News Archive - January 2007

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Canada to scrap gear to pay for new acquisitions: The Canadian Forces plans to get rid of its two refueling and supply ships, a move that will leave the navy unable to refuel vessels at sea for at least two years until replacements are built. The recommendation is part of a military plan — the Conservative government's "Canada First" plan — to pare down its ships, surveillance aircraft and helicopters to help pay for new equipment in the future. The cuts would fund purchases such as medium-lift helicopters, tactical and strategic airlift planes and aerial drones, search and rescue and northern utility aircraft, and replacements for the CF-18 fighters. The navy will begin work on the acquisition of the future surface combatant fleet, a new type of vessel that will come into service in 2018. Those 14 ships would replace the service's existing frigates and Iroquois-class destroyers. The defense strategy acknowledges that the replacement for the existing refueling vessels will not be in the water until at least 2012. But it says the navy will somehow "manage the risk" of operating without refueling and supply ships for a two-year period. See "Forces want to scrap gear, save for new," David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen at Canada.com, 1/31/07.

Hotline helps Indian, Pakistani fishermen: The disputed maritime boundary between India and Pakistan in the Sir Creek estuary in the Arabian Sea has caused particular problems for fishermen. Hundreds of them are arrested each year for inadvertently straying into the other's territorial waters. They are jailed for months, and usually released when the two countries agree on a prisoner swap. But a new hotline linking their coastal security agencies has helped reduce these inadvertent crossings. India's coast guard chief, Vice-Admiral Rusi F. Contractor, said "Fishing vessels found straying within five nautical miles of the maritime boundary are normally returned if nothing incriminating is found on them." See "Pakistan hotline prevents fishermen crossing," Reuters at Scotsman.com, 1/31/07.

Thales, DCN sign agreement: Thales has signed an agreement — first on the table in 2005 — to take a 25 percent stake in France's state-owned naval shipyards DCN. Defense electronics group Thales is a supplier of electronics to the defense and security sectors; DCN manufactures warships and submarines, and supplies defense computer systems and advanced technology. DCN will acquire the naval activities of Thales in France, and obtain full ownership of the Armaris naval marketing venture and MOPA2, the prime contractor for France’s proposed second aircraft carrier. Thales already has a key role in British plans to build two new aircraft carriers, but pressure on defense budgets in both nations has raised some doubts over the projects. France and Britain are considering whether to pool their aircraft carrier projects. See "Thales gets 25% of DCN," Reuters at Business Day, 1/31/07.

Norwegian cruise ship runs aground in Antarctica: A cruise vessel owned by Norwegian Coastal Voyage with 370 people on board briefly ran aground near Deception Island in Antarctica on Tuesday, the company said. The M/S Nordkapp quickly refloated herself after the incident, during which none of the 294 passengers or 76 crew was injured. Although the ship's hull was damaged, no spillage was discovered; oil spill protection has been laid out as a precaution. The Nordkapp is being met by its sister ship, the M/S Nordnorge, which will transport the passengers to Argentina. A British warship is also meeting the Nordkapp, and will send down divers to inspect the damage to its hull and then escort the ship to port in Argentina. See "Norwegian cruise ship runs aground in Antarctic," Doug Mellgren, The Associated Press at The Seattle Times, 1/31/07.

Tankers that lost anchors are back in service: Two Alaskan oil tankers, the Alaskan Navigator and the Alaskan Frontier, were traveling from Valdez, Alaska, to Long Beach, California, in December when one of the two anchors on each ship fell off during stormy weather. A preliminary investigation found the China made anchors might not have been properly tempered. The loss of the anchors was a disappointment to BP PLC and tanker operator Alaska Tanker Co, because the ships are relatively new; the first of the fleet of four tankers, all built at NASSCO in San Diego, went into service in 2004. The Navigator and Frontier each received two new anchors. The other two ships in the fleet, the Alaskan Legend and the Alaskan Explorer, each got one temporary replacement anchor, and will soon get two new permanent replacement anchors. The anchors are still being examined. See "BP tankers back in service following anchor malfunction," The Associated Press at Examiner.com, 1/30/07.

US earns 'C-' on ocean protections: The United States made modest progress on protecting its oceans last year, but still needs to boost funding for reforms, a commission on ocean policy said Tuesday. Overall, the US earned a "C-" grade from the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative, a collaboration between the US Commission on Ocean Policy and the privately funded Pew Oceans Commission. That was a slight improvement over a "D+" grade on the commission's report card for 2005. Panel leaders praised the states as "important champions" for oceans in 2006, citing initiatives in New York and Washington as well as regional pacts on ocean management for the West Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. The joint commission praised Congress and the Bush administration for winning passage of federal fisheries reform, and lauded Bush's designation of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument. But strides made last year to safeguard the nation's oceans were undercut by a lack of funding at all levels of government. You can download the 2006 US Ocean Policy Report Card from the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative.

US Coast Guard Admiral reports on the Deepwater program: The US Coast Guard has published the statement of Admiral Thad W. Allen on the Integrated Deepwater System. Admiral Allen spoke to the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee of the US House of Representatives on January 30, 2007. In his statement, Allen acknowledged the challenges the service has faced in the areas of program management and contract execution. He also acknowledged some of the failures of the plan to convert 110-foot patrol boats to 123 feet. But Allen also stressed the lessons the Coast Guard has learned in managing the "system-of-systems" acquisition program, and clarified some of the statements made recently — and sometimes incorrectly — by the press. Finally, he assured committee members that the Coast Guard will strengthen its program management and oversight roles in the Deepwater program. You can download the Statement (a Word document), made available by the US Coast Guard.

US Navy removes sub commander after collision: A US submarine commander has been removed from his post after his vessel collided with a Japanese tanker in the Gulf. The nuclear-powered submarine USS Newport News collided with the Japanese vessel Mogamigawa on January 8 in the Strait of Hormuz, a major waterway for oil transportation. A Navy statement said Commander Matthew Weingart had been relieved of his command due to "a lack of confidence in his ability to command." No US or merchant sailors were injured in the collision and no oil was spilled. Currently under repair in Bahrain, the sub will return to the United States for permanent work before it redeploys. See "Navy relieves skipper of sub that collided with Japanese ship," Kate Wiltrout, The Virginian-Pilot at HamptonRoads.com, 1/30/07.

Activists hunting Japanese whalers offer a reward: Activists hunting a Japanese whaling fleet in the icy waters of the Antarctic will pay a reward of 25,000 dollars to anyone who can help them find the elusive ships. Sea Shepherd president Paul Watson's offer of a reward was apparently prompted by the New Zealand government's release last Friday of footage of the Japanese fleet harpooning and cutting up whales. New Zealand opposes Japan's whaling but has refused to disclose the exact location of the fleet. Watson has threatened to use a ram to punch holes into the six whaling ships and force them back to port. See "Bounty offer as whalers face clash in Antarctic waters," Bernard Lagan, Times Online, 1/29/07.

Ship runs aground near Gibraltar: The refrigerator ship Sierra Nava was anchored in Gibraltar Bay when strong winds blew it onto a beach just south of Algeciras. The vessel is thought to have around 350 metric tons of fuel on board in four compartments; only one compartment was damaged. Greenpeace reported that spilled fuel had washed up along 2.5 miles of protected coast inside the Estrecho National Park. A coastguard helicopter rescued the crew of 14 who earlier had to put out a fire in the ship's engine room. See "Ship runs aground near Gibraltar," Reuters, 1/28/07.

BAE may be closer to Devonport bid: KBR, the US defense company that controls Britain's Devonport dockyard, revealed Friday that it had received queries about its 51 percent stake in Devonport Management. Babcock International is believed to have balked at the prospect of entering a bidding war against BAE Systems, the UK's biggest defense contractor. BAE has been drawing up a bid that could value Devonport at up to £200 million. It is also believed that the Ministry of Defence, which has been pushing for shipyard consolidation, would also favor consolidating submarine facilities. Submarines are currently refitted and refueled at Devonport; BAE's Barrow-in-Furness facility already manufactures the boats. KBR's chief executive, Bill Utt, insists no final decision has been made. See "BAE finds clear blue water in bid to win Devonport yard," Stephen Foley, The Independent, 1/28/07.

Off-loading of grounded ship Napoli begins: The off-loading of more than 2,000 containers from a cargo ship grounded on the English coast got under way Saturday. A pair of barge cranes from Rotterdam docked alongside the stranded MSC Napoli, a 62,000-ton vessel that suffered hull damage when it went aground January 18 in a storm along the south Devon coast. The move follows warnings by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency that scavengers faced arrest if they were caught taking goods from the ship that wash up ashore. The process would have taken just a few days in port but it is expected to take up to five months as the salvage team works out at sea. The salvage of the remaining containers will take the skill of a surgeon because one false move could send them tumbling into the sea. See "Napoli cargo operation under way," ITV News, 1/27/07.

Tuna conference adopts action plan: International tuna regulators meeting in Japan adopted a plan on Friday to slow the decline in global tuna stocks due to illegal overfishing. The plan, adopted at the end of a five-day meeting in Kobe, will penalize illegal fishing, develop an international inspection system to enforce fishing quotas, control growing fleets, and share information on tuna stock assessments. The move was part of a plan to improve cooperation and coordination in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Larger countries expressed a wish to limit fishing capacity, but developing nations said they wanted to expand their fleets, saying they have the sovereign right to use tuna fisheries for economic development. Conservation groups were disappointed that the plan didn't go far enough to protect fish, and the World Wildlife Fund called the meeting "a failure." See "Plan to slow decline in tuna stocks adopted," The Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 1/26/07.

Pakistan will start screening cargo in March: Pakistan had planned to start screening cargo bound for the US by December 31, 2006, but the late release of funds delayed the program. Official sources now say the Integrated Cargo/Container Control (IC3) Programme of Central Board of Revenue will be launched at Port Qasim in March. Presently, all cargo destined for the US from Pakistan is trans-shipped to Hong Kong, Colombo and Salalah for scanning, resulting in delay and extra costs to the exporters. The new program, which will also be put into place in other ports, will screen cargo in Pakistan, so it won't need to be reexamined upon arrival at US ports, or sent elsewhere for screening. The program will also help avoid the clandestine movement of dangerous cargo, including radioactive or explosive substances. See "Screening of US-bound containers to start in March," Mushfiq Ahmad, The News - International, 1/26/07.

Russia wants to resolve sea border dispute with Ukraine: Russia and Ukraine have so far failed to demarcate their maritime border running through the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait, which links to the Black Sea. The Kerch Strait is a particularly sensitive area. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said last week his country was ready to resolve the Kerch Strait issue if Moscow recognized the Soviet-era administrative borderline as the state border. But Russia denies the existence of administrative borders in Soviet times. Russia, which uses the strait for cargo shipments, advocates shared use of the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov, while Ukraine wants the sea to be clearly divided in accordance with international regulations. Despite differences in opinion, Russia's deputy foreign minister Grigory Karasin says Russia is determined to work with Ukraine to resolve the maritime border dispute. See "Russia set to resolve Azov-Kerch sea border dispute with Ukraine," RIA Novosti, 1/25/07.

Iceland's whale meat goes unused: Two hundred tons of whale meat and blubber is sitting unsold in Icelandic freezers three months after Reykjavik sparked global ire by resuming commercial hunts. The meat is awaiting the results of toxicology tests. But the Icelandic market has so far been uninterested, and Japan — which was expected to a prime buyer of the meat — is reported to have 4,400 tons of its own whale meat stockpiled. Greenpeace's whaling spokesperson for the Nordic region, Frode Pleym, believes Iceland's "government must face the fact that whaling makes no sense economically or politically." Iceland's resumption of commercial whaling in 2006 made it only the second country after Norway to openly defy a global moratorium on the practice. See "Whale meat piling up in Iceland - Greenpeace," Sapa-AFP at IOL, 1/25/07.

Future of International Whaling Commission is in question: Japan has called a meeting for February to discuss lifting a global moratorium on hunting whales. Invitations were sent to all 72 International Whaling Commission members, but some 26 anti-whaling nations have already agreed to boycott the meeting. If anti-whaling nations stay away from the meeting, it could leave the future of the world body in doubt. Japan and other pro-whaling nations believe the IWC is no longer functional. Japan leads the pro-whaling bloc and has gathered powerful support from African, Pacific and Caribbean nations. Iceland and Norway ignore the moratorium and conduct commercial whaling. See "Boycott may loom over Japan meeting on whaling," Reuters at Scientific American.com, 1/25/07.

US shipyards get relief funds for Katrina: The US Congress has appropriated $140 million for repairs at shipyards that have existing Navy shipbuilding contracts and that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina. The Navy will negotiate with each of the affected companies to determine how much each will receive. Northrop Grumman Corp., Austal USA, Atlantic Marine Inc., Seemann Composites Inc., Swiftships Shipyards LLC, and Textron Marine and Land Systems will each receive funds. See "Navy: Gulf shipyards to split $140 million for Katrina repairs," Associated Press at MSNBC.com, 1/25/07.

Virus hits hundreds of QE2 passengers: US health authorities are probing the cause of a mass outbreak of vomiting that struck down around 300 people on the famous Queen Elizabeth 2 luxury liner. 276 passengers and 28 crew members were laid low after being hit by symptoms associated with norovirus on board the British cruise ship, which docked in San Francisco on Monday. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has taken samples from the affected people to determine what caused the outbreak; it will take a few days to prove if it is a norovirus. Emergency sanitation measures, which included disinfecting casino chips and closing self-service food counters, helped halt the spread of the virus; all but six of the ill passengers have recovered. The liner is currently on a worldwide voyage and is now en route to Hawaii. Noroviruses can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramping, and in severe cases can be fatal among children and the elderly. See "QE 2 Hit with Suspected Stomach Flu," Reuters at ABC News, 1/24/07.

The taste for live fish is decimating endangered species, study shows: A new study of daily fish catches and sales quantifies what conservationists have said for a decade — that demand for live reef fish in Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China is causing populations of wrasse, grouper and coral trout on coastal reefs to plummet in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea. Caught mostly by fishermen who sometimes use explosives or cyanide to stun their catch, the fish are packaged in bags of water and flown to thriving seafood restaurants that resemble aquariums. The fishing practices are considered just as harmful to fish populations as increasing human demand, since they destroy crucial reef habitats. In addition, removing large, predatory fish may upset the delicate balance of the coral reef ecosystem. Conservationists hope to establish international standards for managing the import and export of reef fish, and they want to educate consumers to avoid endangered fish. See "Live-Fish Market Grows, Stripping Reefs," Michael Casey, The Associated Press at Examiner.com, 1/24/07.

US Coast Guard will increase its use of space for awareness activities: The US Coast Guard has been using space systems for communications, navigation and weather. But the service is now planning to increase its use of space systems for receiving maritime automatic identification system (AIS) signals. Working with ORBCOMM, a satellite data communications company, the Coast Guard will launch a satellite in the second quarter of 2007 to relay and collect AIS signals. AIS receivers will also be included in future communications satellites. The Coast Guard is also working with the University of Miami's Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing to develop and refine maritime domain awareness concepts and capabilities. See the press release "Coast Guard Looks to Space for Maritime Awareness" from the US Coast Guard, 1/24/07.

Britain advised against rushing to replace submarines: Dr. Richard Garwin, who has advised the US government on national security since the 1950s and chaired the State Department's Arms Control and Non-proliferation Advisory Board, believes that Britain does not need to replace its nuclear submarine fleet now. Prime Minister Tony Blair has been pushing to replace the country's submarines, as they are due to be decommissioned in 2024, and it will take 17 years to design and build new craft. Mr. Blair believes it would be dangerous to for the UK to give up its Trident nuclear weapons system. But Dr. Garwin believes that because the British subs get less use than US Trident submarines, they should last much longer. Although the boats would need their steam generators replaced, that would be much less expensive than replacing the vessels themselves. See "Nuclear weapons plan 'premature'," BBC News, 1/23/07.

US Navy can use controversial sonar: The US Defense Department exempted the Navy on Tuesday from complying with the Marine Mammal Protection Act for the next two years so sailors can practice tracking submarines with sonar. The ranges are off Hawaii, Southern California and the East Coast. Navy officials said they need the exemption, allowed for under the 2004 National Defense Authorization Act, to give them enough time to conduct environmental impact statements for sonar use at major underwater training ranges. The new exemption will allow sailors to perform 40 exercises over the next two years. Environmentalists swiftly denounced the move, saying the Navy wasn't doing enough to protect whales, dolphins and other marine mammals from the harmful effects of the underwater sound technology. The studies required by the Marine Mammal Protect Act will take about two years to complete. See "Navy Can Keep Using Sonar for Two Years," By Audrey McAvoy, Associated Press at Examiner.com, 1/23/07.

Canada activates the Atlantic tsunami warning system: Although the West Coast of Canada receives tsunami warnings via the internationally-coordinated Pacific Tsunami Warning System, an equivalent system for the Atlantic Coast has only been activated today. The new Atlantic tsunami warning system uses the same equipment and procedures already in place to issue storm surge warnings. In fact, the enhancements made to the existing system to allow tsunami warnings will also improve the capacity to predict storm surges, which are much more frequent events on the East Coast. The tsunami warning system is led by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the result of collaboration between the federal departments of Natural Resources, Environment Canada, and Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, with provincial emergency management agencies in the five easternmost provinces and the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. See "Canada's New Government Activated the Atlantic Tsunami Warning System," CCNMathews, 1/23/07.

Marine crews prepare to remove fuel from the Napoli: At least 200 metric tons of fuel oil are now known to have leaked from the stricken container ship the MSC Napoli. The British-flagged vessel was deliberately run aground near Sidmouth, east Devon, after being badly damaged in Thursday's storm. Gale force weather conditions have hampered the salvage operation, and there is now a slick of oil visible on the water's surface. The Napoli contains 3,500 metric tons of heavy fuel oil, but a spokesman for the Maritime And Coastguard Agency said it was confident the oil was contained in tanks within the ship that have not split. The approximately 2,400 containers originally on board carried a variety of goods. Three were carrying dangerous materials, such as battery acid. About 40 containers have washed ashore, and scavengers are plundering the loot despite warnings. See "UK workers race to remove fuel from listing ship," Associated Press at CNN.com, 1/22/07.

Russian sub K-159 may be raised: The K-159, a November-class submarine, sank when it was hit by a storm while being towed to be scrapped in September 2003. Its reactors are filled with three-quarters of a ton of spent uranium. A British Ministry of Defence salvage team will examine the vessel's two nuclear reactors, and determine whether it can be raised from a depth of more than 900 feet. The British team will work with Norwegian and Canadian diving experts and Dutch salvage engineers. If the hull is intact the team may pump in compressed air to allow the K-159 to rise with the assistance of balloons. If the vessel is too badly damaged it may just be entombed in concrete and left on the seabed. See "British to help raise Russian nuclear sub," Peter Almond and Mark Franchetti, Times Online, 1/21/07.

Regional bodies to meet on joint tuna conservation: The fishing industries and governments of some 80 countries and regions will gather this week to look at ways to combat decreasing tuna stocks, which are increasingly falling prey to overfishing an illegal fishing around the world. Japan, the world's largest tuna consumer, is hosting this first joint meeting of the five international tuna conservation bodies. The participants are expected to adopt an action plan and recommendations to harmonize conservation and management measures for tuna stocks. Officials are expected to push for a global tracking system that would certify the origin of every tuna headed to market. Some form of certification would help clamp down on excessive or illegal fishing. Information sharing will also be on the agenda. See "Fishery officials to push for global tracking of world's tuna catch at Japan conference," Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 1/21/07.

MSC Napoli spills 50 containers into sea: Crippled container ship MSC Napoli, abandoned by its crew during violent storms in the English Channel, has run aground near Sidmouth, Devon. The coastguard had planned to ground the ship to stop it sinking, since bad weather had caused serious structural failure, with large cracks on both sides of the ship. However, the vessel has lost about 50 containers. The Napoli was carrying nearly 2,400 containers, some of which contain potentially dangerous chemicals. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said it did not believe any of the containers with chemicals had been dislodged. Coastguards and anti-pollution teams are on standby. See "50 containers fall off beached ship," Press Associations at Guardian Unlimited, 1/20/07.

US commander relieved after deaths of two sailors: On December 29, four sailors were swept overboard from the US submarine Minneapolis-St. Paul. Two died and two were injured. According to a Navy statement, Commander Edwin Ruff was responsible for sending the four to the top of the submarine in questionable weather. It was unclear why Ruff had sent the men outside. Vice Admiral Chuck Munns, commander of the Navy's Submarine Force, has decided to reassign Ruff to a position ashore. The statement said, "Munns took this action due to a loss of confidence in Ruff's ability to command." See "U.S. Navy relieves submarine commander after fatal accident off British coast," Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 1/19/07.

China's Yellow River is in trouble: With a length of almost 3,400 miles, the Yellow River is often described as the cradle of Chinese civilization. It provides water for millions, and for 15% of China's farmland. But its water flow has fallen in recent years, in part due to dams for power generation, and it has become known for over-exploitation of natural resources. More than two-thirds of the water is now unfit to drink, and a third of fish species that lived there are now extinct. Unfortunately, conservation is given a low priority over economic growth. See "A third of fish species killed in Yellow River," Jonathan Watts, Guardian Unlimited, 1/19/07.

Greenpeace criticizes WTO plans: Three quarters of global fish stocks are now classed as fully or over-exploited by the United Nations. But the World Trade Organization plans to slash or cancel fish and fish product tarrifs. Conservation group Greenpeace says this would be a disaster. Daniel Mittler, a political adviser on trade for Greenpeace, said "Under trade liberalization, only a few countries will benefit, and then only in the short term." Greenpeace fears that illegal fishing will boom if tarrifs are cut or dropped. The group says that studies in Mauritania, Senegal and Argentina show that trade liberalization in fisheries was a disaster for the marine environment as well as for local food security. Greenpeace is calling for a great increase in marine reserves, as well as robust monitoring and prosecution of illegal fishing practices. See "WTO plans threaten sea life -Greenpeace," Daniel Wallis, Reuters, 1/19/07.

Firm 'built drug dealer's boats': Ipswish Crown Court has begun hearing a case regarding Crompton Marine owners, who built and designed high-speed vessels for international drug smugglers. Neil Davison and Ellen George had altered the boats, known as ribs, to make space for up to six metric tons of drugs. The prosecution alleges they knew that their clients included smugglers who trafficked drugs between Africa and Spain. The couple were arrested in March 2004. George admitted money-laundering and possession of criminal property at an earlier hearing and is awaiting sentence. Mr Davison remains on bail in Spain where he faces drug-smuggling charges. Details of the boats emerged yesterday at the trial of Ian Rush, who is accused of selling Crompton Marine boats to drug dealers after the arrest of Mr Davison and George. One prototype boat could travel at 50 mph with a load of six metric tons and five people on board. Police allegedly found plans for a 108-foot (33 meter) boat that was big enough to carry five smaller boats. It was never built. The trial continues. See "Couple 'built stealth boats for drug-runners'," Marcus Leroux, Times Online, 1/19/07.

Canada to fund fisheries patrol, navy programs: Canadian military officials have reallocated $5 million to reinstate a fisheries patrol on the East Coast that was cancelled due to lack of funds. The navy's Atlantic branch had been forced to cancel the patrol, as well as suspending overtime, certain types of travel and professional development. The decision to fund the fisheries patrol was announced by Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor, but the minister didn't find new money for the patrol. Instead, the funds were reallocated from elsewhere in the Canadian Forces. The patrol will take HMCS Halifax to the Grand Banks to check for vessels fishing illegally, overfishing or involved in smuggling. Analysts believe navy operations and other parts of the Forces are being affected by Canada's costly involvement in Afghanistan. See "Defence comes up with $5 million to fund fisheries patrol and navy programs," Canadian press at myTELUS, 1/18/07.

A call for more marine protected areas in the UK: Lundy Island, Britain's only statutory marine nature reserve, was introduced in 2003 to try to reverse the problems caused by overfishing. Results have been positive: lobster numbers have increased threefold. Now a new report produced by the World Wildlife Fund together with the Marine Biology Association (MBA) has called for more biodiversity hot spots to be established across the UK. Currently, the UK has 56 Special Areas of Conservation, which include marine habitat. But the WWF report identified 120 locations that are rich in marine life, but susceptible to threats like overfishing and pollution. See "Britain's Coasts: Troubled waters," The Independent, 1/18/07.

Crew rescued after abandoning ship: British and French rescue services winched 26 crew to safety on Thursday after they were forced to abandon a container ship carrying hazardous cargo when it began taking on water in stormy seas in the English Channel. The British-flagged MSC Napoli was on the French side of the Channel when it became holed on the starboard side forcing the crew to abandon the ship and take to a lifeboat. French and British helicopters and tugs were sent to the scene, where the storm was a force nine (more than 50mph), with 26 foot to 30 foot swells; all crewmembers were rescued. The European Maritime and Safety Agency said the vessel was listed as carrying "dangerous cargo," but coastguards said a small proportion of the containers were believed to contain insecticides and pesticides. The ship is now in a stable position, and a salvage contract is being determined. The vessel was last inspected by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in May 2005 when officials said it met safety standards. See "Crew rescued from stricken ship," BBC News, 1/18/07.

Canada's naval fleet has budget problems: The majority of Canada's naval fleet remains in its home ports because of budget restrictions. The move is part of an end-of-fiscal-year financial adjustment for the Department of National Defence, and means that some non-essential operations, travel expenses and overtime will be put off or cut, possibly until the end of the fiscal year, March 31st. This current shortfall is not new to the navy, but the military's ongoing commitment in Afghanistan is putting undue pressure on financial resources in all aspects of the forces. Peter Stoffer, the NDP's Veterans Affairs and Fisheries critic, said Canadians have been told since 9/11 that security is a top priority, but that the federal government has done little to adequately fund its military. The Navy had planned activities that would amount to roughly $315 million for the fiscal year, but has received less than $290. A spokesman in Ottawa insisted that the navy's budget has increased over the last three years. See "Navy cancels fisheries patrols, enacts cost-cutting measures to save money," Canadian Press at myTELUS, 1/17/07.

Agreement reached on rescues off southern Africa: South Africa, the Comores, Madagascar, Mozambique, Angola and Namibia have signed an agreement to better coordinate maritime rescues on the high seas off southern Africa. This development within the Southern African Development Community will provide a boost to the region's economies, by making shippers more confident of sailing in southern waters. Cape Town and its existing Maritime Rescue Co-ordinating Centre will be the hub of the efforts. The new regional center still faces the challenges of a shortage of infrastructure, trained staff and facilities. See "SA inks deal on maritime rescues," Sapa at IOL, 1/17/07.

M/S Server grounding explained: The vessel M/S Server, currently breaking up in rough waters north of Bergen, Norway, is owned by Avena Shipping of Athens. It was on its way to Murmansk when the vessel's cook accidentally cut off a finger. The ship grounded when the captain decided to take the vessel towards land at Fedje to get medical help. One of the vessel's insurers suggested the Server didn't have enough ballast water in its tanks to keep it low enough in stormy seas, and the ship lost control. Only about 135 of the 585 tons of oil on board the ship had been recovered as of Monday night, and the tanks at the stern of the vessel may cause a bigger problem: they were believed to contain more than 100 tons of oil and diesel, and likely aren't intact. Rough weather is slowing attempts to contain the spill and recover the fuel. See "Chopped-off finger led to ship's grounding," Aftenposten, 1/16/07.

Four dead in Messina Strait collision: Four people were killed and dozens injured after a collision between a merchant ship and a hydrofoil passenger ferry in the busy strait between mainland Italy and Sicily Monday evening. The collision drove a gaping hole in the hull of the ferry. All the dead were crew members of the high-speed ferry, including its captain and chief engineer; no one on the cargo vessel was hurt. The hydrofoil was carrying 150 passengers from Reggio di Calabria on the mainland to Messina across the busy strait when it collided with the Antiguan-flagged container ship, the Susan Borchard. Investigations into the cause of the collision have already begun. See "Hydrofoil crash kills 4, wounds 55," Associated Press at CNN.com, 1/16/07.

India and Pakistan survey Sir Creek: India and Pakistan have begun a joint survey of Sir Creek in an effort to end a long-standing maritime border dispute. Hydrographers will produce a common map from which an acceptable border can be established. This is just one of several unresolved border disputes between the two countries, but it has prevented the exploration of gas and oil deposits in a key economic zone in the Arabian Sea. In addition, a lack of clarity over the border has caused fishermen from both countries to be regularly arrested by the other side. Under the UN Convention on Law of the Seas, the countries have until 2009 to settle the boundary, or the continental shelf — thought to hold rich gas and oil deposits — may be opened up to exploration by third parties. See "Survey to draw line under border row," Ashling O'Connor, Times Online, 1/15/07.

BAE Systems is in talks to buy Devonport dockyard: BAE Systems is in talks with two companies to launch a bid for the UK nuclear submarine industry. BAE is working with Rolls-Royce to take over the Devonport dockyard in Plymouth, which maintains, upgrades and fuels the Royal Navy's submarines. BAE has also lined up Carlyle Group, the US private equity firm, as an alternative partner. BAE already owns the submarine yard in Barrow, which builds the UK's submarines. A deal for Devonport would put the building and maintenance of the fleet under one roof. Britain's Ministry of Defence has been pressuring both surface and submarine shipyards to consolidate. A successful bid for Devonport would put BAE and its partner in prime position to benefit from the proposed £25 billion program to build a new fleet of nuclear submarines. The pair may face a rival bid from Babcock International, which owns the Rosyth dockyard on the Firth of Forth and runs the Royal Navy's submarine base at Faslane on the Clyde. However, BAE, Britain's largest defense contractor, will likely be able to set the terms in any deal. See "Bid talks for subs yard surface between BAE and Rolls-Royce," David Robertson, Times Online, 1/15/07.

Work stopped on the US Navy's third LCS ship: Lockheed Martin Corp. has been ordered to stop construction on a Littoral Combat Ship for the US Navy because of "significant cost increases." Lockheed Martin is overseeing construction of the first and third vessels of what is planned to be a 55-ship fleet. Cost growth on the first ship has jumped anywhere from 50 percent to as much as 86 percent. The ship on which work was halted is being built at the Bollinger Shipyard in Lockport, Louisiana. Navy Secretary Donald Winter ordered a 90-day stop-work order on the third ship until the causes of the cost growth are found and a way ahead is determined. The first ship will be completed so the Navy can evaluate the new ship design. Lockheed spokesman Craig Quigley cited four reasons leading to price increases on the Freedom: the first ship in a new class is often costly; vendor issues, including steel costs; the Navy's new Naval Vessel Rules; and a fast-track acquisition program that puts ships into production while design work is still going on. General Dynamics Corp. is building the second and fourth vessels. The price of GD's first ship is also rising, but so far not by as much; construction on this ship isn't as far along as Lockheed's Freedom. A similar cost review will be performed on the first General Dynamics ship. See "Stop-work ordered for 3rd LCS," Christopher P. Cavas, Navy Times, 1/14/07.

Cargo ship runs around off Norway: The Cypriot-registered cargo ship M/S Server ran aground Friday on Norway's west coast, north of Bergen. All 25 crewmembers were rescued. The ship broke in two and the stern section sank, but the bow was towed to calmer waters and secured. About 290 metric tons of heavy fuel oil were spilled. A cleanup crew is on site, trying to contain it. The ship was carrying 585 metric tons of bunker fuel oil, and 72 metric tons of marine diesel on board. It is unclear what caused the ship to run aground. See "Cypriot shipwreck spills fuel onto Norway coast," Reuters at Khaleej Times Online, 1/13/07.

Drifting ship just avoids gas rigs: A maritime disaster was averted when a cargo ship adrift in the North Sea narrowly missed two gas platforms. The vessel broke down in bad weather laden with fertilizer. It was drifting towards the Murdoch gas platform, 75 miles off England's Lincolnshire coast. Incredibly the crew managed to start the Vindo's engines just a mile away from the platform and avoid a collision. But no sooner had that threat passed, the Vindo lost power and began drifting towards a second platform, the unmanned Caister. Fortunately the ship avoided a second tragedy by 700 yards, the Coastguard said. The Vindo is now drifting in open sea and will be rescued by a tug boat and towed to a British port. See "Disaster Averted as Drifting Ship Misses Two North Sea Platforms," Alan MacDermid, Newsquest Media Group at RIGZONE, 1/12/07.

Canada decides on repair group for its submarines: Canada first put out a tender in the fall of 2005 for long-term support for the country's four Victoria-class submarines. Although the contract has not officially been awarded, the Canadian Submarine Management Group (CSMG) has been told that it was the only consortium negotiating, and the other two bidders were told they will not get the job. CSMG is a consortium that includes Victoria Shipyards and Devonport Royal Dockyard Ltd., among others. According to CSMG's bid, the vessels will be maintained at Victoria Shipyards in Esquimalt. Work on the subs wouldn't likely begin until 2009, after the planning and building of facilities at Victoria Shipyards is complete. See "Shipyards to get $1.45-billion deal," Kim Westad, Times Colonist, 1/12/07.

Two tankers collide in Singapore waters: Two Singapore-registered bunker tankers collided near St John's Island resulting in a 200 metric ton oil spill. No one was injured in the crash on Thursday and most of the spill was cleaned up. The Seafalcon and the Frontek were sailing from opposite directions and rammed into each other 500 miles south of the island in Singapore's waters. The collision damaged one of the Seafalcon's tanks. The Frontek's bow was damaged, but no oil spilled from it. The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore had dispatched five-anti-pollution craft to the scene. The clean-up continued late into the night. The incident did not affect port operation and is under investigation. See "2 tankers collide in Singapore, resulting in oil spill," Associated Press at Khaleej Times Online, 1/12/07.

Anchor problems under investigation: Two Alaskan oil tankers, owned by Alaska Tanker Company (ATC), were traveling from Valdez, Alaska, to Long Beach, California, in December when one of the two anchors on each ship fell off during stormy weather. There were no spills or injuries, and the ships have since had all the oil removed from their holds. The Alaskan Frontier is now in Port Angeles, where both the missing anchor and the remaining anchor will be replaced. The Alaskan Navigator is en route to Seattle for similar work. Anchors on two similar vessels will also be inspected. ATC, shipbuilder National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. of San Diego, the US Coast Guard and the Washington Department of Ecology are investigating what went wrong. See "Anchors fall off 2 oil tankers from Alaska in Pacific storm," The Associated Press at The Seattle Times, 1/12/07.

Metal Trades files suit against "kit" ships: The Metal Trades Department of the AFL-CIO has sued the US Coast Guard to block controversial rulings that ignore the requirements of the Jones Act that stipulate that ships moving between US ports must be built in the US. The suit claims that the Coast Guard's National Vessel Documentation Center has effectively authorized plans by Aker Shipyards Philadelphia (APSI) and NASSCO to produce a series of tankers that are assembled from thousands of parts and modules imported from Korea. As a result, the Metal Trades Department believes thousands of skilled shipbuilding workers are directly imperiled, and the ships themselves are not eligible to be used in the Jones Act market. See "Metal Trades Department (AFL-CIO) Sues Coast Guard to Block Kit Ships," PRNewswire-USNewswire, 1/12/07.

Bush signs bill to prevent overfishing: President George W. Bush signed legislation on Friday aimed at preventing overfishing in US waters. The new law requires commercial fisheries to set conservation plans within a two-year period beginning in 2010. It sets a 10-year permit system that would still allow limited access in some waters that have been overfished. The US Congress passed the bill in December after Bush urged an overhaul of provisions in existing legislation known as the Magnuson-Stevens Fish Management Act. See "Bush signs fishing legislation," Associated Press at BostonHerald.com, 1/12/07.

Hull of tanker hit by US sub has dent, hole: A dent and a hole were found in the hull of the Japanese crude oil tanker that collided with a US nuclear-powered submarine near the Strait of Hormuz. According to the tanker's owner, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd., a dent measuring 5 meters by 1 meter by 40 centimeters was found 70 meters from the stern. A 35-centimeter-long, 10-centimeter-wide hole was also found near the dent. The Mogamigawa is now berthed in the United Arab Emirates, undergoing repairs. A spokesperson for the US Navy's Fifth Fleet said the submarine was submerged as it was moving through the Strait of Hormuz. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, submarines and other underwater vessels submerged in international waters have an obligation to prevent collisions as they are not visible to surface vessels. See "U.S. sub submerged at time of collision," The Asahi Shimbun, 1/11/07.

Aker Yards, Amanda Group to establish shipyard in Vietnam: Aker Yards is taking a strategic position in the fast-growing Asian market for offshore vessels by setting up a shipyard in Vietnam. The shipyard will be a joint venture between Aker Yards (70%) and Amanda Group (30%). The Amanda Group, headquartered in Singapore, has extensive industrial experience in Vietnam. The shipyard will be located in Vung Tau, centrally located in the heart of Vietnam's growing offshore operations. The yard expects to deliver its first vessel in 2009. See "Norway's Aker Yards announces plan to build new shipyard in Vietnam," The Associated Press at The International Herald Tribune, 1/11/07.

Crash between submarine and tanker is investigated: Japan has requested a thorough investigation of the collision between a US nuclear-powered submarine and a Japanese oil tanker in the Straits of Hormuz. The supertanker Mogamigawa is undergoing a survey of its damage to try to determine the cause of the crash. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said the US Department of Defense is cooperating with the inquiry. See "Japan presses for investigation after U.S. sub, Japanese ship collide in Straits of Hormuz," Associated Press at BostonHerald.com, 1/10/07.

A Russian naval expert has offered several opinions on the collision between the submarine and tanker. Gennady Illarionov, a former submariner, said, "The crew of the Newport News most probably fell victim to poor sonar conditions in the area." In poor weather, there are strong wind waves that could prevent a sonar operator from hearing the noise of a nearby target. In addition, the tanker's propulsion plant is located at its stern, and the collision occurred in the middle of the hull, about 650 feet away. Illarionov believes the captain of the submarine was likely to blame for the accident, which appeared to occur while the sub was surfacing. Another Russian naval expert agreed that the sub captain was to blame. "Most likely," he said on Tuesday, "the captain of the American vessel inadequately assessed the underwater and surface situation while the submarine was surfacing." See "Poor sonar conditions possible cause of U.S. submarine collision," RIA Novosti, 1/10/07.

The US Navy has offered a different picture of the collision. A preliminary investigation suggests that the submarine was submerged when the much larger tanker passed overhead at a high speed. This created a sucking effect — known as the venturi effect — that made the sub rise and hit the ship. Cmdr. Kevin Aandahl, a spokesman for the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain, insisted that the Newport News was not surfacing at the time. See "Navy: Speed of tanker sucked sub up to surface," Jack Dorsey, The Birginian-Pilot at HamptonRoads.com, 1/10/07.

US submarine and Japanese tanker collide: A US nuclear-powered submarine collided with a Japanese oil tanker in the Straits of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of the world's oil supplies travel. The bow of the USS Newport News hit the stern of the tanker Mogamigawa as the vessels were passing just outside the Straits on Monday night. The tanker, operated by Japanese shipping company Kawasaki Kisen Ltd., received minor damage, and was able to continue to a nearby port. The sub surfaced following the incident to evaluate damage. No injuries have been reported, and there was no resulting spill of oil or leakage of radioactive material. See "U.S. Submarine, Japanese Ship Collide," Jim Krane, The Associated Press at The Washington Post, 1/9/07.

Legal battle over the Probo Koala dumping begins: Waste from the oil tanker Probo Koala was allegedly dumped in Abidjan, the Ivory Coast. At least 10 people died and more than 40,000 sought medical attention. The ship was chartered by the London-based arm of the shipping giant Trafigura, which has denied that the materials were toxic and could cause illness. Lawyers from Leigh Day, the British law firm, have arrived in Abidjan to start taking statements from thousands of witnesses. This could be one of the largest class actions heard in the UK; up to 5,000 people may sue those to blame. See "UK class action starts over toxic waste dumped in Africa," John Vidal, The Guardian Unlimited, 1/8/07.

BAE proposes consolidating UK submarine facilities: BAE Systems' chief executive, Mike Turner, has suggested consolidating all of the UK's submarine facilities to defense procurement minister Lord Drayson, saying the move is in line with the Government's Defence Industrial Strategy. BAE Systems proposes to take over majority ownership of maintenance and support facilities at the Devonport dockyard in Plymouth, thus creating one company that would manage the fleet throughout its life. UK's Ministry of Defence is interested in combining surface shipbuilding interests, in hopes of cutting costs on upcoming major building projects. Devonport, which manages surface ships as well as submarines, has been under scrutiny after KBR, which owns 51% of Devonport, was floated last year. It is not believed that BAE has made a formal bid for the facility. Other defense groups are also interested in seizing Devonport. See "BAE lines up to take over UK submarines," Oliver Morgan, The Observer at Guardian Unlimited, 1/7/07.

China to ship oil along the Mekong River: In March of last year four countries, Burma, Laos, Thailand and China, signed an agreement that would allow China to ship oil up the Mekong River. But it has been revealed that the country plans to ship many times the amount of oil agreed upon in any public forum. Environmentalists raised the alarm when the plans were first revealed, pointing out that some 60 million people live along the river, and depend on it for food, water and transport. China currently imports about 70 percent of its goods through the Malacca Straits, but this channel is reaching capacity levels. The country's oil route along the Mekong River is one of two plans it unveiled in this region in its bid to avoid the Malacca Straits. The other is an oil pipeline linking Burma's deep-water port of Sittwe to Kunming, Yunnan's capital. Critics worry that the planned pipeline will lead to human rights violations, and environmental damage. See "China upsets ecologists by making Mekong oil-shipping route," Marwaan-Macan-Markar, The IPS News Service at Dawn, 1/6/07.

Royal Navy has no plans to mothball ships: The Daily Telegraph on Sunday reported that budget restraints would force the Royal Navy to mothball six destroyers and frigates. The paper reported that the Navy was expected to lose Invincible, one of its three carriers, and that one of three major ports was under threat of closure. The paper also claimed that Royal Navy commanders were "in uproar" at the plans. However, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence has insisted, "We currently have no plans to cut ship numbers. We routinely review whether resources are allocated where our frontline forces need them most. No decisions have been taken in this case." While the spokesman admitted they are having to save funds, he added that no specific decisions have been made. See "'No decision to mothball warships'," Press Association at Guardian Unlimited, 1/5/07.

Indonesian ferry was probably sunk by high waves: The Indonesian ferry Senopati Nusantara sank in the Java Sea just before midnight on Friday with more than 600 people on board. Around 220 people have been rescued — including the ship's captain, who is being questioned — but more than 400 people are dead or missing. According to testimony from witnesses, the ferry was not overloaded. Ruth Simatupang, a government investigator probing the accident, suggests that high waves crashing over the ferry's car deck probably became trapped there, and caused the ship to capsize. Similar accidents involving "roll-on, roll-off" ferries have occurred elsewhere around the world, leading experts to call for design changes in the doors and ramps that allow vehicles to drive directly on board. See "High Waves Said to Sink Indonesian Ferry," Irwan Firdaus, The Associated Press at Examiner.com, 1/4/07.

Biometric ID cards will be required for US port workers: The US Department of Homeland Security soon will require 750,000 US port and maritime workers to carry identification cards imprinted with their biometric fingerprints, despite delays in developing devices to read them. The agency announced Wednesday that starting in March, workers will undergo extensive background checks to obtain the cards to gain unescorted access to secure areas of US ports and vessels. Installation of the card readers, however, appears to be more than a year away. More research is needed on technology for the card readers, which must be durable enough to withstand salt-water environments and able to scan cards and fingers without direct contact. In the interim, the cards will serve as flashcards at checkpoints, and the Coast Guard will conduct spot checks with hand-held scanners to verify the identify of card holders. Port and maritime workers will have to pay more than $100 to get the cards. See "Port workers subject to new security rules," Audrey Hudson, The Washington Times, 1/4/07.

Exploring freight-futures markets: Trading ocean-freight rates is becoming popular as an investment. Joining traditional ship-broking companies and commodity merchants, banks and hedge funds are buying and selling derivatives, known as "forward freight agreements," that lock in future shipping rates without committing any actual tankers to the water. Higher freight rates are behind the new trend: for example, in 2006 the cost to ship dry freight nearly doubled. The business also got a boost in the late 1990s from Enron Corp., the US energy-trading giant that failed amid accounting scandals in 2001. During its heyday, Enron had an online platform that allowed participants to bet on dry and wet freight rates. Although freight-futures markets are much less developed than commodity markets, trading growth has helped to produce benchmarks that longer-term investors study for trends. See "Freight-rate swapping lets investors wager on costs of shipping," Ann Davis, The Wall Street Journal at Post-Gazette.com, 1/4/07.

The Blue Lady may be stuck at Alang: The Blue Lady, formerly known as the SS France and SS Norway, has spent so long docked at Alang awaiting a decision on its fate that it probably can't be moved safely. Environmental groups say the ship contains 900 tons of toxic materials that could endanger the lives of Alang's ship breakers. The vessel's owners were granted permission to beach the ship in India, while several safety reports were reviewed. The Gujarat Pollution Control Board heard both sides last week, but didn't reach a conclusion. In the meantime, a panel of Gujarat Maritime Board technical experts believe more than three months resting on the beach during low tides, and floating on high tides may have damaged the ship's hull to the extent that it can't be moved. This effectively means that the ship would need to be dismantled at Alang. See "GMB note to SC says damaged Blue Lady can't return," Express News Service at ExpressIndia.com, 1/3/07.

World shipping container capacity is growing: Data from Containerisation International shows that world shipping lines increased their capacity by 14 percent in 2006. This was the biggest increase since the industry information provider starting compiling the data in July 1999. Global trade is forecast to grow 7.6 percent in 2007, and shipping capacity is expected to grow even faster. Capacity at China Ocean Shipping's container shipping unit, Cosco Container Lines, increased 26 percent last year, overtaking Evergreen Marine to become the biggest Asian container shipping line. The capacity of Evergreen, based in Taiwan, increased 9 percent. See "Shipping container capacity rises 14%," Kyunghee Park, Bloomberg News at International Herald Tribune, 1/3/07.

Panama Canal expansion should be felt on the US East Coast: Panama's recent decision to expand the Panama Canal is expected to be felt on the East Coast of the United States. Because of their proximity to Asia, West Coast ports such as Los Angeles and Long Beach in California have been growing at a faster pace than their East Coast counterparts. But once the Canal is refurbished to handle larger ships, East Coast ports are expected to siphon away some of that business — at least, those ports that have the facilities to handle the bigger ships and more cargo. East Coast ports should be able to take away 2 percent of the trans-Pacific trade in the first year after the new locks open in 2014, and up to an additional 1.5 percent in the following year. The Hampton Roads port in Virginia is the focus of this news article, and believes it is already prepared for bigger ships. And unlike the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and other East Coast city ports like New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore, space needed to expand road and rail networks won't be a problem. See "Panama Canal expansion expected to have effect in Hampton Roads," Gregory Richards, The Virginian-Pilot at HamptonRoads.com, 1/3/07.

Fish conservation experiment a good step for Britain: Ministers in the Scottish executive have just agreed to support proposals for a legally enforced fisheries protection zone in the waters of Lamlash Bay on the east coast of Arran. The proposals will create a three-tiered set of controls: a "no take zone" where all fishing will be banned; a wider "marine protected area" with strict restrictions on fishing, and an even larger "nursery" zone to rebuild scallop stocks. The zones will be one of a new series of government-backed "inshore fisheries groups" that will span the coastline, and enforced by the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency. The UK government is under increasing pressure to honor promises to create a "representative network of marine protected areas" by 2012. Apart from several small schemes, the UK's efforts have stalled. See "Scottish experiment may help turn the tide for Britain's dwindling fish stocks," Severin Carrell, The Guardian, 1/3/07.

Whales in danger from human activity: The Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project will carve a channel in the narrow strip of sea between southeastern India and western Sri Lanka, reducing distances and cutting costs. It has come under fire from environmentalists, who say sediments from dredging and increased freight traffic will badly affect marine life, and threaten the livelihoods of fishermen from both countries. Activists say the project is also killing whales. At least six, and possibly as many as ten whales have died since July, probably from being affected by the noises from dredging and surveys in the area. The area normally sees only one or two whale deaths a year. Government experts said the recent deaths were not connected to the dredging. See "Indian ship project killing whales, say activists," Reuters at Khaleej Times Online, 1/3/07.

A juvenile North Atlantic right whale was found dead in waters off the Georgia coast last weekend, raising the 2006 death toll for the endangered species to six. The whale was slashed 20 times, presumably by the propeller from a ship. Although Pacific right whales were awarded protective rules last year, the National Marine Fisheries Services hasn't made much progress in protecting the North Atlantic right whale. Bureaucracy has slowed down progress in rerouting shipping lanes, and reducing ship speeds on a seasonal basis. Fewer than 400 of these whales still exist, and scientists fear for the species. See "North Atlantic right whale killed by ship," LiveScience at MSNBC.com, 1/3/07.

Orders will fall for South Korean shipbuilders: South Korean shipyards took almost half of world orders for ships last year, and their backlogs are at their highest ever. The shipbuilders have at least three years' of work on their books. But industry analysts and the shipyards themselves expect demand to go down. The world's third-largest shipyard, Samsung Heavy Industries, said on Tuesday that orders for new ships and offshore platforms may fall as much as 21 percent this year. The South Korean yards are still expected to do well. See "Samsung Heavy expects fewer ship orders," Kyunghee Park, Bloomberg News at International Herald Tribune, 1/2/07.

Indian welders to work at US shipyard: Signal International, an oil rig construction and repair company with yards in Mississippi and Texas, is hiring 290 workers from India to fill first class welder and fitter positions at its Pascagoula shipyard. The company is recruiting the workers because of shortages in skilled manpower along the coasts of both states following hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The Indians will work as temporary guests on H2B visas, which last for 10 months. The guest workers are on Signal's payroll as full-time employees, and will receive the same pay and tax burden as other Signal craft personnel. See "Coast shipyard hires workers from India," Associated Press at The Clarion-Ledger, 1/2/07.

Bad weather hampers search for Indonesian ferry survivors: The ferry Senopati Nusantara carrying about 600 passengers broke apart and sank in Indonesia's Java Sea when a violent storm sent towering waves over its deck. The ship went down around midnight Friday. At least 200 passengers survived the sinking, but more than 400 people remain missing. Local media reported at least 60 passengers were confirmed dead. Rescue efforts were intensified Tuesday, as some survivors are still on life rats in the open water. Bad weather is preventing rescue craft from reaching them, so food and water is being dropped by helicopter. According to the manifest, the ferry was carrying 628 people, including 57 crew, but the vessel had a capacity of more than 850 passengers. This was the second ferry disaster in the last week of 2006 after a vessel overturned on Thursday in rough seas off Sumatra. Two people on that ferry died and 26 were missing as of late Sunday. See "Rescuers search rough Java seas for ferry survivors," Heri Retnowati, Reuters at SignOnSanDiego.com, 1/2/07.

UN lifts ban on caviar exports from Caspian Sea: The United Nations has lifted a year-old embargo on exports of most types of caviar from the Caspian Sea, the main source of the delicacy, despite the fact that stocks are continuing to decline. Exports of caviar were banned in 2006 because the main producers — Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan — failed to meet requirements, such as providing stock levels. The ban "undoubtedly helped to spur improvements to the monitoring programs and scientific assessments carried out jointly by the five Caspian neighbors," CITES Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers said. The UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has authorized limited sales in 2007, some 15 percent below the quotas handed out in 2005. A decision on whether to lift a ban on beluga was put off for a month to give producers time to provide critical information. See "U.N. panel lifts ban on most Caspian caviar exports," Associated Press at USATODAY.com, 1/2/07.

New shipping rules for chemicals and vegetable oils: Stricter rules on carrying chemicals and vegetable oils in bulk by ship are among new changes that will enter into force on January 1, 2007, to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. The changes are designed to protect the marine environment from harm. Some new rules have also been introduced. The revised Annex II Regulations for the control of pollution by noxious liquid substances in bulk includes a new four-category categorization system. This new categorization system, and an evaluation of thousands of chemicals, has resulted in significant changes. For example, vegetable oils which were previously categorized as being unrestricted will now be required to be carried in chemical tankers. The new categorization system has also affected the International Bulk Chemical Code (IBC Code); changes to this also enter into force on January 1. Amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) will also enter into force on January 1. See the briefing "Stricter rules for carriage of chemicals and vegetable oils in bulk" from the International Maritime Organization, 1/1/07.

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