News Archive - September 2006

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US Navy takes another look at sonar use: The US Navy wants to conduct large-scale sonar exercises, but has gotten strong opposition from environmental groups. A federal judge halted major training exercises near Hawaii over concerns the sonar would harm dolphins and whales. According to a notice in the Federal Register published Friday, the Navy wants to identify specific areas along the Atlantic coast and in the Gulf of Mexico where it could conduct sonar exercises, while addressing the potential environmental effects. The process will begin with public meetings in seven different states; the first one is scheduled for October 23. A two-year environmental impact study will also be held, that would look at sonar use beyond the proposed shallow-water training range in North Carolina, to larger swaths of sea. A senior policy analyst at the National Resources Defense Council viewed the new study as a positive step, but said the proof will be in the findings. See "Navy plans to study effects of sonar training on environment," Kate Wiltrout, The Virginian-Pilot at HamptonRoads.com 9/30/06.

Great Lakes gunboats worry Canadians: A plan to arm US Coast Guard boats on the Great Lakes with machine guns has drawn fire from many Canadians. But both countries signed an agreement in 2003 that allows armed boats on the Great Lakes. The measure was put into place "in the wake of the events of September 11, 2001," but such activity is forbidden in Canadian waters. Earlier this year, the US Coast Guard started training exercises on the lakes with live guns attached to several small boats. The practice was temporarily suspended until November after complaints from ordinary Canadians and some politicians, as well as Americans. The US Coast Guard wants to establish 34 permanent zones in the Great Lakes where crew members would be able to practice firing at floating targets. It is part of a broader American campaign to protect its borders from threats such as terrorism. See "Three-year-old agreement allows armed U.S. boats on Great Lakes: officials," James Keller, Canadian Press, The Gazette at Canada.com, 9/29/06.

Wing-in-ground craft production in Russia: Russia is expected to approve a national shipbuilding strategy for the 2008-2015 period in the next year. The strategy will include producing high-speed hovercraft, and wing-in-ground (WIG) craft, for both military and civilian use. However, the production of the WIG craft is extremely costly, and it is not expected to be produced soon. It also isn't clear that WIG craft can be used to carry passengers. This article describes the history of WIG craft production in Russia and the former Soviet Union. See "WIG craft, a new word in aviation," Ria Novosti, 9/29/06.

South Korea to improve its ports: South Korea is planning and testing several technologies to improve its two key ports of Pusan and Kwangyang. The logistics upgrade project is part of a 10-year master plan aimed at improving the country's national resources management. Artificial intelligence is one of the tools that will be used to create these "smart ports." And one of the most expensive projects to be tested is a movable pier, which will be able to move and surround any ship, including super-sized cargo carriers that currently have to wait for openings at specific docks. The hybrid berth will also have a high stacking system, and multi-container cranes, which are fast, and capable of moving up to 100 containers per hour. The high stacking system will be ready for testing by the end of this year, the logistics upgrades are expected to be in place by 2009, and the hybrid-mobile pier will be available after that. See "'Smart Ports' to Improve Korean Shipping System," Park Hyong-ki, The Korea Times, 9/28/06.

Estonia impounds waste ship: A ship whose toxic waste caused the deaths of eight people and illness in thousands more has been impounded in Estonia. Estonian authorities in the Baltic port of Paldiski said that a criminal investigation had been opened to explore the recent actions of the Probo Koala, a Panamanian-registered, Greek-owned oil tanker which discharged more than 500 tons of waste in the Ivorian capital of Abidjan in late August. The waste, suspected to be the residue from oil tanks that had been recently cleaned, killed a reported eight people, including four children in Abidjan. Mounting public anger over the dumping resulted in the resignation of the entire Ivory Coast government earlier this month. Most members were later reappointed, except for the ministers of transport and environment. See "Estonia Holds Ship Linked to Waste Dump," Jari Tanner, Associated Press at ABC News, 9/27/06.

Radioactive materials detected at Yokosuka base: Trace amounts of radioactive materials were detected in seawater in Kanagawa Prefecture where a nuclear-powered US submarine was docked, but officials say there was no danger to people or the environment. It is the first time that radioactive materials have been detected where nuclear vessels have made port calls. The USS Honolulu attack submarine was docked at the Yokosuka Naval Base from September 7 to 14. The ministry is conducting follow-up tests on the seawater samples. US Navy officials were unavailable for comment. See "Japan finds radioactive matter around U.S. ship," Reuters, 9/27/06.

Shark slaughter shock: At least three times as many sharks are killed for their fins as are reported in official figures. Researchers from the University of Hawaii and elsewhere estimate that the numbers of sharks caught around the world are far higher than the figures published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). A research team led by Shelley Clarke collected auction inventories from leading Hong Kong fin markets. About 1.7 million tons of fins are sold globally each year, Clarke estimates, more than quadruple the 0.39 million tons estimated by the FAO. This equates to 73 million sharks per year. The overfishing of sharks could have serious effects for the entire marine food chain in some ecosystems. See "Shark Slaughter: 73 Million Killed Each Year," Ker Than, LiveScience at Yahoo! News, 9/26/06.

UK supermarket makes it easier to buy sustainable fish: J Sainsbury, the UK's third biggest supermarket group, has a 16.5% share of the grocery market, but a 21.4% share of the fresh fish market. Earlier this month, the National Consumer Council criticized supermarkets for not making it easier to people to shop for sustainable fish. Sainsbury's was forced to drop its goal of selling only fish certified by the Marine Stewardship Council by 2010 because it realized supply would not be able to meet demand. Instead, the market has created a color-coded plan to warn its consumers about endangered species. The plan gives wild fish different-colored labels depending on the risk level. The company hopes to stock only the more sustainable species by the end of December. Greenpeace has approved the plan. See "Sainsbury's pioneers 'colour-coded' fish," Susie Mesure, The Independent, 9/26/06.

Freighter runs aground off Stanley Park: The Maltese freighter that ran aground off Vancouver's Stanley Park Monday afternoon has been re-floated with the help of a team of tugboats. The Krateros, carrying a shipment of grain, was bound for sea when it experienced some kind of mechanical problem. After about two hours, high tide helped tug crews float the freighter, which has been re-anchored in the inner harbor. Marine traffic was tied up during the incident, but there were no injuries and no substantial damage to the vessel or environment. See "Tugs free freighter grounded near Vancouver's Stanley Park," Ethan Baron, CanWest News Service at Canada.com, 9/26/06.

Report on Moquini tragedy released: The yacht Moquini went missing a year ago while participating in the Durban to Mauritius race, and was later found floating with the hull up and the keel missing. None of the six crewmen were found, and were officially presumed dead. A report released by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) was leaked to the Sunday Tribune last week, which uncovered several irregularities, including the construction in the keel area of the yacht. Clearly, the loss of the keel had caused the yacht to capsize, but no specific cause for the loss could be identified. The report points to a chain of errors that might have contributed to the tragedy. These include sub-standard lamination of the hull near the keel, sub-standard securing of the keel, insufficient inspection of the hull and yacht before it raced, and sub-standard work in the area of the keel — where the wall thickness did not meet design specifications. Apparently, the worker who repaired the yacht before the race warned the owner and builder against sailing in those waters. See "What went wrong on the Moquini," Chiara Carter, IOL, 9/24/06.

US Navy tackles shipbuilding costs: The US Navy has been struggling with cost overruns and scheduling delays for its ships for years. But acquisition chief Delores Etter says she is seeing signs of progress, as Navy officials work with US lawmakers to move toward greater funding stability for shipbuilding. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Mullen wants a 313-ship Navy, and shipbuilding funds to double by 2011. Etter declined to comment on 2008 budget plans, but emphasized the need to avert cost overruns, and force industry to become more efficient. She recently traveled to US shipyards, and was impressed with some changes under way, such as building mega blocks inside buildings to avoid weather, and moving to a more open architecture of mission systems. House and Senate negotiators last week agreed to provide $11 billion for Navy shipbuilding in fiscal year 2007, more than the $8.7 billion the Navy had requested. See "Navy battling shipbuilding cost overruns, delays," Andrea Shalal-Esa, Reuters, 9/24/06.

Holland America accused of fraud: Seattle-based cruise-ship operator Holland America Line has been accused of defrauding passengers traveling on Alaska cruises through a series of allegedly deceptive actions in a proposed national class-action lawsuit. Among the charges are claims that the cruise line bilks passengers by levying what it claimed were government-imposed fines, and by accepting kick-backs by shore-excursion providers while hiding that arrangement from passengers. Filed in US District court in Seattle on behalf of the proposed class by attorney Steve Berman, the suit seeks to represent all passengers who were charged a so-called Jones Act Penalty for boarding the ship at a port not of the original departure point and who paid for excursions while a passenger. Holland America Line Inc. obeys Alaska's disclosure law, and is confident that the lawsuit will be dismissed. See "Suit says Holland America defrauded passengers," Elizabeth Bluemink, Anchorage Daily News, 9/23/06.

UN considers a ban on bottom trawling by 2007: The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says bottom trawling accounts for just 0.5 percent of global fish catches, but causes ecological destruction that is grossly disproportionate. Some 80 percent of what is dragged up from the sea is thrown away, and the practice is disastrous for many forms of deep sea marine life that grows slowly. UN experts will begin debating a possible complete ban on the practice this autumn. Palau, Japan, the United States, Norway and Australia have already banned the practice in their territorial waters. But bottom trawling still happens in the high seas, which aren't covered by national jurisdictions. The European Commission, which overseas fish catches in EU waters, implicitly admitted it would be hard to enforce a ban. See "UN ponders ban on bottom trawling," Anne Chaon, AFP at Yahoo! News, 9/22/06.

Japanese captain found guilty of intrusion and poaching: A Russian patrol boat opened fire on a Japanese vessel in disputed waters last month, killing one fisherman. Noboru Sakashita, captain of the No. 31 Kisshin Maru, has been found guilty of intruding into Russian waters, and poaching. He has been fined nearly 500,000 rubles, and Russian authorities will confiscate the fishing vessel. Sakashita isn't expected to appeal the court's decision. He is expected to be released a few days after the fine is paid. See "Russian court fines crab-poaching skipper," Daisuke Nishimura, The Asahi Shimbun, 9/22/06.

Ferry crewman arrested in connection with Ouzo deaths: The second officer of the P&O ferry Pride of Bilbao has been arrested over the deaths of three sailors who drowned after their yacht Ouzo disappeared in the English Channel. No distress call had been made by the yacht, leading coast guard personnel to believe that it had been run down by a much larger vessel. The senior officer was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of causing manslaughter through gross negligence, after the ferry's voyage data recorder showed it was in the area when the yacht sank. The officer was legally in charge of the ferry at the time that the Ouzo was believed to have sunk, and was responsible for keeping watch for other vessels in the area. See "Senior officer arrested in connection with sailing deaths," David Brown, Times Online, 9/21/06.

New evidence in the Bugaled Breizh sinking: New evidence suggests that the Dutch submarine Dolfijn may have pulled the French trawler Bugaled Breizh down. The trawler and its five-man crew sank off Lizard point in southwest England in January, 2004. The sinking is known to have been caused by an underwater collision, but the exact trigger is unknown. French news magazine Le Point on Thursday revealed that lab tests found "unexplained" traces of titanium on the trawler's cables; the material is used in the paintwork of certain submarines. The Dutch defense ministry said it had not yet studied the Le Point allegations, but again denied that its submarine had been responsible for the tragedy. The Dolfijn is known to have been in the same zone at the time, but there are still several hypotheses to explain the sinking of the trawler. See "French trawler possibly pulled down by Dutch sub: lawyer," AFP at Yahoo! News, 9/21/06.

Armed escorts not recommended for fighting pirates: Efthimios Mitropoulos, secretary-general of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), believes that constant vigilance against pirate attacks remains necessary — despite the fact that the number of pirate attacks have dropped in recent months. Mitropoulos spoke from Malaysia, where 31 nations were planning ways to help offset the cost of ensuring safety, security and environmental protection in the Malacca Strait. But Mitropoulos and several maritime analysts have warned against having vessels arm themselves with weapons for defense. Many feel that the weapons could be a lure for pirates, hoping to seize the guns and use them for their own purposes. Others fear that having firearms on board would raise risks, since crewmen might accidentally kill others if they took excessive steps in defense. See "World body opposes weapons on ships to fight piracy," Reuters at Khaleej Times Online, 9/19/06.

China plans growth for shipbuilding industry: China has been the world's third-biggest shipbuilder for the past 11 years. But the industry is plagued by problems, including outdated technology. Shipbuilding in China is largely assembly work, since only 40% of parts are produced domestically. The official five-year plan for the industry's development calls for Chinese firms to produce 60% of parts used by the shipbuilding industry. The plan will also encourage overseas investment in China's shipbuilding industry. The country will cap combined foreign stakes in companies at 49%, and it will require foreign-invested firms to set up technology centers. See "Shipbuilders on high-tech course," Reuters at The Standard, 9/19/06.

Countries seek to broaden cooperation to safeguard Malacca Strait: Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, which border the Malacca Strait, recently began coordinated maritime and air patrols to curb piracy and address concerns that international terrorists might someday target ships passing through it. As a result, only three sea robberies have occurred in the Malacca Strait in the first half of 2006, down from 18 cases for the whole of last year and 38 in 2004. These three countries want the other countries that use the Strait to help bear the cost of keeping it safe. Maritime officials from 31 nations gathered in Kuala Lumpur to determine ways to do this. A transit fee or other payment was not discussed specifically, but contributions could range from money to efforts such as the sharing of intelligence and equipment, technical cooperation, and personnel training. The three littoral states will outline a framework of cooperation with user states. See "Malacca Strait Meeting Asks Users to Help Littoral States," Clarence Fernandez, Reuters at Environmental News Network, 9/18/06.

Russia may not be ready for growth in shipping: The international community is having a debate about Russia's lack of planning and preparedness to handle an expected surge in oil and gas shipping through the Russian Far North and Far East in the next decade. In response, scientists and government agencies outside Russia are stepping up their environmental impact assessments of oil and gas shipping in the Barents Sea. Neighboring governments are seeking closer cooperation with their Russian counterparts, and international oil companies are nudging Russia toward adopting international standards on oil spill response. Russia may have the potential to ship as much as 150 million tons of oil a year by 2010, but the country isn't prepared for large-scale shipping like that. Russia's export tankers are currently in good shape, but its inland fleet is aging. Its fishing trawlers and dry cargo vessels are often old and poorly maintained. Accidental spills from oil activities in Russia grew from 100 tons in 2002, to 737 tons in 2003. See "Is Russia ready for shipping boom?," Sarah J. Wachter, International Herald Tribune, 9/17/06.

Weak rivets may have caused the Titanic to sink so quickly: New evidence suggests that weak rivets caused the RMS Titanic to sink so quickly that few passengers could be saved from its collision with an iceberg. Tim Foecke of the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, and Jennifer Hooper McCarty, of Oregon Health and Science University, first developed the rivet theory after examining 48 popped rivets from the wreck. They found that the wrought iron contained 9% slag — a high enough concentration that could have weakened the metal. Dr. Foecke commissioned a blacksmith to make rivets to the same specifications; these were used to join steel plates such as those used in the Titanic. When stressed in the laboratory, the rivet heads broke at lower loads than expected. Even a few failures because of flawed metal would have been sufficient to "unzip" entire seams. If the rivets had held under higher loads, the Titanic might have sunk more slowly, and more people could have been saved. The findings are included in a National Geographic Channel investigation to be screened next week. See "Tiny flaws that caused a Titanic waste of life," Mark Henderson, The Times Online, 9/16/06.

Wave power studied in Oregon, other spots: Several projects, including some along Oregon's coast, show a renewed interest for using waves and tides in a quest for renewable energy sources. Ocean energy is still in its infancy, and not yet economical. But new technologies may allow today's power-plant designs to avoid some of the technical and environmental hurdles that plagued ocean-power proposals in the 1970s and '80s. So far, tidal energy has gotten more interest than wave energy. Although there is little federal research money available for wave and tidal generating technologies in the US, money is coming in from venture capital sources. And wave energy is particularly well-suited to Oregon, as Pacific swells off the state's coast can range from at least five feet high in the summer to 11.5 feet high in the winter. The world's first commercial wave farm is expected to begin operation soon off the northern coast of Portugal. More wave power generators are being tested off the coasts of Hawaii, Scotland, England, and Australia. See "Off Oregon's coast, researchers hope to pump electricity from surf to turf," Peter N. Spotts, The Christian Science Monitor, 9/15/06.

China raises territory question: China has questioned South Korea's claim of Ieo Island, a remote reef-islet in the waters between the Asian neighbors. Suyan Rock is the Chinese name of the islet. South Korea has operated a maritime observation facility there since 2001, but it is located in an area where the two countries' exclusive economic zones overlap. The countries held several rounds of talks, but have yet to determine a maritime demarcation line in the waters near the islet. China has recently conducted aerial surveys of the area, which has some in Korea worried that China might launch a territorial claim over the islet. See "China challenges Korea's sovereignty over remote island," The Korea Herald, 9/15/06.

Manila wants to siphon oil from sunken tanker: The Philippines wants to drill through the hull of a sunken tanker and siphon off its cargo of industrial fuel to curtail pollution washing up on the central island of Guimaras. The government is awaiting a decision from the International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) agency on whether it would fund efforts to recover the fuel. The IOPC is consulting with salvage contractors with expertise in the feasibility of pumping out oil from a tanker submerged so deep. The Solar 1 sank in rough seas on August 11, and leaked nearly 500,000 liters of bunker oil. The tanker still holds around 1.5 million liters of oil, and is lying upright under about 2,100 feet of water off Guimaras. See "Government to siphon oil from sunken tanker that caused spill," Associated Press at Gulfnews.com, 9/13/06.

Egyptian dredger sinks in Suez canal: An Egyptian dredger sank in the Suez canal overnight, leaving two people dead and up to five others missing. Traffic was briefly interrupted both ways in the canal, which is a major international trading route, as the rescue operation was under way. The rest of the 50 people on board the Khattab were safely brought back to shore. The cause of the accident was not immediately clear, but a worker on the dredger said one of its pumps had exploded, causing the ship to sink within minutes. Egypt has been hit by a series of major transport disasters in recent months, mostly blamed on negligence and poor upkeep. Canal authorities are currently increasing its depth from 66 feet to 72 feet, so that larger vessels can go through. See "Two dead in Suez canal accident," BBC News, 9/13/06.

Cars from Cougar Ace won't be sold as new: On July 23 the car carrier Cougar Ace was off Alaska's coast when it listed more than 60 degrees. It's since been stabilized and docked Tuesday in Portland, Oregon. Mazda Motor Co. will not sell the 4,700 cars on board as new. Each unit will be comprehensively inspected, and those beyond repair will be immediately scrapped. The rest will be sold as used cars with full new-car warranties. Each car from the ship will be identified as such. The Singapore government is investigating what made the ship list during the ballast change, which happened in international waters. See "Mazda won't sell cars from listing ship as new," Associated Press at MSNBC.com, 9/12/06.

People-smuggling season 'open' in the Gulf of Aden: The September-April sailing season has started, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is worried that a boat carrying about 100 people is likely to arrive every day in Yemen. Hundreds of people could perish attempting to travel from Somalia to Yemen this year, and the UN agency wants authorities to crack down on the activity, in order to save lives. During the three previous seasons, hundreds of Africans have died in the crossing. In addition, passengers who reach Yemen routinely report inhumane conditions aboard the boats, and rough treatment from the crew members, who are often called smugglers. The UNHCR has already tried to raise awareness among Somalis of the risks of trying to cross the Gulf of Aden, and the International Maritime Organization has alerted anyone who could be involved in rescues at sea. See the press release "People-Smuggling Sparks UN Warning" from the United Nations, at Scoop, 9/12/06.

Seoul, Tokyo to conduct joint maritime survey next month: South Korea and Japan plan to conduct a joint scientific survey next month in the East Sea between the two neighboring countries. The survey will focus on radioactive waste in six locations, including waters around islands claimed by both countries. The survey has been run every year since 1994 to monitor nuclear waste believed to have been dumped by the Soviet Union and Russia in the past. The islands have been under dispute for some time. Talks last week failed to resolve the dispute. See "Japan, S. Korea to jointly survey disputed waters," Reuters at Khaleej Times Online, 9/11/06.

Canada's military charged with keeping out invasive species: A new report from Canada's Defence Department says the military isn't doing enough to prevent invasive insects and weeds from entering the country on vehicles, ships and equipment returning from missions abroad. Some invasive alien species brought into the country by civilians include purple loosestrife, sea lampreys, zebra mussels and Dutch elm disease. One study estimates that just 16 of the dozens of alien species that have made their way to Canada have cost the economy up to $34 billion. The report states that any success the military enjoyed over the years in fighting alien species has been just a "coincidence" — the byproduct of another military program designed to prevent the spread of human disease from abroad. Ballast water from Navy ships is known to be a potential problem. See "Military not doing enough to prevent 'alien' invasion: report," CP at myTELUS, 9/9/06.

Washington state ferry system worries about terror attacks: FBI and homeland security officials say no specific terrorist plots had been uncovered, but in the three years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the FBI reviewed 157 "suspicious incidents" involving the Washington state ferry system, which is the nation's largest. From spring 2004 to fall 2005, there were 247 suspicious incidents. The FBI thinks the increase is due to better reporting by ferry system personnel. Attacks on mass transit systems seem to be getting "popular" among terrorists, and intelligence suggests that the Washington state ferry system may be being monitored as a potential terrorist target. However, Ted Turner, a supervisory intelligence analyst at the FBI office in Seattle, said, "We have not, after four years, been able to link a suspicious incident to a plan or terrorist group." Officials know there's no way they can eliminate the risk of a terrorist attack on the ferries. See "Intelligence suggests terrorists conduct surveillance on ferries," Les Blumenthal, McClatchy Newspapers at The State.com, 9/9/06.

Oil theft may have caused Solar 1 accident: An official from the Philippine coast guard reports that local tanker crews were notorious for pilfering oil. Speaking anonymously so as not to jeopardize ongoing investigations into the accident that led to the country's worst oil spill, he admitted that the crew of the Solar I may have been pilfering oil. According to underwater video of the sunken tanker taken by a Japanese salvage team, some of the cargo hatches of the ship were open. This suggests that the crew of the Solar 1 were in the process of transferring oil from its tanks to another vessel when the mishap occurred. See "Oil theft may have caused spill," Gilbert Felongco, Gulfnews, 9/8/06.

Israeli sea blockade of Lebanon ends: Israel's naval blockade of Lebanon ended Friday, bringing two months of isolation to an end. United Nations officials announced that Israeli ships were leaving Lebanese waters after an international naval force, led by an Italian admiral, took up positions off the coast. Israel had formally lifted its air blockade late Thursday, leading to a stream of commercial planes landing at Beirut's international airport. But Israel had balked at ending the restrictions on sea traffic, saying the international force needed to prevent Hezbollah from rearming after this summer's war was not yet in place. Lebanon saw the blockade as a collective punishment. An Italian admiral will command the interim force until a UNIFIL naval task force is deployed. UNIFIL said it had established a naval operations center to coordinate all operational details. Italian and French naval vessels were expected to begin patrolling the coast until a German-led naval contingent can take over in line with a Lebanese request to the United Nations. See "Israel lifts naval blockade of Lebanon," Nadim Ladki, Reuters at ABC News, 9/8/06.

Three accused of recklessness in Canadian ferry sinking: A lawsuit against B.C. Ferry Services Inc. has been amended to include the captain, fourth officer, and a deckhand of the Queen of the North. These three individuals are accused of negligence and recklessness that led to the sinking of the ferry. The suit does not allege what specifically happened to cause the accident. The suit alleges the three were negligent in several areas, and were reckless in two areas. The Marine Liability Act creates a presumption of negligence in the event of any ship sinking, and the ferry corporation has "admitted negligence." But a finding of recklessness would allow for greater claims. The couple behind the lawsuit lost all their belongings in the sinking. Their lawyers are attempting to certify this as a class-action suit to represent many of the 50 passengers on the ferry. See "Ferry crew named in lawsuit," Jeff Rud, Times Colonist at Canada.com, 9/7/06.

Two Russians die in fire on nuclear submarine: Two Russian sailors were killed and another injured in a fire on a nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea. A ministry spokesman in Moscow said the fire was caused by an electrical malfunction and there was an automatic shutdown of the nuclear reactor; there was no threat of a radiation leak. The fire broke out Wednesday night on the St Daniel of Moscow, a Viktor class attack submarine, when it was anchored about 30 miles north of Murmansk. It was likely carrying torpedoes, but not nuclear weapons. The boat is being towed to the naval base at the port of Vedyayevo. See "Russian nuclear sub fire kills 2," CNN.com, 9/7/06.

Mediterranean cleanup plan proposed: The European Commission has proposed a strategy to clean up the Mediterranean by 2020. There are some 143 million people living on the sea's shores, with pollution coming from industry, shipping and households. The oil spill off Lebanon during the recent Israel-Hezbollah war has highlighted the sea's vulnerability. The key aims are to reduce pollution, promote sustainable use of the sea and its coastline, encourage environmental cooperation and the drafting of credible environmental protection legislation. The EU hopes to finalize its strategy at a gathering of Euro-Med Environment Ministers in Cairo on 20 November. See "EU Commission Proposes Cleanup Strategy for Mediterranean," Associated Press at Environmental News Network, 9/6/06.

Indian court links ship breaking to asbestos illness: A committee appointed by India's Supreme Court has found that one in six workers at the Alang ship breaking yard showed signs of having been exposed to asbestos. Some 16% of workers were found to suffer from an early stage of asbestosis, an incurable disease caused by exposure to asbestos that destroys the lungs and eventually kills its victims. The workers examined in the study had been engaged in removing asbestos from ship linings at the Alang yard. The president of the Alang Ship Breaking Association insisted that workers are provided with safety equipment, and dismissed the report's findings. The dangers faced by the ship breaking industry were spotlighted in February when protests by environmental groups forced the French and Indian governments to call off plans for the decommissioned French aircraft carrier Clemenceau to be broken up at Alang. Currently, the Supreme Court is waiting for the committee report to decide the fate of a former French cruise ship, sold by its French owners in 1979 and now named the Blue Lady, which is docked at Alang and owned by Indian ship breakers. See "Ship-breakers in India disabled by asbestos, report says," Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 9/6/06.

Lebanon oil spill still not being cleared: The Israeli blockade on Lebanon is preventing several activities normally associated with clearing an oil spill. Cleaning boats and pumps are unable to operate freely on the sea, and planes or helicopters are being kept from flying over the area to pinpoint surface slicks and fuel oil deposits. Unless the slicks are dealt with while they are still at sea, the coastline could be dirtied over and over again. Three quarters of Lebanon's coast has been fouled. A new oil slick has already reached the shores of Syria. Greenpeace Mediterranean said that cleaning the massive spill could take up to a year. See "Israel blockade on Lebanon prevents oil spill clean-up," Salim Yassine, AFP at Yahoo! News, 9/4/06.

EU has Polish data on shipyard subsidies: Poland missed an August 31 deadline to provide details of government subsidies for three of its shipyards, but sent the information to the European Commission by September 2. EU spokesman Jonathan Todd said the Commission would likely need several weeks to analyze the information. The EU is investigating whether government and local support given to restructure the three yards since 2002 break any EU rules. Under the rules, state subsidies should not be used to keep any company afloat artificially, but could be used to restructure a yard to survive better in a competitive market — without any subsidies in the future. The issue is highly charged because thousands of jobs could be lost if the yards were forced to close. See "EU receives Polish restructuring plans on shipyard subsidies," Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 9/4/06.

Revisions to ISM Code suggested: According to Fairplay, the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP) will make several recommendations to the International Maritime Organization. The AMP will suggest revisions to the ISM Code regarding the incorporation of drills that recreate real, practical scenarios. The AMP is also presenting its preliminary report to the IMO on the sinking of the Egyptian ferry Al Salam Boccaccio 98 last February. The AMP has several recommendations pertaining to the handling of ro-ro ferries that would prevent the sort of tragedy that occurred on the Al Salam Boccaccio. The report also urges the IMO and other international bodies to implement better training in rescue operations for large numbers of people at sea. ISM certification, and compliance with this and other safety issues in the Middle East region is also scrutinized. See "Panama Maritime Authority seeks revisions to ISM Code," Frank Kennedy, Gulfnews.com, 9/4/06.

Panama Canal upgrade isn't a sure thing: Panamanians will vote in October whether to modernize and expand the Panama Canal. Despite the fact that the 92-year-old canal is becoming a bottleneck in world trade routes, many Panamanians say they intend to vote against the expansion plan. No one is certain just how strong the opposition is, but it seems strong enough to have surprised the government. At issue is the pervasiveness of corruption in the country. The government has estimated the project will cost $5.2 billion, which is almost as large as the country's annual $6.5 billion budget. Razne Pette, a student leader who opposes the project, says "we know the politicians in this country, and we know they are drooling at the thought of such a big project." There are also other issues that the country could be spending money on, such as education and health care. See "Panamanians wary of upgrading beloved canal," Marc Lacey, The New York Times at The Seattle Times, 9/3/06.

US Coast Guard proposes Great Lakes training zones: The US Coast Guard wants to establish a total of 34 areas on the five Great Lakes where they can train using live ammunition. Officials say they need the shooting practice to prepare for maritime threats, including terrorism and drug-smuggling. The period for public comment on the plan was supposed to end on Thursday, but there has been so much criticism that the comment period has been extended until November. The Coast Guard may even hold public hearings. The zones are all about 5 miles offshore, and drills would only be conducted a few days every year. But critics say that commercial fishermen would have a hard time moving their nets for the drills, and recreational anglers and boaters could accidentally wander into the range. See "Ohio critics decry U.S. coast guard plan," Associated Press at CANOE, 9/2/06.

Exxon gets $92 million Valdez bill: US and Alaskan authorities on Thursday demanded $92.2 million from Exxon Mobil for environmental damages linked to the 1989 Exxon Valdez incident. The Alaska Department of Law and the US Department of Justice made the demand for environmental damage not covered in a 1991 $900 million settlement with Exxon. The 1991 settlement allowed the state and federal government to seek additional damages not foreseen at the time of the settlement. The agencies had until Friday to make their demand of Exxon Mobil, the successor company to Exxon. Alaska and federal officials said in May they would seek additional damages. Exxon Mobil in the past has said it does not believe there are lingering environmental damages not covered in the 1991 settlement, and is expected to contest the $92 million demand. See "More Exxon Valdez Cleanup Cash Sought," Jeannette J. See, Associated Press at ABC News, 9/1/06.

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2002 News Archive:
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2001 News Archive:
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2000 News Archive:
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1999 News Archive:
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1998 News Archive:
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1997 News Archive

 

Please Note Headlines:
Headlines 2007
Headlines 2006
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Headlines 2004
Headlines 2003