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Port of Vancouver bases ships' fees on pollution: The Port of Vancouver is starting an emission controls program on April 1, designed to encourage ships and carriers to pollute less. Ships that meet a "gold" standard will pay $0.057 per GRT, "silver" will pay $0.067 per GRT, and "bronze" will pay $0.077 per GRT. Ships without any discount will pay $0.097, up from the previous fee of $0.077 per GRT. The port expects that only about 10 percent of the 1,000 ships that call on Vancouver will attain the gold standard, but about 60 percent are expected to achieve at least bronze. Rick Bryant, president of the Chamber of Shipping, said the fee savings are not enough to pay for the cost of the upgrades necessary to merit the designations, but if a company is already thinking about making changes, the fees might be the extra encouragement they need. See "Less pollution, lower fees for ships," Fiona Anderson, Vancouver Sun at Canada.com, 3/31/07.
Bias alleged in Canadian sub repair deal: A 15-year $1.5 billion contract to maintain Canada's submarines has resulted in a lawsuit over alleged bias. The contract was given to Canadian Submarine Management Group of British Columbia. But one of the consortium partners, Weir Canada, has an existing contract with the federal government, and had knowledge of contract criteria that other bidders didn't. Irving Shipbuilding and Fleetway Inc., which were potential sub-contractors for a bid put forward by BAE Systems, filed legal documents on February 9, suggesting that the contract award was biased and unfair because of the conflict on interest. If the East Coast bidders had the same information, they would have structured their proposal differently, the companies say in the documents. The government filed documents on March 14 suggesting the matter be dropped, since Irving and Fleetway were just subcontractors for bidding company BAE systems. The matter is still before the courts. See "Submarine deal biased, says bidder," Sandra McCulloch, Times Colonist at Canada.com, 3/31/07.
Passenger boat sinks off the coast of Guinea, at least 46 dead: Nearly fifty people are believed to have died when the boat they were in capsized off the coast of Guinea. The vessel ran into strong winds as it was approaching a Conakry dock and started to take on water. A nearby fishing boat refused to risk approaching the sinking vessel at first, but then pulled people out of the water. The boat was a regular transport vessel, and not carrying illegal migrants trying to reach Spain's Canary Islands. But it isn't clear how many passengers were on board — reports claim between 80 and 100. Thirty-four people were rescued. See "At least 46 killed in capsizing of boat of the coast of Guinea," Kounkou Mara, Associated Press at CNEWS, 3/30/07.
Canada's Navy plans a new fleet: Canada's Navy hopes to start work soon on replacing its Iroquois-class destroyers and its Halifax-class frigates — essentially the main vessels of the service. The replacement fleet could cost more than $20 billion. The vessels would all have the same common hull and propulsion system, but different equipment could be installed in batches of ships, depending on the role they would play. The Navy also wants to change the way the ships are constructed, building one every 12 to 18 months so that shipyards wouldn't have to lay off workers during lulls between contracts. The first of the new ships would come on line around 2020, but since it takes 10 to 15 years for the government approvals and the actual design and construction of warships, the Navy is hoping to start ramping up the building project later this year. The project hasn't received government approvals yet. See "Navy sees new fleet costing more than $20 billion," David Pugliese, CanWest News Service, The Windsor Star at Canada.com, 3/30/07.
Three dead in Sydney ferry accident: Three people were killed, eight injured and a 14-year-old girl was still missing on Thursday after a collision between the HarbourCat ferry Pam Burridge and a private motor cruiser beneath Sydney Harbour Bridge late on Wednesday night. It was the second fatal accident in two months involving ferries, in what is one of the busiest parts of the harbor. A number of helicopters, police divers and several boats including two other ferries helped with the search and rescue operation. Police divers have been searching for the missing teenage girl, who is from Queensland. The cruiser rolled over and later sank after the collision; the ferry has been moored nearby. Both boats will be inspected by police; the crew of the ferry have been tested for alcohol and drugs. See "Divers search for girl missing after fatal ferry crash," ABC News Online, 3/29/07.
Petrofac and Babcock create skills alliance : Oil and gas company Petrofac has formed an alliance with Babcock International Group, which will see the heavy industry skills of employees at Rosyth naval dockyard also adopted for offshore employment. Jobs have been lost at Rosyth in recent years, while there are skills shortages in the offshore industry. The initiative has been fully supported by Amicus, the largest manufacturing union in the UK, which hopes it will set a precedent across the country. Petrofac also intends offering the new skills base to its partner companies in the Offshore Contractors' Association (OCA). See "Offshore partnership with Rosyth," BBC News, 3/29/07.
Over fishing of Atlantic sharks upsets ecosystem balance: Humans, mainly in countries with a yen for shark-fin soup, have devoured so many of the oceans' top predators that it has rattled the length of the marine food chain, according to a study to be published in the journal Science. While many researchers have documented sharp declines in recent decades, this report concludes that the 11 largest sharks along the US Atlantic Coast have all but vanished from over fishing. Equally important, researchers directly connect their disappearance to a boom-and-bust cycle for other sea life, resulting in the near wipe-out of a US scallop fishery. Researchers and conservationists say the study, funded by the Pew Institute for Ocean Science at the University of Miami, bolsters arguments to shut down the shark fishery. Commercial fishing interests are skeptical of the findings. See "US shellfish industry destroyed by shark fishing," Catherine Brahic, NewScientist.com, 3/29/07.
French oil port strike could pinch summer supplies: A strike by workers at the Mediterranean terminal Fos-Lavera over employment at a new Gaz de France (GDF) terminal is now in its third week. The dispute started on March 14 when GDF rejected a union demand that only port staff should hook up liquefied natural gas cargoes at a GDF terminal due to start up at the end of 2007. The two sides failed to reach a compromise on Thursday, but continued talks on Friday may be resolving the issue. The terminal is the world's third-largest port for refined oil products. If the strike continues, the French strike could crimp summer fuel supplies to Europe and the United States. See "Talks held on Marseille port row," BBC News, 3/29/07.
EU proposes to cut wasteful management of fish stocks: The European Union's fisheries chief announced Wednesday proposals to curtail "discards," the wasteful practice of throwing good fish overboard because of commercial expediency or legal constraints. It is part of the EU strategy to protect threatened stocks of cod and several other species. EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg said the dumping driven by his own fisheries policies is "morally wrong." In the worst case, up to 90 percent of the entire catch is routinely thrown back by fishermen in the North Sea. Fishermen have long complained about the policies, saying they are forced to throw healthy fish overboard because of catch quotas on threatened fish. Fishermen also argue that the strict time limits at sea gives them little choice but to discard low-value fish, crabs and shellfish to leave room on the boat for more lucrative catches. Under the new proposals, discards will be progressively banned. See "First catch ten fish . . . then throw nine away," David Charter, TimesOnline, 3/29/07.
Canada's Coast Guard, Navy resources are wasted: A new report says Canada's government is under funding the Coast Guard, and thus wasting a potential resource. The report is part of a series of updates from the Senate committee on national security and defence, and warns there are gaps in the surveillance of Canada's waters. The Coast Guard is ideally placed to defend the country's coasts, but a lack of equipment and funding hinders that goal. The committee wants the Coast Guard to be given constabulary powers, and suggests the agency be transferred from the department of fisheries and oceans to public safety and emergency preparedness. The committee also recommends a coastal warning network, and better coordination between Canada and the United States for policing the Great Lakes. See "Not on guard," Meagan Fitzpatrick, CanWest News Service, The Windsor Star at Canada.com, 3/28/07.
The Senate committee also believes the country shouldn't be deploying its Naval forces to defend Arctic waters, when no threat exists there. Instead, the Navy should also be defending Canada's near-shore waters, which are undermanned and vulnerable. See "Ottawa leaves rest of coastlines out in the cold with Arctic focus: report," Canadian Press, The Gazette at Canada.com, 3/28/07.
Haitian migrants reach Florida in a sailboat: More than 100 Haitian migrants aboard a wooden sailboat landed on a South Florida beach on Wednesday morning. At least 11 were hospitalized and at least one person died in the crossing. The migrants told officials they had been at sea for more than three weeks. Ironically, the landing came three weeks after Operation Vigilant Sentry, an exercise put on by the US Department of Homeland Security to address an influx of immigrants from the Caribbean to Florida's shores. The Government Accountability Office and some members of Congress who track Coast Guard operations have been warning that US border protection has been compromised as other missions have multiplied or taken precedence. The Coast Guard insists that they have sufficient resources to monitor the region's key migrant routes. But even if the entire fleet were redeployed to the district that includes South Florida it would not be enough to stop all migrant boats. In the recent mass migration simulation, Coast Guard officials said that in a real exodus some migrants would make it ashore. See "Haitian migrants put Coast Guard security under scrutiny," Alfonso Chardy, McClatchy Newspapers at Ohio.com, 3/28/07.
Murky border complicates issue of British service members held by Iran: Fifteen British sailors and marines are being held by Iran because no one can answer whether British sailors were in Iraqi or Iranian waters when they were seized. Complicating the dissenting stories is that fact that the maritime boundary in the Shatt al-Arab waterway is unclear. While the countries generally accept that the border runs down the middle of the main channel, that channel has been shifting due to silting — and officials haven't agreed on updated charts. And if the seizure occurred near the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab, the issue becomes even more complicated because Iraq and Iran have never agreed on each others' claim to Gulf waters near the mouth of the waterway. See "Border Dispute Snares British Crew," Robert H. Reid, Associated Press at Las Vegas Sun, 3/27/07.
Container accident shuts down shipping in the Rhine: The German cargo ship Excelsior lost 31 of its 103 containers on the Rhine River on Sunday afternoon. The river is one of Germany's busiest commercial shipping routes. One container was retrieved by Tuesday, but the accident has closed a 12-mile stretch of the river around Cologne. German Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee said he hoped traffic could resume by Friday. A crack in the cargo ship's hull is suspected to have led to Sunday's accident. See "Germany's Rhine Closes to Shipping, Associated Press at WashingtonPost.com, 3/27/07.
Japan's whaling program continues to bring controversy: The head of Japan's latest whale hunt called for legal action on Tuesday against anti-whaling activists. Shigetoshi Nishiwaki, expedition leader and a staff member at the Institute for Cetacean Research, pointed out that the recent Antarctic hunt was marked by clashes with anti-whaling groups. Members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society even poured acid on the deck of the main whaling ship. But neither the Japanese government nor the Fisheries Agency said they were considering taking any legal steps. However, Greenpeace's anti-whaling ship Esperanza has been "effectively banned" from docking in Tokyo. It seems that the All Japan's Seamen's Union had pressured the ship's agent to withdraw services, meaning it would be unable to put into port. See "Greenpeace says anti-whaling ship can't enter Tokyo," Linda Sieg, Reuters, 3/27/07.
Fishermen go without boat insurance after Katrina: Even before Hurricane Katrina hit, the US fishing industry struggled from falling shrimp prices and rising fuel costs. But the hurricane made life harder, by raising insurance costs for boats along a wide swath of the Gulf Coast. The Louisiana Shrimp Association estimates that only about 20% to 25% of fishermen in that state now have boat insurance, compared with double that number before the storm. Fishermen in Mississippi and Alabama are also underinsured. No industry wide numbers are available on price increases for insurance, but at Travelers, a large insurer for commercial fishermen, boat insurance rates have jumped about 25%. Some people report that prices for boat insurance have jumped as much as 50% since the hurricane. See "Fishermen take risks after Katrina as many go without sky-high boat insurance," Kathy Chu, USA Today, 3/26/07.
Qatar to get a new shipyard: Nakilat, a Qatari company, has signed an agreement with Keppel Offshore and Marine Limited of Singapore to jointly develop a $450 million shipyard in the Gulf state, a statement from Keppel has said. Nakilat, or the Qatar Gas Transport Company Limited, will own 80 percent of the joint venture, to be known as Nakilat-Keppel Offshore & Marine Ltd. It will manage the design, construction and operation of the shipyard in the port of Ras Laffan. The remaining 20 per cent will be owned by KS Investments, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Keppel Offshore and Marine. The proposed shipyard, part of the expansion of Ras Laffan port in the Arabian Gulf, is expected to begin operation in 2010. The facility will be suitable for the repair and maintenance of very large LNG carriers and a wide range of other vessels, and the conversion of tankers to Floating Production Storage & Offloading systems (FPSO) and Floating Storage & Offloading (FSO) systems. See "Nakilat, Keppel to Develop Shipyard in Qatar," RIGZONE, 3/26/07.
Captain fined in sunken NY tour boat that killed 20: The captain of a New York tour boat that capsized in October 2005 and killed 20 elderly passengers pleaded guilty on Monday to a maritime offense. Captain Richard Paris was fined $250 and ordered to perform more than 200 hours of community service for failing to have a second crew member on board the Ethan Allen tour boat. The vessel's owner, Shoreline Cruises Inc., also pleaded guilty and was fined $250. District Attorney Kate Hogan had said a more serious charge of criminal negligence was not supportable because there was not enough evidence to show the operators knew the boat would capsize. At least nine civil lawsuits are pending. The Ethan Allen was carrying 47 passengers on a fall foliage cruise on Lake George when it capsized and sank. A National Transportation Safety Board investigation said a factor in the accident was excess weight on board. See "Guilty pleas in fatal boat accident," Michael Virtanen, Associated Press at Newsday.com, 3/26/07.
Coast Guard rescues cruise ship passengers: The US Coast Guard rescued two cruise ship passengers in the Gulf of Mexico Sunday after the pair accidentally went overboard. The man and woman, both in their early 20s, reportedly had fallen 50 to 60 feet to the sea from a cabin balcony hours after the ship had left port and were in the water about four hours before being rescued. Princess Cruises' Grand Princess was in the Gulf of Mexico 150 miles off the coast of Galveston, Texas when the rescue occurred. Julie Benson, spokeswoman for Princess Cruises, said it appeared to have been an accident. But the cruise line is investigating how the passengers had fallen. See "Cruise Line Probes Why 2 Fell Overboard," Associated Press at ABC News, 3/26/07.
Petron cleared of crime liability in Solar 1 oil spill: Petron Corp. chartered Solar 1, owned by Sunshine Maritime Development Corp., to transport bunker fuel when it sank off Guimaras in August last year. Despite the ensuing environmental disaster, the Guimaras prosecutor's office has dismissed the criminal complaint against the company because there was no intent. The province of Guimaras will appeal the decision. Provincial legal officer Plaridel Nava II said that while they agree with the resolution that the sinking of the tanker and the oil were unintentional, they will point out that Petron and the owner of the tanker are still criminally liable for recklessness. Local officials were resolute in taking additional legal measures. They are supported by environmental groups, that say the company should be made to answer for the oil spill that has destroyed the livelihood of thousands of Guimaras residents and devastated the island's rich marine resources. See "Guimaras execs to plead case vs. Petron," Nestor P. Burgos Jr., The News Today Online Edition, 3/26/07.
Alaska proposes monitors to cut down on cruise ship waste: Industry groups believe that cruise lines have substantially improved their waste disposal practices in recent years. But US state and federal entities have tried to keep cruise ship waste from affecting coastal waters — particularly as the industry grows. There were about 500,000 cruise ship passengers in 1970, and more than 12 million in 2006; from 2000 to the end of this year, 88 new ships will have been introduced — and the ships are getting bigger. Alaska is the newest state to try to decrease the impact of cruise ship waste. It plans to have as many as 60 monitors available to ride on ships that carry more than 250 passengers, to monitor waste disposal methods. A less costly version of the program would send the monitors to inspect ships at port. A vote is expected next month. Although the industry regulates itself in many cases, there are still violations. See "Cruise ships face tough new waste disposal limits," Charles Q. Choi, New York Times at SFGate.com, 3/25/07.
Ships could soon emit more pollutants than all land sources: A report released Thursday states that emissions from ships are greater than those from cars, trucks and buses. And while emissions from road vehicles has declined in recent years, emissions from large ships have remained more or less the same — and the volume of worldwide shipping has steadily increased. It is estimated that pollutants from road vehicle emissions were 2.2 million metric tons in 2006, while pollutants from ships were at 6 million metric tons. The study, produced by the International Council on Clean Transportation, warns that if international regulations aren't adopted by the International Maritime Organization, ship emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides will soon surpass those of not just land vehicles, but all land sources, including power plants, factories and refineries. In the US, some states are trying to reduce ship emissions, but progress has been slow on the federal level. See "Ships' emissions pose great threat, new study says," Erik N. Nelson, ContraCostaTimes.com, 3/23/07.
New York tries to limit damages for Andrew J. Barberi case: New York will appeal a ruling by a federal judge that allowed unlimited damages in lawsuits filed regarding the tragedy of the Andrew J. Barberi. The Staten Island ferry crashed into the pier on October 15, 2003, killing 11 people and injuring many more. The city had tried to invoke an old federal maritime statute that would have capped its liability for damages at about $14.4 million. But a February federal decision refused to cap the damages. News of the city's appeal, announced Friday, have garnered criticism from those who say the city is trying to delay payment, when it was found negligent in the case. Remaining claims are easily running into the tens of millions of dollars. See "City appeals unlimited damages in ferry crash," Anthony M. DeStefano, Newsday.com, 3/23/07.
Japanese whaling ship returns with 500 whales: The Japanese whaling ship Nisshin Maru that triggered a high-seas showdown with environmental groups and suffered a deadly fire returned to port Friday with a catch of 508 whales, despite having to cut its annual hunt short after the accident. The homecoming was dogged with questions, as authorities prepared to investigate the below-deck blaze that killed a sailor and crippled the ship. Greenpeace also issued a fresh condemnation of Japan's whaling program on Friday, calling for the damaged ship to be retired. This was the first time in 20 years that Japan had to abort its whaling mission. A Fisheries Agency official said they don't know if the ship will return to service for next season's hunt. See "Damaged Japan whaling ship arrives home," Reuters, 3/23/07.
US Navy sued over sonar use: The California state Coastal Commission and a national environmental group sued the US Navy on Thursday over its refusal to take certain precautions to protect marine mammals during military training exercises off the coast of San Diego. While the commission's legal action is a rarity, the Natural Resources Defense Council already had sued the Navy four times over its use of high-intensity sonar. In separate lawsuits filed Thursday, the commission and the council want the Navy to adopt more stringent safeguards for whales, dolphins and other marine mammals, which can be injured or killed by sonar. The sound waves, which travel hundreds of miles across water, are used to track submarines and surface ships. Navy officials could not be reached for comment on the lawsuits. In the past, they said the requested measures would compromise military training. See "Calif. Coast Panel Files Navy Sonar Suit," Alicia Chang, Associated Press at Las Vegas SUN, 3/22/07.
Cause of explosion on British sub is disclosed: Two men were killed and one injured on the submarine HMS Tireless during a joint UK-US operation under the Arctic ice off Alaska on Wednesday morning. US authorities said air purification equipment, known as a self-contained oxygen generation candle, was the source of the blast. This is an emergency device that creates oxygen through a chemical reaction. There have been no previous problems with the equipment, but their use on other vessels has been restricted as a precaution until safety checks are carried out. Oxygen candles are fitted to all Trafalgar-class submarines. A Board of Inquiry investigation has begun into the accident, to see what lessons can be learned, and prevent a similar tragedy in the future. See "Oxygen device sparked sub blast," BBC News, 3/22/07.
Approval for asbestos law change in the UK: Changes in the law which will make it easier for former shipyard workers, and other afflicted, to claim compensation for asbestos-related lung cancer will be approved later. It will reverse a House of Lords ruling which made it impossible for victims to seek recompense without blocking claims by their families after their death. The move was approved unanimously by SMPs in the Scottish Parliament. Scotland has led the way in the UK on the legal amendment, and is allowing claims from the beginning of this year. Mesothelioma is a form of lung cancer caused by asbestos that can lie dormant for 20 years or more, but when it is diagnosed, victims usually have only months to live. See "Asbestos claim law change backed," BBC News, 3/21/07.
US shipbuilders want federal funds for upgrades: US lawmakers, some on the sea-power subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, have long pressed US shipyards to upgrade their facilities. The lawmakers argue that if American yards could gain a share of the commercial shipbuilding contracts now going overseas, they could achieve efficiencies that would lower the Navy's shipbuilding costs. But shipyard executives say they are constrained from investing too much in facilities because the US Navy isn't building many ships, and ship acquisition budgets have fluctuated from year to year. So the shipbuilding industry has asked Congress for a $100 million aid package. The assistance would be tied to the builders' ability to show that federally-financed upgrades would produce less expensive ships. See "Shipbuilders seek U.S. aid for yard ugrades," Dale Eisman, HamptonRoads.com at PilotOnline.com, 3/21/07.
US Navy won't provide sonar data: Citing the threat to national security, the US Navy said it will not tell a US court specifics about its use of sonar over the past four years. A US District Court judge had asked the Navy to submit data for when and where sailors have used sonar since 2003. But Navy officials worry such details could give potential enemies tactical information about how sailors use sonar to track and target submarines. Joel Reynolds, a Natural Resources Defense Council attorney, said he would challenge the Navy's position, since the requested data would not cover any use of sonar in combat or in "heightened threat" circumstances. Critics say active sonar can harm whales and other marine mammals. The Navy acknowledges the potential harm, but says it already takes steps to protect whales. Sonar training has become increasingly important to the Navy in recent years as more countries, including China and Iran, have been acquiring sophisticated quiet submarines that are harder to detect. See "Navy will not detail sonar use," Audrey McAvoy, Associated Press at Star Bulletin, 3/21/07.
Two sailors die on UK nuclear sub: Two sailors were killed Wednesday morning in an accident on nuclear submarine HMS Tireless, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has confirmed. The submarine was submerged on a joint UK-US exercise in the Arctic when the incident occurred. It did not involve the vessel's nuclear reactor and the MoD stressed HMS Tireless does not carry Trident nuclear missiles. Air purification equipment in the forward section of the submarine was thought to be responsible. The equipment is fitted to all seven Trafalgar class submarines; its use on the other boats was suspended until safety checks can be carried out. One other crew member was injured and is receiving medical attention. See "Two dead in nuclear submarine accident," Guardian Unlimited, 3/21/07.
Another bill to revamp Deepwater program is proposed: Senator Maria Cantwell, chair of the Senate Coast Guard subcommittee, has introduced another bill that would change the US Coast Guard's contracting system for the Deepwater acquisition program. Her bill, called the Integrated Deepwater Reform Act, would mandate more competition for portions of the program. The bill would also require a third-party review of all major acquisitions for which contracts have not yet been issued, it would require the Coast Guard to certify that proposed technology meets design and cost objectives, it would give the Government Accountability Office and oversight role, and it would limit the ability of the main contractors to award subcontracts to companies in which they have a financial interest. It is unclear if Minority Whip Trent Lott would support Cantwell's bill, as he played a major role in crafting the original program — which put millions of dollars and many jobs into his home state of Mississippi. See "Cantwell bill would tighten oversight of Deepwater contracting system," Alicia Mundy, The Seattle Times, 3/21/07.
BAE Systems may make a solo bid for Devonport: It has emerged that BAE Systems has put in a solo bid for Devonport Management Limited, which runs a maintenance and support base for Britain's submarine fleet. The Ministry of Defence would apparently have preferred to have BAE and the US private equity group Carlyle make a joint offer. BAE already owns the UK's only submarine-building facility in Cumbria, and Devonport refuels and refits all of the Navy's nuclear submarines. The MoD is believed to be concerned about becoming too reliant on BAE. The Financial Times reported that talks about a joint bid were continuing. See "BAE 'makes solo bid' for dockyard," BBC News, 3/20/07.
France's warship makers cleared for merger deal: The EU has given permission for DCN and Thales SA to combine their shipbuilding businesses. The European Commission said its investigation showed the deal wouldn't cause antitrust problems, because the two already cooperate closely, and a number of effective rivals would remain standing. In addition, Thales had already sold most of its naval equipment business to DCN before the deal. State-owned naval shipyard DCN is buying Thales' shipbuilding activities in France, excluding its parts-making business. Thales has taken a 25 percent stake in DCN, with the option of raising the stake to 35 percent over the next two years. The French government had backed the deal. Europe's warship building industry remains fragmented and inefficient. This move will bost the prospect of wider consolidation in the fragmented sector. See "EU clears Thales and DCN to combine shipbuilding businesses," The Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 3/20/07.
Many major rivers are in danger of dying - WWF: Climate change, pollution, over extraction of water and development are killing some of the world's most famous rivers, conservation group WWF said on Tuesday. At the global launch of its report "World's Top 10 Rivers at Risk," the Geneva-based group said many rivers could dry out, affecting hundreds of millions of people and killing unique aquatic life. The most threatened rivers are the Danube in Europe; the La Plata and Rio Grande/Rio Bravo in the Americas; the Nile/Lake Victoria system in Africa; the Murray-Darling in Australia; and the Yangtze, Mekong, Salween, Ganges and Indus, all in Asia. Rivers are the world's main source of fresh water, and about half of the available supply is already being used up. Dams have destroyed habitats and cut rivers off from their flood plains, while climate change could affect the seasonal water flows that feed them. Fish populations, the top source of protein and overall life support for hundreds of thousands of communities worldwide, are also being threatened. See "Earth's greatest rivers at risk of dying, says WWF," Catherine Brahic, NewScientist.com, 3/20/07.
Chinese steelmaker Baosteel in Shanghai shipbuilding venture: China State Shipbuilding Corp. and Shanghai Baosteel Group will jointly run a civilian shipyard on the Yangtze River. The venture will operate two production lines at a facility already under construction on Changxing Island north of Shanghai. With more than 7 million tons worth of preorders, and orders fully booked through 2011, the facility is due to become China's biggest. Shanghai Baosteel Group is China's biggest steelmaker, and will hold a 35 percent stake in the venture; China State Shipbuilding is the second-largest shipbuilder in the world by orders, and will take a 65 percent stake. See "Shipbuilder, Steelmaker to Run Shipyard," The Associated Press at Houston Chronicle, 3/19/07.
Putin to sign ordinance on United Shipbuilding Corp.: President Vladimir Putin has said that he will sign a decree to establish the United Shipbuilding Corporation on Wednesday. The move will combine all state financial assets in the shipbuilding sector, and will allow the use of military shipbuilding facilities for civilian purposes. Russia's civilian shipbuilding is in bad shape, unlike the military sector. Although most of the country's exports are transported by sea, there aren't enough Russian ships available to ship the goods. See "Putin to sign decree on United Shipbuilding Corp. March 21," RIA Novosti, 3/19/07.
Pravda has two essays on the subject: see "Putin orders to create United Shipbuilding Corporation," Yuri Seleznyov, and "Russian shipbuilding industry launches grand production of unique vessels," Yuri Seleznyov, both published on 3/19/07.
US lawmaker wants the entire Deepwater program rebid: Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) introduced a bill last week calling for the termination of existing Deepwater contracts, and for any incomplete projects to be rebid. The Deepwater contract expires in June. The proposed legislation would allow the US Coast Guard to continue working with the current companies on any incomplete systems if the Secretary of Homeland Security determines that rebidding it would compromise national security or would cost more with a different contractor. Kerry's legislation, called the Deepwater Accountability Act, was introduced two days after the Coast Guard announced it would separately rebid a portion of the Deepwater contract for 12 fast-response cutter patrol boats. Kerry considers this move a "good first step," but wants more reforms. His proposed legislation states that the Coast Guard may not use a lead systems integrator to procure the remaining assets of the program. See "Kerry bill would torpedo Deepwater program," Alice Lipowicz, WashingtonTechnology, 3/19/07.
Hartley Bay still living with the wreck of the Queen of the North: Residents of Hartley Bay worry about what might happen if diesel fuel trapped inside the sunken Queen of the North escapes. The ocean-going ferry, carrying 101 passengers and crew, sank early on March 22, 2006. Despite a promise from B.C. Ferries that they would remove the fuel by the end of 2006, the company and the coast guard still aren't sure how to deal with the ship's fuel tanks. Only trace amounts of diesel are rising to the surface now, but the truth is no one knows how much fuel is still on the vessel. Coast guard spokesman Dan Bate said they hope to have a plan by mid-April, and want to be sure of doing the right thing. The Queen of the North isn't all there is to worry about. A US army transport ship sank about 25 miles from Hartley Bay in 1946. Divers patched some cracks after the wreck began to leak oil in 2003, but abandoned the work after the hulk was found to be full of unexploded bombs. The Canadian and US governments are still trying to determine a fix for that. See "Residents fear potential fuel leaks from sunken ferry," Jack Knox, CanWest News Service, The Vancouver Sun at Canada.com, 3/19/07.
Oil and shipping gain as Arctic warms: Global warming could be a boon to the shipping and oil industries in the far North, according to a new US report. The decrease in sea ice above the Arctic Circle means formerly impenetrable shipping routes are now or soon could be open for much of the year, the US Arctic Research Commission said in a report released last week at a summit of Arctic scientists in Hanover. The cost difference is dramatic, according to Mead Treadwell, the commission chairman. The estimated cost of transporting a shipping container between northern Europe and Alaska's Aleutian Islands is about US $500; moving the same container between Europe and the port of Yokohama, through the Suez Canal, costs about US $1,500. Less sea ice also means easier access for offshore oil exploration and drilling in the Arctic, but the risk of spills also rises, spurring the need for new cleanup technologies. The commission is charged with recommending an integrated US policy for research in the Arctic. See "Cargo ships could take polar route," Reuters at The New Zealand Herald, 3/19/07.
US still needs to create oil spill rescue rules: The Exxon Valdez disaster had the US Congress promising that future response would include clean up plans, and help. But while cleanup technologies have advanced, the idea of ensuring that a rescue ship will show up to keep spills from happening in the first place still has not been made into a rule. The US Coast Guard has just announced a new deadline for the task: February 2009, just weeks shy of the Valdez spill's 20th anniversary. This is the fifth time the Coast Guard has extended its own deadline. In the past, Coast Guard proposals have been shot down for being too strict, too lenient, unenforceable, or out of date — the variety of interests involved have no doubt complicated the problem. Some issues include the fact that rescue rules for oil carriers don't match those for other vessels, which can also spill oil, and that legal protection is granted to those who clean up spilled oil, but not those who try to salvage oil from a stricken ship. See "Oil spill rescue rule keeps sinking," Robert McClure, Seattle Post Intelligencer, 3/18/07.
Eight die after ships collide in East China Sea: Two cargo ships collided off east China, killing eight people and leaving nine missing, the Xinhua news agency reported. The Hong Kong-registered ship Huirong with 29 crew sank after the collision off Zhejiang province late on Saturday, and eight bodies had been found. Twelve crew were rescued. Local maritime authorities were searching for the missing nine with helicopters and more than 40 vessels. The other ship, the Pengyan, was from Shenzhen Ocean Shipping Co. Ltd. The cause of accident was being investigated. See "At least eight dead after cargo ships collide off eastern China," AFP at Yahoo! News, 3/18/07.
BAE and Carlyle may split for UK sub deal: It has emerged that BAE Systems and Carlyle Group may put in rival bids for Devonport Management Limited (DML), which runs a maintenance and support base for Britain's submarine fleet. It had been expected the two companies would make a joint bid. The pair would then have been in a powerful position to win the bulk of work on Britain's planned new fleet of nuclear-missile submarines. But BAE and Carlyle are understood to have been unable to agree on a valuation of BAE's yard at Barrow. Neither company has commented. Babcock and General Dynamics are also expected to bid for DML. These changes in the UK submarine industry is not connected to the planned reorganization of naval surface-vessel yards. See "Carlyle and BAE 'split' on subs deal," Dominic O'Connell, The Sunday TimesOnline, 3/18/07.
Strong interest seen in potential bid for Devonport sub facility: BAE, Babcock, Carlyle Group and General Dynamics are all preparing to bid for the British nuclear submarine maintenance facility at Devonport Royal Dockyard (DML). KBR controls 51 percent of DML, but apparently relations between KBR and the Ministry of Defence have deteriorated to the point that KBR has effectively been forced into selling the yard. If BAE bought DML, it would be responsible for building the Trident submarines at Barrow-in-Furness, and then servicing them at Devonport. See "Suitors line up to bid for nuclear submarine facility, David Robertson, The TimesOnline, 3/16/07.
Executive set to change law on oil transfer: Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson has revealed the Scottish Executive is considering changing the law over who decides on the controversial ship-to-ship oil transfer scheme for the Firth of Forth. Ms. Jamieson last night revealed ministers are considering legislation to stop Forth Ports having the final say on the application. The ship-to-ship transfer plans, put forward by SPT Marine Services, could see up to eight million tons of Russian crude oil transferred between tankers in the Forth every year. MSPs and campaigners have criticized the plans because of concerns about the extent of environmental damage if there is an oil spill. See "Forth oil plan may prompt new legislation," Hamish MacDonell, The Scotsman.com, 3/16/07.
Lockheed must take on more risk for LCS ships: Two months ago, the US Navy ordered Lockheed Martin to stop work on their second Littoral Combat Ship after finding that the vessel would cost $350 to $375 million, instead of $260 million. The Navy has now decided that it will lift the stop-work order if the contractor takes on more of the financial risk for the ships. Lockheed must sign a new fixed-price contract by next month, and agree to pay for any future cost overruns. If Lockheed doesn't agree, the Navy will terminate the contract for the second ship. Congress has recently begun scrutinizing cost overruns in weapons programs, and the LCS is one of the projects that have been reviewed. A key part of the LCS program was to turn a commercial ship design into a relatively cheap combat vessel. But Navy Secretary Donald C. Winter said the program suffered from "excess optimism" and a contract structure that didn't encourage either Navy or Lockheed officials to determine the realistic cost of the ships. General Dynamics is also building two LCS ships; if cost growth for these ships is similar to Lockheed's, the Navy will engage similar cost-control measures. See "Lockheed Asked to Fund Cost Overruns," Renae Merle, The Washington Post, 3/16/07.
Britain sets budget for new Royal Navy aircraft carriers: The Times has learned that the British Treasury and the Ministry of Defence have agreed on a budget to build two new Royal Navy aircraft carriers. The top price for the two ships will be £3.9 billion. The budget includes incentives to lower the price — it is hoped to as low as £3.6 billion — with the shipbuilders taking a share of any cost reductions. This is seen as a key change in defense procurement, and is likely to set the standard in the future. A further incentive program will encourage the shipbuilders to share costs with France, which is also preparing to build a carrier. This could save an additional £300 million. Although Lord Drayson, the Defence Procurement Minister, is expected to confirm the decision to go ahead with the carriers by Easter, a formal contract is unlikely to be signed before the autumn. See "Navy deal launches system of incentives," David Robertson, The TimesOnline.com, 3/15/07.
US ship scrapping program on hold: In addition to temporarily halting its ship-scrapping program, this week the US Maritime Administration has ordered a review of its 2003 contract to have 13 ships from the James River Reserve Fleet to be dismantled in England. Both decisions were made for environmental reasons. The British deal brought on a storm of lawsuits from both sides, and although four ships were eventually towed to scrapping yard Able UK, they remain untouched. Local residents have repeatedly voted against the project, and the shipyard still lacks government permits to proceed. This week, Maritime Administrator Sean T. Connaughton said, "Obviously, it's a situation that has to be addressed as quickly as practicable." Connaughton has stopped domestic ship scrapping activities while states decide if a federal rule recently being applied to ghost fleet ships should require state permits and pollution controls. The rule requires the hulls of junk ships to be scrubbed of marine growth before leaving for a salvage yard, but the cleaning may release pollutants into host waters. See "Federal ship-scrapping program is halted temporarily," Scott Harper, The Virginian-Pilot at HamptonRoads.com, 3/15/07.
BAE and VT closer to joint shipbuilding venture: BAE Systems and VT Group have come to a provisional agreement on a joint shipbuilding venture. The shipbuilding merger has been strongly encouraged by the Ministry of Defence, which believes that a single national champion will be better placed to win export orders, as Royal Navy orders are expected to slow down. Once the BAE and VT assets are merged, the new company will effectively be the UK's only major shipbuilder. The Times understands that the joint venture will be about 55 percent owned by BAE, with VT holding the remainder; however, voting rights will be evenly shared. The two companies are now discussing management; Sir John Parker is thought to have been approached to become chairman. The new company will include VT’s Portsmouth facility, BAE's docks at Govan and Scotstoun on the Clyde and an existing maintenance joint venture called Fleet Services. See "BAE and VT agree on shipbuilding venture ownership," David Robertson, TimesOnline, 3/15/07.
MPs back upgrade of UK nuclear arms: British members of parliament have voted in favor of plans to renew Britain's Trident nuclear deterrent, despite a division on the issue in the ranks of the Labour government. MPs voted 409-161 in favor of the plan on Wednesday to spend up to $40bn on new nuclear-armed submarines to replace ones that go out of service in 2024. Tony Blair, Britain's prime minister, argued that the UK's Trident nuclear weapons system should be replaced. But many members of his own party disagreed, with four Labour MPs quitting on Wednesday over the government's proposals, weakening Labour's majority in the lower house of parliament. See "Trident given go-ahead but party revolt damages Blair and Brown," Philip Webster and Greg Hurst, TimesOnline, 3/15/07.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence has admitted that a new firing device developed by the US is to be installed in Britain's nuclear weapons system by scientists at the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston in Berkshire. The upgrade had repeatedly been denied. See "Trident upgrade under way, MoD admits," Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, 3/14/07.
US Coast Guard's FRC contractors are let go: Deepwater is the US Coast Guard's program to modernize and greatly expand its aging fleet of ships, planes and helicopters. The $24 billion program has recently faced criticism from Congress, in part because the Coast Guard handed much of the control to the two major contractors, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. In response to the criticism, the Coast Guard is strengthening its own internal acquisition capabilities. Rear Admiral Gary Blore, the executive officer of the Deepwater program, said, "The Coast Guard has become a lot more self-sufficient" than when the program was first launched. As a result, the service has canceled the contractors' contracts for the Fast Response Cutter program. By managing the work itself and rebidding the development work, Coast Guard officials estimate they will save enough money to buy an extra ship, and address a patrol boat shortage by getting ships built faster. Admiral Thad Allen, commandant of the Coast Guard, said the service will review contractor involvement on other portions of the Deepwater program, on a business-case basis. See "Coast Guard Cancels Contract," Renae Merle, The Washington Post, 3/15/01.
You can read the Coast Guard press release: "Coast Guard Reassigns Deepwater replacement patrol boat acquisition project" (dated 3/14/07); and their fact sheet: "Fast Response Cutter-B" (dated 3/14/07).
US Navy temporarily loses communication with a submarine: The US Navy temporarily lost communication with a submarine off Florida's coast and sent ships and aircraft to search for the USS San Juan before the vessel was contacted early Wednesday. There were no problems with the Los Angeles class sub, and the Navy was investigating the incident. Units of the USS Enterprise Carrier Strike Group saw a red flare in the area where the sub was operating on Tuesday night. The Navy immediately started a search and rescue, but the submarine established communications in the early morning hours, so it was called off. See "Navy submarine goes missing overnight," WAVY-TV at MSNBC.com, 3/14/07.
Illegal blast fishing is adding to fisheries crisis: A ban on the use of dynamite in fishing came into affect in the mid-1990s, as it kills large numbers of fish indiscriminately and destroys coral reef. But many fishermen still use blast fishing to catch a maximum haul in a minimum period of time. Using the world's first blast detector, the WWF along with Teng Hoi, another conservation organization, has picked up eight explosions since late November either in Hong Kong waters or across the border in China. Eric Bohm, chief executive of WWF Hong Kong, says that poverty is the underlying cause of this activity. "As people become more desperate, they take more desperate means to maintain themselves," he said. Unfortunately, blast fishing only aggravates a marine crisis caused by overfishing, pollution and dredging. The WWF plans to install more blast-detecting devices. See "Illegal dynamite fishing threatens HK waters - WWF," Nao Nakanishi, Reuters, 3/14/07.
Paying for security in the Malacca Strait: Shipping firms should pay a cent for each ton they transport through the Malacca Strait to help maintain one of the world's busiest sea lanes, a major provider of funding to the route has said. Based on the amount of cargo that moves through the Strait each year, that would raise about $40 million annually, said Yohei Sasakawa, the head of Japanese non-governmental group The Nippon Foundation. Snaking between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, the Malacca Strait links Asia with the Middle East and Europe and carries about 40 percent of the world's trade. The three countries that border the sea lane individually bear the bulk of upkeep costs for the strait, including anti-piracy patrols. It is estimated that some US $300 million will be required to enhance safety on the waterways over the next decade. Any changes in funding will be scrutinized, as the coastal nations would not want their rights impinged upon. A foreign military presence will likely not be tolerated by any of the three neighboring countries. See "Security costs in Malacca, Singapore straits estimated at US$300 million," Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 3/13/07.
Sudan found responsible for USS Cole bombing: A federal judge Wednesday found that Sudan should be held accountable for the October 12, 2000, bombing of the destroyer USS Cole, and will determine how much the families of the 17 sailors who died in the attack should be paid. Payment is expected to come from Sudanese assets previously frozen by the US government because of the African nation's links to terrorism. The families of 17 victims of the attack on the Cole sued Sudan, claiming it helped provide training and logistics to the al-Qaida terrorists who pulled up next to the destroyer and detonated a small boat of explosives. In his ruling, US District Judge Robert G. Doumar said, "There is substantial evidence in this case presented by the expert testimony that the government of Sudan induced the particular bombing of the Cole by virtue of prior actions of the government of Sudan." See "Judge finds Sudan responsible for terrorist bombings of USS Cole that killed 17 sailors," Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 3/13/07.
Dead fish in Thai river prompt investigation: Fishermen have pulled hundreds of thousands of dead fish from Thailand's Chao Praya River. Authorities launched an investigation into possible pollution along the country's longest river. Several factories are along the river. The dead fish amount to the biggest damage ever to area's fishing industry. Most of Thailand's fishing industry is dependent on catches from the sea, but the Chao Praya serves as a major source of food and income to riverside communities and markets across central Thailand. The ministry of agriculture will compensate fish farmers for their losses. See "1m dead fish in Thai river," SA at News24.com, 3/13/07.
Mexican fishing crew detained in US waters: The US Coast Guard escorted a Mexican fishing boat to its headquarters near Shelter Island yesterday and detained the crew for allegedly poaching in US waters off San Diego. Such a seizure off the California coast is very rare. Five Coast Guard sailors boarded the vessel El Vencedor without incident and found tons of shark meat and an unspecified number of shark fins. The boat was about 11 miles inside the US Exclusive Economic Zone. The crew violated the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which prohibits fishing without a permit by foreign nationals in US waters. See "Mexican fishermen detained in poaching," Terry Rodgers, Union-Tribune at SignOnSanDiego.com, 3/13/07.
British Commons deputy leader resigns: The deputy leader of the British House of Commons has quit his post to protest government plans to renew the Trident nuclear deterrent system. Nigel Griffiths resigned from the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair so he would be allowed to vote against buying a new generation of nuclear weapons. An MP for Edinburgh South, Griffiths was appointed deputy to Commons leader Jack Straw after Labor's third general election victory in May 2005. His resignation highlights the difficulties Blair faces in securing parliamentary approval for plans to build a new generation of V-class submarines to carry the UK's Trident nuclear missiles. See "Minister quits over Trident," Matthew Tempest and agencies, Guardian Unlimited, 3/12/07.
Erika court case continues: French oil giant Total is the wealthiest of the 15 defendants, and a chief target of the plaintiffs, in the case of the oil tanker Erika, which broke apart in a storm in 1999. The defendants are hoping to avoid a criminal conviction for oil pollution, which carries a relatively modest fine, but could expose them to large civil damages. Private plaintiffs will be asking the court for tens of millions of euros in damage, and the regional authorities may try to do the same for ecological damage if the court interprets the law that way. Total has asked for all charges to be thrown out as groundless. Total chartered the Erika, but didn't own or operate it. Other major defendants in the case are the Italian operator, the Italian owner, RINA, the Italian society that certified the ship for use, and the Indian captain of the ship. The court case, which has been going on for a month, continues. See "Total is focus of potentially costly charges over oil spill," Ariane Bernard, International Herald Tribune, 3/12/07.
White House seeks to boost aquaculture: Fish farms are already allowed to operate on American inland and coastal waters as far as three miles into the ocean, and fall under state jurisdiction. But now the Bush administration wants to allow ocean farming in federal waters for the first time. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez has announced a plan that would let companies operate fish farms three to 200 miles offshore. The proposal has environmental safeguards, but would not include some of the rules on size, season and harvest methods that apply to other commercial fishermen. The US lacks regulations for aquaculture in federal marine waters that extend three to 200 miles offshore, and there are many concerns about wastewater generated by such operations. See "U.S. wants to increase offshore fish farming," John Heilprin, Associated Press at Seattle Times, 3/12/07.
US Navy prototype breaks some shipbuilding rules: The US Navy is hoping its new ship Stiletto will help transform the way it designs, build and thinks about ships. The Pentagon requested a high-tech ship capable of delivering SEAL commandos and unmanned vehicles in 2004. The military chose a small firm in San Diego, M Ship Company, that had designed civilian craft but never a Navy vessel. The ship was completed 15 months from contract signing, at a cost of $10 million. It will be based permanently on the East Coast, testing new technologies, ways to deliver special operations forces to combat, and how to fight along coastlines and rivers. Although the Navy has no production plans beyond the prototype, Frank Wakeham, who manages the experimental ship for defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, said the unusual process of creating Stiletto provided valuable lessons. See "New fast ship may help transform Navy," Louis Hansen, The Virginian-Pilot at HamptonRoads.com, 3/12/07.
Mississippi shipyard strike continues: The strike against Northrop Grumman is in its fifth day and Monday morning started with a six-mile march. Striking union workers are manning picket lines outside the Pascagoula shipyard with no progress reported in resolving a contract dispute. Officials with both the company and the unions say no additional contact has been made between the two sides since the strike began Thursday. The strike was sanctioned by both the 1,200-member IBEW and the Pascagoula Metal Trades Council. The council represents 11 unions. See "Strike continues at Northrop Grumman's Miss. Shipyard," Associated Press at Ohio.com, 3/12/07.
Study ranks LNG plant as polluter: A liquefied natural gas terminal proposed 14 miles offshore between Malibu and Port Hueneme would significantly affect air quality, noise levels, ocean views and marine life, according to published reports. According to a study released Friday, the $800-million terminal and natural gas-bearing ships going into and out of the terminal would emit about 219 tons of ozone-forming emissions and 35 tons of smoke and soot daily, ranking it as one of the biggest air pollution sources for Ventura County. An accident could also affect ships heading to or departing from the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports — the largest ports complex in the country. The report was prepared by the US Coast Guard, California State Lands Commission, and the US Maritime Administration. BHP Billiton wants to build the terminal, which is expected to process about 800 million cubic feet of natural gas daily for use in homes, factories, and power plants. See "Report cites risk of offshore gas terminal near Malibu," Gary Polakovic, Los Angeles Times, 3/10/07.
Migrants fleeing to Europe by boat may not get help: Conventions of the International Maritime Organization legally oblige countries to help ship wreck survivors. But when a Spanish rescue boat found the stricken Marine One in January, the vessel and about 400 migrants on board sat off the coast of Mauritania while the two countries decided who should take responsibility. Mauritania is one of the poorest countries in the world, and it hasn't signed all international agreements. The country finally allowed Spain to tow the ship to its shore on condition that Spain flew the migrants out; in fact, many people have been held at port for some time while officials decide what to do with them. While the crises is almost over, both Spain and Mauritania say they regret having gotten involved, and that they will avoid getting involved in the future. The event raises the prospect of having a humanitarian emergency in which no one will be willing to help. See "MAURITANIA: Who will help the next stranded migrant ship?," IRIN, 3/9/07.
Lockheed Martin could lose second LCS ship: Lockheed Martin is currently under contract to build two Littoral Combat Ships (LCS 1 and 3) for the US Navy. But the first ship, already under construction, is considerably over budget, prompting the Navy to halt work on LCS 3. On Thursday, Admiral Michael Mullen, the Navy's Chief of Naval Operations, said that the company could lose part of its LCS contract, depending on the results of a pending review. These comments mark the first time the Navy has discussed outright termination of Lockheed Martin's second vessel. Previously, the service's focus has been how to get costs under control before starting further construction. See "Admiral: Lockheed could lose part of combat ship contract," Rebecca Christie, Dow Jones Newswires at TimesDispatch.com 3/8/07.
Greenpeace publishes list of pirate fishing vessels: Greenpeace has published a database of blacklisted fishing vessels in a bid to tackle the problem of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (IUU). This rogue industry is having a devastating effect on fish stocks and biodiversity. The database was launched at the meeting of the committee on Fisheries of the Food and Agriculture Organizations (FAO) in Rome. Greenpeace hopes to publicly identify vessels which are involved in so-called 'pirate fishing,' and to expose the lack of action by the authorities to prevent the illegal trade. The environmental group has called for an official body to take charge of the policing of the worlds' oceans, since voluntary measures to curb pirate fishing has had little effect. For more information, see the Greenpeace Blacklist.
Strike at Northrop Grumman shipyard: Workers started manning picket lines Thursday at Northrop Grumman Ship Systems' Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi. The shipyard is Mississippi's largest private employer. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers called the strike, but all unions at the shipyard are now on strike, except office workers. Office workers are expected to recognize the picket line. Workers say they need more money to keep up with cost of living increases that have come in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Picket lines have been orderly. See "Number of strikers grows at Northrop Grumman," Michael Newson and Karen Nelson, SunHerald.com, 3/8/07.
China plans to build an aircraft carrier: On Wednesday Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing newspaper Wen Wei Po quoted an unnamed military official as saying that China's research on aircraft carriers was "proceeding smoothly." The country plans to have the capability to build its first aircraft carrier by 2010. The delegate said the development of carriers was facilitated by China's growing economic power and its long coastline. On Sunday the military section of the official website of the People's Daily newspaper quoted Ye Zicheng, an international relations expert at Beijing University, as saying that the move towards independence by Taiwan was one of the reasons why China must develop aircraft carriers. The possibility of war on the Korean peninsula, and several disputes over islands with Japan and Southeast Asian nations are also factors. On Sunday China announced an increase of 17.8 percent in its military budget for this year. See "China to build aircraft carrier by 2010," DPA at Khaleej Times Online, 3/7/07.
An editorial in the Taipei Times warns that China's military buildup is worrisome. The country has no hostile neighbors, and is facing problems such declining health standards, and inadequate education and social infrastructure. See "Editorial: China is a clear and present danger," Taipei Times, 3/7/07.
Baltic Sea region is getting warmer: A new study by 80 scientists from Baltic nations suggests that the Baltic Sea region is likely to warm faster than the world average due to climate change. Temperatures in the area are already rising more quickly than the global average. Scientists say that northern areas may be warming faster than the world average because darker ground and water, once exposed, soak up more heat than reflective ice and snow. Warming might disrupt life in the Baltic Sea, bringing more rains that could decrease the average saltiness of the water. It could also extend the growing seasons in the region. The report has been adopted by governments around the sea in the Helsinki Commission, which is committed to fighting pollution in the region. See "Baltic Sea region to warm sharply in 21st century," Alister Doyle, Reuters, 3/7/07.
Ferguson shipyard to lose workers: The workforce at one of the UK's last commercial shipbuilders — Ferguson's on the Clyde — is to be slashed. About 99 staff at the Port Glasgow site will lose their jobs, leaving just 30. Union members fear it could mean the closure of the historic yard within a year. The yard had lost out on several executive orders under EU tendering rules, but had hoped to win an order for a £14 million fisheries protection vessel. However, that tender has been delayed. Ministers have come under pressure to try to save the shipyard. There are reports that there had been an approach by the MoD to change the Scottish Fisheries vessel to a grey ship, which means it would be lightly armored. This would change the definition of the ship, not EU rules. But an MoD spokesperson denied this. See "Row over shipbuilder jobs crisis," BBC News, 3/6/07.
Controversy remains over oil transfer in the Firth of Forth: Forth Ports, which controls all shipping movements in the estuary, stands to make about £6 million if it allows Russian crude oil to be transferred from ship to ship each year. But there would be little advantage to the wider Scottish economy, and many fear an environmental disaster if any oil were spilled in what is one of Britain's most important areas for marine life and waterfowl. Due to the way the harbor authorities were privatized by the Tories, Forth Ports is the only body which can make the decision; even the Scottish Executive has no say. The company is in the process of assessing any potential impact the proposals would have on protected species in the Forth. But unless they flag up potential environmental risks, the Executive will have no chance to get involved in the process — and many worry that a private company has basically been given a statutory environmental regulatory role. See "Forth tanker crises looms as experts warn there will be spillages," The Scotsman, 3/6/07.
The Philippines focuses on port security: Philippine President Arroyo has allocated funds for the construction of 28 small and large ports through 2010. Security will be part of the plan, to deter the movement of terrorists, criminals and illegal cargo. Affiliated agencies, including the Department of Transportation and Communications, the Coast Guard and Maritime Industry Authority, are working out a port security plan that will keep tighter security measures from delaying general transportation. Ten scanning machines capable of screening shipping containers have already been deployed in major ports, and should be fully operational in the first quarter of the year. See "Port security tightened vs terrorists," Paolo Romero, The Philippine Star, 3/6/07.
Questioning the wisdom of destroying US naval ships: Craig Hooper, a lecturer at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, wrote an article in the Washington Post about how the US Navy is currently subjecting a number of its old ships to ship-killing exercises — 79 in the past six years. Sinking exercises grant an opportunity to hone ship-killing skills while simultaneously collecting data that can make new vessels less vulnerable. But lately, he says, "America appears uneager to study many of its sinking exercises." And the exercises have destroyed many of the more useful retired ships. For example, the USS Belleau Wood returned from a Persian Gulf deployment in 2004, was decommissioned in 2005 and was sunk just eight months later. Hooper suggests that the administration is getting rid of potentially useful ships in order to force the construction of new ships. Mr. Hooper served on the Chief of Naval Operations' Maritime Strategy Working Group at the Naval War College last fall. See "Going Down With the Ships," Craig Hooper, washingtonpost.com, 3/5/07.
Taking stock of carbon dioxide emissions from shipping: Researchers at the Institute for Physics and Atmosphere in Wessling, Germany have found that carbon dioxide emissions from shipping activities account for up to 5% of the global total. Industry members and other studies suggest that maritime carbon dioxide emissions are not only higher than previously thought, but could rise by as much as 75% in the next 15 to 20 years. Even though shipping emissions have risen nearly as fast as those from aviation, few studies have been made of them. Additionally, carbon dioxide emissions from ships do not come under the Kyoto agreement, or any proposed European legislation. An International Maritime Organization study of greenhouse gas emissions has estimated that emissions from the global fleet would increase dramatically in the next 20 years as globalization leads to increased demand for bigger, faster ships. Without action the IMO predicts that by 2020, emissions from ships would increase up to 72%. See "CO2 output from shipping twice as much as airlines," John Vidal, The Guardian Unlimited, 3/3/07.
Japan denies compromise on East China Sea: Japan and China are in dispute over the potentially lucrative gas fields in the East China Sea. On Friday, the Japanese newspaper Nikkei business daily reported that Japan has proposed that the two countries jointly develop the entire area, and work together to select companies that would be involved. The paper described the proposal as a compromise by Tokyo to break a deadlock in negotiations. However, a trade ministry official who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity denied the report. He said the two countries are in discussion, but that "We've never thought of negotiating with China on such an idea." See "Japan offers compromise with China on gas: report," AFP at TurkishPress.com, 3/2/07.
China's submarine fleet is growing: The US Office of National Intelligence (ONI) has revealed that China is building up its submarine force. This is the first time the Pentagon has identified the number of new Chinese submarines under construction. The nuclear-powered missile submarines (SSBNs) are identified as Type 094s, and will be outfitted with 12 new 5,000-mile range JL-2 missiles. Retired Vice Admiral Michael McConnell believes that China's nuclear missiles pose a threat; he said "...they're building their military, in my view, to reach some state of parity with the United States." The missile-submarine buildup would provide Beijing with a major upgrade on current capabilities, presumably to address a conflict over Taiwan. The ONI stated that China already has launched and is performing sea trials on an unspecified number of Type 093 nuclear-powered attack submarines. See "China expands sub fleet," Bill Gertz, The Washington Times, 3/2/07.
General Dynamics' LCS ship is running over budget: After work was stopped on Lockheed Martin Corp.'s second littoral combat ship due to significant cost overruns on their first ship, the US Navy also performed a cost review on the first General Dynamics ship. The cost of this ship is also growing. The LCS ships were initially priced at about $220 million each. The size of the increase on the General Dynamics ship is still unclear, but may be similar in scope to the first Lockheed Martin ship, which is now projected to cost $350 million to $375 million. Cost increases reflect a variety of problems. Navy acquisition chief Delores Etter pointed out that there wasn't enough oversight by the Navy or contractors. Speaking of the cost escalation in the littoral combat ship program, she added, "We should have known it earlier." See "Costs Ballooning for New Combat Ship," Renae Merle, Washingtonpost.com, 3/1/07.
US ship disposal program reviewed for the environment: Sean Connaughton, the head of the US Maritime Administration, has promised to overhaul the agency's ship disposal program to include better environmental safeguards. Connaughton said he won't allow Navy and Coast Guard ships stored at the administration's fleets to be moved until the overhaul of the disposal program is complete. And in the future, the administration might refuse to take custody of military ships if they are poorly maintained or in dangerous condition. There are no active ship-disposal facilities on the West Coast, so ships from California's Suisun Bay are broken up in Texas — and this state has started requiring that ships be cleared of potentially invasive species. California's high environmental standards and labor costs make it a poor candidate for a ship breaking facility. Several efforts to start an operation in Oregon have failed, and the state has started to beef up its own environmental standards. See "Vessel disposal revisited," Thomas Peele, ContraCostaTimes.com, 3/1/07.
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