News Archive - December 2005

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French aircraft carrier begins final journey: An asbestos-insulated French aircraft carrier will begin the first stage of its controversial final voyage to an Indian breaker’s yard after a court reportedly ordered environmental group Greenpeace to keep clear. Officials said the decommissioned carrier Clemenceau would be taken out of the harbor by several tugs before being towed to Alang in northwestern India, home to the world’s biggest ship-breaking yard. Greepeace and three other environmentalist groups have tried for months to block the transfer on the grounds that Indian shipyard workers are not properly protected from the hazards of working with asbestos, which can cause fatal lung diseases. But environmental group Robin des Bois (Robin Hood) said the French state had taken an important step in carrying out 90 percent of the asbestos decontamination work itself, which it said was a first in European shipping. See "French court okays asbestos warship's transfer to India," AFP at China Daily, 12/31/05.

China's shipbuilding will continue to grow: According to statistics from China Shipbuilding Industry Association, the nation's shipbuilding tonnage is hitting record highs, and is expected to reach 15 million tons in 2006. Despite the rapid growth, China will remain the world's third biggest shipbuilding country, following Japan and South Korea. The Association expects that total shipbuilding capacity in China will exceed 30 million tons by 2010, up from nearly 14 million at present. Foreign shipbuilding giants are interested in penetration into China, but most believe that the country will ban foreign shipbuilding groups from gaining controlling stakes in Chinese shipyards. See "Shipbuilding growth to hit record high," Gong Zhengzheng, China Daily, 12/30/05.

Sub heroes' jobs saved: The rescue team that freed seven men from a trapped Russian submarine have been saved from the axe. Members of the Renfrew-based Rumic UK squad saved the lives of Russian sailors but faced an uncertain future. But they will now work together for at least another two years after Rumic secured an £8 million contract extension. This means the crew will still be able to answer calls for help in any part of the world. See "Scots Sub Heroes See Jobs Rescued," The Daily Record, 12/30/05.

Report released on Andrew J. Barberi case: Brooklyn Federal Judge Edward Korman asked Tony Garoppolo, chief probation officer for the Eastern District, for advice on what punishment the captain of the Andrew J. Barberi and the ferry director should get when they're sentenced on manslaughter charges next month. Garoppolo said a three-month sentence is appropriate for ex-ferry Captain Richard Smith, and former ferry director Patrick Ryan should do six months for failing to enforce a two-pilot rule that could have prevented the crash. But he concluded "the lion's share of culpability" for the ferry crash, which killed 11 people and injured hundreds more, rests with Department of Transportation higher-ups who caused "a dangerous, systemic breakdown in New York City ferry operations." See "Report rips city commish & aide in ferry tragedy," John Marzulli, New York Daily News, 12/30/05.

US steps up inspections on Canadian lobster: The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency inspected every shipment of lobster crossing from St. Stephen, New Brunswick into Calais, Maine, for about five days beginning December 18. They found illegal lobster in almost half of all shipments. The agency, which only recently had the resources to bring in extra inspectors, is trying to ensure Canadian and US fishermen follow the same rules. Violations were found in 31 of 70 shipments, but most of these had 10 or fewer undersized or egg-bearing lobsters. Canadian fish packers pointed out that some violations are inevitable when thousands of tons of lobster are hauled from the water. Canadian fishermen have also complained that the increased inspections have delayed some shipments as long as five hours, which could damage the lobster. See "U.S. inspectors find illegal lobster in almost half of Canadian shipments," James Keller, Canadian Press at, 12/30/05.

India's shipbreaking industry in trouble: India's shipbreaking industry has broken under 50 ships this year, compared to 150 ships in 2004. In response, the government has proposed a relief package to save the industry at the Alang yard. If passed, the package would provide relief to the workers for five years. The proposal might reduce tariffs for scrap, reduce sales tax, and lower customs duty. See "Relief package for Alang ship-breaking," Anil Pathak, The Times of India, 12/29/05.

UN trawling ban could cost Canada: Canadian fishermen rarely practice bottom trawling in the high seas, but they do use the method within the country's exclusive economic zone. Many in the industry are concerned that international efforts to ban bottom trawling will affect domestic practices. Greenpeace International and a coalition of some 50 other environmental groups have been pushing the United Nations to endorse a ban in international waters. Canada is working with Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Portugal to sponsor an alternative resolution that would avoid a ban on bottom trawling. See "Canada to fight UN trawling ban," Dene Moore, Canadian Press at, 12/29/05.

Ship with toxic cargo will be dismantled where it ran aground: The Bermuda-registered CP Valour got stuck in the shallow water off Faial island on December 9; Faial is the westernmost of the nine Azores islands. The Valour was carrying several tons of toxic material. Despite attempts to refloat the vessel, it remains stuck, and the ship will be dismantled in place. Last week a Portuguese air force helicopter lifted about three dozen drums of flammable and toxic material off the vessel, and a support ship pumped a little more than half of the fuel from its tanks before bad weather forced work to be stopped. Authorities have also flown three planeloads of anti-pollution equipment, including floating booms to contain any oil spill, to the location. See "Ship Carrying Toxic Cargo that Ran Aground in Azores To Be Dismantled," Associated Press at Environmental News Network, 12/29/05.

Fishing industry still oil-efficient: Peter Tyedmers of Dalhouse University in Halifax led a study that found that fisheries burned 50 billion liters of fuel to catch 80 million tons of fish in 2000. Tyedmers believes that fishing vessels expend more energy because fish stocks have declined in coastal areas, and the boats have to travel further offshore. Despite the expenditure, fishing is still more efficient than some other animal-protein production systems, such as feedlot beef or aquaculture. See "Fishing industry burns as much oil as Netherlands: study," CBC News, 12/29/05.

China focuses on fish farming: China has an ambitious plan to reverse over-fishing and avoid the depletion of fishery resources. The country plans to cap offshore catch at 12 million tons by 2010, and will use fish farms to provide at least 70% of fish on the market. Funds have been set aside to take 14,000 fishing boats out of operation, and get new jobs for the affected fishermen. In addition to focusing on the development of aquaculture over offshore fishing, the country will continue to impose seasonal bans in all Chinese seas and the Yangtze River. The Fisheries Bureau will also improve rearing methods in fish farms, both by limiting the use of feeder fish as food for larger fish, and improving disease treatment. See "Farms to provide 70 per cent of fish," Zhao Huanxin, China Daily, 12/28/05.

Study to explore separating Great Lakes and Mississippi basin: Because man meddled with nature 105 years ago, two of the world's major water systems — the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins — were joined together. Now a growing number of scientists, advocacy groups and public officials believe that it's time for man to think seriously about separating the two. It may be the best way, they say, to stop the spread of invasive species between the basins. With that in mind, the Alliance for the Great Lakes has launched the first study of what would be a gargantuan undertaking costing billions of dollars. With $125,000 in funding from the Great Lakes Fishery Trust, Great Lakes Fishery Commission and the US-Canada International Joint Commission, the Chicago-based Alliance for the Great Lakes will spend the next year studying the feasibility of permanently separating the two watersheds. See "Groups to study separating Great Lakes, Mississippi basins," Associated Press at The Indianapolis Star, 12/27/05.

Medical care on fishing vessels: Vietnamese immigrant Cuong Dang's death aboard a fishing vessel on the Bering Sea points out some problems with medical care in the fishing industry. Dang died on the trawler Northern Eagle less than three weeks out to sea, from complications related to diabetes. There wasn't adequate medical support on board, and land-based doctors in Seattle linked to the vessel via faulty phone connections. Dang's widow filed two wrongful-death lawsuits, one against Global Medical Systems and the doctors who were serving as medical consultants to the vessel. At first Judge Cheryl Carey dismissed the case, saying that maritime law trumped state malpractice laws. But in May the Court of Appeals reversed her decision, establishing new legal precedent when it ruled that the state's medical-malpractice standards could be applied to maritime cases brought in state court. The ruling establishes that the doctors owed a duty of care to Dang, even if they'd never met or examined him. See "At sea, high pay carries a high risk," Lornet Turnbull, The Seattle Times, 12/27/05.

Greenpeace continues to take on Japanese whalers: A Japanese whaling fleet suspended its work for the second day in stormy conditions Monday as environmental group Greenpeace defended its tactics in disrupting the controversial hunt. The whalers and two Greenpeace ships have been playing cat and mouse in the icy Southern Ocean for almost a week. The environmental group said it had received a statement from Japanese whaling authorities accusing it of breaching maritime safety laws. A Greenpeace spokesperson said the complaint from Japan's of Institute of Cetacean Research was related to a minor collision between a Japanese vessel trying to unload a dead whale and a Greenpeace ship blocking access to the fleet's factory ship. Greenpeace is confident that any breaches of maritime law were not made by their ships. See "Greenpeace defends tactics," Denis Peter, The Australian, 12/26/05.

'Ocean Shipping in the Great Lakes' report released: The Grand Valley State University web site has posted the full report, fact sheet and peer report of "Ocean Shipping in the Great Lakes: Transportation Cost Increases That Would Result from a Cessation of Ocean Vessel Shipping" by Dr. John C. Taylor and Mr. James L. Roach. The data was published on December 6, 2005. Ocean vessels on the Lakes make only a modest contribution (5.9%) to total transportation cost savings for users of the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence System. The study found that the cessation of ocean shipping on the Great Lakes would result in a transportation cost penalty of US$54.9 million per year. The findings are relevant to the growing debate over whether or not ocean ships in the Lakes provide sufficient benefits to society, given the much larger costs of ocean borne invasive species. An expert peer panel made suggestions on how to extend and improve the study, and believed the suggestions would result in a decreased estimated value of ocean shipping on the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence System.

ASRY shipyard workers demand safer conditions: A worker at the Arab Shipbuilding and Repair Yard (Asry) in Bahrain burned to death when a small fire inside an oil tanker apparently went out of control and engulfed him and two others. Venkata Appala Kumar died immediately, one of the two others was discharged from the hospital after first aid treatment, and the other is still critical. Nearly 500 employees, mostly from the Indian states of Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, stayed away from work yesterday, protesting against what they believe are inadequate safety measures and inhuman working conditions. Workers want to know what security measures are in place for them in the case of an accident, and what compensation would be given to their families. Bahrain Tribune learned that as a result of the strike, five of the workers, who allegedly instigated the stoppage of work, had been dismissed and would be sent home. Senior Asry officials said investigations were still going on and "there had been no decision on compensation to be paid to the worker’s family." See "Tools down by Asry workers," Bahrain Tribune, 12/25/05.

Daewoo Shipbuilding wants number 1 spot: South Korea's Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. hopes to become the world's most profitable shipbuilder by 2008. The company is currently number two, behind Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. Their plans are based on world demand for LNG carriers, and their self-developed LNG regasification vessel technology. More than half of Daewoo's sales come from LNG carriers. While overall sales may not beat Hyundai, Daewoo expects to see higher profits from the liquefied natural gas carriers. See "DSME aims to become global No. 1," Kim So-hyun, The Korea Herald, 12/24/05.

Environmentalists don't want French ship to go to India: The groups Ban Asbestos and the National Association for the Defense of Asbestos Victims, or ANDEVA, held meetings on Friday with the office of France's defense minister, Michele Alliot-Marie. The groups hope to stop the transfer of the decommissioned aircraft carrier Clemenceau to India, where it is to be scrapped. The dispute centers on the amount of asbestos that is still present on the ship, even after some insulation has already been removed. The French government says that most of the asbestos has been removed, while Annie Thebaud-Mony, a spokeswoman for Ban Asbestos, says there are "between 140 to 180 tonnes" still left. Many fear that workers in Asian countries are not sufficiently protected from dangerous substances such as asbestos while they dismantle the ships. See "French ecologists seek to stop transfer of mothballed ship to India," AFP at Yahoo! News, 12/24/05.

China's industrial growth puts pressure on water sources: Although Russia's Khabarovsk seems to have escaped the worst of the effects of the benzene spill from China, experts warn the Amur River's real problems are only just starting. For several years, tests of water taken from the Amur riverbed have shown increases in toxic substances; ecologists started worrying about the health of the river back in 1997. A big part of the blame lies on a number of new factories built along Chinese waterways connecting to the Amur. Also to blame is a decade of low rainfall, the drawing down of the water by Russian and Chinese hydroelectric power stations, and the introduction of non-native species from fish farms in China. See "Poison panic ebbs in Russian river," 12/23/05.

Tens of thousands along China's Beijian River were without potable water after a state-owned smelting works last week released excessive amounts of the chemical cadmium, which can cause neurological disorders and cancer. Officials are putting neutralizing chemicals into the water, and lowering dam gates in crucial spots to try to mitigate the problem. The two chemical spills — benzene last month and the cadmium this month — have focused attention on water pollution in a country where millions still lack safe drinking water and most rivers are polluted by industrial waste. See "Thousands without water after China spill," AFP at DAWN, 12/23/05.

Harper vows Arctic protection: The Conservatives, if they're elected in Canada's January 23 election, would work to protect Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic with an enhanced navy, army and air force presence as well as greater underwater and aerial surveillance, party leader Stephen Harper said Thursday. Harper told a news conference a critical piece of the sweeping plan entails building three Canadian-made, armed heavy icebreakers, capable of carrying troops, and stationing them in the area of Iqaluit. A Tory government would build a deep-water docking facility for both civilian and military uses in the same area, he said. He estimated the cost of the icebreakers and docking facility at about $2 billion over nine years. See "Tories want armed ships to patrol Arctic," Norma Greenaway, The Ottawa Citizen at, 12/23/05.

Benzene spill reaches Russian city: A massive toxic spill from China reached Russia's far eastern city of Khabarovsk on Thursday, prompting the region's governor to appeal for calm as residents rely on stockpiled water. The trouble began on November 13, when benzene flooded into the Songhua River after a chemical plant blew up in China's city of Jilin. The Songhua becomes the Amur River in Russia. The benzene slick has been flowing down river for five weeks. For the last week, various communities in Russia have been seeing the toxic water flow by. Authorities estimate it could be at least four days before all of the spill passes through Khabarovsk. However, experts say the effects could last much longer than that. Benzene is heavier than water and there are concerns that it will cling to the riverbed. There are also fears that when the ice melts in the spring, the chemicals will pollute the riverbank. See "Toxic spill from Chinese chemical plant explosion reaches Russian city," myTELUS, 12/22/05.

Hurricane compensation for US shipyards is questioned: The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service has questioned the US Navy's plan to pay Gulf Coast shipbuilders for losses related to Hurricane Katrina. Northrop Grumman's facilities in New Orleans, Louisiana and Pascagoula, Mississippi, were damaged in the hurricane. But the researchers say that the Navy plan may overstate actual costs, and suggests that Northrop Grumman may be able to collect insurance claims for future increased costs related to labor and overhead. If the government pays now, the report says, the company will have little incentive to negotiate with insurers for those payments. But officials from the Navy and Northrop Grumman say there is no overlap. Northrop Grumman spokesman Dan McClain said insurance claims will cover repairs and cleanup at Northrop Grumman-owned facilities, while the federal funds would be used to cover damages to the government-owned equipment as well as additional contract costs caused by the construction delays. Apparently the Pentagon's request also includes funds to repair facilities that are slated to be shut down. See "Navy payments for Katrina loss questioned," Lolita C. Baldor, Associated Press at, 12/21/05.

Ship feared hijacked in the South China Sea: The Singapore-owned chemical tanker Steadfast was carrying vegetable oil worth several million dollars to Singapore when its owner lost contact on December 19. The ship is suspected to have been hijacked by pirates. The vessel went missing in the waters bounded by peninsular Malaysia to the west, and Indonesian and Malaysian parts of Borneo island to the east. Regional marine police and navies are involved in the search. See "Hunt on for hijacked Singaporean ship and crew," AFP at Khaleej Times Online, 12/21/05.

Britain faces scheduling problems with its carriers: UK's Royal Navy could be left seriously under-equipped because a £31bn project to replace its aircraft carriers is behind schedule, MPs have warned. Britain's existing carriers — HMS Illustrious and HMS Ark Royal — are due to be decommissioned by 2013, but the delivery date of the new carriers — HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince Of Wales — has been pushed back to 2012 and 2015. And the overall cost of the two ships is likely to climb from an original budget of £2.8bn to as much as £4.8bn. Added to this, there are fears that an order for 150 new US aircraft to be used aboard the carriers may have to be scrapped. The Pentagon is making cuts and it is feared the new Joint Strike Fighter may never be built. The Defence Select Committee says the Royal Navy could be left using outdated equipment at "substantial extra cost." See "Carrier order 'behind schedule'," BBC News, 12/21/05.

EU fish quotas hit Britain: European Union fisheries ministers opened their annual bartering session on fish quotas Tuesday, balancing the threat of rapidly shrinking stocks of such dinner favorites as cod with the economic challenges facing fishermen. Signs are clear that stocks continue to suffer from overfishing by an EU fleet fighting for survival. As a result, UK fishing fleets will see cuts, although they received some concessions. The European Commission agreed by Thursday to cut the cod catch by 15% in the North Sea, Irish Sea, and off the west coast of Scotland. Herring and whiting catches are also to be cut by 15%, but there will be increases in quotas for North Sea prawns, Irish Sea monkfish, and hake in most fishing grounds. Scientists warn that any catch of dangerously-depleted stocks, such as cod, could be disastrous for future stocks. But the British fishing fleet has been hit by severe cuts in the past. See "Further cuts to UK fishing catch sizes," Fiona Harvey, Andrew Bolger and agencies, Financial Times, 12/21/05.

Hurricanes raise concerns over Gulf of Mexico's oil: About 16 months ago, America's Gulf of Mexico changed from being a sunny place of promise to having a dark future — six massive hurricanes in the past two years have cast a shadow over the Gulf. Most experts believe the storms are part of a cyclical pattern, but some say the storms will grow more intense because of global warming. Whatever the cause, intense storms are expected to visit the area for at least another decade. This puts the backbone of the nation's oil and chemical industries at risk — not to mention tourist destinations, fishing grounds, and some of the world's busiest ports. While some are calling for more oil drilling off the coast to combat rising prices, many worry that the industry won't be safe enough in the toughest of storms. Few oil refineries and other facilities have been built to withstand the most intense storms. See "Monster storms transforming Gulf into a region of worry, fear," Michael Cabbage and Kevin Spear, The Orlando Sentinel at, 12/21/05.

Norway raises whale hunt to two-decade high: Norway will increase its whale hunt to the highest number in more than two decades in 2006. Despite an international moratorium, the country will take 1,052 whales, and will hunt in international waters in the North Atlantic for the first time since the 1980s. The WWF environmental group has condemned the move. Norway believes that whale stocks are growing uncontrollably, while other fish stocks are dwindling, and that seals and minke whales eat twice the amount of fish and krill a year as is caught by fishermen. Fisheries Minister Helga Pedersen said the quota hike is "a step on the road towards an ecosystem-based regulation of the whale hunt." A spokesman for the fisheries ministry said the International Whaling Commission had no powers to punish Norway for increasing whale hunting quotas. See "Oslo ups whale hunt to two-decade high of 1,052," Alister Doyle, Reuters, 12/21/05.

Khabarovsk braces for toxic spill: The nearly 600,000 citizens of Khabarovsk were braced for a freezing Christmas as a poisonous slick from last month's chemical spill in neighboring China approached, causing authorities to shut down main water supplies. Khabarovsk, a bustling international city at Russia's most eastern edge, regularly endures daytime temperatures of -20C (-4 F). Shutting off the mains will close down the centralized plant which pipes out hot water to homes and offices. Officials say the concentration of the spill has dispersed a bit since the November 13 incident. But samples taken from the Amur river, about 235 kilometers (150 miles) southwest of the town, are showing an increase in levels of benzene. The chemicals could reach the city limits as early as Wednesday. See "Chemical Levels Rise in Russian River," Yuras Karmanau, Associated Press at Environmental News Network, 12/20/05.

Canada will protect its Arctic waters: Speaking after the US nuclear submarine USS Charlotte visited the North Pole last month, likely passing through Canadian waters during the journey, Canada's Prime Minister says that Canada will stop US submarines from passing through the country's Arctic waters. Paul Martin offered no specifics, but said Canada will take "necessary measures." The Conservative defense critic, retired general Gordon O'Connor, believes Martin's comments are nothing more than "phoney election rhetoric." And US-Canada relations have become an issue in the election campaign. O'Connor believes a Conservative government will enforce Canada's sovereignty in the North better than a Liberal government. See "Canada will stop U.S. subs: Martin," Alexander Panetta, CP at CNEWS, 12/20/05.

Two ship pollution cases decided: A German container ship, ANL Pioneer, polluted the coast between Cape Woolami and Kilcunda, south of Melbourne, Australia, two years ago when it discharged oil because of faulty ballast water tanks. The ship owner, RSS, has been fined more than $1 million, and shipmaster Erhard Schuschan has been fined $20,000. The penalty is the highest ever handed out in Victoria for a pollution offense. See "Oil spill earns ship owner $1m fine," ABC News Online, 12/20/05.

MSC Ship Management Ltd., a Hong Kong company, agreed to pay a $10.5 million fine and to plead guilty to federal charges of conspiracy, destruction of evidence, and making false statements stemming from the company's failure to properly dispose of waste oil from its ship's engines and machinery. The oil was dumped far away from Boston during several journeys that the MSC Elena made over a five-month period in 2004. US Coast Guard officials say they believe the fine is the largest in the world against a company for intentional polluting from one ship. The Elena case was of particular note because of crew members' and company officials' deception after they had been caught. See "Ship owners admit to releasing sludge," Beth Daley, The Boston Globe, 12/20/05.

Illegal immigrants drown off Mauritania: Officials in the northwestern African country of Mauritania say a wooden boat, carrying people to Spain's Canary Islands in stormy weather, has capsized. Coast guard officials recovered four bodies in Mauritanian waters, including two Senegalese nationals. The two other bodies were not immediately identified, while at least 24 other people were missing and presumed dead. Maritime officials are in Mauritania's economic capital of Nouadhibou to investigate the recent accident, while several survivors are receiving treatment. Illegal immigration from sub-Saharan Africa, through North African countries, on to Europe has been intensifying. See "Boat capsizes off Mauritania; at least 4 dead," Associated Pres at USATODAY, 12/19/05.

Iraqi Navy will take time to defend the country: US Coast Guard Captain Dan McClellan is the commander of a ten-ship security force that is helping to guard Iraqi territorial waters in the Arabian Gulf. He is also participating in a training operation that will see an Iraqi Navy in charge of its own security. This will be a long process, in part because Iraq only has five patrol boats. But Iraqis are currently in charge of security of one of the two oil platforms in the Gulf that provide Iraq with oil. See "Iraqi Navy making strides toward self-sufficiency," Associated Press at MSNBC, 12/19/05.

China builds dam to stop spill, shielding Russian city: China is damming a waterway in its northeast in an effort to reduce the impact of a river-borne toxic spill flowing toward a city in Russia's Far East. The dam is the latest Chinese effort to repair strains with Russia over the slick caused by a November 13 chemical plant explosion that already has disrupted water supplies to millions of people in China. The spill of 100 tons of benzene, nitrobenzene and other toxins was spewed into the Songhua River, which flows into the Heilong. Work began on Friday to dam the waterway, which is carrying the spill toward Russia's Khabarovsk, a city of 48,000 people. The temporary dam will be removed once the spill passes the town; China will pay for both construction and demolition of the dam, and carbon for water filtration. See "China dam aims to stop toxic water," Associated Press at Taipei Times, 12/18/05.

UK's Defence Industrial Strategy sparks comments: Although the UK's Ministry of Defence has just confirmed plans to build two aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy, the Defence Committee is already planning to demand that work must start on the project soon. MPs fear that a prolonged delay could destroy Scotland's shipbuilding industry. The carrier project has been plagued by delays over design and delivery; the MPs fear the longer the uncertainty is allowed to continue, the more damaging the long-term effects on Britain's shipbuilding industry, with Scotland the most vulnerable. The MPs also want to ensure that the carrier work is shared fairly among all UK yards, and that the MoD preserve the flow of work to keep the yards functioning in the meantime. See "Delay to MoD contract 'could sink Scottish shipbuilding,'" Brian Brady,, 12/18/05.

Preservation of skills and industrial capability in Britain was also behind Defence Minister Lord Drayson's comments against a proposed merger between BAE Systems and a major US contractor. Although BAE says a merger isn't a short-term priority, market observers believe the company has come close to deals with Boeing and General Dynamics. Drayson said, "The problem is that over time we have to refresh intellectual property and innovation. It is important that you are doing these things here. If you don't do these things you see a loss of skills and capability. That reduces options for us in terms of our armed forces." See "Minister warns BAE off transatlantic merger," Oliver Morgan, The Observer, 12/18/05.

UK unveils new long-term defense strategy: John Reid, the UK Secretary of State for Defence, has released the Government's Defence Industrial Strategy, a blueprint for the next 15 to 30 years. Described as the biggest shake-up in UK military procurement in the past 50 years, the plan would put an end to building manned fighter aircraft in Britain, reduce the number of surface warship yards, and cut down BAE Systems' Royal Ordnance division. Britain may also buy more helicopters abroad. While the UK will continue to build naval ships, the document suggests the shipbuilding industry will have to consolidate in order to reduce excess capacity and improve cost efficiency. Britain will retain a nuclear submarine capability, but the document is less clear on whether the hulls of Royal Navy warships still need to be built in the UK. Mr. Reid conceded the new strategy would involve "pain" for certain parts of the defense industry. But some defense contractors are pleased that the Government has a plan for the future, which will allow them to provide military capability in a more efficient manner. See "Defence industry jobs at risk after equipment overhaul," Michael Harrison, Independent Online, 12/16/05.

South Korean shipbuilders look for their own LNG technology: To build LNG carriers, most South Korean and foreign shipbuilders currently use a membrane containment system developed by Gaz Transport & Technigaz of France. The royalties can cut into profits for the shipbuilders. For example, South Korean shipbuilders' profit margins come to about 10% of a carrier's price; nearly 5% is paid in royalties. Sources say that South Korea's three largest suipbuilders will have to pay the French company about $1 billion in the future, based on a current order backlog of about 100 LNG carriers. As a result, several South Korean companies are researching creating their own cargo containment systems for LNG carriers. See "High Royalties Erode Shipbuilders' Earnings," The Korea Times, 12/16/05.

US icebreakers need repairs: A report from a panel of the National Academies has brought up concerns about the nation's two largest icebreakers. The Polar Sea and the Polar Star, both built in the 1970's, can smash through ice floes more than six feet thick, but they were designed to last 30 years. The Polar Star will be out of service for repairs until at least next fall. Funds for repairing the ships are scarce, and there are no plans to replace them. These ships conduct defense, research and rescue operations in the Arctic, and open ice-clogged routes to supply US research stations in Antarctica. The report also noted that as the Arctic ice continues to melt, more commercial activity will likely increase the demand on the ships. Some problems stem from the Bush administration's decision — in the 2006 budget — to shift management of the icebreakers from the Coast Guard to the National Science Foundation. The budget provided was about $20 million less than what both organizations say will be needed to maintain the ships. See "Report Says More Money Is Needed to Maintain the Country's Aging Heavy Icebreakers," Andrew C. Revkin, The New York Times, 12/16/05 (registration required).

DCN-Thales deal confirms naval merger trend: The French government on Thursday announced a tie-up between the state-owned shipbuilder DCN and the French electronics company Thales in a sign that consolidation is gaining pace in the European naval sector. French officials said the deal would end "sterile competition" for naval contracts in France and improve exports. Unlike the military aircraft sector, European naval contractors are fragmented into nearly a dozen companies. French officials said the sector needed to consolidate in order to compete with international contractors. A combined DCN-Thales would seek partnerships with the Spanish naval company Navantia as well as Portuguese contractors. Closer ties between European industry players are crucial to Europe's ability to sustain an independent industrial capacity. See "DCN-Thales Deal Advances Consolidation," Laurence Frost, Associated Press at Woodland Daily Democrat, 12/15/05.

Hurricane damage to Gulf Coast fisheries set at $1.2 billion: The US Gulf of Mexico was the source of a fifth of the nation's fish, shrimp and oysters before damage from hurricanes Katrina and Rita. William Hogarth, head of the National Marine Fisheries Service, told a House subcommittee on Thursday that it will take $1.2 billion to restore the area's ruined boats, fishing gear, docks, marinas and other support facilities. So far, there has been no direct federal aid to restore fishing businesses in the area. Unless funding comes from some source, whether federal, state or local, many fear that the fishing towns and their historic waterfronts will be abandoned, and will become attractive real estate targets for condominium and casino developers. See "Officials: Rebuilding Gulf Fishing Costly," John Heilprin, Associated Press at Las Vegas Sun, 12/15/05.

Marine census shows diversity and declines: A massive census of all the fish and other marine life in the world's oceans has reached the halfway point with new evidence of the rich diversity under the sea along with warnings about the alarming decline of many species. Scientists are increasingly recognizing that we can no longer think about the ocean as infinitely vast, infinitely bountiful and infinitely resilient. Instead, there are problems everywhere. But the amount of biological diversity the census has found in the first five years is encouraging. The data likely will change international treaties on fishing rights as researchers find out how fish are distributed in the ocean. For one thing, it will be easier to detect international violations in fisheries. See "Census reveals oceans' secrets," Ian Sample, The Guardian, 12/15/05.

Indonesia needs houses, not boats: Nearly a year after the Indian Ocean tsunami hit the Aceh region on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, hundreds of thousands of victims are stuck in makeshift housing, unable to restart their lives. In the aftermath of the disaster, foreign aid groups and Indonesian government agencies built too many boats (an estimated 40% not seaworthy), and not enough housing. Apart from the hardships of having people still living in tents and temporary wooden barracks, the plethora of boats could lead to overfishing off the Aceh coast. The tsunami devastated Aceh's economy, 70% of which is directly or indirectly dependent on open-water fishing and fish farming. The country's history of corruption has not helped people receive aid. See "On tsunami shores, a foundering recovery," Paul Wiseman, USA TODAY, 12/14/05.

UK announces building program for aircraft carriers: UK Defence Secretary John Reid has announced the outline of the program to build two new aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy. The program is considered a major part of the Government's defense industrial strategy, which will reveal those industries and skills that are considered to be critical to national security. Four shipyards in Cumbria, Glasgow, Fife and Southampton — owned by BAE Systems, Babcock and VT Group — will receive 60 per cent of the shipbuilding work. The Swan Hunter yards on the Tyne will be able to compete for the remainder. BAE Systems has the largest share of work, building two of the four blocks of the ship. It will also be responsible for the overall engineering and design of the carriers and will coordinate final assembly, set to take place at Babcock's yard in Rosyth. See press release "UK Government: New alliance structure decides on shipbuild strategy as future aircraft carrier project moves into next phase," StockHouse USA, 12/14/05.

Reform of fishing subsidies urged: Monique Barbut of the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) spoke in favor of fishing subsidies reform at the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting. She was at the Doha Round of trade talks, which aims for more equitable terms for developing countries. The economic importance of fisheries extends across all developing countries, with more than a billion people relying on fish as their primary source of protein. Unfortunately, three quarters of global marine fisheries are harvested at their maximum rate, or beyond sustainable levels already. And some subsidies actually deplete fish stocks. Worldwide, there are over $15 billion in annual fisheries subsidies. See "UN Expert Urges Reform of Fishing Subsidies," United Nations press release at Scoop, 12/14/05.

Chevron refuses state's oil spill drill: Washington state's Department of Ecology regularly conducts several kinds of oil spill exercises, designed to demonstrate a company's readiness to respond to oil spills. When state officials sprung a surprise drill on Chevron last week, the company refused to participate. The state department spoke to several people in the company, and got several reasons for refusing, even though the company had been warned in September that a surprise drill was coming before the end of the year. At issue is what the state requires of oil companies that carry more than 15 billion gallons of fuel to and from Puget Sound or the Columbia River each year, and how effectively the state can enforce those rules. The Ecology department currently can't force a company to participate in a drill, or even fine them if they refuse to do so. But officials will seek a law to change that. See "Chevron refuses to do oil-spill exercise," Craig Welch, The Seattle Times, 12/14/05.

High costs for fishermen starting out in Alaska: In Petersburg, Alaska, most commercial fishermen are ages 40 through 60, and will be retiring in the next 10 or 15 years. The concern is that there won’t be enough younger fishermen who can afford to take over. More and more Alaska fisheries have been limited to permit holders since the state constitution was changed in 1972 to protect popular species such as salmon from being over fished. But the cost of entry permits and quota shares are staggering for a newcomer. They vary by fishery but range from tens of thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands — and they are rising as the market price of the catch rebounds from a long slump. See "Entry cost for Alaska fishing fleet high," Associated Press at, 12/13/05.

Indonesia, Australia discuss patrolling the Malacca Straits: Each year more than 50,000 ships pass through the Malacca Straits, which is bordered by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. After increasing pirate attacks, Indonesia bowed to international pressure in July and agreed to increase sea and air patrols. Indonesia has now given qualified support to a plan for Australian Navy patrol aircraft to help patrol the Straits. Indonesia would prefer "training assistance or capacity building" to direct foreign involvement in patrols. Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, reflecting diplomatic sensitivities about foreign intervention, said Australian aircraft would fly only with observers from one of the three neighboring countries aboard. See "Indonesia guarded on straits patrol," Rob Taylor, AAP at Australian Financial Review, 12/12/05.

Kenya protects its coastline: After pirates attacked the luxury cruise liner Seabourn Spirit off the coast of Africa, Kenya's Department of Defence spokesman Bogita Ongeri announced his country was taking necessary precautions against piracy by deploying naval ships along the coastline. For example, the cruise ship MV Europa Nassau, carrying 300 tourists, was given tight security to Lamu Island. Two naval ships with more than 50 soldiers on board escorted the ship, and security personnel from regular police patrolled along the jetty and around the island as tourists visited local attractions. See "Military to police coast line to curb piracy," Evelyn Kwamboka, The Standard, 12/11/05.

Pakistan, India revise their 1975 Shipping Protocol: Pakistan and India have ended talks which included a review of the Shipping Protocol of 1975. They have agreed to delete paragraphs 3 and 5 of that Protocol, which restricted lifting of cargo between the two countries by third country vessels, as well as moving of third country cargo by Indian and Pakistani flag vessels from each others' ports. The revised Shipping Protocol will be signed after necessary formalities by the respective governments. The two sides also started discussions over a bilateral Maritime Shipping Agreement, with India providing a draft for consideration by the Pakistani side. Meanwhile, Pakistan's Maritime Security Agency arrested 40 Indian fishermen and seized their seven boats for fishing in Pakistani waters in the Arabian Sea. See "Pakistan, India allow third country ships to lift goods," International News, 12/11/05.

Submarines, the latest status symbol: Submarines are now the ultimate status symbol for the rich. The trend seems to have been started by Paul Allen, co-founder of the Microsoft empire, who recently bought a bright yellow submarine that can take 10 passengers. The craft is docked inside Octopus, Allen's 416 foot vessel, said to be the world's largest yacht. But now two Emirate oil billionaires have reportedly acquired submarines offering pressurized overnight accommodation. Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire, also has a two-man run-around sub, which sits alongside his helicopter on the 340 foot Pelrous. The increase in demand for private subs has led to an entrepreneur preparing to build the world's first submarine cruise ship to provide underwater thrills to the wealthy. The sub-ship Poseidon, the brainchild of Bruce Jones, should be ready for adventurous passengers within three years. See "Submarine war breaks out among super-rich," Lois Rogers, The Times Online, 12/11/05.

China's largest shipbuilder launched in Dalian: A new shipbuilding company has been created by consolidating two state-owned shipyards in China's port city of Dalian. The new firm, based at Dalian Shipyard and Dalian New Shipyard, has been named Dalian Shipbuilding Industry (Group) Co Ltd. The company's shipbuilding capacity is expected to reach 2.66 million deadweight tons next year, increase to 6 million by 2010, and to 8.5 million by 2020. China Shipbuilding Industry Corp is the biggest shareholder of the new company, controlling 75.85 percent. The remaining shares are held by China Construction Bank's branch in Dalian, China Huarong Asset Management Corp and China Orient Asset Management Corp. Analysts said consolidations are badly needed for China's fragmented shipbuilding sector to keep up with South Korean and Japanese rivals. China has more than 700 shipyards currently, and is the third biggest shipbuilding country in the world. See "Merger creates largest shipbuilder," Gong Zhengzheng, China Daily, 12/10/05.

Maritime threats discussed: The Euro-Mediterranean Code of Conduct on Countering Terrorism, agreed by more than 30 world leaders last month in Barcelona, says more must be done to lessen the "serious" risk of a terrorist attack at sea. Maritime security is seen as a weak link, and a security source told the Mirror, "Al-Qaeda has the aim of targeting weak links in the global economy." The warning comes after pirates attacked the luxury cruise liner Seabourn Spirit off the coast of Africa last month with guns and rockets. Security experts fear the raid could inspire terrorists to launch an attack at sea, possibly at Christmas. Experts warn that cruise ships with up to 5,000 passengers could be sunk by a small number of terrorists, and a suicide attack using a small speedboat packed with explosives could take out an oil tanker. The International Maritime Organization will take the issue to the UN Secretary General. See "EXCLUSIVE: CRUISE SHIPS ARE TERROR TARGET," Bob Roberts,, 12/10/05.

Canada's Navy is hit by rising fuel costs: The Halifax Chronicle-Herald reported on Friday that the fuel bill for Canada's Navy has grown by more than a third recently because of spikes in the prices of diesel, propane and other fuels. Based on documents obtained under the Access to Information Act, the article reports that if money is short to pay for fuel, fleet operations and training may be cut. But Lt.-Cmdr John Coppard, from the Maritime Command headquarters in Ottawa, said that it's too early to say there will be cuts. He said the Navy is shifting priorities to find the money, and has no plans to tie up ships to save fuel. See "Navy scrambles to find cash to pay rising fuel costs," CBC News, 12/9/05.

California demands cleaner fuel from ships: A new regulation adopted unanimously by California's Air Resources Board would force foreign and domestic cargo and cruise ships to switch from heavy diesel to lighter, cleaner fuel whenever they are using auxiliary engines within 24 miles of the state's coast. The regulation, which still needs to be finalized, will go into effect January 1, 2007. Another rule passed Thursday curbs emissions from cargo-handling equipment. State officials say air pollution from maritime activity is a growing threat to the health of people who live near ports, because diesel-powered vehicles and engines emit soot and other pollutants. But industry officials have challenged the state's legal authority to regulate shipping so far offshore — especially for foreign ships. See "State Orders Ships to Use Cleaner Fuel," Tim Reiterman, Los Angeles Times, 12/9/05.

France is consolidating its naval industry: In a deal to be announced on December 15, French defense electronics group Thales will take a 25 percent stake in military shipbuilder DCN. Thales is 31 percent owned by the French state, while DCN is 100 percent state-owned. The move is said to be a genuine consolidation of the French naval industry. Thales will settle the deal with cash plus its naval assets — Thales Naval France and its 50 percent stake in Armaris. The accord should be settled in the next four to six months. DCN has also set its sights on the creation of a European shipbuilding giant. See "DCN, Thales agree on tie-up," AFP at, 12/8/05.

One in four Irish Sea cod are caught illegally: The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) believes that Irish Sea fishermen are failing to disclose the true extent of their catches. In a report forwarded to the European Fisheries Commissioner Jose Borg, the ICES says that under-reporting of landings by local trawlers has been going on for some time. This forces scientists to factor in estimates of the extent of misreporting by fishermen in an effort to calculate the true numbers of Irish Sea cod. Fishermen's leaders have denied they are under-reporting catches. But ICES made it clear that under-reporting was not a recent phenomenon, and said that over time, it had become impossible to establish the real stock situation. The European Commission has responded by proposing to reduce the number of days the white fish fleet will be at sea. See "Quarter of Irish sea cod 'illegal'," Martin Cassidy, BBC News, 12/7/05.

New ship feared hijacked off Somalia: An unidentified merchant vessel has been reported hijacked by gunmen in the pirate-infested waters off Somalia. If confirmed, the hijacking would bring to at least five the number of ships in the same area currently in the hands of pirates, and it would be the 33rd attack on ships in and around Somali waters since mid-March. Reports indicated the vessel was taken near the Somali town of Haradere, the base of pirates blamed for the spate of attacks that have prompted warnings to avoid the coast and calls for foreign intervention. See "Pirates hijack ship off Somalia,", 12/7/05.

Canada contemplates custodial fisheries management: Canada's Prime Minister Paul Martin and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper have hinted that they would be ready to take over custodial management over the nose and tail of the Grand Banks if foreign overfishing becomes too prevalent. Critics say the men are flirting with diplomatic disaster, as the two areas are part of the continental shelf that extends just beyond Canada's jurisdiction. If Harper and Martin mean unilaterally taking over management of the fishery in international waters, it would violate at least two international laws ratified by Canada. The move would also be difficult to implement. Both the European Union and the United States have voiced objections to such a move. See "Custodial fisheries management more than Canada could handle: expert," CP at MYTELUS, 12/6/05.

Analysts question US Navy shipbuilding plan: Industry experts have weighed in on the US Navy's desire to expand its fleet, and are generally wary of success. Robert Work, defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, believes the Navy typically is too optimistic in forecasting its budgets and too conservative in estimating ship costs. Both Work and Ronald O'Rourke, who tracks Navy programs at the Congressional Research Service, have noted that the Navy plan doesn't include the cost of refueling nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, or the special equipment to be installed on the littoral combat ships slated for purchase. The proposal also assumes that costs for several programs can be reduced, when in fact shipbuilding costs generally go up. A Congressional analyst who spoke on condition of anonymity said, "The cost estimates on which this plan is based are so unrealistic it's hard to understand." Congress members from shipbuilding states will likely back the proposal. See "Analysts say Navy ship plan faces uncertainties," Dale Eisman, The Virginian-Pilot at, 12/6/05.

Electric Boat to cut jobs: The US Navy has informed submarine builder Electric Boat that future submarine repair work will be directed to publicly operated shipyards. As a result, Electric Boat, a division of General Dynamics, will cut from 1,900 to 2,400 jobs. Most of the jobs will be cut in Connecticut, but between 500 and 600 jobs will be cut from its Rhode Island facility. Navy shipbuilding orders have been slowing, and current projections show the nation's submarine fleet dwindling from the mid-50s to as low as the 30s. Electric Boat has contracts to build nine submarines by 2014. But sub advocates have been pressing the Navy to increase production. If that happens, the shipyard may be able to ramp back up and hire more people. See "Electric Boat to eliminate up to 2,400 jobs," Matt Apuzzo, Associated Press at, 12/6/05.

WFP uses land route for aid: The World Food Programme (WFP) has re-opened a land route to deliver vital humanitarian aid to Somalia after being forced to cancel maritime deliveries by a surge in piracy. For the first time in four years, a convoy of trucks carrying food supplies to displaced Somalis arrived in the nation by road from the port of Mombasa in neighboring Kenya on Sunday, the United Nations agency said in a statement. Fourteen trucks carrying 500 tons of food arrived in Wajid town in Bakol region on Sunday after a 1,200 kilometer drive (about 745 miles) from Mombasa, and through 25 militia checkpoints in Somalia. It is cheaper to deliver food by ship, but a WFP-chartered ship was hijacked earlier this year. The country could be facing its worst cereal harvest in a decade. See "Somali pirates force aid detour," BBC News, 12/5/05.

Brown Ondego, Managing Director of the Kenya Ports Authority, has warned that the rise in piracy along the East African coast could cause heavy congestion at the port of Mombasa. Ship owners have started to steer clear of familiar routes to avoid the pirates. Kenya, Somalia, and other governments in the region are teaming up to try to find a solution to the problem. The international community is also getting involved. See "Congestion to swell at port as piracy increases," Benson Kathuri, The Standard, 12/6/05.

US Navy wants to expand its fleet: The US Navy wants to expand its fleet of ships by more than 10 percent in order to be better prepared for emerging adversaries. The project would increase the 281-ship fleet by 32 vessels, and would cost more than $13 billion a year. This is $3 billion higher than the current annual shipbuilding budget. The Navy fears that current shipbuilding plans wouldn't keep the fleet at a proper size, but their new plan will face obstacles in Congress. Key questions include issues with fast-rising shipbuilding costs, and whether the mix of vessels is the right one to deal with emerging threats. The Navy is planning to squeeze dollars from personnel costs and other non-shipbuilding accounts, as well as ask shipyards to hold down costs on the vessels, even if it means removing certain capabilities. See "U.S. Navy is seeking to expand its fleet," David S. Cloud, The New York Times at International Herald Tribune, 12/5/05.

Cantwell seeks tougher rules for oil tankers in Puget Sound: US Senator Maria Cantwell promised Sunday to introduce legislation significantly toughening federal safety rules for oil tankers operating in Puget Sound, including a requirement that all large tankers be escorted by two tugboats to head off trouble. Currently only one tug is required for many tankers, and oil companies have argued that even that single tug may not be necessary for the new generation of oil tankers with double hulls and other safety improvements. Cantwell said the new measures were necessary because of the economic and ecological importance of the Sound. Cantwell's legislation would not cost federal taxpayers, but would require new infusions of money from the oil industry. An oil industry representative signaled that Cantwell's bill would face a fight. See "Cantwell plan boosts oil-spill precautions," Warren Cornwall, The Seattle Times, 12/5/05.

Japan wants to increase patrols in the East China Sea: Takatoshi Nagasaki, spokesman for Japan's Coast Guard, cites "mounting concerns in the East China Sea area" as the impetus behind a 2006 budget request for new patrol boats and planes. At issue is the gas field in the East China Sea, which both China and Japan claim. The money would pay for 21 new boats and seven new jets, as well as replacements for six boats and four planes, all of which would be tasked to patrol the disputed gas field. Beijing and Tokyo have been sparring for years over the potentially lucrative gas fields in an area where their exclusive economic zones overlap. See "Japan to increase patrols around disputed gas field," AFP at Taipei Times, 12/3/05.

India to expand its Navy: Indian Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash told a news conference on Friday that his country plans to expand its Navy. In addition to building and buying ships and aircraft, the Navy will build ties with countries in the region to expand its blue water reach in the Indian Ocean. Plans include 27 vessels already contracted to state-owned shipbuilders, proposals for 36 additional ships, a project to build its own aircraft carrier, a deal to acquire six French Scorpene submarines, and plans to get 30 long-range helicopters. The Navy is also working on a project that would link up its warships and submarines via satellite. See "India unveils naval blueprint for Indian Ocean Dominance," The News International, 12/3/05.

Inland fish species are also threatened: New research published in December's issue of BioScience finds that overexploitation of the world's fish supply is rapidly threatening biodiversity and balance of the ecosystem. Although many studies have documented over-fishing to be a major cause of the decline of global fisheries, most of the focus has been on oceans. But Kirk Winemiller, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station fish researcher, finds that fish from inland waters are more threatened than those in oceans. Typically, as one inland species is depleted, the next species is targeted. So while the total catch may remain high, biodiversity declines. See "Fishing Inland Waters Putting Pressure On Fish Stocks," SPX at TerraDaily, 12/1/05.

Australia, East Timor settle border dispute: Australia and East Timor have struck agreement on how to carve up lucrative Timor Sea energy reserves worth up to $41 billion. The in-principle agreement brings to a close more than a year of negotiations between the two countries, and will culminate in a signing ceremony next month. Details will not be disclosed until the agreement is signed. The deal broadly is expected to revolve around a deferral for up to 50 years of a decision agreeing on a permanent maritime boundary between the two countries and a 50:50 split of royalties from the sizeable Greater Sunrise energy field. See "E Timor, Australia strike oil deal," BBC News, 12/1/05.

Woodside Petroleum has welcomed the news of the agreement, although recognizes the agreement still needs to be formally signed, and ratified. Woodside has not seen the agreement yet. See "Woodside Welcomes Timor Sea Border Announcement," RIGZONE, 12/01/05.

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