News Archive - October 2006

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25 states to protest Iceland whaling: A group of 25 countries plan to tell Iceland they object to its resumption of commercial whale hunts despite an international ban, and will urge it to stop. Some of these countries have already independently condemned the whale hunt. The European Commission was also part of this joint initiative. Reykjavik earlier this month decided to resume commercial whale hunts for the first time in two decades, allowing whalers to catch nine fin whales and 30 minke whales. Fin whales are rated an endangered species on a "Red List" compiled by the World Conservation Union, but Iceland says they are plentiful in the north Atlantic. Iceland says that its hunts are legal under international law. See "Twenty-five countries to urge Iceland to respect whaling ban," AFP at Yahoo! News, 10/31/06.

North Korea accused of violating maritime accord with South: Rep. Kim Hyong-o of the main opposition Grand National Party (GNP) said North Korean ships passed through the South’s territorial waters 22 times without giving responses. Kim cited a report from the Korea Coast Guard, adding that the government hasn't taken proper action. According to the agreement that took effect in August last year, ships from both sides have to respond to a call from a patrol ship or guard post. Maritime police can board and inspect vessels that give no answer back. The agreement was designed to prevent disputes between the two Koreas due to ambiguous sea boundaries. The Korea Coast Guard said that the transmission failures were merely technical problems, and a Unification Ministry official said that although some of the transmissions were interrupted, all North Korean vessels that crossed the Northern Limit Line separating the waters of the two Koreas were contacted before they returned to their side. See "Conservatives target maritime agreement," Lee Joo-hee, The Korea Herald, 10/31/06.

Pirate attacks down in the Malacca Strait: Current patrols of the Malacca Strait have led to a fall in pirate attacks, and a cut in insurance rates of cargo vessels passing through. But maritime officials warn that the attacks are likely to occur again if patrols aren't maintained. Noel Choong, head of the piracy watch center of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) in Kuala Lumpur, also pointed out that shipowners have been reluctant to report minor piracy incidents, since it delays travel and can add to insurance costs. Only two of the 18 recorded piracy attacks in 2005 involved large vessels transiting the waterway. Fishing trawlers and other small local craft are more likely to be targeted. See "Hard times for pirates in busy world waterway," Simon Montlake, The Christian Science Monitor at ABC News, 10/30/06.

Swan Hunter shipyard is gone: Three months after the Swan Hunter shipyard was shut down, owner Jaap Kroese stated that all the shipbuilding equipment, including the cranes, has been sold. The Tyneside yard had run for nearly 150 years, but the UK Ministry of Defence moved the site's final job to another shipyard because of cost overruns. Kroese has said he wants to keep the site as a manufacturing base, but recent reports stated it could be sold for housing. See "No Hope Left For Shipyard," Stephen White, Mirror.co.uk, 10/30/06.

Mediterranean Sea in danger of becoming barren: Improved technology has increased the size of fish catches, leading to an unscrupulous pillage of the sea's resources. Fishing boats may have engines four times as powerful as the law allows them to have in the Mediterranean, they use banned gear such as drift nets, which haul up vast quantities of unwanted fish and other marine life, and they target juvenile fish despite size restrictions. Large companies even use radar and spotter planes to track down schools of bluefin tuna or other lucrative fish. As a result, the Mediterranean is in danger of becoming a barren sea. Environmentalists blame lax European government enforcement, while European officials say regulations are insufficient and fishing a difficult activity to monitor. See "Species becoming rare in Mediterranean," Sapa-DPA at IOL.com, 10/29/06.

Canada must move quickly to control the Arctic: Canada claims the Northwest Passage as an internal waterway, over which it can impose its own environmental controls and deny passage to other ships. Most other maritime powers consider it to be an international waterway, where right of passage is guaranteed. The passage is attractive route because it cuts 7,000 kilometers (4,350 miles) from some shipping routes between Asia and Europe. But until recently, Arctic straits have been impassible because of ice. Global warming is changing that: the Canadian Coast Guard last week encountered virtually no resistance through straits that have for centuries been nearly impossible to traverse, even in summer. Although Ottawa has pledged an expanded Arctic presence including armed icebreakers to strengthen Canada's claim, no solid commitments have yet been made. If ice continues to clear so quickly, the country will have to move fast to maintain control of the Arctic. See "Warming climate opens late-season Arctic routes," Nathan VanderKlippe, CanWest News Service at Canada.com, 10/27/06.

US bans live fish shipments to stop a virus: The US Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has banned interstate transport of 37 species of live fish from the eight states adjacent to the Great Lakes. Importing those species from the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec also was prohibited. The agency is hoping to stop the spread of the virus viral hemorrhagic septicema, or VHS, which was discovered in the region last year. The aquatic virus poses no risk to humans but causes fatal internal bleeding in fish. Officials believe the virus came to the Great Lakes in ballast tanks of oceangoing cargo ships. While the agency considers the ban a simple measure to give them time to figure out how to control the virus, many in the region fear the order could be especially hard on commercial fish farms and live bait vendors, particularly since the virus hasn't been detected on any fish farm in the Great Lakes region. It could take the agency two or three months just to write interim rules. See "Great Lakes Fish Farmers Angry Over Ban," John Flesher, Associated Press at Chron.com, 10/27/06.

Coalition naval forces keep guard on Saudi oil facilities: Coalition naval forces are helping to guard vital oil installations in Arabia as part of heightened security following an al Qaeda threat last month. In their sights are the kingdom's Ras Tanura terminal, the world's biggest offshore oil export facility, and Bahrain's Bapco refinery. The Italian-led Coalition Task Force 152 contains ships from British, French, US, German and other navies. The statement came from a British navy official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the press. The British official said the coalition ships were confining their patrols to international waters, but asked merchant shippers in the region of Bahrain and eastern Saudi Arabia to be on alert for suspicious activity. A US Navy official has called the security measures "routine," but supported the recommendation that commercial ships be alert while transiting the gulf. See "Coalition Navies on Watch for Oil Attacks in Gulf," Associated Press at abc7.com, 10/27/06.

Maritime rescue operation continues in North Korean territory: On Thursday, North Korea agreed to allow a South Korean patrol ship, airplane and helicopter into its territorial waters, to search for six missing sailors of Russian cargo ship Sinegurye. The vessel sank in a storm on Monday off the Korean peninsula. Eleven members of the crew have been rescued, and two bodies had already been found. Rescuers have now recovered another body, and hope to recover another two suspected bodies which have floated into North Korean territorial waters. The Russian foreign ministry is seeking permission for their rescue ship Yuri Orlenko to pick up the two bodies. There is tension in the region over Pyongyang's October 9 nuclear test, but in the past North Korea has given permission for search and rescue operations in its waters. See "Rescuers recover another body from Russian ship," Reuters, 10/26/06.

Somali pirates convicted of hijacking: Ten Somalis were captured on January 22 by the US Navy after seizing the vessel Safina Al Bisaarat off Somalia. The men insist they were stranded fishermen, but the ship's Indian captain told the US that his vessel had been hijacked. Captain Akbar Ali Suleiman's testimony in court described being outrun by two speedboats, and being held captive for six days before the rescue. A Kenyan court convicted the men of hijacking on Thursday. Magistrate Beatrice Jaden said, "I have no doubt that the suspects committed the offense of piracy." The men face sentencing next Wednesday; the death penalty is expected. See "Somali pirates face death penalty in Kenya," Associated Press at CNN.com, 10/26/06.

US prosecutors announce new charges in China 'spy' case: US prosecutors announced tougher new charges for five members of a California-based family accused of smuggling sensitive US military research to China. An FBI statement said the five ethnic Chinese — two US nationals and three Hong Kong Chinese — faced a raft of new charges including conspiring and attempting to export defense technology. Previously, three members of the family had faced charges of acting as agents for the Beijing government without being registered to do so, which is regarded as a significantly less serious charge than espionage. Court documents in the case allege that unidentified co-conspirators from China provided Chi Mak, a US citizen who worked for a US defense contractor, with lists requesting specific defense information, including sensitive areas of research related to nuclear submarines. See "Family faces new charges in US military secrets-to-China case," Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 10/25/06.

Great Lakes vulnerable as Asian carp overwhelm nearby rivers: To date, the people most concerned about the Asian carp invading the Great Lakes have been government biologists. But the region is home to about a third of all recreational boats in the US, and the commercial and recreational fishery is worth $4.5 billion. The invasive carp began making its way up the Mississippi River and its tributaries more than two decades ago, and have now been found 50 miles downstream from Lake Michigan. The only thing standing between the fish and the Great Lakes is an electric barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal that has a history of power failures. Everyone agrees the barrier isn't robust enough to keep the fish out for good. The Great Lakes are already ravaged by the arrival of more than 180 foreign invaders, and the worry is that the carp could be disastrous for an already sick system. And the leaping carp have hit so many unsuspecting boaters that people are stopping some recreational activities, and adjusting to the notion that their kids will grow up on a changed and increasingly menacing river. See "Ill-conceived plan to clean fouled waters goes awry," Dan Egan, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at The State.com, 10/25/06.

Ivorians sue for damages after toxic scandal: A Dutch lawyer has launched a damages suit against a company that chartered a ship which delivered hundreds of tons of toxic waste to Ivory Coast, creating an environmental disaster. The Van der Goen law firm has stated that Trafigura had been informed that the ship, the Probo Koala, was carrying toxic substances, and knew that the Ivory Coast did not have the capacity to treat the waste safely. Trafigura first attempted to discharge the chemical slops, which contains mercaptan, in the Dutch port of Amsterdam in early August. But a local waste management company suddenly raised its rates. Trafigura instead sent the tanker to Nigeria, where it encountered similar problems. The company finally came to an agreement with a waste management firm in the Ivory Coast, but apparently the waste was dumped, not incinerated. Ten people died and many thousands more needed treatment after the dumping. See "Ivorians to sue 'toxic ship' firm," BBC News, 10/24/06.

In response to the incident, the EU executive has announced that the European Union needs new criminal sanctions against companies flouting environmental rules. A spokeswoman for Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said a proposal for a directive on the protection of the environment through criminal law would be presented before the end of the year. See "EU eyes criminal sanctions for environmental breaches," Reuters, 10/23/06.

Panama votes to expand the canal: Panamanians have backed a plan to give their country's canal an overhaul. The government hopes the project, which will double the canal's capacity to enable more and bigger ships to cross between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, will help lift the country out of poverty. Supporters say that expansion of the canal will create jobs and boost economic growth. But critics warn the plan could bankrupt the small nation, which is already burdened with huge debts and where most people live in poverty, if costs spiral. Taxpayers could be forced to pick up the tab and investors lose money. Construction is scheduled to begin in late 2007, and is expected to be completed in 2014. The expansion plan will build wider locks and deeper and bigger access channels, and let ships with 12,000 containers pass through, up from around 4,000 containers at present. See "Panamanian voters approve widening canal," Ana Fernandez and Alexandre Peyrille, AFP at Yahoo! News, 10/23/06.

The United States is by far the biggest user of the waterway, sending 136.5 million long tons of cargo through the canal each year, followed by China with 35.1 million and Japan with 32.2 million, according to the Panama Canal Authority. US Ambassador William Eaton told reporters in Panama City that Panamanians had made the right choice. The new set of locks should lower prices for shippers on America's East Coast who buy goods from Asia. See "Canal Project Could Lower Prices in U.S.," Will Weissert, Associated Press at Las Vegas Sun, 10/23/06.

Japan to monitor ships to North Korea: Japan plans to monitor ships heading to North Korea in waters off its western and southern coasts following the UN resolution to punish Pyongyang for its nuclear test. The Yomiuri Shimbun reports that Tokyo is considering deploying several destroyers and patrol aircraft to the two areas to conduct warning and surveillance activities. Japan would monitor the Tsushima Strait between its western coast and South Korea, and the area northwest of its southern island of Okinawa. According to the outline, Japan's maritime self-defense force would notify US and other forces deployed off North Korea's eastern and western coasts when it identified a suspicious ship. Japan is also studying the possibility of providing logistical support to US warships involved, including fuelling operations. See "Japan to monitor NKorean ships in two sea-lanes," AFP at Yahoo! News, 10/22/06.

EU fishing quotas discussed: A spokesman for the European Union's Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs says that the EU is likely to ignore calls to ban cod fishing in the North Sea. EU ministers have allowed cod fishing for several years, despite recommendations from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea to ban catches completely. The ministers have felt that the social and economic consequences of shutting down the fisheries would be too great. The spokesman said, "The same outcome is likely this year." There is hope that ministers will agree to protect cod in parts of the North Sea, particularly juvenile fish, when they rule on the ban in December. See "Price of cod fishing ban 'too high' for EU," Lewis Smith, Times Online, 10/21/06.

The EU fishing commissioner Joe Borg met with industry members in Aberdeen to discuss fishing quotas. He stressed that new measures had to be considered to help cod recovery, but he suggested he may be prepared to impose regional restrictions rather than blanket quotas. Scotland's fleet has been hard hit by quotas in the past. See "EU may tailor fish quotas to save the Scottish fleet," Hamish MacDonell, The Scotsman, 10/20/06.

Drop in piracy off Somalia attributed to Islamic law: A recent report by the Merchant International Group Ltd. suggests that Somalia's new Islamic rulers have rid the country of pirates. After the nation collapsed into lawlessness 15 years ago, its coastline developed into a haven for bandits who used high-speed vessels to rob passing ships. The report, however, points out that while there were over 40 attacks on vessels in and around Somali waters between March 2005 and July 2006, not a single pirate attack has been reported since. The drop is attributed to threats by the Islamic Courts Union to punish anyone involved in piracy with either execution or amputation. Critics say the ICU is an al Qaeda-linked movement that plans to bring in tough Taliban-style social restrictions, including bans on films and music. But apparently some ordinary Somalis think it is the only alternative to the anarchy that prevailed before. See "Islamic law overpowers pirates off Somalia," Colin Freeman, London Sunday Telegraph at The Washington Times, 10/20/06.

Ocean "dead zones" show big 2-year increase: Scientists have found 200 "dead zones" in the world's oceans — places where pollution threatens fish, other marine life and the people who depend on them. The United Nations Environment Program report showed only 150 dead zones two years ago. Pollution-fed algae, which deprives other living marine life of oxygen, is the cause of most of the world's dead zones that cover tens of thousands of square miles of waterways. Scientists chiefly blame fertilizer and other farm run-off, sewage and the burning of fossil fuels. The overall findings were given even more urgency by new modeling that shows up to 90% of the world's tropical coasts may be developed by 2030. See "UN says number of ocean 'dead zones' rising fast," Daniel Wallis, Reuters, 10/19/06.

The estuaries of China's two greatest rivers, the Yangtze and the Yellow, were on the list of dead zones in the UNEP report. According to a separate report by China's State Environmental Protection Administration, the nation's coastal regions suffered from 82 "red tides" in 2005 — a form of algae bloom. And the leading People's Daily reported Friday that it would take at least 200 years to clean up the Bohai Sea, even if no more sewage was poured into it. More than 20 years of robust economic growth in China have come at the expense of the environment, with local governments and industries shunning ecological protection in the pursuit of short-term profits. See "Estuaries of China's greatest rivers declared "dead zones"," AFP at Yahoo! News, 10/20/06.

Russia's nuclear waste must be cleaned up: Spent fuel from Russia's nuclear-powered submarines and ice breakers was dumped directly into the Barents and Kara seas, or placed into inadequate storage facilities. Today, not even the officials in charge suggest these regions are safe. Andrei Zolotkov, recognized as an authority in this matter, describes Andreeva Bay in the Murmansk region: "The amount of radioactivity is equivalent to 93 submarine reactors, or comparable with Chernobyl." Last week saw the first public hearing of its kind, where the people of Murmansk were finally told what they have feared for years: storage facilities are degrading, and pollution levels are increasing. Technical and economic assistance will come from the Kola Peninsula's northern neighbors, as well as the international community. But the logistics of moving almost 100 tons of waste — risky in itself — is exacerbated by the available paths: some waste will sail by ship through any increasingly busy port, and some waste will pass through the city on trains, where it will pass several remote towns in its journey across the Kola Peninsula. See "Nuclear waste poses Arctic threat," Jorn Madslien, BBC News, 10/19/06.

Indonesian Navy to purchase six Russian submarines: The Indonesian Navy will purchase six modern diesel submarines from Russia as part of an upgrading of its aging military arsenal. The Navy will buy four Kilo class and two Amur 950, Lada class, Russian submarines. No financial details were disclosed. The boats were chosen over German and French equivalents because of reliability and cost. Indonesia has been looking for other sources for arms since the US cut military ties in 1999. The ban was lifted last year by the US, but no new American orders have been placed. The Indonesian Defense Ministry also has plans to buy a dozen Russian-made Sukhoi fighter planes early next year, another six submarines by 2024, and warships, possibly from Russia and the Netherlands. See "Indonesia set to buy Russian submarines - news agency," Ria Novosti, 10/19/06.

Scientists urge ban on cod catch: Scientists say a complete ban on cod must be put into place to prevent the species from dying out in the North Sea. The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, the official committee of European fisheries experts, will release its full report on Friday, with quotas decided in December. This is the fifth year in a row that scientific advice recommends a zero catch of cod in the North Sea. So far, politicians have not followed the advice, saying that a ban on cod fishing is unrealistic. According to European Commission fisheries spokeswoman Mireille Thom, the root of the problem is the fact that it is not possible to catch an abundant North Sea fish such as haddock, without catching cod as well. A complete ban on targeted cod fishing, with small quota allowed for bycatch, would at least make a symbolic point. But there is already very little targeted cod fishing in the North Sea. See "Europe's cod puzzle hard to crack," Stephen Mulvey, BBC News, 10/18/06.

Reports on fish consumption give conflicting messages: A report recently released by the Harvard School of Public Health said consumption of fish reduces the risk of coronary death by 36 percent. A similar report released simultaneously by the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, was not as optimistic, concluding that there is only enough evidence to say that consumption of fish, especially fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, "may" reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration had requested the Institute's report because it said consumers were confused about how much and what kind of fish they should eat. The two studies, which conflict in important aspects, seem unlikely to provide much clarity, since the high degree of certainty in one report, and the caution in the other, can only lead to confusion. Both reports have come under criticism from environmental groups and from the Consumers Union, since they either don't address or dismiss concerns about mercury and PCBs. See "Medical studies recommend moderate consumption of seafood," Sandy Kleffman, ContraCosta Times at TheState.com, 10/17/06.

Dubai Ports executive calls for global security initiatives: David Sanborn, Dubai Ports World's managing director of the Americas, believes a new US port security law isn't ambitious enough. Dubai Ports, owned by the United Arab Emirates, became the center of a bitter debate in Congress when lawmakers had security concerns about an Arab state-owned company running US port terminals. President George Bush had also nominated Sanborn to head the US Maritime Administration, but he withdrew his name amid the ports uproar. Bush signed the Safe Accountability for Every Port Act of 2006 into law on Friday. At a maritime security conference, Sanborn criticized the SAFE Port Act for setting up only a single pilot program, with three foreign ports, to test the feasibility of scanning cargo headed for the US while it is still overseas. He also called on governments around the world to create global standards for port security. Sanborn said, "The threats are global, they are not just directed at the United States." See "Dubai Ports executive knocks U.S. port security law," Reuters, 10/17/06.

Iceland resumes commercial whaling: The Icelandic government has said it will resume commercial whaling, making it only the second country after Norway to hunt whales for commercial reasons; there is an international moratorium on the activity. Iceland's fisheries ministry said Tuesday it had authorized whalers to hunt 30 minke whales and nine fin whales in the period from September 1, 2006 until August 31, 2007. The fisheries ministry states that Iceland's overall policy is one of sustainable utilization of marine resources, but conservationists say fin whales are endangered. Iceland halted whaling altogether in 1990 but resumed scientific whaling in 2003. See "Iceland to resume commercial whale hunts," Reuters at ABC News, 10/17/06.

Japan accepts punitive tuna quota: Japan has accepted a major slash in its international quota for prized southern bluefin tuna as punishment for overfishing. The cut in the quota marks a victory for environmentalists, who say that a worldwide fad in high-end Japanese sushi and sashimi dishes is dangerously straining the world's tuna stocks. An international commission last week found Japan had exceeded its annual quota of 6,065 tons of southern bluefin tuna and slashed Japan's allotment to 3,000 tons a year for the five years from 2007. Japan has accepted the decision. The decision to slash Japan's quota was reached during a four-day meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna last week. The commission, which includes Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and Taiwan, agreed to slash the total catch of southern bluefin tuna by nearly 20% to 11,530 tons for 2007. See "Japan tuna quota halved for the next five years," Elaine Lies, Reuters at Yahoo! News, 10/16/06.

Federal settlement announced in Puget Sound oil spill: ConocoPhillips will pay more than $2.3 million in federal fines and cleanup costs for the October 2004 oil spill that soiled 21 miles of beach between Tacoma and Vashon Island. The federal settlement is on top of a $540,000 state fine announced last week for the spill, which investigators have linked to the oil tanker Polar Texas. The federal settlement includes fines of about $80,000, which is close to the maximum allowed under the federal Clean Water Act. It also covers $2.23 million, the total cost of the cleanup. Some have questioned whether the much larger state fine would really have an impact on an oil company with second-quarter profits over $5 billion. See "$2.3 million federal settlement in Puget Sound oil spill," Warren Cornwall, The Seattle Times, 10/16/06.

Cargo ships collide on Mississippi River: The Greek freighter Zagora was heading down the Mississippi River on Monday when it struck the Panamanian freighter Torm Anholt, which was at anchor at the time of the collision. Although the Zagora was undamaged, the Torm Anholt had a 12-foot-wide, 6-foot-long gash in its right side 6 to 9 feet above the water line. The vessel was not believed to be taking on water, and no injuries were reported. The collision occurred near Kenner Bend Anchorage in Kenner, west of New Orleans. See "Ship, Vessel Crash on Mississippi River," Associated Press at ABC News, 10/16/06.

UK shipyard merger talks step up: Britain's big shipbuilding groups are stepping up talks aimed at creating a single naval dockyard company for the UK. BAE Systems and VT Group are considered the most important companies in talks right now. The Ministry of Defence has placed orders for six destroyers and is about to commission two aircraft carriers, which will guarantee work for British yards for years. Lord Drayson, the Defence Procurement Minister, wants the industry to take advantage of this boom in Navy orders and create one shipbuilder capable of winning international orders once the MoD building spree ends. The assets that are likely to be merged include BAE's yards at Barrow-in-Furness, Scotstoun and Govan on the Clyde and VT's dock in Portsmouth. The combined assets should have a valuation in excess of £1 billion. The MoD would like terms set by December. See "BAE and VT in talks to create UK's last big shipbuilder," David Robertson, Times Online, 10/14/06.

The Times has learned that the Future Aircraft Carrier project will be given to the MoD for final approval a week from Thursday. The success of the carrier project has been heralded as an example of how future collaboration on the shipbuilding industry may work. See "Carrier project to go for final approval this month," David Robertson, Times Online, 10/14/06.

Davie shipyard sale completed: Teco Management SA of Norway has acquired the bankrupt Davie shipyard in a deal worth about $28 million. Teco first planned to purchase the bankrupt shipyard in June, but failed to meet the conditions for purchase. But the company was given the opportunity to negotiate the required financial guarantees, which they have recently done. The province of Quebec will guarantee 50% of a $15-million loan and Teco will provide about $13 million to get the shipyard back in operation. The city of Levis is offering a five-year tax holiday, which is conditional on the company having a payroll of 1,100 employees by 2011. The shipyard has been in bankruptcy since 2001. It is believed to be among the oldest shipyards in Canada. Teco intends to build offshore drilling platforms at the shipyard. See "Quebec's struggling Davie Industries shipyard sold to Norway's Teco," Martin Ouellet, Canadian Press at The Vancouver Sun, 10/14/06.

Russia to build a floating nuclear power plant: Rosenergoatom, a Russian nuclear energy company, is planning to begin construction on a floating nuclear power plant next year. It will deliver electricity to 200,000 people in the port city of Severodvinsk in the southeastern White Sea by late 2010. Harsh weather in this area makes regular coal and oil fuel deliveries unreliable and expensive. The company will mount two reactors on a football-field-size barge, float it to a port, connect power lines to the mainland, and turn on the reactors, providing communities with affordable electricity. The plant will store waste and spent fuel in an onboard facility that workers will empty every 10 to 12 years during regular maintenance overhauls. Environmental groups are concerned about potential problems. A boat could ram the plant and spill nuclear waste into the water; a bad storm could cut the plant off from its land-based power supply, triggering a reaction; or an overheated core could melt through the barge, creating a radioactive steam explosion. The safety of the proposed facility is still unknown. See "Russia building nuke barge to power Arctic," Bjorn Carey, Popular Science at CNN.com, 10/13/06.

California creates a maritime security council: The state of California, which handles 43% of all the port traffic in the United States, has just created the California Maritime Security Council. The council will fight terrorism through better coordination between state, federal and local authorities and port managers and workers, as well as help identify areas where security, emergency response and communications could be enhanced. The US Coast Guard already has three security committees with much the same goal for specific California ports, but says it welcomes the statewide effort. See "California Creates Port Security Council," abc7.com, 10/12/06.

More talks requested on ship-to-ship oil transfer plan: Edinburgh city leader Ewan Aitken is seeking an urgent meeting with Environment minister Ross Finnie over the ship-to-ship oil transfer plans in the Firth of Forth. Councilor Aitken is also planning to meet his counterparts from Fife and East Lothian councils to discuss possible legal action against the controversial plans. His council has been opposed to the plans from the beginning. The transfers were given the go-ahead in July when the Maritime and Coastguard Agency revealed it would be backing Forth Ports' oil spill contingency plan. The Sunderland-based company Melbourne Marine Services is proposing to pump up to eight million tons of Russian crude oil between tankers lying four miles off the Fife coast every year. See "Bid to block oil transfer plans," BBC News, 10/11/06.

South Korea may ban North's ships: South Korea may ban from its territorial waters those ships from North Korea contaminated by radiation from the North's recent nuclear testing. The step may come ahead of planned UN sanctions or a US-led initiative to interdict the North's suspected transport of banned materials through sea lanes. Under a maritime agreement between the two Koreas signed last year, most of the North's ships loaded with oil or cement move from the Northeast coast to the Northwest coast through waters surrounding Cheju Island. North Korean ships are still passing through the South's waters, but if the new plan is implemented, North Korean ships will be denied access to the routes they currently use. The Maritime and Fisheries Ministry may also decide to suspend the inter-Korean fisheries trading. See "Seoul Moves to Block Passage of NK Ships," Kim Yon-se, The Korea Times, 10/11/06.

Report released on Great Lakes spills: The International Joint Commission advises Canada and the United States on issues concerning the Great Lakes. It has just released findings from a two-year study of accidental or intentional discharges into the lakes and the waterways connecting them. One of the first recommendations is that both countries do better at gathering and sharing information, as firm conclusions were hard to draw with current data. But the report stated that the number of spills in the Great Lakes basin has appeared to decline since 1990. The report documented hundreds of discharges exceeding 190 liters between 1990 and 2004. Chemicals, oil, petroleum byproducts and industrial waste were the most commonly released substances. Additional recommendations include developing biennial reports on onshore and offshore discharges, crafting a joint approach to spill-prevention, and resolving conflicts over compensation for major spill cleanups. See "U.S.-Canada teamwork needed to prevent Great Lakes spills: IJC report," The Canadian Press at myTELUS, 10/10/06.

Shipbreaking workers lobby for protection: Vidyadhar V. Rane and a delegation of Indian workers lobbied the International Maritime Organisation at a Marine Environment Protection Committee meeting this week in London. Rane is the secretary of the Mumbai Port Trust Dock and General Employees' Union. Recycling of ships is on the IMO's agenda, but the delegation and unions want international regulations to work faster at protecting shipbreaking workers. Ninety-five percent of old ships are broken up and recycled on the beaches of India, Bangladesh, China, Pakistan and Turkey, but these countries have few rules in place to protect workers and their livelihoods. The International Labour Organisation has classed shipbreaking as one of the world's most hazardous jobs. The IMO is committed to helping shipbreaking workers, but any new international regulation likely won't come into force until 2015. See "Workers appeal for tighter rules in shipbreaking industry," Phil Hazlewood, AFP at Yahoo! News, 10/9/06.

China will do more to protect oceans: China's State Council has issued a new regulation to tighten control on approvals of marine projects, in order to better protect ocean environments from construction pollution. Under the new regulation, new projects such as power plants, and seafood breeding areas must not affect the environment of the sea area or adjacent waters. Environment assessment reports must be prepared for all new projects, and approved by sea administration departments. Related industry and the public will be informed of new projects, and may provide input. If approved, the project must install necessary environmental protection facilities, and discharge of toxic and harmful waste must be strictly controlled. Rules for site inspections are included in the regulation, as are procedures for reporting violations. The regulation will go into effect on November 1. See "China Tightens Regulations to Better Protect Oceans," Xinhua News Agency at China Internet Information Center, 10/7/06.

Cornwall wreck is declared a protected site: The wreck of a ship which went down with a princess's dowry has been declared a protected site by the government to save it from modern treasure hunters. In 1527, the St Anthony, owned by King John of Portugal, sank off Gunwalloe Cove in Cornwall. The cargo manifest still survives, showing huge quantities of copper and silver ingots, believed to be part of the dowry of Princess Katherine, sister of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who was to marry King John. The site was discovered by divers in 1981, and designated a protected wreck. However, a survey last year suggested that the position of the wreck has been shifting, so that part now lies outside the original site. The new protection order will cover the entire current position of the wreck and its contents. See "Treasure hunting banned at wreck," BBC News, 10/7/06.

Oil barge sinks near Karachi coast: A barge belonging to a private Pakistani company sank in the open sea on Friday night, about two miles from the port of Karachi. Its crew members were rescued. The barge, Orion-1, was returning to the Karachi Port from Port Qasim, carrying about 65 tons of furnace oil. Traffic was not affected, and officials are trying to empty the ship's tanks. Some small amount of oil has spilled. See "Pakistani oil barge sinks near Karachi port," Reuters, 10/7/06.

Canada won't support ban on bottom trawling: Canada's Federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn announced Friday that Canada will not support a moratorium on bottom trawling in international waters. A number of countries support a total ban on the destructive fishing practice, and met at the United Nations this week to request an interim moratorium. But Spain, Iceland, Japan, and now Canada oppose the ban, so it is unlikely the UN will be able to pass a temporary ban. Mr. Hearn stated that "Real solutions must be practical, enforceable and fair." Instead of a ban, Hearn wants to beef up the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, or NAFO, the regional body that manages fisheries beyond Canada's domestic waters. But environmentalists believe that Canada voted against support of the measure because it allows bottom trawling in its own waters, and doesn't want to face calls for a ban at home. Hearn conceded months ago that bottom trawling can damage ecosystems. See "Canada will not join call for bottom-trawling ban in international waters," Canadian Press at myTELUS, 10/6/06.

China is worried about access to sea lanes: China's vulnerability over sea lanes was discussed at a recent forum in Washington. China's naval modernization has recently focused on preparing for possible armed conflict over Taiwan, which it sees as a renegade province awaiting reunification. Any attack on the island could see a response from the United States, which is legally bound to help defend Taipei. This modernization plan has left China less capable of defending its sea lanes. The US currently has vast control over the major so-called "choke points" on the world's sea lanes, as well as transit points through narrow straits such as Hormuz, Malacca and the Taiwan Strait. Almost all of China's energy imports are obtained through the sea, and it is worried the US could hold its oil supply hostage. Some Western experts believe China is attempting to develop naval capabilities that would allow it to provide security for its oil shipments and project power into the Indian and Pacific oceans. See "US, China, India flex muscle over energy-critical sea lanes," P. Parameswaran, AFP at Yahoo! News, 10/4/06.

Sewage is a growing problem for coastal populations: The report "State of the Marine Environment," drawn up by the UN Environment Program, paints a bleak picture on the threats to the world's marine environments. Untreated sewage, run-off from agricultural processes, destruction of coastal ecosystems, and a rising tide of ocean litter are all contributing to potential disaster. In addition, coastal populations are expected to double in about 40 years, which could significantly endanger the health and welfare of the people and animals that inhabit them. The report had some good news: oil pollution is falling and progress is being made on preventing radioactive materials, industrial chemicals and pesticides from tainting the oceans. The report will be presented to delegates at a conference in Beijing later this month that will discuss progress in a 10-year-old action plan to tackle marine pollution, and how to boost the effort to clean up oceans and seas in coming years. See "U.N. says sewage growing coastal problem," Mike Corder, Associated Press at The State.com, 10/4/06.

Who pays for oil spill protection: Washington state's Oil Spill Advisory Council has suggested increasing charges on oil shipped to the state's refineries, shipped out of state, and pumped into ships. The council estimates that as much as $9 million a year could be raised from petroleum users, to pay for a task force to monitor oil-spill risks, oil spill cleanup, and a permanent tugboat to rescue ships on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The proposal would more than double the money now spent annually on oil-spill prevention in Washington. The report is the first by the council since its creation by the Legislature in 2005, amid concerns over the slow response to the October 2004 Dalco Passage oil spill in South Puget Sound. Shipping and oil industry representatives on the council believe that the recommendations miss the mark. See "Petroleum buyers should pay for spill protections, panel says," Warren Cornwall, The Seattle Times, 10/4/06.

Nicaragua plans its own canal: Nicaragua has announced plans to build a waterway linking the Pacific and Atlantic that would carry bigger ships than the existing Panama Canal. President Enrique Bolanos said the new route, which would cost $18 billion and take 12 years to complete, was needed to handle the growth in world shipping. Nicaragua sought to play down fears that its canal would compete for the same trade that now goes through Panama. Nicaragua has long held dreams of its own canal and was considered a potential route before the Panama waterway was constructed. Panama is due to vote in three weeks on whether to expand its own canal, to let larger ships pass and shorten lines. See "Nicaraguan president proposes second canal to complement Panama's," Associated Press at Chron.com, 10/3/06.

US vows to curb destructive fishing: The United States will work to eliminate practices such as bottom trawling that devastate fish populations and the ocean floor. President Bush released a memo on Tuesday that directs the secretaries of State and Commerce to promote sustainable fisheries and to oppose destructive fishing practices. The memo also said the US would work with other nation to change fishing practices and create new international fishery regulatory groups if needed. While Brazil, Chile, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa and, now, the US have expressed support for regulating bottom trawling on the high seas, Spain, Russia and Iceland are among those that oppose it. The memo was issued a day before United Nations negotiations open in an effort to ban bottom fishing anywhere it's unregulated. See "Bush Seeks Ban on Destructive Fishing," John Heilprin, The Associated Press, at Washingtonpost.com, 10/3/06.

Japanese fisherman says he was wrongly accused: A Russian patrol boat opened fire on the Japanese fishing boat No. 31 Kisshin Maru in disputed waters on August 16, killing one of the fisherman, Mitsuhiro Morita. Noboru Sakashita, captain of the vessel, arrived back in Japan on Tuesday after more than six weeks in custody. He told reporters that he admitted to charges of trespassing and poaching, and paid a fine while in Russian custody, because he wanted his two surviving crew members to return to their families in Japan as soon as possible. Russian authorities have also confiscated the boat. Sakashita believes he was wrongly accused, as his boat was operating on the "fisheries adjustment rule line." See "Skipper says he was wrongly accused," The Asahi Shimbun, 10/3/06.

Canadian radar system shut down: When it was announced two years ago, the construction of the high-frequency surface wave radar network was hailed by federal officials as a major boost for Canada's security. The technology is unique in that it can track ships at much greater distances than regular surveillance systems. But the project will now be shelved after a complaint was recently received that the frequency on which the radar operates interfered with another communications transmission. The navy is not dismantling the two existing radar sites — which have been successfully used by the Canadian Forces on at least one occasion to detect a suspicious vessel — but it has taken measures to ensure they don't interfere with other communications. The cancellation of the radar program was announced last week as part of the Harper government's plan to save money. Buy navy officials say they aren't giving up on finding some kind of technology to do the job. See "Promising radar watchdog shelved after single complaint," David Pugliese, CanWest News Service, Ottawa Citizen at Canada.com, 10/2/06.

Proof that fish farms can harm wild fish: An international team of biologists, mathematicians and environmentalists have studied young salmon on their 37-mile migratory passage past open-net fish farms off the coastline of British Columbia, western Canada. They sampled fish at regular intervals along the route, and found that young salmon carried almost no sea lice before reaching the fish farms, but became heavily infected as they approached them and swam past. Concentrations of sea lice are 30,000 times higher around fish farms in coastal waters than in deep waters. Scientist believe that sea lice from fish farms are responsible for the deaths of up to 95% of young wild salmon migrating out to sea. This is the first study to estimate the total impact of sea lice from fish farms on wild salmon. The research will be published this week by America's National Academy of Sciences. See "Wild salmon ravaged by fish farm infections," Jon Kirk, Sunday Times at Times Online, 10/1/06.

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