News Archive - February 2006

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More asylum seekers meet their deaths at the hands of smugglers: The United Nations refugee agency has received a report that a smuggler's boat sailing from Somalia forced all of its 137 passengers into deep waters this weekend. 84 people managed to reach shore safely, but 33 have been found dead, and another 30 passengers are missing and feared dead. Many Somalis flee violence in their homeland each year, and about 100 people arrive in Yemen each day during good sailing conditions. But most cross the Gulf of Aden in the hands of smugglers who often beat them or force them overboard while still far from shore. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been working with the authorities in Puntland, in north-eastern Somalia to inform people about the dangers of using smugglers. See United Nations press release "Refugee Smugglers Claim More Lives In Gulf Of Aden" at Scoop, 2/28/06.

Greenpeace to expose illegal fishing: The United Nations estimates around 75% of the world's fisheries have been fished to their limits. Africa's west coast is seen as a target for pirates, since countries in the region have few resources. Conservationists say vessels from foreign nations often decimate stocks that could have been utilized by poor coastal people. Several groups have started a campaign to help save the world's oceans. As part of that campaign, Greenpeace activists are leaving from Cape Town harbor to search for pirate fishing vessels, and document any illegal activities they find. See "'Pirate fishing' hurting poor nations, Greenpeace says," Reuters at, 2/27/06.

Bush administration OKs port deal review: Dubai Ports World has agreed to allow a 45-day review of the national security implications of the company's plans to take control of operations at some US ports, and the Bush administration has also agreed. The move appears to be satisfying demands by many congressional members who had threatened to force a security review if the administration would not conduct one. The Treasury Department will begin the review as soon as the company formally files a request. The same government panel that investigated the deal earlier but found no reason for national-security concerns will reconsider it. See "U.S. agrees to review Arab deal over ports," The Washington Post and The Associated Press, at The Seattle Times, 2/27/06.

APL Panama has been beached since Christmas Day: The container ship APL Panama has been beached about 1 1/2 miles from Ensenada's port since Christmas day. Repeated attempts to move the ship off the beach with tugboats and a barge equipped with powerful hydraulic pullers have failed. An attempt to blow away the sand with an underwater pipe failed when the pipe broke. In another attempt, 200 small holes were drilled into the hull's starboard side near the bow, and then high-pressure air was blown through them to try to disperse the sand. Salvage crews have also been lightening the APL Panama's load. So far, the bow has been moved 50 degrees toward open water, but not far enough to float the ship. Now salvage crews are preparing a new tactic: creating a channel alongside the stranded ship with a specialized dredger vessel, the Francesco di Giorgio. See "Latest plan: A channel along stranded ship," Sandra Dibble,, 2/25/06.

US congressman lobbies to sell submarines to Taiwan: In 2001, the Bush administration offered to sell eight diesel-electric submarines to Taiwan for defense against mainland China's growing naval power. Although Taiwan's president supports the deal, its legislature has rejected it 46 times. US Representative Rob Simmons of Connecticut has started his own campaign to boost Taiwan's interest — and possibly bring home some work for his state's beleaguered submarine builder Electric Boat. Currently, Simmons has suggested breaking the deal into smaller pieces, to make the cost more appealing to Taiwan. See "Deal proposed to revive Taiwan's interest in Connecticut subs," Associated Press at, 2/25/06.

Scientists study sound's effects on marine creatures: Oceanographer Jeff Nystuen of the Applied Physics Laboratory at the University of Washington is one of several scientists studying how sound travels through the ocean. Loud underwater noises, such as US Navy sonar and underwater blasts, have long been blamed by environmentalists for the fatal beaching of whales. Nystuen's listening devices could detect animals before humans engage in loud activities in sensitive areas. So far, Nystuen has found that among higher pitched sounds, rain is the loudest, far louder than passing ships. But among lower-pitched sounds, shipping is the loudest sound, followed by rain. See "Scientists Study Sound, Marine Creatures," Tara Godvin, Associated Press at Las Vegas SUN, 2/24/06.

UN treaty adopts new labor rights for sailors: Seeking to ensure fair globalization, the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) has adopted new standards for the world's 1.2 million merchant sailors, setting out a host of rights to decent working conditions covering health, safety, minimum age and hours of work. The Convention departs significantly from traditional ILO treaties. Among its novel features are its form and structure with legally binding standards accompanied by directions given by guidelines. Its amendment procedures are rapid and, most importantly, it sets out a system for the certification of seafarers' labor conditions. It consolidates and updates 68 existing ILO maritime Conventions and Recommendations adopted since 1920. See the United Nations press release "UN treaty gives sailors' labour rights, global era," at Scoop, 2/24/06.

US Navy may shoot planes out of submarines: Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works is working on the Cormorant, an autonomous aircraft designed to launch out of the Trident missile tubes in some of the US Navy's Ohio-class submarines. These formerly nuke-toting subs have become less useful in a military climate evolved to favor surgical strikes over nuclear stalemates, but the Cormorant could use their now-vacant tubes to provide another unmanned option for spying on or destroying targets near the coast. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is funding tests of some of the Cormorant's unique systems, and will then decide whether to fund a prototype. See "The Navy's swimming spy plane," Bill Sweetman, Popular Science at, 2/24/06.

Australia and whaling: Although Australia believes that whaling is wrong, the country hasn't been standing up to Japan's recent whale hunt. Attorney-General Philip Ruddock "advised" the Federal Court that Japan would view an attempt to enforce Australian law against its vessels in Australian Antarctic waters as a breach of international law. And Australia wants to avoid starting a row with its biggest trade partner and close ally. Conservation Minister Ian Campbell says that Australia's hands are tied because Japan won't recognize its Antarctic claim. But the Humane Society International's chief anti-whaling campaigner, Nicola Beynon, thinks Australia could easily tackle the matter without causing an international incident. See "What a catch," Peter Alford and Matthew Denholm, The Australian, 2/24/06.

US ports are still at risk of terror attack: Many people who are familiar with security operations at US ports point out that the nationality of the companies that manage the terminals is low on the list of things that might make a port more vulnerable to a terrorist attack. Most of the companies that manage US terminals are owned by Asian and European shipping giants, and it isn't clear that Dubai Ports World would be any less capable at guarding the area around their facilities than they. And shifting ownership from Britain's P&O to Dubai Ports World would not affect most arrangements at the terminals in question. One of the real security problems is that there are still ports where security is substandard, and no port can inspect every container. See "Port problems said to dwarf latest fears," Paul Blustein and Walter Pincus, The Washington Post at MSNBC, 2/24/06.

Dubai Ports World has offered to delay part of its $6.8 billion deal to take over significant operations at US ports, apparently after White House aide Karl Rove suggested that President Bush could accept some delay of the deal. The move should give Bush extra time to convince US lawmakers that the deal does not pose a security risk. See "DP World Agrees to Delay Its Takeover of U.S. Port Facilities,", 2/24/06.

Sainsbury's will stop selling endangered fish: Britain's third-biggest supermarket chain, and its biggest fishmonger, will stop selling skate and huss because they are endangered. J Sainsbury is also considering whether to continue selling other threatened fish stocks, such as swordfish, marlin and Dover sole. Sainsbury's is the latest British supermarket to embark on such a sustainable fisheries policy, following similar moves by Marks & Spencer and Waitrose. See "Sainsbury's to stop selling threatened fish species," Mark Tran, Guardian Unlimited, 2/23/06.

US shipyards want to run background checks on employees: A bill has been proposed to give US shipyards the authority to conduct full criminal background checks on employees, subcontractors and visitors. If passed into law, yards that do work on the Navy's nuclear-powered vessels would also have the power to fingerprint workers. Northrop Grumman Newport News recently had two subcontractors falsely represent themselves as US citizens in order to work at the yard. Northrop Grumman currently performs background checks on employees, but those aren't very extensive. The company would like to run more thorough checks on all new workers. See "Bill to give shipyards background check authority," Meghan Hoyer, The Virginian-Pilot at, 2/23/06.

Ocean depths are shark-free: A study has revealed that sharks inhabit less than a third of the world's oceans. The study was carried out by an international team of researchers from more than a dozen countries, including a group from Aberdeen University's Oceanlab. Scientists believe the fish only thrive near the surface of the planet's waters, apparently because there is not enough food at lower levels to allow sharks to survive. The finding represents a blow to researchers who have spent years scouring deep, uncharted waters hoping to find new species. The finding also suggests that sharks may be more vulnerable to over-exploitation than previously thought, since all populations are within reach of human fisheries. See "Oceans Are 70-Percent Shark Free," Science Daily, 2/22/06.

White House had secret agreement with Dubai Ports World: The Associated Press has obtained documents that reveal the Bush administration secretly required Dubai Ports World to cooperate with future investigations before approving its takeover of US port operations. The UAE company agreed to reveal records on demand about "foreign operational direction" of its business at US ports, including details about the design, maintenance and operation of ports and equipment. The administration did not require that the records be kept on US soil, where they would be subject to court orders. It also didn't require that an American citizen be hired to handle requests from the US government — something that is usually attached to US approvals of foreign sales in other industries. The revelations about the negotiated conditions came as the White House acknowledged President Bush was unaware of the pending sale until the deal had already been approved by his administration. See "Arab Co., White House Had Secret Agreement," Ted Bridis, Associated Press at Las Vegas SUN, 2/22/06.

There has been a nationwide wave of protest against the Bush administration's approval of the DP World deal. But some maritime security experts aren't concerned. The world's big ports are protected by security-related conventions and treaties, and Dubai has signed up to two major maritime security laws: the US-led Container Security Initiative and the global International Ship and Port Security code. See "No risk to US from Arab port takeover: experts," Stefano Ambrogi, Reuters, 2/22/06.

'Black box' from Egyptian ferry is recovered: The black box from an Egyptian ferry that sank in the Red Sea leaving some 1,000 people dead was recovered on Tuesday. Two experts from the International Maritime Organisation located the box, and brought it to the surface with the help of a robotic submersible. The black box of the Al-Salam Boccaccio 98 will by analyzed in Britain. The team is hoping that the data recorder, similar to the black box on a plane, will help explain what caused the tragedy. See "Sunken ferry's black box found," The Press Association at, 2/21/06.

US lawmakers criticize ports deal: There is growing concern in the US over a deal that would give control of US ports to an Arab company. Democratic Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (NY) and Robert Menendez (NJ) plan to introduce legislation barring the sale of port operations to foreign governments. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Representative Peter King (R-NY) will announce "emergency legislation" to block the deal. And the Republican governors of New York and Maryland are looking into the legal options available to them to block the UAE company from controlling ports in their states. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) is also against the deal, and plans to introduce legislation to require more time for review. The agreement, which has support from the White House, is currently scheduled to take effect on March 2. The New York Daily News has reported that the UAE-owned company, Dubai Ports World, has at least two ties to the White House. See "'Emergency' Bill Would Suspend UAE Port Deal," Susan Jones,, 2/21/06.

Dubai's royal family is sending a team to the US to try to allay concerns about the emirate's control of US ports. Sultan bin Sulayem, chairman of the state-owned DP World, is heading the team. See "Dubai Sends Team To Visit U.S. to Ease Port Fear,", 2/21/06.

NORAD treaty to include maritime plan: Canada's new Minister of National Defence, Gordon O'Connor, is downplaying the significance of changes to the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD). Although the existing binational agreement on continental air defense will be expanded to include maritime surveillance, O'Connor has dismissed the suggestion that it could lead to US warships patrolling Canadian waters. He told reporters that the agreement will mean "merely a transfer of information." Critics worry that the expanded treaty could inadvertently sweep Canada into the US government's controversial and largely unproven ballistic missile defense program. But O'Connor insists that Parliament would have to approve any Canadian participation. See "Maritime surveillance part of new defence treaty with US: minister," Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press at, 2/20/06.

South Korea intensifies claim to Dokdo islets: Dokdo, a rocky set of islets off Korea's eastern coast, has been the subject of political tension between South Korea and Japan in recent years. Each country claims the islets as their own territory. South Korea is attempting to prove their claim by having people live there, and has built a four-room house and repaired port facilities. A fisherman and his wife moved in on Sunday, and they expect to have a neighbor move in sometime in April. See "Dokdo Hosts First Civilians in a Decade," Kim Tong-hyung, The Korea Times, 2/19/06.

Old ships pose new hazard for Europe: Since the 1970s, much of the ship scrapping industry has moved from Europe to shipyards in developing countries such as India, Bangladesh, China and Pakistan. The French industry group Shipbuilders of France says demolition in Europe, where wage rates are ten times higher than in India, is no longer viable. But sending ships outside of Europe to be scrapped also delegates the problem of disposing of toxic substances such as asbestos, lead-based paint, oil and coolants. The recent fiasco over the French aircraft carrier Clemenceau has highlighted the problem, which will get worse when single-hull oil tankers start getting scrapped. France is looking into creating its own ship scrapping yard. See "Europe ill-equipped to cope with rust-bucket ships," AFP at Yahoo! News, 2/19/06.

Miami firm fights shipping sale to Arab business: Miami company Continental Stevedoring & Terminals has sued to block the takeover of shipping operations at the Port of Miami by a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates. The company is a business partner with Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation, which Dubai Ports World purchased last week. Continental Stevedoring & Terminals said the sale to Dubai was prohibited under its partnership agreement with P&O, and "may endanger the national security of the United States." This is the first US courtroom effort to stop the sale. See "Miami suit would block ports takeover," Ted Bridis, Associated Press at The Seattle Times, 2/19/06.

NOAA calls US Navy on sonar training range: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has challenged the US Navy's plans to build an underwater sonar training range in the Atlantic. In a technical letter to the NAVY, NOAA says the Navy's study doesn't address the probability that its midfrequency sonar would kill whales, or that the endangered right whale makes annual migrations near the proposed testing site. Most problematic is that the Navy had used a measure for allowable noise 100 times higher than the level recommended by the agency. This letter makes little effort to hide significant disagreements between the two organizations. See "NOAA challenges Navy proposal for Atlantic sonar-training range," Marc Kaufman, Washington Post at The Boston Globe, 2/19/06.

Somalia wants US help against illegal fishing: About a month after the US Navy's Fifth Fleet arrested ten alleged pirates attempting to hijack a merchant ship in Somali waters, the Somali transitional government has made a request. Saying the country is grateful for US intervention, the government has asked for help in stopping illegal fishing in Somali territorial waters, as well. Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister Hassan Abshir Farah said, "As Somalia's coastline is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, curbing sea piracy and illegal fishing will not only be beneficial to the Somali people but also to the international community." See "Somali government asks US Navy to extend action against illegal fishermen,", 2/19/06.

More people question foreign control of US ports: Dubai Ports World, already a global player in port operations, acquired a stake in terminal operations in New Orleans, Miami, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Newark on Monday when shareholders approved its takeover of the British firm Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation. Critics fear the deal increases the risk of weapons or terrorists being smuggled into the United States. The takeover was approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US. But a number of lawmakers have questioned the move. Among them is congressman Frank A. LoBiondo of New Jersey, who has proposed to amend federal maritime laws to require facility security officers to be American citizens. So far, the Bush administration is still defending its approval of the sale, and is resisting demands by Congress to reconsider. See "Fear Escalates on Foreign Control of Ports," Ted Bridis, Associated Press at Las Vegas SUN, 2/18/06.

Canada to get tough on illegal fishing: Canada's new Fisheries Minister, Loyola Hearn, has indicated that Canada will take on the responsibility of policing the waters beyond its 200-mile territorial boundary, particularly in areas off Newfoundland that have been overfished for many years. Canada currently can issue citations to boats guilty of overfishing, but these citations carry very little weight. Mr. Hearn says that new actions could include closing Canada's ports to vessels from nations that violate the regulations. The World Wildlife Fund last year criticized Portugal, Spain, Russia and Canada for fishing at levels that made the recovery of stocks impossible, so Mr. Hearn has some backers. But his more aggressive approach is bound to have its critics. See "Tories to get tough on fish turf," John Ivison, National Post, 2/17/06.

Shipping accidents off the Chinese coast leave 61 missing: Two ships were apparently driven against the rocky coast of eastern China in rough seas. First, a Chinese fishing boat with 27 people on board sank there; three sailors were rescued but the others are still missing. Only hours later, a Panamanian freighter sank there, leaving rescuers looking for 37 crew members. A Chinese official said the ship was carrying a cargo of seafood to Indonesia, but he didn't know the ship's name or the nationality of its crew. Typhoons and other rough weather conditions frequently lash Pingtan, an island just off the Fujian coast about 370 miles south of Shanghai. See "61 missing as ships sink off China," The Press Association, 2/17/06.

Satellite photos show China's nuclear forces: Commercial satellite photos obtained by the nonprofit groups Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Federation of American Scientists are now being made public. The photos first appeared Friday in the winter edition of the quarterly newsletter Imaging Notes. The photographs are sharp enough to identify objects on the ground about 3 feet in size. Such digital images were once the exclusive domain of US technical intelligence agencies, but in recent years commercial companies have deployed equally capable space-based cameras. Along with pictures of underground military facilities, strategic bombers, aerial refueling tankers, and other aircraft, is the first view of a secret underwater submarine tunnel. The photographs, taken from 2000 to 2004, show China's Xia-class ballistic missile submarine docked at the Jianggezhuang base, located on the Yellow Sea in Shandong province. See "Commercial photos show Chinese nuke buildup," Bill Gertz, The Washington Times, 2/16/06.

Indian workers protest the departure of the Clemenceau: The decision by French President Jacques Chirac to stop the decommissioned aircraft carrier Clemenceau being broken up in the shipyards of Alang on India's west coast marks a victory for environmentalists. But shipyard workers wanted the job, and are planning days of protests and hunger strikes. Girish Luthra, whose company Gujarat Enviro Protection and Infrastructure was due to remove the toxic materials from the Clemenceau, said this ship could have given jobs to 300 to 400 workers. And it could have spelled the beginning of an upswing in an industry that has lost work to Bangladesh, China and Pakistan. See "Indian workers plan protests after French warship decision," AFP at Khaleej Times Online, 2/16/06.

Politicians fight over the risks of drilling off Florida's coast: The US Interior Department has proposed allowing drilling in an area about 100 miles off Florida's western coast in the Gulf of Mexico. There is similar Senate legislation to permit oil and gas exploration. The area, know as Lease Sale 181, was shut to drilling after Florida officials complained that an oil spill or other exploration accident could foul beaches and hurt the state's multi-billion-dollar tourism industry. But a top Interior Department official has pointed out that new drilling technology makes it possible to control the environmental risks. Johnnie Burton also noted there were no major oil spills last year, even though hurricanes Katrina and Rita damaged many production platforms and underwater pipelines. Florida senators are fighting the plan. See "Fla. Senators Fight Gulf Drilling Plan," H. Josef Herbert, Associated Press at Las Vegas SUN, 2/16/06.

Asbestos in the SS Norway causes scrapping problems: The fate of the SS Norway has been the subject of speculation since May when it was towed from a German port where it was consigned after a 2003 boiler explosion. Rumors had been circulating for months in shipping and marine circles that the vessel was to be sold to an Asian ship-breaking company. And Haji Lokman Hossain, a Bangladeshi scrap merchant, hopes to win the contract. He has has offered to buy the ship for 12 million dollars (US), despite warnings from his government that it will not allow the vessel to be broken up there. French workers who built the ship claim it contains 1,250 tonnes of material that contains asbestos, and the Bangladesh government insists that the toxic material be removed before it enters the country. See "Bangladesh merchant makes offer for asbestos laden ship," AFP at Yahoo! News, 2/15/06.

Repeat of Sea Empress disaster feared: On 15 February 1996 the Sea Empress was holed below the waterline as it entered the Cleddau Estuary in west Wales. Thousands of sea birds were killed and 120 miles of coastline contaminated when oil spilled from the vessel in Britain's only national coastal park. A huge cleanup managed to reopen the beaches within months, but it has taken a lot longer for the fragile foreshore habitat to return to normal. Moreover, a lack of emergency vessels in the Irish Sea, an increase in ship-to-ship oil transfers, and a lack of planning measures are not keeping up with the changing risks from shipping. A study commissioned by environmental group WWF believes the UK's coastline remains vulnerable to another massive oil spill. The report was published on the anniversary of the Sea Empress disaster to highlight the risks of increased shipping traffic. See "Oil disaster 'could happen again'," BBC News, 2/15/06.

French warship ordered home: French president Jacques Chirac has ordered the decommissioned warship Clemenceau to abandon its voyage to an Indian shipbreaking yard and return to France. France's decision is a victory for environmental groups, which had challenged the legality of sending a vessel laden with toxic substances to be scrapped overseas, where worker and environmental safety protections aren't as strong. But India is not as pleased, since the decision could cost thousands of jobs for its shipbreaking industry — both for this ship and future work. See "Chirac decision a "big blow" for Indian industry: shipbreaker," AFP at Yahoo! News, 2/15/06.

French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie had ordered an inquiry into Technopure, the company that stripped asbestos from the warship before it left for India. The defense ministry has admitted it has "trouble tracing" some of the asbestos-contaminated materials officially removed from the ship, and that there was a discrepancy between the amount of asbestos removed, and the weight recorded at the landfill site. Alliot-Marie has also asked the prosecutor to investigate "the disappearance of a number of pieces of equipment from the ship." See "France orders probe into asbestos ship contractor," AFP at Yahoo! News, 2/14/06.

New Zealand fishing council proposes trawling ban: The Seafood Fishing Industry Council, representing the fishing industry, has proposed almost a third of New Zealand's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) be closed to the controversial method of bottom-trawling. The areas are not currently fished, but it is feared that new technology could make them viable. Greenpeace is less excited about the plan, since it isn't clear if the designated area is actually at risk from bottom-trawling. The environmental organization will continue to push for a complete moratorium on bottom-trawling. Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said New Zealand would support a global moratorium on the fishing practice, but only if it had sufficient international backing to make it a practical option. See "NZ to close 30pc of waters to trawling," NZPA at The New Zealand Herald, 2/14/06.

South Korean shipbuilders build hull blocks in China: South Korean shipbuilders are starting to move production of ship's hulls, which are labor-intensive, to China. Because labor is inexpensive in China, it is cost effective to manufacture hull blocks there, and assemble them back in South Korea. Samsung Heavy Industries has been operating Samsung Heavy Industries Ningbo since 1997. The company plans to expand capacity at Ningbo next year, and is searching for another construction site. Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering is building a factory in Yantai. And STX Shipbuilding plans to build a factory for making hull blocks in Shandong province. Global industry leader Hyundai Heavy Industries hasn't unveiled any plans to build hull blocks in China. See "Shipbuilders Go for Chinese Hull Production," The Korea Times, 2/14/06.

Arthur Kill oil spill response: Over 30,000 gallons of crude oil was spilled in the Arthur Kill waterway Monday morning while oil was being transferred from a barge to the Chevron Asphalt Plant. Chevron, the US Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency, and divisions from the states of New York and New Jersey are contributing to cleanup efforts. The cause of the spill, which has stretched to Staten Island, is still under investigation. Cleanup efforts are expected to take several weeks. See "Oil spill cleanup continues in Arthur Kill," Associated Press at, 2/14/06.

French 'asbestos' ship controversy: India's Supreme Court wants detailed information on the decommissioned aircraft carrier Clemenceau before it can be allowed into Indian waters. The court wants the specifications of the ship from when it was built in 1961, and it wants to appoint a group of retired naval officers to examine the ship and its construction. The court must still decide whether the ship can be broken up in India. See "India seeks info about French 'asbestos' ship," AFP at IOL, 2/13/06.

A Paris-based asbestos group has accused the French government of pressuring India to allow the Clemenceau into the country. Michel Parigot, head of the group, and Greenpeace believe the case may end up being settled at a high political level, rather than focusing on health issues or legal decisions. In fact, French President Jacques Chirac and Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie are going to India on Saturday, and many expect the talks to focus on the warship. See "France accused of pressuring India over asbestos warship," AFP at Khaleej Times Online, 2/13/06.

In addition to keeping the aircraft carrier out of Indian waters until Friday, India's Supreme Court has also banned all demonstrations and media coverage of the issue. Apparently the ban was started after the press ran stories about differences of opinion between members of a team of environmental experts, before they had testified to the court. Anyone found writing articles will be held for contempt of court. See "India media ban over 'toxic' ship," BBC News, 2/13/06.

Sounds' effects on marine mammals should be studied: A new report by the Inter-agency Committee on Marine Science and Technology (IACMST) says that the UK government should fund research into the effect of sound on marine mammals. The report identifies 13 cases of strandings by whales and dolphins which appear to be linked to noise events; most cases involve naval vessels. IACMST recommends that noise in the ocean should be mapped, that effects of noise on marine mammals should be studied, and that current regulations to protect the animals should be investigated, and updated where necessary. A controversial proposal would carefully expose the mammals to sound mimicking the noise of sonar, oil drilling and other activities, in order to determine specific effects. See "Research needed on marine sound," Richard Black, BBC News, 2/13/06.

US focuses on maritime surveillance: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recently granted new authority to Navy Admiral Timothy Keating — commander of both Northcom and the US- Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD — to call up aircraft carriers, submarines and other sea craft for maritime operations to deter and disrupt enemies and collect intelligence. This move is in response to fears that terrorists could try to hijack ships and use them to smuggle people and weapons, or turn the vessels into giant floating bombs. Keating reports that high-seas surveillance will soon expand, deploying new fleets of unmanned aerial drones and blimps over oceans. Potential threats are being countered on many levels. Federal agents have already been deployed at 44 ports worldwide. But in the future, even nuclear submarines may be used by homeland defense. See "Anti-terror fight takes to the seas," the first of three parts by Bruce Finley,, 2/12/06.

Dubai wins P&O bid war: Gulf-state backed Dubai Ports World declared victory in a $6.8 billion bidding war for UK ports group P&O after Singaporean rival port operator PSA International withdrew from the field on Friday. Dubai Ports is confident that P&O shareholders will back its bid at a meeting next week, giving it control of P&O ports on six continents. The move would create the world's third-largest ports group. P&O Chairman John Parker said, "The combination of P&O and DP World has compelling strategic logic and will create significant opportunities for both businesses and their employees." See "Dubai firm wins $7bn port deal," Gulf Daily News, 2/11/06.

The Bush administration considers the United Arab Emirates to be an ally in the fight against terrorism since September 11, and is not objecting to sale. But some have pointed out that the UAE was an operational and financial base for the September 11 hijackers. Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat whose New York district includes one of the ports that would be affected, urged careful consideration of the sale. The sale would also affect commercial US port operations in New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia. The US Committee on Foreign Investment reviewed the proposed sale, and had no objection. See "Mideast firm may get role in U.S. ports," Ted, Bridis, Associated Press at Chicago Sun-Times, 2/12/06.

Japan's whale meat is turned into dog food: The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) says that whale meat from Japan's "research" program is so abundant that it's being sold as dog food. Japan has tried to sell the whale meat to schools, but the price keeps falling. Now, the web site is selling the meat as a "healthy and safe natural" dog food. Apparently, demand and sales are soaring. This trend has environmental groups very angry. Mark Simmonds, director of science at WDCS, said "Whaling is a cruel activity and the fact that Japan is killing these amazing animals to produce dog food is shocking." See "Whale meat 'made into dog food'," BBC News, 2/10/06.

Japan tries to sell 'Delicious Whales': Under the guise of a research program, Tokyo plans to kill over 400 more minke whales this year than last year, and more than double the number it hunted a decade ago. The research whale hunt will take several other species of whale, as well. Japan is now killing more of the mammals than its consumers want to eat. Prices are plunging, inventories are bursting, and promoters are struggling to find new ways to get Japanese to eat whale meat. A public relations pamphlet, titled Delicious Whales, insists that "whale numbers are growing." And local governments are promoting whale meat in school lunches. But many Japanese simply don't like the taste of the meat. See "Japan faces whale meat glut after boosting catch; Prices plunging," Hiroko Tabuchi, Canadian Press at, 2/9/06.

US Supreme Court to hear Clean Water Act case: On February 21, 2006, the US Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in cases affecting the Clean Water Act. The petitioners maintain that the 1972 Clean Water Act protects only "traditional navigable" waters (those suitable for use by commercial vessels) and those wetlands and streams that are directly adjacent to those waterways. This position contradicts how the act has been applied for more than 30 years. Many states' water laws are tied to the federal Clean Water Act, and some states rely exclusively on federal law to protect wetlands or to give them the authority to implement specific programs. That means a drastic rollback of the law to cover only traditionally navigable waters could leave most waters unprotected from pollution by any law. See "Upcoming Supreme Court Cases Threaten Scope of Clean Water Act, Groups Say," US Newswire at RedOrbit, 2/9/06.

Classification society questioned about Red Sea ferry: The European Maritime Safety Agency is questioning Rina over its certification of the Al-Salam Boccaccio, which sank last week with the loss of almost 1,000 lives. The ferry has undergone several conversions to boost its capacity to 1,400 passengers. It sank when a fire broke out shortly after setting sail. Rina, the Italian shipping organization that certified the ferry, said that it inspected the seaworthiness of the vessel twice last year. The port authorities of Duba, from where the ship sailed, also said that the vessel had passed safety tests a day before it set sail. The Maritime Safety Agency is on a fact-finding mission and is not accusing Rina at this stage, but it is hoping for tighter maritime safety legislation. See "Italian group quizzed over ferry disaster," Raphael Minder, Financial Times at, 2/9/06.

By most accounts, the Al-Salam Boccaccio sank at about 2 a.m. on Friday. The first vessel to pick up survivors was the Elnora, a ship owned by the same company that owned the doomed ferry. It took about 12 hours for the Elnora to reach survivors. Rescue ships sent out by the Egyptian government arrived sometime after the Elnora. And apparently the ferry's owner didn't notify authorities until hours after the ship was lost. Needless to say, all this raises further questions on the handling of the sinking. See "Officials: Ferry Rescue Delayed 12 Hours," Nadia Abou El-Magd, Associated Press at Las Vegas Sun, 2/8/06.

Despite increased traffic, the Gulf of Finland may be safer from oil spills: The amount of oil flowing through the Gulf of Finland has increased by some 200 percent in less than 10 years. A reminder of the risks came in late January, when a comparatively small oil spill off the Estonian coast caused a 20-mile-long slick that killed at least 5,000 birds in Estonian and Finnish waters. But the December 1999 Erika accident, which spilled 20,000 tons of heavy fuel oil off the coast of Brittany, France, is seen by many as a turning point for the oil industry. The European Union responded by drawing up new safety regulations. Oil companies, realizing that they are vulnerable in case of a major accident, are being more careful about the safety of the ships they use. And in 2004, a mandatory ship reporting system for the Gulf of Finland came into being, operated jointly by the Finnish, Russian and Estonian governments, which has reduced the risk of accidents by as much as 80 percent. See "Free Flow: Plugging up potential for oil spills in Europe," Ivar Ekman, International Herald Tribune, 2/9/06.

India spies on Chinese destroyer: The Indian Navy's reconnaissance aircraft and spy drones have detected, tracked and photographed a new Chinese destroyer and tanker traveling through the Indian Ocean region. The two vessels were spotted by a Tupolev-142M long-range maritime patrol aircraft. Sources said the newly-commissioned Sovremenny class destroyer, built for the People's Liberation Army Navy at Russia's St Petersburg-based North Shipyard, was "picked up" as soon as it entered the Arabian Sea from the Red Sea. The tanker was replenishing or refueling the destroyer at the time. This is the second time in recent months that the Navy has caught the Chinese on the high seas. In December, a TU-142M had photographed two new Chinese submarines near the Cape of Good Hope. See "Indian Navy 'spooks' new Chinese destroyer," Rajat Pandit, The Times of India, 2/9/06.

Polish shipyards are losing skilled workers: Poland's New Szczecin Shipyard lost over a thousand skilled workers to jobs in western Europe last year; the yard had started with 5,500 workers. West European yards have long sought to employ experienced Polish shipyard workers, but the demand has grown since Poland joined the European Union in May 2004 and labor restrictions were lifted in Sweden, the UK and Ireland. Szczecin has had to train inexperienced workers to fill employment gaps. But Poland's unemployment rate is still 17.3%, so European recruitment isn't seen as the country's biggest labor issue. Employers say the biggest cause of labor shortages in skilled trades is a decline in vocational education since Communist times. This has hit other employers hiring specialized craftsmen, as well as shipyards. See "Skills exodus worries Polish employers," Stephan Wagstyl, Financial Times, 2/8/06 (subscription required).

Ferry owner delayed news of sinking: Egypt's presidential spokesman Suleiman Awad said Tuesday the owners of the Red Sea ferry that sank last week did not inform the government of the disaster for nearly six hours. Awad said the government first heard from owner Al Salam Maritime Transport Co. that the ship was in danger at 7 a.m. Friday, and was feared sunk at 7:45 a.m. By most accounts, the Al-Salaam Boccaccio 98 sank no later than 2 a.m., five hours earlier. Other reports say the ship sank at 1 a.m., which would have made the delay in notification at least six hours. The public did not learn of the disaster for several more hours after the government was notified. Questions have also been raised about whether the vessel was seaworthy, with accusations that corrupt government officials had conducted inadequate inspections of the ferry. See "Egyptian government says it didn't learn of ferry sinking for hours," CBC News, 2/7/06.

Court panel divided over toxic ship: India's Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Wastes was asked to prepare a report on whether to allow a decommissioned French warship to be scrapped in India. The report will be reviewed by the Supreme Court, which will make a decision on February 13. But the panel has split into two camps, each of which has submitted its own report to the court. One report had no objection to the ship being scrapped in the western shipyard of Alang as long it was done under strict supervision. The other report says the Clemenceau should not be scrapped in India. See "India panel on toxic waste divided over French ship," Kamil Zaheer, Reuters, 2/7/06.

New shipping rules to benefit maritime labor: Some 1.2 million seafarers could gain better working conditions under new rules that are likely to be adopted this month. The proposed new Maritime Labour Convention, which has support from shipowners, labor unions and more than 80 states, is due for a final reading at a two-week International Labour Organisation conference beginning Tuesday. Countries worldwide would have powers to inspect ships that dock in their ports and seize them if labor conditions aboard are substandard, even if the vessel is flying the flag of a state that has not ratified the new rules, the ILO said. The "bill of rights" is aimed at toughening enforcement of fragmented and sometimes outdated rules, which allow some owners to treat crew poorly by registering vessels in countries with slacker labor standards or checks. See "ILO aims to boost rights for seafarers," Stephanie Nebehay, Reuters, 2/7/06.

Captain refused to help ferry: The captain of a Red Sea ferry has admitted that he steered clear of a doomed ship that sank between Saudi Arabia and Egypt last week, leaving about 1,000 people feared dead, rather than help rescue survivors. He said he did not respond because he feared his own passenger ship, the Saint Catherine, could sink if he turned back in bad weather, which included high waves and fast winds. Captain Salah Gomaa did say he sent out a call for help to other ships in the area. Both the Saint Catherine and the Al Salam 98, which sank, are owned by the Egyptian company El Salam Maritime Transport Co. See "Egypt captain says could not help after ship sank," Reuters, 2/7/06.

Piracy suspects challenge court: Ten alleged pirates captured last month by the United States navy off the coast of Somalia on Monday challenged the jurisdiction of a Kenyan court, which had charged them with piracy. The lawyer of the ten Somalis argued that since the suspects were captured by US sailors in Somali waters aboard an Indian dhow, Kenya had no authority to try the men. He said the suspects should be tried in Somalia itself, or India, where the ship they allegedly commandeered was registered. In any case, the court failed to find an independent interpreter for Monday's proceedings. The court is now expected to set a trial date on Wednesday. The US Navy's Fifth Fleet captured the suspects off Somalia's central eastern coast aboard an Indian dhow whose 16-member crew told US sailors that the gunmen who were using their boat as a "mother ship" to launch attacks on other vessels had hijacked them. See "Kenyan pirates trial delayed,", 2/6/06.

Fire, crew cited in Egyptian ferry disaster: More than 700 people are still unaccounted for from the ferry al-Salam 98, which sank on Thursday night while on its way from Duba to the Egyptian port of Safaga. Accounts from survivors and crew members suggest that the tragedy began when a fire broke out on board. Water used to fight the blaze apparently flooded the car deck, pooled to one side, and caused the ship to list and quickly sink. Surviving passengers have accused the captain and crew of negligence, saying the captain abandoned ship before making sure everyone was safe, and the crew members didn't get them into lifeboats. Still unanswered is why the crew failed to send a distress signal, or evacuate the ship — since there seems to have been plenty of time to organize an evacuation. Egyptian media have also accused the ferry operators of making the ship unsafe by adding extra decks after purchase. See "Crew accused over Egypt ferry disaster," Brian Whitaker and agencies, The Guardian, 2/6/06.

A mob of Egyptians have ransacked the offices of Al-Salam, the owners of the ferry, as anger over the fate of relatives missing after one of the worst maritime disasters in living memory boiled over into violence. Protestors also broke into offices of a tour operator selling ferry tickets, and set fires both inside office and outside in trash cans. Police fired tear gas to drive away the crowd, and firefighters doused the flames. See "Egyptians ransack ferry firm office," Reuters, 2/6/06.

Royal Caribbean orders cruise ship from Aker: Royal Caribbean International has ordered the world's largest and most expensive cruise ship from Europe's largest shipbuilder, Aker Yards ASA. The contract price for the new ship, designated Project Genesis, is 900 million euros (about $1 billion) making it "the most valuable ship ever ordered in the history of commercial shipbuilding," the Oslo-based group said in a statement. The 1,181-foot ship will have a capacity of 5,400 passengers. The newly ordered ship is to be delivered in late 2009 after its construction at one of the group's Finnish yards. See "Aker Yards wins word's biggest cruise ship order," Reuters, 2/6/06.

Total SA to go on trial for Erika oil spill: French oil company Total SA will go on trial in Paris for its suspected role in a 1999 oil spill that blackened large swaths of the coast of western France, judicial officials said Friday. The Maltese-registered Erika, hauling fuel oil owned by a unit of Total, split in two and sank in rough seas in December 1999. The magistrate investigating the case has ordered the company to go on trial but has not yet set a date. The oil company faces charges of pollution and "complicity in endangering people and property." In the document ordering Total to stand trial, Investigating Judge Dominique de Talance said the company disregarded its own safety standards by chartering a 25-year-old ship. See "Owner of Maltese-registered 'Erika' to go on trial," Ruth Davies, MaltaMedia, 2/5/06.

No wrongdoing found in New York boating accident: Sheriff's officials investigating a tour boat capsizing last fall that killed 20 passengers have concluded that neither the vessel's owner nor its captain committed a crime. The Ethan Allen appeared filled to capacity on a calm day when it suddenly tipped over, sending passengers into Lake George. Twenty people died. The Warren County Sheriff's Office looked into whether there was any intentional, reckless, or negligent conduct that amounted to a crime and submitted its findings to prosecutors. They are conducting their own investigation into the accident and could still pursue a case. The National Transportation Safety Board has yet to issue its final report, but has said it is examining modifications to the boat that may have affected its stability. Federal lawsuits have been filed in two states alleging negligence by tour boat company Shoreline Cruises Inc. and Paris, claiming that there should have been another crew member, life vests should have been accessible, the boat was flawed and it was overcrowded. See "No arrests in boat deaths," Kenneth C. Crowe II,, 2/4/06.

al-Salam 98 judged unsafe to operate in European waters: The al-Salam 98, which sank in the Red Sea, has a history of safety issues. One of eight similar vessels operated by Townsend Thoresen, it was the sister ship of the Herald of Free Enterprise, which sank in 1987 off the coast of Belgium. Another sister ship, the al-Salaam 95, sank in the Red Sea in October. European regulations introduced after the Herald of Free Enterprise sinking made it illegal to operate either vessel in Europe. The rules introduced in the late 1990s ensured that "roll-on, roll-off" ferries were redesigned for stability. Andrew Linington of Numast, the British ships' officers union, said that "If a ship is unsafe, it is unsafe wherever it operates." But legislation is not as stringent in developing countries. See "Sister ship of 'Herald of Free Enterprise' had been judged unsafe," Barrie Clement, Independent Online, 2/4/06.

Trust supports Alang's desire to dismantle the Clemenceau: Bhavnagar-based NGO Samvardhan Trust, which works for the environment and human resource development, has said it will hold protests and organize rallies if the French warship Clemenceau is not allowed to be brought to Alang for dismantling. The Trust will hold a seminar for Greenpeace activists to discuss shipbreaking and asbestos handling. The Trust will also hold rallies to spread awareness about the working conditions at Alang, and to prove that the shipbreaking yard is capable of handling asbestos. See "NGO comes to the aid of Alang shipbreakers," Express News Service at Ahmedabad Newsline, 2/4/06.

MIT scientists are tracking fish with sonar: A group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has come up with what they say is a better way of tracking and estimating fish populations, which in turn could change the way fishery regulators manage the resource. The current methods for estimating fish populations have been sharply criticized by the fishing industry as inaccurate. The new sonar method can track large schools of fish under an ocean surface as large as 6,000 square miles. The drawback is that the technique cannot identify species of fish and does not work well tracking bottom dwelling fish because it can be hard to distinguish them from the ocean floor. The new method is scheduled to be tried out this year on Georges Bank, the fertile fishing ground about 60 miles off the coast of Massachusetts. Fishermen are generally wary of fish counting methods, since none have seemed perfect, and they are used by regulators to limit days at sea and catch sizes. See "A new hope to ease fisheries crisis," Beth Daley, The Boston Globe at, 2/3/06.

Egyptian ship with 1,400 aboard sinks in the Red Sea: The Egyptian passenger ferry Al Salam Boccaccio 98 carrying about 1,400 people sank in the Red Sea early Friday during bad weather. Rescue ships and helicopters pulled dozens of survivors and bodies from the water; 263 survivors have been counted so far. Most of the passengers were Egyptian workers returning from their jobs in Saudi Arabia. At least four Saudi and four Egyptian ships were involved in the search effort, arriving about 10 hours after the 35-year-old ferry was believed to have sank. As darkness descended Friday at the site there were fears the death toll could be extremely high. It is believed that the ferry did not have enough lifeboats. It was not immediately clear what caused the ferry to sink. See "Ship with 1,400 sinks in Red Sea,", 2/3/06.

US ocean policies given near-failing grade: Leaders of two expert commissions that spent years examining the nation's ocean policies give the Congress, Bush administration and governors a near-failing grade for not moving quickly enough to address hundreds of their recommendations. The presidential commission chaired by James Watkins, a retired Navy admiral and former energy Secretary, recommended in September 2004 creating a new trust fund, boosting research, improving fisheries management and consolidating federal oversight. It was the first federal review of ocean policy in 35 years. The privately funded Pew Oceans Commission chaired by Leon Panetta, former President Clinton's White House chief of staff, reached many of the same conclusions a year earlier. Now, members of the former commissions have joined forces, saying the government's "D+" effort so far could imperil the oceans' health and abundance if the problems are left untended much longer. See press release "U.S. Gets a D+ on Ocean Policy Reform," Joint Ocean Commission Initiative, 2/3/06.

Tanker runs aground in Alaska, spills fuel: An oil tanker being loaded with fuel broke free of its dock in the Cook Inlet port of Nikiski and ran aground. Officials at the refinery where the 575-foot Seabulk Pride was being loaded said the ship's cargo tanks were not breached, but that an unknown amount of fuel spilled into Cook Inlet southwest of Anchorage. The Seabulk broke free overnight, possibly after being hit by a large piece of ice. There were no reports of injuries. It was not immediately known how long the tanker drifted before running aground onto soft silt. Tug boats are headed to the area to rescue the ship, which refinery officials said came to rest about a half-mile north of the dock. See "Fuel tanker runs aground in Alaska,", 2/2/06.

Stowaway case in South Africa heard: The captain and two crew members of the Bahamas registered ship Mv African Kalahari were accused of throwing seven stowaways into the sea in Durban Harbour. Five survived the ordeal and reported the incident, two Kenyans died. The captain and crew members' written guilty plea to the Durban Regional Court reveals that they looked after the stowaways once they were discovered, and befriended them. The stowaways described deplorable circumstances in their country, and asked not to be handed over to authorities. The captain decided not to hand them over, but the only way of escape was to disembark over the sea-facing side of the ship and swim to the wharf. The captain said, "We did not hear the cries for help of the two who drowned." While initially facing murder charges, only two finally faced charges of culpable homicide and, along with the Polish captain, charges under maritime law of "endangering the life of persons on board a ship." The men have been given suspended sentences and fines. See "Captain describes stowaways' 'escape'," Tania Broughton, The Mercury, 2/1/06.

European Union investigates disposal of the Clemenceau: Brussels is investigating France's decision to send the ageing Clemenceau aircraft carrier to be scrapped in India amid concerns that the move contravenes European Union waste shipment legislation. If Brussels decides that it is unhappy with the French government's reasons for taking the ship to India, it could start legal action against France via the EU's waste shipment legislation. The main debate is over whether the ship constitutes hazardous waste — as claimed by Greenpeace — and so not allowed to be transported abroad under the Basel Convention, or property of a sovereign state — as France argues — and thus exempt from the charter. See "France faces EU sanctions over warship," Financial Times at MSN Money, 2/1/06.

Greenpeace will tackle pirate fishermen: After spending some two months battling Japanese whalers, Greenpeace will now work to expose illegal fishing. Greenpeace expedition leader Shane Rattenbury said activists had succeeded in disrupting the whale hunt, and have helped expose the often "gruesome" deaths the whales face. But now, in a year-long campaign to save the world's oceans, the organization's two ships, Arctic Sunrise and Esperanza, will confront pirate fishing ships off west Africa's coast. This area is seen as a target for pirates, since the region's countries have few resources to protect marine life or enforce regulations at sea. See "Greenpeace shifts focus to pirate fishing," Gordon Bell, Reuters, 2/1/06.

Russia needs another aircraft carrier: Russian Navy chief Admiral Vladimir Masorin has been quoted by Russian news agencies as saying the country will build one or two more aircraft carriers, in addition to the one now in service, the Admiral Kuznetsov. He did not say when this would happen. Funding issues have forced the Navy to abandon some ships, and keep others docked for years, because of shortages of fuel and spare parts. But booming oil prices have helped to pad the Navy's budget. A crucial task will be to preserve the Kuznetsov so seamen and pilots can conduct regular training. On a recent trip into the Atlantic last year, one of the ship's jets slid off the deck and crashed into the sea while trying to land. See "Russian navy chief wants aircraft carriers," Associated Press at The Globe and Mail, 2/1/06.

Estonia investigates oil spill: A thick oil slick has landed on the shores of northwest Estonia. The oil spill was detected over the weekend and has turned out to be more serious than originally thought. Hundreds of birds have already died, and several thousand more birds have been covered in oil, and are also expected to die. According to the Estonian Waterways Department, more than 100 ships passed through the area around the time the oil spill presumably occurred. The source of the spill, about 20 tons, is still being investigated. See "Estonian oil slick could kill up to 5,000 water birds," David Maridste, Reuters, 2/1/06.

Tanker sinks in the English Channel: A tanker carrying phosphoric acid has sunk in the English Channel. The vessel was badly damaged and listing after it collided with a cargo ship around 30 miles northwest of Guernsey early on Tuesday, and sank shortly after midnight. French rescue workers were hoping to tow the vessel to Le Havre, in France, before it went down in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. A one-mile exclusion zone has been set up around the wreckage, with warning signs pointing out the wreckage to other vessels. Twenty-two crew members on board the Ece tanker, which is registered in the Marshall Islands, in the Pacific Ocean, were rescued by British coastguards, the RAF and their French counterparts nearly two hours after they abandoned ship. None were seriously injured in the incident. If it leaks, the phosphoric acid would have a "fleeting and localized lethal effect." Generally, experts are more concerned about the fuel oil carried in the ship's tanks. See "Pollution fears as stricken tanker sinks off France," AFP at Yahoo! News, 2/1/06.

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