News Archive - November 2007

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Ukraine, Russia agree on border in the Sea of Azov: Ukraine and Russia held negotiations on the border delimitation in the Sea of Azov, the Black Sea, and the Kerch Strait on November 28-9. The two sides agreed on a maritime boundary in the Sea of Azov, but they failed to reach an agreement on the delimitation of the Kerch Strait. The two sides also discussed some aspects of draft agreements regulating navigation shipping, fishing and environmental conservation in the waterways. See "Kiev, Moscow agree on median line in Sea of Azov," RIA Novosti, 11/30/07.

Rules floated for electronics used in navigation: Heavy fog restrictions, universal electronic shipping aids and requiring pilots to carry laptops have become the focus for procedures and policies for Bay Area ship pilots in the wake of the Cosco Busan incident. The preliminary investigation by the San Francisco Bar Pilots Association highlighted the potential need for pilots to carry laptops or enhanced PDAs with electronic charts on board as well as possible restrictions in ship movement in specific areas of the Bay during heavy fog. On November 7, there was dense fog, and questions have been raised about the symbology used on the ship's electronic charting system, which was used after the ship's two radars allegedly malfunctioned. In addition, the government, the International Maritime Organization and the shipping industry are also exploring how to bring some order to the jumble of electronic navigation aids proliferating on the seas. See "Oil Spill Fuels Debate in Ship Industry," Scott Lindlaw, Associated Press at Chron.com, 11/30/07.

IMO renews its call for action on piracy off Somalia: The Assembly of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted the new resolution on "Piracy and armed robbery against ships in waters off the coast of Somalia" during its 25th session. The new resolution appeals directly to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia to prevent, suppress and stop acts of piracy, and ensure that its coastline cannot be used as a safe haven. The resolution also asks the TFG to advise the UN Security Council that it consents to warships or military aircraft entering its territorial sea when engaging in operations against pirate attacks. It also asks the TFG for support in ensuring that ships employed by the World Food Program are able to deliver aid to Somalia unhampered, and leave Somali ports. Through the new resolution, the IMO has reiterated its condemnation of all acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships. See the press release "IMO Assembly issues renewed call for action on piracy off Somalia" from the International Maritime Organization, 11/29/07.

Sanctions urged on ships in the Antarctic: The small cruise ship Explorer sank in the Antarctic after hitting ice. All passengers and crew members were saved, but the vessel now lies on the ocean floor at a depth of almost 5,000 feet. Chilean Navy officials have confirmed an oil slick, and will now send an icebreaker to both disperse the fuel slick and gather water samples. In addition to spilled fuel, Chilean scientists and environmentalists are worried about some of the ship's systems that could harm the Antarctic's marine life, such as paint and HVAC. The vicinity around the accident site is rich in biodiversity, and especially well known for its penguin population. Some officials are calling for restricted access to the area, and stronger environmental standards for vessels that pass through the Antarctic. See ""Explorer" accident raises enviro concerns in Chile," Matt Malinowski, The Santiago Times, 11/29/07.

Massachusetts challenges federal rules on oil barges: The US Coast Guard has implemented new rules for oil barges passing through Cape Cod Canal and Buzzards Bay. But Massachusetts' Attorney General has challenged the rule in the latest attempt to control the transport of oil on the waterway. Federal rules require single-hulled tank barges to use escort tugs, federally licensed pilots and a Vessel Movement Reporting System that allows the Coast Guard to track vessel movement in the bay. Double-hulled barges are exempt from using tug escorts and federally licensed pilots, since the vessels are less prone to oil spills. Under the 2004 Massachusetts Oil Spill Prevention Act, both single- and double-hulled barges must use tug escorts and state-licensed pilots. The Coast Guard rules were supposed to pre-empt the state law when they went into effect Wednesday, but the challenge from the Attorney General's Office confused the matter. A release from the Attorney General's Office stated that both the federal rules and the state law are in effect. See "State challenges oil tanker rules," Patrick Cassidy, CapeCodTimes.com, 11/29/07.

Iran launches a new submarine: Iran has launched a new, domestically-made submarine equipped with what it says is the latest military and technological equipment. The design work took a decade. State media in Tehran broadcast pictures of a submersible craft on Wednesday, but it wasn't immediately clear if it was the new Ghadir, or a craft previously shown by Iranian media. Iran has been praising its military prowess lately, amid increasing tensions over its nuclear program. According to foreign military experts, Iran's inventory of submarines patrolling Gulf waters already includes up to three Russian-built Kilo-class diesel submarines. See "Iran launches second homegrown submarine," AFP at The Daily Star, 11/29/07.

US Navy's LCS program could be delayed: An unpublished directive from Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England dated November 19 details changes in the Pentagon's fiscal 2009-2013 plan. Among the changes is a drop in the number of Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) to be built in the next five years: from 32 to only 21. The Navy already canceled two of four vessels on contract with Lockheed Martin Corp. and General Dynamics Corp., as contracts for developing the two competing versions of the vessel have increased as much as 70%. England approved funds to allow the purchase in 2011 of two Virginia class submarines instead of one, and he approved increasing funding for the new Zumwalt class DDG-1000 destroyer through 2013. England's directive tells the services what to put in their budgets that will be part of the 2009 budget that President Bush will send to Congress in February. See "New Lockheed, General Dynamics Warships Delayed," Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg.com, 11/28/07.

Pollution is dire in the Black Sea: A strong storm sank six Russian ships on November 11 in the Kerch Strait, separating Russia and Ukraine. More than 1,000 metric tons of fuel oil were spilled. Clean up operations are underway, but these are being hampered by arguments over who should pay. Ukraine, which faced less oil damage, has cleaned up most of its coastline. Russia hasn't done so well. And with the fuel oil slowly sinking to the sea bed, experts worry that the oil could re-surface when the water temperature increases in the summer. Greenpeace representatives report that the Russian authorities are hindering their work, particularly now that media interest is declining. The maritime administrations of both countries have signed a temporary deal regulating navigation through the Kerch strait. And the countries have signed a protocol calling for a joint assessment of damage and adequate compensation. See "Gloomy Prospects for Black Sea," Zoltan Dujisin, IPS-Inter Press Service, 11/28/07.

Canada's Navy wants steady work for shipyards: Canada has approved $9 billion worth of shipbuilding programs during the next decade. But a report from the Defence Department questions the capability of the nation's shipyards to handle such projects. It calls on the government to move ahead with major changes in its procurement policies to ensure that domestic shipyards have a steady flow of work. The industry has faced major financial problems over the years and several yards have shut down because of a lack of work. This is because current government policy supports a "boom and bust" cycle where shipyards build large numbers of vessels in a short period, and then have to lay off their staff until the next contract comes along. Navy and industry officials are instead pushing for a more stable industry, stretching out construction periods so layoffs aren't necessary. See "Shipyards need more stability, Ottawa told," David Pugliese and Rob Shaw, CanWest News Service, Times Colonist at Canada.com, 11/26/07.

NCL holds onto Hawaiian operations, at a cost: If it weren't for its Hawaiian operations, NCL Corp. would be posting profits instead of losses. Among other problems, the company has had a hard time hiring enough US crew members, proving how reliant the highly profitable cruise industry is on the low costs of foreign-flagged vessels whose foreign crews are paid low wages to work long hours. NCL says the wage packet for its Hawaiian operation is about 150% higher than for international crews. But NCL won't give up visiting one of the world's greatest vacation spots. If it can turn operations around, it has a veritable monopoly on the inter-island cruise market. Since NCL got special legislation allowing it to register three foreign-built ships in the US, it can let vacationers spend more time on shore. In addition, Congress is planning to ease staffing regulations for US passenger ships. See "Cruise operator NCL charts a new course," Martha Brannigan, MiamiHerald.com, 11/26/07.

Feds urge fine for shipping company convicted of dumping oil: Greek shipping company Ionia Management was convicted in September for dumping waste oil and trying to cover it up. Prosecutors say the crew of its ship Kriton routinely dumped sludge and bilge water into the sea without recording the discharges, and then presented false records to the Coast Guard in several ports. Prosecutors are now urging that the company be fined $9 million, and banned from the United States for five years. Ionia said in court papers the fine should be between $153,000 to $306,000. See "Feds urge $9M fine for shipping company convicted of dumping oil," John Christoffersen, Associated Press at Newsday.com, 11/26/07.

Oregon fishermen worry about proposed wave parks: Nine different proposals for wave energy studies are targeting space in Oregon's territorial waters. Although most of the proposals are aimed at the central and southern Oregon coast, North Coast fishermen are still worried about new players competing for use of the ocean. The fishermen say the wave parks would not only cost them money in lost grounds, but it would also block central transit routes and crowd North Coast waters with displaced fishermen. The proposed wave parks could conflict with more than just fisheries. Among the questions under review are how the wave park equipment will affect seabirds, currents, marine mammals and other aquatic life, water quality, lost gear, collisions and ocean emergencies. See "Fishermen worry they could be squeezed by push for wave energy," Cassandra Profita, Associated Press at Examiner.com, 11/25/07.

Scientists want to monitor the ocean more closely: The Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (Pogo) says it is vital to improve the current system used to monitor the world's oceans. The scientists have called for an integrated network of buoys, research vessels, satellites and tagging of marine animals, to be completed within the next decade. The scientists say a better understanding of how the oceans behave would have a range of benefits, from improving short-term forecasting of potentially devastating storms and hurricanes, to the possible impact of warming waters on marine and coastal ecologies. See "Better ocean monitoring 'vital'," BBC News, 11/25/07.

Australia is concerned about security for foreign crew: Security and maritime analysts have warned that seamen from terrorist hotspots like Indonesia and the Philippines are being issued Australian visas without undergoing strict security checks. Seafarers are able to get a Maritime Crew Visa (MCV) about three days after applying through the immigration department's web site. But MCV holders are only subjected to a standard security measure. The International Workers Federation acknowledges that it would be difficult to subject all foreign seafarers to stringent background checks, since these can take three months or longer. But the Federation does believe that it is imperative for foreign seafarers who ship sensitive cargo, such as explosive-grade ammonium nitrate, which is used in mining operations, to receive background checks. See "Seamen pose big security threat," Richard Kerbaj, The Australian, 11/24/07.

OSHA investigates ship explosion: On November 10, an explosion occurred in a fuel tank aboard the cruiser Lake Champlain. The ship was in dry dock at the BAE San Diego Ship Repair Yard. Six workers were injured. Most of the victims worked for subcontractors of General Dynamics NASSCO, which shares contracts for Navy ship repairs with the adjacent BAE yard. BAE and NASSCO officials initially said that shortly after the explosion and fire, inspectors from the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration visited the accident site and decided to let the companies handle the investigation. But now OSHA has started its own investigation into the events. A member of the Shipyard Workers Union wrote a letter to OSHA, alleging that a union member witnessed a supervisor instructing workers to remove welding torches and gas lines from the accident area to hide them from OSHA inspectors. It isnot known if this letter prompted OSHA's investigation See "OSHA investigating explosion aboard Navy ship," Steve Liewer, SignOnSanDiego.com, 11/24/07.

Stricken Antarctic ship evacuated: More than 150 passengers and crew escaped unhurt after the cruise ship MS Explorer hit ice in the Antarctic and started sinking on Friday. Norwegian passenger boat Nordnorge, which was in the area, picked up all the occupants from the lifeboats they used to flee the ship when it ran into problems off King George Island in Antarctica. Hours later, the abandoned cruise ship sank in the icy Antarctic waters. The vessel is owned by Canadian travel company G.A.P. Adventures and was carrying tourists on an Antarctic tour when it struck ice. The passengers and crew were taken to Chile's Eduardo Frei base in the Antarctic and were later to be flown in Chilean air force planes to Punta Arenas, Chile. Authorities reported no injuries other than some complaints of mild hypothermia, and all passengers, crew members and guides are accounted for. See "Small cruise ship sinks off Antarctica," Bill Cormier, Associated Press at The Buffalo News, 11/24/07.

Black Sea storm damage grows: A storm on November 11 wrecked an oil freighter in the Kerch Strait separating Russia and Ukraine, resulting in a spill of some 560,000 gallons of fuel oil that soiled miles of coastline. The storm battered almost a dozen vessels in the strait, at least six sailors were killed, four large ships sank and sulfur is currently reported to be leaking from at least one of them. Russia's natural resources minister, citing the environmental regulator, says damages could reach $265 million. Early reports said some 30,000 birds had died as a result of the oil slick, but experts warn the number of dying birds will increase as their migration routes cross the disaster area. Valentin Kozlitin, the chief veterinary doctor at the Moscow zoo, says officials are hampering the work of volunteers trying to rescue the birds. Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych has urged an independent probe into the Black Sea ecological disaster. See "Russian regulator estimates Kerch Strait storm damage at $265mln," RIA Novosti, 11/21/07.

Rig still burning, spilling oil a month after accident: Workers are still battling fires and leaks on the Kab 121 oil platform, nearly a month after the original accident on October 23. On Tuesday, crews briefly extinguished the latest blaze, only to see it re-ignite. Pemex officials have described the repair efforts as extremely complicated. The platform appears to be spewing a combination of natural gas, which is highly flammable, and hydrogen sulfide gas, which is highly toxic. A constant cloud of toxic gas not only has prevented crews from carrying out repairs, but it catches fire so easily that six firefighting boats are pumping thousands of tons of sea water over the platform to cool the metal and extinguish. Pemex says the platform has been spilling an average of about 430 barrels of oil per day into the Gulf of Mexico — almost 13,000 barrels to date. See "Mexico struggles to control month-old oil spill, gas leak, fires at damaged Gulf platform," Mark Stevenson, Associated Press at AOL News, 11/21/07.

Studying rogue waves: For centuries mariners have told tales of sudden monster waves. But because they occur only rarely their existence has been hard to confirm. One sign that they do exist is the inexplicable loss of enormous vessels at sea. Ocean Waves, a German maritime radar company, and radar expert Jose Nieto of the University of Alcala in Spain, have developed a technology that promises to identify large waves. Tests carried out so far on ships in the North Sea and off the Spanish coast are promising. See "Monster waves less of a threat with smart radar," Paul Marks, NewScientist.com, 11/21/07.

South Korea to supply electricity to the North for shipbuilding: South Korea may provide a direct supply of electricity to the Anbyon and Nampo regions of North Korea. The two sides agreed to build a joint shipyard there during a summit in October, and supplying sufficient electricity to run a shipbuilding complex would be impossible for the North. South Korea believes a direct supply would be more cost effective than building or repairing power plants in the areas. The South Korean government plans to start constructing a shipbuilding yard in Anbyon in the first half of next year. See "South Mulling Direct Power Supply to N.Korean Shipyard," Digital Chosunilbo, 11/20/07.

Russia is slow at delivering aircraft carrier to India: The Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier is undergoing modernization work at the Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk in northern Russia. The ship is supposed to be delivered to the Indian Navy. But the overhaul has suffered a number of setbacks, and a source at the Sevmash shipyard suggests the contract could be delayed indefinitely. Poor project management, a lack of financing, and slow response from subcontractors and suppliers have been blamed. Apparently, prosecutors are also investigating a possible fraud case over mismanagement of funds by Sevmash officials. India is building its new naval strategy around the carrier. See "Admiral Gorshkov overhaul slow, could be delayed - contractor," RIA Novosti, 11/20/07.

Dangerous ship sailed through the Great Barrier Reef: The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has found that a container ship leaking a dangerous chemical was allowed to sail through the Great Barrier Reef. The Kota Pahlawan left Singapore for Brisbane in mid June, with eight containers of chemicals known as xanthates. Four days into the ship's journey the crew noticed a foul odor coming from containers carrying the xanthates, and the ship's master observed that the chemicals had not been packaged according to international standards, and were leaking vapors. This vapor is emitted by xanthates when it comes into contact with moisture, and can be ignited through contact with a light bulb or warm steam pipe. The ship's master informed the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) of the leak the next day, just hours before an Australian pilot boarded the ship to guide it through the Great Barrier Reef — but he was unaware of the report to the AMSA. The AMSA issued a report the next day, advising the Maritime Safety Queensland of the risks posed by the ship. See "Leaking ship allowed through Barrier Reef," Drew Cratchley, The Australian, 11/20/07.

IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea is presented: Second Officer Mustafa Topiwala of the Bahamas-registered oil/bulk ore carrier Searose G and Captain Zvonimir Ostric have been selected to receive the inaugural 2007 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea. The Searose G was in the Mediterranean in March 2006 when it responded to a distress call from the Maltese-flagged Teklivka, which was sinking 50 miles south in gale force winds. By the time the Searose G reached the scene, the Teklivka had sunk. But a dramatic rescue operation was launched and the Searose G managed to rescue nine crew members with a further three survivors picked up by another vessel. The Assessment and Judging Panels considered that Second Officer Topiwala and Captain Ostric had placed their own lives in jeopardy, even though they were not trained professional rescuers, by undertaking acts that went well beyond the scope of their normal duties. They were each presented with a silver medal and a certificate. See the press release "2007 inaugural IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea" from the International Maritime Organization, 11/20/07.

Sharks, stingrays under threat in the Mediterranean Sea: A new report by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) warns that the Mediterranean Sea has the highest numbers of threatened sharks and rays in the world. The study blamed the threat on a combination of overfishing, including accidental by-catches, degradation of habitat and human disturbances. Seventy-one species of sharks, rays and chimaeras were assessed, and 30 of these are threatened with extinction. A further 13 species were classified as near threatened. There are currently no catch limits for fished species of Mediterranean sharks and rays. While the IUCN is hoping for better enforcement measures to give shark and ray populations a chance to recover, the organization's main concern is for the cumulative impact of the loss of biodiversity. See "Overfishing and tourism damaging Mediterranean Sea," Independent at The New Zealand Herald, 11/19/07.

Concern grows for ship's crew: The cargo ship M/V Al Marjan was seized by pirates off the Somali coast on October 19, with 22 crew members on board. Communication with the ship has just been lost. Andrew Mwangura of the Kenyan branch of the Seafarers' Assistance Program says that in the past, this sort of communication loss indicated that "something bad" had happened on the ship. Mwangura explained that the size of a ransom demand normally depends on several factors: the cost, type and ownership of the cargo; the value and nationality of the ship; and the nationality of the crew. See "Concern grows for Pinoy sailors in ship seized by pirates," AFP at The Manila Times, 11/19/07.

Tides may worsen San Francisco oil spill: Tides predicted to peak shortly after Thanksgiving could wash balls of oil off beaches and spread them to places previously unaffected, and the tar balls could persist in the Bay through the end of the month. Most of the oil floating on the water has already washed up on beaches or was recovered by cleanup teams by early last week. More than 16,000 gallons of oil had been collected, and another 4,000 gallons had evaporated by Sunday. The freighter Cosco Busan struck the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in heavy fog on November 7. Federal prosecutors are doing a criminal investigation of the spill. Officials are focusing on the actions of the ship's pilot and crew. See "Peak tides could spread oil spilled in San Francisco Bay," Associated Press at Examiner.com 11/18/07.

Senegalese village thrives on illegal emigration: Elinkine, Senegal is a key departure point for west African illegal emigrants trying to cross the Atlantic Ocean to Europe. Residents of the village don't talk about the trade much, and if they do they don't give many details, or their full names. In addition to the smugglers themselves, boat owners are involved in the business, as are the fishermen hired to sail them, and homeowners who take in prospective migrants while they're waiting to sail. The organization is described as a "mafia," and in most cases the police get a share. According to one man who gave a fake name, the only four boats to have been caught by police this year in Elinkine were not organized in the village. Many of the migrants die during the trips, as the boats are often unseaworthy, and not strong enough to survive a trip on the high seas. See "Illicit migration, a boon for Senegalese village," Francois Tillinac, AFP at Yahoo! News, 11/18/07.

Ransom for hijacked ships could rise: The Japanese chemical tanker Golden Nori was seized by pirates off Mogadishu on October 18, with 23 crew members on board. Andrew Mwangura, head of the East African Seafarers' Assistance Program, believes the hijackers will demand a ransom of more than $1 million. Japan's government and the ship owners' insurers are among those involved in the talks. In August, Danish media said Somali pirates freed the MV Danica White cargo ship and its five Danish crew members after a security company paid a $1.5 million ransom. See "Pirates expected to demand $1m Japanese ransom," Reuters at Khaleej Times Online, 11/17/07.

Brazil wants to build a nuclear submarine: Brazil's defense minister believes the recent discovery of a substantial oil reserve justifies the country's plan to build a nuclear submarine, because it would be used to protect the find. Nelson Jobim said Brazil must safeguard the Tupi field and its 5 billion to 8 billion barrels of oil reserves from other nations and from "actions that could come from the area of terror." Brazil has been talking about building a nuclear submarine for decades, but the project got a boost in July when President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced $540 million in funding for uranium enrichment and the sub program. Jobim estimates the country could build a submarine for about $1.2 billion. See "Brazil eyes nuclear sub to defend oil," Alan Clendenning, Associated Press at The State.com 11/16/07.

Japan will go ahead with whale hunt: Japan has confirmed that it will press ahead with an expanded annual whale hunt that will for the first time target humpback whales, internationally listed as a vulnerable species. Japanese whalers plan to kill more than 1,000 whales in the Antarctic Ocean on an annual mission that has long caused tension with New Zealand and Australia. Japan's Fisheries Agency said the date will only be announced shortly before the hunt for security reasons. The fleet usually leaves in November. The environmental group Greenpeace has accused Japan of delaying this year's hunt because Yasuo Fukuda, the Prime Minister, does not want unwelcome publicity during his current trip to the US. Japan has used a loophole in the two-decade international moratorium on commercial whaling that allows the killing of whales for research. See "Japan vows to press ahead with whaling," AFP at Yahoo! News, 11/16/07.

California creates new rules for port pollution: Although ferries, party boats and tugboats make up just 15% of harbor traffic in the state of California, they generate about half of all harbor emissions. So for the first time, state air regulators have voted to order these boats to replace their old engines. Environmental groups had asked the air board to accelerate the timeline by two years and shorten the life of the vessels' engines from 13 to 15 years. But a board analysis concluded that an accelerated timeline would have forced vessels to replace engines before a less polluting model comes on the market in 2013. The harbor regulation does not cover recreational, fishing, police, government or oceangoing vessels, but new boats must have the cleaner engines. See "New rules for boats polluting near ports," Samantha Young, Associated Press at Press-Telegram, 11/15/07.

No progress at latest China-Japan gas talk: China and Japan failed to make progress in the 11th round of talks held in Tokyo on November 14 on the disputed gas fields in the East China Sea. The dispute over the offshore oil and gas fields arises from a lack of a maritime border agreement between the two countries. Japan maintains that the boundary between the two nation's exclusive economic zones in the East China Sea is the median line between their coastlines, while China argues the line should be the edge of the continental shelf, which extends so far out that it approaches Okinawa. Discussions between the two nations started in October 2004. The United Nations will step in to arbitrate if the two countries fail to reach a settlement by May 2009. See "Japan, China progress little on gas dispute," Kaho Shimizu, The Japan Times, 11/15/07.

Radar test contradicts pilot's claim: John Cota, who was piloting the Cosco Busan when it struck the Bay Bridge last week, said that the ship's electronic charting equipment and radar displays weren't functioning correctly. The ship's captain reassured him, but confusion over the equipment resurfaced at a critical moment, and catastrophe struck moments later. However, a technician who reviewed the ship's radar told federal investigators the radar performed "as expected" during a test. The National Transportation Safety Board is still conducting interviews, as well as coordinating video and audio data to determine what caused the crash. NTSB investigators questioned Cota for three hours on November 12. The ship's crew members have retained lawyers and have refused to be interviewed by the NTSB. See "Ship's radar worked on test," Bloomberg, The Vancouver Province at canada.com, 11/15/07.

US Navy must protect whales from sonar: The US Navy must protect endangered whales from the sound waves caused by underwater sonar blasts during upcoming anti-submarine training off the Southern California coast, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday. A three-judge panel ordered the unspecified protective measures, starting with exercises scheduled for January, after a different panel of the court ruled 2-1 on August 31 that the training off the Channel Islands could resume without court-ordered safeguards for the whales. Under Tuesday's ruling, nine exercises scheduled next year will be conducted with protective measures negotiated between the Navy and conservation groups or ordered by a federal judge. See "Navy told to cut sonar effects on whales," Associated Press at MSNBC.com, 11/14/07.

US Navy's shipbuilding budget gets a boost: The US Navy will enjoy its biggest shipbuilding budget surge since the end of the Cold War under a defense spending bill that President Bush signed into law on Tuesday. The bill provides funding to build a single submarine this year, but adds $588 million to buy components for a nuclear-propulsion plant and other items that will enable the country's two submarine builders to construct two subs per year beginning in 2010 — that's two years before the Navy had planned accelerating production to that level. The bill also provides $300 million for three T-AKE cargo ships, $50 million for an LPD-17 transport ship, and $339 million for the littoral combat ship. See "Bush approves more submarine money," Associated Press at Newsday.com, 11/13/07.

The spending bill also includes about $2.8 billion for construction of the aircraft carrier Gerald Ford, which would cover about 40% of the ship's cost. The remaining 60% is due to be provided in next year's budget request. The Navy is hoping to build the ship for $8.1 billion, although analysts say the price is sure to rise. This cost doesn't include research and development expenses for a new class of carrier. See "Law allots $2.8B toward carrier Ford," David Lerman, dailypress.com, 11/14/07.

Davie shipyard gets new lease on life: Davie Quebec Inc., pulled back from oblivion by a Norwegian company, has landed contracts to build five ships during the next 30 months. About 425 skilled tradesmen have been recalled and are at work on site, and as many as 900 people will be on the job by next summer. When the first of five vessels is finished next year, it will become the 717th ship built at the Davie yard since 1825. The shipyard also has more contracts in the works. In addition to giving a boost to the local and regional economy, the phoenix-like rise of Davie is being heralded as a boon for the Canadian shipbuilding industry. See "Born-again Davie shipyard is bustling," Mark Cardwell, The Gazette at canada.com, 11/13/07.

Weather hampers oil spill cleanup: Strong winds are preventing oil skimming vessels from cleaning up oil that spilled from a tanker during a strong storm on Sunday. Approximately 560,000 gallons of oil was spilled when oil tanker Volganeft-139 split in two in the Kerch Strait, which connects the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea and is bordered by Russia and Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. All 13 members of the crew were rescued. The tanker was one of up to 11 ships that sank or ran aground in the storm Sunday in the strait connecting the Black and Azov Seas. The spill from the oil tanker was seen as potentially the worst environmental disaster in the region in recent years. It prompted criticism that many Russian tankers aren't seaworthy. The spill has also rekindled an argument between Russia and Ukraine over which country controls what part of the waterway. See "Winds Halt Cleanup of Russian Oil Spill," Masha Stromova and Mansur Mirovalev, The Associated Press at Philly.com, 11/13/07.

Crew member escapes from hijacked tanker: The Japanese chemical tanker Golden Nori was hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia on October 28. One crew member escaped from the vessel, and was rescued after spending two days at sea. He is now reported to be in South Korea, but Andrew Mwangura, head of the Kenya chapter of the Seafarers' Assistance Program, couldn't confirm if the man was South Korean. There were two South Koreans among the 23 crew members on board. See "Crew member swims for two days to escape pirates," Sapa-AFP at Mail & Guardian online, 11/12/07.

Andrew Mwangura also reports that the pirates are now negotiating a ransom for the vessel's release. Discussions about the demand are being held through go-betweens in Singapore and Malaysia. See "Somali pirates discuss ransom for Japanese tanker," Agencies at Gulfnews.com, 11/12/07.

San Francisco Bay ship pilot's actions investigated: Investigators want to know whether a ship pilot under investigation in San Francisco Bay's biggest oil spill in nearly two decades initially played down the damage to his vessel. Immediately after the Cosco Busan struck the Bay Bridge last week, Captain John Cota quickly radioed authorities to report the vessel had "touched" the bridge. The impact did not damage the bridge, but it opened a 90-foot gash in the hull of the ship and ruptured its fuel tank, dumping 58,000 gallons into the bay. Cota's lawyer said his client did not immediately realize the severity of the crash. Federal prosecutors investigating the accident are focusing on problems involving management and communication between the officers on the ship's bridge at the time of the crash. Crew members were questioned on board beginning Sunday. See "Lawyer: Pilot assumed bridge crash was minor," Marcus Wohlsen and Scott Lindlaw, Associated Press at SignOnSanDiego.com, 11/12/07.

Russian oil tanker splits apart during storm: Three dead sailors and dozens of birds slicked with oil washed ashore Monday after a fierce storm in the Black Sea sank or forced aground at least 12 ships, including a small oil tanker, officials said. Another 20 sailors were missing in one of Russia's worst maritime disasters in recent years. Russian investigators have determined so far that five or more cargo ships sank in the storm, and the others ran aground. One tanker was carrying 4,000 tons of fuel oil when it split apart and sank, and 1,300 tons of fuel oil — more than 560,000 gallons — spilled into the water in the Kerch Strait. The authorities said captains disregarded storm warnings. Survivors said the seas picked up suddenly and little could be done. Russian prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into the captains and owners of the ships for causing environmental damage. See "Oil spill spells catastrophe for Russian coast," Chris Baldwin, Reuters, 11/12/07.

Human error caused San Francisco oil spill: A preliminary investigation by the US Coast Guard has found that human error, not mechanical failure, caused the cargo ship Cosco Busan to sideswipe a support on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on Wednesday, leaving a gash nearly 100 feet long on the side of the 926-foot vessel. The crash ruptured two of the vessel's fuel tanks, which leaked about 58,000 gallons of heavy bunker fuel into the bay, killing sea birds and spurring the closure of nearly two dozen beaches and piers. The Coast Guard has not said if communication failures had contributed to the crash, as local media have reported. The National Transportation Safety Board is launching an investigation into the cause of the spill; this process could take up to a year. Nearly 20,000 gallons of oily liquid had been sucked up by Saturday morning. The full clean-up job is expected to last weeks or possibly months. See "Investigators weigh speed, communications in S.F. Bay spill," Jason Dearen, Associated Press at SignOnSanDiego.com, 11/11/07.

South African fisheries are under threat: Spanish trawlers, which are subsidized by the European Union, have a poor reputation for overfishing. They are now being accused of using up South Africa's marine resources. A current method is to stretch quotas — in this case, processing hake into a "sausage" that does not yet fall under an official conversion factor. This means it is difficult to estimate the volumes of fish being processed and therefore actual catches cannot be accurately determined, providing a potential loophole which could allow quotas to be stretched. Fifteen years ago, only six companies were catching hake in South Africa. Now there are about 250. See "Spanish threat to SA fish resources," Helen Bamford, IOL, 11/10/07.

Pacific northwest ports plan to reduce air pollution: The ports of Seattle and Tacoma Washington, and Vancouver, B.C., have released an updated draft of their plan to cut maritime industry air pollution by 2015. For the first time, the plan includes emissions reduction goals for trucks and trains. The plan is to make the aging truck fleet slowly meet more modern goals for emissions. But the current business model relies on independent operators, who get paid for each container delivery, and they don't get paid enough to buy new rigs. The ports of Vancouver, Los Angeles and Long Beach have mandatory standards, and are approving a phased ban of older trucks. But in some cases, Washington state ports don't have the authority to mandate compliance with environmental standards that exceed state and local regulations. The ports' plan also includes efforts to cut railway particulate matter emissions, particulate matter emissions from ships at berth, and cargo-handling equipment. See "Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver ports seek to reduce air pollution," Kristen Millares Young, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 11/9/07.

Newport News shipyard exempt from plan for new ID cards: US shipbuilder Northrop Grumman Newport News will not have to comply with new federal rules designed to beef up security at the nation's ports, officials say. The Coast Guard has determined that an existing classified Navy and Defense Department security plan in place at the shipyard is sufficient to meet the requirements of the federal worker screening program. The Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) system is intended to screen workers and others who need access to secure areas of ports. The Coast Guard, which oversees its administration, initially said the rules would apply to the Newport News yard because it contains facilities to store and transfer fuel oil — large enough that they were deemed a potential terrorist target. But the Coast Guard agreed to reassess the issue after the shipyard appealed. See "Shipyard will not have to participate in new ID card law," Jon W. Glass, The Virginian-Pilot at HamptonRoads.com, 11/9/07.

Ukraine group buys Gdansk shipyard: Gdansk shipyard, the cradle of the 1980s Solidarity trade union movement, is to be taken over by the Ukrainian group Donbass after the move was approved by the Polish National Competition Office. In September, Donbass said it would buy 75% of the shipyard, later adding it wanted the full 100%. Donbass will repay state aid given to the yard, in order to keep it fully open. The subsidy issue has been at the center of a battle between Poland and the European Commission, which said that unless two of the yard's remaining three slipways were closed it could order the yard to repay public funds. Poland has repeatedly said that it would be ready to shut down only one slipway. See "Go-ahead for sale of Gdansk dock," BBC NEWS, 11/8/07.

Oceanographers develop microbial fuel cells: Sensors let oceanographers study various aspects of the ocean, but replacing the sensors' batteries can be a costly process. Now oceanographers at Oregon State University have developed fuel cells that feed on microbes that live in sea-floor sediment. They use an electrode to collect electrons released by bacteria living in the low oxygen environment. They have begun testing prototypes in ocean environments that provide sufficient power to run simple sensors. The batteries normally used to power oceanographic sensors typically last around a year. So far, the microbial fuel cells have operated for over 200 days, with roughly constant power output. However, so far the fuel cells are no cheaper than using batteries. See "Mud microbes power turtle-tracking sensors," Tom Simonite, New Scientist Tech, 11/8/07.

Oil spill from ship that hit California bridge raises concerns: Oil that leaked from a cargo ship after it bumped the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge has closed at least 16 beaches and is washing up as far as 40 miles north of San Francisco. About 58,000 gallons of oil spilled from the ship Cosco Bucan when it struck a tower supporting the bridge Wednesday morning in foggy weather. The accident caused no structural damage to the span, officials said, but the vessel's hull suffered a large gash. The ship has since anchored in the bay. Crews in helicopters were surveying the damage, skimmers were sucking up the oil on the bay and ocean, and teams were walking the shoreline scooping up the oil. The job of containing oil on the bay will be made even more complicated by the strong tides and currents there. The pilot of the ship is being interviewed by Coast Guard authorities. See "Bay cleanup may take days," John Upton, The Examiner, 11/8/07.

Shipping pollution linked to deaths: A new health study links air pollution generated by international shipping to more than 60,000 premature deaths across the globe annually, including as many as 8,800 in North America. The study, published in the Environmental Science and Technology journal, estimates premature deaths due to ultra-fine particles spewed out by ships will increase by 40% globally by 2012. In compiling the study, researchers from the University of Delaware, Duke University, the University of Rochester and in Germany culled emission and mortality data from across the globe. Authors focused on the health impacts of diesel particulate matter, which can lodge deep inside lungs and contribute to asthma, cancer and heart problems. Areas hit hardest are busy shipping hubs in Asia, Europe and the Americas. Supporters hope the International Maritime Organization will adopt rules requiring the use of low-sulfur fuels, cleaner engines, or both. See "Shipping pollution kills 60,000 every year," Catherine Brahic, NewScientist, 11/8/07.

New Zealand to expand coastal shipping: New Zealand is targeting a doubling of coastal freight cartage around the country to 30% of all inter-regional domestic goods by 2040. The draft strategy Sea Change is welcomed by the Maritime Union of New Zealand, and the New Zealand Shipping Federation. Transport Minister Annette King said that for too long coastal shipping had been "the poor cousin" of the transport sector. Now it will be better interconnected with rail and road. The move will also offer reduced greenhouse gas emissions and transport congestion. See "Coastal shipping plan welcomed," NZPA at The New Zealand Herald, 11/7/07.

Striking fishermen lift protest blockade: Striking French fishermen lifted blockades at several Breton and Norman ports last night after the government promised emergency help to ease the effects of rocketing fuel prices. The protests began on Friday in the first overt sign of the political fallout across Europe over the continuing surge in world oil prices. Entrances to three depots and a refinery were blockaded and boxes of Scandinavian fish were set on fire. The fishermen, who are demanding government assistance, say rising fuel costs for their vessels have swallowed up most of the profit from catches. President Nicolas Sarkozy sought to stop the strike by offering tax breaks and other aid. The aid package differs from the tough line other ministers have taken on the higher fuel costs. See "Sarkozy offers tax breaks to lure fishermen," Pan Kwan Yuk, Financial Times at MSNBC.com, 11/7/07.

More migrants die trying to reach Europe: A boat of African migrants was found beached at Laguerra, on Mauritania's border with Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. There were 98 survivors on the boat, but six were in a coma and two died during the night at a hospital; four others are in critical condition. In addition, at least 45 migrants died of cold and thirst on their journey. Local administrative officials said the migrants were mainly from Senegal, with a few from Mali, Guinea-Bissau and Gambia. An unknown number of migrants die every year trying to reach the Canaries. See "45 illegal migrants die of thirst," AFP at DAWN, 11/6/07.

Drug-running submarines cause concern: Over the past two years, Colombian authorities and the US Coast Guard and Navy have seized 13 submarine-like vessels outfitted for drug running. The captures point up a security threat that goes beyond drug trafficking. Many law enforcement officials are concerned that US ports and shorelines could be vulnerable to terrorist attacks using precisely such crudely built submarines to carry other materials. The other concern is that the boats have grown increasingly sophisticated, evolving from huge cylindrical tubes that were built to be towed by fishing or cargo boats, to self-propelled vessels with ballast systems and communications equipment that leave no wake or radar profile as they glide just below the ocean surface. See "Drug Cartels Using Subs," Chris Kraul, Los Angeles Times at Courant.com, 11/6/07.

US starts to look at ocean energy: The Bush administration is hoping to tap the ocean's winds, waves and currents as a source for alternative energy. Federal officials hope there is enough power in the Gulf Stream off Florida's coast to supply a third of the state's energy, and wave energy is possible on the Pacific Coast. Research is already under way to use the ocean waters for energy. The federal government will entertain bids beginning this week for companies to put testing equipment like meteorological towers in the ocean waters to gather data on wind, wave or current energy. It's unclear how much say individual states would have on the placement of offshore energy facilities in federal waters, which begin at three miles offshore and run to 200 nautical miles. See "Latest U.S. energy plan: Use power of oceans," Barbara Barrett, MiamiHerald.com, 11/6/07.

Nichols Bros. may reopen: On Friday, Nichols Bros. Boat Builders Inc., announced it was closing. But it appeared by Monday that the company is doing some reorganizing, and may rehire workers in four weeks and restart operations. Officials at the Washington state shipbuilder didn't return calls on Monday. Apparently, the boatyard's workers were laid off on a "standby status" basis, which means the employer must have stated a date when a person can return to work. The company has faced financial challenges in recent years, and is facing pending litigation. See "Big boat builder may reopen soon," Dan Richman and Larry Lange, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 11/5/07.

Krill to be exploited in record numbers: Technology has grown enough for fishermen to start harvesting Antarctic krill. Suddenly, super trawlers plan to harvest more than seven times the amount captured in previous years. Concerns remain about potential costs of the fishing effort, particularly by pair trawlers, which are banned in some seas because their giant nets can snare mammals, and groups have agreed to new measures to control krill fishing. However, so far the catch limits have been set in fairly large areas. Since it is possible to take them from small areas, there could be strong local effects. The tiny animals are considered keystone species near the bottom of the food chain. See "Ecologists fear huge rise in krill catch," The Sydney Morning Herald, 11/5/07.

US shipbuilder closes: Washington state shipbuilder Nichols Bros. Boat Builders has closed and laid off 250 workers. The company is involved in two legal cases that claim the shipyard was late in delivering vessels. A pending lawsuit filed by Hornbeck Offshore services, and financial problems, were cited as the reasons for the closure. It isn't clear if the closing will affect the agreement between Nichols, Todd Pacific Shipyards and J.M. Martinac Shipbuilding to build new vessels for the state's ferry system. Todd is the prime contractor for the program. See "Shipbuilder closes, cites financial, legal problems," The Associated Press at The Seattle Times, 11/4/07.

UN should move to halt melting Arctic ice: Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland are warning that current rates of melting ice in the Arctic might soon prove irreversible, and they are calling for broader UN plans to curb greenhouse gases. Melting ice threatens the livelihoods of indigenous hunting peoples and wildlife. The Nordic nations said a meeting of environment ministers meeting in Bali, Indonesia, in December should agree "tangible measures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases." See "Nordic nations sound alarm over Arctic," Reuters at The Sydney Morning Herald, 11/4/07.

Jork captain given one-year jail sentence: On August 4, the ship Jork was sailing to the port of New Holland, North Lincolnshire, when it entered a 1,600 foot exclusion zone and crashed into an unmanned gas platform in the North Sea. The accident caused as much as $20 million in damages. The Jork sank a day later, and the platform will be out of operation until repairs can be made, in April at the earliest. The Polish sea captain, Zbigniew Krakowski, pleaded guilty to being nearly three times over the legal alcohol limit, and has been given a 12 month jail sentence. See "What shall we do with the drunken sailor? Clap him in irons and jail him for a year," Murad Ahmed, The Times, 11/3/07.

Karachi fishermen aren't fishing: After the EU imposed a ban on the import of seafood from Pakistan last year, the Karachi Fish Harbour Authority (KFHA) required all fishermen to modify their boats to meet EU requirements; the deadline was October 31. But officials say the majority of boats didn't conform to the requirements, and the KFHA stopped issuing the fishing NOCs that would allow them to go fishing in the Arabian Sea. Police and paramilitary rangers were deployed around the Harbour to keep the peace, although so far there is an uneasy calm among the tens of thousands of fishermen and workers unable to work. The owners of about 450 boats —out of some 5,000 — have modified their vessels, but on Friday they protested the action of the authorities by staying home. The fishermen want higher prices for their catch if they modify their boats, since the process is expensive. See "Harbour standoff continues," Hasan Mansoor, DAWN, 11/2/07.

Africa remains a hot spot for pirates: The lack of security near major shipping lanes off Africa has created fertile ground for hijackers, and the US Navy came to the aid of hijacked vessels from North Korea and Japan this week in the waters off Somalia. Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur, welcomed the recent US Navy action against pirates in African waters, which he says would otherwise be unpoliced. The US military says it doesn't intend to act as the sole police force on the open oceans, but says a long tradition demands rendering help to any ship that requests it, regardless of origin. The United States Fifth Fleet and the French Navy have offered to escort ships carrying World Food Program food to Mogadishu beginning in November. The US Navy is also known to be considering increasing patrols in shipping lanes off Somalia. See "Foreign military aid key to curbing piracy in Somalia: maritime body," Eileen Ng, Associated Press at AOL News, 11/2/07.

Dead dolphins remain a mystery: A month ago 79 striped dolphins were found dead near the southern port of Jask in Iran. Another 73 washed up on the beach in the same area last week. Several explanations have been suggested, including mass suicide, water pollution, or a disease. Suspicion was also placed on fishermen, who were said to have beaten the dolphins with grappling irons after they became entangled in fishing nets. But Sha'aban-Ali Nezami, the head of Iran's state-run fisheries organization, now suggests that the mammals could have been killed by electro-magnetic waves from military vessels in the Gulf and Oman Sea, where the US and British navies conduct regular patrols. That explanation has so far been dismissed by environmental experts, but an official inquiry has been started. See "Suicide or murder? Iran blames US after 152 dolphins die," Robert Tait, The Guardian, 11/2/07.

US Navy cancels second Littoral Combat Ship: The US Navy is canceling General Dynamics Corp.'s contract to build a second ship in a new class of warships. General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin Corp. are building competing versions of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). Both companies received contracts to build two prototypes, and are building the first ship. But both companies are experiencing significant cost overruns. The Navy canceled Lockheed's contract for a second ship in April after costs rose almost 50 percent on its first craft and Lockheed refused to accept a fixed-price-incentive contract for the second. After more than a month of talks, the Navy and General Dynamics said Thursday they could not agree on a restructured contract for the second ship that contained cost overruns in a way that both parties could live with. Despite Thursday's actions, Navy Secretary Donald Winter and Admiral Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, remain committed to the LCS. It is likely decisions to purchase more of either prototype design won't be made until the first two vessels are delivered and tested. See "Navy terminates General Dynamics ship after failing to agree to restructure contract," David Sharp, Associated Press at SignOnSanDiego.com, 11/1/07.

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