News Archive - March 2006

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UK contemplates building ship recycling center: A new strategy document, produced by Britain's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), points out that 400 vessels within the EU will require recycling by 2010, with a further 30 Ministry of Defence ships facing decommissioning by 2013. The document admonishes the UK against sending ships to be scrapped under appalling conditions in Third World countries. Instead, it suggests that the north east of England could become a new center for ship recycling. Tyneside-based Swan Hunter and Teesside-based Able UK are among the organizations being consulted. The new strategy could open the way for the four ships sent from the United States 18 months ago to finally be scrapped at the Able UK yard. See "Ghost ships may leave limbo," John Vidal, The Guardian, 3/31/06.

British team records biggest sea swells ever measured: Scientists from Britain's National Oceanography Center have just published a study on ocean waves based on research performed in 2000. The team encountered the largest waves ever measured by a scientific instrument on the open sea while sailing about 150 miles west of Scotland. Previously assumed to appear alone, the scientists encountered a group of monster waves. They believe a resonance effect was responsible: the storm was able to pump energy into the waves efficiently for a long time, building them up to giant size. The new data may spell trouble for sailors and shipbuilders, since the research suggests that giant waves may be more common than previously believed. It is rare to get direct wave height measurements. This new data should help perfect computer simulations. See "Vessel Measures Record Ocean Swells," Markus Becker, SPIEGEL ONLINE, 3/31/06.

Norway sets Arctic oil plan: Trying to balance oil firms' drive to explore the Arctic against opposition from environmentalists and the fisheries industry, Norway's government will allow Barents drilling except near coasts and the fringes of the polar ice until 2010. The long-awaited plan covers the Norwegian sector of the Barents Sea, and the region around the Lofoten islands of northern Norway. The area is believed to be rich in offshore oil and natural gas, but also has bountiful fishing stocks. Norway will impose tough environmental demands on the oil companies, as the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill showed that oil breaks down more slowly in the chill Arctic. Norwegian oil companies have long pushed for greater access to the Barents Sea, but some experts believe that new oil fields will hold less promise. See "Norway to Restrict Offshore Exploration," Doug Mellgren, Associated Press at Chron.com, 3/31/06.

Australia discusses military shipbuilding: Australia's Defence Department has reported to the Senate that there is "no strong strategic reason" to build the navy's next generation warships in the country. The Department believes that its main priority for the maritime industry is to be able to repair, maintain and upgrade warships in Australia. It warns that local construction has the potential to hurt the wealth of the nation by drawing scarce skills away from non-defense projects. Austal, Australia's leading builder of commercial ships, agrees, saying local industry can't compete for very large steel ships. While Australia is still committed to building the AWDs in South Australia, the Defence Department's view will fuel speculation that the biggest planned amphibious ships will be built offshore. See "Defence casts doubt on building warships here," Patrick Walters, The Weekend Australian, 3/31/06.

Tourist boat capsizes off Bahrain, 57 dead: The tourist boat al-Dana capsized in calm Gulf waters only a few hundred yards off the Bahrain coast on Friday. At least 57 people drowned, and 13 are still missing. The vessel was a modified version of the traditional dhow sailboat common throughout the Persian Gulf. It had recently been refitted with two decks, to host dinner cruises. The boat appears to have listed as it made a turn soon after leaving the harbor. Indian engineer Jai Kumar George told the AP from his hospital bed that "The stability of the boat wasn't good. It was oscillating so strongly when other boats were stable." Prime Minister Sheik Khalifah bin Salman Al Khalifah has directed the Interior Ministry to investigate if the ship was seaworthy, had a license to operate cruises and had followed safety regulations. See "Survivor Says Bahrain Boat Turned Sharply," Jim Krane, Associated Press at Chron.com, 3/31/06.

Beached whales mystify researchers: In January 2005, the US Navy was conducting an offshore exercise using sonar. Over the next two days, 33 pilot whales were stranded on a beach near Oregon Inlet, North Carolina, and a minke whale was found stranded about 30 miles away; the next day, two dwarf sperm whales were stranded north of Cape Hatteras. Experts from around the country have analyzed tissue samples from the whales, and were not able to reach a definitive cause for the strandings. Despite the lack of proof either way, environmental groups and the US Navy have both seized on the report as evidence in their battle over the use of sonar. See "Beached whale report is fuel for sonar battle," Scott Dodd, Charlotte Observer at The State.com, 3/30/06.

Oil tanker sinks, three still missing: A small oil tanker sank in the Gulf of Mexico about 190 miles off Puerto Progreso on the Yucatan Peninsula. Five crewmen were rescued, but three others are still missing. The Orion, which belongs to Empresa Naval Mexicana, was carrying 950 tons of heavy fuel oil. The tanker was hermetically sealed, and there was no initial spill. The ship's owner stated there was no possibility of a leak due to the cold temperatures at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, which should solidify the fuel in the vessel's tanks. Authorities are investigating the cause of the shipwreck. See "Mexican tanker sinks in GoM," Oil & Gas Journal Offshore, 3/30/06.

Many fishing boats built after the tsunami are dangerous: The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization warned on Tuesday that many of the vessels built to replace fishing boats that were damaged by or lost in the tsunami of December 26, 2004, are badly built. While no firm statistics are available, the FAO estimates that nearly 19% of the vessels built in Sri Lanka since the tsunami aren't seaworthy. Many countries hit by the disaster have no regulations covering the building of small vessels, and inexperienced or unscrupulous boat builders sometimes used inadequate materials. Jeremy Turner of the FAO's fisheries department said, "Fishing is already the world’s most hazardous occupation, and working at sea in a sub-standard boat is doubly dangerous." See "Post-tsunami boat building not up to par: FAO," The News International, Pakistan, 3/29/06.

Lack of oxygen can mean more male fish: A study released Wednesday reveals that when oxygen is reduced, newly born male zebrafish outnumber females 3-to-1, and the females have testosterone levels about twice as high as normal. Earlier studies also have found reproductive problems for males in other species in oxygen-starved waters. Although the research was performed in laboratory settings, scientists have found some correlations in the 'dead zones' that appear around the world. The stress of hypoxia — the lack of oxygen in water — tinkers with the genes that help make male and female sex hormones. Hypoxia may be a more powerful sex hormone-altering problem than the chemical pollution that has created most of the dead zones. See "Oxygen-starved fish looking for ladies," Associated Press at CNN.com, 3/29/06.

Group urges a halt to more oil tankers on Canada's Pacific coast: The BC Ferries ship Queen of the North sank in the Inside Passage near the route that proposed new oil tankers would use to reach Kitimat, British Columbia, and a proposed pipeline that would carry crude oil from Alberta's oil sands. Last week's sinking has prompted the environmental group Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) to drop plans for more tankers, as an oil spill in the area "would devastate marine environments and the communities that depend on them." Damage from the fuel slowly leaking from the ferry has been limited so far, but CPAWS said it still demonstrates the difficulty of cleaning up a spill in the relatively isolated coastal area. Others point out that the new tankers will have double hulls, which are much safer than the single-hulled Queen of the North, which was built in 1969. See "Canadian ferry sinking raises oil tanker concerns," Allan Dowd, Reuters, 3/28/06.

Port security stressed by US Homeland Security leader: Michael Chertoff, head of the US Homeland Security department, is on a tour of Asia. While in Tokyo, he said he is encouraging Japan and other countries to install radiation detectors to help stop radioactive material being smuggled into the US. Japan has been quick to allow US officials into Japanese ports, and has introduced biometric and computer chip-based passports. But Japanese ports haven't agreed to install radiation systems, partly because some operators fear the process would slow down cargo moving through their facilities. But Mr. Chertoff believes that more aggressive detection would actually speed cargo through ports, since pre-checked cargo would be cleared through US customs more quickly. Other countries, including Singapore, Thailand and Philippines, have agreed to introduce radiation detectors. See "US official urges Asia to improve port security," David Pilling and Tom Mitchell, Financial Times, 3/28/06 (subscription may be required).

Greenpeace helps Guinea catch a fishing pirate: The environmental group Greenpeace has helped authorities in Guinea to arrest a Chinese vessel fishing illegally off its coast. A Greenpeace helicopter spotted the Chinese ship Lian Run No. 14 at first light on Tuesday among a group of fishing boats about 60 miles off the coast. A Guinean naval official and a fisheries inspector were taken aboard, where they confirmed the ship had no license, and made an arrest. The Greenpeace ship Esperanza will now escort the vessel to the Guinean capital where it will be detained. Greenpeace estimates that pirate fishing accounts for close to a fifth of the world's daily catch, and it often happens off the coasts of poor countries, which lack the resources to stop it. See "Guinea catches Chinese fishing "pirates" -Greenpeace," Reuters, 3/28/06.

DP World executive's nomination pulled: President Bush nominated David Sanborn to run the US Maritime Administration in January. Sanborn was director of operations in Europe and Latin America for Dubai Ports World. There was no mention of the DP World deal to takeover P&O — and operations at several US ports — during Sanborn's confirmation hearing in February, but once the takeover was blocked by lawmakers, his nomination ran into trouble. The White House withdrew the nomination on Monday at the request of Mr. Sanborn, who said in a letter to President Bush, "the convergence of a number of factors bring me to the conclusion that I cannot effectively serve my country, you, and the US maritime industry." See "Nomination of ex-Dubai Ports official withdrawn," John Crawley, Reuters at Yahoo! News, 3/27/06.

Babcock sale spurs speculation: Babcock International hasn't commented yet, and BAE Systems and VT Group haven't made final decisions, but industry sources are already speculating about the potential shake up of the British shipbuilding industry. It is generally believed that Babcock's holdings would be split, with BAE taking on its shipyards, and VT taking its defense support services operations. There was speculation over the weekend that Thales, the French defense group, Carlyle, the US private equity firm, and Serco, the UK support services companies, could launch counter bids. See "BAE and VT look to share spoils of Babcock takeover," Philip Thornton, Independent Online Edition, 3/27/06.

New rules for tankers come into effect: New "common structural rules," designed to enhance ship safety, will go into effect on April 1, 2006. Ships built to the new rules will be more robust. In addition, both shipowners and shipyards are expected to benefit from having a single, commonly recognized standard that was developed by the International Association of Classification Societies. In general, it is likely that ships built to the new rules will use more steel, and be more expensive. As a result, shipowners are rushing to order new oil tankers before the new rules take effect. Tanker orders are said to be up 88% this year from the same period in 2005. Hyundai Heavy Industries has received the bulk of the new orders; its sales rose 25% in February. See "New rules on tankers spur orders," Will Kennedy, Bloomberg News at International Herald Tribune, 3/27/06.

Four injured in US Navy ship collision in the Persian Gulf: Four people were injured in a collision between an oil tanker and a US Navy destroyer patrolling the Persian Gulf. The oil tanker Rokya 1, flying the Kiribati flag, and the USS McCampbell collided at 11:09 p.m. on Saturday about 30 nautical miles (56 kilometers) southeast of the Iraqi coastline. Two US sailors and two crew members from the tanker were treated for minor injuries. No oil was spilled, and although the incident caused minor damage to the vessels, they were both deemed seaworthy. Saturday's collision was at least the third for a US navy vessel in the Gulf since 2004. In one of those incidents, all passengers of a small traditional Arab sailboat were killed. Damage to the US vessels was minor in both cases. See "Navy ship collides with tanker in gulf," Associated Press at USATODAY, 3/26/06.

Hong Kong firm defends cargo contract in the Bahamas: Some US lawmakers and security experts are concerned about the contract Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. has won. The Hong Kong conglomerate would help detect nuclear materials inside cargo passing through the Bahamas to the United States and elsewhere — with no American customs agents on site. But Hutchison Whampoa has defended the plan, since it wouldn't be possible for American officials to work in every port that handles cargo bound for the US. Kristi Clemens, a spokeswoman for US Customs and Border Protection, pointed out that US customs inspectors already work at 43 foreign ports, working alongside local government customs agents. Customs security procedures at the Bahamas port are not rigorous enough to qualify it for participation in the US customs security program, and no American agents work there. See "Hong Kong Firm Defends Security Plans," Associated Press at CBS News, 3/25/06.

'Ghost ship' becomes navigation hazard: Australian authorities are monitoring the movement of an unmanned ship, the Jian Seng, which has become a navigation hazard in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Customs officers boarded the 80-meter tanker about 180 kilometers southwest of Weipa this morning. Its port of registry and nationality is unknown. The ship's engines are inoperable and it is drifting slowly southwards. Customs is liaising with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority on how to secure it. A large quantity of rice was found on board; officials believe the vessel may have been used to supply fishing boats outside Australia's exclusive economic zone. See Gulf 'ghost ship' search fails to unlock mystery," ABC News Online, 3/25/06.

BAE and VT in Babcock talks: BAE Systems and VT Group are considering a joint bid for Babcock International, a move that would pave the way for the historic unification of Britain's naval shipyards. While people close to the situation said talks were still at a very early stage, the two potential bidders — which own most of Britain's shipyards — were forced by the Takeover Panel to make an announcement after mounting speculation that talks were going on. Babcock said it had not received a takeover approach. BAE Systems owns shipyards in Glasgow and Barrow, while VT Group owns the Portsmouth yards. Babcock, meanwhile, has sites in Scotland, including Rosyth and Faslane, where the Royal Navy sends its nuclear submarines for maintenance. BAE and VT have already teamed up on various MoD contracts, and all three have all been involved in a £3.5 billion program to make two new aircraft carriers for the MoD. A merger of the three would be a logical step forward as far as the ministry is concerned. See "Bid talks to unite UK's shipyards," BBC News, 3/24/06.

Couple still missing after ferry sinking: Two people were missing two days after a ferry sank while traveling between the mainland of British Columbia and Vancouver Island. The two were passengers on the Queen of the North when it sank Wednesday. Relatives say they have not heard from them since. An un-manned mini-submarine will survey the wreck to see if there is any sign of the couple. Investigators say that some passengers report seeing the couple on land after the sinking. The vessel was about 80 miles south of Prince Rupert when it struck a rock and sank. Coast Guard and local fishermen were able to rescue at least 99 people from the vessel. The ferry had thousands of gallons of oil on board, raising fears of environmental problems. Booms were being used to contain the oil, which had spread widely but has not reached land because of winds blowing offshore. See "Diving vessel to search sunken ferry for missing couple," CBC at myTELUS, 3/24/06.

Sea levels could rise dramatically this century: Scientists have been warning for decades that greenhouse gases are warming the planet and raising the seas, but studies appearing today in the journal Science suggest that sea levels could climb as high as 20 feet as a result of global warming. The studies by two teams of researchers are the first to combine data on long-term climate change and sea ice melting from both the north and south polar regions. The scientists used models of climate change widely accepted by government and university researchers and the fossil record of episodes of global warming thousands of years ago. The major concern is that unless climate change slows down significantly, the eventual loss of polar ice and subsequent rise in sea levels will be unavoidable. See "OCEANS RISING FAST, NEW STUDIES FIND," David Perlman, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/24/06.

DP World pushes ahead with Indian ports: The Indian controversy over Dubai Ports World's takeover of British ports operator P&O has stemmed mainly from objections that officials in one state were not informed of the plan. A senior DP World official said Indian criticism has been quiet in comparison to the outcry that forced the company to relinquish six major ports in the United States. The company is pressing ahead with expansion plans in India. Ganesh Raj, senior vice-president of DP World, estimates that terminals managed by DP World and P&O handle about 2.2 million 20-foot equivalent units, about 40 per cent of India's container traffic. See "DP World eyes India expansion despite criticism," Reuters at Gulfnews.com, 3/23/06.

Obsolete US navy ships won't be scrapped by deadline: Under a congressional mandate, the US Maritime Administration was supposed to have safely disposed of all unwanted, obsolete ships from the James River Reserve Fleet by September, 2006. John Jamian, acting director of the Administration, admits they won't meet this deadline. There is no penalty for missing the deadline. The oldest ships with the most chance of leaking have already been removed. Reserve fleets also can be found near Beaumont, Texas, and in Suisan Bay, California. In all, MarAd oversees about 120 junk vessels, but the James River has hosted the oldest and most environmentally risky among the three storage sites. See "Ghost Fleet will not be dismantled by deadline," Scott Harper, The Virginian-Pilot at HamptonRoads.com, 3/23/06.

Bush administration hiring foreign company to scan cargo in the Bahamas: The Bush administration is hiring Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. to help detect nuclear materials inside cargo passing through the Bahamas to the United States and elsewhere. The no-bid contract represents the first time a foreign company will be involved in running a US radiation detector at an overseas port without American customs agents present. Hutchison Whampoa is the world's largest ports operator, and an early adopter of US anti-terror measures. But its chairman, Li Ka-Shing, also has substantial business ties to China's government that have raised US concerns over the years. Several people who opposed the Dubai ports deal are also questioning whether the US should pay a foreign company with ties to China to keep radioactive material out of the US. The administration is negotiating a second no-bid contract for a Philippine company to install radiation detectors in its home country. See "U.S. Hiring Hong Kong Co. to Detect Nukes," Ted Bridis and John Solomon, Associated Press at Las Vegas SUN, 3/23/06.

Carnival ship fire kills 1: One person died of a heart attack and 11 suffered smoke inhalation today after a Carnival Corporation cruise ship caught fire. The incident may have been sparked by a cigarette, which set fire to furniture on a balcony. The Star Princess was carrying 2,690 passengers and 1,123 crew members. The ship remains docked in Montego Bay, where teams are assessing the damage. The ship sailed from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, four days ago, bound for Jamaica. Injured passengers were treated by Jamaican paramedics at the pier, and displaced travelers are staying in hotel rooms booked by the Jamaican tourist board, until they can be flown home. About 200 travelers were unable to return to their burned cabins. See "Cigarette Suspected in Cruise Ship Fire," Associated Press at CBS News, 3/23/06.

BC ferry sinks in Wright Sound: Passengers on an overnight British Columbian ferry were torn from their sleep Wednesday morning and thrown into a living nightmare, evacuating onto lifeboats that tossed and swayed on choppy seas for more than an hour. The Queen of the North hit a rock off Gil Island in Wright Sound. It sank within an hour, suggesting it was a major hit. Ninety-nine passengers and crew were accounted for, saved by the efficiency of coast guard rescuers, Hartley Bay fishermen and residents, and members of the aboriginal band Gitk'a'ata. But BC Ferries was unable to find two passengers, although they were seen on land after the rescue. Investigators from the Transportation Safety Board were expected to arrive in Prince Rupert late Wednesday afternoon. See "Passengers rescued from stormy seas as B.C. ferry sinks," CP at myTELUS, 3/22/06.

The Canadian Coast Guard said the ferry went down with an estimated 222,000 liters (58,646 gallons) of diesel fuel, and 23,000 liters of lube oil (6,076 gallons). The sinking of the Queen of the North could become the worst maritime spill disaster to hit the BC coast in close to 20 years. Paul Ross, emergency response coordinator for Environment Canada in Vancouver predicted the cleanup operations would take at least two weeks. A large fuel slick is already visible where the accident happened. See "Thousands of litres of oil threaten coastal wildlife," Larry Pynn, Vancouver Sun at Canada.com, 3/23/06.

Germany allows 'pirate' trawlers to leave its port: A fleet of five trawlers has been blacklisted by the European Union for engaging in illegal and unreported fishing. The ships are known to have contributed to the collapse of redfish stocks in the north Atlantic, and are suspected of engaging in the destructive practice of bottom trawling. Despite protests by Greenpeace, the ships were given permission to leave their winter berths in Rostock. The presence of pirate fishing vessels was an embarrassment to the German government, but authorities had no legal power to stop the vessels from leaving the harbor. However, Greenpeace believes that the German authorities may have turned a blind eye. See "EU hunts 'pirate' fishing fleet allowed to sail by Germany," Tony Paterson, The Independent Online Edition, 3/22/06.

Malaysia urges lifting Strait off list: Malaysia took the launching of a new coast guard unit at Port Klang as an opportunity to urge insurance companies to remove the Malacca Strait from a list of dangerous waterways. Lloyd's Market Association's Joint War Committee added the Strait to a list of 20 areas worldwide that it deemed security threats to shipping. But Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Najim Razak pointed out that there was only once case of piracy on the straits in the second half of last year, compared with 18 cases for 2004. The classification by the LMA, a body that advises members of insurer Lloyd's of London, could result in some underwriters imposing additional premiums on ships traveling through the Strait. See "No reason to classify Straits of Malacca as war zone," The Star, 3/22/06.

Old British warship dumped on Pakistan: Britain's The Sunday Telegraph reported on March 19 that the Sir Geraint was being broken up at the Gadani shipyard in Balochistan in violation of international law. The ship has asbestos and other toxins on board. The ship in question was sold by the UK Ministry of Defence to Babcock Support Services (BBS), reportedly on the condition that it would not be sent to South Asia for scrapping. BBS is said to have attached a similar proviso when it sold the vessel to Regency Projects. But the ship was ultimately purchased by Bismillah Maritime Breakers, which had it dismantled at Gadani. Worldwide Fund for Nature - Pakistan plans to approach the courts over what appears to be a clear violation of the Basel Convention. Apparently, workers and supervisors at Gadani were unaware that the ship even contained asbestos, although workers weren't saying much to reporters. See "Toxic ship dismantled at Gadani," Karachi News at The News, 3/22/06.

India rejects wrongdoing in submarine deal: The Indian government has rejected allegations of corruption in a multi-billion dollar submarine deal with France. Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee told parliament there was "no irregularity" in the contract to buy six Scorpene submarines from two French firms. The deal was part of an agreement finalized during Indian PM Manmohan Singh's visit to France last September. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party says the government paid 4% of the contract in commission to middlemen, one of whom is said to be close to the ruling Congress party. Mr. Mukherjee said the claims were simply untrue. The defense minister also denied charges that the government had paid more than the estimated cost of the submarines. Mr Mukherjee strongly defended the deal, saying the Indian and French governments had for the first time signed integrity pacts to ensure complete transparency in defense deals. See "Indian minister denies bribery in defence deal with French firm," AFP at Yahoo! News, 3/21/06.

Tampa port members don't want a petroleum pipeline: Constituents in Florida's Tampa port are concerned about a proposal to build a clean petroleum pipeline across the state. Timothy Shusta, a board member of the Tampa Port Maritime Industry Association, expressed concerns at a port authority meeting, saying the proposal would supplant 40% of all vessel movement in the port of Tampa. Commissioner Joe Hartley is also concerned about the impact it would have on local shipyards and other businesses. Port director Richard Wainio admits that millions of dollars are linked to shipping oil to the state. But, he also pointed out that the proposal is a long way from moving forward. Proponents of the proposal believe the underwater pipeline would be more secure, particularly during hurricane season. See "Tampa port businesses oppose petroleum pipeline construction," Agustina Guerrero, Tampa Bay Business Journal, 3/21/06.

Failure to protect water will worsen poverty: A study coordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) brought together evidence from about 1,500 researchers throughout the world to study water issues. The UN report concludes that ending subsidies on pesticides and fertilizers, and realistic pricing on water, would reduce demand and pollution. Further, the report states that a lack of adequate protective measures now will lead to greater problems in the future. Farming poses the biggest threat to fresh water supplies, as the careless use of pesticides and fertilizers can not only ruin fresh water supplies, but also run into the sea and damage marine life. But the report also studied various fishing practices. Protective measures are working in some areas, but there is great concern over destructive fishing methods that are still in use. See "Farms 'big threat' to fresh water," BBC News, 3/21/06.

Fight between US Navy and alleged pirates is probed: An investigation is underway of the capture of alleged Somali pirates on Saturday. Twelve suspects are being held by the US Navy; one gunman was killed during the exchange of gunfire. A spokesman for the suspects said they were protecting fishing stocks from being seized by foreign vessels, and that the US Navy ships opened fire first. But Somalia's State Minister of Parliament and Government Relations had no doubt that the men were pirates. US Navy personnel seized several automatic weapons and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher from the suspects. Part of the investigation will focus on how and where the suspects will face trial. See "US Navy Probes Shoot-Out With Pirates off Somalia," Cathy Majtenyi, VOA News, 3/20/06.

List of endangered rivers in British Columbia released: The Outdoor Recreation Council has released its 14th annual list of British Columbia's most endangered rivers. The Cheakamus River near Squamish and the steelhead streams of the Georgia Basin share the top of the list. A CN Rail car derailment last August spilled caustic soda into the Cheakamus River last August. More than 500,000 fish of various species died, and it could take 50 years for stocks to recover. Threats to the steelhead in the Georgia Basin include low summer flows on a host of rivers with dams or weirs. The province has stated its intention to increase support for the Living Rivers Program soon to a total of $21 million, and ambitious plans are already underway. But more work needs to be done. See "Annual list of endangered B.C. rivers," Larry Pynn, The Vancouver Sun, 3/20/06.

DP World takeover of P&O hits a new snag: India's Gujarat Maritime Board, the port regulator in the western state, has moved against Dubai Ports World takeover of P&O, as it would involve the takeover of Mundra International Container Terminal (MICT). When P&O bought MICT three years ago, the contract stated it would own the terminal for at least seven years. The Gujarat Maritime Board now claims that P&O's sale of MICT to DP World is a breach of that contract. Several other container terminals due to be transferred have also raised questions. The Gujarat Maritime Board hasn't raised any issues regarding monopoly, but any takeover would mean that the merged entity would handle more than 50% of India's container traffic. See "Dubai hits fresh trouble over ports takeover," Anto Joseph Mumbai, The Observer, 3/19/06.

Royal Navy sonar implicated in whale deaths: For the first time, the Royal Navy has been implicated in whale deaths. An examination of four Cuvier's beaked whales, stranded on Spain's Almeira coast at the end of January, point to sonar which was being used by a British warship in the area at the time. Although the Ministry of Defence said, "We use sonar in an environmentally responsible way," the post-mortem on the whales concluded that the most likely cause of death was "anti-submarine active mid-frequency sonar used during the military naval exercises." See "Royal Navy sonar blamed for deaths of four whales," Jonathan Owen and Geoffrey Lean, Independent Online, 3/19/06.

US Navy kills, wounds suspected pirates off Somalia: Two US Navy ships returned fire on Saturday on a group of suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia, killing one and wounding five. The incident occurred in the Indian Ocean about 25 miles off the coast of Somalia as the USS Cape St. George and the USS Gonzalez conducted maritime security operations. A vessel was seen towing two smaller skiffs. As inspection teams prepared to conduct a routine boarding, the Navy ships noticed the suspected pirates brandished what appeared to be rocket-propelled grenade launchers. The suspected pirates then opened fire on the Navy ships. The two ships returned fire with small arms. No US sailors were wounded in the incident. See "US warships kill 'pirate' after attack off Somalia," AFP at Yahoo! News, 3/18/06.

'Blue tide' dead zones found in Osaka Bay: Osaka Bay has a dozen or so major seabed holes, left after sand was dredged for land reclamation projects from the 1960s to the 1980s. Researchers used to think that blue tide occurred when large sections of oxygen-deprived water in stagnant areas rose to the surface, but now they believe that these seabed holes are to blame: the water in the holes tends to stagnate, and the plankton within exhaust all the oxygen and die. Their bodies decompose and are consumed by microbes, which in turn use up more oxygen. Soon, the water is a dead zone with little to no oxygen, killing off most of the marine life in the area. The water turns white or blue-green, giving blue tide its name. The best way to reverse the problem is to refill the holes, but the costs are prohibitive. Unfortunately, Osaka Bay is in trouble ecologically. See "Cover Story: Dead zones," Akihito Nakayama, The Asahi Shimbun, 3/18/06.

Pirates attack UN food ship off Somalia: On Friday, the head of the Piracy Reporting Centre of the London-based International Maritime Bureau warned that heavily armed pirates had fired on a United Nations food aid ship off Somalia. The event took place on Monday, after the ship MV Rozen had discharged its cargo. Noel Choong said the ship managed to outrun the pirates, and also rammed their vessel. This is the fourth pirate attack off Somalia so far in 2006. See "UN ship attacked off Somalia," AFP at News24.com, 3/17/06.

Mauritania, Spain discuss migrant crisis: Scores of men from around West Africa set out every night in rickety fishing boats to try to reach Spain's Canary Islands almost 500 miles away. The Spanish Red Cross estimates that more than 1,000 lives have been lost in the attempt since the start of the year. Mauritania has called for international help to prevent loss of life, and a Spanish delegation met with Mauritanian military chiefs on Thursday to discuss the crisis. Mauritania has become the new route for those trying to smuggle themselves out of Africa since Morocco tightened its northern borders under pressure from the European Union late last year. Around 1,000 sub-Saharan Africans were arriving in Mauritania's northern port of Nouadhibou every month to prepare for the crossing to Europe. See "Mauritania, Spain scramble to stem migrant crisis," Nick Tattersall, Reuters, 3/17/06.

US Maritime Administrator appointment delayed: In January, President Bush nominated David Sanborn, DP World's director of operations for Europe and Latin America, to head the US Maritime Administration. But the controversy surrounding DP World's purchase of P&O, which would have put the UAE company in control of some operations at six US ports, has put any appointment on hold. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida says he will hold the nomination until he knows more about Sanborn's role in the purchase, and until details of DP World's sale of US port operations are known. See "Former DP World Exec's Nomination Held Up," Leslie Miller, Associated Press at Chron.com, 3/16/06.

Canadian Admiral admits British subs are costly to maintain: Canada's Navy usually depict their purchase of four Victoria-class submarines from Britain as a great deal, going through a few teething pains. But in a rare public move, Rear Admiral Dan McNeil, commander of Joint Task Force Atlantic, admitted that the subs are costing more to maintain than expected because they sat idle for years while Ottawa pondered their purchase. Part of the problem is that the HMC Dockyard workforce isn't large enough. In 1998, the federal government awarded a six-year submarine maintenance contract to Britain's BAE Systems Marine Ltd. for $86 million. The value of the contract is now at $258 million. The cost of making HMCS Chicoutimi seaworthy again is expected to reach $100 million. McNeil refused to say how much more it will cost to maintain the subs in the future. Only one of the boats, HMCS Windsor, is able to go to sea right now. See "Admiral: Mothballing made subs costly to maintain," Chris Lambie, The ChronicleHerald.ca, 3/16/06.

Tug skipper was drunk: The skipper of a coastguard tug which ran aground off Shetland last year has pleaded guilty to being drunk in charge of the vessel. Peter Leask was more than three times over the legal alcohol limit. He also admitted two other charges, including spilling 84 tons of diesel oil into the sea after hitting rocks. Clean up costs were more than £3 million. The Anglian Sovereign ran aground on September 3 last year outside Scalloway Harbour. The 13 crew on the vessel were airlifted to safety, leaving Leask on board. He reversed the tug off the rocks and sailed into the harbor, leaking fuel all the way. Wildlife in the area suffered from the spill and the vessel was so badly damaged a section had to be rebuilt. Sentencing will take place in April. See "Oil-leak tug skipper three times over alcohol limit," Pete Bevington, The Scotsman, 3/16/06.

US Navy's shipbuilding costs keep rising: The final cost of the US Navy's newest ship, the amphibious transport dock San Antonio, was supposed to have been about $830 million. But the final cost of the ship is expected to reach $1.85 billion. Admiral Mike Mullen, the chief of naval operations, has chided executives of Northrop Grumman Corp. about their performance. The Navy is having trouble controlling costs on other shipbuilding projects as well. According to the Government Accountability Office, costs have surged a combined $1.1 billion on aircraft carriers, submarines and destroyers already in production in the past dozen years. Costs also are climbing for ships on the drawing boards. Senator John McCain (R Arizona) commented that "the cost escalation has been astronomical." See "Amid higher ship costs, top admiral chides Northrop Grumman," The Virginian-Pilot, 3/15/06.

Cost overruns on UK submarines probed: Defense contractor BAE Systems is now facing Parliament members for the second time on the Astute-class nuclear submarine project, to answer questions about delays and overspending. A number of factors caused the cost of the project to rise from $4.49 billion to $6.1 billion, but the main culprit seems to be the CAD program chosen for the project, which wasn't suitable for the job. BAE Systems renegotiated the contract in 2003 when it realized that the CAD system was causing problems. BAE said it will take no profit in 2006 for the Astute contract; the company is this year bidding for a contract to build a fourth submarine. See "U.K. probes costly tech failure for submarines," Dan Ilett, Silicon.com at ZDNet News, 3/15/06.

Arctic sea ice is not re-forming: Scientists are now convinced that Arctic sea ice is showing signs of both a winter and a summer decline that could indicate a major acceleration in its long-term rate of disappearance. The greatest fear is that an environmental "positive feedback" has kicked in, where global warming melts ice which in itself causes the seas to warm still further as more sunlight is absorbed by a dark ocean rather than being reflected by white ice. Although sea levels are not affected by melting sea ice — which floats on the ocean — the Arctic ice cover is thought to be a key moderator of the northern hemisphere's climate. It helps to stabilize the massive land glaciers and ice sheets of Greenland, which have the capacity to raise sea levels dramatically. See "Climate change 'irreversible' as Arctic sea ice fails to re-form," Steve Connor, The Independent Online, 3/14/06.

Oil slick found off Estonia's northern coast: A major oil slick has been detected off the coast of Estonia, one week after a cargo vessel sank in the Baltic Sea. The pollution is about 26 miles (42 kilometers) away from where the Runner 4 sank, but materials from the freighter have been recovered near the slick. In addition, an underwater video shows a breach in the hull. The spill has been estimated at up to 40 tons of heavy fuel oil, although that number has been disputed, and the ice and snow makes measurement difficult. The Runner 4 had 102 tons of heavy fuel on board when it sank. See "New oil slick spotted off Estonia," AFP at Yahoo! News, 3/13/06.

Foreign owned ships run US military supply lines: Only 15 of the 60 ships contracted by the Pentagon to carry supplies to US military forces are owned by US companies. The arrangement is coming under new scrutiny as a result of the furor over the now-canceled plan to have Dubai Ports World take over management of US ports. Mississippi Representative Gene Taylor wants Congress to require all cargo ships that supply US military forces to be owned by US companies. Otherwise, he says, the military might miss supplies if a foreign-owned vessel suddenly pulled out of the program. But the Defense Department has pointed out in the past that there are very few ships owned by US companies that they could use. See "Foreign owners tied to US fleet," Kevin Baron and Michael Kranish, The Boston Globe, 3/12/06.

Smuggling cocaine by sea: Smuggling cocaine by sea has become more popular than using small airplanes, as new radar systems have made it more difficult to do so undetected. On Thursday, the Colombian Navy seized a 60-foot long fiberglass submarine that was likely used to haul cocaine — although no drugs were found on board. In a separate joint US-Colombian operation on Friday, the Navy stopped a speedboat carrying three tons of cocaine. See "Colombian Navy Takes Sub in Smuggling Bust," Associated Press at CBS News, 3/11/06.

China's growth could destroy the Bohai Sea: China's economy is expanding by 8% every year. But the price of this growth on environmental concerns is clear to see. Environmental advisers have warned that the Bohai Sea could be "dead" within 12 years if urgent action isn't taken to clean its waters. More than a third of Bohai's water falls short of even basic clean water standards, and some reports show 80 per cent of sea areas near effluent outlets were heavily polluted. "Almost no river that flows into the Bohai Sea is clean," reports Liu Quanfang, an adviser to the annual National People's Congress. Between 1990 and 2004, there were 83 "red tides" in the Bohai Sea. About 2.8 billion tons of contaminated water is dumped into the 31,200-square-mile body of water every year. Environmental advisers say that a unified, coordinated response to the current devastation must be started soon. See "China's boom is killing sea that gives it life, warn scientists," Clifford Coonan, The Independent Online, 3/10/06.

The Bering Sea is getting warmer: The Bering Sea is considered one of the world's most productive fisheries. A new study has found that rising air and water temperatures are altering its environment from Arctic to sub-Arctic conditions. The cold-water creatures that live there are starting to move north in search of cooler waters — which is causing problems for people who live off them. In the southeast, scientists have observed a complete loss of sea ice, and in the north, the quality of the sea ice has changed. In addition, warming temperatures are creating an inviting haven for animals that were previously confined to the warmer waters of the south. The scientists plan to continue their research over the next few years. See "Bering Sea Altered by Warm Conditions," Sara Goudarzi, LiveScience.com at Yahoo! News, 3/10/06.

Luna the whale feared dead after being struck by tugboat: Luna the killer whale appears to have been killed after getting sucked into the propeller of a tugboat in the waters off British Columbia's Gold River, where the whale has been living for the past five years. The whale was apparently drawn into the tug's propeller while it was idling in rough waters. Luna arrived in Nootka Sound, just off Gold River, in 2001 after he got separated from his pod. By 2004, Luna's playful bumping up against boats and float planes had become a serious hazard. Fisheries officials devised a plan to have him relocated down the coast toward Victoria in an effort to have him reunited with his pod, but the mission was abandoned after local aboriginals protested. The Mowachaht-Muchalaht believe Luna embodied the spirit of their dead chief. See "Lost, lonely whale feared killed by boat," Allan Dowd, Reuters, 3/10/06.

Dubai Ports World backs out of US operations: United Arab Emirates-owned Dubai Ports World has bowed to pressure from Congress, and announced it will sell off its US port operations to an American owner. The announcement came just hours after House and Senate Republican leaders told President Bush that Congress would kill the company's acquisition of London-based P&O and its operations at six major US ports. It isn't clear which US company is willing, or able, to buy DP World's North American properties. DP World executives and others have estimated the value of P&O's US operations at roughly $700 million. But experts believe it's unlikely DP World can sell its newly acquired US business for that price, given the political pressure to quickly hand over those operations to an American company. They warned this could become an expensive case of buyer's remorse. See "Storm sinks ports deal," Jonathan Weisman and Bradley Graham, Washington Post at TimesUnion.com, 3/10/06.

Bottom trawling banned in some US waters: The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has banned bottom trawling in nearly 384,000 square kilometers of federal waters off the West Coast. This is only about half the area that environmentalists and the fishing industry were hoping for. The ban was spurred by a lawsuit filed by environmental groups that accused the federal government of mismanaging fish habitat. Trawl fishing is already limited in California state waters and banned in Washington waters. Other types of fishing are allowed in the no-trawl zones. See "Bottom trawling banned in some areas off California, Oregon and Washington," Associated Press at Canada.com, 3/9/06.

Japan and China fail to agree on joint energy projects: Talks between Japan and China ended on Tuesday with a Chinese proposal to jointly develop the gas fields, an offer Japan rejected on Wednesday. Japan itself had previously proposed a joint development plan, pertaining to all the disputed gas fields, something China rejected. China has now offered something more limited: the joint exploitation of gas fields around a group of islands hotly contested by both countries. Japan and China have long had overlapping claims in the East China Sea. China refuses to recognize Japan's off-shore border, believing its own territory runs further east to the edge of the continental shelf. Four rounds of talks on the issue have now failed to reach agreement. See "Japan Rejects New Chinese Proposal On Joint Energy Projects," Agence France-Presse at IndustryWeek, 3/8/06.

US considers short-sea shipping to ease truck congestion: US federal officials and the transportation industry hope to increase short-sea shipping in the country as a way to ease traffic congestion caused by trucks. Domestic cargo volumes are expected to increase by about 70% by 2025, while international trade is expected to at least double. The load would be enormous for truck and rail service. Already, truck traffic, which is responsible for moving 78% of the nation's freight, is being delayed in major cities, and a shortage of drivers is making expansion difficult. But in a July report, the Government Accountability Office questioned whether US ships, which are expensive to build and operate, could compete with trucks. See "Looking to the Water to Ease Congestion on Land," Dan Weikel, Los Angeles Times, 3/8/06.

Zim Asia accident report released: On September 28, 2005, Zim Asia collided with a Japanese fishing boat off Japan's Hokkaido shore, causing the death of seven fishermen. Israel's Transport Ministry has castigated the Zim Israel Navigation company, and has found the ship's captain and first officer indirectly responsible for the accident. The ministry's report also finds problems on the Zim Asia's bridge, and failures in the company's command chain. Despite these conclusions, the State Prosecutor and police have decided not to indict anyone from Zim's management, nor the captain (who was asleep during the accident) and first officer. Only Second Officer Pilastro Zdravko, a foreign citizen from Montenegro, was indicted for causing death by negligence. See "Ministry report blames Zim for last year's Japanese boating accident, Uri Blau, Haaretz.com, 3/7/06.

Researchers try to control a shark's mind: Researchers at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center are working on a DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) project that might let them control sharks. The research entails creating a neural implant to enable the researchers to remotely manipulate a shark's brain signals. This could eventually allow them to control the animal's movements, and possibly decode their perceptions. The researchers hope to detect and decipher the neural patterns that correspond to shark activities like sensing an ocean current, a particular scent in the water or an electrical field. If they can succeed in these experiments, it might be possible to control a free-swimming shark; it could be trained to track enemy ships or submarines, or to detect underwater mines or cables. See "Military Plans Cyborg Sharks," Bill Christensen, Technovelgy.com at Yahoo! News, 3/7/06.

More details on Dubai Ports World deal: Much has been said about the six US ports that Dubai Ports World will take charge of when its purchase of P&O is formally closed. But although DP World would manage and operate some cargo or passenger terminal facilities in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia, the deal also gives the company a lesser role in other dockside activities at 16 other US seaports. For example, DP World would operate stevedoring operations that employ longshoremen to load and unload cargo on behalf of a port's terminal operators at the ports of Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Corpus Christi, Texas; Gulfport, Mississippi; Lake Charles, Louisiana; and Portland, Maine. US lawmakers from both parties continue to criticize the move. See "Ports deal: Full scope of firm's U.S. role tallied," Ted Bridis, The Associated Press at The Seattle Times, 3/7/06.

The impact of cruise ships on the environment: This year will see the maiden voyage of the cruise industry's latest record-breaker, Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas, and the next record-breaker is already being planned — Carnival's Project Genesis. But as passenger numbers grow, so, too, do concerns about cruising's impact on the environment. The Hawaii-based campaign group Earthjustice claims that the average liner visiting the Pacific islands produces the equivalent air pollution of 12,240 cars. And much of the waste from a voyage (garbage, grey water, sewage and oil-contaminated water) is dumped straight into the sea, with only some being treated. While environmental laws are getting more strict, ships may still dump waste liquid, treated or not, into what are often sensitive marine environments. See "Is it OK ... to go on a cruise?," Leo Hickman, Guardian Unlimited, 3/7/06.

China and Japan meet again to discuss maritime border: Japan and China have long been in 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 area is located close to what Japan claims as the median line that separates the two countries' 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zones. Each side is afraid of losing potentially lucrative natural gas fields. The two countries are meeting for a fourth time to discuss their border. The talks are expected to focus on China's response to a Japanese proposal on joint development of the gas fields, although it isn't clear that either side expects much progress. Relations between the two countries are poor. See "Japan, China resume gas dialogue," Quentin Somerville, BBC News, 3/6/06.

40 migrants drown off the West African coast: Two shipwrecks over the weekend claimed the lives of 40 African migrants hoping to reach Europe. More than 40 people were rescued in the incidents, which took place in waters north of the Mauritanian coastal city of Nouadhibou, off the coasts of Western Sahara and Morocco. In one incident, an open boat carrying 43 people broke in two and sank after colliding in rough seas with a Moroccan vessel which had come to its assistance. In the other, another open boat carrying 45 migrants capsized. Another vessel carrying migrants put out a distress call on Monday, but there are no details of this incident. Driven by poverty and dreams of a better life in Europe and elsewhere, thousands of Africans leave their homelands every year on hazardous clandestine journeys by land and sea. But hundreds drown or die in the attempt. See "40 migrants drown off Africa," Reuters at CNN.com, 3/6/06.

WTO negotiations point out US sensitivity to granting access to ports: Several trading partners asked the US to open up its port services to international competition during the World Trade Organisation's "Doha round" of global trade negotiations last week. The proposal, which has been made before, stands almost no chance of success. The US has long been protective of its shipping and other maritime companies. The EU emphasized it had asked the US to liberalize ports several times before, and the timing of this request during the Dubai Ports World/P&O takeover battle was a "pure coincidence." The service sector talks are one of the three main parts of the Doha negotiations, along with industrial goods and agriculture. The EU wants new access to emerging markets' service industries in return for cutting farm tariffs and subsidies. See "Trading partners request access to US ports," Financial Times at MSN Money, 3/5/06.

Port pollution highlighted: The International Longshore and Warehouse Union hopes to substantially reduce air pollutants at ports worldwide. Cargo ships using heavy bunker fuel are partly responsible for making ports major sources of pollution, worsened by fleets of diesel-powered trucks that carry cargo in and out of facilities. Numerous studies have associated fine particulate matter, mainly from diesel, with a variety of respiratory and cardiovascular problems. Some West Oakland, California residents — near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach — are exposed to roughly five times more diesel particulates than residents in other parts of the city. The particulates are 90 times more concentrated than the state average, according to a 2003 report by a nonprofit advocacy group. The ILWU's first step will be to lobby shipowners to reduce harmful emissions by installing new technologies. See "SHIPPING'S DIRTY CARGO," George Raine, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/4/06.

Fishermen will fight plan to drill off Florida's coast: Commercial and sport fishermen, and the tourism industry, are looking ahead to the upcoming battle over plans to allow drilling in the established fishing area off the coast of Florida known as Lease 181. The area is thought to contain 330 billion barrels of oil and 3.4 trillion cubic feet of gas. But the area is important to domestic fishing fleets. A moratorium on drilling in the region, imposed by Bill Clinton, ends next January. The Bush administration wants to open up at least two million acres of the five million acres in the original Lease 181, and bills that would open parts of the area are already being reviewed. But many residents of Florida plan to fight. See "The battle over Lease 181," Peter Morton, Financial Post at National Post, 3/4/06.

Global leaders unite to end pirate fishing: Global leaders in oceans governance have joined forces to fight the international problem of pirate fishing. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is now seen as one of the main obstacles to achieving sustainable global fisheries. Fisheries Ministers from Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Namibia, together with representatives from WWF, the World Conservation Union and the Earth Institute, have created a High Seas Task Force to deal with the problem. The Task Force is now making recommendations in response to a lack of international focus and practical action on the critical issue of overfishing. The program will track pirate trawlers with a new database, and urges tighter rules for trawlers, better monitoring of marine stocks, and improved international cooperation to catch pirates. See "Pirate Trawlers Face Crackdown on Overfishing," Reuters at RedOrbit, 3/3/06.

Korean military talks break down over border demand: High-level military talks between South and North Korea broke down over the North's demand that the Cold War rivals draw a new border in disputed waters in the Yellow Sea. The North had asked South Korea at the talks that began Thursday to consider redrawing the sea border. Although the 154-mile (248-kilometer) land border known as the demilitarized zone (DMZ) is recognized by both Koreas, the maritime border has been disputed. North Korea insisted the sea border was unilaterally drawn by the United Nations1953 when the three-year Korean War ended in a fragile armistice. The meeting ended without agreement, and with no further talks scheduled. The navies of the two Koreas fought deadly battles in the western sea in 1999 and 2002, and fishing boats from the two sides routinely jostle for position during the May-June crab season. See "Koreas fail to reach agreement," Associated Press at CNews, 3/3/06.

More opposition to US ports deal: Representative Duncan Hunter of California will push legislation that would not only stop Dubai Ports World from operating in US ports, but also remove any foreign-owned company that owns US terminals or other key infrastructure. The Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee plans to introduce a bill next week. Hunter's move is in direct opposition to President Bush, who has vowed to veto any legislation that would block the deal. Lawmakers from both parties have demanded changes to the interagency panel that approved the deal and others involving foreign companies. See "Lawmaker vows to kill ports deal," Amy Fagan, The Washington Times, 3/3/06.

Critics in the Senate want to hold a new hearing on David Sanborn, nominated by President Bush to head the US Maritime Administration. Sanborn is a former top official of Dubai Ports World. Some wonder if there is a conflict of interest with his proposed new role, and others wonder if he played any part in arranging the deal. Both the Bush administration and a spokesman for the Maritime Administration deny that Sanborn was involved in the negotiations, but others point out Sanborn was working for Dubai Ports World when the deal went through. See "Agency nominee taking Senate heat," Michael Kranish, The Boston Globe, 3/3/06.

Tanker spill in the Suez Canal causes damage: The Liberian-flagged tanker Grigoroussa 1 leaked about 3,000 tons of heavy fuel into the Suez Canal on Tuesday when it broke down and drifted into a quay. The rest of the 58,000 tons of its heavy fuel cargo was safely pumped out, and the vessel was moved out of the canal with tugs. But Egypt's environment minister reports some $12 million in environmental damage. The slick has spread 30 kilometers (almost 19 miles). See "Suez tanker spill caused major damage," IOL, 3/2/06.

EU gets tough on fish stock conservation rules: The French government was fined £14 million in a landmark European court case last July for not complying with a 1991 verdict that the authorities had failed to prevent illegal over-fishing. But the European Commission now says the situation hasn't improved, and has ordered France to pay a £40 million penalty for failing to enforce EU fishing rules for nearly 15 years. The fine must now be paid every six months until an adequate fisheries control system is in place which respects EU stock conservation rules. See "France in £40m illegal fishing fine," The Press Association at Scotsman.com, 3/1/06.

Hurricane damage is still being felt in the US oil industry: Six months after Hurricane Katrina, more than a quarter of the Gulf of Mexico's oil output is still shut down, and the oil companies are racing against the clock — the next hurricane season begins in less than four months. All of the major producers received significant damage, and as a result the industry is facing a shortage of ships and qualified crews, marine technicians and offshore experts. The Gulf Coast is the most sensitive region for US energy supplies. Refineries in Texas and Louisiana account for nearly half of domestic capacity, and most of those were hurt by the storms. Today, as much as 6% of the total US refining capacity remains shut down, although the US Energy Department believes most of that should be back by the end of March. See "Fixing up offshore U.S. oil rigs, Jad Mouawad, The New York Times at International Herald Tribune, 3/1/06.

Chinese shipbuilders aim for global leadership: Chinese shipbuilders plan to double production capacity by 2010, undercutting competitors in South Korea and Japan in their bid to increase market share. China State Shipbuilding Corp.'s new shipyard on Changxing Island near Shanghai is expected to overtake Korea's Hyundai Heavy as the world's biggest when it's completed in 2015. As well as the Changxing project, new shipbuilding docks are planned at Bohai in northern China, and Guangzhou in the South. The growth in China's shipbuilding industry may cause today's vessel prices to fall, although it may take several years as yards complete current orders. China State Shipbuilding will complete the country's first LNG ship this year, which is the most expensive and technically complicated type of cargo ship. See "China's Expanding Shipyards Threaten Glut, Hyundai's Profit," Bloomberg.com, 3/1/06.

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