News Archive - June 2006

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French company is building a wing-in-ground-effect ferry: The French Government has awarded a substantial prize to Focus 21, a Marseilles company that will develop a wing-in-ground-effect ferry called the Aéroptère. Focus 21 plans to have a prototype, based on experience built by the Russians, Americans and Australians, flying within three years. The French company says it should provide transport at half the cost of an airplane to operate, and is five times faster than a fast boat. Wingboats exploit ground effect, the zone of highly efficient lift that birds use, and which pilots feel briefly before landing and after take-off. The technology was pioneered by the Russians for military use. The first commercial wingboat is the Australian FS-8 Flightship, which carries eight passengers at about 100 knots. One Aéroptère breakthrough is a system for deflecting thrust downwards to help the take-off, which is performed by accelerating on the water like a traditional seaplane. After lifting off, much less power is needed to keep the wingboat flying than for either a fast boat or aircraft. See "The ferry that will not even touch the water," Charles Bremner, The Times Online, 6/30/06.

Trident submarines could be scaled back: Britain's Commons Defence Committee believes the country could consider scaling back its strategic nuclear deterrent in the light of the reduced threat of a nuclear attack. The MoD has always argued that the "continuous-at-sea deterrent cycle" (CASD) is necessary to avoid a misunderstanding if a Trident submarine was to set sail during a time of heightened international tensions. But the Committee's report suggests that in the post-Cold War era, it may no longer be necessary always to maintain a Trident nuclear submarine at sea. Such a move would mark a major shift in the posture of the nuclear submarine force which has formed the basis of Britain's strategic deterrent for almost 40 years. Additionally, the plan would likely require fewer submarines. The Committee's report comes as the Government is considering whether to acquire a replacement for the ageing Trident force, with a decision due later this year. See "Brown offered compromise over Trident row," Colin Brown, Belfast Telegraph, 6/30/06.

Old naval ships don't bring much cash for the UK: According to figures obtained by the Guardian, a plan for the UK to recoup some cash from the end of the cold war has failed. Nine modern frigates from the Royal Navy's fleet of 26 have recouped less than £5 million, despite a five-year sales effort by the Ministry of Defence. One of the frigates had to be sold for scrap, two others were blown up for target practice, two were sold to Romania in a deal marked by corruption allegations, and four more are now being transferred to Chile at giveaway prices. Even more questionable is that most of the money raised is going to arms companies. For example, last year BAE Systems helped close a deal to sell three more modern frigates to Chile. They cost £295 million to build, and are selling for an apparent price of £135. But the taxpayer has so far received none of the money. BAE, as prime contractor to modernize the ships, is to receive the entire sum from Chile. The MoD hopes to make some return to the taxpayer from the sale of further equipment and services, but "the final figures will not be known until the project is complete." See "Scant return on navy's £1.2bn frigate sale," David Leigh and Rob Evans, The Guardian, 6/29/06.

California ports will reduce diesel pollution: Officials at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have unveiled a $2 billion, five-year plan to reduce diesel pollution from cargo ships, trains and trucks by more than 50%. Officials are so keen on reducing health risks to dockworkers and communities around the docks, loading facilities, and other locations near port traffic, that they are prepared to lose some business as a consequence of the aggressive new rules. Studies have shown that diesel exhaust causes cancer, and is responsible for 70% of pollution-related health problems, and hundreds of deaths annually in the Los Angeles region. Under the plan, which is expected to be approved by both port commissions in September, each port will require international cargo ships to run on low-sulfur fuel within 20 nautical miles of the harbor, and will require nearly all freighters to use electric power while unloading, rather than burning diesel fuel. See "L.A., Long Beach Ports Produce Plan to Reduce Diesel Emissions," Janet Wilson, Los Angeles Times, 6/29/06.

Limiting impact of terror attack on US ports is essential: A new report by the Public Policy Institute of California says that attacks on ports can't be prevented, but preparations can minimize their financial impact, and discourage would-be attackers. An attack on a major port could cause serious disruptions through the US economy. Therefore, the report suggests more emphasis should be placed on what happens in response to an attack on a port. The government needs better ways to prioritize shipments to get essential goods moving, and ways to reduce economic panic and restore supply chains. The goal of terrorists is to disrupt the economy, so preparations to limit the impact of an attack will decrease the risk of having one. One obstacle is a lack of a clear line of authority for emergency response. In addition, the report found that inadequate federal funding and staffing has slowed or stalled a raft of security initiatives created after the September 11, 2001 attacks. See "Group slams port security for shortfalls," John Simerman, Contra Costa Times at The State.com, 6/28/06.

US agency OKs naval exercise despite sonar concern: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has granted the US Navy permission to proceed with international naval exercises off Hawaii this week, despite the concerns of environmentalists about sonar's effect on marine mammals. NOAA found that the Navy's use of sonar in the exercises is not likely to threaten endangered species, and that they will have no significant impact on the environment. The eight-nation naval exercise, known as Rim of the Pacific or RIMPAC, will take place off Hawaii and will include 21 days of anti-submarine warfare training. The sonar part of the exercise begins after July 4. Earlier this year, NOAA said the sonar used during the Pacific Rim exercise in 2004 may have contributed to the mass stranding of more than 150 melon-headed whales in Hanalei Bay, Kauai. Navy sonar operators have plans to reduce, or even turn off, active sonar power if a marine mammal is spotted nearby during the upcoming exercises. See "Group: Navy sonar used in maritime exercise may kill whales," Associated Press at CNN.com, 6/28/06.

Buying out fishermen in California: The environmental group Nature Conservancy has purchased six federal bottom trawling permits and four commercial trawling boats from fishermen based in Monterey and Morrow Bay. The deal, which was also structured by the group Environmental Defense, cost somewhere between $1 and $3 million. This is the first time that private groups have bought out commercial fishermen in Pacific waters to protect ocean resources. The groups hope to expand the plan, and are negotiating with the 17 other fishing boat owners with bottom trawling permits based in Half Moon Bay, Moss Landing and Monterey. California fishing crews have seen profits slashed recently by rising fuel costs and tougher regulations designed to restore depleted fish populations. With checks that total several hundred thousand dollars each, boat owners can take up other types of fishing, or other careers. Under the buyouts, the fishermen agreed not to re-enter the bottom-trawling fishery for at least five years. Additionally, the fishermen worked with the two environmental groups to identify areas where bottom trawling should be banned — and the government agreed. See "New tool to save ocean life: Buy out the fishermen," Paul Rogers, San Jose Mercury News at The State.com, 6/28/06.

Louisiana may use old ships to stop floods: Since Hurricane Katrina hit, Louisiana is looking at every possible option for shoring up its storm defenses. Paul Kemp at Louisiana State University's School of the Coast and the Environment has suggested sinking some of the decommissioned ships waiting to be demolished in the US Navy's reserve fleets to create a steel barrier against flooding. Senator Walter Boasso, who represents St. Bernard Parish, has been supporting the idea in public forums. The flooding in the parish was due in large part to a navigation channel that runs through it, the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet. Boasso said planting ships in the channel would go a long way to plugging it up. If the ships are used as levees, then the US Army Corp of Engineers would likely have authority over the process, but a Corps spokesman says the agency has not evaluated the idea. Some coastal advocates think seeding the coast with ships is a poor substitute for more comprehensive restoration measures. See "Sunken ships eyed for storm barriers," Cain Burdeau, Associated Press at USATODAY, 6/27/06.

US Navy awards contract for third LCS ship: The US Navy has awarded the shipbuilding team led by Lockheed Martin a contract to build an additional LCS ship. This will be the Navy's third Littoral Combat Ship, and the second built by Lockheed Martin. Principal members on the Lockheed Martin team include Marinette Marine, Gibbs & Cox Inc., and Bollinger Shipyards Inc. The Bethesda-based defense contractor will begin constructing the ship at the beginning of 2007. It will be built at the Bollinger Shipyard in Lockport, Louisiana. Delivery is set for 2009. The ships are small, fast and more maneuverable than most other ships in the Navy's fleet. They can also operate closer to the shore in shallow depths. The US Congress authorized and appropriated the funds for this additional ship in the fiscal year 2006 Department of Defense Appropriations Act. See "Navy orders second LCS from Lockheed, Marinette Marine team," The Business Journal of Milwaukee, 6/27/06.

Bomb scare shuts down California port: US officials shut down a terminal at California's Port Hueneme, about 60 miles north of Los Angeles, after a dock worker discovered a bomb threat scrawled inside a refrigerated cargo ship that had just arrived. The threat was written on a metal pillar in the hold of the Mild Lotus, and read "nitro + glycerin, a gift for gw bush and his jewish gang." Nitroglycerine is an explosive liquid that could be used to manufacture an explosive. The terminal and surrounding area were closed, while bomb-sniffing dogs searched the ship and surrounding vessels and building, and divers inspected the ship's hull. State officials who assess possible threats discounted a link to terrorism, but said they would monitor the situation. The ship had Panamanian registry but had last docked in Guatemala. The port of Hueneme is the only commercial deep water port between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and is the only military deep water port between San Diego and Puget Sound in Washington state. See "Scrawled Bush threat sparks California port scare," Dan Whitcomb, Reuters at ABC News, 6/26/06.

Canada seeks bids to build three naval ships: Canada plans to award a $2.6-billion (C$2.9 billion) contract to build and maintain three navy supply ships, breathing a bit of life into the Canadian shipbuilding industry. Prime Minister Stephen Harper plans to announce C$15 billion worth of defense contracts this week. The government has asked groups led by Irving Shipbuilding Ltd. and units of BAE Systems Plc, ThyssenKrupp AG and SNC- Lavalin Group Inc. to make offers for the ships. The vessels, to be built in Canada, should be delivered by 2012; but the contract could be as much as two years away from being awarded. There is no stipulation that the design work, or the follow-up maintenance, be carried out in Canada. SNC-Lavalin, based in Montreal, and Saint John, New Brunswick-based Irving are the only Canadian companies leading the bidding groups. ThyssenKrupp is based in Duesseldorf, Germany, while BAE is in London. See "Navy to get three new ships as part of multibillion-dollar Defence buildup," Murray Brewster, Canadian Press at Canada.com, 6/26/06.

Scientists study underwater turbines for electric power: The Electric Power Research Institute believes that underwater turbines powered by the tidal movement at three sites can produce electricity at a cost that competes with wind power and natural gas-powered power plants. Maine's Western Passage in Passamaquoddy Bay has the greatest tide change in the continental United States — twice a day the tide rises and falls 20 feet. The other two sites with the greatest potential were at San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, and in the Bay of Fundy at Minas Pass, Nova Scotia. The EPRI study focused on large, commercial turbines that make one revolution every six seconds. That should be slow enough for fish to escape harm, and the theory will be tested later this year in New York's East River and in the United Kingdom. So far, the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has received 21 preliminary permit applications for tidal power projects; ten have been granted and the others are pending. The technology is in its infancy, and the permitting process will have to evolve, as well. See "Tidal power may provide cheaper energy source," Associated Press at MSNBC.com, 6/26/06.

Thieves target yachts on the Riviera: The Riviera is famous for fancy yachts. But lately, it's also becoming known for yacht thefts. French police call it "boatjacking," and fear the practice will become more common as criminals realize how easy it is to do. Many owners use their boats only one or two weeks a year, they don't always hire people to look after the boats when they're absent, and so they don't even notice when the boats are first stolen. Investigators believe a Lithuanian gang steals the vessels at night, disables satellite devices or beacons that could be used to track them, sails them to Malta where they are renamed and given different flags, and then takes them to the Black Sea, and farther for resale. Interpol has recently deployed a team of maritime specialists to try to combat the thefts. See "Riviera hit by boatjack gangs," The Times Online, 6/25/06.

Canadian Navy lost a practice torpedo: A newly disclosed document has revealed that the Canadian Navy lost a practice torpedo in January when it sank unexpectedly. HMCS Vancouver fired the "hottorp," or Honeywell Operational Training Torpedo, just off the entrance to Esquimalt Harbour to make sure the ship-based firing system was working properly. But instead of automatically ejecting its weights and rising up to the surface as it was supposed to do, it sank into the water off Vancouver Island. The frigate was unable to find it. The military plans to use side-scan sonar this summer to try to locate the torpedo, and a remote-controlled submersible to attempt to recover it. But the Navy has also notified local civil authorities to be on the watch for the torpedo, as it may wash ashore. See "Navy loses practice weapon off B.C. coast," Dean Beeby, CP at CNews, 6/24/06.

Japan reveals details on aid to pro-whaling nations: The Japanese government has revealed in surprising detail how much money it has given to countries that support its stance on commercial whaling. The pro-whaling camp won the ballot at last week's meeting of the International Whaling Conference. Japan acknowledged giving $8.7 million last year to St Kitts & Nevis, Nicaragua was awarded about $17 million, and the Pacific island cluster of Palau got $8.1 million. All three countries voted with Japan at the IWC conference. The Japanese government said it had also awarded millions of dollars in "grant aid for general projects and fisheries" to Peru, which supports commercial whaling, and Samoa and Algeria, which environmentalists believe Japan is trying to recruit. The aid question was tabled by Shokichi Kina, a member of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan and a well known Okinawa-based environmental activist. The government did not refute the "vote-buying" charge in its reply to Mr. Kina. Japan has long been accused of using aid packages to swing IWC members, and conservationists also say Japan has been known to pay the IWC subscriptions of poorer members. These new details will no doubt lead to further investigation into the ties between foreign aid and pro-whaling votes. See "Scale of Japan's aid to pro-whaling nations revealed," David McNeill, The New Zealand Herald, 6/24/06.

Human activity has devastating effect on coasts: A team from nine research centers in the US, Canada, Australia and Panama have used archaeological, historical and ecological records to study the human footprint on coasts and estuaries over the past 2,500 years. The group found that depletion of natural resources began during Roman times, and then accelerated in Medieval times and in the wake of European settlement in North America and Australia. Many of the biggest declines were seen from 1900 to 1950, and 1950 to 2000, as population and industry grew. In all, more than 90% of coastal life has declined, and there is widespread degradation of water quality. The scientists' findings, reported in Science, suggest that 20th Century conservation efforts have had only limited success. While estuaries and coastal seas have played an important role in human development, they receive little attention from environmentalists or policy makers. See "Humans 'destroying coastal life'," BBC News, 6/24/06.

Antarctic protection measures put on hold: Antarctic Treaty countries have failed to agree on tighter environmental measures to protect the continent during their annual meeting. While there was lively discussion during the meeting, it was generally felt that nations needed more time to study the issue. The growing number of tourists landing in Antarctica, mainly from cruise ships, has raised fears over the impact it could have on the continent's fragile ecology. The number of tourists visiting Antarctica has quadrupled to 32,000 over the past eight years. Most tour companies are members of the US-based International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO), which enforces tight rules on its members in conjunction with the treaty organization. But not all ships that travel there sail under flags of convenience of countries which are signatories to the treaty. A maritime disaster is also a major fear; apart from an oil spill, which would be difficult to clean up, it isn't clear who would be able to rescue passengers. Some delegates expressed disappointment that the Edinburgh meeting had not agreed on stricter measures. But they said they expected the issues to be discussed at the next treaty conference in New Delhi next year. See "Tighter Antarctic protection measures on hold," Ian MacKenzie, Reuters.com, 6/23/06.

Acid from Ece wreck will be released: The Ece sank in January while being towed to Le Havre following a collision with a cargo ship in the English Channel. It is carrying some 40 tons of fuel, and more than 10,000 tons of phosphoric acid. The area has been monitored, and tests have shown no increases in phosphoric acid levels apart from the area next to the wreck. A study performed by French and British maritime experts concludes that a controlled release of the acid, which is usually used as a fertilizer, should avoid any harmful impact of the delicate ecosystem of the English Channel. The acid will be released gradually into the sea by a marine salvage company, supervised by the French Navy and French and British observers. The operation should be completed in the middle of September. A fishing ban will be enforced around the wreck until the operation is finished. See "Shipwreck acid is to be released," BBC News, 6/22/06.

Coral reefs need better protection worldwide: The world's tropical coral reefs aren't properly protected from illegal fishing, mining or pollution despite government promises of wider safeguards, an international study shows. The scientists reached their figures by building a database of protected areas from 102 countries, then comparing it with the extent of reefs, partly mapped by satellites. They then surveyed more than 1,000 managers of protected areas and scientists to gauge the conservation performance. Overall, 18% of the area covered by tropical reefs was within marine protected areas. But while many countries have created marine protected areas, they often don't continue to invest in them — most of the conservation is only on paper. Some protected areas still allow some form of activity that takes a toll on the slow-growing life forms that are in steady decline worldwide. Other protected areas are too small to be effective. The study also says there are far too few coral protected areas internationally. See "Special marine zones doing little to protect coral around the world: study," Alison Auld, Canadian Press at canada.com, 6/22/06.

US Coast Guard says Aker ships comply with Jones Act: The Metal Trades Department of the AFL-CIO recently asked the US Coast Guard to review Aker Philadelphia Shipyard Inc.'s construction of ten tankers destined for use among US ports. The union claimed that Aker was violating the Jones Act, which allows only US-made ships to be certified to operate between US ports. At issue were foreign-made parts being used in the ships. Aker denied violating any laws. The Coast Guard, in a letter to Aker dated May 24 and provided last week to The Inquirer, had cleared Aker to import 87.9 tons of stern bulbs and bulbous bows in construction of the tankers. It said those parts would weigh 1.14% of each hull's total weight, safely under the Jones Act limits of 1.5%. The union will appeal to the Coast Guard commandant, but anticipates it will lose and is preparing to carry the battle further. Ronald E. Ault, metal trades president, says the union will ask Congress to refine the rules. See "Union fights Aker over foreign parts," Thomas Ginsberg, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/22/06.

"Pirate" fishermen are decimating Africa's stocks: The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that illegal fishing robs sub-Saharan Africa of more than $1.2 billion annually, in stolen fish, unpaid taxes, and lost work. Foreign commercial fishermen are often accused of bullying local fishermen, depriving them of their livelihood, and depleting regional fish stocks. And because most west African countries can't afford coast guards, observers say it has spawned a worrying trend of mercenary justice. Some African governments are turning to armed freelancers for protection. Part of the move to poorly regulated African waters comes from stricter fishing quotas that have been imposed in Europe. During a three-week trip in which Greenpeace tracked more than 100 vessels in African waters, more than half were fishing illegally. Several fish species are under severe threat. A former fisheries protection officer for Sierra Leone believes that if current trends continue, the country won't have a fishing industry in the next ten years. See "African nations battle 'pirate' fishers for shrinking resources," Katharine Houreld, The Christian Science Monitor, 6/21/06.

Illegal fish said to be entering Britain: Norwegian authorities have warned that illegal cod is being sold throughout Britain. The scam involves Russian-owned trawlers which operate from the northern port of Murmansk. The vessels escape legal quotas by offloading excess stock in international waters onto different ships. When the Russian ships return to port they don't reveal the true size of their catch to the authorities. As much as 50% of the cod arriving in Britain could be illegal. Norwegian officials accuse the British Government of failing to prevent this money-laundering racket. The Norwegian coastguard also believes that Spain, the Netherlands and Portugal could be doing more to stop illegal fishing. Norway also wants countries which allow flags of convenience to take greater responsibility to stop illegal transfer of the fish. Norway believes that the illegal "trans-shipping" hauls have risen 34% in the past 12 months and that there were at least 240 transfers at sea in that period. See "How the fish on your plate makes you an accessory to crime at sea," Lewis Smith and Valerie Elliott, Times Online, 6/21/06.

Damaged Setsuyo Star will stay in False Bay for repairs: The Greek-owned Setsuyo Star was en route from Brazil to China when the crew found that sea water was seeping into the number one hold. The ship was given refuge in False Bay after the South Africa Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) surveyor had inspected the vessel, and established there was no pollution risk. Greek Tsavliris Salvage, the appointed salvors, report that there was "slight damage" to the structure that supported the shell plating in the number one hold, but that the structural integrity of the ship was not in danger. Repairs will be done from the inside of the ship, and the salvors say it should take about 20 days. Samsa authorities have accepted the repair plan and will allow the ship to say in place. A tug must be on standby at all times as a precaution, oil booms and pumps are on board, and the fuel oil is now located in two tanks aft. See "'Safe' plan approved to fix leaking carrier," Melanie Gosling, IOL, 6/20/06.

Laser eye surgery means fewer submariners in the US Navy: The US Navy started making laser eye surgery available to expand the pool of potential pilots and members in the Navy Seals. Now, nearly a third of every US Naval Academy class undergoes laser eye surgery, and the procedure's popularity in the armed forces is transforming career choices. By shrinking the pool of people who used to be routinely available for jobs that do not require perfect eyesight, it has made it harder to fill some of those assignments with top-notch personnel. For generations, Academy graduates with high grades and bad eyes were funneled into the submarine service. But in the five years since the Naval Academy began offering free eye surgery to all midshipmen, it has missed its annual quota for supplying the Navy with submarine officers every year. Although the perception that submarines no longer play as vital a national security role as they once did is cited as one reason the quotas aren't being met, it is clear that the availability of eye surgery is also a factor. This year the academy's quota was 120, but only 88 midshipmen chose to go into submarines. The shortfall in the submarine quota is made up from officers joining the Navy who do not attend the academy. See "Perfect Vision Is Helping and Hurting Navy," David S. Cloud, The New York Times, 6/20/06 (registration may be required).

US port security marred by conflict of interest: Stephen Flynn, a retired US Coast Guard commander and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, has long warned Homeland Security officials, lawmakers and reporters of vulnerabilities in domestic ports security systems. He also offered a solution: a cargo inspection system in Hong Kong that scans every container, instead of the fraction now checked in the United States. Flynn's warnings gained support. But one fact usually remained in the background: From 2003 until 2005, he was a paid consultant to Science Applications International Corp., known as SAIC, the San Diego company that manufactured the system and could make hundreds of millions of dollars if its port security solution was adopted worldwide. Although Flynn has acknowledged some involvement in the Hong Kong project, his connection to SAIC was often not mentioned during his many public appearances. While Flynn has suggested that he makes less than 5% of his annual income from his SAIC consultancy, and industry representatives respect his integrity, others have questioned the relationship. At a minimum, they believe his relationship to a for-profit company should have been regularly disclosed up front. See "Conflict of interest entangles U.S. port security," Eric Lipton, The New York Times at International Herald Tribune, 6/19/06.

US fisheries bill approved in the Senate: The US Senate has unanimously approved a bill to revamp management of the nation's marine fisheries. The measure would also strengthen protections against overfishing of dwindling stocks. It requires the use of annual catch limits and enhances the authority of eight regional fishery management councils. The sweeping measure reauthorizes the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the 30-year-old law that oversees fishery management in waters between three miles and 200 miles offshore. President Bush had called on Congress to reauthorize the fishing law, saying last week that overfishing is harmful to the US and to the world. The House Resources Committee approved a bill last month with language that critics say could allow continued overfishing of depleted stocks. See "Senate approves fisheries bill," Matthew Daly, Associated Press at ABC News, 6/19/06.

Whaling commission shifts in majority: In a narrow vote, the International Whaling Commission declared Sunday that a 20-year ban on commercial whale hunting no longer was necessary because the marine mammals had recovered from near extinction. The 33-32 vote gave Japan a symbolic victory in its campaign to resume whaling and signaled a power shift within the commission, but did not immediately jeopardize the ban, which can be overturned only by a 75% vote from among the 70 member nations. Environmentalists and other observers called such a scenario unlikely. Still, Sunday's vote demonstrated that Japan and its pro-whaling allies Norway and Iceland had finally acquired control of the IWC by enticing small Caribbean, Pacific and African countries, some of them landlocked and most of them with no interest in whaling, with lavish aid and assistance in developing fisheries. Denmark unexpectedly voted in support of the declaration after previously siding with the conservation advocates. China abstained. See "Japan seizes control of whaling group after historic vote," David McNeill, Independent Online, 6/19/06.

Korean shipbuilders encouraged to build cruise ships: The Association of European Shipbuilders and Ship Repairers reports that four European based shipbuilders have maintained a combined 84% market share for building cruise ships since 2002. The construction of luxury cruise ships declined steadily after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US. But the market is expected to grow by 5% yearly through 2010. Cruise ships account for about 20% of the global shipbuilding market. In addition, current ships are aging, and replacement demand is likely to grow in the near term. The Korea Shipbuilders' Association believes these signs of growth will offer local shipbuilders opportunities to venture into the construction of cruise ships with less risk. See "Shipbuilders Need to Target Cruise Ship Market: Report," Cho Jin-seo, The Korea Times, 6/18/06.

Toxic spill affects 50,000 people in China: A toxic spill in north China has contaminated water supplies for 50,000 people in Fuping county and poses a threat to the Wangkuai Reservoir of Baoding, which supplies millions more. Authorities are trying to slow the spread of the spill by building makeshift dams, and using fire trucks to pump out the polluted water before it reaches the reservoir. Sixty tons of coal tar carried by an overloaded truck spilled into the Dasha river in the northern province of Shanxi on Monday. It is the latest in a series of water-related mishaps in the country. Officials said there have been at least 76 water pollution accidents in the last six months. Measurements Friday showed that levels of phenol, also known as carbolic acid, were 100 times greater than acceptable levels in some spots. The pollution was said to be traveling about nearly 1 mile per hour downstream toward Baoding, which is about 45 miles from the site of the accident. See "China builds 51 dams to slow toxic spill," Associated Press at BostonHerald.com, 6/16/06.

EU fisheries subsidies under attack: Environmentalists have long fought against fishing subsidies, which tend to promote larger, powerful fleets more capable of decimating stocks. Subsidies are estimated to total more than $15 billion a year, with Japan, the EU, the US, Canada, Russia, South Korea and Taiwan the biggest subsidizers. Amidst this controversy, European Union fisheries ministers plan to adopt a new industry aid package on Monday worth $4.8 billion. Activists say the European Commission has backed away from tough reform under pressure from Poland and the Baltic states, which joined the EU in 2004, for more money to renew their ageing fleets. But the Commission insists that the aid package is in line with its goal of reducing capacity and maintaining a ban on subsidies for building fishing vessels. See "'Friends of fish' rail at EU aid pact," Frances Williams and Raphael Minder, Financial Times, 6/16/06.

Damaged ship seeks shelter in False Bay: The Setsuyo Star, carrying a cargo of iron ore from Brazil to China, has gone to port at South Africa's False Bay because of damage. The South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) has allowed the ship to enter as a "port of refuge," on the condition that the owner come up with a repair plan by midday on Thursday. A surveyor has found that some of the hull's metal plating has become separated from the frames, but water was only seeping in. There is no danger of the ship sinking, and apparently no immediate risk of pollution. Since a storm was approaching, it was decided to allow the vessel to come into False Bay. Samsa is waiting for the ship's Greek owners to present a proposal for repairs, and appoint salvors approved by the Authority. Samsa's chief, Captain Saleem Modak, said the surveyors thought the damage had been caused by a combination of the ship's age, the effects of pounding seas and possible mechanical damage to the metal plating. See "Leaking ship granted refuge in False Bay," Melanie Gosling, Cape Times at IOL, 6/15/06.

Bush creates new marine sanctuary: US President Bush will create the world's largest protected marine area today, designating as a national monument a 1,200-mile-long chain of small Hawaiian islands and surrounding waters and reefs that are home to a spectacular array of sea life. Mr. Bush will enact a suite of strict rules for the area, including a five-year phasing out of commercial and sport fishing. The chain of largely uninhabited atolls, seamounts, reefs and shoals, which sweeps northwest from the big islands of Hawaii, is called the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and is home to some 7,000 species of marine life, including endangered green sea turtles and Hawaiian monk seals and millions of breeding seabirds. Initially, Bush was going to propose that the area be protected as a national marine sanctuary. But that could have taken a year to enact. Instead, he invoked the 1906 Antiquities Act, which allows protections to begin immediately. See "Bush to Create World's Largest Marine Protected Area Near Hawaii," Kenneth R. Weiss, Los Angeles Times, 6/15/06.

Global warming causes water problems for parts of Europe: Several years of above-average temperatures, below-average rainfall, and extraction of water for farms, holiday homes and growing populations are making several European countries worried about water. Southern Spain, southeastern England and western and southern France are viewed as chronically vulnerable, while parts of Portugal, Italy and Greece haven't completely recovered from the 2003 drought. The drought hit continental central and western Europe for much of July and August of that year. It inflicted economic costs of more than 12 billion euros ($15.6 billion), and the heat wave also cost tens of thousands of lives. Heat waves and water shortages are expected to continue. Reservoirs and water tables in Spain are at their lowest levels in ten years. In southeastern England, reserves of water are only at 54% capacity, and restrictions have been issued to the region for the first time in 11 years. In France, the authorities have been building public awareness that the Atlantic and Mediterranean regions face big problems of water scarcity. 2005 brought the worst drought to Portugal in 60 years. See "Alarm bells sound for Europe's water supply as hot weather looms," Richard Ingham and Anne Chaon, AFP at Yahoo! News, 6/14/06.

Queen of the North safety chief sues B.C. Ferries over his dismissal: Darin Bowland, the former safety director for B.C. Ferry Services Inc., is suing the company for wrongful dismissal. Bowland says he warned the company of safety problems with the fleet, but found that senior management "was unwilling to take the urgent action necessary to ensure the safety of its employees and the public as a whole." Had the ferry company heeded his warnings, he said, the sinking of the Queen of the North could have been prevented. Bowland assumed the position of director of safety, health and environment on February 1. He resigned on May 27, five days after the tragedy. The suit claims Bowland's resignation "amounted to a constructive dismissal." He is seeking unspecified damages for negligent misrepresentation, wrongful dismissal, loss of reputation, special damages, aggravated and/or punitive damages, costs and interest. See "Former safety director sues B.C. Ferry Services," Jeff Rud and Lindsay Kines, Victoria Times Colonist, The Vancouver Sun at Canada.com, 6/14/06.

UK's asbestos ruling to be reconsidered: In 2002 Law Lords ruled that an employer who negligently exposed a worker to asbestos could be held 100% liable — even if the employee had worked for several companies and it could not be proven which of them had caused the illness. In an appeal, insurers sought to limit an employer's liability to reflect the extent to which it contributed to an employee's exposure to asbestos. Last month, this appeal proved successful. However, Prime Minister Tony Blair was just asked about the issue during a GMB conference. He stated, "I regret that judgment." Mr. Blair is hoping to change the ruling, and may make an announcement on his plans to change it in two weeks' time. Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs. Most people who develop mesothelioma have worked on jobs where they inhaled asbestos particles, or have been exposed to asbestos dust and fiber in other ways; shipyard workers are often victims. See "Blair 'to change' asbestos ruling," BBC News, 6/13/06.

Titanic shipyard may start scrapping ships: Belfast's Harland and Wolff is bidding to become the UK's first shipyard to become licensed to scrap old ships and oil rigs. The yard has joined forces with worldwide environmental waste management company Golder Associates to offer a new marine vessel and offshore structure recovery and recycling service. Harland and Wolff and Golder Associates say their alliance provides an unparalleled ship recycling capability in the UK. New regulations prohibit ships from being scrapped in third world countries where safety and environmental regulations are minimal. European regulations are very strict. As a result, instead of being paid for the scrap, ship owners will have to pay to have a ship dismantled. Harland and Wolff have applied to the Environment and Heritage Service for a waste management license that would allow them to expand services into ship scrapping. See "Titanic shipyard to recycle ageing ships," Press Association at U.TV, 6/13/06.

Oil industry faces new hurricane season: Last year's hurricane season destroyed 113 offshore facilities and damaged 53 others. But the most vulnerable to storm destruction were jack-up rigs and mobile drilling units. In response, the offshore industry just adopted recommended practices for these more vulnerable structures in time for this hurricane season. While fortifications to jack-up structures are largely complete, modifications to floating structures are only a third done. Manpower continues to hamper efforts, however; many companies are still working on last year's equipment failures. There are more than 4,000 platforms in the Gulf, and the majority of those damaged were built before 1988, when stricter standards were put in place. See "Riding out the storm," The Christian Science Monitor at gulfnews.com, 6/12/06.

Crime scene investigation techniques will help coral: Biologists and crime scene investigators are teaming up to develop ways to document and preserve underwater findings so they will hold up in court. At issue are coral reefs. While the damage to reefs from warm water can't be prosecuted, officials can take action against damage from ships spilling oil, running aground or dumping garbage, runoff from farm fields, pollution from factories and cities, sediment deposits from onshore development, and poachers using cyanide and chlorine to flush out fish. David Gulko, a coral reef ecologist for the state of Hawaii, and his team have devised a number of investigative techniques to help preserve evidence. Instead of crime scene tape, they use buoys to mark the perimeter, and numbered buoys to mark pieces of evidence, such as paint scraped off a ship's hull, or burn marks left on shellfish from a poacher using bleach to drive fish out of rock crevices. The team will present their recommendations at an international symposium in October in Mexico. See "Experts tracking coral reef killers," Jeff Barnard, Associated Press at Yahoo! News, 6/12/06.

New Bering Sea crabbing rules get mixed reviews: The Bering Sea king and snow crab harvests have been the deadliest fisheries in America. Between 1980 and the winter of 2005, an average of more than three crew members a year died during the harvest, prompting Congress and a regional council to change the fishing rules. In the past, competitive derbies and short seasons pushed fishermen to grab as much crab as possible — regardless of weather conditions. The new rules reduce the size of the fleet and divide the harvest among vessel owners, who have the right to fish, lease or sell shares to the highest bidder. Some skippers say the new rules allow them to stay in port in bad weather, but other skippers say they still face pressure to work through bad weather to meet processors' demands. Coast Guard officials are wary of drawing conclusions from only one year under the new system. Crews have been critical of the new rules, since many of them have lost income, and biologists are concerned about the large amount of marketable crab thrown back into the water. See "Crabbers say rules don't erase perils," Hal Bernton, The Seattle Times, 6/11/06.

Orca habitat for Washington State waters proposed: US Federal officials have proposed designating nearly all of northwest Washington's inland waters as critical habitat for killer whales, the first major development since the creatures were listed as endangered last year. Following a public comment period, the habitat designation could become official by the end of the year. It would mean that within the outlined area, no federal activities can take place unless officials demonstrate that the habitat will not be harmed. The proposed area encompasses parts of Haro Strait, the waters around the San Juan Islands, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and all of Puget Sound except for Hood Canal, because there is little evidence the orcas swim there. Eighteen military sites are exempt. The federal agency's report notes that the designation of critical habitat could lead to revised limits for commercial salmon fishermen and new standards for sewer and stormwater discharge. See "Huge stretch of Sound protected for orcas?," Lynda V. Mapes and Jonathan Martin, The Seattle Times, 6/10/06.

South Korean Navy launches new submarine: South Korea's Navy yesterday launched the nation's first 1,800-ton class submarine, which is part of a project to build six next-generation submarines by 2009. The Type 214 submarine has been jointly developed by Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. and Germany's Howaldtswerke Deutsche Werft AG. The submarine is equipped with advanced systems including air independent propulsion (AIP) and flank array sonar (FAS). With AIP, it can perform deep-sea operations for two weeks; the Navy's current Type 209 submarines can stay underwater for three days. The Sohn Won-il is armed with torpedoes, antiwarship guided missiles, and mines. Accommodating 40 crew members, it can do a maximum 20 knots per hour. It will be deployed for naval operation in 2007. See "1,800-Ton Class Submarine Launched," Jung Sung-ki, The Korea Times, 6/9/06; photograph included.

India fights poachers: India's Andaman and Nicobar archipelago are under threat from illegal fishing. An increasing number of boats have been poaching from Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The fishermen often use dynamite and other explosives. Twenty-six people were taken into custody last year, but 91 people have already been arrested this year. At least as many are thought to be getting away. Environmentalists fear that the navy and coastguards, which are already busy with security issues, are fighting a losing battle against poachers. See "India fighting 'losing battle' with poachers," IOL, 6/9/06.

Warnings given against building plan on Tamar site: Hong Kong scientist Wan Shek-lun found high levels of dioxin and heavy metals at the former naval shipyard at Tamar in 1994. As such, he believes it could be an unsuitable location for the proposed new SAR government headquarters. The chemicals could be released into the air during construction, unless the site is properly cleaned first. A government spokesman Thursday said Wan's claims were unsubstantiated, and pointed to a 2003 ground soil assessment that found only small amounts of contaminants that could be easily disposed of. But a 2001 government report suggests that the location contains quite a bit of "seriously contaminated marine mud," which would require special disposal procedures. See "Dioxins fear if Tamar site plan is given go-ahead," Leslie Kwoh, The Standard, 6/9/06.

North Korea threatens retaliation for South's sea incursions: North Korea has accused South Korea of perpetrating grave military provocations by sailing its warships into the North's territorial waters near a disputed sea border. The North doesn't recognize the current border, and their latest talks in May failed to resolve the dispute. A spokesman for the Navy Command said it "will deal a telling blow at any warship intruding into the inviolable territorial waters of the north side without warning and the South Korean authorities will be held wholly responsible for it." South Korea's navy dismissed the North's statement as its "annual claims," and says they haven't violated the North's territory. See "North Korea accuses South of sea boundary violations, threatens retaliation, Associated Press, Canadian Press at Canada.com, 6/8/06.

Europe and Africa address immigration: Because of its relative proximity to Africa, Spain regularly sees immigrants from Africa to its Canary Islands. This year's arrivals are already double last year's. An increase in surveillance in northern Morocco, the Straits of Gibraltar and the northern Canaries, has forced gangs smuggling immigrants to Europe to seek out new, longer and more treacherous routes from points further south. Many of the illegal migrants have perished through drowning and other perils on the journey in fishing boats that are often barely seaworthy. Senior European and African officials have now approved a draft action plan to tackle the growing crisis. The plan must be formally adopted at the ministerial level during a July 10 meeting. To counter the temptation to flee their home countries, the officials will propose "an improvement" of economic cooperation, development of trade, and poverty reduction in the countries of origin in a bid to create employment. The plan also includes repressive measures. See "Europe, Africa to tackle immigration crisis," Sapa-AFP at IOL, 6/8/06.

US firms prohibited from flying North Korean flags on ships: Last month the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control ordered all US-incorporated shipping companies to stop using North Korean flag registry for their ships. The sanctions were put into place after intelligence reports indicated that Pyongyang was making money from selling its flag at higher-than-normal prices, and that some of the ships are engaged in illegal activities. The sanctions are part of "defensive measures" aimed at punishing North Korea for illegal activities that include counterfeiting US currency, drug trafficking and human smuggling. Currently, there are nine ships that are owned or operated by companies incorporated in Delaware. None of the ships should be flying the North Korean flag as of May 8, but it is not known whether the ships have changed their registries. See "N. Korea flag barred on 9 ships," Bill Gertz, The Washington Times, 6/8/06.

Two more indicted in military secrets case: A US grand jury has indicted a mother and son on charges of helping a Chinese-American engineer who allegedly tried to send sensitive information about US Navy warships to China. The indictment returned Wednesday by the grand jury charged Fuk Heung Li and her son, Yui (Billy) Mak, with making false statements and acting as agents of a foreign government, namely China, without prior notification to the US attorney general. Yui Mak is the nephew of Chi Mak, who allegedly took computer disks from a California defense contractor where he was lead engineer on a sensitive research project involving propulsion systems for navy warships. Prosecutors have said previously that the authorities recovered restricted documents on the DD(X) destroyer from the disk. They also allege that they found two lists in Chinese asking Mak to get documents about submarine torpedo technology, electromagnetic artillery systems, weapon standardization, early warning technology used to detect incoming missiles, and defenses used against nuclear attack. See "2 Charged in China Military Secrets Case," Jeremiah Marquez, Associated Press at ABC News, 6/7/06.

Russian government, shipyards argue over contracts: Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov accused the privately owned Severnaya Verf and Baltiisky Zavod shipyards of cost overruns and mismanagement on a warships contract while at a meeting with maritime industry members. State arms trader Rosoboronexport is said to be trying to acquire the yards. Ivanov said the shipbuilding industry was suffering from "an uncontrollable growth in prices of military and civilian products." In their defense, the yards say the problem is the lack of state financing for the warships. Alexander Buzakov, general director of Severnaya Verf, said that so far the yard has been paid for only one of nine contracted vessels. Ivanov says the yards are paid regularly. Rosoboronexport is currently engaged in an expansion drive that is being seen as a Kremlin-inspired attempt to bring strategic industries under state control. Some analysts believe the current arguments over contracts could indicate that the state is looking for ways to justify the shipyards' takeover. See "Spat Grows Over Shipyard Contracts," Anna Smolchenko, The Moscow Times.com, 6/7/06.

Compensation set for Red Sea ferry disaster: Ferry owner Mamduh Ismail has paid $57 million into a compensation fund for victims of the al-Salam Boccaccio 98, which sank in the Red Sea. The family of each passenger who died will receive $50,000 in compensation. In return, Ismail's assets will be unfrozen. The transfer of the money doesn't affect the charges of manslaughter he is facing. The trial of six people accused in connection with the sinking opened on Monday, despite the absence of Mr. Ismail, who is the main defendant. See "Payout over Egypt ferry disaster," BBC News, 6/7/06.

Japan may start a pro-whaling group: Japan and other whaling nations such as Norway believe there are enough stocks of some whale species to allow limited hunting. Japan is now planning a new international group for pro-whaling nations in a bid to end the 20-year ban on hunting. As it has in the past, the country is also threatening to leave the International Whaling Commission if it doesn't lift the ban. Japan plans to make its proposal at the June 16-20 IWC meeting, where pro-whaling nations could win a slim majority but will still fall short of the three-quarters needed to end the moratorium. Japanese officials say the new group would aim to reform the fractious IWC, not split it or set up a rival body, and would include nations which believe that controlled whale hunts are possible. See "Japan plans new pro-whalers group," Elaine Lies, Reuters, 6/7/06.

Toxic ship Blue Lady is allowed to enter India: The Indian Supreme Court has allowed the ship Blue Lady, believed to be laden with asbestos, to enter the country's territorial waters. Environmentalists say the vessel, which is due to be dismantled in India, is carrying 900 tonnes of toxic waste. The court on Monday recommended that the ship be allowed to anchor in Indian waters so that it could be inspected by a committee of technical experts on shipwrecking. A decision could then be made over whether or not work on scrapping the vessel could be carried out safely. It is believed that the Alang ship breaking yard in Gujarat does not have sufficient technology to handle such toxic waste safely, and that the health of workers there would be put at risk. The ship was also let into India in order to allow crewmembers to leave the ship; there are 13 Indians on the crew. There was also concern that the ship could be damaged in the sea during the monsoon. See "India court allows "toxic" ship into territorial waters," AFP at Yahoo! News, 6/5/06.

Egyptian ferry court case resumes: A trial has opened in Egypt into the sinking of the ferry al-Salam Boccaccio 98 last February in which more than 1,000 people died. The man the authorities have accused of being chiefly responsible for the disaster — the owner of the al-Salam ferry, Mamduh Ismail — was not present. He left Egypt for the UK after the sinking, and Cairo has issued a summons against him through Interpol, and frozen his assets. Mr. Ismail has denied responsibility for the disaster and accused the ship's captain, who went down with his ship, of overestimating the crew's ability to fight a fire that broke out on board. In April, a parliamentary investigation criticized the ship's owners, maritime authorities and the government for the tragedy. It said the ferry failed to meet minimum safety standards and that the agency responsible for maritime safety allowed it to sail despite being aware of its state. The parliamentary investigation also criticized the Egyptian government for its handling of the crisis. See "Inquiry opens into Egypt's worst shipping disaster," AFP at Mail & Guardian online, 6/5/06.

India offers to help safeguard the Malacca Strait: India's Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said his country was ready to help strengthen security in the Malacca Strait, while speaking at a high-level regional security conference. The Strait is an important waterway, with about one-third of global trade passing through it each year; more than half of India's trade passes through the Strait. The task would be part of a larger effort to help ensure peace and stability in East Asia, and part of India's larger effort to become a key driver of Asian prosperity alongside other big countries like China, Japan and Indonesia. The nations located along the waterway, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia, have already created an initiative to monitor the Strait. India's efforts would be subject to the approval of these countries. But Mukherjee said that "India would be willing to assist the project in whatever capacity is deemed suitable." See "India ready to help protect Malacca Strait," Bernice Han, AFP at Yahoo! News, 6/3/06.

Canada's historic Davie shipyard is sold: Negotiations between the trustee of the bankrupt Davie shipyard and representatives of Oslo-based Teco Management have been successful. The contents of the deal haven't been made public, and a few details still need to be worked out before the deal is officially closed at the end of June. But Patrice Van Houtte, a lawyer and trustee of the bankrupt shipyard for the past five years, is very confident the deal will close on schedule. The deal will save the shipyard from being liquidated at auction, and save it for Canada's heritage. Teco rebuilds ballast tanks, performs vessel repairs, and buys and leases oil drilling platforms. Apparently, the company now wants to build its own rigs at the Davie shipyard. They plan to begin construction of the first of a five jack-up rig contract at the Davie site this fall, possibly as early as September. See "Shipyard saved at 11th Hour," Mark Cardwell, The Gazette at Canada.com, 6/2/06.

Ship and tanker collide in Aegean Sea, one dead: The Turkish-operated cargo ship Han collided with a Greek tanker on Thursday, and sank. One Turkish sailor was killed, and five are missing. Seven of the Han's crewmembers were picked up by the tanker, as well as the body of the dead crewmember. The tanker was unharmed, as was its crew. No oil spills have been spotted. The collision occurred in the southern Aegean Sea, not far from the Greek port of Piraeus, which is known for heavy shipping traffic. Still, officials are investigating the cause of the daytime crash. The collision comes little more than a week after Greek and Turkish F-16 fighters collided over the southern Aegean, where the two NATO allies have long disputed control over air space. See "Turkish-run ship and Greek tanker collide," Osman Senkul and Reuters at Scotsman.com, 6/1/06.

US government seeks new claims for Exxon Valdez spill: ExxonMobil has refuted the US government's claim that it should pay $92 million more to clean up Alaska 17 years after the Exxon Valdez tanker accident resulted in the country's largest oil spill. The US Justice department and the Alaska Department of Law said studies showed residual oil from the 1989 spill in the inter-tidal zone of beaches, which they had not originally anticipated. The oil is still causing harm to marine species and fishing. Exxon already paid $900 million in a civil settlement, but that settlement had a "re-opener clause" stating Exxon could be required to pay up to an additional $100 million for unforeseen natural resource damages. Hundreds of studies by Exxon have shown the environmental impact to be less serious than claimed by other researchers. Company spokesman Mark Boudreaux said that Exxon didn't know of any new scientific studies that would merit reopening the settlement. See "Government wants $92 million more from Exxon Mobil over oil spill," Jeannette J. Lee, Associated Press at The Seattle Times, 6/1/06.

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