News Archive - July 2007

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UN support sought off the coast of Somalia to combat pirates: The International Maritime Bureau has identified the coast of Somalia as having the highest piracy risk in the world. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) wants the UN Security Council to provide assistance to make the area safer. UN action would include consenting to naval ships operating in the Indian Ocean, entering the country's territorial waters when engaging in operations against pirates or suspected pirates and armed robbers endangering the safety of life at sea. Of particular concern is the safety of crews on board ships carrying World Food Programme humanitarian aid to Somalia, or leaving Somali ports after having discharged their cargo. The Council has authorized the secretary general to take action on the proposal. See "Somalia: Maritime Body Wants UN to Move On Piracy Off the Horn of Africa," Abdulsamad Ali, allAfrica.com, 7/31/07.

Oil spill detergents harm coral: When oil spills occur near tropical coral reefs or shorelines, government authorities commonly use detergents to disperse the oil into smaller and supposedly less harmful droplets. But new research suggests that the detergents and dispersed oil droplets are more toxic to the coral than the crude oil itself. There are other considerations: oil spills that are not dispersed can kill birds and other wildlife. And oil can kill corals by directly enveloping and suffocating them, and toxins in the oil can be poisonous to the corals. But the research, published in the August 1 issue of the journal Environmental Science & Technology, should give oil spill responders new information. For example, detergents should probably not be used near coral reefs except in emergencies, when oil slicks are shore-bound. See "Oil-Spill Detergents More Toxic to Coral Reefs Than Oil Itself," Charles Q. Choi, FOXNews.com, 7/31/07.

US Coast Guard saves 1 million lives: The US Coast Guard was founded on August 4, 1790. On that day, the first Congress authorized the construction of ten vessels to enforce tariff and trade laws, prevent smuggling, and protect the collection of the federal revenue. Responsibilities were added over the years, including the task many associate with the service today: that of aiding mariners in distress. During this year's ceremony, the Coast Guard will announce that it has rescued more than one million persons since it was established. See the press release "Coast Guard Announces More Than 1 Million Lives Saved," US Coast Guard, 7/31/07.

Melting polar ice cap makes more work for the US Coast Guard: The US Coast Guard is responsible for policing maritime traffic, chasing off foreign fishermen that cross into US waters, pursuing drug traffickers, rescuing seamen in distress, protecting indigenous people and responding to oil spills and other environmental accidents. Ice in the Arctic sea has decreased by nearly 20% over the past two decades, and the resulting increased maritime traffic has made the Arctic a more significant focus for the Coast Guard in the past six months. In addition to opening up a potential sea route, the reduction in ice has sparked competing claims among the eight nations that border the Arctic. These factors could create more word for the Coast Guard. See "Coast Guard's tasks grow with Arctic traffic," Barbara Slavin, USA TODAY, 7/30/07.

180 migrants survive voyage in giant canoe: 180 African immigrants reached the Canary Islands in a single ocean-going canoe yesterday as new super-sized vessels begin to be used in the perilous journey from Africa's Atlantic coast. The 180 sub-Saharan Africans were picked up by a Spanish maritime rescue vessel off the island of Tenerife. Large versions of the west African wooden fishing canoes known as cayucos are being built in Senegal and other countries as people traffickers seek to increase their returns on the lucrative route into Europe via the Canary Islands. While these canoes routinely carried up to 50 people, the new boats can transport more than 100 young Africans seeking a new life in Europe. Unfortunately, the large canoes are no more seaworthy than their predecessors. Another canoe carrying 149 people arrived at the Canary Island of El Hierro over the weekend. But at least 50 people are believed to have drowned 12 days ago on one of the canoes. See "Spain intercepts 180 African immigrants in single vessel," Giles Tremlett, Guardian Unlimited, 7/30/07.

Shipping is threatened by inexperienced crew: The North of England P&I Club noted concerns in its 2007 Management Report about inexperience in the shipping industry. The report suggests that a lack of experience has led relatively minor claims to get out of hand, due to lack of common sense and ignorance of basic procedures. The problem is not just the lack of personnel, although the success of the industry has caused a shortage in crews. But the standards of qualification are also missing, since seafarer education is so often focused on common procedures — when something unforeseen comes up the crew often doesn't have the training or experience to think independently. See "Lack of human resources threatens shipping sector," Frank Kennedy, Gulf News 7/30/07.

UK joint shipbuilding venture gets job support from the MoD: British naval shipyards traditionally suffer booms and busts in orders, with yards competing fiercely for government orders. But the Ministry of Defence has given the yards a guarantee to maintain jobs and technical capabilities for the next 15 years. The shipyards have created a joint venture, which combines BAE Systems' shipbuilding operations on the Clyde and VT's south coast yards. The joint venture has committed to targets on cost savings, and streamlining the industry. In return, the MoD will support the new alliance with sufficient orders to maintain Britain's naval shipbuilding capability. If orders don't come, the MoD will underwrite the costs of keeping technical capabilities viable, and support an undisclosed number of jobs. Efficiencies above stated targets will be split between the joint venture and government. See "UK naval yards get 15-year jobs vow," Dominic O'Connell, The Times Online, 7/29/07.

Bush supports the Law of the Sea: President Bush wants the US Senate to ratify the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which creates comprehensive rules for the world's oceans and their resources. Backers include the military, environmentalists and energy companies. But some conservatives argue that it would be unwise for the United States to subordinate itself to the foreign officials who enforce the treaty — especially in the midst of the war on terrorism. In particular, the critics object to provisions allowing an international tribunal in Germany to resolve disputes over vessels detained on suspicion of illegal activity. Treaty supporters note that the treaty excludes "military" matters from the procedures for releasing ships. Given the Bush administration's apparent dislike of many international treaties, some are puzzled by Bush's support for this one. Critics may have enough support to block the two-thirds majority required for Senate ratification. See "Bush allies slam his support of maritime treaty," Charlie Savage, The Boston Globe, 7/29/07.

Water levels in Lake Superior keep dropping: Lake Superior is the deepest and coldest of the Great Lakes, which together hold nearly 20 percent of the world's fresh surface water. But over the past year, its level has dropped to the lowest point in eight decades, and will set a record this fall if it dips the three additional inches that scientists expect. Water levels also have receded on the other Great Lakes since the late 1990s. But the suddenness and severity of Superior's changes worry many in the region; it has plunged more than a foot in the past year. The low water has harmed recreational fishing, and it has cost the shipping industry millions of dollars. Vessels are carrying lighter loads of iron ore and coal to avoid running aground in shallow channels. Scientists are trying to determine the long-term effects on fisheries. See "Changing Lake Superior frustrates boaters, mystifies scientists," John Flesher, Associated Press at The Detroit News, 7/28/07.

Demand for ethanol fuels the Dead Zone: Ethanol, a form of alcohol made from vegetable matter, is distilled mostly from corn in the US. And American farmers planted the most acreage with corn since 1944 this spring — after demand for ethanol pushed the grain's price to a 10-year high in February. But scientists are blaming farm waste flowing into the Mississippi river for contributing to the Gulf of Mexico's "Dead Zone." Corn fuels the zone because it requires more nitrogen-based fertilizer than other crops, such as soybeans. The zone is expected to reach a record size this year. Scientists worry that the zone might grow so big that shrimp and other creatures won't be able to escape it. See "Ethanol boom is killing off shrimping," Tony Cox, Bloomberg News at The Salt Lake Tribune, 7/28/07.

Daewoo up for sale: Creditors are scheduled to start selling their 50% stake in Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering, the world's largest shipbuilder, before the end of the year. But it's almost certain the winner will be Korean. There are increasing concerns about losing technology to China, which has said it wants to surpass Korea as the world's leading shipbuilder by 2015. Although a formal decision hasn't been made it seems likely that all foreign investors could be banned from bidding. Potential South Korean bidders include Posco, GS Engineering and Construction and STX Pan Ocean. The deal could be worth as much as US $8.7 billion. See "Korean bidders for key shipbuilder," Anna Fifield, The Australian, 7/28/07.

Oil spill off Japan's Izu Peninsula: Early Friday, the Singapore-flagged containership Wan Hai 307 was struck by the Greece-registered freighter Alpha Action off Japan's Izu Peninsula. The cause of the collision isn't clear, but neither ship appears in danger of sinking. All crew members have been reported safe, but oil has spilled from the Wan Hai. See "Freighter collision causes oil spill off Izu," The Japan Times Online, 7/28/07.

Bill for seal hunt rescue comes in: As many as 6,000 Canadian sealers went out on the hunt this year. Weather conditions saw 100 ships stranded in the ice off the coast of Newfoundland. The Canadian Coast Guard sent ten icebreakers and towing ships and spent a month freeing the vessels. Just over $528,000 was budgeted for support of sealing activities, but the total cost of the operation was at least $3.4 million. Opponents of the hunt claim this estimate is low, saying the government is spending a lot to "defend the seal hunt." But Phil Jenkins, a Fisheries Department spokesman, said the Coast Guard doesn't subsidize the hunt. Instead, "the coast guard is there to save anybody who is in distress." See "Rescuing sealers cost gov't $3.4M," CanWest News Service, Edmonton Journal at Canada.com, 7/28/07.

US homeland security bill approved: On Friday, the US Congress approved legislation that requires tighter screening of air and sea cargo. The Homeland Security bill implements many of the remaining recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission; for example, it requires screening of all cargo carried on passenger aircraft within three years, and it cuts the amount of homeland security grants provided to states with no regard to the risk of attack they face. On the marine front, the bill requires radiation screening within five years of 100% of US-bound maritime cargo before loading at foreign ports — many feel this will be difficult at best, and the bill allows the secretary of homeland security to extend the deadline two years at a time. See "Congress Approves Homeland Security Bill in 2 Strong Votes," Spencer S. Hsu and William Branigin, The Washington Post, 7/28/07.

Russian Navy denies nuclear sub blast: The Russian Navy denied Friday media reports of an explosion aboard a nuclear submarine under repair in Severodvinsk, on the White Sea, Thursday. Igor Dygalo, an aide to the Russian Navy commander, said one of the submarine's main ballast tanks at a dockyard was damaged due to a surge in air pressure, which dockyard officials are treating as a routine occurrence. Dygalo said no one was injured in the incident, adding that the damaged tank would be repaired. An environmental official in Norway, near the port of Severodvinsk, told Reuters there was no sign of increased radioactivity as a result of the accident. See "Russia plays down submarine blast," BBC News, 7/27/07.

Africa tackles poaching and other fishing issues: Industry analysts estimate that more than 50% of Atlantic Africa's potential resources are taken each year by poachers. But many of the countries lack boats and aircraft to watch over coastal waters. Ivory Coast's fisheries minister spoke to the subject at the Ministerial Conference on Fishing Resources Cooperation among African States Bordering the Atlantic Ocean (Comhafat). He announced that the 22 member nations will use satellite surveillance to curb fish poachers. In addition to satellites, conference attendees discussed pooling coast guard resources, and new regulations to set specific periods for fishing, protection of breeding areas, and waste-free nets. See "Africa turns to satellites to curb fish poaching," Loucoumane Coulibaly, Reuters at Scotsman.com, 7/27/07.

Military talks between two Koreas break down: The Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea, drawn up by United Nations forces at the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War, has been a potential flashpoint in recent years. The South currently recognizes it, while the North continually demands it be redrawn. High-level military talks between the two countries this week have again broken down over the disputed sea border, with no concrete results. South Korea had hoped to discuss issues that are easier to settle, such as opening a hotline between Navy commanders to prevent confrontations. But North Korea believes the only way to avoid confrontation is to redraw the border. See "Top-level Korean talks fail," AFP at News24.com, 7/26/07.

China will monitor antibiotics use in fish farms: China is the largest producer of farmed fish, handling 50% of the total value of global aquaculture seafood exports around the world. But contaminants have been found in samples lately. Last month, the US Food and Drug Administration said a sampling of imported Chinese seafood from October 2006 through May 2007 found more than 15% of shipments were contaminated with antimicrobial agents that are not approved for use in farm-raised seafood in the United States. In 2005, exports of Chinese-farmed eels to Hong Kong were found to contain malachite green. Since trading partners are starting to block its seafood exports, China has said it will step up inspections on the use of antibiotics on fish farms. See "China pledges to improve seafood quality," Reuters at The Sydney Morning Herald, 7/26/07.

Ship engine falls off truck at California shipyard: A 200-ton engine, destined for a US Navy ship under construction at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard, slid off a trailer, landed on one car, crushed the front end of another, and also hit a third. The engine landed with enough force to break the concrete, put a small crater in the street, and break a water line. The shipyard had to cancel its first shift, and the road was closed for several hours. For more information and pictures, see "200-ton ship engine falls off truck, blocks traffic," Karen Kucher and Greg Gross, SignOnSanDiego.com, 7/26/07.

MOD gives go-ahead for aircraft carriers: Britain gave the go-ahead on Wednesday for plans to spend 3.9 billion pounds to build two aircraft carriers, triggering a deal that will merge operations at the UK's two largest shipbuilders. The carriers are to be called Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales and are due to enter service in 2014 and 2016. That is later than the 2012 and 2014 targets cited in original plans, which date back to 1998. They will be the largest ships ever to sail with the Royal Navy. Britain's two largest shipbuilders, BAE Systems and VT Group, responded to the news by announcing they had inked a deal on a shipbuilding merger: BAE will hold 55 percent of the joint venture and VT the remainder. See "Government has plans to build multi-billion-pound aircraft carriers," Roland Jackson, AFP at Yahoo! News, 7/25/07.

Russia's exploration of the Arctic is delayed: A Russian expedition sailed Tuesday for the North Pole, where it plans to send a mini-submarine crew to plant a flag on the seabed and symbolically claim the Arctic for the Kremlin. The mission is part of a race to assert rights over the Lomonosov Ridge, a barren but energy-rich wasteland that stretches across 11 time zones. Scientists estimate the area is rich with gas and oil deposits. The Russians have long claimed that the ridge, which extends into northern Canada, as an extension of their continent. However, the research ship Akademik Fyodorov suffered engine failure a day after it set sail. It isn't clear how long it will take to fix. See "Expedition to stake Arctic claim delayed," Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press at Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 7/25/07.

Koreas end first day of talks amid sea border dispute: The two Koreas ended the opening day of high-level military talks on Tuesday, as North Korea renewed its long-running demand that the western sea border with the South be redrawn. The sea border dispute has been widely considered a deal breaker in this week's talks set to run through Thursday. North Korea does not recognize the current sea border demarcated by the United Nations at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, and claims the border is too far north. South Korea has rejected the North's claim, saying the current border should be respected. This week's talks are the highest-level regular dialogue channel between the two militaries. See "Koreas open high-level military talks amid sea border dispute," Associated Press at CNN.com, 7/24/07.

Oil spill in Prince William Sound: The fishing service vessel Nordic Viking grounded 25 miles south of Valdez, Alaska, and about 20 miles southeast of the reef where the Exxon Valdez ran aground in 1989. It isn't clear why the vessel grounded on Saturday night. All four crew members were unhurt, but the ship spilled about 3,500 gallons of diesel fuel. Although much smaller than the Valdez spill, it is still among the 20 largest of the hundreds that have occurred in Prince William Sound in the last decade. See "Diesel spill hits Alaska's Prince William Sound," Associated Press at MSNBC.com, 7/24/07.

News on underwater observatories: Most oceanographic science has been limited to research cruises, which survey a small area of the sea, or satellite studies that can see only near the surface. But researchers are hoping to create underwater observatories using submarine cables, already deployed for telecommunications. A loop of submarine fiber optic and power cable is positioned on the ocean floor, with nodes, or interfaces where scientific equipment can be attached. A few prototype observatories are already in place. The technology allows real-time interactive monitoring of ocean conditions, and marine life. See "Exploring the last frontier," Rebecca Morelle, BBC News, 7/23/07.

OSHA Marine Safety: The US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released a new guidance document, "Traffic Safety in Marine Terminals" to help the maritime industry avoid traffic accidents and prevent or reduce work-related fatalities and injuries. It is not a standard or regulation and it carries no new legal obligations. Rather, it focuses on the factors that contribute to traffic related injuries and identifies measures to prevent them, such as safety checks, vehicle selection and maintenance, traffic controls, safe operation of vehicles, and safe driving techniques.

Angola, Namibia, South Africa will cooperate on fishing issues: Angola, Namibia and South Africa on Friday launched the joint commission Benguela Current Commission (BCC). The Commission will allow the countries to share the tasks of managing fish stocks, and environmental problems on their shared fishing grounds in the Atlantic Ocean. It derives its name from the nutrient-rich Benguela current from the Antarctic flowing along the coast of the three countries. See "Angola, SA, Namibia launch joint fishing body," SAPA-AFP at Mail & Guardian Online, 7/22/07.

Controlling sickness on the high seas: Norovirus causes sickness and diarrhea, and is easily transmitted in confined places. The bug has also struck thousands of people on cruise ships. Now, the British Health Protection Agency (HPA), in conjunction with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the cruise industry, has developed a guide on preventing and managing outbreaks of the virus. The guide should provide all parties required to deal with an outbreak with practical advice. See "Ships to get vomiting bug guide," BBC News, 7/22/07.

Ransom demanded for Danica White: A ransom of US $1.5 million dollars has been demanded for the release of five Danish seamen abducted by pirates off Somalia early June. The Danica White was en route from Dubai to Mombasa in Kenya when armed pirates ordered the vessel to head to the coast of Somalia. The ship owner H Folmer og Co has no means to pay the ransom and has large debts. The Danish foreign ministry is also opposed to paying a ransom for fears it would generate more kidnappings. See "Pirates demand $1.7m ransom for ship," The Australian, 7/22/07.

Shell Oil must stop drilling in the Arctic: Shell Oil has been ordered to halt its exploratory drilling program off the north coast of Alaska until a court hearing can be held on the possible environmental impact of the venture. The order came on Thursday from the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. It comes after the US Minerals Management Service in February approved Shell's offshore exploration plan for the Beaufort Sea. Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said on Friday that company officials are obviously disappointed. Conservation groups contend that MMS approved Shell's plan without fully looking at the harm it could do. They are concerned that offshore drilling, particularly if there was a large spill, would be catastrophic to marine mammals and polar bears. See "Shell Ordered to Suspend Arctic Drilling," Mary Pemberton, Associated Press at Las Vegas SUN, 7/21/07.

Spain calls off air and sea search for missing Africans: Spain has called off an air and sea search for an estimated 50 Africans missing for two days after their crowded boat capsized in rough seas near the Canary Islands. Planes stopped looking for the Africans on Friday evening, and two maritime rescue vessels were recalled on Saturday morning. Officials called it one of the worst tragedies in recent years involving destitute Africans risking death to reach Europe's southern gateway in search of a better life. Authorities have activated a system of radio-equipped buoys that will alert ships in the area if people or bodies are detected in the water. See "Spain ends search for immigrants," BBC News, 7/21/07.

MSC Napoli split apart: The MSC Napoli was finally split in two on Friday with explosions. Maritime officials packed the vessel with explosives which were detonated at noon to break the ship into two halves. The explosions were the third in a week after the first two failed to crack the hull. The bow section will be towed away for recycling in mainland Europe, while the stern will be cut into sections on the seabed and then taken away for recycling. The ship was deliberately grounded off Branscombe Beach in Devon on January 20 after suffering hull damage in the English Channel. See "Stricken cargo ship finally breaks apart after two days of explosions," The Times Online, 7/21/07.

EU seeks cuts at Poland's shipyard: The European Commission gave Poland's Gdansk shipyard a month from Friday to either cut capacity or return subsidy money, a move which threatens to push the yard into bankruptcy. Under EU rules, governments can give financial help to ailing companies only if the cash is accompanied by plans that would make the firms viable in the long term. The Commission said it accepted capacity cuts at two other Polish shipyards, Gdynia and Szczecin, in return for clearing past state aid. The three yards have had a total of 1.3 billion euros ($1.8 billion) in subsidies since Poland joined the European Union in May 2004. The EU is aware of the symbolic importance of the Gdansk yard, but believes measures are necessary to ensure free competition in the sector. See "Gdansk shipyard faces closure threat," Jan Cienski and George Parker, Financial Times at MSNBC.com, 7/21/07.

Marine Environment Protection Committee meets: The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) met from 9 to 13 July in London. During the meeting, the Committee agreed to commission a study into the impact of proposed measures to reduce air pollution from ships. It also further developed the proposed Ship Recycling Convention, discussed issues relating to the implementation of the 2004 Ballast Water Management Convention, and adopted a number of amendments to the MARPOL Convention. For details, see the press release "Marine Environment Protection Committee progresses key issues" from the International Maritime Organization, 7/20/07.

Solo rower will highlight maritime pollution: British sailor Roz Savage on Thursday will take her 24-foot rowing boat on a 6,700-mile trip across the Pacific Ocean. Starting from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, she will stop off in Hawaii and the South Pacific island of Tuvalu before ending in Australia. She aims to be a multi-media watchdog of ocean debris, blogging not just her own reflections but evidence of Pacific flotsam. See "Briton set for Pacific solo odyssey to highlight warming," Zachary Slobig, AFP at Yahoo! News, 7/19/07.

Africans missing after boat capsize: The Spanish coastguard is searching for about 50 Africans whose wooden boat capsized as the would-be illegal migrants neared the end of a dangerous voyage to the Canary Islands. Coastguard boats picked up 48 survivors after their narrow boat overturned about 100 miles southwest of the resort island of Tenerife in bad weather. Authorities believe thousands of Africans died last year attempting to reach the Canaries, hundreds of miles from the African coast. Most disappeared at sea without trace, bodies sometimes washing up days later on African shores. See "Immigrant-packed vessel capsizes off Canaries, 50 missing," AFP at Yahoo! News, 7/19/07.

Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer goes on sea trials: The first of Britain's new Type 45 destroyers is starting 18 months of sea trials. The Type 45s will replace the Navy's fleet of Type 42 destroyers. HMS Daring is the biggest warship ever to launch at the Scotstoun shipyard in Glasgow, and is the first of the Royal Navy's D-class of ships. It is also the first Royal Navy front-line warship to be propelled by electricity. The HMS Daring is expected to go into service in 2009. See "HMS Daring sets sail for trials," BBC News, 7/18/07.

Salvors are still trying to break up the Napoli: A third round of explosives may be used on the container ship MSC Napoli, after the grounded ship has failed yet again to split in half. On Tuesday, The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) used precision charges in a bid to separate the deck plates on the ship, which is grounded off Sidmouth, Devon. At high tide, tug boats tried to pull the vessel apart but without success. The blast had cut six of the eight longitudinal girders holding the vessel together. Tugs will once again attempt to pull the ship apart on the rising tide, but if that is unsuccessful, more explosive charges could be used on Thursday. See "The ship that wouldn't die," Tom Clarke, Channel 4, 7/18/07.

EU nations work together to save cod: After a pilot program in the northern and central North Sea by five fishery protection vessels, it has been decided that the fishery protection agencies of seven of Europe's biggest fishing nations will pool resources for the first time in a new offensive against illegal cod fishing. Strict controls will be in place to ensure foreign inspection vessels will only be able to enter the fishing zones of another member state with special consent, and will have to carry at least one inspector from the country concerned. The plan will cover the North Sea, Kattegat, Skagerrak and the Eastern Channel and involve the fisheries enforcement agencies of the UK, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden. See "Nations join forces to fight illegal cod fishing in EU waters," Frank Urquhart, The Scotsman, 7/17/07.

'Dead zone' in the Gulf of Mexico could grow: A swath of water with such low levels of oxygen that marine life can be threatened or killed has been measured in the Gulf of Mexico since 1985. This "dead zone" was 4,800 square miles in 1990, but it could be as large as 8,500 square miles this year. The zone is caused by farm chemicals and other runoff that can stimulate the growth of algae, spurring a growth in bacteria, which deplete the dissolved oxygen in the water. A growing dead zone could harm the valuable Gulf fishery. The dead zone starts to form in the spring and usually reaches its peak by the end of July or early August. A research ship will survey the area to measure the zone at the end of July. See "Gulf of Mexico "dead zone" could expand this year," Deborah Zabarenko, Reuters, 7/17/07.

New guide to ballast water treatment: Lloyd's Register has released a new report documenting the current status of ballast water technology development. The report "Ballast Water Treatment Technology: Current Status" is a primer on how various technologies work, and how much they might cost to use. The document details how soon the manufacturers are scheduling commercial production, and where these systems are in the International Maritime Organization approval process. According to this report, most of the technology systems examined will be commercially available by the end of 2007, with most of the technology companies on schedule for IMO approval by 2007 or 2008. The International Convention for The Control of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments will require certain ships to use ballast treatment systems starting on January 1, 2009. See the press release "Lloyd's Register releases guide to ballast water treatment technology" from Lloyd's Register.

Explosives detonated on the MSC Napoli: Explosives have been detonated in an attempt to break the MSC Napoli in two. Damaged in storms, the vessel was deliberately grounded in January, refloated last week, and grounded again when divers found severe damage to the hull. The first explosion separated the deck plates. Tugs positioned at the bow and stern will try to pull the boat apart at high tide, although further detonations may be needed to accomplish this. Prior to the operation, a 1000 meter exclusion zone was placed around the Napoli and navigational warnings issued. This exclusion zone will remain in place until further notice. See "Charges break Napoli's deck plate," BBC News, 7/17/07.

Human 'Polar Bear' swims at the North Pole: Britain's Lewis Pugh has successfully swum a kilometer at the Geographic North Pole to highlight the effects of global warming. The feat would not have been possible ten years ago, when the water was entirely frozen over, even in summer. The water was 28.76 degrees F (-1.8 C), and is believed to be the coldest water a human has ever swum in; the journey lasted just under 19 minutes. Most people would die during such an attempt, but Mr. Pugh has practiced cold-water swimming. The event was organized by the Worldwide Fund for Nature to raise awareness of environmental issues. Scientists predict that by 2040 the Arctic could be virtually free of ice in summer. See "19 mins, -1.8C: the first swim at the North Pole," Alan Hamilton, Times Online, 7/16/07.

India installs radar along Sri Lankan border: The Sri Lankan government has warned Indian fishermen from crossing the international maritime borderline between the two countries, or face being arrested and having their boats seized. In order to prevent violent incidents, India's navy is installing seven state-of-the-art radars along Tamil Nadu's coast from Rameswarm to Nagapattinam to monitor movements of boats. The location may suffer from power fluctuations. Several additional sites have been proposed for the radars. See "Radar installed at Rameswaram," Chennai Online News Service, 7/16/07.

Ibiza beaches shut after oil spill: Maritime crews in the Balearic island of Ibiza are cleaning up three popular beaches after inspectors discovered a sunken merchant ship had leaked ten tons of fuel into the waters earlier this week. Divers detected fresh oil leaks from a sunken ship after failed attempts to seal cracks in the wreck. The ship, Don Pedro, was transporting 150 tons of fuel and 50 tons of gasoline from Ibiza to the eastern Spanish city of Valencia when it sunk on Wednesday after it hit some rocks. See "New oil leaks threaten summer beaches on Spain's Balearic Island of Ibiza," The Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 7/14/07.

Northrop Grumman gets funds to repair three US shipyards: Northrop Grumman has estimated that Hurricane Katrina caused over $1 billion in damage to the company's Mississippi and Louisiana shipyards. The company also warned about production delays on future defense contracts. On Thursday, the US Navy awarded two contracts worth up to $98.7 million for infrastructure upgrades at the company's shipyards. The deal is the first of seven contracts expected to be awarded to Gulf Coast shipbuilders under the Defense Department's emergency supplemental funding for the global war on terror and hurricane recovery. See "Northrop may get $99M to repair shipyards," The Clarion-Ledger, 7/13/07.

Fleet of coal carriers is polluting Australia: The coal loader base in Australia's Newcastle Harbour has been trying to catch up with demand since bad weather and floods in the Hunter Valley washed away tracks near Singleton. Although the coal chain was stopped, the ships kept coming, and last week more than 80 were waiting offshore to unload their cargo. The fleet, with up to 2000 crew aboard, are creating pollution in the form of rubbish absent-mindedly dropped overboard. Authorities are also concerned the ships are pumping out ballast in order to get to port faster, and it isn't clear if it's being treated properly. The line of waiting ships isn't expected to go below 30 vessels until the end of September. See "2000 idle seamen filling ocean with junk," Damien Murphy, The Sydney Morning Herald, 7/13/07.

Piracy attacks have increased: The International Maritime Bureau says pirate attacks have increased sharply worldwide in the past three months, especially in Nigeria and Somalia. The bureau said Thursday 85 piracy attacks have been reported throughout the world between April and June. That is double the number of incidents reported in the preceding three months. Forty-one attacks were reported from January through March. Despite the recent surge in piracy, the overall number of attacks in the first six months of 2007 is in line with the number of attacks in the same period last year (126 in 2007, versus 127 in 2006.) The maritime bureau says Nigeria and Somalia remain high risk areas for ships. Nineteen piracy incidents have been reported off the Nigerian coast, and 17 other attacks occurred off the Somali coast. See "Pirate attacks up sharply worldwide, Maritime watchdog says," The Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 7/12/07.

MSC Napoli rebeached, may be broken in two: Attempts are being made to break the stricken container ship MSC Napoli in two in Branscombe Bay in Devon. The container vessel was rebeached on Thursday after earlier being refloated when a diving survey revealed it was more severely damaged than feared. The ship was originally grounded in January after being damaged in storms. Salvors have been working to remove ballast in an attempt to facilitate a controlled break-up of the vessel by causing the hull to sag. If the operation works it would leave the bow section afloat which could then be towed away, and the stern would sink to the seabed and eventually be removed. See "Stricken Branscombe beach container ship to be grounded again as it starts to break up," Daily Mail, 7/12/07.

Spain battles over treasure: The Spanish Civil Guard has intercepted a boat operated by US company Odyssey Marine Exploration amid a fight over treasure from a shipwreck. The Guard had been ordered by a Spanish judge to seize the vessel Ocean Alert as soon as it left the British colony of Gibraltar. Gibraltar officials and Odyssey, which owns the ship, said Spain had boarded the ship illegally as it was in international waters. In May, Odyssey said it had found $500 million in coins from a 17th Century wreck somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. Spain suspects the sunken galleon may either have been Spanish or have gone down in Spanish waters. The guard was investigating a possible "offence against Spanish historic heritage," it said in a statement. See "Spain intercepts US ship in treasure row," AFP at Yahoo! News, 7/12/07.

Hellenic Navy has submarines with fuel cells: The HDW Class 214 submarine, designed by Deutsche Werft GmbH (HDW), has a fuel cell-generated power supply, allowing it to operate entirely on hydrogen. Air Products, in partnership with Hellas Air Pro Ltd., recently supplied a submarine of this sort with hydrogen for the Hellenic Navy. This is the first fueling of this kind in Greece. The submarine was built by Hellenic Shipyards S.A., part of the new North European shipyard concern ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, which also owns HDW. Hellenic Shipyards is planning to build additional fuel cell-powered submarines for the Hellenic Navy, under an HDW license. Additional contracts are in place to add plug-in fuel cell sections into conventionally driven submarines. Fuel cell technology allows the submarine to remain under water for weeks, it produces no detectable exhaust heat, and makes no noise. See "Air Products Fuels New Hydrogen Submarine for Hellenic Navy," PRNewswire-FirstCall, 7/12/07.

Explosive mix disrupts Newcastle port: Coal loading at Newcastle's port was severely disrupted on Wednesday after oil was spilled on bags of ammonium nitrate aboard the cargo ship Priam, creating a potentially explosive cocktail. Ammonium nitrate is an agricultural fertilizer, and is used as an explosive in the mining industry. When mixed with fuel oil it can be explosive. A one kilometer exclusion zone was set up around the vessel at Kooragang Island coal terminal, and emergency crews spent more than 12 hours removing the contaminated bags one by one. The crew was evacuated from the ship but the ship's master stayed on board to assist in the operation. The Priam's cargo hold will be cleaned before the vessel is reloaded with new cargo. See "Port on high alert after spill," Vincent Morello and Katherine Danks, AAP at The Australian, 7/11/07.

Washington state will test tidal power: Snohomish County Public Utility District (PUD) will begin testing two sites for producing electricity using tidal power this month. The Washington state energy organization, which has seven testing sites in mind, is working to provide new energy sources at affordable rates. Last year's passage of Initiative 937, which requires a mix of conservation measures and renewable-energy sources to make up a utility's energy base, also puts increased pressure on the utility. Environmental concerns include the potential impact on commercial fishing, shell fishing or endangered species. See "PUD to begin tidal-power testing near Admiralty Inlet," Christopher Schwarzen, The Seattle Times, 7/11/07.

Brazil will build a nuclear submarine: Brazil has announced it will revive its nuclear program after a 20-year hiatus. The country will build a nuclear submarine: it will cost about $68 million, and take eight years to build. The country will also resume construction on its Angra III nuclear power plant in Rio de Janeiro state. See "Brazil to resume nuclear program," AFP at The Australian, 7/11/07.

Un agencies urge end to piracy off Somalia: Piracy off the cost of Somalia is threatening commercial shipping and fishing while impeding the delivery of humanitarian assistance to hundreds of thousands of Somalis, the heads of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) said jointly in an appeal for action to halt the practice. Since the collapse of the last national government in the East African country in 1991, delivering supplies by sea has been a logistical and security challenge. Close to 80 per cent of WFP's assistance to Somalia is shipped by sea, but pirate attacks have cut the number of ships willing to sail there by half. The agencies urged the Security Council, the African Union and neighboring countries to help. See the press release "Co-ordinated action urged as piracy threatens UN lifeline to Somalia" from the International Maritime Organization, 7/10/06.

Divers inspect refloated MSC Napoli: A team of 20 divers are to survey the damaged hull of the container ship MSC Napoli, which was refloated six months after grounding off the coast near popular holiday beaches. The ship has been floating at anchor in deep water since Monday morning over a mile off Sidmouth on the east Devon World Heritage Coast. Temporary repairs were carried out to cracks in the sides of the ship's hull while the cargo of more than 2,300 containers was removed over several months. But a crack on the bottom of the hull, inaccessible while it was on the seabed, will now be assessed by experts. See "Damaged hull of Napoli examined," BBC News, 7/10/07.

US shipbuilders get more attention: The growing cost of warships has led the US Navy to reduce its orders, driving the cost of individual warships even higher. In order to try to control costs, the Navy plans to take more control of the shipbuilding process — this is a change from recent acquisition practices, which gave control of design issues to the shipyards. In an unusual move, the Navy canceled the second of two Littoral Combat Ships from Lockheed Martin because of cost overruns. Starting in the spring, Navy Secretary Donald Winter has been making the case for what he describes as "tough love" for the shipbuilding industry. Although the Navy won't create preliminary contract designs, it will be involved in every step from design through construction. See "Navy reasserting control of shipbuilding," David Sharp, Associated Press at Yahoo! News, 7/9/07.

In May, the US Coast Guard revoked its acceptance of eight patrol boats due to structural problems. But Integrated Coast Guard Systems, the joint venture between Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp., said the Coast Guard's request for a refund is not "supported as a matter of fact or law." This response got criticism from US lawmakers, who supported the Coast Guard's demands for a refund. Representative Elijah Cummings, who chairs the House subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, said "We deserve to have every dime of our money back." And Senator John Kerry said the companies were "trying to duck responsibility for building defective boats." The Coast Guard said it lost up to $60 million on the eight cutters, but hasn't specified the amount of damages it will seek. See "Lawmakers scold Lockheed, Grumman," Dan Caterinicchia, Associated Press at Boston.com, 7/9/07.

Canada tightens grip on disputed Arctic: Canada announced plans Monday to increase its Arctic military presence in an effort to assert sovereignty over the Northwest Passage, a potentially oil-rich region the United States claims is international territory. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said six to eight patrol ships will guard what he says are Canadian waters. But they are not the full-fledged icebreakers the Conservatives promised in the last election campaign. A deep water port will also be built in a region the US Geological Survey estimates has as much as 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas. See "New patrol ships will reassert northern sovereignty: PM," Rob Shaw, Victoria Times Colonist at Canada.com, 7/9/07.

K-159 site shows low radiation levels: The K-159, a Russian nuclear submarine with about 1,700 pounds of spent nuclear fuel on board, sank in 2003 as it was being towed for decommissioning. Nine of the ten crewmembers died. Russian and foreign experts have been monitoring the radiation levels at the site of the sinking in the Barents Sea. Preliminary results put radiation at normal levels in the area, with no threat to the environment. A decision on whether to raise the submarine will be made after six weeks or two months, when the monitoring data has been completely studied and analyzed. See "Experts complete survey of Russian sunken submarine," RIA Novosti, 7/9/07.

MSC Napoli will be refloated: Engineers are going to try to refloat the container ship MSC Napoli, which has been grounded off the Devon coast for almost six months. Salvagers have unloaded the containers, and the ship will be refloated in a holding position off the beach at Branscombe on Monday morning. It will take about six hours to pump out the 58,000 tons of water from the beached vessel. A fair weather window of about three days is required to complete the re-floating operation. See "Plans to refloat stricken ship," Press Association at Guardian Unlimited, 7/8/07.

China is expanding its naval fleet: China's newest ballistic missile submarine, the Jin-class vessel, has been spotted for the first time by a commercial satellite, a nuclear expert at the Federation of American Scientists said. Hans Kristensen, director of the FAS's Nuclear Information Project, spotted the submarine using Google Earth. The vessel was moored at Xiaopingdao Submarine Base, which the country has used for testing in the past. The Jin-class submarine is about 10 meters longer than the Xia-class. This older submarine has suffered from technical problems, and has never been deployed on a deterrent patrol. Kristensen believes China allowed the new submarine to be photographed on purpose, to let the world know it exists. See "China's new submarine spotted on Google Earth," Aria Pearson, New Scientist Tech, 7/6/07.

China's news agency KANWA News reported Friday that several companies have received contracts for the development of systems and components for a future aircraft carrier. This suggests that the country is close to beginning construction on its first aircraft carrier. Although Beijing consistently denied media reports saying that China could build its first aircraft carrier as early as 2010, Chinese officials admitted in March that the country was conducting research in aircraft carrier technologies. See "China plans to build its first aircraft carrier - news agency," Ria Novosti, 7/6/07.

Iceland cuts cod quotas: Iceland will cut cod fishing quotas by 30 percent to replenish fish stocks. About half of the country's exports consist of fish products, so some are worried the move will harm the economy. The Icelandic crown initially weakened on the news, but recovered by the end of the day. Finance Minister Arni Matthiesen said the impact on the economy would be extensive but manageable. Fishermen are outraged by the move. See "Iceland slashes cod quotas," Audbjorg Olafsdottir, Reuters at IOL, 7/6/07.

Terror concerns for Caribbean ports: A new report by the investigative arm of the US Congress describes the "growing influence" of Islamic radical groups as a threat to the Caribbean's maritime security. The report warns that Caribbean ports would be vulnerable to attacks because of corruption, lax security and limited resources to maintain equipment. The report also notes that US State Department officials have witnessed security gaps at ports where cruise ships dock. Islands vigorously defend their handling of security at ports that are the point of entry for many tourists. Anthony Belmar of Grenada's Port Authority noted that, "The whole country's economy depends on this so we have prioritized." See "Terrorism allegations raise concerns for Caribbean port security," The Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 7/5/07.

China's shipbuilding wave continues to rise: China's shipbuilding industry could be overextended in three years despite a booming global demand for new vessels. The country's shipbuilding capacity will exceed 40 million deadweight tons (DWT) a year in 2010 if new shipyards planned by investors are completed. This figure is nearly twice that of a government study released last September that projected a total shipbuilding capacity of 23 million DWT at the end of the decade. Some Chinese analysts have warned that the booming shipbuilding industry may be in danger of overextending itself. Additionally, many projects funded by investors — that seem intent on cashing in on demand for new vessels — don't comply with China's shipbuilding regulations. See "Overcapacity looms for shipbuilders," Gong Zhengzheng, China Daily, 7/5/07.

Australia not as worried as the US about farmed fish from China: Toxins and banned antibiotics have been repeatedly detected by the US Food and Drug Administration in farmed fish imported from China over the past eight months. The country has ruled that all shipments from China must be tested to prove it is antibiotic-free. But Australia will not alter its "low risk" classification for Chinese farmed prawns, which means only 5 percent of shipments will be tested. The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry said that Food Standards Australia New Zealand saw the problem "as a compliance issue and not a health issue." However, Australia will start testing imported farmed seafood for a wider range of chemical residues. See "Seafood rejected by US deemed OK for Aussies," Kelly Burke, The Sydney Morning Herald, 7/4/07.

Australia refloats beached ship: The coal ship Pasha Bulker has finally been refloated, nearly four weeks after it became stranded on the Australian seaboard during severe storms. The Japanese vessel was towed out into deeper waters by tug boats during high tide on Monday night after days of work by salvage teams. The ship has been a tourist draw since it ran aground on Nobby's Beach near the port city of Newcastle. But environmentalists were worried about its effect on the coastline: while the ship did not have any cargo on board at the time it beached, it was carrying more than 227,000 gallons of fuel and oil. Divers will inspect the ship's hull before a decision is made on where it will go next. See "Divers to assess damage to Pasha Bulker," AAP at The Canberra Times, 6/3/07.

International bodies to address migrants in unseaworthy craft: The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is concerned with the safety of life at sea, while the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) helps people in need of protection to find a safe haven. So it is fitting that the two organizations plan to meet to address the problem of people attempting to cross to Europe in small unseaworthy craft. The proposed meeting will be hosted by the UNHCR later this year. See the press release "IMO, UNHCR meet to tackle loss of life of migrants in unseaworthy craft" from the International Maritime Organization, 7/2/07.

Climate change could transform military duties: The Australian Strategic Policy Institute believes that climate change will change the duties of the country's military. The Institute's report suggests that defense forces will be called on to assist in more disaster and relief missions, both at home and abroad, and they might spend more time protecting borders against climate refugees. The migration of fish because of global warming might also have implications for defense forces, since this might lead to more illegal fishing in Australian waters. In addition, the report suggests different weather and conditions may dictate the purchase of different kinds of military equipment. See "Climate change will 'change army's duties'," AAP at The Australian, 7/2/07.

UK's aircraft carriers are delayed: Britain won't give final approval for the construction of two new aircraft carriers until at least October. This would push the project nearly a year behind schedule. The Ministry of Defense wanted firm commitment for naval consolidation before it would proceed with the project. BAE Systems and VT have agreed to merge their shipbuilding assets, but will not finalize the deal until the carrier program is approved. The contract has been delayed for the handover of the premiership from Tony Blair to Gordon Brown. See "BAE and VT in limbo as £3.5bn aircraft-carrier deal is delayed again," Independent Online, 7/1/07.

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