News Archive - May 2007

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No more 'ghost ships' will go to the UK for dismantling: Able UK, which had won a contract to dismantle up to 13 vessels at its facility in Graythorp, Hartlepool, said a contract with the US government had been renegotiated. The first of the "ghost ships" arrived on the River Tees in November 2003 but a number of planning and legal hurdles has delayed the remaining nine vessels, currently moored in the James River in Virginia, leaving for the UK. It has now been revealed the remaining nine will no longer be dismantled in the UK. The dismantling plan has been dogged by debate over the environmental impact it will have on the surrounding area and wildlife, with campaigners concerned about potentially toxic elements of the old navy ships. Additionally, the US government has been under pressure to keep the work in US shipyards. See "British firm loses contract to dismantle nine US 'ghost ships'," John Vidal, The Guardian, 5/31/07.

Koreas will hold military talks to prevent naval conflict: South Korea's Defense Ministry said Thursday that military officers from North and South will meet next Friday in Panmunjom. The talks are expected to focus on preventing conflicts over the sea border. North Korean naval authorities this week announced they were patrolling the waters west of the Korean peninsula "with extra vigilance," and accused the South of "reckless military provocations." North Korea does not accept the sea border established by the United Nations in 1953, and has been involved in at least two deadly skirmishes at sea with the South since 1999. See "Koreas to hold military talks, amid warnings of naval clashes," The Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 5/31/07.

New role for New York Police Department divers: The New York Police Department's scuba team has launched a series of counterterrorism efforts since the September 11, 2001 attacks. The Department recently bought four underwater ROVs fitted with cameras to help the 31-diver scuba team search for explosives. So far, the team has used the cameras to inspect things like the base of the Brooklyn Bridge, the cruise terminal where the Queen Mary 2 has docked, and a retaining wall on the East River beneath the United Nations. The divers have been trained to recognize limpet mines, or small bombs that a swimmer could attach to ship hulls and other surfaces. The team also has been working with NYPD intelligence officers to identify and sweep large merchant ships that might be smuggling narcotics or more dangerous cargo. See "NYPD Divers Now Search for Bombs," Tom Hays, Associated Press at, 5/31/07.

Spain files claims for shipwrecks found by Florida company: The government of Spain has filed claims in a US federal court over three shipwrecks that Florida firm Odyssey Marine Exploration has found. One discovery was recently announced, code-named "Black Swan," filled with an estimated $500 million worth of coins. If the vessel was Spanish or was removed from that country's waters, any treasure would belong to Spain, said James Goold, an attorney representing the government. Odyssey said the ship was not found in Spanish territorial waters. Under US District Court rules, Spain has 20 days to issue a specific response to each of Odyssey's three shipwreck claims. Odyssey, which hopes to be the first publicly traded shipwreck-recovery company to generate consistent earnings, said that it expects to reap a substantial salvage award regardless of who claims it. See "Spain sues Odyssey Marine," Scott Barancik, St. Petersburg Times at, 5/31/07.

Somali pirates release ship, 16 crewmembers: Andrew Mwangura of the Seafarers' Assistance Program says Somali pirates have released a cargo ship and its 16 crewmembers in exchange for a $100,000 ransom. Pirates had hijacked the ship Mariam Queen off Somalia's coast on May 3. The ship travels under the flag of Saint Kitts and Nevis, a tiny island nation in the Caribbean. Mwangura said he believes the ship's owners or Somali businessmen paid the ransom. The ship has been released and is heading toward Mogadishu. The Somali coast has recently experienced a rise in pirate attacks, which had stopped while Islamists ruled much of southern Somalia for several months last year. See "Pirates free ship after ransom," Reuters at News24, 5/29/07.

India needs better ship inspections during monsoon season: The merchant vessel Marian Trans was heading to Gujarat's Alang ship breaking yard when it was caught in monsoon conditions. Crew members abandoned the ship soon after the engine room flooded, and there were no casualties, but the ship sank on May 26. In response, the Indian Coast Guard has reiterated the need for proper maintenance and inspection of foreign vessels coming to the country's ship breaking yards during monsoon season. In past incidents, ships have come dangerously close to active oil rigs and other sensitive areas. See "'Proper inspection of foreign vessels needed'," Press Trust of India at Ahmedabad Newsline, 5/29/07.

BBC Radio reports problems on British submarines: BBC Radio 4's File On 4 has researched conditions on Britain's Vanguard class submarines, and suggests they are being affected by government cost-cutting. One sailor serving on a Trident submarine claims they are "just about" seaworthy, with crews operating on a "make do and mend" basis. Sailors on the Navy's nuclear powered Trafalgar class submarines, which carry conventional weapons, are also concerned. Former First Sea Lord Sir Alan West argues that cost cutting is a problem across the Navy, and that it is causing a morale problem. But Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram denied there was any problem, either with morale or seaworthiness on boats. See "Sub crews' cost cutting criticism," BBC News, 5/29/07.

Pipeline deal signed to divert Malacca Strait oil: Companies from Malaysia, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia have signed agreements for the construction of a pipeline that will divert 20 percent of oil flowing through the Malacca Strait. Half of the world's oil shipments currently pass through the Strait, so when the project is complete in 2014, it should help ease congestion. Malaysia's Trans-Peninsula Petroleum, the owner and promoter of the TRANSPEN project, has signed an agreement with Malaysia's Ranhill Engineers and Constructors, and Indonesia's PT Tripatra to build the pipeline. Indonesia's Bakrie and Brothers will supply pipes, and Al-Banader International Group of Saudi Arabia will provide the oil. While the Strait has been vulnerable to pirate attacks, security has improved lately. Jason Feer, of energy market analysts Argus Media Ltd in Singapore, described the project as an expensive solution to a problem that isn't that severe. And the logistics of using the pipeline, with only three days' sailing time saved, may not make the project interesting to bank lenders. See "Deals signed on pipeline that seeks to divert Malacca Strait oil," Ivy Sam, AFP at Yahoo! News, 5/28/07.

Shipwrecked Africans saved after clinging to tuna nets: Twenty-seven African migrants of several nationalities spent three days and nights at sea holding on to buoys around a giant tuna net as the Maltese and Libyan governments argued over who should save them from drowning. They were picked up eventually by an Italian patrol vessel. The men had paid for a passage from Libya to Europe in an open boat that foundered on Friday night. Soon after their boat went down they were spotted by the Maltese tug Boudafel, which was towing a huge tuna-breeding plant towards Spain. The tug was ordered by her owners not to take the men on board because that would have interrupted her voyage. The men were transferred to the Italian naval vessel Orione, which was in the area searching for another boatload of migrants that had become known as the "phantom boat." Some 53 people from this boat are feared dead. See "Europe's shame," Peter Popham, The Independent, 5/28/07.

Britannic to be turned into a diving attraction: Britannic was the third largest Olympic-class liner of the legendary White Star line, and sister ship of the Titanic and Olympic. By then a wartime hospital ship, the Britannic sank after hitting a German mine in 1916 with the loss of 30 lives. Later this year, a joint team of British and Greek divers will explore the wreck in the Aegean Sea. This will start off a plan to make the liner the focus of a tourist attraction. The ship will be made available to select teams of divers, and a museum, a diving school and a hotel will support the ship. The Britannic Foundation has just revealed details of its first dive, due to start on September 10. See "Tourist attraction will be a real drive," John McGurk, Belfast Telegraph, 5/27/07.

Sharks are in trouble worldwide: Although sharks are often feared, the truth is they only kill an average of four people worldwide every year. Humans, on the other hand, kill anywhere from 26 to 73 million sharks annually, and people are starting to realize that something must be done to prevent sharks from disappearing from the planet. Much of the hunt for sharks is driven by the growing demand for shark-fin soup, a delicacy that conveys a sense of status in Asian countries whose citizens are enjoying newfound wealth. Early next month, officials from around the globe will meet in The Hague, Netherlands, to decide whether to put new controls on the trade in two heavily fished species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Michael Sutton, director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Center for the Future of the Oceans, "there is no such thing as a sustainable shark fishery." See "Fish Story's New Reality Is That Man Bites Shark," Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post, 5/27/07.

Canada's ports worry new ID cards will be costly: A new plan put forth by Transport Canada would step up maritime security and combat potential terrorist threats. The initiative is part of a federal program to get Canada's ports up to international security standards, and would include background checks and identity cards for key workers. However, some port managers worry that the new measures will be costly to implement. See "Port managers fear security measures will cost too much," The Canadian Press, Edmonton Journal at, 5/25/07.

UK coastguard workers protest over pay: Coastguards and maritime officials are taking industrial action in a row over a below-inflation pay rise. Up to 700 members of the Public and Commercial Services union across the UK are taking part in the action. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency staff withdrew from non-essential duties such as issuing fishing vessel certificates and incident reports. Their union said the basic coastguard grade was paid barely above the minimum wage. See "Coastguards launch action over pay," Ananova, 5/25/07.

UN to help Guyana and Suriname settle border dispute: Guyana and Suriname disagree over ownership of hundreds of square miles of territory running from the nations' land border at the coast out to the limit of their territorial waters. Industry experts have estimated that the Guyana-Suriname Basin may hold as much as 15 billion barrels of oil, and huge deposits of natural gas. Officials from the UN's maritime body will travel to the area next week to make its final ruling on the dispute between the two neighbors. See "U.N. researchers to examine basin between Guyana, Suriname thought rich in oil," The Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 5/25/07.

Gunmen kidnap oil workers from Nigerian vessel: Gunmen kidnapped ten people from a pipe laying vessel contracted to Nigerian oil company Conoil off the coast of Nigeria on Friday; nine foreign oil workers and a Nigerian colleague were taken. Shots were fired during the abduction by suspected militants in two speed boats, which took place off the coast of the southern state of Bayelsa near the town of Sangana. The event came a day after gunmen kidnapped a Polish engineer near the oil city of Warri. Abductions for ransom or to press political demands are frequent in the impoverished Niger Delta, home to Africa' biggest oil industry. See "Speed boat gunmen snatch 10 from Nigerian oil ship," Reuters at, 5/25/07.

Australian and American seafarers work together: Although BHP's proposal to build a natural gas terminal off the coast of California has met with considerable opposition, a new agreement between the Australian and American seafarers' unions could help revive the plans. The two unions have signed an agreement on the crewing of ships that would transport liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the US. Maritime Union of Australia's national secretary hopes that people will be less worried about the project if they know that the delivery ships would be crewed by quality professionals who have undergone security screening. Paddy Crumlin said, "Australian and US seafarers have the most rigorous background screening in the world." David Heindel, the national secretary treasurer of the Seafarers' International Union of North America, said the US Congress had recently amended the US Deepwater Port Act to give "priority" to approving LNG facilities that would be supplied by US flagged vessels. See "US, Aussie gas shipping pact a 'win-win'," Julian Drape, AAP at Canberra, 5/24/07.

Forth oil transfer is delayed: Under the current law, Forth Ports plc can decide itself if it needs to apply to the Scottish Executive for a license to transfer oil between ships anchored in the Forth. Forth Ports stands to gain the most financially from the plan. As rural affairs and environment secretary Richard Lochhead said, "They are effectively both judge and jury of their own assessment. That cannot be right." The new SNP Scottish Executive has now asked Forth Ports to delay any decision on the controversial plans until MSPs consider the issue. The Greens welcomed today's statement but urged ministers not to waste any time. See "Executive calls for delay to oil transfer decision," Ian Swanson, Evening News at, 5/24/07.

US is concerned about China's military buildup: A new annual Pentagon assessment of China's military describes a country that is increasing its military capacity. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, "Some of the capabilities that are being developed are of concern." He has called on China to be more open about its intentions. The expansion of China's navy includes a growing submarine fleet and new ships suitable for the open seas, fueling fears in the United States that its military could alter the balance of power in Asia. See "U.S. voices concern over new Chinese weaponry," Reuters, 5/24/07.

Scientists target fishing subsidies: Some 125 marine scientists from around the world have warned the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that unless subsidies to fishing industries are reduced soon, overfishing will damage the ecosystem of the worlds oceans beyond recovery. Talks on fish subsidies are part of the WTO's Doha Round of global negotiations on lowering barriers to trade in goods and services. These were launched in 2001, but have been bogged down in disputes on agricultural support and goods tariffs. World fishing subsidies are estimated at around $34-billion a year, or a third of the sector's overall annual sales. But there is resistance among WTO member states to a drastic reduction in support, with some countries arguing that it would deprive thousands of fishermen of their jobs and livelihood. See "WTO urged to slash fishing subsidies," Robert Evans, Reuters at IOL, 5/24/07.

Ship repair is hampered at Cape Town Harbour: A backlog in maintenance and infrastructure repair at Cape Town Harbour is causing problems for shipyards and local agencies alike. An environmental impact assessment of the expansions of the terminal could cause delays to any development of ship and boat construction. Business is already being lost: up to two ships are turned away each week for repairs, and even small refits to oil rigs can't be performed. At issue are old cranes, and basic wear and tear on facilities. The National Ports Authority (NPA) is apparently refusing to invest in facilities, and not allowing anybody else to do so. See "Shipping in Cape faces rough times," Ingi Salgado and Michael Hamlyn," Business Report, 5/23/07.

Cutty Sark fire remains a mystery: The forensic examination of the remains of the Cutty Sark has finished and proved inconclusive as to the cause of the fire which devastated the historic ship. A Metropolitan Police spokesman said tests on the remains had proved "inconclusive" as to how the fire began. The fire damage is expected to add millions to the final restoration bill and seriously delay the anticipated public reopening date in 2009. See "No major clues to Cutty Sark fire," Daily Mail, 5/23/07.

Court won’t lower Valdez judgment again: A federal appeals court on Wednesday rejected Exxon Mobil Corp.'s request for it to reconsider its earlier decision that cut nearly in half a $4.5 billion jury award punishing the company for the 1989 Valdez oil spill that fouled 1,500 miles of Alaskan coastline. In December, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals reduced the punitive damage award to $2.5 billion in a case that began with a 1994 decision by an Anchorage jury siding with 34,000 fishermen and other Alaskans. The plaintiffs said they were hurt when Exxon's oil tanker struck a charted reef and spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil. An Exxon spokesman said the company would appeal the decision to the US Supreme Court, as it still sees the $2.5 billion award as excessive — the company has argued that punitive damages should not be more than $25 million. See "Exxon denied smaller damages in Valdez case," Reuters at CNN, 5/23/07.

Royal Navy orders new submarine: Britain's Ministry of Defense said Monday it had placed an order for the construction of a new nuclear-powered attack submarine. The submarine, to be named HMS Audacious, is the fourth of the Astute class, the largest and most powerful generation of nuclear boats designed for the Royal Navy. The submarine will be built by BAE Systems at an estimated cost of 200 million British pounds (about $395 million). Assembly is expected to start later this year at the BAE Systems shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness. The order comes amid opposition to government proposals to renew Britain's Trident missile nuclear deterrent, which is carried by four Vanguard class submarines. See "MoD orders new nuclear submarine," AFP at Yahoo! News, 5/21/07.

Piracy choking Somali aid delivery: The UN World Food Program has appealed for international action to stamp out Somali pirates threatening the delivery of humanitarian supplies to the country, which is trying to recover from the worst fighting in more than a decade. On Saturday, pirates staged a failed hijack attempt on a WFP boat, killing a Somali guard. And another ship carrying food aid refused to leave Kenya on Monday, asking for security. The US Navy has warned vessels to stay clear of Somalia's waters because of rampant piracy. Saturday's attack on the aid ship was the eighth this year off Somalia's coast. Piracy is just one of the obstacles to distributing aid to the needy in this nation of 7 million people. See "U.N. food aid ship refuses to sail to Somalia," Associated Press at, 5/21/07.

Shipwreck treasure brings claims, rumors: Odyssey Marine Exploration on Friday announced the recovery of silver and gold coins possibly worth $500 million. The exploration company from Tampa, Florida has withheld details about the shipwreck, where it was found or even what kind of coins they had hauled back. But the discovery has raised questions on the ownership of the treasure. In England, the find generated press reports that Odyssey had salvaged the wreck of the long-sought British vessel Merchant Royal, which sank in bad weather off England in 1641. In Spain, the government said it was "suspicious" of Odyssey's find, given that it recently gave permission to the company to hunt for the wreck of the HMS Sussex in the Mediterranean Sea. The country's Culture Minister said his nation will claim the treasure if it turns out to be Spanish or was removed from Spanish waters. Odyssey said their discovery was not the Sussex, but didn't say anything about the Merchant Royal. See "Spain probing if sunken treasure taken illegally," Ben Harding, Reuters at Yahoo! News, 5/21/07.

Fire devastates historic Cutty Sark: One of Britain's maritime treasures, the Cutty Sark, suffered severe damage after fire ripped through the ship on Monday. Police said they were treating the blaze on board the 19th century tea clipper as suspicious after the blaze broke out in the early hours. Firefighters said the blaze damaged the entire ship but they were waiting for investigators to inspect the wreckage before they could make any judgment on the cause. Chris Livett, chairman of Cutty Sark Enterprises, said that half of the planking, as well as all the historic artifacts on board, had been removed for the conservation project currently under way, and he expressed confidence that the ship could be fully restored. See "Blaze ravages historic Cutty Sark," BBC News, 5/21/07.

North Korean cargo ship visits South Korea: The North Korean cargo ship Kang Song Ho anchored near the port of Busan on Sunday. This is the first North Korean cargo vessel to arrive in South Korea for commercial business since the Korean War. The ship will dock on Monday to load 60 empty containers, and could leave on Monday, as well. The two Koreas are still technically at war, but relations have warmed since their leaders held a summit in 2000. The vessel is expected to carry cargo between Busan and the North's port of Rajin three times a month. See "N. Korean Ship Sails in South Waters," Associated Press at Herald Tribune, 5/20/07.

Arctic boundary dispute may heat up: Drawn by resource wealth and climate change concerns, the Bush administration is asking the US Senate to approve the treaty on the Law of the Sea, and give the country legal tools to press its claims to an energy-rich wedge of the Beaufort Sea that Canada considers its own. The Law of the Sea treaty came into effect in 1994, and has been ratified by 152 countries as well as the European Union. The US has voluntarily complied with its provisions but has never signed it. The move to sign the treaty could bring Canada's unresolved Arctic boundary disputes with the US to light. Analysts believe the issue has enough backing in the Senate to pass in this Congress. The treaty describes rules on how Arctic countries can set boundaries on their territories. Oil, natural gas and methane hydrates are believed to be at stake. See "Pressure builds in Arctic boundary dispute," Bob Weber, Canadian Press at, 5/20/07.

Britain looks at renewable energy sources: Britain will publish the next stage of its energy White Paper on Wednesday. It is expected to focus on renewable energy, rather than nuclear power, which was prioritized by Tony Blair, who will leave power shortly. It is expected that the White Paper will keep nuclear power as an option, but will feature renewables. Three main options are being discussed: the Severn barrage, which would take advantage of the 45-foot tide that races through the Severn estuary, another form of tidal energy already being tried out off the Devon coast, and wind power. The Severn barrage has some favor, but not among environmentalists, since the structure would dramatically change the ecology of the estuary, and would affect ringed plover and Bewick swans. The plan in Devon is less controversial. Britain has a long way to go to meet its renewable targets by 2020. Experts say that at least a fifth of the UK's electricity would have to come from wind power, and another tenth from marine and hydro energy. See "The tide is finally turning: Tidal power gains support among MPs," Tim Webb and Geoffrey Lean, The Independent, 5/20/07.

Cleaner ship scrapping ideas proposed: Between 200 and 600 ships are dismantled every year worldwide. At least two thirds of them are taken apart in the Indian sub-continent under dangerous conditions. Next week, the European Commission will propose ways to make ship dismantling less dangerous and more environmentally sound. The paper focuses specifically on warships that are owned by European governments, and will include improving conditions in foreign shipyards, better enforcement of rules at EU ports, and guidance on where companies can "cleanly" dismantle old ships. See "EU to lay out ship dismantling proposals," Reuters, 5/18/07.

Shipwreck yields estimated $500 million haul: Treasure hunters have discovered what they believe to be the world's most valuable shipwreck at an undisclosed site in the Atlantic Ocean. Using mini-submarines, hunters have already recovered 17 tons of 17th-century gold and silver coins from the wreck worth an estimated $500 million. The discovery was made by underwater treasure hunting company Odyssey Marine Exploration of Tampa, Florida, USA. Under international salvage law the company could get up to 90 percent of its find, depending on who the ship's original owners were and if any other claimants come forward. Some of the bounty could go to the British Government, although Odyssey says the wreck is in international waters. The company could get 80 percent of the first $45 million and about 50 percent of the proceeds thereafter. See "Colonial Shipwreck Yields $500M in Coins," Mitch Stacy, Associated Press at, 5/18/07.

US Navy uses wireless aboard suspect vessels: The US Navy's new Expanded Maritime Interception Operations (EIMO) provides a wireless data link between crews on interdicted vessels and their home ship, which could be up to a few nautical miles away. This is the first time the Navy has approved the use of 802.11g wireless devices for use by personnel boarding suspect vessels. The wireless links can transmit biometric data, scanned documents, digital photos and e-mail from the boarding team, allowing near real-time analysis of such artifacts. This is a big step above simple radio transmissions. See "Navy floats on-board Wifi," Patrick Marshall, Government Computer News, 5/18/07.

US Coast Guard seeks damages for failed patrol boats: The US Coast Guard is seeking a refund for eight 110-foot patrol boats that were converted by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman into 123-foot vessels. The Coast Guard initially planned to upgrade 49 patrol boats, but stopped when the first eight developed structural problems. The boats were put on restrictive duty, but after more problems were found they were taken out of service. Pamela Bible, a Coast Guard contracting officer, said in a letter to the contractors yesterday, "The physical integrity of the 123 [foot] cutters has been compromised to such a degree the performance specifications under the contract cannot be achieved and sustained." The Coast Guard attributed the problems to flaws in Lockheed and Northrop's design. As the companies have not provided their own assessment, the service is seeking the refund. An amount has not been determined. Lockheed and Northrop, which operate the Coast Guard's Deepwater acquisition program under a joint venture known as Integrated Coast Guard Systems, are still evaluating the letter. The Coast Guard is in the process of revamping the Deepwater program, which has faced criticism for cost overruns, delays and technical problems. See "Coast Guard Seeks Deepwater Refund," Renae Merle, The Washington Post, 5/18/07.

Environmental groups sue US Navy over sonar use: The US Navy's use of high-intensity, active sonar in training exercises around the Hawaiian Islands will harm whales and other marine mammals, say five environmental groups that are suing to stop the practice. The lawsuit seeks to stop the Navy from doing its sonar exercises until it complies with environmental laws they are violating. The lawsuit filed in federal court yesterday also cites the National Marine Fisheries Service for inadequately assessing the Navy's plans to be sure its actions do not harm endangered marine life. Navy spokesman Jon Yoshishige said the Navy is complying with all applicable laws and regulations, but the environmental groups allege the Navy measures are inadequate. See "Navy Sued Over Sonar Drills Off Hawaii," Audrey McAvoy, The Associated Press at, 5/17/07.

The US House of Representatives has authorized funding to test the effects of sonar on marine mammals. The appropriation was approved Thursday as part of a defense spending bill. It also funds research into systems that would detect the mammals in naval training areas. See "Millions voted to study whales and sonar," Pacific Business News, 5/17/07.

Ship's operator and crew charged regarding ocean oil dumping: The US Coast Guard inspected the M/V Valparaiso Star in January. They found the crew had falsified records to conceal they used bypass hoses to dump oily waste directly into the sea. International and US laws prohibit such discharges without treatment, and require all discharges to be recorded. Fleet Management of Hong Kong, ship captain Parag Raj Grewal, and chief engineer Yevgen Dyachenko, are charged with conspiracy, failure to maintain an accurate oil record book, false statements and obstruction. The indictment also alleges that Fleet Management and Grewal obstructed the investigation by trying to pressure a crew member to retract the truthful statements he provided to investigators. Fleet management has not yet commented on the matter. See "Feds in Philly allege cover-up of ocean oil dumping," The Associated Press at, 5/17/07.

Captured crew are safe: Pirates who hijacked two South Korean fishing vessels with 24 crew members aboard have sailed the ships to a village on the coast of Somalia. Noel Choong, the head of the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Center, said that all the crew members are safe. The Tanzania-registered ships, identified as Mavuno-1 and Mavuno-2, were captured together on Tuesday by suspected Somali pirates en route from Kenya's port of Mombasa to Yemen. South Korean officials have asked Somalia and neighboring Kenya to help secure the release of the crewmen. The hijackings were the second and third attacks this week off Somali waters. See "Seized ships in Somali village," AFP at News24, 5/17/07.

Indonesia is surveying its islands: Indonesia officially has about 17,000 islands, but Alex Retraubun, a government official in charge of small islands, is concerned that hundreds of them might vanish because of rising sea levels from global warming. In response, the country is carrying out its first detailed survey. In fact, not all of the islands have been counted, much less named, and even near the capital there is confusion over the numbers. Sovereignty disputes are also at issue. Indonesia upset neighboring Singapore recently by banning sand exports to the city state, blaming sand mining for literally wiping some of its islands off the map. The survey team is taking the coordinates of an island it visits, notes what is there, whether it is occupied and, if so, what is the makeup of the community. Less than half of Indonesia's islands are inhabited. See "Indonesia counts its islands before it's too late," Ed Davies, Reuters at Yahoo! News, 5/16/07.

China is growing its fleet of oil tankers: China plans to build a fleet of more than 90 supertankers to improve control over its energy supply, and imports. China fears that oil deliveries could be threatened at a time of international tension or conflict. The country plans to have half of its oil imports carried by Chinese-owned tankers — a specific deadline hasn't been set, but Chinese shipping companies are expected to order as many as 65 tankers by 2012. In addition to the country's existing 25 supertankers, this number would have the capacity to deliver about half of projected imports by about 2015. China imports almost half its crude, but Chinese-owned tankers deliver less than 20 percent of this. See "China begins building out its supertanker fleet," David Lague, International Herald Tribune, 5/16/07.

West Coast ports work to reduce pollution: The ports of Vancouver, Seattle and Tacoma have announced a new plan for cooperation in an effort to reduce pollution in the Puget Sound and Georgia Strait. The joint strategy will include short- and long-term emission objectives. The ports hope to reduce particulate matter by 70 percent from ships at berth and 30 percent from cargo-handling equipment by 2010. The action plan will look at all sources of maritime-related emissions, including ocean-going vessels, container trucks, trains and cargo handlers. By working together, the ports will avoid competing on an environmental level, and if one port has to turn a ship away, it won't simply go to another. See "Ports plan strategies to reduce maritime emissions," Kristen Millares Bolt, Seattle Post Intelligencer, 5/16/07.

Investigation begins into the grounding of the Empress of the North: A team from the US National Transportation Safety Board is in Juneau to start an investigation into why the Empress of the North appeared to have hit a mapped and lighted rock early Monday morning. Various accounts said the ship ran aground on either Rocky Island or Hanus Reef, two outcroppings that are at least three miles apart. Whichever rock was involved caused severe damage to the ship's hull, and prompted the evacuation of all passengers and most of its crew. The vessel was freed of the rock several hours after the grounding. Salvage divers found several punctures in the side of the double-hulled ship, including one eight-foot gash and a four-foot by three-inch hole. See "Federal investigation begins on cruise ship grounding," Anne Sutton, The Associated Press at The Seattle Times, 5/16/07.

Pirate activity: The Qatar-flagged cargo ship Ibn Younus managed to escape as it was chased by pirates with grenade launchers and machine guns on Monday. The ship's crew was safe, and nobody was injured, but a grenade launcher caused severe damage to the ship. The incident occurred in the Indian Ocean far off the coast of Somalia. Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur, said piracy was on the rise again in Somalia. This was the fifth attack since April, and the seventh at sea so far this year. This attack happened much farther off the coast than previous attacks, raising concerns about shipping routes. See "Pirates open fire on cargo ship; Malaysian watchdog warns key routes threatened," The Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 5/15/07.

The MV Tahoma Reefer was docked off Monrovia after a fire destroyed its upper deck last August. But pirates armed with machetes boarded it this week and beat up the crew, putting three men in the hospital. While the injured were being cared for, the pirates stole the ship and towed it away towards Ivory Coast. A helicopter from the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia (UNMIL) spotted the freighter being towed towards Ivorian waters, but was not able to intercept it. See "Machete-wielding pirates steal ship off Liberia," Alphonso Toweh, Reuters at, 5/15/07.

Questions raised over sinking of the Golden Rose: The sinking of the Korean cargo ship Golden Rose off the coast of Dalian on Saturday, with 16 sailors lost, raises several questions. A sailor aboard the Chinese ship said the crew didn't notice a collision; the vessel shook and slowed, but soon recovered speed. But considering the damage to the Jinsheng, and the face that all hands on the Golden Rose were lost, it seems likely the crew would have noticed. Officials are also questioning why the Golden Rose didn't send a distress call. The vessel's Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (EPRIB) wasn't working when it sank. See "Doubts Emerge Over Sinking of Korean Freighter," Digital Chosunilbo, 5/15/07.

Greek oil tanker is still stranded off Denmark: The Greek oil tanker Minerva Concert ran aground east of the Danish island of Samsoe late Monday after straying out of shipping lanes. Two Danish tugs tried to pull the ship loose on Tuesday, but failed. Apparently, the vessel's tanks are filled to the top. Kjeld Gaard, spokesman for the Admiral Danish Fleet Headquarters, said the insurance company was "developing a new plan to refloat the tanker with other ships transferring some of the load." There is no sign of an oil spill so far. Aristotelis Ianniou, chief executive officer of the shipping company, told the AFP that the accident was caused by a crack in the ballast in the front of the vessel. He blamed the incident on an error made by one of the two Danish pilots who were onboard to guide the ship. See "Attempts to refloat stranded Greek tanker fail," AFP at Yahoo! News, 5/15/07.

South Korea unveils warships: South Korea will launch a destroyer fitted with an Aegis defense system later this month from Hyundai Heavy Industries. Korea is the fifth country with Aegis ships, following the US, Japan, Spain, and Norway. The King Sejong-class destroyers are reportedly the second most powerful after the American version. The first of the vessels will be deployed next year after about a year of testing. Two more will be put into service by the Navy in 2010 and 2012. See "Korea to Launch New Aegis Destroyer this Month," Digital Chosunilbo, 5/15/07.

South Korea will unveil a new diesel-electric submarine next month. The sub will be commissioned in late 2008, and was developed in partnership with German firm Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft. See "S Korea to unveil new sub and destroyer," AFP at Khaleej Times Online, 5/15/07.

Great Lakes Commission urges ballast water legislation: Great Lakes states in the US are urging Congress to create legislation to reduce and hopefully eliminate the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species from ballast water. Ballast water discharges from oceangoing vessels in the Great Lakes are believed to be the source of invasive species, which are starting to threaten boating, tourism, fishing and related maritime businesses. Power generation and water supply are also affected. The Great Lakes Commission is asking for federal ballast water treatment regulations that would be applied uniformly across the region. Michigan and California have recently enacted their own ballast water regulations, and Wisconsin and other states are considering similar measures. The Great Lakes Commission also urges that the US work with Canada; the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec have associate member status on the Commission. See "Congress urged to make ballast water rules #1 Great Lakes priority," Great Lakes Commission, 5/15/07.

NATO may provide maritime security support for oil facilities: NATO is talking to oil and gas producing companies and countries about increasing security to the energy infrastructure. Measures could include providing maritime rapid reaction forces to combat attacks on facilities and piracy in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Companies such as Royal Dutch Shell and BP are increasing their own security measures, but Jamie Shea, Director of Policy Planning in the Private Office of the NATO Secretary General, said some have been interested in getting help with intelligence. NATO is also in talks with Qatar about securing its LNG facilities, and may be prepared to help Saudi Arabia as well. See "NATO eyes naval patrols to secure oil facilities," Tom Bergin, Reuters at, 5/14/07.

Alaska cruise ship evacuated, all safe: The cruise ship Empress of the North with 281 passengers on board hit a reef off Alaska and started taking on water early on Monday, but all passengers were evacuated safely. A ferry, several fishing boats, and a Coast Guard cutter were used to evacuate the passengers after the accident, which occurred south of Juneau on Alaska's eastern leg in an area called Icy Straits. The crew remained on the cruise ship to take it back to Juneau. The vessel is operated by Majestic America Line of Seattle. The Empress of the North has had other problems since it began operating in mid-2003, including running aground at least twice before. See "Cruise Ship Runs Aground Off Alaska," Anne Sutton, Associated Press at, 5/14/07.

2 ships collide off China; 16 missing: Chinese maritime authorities sent two helicopters and more than 20 boats to try to find 16 missing crew members of a South Korean cargo vessel that sank on Sunday, but no survivors or bodies have been found. The Golden Rose sank around 4 a.m. on Saturday after it collided with the Chinese freighter JinSheng. Heavy fog was blamed for the collision. South Korea's coast guard sent a telegram to Chinese maritime authorities demanding a thorough investigation into why there was a delay of about seven hours in reporting the accident. Chinese authorities said they dispatched a rescue team to the site immediately after learning of the accident. See "16 crew missing after ships collide," Kwang-Tai Kim, Associated Press at 5/13/07.

Signs of invasive mussels raise infestation fears in the US: The discovery last week of zebra mussels on a recreational boat traveling through Washington state is the most recent sign that Pacific Northwest waters may be in danger of infestation by this small invasive species. Although no zebra mussels have been found in Washington waters, inspectors at truck weigh stations have discovered the mussels on four boats in the state since December. Few recreational vessels are stopped at weigh stations, so most are not inspected. Zebra mussels were inadvertently introduced into waters near the Great Lakes in the mid-'80s. Fisheries there have collapsed, and the infestation has spread west in recent years to California and Nevada. See "Invasive zebra mussels arrive in Northwest on pleasure boats," Donna Gordon Blankinship, The Associated Press at The Seattle Times, 5/12/07.

Shipyard, container terminal fight for space in Durban: Transnet has proposed building a new container terminal at the southern side of the Durban port. This would quadruple the harbor's container handling capacity; at current growth rates, the port could run out of container handling capacity by 2010. But the proposal would affect Southern African Shipyards — which currently can't accept an order to build between 12 and 15 offshore supply vessels because the yard would be engulfed by the new terminal. Another business that might be affected is Elgin Brown & Hamer, which repairs ships. The company declined to comment. The public consultation process has already begun. See "Shipbuilders to lose orders over Durban harbour plans," Sapa at Mail & Guardian Online, 5/11/07.

Korea and Japan discuss undersea tunnel: South Korea and Japan are once again discussing building an undersea tunnel linking the two countries. There are three different routes under review. Any of the proposed routes would create the longest undersea tunnel in the world. It's estimated that it will cost five times more than the Channel Tunnel, and take three times as long to build. No decision has been made on which tunnel might be built, or if it would include railways in addition to roads. The project will be discussed at an international conference hosted by Busan City Hall and the Busan Development Institute. Supporters say it will make money, because Japanese shippers would pay toll charges to send cargo to the continent. But opponents say that Korea would gain nothing from the tunnel. See "Experts Argue Over Korea-Japan Undersea Tunnel," Digital Chosunilbo, 5/11/07.

Naval dockyard bought for £350m: British defense and engineering group Babcock International will buy Plymouth's Devonport naval dockyard in a £350m deal. Devonport maintains, upgrades and fuels the Royal Navy's submarines. The deal will make Babcock the UK's leading naval maintenance firm. Babcock is buying Devonport Management Limited (DML) from a consortium which includes Kellogg Brown & Root, Balfour Beatty and Weir Group. Babcock already maintains the Rosyth and Faslane submarine bases in Scotland. DML supports nuclear submarines and surface vessels for the Royal Navy and has controlled the Plymouth dockyard since 1997. Babcock is understood to have beaten a rival bid from US private equity firm Carlyle to buy DML, after earlier interest from defense rivals Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems. See "Babcock to buy Devonport for £350m," TimesOnline, 5/11/07.

Jury convicts Chinese-born engineer in secrets case: A US court has found a Chinese-born engineer guilty of conspiring to export sensitive defense technology to China, including data on an electronic propulsion system that could make submarines nearly undetectable. Chi Mak was also convicted of acting as a foreign agent and of making false statements to federal agents. Prosecutors said FBI agents found CDs containing encrypted information about defense projects in the luggage of two relatives at the Los Angeles airport. They also alleged that he gave thousands of documents to his brother, who handed them to Chinese authorities. Mak said he had not realized at the time that making copies was illegal. He is to be sentenced on 10 September and faces up to 35 years in jail. See "Engineer guilty of trying to leak U.S. military secrets," Associated Press at, 5/10/07.

Report suggests that South Koreans are hunting whales: Whale meat can be sold legally in South Korea if the mammals are accidentally caught in fishing nets — these deaths must be reported. A new report in Britain's New Scientist magazine suggests that South Korean fishermen are deliberately trying to snare whales, and underreporting the catches. Intentional catches are punishable with a jail term of up to three years or a fine of $21,000, but some fishermen take the risk, since a minke whale can be sold for $100,000. The researchers bought whale meat in South Korean markets and used DNA fingerprinting to calculate how many individual whales had been caught. Kim Zang-Geun, head of South Korea's state-financed Cetacean Research Institute, said the estimate might have been overblown. See "SKorea puzzled by claims on whaling," AFP at Yahoo! News, 5/10/07.

Pirates hijack ship off Somalia: A cargo ship has been hijacked by gunmen 12 miles north of Mogadishu. The ship is being held at Hobiyo, which is a known base for Somali pirates. Andrew Mwangura, director of the Seafarers Assistance Programme, said "Negotiations are going on between representatives of the Somali businessmen, the ship owners and the pirates." This is the third pirate attack in the area this year. See "Somali pirates hijack ship north of Mogadishu," Reuters at, 5/10/07.

Family of submariner killed on the Tireless is suing: Two British sailors were killed in March in an accident on the nuclear submarine HMS Tireless. The boat was on a joint UK-US operation under the Arctic ice off Alaska when the tragedy occurred. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is investigating why the oxygen-making machine blew up on Tireless, a T-class type sub which have a history of safety problems. The family of one of the sailors killed, Anthony Huntrod, is suing the MoD and the manufacturer, alleging the equipment was "not fit for purpose." See "Family of Sailor to Sue MoD," Jeremy Armstrong,, 5/9/07.

Cruise ship tests out emissions reduction system: Holland America's Zaandam features a new emission-reduction technology that could provide a blueprint for the marine industry worldwide. The system, developed by Krystallon, a subsidiary of BP, uses the natural chemistry of sea water to remove virtually all the sulfur oxides as well as significantly reduce particulate-matter emissions. The sea water is then treated to remove harmful components, while the calcium carbonate in sea water renders the sulfur oxides harmless by conversions to sulfates and neutral salts. The system was launched as a technology demonstration project, and was developed with funds from several Canadian and US government and regulatory agencies. See "Ship 'like no other in cruise industry'," Ashley Ford, The Province at, 5/9/07.

BAE will not bid for Devonport: BAE Systems has confirmed it will not bid for the Devonport submarine yard. The Ministry of Defence was concerned about BAE's dominance in the submarine sector, and encouraged BAE to bid only with a partner. But BAE was unable to agree to terms with potential partners, including Babcock and the Carlyle Group. Currently, Babkcock and Carlyle Group are the only companies that will submit bids to UBS, which is handling the sale of Devonport. BAE is in talks with VT Group to merge their surface shipbuilding assets; that is expected to go through. See "BAE pulls out of bidding for Devonport yard," David Robertson, TimesOnline, 5/9/07.

South Korea holds off China with pricier ships: China overtook Japan last year as the world's second-biggest shipbuilding nation as new orders by tonnage more than doubled. South Korea remained at No. 1. Its strategy includes building more expensive ships, like carriers for liquefied natural gas. Korean yards grabbed 79 percent of LNG carrier orders last year. Overall, Korea accounted for 40.9 percent of all new orders for ships by tonnage in 2006, up from 35.2 percent in 2005. Japan accounted for 22.9 percent last year, down from 26.9 percent in 2005, while China rose to 25.4 percent from 17.3 percent. However, the presidents of the six biggest Korean yards are concerned about Chinese competition. They have met with the commerce minister to discuss the issue, and have signed an agreement with state-run utility Korea Gas to jointly develop LNG-carrier technology. See "Around the Markets: Korean shipbuilders look for competitive edge over China," Kyung Bok Cho, Bloomberg News at International Herald Tribune, 5/8/07.

Piracy down in Southeast Asia: The International Maritime Bureau reports that the number of pirate attacks in Asia dropped to 17 in the first quarter of this year. There were 68 attacks in the comparable period last year. More ships move through the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea each year than go through the Panama and Suez Canals combined. The drop in pirate attacks in Southeast and South Asia has lowered fears of a connection between pirates and terrorists in that part of the world. The Bureau attributes the drop in attacks to countermeasures on board ships, and an increase in cooperation between governments and local law enforcement agencies. See "Pirates not having it all their own way on the world's high seas," Richard Halloran, Taipei Times, 5/8/07.

US Navy speeds up submarine design schedule: A study performed by the Rand Corp.'s National Defense Research Institute recommends that the US Navy speeds up design work on its next class of submarines. This would help shipbuilder Northrop Grumman Newport News maintain its work force of experienced designers and engineers. The Navy commissioned the study. Northrop Grumman last year cited a 10-year gap in the yard's delivery of a submarine as a major reason for cost overruns and delays on the Texas, the first Virginia-class sub the yard delivered. The Navy has embraced the Rand report's recommendation — its latest update to its 30-year shipbuilding plan has moved up plans for construction of a new class of ballistic missile submarines by three years. See "Study suggests Navy speed up sub work," Jon W. Glass, The Virginian-Pilot at, 5/8/07.

Several approaches to ending Japan's whale hunts: Australian politics have split over attempts to stop Japan's whaling hunts. Labor supports the idea that Japan's "scientific whaling" can be challenged by going outside the International Whaling Commission (IWC), and acting through different global treaties or courts. Some venues could be the Antarctic Treaty, the Convention on Biological Diversity, or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. But the Federal Government believes this move would be provocative, and could backfire. See "New tack to beat Japanese whaling," Andrew Darby, The Sydney Morning Herald, 5/8/07.

Japan has been accused of using aid packages to gain pro-whaling votes on the IWC. Last year pro-whalers gained a simple majority of votes, but not the 75% required to guarantee a return to commercial whaling. Now, Britain, the naturalist Sir David Attenborough and Lord Ashcroft, the former Conservative Party treasurer, are working together to encourage countries to join an anti-whaling coalition at the IWC. The initiative potentially tips the balance back to continue a ban on commercial whaling. The IWC's annual conference is being held this week. See "A last gasp effort to save the whaling ban? It's time to call Attenborough," John Vidal, The Guardian, 5/7/07.

Two bidders left in battle for the Devonport submarine yard: Carlyle, the US private equity group, is one of two bidders expected to put in final offers to buy the Devonport submarine dockyard near Plymouth this week. Carlyle is bidding against Babcock, the engineering group that runs the Faslane nuclear submarine base in Scotland along with the Rosyth dockyard. Babcock is understood to have put in a higher first-round bid. Final offers for Devonport Management Limited (DML), the company that runs the submarine refuelling and maintenance yard, are due on Tuesday following a first round of bidding that valued it at around £350 million. BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce are believed to have pulled out of the competition. Babcock is thought more likely than Carlyle to win because it has greater sector expertise. See "Babcock and Carlyle left to fight it out in £350m chase for Devonport," Danny Fortson, Independent Online, 5/6/07.

Mesothelioma care in Britain under scrutiny: Every year, about 2,000 people in the UK die of mesothelioma, a cancer that comes from exposure to asbestos; it is nearly always terminal. The numbers are expected to peak between 2011 and 2015, as workers exposed to the substance — many in shipyards — age. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) is now expected to withdraw approval for the only drug licensed to help patients. The treatment is available privately, but can cost £24,000. Additionally, the treatment is covered by the NHS in some parts of the country, but not others. In England and Wales, the level of bereavement compensation is fixed at £10,000 under the Fatal Accidents Act. In Scotland, payments of up to £30,000 have been made to widows by the courts, plus payments of between £10,000 and £15,000 to other family members. See "Drug threat faces victims of asbestos," Jon Robins, The Observer, 5/6/07.

Dozens of Haitians drown off Turks-Caicos: The US Coast Guard suspended its search for about 40 Haitian migrants still missing after their boat sank in the Caribbean, saying officials believe there is little likelihood of finding more survivors. However, local authorities on the Turks and Caicos Islands were continuing the search a day after the deadliest maritime disaster to befall Haitian migrants in years. Thirty-six people were confirmed dead in addition to the 40 missing. Several boats and helicopters belonging to the British dependency continued the search Saturday. It is unclear when Turks and Caicos planned to suspend its search. Around 160 Haitian migrants were on a 25-foot boat when it ran into stormy weather before dawn on Friday. The remaining passengers have been rescued. Survivors said passengers panicked and shifted to one side, overturning the vessel and spilling most of the migrants into the shark-infested waters. See "Death toll rises in Haitian migrant boat disaster," Associated Press at, 5/5/07.

Canada's sealing vessels break free from ice: The last of the sealing vessels trapped in ice off northeastern Newfoundland has been freed, three weeks after the ordeal began. The remaining three longliners, which were under the escort of two icebreakers on Thursday, are free of heavy pack ice. About 100 longliners participating in the East Coast seal hunt became stuck last month when strong winds pushed heavy ice toward shore. Only one ship, considered a total loss, was abandoned. See "Last trapped sealing ships now free," CanWest News Service, 5/5/07.

Hospital ship sets sail for Africa: The world's largest non-governmental hospital ship is sailing to Africa to bring free healthcare to the continent's poorest people. The Africa Mercy, a former Danish Rail Ferry, is the fourth ship to be operated by the international charity Mercy Ships, which was founded in 1978. More than 400 volunteer medical professionals were aboard when it set sail out of Blyth in northeast England after its refit at the A&P Shipyard in Newcastle. Its destination is war-torn Liberia in west Africa and it will offer treatments including cataract removal, tumor removal and cleft lip and palate reconstruction, as well as emergency aid and community development programs. See "Hospital ship to help Africa's poorest," ITV News, 5/4/07.

Imported catfish may be tainted: Southern states in the United States are on alert for Chinese catfish contaminated with hazardous substances. "Currently," said Commissioner Lester Spell Jr., "all samples of the foreign catfish tested by the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce have shown the presence of a banned substance." And last week, 14 out of 20 samples of Chinese catfish in Alabama revealed antibiotics. Arkansas farming officials have announced that they will begin testing the imported fish immediately. US catfish farmers contend that the foreign fish are raised in filthy waters and fed the same grain that compromised the nation's pet food supply. Last year, the US Food and Drug Administration issued alerts for some Chinese and Vietnamese fish found to contain four banned antibiotics plus two industrial dyes linked to cancer and to liver and kidney damage. See "Scandal turns tide on fish imports," Jennifer Harper, The Washington Times, 5/4/07.

Landmark deal to tackle illegal fishing: Fishing ministers from ten Asian and Pacific nations signed and agreement on Friday to address rapidly dwindling fish stocks by cutting down on illegal fishing. They will share information on illegal fishing, step up surveillance, and share data on current catches so they can work together to determine sustainable levels of fishing. The regional plan of action covers fishing in the South China Sea, the Sulu Sulawesi Sea, Arafura Sea north of Australia and the Timor Sea. The agreement also paves the way for Australia and Indonesia to stage joint patrols in the waters between the two countries; Australia has long been concerned about poaching by Indonesian fishermen in its northern waters. However, the agreement does not include any proposals for sanctions if poachers are caught in neighboring waters. See "Australia, Asian nations vow to crack down on illegal fishing," AFP at Yahoo! News, 5/4/07.

Rescue submarine on trial: OceanWorks International Corp. has created a submarine rescue vehicle, which is currently undergoing shallow-water testing. The remotely operated pressurized rescue module (PRM) has a maximum operating depth of 2000 feet, carries a crew of two, and is designed to bring 16 submariners to the surface at a time. The vessel has an articulating transfer skirt — an open-bottomed structure attached to its underside that mates with a seal on the hatches of submarines. The PRM is designed to work in rough seas and in areas with strong underwater currents. A key part of the US Navy's Submarine Rescue and Decompression Recompression System (SRDRS) program, the OceanWorks unit is designed to be flown within 72 to hours from its home base at the Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego to any port in the world. See "Rescue sub gets trial run in Burrard Inlet," Peter Wilson, Vancouver Sun at, 5/4/07.

Somali gunmen hijack three fishing vessels: Gunmen have seized three boats off Somalia's coast. It was unclear how many people were aboard the ships when they were stopped Wednesday off Somalia's semiautonomous Puntland region, said Andrew Mwangura, head of the Kenyan chapter of the Seafarers Assistance Program. Some reports have said the vessels belonged to Finnish firms, but Mwangura said neither the flags of the vessels, nor the number and nationalities of the crews, were known. Somalia's coastline is viewed by sailors as one of the most dangerous in the world. Between February and April, there have been at least three vessels hijacked and four other attacks in which the vessels managed to escape or were rescued. See "Pirates hijack three fishing boats in Somali waters," Reuters at Mail & Guardian Online, 5/3/07.

Global warming threatens Pacific island nations: A number of Pacific island nations could be facing harsh futures if rising sea level predictions due to global warming prove accurate. The region faces a number of problems that are being exacerbated by climate change: coastal erosion, saltwater intrusion onto cropland and tourist sites, shortages of potable water, anemic economies propped up by foreign aid, disease, dependence on sugar-packed, processed food imports — and the health problems like obesity and diabetes linked to such food. Some experts warn that these issues will combine to power a wave of emigrants fleeing the Pacific islands. Tuvalu could be the first country to be wiped off the map by global warming — but Tuvaluans may be the lucky ones, as the New Zealand government has promised to absorb the entire population if the worst comes to pass. Unfortunately, there are few signs that developed nations are taking an active approach to dealing with rising emigration from the region. See "Rising sea levels threaten small Pacific island nations," Jonathan Adams, International Herald Tribune, 5/3/07.

China Shipping Group branches out into shipbuilding: China Shipping Group plans to build its first shipyard by the end of 2008. Ground for the new facility has already been broken in the Yanjiang Development Zone of Jiangdu. The existing six dockyards of China Shipping Group only engage in ship repairs, ship conversions and hull maintenance. The new shipyard will primarily build Panamax container ships, including bulk cargo ships and oil tankers, and a variety of floating docks. China Shipping Group is the second biggest oceanic transportation conglomerate in China. See "2nd largest sea transport group sees shipbuilding," Xinhua at China Daily, 5/3/07.

BAE lands submarine export order: BAE Systems has landed its first export order for submarines in 20 years. Spanish shipbuilding firm Navantia has placed a multi-million pound order for parts for four diesel-electric subs. Under the deal, BAE will make eight pressure domes at its base in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, and deliver them to Navantia by the end of 2007. The deal marks the company's first foray into the "new build" export market since 1987. BAE said its priority is its Astute nuclear submarine building program for the Royal Navy, which is under way, but the contract marks a welcome return to the export market. BAE is due to launch its first Astute submarine in June. See "BAE beats off competition to secure Spanish submarine deal," Karen Attwood, Independent Online, 5/3/07.

Louisiana case highlights potential problems for whistleblowers: Jerry Beard was fired from Seacoast Electronics after refusing instructions to issue what he claimed would have been a fraudulent Cargo Ship Safety Radio Certificate. Mr. Beard filed a wrongful termination claim against Seacoast under the Louisiana Whistleblower Act. In his lawsuit, Mr. Beard contended that had he obeyed Seacoast he would have put lives in jeopardy by allowing a ship to sail with a faulty EPIRB. Seacoast denied the allegations, and claimed that the Louisiana Whistleblower Act applied only when a state law was involved, not when a federal law was involved. Mr. Beard's attorney stated that leaving this decision standing allows employers to demand that employees subject themselves to criminal or civil penalties as a condition of their job, with impunity. See "Whistleblower Loses Appeal," Maritime Global Net, 5/2/07.

US wants fishing subsidies banned: Fishing subsidies should be banned to make global trade more equitable and prevent overfishing of already depleted high-sea stocks, the United States told World Trade Organization members on Tuesday. Some 2.6 billion people around the world depend on fish for their food, and millions of livelihoods in the fishing industry are under threat if no action is taken. The US proposal would prohibit all trade-distorting subsidies but make exceptions for poorer countries and research purposes. Environmental groups have backed the proposal, saying it provides an opportunity to save global fish stocks from collapsing. But Korea and Taiwan opposed a blanket ban on fisheries subsidies, while Japan and the EU expressed reservations about certain aspects of the proposal. See "U.S. calls for cuts in fishing subsidies," John Zarocostas, International Herald Tribune, 5/1/07.

The supply of cargo vessels could overwhelm demand: Analysts are predicting that the cost of shipping coal and iron ore is about to decline. Japan, China and South Korea are predicted to produce so many vessels that shipping contrasts will fall 40 percent by 2010. Chinese shipyards are building enough carriers to haul 48 million tons in the next five years. Commodities-shipping rates have soared 41 percent this year, but rates may begin to decline as early as next month, when cargo vessels become available as port officials in Newcastle, Australia clear one of the worst-ever traffic jams. A revival in iron ore trade between India and China that has reduced the length of voyages will free more freighters. See "China's new freighter economics," Alaric Nightingale, Bloomberg News at International Herald Tribune, 5/1/07.

Former ship engineer pleads guilty to dumping oil sludge: Frank Coe, the former chief engineer of the M/V Fidelio (renamed the M/V Patriot) has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS). Coe was employed by Pacific Gulf Marine Inc. (PGM), that previously pleaded guilty to its role in deliberately discharging oil-contaminated bilge waste from four of its ships — including the Fidelio. The company was fined and put on probation. Coe was the chief engineer of the Fidelio on the day the US Coast Guard found the "magic pipe," and falsely denied any knowledge of the existence or use of the bypass although it had been used since 1998. Coe is the third chief engineer to plead guilty in the investigation of PGM; another chief engineer remains under indictment and the investigation is continuing. See "Chief Engineer Pleads Guilty to Concealing Deliberate Pollution in 'Magic Pipe' Case," PRNewswire, 5/1/07.

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