News Archive - September 2004

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The conflict between large- and small-scale fishing interests: A new report released by the World Resources Institute describes the growing crisis of marine and freshwater resources, and the impact it is having on small-scale fishers. The report, titled "Fishing for Answers: Making Sense of the Global Fish Crisis," points out that the nature of fishing has changed radically in the past 100 years. New technology, such as diesel engines and driftnets, has turned fishing from being mostly a coastal and local endeavor, to one where outside, commercial fishing interests can quickly come close to wiping out stocks. The result has been a rapid depletion of key stocks, and serious degradation of ecosystems. As of 2002, 75 percent of the 441 fish stocks being regulated are in urgent need of better management. In addition, conflicts between small-scale and large-scale fishers and pressures from agriculture, dams and coastal development are increasing worldwide. Although the international fish trade is growing, the majority of fishers are in developing countries, and fish on a very small scale. See "Asia's small-scale fishers vulnerable to global fish crisis, says new WRI report" from the World Resources Institute, 9/30/04.

Strikes continue at Spanish shipyards: The future of 10 Izar yards owned by government industrial holding company SEPI hangs in the balance amid the looming threat of bankruptcy. Financial pressure in part comes from European Union demands that Izar repay 300 million euros (372.8 million dollars) in aid which Brussels says breached EU competition rules; the sector is also struggling in the face of fierce competition from Asia. SEPI's current plan involves separating naval activities, the most profitable, from civil shipyards, which would be partly privatized. Shipyard workers are against the plan, and have held a number of strikes in protest. Some four thousand workers on Thursday blockaded traffic in the northwestern port of Ferrol for around 20 minutes. Union sources claim almost the whole workforce of nearly eleven thousand held a work stoppage on Tuesday; and two days before that thousands of workers joined a demonstration outside the Ferrol yard. See "Spanish shipyard workers blockade traffic in renewed strike," AFP at Yahoo! News, 9/30/04.

Maltese-flagged vessels being exported to Asia for ship breaking: A report compiled by the environmental group Greenpeace International shows that over 30 ships flying a Maltese flag were sent to Asia for scrapping in 2003. So far this year the figure stands at 15. None of the ship owners had taken any steps to clean the ships before they were to be scrapped. The environmental impact of ship breaking is largely unregulated in India, Bangladesh, China and other Asian countries, where worker safety is also regularly ignored. Despite the fact that some 160 countries have signed the Basel Convention — aimed at preventing toxic ship scrapping — 95 percent of ships destined for demolition are still sent to unregulated yards in Asia. Ship breaking activities have escalated after the oil tankers Erika sank in 1999, and the Prestige sank in 2002, prompting the International Maritime Organization to phase out single-hull oil tankers. A report prepared for the European Commission shows that by 2010 there will be 2,200 single-hull ships to be scrapped, which represents a five- or six-fold increase in ship breaking. Greenpeace representatives were in Malta this week to raise awareness on the matter. Since Malta is the fourth largest maritime register in the world, the country could play a major role in lobbying the international community to dispose of ships properly. See "Maltese-flagged ships second largest toxic fleet sold for scrap in Asia," Mark Micallef, The Malta Independent Daily, 9/29/04.

Two Al-Qaeda men sentenced to death over USS Cole bombing: A Yemeni court sentenced to death two Al-Qaeda militants for the October 2000 bombing of the US Navy destroyer Cole, which claimed the lives of 17 US sailors. Another four defendants were given jail sentences ranging from five to 10 years. Chief suspect and Saudi-born Abdel Rahim al-Nashiri, who is currently in US custody and was sentenced in absentia, and Jamal Mohammed al-Bedawi were both given the death penalty over the attack. In reading the verdict, the judge pointed to the prosecution's statement that Badawi and al-Nashiri bought the speedboat that the bombers rammed into the Cole. Al-Nashiri, who is also thought to have directed the 1998 bombings at the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, is one of a number of senior al-Qaida figures who have been held in US custody at undisclosed locations for interrogations since their captures. It is not clear how this verdict will affect his detention. See "Two Sentenced to Death in USS Cole Attack," Ahmed al-Haj, Associated Press at The Washington Times, 9/29/04.

US-Taiwan submarine deal may be closer: On Tuesday, Taiwan's new representative to the US, David Tawei Lee, revealed that his country's proposed $18 billion arms purchase from the United States has become an election issue. On Saturday, people took to the streets of Taiwan to protest spending so much on weapons, rather than social projects. Taiwan's legislature had been expected to vote in October to approve the arms deal, but the vote may be put off until after the legislative elections in December. But Mr. Lee also revealed that more decisions have apparently been made regarding the eight diesel-electric submarines than previously stated. Although the US would have to purchase blueprints from abroad, the subs will probably be built at Northrop Grumman's Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi. See "U.S. to build 8 subs in deal with Taiwan," Sharon Behn, The Washington Times, 9/29/04.

California gets tough on cruise ship pollution: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed three bills that would increase curbs on cruise ship pollution near the California coastline. The most stringent of the bills bans the release of sewage, both treated and untreated, into state waters. Another bans the discharge of "gray water" from cruise ships while they are in state waters, and the third prohibits the ships from burning garbage in on-board incinerators while they are in state waters. These new laws go beyond federal law, which prohibits the ships from dumping untreated sewage in state waters, but allows the discharge of treated sewage and gray water anywhere, including ports and harbors. Calls to regulate cruise ships have been fueled by the rapid expansion of an industry that operates largely outside national borders. The industry has grown by about 12% annually for the past three years, and has increased by 50% in California over the past two years. See "California gets new curbs on pollution from cruise ships," Associated Press at USA Today, 9/29/04.

NATO opens rescue service for submarines: NATO has opened a new international program designed to respond to submarine disasters around the world. The International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office, or ISMERLO, is housed at the Norfolk Naval Station in Norfolk, Virginia. William Orr, the US Navy's submarine escape and rescue officer, will serve as coordinator. A Spanish and a Norwegian NATO official will also work from the Norfolk office. ISMERLO won't marshal supplies or issue orders, but will be a central clearinghouse for rescue information worldwide. The office will serve NATO members and more than a dozen other countries with submarine fleets by putting undersea rescue experts in touch with political leaders. The office was created in response to the tragedy of the Russian submarine Kursk. Although both Russia and Norway attempted to rescue the crew, by the time divers made their way inside the disabled sub after nine days, the crew were dead. The tragedy was a wake up call for navies around the world. See "NATO answers call for sub SOS service," Kate Wiltrout, The Virginian-Pilot, 9/28/04.

Containerships are now the least-controlled source of bad air in US: The Bush administration has agreed to cut diesel pollution 90 percent in everything from tractors and construction equipment to lawnmowers, forklifts and diesel generators. The move is so dramatic even some Bush opponents applauded him. But the Bush administration has also derailed efforts to cut emissions from cargo carriers, tankers and cruise ships — which are a leading source of pollution worldwide. Rather than push world standards to get better by imposing strict rules for US ships and foreign-flagged ships visiting US ports, the administration has chosen to keep emissions standards at current levels. Instead, it has proposed the US government work with other nations to establish an international pollution standard. But with even some industry lobbyists admitting that current international ship-fuel standards for sulfur, a primary component of acid rain, are ridiculously high, and with global shipping expected to double or even triple by 2020, many are disappointed by the move. See "Bush cut some diesel pollution but let big ships keep spewing," Craig Welch, The Seattle Times, 9/28/04.

Shipping giant P&O cuts 1,200 jobs: Following a review of ferry operations launched in March, shipping giant P&O has announced it will close four of its 13 ferry routes, and cut eight ships from its fleet. The company has lost some £40m this past year, due in part to rising competition from low-cost airlines and the Channel Tunnel. Reports suggest that 800 jobs will be lost in Dover and 400 jobs in Portsmouth, while a further 350 jobs will be transferred to Brittany Ferries. Unions are bitterly opposed to layoffs. The company hopes fewer routes, fewer ships and a lower cost base will ultimately increase profitability. The company has reported that the freight side of its ferry operation — which accounts for half of its revenues — had seen its market grow by 6% a year. See "P&O to slash workforce by 1,200," BBC News, 9/28/04.

Busy California ports are starting to lose truck drivers: The backlog at California's ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has been growing since early summer when a crush of cargo from the Far East began flowing in, and is expected to last at least through the end of this year. On Monday, some 75 cargo ships were docked at the ports, with another 30 offshore waiting to enter. The situation is starting to affect trucking companies, whose drivers earn money based on how much they transport, not for the time worked. With drivers routinely forced to wait at the port terminals for several hours, they're beginning to reject jobs ferrying cargo containers from the twin ports. Stephanie Williams, senior vice president of the California Trucking Association, estimates between 10 and 20 percent of the 12,000 truck operators who pull freight on the harbor have moved on to other trucking work over the past two months. So far, marine terminal operators at the ports haven't noticed any shortage of truck drivers, but that may change. See "Trucking firms lose drivers amid expensive delays at SoCal ports," Alex Veiga, Associated Press at The State.com, 9/27/04.

Progress made on Seafarers' Bill of Rights: The International Labour Organization (ILO) has come closer to the creation of a major new international labor standard that provides a "Seafarers' Bill of Rights" for some 1.2 million maritime workers. The draft Convention was discussed at the recent Preparatory Technical Maritime Conference, which was attended by 551 delegates representing governments, ship owners and seafarers from 88 countries. It aims to consolidate the key components of over 60 existing Conventions and Recommendations developed during the last 80 years. It addresses key issues such as minimum standards for employment; working conditions; repatriation, entitlements and leave; standards for onboard working and living accommodation; social protection and seafarers' welfare. The new draft Convention will be presented for adoption by the Maritime Session of the International Labour Conference by the beginning of 2006. See "Major step forward for Seafarers’ Bill of Rights," Business Times, 9/27/04.

BAE Systems considers shipyard mergers: A spokesman for BAE Systems, Britain's largest defense company, confirmed to The Times that it is considering a merger of its three shipyards with those of VT Group, Babcock International Group, and Swan Hunter, to try to ensure the industry's survival. The spokesman emphasized that it is unlikely all the yards could feasibly be merged, and that there is no government approval for the plan yet. Representatives from UK's Defence Procurement Agency will be meeting with leading defense and shipbuilding companies on October 11 to try to define a strategy that would ensure the sustainability of the industry in Britain. BAE and its rivals are concerned that a glut of large defense programs may be followed by a drought that could jeopardize Britain's shipbuilding capability. In addition, BAE's three shipyards aren't expected to be profitable until well into 2008. See "BAE will consider merging UK's naval shipyards," Peter Klinger, The Times Online, 9/27/04.

Despite assurances, UK's new sonar system still harmful: More and more scientific studies are proving that sonar systems used by the military harm marine mammals, either by direct damage from sound waves, or by confusing the animals and rendering them incapable of navigating safely in the water. Some reports even suggest that whales could be fleeing their breeding and feeding grounds off Scotland's north-west coast because of the low frequency activated sonar. Three years ago, the UK Ministry of Defence reacted to public pressure to protect whales and other marine mammals by designing a new sonar system purported to be "whale-friendly." But extensive tests on the system — dubbed Sonar 2087 — have established beyond doubt that the new system continues to pose a threat. While a number of measures are being developed to try to mitigate potential harm — such as shutting off the system when the animals are detected nearby — ministers have made it clear that the health of marine mammals would have to take second place to the defense of the realm. A number of MPs and environmentalists are angry that the MoD withheld information about potential damage, and may investigate legal action. See "Navy sub refit fails to save the whale," Brian Brady, Scotsman.com, 9/26/04.

Nuclear waste to sail through the English Channel: Despite a recent statement by the head of the Royal Navy, Admiral Sir Alan West, that he had specific intelligence that al-Qaeda was seeking to blow up merchant ships navigating congested shipping routes, the Pacific Pintail and Pacific Teal will be carrying weapons-grade plutonium through the busy English Channel this week. The plutonium is from dismantled US atomic missile warheads, and is destined for a nuclear reprocessing plant in France, where it will be converted for use as commercial fuel. The two vessels were ordinary commercial ships, with a top speed in the region of 15 knots, but have been equipped with cannons. In addition, 13 armed British commandos will stand guard on the decks of each vessel. The two thousand mile voyage is expected to bring the ships into UK waters on Thursday; they should arrive at Cherbourg, France on Sunday. Critics warn that the ships represent a valuable target for rogue states and terrorists seeking to acquire nuclear capability. Environmentalists point out that even bad weather is a big risk, considering the cargo's potential for contamination. See "Terror fears as deadly cargo heads for UK waters," Mark Townsend, The Observer, 9/26/04.

Cruise line faces new case for accommodations law: Douglas Spector recently booked passage on Norwegian Cruise Line, in a handicapped-designated room. But after his five-day cruise out of Houston proved anything but handicapped-equipped — from the shower in his own cabin to access to life boats — Spector and other passengers sued, saying the cruise line violates the federal law requiring them to accommodate people with disabilities. An early decision by the 11th Circuit Court found that the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to cruise lines, but earlier this year, the 5th Circuit Court ruled that the US disabilities law doesn't cover foreign-flagged ships. The Norwegian ship that Spector sailed on is registered in the Bahamas. But Spector has appealed to the US Supreme Court. While there are many cruise ships able to accommodate the disabled (Mr. Spector has since been on several Carnival cruises), a Supreme Court ruling in favor of disabled passengers could reshape accommodations law for the entire cruise industry. See "Cruising uncharted waters," L.M. Sixel, Houston Chronicle, 9/25/04.

Who pays for security in the Malacca Strait: Last month, Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan reported that officials in Singapore and Malaysia had discussed the idea of putting security onto ships passing through pirate-prone areas such as the Malacca Strait. But speaking at a workshop on maritime security in Asia, Captain Jayant Abhyankar, deputy director of the London-based International Maritime Bureau (IMB), said that most ship owners can't afford to hire security guards. The minimum number of guards needed to maintain a 24-hour watch on a merchant vessel — four — could cost some US $2,000 a day, which is more than the earnings for a small freighter. He also doesn't favor arming a crew to defend themselves, since they are not trained for defense. Instead, Abhyankar feels that it would be better to increase naval or police coast guard patrols, and to encourage crewmembers to be more vigilant against pirates. See "Armed guards on ships 'not viable option'," David Boey, The Straits Times, 9/24/04.

Melting glaciers will make sea levels rise: A new study published in the journal Science found that six glaciers flowing into the Amundsen Sea have started moving faster over the past 15 years, and the pace has accelerated recently. The glaciers are also thicker than previously thought. If all six glaciers were to completely slide into the ocean and melt, worldwide sea levels would rise by more than three feet. The ice shelves of glaciers, described as long fingernails, are gradually melted from underneath by warm coastal waters. As these melt, the glaciers can flow more quickly. Most surprising is that the main trunk of the fastest of the six, Pine Island Glacier, is also thinning. If this continues, at least 270 square miles of thick ice will be floating in the ocean within five years — which would further accelerate the flow of the rest of the glacier. The West Antarctic region is a difficult place to do research, so ice-shelf thinning could be taking place in other areas. The data collected so far makes it clear that global warming will cause sea levels to rise higher than believed before. See "Glaciers Quicken Pace to Sea," Stephen Leahy, Wired News, 9/24/04.

Jambo wreck no threat to environment: The German owned MV Jambo hit rocks off the Summer Isles last summer and sank, carrying more than 3,000 tons of zinc sulfide with it. A salvage operation was abandoned in October 2003, because of the high costs and upcoming winter weather. As zinc is hazardous, many have been concerned about potential harm done to the marine environment. A diving survey sponsored by the Department for Transport found that zinc levels in the water and in the sediments around the wreck remain low; tests of scallops and crabs show that eating them poses no risk to human health. However, the department will continue to carefully monitor the area around the wreck for the next three years. There are no current plans to restart efforts at recovering the cargo. See "Ship pollution fears allayed," BBC News, 9/22/04.

Oceans of Noise to tackle underwater noise pollution: In July of this year, the International Whaling Commission reported there was "compelling evidence" that marine mammals were at potential risk from man-made underwater noise. Its scientific committee reported that low-frequency ambient marine noise levels had increased in the northern hemisphere by two orders of magnitude over the last 60 years. Key sources of undersea noise are the seismic testing used to search for oil and gas, the use of low-frequency sonar by some of the world's navies, and the growing numbers and size of shipping vessels. The UK's Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society is launching a campaign, Oceans of Noise, to tackle the problem of noise pollution. The WDCS action plan includes a proposal for an international treaty to regulate marine noise pollution, and for an independent body to undertake research. See "The deafening sound of the seas," Alex Kirby, BBC News, 9/22/04.

Experts call on US government to reverse damage to oceans: After more than two years of study, the US Commission on Ocean Policy — mandated by Congress and appointed by President Bush — reports there is a dire need to protect ocean resources from exploitation and pollution. Commission chairman James Watkins, a former US Energy Secretary, says coastal regions are home to half of the nation's population and generate half of its income, yet the regions are threatened by overfishing, pervasive water contamination, and loss of wildlife habitat. Watkins called "on Congress and the president to establish a new national ocean policy that balances use with sustainability, is based on sound science, and moves toward an ecosystem-based management approach." Some specific points request that Congress reorganize government agencies that deal with oceans, and ratify the 22-year-old United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty. Another important recommendation would create the Ocean Policy Trust Fund from oil and gas royalties. See "Panel Urges Oceans Trust Fund," CBS News, 9/20/04.

India drafts shipbuilding policy: Although global shipbuilding is active, India's shipbuilding industry has excessive manpower, lack of infrastructure, and limited capabilities — yards can only build ships of 110,000 DWT capacity. The government wants to strengthen the sector, as it promises employment, and income. Proposed policies include revising taxes, including customs and excise, to be on par with EOU units. A total exemption from service tax, sales tax and VAT has also been suggested, and research funds may be completely exempted from corporate tax, subject to a limit of 10% of the profit for the year. Capital goods imported for these activities would also be exempt from customs duty, and ship owners would receive financial incentives and subsidy support for placing multi-ship orders. India hopes to compete with China, which aims to be the world's leading shipbuilding nation by 2015. See "CoastsMaritime policy to shape up ship-building," Sudha Nagaraj, The Economic Times, 9/20/04.

Drop in numbers of wasted fish: The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has released analysis of global data for the last decade on wasted fish, which suggests the numbers are dropping. In 1996 FAO estimated that 20 million tons of fish were discarded globally, but new analysis suggests that a little over 7 millions of fish are thrown back to sea unused each year. FAO’s Fisheries Department believe that a number of factors have contributed to the lower discard numbers. Fishers have gotten better at not catching unwanted species in the first place, species that would have been considered "trash fish" in the past are increasing being kept and used, there may simply be fewer fish available to catch, and officials may have better data on selectivity and discards than before. With fewer fish being wasted and being used instead, one could expect the overall level of fish landings to have increased — but this hasn't happened. In general, FAO figures show that global fish landings have been stable in recent years. See "New data show sizeable drop in wasted fish numbers," Scoop, 9/20/04.

Unrest at Spain's shipyards: Spain's shipbuilding company Izar is facing bankruptcy. SEPI, the Spanish government industrial holding society which owns the docks, plans to split apart the military and civilian yards. The military shipyards would retain public subsidies, but the plan is to inject private funding into some of the civilian sites in a bid to stave off competition from Asia. But unions are wary of the plan, and unrest has lead to violence, with police called in to restore order. On Monday, Pedro Lorca, naval construction spokesman for the pro-communist CCOO union, stated "We wholly reject SEPI's plan," fearing some 4,000 jobs are under threat. SEPI will hold a news conference outlining its response to the crisis on Thursday. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has promised to fight for the dockworkers, and at the same time is backing SEPI's efforts to restructure the industry. See "Shipyards up the pressure on Spanish govt as strike looms," AFP at Yahoo! News, 9/20/04.

BC Ferries awards ship contract, local union says they broke the law: BC Ferries has selected Flensburger Schiffbau - Gesellschaft (FSG) of Germany to build three Super C-class vessels. The contracts were approved today by BC Ferries' Board of Directors. The total project budget includes Canadian taxes, financing and project management costs that would have been incurred regardless of where the vessels were built, and a contingency for federal duty. Mike Corrigan, the company's lead negotiator, stated, "this contract is approximately 40 per cent or about $130 million less than the Canadian price we received during the early phase of the bidding process." With savings in interest payments, and despite duty fees, Corrigan insisted there is a financial advantage with the chosen contractor. The new Super C-class vessels are 160 meter vessels that can accommodate 370 vehicles and 1,650 passengers. The first vessel is scheduled to be delivered in December 2007. See "BC Ferries' board approves $325 million in contracts," Canada NewsWire, 9/17/04.

The British Columbia Shipyard General Workers' Federation stated on Thursday that BC Ferry Services broke the law when it cut a local firm in the first stage in a bidding process to build three new ships. Union leaders are threatening to sue if the company doesn't reconsider. There is some speculation that the Washington Marine Group, which has shipyards in Vancouver and Victoria, was eliminated early because of an earlier contract for fast ferries, which did not go well. The fast ferries cost over twice as much as predicted, never worked properly, and were finally sold for a fraction of their cost. Still, if the new ships are built off shore, BC Ferry Services will have to pay a significant amount in import duties, as well as import all replacement parts needed over the lifetime of the boats from Europe — which seems to negate cost savings from going overseas. The ferry company has applied to the federal government for an exemption from the duties. See "Shipbuilders' union threatens BC Ferries with lawsuit," Amy Carmichael, Canadian Press at The Province, 9/16/04.

Taiwan closer to arms deal with US: Apparently persuaded in part by US warnings of a growing military threat from China, Taiwan's lawmakers are expected to finally give approval next month to a budget for US weapons purchases. China opposes weapons sales and other support for Taiwan. Joseph Wu, chairman of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, mentioned they don't want "to upset China too much," particularly since the island wants to continue to work with Japan. The deal would include $12.3 billion for eight diesel-electric submarines. Since the US now builds only nuclear-powered submarines, this deal would require an overseas partner. In November 2001, seven companies submitted concept papers to the US Navy for delivering the submarines. Retired Rear Adm. Eric McVadon, the US defense and naval attache in Beijing from 1990 to 1992, has suggested the arms deal will not spark a serious crisis, since China won't want to disrupt their relationship with the US. See "Taiwan Said Set to Buy $15 Billion of U.S. Arms," Jim Wolf, Reuters at Yahoo! News, 9/15/04.

Small pleasure boats slipping over the border: While officials on both sides of the Mexico/US border have increased restrictions on land traffic and commercial sea cargo, small pleasure boats are often able to slip through. Smuggling gangs have started sidestepping major Mexican ports by picking potential migrants up along empty stretches of coastline. Smuggling syndicates work to avoid detection even inside Mexico because they often are moving migrants from other countries. The new trend was highlighted by the August 30 apprehension of the yacht C'est La Vie near Los Angeles Harbor — the largest US maritime smuggling case in years involved 50 undocumented Mexicans. But more often smugglers are using small "throwaway" boats — small vessels with US registration are taken to crowded beaches and ports, where they can blend in with fishermen and boaters. See "Mexico Migrant Smugglers Turning to Sea," Will Weissert, Associated Press, 9/15/04.

South Africa, Norway agree on new Fisheries Plan: Norway and South Africa have cooperated over fishing issues since 1996, and formalized their agreement in 2000. A new four-year Fisheries Plan agreement was just signed, which is designed to continue and intensify the partnership from 2005 through 2009. The new Business Plan will improve employment opportunities in South Africa's local fisheries sector, improve sustainable use of fishing resources in small-scale and subsistence fisheries, and enhance capacity in marine science, fisheries economics and management through training of targeted groups. The overall goal is to provide research, training and coastal community upliftment in the South African marine fisheries industry. See " SA, Norway sign new Fisheries Plan," Business Day, 9/15/04.

Electronic container seals proposed: Speaking at the Maritime Security Expo in New York on Tuesday, Asa Hutchinson — the US Homeland Security Department's undersecretary for border and transportation security — admitted that only about 5% of containers that come ashore are inspected. Since it isn't practical to physically inspect all shipping containers at ports, the department is approaching the problem in different ways, and along the supply chain. For example, the department is working with ports and shippers to get them to adopt standardized ways of packing, moving, and accounting for cargo. Homeland Security is also working with the Treasury Advisory Committee on Commercial Operations to develop ISO-compliant container seals that provide shipping companies and law enforcement with information about the integrity of a container's contents. Still, for an E-seal to be effective, it must have a failure rate of less than 5%, given the volume of containers in the supply chain. See "Port Security May Be Aided By Electronic Container Seals," Larry Greenemeier, Information Week, 9/14/04.

Two more Ghost Fleet ships to be scrapped: Maryland's North American Ship Recycling will receive $2.3 million to dismantle two retired ships from the US Department of Transportation's James River Reserve Fleet in Virginia. The two ships, the Lauderdale and the Mormac Moon, are considered environmentally risky due to their thin hulls and tanks full of waste oils. The Mormac Moon was originally supposed to be scrapped in Texas but now is being sent to Baltimore, due to scheduling and technical obstacles. Another, unnamed vessel will head to Texas in its place. North American Ship Recycling is a subsidiary of Barletta Willis LLC, the Boston-based investment group that won the bid to purchase Bethlehem Steel Sparrows Point Shipyard in November 2003 for $11.3 million. See "2 more in "Ghost Fleet" slated for environmentally safe scrap," Scott Harper, The Virginian-Pilot, 9/14/04.

Monitoring the Great Lakes: In its biennial report on Great Lakes water quality, the International Joint Commission urged the governments of both Canada and the US to step up protection and restoration efforts. Despite improvements in recent decades, the Great Lakes remain a dumping ground for waste. First established in 1978, the international pact was designed to restore and maintain the waters of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem, and to seek reductions in pollution. The US Environmental Protection Agency and its Canadian counterpart, Environment Canada, have formed a committee to consider updates to the agreement, which hasn't been changed in 17 years. Newer challenges include the introduction of invasive species, and the effects of urban sprawl. See "Great Lakes still plagued by pollution," John Flesher, The Associated Press at post-gazett.com, 9/14/04.

Japan launches 49-day hunt for 60 whales: Although the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986 to protect the endangered mammal, a year later it approved restricted hunting for research programs. On Monday, Japanese ships set off to catch 60 whales, in the second hunt authorized by the IWC in Japanese territorial waters. Its only other offshore hunt allowed a 50-whale haul in 2002; another hunt is scheduled to start early next year off Oshika. Annually, Japan kills about 400 minke whales in the Antarctic and 210 whales of different sorts in the northwestern Pacific. These hauls are also authorized by the IWC and are considered research programs. Environmental groups say Japan's research whaling program is a thinly disguised commercial whaling venture; most of the meat from research whales is eventually sold to restaurants to help fund the program. See "Japan launches offshore research hunt for 60 whales in northern waters," Associated Press at myTELUS, 9/13/04.

US Navy's NMCI working well so far: US Navy chief information officer Dave Wennergren said the Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) has proven to be quite durable. Wennergren cited the NMCI's round-the-clock performance during the San Diego area wildfires in 2003, and the fact that during January's MyDoom outbreak, only 20 of 120,000 workstations were affected. The program's critics point out that the system's performance does not match its $8.8 billion price tag, and lead contractor EDS cannot finish the job on time or on budget. So far, more than half of Navy and Marine Corps employees use the network. See "Navy CIO praises NMCI," Frank Tiboni, FCW.com, 9/10/04.

Spain offers help for sunken waste: The Saint Vincent-registered MV Ulla sank earlier this week after sitting in Iskenderun bay since 2000. Under international law, Spain gave up ownership of the cargo — toxic waste from its coal-fired power stations — when it left the Spanish port of Aviles in December 1999. But Spain told Turkish authorities on Wednesday it is ready to help the country dispose of the waste. See "Spain Offers To Aid Turkey Over Sunken Ship's Toxic Cargo," AFP at TurkishPress.com, 9/8/04.

World's largest cruise ship ordered: Royal Caribbean International has confirmed it has ordered a second Ultra Voyager from Aker Yards. Two of these record breaking cruise ships, which are some 15 percent larger than the earlier Voyager-class vessels, will be built at Aker's Kvaerner Masa-Yards Inc. The first Ultra Voyager will be delivered on May 2006; work has already begun. The second ship will be delivered in Spring 2007. The new ships will be 126 feet by 1,112 feet (38.6 meters by 339 meters), and will stand 18 decks high. They will carry 3,600 guests and 1,400 crew members. See "World's largest cruise ship ordered from Aker Yards," Rolleiv Solholm, The Norway Post, 9/8/04.

Sinking of toxic-laden ship raises questions: Turkey's center for maritime disasters has reported the MV Ulla, registered in the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent, sank overnight in Iskenderun bay. The ship was carrying waste ash from coal-fired power stations in Spain, and had been docked in Turkey since 2000 when its original destination — Algeria — refused to take delivery of its cargo. Negotiations with Spain to take back the cargo, carried out under the UN's Basel Convention on the Transport of Hazardous Waste, had been unsuccessful. It is unclear if the vessel is now leaking, but it contains enough toxic material to cause concern; other ships have now been warned to steer clear of the area and locals have been told to keep away from the site. Although an investigation into the matter has just been started, Turkey's Environment Minister Osman Pepe speculated Tuesday that the ship might have been scuttled to prevent it returning to Spain — since the vessel was to start its journey back to Spain in just a few days. See "Official Questions Sabotage As Shipload Of Toxic Waste Sinks Off Turkey," AFP at TurkishPress.com, 9/7/04.

US Navy may buy fewer ships: The US Navy is proposing significant cuts in its shipbuilding program — only four ships would be built in 2006, compared with nine planned for 2005. The plan would also delay production of a new generation of destroyers, delay a planned acceleration in the production of submarines, and push back delivery of a new aircraft carrier. The proposal comes as Pentagon officials consider shifting the military's focus from preparing for large-scale warfare to training more specialized forces for targeted operations. The proposal is also the result of competing priorities within the service, which has had to face the expense of rising health care costs, and maintaining and operating its ships and aircraft. Although the shipyards themselves and their supporters in Congress feel it would be irresponsible of the Navy to undermine the shipbuilding infrastructure with the proposed cuts, industry analysts point out that most shipyards operate at 50 percent capacity. This leaves more than enough ability to accommodate the Navy if it unexpectedly needed to build 30 ships a year. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has not signed off on the proposal, which would also need congressional approval. See "Navy Plans to Buy Fewer Ships," Renae Merle, The Washington Post, 9/7/04.

UK's Swan Hunter shipyard may be safe: Owner Jaap Kroese has pledged that the Swan Hunter shipyard is in no danger of closing. It was reported in May that the yard was facing significant losses from a project to build two transport ships — both ships are more than a year behind schedule, and costs are spiraling. In April Kroese warned he would shut the yard down when the project is completed in 2006, since the yard has no additional orders until 2008, for support ot build two aircraft carriers. But yesterday he changed his story, and pointed out that all UK shipyards are having a hard time with gaps in their order books. However, if reports are true that the yard is in threat of receivership, then Swan Hunter could be in trouble. See "Swan's future is safe," Howard Walker and Ross Smith, The Journal, 9/6/04.

Scottish fishermen land illegal fish: Hit by a range of measures to reduce fishing levels in the North Sea, including decommissioning of boats and quota cuts, many Scottish fishermen have been pushed to the limits to make ends meet. The number of skippers landing illegal catches has doubled in the last year since stringent quotas were enforced by the EU. Conservationists fear this could threaten the recovery of some fish, as many species are already below safe biological limits. Some fishermen are claiming that the complex and rapidly changing EU rules are making them unintentionally land illegal catches, but authorities fear this is an excuse to break the rules. See "More Scots boats land illegal fish," Peter Martell, Scotsman.com, 9/5/04.

Puget Sound's whale watchers may harm them: Puget Sound is home to three orca pods, and is visited by transient orcas, as well. Over the years, the whale-watching fleet has grown from about 25 boats in 1990, to 83 today. The industry is competitive, with all boats trying to guarantee sightings, and as a result the whales are tracked constantly. Although orcas are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the law is vague when it comes to whale watching. Instead, the Whale Watch Operators Association Northwest has put together guidelines, which are not legally binding. Several studies suggest that whale boats don't just bother the orcas, they may threaten their survival by forcing the whales to vocalize more loudly to find their way around, hunt for food, and communicate with each other. One study suggests that the orcas expend as much as 19 percent of their energy when boats are around from stress, and having to compete with the noise. Another study estimates that the resident orcas are wasting up to 5 percent of their energy every year just avoiding noisy boats. Of course, the whales face other problems, as well, including pollution and depleted salmon stocks. See "Threatened by the throngs?," Ian Ith, The Seattle Times, 9/5/04.

Backlog at California ports: California's largest port system is backed up nearly 70 ships deep. Turnaround time for some ships is seven days or more, rather than the usual three to four. The backlog comes from an unanticipated increase in cargo volume, and — depending on your source — a certain amount of mismanagement and misjudgment. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union is scrambling to hire part- time workers. The first group of 3,000 candidates are starting training, and each day from 35 to 50 new workers become available; each new worker must pass drug and alcohol tests, and learn basic safety, the use of ropes, and how to drive tractors on the yard. How useful the new hires will be in helping to clear the congestion and deal with the increasing flow of cargo remains to be seen. See "Backlog at the ports," George Raine, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/3/04.

South Korea won't fire warning shots at North Korean boats: South Korean military will no longer fire warning shots at North Korean boats that are believed to have mistakenly entered South Korean waters. The warning shot policy was changed after a landmark accord reached between the two countries' militaries earlier this year. The new rules stipulate five steps, instead of the previous three, in responding to the North's violations. Both countries have also adopted a standard radio frequency and signaling system for their navies to avoid confusion that could lead to clashes along their sea border. The maritime border between the two Koreas is not clearly marked, and navies from both countries were involved in deadly skirmishes in 1999 and 2002. See "Military Loosens Sea Border Rules Against NK," Yoo Dong-ho, The Korea Times, 9/2/04.

More evidence that sonar affects marine life: About 200 melon-headed whales entered Hanalei Bay on Kauai on July 3. The whales are known to travel in large groups around Hawaii, but they usually stay some 15 miles offshore. The US Navy had six ships northwest of Kauai in operations that involved the tracking of underwater simulations with sonar. But at the time, Navy officials said no sonar had been used before the whales were seen in the bay. Now, however, the Navy has acknowledged that the vessels used their sonar periodically in the 20 hours before the pod of whales unexpectedly came to shore. The Hawaii incident is the third significant one involving sonar and marine mammal strandings near the United States since 2000. The information further validates a collection of evidence, which the Navy dismisses, that sonar presents a danger to marine life. See "Navy admits ships used sonar before whales hit shore," Marc Kaufman, Washington Post at San Francisco Chronicle, 9/1/04.

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