News Archive - April 2007

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New system to boost security launched at Port Qasim: Pakistan has started a new container program at Port Quasim, where goods heading from Pakistan and Central Asia will be scanned before being shipped to the United States. A joint effort between the US and Pakistan, the facility will test the feasibility of using scanning technology to inspect every container bound for the US. The two countries shared the cost of the program. The facility will also increase the security of the international supply chain for all shippers using Port Qasim. "This facility is both a preventive tool in the global war on terror that will make our borders safer and will also increase the economic efficiency of Pakistani exports," US Charge d'Affaires Peter W. Bodde said. See "Pakistan opens new security project for US exports," Reuters at Khaleej Times Online, 4/30/07.

Surge in Antarctic tourism raises fears: British delegates to the annual Antarctic treaty meeting this week will call for tougher safety regulations to help lessen the impact of tourists to the area. The number of visitors to the Antarctic has grown about four-fold in the past ten years. If you add the number of people who will pass through without going ashore, some 37,000 people are expected to visit this year. All these visitors raise fears of a disaster. The Norwegian MS Nordkapp ran aground at Deception Island in January, spilling a small amount of fuel. But this was an ice-strengthened vessel with an experienced crew, and only about 350 people were on board. A bigger oil spill could have devastated the area, and any clean up or rescue operation would be extremely difficult. The UK wants a ban on ships which have not been specially strengthened to deal with sea ice entering areas of water where ice coverage is more than 10%. The country has also called for a "buddy system" so that there would always be a nearby ship that could help. See "Tourism threat to Earth's last great wilderness," Rachel Williams, The Guardian, 4/30/07.

A surplus of people have filed for Guimaras oil spill compensation: The Solar 1 sank last August off Guimaras Island, spilling over 2 million liters of bunker fuel. The International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund (OIPC) has revealed that some 80% of the residents of the central Philippines island have filed for damages, and claims keep being filed. Even residents below 18 years of age have applied for damages. This violates the 1992 conventions that regulate payment of damages for oils spills, which limit payment to heads of families. Jose Nichols, deputy director and technical adviser of the OIPC, says this will delay payments. See "Too many claimants for oil spill compensation," Barbara Mae Dacanay, Gulfnews.com, 4/29/07.

B.C. Ferries' Northern Adventure is laid up again: Just 39 days after $18 million in refits, B.C. Ferries' Northern Adventure is back for repairs. Formerly the MV Sonia, the Greek-built ship underwent a $9 million refit in Greece to prepare it for voyage and another $9 million at Victoria Shipyards (with finishing touches in Richmond) before the job was completed March 31. The vessel was first built in 2004, was purchased last year for $51 million, and with repairs, upgrades, transportation and taxes, the total has reached about $100 million. B.C. Ferries didn't have a cost estimate for the current refit, which will tackle a faulty electrical panel, a malfunctioning alarm system, non-functioning elevators and escalators, and toilets that are not flowing as effectively as possible, among other things. While some point out the additional repairs include "serious safety concerns," others say it's "amazing" that B.C. Ferries has replaced the Queen of the North so quickly. See "Refit to be tied: a ferry's troubles," Cindy E. Harnett, Times Colonist at Canada.com, 4/28/07.

Ban on ship scrapping in Virginia's waters is lifted: The US Maritime Administration (MarAd) put a temporary freeze on the disposal of ships in the James River Reserve Fleet last month, while several state agencies discussed how the ship hulls are cleaned. Since last year, the US Coast Guard has required that ship's hulls have accumulated marine growth removed before they're towed into foreign waters. Some worried the process could remove lead paint or other toxic materials into the water. California, Texas and Virginia officials questioned the practice, but now the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has said that no permits are needed in the commonwealth. This move promoted MarAd to lift the moratorium in Virginia. But whenever practical, ships should first be cleaned off at a dry dock so that hull debris doesn't fall into the water. See "Ruling clears way for removing James River 'ghost fleet'," Scott Harper, the Virginian-Pilot at HamptonRoads.com, 4/28/07.

Buzzards Bay still vulnerable to oil spills: On April 27, 2003, a Bouchard Transportation Co. oil barge struck a ledge that ruptured the vessel, dumping 98,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil into Buzzards Bay. The state of Massachusetts responded by passing the Oil Spill Prevention Act, designed to restrict the kinds of oil barges that can pass through the Bay. Last year, a federal court struck down parts of the bill. The US Coast Guard is writing a rule to prevent spills off the state's coast, but it remains stalled in a review process. The proposed rule calls for single-hulled tank barges like the Bouchard barge, to be accompanied by escort tugs and federally licensed pilots when traveling through Buzzards Bay. Some environmentalists say the Coast Guard has been slow to act, but the service has adjusted buoys and other navigational aides to guide barges to the safest routes. See "No improvements in oil spill safety for Buzzards Bay," Associated Press at BostonHerald.com, 4/27/07.

Bush administration must keep 'dolphin-safe' standards: A federal appeals court has refused to let the Bush administration relax standards for the "dolphin-safe'' tuna label, and said the government had allowed politics to influence what was supposed to be a scientific decision. The ruling by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals extends the virtual ban on US imports of tuna caught by fleets from Mexico and several other nations that encircle dolphins with their nets to catch the tuna that swim beneath the aquatic mammals. US consumers have been largely unwilling to buy tuna that lacks the dolphin-safe label, established by a 1990 federal law. See "U.S. can't alter 'dolphin-safe' tuna rules -court," Adam Tanner, Reuters, 4/27/07.

Mock disaster for Sydney Harbour: The New South Wales Government is testing its readiness to manage an environmental disaster on Sydney Harbour. Seven boats and up to 25 people will be involved in an exercise to contain a mock oil spill on the harbor. The event is a joint initiative of Sydney Ports and Shell Australia's Gore Bay and Silverwater terminals. The Ports Minister Joe Tripodi says it is vital preparation for any future accidents. An independent assessor from Port Kembla will provide feedback, to help improve preparations for any oil spill in the future. See "Oil spill training exercise in Sydney," AAP at The Sydney Morning Herald, 4/27/07.

China's shipbuilders want to double their capacity: China's two largest shipyard groups plan to double capacity by 2010: China State Shipbuilding (CSSC) will double its annual capacity to 12.3 deadweight tons output, and China Shipbuilding Industry (CSIC) will double its capacity to 10 million deadweight tons. The country overtook Japan as the world's second-largest shipbuilder last year. China's expansion may cause today's record prices for new ships to fall, but the country may have a hard time finding skilled workers. Both of the big shipyard groups plan to cut man-hours required to build a ship, or cut construction time. China plans to take a 30 percent share of the global shipbuilding market within the next 10 years. See "Chinese shipbuilders plan to double capacity," Katherine Espina, Bloomberg at International Herald Tribune, 4/26/07.

Pack ice loosens off Canada, freeing some sealing vessels: Some 39 sealing vessels remain trapped in ice off northeastern Newfoundland. Rescue efforts are being frustrated by shifting winds and thick ice. Four icebreakers are at the scene, and additional icebreakers are heading to the area to try to get the longliners out to open waters or safe ports. Captain Brian Penney, a coast guard spokesman, said these are the worst conditions he has seen in 15 years. Longliners involved in other fisheries are also getting snagged in the ice, even after they've been freed previously by the coast guard. At one point, about 100 sealing boats were stuck in the ice, but only one went down after its crew was taken off. See "Thick ice off northeastern Newfoundland frustrate attempts to free sealers," Canadian Press at Canada.com, 4/26/07.

British harbor pilot blamed for sub deaths: The United States Navy has blamed a British harbor pilot for the deaths of two American crewmen who drowned after being washed off the deck of a nuclear submarine. The two men were hit by a wave as the USS Minneapolis-St. Paul left Plymouth Sound on December 29 last year. An investigation found that the pilot, who worked for the Ministry of Defence, should have warned the submarine captain that the sea was dangerous and told him that other vessels had been banned from leaving port. The boat's captain was also held partially responsible for the incident, and has been reprimanded and assigned to shore duties. A spokesman for the union Prospect, which represents harbor pilots, said the criticism was "unbelievable." See "Pilots criticised over sub deaths," BBC News, 4/25/07.

Women on Waves set to sail again: The group Women on Waves is preparing a new campaign to sail to countries where abortion is illegal. The group takes women out to sea for terminations. The group was said to be the catalyst for a change of the law in Portugal, and has invitations from some countries now. In 2004 the Dutch Ministry of Health ruled that it could operate only within a 15 mile (25 km) radius of a named Amsterdam hospital, effectively banning the ship from operating outside the Netherlands. But the new Dutch government has lifted restrictions banning it from international waters. See "Offshore abortion women's group is given licence again," David Charter, TimesOnline, 4/25/07.

Pirate attacks worldwide are down sharply so far in 2007: Indonesian waters remain the most dangerous in the world, accounting for nearly a quarter of all pirate attacks in the first three months of the year, an international maritime watchdog has said. Since last year, Indonesia has intensified sea patrols and seen attacks halve from 19 in the first quarter of 2006. Overall, however, attacks reported globally fell by nearly a third to 41, compared with the same period last year, the London-based International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said in a statement. But the IMB is worried by the increasing number of attacks off the coast of Africa, where Nigeria and Somalia remain particularly dangerous. See "Dip in global pirate ship attacks," BBC News, 4/25/07.

Delays in UK aircraft carrier program cause problems: Delays in the construction of two new aircraft carriers could force Britain's Royal Navy to prolong the service of its current carriers, which are both more than 30 years old. The move could also heighten concerns about the state of the Royal Navy. The decision to place the contract to start the Future Carrier project was first scheduled for 2003, but that keeps being delayed, and it is unlikely the contract decision will be made before the summer. The first of the new carriers is officially due to enter service in 2012, but Navy officers and defense industry officials believe that is now impossible. This would delay the retirement of the two existing Invincible-class aircraft carriers until the new vessels are available. Illustrious has been in service since 1982 and is due to retire in 2012, the Ark Royal entered service in 1985 and is due to retire in 2015. See "Navy set to keep 30-year-old ships in service over £3.6bn carrier delays," James Kirkup, Scostman.com, 4/24/07.

Britain could face a shipping crisis: A senior vice-president of DP World has warned that the strong pound could trigger a shipping crisis in the UK, that would lead to congestion for carriers seeking to import goods. Michael Moore said that freight volumes since the beginning of the year had risen by 15 percent, compared with the same period in 2005. He believes the increased traffic is tied to the strength of the pound, which has made foreign goods cheaper. However, planning delays have held up the development of new port capacity in Britain, and vessels are already lining up at Southampton. DP World, the world's fourth-largest port operator and the owner of P&O, is hoping to build London Gateway on the Thames Estuary, but the first ships aren't expected before 2010. See "Strong pound will produce shipping crisis 'in months'," Suzy Jagger and Carl Mortished, TimesOnline, 4/24/07.

Cost set on Erika oil damage: Oil Giant Total SA is on trial over whether the sinking of the tanker Erika off the coast of France in 1999 involved criminal wrongdoing. The ship sank in rough seas, spewing tons of oil. Officials from the regions affected by the spill put the estimated cost of the spill at €320 million (US $434 million). Total faces charges of pollution and "complicity in endangering people and property." In the past, companies in France have only paid damages if pollution harmed economic interests. If Total is found criminally negligent in this case, it could set a precedent in the country. See "French officials estimate cost of country's worst oil spill at €320 million," Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 4/24/07.

Australia ferry disaster might have been avoided: Minutes leaked to News Limited newspapers from a February meeting with Sydney Ferries, the Royal Australian Navy, NSW Maritime and Sydney Ports reveal that there had been a plan to ban private boats from around the Sydney Harbour Bridge. But there was confusion over which agency had the power to impose such safety restrictions. Unfortunately, four people were killed on March 28 when a private cruiser collided with a Sydney Ferries HarbourCat under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The accident was one of at least 14 safety incidents involving the state-owned Sydney Ferries since 2004. The minutes also reveal that the Sydney Harbour master was unaware it was his responsibility to impose the restrictions under the Ports and Maritime Administration Act 1995. See "Ban planned 'before ferry disaster'," AAP at The Sydney Morning Herald, 4/23/07.

Shipments from Mexico draw US scrutiny: Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched a sweeping campaign against narcotrafficking late last year. But the United States' main security emphasis is weapons of mass destruction. With nearly the equivalent of 17.3 million cargo containers arriving by ship at US seaports each year, many are concerned that maritime cargo might be used to deliver dangerous materials or terrorists. Mexico is one of the United States' biggest trading partners. Lately it is attracting attention not only because many goods produced in Mexico are moved through the country's ports, but also because some Mexican ports process Asian goods bound for the United States. Last week, the United States announced it will donate radiation detectors to Mexico and help install and maintain them at that country's four busiest seaports to screen for "dirty bombs" and other radioactive material. See "Spotlight increases on port security," Diane Lindquist, SignOnSanDiego.com, 4/23/07.

France proposes sharing construction of aircraft carriers with Britain: French defense company Thales has proposed that Britain and France should share the construction of the next generation of aircraft carriers. The approach, sanctioned by the French naval industry, would make the vessels more affordable. But the British government has never built warships abroad before, and Britain's BAE Systems opposes the plan. Britain plans to build two aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy, and France wants to build one carrier. The two countries are already using a largely common design for the ships, and BAE would welcome cooperation on procuring parts and materials. But Thales has suggested that one third of the hull for each ship would be built in France, and the rest in England — BAE feels they lack capacity to manage a three ship program. A senior British industry executive said BAE may also have concerns about ceding influence to Thales in British shipbuilding. Thales has a large role in the British carrier program. See "Anglo-French aircraft carriers proposed," James Boxell and Peggy Hollinger, Financial Times at MSNBC.com, 4/23/07.

International fish standard will be established: Currently, almost half of all seafood eaten globally is farmed, prompting questions about whether it is safe, and whether it was produced without hurting the environment. In response, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is working to create a new international standard to certify the safety and harvesting of fish. The FAO has been working with the non-governmental organization Network for Aquaculture Centres in the Asia Pacific, as well as certification organizations, producers, processors and consumer groups. They hope to establish global guidelines for the creation of a new, uniform system. The FAO and its partners will present draft guidelines to the UN Agency's Subcommittee on Aquaculture in November 2008. See the press release "UN Agency To Establish Guidelines To Certify Fish," United Nations, Scoop, 4/23/07.

Oil spill off Vietnam's coast is still a mystery: Mysterious oil slicks first blackened Vietnam's central coast in late January, hitting the famed “China Beach” and the seashore around the historic port of Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Despite many investigations, officials remain at a loss to explain where the oil came from. This week, Vietnam's environment ministry asked Japan for help in detecting the source of the oil spill, a search that may include sophisticated satellite technology that Vietnam lacks. WWF believes that Vietnam needs to step up its ability to detect, respond to and prevent oil spills, as millions of people's livelihoods depend on a healthy ocean environment. See "Vietnam oil spill mystery plot thickens," AFP at Khaleej Times Online, 4/22/07.

Rescuers search for missing yacht crew: Rescuers in helicopters and boats scanned the seas Saturday for the missing crew of a catamaran found deserted off the Great Barrier Reef with the sails up, engine running and food on the table. The three-member crew was last seen Sunday leaving Airlie Beach. On Wednesday, a coastal patrol plane spotted the Kaz II drifting about 95 miles offshore. Rescue workers who reached the boat early Friday confirmed no one was aboard. Besides a shredded headsail, there was no indication of damage, and no distress call had been made. The weather was rough when the men first set off, but there is little reason to believe bad weather was involved. See "An idling engine and places set for dinner, but what became of the crew of Kaz II?," Barbara McMahon, The Guardian, 4/21/07.

A ban is proposed on oceangoing boats in the Great Lakes: In March, the conservation group Great Lakes United proposed banning oceangoing vessels from the Great Lakes until they are equipped with sterilization systems for their ballast tanks — this would keep non-native species out of the waters. Invasive species are damaging fisheries, beaches, and water-dependent industries. The concept brings up several legal issues, and the US would have to coordinate the decision with Canada, co-owner of the St. Lawrence Seaway. But the idea is gaining momentum. Evidence suggests that the costs of the biological pollution from ballast tanks far outweigh the benefits of maintaining the world's largest freshwater system as a nautical highway for saltwater traffic. Oceangoing ships account for less than 7% of the total cargo moved on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway. Recreational boating is the most important maritime industry on the Lakes. See "Ban ocean vessels in lakes? Some are floating the idea," Dan Egan, Journal Sentinel Online, 4/21/07.

New mapping techniques show risks of rising sea levels: New mapping techniques can show how much land would be lost, and how many people affected, by rapid rises in sea levels. A team led by the US Geological Survey determined that a 100-foot rise in sea level would cover 3/7 million square miles of land worldwide. Sea levels are currently rising about 0.04 to 0.08 inches each year, so it is unlikely such a scenario would suddenly occur. But the new mapping technique provides detail that was previously unavailable, and gives policymakers better tools to prepare for potential disasters. The impetus for the project came after the 2004 tsunami and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 underlined the devastating impact sudden sea level surges can have on those living in coastal areas. Some may not realize just how big a risk they are facing. See "Study: Sudden sea level surges threaten 1 billion," Reuters at CNN.com, 4/20/07.

Program to help Africans countries export fish to Europe: The government of Iceland and the United Nations University have developed a fisheries program to help experts from developing countries tackle sanitary, management and trade issues with hands-on learning. The courses take place in Iceland; about 20 students attend per year, and about 45% of those come from Africa, particularly from countries surrounding Lake Victoria. The European Union temporarily banned exports of fish from Lake Victoria during the 1990s because of health and safety standards. But that kind of trade barrier can hamper economic development in African countries, where fisheries are often important products. The course projects have benefited both trade and the local economic situations of students' homes. See "Africans work to improve fish exports to Europe," Lowana Veal, Mail & Guardian Online, 4/20/07.

Michigan tries to keep invasive species out of the Great Lakes: Michigan legislators have filed a suit to require freighters to sterilize ballast water before discharging it into the state's waters, but this may violate interstate commerce laws. The debate on how to stop the introduction of exotic species in the Great Lakes has gone on for a long time. Several environmental groups are asking to join the suit on Michigan's side, but a shipping coalition recently sued in federal court in Detroit, saying the law makes unreasonable demands and violates the US Constitution by restraining interstate commerce. Eight states and two Canadian provinces claim jurisdiction over portions of the lakes. Bills similar to Michigan's are pending in the Minnesota and Wisconsin legislatures. But all states, and Canada, will have to come to some sort of agreement for the rules to be effective. The US Coast Guard has been developing new federal standards since 2002. See "Lawsuit Battles Against Lakes Invaders," John Flesher, Associated Press at Chron.com, 4/20/07.

UK Coastguards stop work over insurance issues: Seventeen Coastguard rescue teams across the UK were refusing to respond to emergency calls on Thursday in a row over compensation. Around 17 teams have joined the strike action, with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency saying it was deeply concerned about the withdrawal of services. Volunteers from Fishguard in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, are at the center of the fight. The dispute revolves around a rescue team member who, it is claimed, lost his job after being injured during a rescue four years ago and has not been adequately compensated. See "Coastguard rescue teams on strike over insurance cover," Evening News at Scotsman.com, 4/19/07.

Canadian sealing boats trapped in ice: Around 100 small boats carrying seal hunters were trapped by thick ice off Canada's Atlantic coast on Wednesday, and at least one crew had to abandon ship. The boats were caught in the ice, and face damage or even sinking, as crews hunted the young seals off the northeast coast of Newfoundland, where most of the annual hunt takes place. Ice may not be such a big problem in coming years as the federal government has announced that two heavy icebreakers will move from Halifax to the Newfoundland region in the next two years. See "Ships stuck in N.L. ice," Alisha Morrissey, CanWest News Service at Canada.com 4/18/07.

Marine insurers may see rising prices: Marine insurers have reported a fall in total losses in 2006, but a steep rise in the number of serious partial losses. The net result was a significant hike in claims. The first few months of 2007 have seen a string of complete losses, including high casualties, and insurers are worried this may be a trend. Some factors contributing to this are an escalating manpower crisis, and the high numbers of ships entering service. Some analysts are calling for better realism in pricing. See "String Of Losses Give Marine Sector Cause For Anxiety," Informa Martime Trade and Transport, Thomson Business Intelligence Service, at insurancenewsnet.com, 4/18/07.

Climate change viewed as a security issue: Britain, which holds this month's council presidency, initiated the first ever debate on climate change at the UN Security Council. The British mission to the UN circulated a paper explaining that global warming could change the world's landmasses, resulting in border and maritime disputes. Rising sea levels could make small island states disappear, or render coastline areas uninhabitable. These sorts of things could lead to conflict, and war. Some developing countries felt the Security Council was infringing on the roles of other UN bodies, Russia was not enthusiastic, China all but dismissed the discussion, and the US chose to stress the role that governments should play. But the UN Secretary General supported the debates. Britain is hoping the discussion could help get support for international action on global warming. See "Security Council takes on global warming," Paul Reynolds, BBC News, 4/18/07.

A panel of retired American military leaders says that global warming "presents significant national security challenges to the United States." A report produced by the Center for Naval Analysis suggests that food shortages, new Arctic shipping routes, and other disasters caused by global warming could lead to security threats. Climate change could force the demise of weak governments in the developing world, creating power vacuums for terrorist groups to exploit, the report found. Other experts who were not involved in the report said national security concerns, though real, were probably not the most significant threats posed by global warming. See "Climate change called a security threat," Karen Kaplan and Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times, 4/17/07.

US Coast Guard takes the lead on the Deepwater program: In removing Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman as managers of a troubled $24 billion fleet modernization program, the US Coast Guard on Tuesday signaled its intention to be the key player in managing the rest of the 25-year plan. Under the revised plan, the Coast Guard will take over the management, or "lead systems integrator," role for the entire Deepwater program. Lawmakers have pushed the Coast Guard to take the helm of the Deepwater contract, awarded in June 2002 to Integrated Coast Guard Systems, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. The deal has been the subject of internal and external investigations, and been criticized for skyrocketing costs, design flaws and lax contract oversight. Both Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. will be able to bid for future contracts. The current round of Deepwater pacts expire in June. See "Coast Guard To Take Over 'Deepwater'," Renae Merle and Spencer Hsu, The Washington Post, 4/17/07.

Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen gave a statement about the changes to the acquisition program, which you can read on the Coast Guard's web site. He also announced he is permanently decommissioning the eight 123' patrol boats converted under Deepwater. Coast Guard engineers and third-party naval architects determined that any strategy to permanently repair the cutters would take time and well over $50 million. Instead, those funds will be directed to other programs. See the press release, "Statement by Adm. Thad Allen on the converted 123-foot patrol boats and changes to the Deepwater acquisition program," Unites States Coast Guard, 4/17/07.

EU 'unfair to UK fishing crews': The UK's fisheries minister Ben Bradshaw says the European Commission has failed to penalize France for catching too much bluefin tuna, while British and Irish crews have been punished for overfishing mackerel and herring, which are less threatened. Mr. Bradshaw says such inconsistency sets a dangerous precedent. UK ministers are expected to raise the issue at an Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting in Luxembourg. The commission is expected to announce new regulations to clamp down on illegal and unreported fishing during the meeting. See "UK urges crackdown on tuna fishing," Press Association at Guardian Unlimited, 4/17/07.

America's most endangered rivers of 2007: Each year, American Rivers solicits nominations from local governments, environmental groups, and citizens for the America's Most Endangered Rivers report. The annual report highlights the rivers facing the most uncertain futures, rather than those suffering from the worst chronic problems. The report presents alternatives to proposals that would damage rivers, identifies those who make the crucial decisions, and points out opportunities for the public to take action on behalf of each listed river. The most endangered rivers of 2007 are: Santa Fe River (NM), San Mateo Creek (CA), Iowa River (IA), Upper Delaware River (NY), White Salmon River (WA), Neches River (TX), Kinnickinnic River (WI), Neuse River (NC), Lee Creek (AR, OK), and Chuitna River (AK). See the American Rivers web site for details on each river, 4/17/07.

Salvage operation begins on capsized tug: Salvage operations are to begin on the tugboat that capsized in the North Sea. Salvage crews will try to detach the tug from a chain linking it to a nearby oil rig before towing it back to the coast. The Norwegian anchor-handling tug Bourbon Dolphin was serving the rig Transocean Rather when the accident occurred. Seven of the 15-man crew were rescued, and three bodies were recovered, but five more, including Oddne Remoy, the captain, and his 14-year-old son, David, remained unaccounted for. A dive on the partly-submerged vessel by the Royal Navy yielded no results. The vessel was carrying out a routine operation laying an anchor used to stabilize the rig when the accident happened. Investigators believe the anchor chain may have jumped out of its guides and run along the side of the vessel, pulling it over. An investigation is expected to take months. See "Ship of the dead will be towed back to shore," Marc Horne and Marcus Oscarsson, The Sunday Times, 4/15/07.

Iceland may not continue whale hunts: In October 2006, Iceland broke a 1986 ban on whaling by giving fishermen permission to catch 39 whales. The move drew formal protests from two dozen anti-whaling nations. Prime Minister Geir Haarde, who is facing elections on May 12, has called last year's hunt an "experiment." The country hasn't decided if the commercial hunts will continue. Iceland's largest whaling firm Hvalur, which caught seven fin whales, is waiting for the results of an analysis of the meat his firm put on ice last fall. Once complete, the company expects to sell the meat to Japan. But the company is hoping for a higher quota in the future, since the 2006 take was too small to offset the cost of setting up operations that were mothballed since 1989. Some Icelanders see the negative global reaction to whaling as cause for concern. See "Iceland undecided on comercial whale hunts," Sarah Edmonds, Reuters at IOL, 4/15/07.

Russia launches new nuclear submarine: Russia has launched its first new generation nuclear submarine since the fall of the Soviet Union. The launch of the new submarine is part of a plan, approved by President Vladimir Putin, to upgrade the core of Russia's undersea nuclear attack forces. The Yuri Dolgoruky, the first Borei class nuclear submarine, can descend to a depth of 1,500 feet, and can carry 107 sailors for 100 days without rising to the surface. Russia will build eight of the new generation submarines by 2018. See "Russia launches new generation nuclear submarine," Guy Faulconbridge, Reuters, 4/15/07.

Russia is building a floating nuclear power plant: Russia began construction on its first floating nuclear power plant on Sunday, despite environmental concerns that they could be vulnerable to accidents at sea. The head of Russia's atomic energy agency, Sergei Kiriyenko, said the floating plant will be much safer than those on the ground. He cited the sinking of the nuclear submarine Kursk: "After the boat was raised, specialists proved that the reactor could be put into service that very moment," he said. The plant will use reactors similar to those on the sub. The program will be used to bring power to the country's most remote areas. See "Russia Building 1st Floating Nuke Plant," Associated Press at ABC News, 4/15/07.

San Antonio fails sea trials: US Navy inspectors found major defects in three of 17 categories during a final review of its new amphibious ship San Antonio (LPD-17). It failed to complete sea trials, and faces an additional $36 million in repairs. The vessel has been plagued by mechanical and structural problems since the Navy took ownership in July 2005 — two years late and about $400 million over budget. Northrop Grumman Ship Systems in Pascagoula, Mississippi built the ship. Design and construction improvements have been incorporated into the second and third ships in the class, which are now in production. See "New Navy ship San Antonio found to be rife with flaws," Louis Hansen, The Virginian-Pilot at HamptonRoads.com, 4/14/07.

Anchor may be implicated in Bourbon Dolphin tragedy: The Bourbon Dolphin overturned about 75 nautical miles west of the remote north Shetland Islands near the Transocean Rather oil platform on Thursday evening. Jake Molloy, general secretary of the Offshore Industry Liaison Committee, believes that an anchor slipping up the side of the vessel could have put such a strain on the ship that it capsized. There should have been anchor stops on the ship to prevent slippage. But some preliminary discussion points to the anchor. Richard Crowther, regional operations manager for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, said there will be a full marine accident investigation. Ten of the 15 on board were rescued, but three later died. Five crewmen are missing and feared drowned. See "Anchor 'may have caused capsize'," BBC News, 4/13/07.

Cruise ship's 'black box' is found: Investigators using a remote-controlled submarine found a sunken Greek cruise ship's data recorder. The Merchant Marine Ministry said the recorder could reveal details of the sinking of the Sea Diamond. They plan to bring the 'black box' to the surface on Friday. Two French tourists remain missing from the ship, which struck well-marked rocks on April 5, and sank off the main port of the Greek holiday island of Santorini. More than 1,500 passengers and crew were rescued. The ministry and the cruise line have blamed the sinking on human error. The ship's captain and five other crew members have been charged with negligence. See "Sunken Greek cruise ship's 'black box' found," Reuters, 4/13/07.

River "windmills" are being tested in New York: New York and the Virginia-based company Verdant Power have partnered to use the East River as the staging ground for an experiment in renewable energy. They will place six turbines underwater on the east side of Roosevelt Island to harness kinetic energy in the tides to produce electricity. The turbines resemble windmills, but were crafted to move with river currents. One downside to the technology is that there isn't always a current, so on average, the turbines rotate enough to generate electricity about 77 percent of the time. At full capacity, the 10-megawatt project could power as much as 10,000 homes. Environmental concerns include sediment changes and damage to fish populations. But fish are being monitored with sonar equipment, and the river bottom is mostly bedrock. Test results so far are encouraging. See "Underwater turbines use the tide to produce electricity in NYC," Colleen Long, Associated Press at Newsday.com, 4/13/07.

US Navy terminates Lockheed's contract for a second LCS: The US Navy has terminated Lockheed Martin's contract for construction of the second of two new Littoral Combat Ships (LCS). The Navy announced the action to terminate the contract following the expiration of a 90-day stop work order imposed on the second ship in January, to allow the Navy to review costs associated with construction of the first ship. On March 15, Navy Secretary Donald Winter said that the stop work order would be lifted only if Lockheed Martin agreed to accept a fixed-price incentive contract for the second ship. Lockheed and the Navy tried to negotiate such a contract, but were unable to agree on the terms. Lockheed's team will still be able to compete for future contracts under the program. The Navy plans to purchase 55 LCS ships. See "High Costs Lead Navy to Cancel Lockheed Coastal Vessel," Renae Merle, The Washington Post, 4/13/07.

Oil rig support boat capsized, five missing: The Norwegian anchor-handling vessel Bourbon Dolphin capsized in the North Sea. Five crewmen are missing. The vessel was handling an anchor from the drilling rig Transocean Rather when the incident occurred, 75 miles north west of Shetland. Ten of the 15 people on board were saved. The five missing crew are thought to be trapped in the hull of the upturned boat. A rescue operation is under way. See "Five missing as oil vessel capsizes," Press Association at Guardian Unlimited, 4/12/07.

Ownership of Spratly Islands questioned over gas projects: China, Vietnam and Taiwan claim all of the Spratly Islands, a string of rocky outcrops in the South China Sea, possibly containing large oil and gas deposits, while Malaysia and the Philippines claim parts of them. Beijing recently accused Hanoi of infringing on China's territory with a project in the South China Sea, but a spokesman for the Vietnamese government said it was within the bounds of its own sovereignty. The planned BP-led gas field and pipeline project is adjacent to the BP-led Lan Tay-Lan Do gas fields that have been producing gas for power generation since 2002. Neither China nor the other countries that contest the Spratlys had made any public statements about the BP project before Tuesday, when China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, was asked to comment on the pipeline venture, and about Vietnam's plan to hold local elections on the islands. See "Vietnam defends Spratly gas project," Reuters at Internaitonal Herald Tribune, 4/12/07.

Delays cited for port security program: A port security program, started in the wake of the September 11 attacks, calls for issuing high-tech, tamperproof ID cards to workers to gain access to secure areas of US ports. But critics say that the program is beset by delays, cost overruns and missed deadlines. Senate Democrats accused the Bush administration of bungling the program on Thursday. Congressional investigators reported that only 1,700 ID cards have been issued to workers during testing, well short of the program's goal of 75,000. The Transportation Security Administration originally planned to begin the first rollout of the program in Wilmington, Delaware, late last month. But the rollout has been delayed, and could be postponed until May, according to testimony from the Government Accountability Office. GAO's Norman Rabkin said that he is not optimistic about the program. See "Democrats chide Bush administration over port security plan," Jennifer C. Karr, The Associated Press at Philly.com, 4/12/07.

"Asbestos widow" wins court award: Vaughn Oney, a former worker at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, was sometimes in contact with asbestos daily during the decades he worked there. Although he was in good health even at retirement in 1994, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2004. The disease is a form of cancer triggered by breathing asbestos fibers, and can remain latent in the body for 40 years. On Wednesday, jurors determined that Kay Oney, Mr. Oney's widow, should receive damages from two suppliers to the shipbuilding industry for their role in his death. Garlock Sealing Technologies settled with Oney for an undisclosed amount before the case went to trial. John Crane Inc. was ordered to pay $5.55 million. The company is expected to appeal the jury verdict. See "Wife of Va. shipyard worker wins court award for asbestos death," Associated Press at TimesDispatch.com, 4/12/07.

Old California oil terminals are in bad shape: Many of the working marine terminals that handle California's petroleum products were built in the early 1900s, when oil was carried by ships one-tenth the size of today's tankers. And many of them are in disrepair, and vulnerable to spills or fires, particularly in the event of an earthquake. Apart from potential earthquakes, terminals in other parts of the US are in about the same shape. California only recently developed standards for marine terminals, and got the power to enforce the rules. It has now started to inventory the terminals, and will be able to order necessary repairs starting next year. Oil companies are skeptical of any additional requirements, since the state already holds regular inspections. But an incident last August in the Port of Los Angeles has raised fears about environmental catastrophes. See "California officials issue warnings on aging gas, oil terminals," Noaki Schwartz, Associated Press at SignOnSanDiego.com, 4/12/07.

Demand for ships still outpaces supply: About 90 percent of global trade moves by sea, and rates are high enough for carriers to keep buying. The Baltic Dry Index, a measure of rates for iron ore and coal, has more than doubled in the past year on China's increasing imports of raw materials. Shipyards have raised prices for the very large crude carriers, the biggest type of oil tanker, by 67 percent since 2004 to an all-time high. The price of bulk carriers that move iron ore and coal has increased by about 30 percent this year. And ship owners are still buying: Hyundai Heavy Industries received orders this year for 47 vessels, bringing them to a three-year backlog. Some ship operators will not rule out a decline in prices if major economies slow. But most analysts believe prices will probably remain at current levels for the next two years. See "Ship prices expected to stay high in water," Kyunghee Park, Bloomberg News at International Herald Tribune, 4/11/07.

Human error behind Greek ship wreck: A Greek minister has said that human error almost certainly contributed to the sinking of the cruise ship Sea Diamond last Friday. But efforts are still focused on trying to find the two missing French tourists, and on protecting the environment from the oil spilling from the sunken ship. Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis didn't elaborate on the cause of the accident, but he did praise the rescue efforts. Santorini is a volcanic island with steep cliffs that is one of Greece's most popular tourist destinations, and residents worry that people might be wary of visiting. Kefaloyiannis said the oil spill "is under control." See "Official: Human Error Sank Cruise Ship," Thanassis Stavrakis, Associated Press at Las Vegas Sun, 4/10/07.

Lockheed Martin submits a new LCS proposal to the US Navy: The US Navy ordered Lockheed Martin to stop work on the second of its two Littoral Combat Ships because of cost overruns on the first one. Navy Secretary Donald Winter then said that Lockheed could start work on the second ship if the company agreed by April 12 to switch to a fixed-price contract. Lockheed Martin said Tuesday it submitted a new proposal to the Navy, which it called "a starting point for further negotiations." The Navy has declined to confirm that Lockheed has submitted a new proposal or whether a deal could be cut before the deadline, since negotiations are ongoing. See "Lockheed Makes New LCS Ship Proposal," Donna Borak, Associated Press at Examiner.com, 4/10/07.

Climate change 'to hit Pacific islands': Some Pacific islands are facing a bleak future with climate change predicted to reduce their water resources, food security and hit tourism industries hard. The findings are in the second of four reports released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC is a collaboration of more than 2,500 climate change scientists and 130 governments. Different parts of the Pacific are likely to experience different problems. In Asia, climate change could put close to 50 million people at risk of hunger by 2020, and 266 million by 2080. Some 94 million people will face floods, most in coastal areas of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Warmer temperatures in coastal waters are expected to exacerbate the abundance and toxicity of cholera in South Asia. For Australians and New Zealanders, the warming temperatures will be felt mostly through increasingly extreme weather events. See "Millions face floods from climate change," Michael Casey, Associated Press at USA Today, 4/10/07.

Investigators probe evacuation of Greek cruise ship: Investigators are questioning people on the Greek island of Santorini to try to determine whether the crew of the cruise ship Sea Diamond that sank in the Aegean Sea delayed evacuation efforts. Six crew members of the ship were charged with negligence but not taken into custody, pending further testimony. The ship's captain has blamed the accident on sea currents that swept the vessel onto a reef, tearing a hole in its hull. A research vessel will deploy an unmanned submarine to search for two missing passengers, take footage of the wreck, and look for the ship's voyage data recorder. Crews are working to contain spilled oil; as many as 100 tons may have leaked. The ship is not yet stable, and the remaining oil can't be removed until it is. See "Robot to search for missing tourists, data recorder," Associated Press at CNN.com, 4/9/07.

The Aral Sea gets another boost from the World Bank: In the 1970s, the Soviet government diverted two main rivers feeding the Aral to irrigate cotton fields in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The sea began to shrink, and by the 1990s only a quarter of the Aral Sea was left. The United Nations has called the disappearance of the Aral the worst man-made environmental disaster. Recently, a loan from the World Bank allowed the Kazakh government to build a dam that split the sea into two parts. The Uzbek side is still shrinking, but about 40% of the sea has returned to Kazakhstan. Now the Kazakhs are getting a new loan from the World Bank to implement the second stage of the project, which will try to save the northern part of the sea. Communities in the area are already feeling the impact, with some fishermen returning to their boats. See "Kazakhs get loan to save Aral Sea," Natalya Antelava, BBC News, 4/9/07.

Pirates free UN cargo ship and Indian vessel: A UN-chartered cargo ship and an Indian vessel have been released off the coast of Somalia. Andrew Mwangura of the Seafarers' Assistance Programme said the hijackers freed the MV Rozen on Friday, more than a month after it was seized after delivering relief food shipped by the UN World Food Programme. The hijackers also freed the MV Nimatullah, an Indian cargo vessel snatched on April 1 as it anchored at Mogadishu port. The hijackers forced the Nimatullah to sail to waters off northeastern Somalia where it had been held since the weekend. Both ships were released late Friday, and all crewmembers have been reported well. The Nimatullah docked safely in Migadishu on Sunday, and the Rozen is due back in its home port of Mombasa later this week. See "Ship seized by Somali pirates docks safely," Reuters at MSNBC.com, 4/8/07.

20 people missing after ships collide in East China Sea: Two cargo ships collided Sunday off China's eastern coast, leaving 20 crew members missing, an official said. Nineteen of the missing sailors are Chinese while the remaining one is Indian. The accident occurred just before sunrise on Sunday morning in the Taizhou strait off the coast of Zhejiang province. The steel-laden cargo ship Harvest sank after colliding with the Chinese vessel Jinhaikun. Search vessels are in the area looking for survivors, and the cause of the collision is under investigation. See "Vessels sinks, 20 missing," Sapa-AFP at IOL, 4/8/07.

Three bidders on the table for Britain's submarine industry: BAE Systems, Babcock International, and Carlyle have each made it through the second round of bidding for Devonport Management Limited (DML). The company that acquires DML — which runs a maintenance and support base for Britain's nuclear submarine fleet — will likely win a large part of the proposed program to build a new fleet of submarines. Estimates of the price for DML vary from £200 million and £450 million. BAE is in negotiations with VT to create a joint venture for surface ships, although confirmation has been delayed by final negotiations with the government about the construction of two carriers for the Royal Navy. This negotiation, which is expected to be announced at the same time as the carrier program, seems to be delaying the sale of DML. See "Three-way fight for submarines," The Sunday Times, 4/8/07.

Two missing as cruise ship skipper faces court hearing: A cruise ship captain and senior officers have appeared before a Greek court, after their vessel sank and two passengers were posted missing. A full alert was also declared as an oil spill began to slowly surface from the sunken liner Sea Diamond, causing fears of an ecological disaster. The vessel was on a week-long cruise of the Greek islands when it crashed against a well-charted rocky reef just one nautical mile off the port of Thira on Santorini. It listed and was evacuated within hours. A French passenger and his 16-year-old daughter are missing. The ship's captain, first engineer and two other senior officers have appeared before the island's investigating magistrate to face possible charges of criminal negligence. See "Captain charged over Greek cruise ship sinking," Reuters at The Sydney Morning Herald, 4/8/07.

Britain examines capture of its sailors and marines by Iran: A Ministry of Defence inquiry into the capture of 15 British Marines and sailors by Iranian forces has already identified several issues. For one, the boarding party had inadequate protection and backup, and was traveling in two rigid inflatable boats which were no match for the Iranian vessels that surrounded them. There are also concerns that the commanders had inadequate intelligence. The incident also raises doubts about whether Britain has the right ships to conduct the operations required in the shallow waters of the northern Gulf. HMS Cornwall is too large to operate in the confined waters of the northern Gulf coast. As a result, the vessel was several miles from the boarding party when they were ambushed, and so was powerless to help. See "Inquiry begins into errors that led to crew’s ambush," Richard Beeston, The Times, 4/6/07.

The incident has led Britain to suspend its practice of boarding and inspecting vessels in the Persian Gulf. The Navy is conducting a review of the practice. See "Britain Suspends Maritime Boarding Operations in Gulf," VOA News, 4/6/07.

LCS contract could be renegotiated early: Lockheed Martin has contracts to build two Littoral Combat Ships for the US Navy. But cost overruns on their first ship are so high that the defense contractor was ordered to stop work on the second ship while the costs were investigated. Last month, Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter said he would allow Lockheed to start work on the second ship if the company agreed by mid-April to switch to a fixed-price contract. Since then, the company has been in negotiations with the Navy to restructure its contract for both ships. But Winter has indicated he plans to strike a deal with Lockheed ahead of the April 12 deadline. General Dynamics is also building two LCS ships. The company has been put on close watch by the Navy to track costs, but has not been asked to restructure its contracts. See "Lockheed, Navy Could Reach Deal on Ships," Donna Borak, The Associated Press at Chron.com, 4/6/07.

South Korea, China agree on hot line: South Korea and China have agreed to set up a military hot line to avoid possible maritime clashes. The communication between the two countries' navies and air forces will help avoid clashes in the West Sea over illegal fishing. The countries will also sign an agreement for joint maritime search and rescue efforts. The hot line accord will be signed by South Korea's President Roh Moo-hyun and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during Wen's two-day trip to Seoul. The hot line's establishment represents improved relations between Seoul and Beijing as they step up their political and economic cooperation in a region where mistrust and rivalry run deep over historical and territorial disputes. See "Korea, China to Set Up Military Hotline," Digital Chosunilbo, 4/5/07.

New Zealand's bottom trawl ban doesn't go far enough: New Zealand's Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton has announced that 32 percent of the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) will be protected from bottom trawling under the Benthic (seabed habitat) Protected Areas initiative. But many say this does little to stop the destruction of vulnerable deep-sea life threatened by the practice. Most areas proposed for closure are either too deep or too rough to bottom trawl, or are otherwise of no interest to the fishing industry because they don't contain enough bottom-trawled target fish to be economical as fishing areas. In fact, Cath Wallace, co-chair of the Environment and Conservation Organisations network, labeled the plan a "total con job." Mr. Anderton said the plan was consistent with last year's UN General Assembly resolution. See "Seabed protection plan a con, say campaigners," Martha McKenzie-Minifie, The New Zealand Herald, 4/5/07.

Somalia pirates increase activities: Somali pirates have demanded $20,000 for the return of the MV Nimatullah and its crew. The pirates had originally demanded twice that amount, but scaled down their demand based on their valuation of the ship's cargo. The Indian-flagged vessel has 14 crew members on board, and was carrying more than 800 tons of cargo when it was captured off the coast of Mogadishu early on Monday. The area around Somalia is known for pirates; the International Maritime Bureau warned this week there had been a marked increase in pirate attacks lately. See "Pirates demand $20 000 ransom," SA at News24, 4/5/07.

Another ship, the MV Nishan, was also attacked by pirates near Mogadishu on Tuesday. Gunmen in speed boats opened fire at the MV Nishan as it was anchored at port. The United Arab Emirates-registered vessel managed to escape seizure. The whereabouts of the vessel was unknown after it fled out to sea. See "Pirates open fire on ship in Mogadishu port," Sapa-AFP at Mail & Guardian Online, 4/4/07.

Cruise ship evacuated off Greece: An operation to evacuate up to 1,600 people from a stricken cruise ship is under way off the coast of the Greek island of Santorini. The Greek-flagged Sea Diamond issued a distress signal after apparently running aground and starting to take on water. A flotilla of commercial ships plus six navy helicopters and various navy vessels are assisting the rescue. The evacuation is proceeding calmly, and about 650 people have been evacuated so far. The ship was about one nautical mile off the coast of the island in the eastern Aegean Sea. The Sea Diamond is operated by Louis Cruise Lines, a Cyprus-based tourism group. See "Hundreds rescued from cruise ship," Associated Press at CNN.com, 4/5/07.

Coral reef fisheries are in danger: A new study suggests that if the commercial exploitation of tropical corals continues at present rates, many reefs will be irreversibly degraded. The scientists estimated that the amount of fish being caught on tropical coral reefs is currently 64 percent higher than can be reasonably sustained. The study, published in the online journal Current Biology, suggests that the threat to tropical corals will lead to many inhabited island atolls being abandoned during the 21st century. Small-scale fishing can be sustainable but population growth and the spread of unsustainable methods of fishing, such as the use of dynamite, is damaging many reefs beyond repair. See "We're facing a food-security crisis," Steve Connor, IOL, 4/4/07.

Cleaner fuel is more expensive for ships: More than 90 percent of the world's trading fleet runs on high-sulfur residual fuels, which cause significant pollution. In fact, the International Maritime Organization has started to implement SECAs — sulfur emission control areas where ship exhausts are limited in specific locations. The Hong Kong Shipowners Association is calling for a global switch to low-sulfur fuel. Not only would this reduce pollution and minimize engine damage, it would keep ships from having to undertake the risky operation of fuel switching. But some officials in the shipping industry have said that a switch to cleaner distillates would raise carbon-dioxide emissions in the manufacturing process — a known cause of global warming. And refiners aren't too interested in investing in desulfurization technology to produce fuels with a lower sulfur content. Complicating attempts to burn cleaner fuel is that diesel is more expensive. See "Clean fuel to raise shipping costs," Reuters at The Standard, 4/4/07.

Mississippi shipyard workers end walkout: Striking workers at the Northrop Grumman shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi, ended a month long walkout by approving the company's new contract proposal, which calls for a $2.78 hourly raise over the next three years. That is less than the $4 raise workers originally sought, but 18 cents more than the company's previous proposal. In the new contract, first-year workers at Mississippi's largest private employer will see their average pay rise from $18.32 an hour to $20. See "Striking Northrop Grumman workers vote on new contract," Associated Press at The Clarion-Ledger, 4/4/07.

Sydney Ferries safety record to be examined: The Sydney ferry system is facing a potential overhaul of operations, and possible privatization, over its bad safety record. The service was corporatized less than three years ago, in an attempt to revive declining revenue, improve low passenger numbers and deliver better timetables. But the government has just called for an inquiry that might change everything again. The safety inquiry is expected to be completed by the end of August. Premier Morris Iemma described it as an "over arching inquiry into Sydney Ferries, looking at its efficiency, its operation, its service delivery to ferry users." Since early 2004, the Office of Transport Safety Investigations has opened 12 investigations into ferry collisions or systemic problems. Many of the reports that followed criticized the corporation for failing to implement recommendations in earlier reports. See "Troubled ferries to face big shake-up," Alexandra Smith and Jordan Baker, The Sydney Morning Herald, 4/4/07.

US Navy official warns cost overruns could hurt fleet modernization: Admiral Michael Mullen, Chief of Naval Operations, has warned that rising costs in major building projects could hurt the service's plans to modernize its fleet and aircraft. He was speaking at this week's Navy League Sea-Air-Space Exposition. At issue were cost overruns on the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program; the Navy ordered a halt to work on Lockheed Martin's second ship because costs were getting so high. But the LCS is not the only program that has had cost problems. Analysts say the Navy's cost challenges are symptomatic of long-standing bureaucratic flaws and a lack of congressional oversight of military programs. Another contributing factor is the "procurement holiday" following the end of the Cold War, which allowed the Navy to focus less on long-term procurement strategies. Although defense spending is at record levels, the fleet is smaller than it's been for several decades, and Congress would need to boost current funding levels to meet the Navy's procurement targets. See "Navy Official Warns on Cost Overruns," Donna Borak, Associated Press at Newsday.com, 4/4/07.

More details on Russia's shipbuilding modernization plan: Russia's President Vladimir Putin has started a shipbuilding industry modernization project for the country. Three regional subholdings will be formed: the Western Center, the Northern Center, and the Far Eastern Center — all under the United Shipbuilding Corporation (OSK). The OSK will be headed by Colonel General Alexander Burutin, a presidential adviser on military industrial affairs. By 2010, Russia plans to increase its construction of warships by 50%, including building a series of 40 frigates, and some submarines. In addition, India, China and Algeria have placed orders for Russian warships. But the OSK will also focus on civilian production. Russia will not try to compete with shipbuilding majors, but will instead seek a niche where its output will have guaranteed demand: offshore platforms, special vessels to develop the continental shelf, and other specialized equipment. The country is also likely to take on vessels for transporting liquefied natural gas. See "Russia will consolidate its shipbuilding industry," Viktor Litovkin, RIA Novosti, 4/3/07.

EU wary of China's growing steel and shipbuilding capacity: China could face trade penalties from the European Union if it doesn't curb its growing capacity in steel and shipbuilding. These are at issue because steel is an important industry in nearly all of the EU's member states, and because the EU's own shipbuilding industry has just undergone major consolidations. Although no formal moves have been made as of yet, Beijing is aware that Brussels would be prepared, if needed, to resort to the Injurious Pricing Instrument, an EU trade protection tool that is the equivalent of anti-dumping measures for shipbuilding. See "EU presses China to rein in steel, shipbuilding," Reuters at SignOnSanDeigo.com, 4/3/07.

Somali pirates seize Indian ship: Heavily armed pirates have seized an Indian cargo vessel off the coast of Somalia's capital. Andrew Mwangura of the Kenyan-based Seafarers Assistance Programme said 14 crew members have been taken captive. No demands have been made so far. The vessel, MV Nimatullah, was to deliver 800 tons of cargo to Mogadishu but was barred by fighting. This is the second ship to be seized in the region in five weeks. In February, pirates hijacked a UN-chartered cargo vessel, MV Rozen, and are still holding 12 of its crew members. Since the overthrow of Union of Islamic Courts in December, insecurity in Mogadishu has deteriorated and aid workers say the current fighting is the worst the city has seen for 15 years. See "Pirates seize Indian ship in Somali waters," Reuters at CNN.com, 4/3/07.

Oil from sunken Solar 1 has been recovered: Oil recovery operations from the MT Solar 1, which sunk last August off Guimaras Island, has been completed. The oil recovery vessel Allied Shield returned to dock with about 5,000 liters of bunker oil on Monday. At the time it sank the Solar 1 was carrying 2.1 million liters of oil, suggesting that 2.09 million liters was spilled into the Iloilo-Guimaras Strait. Carlos Tan, Petron Health, Safety and Environment manager, said clean-up operations in Guimaras and Iloilo villages affected by the oil spill have also been completed, and ground water and seawater in the affected areas are being monitored. See "Oil recovery in Guimaras Straits now completed," Panay News at The Manila Times, 4/3/07.

Korea's STX is building a shipyard in China: South Korea's STX Shipbuilding Corp plans to build a shipyard in China. STX held a ground-breaking ceremony Friday for a shipyard in Dalian, which the company plans to complete by 2009. The facility will be capable of every step of the shipbuilding process, from processing parts to testing vessels. Samsung Heavy Industries and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering have built or are currently building facilities in China — but these yards are only capable of producing ship's blocks. STX will complete the shipyard and block factories by the first half of next year, and should be working on vessels in the second half of 2008, with completed ships delivered in the second half of 2009. The Korean manufacturer plans to build cheaper ships at the Dalian shipyard, where labor costs are much cheaper. It will continue to build high-value ships, such as liquid natural gas carriers, in Korea. Some worry that the move will allow China to learn Korean shipbuilding technology. But Kang Duck-soo, the chairman of STX Group, said he is more worried that Korean technicians are being recruited by Chinese firms. See "STX Building First Korean-Owned Shipyard in China," Digital Chosunilbo, 4/2/07.

Southeast Asia is seeing more submarines: A report published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute think-tank looks at the growing number of submarines being built in Southeast Asia. It warns that the prevalence of these boats could lead to a serious international incident. Andrew Davies, the author of The Enemy Below, said that with so many submarines under water, the "potential for miscalculation is significant, leading to accidents or escalation of response." Indonesia wants to build 12 submarines by 2024. Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, South Korea, Bangladesh and Pakistan are all buying submarines. And China and India are now planning a new generation of nuclear-powered boats. Analysts point out that submarines are difficult to detect or destroy, and capable of nuclear power projection. See "New arms race under the waves," Tim Shipman and Chad Bouchard, The Standard, 4/2/07.

US Congress wants more oversight for Deepwater: Both houses of Congress have passed Iraq war supplemental bills, and each includes provisions to tighten oversight over the US Coast Guard's Deepwater program. The Senate and House must now meet to reconcile the two bills regarding funding for the war. The Deepwater provisions are also different in each bill, and will also need to be reconciled. The Integrated Deepwater Systems modernization program has received criticism for design flaws, lax oversight and cost overruns. The Senate bill would require the Coast Guard to use competition for future Deepwater assets from the date of enactment of the legislation. The House bill stipulates that the lead systems integrator can't have a financial interest in the development of individual systems. Both versions have requirements for contract oversight and technical review. See "Congress moves to increase Deepwater oversight," Alice Lipowicz, WashingtonTechnology, 4/2/07.

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