News Archive - September 2005

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Japan, China continue to argue over gas fields: The maritime boundary in the East China Sea between China and Japan continues to be disputed, and exacerbated by the hope of developing the gas fields there. Japan lodged a formal complaint about China's latest operations in the area, just as new talks between the countries are about to begin. See "Japan presses China on gas fields," BBC News, 9/30/05.

For its part, China has sent warships to the area. Foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang has said the squadron "is aimed at handling emergency situations like rapid mobilization and assistance at sea during peacetime, while also raising the ability of the navy." No details were given about the size of the squadron, or if it is meant to target Japan. See "Navy sent to disputed area ahead of Japan talks," The Standard, 9/30/05.

Mystery at sea: In July, the tug Jupiter 6 started towing the bulk carrier Satsung from Cuba toward India for scrapping. In August, the two vessels stopped at Walvis Bay so the tug could have some repairs performed. Once away from the Bay, both ships disappeared. No radio contact could be made, and no ship on the busy sea-lanes around the Cape reported seeing either vessel. But on Monday, the bulk carrier Poseidon spotted the Satsung drifting about 250 miles south of Port Elizabeth. The Smit Amandla has been sent to pick up the Satsung, and try to determine what happened to the tug. See "Tug vanishes while towing ship," Henri du Plessis, IOL, 9/30/05.

North, South Korea hold talks: Under the conditions of an agreement made during talks in August, North and South Korea are holding a two-day meeting to discuss the telecommunication link that has been set up between them to help vessels travel safely into each other's maritime zones. The main focus of the discussion is the technical issues involved in developing and maintaining the wire communication. The two Koreas have made use of the line as a means of contact between the two countries' naval authorities when each side issues permission for its vessels to pass through the other's waters, or to send messages concerning maritime accidents or emergency patients. See "Inter-Korean maritime talks open today," Annie I. Bang, The Korea Herald, 9/29/05.

Canada helps with hurricane repairs: The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Sir William Alexander will spend the next month tending to US weather warning buoys in the Gulf of Mexico and along the US eastern seaboard. The ship was dispatched to the Gulf Coast on September 6 as part of Canada's four-ship military relief convoy, but has been asked to stay another month or so. The Arctic-class tender, equipped with a heavy-lift crane, will now replace weather buoys in the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea and along the US east coast all the way up to Maine. Many of the markers have been swept aside by hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ophelia. Kathleen O'Neil, branch chief of observations at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said that this year's and last year's hurricanes have taxed the US Coast Guard, and that "The Canadians have been instrumental in keeping us going in the Gulf of Mexico." See "Cdn icebreaker to help with Katrina repairs," Murray Brewster, CP at Canoe CNews, 9/28/05.

Estonia ferry families want another investigation: The ferry Estonia sank in September, 1994, claiming 852 lives. A panel of investigators from Finland, Sweden and Estonia decided the disaster was caused by faulty locks on the front gates of the ship's car deck. Waves tore the gates away and the water that flooded the car deck caused the ferry to list, and eventually capsize and sink. But there are many different theories explaining the accident, from a collision with an unidentified submarine to an explosion. The relatives of those who perished are now urging another, independent investigation into the accident. See "Relatives of Estonia ferry disaster victims want re-investigation," Itar-Tass, 9/28/05.

Academic claims Scottish nuclear sub base is vulnerable to terrorists: Dr. Brian Jamison, who works for the Mountbatten Centre for International Studies at the University of Southampton, and who has spent five years studying Scotland's involvement with the Trident nuclear missiles system, has written a book that states Faslane is vulnerable to terrorists. The high ground surrounding the Faslane submarine base and the nearby Coulport missile depot leaves them prone to attack. He also claims that subs are rarely escorted by armed patrol vessels. The book is called "In Securing That Which Makes Us Secure: Scotland's Past, Present and Future With Trident." A Royal Navy spokesman states they take security at the bases very seriously. See "Faslane 'vulnerable to terrorists'," Michael Howie, The Scotsman, 9/28/05.

US Coast Guard MISLE system not secure: The US Coast Guard's Marine Information for Safety and Law Enforcement (MISLE) system is a web-based database system used to track marine safety and law enforcement activities involving commercial and recreational vessels. It contains sensitive but unclassified information. According to a new report from Homeland Security Department Inspector General Richard Skinner, the database is not secure: the Coast Guard needs to establish effective procedures for monitoring user access, and develop an adequate IT contingency plan. Coast Guard officials have agreed with most of the report's recommendations. See "IG: Better security needed for key Coast Guard database," Alice Lipowicz, Washington Technology, 9/27/05.

China's first new warship takes to the sea: China's missile frigate Wenzhou entered service on Monday. It is the first in a new class of domestically designed and built warships. The report gave no other details about the ship, but Western military experts have described it as the first in the 054 Ma'anshan class, said to be China's most advanced missile frigate. The ships have superior electronics, anti-submarine capabilities and air defenses, and sides and paint designed to make them more difficult to spot by radar. The ships are part of the People's Liberation Army's development of a "blue water" navy intended to assert Chinese claims to Taiwan and other territories, and to protect sea lanes transporting vital natural resources. See "Chinese commission new class of warships," Associated Press at The State.com, 9/27/05.

Somali pirates strike again: The Somali pirates that captured the MV Semlow and its crew in June have apparently captured another ship. The latest ship is the Ibnu Batuta, which was carrying a cargo of cement from Egypt when the pirates captured it just off the coast of Mogadishu. The Semlow was apparently used in the capture. No details have been disclosed. See "Somali pirates capture another ship," Theodore Liasi, ISN, 9/27/05.

Russia plans new submarines: Admiral Vladimir Valuyev, Baltic Fleet commander, reports that Russia will be building up to nine new Lada class submarines in the next few years. The plan is part of the Russian Navy's Project 677. The Lada is a fourth-generation diesel-electric attack submarine designed to replace the former Soviet Union's Kilo-class attack subs. The new subs are smaller than the Kilos, will have a low acoustic signature, can travel about 10 knots on the surface and 21 knots submerged, and can remain underwater for 45 days. An export model of the Lada is also planned, called the Amur. See "New Russian Subs to Form Baltic Fleet Flotilla," Voices Magazine, 9/25/05.

Venezuela is already considering buying Russia's Amur-class submarines. The country plans to buy three new generation subs to replace its German Type 209 submarines. Vice Admiral Jose Laguna, the Navy's commander-in-chief, will discuss this issue during his upcoming visit to Russia. Venezuela's Navy is also seeking bids from the governments of South Korea, China and France. See "Venezuela intends to buy Russian submarines," NewsFromRussia.Com, 9/25/05.

Another Jones Act waiver suggested: The Bush Administration temporarily suspended the Jones Act after last month's Hurricane Katrina disrupted US petroleum supplies. The waiver allowed foreign vessels to transport crude oil and gasoline between US ports. Apart from moving loaned crude oil from the government's Strategic Petroleum Reserve to refineries that lost supply, that waiver has now expired. But another waiver of the Jones Act is an option if Hurricane Rita causes similar disruptions. A government source knowledgeable about the matter says that a decision will be made once Rita passes and a damage assessment can be made. See "US may waive Jones Act law to ship oil," Reuters, 9/23/05.

Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization commits to reform: Members of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) held their annual meeting in Estonia this week. NAFO committed to restructuring the group in the wake of persistent criticism it has lost any ability to control flagrant fishing violations in waters outside Canada's 200-mile limit. The 13 member countries agreed on the need to toughen sanctions against countries that breach regulations, to take a more ecosystem-based approach to management, and to improve inspections of vessels at sea and in port. A working group was also created to focus on the reform, promising to meet in April and produce recommendations at NAFO's next annual meeting a year from now. Environmentalists were hoping to see a swifter response. See "European nations, Canada promise to reform beleaguered fisheries group," CP at myTELUS, 9/23/05.

New demands from Somali pirates: The MV Semlow was carrying World Food Programme aid for victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami when it was seized by Somali pirates in June. The pirates had initially demanded $500,000 in ransom, later changed that for the food cargo to be distributed in their home area, and this week agreed to let the new Transitional Federal Government distribute the aid. The ship, which still has ten crew members on board, reached the El Maan port north of Mogadishu on Monday. But WFP spokesman Robin Lodge reports the pirates have made new financial demands, and sailed the ship out of port on Thursday, with the cargo and hostages still on board. No one is sure where the ship is going. See "Somali pirates dash hope for end to U.N. ship saga," Andrew Cawthorne, Reuters, 9/22/05.

Operator of tug gets prison for Buzzards Bay oil spill: A tugboat operator has been sentenced to five months in prison for causing a massive oil spill in Buzzards Bay that killed hundreds of migratory birds, closed shellfish beds, and contaminated 90 miles of shoreline. Franklin Robert Hill pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act and the Migratory Bird Act. He admitted that while serving as first mate aboard the Evening Tide on April 27, 2003, he left the helm unattended for 15 minutes to secure a tow line connected to a barge carrying 4.1 million gallons of fuel oil. The barge hit an underwater ledge, which tore a gash in the hull. Hill apologized for his actions in a letter to the court. Bouchard Transportation Co., which owned the barge, pleaded guilty last year to violating environmental laws, paid a $9 million fine, and agreed to pay cleanup costs, which have already exceeded $38 million. See "Tug operator gets five months in prison after oil spill," Associated Press at BostonHerald.com, 9/21/05.

USS Philadelphia commander relieved of command: The nuclear submarine USS Philadelphia was traveling on the surface of the Gulf on September 5 when it slammed into the bulk carrier MV Yaso Aysen. Nobody was injured, and the damage was said to be minor. But a Navy investigation has found that the commander, Cmdr. Steven M. Oxholm, put the submarine in a hazardous situation, and has been relieved of command. Two other officials, whom the Navy did not name, were also relieved of duty. Repairs on the boat are underway. See "Sub commander relieved of duty following crash," Newsday.com, 9/21/05.

US Coast Guard finds security holes: Following an address at the US Maritime Security Expo, US Coast Guard commandant Admiral Thomas Collins admitted that his organization has identified 50 areas in which the maritime system is vulnerable to a terrorist attack. It is working on realistic solutions to mitigate risks while not impinging on boaters' rights or hampering the flow of commerce. Targets include recreational boats, fishing vessels, and ferries that carry tourists and commuters. Specific initiatives will be presented to President Bush as a part of a National Maritime Security Plan. See "Coast Guard Commandant Cites Security Risk," Pat Milton, Associated Press at Las Vegas SUN, 9/20/05.

COSCO Shipbuilding plans shipyard development: COSCO Shipbuilding Industry, the shipyard arm of state-owned China Ocean Shipping Group, plans to boost its production capacity sevenfold over the next few years amid a global boom in ship construction. The company has applied to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) to build a new shipyard in Dalian, Liaoning province. Last month, the company won NDRC approval to add capacity at its existing yard in Nantong, Jiangsu province; completion is expected in 2008. Although no deals have been finalized, COSCO Shipbuilding hopes foreign firms will become involved in the project. See "COSCO unit plans 6b yuan shipyards," Carol Chan, The Standard, 9/20/05.

Fish species worldwide are in crisis: A new study produced by the World Wildlife Fund suggests that deliberate, illegal fishing is increasingly being disguised as accidental bycatch. International fishing rules allow for some bycatch, and a portion of the commercially valuable bycatch can be kept and sold. Fishermen are more likely to pursue restricted species when the fish they're after are less valuable. They make money by either ignoring the bycatch limits, or ensuring that each trip brings back the full limit. The report, titled Bycatch and the High Seas: A Review of the Effectiveness of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, states that some protected species are being fished so aggressively in some waters they may never rebound. See "New study suggest Atlantic fish stocks face extinction," CP at myTELUS, 9/20/05.

The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) is meeting this week in Estonia to further divide up dwindling fish stocks, to toughen enforcement and clamp down on the bycatch fishery. Canada has called NAFO's mismanagement so great that the group should be shut down and replaced. Greenpeace has warned that Pacific fisheries could soon be facing the same shortfalls. The environmental group hopes that New Zealand, Australia and Chile will learn lessons from the NAFO experience as they start talks on the South West Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation. See "Atlantic Fisheries Crisis A Warning For Pacific," Greenpeace New Zealand at Scoop, 9/20/05.

Japan confirms China is pumping oil or gas in East China Sea: Japan has confirmed China has been pumping either oil or natural gas near disputed waters in the East China Sea. Japan's Trade Minister Shoichi Nakagawa said flames had been seen at a Chinese development in the area. The gas dispute stems from a disagreement over which sea resources the two sides can claim in the East China Sea, which separates China's eastern coast and Japan's southern island chain of Okinawa. The disputed Tianwaitian field is located close to what Japan claims as the median line that separates the two countries' 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zones. Japan fears that drilling in the area may tap into deposits on the Japanese side. China does not recognize the median line, and claims its EEZ on the basis of its continental shelf. See "China accused of inciting gas row," BBC News, 9/20/05.

UK aircraft carrier program shapes up: The UK is closer to making final decisions on which yards will build its flagship aircraft carriers. One option gives France's DCN the designs, so they can build a third carrier themselves, the other option would let the French participate in building all three carriers. Some fear the second option would delay the UK program. Work plans for the UK yards seem to be shaping up: BAE Systems' shipyards will build three of the five 'megablocks,' with VT Group getting another, and Babcock getting the smallest unit. The proposed work share points to the future organization of NewCo, the shipbuilding company which could end up running all the UK's yards. The Ministry of Defence has admitted that the carrier program could end up costing £3.5bn, and some think it will cost as much as £5bn; the original price was £2.9bn. See "BAE Systems yards to build three blocks for UK carriers," Tracey Boles, The Business Online, 9/18/05.

Competition good for US shipyards: US Navy officials had been pushing for a single supplier of next-generation destroyers, saying the move would cut costs. But the damage from Hurricane Katrina has highlighted the opposing strategy: that it's important to maintain more than one shipyard. Fully a third of the 12,000 employees of Northrop Grumman's Ingalls yard were displaced when the storm surge destroyed a big swath of the Gulf coast, including Pascagoula. Senators from Maine and Mississippi recently fought off a competition between Northrop's Ingalls yard and General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works in Maine, but that prohibition extends for only one year. Many expect the Navy will keep trying to cut out one of the two yards. See "1-shipyard foes point to Katrina's damage," Bloomberg News at Winston-Salem Journal, 9/18/05.

Proposed New England LNG storage facility questioned: The US Naval Undersea Warfare Center has asked officials to review the decision to approve a new liquefied natural gas storage facility in Fall River. The route LNG tankers would take to the facility would go right through the Navy's torpedo test range in Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay — submarines and sonar devices are also tested there. Apparently, the developer, Weaver's Cove LLP, informed some divisions within the Navy about its plans, but not the Undersea Warfare Center. See "Navy objection may torpedo LNG proposal in Fall River," Jay Fitzgerald, BostonHerald.com, 9/16/05.

Katrina oil spills may be among worst on record: The oil pollution in the wake of Hurricane Katrina could be among the worst recorded in North America. The US Coast Guard said that more than 7 million gallons of crude oil had been spilled in at least seven major incidents. The previous worst spill in US waters was the 11 million gallons in Alaskan waters from the Exxon Valdez in 1989. Three quarters of the oil from the spills hasn't been recovered. The figure does not include gas and oil spilled from up to 250,000 cars which have been submerged, or that spilled from hundreds of gas stations. The coastguard says it has received almost 400 reports of spills, although only 44 have been assessed. Nearly all of the oil leaked near the Mississippi River south of New Orleans and was contained. See "44 oil spills found in southeast Louisiana," MSNBC, 9/16/05.

Agriculture asks for Jones Act waiver: Noting that the petroleum and gas industry asked for, and was granted, a 30-day waiver for the Jones Act, the agriculture industry is now doing the same. The American Farm Bureau Federation has joined a coalition of agriculture groups in sending a letter of request to President Bush. The waiver would provide additional transportation capacity for moving US grains and oilseeds to ports in the Southeastern regions of the nation. This would assist in the post-Katrina recovery effort of ports and waterways by easing the burden on the already overtaxed US transportation system. See "Temporary Waiver of Jones Act Would Help Ag," Julianne Johnston," AgWeb.com, 9/16/05.

Newport Harbor the latest to be invaded by sea lions: A number of towns along the West Coast of the US have been inundated with sea lions. These marine mammals, which are protected under the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act, typically weigh 600 to 800 pounds. They have trapped people aboard boats, defecated and vomited on docks, and kept people awake at night with their nonstop barking. Newport Harbor has recently been invaded by a growing group of sea lions. Earlier this month, 18 of the creatures piled onto a 37-foot sailboat and sank it. Most attempts to encourage the animals to leave don't work, including painting a boat to look like an orca, rubber bullets, firecrackers, underwater speakers blasting high-pitched sounds, or catching them and relocating them. Oddly enough, they don't like to have water splashed in their faces. See "Newport's War on Sea Lions," Roy Rivenburg, Los Angeles Times, 9/15/05.

MV Semlow to be released: Somali gunmen who hijacked a United Nations-chartered vessel with a 10-man crew carrying relief food to tsunami victims have released the ship after nearly 11 weeks. Somali pirates hijacked the Kenyan MV Semlow on June 27 while it was on its way to Bosasso port with rice donated by Germany and Japan. The pirates had initially demanded $500,000 in ransom, but the United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) says no money was paid. A WFP spokesperson said the group had negotiated with Elmaan port authorities — through the Somali's Transitional Federal Government — to facilitate and guarantee the free passage of food to the central region. They expect the ship to arrive within three to five days. The ship's eight Kenyan crew members, Sri Lankan captain and Tanzanian engineer are reported to be fine, but exhausted. See "Somali hostage ship breakthrough," BBC News, 9/15/05.

Lessons learned from mini-sub rescue: A group of rescue experts from 15 countries met in Waikiki to discuss lessons learned during the international effort to save the Russian mini-sub Priz and its seven-man crew last month. Participants emphasized that global cooperation and good working relationships made the rescue a success. British, American and Japanese navies sent rescue teams to the scene after Moscow called for help. It was a British underwater robot that managed to free the vessel. Cmdr. Kent Van Horn, the head of the US crew, pointed out that his crew gave the British some equipment at the airport when they realized the British team would be able to get to the mini-sub first. Van Horn believes that regular interaction kept the rescue from being a competition. Russian Capt. First Rank Anatoliy B. Suvalov agreed that personal ties among the Russian, British and American teams helped save his compatriots aboard the Priz. See "Sub rescuers reflect on ties that save lives," Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 9/14/05.

UN, maritime experts tackle protocols for refugees at sea: The number of people attempting to make perilous sea journeys, often organized by ruthless smuggling rings, is believed to have increased in recent years. The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) says the rising death toll associated with these movements has reached a "humanitarian crisis." In response, a group of maritime experts and the refugee agency have come up with a series of recommendations on how companies and States should handle people marooned at sea. Currently, some maritime companies don't know what to do with refugees, or are instructed by their owners not to get involved. Additionally, States don't always follow recognized protocol for dealing with refugees once they have been rescued. See "UN humanitarian agency calls for international protocol on refugees at sea," United Nations, 9/14/05.

China's shipbuilding plans: The Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) will be producing a number of advanced warships in the next two years. Many of these ships will belong to two new guided missile destroyer classes. China will replace obsolete ships with more modern ones, and a number of new surface vessels and submarines are also being pursued. Some units of Russian destroyers will be brought into service, a completely new ship, probably similar to Russia's Slava class cruisers, will be built, and its diesel sub fleet will be modernized with help from Russia. PLAN is also proceeding with plans of constructing diesel submarines based on domestic projects. The country does not appear to be interested in building or deploying aircraft carriers, although currently it is studying a former Soviet carrier. In general, the naval construction plan seems to indicate that China is concerned with protecting its trade flow, and power projection in areas identified as vital for its national interests. See "China beefs up its navy," Giuseppe Anzera, Asia Times Online, 9/14/05.

In addition to navy plans, China expects to build at least 30 tankers over the next decade to ship in liquefied natural gas to keep up with its energy needs. The country's first LNG tanker won't be delivered until the end of 2007, but it expects to be able to build more than ten tankers annually by 2015. See "LNG era for shipyards," The Standard, 9/14/05.

Fishermen devastated by tsunami see aid, and risks: The head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) tsunami fisheries taskforce has warned that many of the boats provided to fishermen are unsafe. People have been building boats even if they have no experience, and some donated boats are faulty. Some villagers have taken engines from boats but left the boats themselves as they were unsafe, other boats have started sinking as soon as they were launched. The FAO also warns that too many new boats, or boats that have too much capacity, raises the danger of overfishing. With hundreds of organizations donating tsunami aid, the FAO is now focusing on aid co-ordination and strategic advice on rebuilding a sustainable fishing industry. See "Aid rush in tsunami region raises fishery risks-U.N.," Reuters, 9/14/05.

TSA network needs more security: The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is responsible for security relating to civil aviation, maritime, and all other modes of transportation, and is the lead agency for security at airports, ports, and on the nation's railroads, highways, and public transit systems. Although the agency has improved its network security, a new report from the Homeland Security Department's Office of the Inspector General finds that it must still make further improvements to secure its networks. The TSA falls short in developing and implementing processes such as security testing, monitoring with audit trails, configuration and patch management, and password protection. Also, contingency plans have not been made final nor tested. See "Gaps persist in TSA network security," Alice Lipowicz, Washington Technology, 9/13/05.

Dioxin, other toxins a concern in areas hit by Hurrican Katrina: Aggressive monitoring of groundwater, fisheries and seafood has been called for in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has already discovered that lead, mercury, and other toxic compounds have leached into the environment. But some worry even more about dioxin, as it is stored in tissues, and doesn't degrade with time, making it accumulate quickly. Some two pounds of dioxin was stored in the New Orleans area. Runoff from untreated sewage is another big concern. See "Katrina: Environment experts worried about pollution in Gulf of Mexico," AFP at Yahoo! News, 9/13/05.

Damage to Philadelphia may be more extensive than first thought: The Connecticut-based The Day, quoting un-named Navy sources, reports that the damage resulting from the collision between the nuclear-powered submarine USS Philadelphia and Turkish merchant ship MV Yaso Aysen is more extensive than indicated earlier. The US Navy first reported that damage to both vessels was superficial. But apparently the sub's hull had a small dent, the housing for the towed sonar array was crumpled, some sound-absorbing tiles were ripped up and a number of scrapes were left along the length of the ship. Some major repairs could be necessary. The US Navy in Bahrain said they could not comment while investigations are under way. See "US Navy mum on reports of damage after sub-ship crash," Habib Toumi, Gulf News Online, 9/12/05.

Beluga sturgeon under threat: Last year, the United States placed the beluga sturgeon on its endangered species list, and served notice earlier this year to several beluga caviar producing nations that a ban would be instituted unless they each drew up management plans to protect the beluga sturgeon from extinction. These moves could be crucial for the fish, since the US accounts for almost 80% of caviar consumption. The number of sturgeon in the Caspian Sea has plummeted 90% in the past 30 years, and even Kazakhstan, which has the best environment for the fish, was unable to farm the caviar this year when fishermen were unable to find a single wild fertile female to provide the eggs needed for their hatcheries. The deadline for sturgeon management plans has passed, with no submissions; environmental groups have lobbied the US government to carry out the threat to ban caviar. See "America to introduce ban on caviar," David Usborne, The Independent, 9/10/05.

Port of New Orleans will be slow to recover: The port of New Orleans, the fifth largest in the US by total cargo tonnage, has been closed since August 27 to all but military and relief ships. The port's closure disrupts a lot of supply lines. Barges full of grains are clogging the Mississippi, and shipments of steel from Japan and Russia, and rubber from Indonesia and Thailand, have been turned away. Officials plan to resume commercial operations by Wednesday, but say it could take six months for the port to be fully operational again. While the port itself was not badly damaged, re-creating the infrastructure of roads, bridges and railway around it could take years. In addition, the downriver terminals are still flooded, and many upriver terminals are full of debris. See "New Orleans port stirs again," Reuters, 9/9/05.

Helsinki shipyard workers go on strike: The Helsinki operations of shipbuilder Aker Finnyards were shut down by workers on Friday to protest planned layoffs and cutbacks. The strike is scheduled to last until Monday morning. The company recently announced that it would outsource some operations, reduce its Helsinki workforce, and move company headquarters to Turku. Aker Finnyards President Yrjo Julin has said that the changes will make the Helsinki yard competitive, and the alternative could be no work at all. See "Workers shut down Finnish shipyard," Associated Press at The State.com, 9/9/05.

Two oil spills caused by the hurricane: The largest spill caused by Hurricane Katrina occurred after two 80,000-barrel storage tanks ruptured at a Bass Enterprises Production site at Cox Bay, Louisiana, just above the mouth of the river. A company executive said the tanks weren't full at the time of the rupture, but still may have spilled about 3.3m gallons of crude oil. The second spill at the Murphy Oil Corporation refinery at Meraux, Louisiana, is thought to have released 420,000 gallons of crude into a flooded area around the refinery. The Murphy spill was discovered by aerial surveillance a few days ago; the area is still underwater. Officials are working on clean-up. While most believe there will be significant short-term environmental damage, they hope long-term damage won't be too great. See "Oil spillages threaten Gulf of Mexico," Henry Hamman, Financial Times, 9/8/05.

Air patrols for the Malacca Strait: Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand will begin coordinated air patrols over the Malacca Strait next week. The hope is that the new Eyes in the Sky plan will quell international fears about security in the world's busiest shipping lane. Each country has donated two aircraft for the plan, with one representative from each of the four nations on board. The aircraft will patrol the waterway, but won't be allowed to cross over to land. Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia have also signed a memorandum of understanding with the International Maritime Organisation, the World Bank and a group of shipping companies to monitor every ship that passes through the waterway. See "Malacca Strait nations plan air patrol," Aljazeera.Net, 9/8/05.

As China is a big user of the Strait, the Chinese government has offered to contribute to maintaining and enhancing safe passage. China is also willing to provide the littoral states with assistance in hydrographic survey, aids to navigation, and capacity building. See "China offers to help to littoral states in enhancing Malacca Straits safety," Xinhua at China Daily, 9/7/05.

Final report released on the Marchioness disaster: A party on the river boat Marchioness turned into a tragedy in August, 1989, when it collided with the dredger Bowbelle on the Thames near Southwark in central London. Both crews seemed unaware of the other vessel until it was too late; 51 people on the Marchioness died. The final official report on the disaster, just released, states that safety standards are now acceptable on similar river boats. But the assessment recommends the enhancement of emergency evacuation plans, a review of the location of life jackets on board, and a clear policy on the needs of disabled people. See "Marchioness-style boats ruled safe," Mark Oliver, The Guardian, 9/7/05.

Mississippi fishermen wait to see damage from the hurricane: Hurricane Katrina devastated the commercial and sport industry in the state of Mississippi. Many boats were destroyed, the shipyards in nearby Biloxi wrecked and the marinas obliterated. Fishermen are waiting to find out how the shrimp, oysters and fish fared. Jim Franks, a fisheries biologist at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, thinks it will take time for the marine life to recover its balance. Locals also fear their fishing waters might have been contaminated by all the waste, and know it is going to take them months to clear the debris that will snag their nets. See "Gulf Coast fishermen hope Katrina spared sea life," Crispian Balmer, Reuters, 9/7/05.

Pacific salmon may face extinction: A group of 30 scientists, policy analysts and advocates have concluded that human population numbers will cause wild Pacific salmon to become extinct unless people change the way they live their lives. The decline of salmon are a minor regional symptom of a global problem. The Salmon 2100 Project will be presented at the 135th annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society to be held next week in Anchorage, Alaska. The report offers a number of proposals that might save salmon, but it's a complex issue. See "Group: Population numbers may doom salmon," Jeff Barnard, Associated Press at Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 9/6/05.

Russia can't afford underwater rescue vehicles: After last month's crisis that had seven men trapped in a mini-submarine, Russia vowed to buy two Scorpio underwater robotic vehicles. Each vessel costs between $1 and $5 million, depending on the configuration. But Admiral Vladimir Masorin has said that the Russian Navy doesn't have the funds this year, although it may next year. The need for foreign help during the crisis underlined the current troubles of the Russian navy, which has fallen prey to money shortages and, many critics say, poor leadership. Sea rescue vehicles were among the first Soviet-built vessels to be scrapped amid the desperate funding shortages that followed the 1991 Soviet collapse. President Vladimir Putin appointed Masorin this weekend after firing Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov, suggesting Kuroyedov was bearing the blame for a series of embarrassments in the navy. See "Russian navy: No money for rescue vessels," Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press at The State.com, 9/5/05.

Although Masorin pointed out several errors made during the crisis, both by the sub's crew and local navy officials, Russia's Defense Minister painted a slighty different picture. According to Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, the accident was not due to a lack of financing or technical faults, but rather the mentality of naval authorities. The Defense Ministry has promised to disclose results of the investigation into the accident. See "Defense minister discloses reasons for mini-submarine accident," RosBusinessConsulting, 9/6/05.

Ransom lowered for Asian fishermen: Forty-eight Asian fishermen and their three vessels have been held hostage by pirates near the southern Somali port of Kismayo since August 15. The gunmen originally demanded $500,000 for each boat and its crew, but later cut the demand to $50,000 apiece during talks with the Malaysian agent for the Taiwanese trawlers. The London-based International Maritime Bureau, which tracks piracy around the world, said last month that piracy off Somalia was increasing "at an alarming rate," with 20 incidents reported since March, compared to just two in 2004. The reasons for the increase are unclear. See "Somali Pirates Reduce Ransom for Fishermen," Mohamed Olad Hassan, Associated Press at Newsday.com, 9/6/05.

Louisiana faces serious water quality issues: Louisiana's Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Mike McDaniel reveals that Hurricane Katrina caused terrible devastation, including oil spills, leaking gas lines, damaged sewage plants and tainted water. Crews have found two major oil spills, but huge amounts of oil also oozed from cars, trucks and boats caught in the flood. Experts also worry that flood water from New Orleans may cause environmental damage as it flows from the city back into Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River. See "Katrina environmental issues "almost unimaginable"," Jim Loney, Reuters, 9/6/05.

Jones Act waiver to be limited: The US Customs and Border Protection office of the US Department of Homeland Security has issued a "Trade Update for Hurricane Katrina" that covers several maritime-related issues. In particular, the "Jones Act" (46 U.S.C. App. 883) has been waived for vessels transporting petroleum and refined petroleum products until September 19, 2005 at 12: 01 a.m. eastern daylight time — unless otherwise changed. While CBP field officers and managers don't have authority to waive the provisions of the Jones Act beyond what Secretary Chertoff has authorized, the office recognizes that the damage sustained by the Gulf Coast region in the wake of Hurricane Katrina is severe, and some US ports are currently inoperable. The CPB asks that a non-coastwise-qualified vessel carrying something besides petroleum and refined petroleum products contact the Maritime Administration (MARAD) for possible transfer to a qualified vessel. The Trade Update also provides information for vessels and cargo originally destined for a port that is currently closed. The Trade Update was released on 9/5/05.

USS Philadelphia collides with cargo ship: A US Navy submarine collided with a Turkish cargo ship in the Gulf early Monday morning. No one was hurt on either vessel, and both ships appeared to suffer only superficial damage. The USS Philadelphia was traveling on the surface of the Gulf when it slammed into the Turkish-flagged MV Yaso Aysen. The nuclear-powered Philadelphia was conducting surface operations on its way to Bahrain for a scheduled port visit. The submarine continued to Bahrain where inspectors will check it for damage. See "U.S. nuclear-powered submarine collides with cargo ship in Gulf," Jim Krane, Associated Press at Newsday.com, 9/5/05.

Putin fires Russia's navy commander: President Vladimir Putin fired the head of Russia's Navy on Sunday, and called on the new commander to boost discipline in the flagging fleet following a pair of submarine disasters. Putin did not give a specific reason for firing Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov and replacing him with Admiral Vladimir Masorin. But he indicated that Kuroyedov was bearing the blame for a series of embarrassments in the navy. Last month, a mini-sub with seven men aboard was trapped at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The Navy had no means of rescuing them without emergency help from abroad. Kuroyedov also presided over the navy during the 2000 Kursk disaster. However, Mr. Kuroyedov has also suffered from poor health lately. See "Putin sacks head of Russian navy," BBC News, 9/4/05.

Big oil spill spotted near tanks on Mississippi: Two oil storage tanks apparently damaged by Hurricane Katrina may have spilled oil into a marsh south of New Orleans. The spill occurred near Venice, in a marsh between the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico; the peninsula is home to a wildlife refuge. The site is not accessible due to flooding, making it impossible to verify the cause of the spill, or to clean it up. There are no people near the spill, but there is an environmental risk. Officials don't yet know who owns the tanks so can't be sure how much oil is in them. The current estimate is that they hold 80,000 barrels each; a barrel of oil is 42 gallons. See "Major oil spill feared on Mississippi River," Miguel Llanos, MSNBC, 9/3/05.

River traffic halted on Mississippi: Shipments of grain and other commodities have languished on barges on the Mississippi River since Saturday, unable to pass through the New Orleans ports closed by Hurricane Katrina. While alternative ports in Houston, Corpus Christi and Tampa say they're ready to handle incoming ships, New Orleans ports are critical to what goes out. New Orleans traditionally has handled more than half of the country's grain exports to overseas destinations. Barges carrying grain, goods and oil remained halted on the river as government and industry officials focused on efforts to rescue New Orleans residents and repair the city's levees. The US Coast Guard has ordered the river's closure between Natchez, Mississippi, and the sea to anything but rescue vessels and tugs and barges of very shallow draft, fearing that navigable channels on the river have been changed by the storm. Nearly 90 vessels are currently stuck. See "Cargo vessels stranded by closure of Mississippi," Robert Wright, FT.com, 9/2/05.

Hospital ship USNS Comfort goes to the Gulf Coast - understaffed: The US Navy's Military Sealift Command has sent the USNS Comfort to the Gulf Coast to serve as a hospital to people trapped in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. However, the ship has enough staff to manage only 250 of its 1,000 beds. In contrast, when the Navy deployed the USNS Mercy to Southeast Asia to help with tsunami relief, it had a full staff to manage all 1,000 beds. The Navy has declined to comment on the staff shortage aboard the Comfort. See "Navy sends understaffed hospital ship to ravaged Gulf Coast," Bob Brewin, Government Health IT, 9/1/05.

Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization under fire: The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), an organization made up of more than a dozen member countries, has become powerless to enforce fishing regulations, according to a new report commissioned by Canada. NAFO regulates fishing in international waters just outside Canada's 200-mile limit, but it is severely limited in its ability to go after violators, because of its need to rely on distant nations fishing in international waters. The report is particularly negative, and suggests that the extent of reforms needed are so great the organization should just be started over. But Canada's Federal Fisheries Minister will not move immediately to have the agency dissolved. See "NAFO didn't manage fish stocks: report," Alison Auld, CP at CNEWS, 9/1/05.

Problems found with Collins class submarine design: The newspaper The Australian has revealed that a report on the Collins class submarines questions some of the assumptions made by its designers. The Swedish design firm Kockums designed Australia's Collins class submarines. A flood almost sank the HMAS Dechaineux in 2003. Had the leak that caused the flood continued for 20 more seconds, the boat would have sunk, with the loss of all 55 crew. A Navy source says that when Kockums designed the sub, they only considered a flood with water coming through a single source. The Dechaineux was hit by a faulty hose that resulted in seawater pouring in through two sources, filling the sub with twice as much water as the designers expected. The Collins class Submarine Flooding Study will be given to the Submarine Safety Board. See "Navy takes on Swedes over subs," The Australian, 9/1/05.

Louisiana's seafood industry hit by hurricane: Louisiana shrimp and oyster fisheries were wiped out by Hurricane Katrina. National Fisheries Institute President John Connelly expects them to be out of commission for the foreseeable future. The region produces 10 percent of the shrimp consumed in the US, so the impact won't be big. But the region also produces 40 percent of the oysters consumed in the country. The shortage will likely affect oyster prices and supplies from the East Coast, and possibly even the West Coast. See "Shrimp safe, but Katrina may blow oysters off menu," Paul Simao, Reuters at The Star, 9/1/05.

Katrina hits US oil industry, Jones Act temporarily waived: Hurricane Katrina shut at least eight oil refineries, reducing US fuel production by more than 10 percent and leading to scattered shortages. The refineries are expected to come back online in between a week and three to four weeks, which will undoubtedly cause more shortages. The upcoming long Labor Day weekend has also created more demand for gas. Both state leaders and President Bush have asked consumers to hold off buying gas unless they need it. The US Coast Guard reports that five oil rigs from the West Delta Platform are missing, one submersible rig is grounded, two mobile offshore drilling units are adrift, two semi- submersibles are listing, and the Mars platform owned by Royal Dutch Shell Plc is "severely damaged." Oil and gas are also severely disrupted by the shutdown of a key oil import terminal off the coast of Louisiana. The Bush administration is releasing oil from the petroleum reserves to help refiners cope with shortages caused by Katrina. Bush has also temporarily waived the Jones Act, which will allow foreign tankers to deliver oil to US ports to ease disruptions in oil supplies. See "Bush warns looters, urges Americans conserve gas," Steve Holland, Reuters, 9/1/05. Information was also taken from the US Coast Guard web site.

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