast Guard wants to push the current tracking radius to 2000 nautical miles, and ultimately across the globe. But since a 2000-mile reach would include vessels in the territorial waters of many other countries, the plan has raised some concerns. Privacy is another issue to be considered. See "US wants oil rigs to spot threats," The Australian, 8/24/05.

US base panel spares Connecticut sub base and Maine shipyard: The Base Realignment and Closure Commission waded through Pentagon Army and Navy base closure proposals on Wednesday, in an effort to save money and modernize the military. The nine-member committee voted 7-1 with one abstention to reject the Pentagon's plan to close the New London submarine base in Connecticut. Retired Air Force General Lloyd Newton said emerging threats from around the world including Asia mean the Navy may not be able to reduce its submarine force as quickly as the Pentagon has estimated. The commission also voted to reject the Navy's plans to close the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, sparing 4,510 jobs. Among other Navy facilities, the commission voted to close the Pascagoula Naval Station in Mississippi, where defense contractor Northrop Grumman has a shipyard. The panel must send its final proposal to Bush by September 8. The president can accept the report or order the commission to make changes. See "New England bases likely to be spared the chop," Associated Press at CNN.com, 8/24/05.

City of Valdez can impose tanker tax: Judge Peter Michalski of Anchorage, Alaska has ruled that the city of Valdez can impose a property tax on tankers entering its port to pick up crude oil. Michalski explained that a vessel should pay taxes in the place it does business at rates similar to those paid by locals for as long as the vessel is in the area. Michalski suggested that the city has likely overtaxed the vessels so far, and could owe refunds; something Bill Walker, Valdez city attorney denies. Valdez starting imposing the tax on large vessels, particularly tankers, in 2000. The shipping subsidiaries for the oil companies sued the city, saying a property tax on tankers merely visiting the Port of Valdez was unlawful. Lawyers for both sides may appeal the case to the state Supreme Court, to calculate tax rates, if nothing else. See "Valdez Can Levy Property Tax on Tankers," Associated Press at Newsday.com, 8/23/05.

African leaders try to head off looming fish supply crisis: Africa needs to increase its fish output by 20 percent over the next decade just to keep up with current consumption levels, and ensure that the inexpensive source of protein remains available for the hundreds of millions of Africans that rely on it as a main part of their diet. The fishing sector also provides more than 10 million people with an income, and is a leading export commodity for Africa, with an annual export value of US $2.7 billion. A new study, being highlighted at a summit that kicked off in the Nigerian capital on Monday, shows that the continent is the only region in the world where fish supplies per capita are actually dropping. One plan to avoid a crisis would be to invest in aquaculture, which hasn't yet taken hold in Africa. Small-scale fish farms are being emphasized; experts believe that exploiting just five percent of the region's aquaculture potential would be enough to meet the gap between supply and demand forecast in 2015. African fishermen also point out their fisheries are being exploited by foreign ships with newer technology. See "Africa Tries to Head Off Fish Crisis," Dulue Mbachu, Associated Press at Guardian Unlimited, 8/22/05.

Doubts raised about contract to build docks at Plymouth: The project to build docks to refit nuclear-powered submarines at Devonport, Plymouth, UK, is under scrutiny now that internal documents have been revealed by The Guardian. It seems that Defence ministers awarded the contract to DML, even though officials had concerns that the firm was incapable of controlling costs, and had little experience in managing such a complex project. Several evaluations of DML over the years reveal many criticisms. One evaluation suggested the cost of the docks would nearly double to more than £900m, although more recent estimates put the final cost at £880m. The Ministry of Defence yesterday stood by its decision, emphasizing that much of the cost increase was the result of unanticipated safety regulations. It also stated that only one other dockyard in the country could have completed the work. DML is partly owned by Halliburton, the American company formerly run by the US vice-president, Dick Cheney. See "'Unsuitable' firm won huge MoD contract," Rich Cookson and Rob Evans, The Guardian, 8/22/05.

Japan drops a rule that slowed imports of boats: After several years of negotiations between the US and Japan, Japan has agreed to drop an old regulation that effectively acted as a trade barrier. For decades, Japanese boaters needed a special license to operate any vessel longer than about 27 feet. Since this requirement was dropped late last year, US boatbuilders have started to see an increase in sales from the Japanese market. But there are other hurdles to be cleared. One is a Japanese requirement that every imported boat be given a physical inspection by a government official, a practice that raises the price, and slows down sales efforts. See "Tides change for Japan boat sales," Rick Barrett, JS Online, 8/22/05.

Kiperousa salvage team trying to 'beat the sea': The bulk carrier Kiperousa was on its way from Gabon to Durban to take on fuel oil when it ran aground on June 7. It's been stranded on the coast near East London since then, despite repeated efforts to pull the vessel off the reef using some of the most powerful tug boats available. The hull is already showing cracks, and breaking up, as salvors try to remove the cargo of heavy logs. Bad weather is also causing concern. While the ship is not expected to completely break up before the logs are removed, but the operation could take as long as two months. See "Kiperousa breaking up," News24.com, 8/22/05.

Rocket misses US ship: Attackers fired at least three rockets from Jordan early Friday, with one sailing over the bow of the docked US Navy ship USS Ashland and killing a Jordanian soldier. It was the most serious militant attack on the Navy since the USS Cole was bombed in 2000. Another rocket fell close to a nearby airport in neighboring Israel. Jordanian and Israeli authorities said militants fired the Katyusha rockets from a warehouse in the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba. A group linked to al-Qaida claimed responsibility in an internet statement. See "U.S. investigates Jordan rocket attack," John J. Lumpkin, Associated Press at Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 8/19/05.

Chicoutimi repairs proceed: Phase II of the repairs to HMCS Chicoutimi has begun with the award of a contract to Irving Shipbuilding Incorporated of Saint John, New Brunswick, at its Halifax Shipyard facility. This phase involves detailed materiel surveys and assessments, as well as the development of the engineering and job specifications needed to begin Phase III, the repair and other concurrent work. Phase II is expected to be completed by the end of 2005. Phase III is anticipated to be completed within two years. See "Sub repair contract awarded," Canadian Press at CNews, 8/19/05.

Australia to use modified US destroyer design: US design firm Gibbs and Cox has won an Australian contract for a modified version of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. Germany's Blohm and Voss and Spain's Navantia also bid; Navantia's Australianized version of its F100 design will be held as a back-up in case Australia's Defence Department has problems with Gibbs and Cox. Gibbs and Cox was the lead designer of the US Navy's Arleigh Burke-class destroyer; the Australian version will incorporate new technology, allowing a smaller crew of 220-230, compared to the 350 serving on the US destroyers. The three air-warfare destroyers will be built by the Australian Submarine Corporation in Adelaide and are due to enter service in 2013. See "Defence looks to the Americans for destroyer designs," Patrick Walters, The Australian, 8/17/05.

Austal shipyard recruits overseas workers: West Australian shipbuilder Austal is being hit by a rising demand for skilled metalworkers. The builder is turning some work away, and recruiting staff from Croatia and South Africa — workers hired so far will have to be trained to work in aluminum, as they had previously built steel ships. Although the company recorded a profit for 2004-05, it will miss at least two deadlines for current orders. Austal is hoping to land a US Navy contract to build a Littoral Combat Ship as early as next month. See "Boatbuilder to ship in metalworkers," John Lehmann, The Australian, 8/17/05.

South African oil rig starts tilting: An oil rig being rented by PetroSA tilted dangerously near Mossel Bay on Sunday. Built in 1977, the rig was in Cape Town undergoing repairs for several weeks until August 9; it reached an oil point near Mossel Bay on August 11. Sunday afternoon, the rig suddenly tilted to about 16 degrees while the workers dropped anchors. A crew member guessed that if the rig had tilted another two degrees, it would have toppled. Most of the crew left the rig over safety concerns; some of them apparently had concerns about the rig's condition even before they left Cape Town. Those remaining on board managed to stabilize the rig Sunday night, and Monday afternoon the tilt angle was down to 2%. It isn't clear yet what caused the tilting. No oil was spilled. See "Oil rig in deep-sea drama," Zigi Ekron and Carin Smith, News24.com, 8/15/05.

BRAC members are skeptical of savings: Recent interviews with six of nine members of the independent commission assessing the Pentagon's proposed list of domestic base closings have expressed varying degrees of concern over the accuracy of Pentagon budget figures. At issue is the amount of money the Defense Department has estimated will be saved by the closings — apparently the numbers were overstated by some 50 percent. Investigators have concluded that nearly half of the Pentagon's projected savings would come from cuts in military jobs that, in many cases, would simply be reassigned to other installations. A Pentagon spokesman backs the figures, and says the Defense Department is preparing a detailed explanation. While the military value of the proposed base closings is considered the most important consideration, projected savings will be an important factor in the commission's decisions. See "Benefit of U.S. base closings challenged," Eric Schmitt, New York Times at International Herald Tribune, 8/14/05.

Cleaning up old Soviet submarines: Of the more than 300 Soviet submarines and 83 missile submarines in service at the height of the Cold War, only a handful remain capable of fulfilling their missions. Unfortunately, most of what remains still poses major security risks. Strategic missile boats can fire their payload and strike hundreds of American cities while tied up at the dock. The US has been helping to dismantle these subs under the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. So far, the program has dismantled 28 missile submarines, with another 12 subs on the list to be dismantled. Norway, Britain, France, Germany and Japan are among the countries helping to dismantle strategic-missile and general-purpose nuclear submarines that were retired by Russia — less threatening on a military level, but still an environmental threat. But there is much work yet to be done. See "Aging Soviet subs are still a threat," Richard G. Lugar, International Herald Tribune, 8/13/05.

Greenpeace witnesses first hand devastation of bottom trawling: Members of the environmental group Greenpeace are showing video images they took of foreign vessels trawling on the Grand Banks and Flemish Cap. The pictures show giant nets hauling in catches of redfish and shrimp mixed with starfish and sea anemones. The group is urging the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization to impose a moratorium on the controversial fishing practice, where massive nets are dragged along the ocean floor to scoop up their catches. They're hoping the footage from their two-week trip will convince Fisheries Minister Geoff Regan to restrict the fishing method, which has been banned in some Canadian and American waters. See "Greenpeace says video captures draggers in action," CBC News, 8/12/05.

Terror suspect wanted to attack ships: A Turkish court on Thursday charged a Syrian suspected of plotting to slam speedboats packed with explosives into cruise ships filled with Israeli tourists. The suspect, identified in the Turkish media as Lu'ai Sakra, and believed to have had several surgeries to alter his appearance, was charged with membership in an illegal organization. He was arrested on August 6. Five cruise ships carrying some 5,000 Israeli tourists have been diverted from Turkish ports to Cyprus in recent days following intelligence reports that a terror attack was imminent. Israel on Monday urged its citizens not to visit beach resorts on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. Police said Sakra is also suspected as a go-between for al-Qaida and Turkish extremists responsible for the 2003 bombings of two synagogues, the British Consulate and a British bank. He also is suspected of having helped the bombing masterminds flee the country. See "Israeli Cruise Attack Plot Exposed," C. Onur Ant, Associated Press at CBS News, 8/11/05.

China is building up its submarine fleet: Although China is still well behind the United States in terms of the strength of its submarine fleet, the country is expanding its own capabilities to such an extent that a recent Pentagon report warns that the country is becoming a threat. Experts predict that China's submarine fleet will substantially outnumber that of the United States within the next 15 years; the country appears to be strengthening all branches of its military. While the report states that the new Chinese navy is designed in large part to prevent or dissuade the US from intervening in a conflict between China and Taiwan, the growing capabilities are real and could potentially threaten Japan and even US cities. Although current capabilities of China's diesel-electric submarines are unknown, Naval War College expert Lyle Goldstein says "we've found some very disturbing signs." Alarm over the Chinese buildup is spreading in Washington. See "Pentagon report warns of China's growing submarine fleet," Michael Killian, Chicago Tribune at KansasCity.com, 8/10/05.

Reform sought within international fishing group: Canada has had support from Norway on fisheries issues for some time, but now it seems that momentum is building among other nations for change. The two countries will be among a half dozen nations to launch a formal effort next month to reform the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization. NAFO manages fisheries in the international waters outside Canada's 200-mile exclusive economic zone off the East Coast. Illegal and unreported fishing, which the United Nations believes accounts for about 30 per cent of the fish brought in, will be on the agenda. Other focuses will be improved decision making in the group, sustainability, and better monitoring and control over fleets operating in international waters. But even with the support of these other nations, it could be some time before any changes come about within NAFO. See "Canada, Norway to push for fishing reforms," Dene Moore, CP at CNEWS, 8/10/05.

Fate of MV Semlow remains unclear: Over the weekend, the World Food Programme (WFP) said that a deal had been reached on Friday for the safe return of the crew of the MV Semlow, which was captured by pirates six weeks ago. The ship, and its cargo of food aid, was also to be released, on the condition that the rice would be distributed in central Somalia, the home area of the pirates. But the deadline has passed, the ship has not returned to port, and the pirates haven't been in touch with the UN officials since the agreement. Sources in the region suggest the pirates are arguing among themselves. See "Somali hostage deadline expires," BBC News, 8/9/05.

DD(X) design work to continue, for now: Analysts for the Congressional Budget Office told US lawmakers last month the cost of building the first new DD(X) destroyer could be up to $4.7 billion, above an upper limit of $4 billion to $4.5 billion set by the Pentagon. But rather than halt the program while Congress and Defense Department officials decide on its fate, the Pentagon has authorized the program to continue during discussions. Pentagon acquisitions chief Kenneth Krieg signed a memorandum on Friday authorizing the Navy to continue giving Northrop Grumman Corp. and General Dynamics Corp. contracts for preliminary design work on the ships. Several options to reduce costs on the DD(X) program have been offered by both sides, including splitting production work between shipyards, reducing the number of ships ordered, or pushing out construction schedules. No deadlines were given for making the decision. See "Pentagon OKs continued design work on Navy warship," Reuters, 8/8/05.

Fitness of Russia's navy questioned: The rescue of seven Russian men trapped in a mini-submersible exposed a surprising technology gap, and has forced proud Russians to face their military shortcomings. Unlike the Kursk tragedy five years ago, Moscow didn't hesitate to call for foreign assistance. But Russia's own brute force efforts to try to haul the sub up to the surface were in sharp contrast to the British Royal Navy's precision cutting of the cables. Russian papers were quick to criticize. See "Dismay at state of Russian navy," BBC News, 8/8/05.

Trapped Russian mini-sub and crew rescued: The Russian AS-28 mini-submersible has been successfully raised. The seven crew members appeared tired, but were able to open the hatch by themselves, and left the mini-sub unassisted to board the rescue boat. The sub became tangled Thursday after setting out on a training mission off the coast of the Kamchatka peninsula. It got stuck in fishing nets, along with hoses and cables that are understood to be part of a system of top-secret underwater antennae for Russia's anti-submarine monitoring efforts along the peninsula. There were two 60-ton anchors tying down the antennae. A second mini-sub that was supposed to have accompanied the trapped vehicle as a potential rescue vessel did not go because it was in a state of disrepair. Russia's foreign ministry thanked Britain, the United States and Japan for their help. See "Crew of Russian Sub Is Rescued," David Holley and Kim Murphy, latimes.com, 8/7/05.

Russian submarine resurfaces, crew is alive: The Russian mini-submarine that was tangled for three days in cables over 600 feet beneath the Pacific Ocean has resurfaced and all seven crew are alive. A multinational rescue operation worked to release the submarine. A British "Scorpio" remotely operated submersible cut the cables that were pinning the sub to the seabed, although it had to resurface briefly to repair a fault. It then removed a tangled fishing net. The AS-28 submarine resurfaced at 0325 GMT, and crew were feeling "normal" after their ordeal, but will be transferred to a hospital once the hatch is opened. See "Russian sub resurfaces," AFP/Reuters at ABC News Online, 8/7/05.

Rescuers race to free trapped submarine: The Russian navy is using cables to try to raise its stricken mini-submarine to safety. They plan to raise both the vessel and the apparatus in which it is tangled. If the vessel can be raised closer to the surface, then divers can be deployed to rescue the seven crew on board. Earlier attempts to tow the sub to shallower water failed when the cables broke. The Priz AS-28 mini-submarine has been trapped for three days. It is still unclear how much air the crew members have left, but they are taking emergency precautions to conserve it. British and American rescue teams and equipment are on the way to the scene, but haven't arrived yet. See "Navy says crews will try to lift structure trapping stranded mini-submarine," Canadian Press at canada.com, 8/6/05.

Russia attempts to drag sub to safety: Officials trying to rescue a stranded mini-submarine have stopped attempts to cut it free from the net wrapped around its propeller. Instead, they are trying to drag the sub into shallower water. Admiral Viktor Fyodorov, commander of the Pacific fleet, said "We have hooked the whole tangle including our submersible object." So far, they've dragged everything over half a mile. Rescuers hope to have the boat in a place where divers could reach it within eight hours, which would be before the arrival of rescue teams from Britain and the United States that are flying to the scene. It still isn't clear how long the air will last. See "Russia begins rescue of stranded mini-sub crew," Guy Faulconbridge, The Star, 8/6/05.

Listening for right whales: Only 350 North Atlantic right whales still exist, and each year many of them die from ship strikes or become tangled in fishing gear. Richard Merrick, chief of the protected species branch at NOAA Fisheries, New England, believes a "passive acoustic" system will help humans avoid the mammals. The proposed underwater listening system uses underwater microphones to find the whales, and transmits their location via cell phone or satellite phone. The system would enable scientists to scan for whales all the time, and could allow them to pinpoint up to 75 percent of whales in areas they're known to frequent and reduce collisions. The system isn't perfect: right whales are quieter than other species, and it will take some complicated negotiations with shipping and fishing interests to ensure the vessels use the information to avoid the whales. But with the right whale so close to extinction, scientists are hopeful that it will help. See "Listening system may help save whales," Jay Lindsay, Associated Press at Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 8/5/05.

Problems with Collins-class submarines haunt shipbuilder: Canada's Victorian Government officials have expressed concern over the recent award of a contract to build three destroyers to the Adelaide-based Australian Submarine Corporation. The officials point out that ASC delivered poor quality Collins-class submarines, and fear the destroyers may be as accident-prone as the subs. It is the first time a direct link has been drawn between the destroyer project and the revelations in The Australian of failings in the Collins-class fleet. But Victoria and South Australia fought bitterly over the destroyer contract, and a South Australian source has described these current reservations as nothing more than sour grapes. See "Fears of Collins-style flaws in destroyers," Michael Bachelard, The Australian, 8/5/05.

New system for removing oil from oily water: The American Petroleum Institute (API) gravity separator system has been widely used for the last 60 years to remove oil from oily water. But it was originally designed for oil refineries, and not designed to reduce the oil content of water below about 100 parts per million. A new system created by an engineering team from the University of New South Wales can remove oil down to below 10 parts per million. Although other systems can achieve low effluent oil contents, they tend to be more energy intensive and incur higher costs. The new Extended Gravity Oil Water Separation (EGOWS) system is very simple, and requires no power. The system's secret lies in its ability to take episodic inflows of oily water and extend the time it spends in the separator tank. The system is about to be launched internationally. See "No Trouble Removing Oil From Water," Chemical Online, 8/5/05.

Food aid ship still held hostage: Somali pirates hijacked the MV Semlow at the end of June as it headed for the northern port of Bossaso carrying food aid for visictims of the December tsunami. The pirates initially demanded a $500,000 ransom for eight crewmembers, the captain and engineer, but after a month of keeping them hostage, they've changed their minds. The hijackers are now willing to release the hostages if they are allowed to distribute the food cargo in their home area of Harardheere. UN World Food Programme spokeswoman Rene McGuffin said "WFP does not pay food for ransom," and hopes a solution will be found soon. See "Somali militiamen may free hostages," Reuters at The Standard, 8/5/04.

Russian rescue vessel towing stricken sub: A Russian rescue vessel has managed to hook a cable onto what is thought to be the disabled navy mini-submarine with seven crew on board. The rescue vessel is towing the sub, and trying to raise it to shallower waters. They hope to bring the boat high enough to make it accessible to divers, or even allow the crew to escape on their own. Underwater cameras are being placed to identify the object being towed. The rescue effort is constrained by the amount of oxygen on board. One Russian naval spokesman said Friday the sailors had 24 hours of oxygen left, but a news report quoted another official later saying the sailors had enough air to last until Monday. See "Russians tow stranded sub - report," CNN.com, 8/5/05.

Fears grow for air supply of Russia mini-sub crew: Seven Russian sailors are trapped on board a stranded military mini-submarine 600 feet down on the sea floor of the Russian Pacific. Although at first naval officials said the crew had enough air to last several days, that estimate has been revised: there is only enough air to last 24 hours. The AS-28 mini-submarine, itself a rescue vessel, ran into trouble on Thursday when its propeller got tangled in fishing nets during a military exercise off the Kamchatka peninsula. Nine Russian ships and one Japanese vessel are taking part in an operation to raise the stricken vessel. Japan is sending more vessels, and the US Navy is sending an unmanned, remote-controlled vehicle from San Diego, California. See "U.S. to Help Rescue Russian Mini-Sub," Yevgeny Kulkov, Associated Press at Woodland Daily Democrat, 8/5/05.

Scottish shipyard loses key government deal: Clyde's Ferguson shipyard in Port Glasgow has lost out to a Polish rival in a bid to build a fisheries protection vessel. Poland's Remontowa yard won the deal for the Jura-class vessel, and it was also awarded a contract to build a ferry for Caledonian MacBrayne. Ferguson management and the Scottish National Party complained that Remontowa was using subsidies to undercut other submissions. The bids had been bogged down in discussions over European competition regulations. Ferguson may now have to lay workers off. Plans to build another Jura class fisheries protection vessel have been postponed. See "Yard fails in ships contract bids," BBC News, 8/4/05.

Hyundai's strategy against China: South Korea owes its lead in the shipbuilding industry to heavy investments in research and development and a focus on specialty vessels. Although China is currently focusing on simpler vessels, the country has plans to advance rapidly. South Korea's three big shipbuilders, the world leaders in the industry, are taking different tactics against China's growth. Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering and Samsung Heavy Industries have made investments in China to take advantage of lower labor costs, and perhaps to help secure new ship contracts as China's maritime sector grows. But Hyundai Heavy Industries, the world's largest shipbuilder, recently announced that it would keep investment money at home in South Korea. Hyundai plans to spend $386 million on new plants to fabricate hull blocks and other parts on the country's southeastern coast, at Ulsan and Pohang. See "Free Flow: Managing China's rise at sea," Donald Greenlees, International Herald Tribune, 8/3/05.

Malaysia concerned about the price of piracy: The Joint War Committee of Lloyds, which allows underwriters to charge additional premiums for ships traveling in dangerous waters, recently declared the Straits of Malacca as a war-risk zone. As a result, shipping through this area is expected to become more expensive. Noel Choong, head of the Malaysian branch of the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre (IMBPRC), fears the extra premiums will ultimately be passed on to Malaysian consumers. Nazery Khalid, fellow of the Maritime Institute of Malaysia, believes Lloyds had over-generalized by labeling the straits a high-risk area; and Mr. Choong himself doesn't believe many reports that terrorists are disguising themselves as pirates. See "Consumers to pay price of piracy," New Straits Times, 8/1/05.

Australian ship contract up for grabs: Australia's Defence Minister Robert Hill has stated that the Government would prefer to build two amphibious Navy ships in Australia. But he also warned local shipbuilders that French and Spanish shipyards had offered very competitive bids. The Defence Materiel Organisation has estimated that it could cost up to 30 per cent more to have the ships built in Australia. Local shipyards, which many say need to be upgraded, may also become taxed, since the Government is currently finalizing plans to have three air warfare destroyers built locally. But Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout warns that sending the amphibious ships overseas "would have serious long-term consequences for local naval shipbuilding." See "'Aussie at any price' ruled out," Patrick Walters, The Australian, 8/1/05.

Explosion on Russian nuclear submarine: One person has been killed and another injured in an explosion on a decommissioned Russian nuclear submarine. The blast occurred at the Zvyozdochka shipyard, in Severodvinsk, where the vessel had been sent to be dismantled. Apparently, the nuclear reactor had already been removed, and there was no danger of radioactive contamination from the incident. The fire caused by the blast was extinguished after nearly four hours. The Victor class submarine arrived at the yard in June and the work was due to be carried out using funds from Canada, one of several Western countries that have helped fund Russian efforts to dismantle decommissioned submarines, and secure nuclear materials. See "Explosion on Russian Sub Leaves One Dead," Mike Eckel, Associated Press at Las Vegas SUN, 8/1/05.

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