News Archive - January 2005

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Commercial whaling bans studied: Three marine biologists from Arizona State University and Duke University were asked by the International Whaling Commission to determine if an existing sanctuary would adequately protect whales if commercial whale hunting resumed. The scientists received no funding for the study. Their research focused on the Southern Ocean sanctuary, one of several reserves where commercial whaling is banned, although member countries may take animals under scientific permits. Their findings suggest that the current moratorium on commercial whaling enacted in 1986 should be lifted, and replaced by a tightly regulated program that combines hunting and protection. The scientists realize that their study will raise some eyebrows. However, they contend that current regulations allow people to pretend that commercial whaling isn't happening — when in fact countries use scientific permits to do just that. More closely regulated commercial whaling — which includes things like a ban on hunting in breeding grounds — would probably be better for whales in the long run. See "New study recommends end to global moratorium on commercial whaling," Steve Macleod, Canadian Press, 1/31/05.

BAE Systems questions MoD on aircraft carrier program: BAE Systems is pressing the UK Ministry of Defence over the role of the "physical integrator" of the £3 billion contract to construct the two largest warships ever built in Britain. Although the physical integrator contract is only worth about £5 million, BAE is concerned about how the risks will be shared by all involved, and wants to know just how much management control the integrator will have. BAE is concerned that it could be blamed for any problems on the carrier contract simply because it is the leading player, not because it is responsible. The MoD is expected to name the physical integrator soon; many expect it will be Kellogg Brown and Root, a subsidiary of the American defense contractor Halliburton. See "BAE says carriers face MoD 'wreck'," Mark Milner, The Guardian, 1/31/05.

South Korea builds WIG vessels: South Korea's Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MOMAF) has announced their country will be commercializing wing-in-ground-effect (WIG) craft. They plan to build large vessels capable of carrying 200 passengers, and expect to have them available by 2010. WIG vessels look like airplanes, but glide above water. They can travel very fast, are fuel-efficient, and are safer than planes because they fly at lower altitudes. They also have less of a chance of colliding with marine wildlife. So far their high price and difficulty traveling in high tides have kept them from becoming a commercial success, but MOMAF is supporting research into their commercialization. The Korea Ocean Research and Development Institute had a successful test flight of a four passenger WIG craft in 2002. The IMO categorizes WIG ships as sea vessels. See "Korea to Commercialize Flying Boats," Kim Sung-jin, The Korea Times, 1/30/05.

Electric Boat may explore commercial projects: Electric Boat President John Casey told a group of submarine veterans recently that the company has formed a team to investigate commercial possibilities. General Dynamics Electric Boat is known around the world for designing, building and providing life cycle support for submarines for the US Navy. But company officials say it may be time to explore other options. While EB isn't pursuing any opportunities at this point, Mr. Casey suggested the company is more open to discussing opportunities in other industries. Some opportunities may be commercial projects with the Department of Energy, although Casey wouldn't elaborate further. See "Sub builder to explore commercial options,", 1/29/05.

Sonar questioned in whale stranding: Whale strandings are always cause for concern, but when three different species washed ashore on the Outer Banks two weeks ago, red flags were raised. Since the use of active sonar has been shown to make whales run ashore, the US Navy came up as a possible cause. Six Navy surface vessels in the Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group were conducting anti-submarine exercises 240 nautical miles off Oregon Inlet on January 14 and 15. However, Aileen Smith, the natural resources manager for US Fleet Forces Command said that it was highly unlikely that the whales could have been affected by sonar from the ships. No active sonar was used by the vessels within a 50 nautical mile radius of the Oregon Inlet, where the whales were found. The Navy is working with NOAA Fisheries to determine the cause of the strandings, although the investigation could take months. See "Navy's use of sonar questioned in N.C. whale strandings," Catherine Kozak, The Virginian-Pilot at, 1/29/05.

Banned chemical may cause deafness in whales: Yale researchers believe that TBT, a toxic chemical used to prevent barnacles from clinging to ship hulls, may cause deafness in marine mammals. Despite being banned in many countries, TBT is still widely used. The researchers based their theory on a study of guinea pigs, because mammals have similar ear structure. Since many marine mammals use sonar to get around, it's possible that TBT found in the environment could be contributing to whales and dolphins beaching themselves, and hitting ships. Many scientists also believe marine mammals beach themselves for non-chemical reasons, such as the use of navy sonar. See "Whale Deafness Linked To Chemical," Associated Press at CBS News, 1/28/05.

Photograph of the USS San Francisco released: The first pictures of the nuclear submarine USS San Francisco have been released. The boat entered dry dock at the Guam Shipyard January 26. The Navy certified "Big Blue" for the one-time docking of the nuclear submarine so that officials can assess the damage the submarine sustained when it ran aground on January 8. The pictures show extensive damage to the outer hull of the vessel, whose front end was virtually destroyed. The inner hull was not penetrated. Divers cut off the sonar dome because it was "hanging," but otherwise the visible damage occurred in the accident. Machinist Mate 2nd Class Joseph Allen Ashley died of injuries suffered in the accident, and 60 other crew members were injured. See "Navy publishes first photos of damaged sub," Barbara Starr,, 1/27/05.

Exxon Valdez oil spill still causing damage: The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, the federal-state group that administers the 1991 natural resource settlement, held a three day conference to assess Alaska's Prince William Sound and nearby areas. While Exxon Mobil Corp., the successor to Exxon Corp., has argued that the affected areas recovered long ago from the 1989 11-million-gallon oil spill, many scientists feel that parts of the environment are still far from recovery. The oil has stayed in the inter-tidal zone much longer than anticipated. Eight types of sea birds and killer whales still show no signs of recovery, and when otters dig in the beach for food, they are still uncovering oil. Although federal and state governments have until September 2006 to seek further payments from the oil company for damages that could not have been reasonably predicted shortly after the spill, it isn't clear if further litigation will be instigated. See "Valdez spill effects slow to fade," Reuters at swissinfo, 1/27/05.

Craneway collapses at Massachusetts shipyard: A giant craneway collapsed onto a building at the old Fore River Shipyard on Wednesday. Two workers were killed, and at least four were injured, two of them seriously. The collapse is under investigation. Twelve workers were in the building removing asbestos, and the craneway was in the process of being dismantled. The shipyard is just south of Boston. The yard built Navy ships during World War II, but was closed in 1987. See "2 Dead, 2 Hurt in Mass. Craneway Collapse," Greg Sukiennik, Associated Press at The, 1/26/05.

Germany not ready to merge shipyards with France: Last month the French government approved a proposal by Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie to sell a stake in state-owned shipbuilder DCN to allow the company "to play a central role" in both the French and European defense industries. But a confidential report by the German Defense Ministry said a merger of DCN and ThyssenKrupp would be "incompatible with German industry interests." German Economy Minister Wolfgang Clement spoke to reporters at a maritime conference in Bremen, Germany today. When asked if he would support a merger between ThyssenKrupp and shipbuilders elsewhere in Europe, he stated that "any cooperation between privately owned and publicly funded partners would fail." See "Germany's Clement Says France 'Not Ready' for Shipyard Mergers,", 1/25/05.

Spain, Brazil sign the Ballast Water Convention: The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, was adopted in February 2004, and will remain open for signature until the end of May 2005. The convention is designed to prevent the potentially devastating effects of the spread of harmful aquatic organisms carried by ships' ballast water. It will enter into force 12 months after at least thirty States, comprising at least 35% of the word's merchant shipping, sign up. Representatives from Spain and Brazil signed the Convention, both subject to ratification, this past week. See the news release "Ballast Water Convention gains first signatories," International Maritime Organization, 1/25/05.

River erosion is affecting Great Lakes: Lake Huron and Lake Michigan are losing vast amounts of water because of erosion from a decades-old dredging project, according to a new study. The lakes, connected geologically, saw levels drop when a commercial navigation channel was dug at the bottom of the St. Clair River in 1962, boosting the flow south toward Lake Erie. River dredging worsened the problem; some channels were deepened to 60 feet when 30 feet would have sufficed. Rob Nairn, who wrote the report, said "The recent riverbed erosion is unprecedented, even on a geologic time scale." Several environmental organizations said the report illustrates the unintended consequences of dredging, sand mining, shoreline alteration and other activities that change the lake system's natural geography. The International Joint Commission, an agency that advises the Canadian and US governments on Great Lakes policy, has received the report and will investigate the situation. See "Drop in Lake Michigan's level is man-made, report finds," Gary Wisby, Chicago Sun-Times, 1/25/05.

International Smart Gear Competition: Often, conventional fishing gear doesn't allow users to selectively target their catch. As a result, non-target species like sharks, salmon, halibut, marine mammals, sea birds and sea turtles are accidentally caught and sometimes killed. And fishermen waste time and money dealing with damaged gear and inefficient fishing methods. With its International Smart Gear Competition, WWF and its partners hope to reverse the decline of vulnerable species accidentally caught in nets and other fishing gear by awarding a cash prize to the winners, and eventually seeing the inventions succeed in international waters. The competition was created in May 2004; winners will be announced March 9th in Washington, DC. The winning entry will receive assistance to make their idea commercially available. See the press release "Unique Global Fishing Gear Contest Reels in Rivals from around the World," World Wildlife Fund, 1/24/05.

KBR to win 'physical integrator' role for UK super carriers: UK's Ministry of Defence is expected to confirm that the US company Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) has been chosen to manage construction of the largest warships ever built in Britain. KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton, will likely provoke some political controversy. Halliburton has attracted criticism on several fronts, for example when it won a series of contracts to support US military operations and reconstruction efforts in Iraq. MoD insiders said the decision to bring in an outside company to supervise a project that is already attracting concerns over whether it can be delivered on time and on budget is a reflection of the unprecedented scale and complexity of the contract. Ministers will retain a "veto" over major decisions related to the construction contract. This move could guarantee that the Rosyth shipyard will win the job of assembling the ships — KBR had been planning to use the Nigg yard. See "Cheney firm's £40m MoD deal," Brian Brady, Scotland on Sunday at, 1/23/05.

Australia tries to reopen negotiations with East Timor: Negotiations between East Timor and Australia over ownership of oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea collapsed last October, but both governments have expressed hope the project in the Timor Sea can proceed. Unfortunately, Woodside Petroleum Ltd. wanted clarification on the Sunrise liquefied natural gas project by the end of 2004 to capture a 2010 marketing "window" for LNG exports. Australia has extended an invitation to East Timor to return to talks over maritime boundaries. Doug Chester, Australia's chief negotiator in the protracted maritime border dispute, is hopeful the countries can restart negotiations, and said "We will listen to any sensible proposal." See "Australia Open to 'Sensible' Solutions with East Timor," Ian Pemberton, Veronica Brooks of Dow Jones Newswires,, 1/21/05.

US trial denied in cruise compensation case: Malaysian cruise company Star Cruises has ducked a potential US$10 billion payout to victims of a fatal boiler explosion aboard the SS Norway in 2003 after a US court denied the victims and their families a US trial. The decision is expected to dramatically shrink the compensation payable to the injured survivors and the families of the dead crew from billions to tens of thousands of dollars. Eight crew members died and another 18 were injured in the explosion which occurred shortly after the 41 year old ship, belonging to Star Cruises subsidiary Norwegian Cruise Lines, docked at the Miami-Dade port. In this most recent decision, a federal appeals court upheld an earlier Miami federal court ruling that the families of the Filipino cruise ship workers killed and those injured during the May 2003 explosion must resolve their claims in the Philippines. See "Cruise ship workers lose case," Noaki Schwartz, Sun-Sentinel, 1/20/05.

IMO tells US to treat seafarers as partners: During a visit to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) headquarters in London last week by US Homeland Security head Tom Ridge, IMO secretary-general Efthimios Mitropoulos stressed the importance of treating seafarers as partners in the maritime security chain. Mr. Mitropoulos highlighted the need for seafarers to be able to take shore leave after working onboard vessels for long periods. He also highlighted the work carried out by both the IMO and the International Labor Organization (ILO) to produce a new seafarer identity document. Mr. Ridge, on the other hand, argued for the need for authentification and verification of documents relating to individual seafarers, citing concerns over fraudulent documentation. See the news release "IMO Secretary-General Mitropoulos raises seafarer issues with US Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge," IMO, 1/20/05.

North Korea allows South to conduct sea search: The South Korean Coast Guard began an unprecedented search and rescue operation in North Korean waters on Thursday after Pyongyang approved the mission just hours after Seoul made the request. A South Korean cargo vessel with 18 crew members on board was believed to have sunk in bad weather in the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan. The ship is thought to have sunk some 160 nautical miles, or 890 kilometers, northeast of the fortified border dividing the Korean peninsula. Four of the crew members had been picked up by a passing Russian vessel but the remaining 14 were missing. Though still technically at war, the two Koreas have cooperated in dealing with shipwrecks and other civilian disasters in recent years. Inter-Korean ties have cooled since high-level military talks took place last June. See "NK Cooperates in Marine Rescue," Reuben Staines, The Korea Times, 1/20/05.

HMS Sussex find pits salvage teams against archaeologists: In the next few months, the US company Odyssey Marine Exploration will send a salvage vessel to a site off Gibraltar which they believe is the wreck of the HMS Sussex. The 80-gun pride of the Royal Navy sank in a storm in early 1694, with a huge political bribe on board. It will be the deepest salvage operation ever undertaken for a ship of that age, and could prove to be highly lucrative for Odyssey and the British government. But many British archaeologists fear it could signal the start of looting the world's underwater heritage. The case of HMS Sussex has far-reaching implications for every one of the estimated three million wrecks in the world's oceans, and the opposing forces of poorly funded marine archaeologists and rich commercial salvagers. See "Ship wrecks: The bullion dollar question," The Independent, 1/20/05.

Russians seek truth about the Kursk disaster: Relatives of 50 sailors who died in Russia's worst peacetime naval disaster are appealing to the European Court of Human Rights to reopen an investigation. The families are contesting Russian court rulings that have stopped the investigation into the Kursk submarine disaster from being reopened. Military prosecutors closed investigations into the disaster in July 2002, concluding that no sailors could have survived long enough after the explosion to be rescued. But there is evidence that 23 of the 118 crew members were alive more than eight hours after the blast crippled the sub. The relatives do not want financial compensation, but are seeking the truth. See "Kursk appeal in Strasbourg court," BBC News, 1/20/05.

World's largest iceberg may have run aground: The world's largest iceberg appears to have run aground near Antarctica — at least for now. Experts had predicted that 99-mile long iceberg B15A would likely slam into a glacier near the US McMurdo Research Station in Antarctica some time last weekend. But the iceberg appears to have run aground about three miles from the 60-mile long glacier, known as the Drygalski Ice Tongue. B15A has blocked wind and water currents that break up ice floes in McMurdo Sound during the Antarctic summer, causing a build-up of ice behind it. The iceberg and the ice buildup are in the path of ships due to arrive in Antarctica soon with fuel and food for the three scientific stations. The ice blockage also threatens penguin breeding colonies. See "Antarctic Demolition Is Underway," Space Daily, 1/19/05.

Information on Staten Island ferry crash released: Although the US National Transportation Safety Board is still months away from issuing a final report or drawing conclusions about the fatal October 2003 crash of the ferry Andrew J. Barberi, nearly 2,600 pages of investigative files were released to the public yesterday. Information gathered by the agency suggests the board is zeroing in on certification of a mariner's physical fitness, and crowd control during the ferry's dockings as contributing factors in the tragedy that killed 11 people. Some details include the fact that the ferry's captain, Michael Gansas, took the Fifth 99 times while being questioned by safety investigators; and the pilot Richard Smith began lying on his Coast Guard physical exam forms to hide his prescription medication as far back as 1986. See "Crowd control, drugs eyed in feds' inquiry," Bob Port, New York Daily News, 1/19/05.

Newsday has recently been disclosing a number of the interviews released Tuesday, and has been focusing in part on former ferry operations director Patrick Ryan. Many of the papers show that Staten Island ferry personnel were not uniformly familiar with the so-called two-pilot rule, which requires two licensed pilots to be at the ferry boat controls at all times. Prosecutors contend that Ryan's lack of enforcement of the rule, and other safety procedures, caused the crash. See "Report: Ferry drivers vague on 2 pilot rule," Anthony M. Destefano, NY Newsday, 1/18/05.

Loophole plagues Great Lakes invasive species program: The US Coast Guard admitted on January 7 in the Federal Register that its 12-year-old ballast water program to protect the Great Lakes from invasive species omits at least 80 per cent of ocean vessels that enter the St. Lawrence Seaway each season. Ships heavy with cargo have avoided requirements by reporting they have "no ballast on board." In fact, these "NOBOBs" likely harbor live, viable invasive organisms in the residual tons of ballast water and sediments they carry. One new non-native species is introduced into the Great Lakes every eight months. The Coast Guard is now taking the first step to develop a program to address these unregulated vessels, with a public hearing on NOBOBs management strategies to be held on May 9 in Cleveland, Ohio. Many want quicker action. See "Vessel plan to safeguard Great Lakes debated," Carolyn Thompson, Associated Press at Times Union, 1/19/05.

US wants global standards for shipping security: New security standards imposed by the US since the September 11 attacks include requiring shippers to supply authorities with details of US-bound cargoes a full 24 hours before the goods are loaded at a foreign port. According to Keith Thomson, assistant commissioner in the Office of International Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security, Washington is in favor of all nations adopting the 24 hour rule. An initial draft framework containing this and other "best practice" security standards was broadly endorsed by the World Customs Organization last month. A revised draft should be ready for submission to the WCO council in June, and countries could begin signing up as soon as it is approved. See "U.S. pushes for more shipping security," Reuters at CNN Money, 1/18/05.

River towboats largely unregulated in the US: The US Coast Guard has the authority to close rivers in bad weather, but typically leaves it to towboat companies and pilots to decide whether to proceed in rough waters. Pilots frequently make the final decision on going out, but they say they rely more on intuition and instinct than on formal training. On January 9, 20 years' of experience didn't help George "Toby" Zappone avert disaster. He took the 53-year-old towboat Elizabeth M out to try to snare some runaway barges, and ended up losing the vessel and three crew members when it tumbled over the Montgomery Lock and Dam in Industry, Beaver County, Pennsylvania. Another crew member is missing and presumed dead. Another riverboat pilot suggested that Zappone thought he'd lose his job if he lost the barges. The Coast Guard is drafting new guidelines for towboat inspections, but other regulations may be hard to enforce. Changing weather and water conditions make it difficult to come up with meaningful standards. See "Towboat pilots mostly unregulated," Reid R. Frazier, Tribune Review at PittsburghLIVE, 1/17/05.

Irish doctors fear mesothelioma epidemic: There is an incubation period of more than 25 years, from first exposure to asbestos to the first symptoms of asbestosis. Hundreds of Ulster people are still fighting for compensation due to asbestos-related deaths and illness. But leading doctors from Ireland are now warning that mesothelioma, which is increasing rapidly in Ireland, will reach epidemic proportions by 2015. Former Belfast shipyard workers will be worst hit by the disease. People working in the building and construction trades will also be affected. The total cost to European insurers could reach as much as € 50 billion, with Irish and United Kingdom firms being some of the hardest hit. See "Breathtaking scenario," James McDonald, Sunday Life at the Belfast Telegraph, 1/17/05.

More fishing rules changed for safety: Fishing for king and snow crab in the Bering Sea is particularly dangerous, since the crabs are harvested in the winter; even when the weather isn't rough so much ice can build up on boats that they become top-heavy and flip over. In order to make it safer, US federal fishery managers plan to eliminate open derbies by October. The highly competitive derbies encourage fishermen to skip sleep in the race to get crabs. The new rules set individual fishing quotas, which crabbers will be able to buy and sell. Many in the industry believe the switch will not only improve safety but also boost the economics of crabbing by winnowing down the size of the fleet. But the change is highly controversial in some respects, since it also apportions crab deliveries among processing companies. See "Feds to eliminate derbies by Bering Sea crab industry," Associated Press at Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1/16/05.

China calls them bandits: China's Foreign Ministry in Beijing reported Saturday that several Vietnamese armed robbers were shot and several more captured, while they robbed Chinese fishing boats. Earlier reports described the event as being related to a dispute about sea borders, but Chinese papers are currently stressing that Chinese fishing boats, operating on the Chinese side of the Beibu Gulf, were attacked by armed vessels and gunmen. The Chinese spokesman said since the agreements on demarcation and fishery cooperation in the Beibu Gulf between China and Vietnam took effect last June, the overall situation there is stable. However, the armed robberies of Chinese fishing boats have posed serious threats to the life and property safety of Chinese and Vietnamese fishermen. See "Vietnamese sea bandits killed in Beibu Gulf," Xinhua News Agency at China Daily, 1/16/05.

Reviewing the UK shipping tonnage tax: In a bid to arrest the decline of seafaring jobs in Britain, the government introduced a shipping tonnage tax in 2000. Tonnage tax offers ship owners who run UK-based operations or register vessels in the UK the option of being taxed on fleet tonnage, rather than profits. The UK Chamber of Shipping, which represents shipping businesses, campaigned for it, and it was backed by the maritime unions on the understanding that jobs and training would result. The Inland Revenue has just published a review of the plan, and it seems to be helping. The number of UK-owned and registered ships had slumped from more than 1,600 in 1975 to just 253 by 1995. But with the new tonnage tax plan in place, the UK has seen a 250% growth in tonnage in its fleet, and the number of vessels has doubled. However, unions are complaining that ship owners aren't doing enough to provide training, and have demanded the inclusion of a compulsory tonnage tax employment link. See "Taxman waives the rules for British shipping," Mike Gerber, The Observer, 1/16/05.

Old charts cited in fatal sub crash: The undersea mountain into which the nuclear-powered submarine USS San Francisco crashed last Saturday, was not on the older navigation charts used by the Navy, although a satellite image taken in 1999 shows the undersea mountain rising to perhaps within 100 feet below the surface, The New York Times reported today. But the navigation charts provided to the Navy were not updated to show the obstruction, the Defense Department acknowledged, in part because the agency that creates the charts has not had the resources to use the satellite data systematically, according to the Times. One sailor died and 60 others were injured in the accident. See "Damaged sub using dated, flawed charts," UPI at The Washington Times, 1/15/05.

Panama Canal rates to go up: The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has recently proposed to change the system used to determine rates from the Panama canal universal measurement system (PC/UMS) to the industry standard twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU). This change will allow the ACP to better charge for capacity, something it hasn't done since 1937, when it stopped charging for on-deck tonnage. The World Shipping Council (WSC), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), and other shipping industry members agree in theory that the ACP should raise their fees, and have been working with the organization to make the transition easier for everyone. However, the ACP's current proposal represents a 60-65% increase, and shippers fear they won't be able to remain competitive. The ACP board is currently considering the rate increase proposal, along with shippers' input, and will probably decide how to proceed by the end of the month. See "ACP rate proposal draws fire from shippers," Business News Americas, 1/14/05.

Fishing rules made safer for the eastern Georges Bank: Partly in response to the sinking of the scallop boat Northern Edge on December 20 during a severe storm, the US National Marine Fisheries Service has put into place new federal rules and clarifications for cod and flounder fishermen on eastern Georges Bank. The new rules won't penalize these fishermen if they leave fishing grounds early because of bad weather. Although the new rules currently only affect this small group of fishermen, many hail it as the first step toward a permanent change in safety rules for the entire industry. While the cause of the sinking of the Northern Edge may never be known, some think the old penalties could have contributed to the captain staying out in bad weather. Five people died in the accident. See "Fisheries officials take step toward safer rules," Beth Daley, The Boston Globe at, 1/14/05.

Vietnamese fishermen killed in territory dispute: Chinese border guards killed eight Vietnamese fishermen who strayed into Chinese waters during the night of January 9. According to Chinese officials, the eight men were killed in an incident connected to fishing disputes in a litigious maritime zone. The incident took place off the Thanh Hoa coast in the Gulf of Tonkin, about 125 miles (200 kilometers) south of Hanoi. One of the boats returned to port on Tuesday with one dead crew member and three injured, while the other vessel, which set sail with 16 crew, is being held on China's Hainan island. China and Vietnam have several times agreed to speed up implementation of accords to resolve disputed land and sea borders. Both sides say they would conform to the Beibu or Tonkin Gulf demarcation agreement and the fisheries cooperation agreement and have pledged "not to take extreme action or make use of force" on fisheries-related issues. See "Eight Vietnamese fishermen killed by Chinese border guards: official," AFP at Yahoo! News, 1/13/05.

Fisheries 'devastated' by tsunami: Fisheries in many countries affected by last month's Indian Ocean tsunami have been devastated, according to a United Nations assessment. Some countries have lost more than three-quarters of their fishing boats, fishing gear has been destroyed or lost, harbors were damaged, processing plants and cold storage facilities were affected, and many fish farms were completely destroyed. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Fishery Technology Service, the damage in fisheries and aquaculture sectors is worse and more complex than expected. Fishing is a major source of food for local people and an important export commodity in many of the affected countries. In addition, the FAO has reported that in some regions fish supplies in markets have dropped by 90%. See "Fishermen suffered huge material toll from tsunami, UN figures show," United Nations, 1/13/05.

Oil from wrecked Selendang Ayu spreads: Fuel oil from the Selendang Ayu has reached a fishing community 50 miles from the wreckage of the grounded freighter, prompting new concerns about the effect of last month's spill in the Bering Sea. State environmental workers found as many as two dozen clumps of oil — some measuring two feet in diameter — along a quarter-mile stretch of Captain's Bay at the southern end of Dutch Harbor, a community of 4,000 on Unalaska Island. It's the first time the oil has reached such a populated area, and raises questions about other shoreline impacts. Since the oil was reported to the state Wednesday, the agency has been trying to assess the threat to the local water table, area seafood processing plants, and wildlife. The National Transportation Safety Board said its investigation into the grounding could take a year or longer to complete. See "Oil spotted 50 miles from wrecked freighter," Rachel D'Oro, Associated Press at Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1/13/05.

Japan worries about spent nuclear fuel from Russian subs: Russia is taking spent fuel from dismantled nuclear submarines by ship through La Perouse Strait between Japan's Hokkaido Island and Russia's Sakhalin Island. The ship then crosses the Sea of Japan, and docks at the Russian port of Vladivostok, where the fuel is eventually carried by train to reprocessing plants. Japanese nuclear experts fear the Soviet-era ship and its containers are not up to international standards. Even Russian scientists are concerned about possible hazards of transporting such a dangerous cargo by sea, but this is the only route available to get the spent nuclear fuel to the railway network. See "Russian nuclear fuel worries Japan," UPI at The Washington Times, 1/12/05.

Top admiral's e-mails reveal severity of nuclear sub crash: Internal US Navy e-mail messages sent by Rear Admiral Paul F. Sullivan, the commander of submarines in the Pacific, paint a dire picture of the USS San Francisco accident. The New York Times obtained copies of Sullivan's messages as they circulated among Navy officials, and they have been authenticated by the US Navy. One message said the boat was traveling at high speed when it hit what officials now believe was an undersea mountain not on navigation charts. The impact was so great that about 60 of its 137 crew members were injured, and the sailor who died was thrown 20 feet. Initially, the Navy said only 23 crew members were injured. The admiral's e-mail also said an outer hull ripped open at the submarine's nose, causing flooding in a dome with sonar sensors and in four of the craft's ballast tanks. An inner hull, which surrounds the crew's living and work spaces, held firm. See "E-Mail Shows Toll of Crash on Submarine," Christopher Drew, The New York Times, 1/12/05.

Smart shipping containers detect open doors: General Electric has completed commercial field testing for its Tamper Evident Secure Container (TESC), working with Unisys as systems integrator and China International Marine Containers as manufacturer. The container uses both mechanical and electronic measures to detect whether anyone tampers with it after it has been sealed for shipping. Older containers can be retrofitted with the new systems. Current sensors only detect unauthorized access, but the government has requested sensors with other capabilities, such as detecting holes cut in container walls and people within the container. Members of C-TPAT (Custom-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism) using approved containers at secure ports will qualify for expedited processing at US ports. The new containers will add about $50 to the cost of a container and $10 to the cost of shipping a single container. See "GE completes trial of smart shipping containers," Ephraim Schwartz, InfoWorld, 1/11/05.

Trying to reduce air pollution at ports: California port administrators are exploring several ways to lower pollution, such as electrically powering docked ships (called "cold-ironing"), and encouraging the use of cleaner-burning diesel fuel as ships near ports. Each vessel arriving at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles emits as much nitrogen oxide as several thousand cars. A major culprit is that, while docked, ships typically run auxiliary diesel engines to power electrical systems aboard the vessel. The Alternative Marine Power program encourages cold-ironing by giving monetary incentives. But an alternative was presented to the Harbor Commissioners by Advanced Control Technology Inc. Their product — not yet approved by the Air Resources Board — places a hood over a ship's smokestack, diverts the captured exhaust to a tank, and removes pollutants in a two-stage process called "wet scrubbing." The whole system would be mounted aboard a barge, making it mobile. See "Device Could Cut Air Pollution at Long Beach, California Port," Eric Johnson, Press-Telegram at Environmental News Network, 1/11/05.

EU figures reveal the decline of the fishing industry: The EU released new figures today illustrating the decline in the fishing industry, with catches falling by 20% in the 12 years up to 2002. The EU has been experiencing years of declining fish stock, and warnings that certain species may become extinct if catches aren't limited. The number of fishing boats in the EU fell from 103,633 in 1995 to 88,122 in 2003, a 15% drop. The largest falls were registered in Spain, Italy and Britain. There has also been a significant decline for employment in the fishing industry. See "New figures highlight ongoing decline in European Union's fishing industry," AP at myTELUS, 1/11/05.

US submarine ran into a natural underwater mountain: An initial investigation turned up nothing to indicate the USS San Francisco struck anything but a large rock, land or other natural feature as it conducted underwater operations last weekend south of Guam. There were no reports of damage to the submarine's nuclear reactor, and the vessel made its way back to its home port in Guam Monday under its own power. Machinist Mate 2nd Class Joseph Allen Ashley, 24, of Akron, Ohio, died Sunday after suffering major head injuries. At least 23 other sailors suffered injuries including broken bones, cuts and bruises. A thorough investigation is under way. See "Officials: U.S. submarine hit undersea mountain," Mike Mount,, 1/11/05.

Kvaerner Philadelphia Shipyard remains afloat: The Kvaerner Philadelphia Shipyard, which was created four years ago with $429 million in assistance from state, city and federal agencies, has taken initiatives that could result in contracts for 10 new product tanker ships. Norwegian holding company Kvaerner ASA said that it is in the process of beginning work on its fifth ship — also a tanker. To date, the yard has only built container ships; the third ship will be completed this year and the fourth next year. Kvaerner ASA also there is no truth to a Norwegian newspaper report that it needs help to keep the Kvaerner Philadelphia Shipyard afloat. If it can get contracts to build 10 new ships, it will have work secured at the shipyard through 2010. See "Kvaerner starting work on a fifth ship, an oil tanker," Porus P. Cooper, Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/10/05.

Swan Hunter kept out of UK shipyard talks: Although a few weeks ago the UK's Ministry of Defence gave Swan Hunter £84m to plug a hole in its overdue accounts, the shipyard has been left out of talks to form a new strategy for the country's shipbuilding industry. The sector has been struggling for years due to gaps in order books inherent in doing business with the Royal Navy, and yards are hoping to get some assurance on job security. Industry sources say Swans has been left out of talks because of concerns about its financial health; Swan Hunter is good at steel work and making ship modules, but is weak in terms of integration and project management. This means that the warship Lyme Bay, expected to be three years behind schedule when it's finally delivered, could be the last ship to be completely built there. See "Swans left out of key ship talks," Rebekah Ashby, The Journal at icNewcastle, 1/10/05.

Tsunamis end wave of piracy: Historically, the waters around Indonesia have been the scene of widespread piracy, with the number of incidents in the region far surpassing other areas of the world. In 2003, the last year for which complete statistics are available, 151 piracy incidents occurred in the Indonesia area. The port of Banda Aceh had long been identified by maritime security experts as a place prone to piracy attacks. A total of 28 incidents were reported in the adjacent Strait of Malacca in 2003, up from 16 the year before. But statistics from the International Maritime Bureau show that there have been no pirate attacks or armed robberies in the Malacca Strait since the December 26 tsunami disaster. It is unknown if pirates were affected by the tsunami, or if they are lying low to avoid causing more problems in their disaster-struck homeland. See "Industry experts say pirates may have been affected by disaster," T. Selva and Marc Lourdes, thestar online, 1/10/05.

US submariner dies after mishap: A sailor injured aboard the USS San Francisco died on Sunday. Twenty-three other crew members are also being treated for injuries. The nuclear submarine was headed back to its home port in Guam after sustaining severe damage on Saturday. Officials said there was no information on what the submarine struck. The submarine had been conducting submerged operations, and it was headed to Australia for a port visit. The incident is under investigation. There were no reports of damage to the boat's reactor plant, which was operating normally. The extent of the damage won't be known until the vessel arrives at Guam on Monday. See "Sailor dies after US submarine runs aground," AFP at Yahoo! News, 1/9/04.

First ship built using "on-ground build" method: South Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) Co. is set to deliver the world's first vessel constructed on land instead of in a dry dock. The crude oil tanker NS Challenger will be handed over to Russia's Novoship on Saturday. HHI is seeking to acquire global patent rights for the on-ground method, which was developed from technologies used for building offshore structures. The new method is currently less cost-efficient than the traditional dry dock method, but the company predicts costs will come down as building procedures are streamlined. The company developed the new method when its order books started filling up; they currently have a three year backlog, with all nine dry docks fully booked. HHI plans to build 16 more vessels on ground, and deliver them by the end of 2007. See "Hyundai Heavy Industries completes world's first on-ground built vessel," AFP at Tehran Times, 1/8/05.

Britain's shipyard talks continue: Ongoing talks between Britain's warship yards and the Ministry of Defence have taken a new turn. Originally, the plan was to create one alliance between all yards, but it has been decided this would be too unwieldy. Instead, the plan is to restructure the industry to create two separate companies. One will be a submarine building alliance made up of BAE Systems' VSEL yard, Devonport naval dockyard in Plymouth and Rolls-Royce. The other will be a dedicated warship alliance made up of BAE's Clydeside yards, VT Group's Portsmouth yard and Babcock's Rosyth naval dockyard. A major sticking point to the talks has been the yards' insistence on a guaranteed long-term work program. The MoD feels it would be difficult to give such a commitment when there is no certainty that a future government would honor it. See "UK's warship yards plot twin-track merger strategy," Michael Harrison, The Independent, 1/7/05.

Owner of RMS Mulheim fined for littering beaches: The RMS Mulheim was filled with shredded plastic from old cars when it ran aground at Sennen Cove, near Land's End, in March 2003. Although some of the cargo was removed, over 2 tons was left, littering the region's beaches. The ship's owner, Rhein Maas Shipping, has been fined £10,000 by Camborne magistrates, Cornwall, after pleading guilty to breaches of the collision regulations and the International Safety Management Code. Before the incident the ship's chief officer was alone on the bridge of the vessel when he became unconscious, the court heard. Cornwall Wildlife Trust spokesman Ruth Williams says the amount is far too low, since the cargo will remain in the marine environment for decades or longer. See "Shipping Company Fined for Littering Beaches," Chris Court, PA News at, 1/6/05.

Tsunami redrew Asia's maps: Officials at the Maryland-based National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency say that efforts to redraw maps after the tsunami damage will take international cooperation over months, and maybe years. The agency is helping to gather relevant information, warn mariners and begin the time-consuming task of recharting altered coastlines and ports throughout the region. Old shipwrecks and new ones created by the waves will have to be marked on charts, and buoys and other navigational aides will have to be found, repaired or replaced. While the waves may well have pushed sand around, changing the ocean floor, the preceding earthquake may have caused even more changes. Preliminary reports suggest that water depths in parts of the Straits of Malacca are just 100 feet; this could close off parts of what used to be one of the world's busiest shipping channels. See "Cartographers redrawing maps after tsunami," Katherine Pfleger Shrader, Associated Press at Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1/6/05.

World shipbuilding production: In 2004, South Korea won the title of world's largest shipbuilding nation, beating out Japan for the first time. But South Korea is already looking over its shoulder at China, which has embarked on a path toward becoming the world's largest shipbuilder by 2015. The explosion in trade in and out of China has created a worldwide shortage of ships. Hyundai Heavy Industries, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering, and Samsung Heavy Industries, are letting Chinese yards win contracts for low-end tankers and bulk carriers, in order to have an edge over the Chinese. The three major South Korean shipbuilders won almost 90 percent of the more complex and lucrative LNG tanker contracts awarded this year. But China is currently the world's third largest shipbuilding nation, winning 14 percent of worldwide orders in 2004. Japan comes in second with 24 percent. While South Korea is far ahead with 40 percent, China still plans to grow its industry. Two of its yards are already starting to build their own LNG tankers. See "Korea reigns in shipbuilding, for now," James Brooke, The New York Times at International Herald Tribune, 1/5/05.

Chen Xiaojin, general manager of the China State Shipbuilding Corporation, has stated his company will become the world's largest shipbuilder both in terms of production volume, and in terms of shipbuilding science and technology. China Daily's article "Shipbuilding industry advancing" presents a detailed description of China's shipbuilding sector (1/5/05).

A really cold war: Several countries are drooling over the North Pole, one of the only virgin territories left on the planet. Current research on climate change suggest that ice in the Polar Sea could disappear within 50 to 100 years. This would open up the Northwest Passage, cutting thousands of miles off the shipping routes between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and delivering a windfall to any country able to tax its users. It would also open terrain currently closed to fishing, and oil and gas reserves. Diamond finds in Canada's Nunavut have already fired a mining rush. With the area's potential unknown, Denmark, Canada and Russia are among the countries currently trying to lay claim — just in case. Denmark has scientists trying to prove that the land is a natural extension of Greenland. Canada has also started mapping the sea floor, and has taken steps to prove it could defend its territorial claim, if necessary. Moscow has already made a failed attempt to stake its own claim to the Lomonosov Ridge, and thereby to the North Pole. See "Race for the Arctic," The Independent, 1/5/05.

IMO focuses on tsunami damage to maritime infrastructures: IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos is committed to ensuring that ports, navigational aids and other key elements of the maritime infrastructure are in effective working order as soon as possible. This will facilitate the medium and long-term recovery of the areas affected by the tsunami, and will ensure that short-term aid arriving by sea can do so efficiently and in safety. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) will help coordinate support to marine interests, and has already started consultations with organizations such as the World Meteorological Organization, the International Hydrographic Organization, the International Association of Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities, the United Nations Development Programme, the Regional Programme for Marine Pollution Prevention and Management in the East Asian Seas region, and others. See the press release "IMO to help co-ordinate restoration of key maritime infrastructure in tsunami aftermath" from the IMO, 1/5/04.

Pentagon budget cuts still unclear: The Pentagon's proposed budget cuts have been in the news for a week, but opinions still differ on what they actually mean. Some defense industry watchers think few, if any, of the cuts will get through Capitol Hill — lobbyists and several members of Congress have already started to defend pet projects. Others think the proposal signals even larger reductions. The Pentagon isn't expected to release its official budget proposal until February, and the budget is tentative until approved by Congress. On the chopping block for the Navy would be orders for DDX destroyers, Virginia-class nuclear submarines, and an LPD-17 San Antonio-class amphibious ship. The plan also includes retiring the USS John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier, and restructuring missile defense systems. See "Lockheed Fighter Jet, Northrop Ships Face U.S. Budget Cuts,", 1/4/05.

Despite speculation that the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy will be retired, the Navy has not changed a January 19 deadline for bids on its overhaul. Navy spokeswoman Pat Dolan said that while no modifications or changes have been made to the solicitation, the deadline could still be postponed, or terms could be changed up until that date. See "Repairers ready bid for ship even as retirement rumors surface," Allison Connolly, The Virginian-Pilot, 1/4/05.

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