News Archive - June 2004

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Compliance on the eve of the ISPS deadline: The latest figures, issued by the IMO on the eve of the ISPS deadline, suggest that the majority of ships and ports worldwide will have achieved full compliance, and that many more are well on the way towards doing so. IMO Secretary-General Mr. Efthimios Mitropoulos said "It is clear that all parties concerned, Governments and the industry alike, are doing their utmost to be ready for the entry-into-force date." See the "ISPS Code status at 0900 on 30 June 2004" from the International Maritime Organization.

Despite Mitropoulos' optimism, almost half of the world's ports and 21 percent of all cargo ships have yet to prove they are in compliance — although in many cases plans have already been submitted for review. As a result, shipping industry officials are bracing for delays in the movement of goods around the globe. Even temporary disruptions could make a difference. Officials fear countries like the US will invoke a hard line policy, while Rotterdam, for example, is unlikely to refuse entry to non-compliant vessels for the first few weeks. Problems are more likely to occur with smaller shipping firms and with ports in poorer countries. Richard Jones, a director of the British firm Maritime & Underwater Security Consultants, said "Nobody wants to destroy trade; the whole idea is to make trade more secure." See "Ports Lag As Shipping Rules Take Effect," Bruce Stanley, Associated Press at Las Vegas Sun, 6/30/04.

Meanwhile, Richard Davey, a consultant for MI5, stated during a security conference organized by the International Maritime Bureau in Kuala Lumpur, that the risk of terrorists using ships as bombs is exaggerated. He believes that ordinary piracy is a far greater threat to shipping than terrorist attacks. The conference was held in part to discuss fears that terrorists could easily disrupt traffic in the very busy Straits of Malacca. And some worry about alliances between terrorists and pirates. Davey believes that the ISPS should address what he called "the less-than-overwhelming threat" of terrorism, although it may take months to sort out glitches in the system. See "Floating Bomb Threat Fears Exaggerated - Security Expert," PA news a, 6/30/04.

Another delay for Able UK's "Ghost fleet" contract: Last year, environmental activists sued the US Maritime Administration to halt sending 13 ships from the "Ghost fleet" to England for scrapping. They contended that sending the ships would violate laws banning the export of hazardous waste. US District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer allowed four ships to depart last year, but blocked the rest from leaving the US until after a further review by the court. That review was originally supposed to be heard on August 6, but has now been rescheduled for October 1. Three of the additional nine ships slated to go to England will instead go to Texas for immediate disposal. If the contract with Able UK is upheld, three different ships will be substituted. See "Hearing on ''Ghost Fleet'' lawsuit postponed until fall," Associated Press at Online, 6/30/04.

ISPS readiness in the US: Although Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced last week that US ports and ships were in "full compliance" with the upcoming ISPS security standards, the General Accounting Office is casting doubts on that claim this week. The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, reported on Tuesday that about 7 percent of all US ports and more than half of US-flagged ships have not been reviewed. Moreover, a large number of ships and port facilities will not be reviewed by the July 1 deadline, because they chose to certify compliance using approved security programs established by their industry group or association. Although this option also involves Coast Guard review, there is less oversight as the firms are allowed to self-certify to a certain extent. The review process for the Coast Guard's other option is more thorough, as it requires individual owners and operators to develop security plans and submit them for review. During visits to some sites, some port facilities told GAO investigators they were using the second option as a means to avoid preparing a security plan while remaining in compliance with Coast Guard requirements, the report says. The Department of Homeland Security hasn't responded to the GAO report. See "Ports, ships not in 'full compliance'," Mike M. Ahlers,, 6/29/04.

The US Coast Guard will board every foreign-flagged vessel that sails into a US port beginning Thursday to check whether it is complying with the various rules aimed at foiling terrorists. Rear Adm. Larry Hereth said that 700 Coast Guardsmen, including about 500 reservists, will be part of the effort to board all ships as they enter the ports. The Coast Guard has a range of sanctions that can be imposed on ships. It is unclear yet how smooth the process will be, particularly since world-wide compliance is not complete. See "Coast Guard to board every foreign-flagged vessel," Leslie Miller, Associated Press at Seattle Post-Intelligencer 6/29/04.

Meanwhile, not all security experts are convinced that the new regulations will guarantee against a terrorist attack. For example, only a percentage of cargo entering the country will be inspected. The percentage, which is not released to the public, will vary depending on a maritime security threat level, similar to the United States' color-coded Homeland Security Advisory System. In addition, the costs to implement the security plans will be high: Philip J. Crowley, senior fellow and director of national defense and homeland security at the Center for American Progress, believes it will cost $7.3 billion over the next few years in the US alone. See "Port security rules no sure deterrent," Jen Haberkorn, The Washington Times, 6/29/04.

Hoegh Fleet Services fined in oil dumping investigation: Norwegian cargo fleet operator Hoegh Fleet Services admitted in March in US District Court that an engineering officer on its ship Minerva instructed his workers to build a "magic pipe," to bypass the ship's oil-content sensor, which is a system for preventing waste oil from being discharged into the ocean. The company had pleaded guilty to seven felony counts related to the misconduct, including obstruction of justice and making false statements to federal inspectors. In addition to an award given to a whistle blower, who brought attention to the problem, US District Judge Ronald Leighton ordered Hoegh to implement a compliance plan for vessels that call on US ports. In all, the company was fined $3.5 million for obstructing the investigation; $1.6 million will fund environmental projects. See "Norwegian shipping company fined $3.5 million," Associated Press at Seattle Post-Intelligencer 6/29/04.

ISPS deadline looms: The International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code takes effect on July 1 2004. If ships don't meet the new security standards, they can be turned away from American ports. It's unclear what impact this will have on US commerce, or world commerce. No one seems to believe that international trade will suddenly shut down, but others fear that even a slow-down will have a world-wide impact. Ports must also comply with new security regulations, and ships that visit non-compliant ports may also be turned away from US ports. Coast Guard spokeswoman Jolie Shifflet has suggested that vessels that miss the deadline may simply choose not to call on the United States. See "Smooth sailing seen with new port rules," Jeffrey Sparshott, The Washington Times, 6/29/04; or "Ships Must Be Secure to Enter U.S. Ports," Leslie Miller, Associated Press at Yahoo! News, 6/28/04, for a slightly less optimistic view.

People still jumping ship: Just six months after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, 13 foreign merchant seamen deserted ships in Hampton Roads, Virginia, and disappeared. That number has dropped to only 16 "ship jumpers" since then, thanks to new security regulations put into place after September 11. But the fact that people still jump ship and vanish remains a big concern among port security officials and experts who see the nation's coastlines as vulnerable, and cargo vessels or containers as a likely target of terrorist actions. Unfortunately, the same regulations designed to make ports and shipping activities safer, are also making seafarers lives more constricted. For example, volunteers for the International Seamen's House, a worldwide charitable network offering assistance to seafarers, must show a port-issued identification card and driver's license each time they enter and leave the Hampton Roads port area. See "Ship-jumpers a major concern," Tim McGlone, The Virginian-Pilot, 6/28/04.

Taiwan submarine deal discussed: President Bush approved an arms deal in April 2001, that would provide Taiwan with diesel submarines, anti-missile systems, and anti-submarine aircraft. The negotiations have been slowed in part because the US has not built conventional submarines for more than 40 years. But a Pentagon official has been quoted by the Washington Times as saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin has agreed to supply the eight submarines that Taiwan intends to purchase from the US. The condition to the deal is that Russia sell the boats directly to the United States. The Pentagon official quoted Putin as having told US officials, "If the Americans resell them [to Taiwan], it's none of Russia's business." Other items discussed at the recent meeting of Taiwanese lawmakers were the estimated price of the submarines, which is believed by both sides to be too high, and the fact that Taiwan wishes to assemble the boats domestically. See "Russia could make subs for Taiwan," Debby Wu, Taipei Times, 6/26/04.

Calling for a halt to nuclear-powered cruises: The Murmansk Maritime Company has allegedly used Russia's fleet of nuclear-powered ice-breakers illegally for lucrative tourist jaunts to the North Pole. In addition to needlessly risking radiation leaks in one of the world's most fragile and pristine ecosystems, the company is also accused of imperiling national security on the grounds that cruises on vessels powered by nuclear reactors offer a soft target for terrorists posing as foreign tourists. Environmentalists also complain that Russia has problems disposing of the nuclear waste generated by the ships' activities. The vessels are state property and the government owns more than 25 per cent of the operating company's shares. The criminal case alleges that managers at the Murmansk Maritime Company exceeded their authority and embezzled millions of dollars from the state. The company has denied all allegations. Friends of the Earth Norway, which has demanded a halt to the cruises, is also calling for wealthy Western tourists to take responsibility for their own actions. See "Russia's luxury Arctic tours 'risk nuclear disaster'," Andrew Osborn, Independent, 6/26/04.

Call for uniform LNG terminal standards: In order to keep up with expected increases in natural gas imports, the United States will need to build up to 15 new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals by 2025. Industry attempts to win federal approval for new import hubs are meeting increasing opposition from communities worried about potential terrorist attacks on the facilities. In response, US House lawmakers are calling for uniform federal standards for selecting and approving the location of new terminals, and securing them from terrorist threats. Complicating the issue is that while the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has jurisdiction over the siting and construction of onshore LNG import terminals, offshore terminals fall under the purview of the Transportation Department. Furthermore, there are currently no deepwater LNG ports in operation anywhere in the world. However, the Coast Guard is adapting onshore LNG standards to the proposed offshore terminals, and is working with other appropriate federal agencies. See "U.S. House Calls for Uniform LNG Standards for Terminals," RIGZONE, 6/25/04.

IMO releases latest numbers on ISPS Code compliance: IMO Secretary-General Efthimios Mitropoulos believes the latest ISPS Code implementation figures show a steady improvement. The 39 Governments that responded to the survey indicate that as of 0900 on June 25, 41% of their ships liable to the Code have received security certificates — this is up from 33% on June 21. The number of port facility plans approved is also increasing: 32% are approved as of June 25, up from only 16% on June 21. While the number of approved port facility plans is still low, Mr. Mitropoulos hopes that "those port facilities handling the majority of world trade will be compliant by the entry into force deadline." See "ISPS Code status update 04," from the International Maritime Organization, 6/25/04.

Queen Mary 2 fails fire standards: The Queen Mary 2, the world's biggest and most expensive cruise liner, does not meet fire regulation standards, it was revealed today. Cunard Line is fitting new smoke alarms and sprinklers in all the ship's 1,300 cabins, and increasing fire patrols on the vessel. Cunard's parent company, American Carnival Corporation, said the UK's Maritime and Coastguard Agency had brought to Cunard's attention that panels in 900 of the bathrooms "do not fully meet fire regulation standards." The refit is not expected to cause any scheduling delays. See "Queen Mary 2 gets new safety gear," Reuters, 6/24/04.

Three "Ghost fleet" ships will be scrapped in Texas: Three decommissioned US Navy ships from the James River "Ghost Fleet" — originally destined to be scrapped by Able UK — will be towed instead to Texas this summer. The American Banker, the Mormacmoon and the Santa Cruz are to be dismantled under $3.1 million in contracts awarded to Marine Metals of Brownsville, Texas. All three are 1960s-vintage commercial ships that have been part of the Navy's reserve fleet for 20 years. The US Maritime Administration has until September 2006 to get rid of about 150 decommissioned ships. Many question whether the deadline can be met. Only 12 ships have left the James river since early 2003. Four ships are in England, awaiting legal and permitting decisions; another nine were supposed to be sent to Able, but that plan is on hold at least until a formal hearing scheduled for August 6. Shipyards in Brownsville and Bay Bridge Enterprises in Chesapeake received contracts to scrap the others. See "Contracts awarded to scrap three more "ghost ships"," The Virginian-Pilot, 6/24/04.

Taking stock of the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet: Navy Secretary Gordon England says the Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) project will offer stronger security, but those security requirements have added challenges to the $9 billion project. Mr. England named weak security as "the most deficient aspect of our legacy networks" but the necessity of handling classified information, while causing delays, makes security a top priority. NMCI also offers better tracking of information technology expenses, as well as improved communications and management. NMCI, being developed by EDS, is the largest intranet in the world, with hundreds of thousands of user in the Navy and Marine Corps. Since the launch of the network in October 2002, many users have complained of poor connectivity and slow delivery, while other officials say overall satisfaction is high. Rear Admiral Anthony Lengerich warns that the Navy and the Marines may lose its workforce if the network's stunted performance continues. See "Navy-Marine Corps Intranet Project Takes Fresh Flak," Cynthia L. Webb, Washington Post, 6/24/04.

Iran releases UK boat crew: The eight crew members of three UK patrol boats seized by Iran near the border with Iraq on Monday have been released. The six Royal Marines and two sailors were seized in the Shatt al-Arab waterway, where they were training the Iraqi river patrol service. British officials have said that the men may have mistakenly strayed over the maritime border. The naval launches, the arms and equipment that the British servicemen had with them have not been handed over yet. See "Iran releases British servicemen," BBC News, 6/24/04.

Belfast port a "perfect target": Christopher Ledger, of London-based Maritime and Underwater Security Consultants Ltd, urged maritime authorities to take steps to safeguard Belfast port during a meeting of the Emergency Planning Society. His warning is based on several facts: al Qaida is believed to be using ships to carry out terrorist attacks; since the port is in the center of Belfast, it could serve as an easy launching point for chemical or biological materials; and the city's links with the United States are strong enough to warrant extremists' attention. Patrick Cunningham, the Society's outgoing president, also warned that Britain was still not prepared for a terrorist attack, despite the fact that some £200 million has been spent on decontamination equipment, and training. See "'Port Is Perfect Target for Terrorists'," Alan Erwin, PA News at, 6/22/04.

Britain's merchant navy is aging: The average age of officers in Britain's merchant navy has reached 44, with 40% over the age of 50. A study predicts that the country's workforce of active seafaring officers will fall by nearly 12% within five years. The Chamber of Shipping worries that a career on the sea doesn't appeal to young people. But unions believe the reason for the recruitment shortfall is that shipping companies are passing over British labor in favor of cheaper, foreign-based staff. Britain's merchant fleet had been in decline until 2000, when tax changes allowed shipping companies to be levied on the basis of the size of their fleet. The switch prompted a rise of more than 60% in the number of vessels flying the British flag. But Andrew Linnington, of the seafarers' union Numast, said: "There are more Filipino seafarers in British waters now than Britons." See "Bosses launch distress flare over recruitment as old seadogs fade away," Andrew Clark, The Guardian, 6/21/04.

Port of Los Angeles opens electrified container terminal: The world's first electrified ship container terminal, designed to reduce port pollution, was unveiled Monday at the Port of Los Angeles. The terminal allows ships to plug into "alternative maritime power," which is a dockside power source that allows cargo ships to turn off their pollution-emitting engines. The new scheme at the new China Shipping Line terminal will eliminate more than 1 ton of nitrogen oxide and 87 pounds of particulate matter from the air each day a ship is plugged in. The system fulfills part of a legal settlement negotiated by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Coalition for Clean Air and other groups that filed a 2001 lawsuit against the Port of Los Angeles and the city. The lawsuit alleged that the port and city approved the China Shipping Line terminal without appropriate environmental review and mitigation. See "Port of Los Angeles Opens Green Shipping Terminal," Reuters at, 6/21/04.

Iran seizes 3 British vessels, 8 crewmen: Iran seized three British naval boats Monday, and arrested eight British crew. A spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry said the three vessels had entered Iranian waters, and were escorted to shore for an investigation. A spokesman at the UK defence ministry said British forces in Iraq were using boats to train the Iraqi river patrol service, and the craft may have strayed across the maritime border by mistake. Iran's state television said maps and weapons carried on the British vessels were confiscated. A British Defense Ministry statement said the boats were carrying only the sailors' personal weapons. Relations between Iran and Britain are delicate, and currently tense over issues such as Iraq, human rights, and Iran's nuclear program. See "Iran seizes UK vessels and crew," BBC News, 6/21/04.

The future of the tanker business: Despite the present buoyancy in the tanker market, the long-term future is gloomy, according to Fairplay, which reported on Charles Maxwell's speech at last week's Marine Money Week conference in New York. Maxwell, of US energy analyst Weeden & Co., predicted that global oil production would not peak until 2025-2030, but peak production levels will be hit by non-Opec reserves far sooner, in 2009-11. He believes that the tanker business will "flatten" in the next decade, with surviving tonnage focused on runs from the Arabian Gulf. This pessimism for long-term prospects is reflected in another Fairplay report, that said today's booming order books do not signal long-term relief for world shipbuilding. See "Sea Views: Long-term outlook for tankers gloomy," Frank Kennedy, Gulf News, 6/21/04.

IMO states ISPS compliance level still not satisfactory: The International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code was adopted, along with other maritime security measures, at a Conference on Maritime Security held at IMO headquarters in London in December 2002. The code is mandatory under amendments to the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea which takes effect on July 1 2004. Unfortunately, not all ships or ports are in compliance. Particularly concerned with port compliance, IMO Secretary-General Mr. Efthimios Mitropoulos has emphasized the need to ensure that shipping lanes, particularly those of strategic significance and importance, are kept open under all circumstances. For details from the 39 Governments who responded to the ISPS compliance survey as of 0900 on June 21, 2004, see "ISPS Code status update 03" from the International Maritime Organization.

Bow Mariner inquiry progresses: The Bow Mariner exploded on February 28 some 50 miles off Virginia's Eastern Shore, killing 21; the cause of the explosion is still unknown. Two of the six survivors voluntarily gave the US Coast Guard their statements soon after the explosion. However, the other four declined unless they received immunity from prosecution. The Coast Guard persuaded the State Department to keep the four in the United States while negotiations continued. They have already provided testimony before a federal grand jury — that testimony remains secret. Last week, the four survivors gave testimony to Coast Guard investigators, and they have been allowed to return to the Philippines. Jerry Crooks, chief investigator for the Coast Guard's Marine Safety Office, has said the survivors had key information that will prove important to the investigation, and should result in specific recommendations for improving safety aboard such ships. The investigation is still months away from being concluded, and may take as long as a year before being approved by the Coast Guard. See "Last 4 Bow Mariner survivors finally talk," Jack Dorsey, The Virginian-Pilot, 6/18/04.

Indonesia orders pirates, sea terrorists shot on sight: Admiral Bernard Kent Sondakh, Indonesia's navy chief, has ordered his commanders to shoot dead armed terrorists or pirates operating in key waterways including the busy Strait of Malacca. The chief will also meet with his counterparts from Malaysia and Singapore to seek ways to increase joint patrols in the Strait. The United States and Singapore have voiced concern at the risk of pirates linked to terror groups attacking tankers or other vessels in the Strait, and called for tougher security measures, but Muslim-majority nations Indonesia and Malaysia, on either side of the waterway, have rejected suggestions foreign forces might be used. Apparently, Sondakh wants to prove that the Indonesian Navy is capable of safeguarding the Malacca Strait alone. See "Pirates should be shot on sight: Jakarta navy chief," Straits Times, 6/18/04.

Taiwan and US discuss arms deal, China opposed: A group of Taiwanese lawmakers is visiting the United States to discuss an $18-billion weapons package. The proposed arms deal includes diesel submarines, anti-missile systems and anti-submarine aircraft. The delegation, which includes members of all major political parties, is to meet with Pentagon and other government officials and will visit military installations. Under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the US is committed to helping Taiwan defend itself. The arms package being discussed this week was approved by President Bush in April 2001. However, China has made clear that it opposes all official exchanges between the United States and Taiwan. See "China slams US-Taiwan exchanges," Chris Hogg, BBC News, 6/18/04.

Homeland Security joins weather radio network: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's weather warning network, begun more than 30 years ago, has slowly taken on the job of warning Americans of all sorts of potential dangers, including bad weather, natural disasters like earthquakes, missing children (in some states), serious accidents, and 911 outages. Now, the Homeland Security Department will be able to use the NOAA All-Hazards Network to automatically distribute terror alerts and warnings. The system is capable of reaching more than 97 percent of the United States territory on a 24/7 basis through broadcasts in the 50 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and Saipan. See the press release "HOMELAND SECURITY USES NOAA ALL-HAZARDS NETWORK FOR ALERTS AND WARNINGS" from NOAA, 6/17/04.

Bottleneck in the Bosporus: On Wednesday, oil and energy officials from Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Russia will meet at a conference to promote regional energy cooperation. At the top of the agenda will likely be ways to bring an increasing supply of oil and natural gas from the Caspian and Russia to world markets. Transportation has usually involved a tanker trip through the Bosporus Strait, which has Turkey trying to promote other options. The 21-mile Bosporus is already crowded with ferries and fishing boats, and with expanding energy markets, and a harsh winter, it saw its worst bottleneck in more than a decade this year. Turkey worries that a single accident could spill thousands of tons of oil on the shores of Istanbul, and has introduced new traffic regulations, and a radar monitoring system to cut the risk of accidents. But critics fear the country is using environmental concerns to push for pipeline projects — Turkey could stand to gain both regional influence and transit fees. See "Bosporus bottleneck complicates exports," James C. Helicke, Associated Press at Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 6/16/04.

Four Texas shrimp farms quarantined: Four Rio Grande Valley shrimp farms have been quarantined to prevent a virus from entering the Gulf of Mexico and infecting wild shrimp. Texas Parks and Wildlife officials announced the purpose is to prevent the spread of Taura Syndrome. The virus is not a threat to human health but is deadly to shrimp. The shrimp farms reported the virus to TPWD last week, and the quarantine was put in place Thursday. The infected farms are: Arroyo Aquaculture Association, Southern Star, Bowers Shrimp Farm, all of Harlingen; and Loma Alta, of Raymondville. State officials say Taura Syndrome hasn't been seen in the Valley since 1997. Texas leads the nation in shrimp farm production. See "Four Valley shrimp farms quarantined," Associated Press at, 6/15/04.

Scanning cargo for nuclear bombs: The mass and content of cargo containers provide a tremendous amount of shielding, so ordinary X-ray scanners wouldn't be able to detect nuclear or fissionable materials hidden inside. So scientists from Lawrence Livermore, UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley are developing a tool to scan a cargo container for a hidden nuclear device, using neutrons to detect highly enriched uranium or plutonium. The researchers hope a full version will be ready for use as early as 2007. Scientists want to be able to detect smaller amounts of uranium or plutonium than is required to make a bomb, since would-be terrorists might try smuggling in small amounts of fissionable material, to assemble a bomb later. Some of the obstacles involved include creating a scanner that works fast enough to keep cargo moving on schedule, that is robust enough to keep "false positives" at a minimum, and that is sensitive enough to keep from harming potential human stowaways, or damage other cargo like food. See "Smarter technology for port defense," Keay Davidson, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/14/04.

New Zealand prepares for ISPS deadline: The International Maritime Organization has accused the world's shippers of dragging their feet on security issues. Of 147 signatory nations, only Singapore and India are currently compliant with security standards with regards to ports. Only two of New Zealand's 19 ports — Napier and Timaru — are compliant with the security code set to go into place on July 1. But the Maritime Safety Authority is confident ports will make the looming deadline. Barrie Saunders, a consultant to port company chief executives, said all New Zealand ports were expecting to be compliant by next month. See "Ports scramble for standards," Pam Graham and Reuters, The New Zealand Herald, 6/12/04.

Oil tanker space is getting scarce: A number of issues are beginning to make industry experts concerned about both the capacity and the security of oil tankers. OPEC is raising its crude oil production, which may end up in storage tanks waiting for tanker space, since shipping capacity is already stretched thin by demand. Single-hull tankers are being phased out, and several companies have already banned them in ports; plus there are backlogs at shipyards where the new double-hull tankers are built. The upcoming ISPS deadline is also adding to the stress. While larger tanker owners are expected to be in compliance in time, smaller operators may not make the deadline. Non-compliant ships could be turned away from ports, disrupting shipping schedules worldwide. And the new security regulations do nothing to address a Limburg-style attack. Some industry experts fear that an oil tanker makes an attractive target for terrorists, and an attack or accident that crippled even one big oil tanker could have an appreciable effect on the flow of crude. See "Got Oil? Now, Try to Find Tankers to Carry It," Heather Timmons, The New York Times, 6/9/04.

North Korea warns of retaliation if South Korea violates sea border: North Korea is warning of new clashes at sea, accusing South Korean naval vessels of violating their disputed maritime border. The charge comes just days after the two Koreas agreed on measures to prevent maritime disputes. North Korea says the South is engaging in reckless actions by deploying naval ships, patrol boats and helicopters along their common but disputed border in the Yellow Sea. The official Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang Wednesday quotes the North Korean military command as saying if Seoul continues such acts, it will be forced to deliver what it called "merciless blows." The report accuses South Korea of deploying the vessels as a pretext to tighten control over fishing boats and inspections. See "N.Korea warns "reckless" South's navy," Martin Nesirky, Reuters, 6/9/04.

UK plans new, versatile submarine: Britain's Ministry of Defense has denied that plans are already underway to replace their Trident submarines, and research new miniature nuclear warheads for weapons — in part because their budget is tight, and in part to delay raising the sub replacement issue until after the next general election. However, some information has come out that suggests the MoD is further along in their plans than has been made public so far. This preparation will give ministers the chance to accelerate work on the Trident's successor immediately after the next election, to allow a replacement for the existing fleet to be entered into service around 2020, when the first of the Tridents is due to start retiring. The new submarine will be capable of firing both nuclear-tipped and conventionally-armed Tomahawk cruise missiles, and could replace both the service's existing Trident missile-firing submarines and hunter-killer submarines. See "Secret plans for Trident replacement," Tim Ripley,, 6/9/04.

US flag raised over NCL's Pride of Aloha: A US flag was raised yesterday over the Pride of Aloha in a ceremony held in San Francisco. Officials from Norwegian Cruise Line, the Maritime Administration and the Coast Guard participated. This marks NCL's first US flag vessel, and the first oceangoing passenger cruise ship to sail under a US flag in some 50 years. The ship was built in 1999 as the Norwegian Sky and formerly flew a Bahamian flag. "Reflagging this ship is far more than symbolic," US Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta said. "Raising the Stars and Stripes over more ships raises our maritime strength and raises jobs." Pride of Aloha, which will have a crew of nearly 800, will begin interisland Hawaiian cruises on July 4. See "NCL flags its first ship with Stars and Stripes," South Florida Business Journal, 6/8/04.

Warning on EU subsidy threat to tuna: European Union subsidies for tuna farming in the Mediterranean could lead to commercial extinction of the endangered bluefin tuna within just a few years, WWF International has warned. The conservation group said tuna farming — the capture of tuna in the wild to be fattened in pens — jumped by 50 per cent last year in the Mediterranean. A catch at this level "is not compatible with the conservation of a healthy bluefin tuna population." The rapid expansion of the industry, which took off only in the late 1990s, has been aided by EU subsidies. They are now helping to keep the industry going despite saturation of the key Japanese market and falling prices. Mediterranean countries with tuna farms include Spain, Italy, Turkey, Malta, Cyprus, Croatia, Tunisia and Libya. The tuna farming industry is also expanding rapidly in countries such as Australia, Mexico, the US and Japan. See "No more EU subsidies for tuna farming in the Mediterranean, urges WWF," press release from WWF, 6/7/04.

Caribbean nations struggle to meet ISPS deadline: A number of organizations, including the Florida Ports Council, the Caribbean-Central American Action group, the Caribbean Shipping Association, and Florida's Governor Jeb Bush, are concerned about the ability of Caribbean countries to meet the July 1 ISPS deadline. Many can't afford the price tag, but they also can't afford to do nothing because their tourism-driven economies depend heavily on port fees and customs duties. Preliminary reports indicate that several eastern Caribbean nations, including Jamaica, Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis and Trinidad & Tobago will be ready. Others, like Antigua & Barbuda, and other smaller Caribbean islands are causing more concern. And analysts fear that it will be impossible for Haiti to meet the deadline. The US Coast Guard has been very clear that it will follow the law, which could prevent ships from entering US waters if there are concerns. See "Haiti unable to meet international port-security deadlines," Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald at The, 6/7/04.

Changes to environmental laws proposed to help scrap the "Ghost fleet": A proposal introduced late last month by Rep. Phil English, a Pennsylvania Republican, could drop environmental laws that block scrapping of obsolete US Navy ships in foreign countries. English's spokeswoman said the bill is not intended to override a ban on sending the ships overseas. Instead, she said, the legislation seeks to temporarily suspend tough environmental laws so American shipyards can better compete for ship-breaking contracts. The bill does not specifically spell out the domestic goal. The laws the bill would suspend for six years are: the Toxic Substance Control Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. The bill has been assigned to three different House committees. No hearings have been scheduled. Critics fear the proposal would allow the US to send toxic ships to developing nations — which generally have lower environmental and worker safety regulations — for cheap disposal. See "Bill would ease scrapping ships," Associated Press at The Washington Times, 6/7/04.

Malaysia opposes US help to protect Malacca Straits: Malaysia is pledging to work with the United States on fighting terrorism in Southeast Asia, but warns a US military presence could galvanize radical Muslim groups. Speaking at a security conference in Singapore, Malaysia's defense minister, Najib Razak, was referring to a US proposal to send their troops to patrol the vital Malacca Straits shipping lanes. In April, the commander of US forces in the Pacific, Admiral Thomas Fargo, suggested US Marines and special forces should protect the Straits. Since then, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others have downplayed Admiral Fargo's comments, saying there are no plans for a US military presence in the Straits. The United States and other countries fear a terrorist attack in the Malacca Straits, the pirate-infested shipping lane bordering Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. See "Malaysia rejects foreign forces in SE Asia," China Daily, 6/6/04.

Debate over expanding the Panama Canal: Pro-expansion sentiment remains high in Panama, inspired by construction jobs and fears that the country will lose money as more post-Panamax ships are built. But the biggest requirement is that the canal expansion project bring direct benefits to the country. Among the questions that still must be debated are: How big is big enough to remain the most cost-effective route for shippers? How much will it cost in dollars, environmental destruction and human displacement? Should Panama take on the financing burden of a mega-project to benefit international markets? Can Panama afford to take on an estimated $5 billion construction cost — at least — when the country is already carrying $9 billion in debt? A referendum on the issue is planned for next year. See "Panama Feels Squeeze Over Canal Expansion," Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times, 6/6/04.

Perilous plastic: Several recent reports have taken a hard look at plastic trash in the ocean. In the sea, big pieces of plastic look like jellyfish or squid, while small pieces look like fish eggs. As a result, pieces are often found in the stomachs of dead birds, fish, and marine mammals. Since most plastics don't biodegrade, they'll remain in the sea for hundreds of years, breaking up into ever-smaller particles. Microscopic pieces of plastic can be found everywhere in the oceans, even inside plankton, the keystone of the marine food chain. About 20 percent of the plastic in the oceans comes from ships or offshore platforms; the rest is blown or washed off the land. The amount of plastic particles in the oceans has at least tripled since the 1960s. The effect these materials have on the marine ecosystems is unknown, and many scientists are worried about it. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan called attention to the problem on World Environment Day, June 5. See "Drowning in an Ocean of Plastic," Stephen Leahy, Wired News, 6/5/04.

Report on Hartford grounding released: An internal investigation has concluded that Capt. Greg Parker, the commodore of Submarine Squadron 22 in La Maddalena, Italy, was not directly responsible for the navigational miscalculations that led to the grounding of the submarine Hartford on October 25, 2003. However, the Commodore was cited for taking control of the submarine after the incident without officially relieving the commanding officer, Cmdr. Christopher R. Van Metre, and for not having a "full understanding or knowledge of the Hartford's position." Parker's order to speed ahead after the grounding likely led to the most severe damage; repairs cost US $9.4 million. Due to the accident, Parker and Van Metre were both relieved of command on November 9, 2003. The report found the boat's grounding was a result of poor leadership. See "Navy faults commodore in submarine grounding," Matthew Dolan, The Virginian-Pilot at, 6/5/04.

Two Koreas strive to ease tensions: North and South Korea have agreed on measures to ease military tension along their poorly marked western sea border, according to a joint statement released after all-night negotiations. Both North and South want to avoid deadly naval fire fights during the May-June crab-catching season, when fishing boats from the two countries jostle for position along the maritime border off the west coast. The two sides adopted a standard radio frequency and signaling system for their navies and agreed to exchange data on illegal fishing. They also decided to set up a hot line between the two sides to improve communication. However, there was no discussion of troop pullbacks from one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world. See "Koreas agree to military hotline,", 6/4/04.

Cold water corals in danger: A report issued by the UN Environment Program to mark World Environment Day on 5 June says the world's oceans contain far more cold-water coral reefs than experts had realized; the reefs are widespread from Greenland to sub-Antarctic waters. Unfortunately, the corals are under serious threat. Unsustainable fishing is the biggest danger. Many of the fish living around cold-water corals are slower-growing and have low reproductive rates, but fishing fleets are increasingly targeting some of these deep-water species, like the orange roughy, roundnose grenadier and black scabbardfish. Other threats to the corals include oil and gas exploration and production, waste disposal, and cable-laying. The report, "Cold-water Coral Reefs: Out Of Sight - No Longer Out Of Mind," is the work of the program's World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Unep-WCMC. See "Cold-Water Corals Highlighted as New Global Conservation Challenge on World Environment Day 2004," UN Environment Programme at Environmental News Network, 6/4/04.

Some Staten Island ferry cases settled: Some $3 billion in notices of claims were filed with the New York City's comptroller's office following the deaths and injuries caused by the October 2003 wreck of the Staten Island ferry Andrew J. Barberi. The city has settled 25 of the cases involving relatively small claims so far. The smallest settlement was $1,500. The total is $531,900. None of the catastrophic claims for deaths or major injuries have been settled. A court decision on whether the city's liability can be capped at $14.4 million could be a year away. Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have a criminal investigation under way into the crash but no charges have been brought so far. See "City settling S.I. ferry claims," Anthony M. DeStefano, NY, 6/3/04.

Britain accused of mishandling offshore wind energy development: Massive offshore wind farms are seen as the key to Britain's goal of generating 10% of energy used from renewable sources by 2010. But a report from the Commons Transport Committee claims that the Government's proposed plan has ignored the potential danger these farms would pose to shipping interests. The report claims that a collision with the proposed sites was "inevitable." The report's recommendations include putting present projects on hold while their locations are considered by shipping interests, and ensuring that future developments take shipping and safety issues into consideration. See "Danger from Offshore Wind Farms Ignored, Say MPs," Joe Churcher, PA News at, 6/3/04.

Only 34 of the world's 15,000 ports certified: The International Ship and Port Facility Security code, which comes into effect on July 1, requires ports and ships to implement comprehensive antiterrorist measures and receive approval from the International Maritime Organization. But only 34 of the world's 15,000 ports have been certified secure by the IMO so far. Frank Wall, an IMO maritime security consultant in Singapore, admitted that this means that 483 ports have to be approved each day for the next 31 days for the world to meet its target deadline. While he isn't certain that "everything will be right" by the deadline, he's confident that security issues will be settled. Part of the holdup is that several countries are unwilling to list only those ports that are already compliant because it might alert terrorists to vulnerable targets. Instead, they are waiting to publish until all their ports are secure and approved. As a result, the IMO currently has little knowledge of the security of international ports. See "Ports witholding security data over terrorism fears: IMO," Shipping Times at The Business Times, 6/2/04.

Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Study: The Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway system, built and shared by Canada and the United States, is a key component of North America's transportation infrastructure. The waterway serves 15 major international ports and some 50 regional ports on both sides of the border. Maritime commerce on the system supports domestic and international trade. However, the system is aging and the costs of maintaining the transportation infrastructure are rising. Transport Canada and the US Department of Transportation initiated binational study partnership in 2003 to undertake the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Study (GLSLS Study), whose purpose is to assess current and future navigation options in the area. While the growth of international trade is a driving factor in the study, many environmentalists worry that current navigation activities are already causing problems in the area — including changing water levels, habitat destruction, and invasive species. A series of stakeholder meetings have been scheduled to facilitate dialogue and information exchange: Montreal, Quebec (June 3); St. Catharines Ontario (June 8); Duluth, MN, (June 15); Clayton, NY (July 6); and Chicago (July 14). For more information, see the GLSLS Study web site.

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