News Archive - June 2007

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Russia makes claims under the Law of the Sea convention: New reports suggest that Russian scientists have new evidence that supports their country's claim to the Lomonosov Ridge. Canada has been working with scientists from Denmark, hoping to prove that the ridge is an extension of the North American continent. Russia's research hopes to prove the ridge is an extension of the Eurasian continental shelf, which would give it control of the territory. Russia's claims will have to be verified by experts under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that, "Canada will continue to assert its sovereignty in the Arctic, including in our internal waters." Like Russia, Canada will submit its own claims under the Law of the Sea convention; Canada's deadline for making its case is 2013. See "Canada draws line in the ice over Arctic seabed," Randy Boswell, CanWest News Service at, 6/30/07.

US Navy finds fault with shipbuilder over LPD-17s: The US Navy accepted the San Antonio from shipbuilder Northrop Grumman Ship Systems in July 2005. But myriad problems have been found by Navy inspectors, and in a letter last week, Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter questioned the future of amphibious and destroyer ship programs under contract with the company. Winter has assigned a deputy to perform quarterly reviews on the shipyard, and all ships under contract with Northrop Grumman. The San Antonio is the first ship in the new class of LPD-17 landing platform dock ships. But while problems are common for the first ship built in a new class, one veteran naval analyst said that other first-in-class amphibious ships have never been so flawed when they joined the fleet. The second ship in the amphibious class, the New Orleans, has fewer problems but was still incomplete when accepted by the Navy, Winter wrote to Northrop Grumman. See "Navy ship $840 million over budget and still unfinished," Louis Hansen, The Virginian-Pilot at, 6/30/07.

Unknown spy submarine blamed for sinking Bugaled Breizh: The Breton trawler Bugaled Breizh was sunk off Cornwall in January 2004, killing five fishermen. A new ruling by French Judge Richard Foltzer suggests the most plausible theory was that one of the trawler's cables had been caught by a submarine which then dragged it under water. Judge Foltzer appears to have ruled out claims that the accident was caused by a British or Dutch submarine participating in the joint NATO and Royal Navy exercise. Britain's HMS Turbulent was tied up in Devonport, and the HMS Torbay was 100 miles away. The Dutch vessel, Dolfinj, was nine miles away. All that seems left is an unknown submarine, spying on the NATO exercises, but it will be very difficult to trace the sub allegedly responsible. See "Spy submarine is blamed for sinking trawler in war games," Adam Sage, The Times Online, 6/29/07.

New canal could open up the Caspian Sea: President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan has set out proposals to dig a canal from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea to foster trade between Asia and Europe. If the project can attract investors, the canal would be four times longer than the Suez link between the Mediterranean and Red seas and eight times the length of the Panama waterway connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The Kazakhstan plan may not be as forbidding as it first seems, since about half of the distance of the proposed canal is already covered by navigable reservoirs built by the Soviet Union. But Russia is promoting an alternative plan to expand the existing Volga-Don route. See "Canal will link Caspian Sea to world," Tony Halpin, The Times Online, 6/29/07.

North Korean freighter is missing: A North Korean-flagged freighter has gone missing off the Horn of Africa coastline after last being spotted seven weeks ago, a Kenyan maritime official said on Friday. The MV Sea Prince was last seen loading cargo in Djibouti port on May 11. It has not been seen since. Information on the missing freighter has been handed over to the US Navy patrolling the Horn of Africa, diplomatic missions in Nairobi and the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre. If it is confirmed that the ship has been hijacked, this would make the fifth vessel held by Somali pirates this year. See "Piracy fears for missing ship," Victor Adar, Reuters at IOL, 6/29/07.

US bans farmed fish from China: The US Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that all imports of five types of farm-raised Chinese fish will be banned until the shipments are proven to be free of residue from antibiotics and anti-fungal drugs that are not approved in the USA. FDA officials took the action after months of testing imported Chinese fish. The farm-raised fish covered by the FDA's detention order are catfish, basa (a type of catfish), shrimp, dace and eel. Seafood from China makes up roughly 16 percent of the US seafood market, and about 10 percent of the shrimp supply. The FDA noted that consumers should not worry about eating seafood imported from China that they have already purchased, or that they find in stores, because there is no immediate risk of poisoning. The Administration is concerned about long-term exposure. See "Chinese fish import ban might affect markets," Erin Allday, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/29/07.

UN Security Council asked to help curb pirates off Somalia: The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has asked the UN Security Council to help counter a growing number of piracy attacks in waters off Somalia. There have been 15 ship hijackings and attempted attacks off Somalia this year, compared to ten in the whole of 2006. The rise in attacks is putting shipments of humanitarian aid at risk, as well as deterring regular maritime commerce. IMO Secretary-General Efthimios Mitropoulos said that raising the matter at the Security Council should also prompt Somalia's transitional government to take action. See "IMO asks Security Council to act on Somalia piracy," Stefano Ambrogi, Reuters, 6/28/07.

Sea lanes outside Boston Harbor will shift to protect right whales: Shipping lanes in and out of Boston Harbor will be narrowed and shifted northward in a bid to lower the risk of rare right whales being killed by ships. It's the first time in US history shipping lanes have been changed to protect wildlife. Each year, ships from around the world make about 3,500 trips through the designated lanes stretching from southeast of Cape Cod into the port of Boston. On Sunday, the final stretch of that corridor will be given a slight northeast rotation, adding about 10 to 20 minutes of sailing. The entire North Atlantic right whale population is estimated at just 350. See "Shipping lanes in Boston moved to protect whales," Svea Herbst-Bayliss, Reuters at Yahoo! News, 6/28/07.

Rubber duckies are heading for Britain: A flotilla of plastic bath toys known as Friendly Floatees were dumped into the ocean when a shipping container fell into the Pacific during a storm in January 1992. American oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer has been tracking them ever since. Currently, those remaining floating and not trapped in circulating currents in the North Pacific, are bobbing across the Atlantic on the Gulf Stream, and should soon reach Britain's beaches. The ducks have offered a great opportunity for climate change research. In addition, the landfalls have all been logged on a computer model called the Ocean Surface Currents Simulation, which is used to help fisheries and find people lost at sea. See "Plastic duck armada is heading for Britain after 15-year global voyage," Simon de Bruxelles, The Times Online, 6/28/07.

K-159 is monitored for radiation leaks: The K-159, a November class nuclear submarine, sank in 2003 while it was being towed for decommissioning. Nine of the ten crew died, and about 1,700 pounds of spent nuclear fuel was on board. On Thursday, Russian and foreign experts began monitoring radiation levels at the site. Russia has committed itself to recovering the submarine, and safely disposing of its reactors. The final outcome of the project will depend on technical feasibility. The operation is being carried out under a project jointly developed by Russia, Britain, the US and Norway within the framework of the Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation agreement (AMEC), signed in September 1996. See "Experts survey sunken Russian nuclear sub for radiation," RIA Novosti, 6/28/07.

Scientists embark on climate-change study: Canada and its surrounding waters is expected to see some of the most dramatic change on the planet as temperatures rise in coming decades. As a result, Canada is spearheading Canada's Three Oceans, an international project that will take detailed observations along the country's entire coast. Two Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers will measure temperatures, salinity, oxygen, carbon and nutrient levels of the surface water. They'll also monitor everything from bacteria to beluga whales and make detours for detailed sampling, down to depths of one kilometer in key locations to get a better read on the shifts being seen in currents flowing in and out of the Arctic. The project director hopes to run the monitoring project annually until 2050, since the mid-century is a key benchmark in computer climate models being used to study global warming. However, some scientists fear estimates have been wrong, and that the Arctic summer ice could disappear by 2030. See "3 oceans under microscope," Margaret Munro, CanWest News Service, The Vancouver Province at, 6/27/07.

Australian unions investigate safety issues: The Maritime Union of Australia and The Australian Workers' Union have formed a hydrocarbons alliance to work co-operatively to address safety concerns. A specific issue to be addressed at a joint meeting is the concern that some workers have been intimidated into accepting unsafe work practices. Several people, predominantly from rigs and floaters, came forward saying they were forced to compromise safety but were too scared to speak out. Officials from both unions have contacted workers to get information. See "Australian Offshore Unions Crack Down on Safety," Australian Workers Union at RIGZONE, 6/26/07.

US Coast Guard awards new Deepwater contract: The United States Coast Guard has signed a contract modification for the Integrated Deepwater System (IDS) program. A review of the previous performance of the Integrated Coast Guard Systems has led to changes in the terms and conditions of the Award Term 1 contract — which will run from June 2007 through January 2011. The changes will better align the relationship between government and industry. The new Award Term 1 contract holds industry accountable for work performed under forthcoming delivery/task orders. Additionally, there is no required minimum order; instead, the value of the contract will be determined by future negotiations. See the press release "Coast Guard Announces New Contract for the Integrated Deepwater System Program," US Coast Guard, 6/25/07.

Hijacked ship is running out of supplies: The MV Danica White and its five Danish crew members were hijacked earlier this month. Andrew Mwangura, director of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers Assistance Programme, reports that the ship has run out of food, and doesn't have access to fresh water since the vessel's generator has broken down. The Danica is one of three ships currently being held by Somali pirates. The hijackers killed one Taiwanese sailor this month after his vessel's owners refused ransom demands. See "Hijacked Danes "run out of supplies" off Somalia," George Obulutsa, Reuters, 6/25/07.

Taharoa Express still listing: The Taharoa Express got into trouble on Friday after its cargo shifted in rough seas off the Taranaki coast. It managed to make it into Tasman Bay, but was listing by 20 degrees. Salvagers have been pumping seawater into the ship's internal tanks, and the list was reduced to 18 degrees. But the operation is still under way. The bulk ironsand carrier won't be moved until the weather improves, and Maritime New Zealand is satisfied the ship is safe. See "Listing freight carrier still at sea," SZPA at The New Zealand Herald, 6/25/07.

Canada presses ownership of the Northwest Passage: Canada is pushing ahead with several initiatives designed to assert sovereignty over the Northwest Passage. First on the list is a visit from Prime Minister Stephen Harper. There may also be a trip planned to Hans Island, which Denmark claims. Several countries, including the United States, the European Union and Japan, challenge Canada's ownership claim to the waters of the Arctic archipelago. These disputes could blow up if climate change opens the region to sea traffic and spurs oil exploration in the area. Harper is expected to make several stops and provide details on military projects that include ice-capable ships, a northern naval station, and a training center for winter combat. See "Harper to go North as government moves ahead with deep-sea port, icebreakers," Alexander Panetta, CP, CNEWS at CANOE, 6/24/07.

Atlantic bluefin tuna is in trouble: US officials want the European Union to do more to stop the overfishing of the Atlantic bluefin tuna. But the US also has a poor record on fish stocks, in particular by letting cod become overfished and perhaps irreparably depleted. All of this finger pointing isn't helping the fish, however. Some experts put a sizable part of the blame for the collapse in western Atlantic bluefin tuna stocks on the US, which continues to allow fishing in spawning areas of the Gulf of Mexico. Others put more of the blame on the EU which, despite establishing observers to help regulate the industry, set the bluefin tuna quota shared by Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain to the maximum amount recommended — and roughly twice the limit stipulated by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas' own scientific advisers. See "Japan's latest fear: No more tuna," James Kanter, International Herald Tribune, 6/24/07.

Nanotechnology could replace anti-fouling paint: A new coating for ship's hulls was announced at the EuroNanoForum in Dusseldorf last week. When algae and barnacles grow on ship's hulls, their speed can be reduced by up to 10%, and fuel consumption can rise by 40%. The world's shipping fleets spend more than £5 billion (about $10 billion) on the problem every year. Current anti-fouling paints are thought to harm sea life. But the new coating, which uses nanotechnology, doesn't allow the organisms to stick to hulls at all. See "Barnacle-busting paint makes ships' voyages greener," Robin McKie, The Observer at Guardian Unlimited, 6/24/07.

Australian fish farmers are using more antibiotics: Australia's salmon farming industry has been defending its use of antibiotics. The amount used has increased lately, mostly to treat "flare-ups" of the infection marine Aeromonas, and salmon rickettsia. But the antibiotics used at salmon and trout farms totaled almost eight tonnes (almost 9 tons) in the first three months of this year, up from 12 kilograms (about 26 pounds) a year a decade ago. The antibiotics are appearing in wild fish near farms, and the Government has called for an end to the use of one drug, amoxicillin, also used on humans. The farms maintain a holding period to allow antibiotics to pass through the fish before they are harvested, but they could enter the human food chain if wild fish eat any medicated feed outside pens, or if treated salmon escape — which regularly happens. See "Salmon farmers warned on antibiotic use," Andrew Darby, The Sydney Morning Herald, 6/23/07.

Somali pirates release Indian ship: An Indian merchant ship has been released after being held by Somali pirates for one month. The MV Nimatullah, a dhow with 14 Indian crew members, was seized close to Mogadishu on May 24. East African Seafarers Assistance Programme Director Andrew Mwangura said the dhow was now free and its crew safe. Mwangura believes the gunmen reached a deal with the Somali owner of the cargo, but could not confirm if a ransom demanded by the pirates had been paid. Four other boats, seized at different times, are still being held. These are a fishing boat from Taiwan, two from Tanzania and a Danish cargo ship. See "Somali gunmen release hijacked Indian dhow," Wangui Kanina, Reuters, 6/22/07.

New boat laws near Sydney Harbour Bridge: A speed limit of 15 knots will be introduced for all craft traveling under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, in line with the recommendations of a report into a fatal ferry crash. The NSW government tabled the report from the investigation into the crash involving a fisherman's boat and the Dawn Fraser Rivercat early on January 5 this year. Transport Minister John Watkins said all 11 recommendations made by the Office of Transport Safety Investigations (OTSI) would be implemented by Sydney Ferries and NSW Maritime. This included the adoption of a 15-knot speed limit under the bridge starting August 1. At the time of the January accident, the Dawn Fraser was traveling at 22 knots. See "New speed limit for harbour after death," Nick Ralston, AAP at The Australian, 6/22/07.

B.C. Ferries gets duty refund for ferry: B.C. Ferries will get a refund in duty and taxes it had to pay to bring the MV Sonia from Greece into Canada. Renamed Northern Adventure, the ferry was a replacement for the sunken Queen of the North. The duty was originally established to discourage the purchase of ships from foreign countries, and to support Canada's own shipbuilding industry. But Canada's Finance Minister said it was refunding the tax in this case to help reestablish the vital transportation link to coastal communities in the area. B.C. Ferries purchased the Greek ship to serve as an immediate replacement for the sunken ship. The refund is $13 million, less than the $17.1 million the company paid in duty and taxes for the new ferry. See "B.C. Ferries to get $13 million refund," Cindy Harnett, Times Colonist at, 6/22/07.

Owner won't raise the Sea Diamond: Cyprus-based Louis Cruise Lines, which owns the cruise ship Sea Diamond, has said it will not salvage the sunken ship. The company had initially intended to submit a plan on removing the crude oil still trapped in the vessel, but advisers have since said that any attempt to pump oil out would be dangerous to divers and possibly the environment. Additionally, an attempt to raise the ship could also trigger a spill. But environmentalists say the ship is vulnerable to even a small earthquake, which could create a bad spill — and residents of the island are worried about damage to the tourism industry. Representatives of the Santorini Port Authority say they will raise the wreck if Louis does not comply. The company and the ship's captain have been fined for causing environmental pollution. See "Owner of Greek isle wreck says salvage too risky," Michele Kambas, Reuters, 6/21/07.

Montana fish may stop work on Canadian mine: The Montana Wildlife Department recently funded a study aimed at gathering evidence of possible downstream damage from an open-pit coal mine proposed by Cline Mining Corp. in the Canadian Flathead. A half-dozen cutthroat trout captured on the Flathead River south of the B.C.-Montana border and fitted with radio transmitters were tracked by researchers as they swam to spawning beds in Canada. This suggests tangible evidence that fish would be harmed by the proposed mining site, and gives hope to both American and Canadian critics of the project. See "Six fish threaten $3 billion project," Randy Boswell, CanWest News Service, The Windsor Star,, 6/21/07.

GloBallast project receives additional funding: Additional funding for the GloBallast Partnerships project has been approved by the intergovernmental Council of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The project assists particularly vulnerable countries and/or regions to enact legal, policy and institutional reforms to meet the objectives of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM convention), adopted by IMO in February 2004. The full scale project is expected to be launched later in 2007. The new IMO intervention will cover 14 developing sub-regions and include 13 Lead Partnering Countries (LPCs) and over 40 Participating Countries (PCs) that have shown keen interest in participating in the project. Data shows that the rate of bio-invasions is continuing to increase, in many cases exponentially, and new areas are being invaded all the time. See the press release "GloBallast Partnerships - funding approved for next phase of project," International Maritime Organization, 6/21/07.

President Putin signs decree to merge two largest shipping companies: Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree to merge two leading tanker companies in a bid to raise the shipping sector's international competitiveness. The merger of OAO Sovkomflot and OAO Novorossiisk Shipping Company, known as Novoship, will create one of the world's largest shippers, with close to $5 billion in assets. The new company will be put on the government list of strategic enterprises, thus limiting foreign investors' access to the company's share. The merger would be a major backing to energy projects on the Far East and Arctic shelves, including Sakhalin I and II. See "Vladimir Putin wants to create one of world's largest shippers," Associated Press at Pravda.Ru, 6/20/07.

Australia to buy Spanish warships: Australia is to buy three Spanish designed warships and two large Spanish landing ships, Prime Minister John Howard announced today. Three new destroyers will be based on the Navantia F100, now in service with the Spanish Navy. The two landing ships will be versions of Navantia's 27,000 ton strategic projection ship. It's believed the Australian navy favored a larger, US-designed destroyer, but the Spanish design is cheaper and is already in service, so it can be delivered two years earlier than the US ship. Spain's shipbuilding industry will construct the hulls of the two landing ships and parts of the air warfare destroyers. Most of the destroyers will be constructed in module form at shipyards around Australia, then assembled at the ASC plant at Osborne in South Australia. The new ships will be significantly more expensive than originally estimated — $11 billion rather than $8 billion. See "Navy to get new advanced warships," Max Blenkin, AAP at The Canberra Times, 6/20/07.

'Seeding' ocean with iron runs into opposition: Planktos Inc. wants to test out an experimental process by dumping more than 45 tons of iron dust into the sea near the Galapagos Islands. The iron would stimulate the growth of phytoplankton, which would then absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide. Planktos compares the process to reforestation. Planktos plans to sell carbon credits from this and other projects to companies; at least one firm has already signed up. But in May, the EPA warned the firm it may need a permit under the US Ocean Dumping Act if it uses its US-registered vessel. Planktos CEO Russ George says he will use a flag-of-convenience ship if the EPA stands in his way. The controversial plan has drawn fire from environmental groups and scientists, and will be on the agenda of this week's meeting of the International Maritime Organization in Spain. See "U.S. blasts plan to dump iron dust in sea to absorb CO2," Kelly Patterson, The Ottawa Citizen at, 6/19/07.

Sea Diamond is still leaking oil: The Sea Diamond ran aground off the Greek island of Santorini in April and sank a day later. There is a considerable amount of trapped fuel oil in the ship, which is leaking onto the surface. Ship owner Louis Cruise Lines initially said it would submit a plan by June 6 for removing the oil, but it has missed that deadline, and hasn't given a new date for the plan. Greece's Merchant Marine Ministry levied a maximum fine against the company and the captain on Monday for causing environmental pollution around Santorini. The Santorini Port Authority is also fining the company for every day it does not pump out the oil. The company said it had appointed a company to conduct a feasibility study of pumping the fuel and was awaiting its expert opinion. See "Greek isle wants wreck raised to stop oil leak," Karolos Grohmann, Reuters, 6/19/07.

Cruise passenger missing off Bahamas: The cruise ship Freedom of the Seas that had turned around to look for a missing passenger resumed its voyage Tuesday as the Coast Guard began a second day of searching for the 24-year-old man. Relatives reported the man missing Monday morning. The ship turned around to try to find him in the water east of Eleuthera Island, Bahamas. The FBI and the Bahamian Maritime Authority are aware the passenger was missing. The ship is operated by Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. See "Cruise with missing passenger resumes," Associated Press at Yahoo! News, 6/19/07.

QE2 will become a floating hotel: Britain's most famous passenger liner, the Queen Elizabeth 2, is to be turned into a floating hotel after being sold to Dubai World, a corporation owned by the Dubai royal family, for £50 million. The former flagship of the Cunard line, the QE2 has broken records, transported troops and hosted royalty during its 40 years at sea. The vessel is one of the largest passenger ships afloat, with a top speed of 32.5 knots. It was built at the John Brown shipyard on the Clyde in Scotland, and officially launched by the Queen in September 1967. Cunard had said that it would run the QE2 until she was no longer profitable, but the prospect of new health and safety regulations coming into force in 2010 is thought to have hastened her retirement. See "QE2 to become hotel following £50m sale," Peter Woodman, Evening News at, 6/18/07.

Able UK set for "ghost ship" victory: A British firm battling to break up so-called US "ghost ships" looked close to victory on Monday when their main opponents said they would not carry on the planning fight. Able UK was blocked from dismantling the rusting vessels by Hartlepool Council, amid environmental fears about the local area becoming a dumping ground for the world's shipping industry. But Hartlepool Council has now removed the final hurdle, by admitting it can no longer block planning permission. Able UK has welcomed the decision, which came too late to save an order from the US government to scrap a further nine vessels on Teesside. The company is still awaiting planning permission see "Company wins 'ghost ship' battle," BBC News, 6/18/07.

Northrop Grumman disputes report claiming design flaw in Cutter: Northrop Grumman and the US Coast Guard are in a dispute over the design of two National Security Cutters. The dispute is technical in nature, and does not call the safety of the ships into question. According to US Representative Gene Taylor, the cutters have a possible flaw near the ballast pumps, which are below the waterline — and could possibly lead to flooding or even sinking. Bill Glenn, spokesman for Northrop Grumman, said the disagreement can be traced to how a Navy model is used to evaluate hull design. Coast Guard spokesman Commander Brendan McPherson said the final six cutters will have a different hull design that reflects the Coast Guard's interpretation of the computer model tests. He said the service and Northrop Grumman are currently in negotiation about those changes. The first two cutters, McPherson said, will be built according to the original design, but after a year or so they will be brought to dry dock and retrofitted. See "Northrop Grumman denies flaws; test procedure cited," Veto F. Roley, The Mississippi Press, 6/17/07.

Taiwan's Legislature approves only part of US arms budget: Taiwan's Legislature has approved a government budget that includes parts of a long-delayed US arms package. The budget calls for $300 million on military purchases, including the acquisition of P3 Orion submarine-hunting aircraft, and the financing of a feasibility study as a first step toward purchasing diesel submarines. The items fall short of the $18 billion US arms package proposed by the Bush administration back in 2001. The Legislature's decision is likely to intensify complaints in Washington that Taiwan is unwilling to shoulder the expenses necessary to maintain a level of military preparedness. See "Taiwan Rejects Most of U.S. Arms Package Offered in 2001," Jane Rickards, The Washington Post, 6/16/07.

US agency requires some LNG tanker crew to be citizens: The US Maritime Administration has ordered that one quarter of crew members on LNG tankers must be American citizens. The policy would affect two terminals that are being planned in Massachusetts off of Gloucester and Fall River, but would not affect the existing facility in Everett. The rule will ensure that Americans have access to lucrative jobs, but it will also enhance security — since Americans will be aboard the ships as they unload the highly flammable liquid. See "Federal agency orders one-fourth of LNG tanker crew members to be U.S. citizens," The Associated Press at, 6/16/07.

Japan plants coral on Okinotorishima: Japan claims that Okinotorishima are islands, which under the UN convention on the Law of the Sea would give the country a much larger exclusive economic zone. China, which is interested in mineral resources in the area, calls them mere rocks. Japan's latest effort to increase the legitimacy of calling the rocky outcroppings islands is to try to grow coral on them. Fisheries officials traveled to the islets last month with six tiny colonies of baby coral successfully grown from samples taken last year. The officials are planning another trip this month to plant nine more colonies around the islets. Japan has also built a lighthouse just off the islets. See "Japan plants coral around islets to bolster territorial claim," The Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 6/15/07.

US Senate continues ban on offshore drilling: The US Senate rejected a new effort Thursday to open waters off the Virginia coast to exploration for natural gas, as concerns about possible damage from drilling to tourism and the environment proved stronger than the lure of a potential new source of energy. Senator John Warner's proposal would have permitted exploration only for gas, considered less likely to be an environmental hazard than oil drilling, and would have allowed it only with the approval of the governor and state legislature. Drilling also would have been limited to areas at least 50 miles offshore. But the proposal didn't get enough votes to pass. The Bush administration unveiled plans in April to open as many as 3 million acres of the ocean floor off Virginia to exploration, but no action can be taken unless Congress lifts the drilling moratorium. See "Senators keep ban on drilling offshore, despite Virginian's proposal," Richard Simon, Los Angeles Times at South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 6/15/07.

International Health Regulations (2005) enters into force June 15, 2007: The International Health Regulations (IHR) are legally binding regulations adopted by most countries to contain the threats from diseases that may rapidly spread from one country to another. The newest IHR (2005) are an update of the IHR (1969), and come into force on June 15, 2007. The IHR (2005) revision has led to an unprecedented international public health agreement to contain health emergencies at the source, not only at international borders. At the same time, the new regulations aim to avoid unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade. The World Health Organization provides a download of the IHR (2005) in several languages, as well as strategy, background information, and a Resource Center — see their web section on International Health Regulations (2005).

The Port Health Authorities in the Federal Republic of Germany has created a web site for the PHA, related specialists, and authorities in public health organizations at They have published a press release which details the changes in the IHR (2005) most relevant to ports and the shipping industry — specifically, the Ship Sanitation Control (exemption) Certificate, and the Maritime Declaration of Health. See the press release "Revised International Health Regulations (IHR) will enter into force June 15th 2007," (a PDF file).

Growth in shipping is felt at European ports: The biggest ports in Europe are facing increasing congestion from the growth of China's economy. But port expansion projects aren't keeping pace with the growth in shipping. According to data from Clecat, the European association for transport, logistics and customs services, container shipping is expected to grow 7.8 percent a year through 2011, while European port capacity is seen rising only 4.2 percent. In the first quarter of 2007, 73 percent of container ships arrived late in European ports because of docking delays, up from 45 percent in the comparable period last year. Congestion at West European ports was not as alarming as in some US, Asian or Russian ports, but the trend is unlikely to slow in the near future because of the expected traffic increase. See "European ports struggle to keep up with imports," Anna Mudeva, Reuters at International Herald Tribune, 6/14/07.

Australia considers costs of new destroyers: Australia would benefit from building three proposed air warfare destroyers (AWDs) itself, in terms of job creation, skill enhancement, and the creation of an infrastructure to support the vessels through their lives. But buying them abroad could cost less. In 2005 the government announced the three new ships would be built by the Australian Submarine Corporation in Adelaide and equipped with the US Aegis combat system. But recently, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute study said Australia could end up paying up to $2 billion extra by building them at home. The government will soon make the final decision on one of two competing ship designs: the F100 designed by Spanish firm Navantia, and a design from US firm Gibbs and Cox based on the US Navy's Arleigh Burke class destroyers. See "Aussie-made warships to cost more: study," AAP at The Sydney Morning Herald, 6/14/07.

US port identification card program delayed again: The Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program was supposed to start up at ten US ports by July, but an official this week said the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) will miss the deadline. The program is now scheduled to roll out in Wilmington, Delaware this fall, and in other ports shortly after that. TWIC has been criticized by terrorism experts who consider harbors a weak link in homeland security, by ports that continue to pay for their own gate security, and by lawmakers who approved millions of dollars for the program after the 2001 terrorist attacks only to see it languish. The identification system was originally supposed to be put in place in 2003. TSA officials say the program has been hampered by its enormous size, and by technology — the card readers still aren't ready. See "Port security ID cards again miss deadline," Meredith Cohn, Baltimore Sun, 6/14/07.

Thirty million fishermen to get more protection: The International Labor Organization on Thursday adopted new rules to ensure adequate conditions for an estimated 30 million workers involved in the hazardous fisheries industry. The convention covers improved safety and health care at sea, sufficient rest, proper social protection and living conditions on board vessels. The agreement also allows inspections of large fishing vessels on extended voyages in foreign ports to ensure that their crew do not work under hazardous or unhealthy conditions. The convention will come into effect when it is ratified by 10 of the ILO's 180 members, including eight coastal nations. See "U.N. group backs new standards for fishery work," Frank Jordans, Associated Press at Houston Chronicle, 6/14/07.

Venezuela mulls purchase of Russian submarines: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is expected to finalize a deal on buying up to nine Russian submarines, a Russian newspaper reported on Thursday. Caracas has already ordered five 636 diesel submarines and four of a new model of diesel submarine, the 677E Amur, at a later date. The South American country has been vigorously pursuing modernization of its naval fleet to counter a possible US blockade of its oil fields, and prepare for direct military confrontation with Washington. Military experts say that the diesel-powered submarines will be no match for the US's nuclear fleet, and are based on a model used by the Germans during the second world war. But they still could pose a threat. See "Venezuela strikes £500m deal to buy Russian submarines," Luke Harding, Guardian Unlimited, 6/14/07.

DNV sees seismic vessel market boom: DNV is seeing a tenfold increase in demand for seismic vessel classifications compared to previous years. DNV says the strong demand coupled with high prices has pushed new-build activity up from almost zero a couple of years ago. In 2004 there was one seismic vessel under construction awaiting classification, but there are 20 under construction today. The conversion business is also booming as a way to bypass the limited new-build capacity at shipyards. In 2006, 10 ships were converted to seismic use compared to none in 2004. This year, five have been converted and await classification with eight more undergoing conversion construction. See "DNV: Thanks to Seismic Demand, Class Requests Up Tenfold," Det Norske Veritas at RIGZONE, 6/13/07.

EU explores systems for helping African migrants: Malta has a population of around 400,000, but the country has rescued some 7,000 people in waters off its coast in the past five years; not all of them survived. The European Union is determined to save the lives of African migrants, but is also struggling with ways to help Malta handle the influx of so many desperate people. German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaueble, whose country holds the EU presidency until the end of the month, said experts from the 27 European nations will discuss ways to share responsibilities. Complicating the issue is that in some cases, countries have hesitated to take responsibility of migrants still at sea. See "EU vows to protect African immigrants," AFP at The Washington Times, 6/13/07.

Pollution, drought hits China's drinking water: Factories in China have ignored pollution hazards and dumped toxic industrial waste into rivers and lakes. This has affected both drinking water and fish stocks. Drought has also put stress on the country's already limited water resources. Hundreds of millions of citizens lack regular access to drinking water. In response, the country plans to build a sea water desalination plant south of Shanghai; it will be its biggest in terms of processing capacity. China is also investing billions in a project to transfer water from its lush south, currently suffering devastating floods, to the arid north. See "Polluted, drought-stricken China eyes sea water," Reuters at, 6/13/07.

South Korea launches a new submarine: South Korea has launched the Jeongji, a 215-fool diesel-electric submarine, developed in partnership with Germany's Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft. It is equipped with torpedoes, mines, anti-warship guided missiles and the Air Independent Propulsion system to enhance underwater operational capability. The boat can carry more than 40 crew. The country plans to launch its third 1,800-ton submarine next year, and aims to develop nine 3,000-ton submarines from 2010 to 2021 with its own technology. The launching, from a Hyundai Heavy Industries shipyard in the southeastern city of Ulsan, comes amid renewed tensions with North Korea over their disputed sea border. See "SKorea launches new sub amid naval tensions with North," AFP at Yahoo! News, 6/13/07.

USS Michigan is converted to a guided missile sub: The USS Michigan has been transformed from a Trident missile sub, equipped to carry nuclear missiles, to one capable of using conventional Tomahawk cruise missiles and supporting Special Operations forces. The vessel and its crew will now undergo about a year of certification and testing. The Michigan is the third of the US Navy's four ballistic missile submarines to be converted. Two are currently undergoing testing, and the fourth should be converted later this year. The four boats are the oldest of the Navy's Ohio class, and would have been inactivated in 2003 and 2004 if the conversion hadn't happened. See "An old sub outfitted for some new tricks," Melanthia Mitchell, The Associated Press at, 6/13/07.

New research may shed light on why the Titanic sank: A new research project, which is a collaboration between the History Channel and film company Lone Wolf Documentary Group, has found, filmed and analyzed previously undiscovered portions of the Titanic's keel. Their findings suggest that the ship broke in half when its stern had reached an angle of just 10 degrees — a scenario that could have occurred in heavy seas during any severe storm. The team also found parts of the rearmost of the vessel's two expansion joints, which were supposed to allow the hull to flex in heavy seas. Their analysis suggests that they were poorly designed and may have contributed to the ship breaking up. Their research suggests that, even if the ocean liner had not struck an iceberg during its maiden voyage, structural weaknesses made it vulnerable to any stormy sea. The findings will form part of a documentary, "Titanic's Achilles Heel," to be broadcast in North America next weekend. See "Why the Titanic was doomed from the start," Jasper Copping, The Sunday Telegraph, Ottawa Citizen at, 6/12/07.

Asashio accident inquiry finds fault: A Japanese military submarine collided with a civilian vessel during exercises off southern Japan on November 21, 2006. The skipper of the training sub Asashio, Commander Nario Kumamoto, has admitted that he was to blame for the accident, as he "bore the operational responsibility." Investigators asked the Moji Marine Accident Inquiry Agency to recommend that Kumamoto should have maintained a better watch for marine traffic, and it asked the Maritime Self-Defense Force to refrain from conducting surfacing drills in areas with heavy traffic. No one was injured in the accident, although the sub's tail fin struck the bottom of the chemical tanker Spring Auster. The cause of the accident, and any disciplinary action, will be announced later. See "Sub skipper admits fault in collision," The Japan Times, 6/12/07.

Malaysia sees threat of terror attacks in Malacca Strait: Malaysia's police chief has warned of substantial threats of terror attacks in the busy Malacca Strait. More than 60,000 merchant ships ply the waterway every year, and it is only about three miles wide at its narrowest point. Musa Hassan told an International Maritime Bureau conference in Malaysia's capital that one worrying scenario would be if suicide bombers were to hijack a gas tanker sailing in the Strait. He identified no specific threats made by individuals or groups but said the police and the navy from the three countries lining the Strait, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, must ensure that the area is kept open and safe. A spokesman for the International Maritime Bureau says officials are aware of the possibility, but says relevant authorities are prepared. See "Terrorism still a real risk in Malacca Strait, Malaysia's police chief warns," Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 6/12/07.

Northrop Grumman, SAIC splitting Amsec: Northrop Grumman Corp. and SAIC Inc. have announced the split of the two companies' joint venture AMSEC LLC. Northrop will retain the ship engineering, logistics and technical services businesses under the Amsec name, and will operate as a separate business under the umbrella of its shipbuilding business in Newport News, Virginia. SAIC will receive the aviation, combat systems and strike force integration services businesses from Amsec. SAIC was the majority owner of Amsec. The restructuring is expected to be completed in July. See "Corporate parents to break up Beach defense firm AMSEC," Jon W. Glass, The Virginian-Pilot at, 6/12/07.

Shifting the Pasha Bulker will be trial and error: The salvage team working to remove the stranded Pasha Bulker off a Newcastle beach say they have discovered a hole in the external hull of the coal carrier. But they are confident a second internal hull has not been pierced. Teams are currently planning to refloat the ship, although they admit it might take several tries. The most likely plan involves a team of "super" tugs and a combination of high tides and a calm swell. All the fuel has been pumped to containment areas close to the ship's deck, away from the hull which might be pierced again during salvage operations. See "Newcastle salvage operation to resume," AAP at The Canberra Times, 6/12/07.

UN food committee focuses on fish: The UN Food and Agriculture Organization is hosting a meeting this week on preserving the world's genetic resources, a topic which to date has focused on crops and livestock. This year the agency is focusing on fish, since fish are increasingly being bred to meet the world's food needs. Farmed fish are increasingly being consumed as wild fish stocks decline from overfishing, pollution and the effects of climate change. The FAO is urging governments to better conserve the world's fish genes since genetic diversity is critical for breeding. The FAO estimates that by 2030, an additional 40 million tons of fish per year will be required to fulfill consumer needs; much of that will come from fish farms. See "U.N. seeks to conserve genetic resources," Nicole Winfield, Associated Press at The, 6/11/07.

Crews hope to refloat ship off Newcastle: The bulk carrier Pasha Bulker ran aground on Nobby's Beach, north of Sydney, on June 8, during unprecedented storms. The ship's 22 crew members were winched to safety by helicopter. Some six other ships were also buffeted by waves up to 55 feet (17 meters), but the Pasha Bulker was left in the worst shape. However, storm conditions are easing, the ship's hull appears intact, and power has been partially restored to the coal carrier. Salvage crews have worked through the weekend, and hope to refloat the vessel when the weather permits. The salvage crew may still transfer fuel to more protected tanks on the ship, and there are several authorities on standby in case of an environmental disaster. There are still no signs of pollutants leaking from the vessel. See "Salvage crews hopeful of refloating beached ship," AAP at The Sydney Morning Herald, 6/10/07.

Britain launches the submarine HMS Astute: The Royal Navy's latest and most powerful attack submarine has been launched by the Duchess of Cornwall. The HMS Astute is the first of a new generation of four warships, which are faster underwater than on the surface. They can patrol without refueling and only need to come into harbor to change crews and re-stock with food. Capable of firing more missiles and torpedoes than any other British submarine, including those carrying the nuclear deterrent, the boat can also operate closer inshore than previous submarines. The sonar's echo-sounding equipment is so sensitive it's said to be able to detect individual ships leaving New York — from the British side of the Atlantic. The vessel is four years late, and some £900 million over budget. The Astute will undergo a year or more of sea trials before being commissioned and entering service. See "Britain launches massive submarine that can hear a ship from across the Atlantic," Gordon Rayner, Daily Mail, 6/9/07.

Sunken ferry to remain under water: B.C. Ferries will not raise the sunken Queen of the North, saying it's too risky and there's likely little or no diesel fuel left on board. The vessel sank in March 2006, and is resting at more than 400 meters (about 1,300 feet) under water near Hartley Bay, home to about 180 Gitga'at First Nation members. B.C. Ferries and the First Nation fiercely disagree on how much fuel was spilled and how much likely remains, as well as whether it would be more environmentally damaging to leave the wreck or attempt to raise it. The Canadian Coast Guard agrees with B.C. Ferries' findings that a salvage operation is too risky, since divers can't risk such depths. But Gitga'at chief councilor Bob Hill, who met with Ferries officials in Prince Rupert, said the company's assertion that there's no consensus on how much fuel remains is "simply bull." See "Ferry won't be raised to empty its fuel tanks," Cindy Harnett, CanWest News Service, The Vancouver Sun at, 6/8/07.

Canada signs European free-trade deal: Canada has reached a free trade deal with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) that includes the phasing out over 15 years of a tariff protecting Canada's shipbuilding industry. It is Canada's first free trade deal in six years, and a number of other bilateral pacts are in the works. Two of the European Free Trade Association members, Norway and Iceland, are world leaders in maritime transport, raising fears the Canadian industry could be wiped out. The final agreement allows for a three-year grace period before any cuts are made. See "Canada reaches free-trade deal with EFTA," Peter O'Neil, The Vancouver Sun at, 6/8/07.

The BC Shipyard General Workers' Federation says the move could cost BC and Canada thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions in investment. Federation president George MacPherson is also worried that the next federal action will be to eliminate a 25% tariff charged for importing any foreign-built ship, which encourages shipbuilding in Canada. Ottawa's plan to invest an additional $50 over the next three years to assist the struggling Canada's shipbuilding industry will do little in the long term, he said. See "BC Shipyard Workers Federation says federal Conservative government betraying shipbuilding industry - free trade deal between Canada and European Free Trade Association expected today could throw away thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions in investment in BC and Canada," CNW Group, 6/7/07.

Spain says Malta did not act properly toward migrants: On May 26, the Spanish tugboat Montfalco rescued a group of 26 migrants within Libya's search and rescue zone. While Malta supplied aid to the vessel, permission to land the migrants in Malta was denied — apparently on the basis that the rescue had been undertaken outside Malta's search and rescue zone. The migrants were eventually taken to Spain, some five days later. The Spanish government has made a formal complaint to the European Union against Malta, over the country's refusal to lend assistance to the Montfalco. Spanish MEP Manuel Medina described that "Some member states are failing to fulfill their international obligations on the rescue of shipwrecked people by refusing to accept people rescued by ships of other member states." See "Irregular migration: Spain lodges formal EU complaint against Malta," David Lindsay, The Malta Independent, 6/7/07.

US fishing fleets hope for more legal immigrant workers: Strict fishing regulations and depleted fisheries are making some fishing jobs less desirable to American workers, so both inshore and offshore American commercial fishing fleets are growing more dependent on crews composed of non-US citizens with work visas. In response, several fishing advocacy groups are hoping to amend a section of the Jones Act. The 75/25 rule requires that at least 75 percent of crew members on documented fishing vessels must be US citizens. It seems that the US Coast Guard has started stringently enforcing the rule recently, and the fishing community is beginning to feel the effects. Fishing advocates have contacted the US Senate, and hope to change the Coast Guard's enforcement policies. See "Fishing advocates push for legal immigrants," Becky W. Evans,, 6/7/07.

US Navy fires at pirates in Danish ship hijack: The US Navy said one of its warships fired warning shots at a Danish ship hijacked by pirates off Somalia last week, but was forced to abandon chase after it entered Somali waters. The USS Carter Hall fired warning shots across the bow of the Danish-flagged Danica White captured by militia with five Danish crew aboard on Saturday. Then the vessel fired disabling shots at three skiffs in tow, and nearly destroyed them. There were no casualties. The Navy was forced to call off the pursuit after the pirates entered Somali territorial waters. The hijack is the latest in a spate of piracy attacks plaguing the waters off the lawless nation. See "U.S. warship can't stop pirates off Somalia,", 6/6/07.

WWII sub sunk off Norway poses mercury threat: The German submarine U864 was sunk off the Norwegian coast in 1945. The boat had mercury on board, some of which leaked and contaminated the seabed. Norwegian authorities are debating what to do about the growing environmental threat. Some would like to cover the wreck and affected seabed with a thick layer of gravel to seal the mercury in. But environmentalists want the submarine to be raised so the toxic cargo can be dealt with more effectively. Officials fear the wreck is so fragile that any salvage effort would release more mercury. Oslo has ordered an investigation into whether raising the wreck is viable. Underwater photos show the wreck covered in seaweed, with the bow and stern sections 40 meters apart. Some of the mercury flasks have eroded, but it is not clear that any have started leaking mercury. See "U-boat's mercury posing threat," The Japan Times, 6/6/07.

Defense presents its case for the Erika oil spill: The tanker Erika split in two off the coast of Brittany in a storm in 1999. About 20,000 tons of heavy fuel spilled into the sea and along beaches. France's first criminal trial against a company for an oil spill at sea is ongoing. The prosecutor has asked for the judges to give Total and subsidiary Total Petroleum Services the maximum penalty allowed under the law at the time of the spill — and to consider giving an even higher penalty which is allowed under current law. But the defense, which began its arguments Wednesday, told the court that the public was looking for a "devil" to blame. Total denies responsibility for the spill. The three judges started hearing the case February 12 and are expected to rule six months after the trial ends on Wednesday. See "Total presents defense in criminal trial resulting from Erika oil spil," Heather Smith, Bloomberg News at International Herald Tribune, 6/6/07.

China holds oil spill response exercise: China has held an exercise aimed to test the ability of the country's emergency agencies to protect the ocean environment. It was held in the Bohai Sea off the Qinhuangdao coast, North China's Hebei Province, near a stadium that will be used during the 2008 Olympic Games. It was the largest ever exercise of oil emergency control in China, and involved 500 people, 20 vessels and two aircraft. In the scenario, the oil tanker Tianpeng "exploded," and spilled 500 tons of a non-polluting foam used in fire fighting. Organizers chose June 5 for the drill as it is World Environment Day, in a bid to improve the awareness of marine environment protection. China experienced 2,635 oil spill accidents in its seas and along its coastal areas from 1973 to 2006, including 69 major accidents each involving at least 50 tons of oil. Experts have warned the Bohai is suffering from heavy pollution. See "China holds largest exercise of oil spill control," Xinhua at China Daily, 6/5/07. Photographs of the event are available here.

Russia says nuclear waste dump is safe: The environmental group Bellona reported last week that tanks used to store spent nuclear fuel rods in Russia were in danger of exploding. Bellona cited a report from the Russian nuclear authority Rosatom in its report. But in a statement made Monday, Rosatom said there was no such danger. The statement said the storage conditions, measurements and other information about the site indicate that "the possibility of a nuclear event that is significant in terms of safety is excluded." See "Nuclear waste dump in Russian Arctic is in danger of exploding," Pravda.Ru, 6/5/07.

Norway seeks to limit cruises to the Arctic: Environmental advocates and the UN are worried about rapidly increasing cruise traffic in fragile areas like the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. Norway's government wants to restrict cruise traffic, which has increased markedly in recent years, in order to cut down on tourists and potential oil spills. A new UN report shows a 757 percent increase in the number of tourists going ashore in Antarctica during the last 10 years. New rules would limit the number of passengers allowed on each ship to 200. Tourists will also be assessed a special environmental tax. See "Limits put on Arctic cruises," Nina Berglund,, 6/4/07.

Prosecutors seek damages for Erika oil spill: Four months into the court procedure regarding the shipwreck of the tanker Erika, the prosecutor has listed demands of Total, the rescue services, the owner of the tanker, the leasing company, the captain and the classification society which certified the ship as seaworthy. The tanker split in two and sank in rough seas in 1999, spilling nearly 22,000 tons of oil off the coast of France. In the trial, prosecutor Laurent Michel sought conviction and the maximum one-year prison term for the Italian owner and manager of the tanker, as well as $100,500 in fines. He sought a $502,500 fine for Total, and a $13,400 fine for the ship's captain. A second prosecutor asked the court to consider the damage and interests demanded by some 100 civil parties in the case. The accused were to begin pleading their cases before a verdict is reached. See "Prosecutor Seeks to Fine Total for Spill," Verena Von Derschau, The Associated Press at Houston Chronicle, 6/4/07.

Report on Project SHAD now available: Project SHAD (Shipboard Hazard And Defense) was a series of tests conducted by the US Department of Defense in the 1960s to investigate the effectiveness of shipboard detection of and protection procedures against chemical and biological warfare agents. Although the tests were originally classified, public and media interest has led the DoD to investigate these tests and to declassify and make publicly available relevant information from them. A study was then conducted, designed to determine the current health of participants in the tests, and compare their health with that of a comparable group of non-participant veterans from the same era. An uncorrected proof of the prepublication report is now available from The National Academies Press. See "Long-Term Health Effects of Participation in Project SHAD (Shipboard Hazard and Defense)," William F. Page, Heather A. Young, and Harriet M. Crawford, 2007.

Somali pirates execute hostage: Somali pirates who have been holding a Taiwan-flagged fishing vessel since mid-May killed one of the 16 crew members. Andrew Mwangura, director of the Kenyan-based East African Seafarers Assistance Program, said the captive was killed because the ship's owners have not paid a ransom. The pirates threatened to kill other crew members if their demands are not met. The ship Ching Fong Hwa 168 had two Taiwanese and 12 Chinese crew members on board when it was hijacked off the Somali capital, Mogadishu. The nationality of the victim is not known. See "Somali pirates kill ship crew member," Reuters at The Sydney Morning Herald, 6/4/07.

World Environment Day focuses on melting ice: World Environment Day, held annually on June 5, will focus on the melting of the planet's ice due to climate change. Melting ice offers some of the clearest evidence of global warming, and this year's choice of host city, Tromsoe in Norway, was no coincidence. The region is heating up twice as fast as the rest of the planet, and the effects of global warming are already visible. The melting is both a consequence and a cause of global warming: ice reflects heat, as opposed to water which absorbs it and warms up the climate, thus causing more glaciers and snow to melt. The melting ice will also affect parts of the world far from the polar regions. See "Melting ice in focus on World Environment Day," AFP at ABC News Online, 6/3/07.

Bodies of migrants found off Malta will be buried in France: The bodies of 18 migrants seeking new lives in Europe arrived in the French port of Toulon on Sunday. They had been picked up on Friday by La Motte Picquet between Malta and Libya, but it was not clear where the victims had begun their journey. The bodies were in an advanced state of decomposition, and it was likely they had been in the water for three days before they were found. Brice Hortefeux, France's new minister of immigration, integration, national identity and co-development, went to Toulon to meet the vessel, and vowed to wage an "implacable fight against all those who profit" from illegal immigration. DNA tests were to be carried out to identify the bodies should families want to recover them, and they will be buried in a cemetery in the Toulon region. Hortefeux, for whom combating illegal immigration to France is a priority, condemned those who trade in the lives of the desperate by selling them places on "uncertain vessels" that risk never reaching their destination. See "Bodies of 18 migrants to get resting place in France," The Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 6/3/07.

Danish ship and crew captured: Somali hijackers have seized the Danish cargo ship Donica White in heavy seas over 200 miles off the coast. Five crew members were taken. Andrew Mwangura, director of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers Assistance Programme, expects a ransom to be demanded in the next few days, and because all the crew were Danish, he expects the amount to be high. Because the ship was taken so far off shore, experts are guessing that a "mother ship" was involved in the hijacking. Although this mysterious ship has never been seen, it would explain how the small ships used by Somali pirates could hijack a ship so far from shore. See "Danish ship and crew hijacked off Somalia-official," Jeremy Clarke, Reuters, 6/3/07.

French navy finds 21 bodies floating off Malta: A French naval frigate has discovered the bodies of 21 people floating in the Mediterranean in recent days, maritime officials said. Crew members of La Motte Picquet did not find any signs of boat wreckage as the bodies were pulled out of the water. The corpses were found about 200 nautical miles south of Malta, between the Mediterranean island and the coast of Libya. The search was coordinated between France and Malta. Diplomatic efforts are under way to arrange for the bodies to be taken to Tripoli, Libya. See "Grisly find off Maltese coast," Reuters at News24, 6/2/07.

Japan's whaling controversy continues: An angry Japan made a ritual threat to leave the International Whaling Commission meeting and continue commercial whaling when anti-whaling nations won the vote to continue a ban on the practice. The Japanese were also upset at a rejection of their request for small-scale coastal whaling, despite similar concessions being granted to indigenous people in Russia and the US. Japan has threatened to abandon the commission after similar setbacks at previous meetings, but they seem more than usually embittered this year. Leaving the Commission would be a dramatic and irrevocable step, however, and would harm Japan's relations with otherwise friendly governments. This week Japan also announced that it may unilaterally hunt up to 50 humpback whales during its annual “scientific research” cull, after this proposal was also rejected by a majority in the IWC. See "Japan may go it alone after defeat over whaling ban," Richard Lloyd Parry, The Times, 6/2/07.

Meanwhile, there is evidence that Japan is modernizing its whaling fleet. A chaser boat is under construction to replace the last of the chasers still in service, and a new factory ship to replace the Nisshin Maru is under consideration. See "Japan beefs up whaling fleet for summer hunt in Antarctic," Andrew Darby, The Sydney Morning Herald, 6/1/07.

African countries want EU help to protect fisheries: Twenty-two African countries want help from Europe to protect their waters from illegal fishing by foreign boats. Alphonse Douaty, president of the African Halieutic Ministerial Conference (COMHAFAT), will present a plan during a trip to the European Union headquarters next week. At least 40 percent of Ivory Coast fish are taken illegally from its waters by foreign-registered vessels. Douaty's plan includes satellite monitoring of maritime coasts from Morocco to Namibia. See "Africa seeks EU help to police Atlantic coasts," AFP at Yahoo! News, 6/1/07.

Nuclear fuel dump in Russian Arctic in danger of exploding: A nuclear waste dump in the Russian Arctic may be in danger of exploding because of corrosion caused by salt water in enormous storage tanks, the Oslo-based environmental group Bellona said in a statement. Three tanks are used to store spent nuclear fuel rods at Andreeva Bay, on the Kola Peninsula of northwestern Russia, just 28 miles from the Norwegian border. The group cited a report from Rosatom, the Russian nuclear authority, describing the danger. Bellona said the storage tanks were long believed to be dry inside, but that recent studies show corrosive salt water is inside the tanks. Bellona said it first reported on the storage tanks in 1993 but the risk of explosion was a new development. Experts have said the Kola Peninsula has the world's greatest concentration of nuclear materials, with aging nuclear power plants, rusting hulks of Russian Northern Fleet atomic submarines and waste dumps. No one knows how imminent the danger is — if it is a question of years or even hours. See "Kola "a nuclear bomb"," Ole Mathismoen,, 6/1/07.

UN urges better rescue operations for migrants: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has called for countries along the Mediterranean to improve rescue operations for migrants stranded at sea. The UN refugee agency hopes that ship captains will be more likely to help migrants in distress if countries have a uniform policy of handling the people. In recent weeks, several dozen people seeking to reach Europe in small boats have been ignored while clearly in life-threatening situations. UNHCR recognized challenges posed by waves of mixed groups of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, but said "assistance to people in distress at sea should remain the first priority." See "UNHCR urges Mediterranean states to save migrants," Reuters at Business Day, 6/1/07.

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