News Archive - September 2007

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Cocaine trafficking team launched: The UK and six other nations are launching a fresh effort to intercept drug smuggling runs across the Atlantic into Europe from Latin America. A special center is being opened in Portugal to coordinate rapid response naval operations against the trade. A senior officer from Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) has been named the operation's first director. The center is jointly run by the UK, Portugal, Spain, the Irish Republic, France, the Netherlands and Italy, but will also include US military officers linked to naval operations in the Caribbean. The operations center coordinates drug smuggling intelligence and vessels from each country's navy which are patrolling waters between South Africa and the Norwegian Sea. See "European police target cocaine smugglers, Mark Townsend, The Observer, 9/30/07.

H2B visa program affects Maryland's seafood industry: The American H2B visa program, set to expire, has enabled foreign workers into the country on a temporary visa that allows them to work in seasonal industries since 1990. The industries include landscaping, fisheries and hotels. The seafood industry in the state of Maryland has come to rely on the workers, and faces serious shutdowns if the program is not continued in some way. Efforts to expand the H2B limits keep running into the larger national debate on immigration. The program has critics, including immigrant advocates, who say the program doesn't offer enough protection from abuse. See "Special Visa Program for Foreign Workers Set to Expire," Associated Press at WTOPnews.com, 9/30/07.

Newfoundland disaster drill turns into real thing: Crews were rehearsing an evacuation drill from a ferry in Newfoundland's Bay of Islands when some fiberglass became overheated when it got too close to the exhaust system on board the lifeboat. Twenty-one people were overcome by smoke, and 14 people were hospitalized for smoke inhalation. The exercise was immediately canceled when the incident occurred, but three-quarters of its goal was achieved. In addition, the real rescue operation went smoothly, and would likely be part of the debrief and analysis of the exercise. See "Fake ferry disaster turns into real thing," Ken Meaney, CanWest News Service at canada.com, 9/28/07.

New role for US Coast Guard: The new Deployable Operations Group (DOG), a group of more than two dozen Coast Guard teams, is meant to be a model for the US Department of Homeland Security. The teams will be given broader responsibilities to travel anywhere in the world to deal with maritime threats and emergencies. The DOG allows Homeland Security to call in reinforcements to handle a threat, but in an emergency local responders will still be used. Since the group was created in July, members have responded to threats and requests for tighter security in cities from Seattle and Chicago to Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico. See "Sea change in Coast Guard's duty," Mimi Hall, USATODAY.com, 9/27/07.

France to help combat pirates: A new plan will see French Navy ships escorting vessels carrying UN World Food Programme (WFP) food in Somali waters for two months. Violence has uprooted tens of thousands of residents, with many living in shelters outside the city and surviving on handouts. Unfortunately, pirate attacks on vessels in Somali waters have increased from eight in the first half of last year, to 17 in the first half of this year. Two of the recent attacks were on ships that had just unloaded WFP supplies. While most of the pirates have been more interested in collecting ransom for crew members than in the ships' cargo, France's escorts will still help the food deliveries. See "UN welcomes offer to counter pirates," Reuters at tvnz.co.nz, 9/27/07.

Model reveals devastating impact of B.C. oil spills: The Living Oceans Society has created a computer-generated model detailing what would happen if an oil spill occurred at one of several locations on the coast of British Columbia. The computer model considers the amount, type and location of oil spills and predicts movement based on water, tide and wind condition. The Society created the oil spill program to encourage senior governments to enforce the moratorium on oil tankers and offshore oil and gas exploration. One of the computer models examining the proposed tanker route between Caamano Sound and Douglas Channel predicts a spill of more than 15 million liters in the high risk navigation area is likely to happen as often as once every nine years. See "Simulations highlight risk of oil disaster," Mark Hume, Globe and Mail, 9/27/07.

EU launches legal action over fish catches: The European Commission launched legal action Wednesday against seven EU member countries over their alleged failure to provide data on fishing of bluefin tuna. The commission said France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Malta and Cyprus had failed to provide data on their fishermen's catches. EU authorities also suspect France and Italy have failed to properly implement control measures. Bluefin tuna is dwindling due to years of overfishing, and the data is needed for an international recovery plan. Under EU rules, the seven nations have a month to reply to the charges and halt further procedures at the European Court of Justice. See "Overfishing of tuna prompts threat of legal action in Europe," Stephen Castle, International Herald Tribune, 9/27/07.

The European Commission threatened on Thursday to take legal action against Poland over Warsaw's refusal to crack down on Polish fishermen defying an EU ban on catching cod in the Baltic. Polish authorities have no immediate plans to punish fishermen who catch cod in the Baltic Sea, despite warnings from the European Commission that Poland had already filled its cod quota in the Baltic for this year. See "Poland warned on illegal catch," Jeremy Smith, Reuters and Globe and Mail, 9/27/07.

Norway's shipping lines try to stop tax plan: Norway's shipping companies are threatening to reflag their ships after the country's finance ministry proposed collecting $3.8 billion in deferred taxes from as far back as 1996. The country's shipping companies argue the move breaches government undertakings and will cripple many companies. They say the tax demand would prevent companies re-investing and push them to reflag their ships elsewhere, with grave repercussions for Norway's entire maritime sector, which employs 75,000. Under a scheme introduced in 1996, shipping companies have been able to defer taxes so long as they do not take profit out as dividends. Most companies thus built up equity and invested in their fleet. Norway's government now plans to move over to a similar taxation scheme as the European Union, taxing shipping companies only according to tonnage and allowing them to take profits out without double taxation. See "Norway's fleet set to fly UK flag in tax row," Alistair Osborne, Daily Telegraph, 9/26/07.

Sierra Leone catches Guinea 'pirates': Eight Guineans have been arrested by Sierra Leone for an act of piracy against locally-licensed Chinese fishermen inside Sierra Leonean waters. The Guinean authorities say the men, including several officials, were on a legitimate fisheries protection patrol. Sierra Leone naval officers say they interrupted an armed hold-up involving two speedboats crewed by armed men 18 nautical miles off Freetown. They seized one speedboat and said the other escaped towards Guinea. The eight men arrested were found with AK-47 automatic rifles and bags of fish, including high-value snapper, taken off the Sierra Leone-licensed vessels. Piracy and illegal fishing are common off the West African coastline. See "Sierra Leone arrests Guinean 'pirates'," Katrina Manson, Mail & Guardian Online, 9/25/07.

General Dynamics likely to lose contract for its second LCS: A team lead by General Dynamics Corp. won a contract to build two prototype Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) for the US Navy. But design, production and management problems nearly doubled cost estimates. This month, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to cancel the second of two contracts for the General Dynamics team to build the ships. Although a final vote in Congress is required, the unanimous decision by the Appropriations Committee leaves little doubt that the contract is likely to be rebid. Competitor Raytheon Co. is considered a likely replacement. However, General Dynamics is getting additional defense contracts. See "General Dynamics rakes in contracts," Tom Ramstack, The Washington Times, 9/25/07.

Rich Smith from The Motley Fool comments on defense contractors in the article "General Dynamics and the Double-Edged Petard," 9/24/07.

The Inuit stake their claim on the Arctic: The Arctic has been in the news since August, when Russia placed a flag on the seabed at the North Pole. Five nations are racing to claim territory in the central Arctic Ocean, where climate change is expected to open up new shipping routes, oil fields, and mineral deposits. But the region's indigenous people, the Inuit, want their voices heard about the future of the central Arctic basin. While nobody lives in the contested region around the North Pole, Inuit leaders say activities there will affect their communities. Increased shipping over the pole or through the Northwest Passage could disrupt ice cover and the migration patterns of animals that hunters rely on. Military rivalries might mean more land being appropriated for naval and air bases. And if petroleum is found, there's the possibility of oil spills. See "As race for oil-rich Arctic heats up, Inuit stake their claim, too," Colin Woodard, The Christian Science Monitor at Yahoo! News, 9/25/07.

Maritime pollution law goes before the ECJ: The European Commission, backed by Britain, France, Spain and Italy enforced a new directive in April this year that allows penalties to be imposed on any party guilty of causing illegal marine pollution deliberately or through gross negligence. But a coalition of shipping industry bodies is challenging the directive at the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The coalition, whose case is supported by Mediterranean shipping partners Cyprus, Greece and Malta, argue the rules will criminalize those who cause accidental pollution. The industry groups were granted permission to take their case to the ECJ after a successful application to London's High Court last year. Preliminary hearings will begin on Tuesday. See "Shipping bodies challenge EU pollution rule," Reuters at SignOnSanDiego.com, 9/24/07.

Atlantic sea bed is also up for grabs: Preliminary talks will start this week over the disputed Hatton-Rockall plateau under the north Atlantic. Countries participating in the Atlantic scramble for the sea bed include France, Brazil, South Africa, Britain, Iceland, Ireland and Denmark. The new UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, for which claims must be submitted, extends the current limit of 200 miles out to sea within which countries can claim oil and mineral rights. The sea area around the Falklands, which Argentina claims, is likely to be the most heavily contested. Rights over the sea-bed and fishing rights were one of the factors that led to the conflict between Britain and Argentina in 1982. The area around the Falklands is known to have huge quantities of oil, while the mid-Atlantic ridge, where Ascension is located, is rich in minerals. See "UK in grab for Atlantic riches," Richard Brooks, Times Online, 9/23/07.

Canada's submarine job inches ahead: Repairs to Canada's HMCS Victoria, originally expected to be completed this year, are now to be completed mid-2009. Part of the delay was that it took extra time for workers to familiarize themselves with Victoria's technology, and gather baseline information the Navy can use to upgrade the rest of its fleet. Canada bought four of the Victoria-class diesel-electric subs from Britain in 1998 for around $750 million. Three of the four subs are currently out of service. HMCS Windsor is undergoing extended docking service in Halifax. HMCS Chicoutimi was taken out of service after a fatal fire in 2004 and will be serviced when Victoria is done. HMCS Cornerbrook is out at sea running missions on Canada's East Coast. See "Submarine overhaul extended to 2009," Rob Shaw, Times Colonist at Canada.com, 9/22/07.

Costs for new US aircraft carrier keep growing: The US Government Accountability Office has a new report that indicates the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford will likely be over budget and late. The Ford is the first of a new class of nuclear-powered carriers, under design at shipbuilder Northrop Grumman Newport News. While the first ship of any class often runs into these problems, in this case the GAO is warning that cost overruns could harm Navy plans to expand its fleet. At a July hearing, the Congressional Budget Office said the Ford could cost at least $1 billion more than the Navy has budgeted. The shipyard and the two companies responsible for two new technologies cited as potentially causing delays have all said they expect scheduling problems to be resolved. See "Price tag for Navy's new aircraft carrier on the rise, GAO says," Jon W. Glass, The Virginian-Pilot at HamptonRoads.com, 9/22/07.

Inuit leaders protest ships' garbage: Rising temperatures have led to the creation of new rules for Canadian warships. Expected to go into effect this fall, they would allow naval ships to dump garbage and raw sewage into Arctic waters, if they are at least 22 kilometers offshore. The change comes as more ships are dispatched on Arctic sovereignty patrols in an area with limited facilities for disposing of waste on shore. But Inuit leaders are protesting the plans, as are Green Party members. They point out the Arctic environment is already under stress from climate change, and that extra garbage will only add to the stress. See "Inuit oppose navy rule changes," Canadian Press at CNEWS, 9/21/07.

Immigration trial in Italy could discourage rescues at sea: Judges in Sicily are deliberating a case that human rights activists say could discourage fishermen from rescuing stranded migrants crossing the Mediterranean. Italian prosecutors accused seven Tunisian men of aiding and abetting illegal immigration. They face as much as 15 years in prison. But human rights activists say that they were actually rescuing 44 migrants whose boat was on the verge of sinking. The date for the verdict has not been set. The seven were arrested August 8 after they landed with the migrants on the island of Lampedusa, where many immigrants coming from North Africa try to land in flimsy boats. The migrants repeatedly told UN High Commissioner for Refugees staff that they had been rescued. But the fishermen were jailed for more than 30 days before they were released. Two are still under house arrest in Sicily. See "Tunisian fishermen face 15 years' jail in Italy for saving migrants from rough seas," Peter Pophamin, Belfast Telegraph, 9/20/07.

UN tribunal sets maritime boundaries for Guyana, Suriname: The UN International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea has awarded the Republic of Guyana sovereignty over a large swath of the Atlantic Ocean that had also been claimed by its neighbor, Suriname. According to the terms of the tribunal's ruling, Guyana gains sovereignty of some 12,800 square miles of the coastal waters; Suriname receives its own portion, of approximately 6,900 square miles. Guyana and Suriname are located side by side on the northeastern coast of South America, between French Guiana and Venezuela. The exact position of the ocean boundary between them had long been a subject of disagreement, but did not erupt into real conflict until exploratory tests revealed potentially huge energy deposits beneath the sea bed. Both Guyana and Suriname agreed to abide by the tribunal's ruling, and as a result both nations can also now proceed in further exploration of their respective ocean territories. See "Guyana, Suriname must share a potentially rich oil source, UN tribunal rules," Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 9/20/07.

New soil samples prove the Arctic belongs to Russia: Samples of earth taken by Russians who planted a flag on the seabed below the North Pole last month show beyond doubt the Arctic is Russian, its natural resources ministry said on Thursday. Now Russia says the scientific evidence cements their claims and they will present it to the United Nations. International law states that the five nations which control a coastline in the Arctic — Canada, Russia, the United States, Norway and Denmark via its ownership of Greenland — have a 200 mile economic zone north of their shore. But Russia claims a far larger slice because it says the Arctic and Siberia are linked via the Lomonosov Ridge. The rush to map out and stake claims to the Arctic has been fueled by estimates that suggest as much as 25% of the world's undiscovered oil and gas could be hidden in the Arctic seabed. See "Russia: Tests prove Arctic ridge part of Russian shelf," Mike Eckel, Associated Press at CNEWS, 9/20/07.

Explosion at Curacao shipyard kills 5 welders: At least five people who were repairing a ship were killed in an explosion Thursday that apparently was triggered when they ignited oxygen fumes. Firefighters were still battling the blaze several hours after the explosion rocked the Curacao Drydock Company on this Dutch Caribbean island. The welders had been cutting the ship's hull to retrieve a motor. The ship, an offshore support vessel which usually carries a submarine and divers, was not loaded when the explosion occurred. Local media with journalists reporting from the area said about 11 people died. See "Five die in Curacao oil tanker blast: official," Irasi Jimenez, Reuters at canada.com, 9/20/07.

New cargo scanning rules impractical: A new law, approved by US President George W. Bush last month, and backed by Congress, requires that by 2012, all seaborne containers must be screened for radiation before they leave port for the United States to check they do not contain weapons. But several groups, including the Department of Homeland Security, the European Commission, shipping organizations and many US trading partners, have criticized the new rules. Adhering to the measures would cost billions and require massively expanded port capacity. In addition, there are many unanswered questions, such as who would pay for and maintain the necessary equipment at more than 600 ports worldwide, or who would actually carry out the scanning. See "Experts say U.S. nuke cargo scan rules "unworkable"," Michael Holden, Reuters at Yahoo! News, 9/19/07.

Europe bans bluefin tuna fishing: The European Commission has banned the fishing of endangered bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean for the rest of the year. The move was taken to curb over-fishing and dwindling stocks of fish, after the EU reached its 2007 quota. Countries that had not reached their allocation by the time of the ban could seek future compensation under EU legislation. The ban affects Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Portugal and Spain. Italy and France have already closed their fisheries for 2007. EU and international rules exist to punish member states that exceed their quotas. France is one of the main culprits, according to figures gathered by environmental group WWF. See "EU bans tuna fishing as quotas breached," AFP at Yahoo! News, 9/19/07.

New ship repair yard coming to Philly: Boston Ship Repair Inc., which has repaired some of the world's largest cruise ships, plans to set up a second operation in Philadelphia. The new shipyard, to be called PennShip Service, is expected to employ a core group of 200 workers and more when big projects are scheduled. Under an agreement signed Tuesday, PennShip will lease the site next to the Aker Philadelphia Shipyard. The sites are part of the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, which closed in 1996. For 10 years, ending last year, Metro Machine Corp. of Norfolk repaired Navy ships at the site PennShip will develop. See "Ship repair firm coming to Navy Yard," Henry J. Holcomb, Inquirer at Philly.com, 9/18/07.

Polish fishermen at odds with EU cod quotas: The European Commission ordered Poland to stop fishing for cod in the eastern Baltic Sea, because the country had misreported its catch and exceeded its EU quota for the species. Monday would have been the first day of the new cod fishing season. But Polish fishermen say the EU ban is depriving them of their livelihoods, and staged a protest to demand a lifting of the ban, or paid compensation. The Commission said recently that it would have to cut the amount of cod caught by a third in 2007 if the species is to stand a chance of surviving after years of overfishing. See "Polish cod fishermen protest against EU ban," Malgorzata Rakowiec, Reuters, 9/17/07.

Container security highlighted: In response to a container accident aboard the Annabella last February, the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has made several recommendations to the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) regarding container handling. Included is a mandate that all parties involved in the planning and delivery of containers ensure that staff onboard ships have all the resources they need, including cargo securing manuals and computer software programs. The MAIB report underlines the requirement for the proper management of cargo planning operations with emphasis on proper training, appropriate cargo planning software and proactive safety procedures. See "Accident panel calls for container code of practice," Frank Kennedy, GulfNews, 9/17/07.

Fish quotas 'favor' US: Two Lake Erie fishermen are taking the Ontario government to court on behalf of the commercial fishing industry in Ontario. They say that the American sports fishing industry is being favored over Ontario's commercial fishing industry, when fishing quotas are set. The Lake Erie committee that decides the quotas consists of representatives from Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources and their counterparts in, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. Although issues aren't decided by a majority vote, the majority of Americans often end up making the decisions. In addition, Peter Meisenheimer, executive director with the Ontario Commercial Fisheries' Association, says the decisions are driven by an agenda in the United States to maximize the sale of sport fishing licenses. See "Lake Erie fishermen suing government over quotas," Sharon Hill, The Windsor Star, 9/17/07.

Canada relaxes pollution rules for warships in the Arctic: Pollution from military sources in the sensitive Arctic environment is becoming a headache for Canada's Navy as the federal government sends more warships north on sovereignty patrols. Cold temperatures once helped naval commanders deal with the garbage problem through freezing, but warmer weather is changing protocols. Now, new orders will allow "moderate amounts" of pulped-food waste — once banned from disposal in the Arctic — to be dumped if a ship is at least 12 nautical miles from shore. The orders will also allow raw, untreated sewage to be flushed into the sea at the same minimum distance and, to help dispersal, only while the ship is moving at a moderate speed. Submarines, which have highly limited storage capacity for waste, are being given even more leeway; although all of Canada's new Victoria-class subs are being equipped with technology that makes oily bilge water easy to deal with. See "Navy environmental rules relaxed for Arctic operations because of global warming," Dean Beeby, CP at CNEWS, 9/16/07.

China may slow growth of its shipbuilding industry: China's shipbuilding industry has been developing rapidly; currently it has the largest number of new orders in the world. While there hasn't been over production, the country's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) is considering limiting investment in large-scale shipbuilding projects to prevent the market from getting out of control. If new regulations are put in place, they would likely require NDRC approval of any shipbuilding project of more than 100,000 tons. There is no clear timetable for implementing the regulations. See "China mulls cooling shipbuilding industry," Xinhua at ChinaDaily.com.cn, 9/15/07.

Biggest liner takes to the sea: The biggest cruise liner to be based in Britain took to the water on September 14 at the Finnish shipyard where it is being built. The Independence of the Seas will be based in Southampton when she enters service in May. At the moment the ship is two-thirds complete, with 2,500 people working on it, according to Kvaerner Masa-Yards, the company building the liner. The ship will carry 4,375 passengers and more than 1,000 crew. This makes it the joint-biggest cruise liner in the world, along with sister ships Liberty of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas, which are already in service. See "Huge cruise liner takes to water," PA News, Channel 4, 9/15/07.

Study of oil spill workers finds respiratory damage: The Prestige oil tanker sank off the coast of Spain in November 2002. A study of workers who helped clean up the spill has found that they were 1.7 times more likely than others to report lower respiratory tract symptoms. Symptoms of both lower- and upper-respiratory tract symptoms persisted for more than a year. But the damage may be partly reversible, as there was an eventual decline in symptoms. During the first few weeks after the disaster, much of the clean-up work was done by men and women from local fishing villages who lacked proper protective equipment. This is the first research to examine the long-term effects of this kind of exposure on respiratory health. See "Oil Spill Cleanup May Hurt Workers' Lungs," HealthDay News at healthfinder.gov, 9/14/07. The findings are published in the September 2007 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (subscription required).

Russia making top-secret sub: Russia could be developing a top-secret new type of submarine capable of patrolling underwater longer than existing diesel-powered submarines, the Russian newspaper Kommersant said on Wednesday. The project, code-named 20120, came to light when details were inadvertently posted on the internet site of a provincial town. Other technical and tactical specifications were also given, including the submarine's water displacement of 3,950 metric tons. The posting has now been taken down and the navy denied any knowledge of the project. Kommersant said the new design may involve installing a small nuclear reactor on a diesel-powered submarine to extend the time it can operate without surfacing. See "Russian blunder as 'secret' sub plans get posed online," Daily Mail, 9/12/07.

Soon, oceanographers will learn more about the ocean: Over the next five years, scientists from around the world will design and build a global network of underwater laboratories that capitalizes on advances in satellite, internet and sound wave technology. The Ocean Observatories Initiative will for the first time give scientists a permanent virtual presence in the sea. The initiative is funded by the National Science Foundation and administered by the Joint Oceanographic Institutions. While much of the force behind the initiative stems from concern about global warming, the collapse of fisheries, blooms of dangerous algae that contaminate seafood and advances in deep-sea oil drilling have also led to increased interest in the oceans. See "Scientists to build global network of underwater laboratories," Felicia Mello The Boston Globe at International Herald Tribune, 9/12/07.

Arctic seaway a 'new Panama Canal': Global warming means the Northwest Passage could become the "new Panama Canal." And that means vessels could start using the Canadian Arctic as a trade route as early as next year, Joseph Spears of Horseshoe Bay Marine Group told the Canada Maritime Conference. Soon, vessels that were restricted by the Panama Canal will be able to transit the Northwest Passage, instead. The passage — a source of a longtime sovereignty debate between Canada and the US — saves about 4,000 nautical miles on a voyage from northern Europe to Asia. Both US and Canadian officials have confirmed the passage is almost completely clear this summer. See "Commercial ships 'closer' to using Arctic route," Bruce Constantineau, Vancouver Sun at Canada.com, 9/11/07.

India developing submarine launched ballistic missiles: India has kept its efforts to build a nuclear submarine under wraps for more than 30 years, but a top Indian scientist has confirmed that an ongoing project to develop a nuclear reactor fueled by enriched uranium was in fact intended to power the country's first indigenously built submarine. PK Iyengar, the former chairman of India's Atomic Energy Commission, made his announcement at a public debate on the Indo-US nuclear deal in Mumbai. Indian scientists appear to have successfully developed a larger version of a light water reactor at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research in Kalpakkam. It is not clear whether they have succeeded in miniaturizing the reactor for use in a submarine. The nuclear submarine is being built at the naval shipyard at Visakhapatnam port on the Bay of Bengal. See "India building nuclear sub, says top scientist," Maseeh Rahman, The Guardian, 9/11/07.

Indian court says Blue Lady can be broken up: India's Supreme Court has given permission for ship-breakers to dismantle the Blue Lady, that environmentalists say is lined with toxic asbestos. The ruling followed a year of controversy over the fate of the ship. In June last year, the court allowed the Blue Lady to enter Indian waters but ruled that it remain anchored off the coast of Gujarat while its fate was decided. Environmental and labor rights groups have been one side, saying India's yards have little safety equipment to protect their workers. But the yards and even workers want the work. The Supreme Court has made its decision based on a technical report submitted by an expert committee appointed by it. The demolition must follow certain procedures to ensure worker safety. See "India to allow ship break up," Reuters at TVNZ.CO.NZ, 9/11/07.

Changing roles for classification societies: At a talk last week arranged by the Singapore Shipping Association, the new chairman of the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) said the role of Class is likely to change. Tor E. Svensen believes that class societies will soon have to address issues related to the global environment, such as controlling air emissions from ships. The IACS chief expressed concern over what he called the EU's attempts to regulate the role and responsibility of class, and asserted that IACS must be more active and efficient in dealing with EU decision-makers. Frank Kennedy, writing for Gulf News, goes on to discuss the need for competent Flag States to join together with one voice, to help formalize common rules and standards. See the article "New maritime regulations," published 9/10/07.

Bulk carrier sinking off South Africa: The bulk carrier Amul was en route from Port Elizabeth to Durban when it started taking on water and sent out a Mayday call. The ship was adrift off Port St Johns on Friday, and all crew members left the ship. It was dragged to safety by a tug on Saturday morning. The vessel was to be taken to Alang in India to be scrapped, but was detained by the South African Maritime Authority in Port Elizabeth and forced to make repairs. At present the owners of the Amul are negotiating with salvagers about the future of the vessel. It is having water pumped out of the hold to keep the vessel afloat. See "Rust bucket in high sea drama," IOL, 9/9/07.

Pakistan will expand its shipbuilding industry: Pakistan has held its first Policy Board meeting on development of its shipbuilding industry. The Board approved a plan to create two shipyards in a joint venture with leading foreign shipyards. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz believes a stronger shipbuilding industry can be an asset to the country, and that Pakistan is a commercially strategic location for such projects. The government is also taking steps to facilitate and promote the marine equipment manufacturing industries, other support industries, and human resources in these sectors. See "Two new shipyards planned," The News International, 9/9/07.

Whale shot with .50-caliber machine gun dies: A grey whale has died after being harpooned and shot several times in northwest Washington's Strait of Juan de Fuca. The US Coast Guard is holding five members of the Makah Tribe who were allegedly involved in the event. Although the tribe has subsistence fishing rights to kill whales, preliminary information suggests the whale may have been shot illegally. The Makah Indian Tribe's whaling commission said it did not authorize the killing. See "A .50-Caliber Gun For Whale Hunting?," Associated Press at CBS News.com, 9/9/07.

India gets serious about ship breaking: India's Supreme Court has authorized the government to refuse any contaminated ship that arrives at its shores for ship breaking. The Court has also ordered a comprehensive code for ship breaking, and has reiterated that India should participate in international conventions related to hazardous substances. The continuation and expansion of ship breaking practices across the country will be permitted only if the shipyards comply with the new regulations. The ship breaking association in Gujarat has threatened to approach the BJP state government against the order. See "SC empowers govt to send back contaminated ships," Nitin Sethi, TNN at The Times of India, 9/8/07.

Sailing team accused of spying by China: In March last year, the British Olympic sailing team had its weather monitoring equipment confiscated by Chinese authorities. The team is in China preparing for next year's Olympics. Apparently, Chinese authorities thought the equipment could be used for spying. The equipment has not yet been returned, and the incident has caused some some friction between the two countries. See "British sailing team in spying row with China," Daily Mail, 9/8/07.

New plan proposed to conserve North Sea cod stocks: The Scottish Government has a new plan that could allow fishermen to stay at sea for extra days. Three independent observers will be checking catches on about a dozen Scottish fishing boats. If the observers find that North Sea cod is less than 5% of the total catch on the trip, the skipper will be given extra days at sea. This rewards skippers who are able to use their expertise to avoid cod. The program has been developed with the industry over the past two months. See "Skippers look to observer scheme," BBC News, 9/6/07.

Homeland Security gets mixed ratings: A report by the US Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, says the Department of Homeland Security has failed to meet half its performance expectations since it was established in 2003. Congress created the Homeland Security Department in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. The new report paints a mixed picture of how well the department has been performing: out of 171 different performance expectations, only 78 were generally achieved. The least progress was made in emergency preparedness and response, science and technology, human capital management, and information technology management. The report says the only area where significant progress has been achieved has been in maritime security. See "Auditors: Homeland Security gets mixed grades," Mike Ahlers, CNN.com, 9/6/07.

Suit filed over ship emissions at US ports: Environmentalists have sued the US government, alleging that the Environmental Protection Agency has missed its deadline to set emissions standards for ship engines that pollute the air and cause respiratory illness around ports nationwide. The complaint was filed by Oakland-based Earthjustice on behalf of Friends of the Earth. The complaint alleges that the EPA is required to regulate ship pollution under the federal Clean Air Act. In response to a previous lawsuit by environmentalists, the agency had committed in 2003 to set emissions standards by April this year, but no new regulations have been issued. See "EPA sued over maritime emissions rules," Associated Press at Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 9/6/07.

Elliott Bay Design Group is bought: American Commercial Lines Inc. has signed an agreement to buy the assets of Elliott Bay Design Group Ltd. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Jeffersonville-based American Commercial Lines Inc. is the parent company for barge maker Jeffboat LLC and transportation company American Commercial Barge Lines. Elliott Bay is a naval architecture and marine engineering firm with operations in Seattle and New Orleans. See "American Commercial Lines buys naval architecture and engineering firm," Business First of Louisville, 9/6/07.

Burden of maintaining safety of Malacca Strait to be shared: Three Southeast Asian countries along the Malacca Strait are on the verge of launching a scheme to urge user states to share the burden of maintaining safety and security in one of the world's busiest waterways. The "Cooperative Mechanism" to maintain navigational safety, security against pirate attacks and environmental protection in the narrow strait was developed by Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore after more than two years of consultation with the International Maritime Organization and the main user states. The cooperative framework aims to promote dialogue between the littoral states, users and other stakeholders, as well as coordination in implementing projects. See ""Historic" cooperation reached on Malacca Straits safety," AFP at Yahoo! News, 9/4/07.

SA submarine outwits NATO: The South African submarine SAS Manthatisi "sank" all the ships of the NATO Maritime Group engaged in exercises with the South African Navy off the Cape Coast. The S101 also managed to evade detection during the exercises. Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota pointed out that it proves NATO has a capable partner in Africa. Rear Admiral Mahon, commander of the NATO maritime group, admitted that "Africa is a strategic continent." See "SA submarine eludes Nato force," Sapa at IOL, 9/4/07.

The submarine SAS Manthatisi has reached another milestone, by becoming the first naval submarine in the world to be brought into a new class by the international classification society Germanischer Lloyd. The second and third of South Africa's new Class 209 Type 1400 (Mod SA) submarines will also be undergoing Germanischer Lloyd certification. See "SA submarine achieves world first," SAPA at IOL, 9/4/07.

US submarine propeller exposed: An aerial image of a US nuclear-powered Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine in dry dock was discovered on Microsoft's Virtual Earth mapping service. The image shows a seven-bladed propeller — a part of the vessel that wasn't meant to be seen. The find has triggered a debate over whether online mapping services offered by the likes of Google and Microsoft should be allowed to snap and publish images of sensitive US military installations. The Navy Times newspaper quoted military analyst Nathan Hughes as saying that exposing the propeller was a major blunder that had compromised "sensitive naval technology." See "Oops, another top secret exposed," Stephen Hutcheon, The Sydney Morning Herald, 9/4/07.

Free fishing zone proposed: The Philippines wants free fishing zones in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. The Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, China, Malaysia and Brunei have competing claims on waters in the area. Such an agreement would help transform the Spratlys islands in the South China Sea from a zone of conflict to one of peace and cooperation. See "Philippines wants fishing agreement in S.China Sea," Reuters at SignOnSanDiego.com, 9/4/07.

Cuts recommended for Baltic Sea cod quotas: European Union Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg has recommended that EU governments accept a 23% reduction in its quota for eastern Baltic cod, and a 33% cut for western Baltic cod. EU officials said a main problem for concern continues to be the failure to report actual catch sizes of cod and other species in the Baltic, which is frustrating efforts to sustain a future and viable fishery there. Borg has also proposed a 15% cut in salmon catches, and a 20% cut for western herring. See "EU commission protects Baltic Sea cod," Associated Press at Pravda.Ru, 9/3/07.

Proposal would keep ships out of right whale area: Transport Canada, Environment Canada and scientists have submitted a proposal to the International Maritime Organization recommending that the endangered North Atlantic right whale be given protections again container traffic. If the proposal is accepted, ships would have to divert around the Roseway Basin southwest of Nova Scotia. The area is a key conservation ground for the whale, and attracts about 10% of the population, which has plunged to about 350 worldwide. The proposal has already been approved by one subcommittee, and will be given to the IMO's Maritime Environmental Protection Committee for final consideration in October. It would not be mandatory and would only apply seasonally from June to December, when right whales are thought to be in the area. See "Cdn proposal would divert ships from right whale conservation area," Alison Auld, Canadian Press, CNEWS at Canoe.ca, 9/2/07.

Cockle banks reopen under new rules: The reopening of the sand banks of Morecambe Bay where at least 21 Chinese cockle pickers died in 2004 passed without incident. Authorities introduced a licensing system last September in a bid to crack down on illegal cockling following the tragedy three years ago. These powers were further strengthened earlier this year when the North Western and North Wales Sea Fisheries Committee introduced a permit system for cockle gangmasters. The number of permit holders has been reduced from about 1,500 in 2006 to about 450 this year. In addition, permit holders must complete a one-day safety training course. About 220 cocklers went out on the first day this season. See "Bay where Chinese workers drowned reopens," AFP at Yahoo! News, 9/1/07.

US court allows Navy to use sonar: The US Navy has won the latest round in a court battle over whether it can use sonar equipment which environmentalists say can kill whales and other mammals. An appeals court overturned a decision banning the use of sonar equipment in tests to be held off California. The 2-1 ruling suspended an August 6 injunction by a federal judge in Los Angeles that ordered the Navy to halt the sonar experiments during training exercises off the Channel Islands planned through January 2009. The judges ruled that national security needs must be weighed against protecting the safety of marine mammals. See "Whales get blown off: Federal court says Navy can do sonar testing," Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/1/07.

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