News Archive - December 2003

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Oil spill in Puget Sound: Nearly 4,800 gallons of heavy marine oil spilled yesterday as it was pumped onto a barge in Puget Sound from a Chevron/Texaco loading terminal at Point Wells, near Richmond Beach. Oil has already started washing up on beaches, and birds partially coated in oil have already been found. The event is being called a "significant" oil spill. The cause of the spill remains under investigation. Foss Maritime, which owns the fuel barge, took responsibility, and has said they will clean it up. It is too early to assess the extent of the oil spill or the environmental damage, but oil containment booms have already been deployed in critical areas. The heavy fuel oil, a grade known as Bunker C, forms globules at cold temperatures, which makes it a threat to birds and marine life. See "4,800-gallon oil spill hits Sound beaches," Lynn Thompson, The Seattle Times, 12/31/03.

IMO adopts resolution on places of refuge for ships: Member States of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted guidelines on places of refuge for ships in need of assistance at their 23rd Assembly, early December 2003. These guidelines are intended for use when a ship is in need of assistance but the safety of life is not involved. The guidelines recognize that, when a ship has suffered an incident, the best way of preventing damage or pollution from its progressive deterioration is to transfer its cargo and bunkers, and to repair the casualty. Such an operation is best carried out in a place of refuge. However, to bring such a ship into a place of refuge near a coast may endanger the coastal state, both economically environmentally, and local authorities and populations may strongly object to the operation. Such a political decision can only be taken on a case-by-case basis. See "IMO member states adopt new rules on ports of refuge," Frank Kennedy, Gulf News Online, 12/29/03.

Using old ships' logs to research global climate change: The Climatological Database for the World's Oceans, or Cliwoc, is using 19th and 18th century logbooks from UK, Dutch, French and Spanish fleets to get information about global climate change. The ships' logs are helping researchers show the daily climate change for all major oceans between 1750 and 1850, and compare it to today's conditions. This data was largely ignored until recently, in part because the data comes from human observations and estimates. But in many cases the researchers are able to verify the data, since many ships sailed in convoys, and they all recorded the same thing. The fact that the crews' lives depended on their weather records also contributes to the reliability of the data. See "Ships' logs uncover past climate," Alex Kirby, BBC News, 12/29/03.

Catching up on port security: Maasvlakte, a town-sized terminal at the mouth of the Dutch port of Rotterdam, handles 3 million oceangoing containers a year. Instead of dock workers, hundreds of robot-run trucks and cranes shuttle among the containers, making the terminal one of the most automated, and seemingly secure, shipping centers in the world. But even this facility is lagging behind proposed security rules. Europe Container Terminals will install more fencing, additional cameras to watch for intruders at the water's edge, and — in February — radiation detectors. (Rotterdam will become the first port outside the United States to use these detectors, in a deal with the US Department of Energy.) Still, some industry officials and security experts worry that many facilities won't meet the new security code's July 1 deadline. See "Ports, shippers slow to counter terror threat," Associated Press at Bahrain Tribune Daily Newspaper, 12/29/03.

Rescue center in Norway saves lives all over the world: The Joint Rescue Coordination Center Southern Norway helps rescue people all over the world. The center, founded in 1970, doesn't have its own ships, aircraft or rescue teams, but its new $5 million building in Sola has the latest in satellite communications, electronic maps and databases on the thousands of ships plying the seas and the rescue services in operation around the globe. When a distress call comes in, it directs the nearest ships, often merchant vessels, to the scene, wherever it may be. Its crews handle the call until a closer rescue center takes over. In some parts of the world, they see it through to the end because there is no other center. Although they don't record exact numbers, the center estimates at least 10 lives a day are saved thanks to its efforts. See "Tiny Norway outpost handles many of world's rescue efforts," Doug Mellgren, Associated Press at the Houston Chronicle, 12/27/03.

Queen Mary 2 sets sail: A British maritime flag flew from the deck of the Queen Mary 2 for the first time on December 22, following a ceremony during which its owner, Cunard Line, officially took possession of its new flagship. The ceremony, held at the French shipyard where it was built, was subdued, out of respect for the 15 people killed on November 15 when a gangway collapsed during a guided tour. The ship will hold 2,620 passengers, 1,253 crew members, and has, among other luxuries, a planetarium, a virtual-reality golf drive, a pet kennel, a casino, and a gym. The word's largest cruise ship is about 33 feet longer than the United States' largest aircraft carrier. Queen Elizabeth II will formally name the vessel in a ceremony in the port of Southampton on January 8, 2004. See "Queen Mary 2 heading to its new home," International Herald Tribune, 12/23/03.

New worries about Jambo's sunken cargo: Angus Nicolson, chairman of Western Isles Council, conducted his own research into the contents of the sunken cargo vessel Jambo, and claims that the chemical cocktail could have lethal consequences if it contaminated shellfish which were then subsequently eaten by humans. He is now asking for the wreck to be salvaged, to safeguard the marine environment. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said the zinc sulfide from the cargo posed a "negligible risk" to the environment, even though it has been left on the seabed close to fisheries and fish farms. But there are questions about the MCA's disclosure of information about the arsenic and cadmium in the cargo. Western Isles Council vice-convenor, Angus Campbell, has called for a full government inquiry into the way the MCA handled the issue. See "Maritime agency concealed toxic disaster claim," Murdo Maclean, The Scotsman, 12/23/03.

Funding problems for the Royal Navy: Analysts estimate that the UK Ministry of Defence budget will be at least £4 billion short by 2012, the date when the first of the Royal Navy's two new aircraft carriers is scheduled to enter service. The carriers are the cornerstone of the MoD's strategy to shift the armed forces away from their defensive cold war posture to an expeditionary force capable of intervening around the globe. But the looming budget deficit will require some changes. The carriers will be built, but if they end up smaller — an idea that BAE Systems and Thales, which are jointly designing and building the vessels proposed — then they might not be able to fulfill their mission. If other navy programs get cut, then there might not be enough funds available to build the Type 45 destroyers or Astute attack submarines required to protect the carriers. The joint strike fighter program may end up suffering. See "All at sea over re-equipping armed forces," Mark Odell, Financial Times, 12/22/03.

Nine people to face trial for Express Samina ferry disaster: The Greek ferry boat Express Samina sank September 26, 2000, when it hit a well-marked rocky outcropping off the Greek island of Paros; 80 people were killed. Nine people have now been formally charged in a regional court. The captain, who was taking a nap at the time, is charged with multiple manslaughter with possible malice. The second-in-command and three other crew members have been charged with dereliction of duty and putting passengers at risk. Two then-representatives of the vessel's owner, Minoan Flying Dolphins, face charges of insufficient care regarding the ship's rescue equipment and the crew's training. Two Coast Guard inspectors are accused of falsely certificating that ship rescue equipment was in good order. The trial date hasn't been set yet. See "Nine People Face Trial Over Greek Ferry Disaster," Reuters, 12/18/03.

Seafarer fatigue found to be cause of Jambo wreck: The Cypriot-registered, German-owned MV Jambo was carrying 3,300 tons of zinc ore when it sank off the west coast of Scotland on June 29, 2003. A probe by marine authorities found that the vessel veered off course after the chief officer, who was alone on the bridge, fell asleep on duty. In addition, the seaman assigned to the watch had been absent from the bridge for at least an hour before the vessel grounded. The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has recommended that a watch alarm, which rings at intervals to prevent seamen on watch from nodding off, be installed on all such vessels — the Jambo didn't have one, nor was there a requirement for one. The MAIB also recommended that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency use the findings from this incident and from three safety studies on seafarer fatigue to address the problem. See "Sleeping officer blamed for wreck," BBC News, 12/18/03.

Relatives of Ehime Maru victims speak up: The nuclear attack submarine USS Greeneville sank a Japanese fishing ship on February 9, 2001. The boat was 10 miles south of Diamond Head demonstrating a rapid surfacing drill for 16 civilian guests when it collided with the Ehime Maru, killing nine people. In April 2001, a military court of inquiry held the skipper, Cmdr. Scott Waddle, responsible for the collision, but investigators ruled out a court martial and allowed him to retire at full rank and pension. On Tuesday, two of the relatives asked the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate the collision. In their letter, they said the military court's decision ignored the civilians' role in the crash. They are demanding a suspension of the military's guest program. See "Kin of Ehime Maru victims seek U.S. probe," Associated Press at The Japan Times, 12/18/03.

China eyes the Sea of Japan: China is hoping to overturn the economic isolation it has experienced since 1860, when a tsarist official drew a border treaty map that cut China off from the Sea of Japan. The country is currently pushing Russia to sign a long-term lease to convert the midsize cargo port on Trinity Bay, Zarubino, on the far East of Russia, into a Chinese economic enclave. Russia would rather develop an international trade center, on their own terms and with their own money. But the Chinese are making their intentions plain: They have built a six-lane highway to the edge of the border crossing, and, according to Russian officials, ordered Chinese companies to boycott Russia's ports in the Sea of Japan until Moscow agrees to the plan. See "China Wants to Rent Key Port," James Brooke, New York Times Service at Moscow, 12/16/03.

BAE Systems gets another slap from the Ministry of Defence: The Ministry of Defence has appointed independent advisers to oversee BAE Systems' construction of two aircraft carriers. Amec is an international project management company with extensive experience in oil, gas and transportation. BAE has stated they don't understand why Amec has been brought in, but the move suggests that the MoD has doubts about the company's ability to deliver the carriers on time. BAE has already been forced to accept Thales as its partner in the construction program, and there have been reports that the carriers can't be built within budget. The vessels may have to be shortened, have their weight reduced, and carry fewer aircraft. Amec will likely review these plans on behalf of the MoD. See "BAE fury as MoD brings in advisers for carrier deal," Russell Hotten, Times Online, 12/16/03.

Hartlepool residents stop work on "ghost ships": Three Hartlepool residents have argued at the High Court in London that planning permission covering Able UK's Graythorp yard does not allow dismantling of ships. Hartlepool council had ruled that permission granted for dry dock development had lapsed. Able claims it notified the TDC it had kept the planning permissions current, but after a hearing on Monday, High Court Judge Sir Jeremy Sullivan sided with the residents. Able UK has said it will appeal. Nine "ghost ships" — part of a deal between the UK yard and the US Maritime Administration — can't leave the US before a court hearing in the spring. Four have reached Hartlepool but no dismantling work can be carried out until all planning, licensing and legal issues have been resolved. See "U.K. Ship Dismantling Project Put on Hold," Jack Garland, Associated Press at Yahoo! News, 12/15/03.

New sea sensors protect Canada's coasts: Canada's navy is buying a deep-sea system to detect smugglers and terrorists trying to approach its coasts. The $4-million contract is the latest use of technology to cover parts of the coastline that Canada's military cannot effectively monitor. The surveillance system uses a series of sea-floor devices that detect engine sounds of ships. The navy already uses permanent monitors on the seabed to watch for submarines but they can't be readily moved. The new sensors can dropped at specific points where intelligence indicates a smuggler or terrorist might try to penetrate. See "New navy project creates deep sea alarm system," Canadian Press at, 12/15/03.

The Pride of America is not quite what it seems: Project America, a federal program designed to revive the American cruise ship building industry, failed. The US government lost $180 million, and cruise ship company American Classic Voyages went bankrupt. But Norwegian Cruise Line, a subsidiary of Star Cruises, which has its headquarters in Hong Kong and is run out of its offices in Malaysia, looks like it's winning. For $24 million, it purchased the half-finished hull (soon to be Pride of America) and enough parts for a second ship. After persuading Congress, these two ships, and one built in Germany, will all sail under the American flag. Although Norwegian will have to hire more expensive American crews, pay American wages and taxes, and follow American environmental regulations, the deal also means that the ships will be able to island-hop in the lucrative Hawaiian market without having to put in at a foreign port. As Senator John McCain noted, "This provides an unfair competitive advantage to N.C.L. at the expense of all other cruise ship operators." This is not the first time the Jones Act has been sidestepped, and proves that international companies are learning how US politics works. See "Political Savvy Gets U.S. Flags on Foreign Ship," Leslie Wayne, The New York Times, 12/14/03.

Greenpeace releases ship breaking report: The environmental group Greenpeace has released their report on Alang and Mumbai shipbreaking yards. Greenpeace also released the findings of their analysis of soil and sediment samples taken from the Mumbai yard, which confirm that the toxic pollution caused by the illegal export of hazardous waste on board old ships has worsened in the two years since Greenpeace last conducted a scientific analysis. Greenpeace has called for international regulations that require ship owners to decontaminate their ships before sending them to shipbreaking countries. The crew of the group's flagship Rainbow Warrior is still under house arrest in Mumbai for alleged visa violations. See "Greenpeace releases report on Alang yard," The Times Of India, 12/13/03.

Company that towed Staten Island ferry to shore asks for $6 million: Henry Marine Service's tugboat Dorothy J. took control of the ferry Andrew J. Barberi after it hit a concrete pier on Oct. 15, killing 10 people and injuring dozens. The company filed a notice of claim under federal maritime law on Wednesday, asking for $6 million in compensation for rescue efforts. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the company should not have asked for the money. See "Bloomberg blasts $6 million claim by tugboat company," Associated Press at, 12/13/03.

Keiko, orca whale and Hollywood star, dies at 27: Keiko was captured in Iceland in 1979 and sold to the marine park industry. Starting in 1993, the whale starred in three "Free Willy" movies, which ironically depicted sympathetic humans helping to set a long-captive killer whale free. When he was found ailing in a Mexico City aquarium, a foundation was created to help fund Keiko's reintegration with a pod of wild killer whales. After lessons on catching live fish, Keiko was released to the wild in Iceland in July 2002, but he swam straight for Norway on an 870-mile trek that seemed to be a search for human companionship. He spent the last months of his life living in Taknes Bay — humans watched him, but he was free to roam. Keiko died Friday afternoon, December 12, after the sudden onset of pneumonia in the Taknes fjord. See "'Free Willy' whale, Keiko, dies," Associated Press at, 12/13/03.

Keiko was buried Monday, December 15, in a snow-bound pasture during the deep darkness of Nordic winter in a ceremony kept secret from the public, to avoid a media circus. See "Keiko buried in secret ceremony," Associated Press at, 12/15/03.

Oil still in Prestige wreck to be salvaged: In an operation that will be managed by the oil firm Repsol, Spain will use submersible robots and a fleet of shuttles to remove the estimated 13,000 tons of oil still in the wreck of the tanker Prestige. Robots will cut holes in the ship's prow, fit valves and attach the shuttles to catch the rest of the fuel as it flows out. The shuttles will then lift the oil to a pipe below the surface, which will carry it to a boat. The total cost of the salvage operation, which the government believes could be finished by next summer, is expected to reach nearly $122.5 million. See "Spain to Lift Prestige Oil Using Robots, Shuttles," Emma Pinedo, Reuters, 12/12/03.

Karachi Port Trust to recover port costs from Tasman Spirit: The Karachi Port Trust has asked the management of Tasman Spirit, the oil tanker that ran aground in July off the Karachi coast, to pay $10 million for port services and facilities extended by the port authorities during the rescue operation. This amount is separate from the claim of more than $1 billion sought by the Port Trust from the vessel's management as compensation for the damage caused by the oil spill. See "KPT to get $10m from Tasman management," DAWN, 12/12/03.

Greenpeace accused of sailor mongering: The Justice Department has charged the environmental organization Greenpeace with "sailor mongering," an obscure 1872 antipiracy law. The case stems from an incident in April 2002 in which two Greenpeace protesters illegally boarded the cargo ship APL Jade. They were arrested and detained for the weekend. Fifteen months later, the Justice Department brought criminal charges against the Greenpeace organization using the sailor mongering law, which was enacted to prevent brothels and taverns from boarding ships to entice sailors ashore. The law prohibits any unofficial boarding of a ship about to arrive at its destination, but hasn't been used in over 100 years. Greenpeace will file a motion today to have the case dropped, on the grounds that it's too vague. Organizations like the ACLU and the Natural Resources Defense Council have filed court briefs in support of Greenpeace and called on Attorney General John Ashcroft to drop the case because it sets a dangerous precedent threatening Americans' First Amendment right to peaceful protest. See "Greenpeace: We're No Mongerers!," Niall McKay, Wired News, 12/12/03.

East Timor fears Australia is exploiting Timor Sea resources: Royalties from the resource-rich Timor Sea are likely to remove East Timor's need for international aid, but first a maritime border must be agreed with Australia. East Timor's foreign minister, Jose Ramos-Horta, says Australia is moving slowly on the boundary talks by stating that there should be only two meetings a year for negotiations; East Timor would prefer monthly meetings. East Timor fears that Australia is exploiting reserves worth billions of dollars that actually belong to East Timor, and that these actions could prejudice the outcome of maritime boundary negotiations between the two countries. See "Fair play demanded in oil talks," Cynthia Banham, The Sydney Morning Herald, 12/11/03.

India gets tough on ship breaking: The Gujarat Pollution Control Board on Wednesday issued a closure notice to the Sachana ship breaking yard for not following its solid waste control and hazardous chemical regulations. Last month, inspectors found that the yard didn't have facilities for storage, disposal or treatment. The Sachana ship breaking yard is located in the Marine National Park area, and the unregulated activity there has damaged the flora and fauna. The regional officer at the yard wasn't available for comments. See "Sachana ship breaking yard gets closure notice," Harshida Pandya, Business Standard, 12/11/03

Local Bangladeshis fight back against pirates: According to a recent report by the International Maritime Organization, Chittagong — which handles 80 percent of Bangladesh's exports and imports — is the world's second most vulnerable port to piracy. Which perhaps explains why Bangladeshis have killed 28 people suspected to be pirates preying on shipping and villages near the port city. Villagers have joined police on raids of suspected pirate hideouts, and have been asked to hand over any suspects. But police superintendent Mohammad Mezbahunnabi said "the villagers were so angry that they lynched 28 pirates and handed six to police" over the weekend. Police said that pirates had killed at least 20 locals, looted property and raped dozens of local women in recent years, so the situation is tense. See "Angry Bangladeshis Lynch 28 Alleged Pirates," Reuters at Tehran Times, 12/10/03.

Coastal wetlands grant awards announced: Interior Secretary Gale Norton has announced the 2004 National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant projects. Nearly $17 million in grants will go to 10 states to conserve, restore and protect coastal wetlands. The US Fish and Wildlife Service makes yearly matching grants to coastal states and US territories for projects involving the acquisition, restoration or enhancement of coastal wetlands. Projects are administered for long-term conservation benefits to wildlife and habitat. Funds are matched by states and private partners. See "10 states to split $17M for coastal wetlands," ESPN Outdoors, 12/10/03.

Three missing after cargo ship overturns: Divers searched for three missing crew members of a Dutch cargo ship Wednesday after the ship turned on its side in the Hudson River. The ship turned partly on its side Tuesday in the partially frozen river, and eight members of the 18-person crew went overboard and were pulled from the river. Two crew members were hospitalized for hypothermia, and seven others were rescued from the ship. The ship had loaded 661 tons of steel turbines, and at first officials assumed the load apparently shifted. But on Wednesday, a Coast Guard spokesman said the ship was at only 20 percent of its capacity, and its ballast should have kept it stable. See "3 missing after cargo ship overturns in port," Associated Press at, 12/10/03.

Maryland uses eBay to sell yacht: Maryland's state yacht, Maryland Independence, will be listed for sale on eBay starting Thursday. Boyd K. Rutherford, head of the Department of General Services, which is overseeing the sale, said the large number of potential online buyers is worth the effort, and that he hopes to capitalize on the novelty of selling the official state water craft. The 112-foot power vessel is sea-worthy, but its commercial uses are limited under maritime law because it was built in Canada. State officials hope to get from $295,000 to $375,000 for the yacht, which will help with state deficits. See "State sets sale of yacht on eBay," David Nitkin, The Baltimore Sun, 12/9/03.

Greenpeace activists detained: Eleven Greenpeace activists, in India to bring public attention to the problems of shipbreaking, have been detained and will miss their flights back home. Officials stated that the campaigners had violated their visa conditions by campaigning against toxic ships when they came on tourist visas. The captain of the campaign ship Rainbow Warrior, Cosmo Wassenaar, was also required to pay fines. The activists have said this will become an international issue. See "Greenpeace activists fined, face arrest now," The Times Of India, 12/9/03.

US - China maritime treaty renewed: President George W. Bush and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao signed a maritime treaty on Monday, which renews agreements that lapsed in 1998. Details include allowing US shipping units to set up branches in China; allowing vessels of each country to pay taxes at the port of one country, rather than in both; and easing rules for entering each country's ports. Analysts expect that the rules will benefit US units of larger shipping lines. US trade figures show that trade between the two countries increased 52 percent to $147.3 billion last year from 1999. APL chief executive Ron Widdows said in a statement that the agreement would help the company "manage costs," without giving details. See "Maersk, Neptune Gain Access, Cut Costs After U.S.-China Pact,", 12/9/03.

Ship repair to stay in Boston Harbor: The Fitzgerald Shipyard and the East Boston Shipyard are outfitting their facilities in an effort to reclaim repair work that has been lost to other ports. Fitzgerald Shipyard hasn't operated its dry dock since 1998, when its cradle cracked. But owner Peter Fitzgerald is investing about $1.5 million in upgrades to his shipyard, hoping to see more, and bigger vessels come in for repair. The Massachusetts Port Authority bought the East Boston Shipyard site in 1985, and selected Roseland Property Co. and Sea Chain Marine LLC to manage and redevelop it in 2001. Roseland and Sea Chain plan to invest $10 million in capital improvements, and the site is also benefiting from a $1.5 million federal grant. The Boston Harbor Association believes there will be enough work to support both yards. Work is expected to come from ships already using Boston Harbor that have had to go elsewhere to get repairs. See "Shipping work to Boston," Bill Archambeault, Boston Business Journal, 12/8/03.

Spain warns off Russian oil tanker: The Russian oil tanker Geroi Sevastopolya, which is carrying 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil, left Latvia on Saturday on its way to Singapore. The tanker is 24 years old, and has a single hull; Madrid and the European Commission have expressed grave fears about its safety. Maritime safety inspectors from Spain, France, Denmark and Britain check out the vessel on Friday, but found no fault that could stop its departure. The International Maritime Organization has just agreed to phase out single-hulled oil tankers, but the vessels will still need to be allowed to operate until April 2005. Meanwhile, Madrid said on Wednesday the tanker would not be permitted within Spain's 200-nautical-mile exclusion zone, and it would use its navy to stop the ship if needed. See "Russian Oil Tanker Irks Brussels," Reuters at The Moscow Times, 12/8/03.

China may become world's largest shipbuilder: Li Zhushi, vice-president of China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC), recently announced that China plans to build up to 15 million deadweight tons (DWT) of ships at two new shipyards in Shanghai and Guangzhou. The country expects to become the world's largest shipbuilder by 2015. Li was speaking at the Marintec China 2003 exhibition in Shanghai. Shanghai Jiangnan Shipyard will move to Changxing Island by 2007, with Shanghai Hudong Shipyard to follow by 2010. The new island shipyard will eventually be capable of building 12 million DWTs of ships annually, and is key to the city's efforts to turn itself into an international shipping center for Northeast Asia by 2020. The Guangzhou project will be smaller. See "China to become No 1 shipbuilder," People's Daily, 12/5/03.

Maritime body backs tanker rule: The Marine Environment Protection Committee of the International Maritime Organization has banned tankers with single-layered hulls from carrying fuel oil and heavy crudes as of April 2005, and ordered a total phase out sped up from 2015 to 2010. Single-hulled vessels make up about 48 percent of the 2,514 tankers worldwide. Some single-hulled ships will be able to operate until 2015, or when they reach an age of 25 years. The ban backs up European Union plans, which were put into place after the Prestige oil spill in November 2002. The 26-year-old single-hulled tanker broke up off Spain's Galician coast, and — according to many reports — caused more damage than the Exxon Valdez. Spanish and French navies have already prevented tankers they deemed too risky from entering their respective economic zones. See "Single-hull vessel rules tighten," Bloomberg News at Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 12/5/03.

Canadian ports seek money for security: The British Columbia Maritime Employers Association agrees with new port security rules going into place July 1, 2004. But they feel that Canada's maritime operators shouldn't be expected to fund the measures themselves, and has requested that the issue be addressed in Ottawa's next budget. The cost to Canadian operators is expected to be more than $100 million, and the cost to B.C. ports alone is estimated at $50 million. If Ottawa doesn't help, the industry fears it may lose some of its competitive position with US ports. See "Port wants help with security bill," Ashley Ford, The Province, at, 12/4/03.

Help for right whales?: Researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts and Florida State University have discovered that right whales respond to the sound of sirens when played under water. Northern right whales, in danger of becoming extinct, are particularly prone to collisions with ships, in part because they live near shipping lanes. The research, which is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B., suggests that the sirens could be used to check if whales were in the vicinity when the US Navy carries out military exercises, or when demolition work is carried out on bridges over water. Unfortunately, by luring the whales to the surface, the alarms also make them vulnerable to being hit by ships. The US National Marine Fisheries Service sponsored a report, released in 2001, that strongly urged the placement of route and speed restrictions for ships in areas inhabited by right whales. Although the proposals would cost the shipping industry relatively little, no decisions have been made. See "Whales drawn to emergency sirens," Paul Rincon, BBC News, 12/3/03.

Norwegian slow to pay for Norway inspection: Luis A. Perez, lawyer for the survivors of Winston Lewis, killed when the Norway's boiler exploded May 25, filed a motion in mid-November because NCL hadn't paid for any expenses incurred by maritime experts inspecting the ship. Perez had wanted to take inspectors on board before the ship left Miami, but Norwegian Cruise Line wanted to tow the ship to Germany before hurricane season. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Leslie Rothenberg let the ship go, but decided NCL had to let Perez inspect it in Germany and pay his trip expenses. The inspection took place in July, but NCL still hasn't paid the invoices. The Norway is sitting at the yard in Bremerhaven awaiting its fate. The explosion will cost about $11 million in lost revenue and other expenses this year, NCL parent Star Cruises said in August. See "Norwegian must pay for lawyers' trip," Dale K. DuPont, The Miami Herald, 12/3/03.

New York City hopes to cap ferry liability: New York City has asked a federal judge to cap damages from the October 15th Staten Island Ferry crash at $14.4 million. The proposed cap, based on an old federal maritime statute, would limit liability to the approximate value of the ferry itself, and encourages plaintiffs to settle out of court. Plaintiff's attorneys are angered by the move; nearly 90 people have notified the city they intend to sue for a total of about $2 billion. See "N.Y. asks for damage cap in ferry crash," Associated Press at, 12/1/03.

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