News Archive - October 2007

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New rocks found off Greenland could spark new debates: Arctic veteran Dennis Schmitt has discovered a scrap of land, just under 44 yards long, off the northern coast of Greenland. It was exposed mainly by shifting pack ice. Its discovery comes as countries around the Arctic Ocean are rushing to control the Polar Basin's seabed, fishing rights and maritime routes. As Greenland is under Denmark's administration, this tiny island could extend Danish territory further north and strengthen Copenhagen's claim on the pole. But only an island gives a country claim to the seabed around it, and it hasn't been decided if the newly discovered "Stray Dog West" can be recognized as fit for sustained human habitation. Stefan Talmon, professor of international law at Oxford University in Britain, said, "With the ice melting, more and more of these islands could emerge and play a role in maritime delimitations." See "Rocks heat up Arctic control," Reuters at, 10/31/07.

US pays more attention to small boats: US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is putting more emphasis on potential threats from small boats. He says that attacks this decade by terrorists ramming bomb-filled speedboats into a US battleship and a French tanker are worrisome. The US Coast Guard is seeking a new federal requirement that all boat operators carry identification while in the water. It wants to keep track of boaters found in restricted areas. The service also wants to require courses in security protocols such as avoiding cruise-ship terminals and military facilities. The Boat Owners Association supports the effort as long as they don't have to get separate ID cards or install costly tracking devices. See "Small boats seen as a terror threat," Thomas Frank, USA TODAY, 10/31/07.

Italy debates new immigration law: Italy is debating a new immigration law, in part in response to the growing number of illegal immigrants arriving in the country by boat from Africa. Many politicians say Europe needs to speak with one voice. According to Italy's interior ministry, the number of arrivals in the first eight months of the year diminished by 2,000. But the number of casualties increased. So far in 2007, 200 more people have died at sea than in 2006. Marcella Lucidi, an interior ministry official responsible for immigration, believes repatriation and cooperation agreements need to be reached between countries of origin and Europe as a whole. She also feels there should be forced repatriation of immigrants arriving illegally on Europe's coasts. It is unclear if Italy's parliament will approve a new immigration law by the end of this year. The immigration issue is expected to be top priority at the European Union-Africa summit in Lisbon in early December. See "Italy Debates New Immigration Law as Illegal Immigration Attempts Soar," Sabina Castelfranco, VOA News, 10/31/07.

Colombia finds two submarines used for running drugs: Colombia has discovered two fiberglass submarines being built near Buenaventura to ship drugs from the country's Pacific Coast. Marines destroyed one sub that was about 70% complete, and sent the other, finished submarine to a nearby naval base. It was 56 feet long, and had the capacity to transport five tons of drugs. The navy said the two submarines belonged to Colombia's largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The Colombian armed forces have uncovered nine home-built submarines since 2005. See "Colombia Seizes 2 Drug Subs," The Associated Press at Houston Chronicle, 10/31/07.

US Senate committee votes to ratify UN sea law convention: The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday approved by a 17-4 vote the ratification of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and submitted it to the full Senate for final consideration. The accord needs a two-thirds vote to win final approval. The 1982 convention outlines the rights and duties of countries in their use of the oceans, establishing guidelines in a wide range of areas, including the environment. More than 150 nations have joined the pact, but some Republicans and other critics fear it would restrict US sovereignty, and could harm commercial development of the deep seabed. Supporters say joining the treaty would give the US a seat at the table to resolve disputes, such as those that could arise over new sea lanes opening up in the Arctic. President Bush supports the convention. See "Senate panel backs Law of the Sea treaty," Kevin Drawbaugh," Reuters at Yahoo! News, 10/31/07.

US helps ships hit by pirates off Somalia: The US Navy has assisted in two different pirate incidents off Somalia. Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell said the incident didn't indicate the US military was taking a more aggressive stance toward pirates in the area, but he added piracy in the Horn of Africa region is a concern for the military. A Navy destroyer helped North Korean-flagged ship Dai Hong Dan, whose crew members managed to retake control of their vessel from pirates on Tuesday. And late Sunday, US warships sank two pirate skiffs that had attacked the Japanese chemical tanker Golden Nori; US ships are still monitoring that vessel. Four other vessels are still controlled by pirates near Somalia. See "U.S. helps overtake Somalia pirates," Edward Harris, The Associated Press at Seattle Times, 10/31/07.

US government sued over 'mothball' fleet: Environmental groups sued the federal government Monday over pollution caused by a fleet of mothballed warships near San Francisco Bay. There are more than 70 ships in the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet, some dating to World War II. According to the complaint brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Arc Ecology and San Francisco Baykeeper, they are "floating junkyards." The groups have accused the US Maritime Administration of violating state and federal environmental regulations, and wants an official review of the environmental impact caused by the ships and associated hazardous waste. Regulatory changes, including Coast Guard regulations requiring the cleaning of the ships' hulls, have slowed the disposal process. See "Lawsuit targets U.S. over mothballed warships," Associated Press at MSNBC, 10/30/07.

Pirates take ship, crew takes it back: Eight gunmen attacked a North Korea-flagged vessel off Somalia on Monday. But the estimated 22 crew members were able to fight off their attackers, and regained control of the vessel on Tuesday. The crew was piloting the ship back to the war-battered city's port in Mogadishu. Andrew Mwangura, program coordinator of the Seafarers Assistance Program, which independently monitors piracy in the region, said first reports that the vessel was from South Korea were incorrect, and that the crew numbered about 22, instead of nearly twice that number as earlier reported. An international watchdog reported this month that pirate attacks worldwide jumped 14 percent in the first nine months of 2007, with the biggest increases in the poorly policed waters of Somalia and Nigeria. See "Crew of ship hijacked in Somalia overpower attackers and regain control," The Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 10/30/07.

Rough weather halts repair on Pemex oil platform: Rough weather in the Gulf of Mexico has forced Pemex to suspend efforts to fix a damaged valve line by injecting cement into it. A platform-rig collision during bad weather last week killed at least 21 workers. Pemex reduced crude production on Monday, and Gulf ports closed as well. Because the storms have prevented ships from getting into or out of port, oil is beginning to back up at seaports, exceeding storage capacity and triggering the shutdown. Ships have surrounded the oil spill from the collision with containment booms, but some of the spill has proved hard to control, and a plan to try to disperse or break down the oil was interrupted by the rough weather. See "Rough Gulf of Mexico weather hobbles Pemex effort to contain oil spills," Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 10/29/07.

US Supreme Court to hear Exxon Valdez appeal: The US Supreme Court agreed Monday to review a federal appeals court ruling that Exxon Mobil must pay $2.5 billion in punitive damages for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska. The figure is half that originally awarded by a federal jury in Alaska in 1994. Attorneys for Exxon Mobil have appealed, saying the amount is excessive under laws governing shipping and that even the reduced damages would be unprecedented. The company says it has already paid $3.4 billion in clean-up costs and penalties. Business groups also wanted the court to use the case to issue a broad ruling that large punitive damage awards are unconstitutional. The plaintiffs seeking punitive damages against Exxon Mobil include about 32,000 commercial fishermen, seafood processors, landowners, native Alaskans and others affected by the largest oil spill in US history. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case most likely in February or March, with a ruling expected by the end of June. See "U.S. high court to decide Exxon Mobil Valdez appeal," James Vicini, Reuters, 10/29/07.

Salvage bill for the Pasha Bulker is $2m: The bulk carrier Pasha Bulker ran aground on Nobbys Beach at Newcastle in June, during heavy storms. The bill for the salvage operation has come to $2 million. The ship's owners, Fukujin Kisen, said at the time the bill would be covered by insurance and would not fall to taxpayers. NSW Maritime is investigating the incident. See "Pasha Bulker salvage bill comes to $2m," AAP at The Sydney Morning Herald, 10/28/07.

Michigan wants federal help to restore Lakes Huron and Michigan: Three Michigan politicians, including Governor Jennifer Granholm, have asked the US Army Corps of Engineers to help restore water levels now at near-historic lows on Lakes Huron and Michigan. Any man-made fix would be controversial, and face regulatory hurdles on both sides of the border. But the Michigan politicians want the Corps to consider a flow inhibitor at the head of the St. Clair River even before the completion of a new study that's examining whether dredging exacerbated low water levels by creating a larger drain hole. Final results of the study aren't expected until early 2009, which Michigan says is too long to wait. Low water levels have been a major Great Lakes problem this decade. Part of the mystery is why the lower lakes are in better shape, hydrologically speaking, than the upper lakes, and whether dredging in the St. Clair River is the reason. See "Michigan leaders push U.S. for fix in St. Clair River," Tina Lam, Detroit Free Press, 10/28/07.

Carnival faces health-related lawsuit: A new suit brought by Martha Fitzgerald alleges her husband, David Fitzgerald, died as a result of eating contaminated food aboard the Carnival Liberty and not getting proper medical care. The couple were on a cruise from Italy last November. More than 500 passengers and 100 crew members became ill with Norovirus during the voyage. Ms. Fitzgerald is suing Carnival Cruise Lines, its parent company Carnival Corp., and the ship's physician. The suit, alleging negligence and wrongful death, seeks unspecified damages. Under maritime law, cruise ships generally cannot be held liable for the passenger care provided by on board physicians, who are typically independent contractors. Earlier this month, the US Supreme Court reinforced that position when it refused to hear a case involving Carnival Corp. See "Widow sues Carnival, alleging wrongful death," Martha Brannigan,, 10/26/07.

Commanding officer of nuclear sub relieved of duty: The commanding officer of the nuclear-powered submarine USS Hampton was relieved of his duty because of a loss of confidence in his leadership. Commander Michael B. Portland was relieved of duty Thursday after a US Navy investigation found the ship failed to do daily safety checks on its nuclear reactor for a month and falsified records to cover up the omission. It appears from a preliminary investigation on the Hampton that sailors in Submarine Squadron 11 had skipped the required analysis of the chemical and radiological properties of the submarine's reactor for more than a month, even though a daily check is required. See "Nuclear sub commander loses job amid misconduct probe,", 10/26/07.

African migrant boat in disaster: The bodies of at least seven Africans have been found in a boat off the Canary Islands, Spanish officials say. A sole survivor was found in the open-topped boat, but the Spanish interior ministry said up to 50 other people were missing. According to the survivor, who was found in a "very weak state", the boat had left Cape Verde, and was found 300 miles off the coast of Senegal by Spanish fishermen. Thousands of Africans try every year to reach Spanish territory on the Canary Islands illegally, many drowning during the journey. See "Seven Dead Found in Boat Off West African Coast," VOA News, 10/25/07.

UK Marine Bill won't cover some marine activities: The UK Marine Bill will not cover a topic many environmentalists think is crucial: the practice of transferring crude oil between tankers at sea. The issue has been highlighted by the lack of regulations covering a proposal to transfer Russian crude in the Firth of Forth, where a spill could harm marine life. A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) suggested to The Scotsman that it considers ship-to-ship transfers to fall under the jurisdiction of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. DEFRA also suggested that the entire oil and gas sector would best be overseen by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. Dr Richard Dixon, of WWF, a member of the Scottish Government marine advisory group, AGMACS, that published its landmark report this year, said it made no sense to exclude marine activities from a Marine Bill. See "Green fury as oil transfers are ruled out of Marine Bill," Ian Johnston, The, 10/25/07.

Blue Lady caught up in legal fight: Last month, India's Supreme Court gave permission to the owners of the Blue Lady to have the ship broken up at the Alang ship scrapping yard. But that decision contradicted a ruling given a few days earlier by the court, which said that all ships must be decontaminated before being taken apart. The Indian Platform on Shipbreaking, an umbrella group that includes Greenpeace and the Ban Asbestos Network, asked for a review of the ruling. The Supreme Court will hear the issue next month. Environmentalists believe the cruise liner contains cancer-causing materials such as asbestos, and radioactive elements, which endanger the health of shipbreakers who work with little protection. See "'Toxic' ship caught in India legal tangle," AFP at Yahoo! News, 10/25/07.

ConocoPhillips' subsidiary fined for oil spill cover up: On January 16, 2004, the crew of the Polar Discovery caused a discharge of oily sludge overboard and into the ocean. Authorities said the crew hid evidence of the discharge and failed to record the transfer in the ship's Oil Record Book. Crew member Jim Legg reported the incident to the Coast Guard four months later. Polar Tankers, the owner of the ship and a subsidiary of ConocoPhillips, has been ordered to pay a $500,000 fine for the cover up, and $2 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in lieu of community service. The payment is part of a plea bargain announced Tuesday in federal court. The company was also sentenced to three years of probation. See "Plea bargain worked out on oil spill," Daniel Lathrop, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 10/25/07.

EU sets Baltic cod catch quotas: EU nations reached an agreement Tuesday on fishing quotas in the Baltic Sea next year. The decision has angered environmentalists. The EU will only reduce the catch quota for cod by 5% in the eastern Baltic, where the ICES international scientific institute called for a total ban. In addition, the EU will reduce catches in the western Baltic by 28%, instead of by half, as scientists had called for. Inger Naslund, a spokesman for the WWF environmental group, said "the EU has clearly failed to meet its commitment to stop overfishing cod in the Baltic Sea." But the EU fisheries chief, Joe Borg, was more upbeat. Baltic countries agreed to reduce by 20% the number of days fishermen could hunt for cod, and Borg said this could lead to progress in restoring balance in northern waters. See "EU fails to make deep cuts in Baltic cod catch quotas, angering environmentalists," The Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 10/25/07.

Damage to platform causes deaths, gas and oil spill: The Usumacinta self-raising drilling rig struck a light production platform known as Kab 101 on Tuesday, about 20 miles offshore from the port of Dos Bocas in the Gulf coast state of Tabasco. At least 18 oil workers were killed, and gas and oil spilled into the Gulf when the rig was buffeted by waves as high as 25 feet and wind gusts as hugh a 80 miles per hour. Rescuers have pulled 61 oil workers to safety, but seven are still missing. The Mexican Navy sent eight helicopters and four boats to help in the rescue effort. The drilling rig is owned by the Compania Perforadora Central S.A. de C.V, and operates under contract to state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex. Pemex said it could take three to five days to control the leak, but noted that it mainly involved gas, not crude oil. See "Toll in Gulf oil spill rises to 18, 7 missing," The Associated Press at, 10/24/07.

STX buys stake in Norwegian shipbuilder: STX Shipbuilding Co., the world's seventh-largest shipyard, has purchased a major stake in a Norwegian shipyard in an effort to branch out into the European market. The South Korean shipbuilder now has a 39.2% stake in Aker Yards ASA. Shares in Europe's largest shipbuilder, which had dropped by nearly a third in recent months, soared more than 20% on the news. The move, which makes STX the largest shareholder, surprised Aker, which says it is considering its "strategic alternatives," although it isn't clear what options it has. STX does not have to make a mandatory offer to take over Aker until it breaches a 40 per cent ownership level. See "Korea's STX takes control of Norwegian rival," Song Jung-a, Financial Times at, 10/24/07.

Queen Mary 2 accident trial wraps up: A walkway collapsed in November 2003 during visitor's day at the shipyard in Saint-Nazaire in western France, killing 15 and injuring 29 people weeks before the ship's maiden voyage. Another person died in 2005 of injuries sustained in the accident. A French court wrapped up a trial on the accident Tuesday. The company that built the QM2, Chantiers de l'Atlantique, and the company that built the walkway, Endel, were both named as suspects, as were eight people who were employees of the companies. All parties are charged with manslaughter. If convicted, the individuals face up to 3 years in prison and $63,600 in fines. The companies would face much larger fines. The court has set a date of February 11 for the verdict. See "French trial wraps up in deadly Queen Mary 2 accident, verdict set for February," The Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 10/23/07.

US Navy still looking for savings in repairs: New contracts, known as multiship, multioption, or MSMOs, were supposed to save the US Navy money for ship repairs. The contracts were also designed to let private shipyards develop expertise on a class of ships, speed up repairs and more quickly deploy vessels. Top Navy officials say the contracts have led to better planning and delivery. But the overall price of maintaining the ships involved has not dropped. The thinking behind MSMOs was that cost savings would come as the winning yard developed a "learning curve" from repeated work on ships in the same class. But so far, that hasn't happened. It may simply be too early in the program to achieve cost savings. And the Navy is still convinced that the multiship contracts offer "the best framework" for achieving savings. See "No drop yet in ship-repair costs for Navy," Jon W. Glass, The Virginian-Pilot at, 10/23/07.

Submarine safety alerts: There were more than 200 safety alerts involving nuclear-powered submarines at Devonport Naval Base in Plymouth, England in the past five years. A Freedom of Information Act request by the Western Morning News newspaper revealed the incidents related to six of the seven Trafalgar Class subs at Devonport. The Royal Navy said that since 2002 the majority of the incidents recorded involved either no radiation issues, or very low radiological consequences. However, details released to the Western Morning News revealed a catalog of potential safety scares. The Ministry of Defence said, "There was no risk to members of the public from these incidents." But John Large, an independent nuclear consultant, said, "some of these incidents represent major systems failures that simply should not have happened." See "More than 200 nuclear scares recorded at submarine base," Michael Evans, Times Online, 10/23/07.

Nuclear sub crew faked inspection records: Six US Navy personnel on board the nuclear-powered submarine USS Hampton have been punished for forging inspection records for the cooling system of the ship's nuclear reactor. One officer and five enlisted personnel received a nonjudicial punishment after other Navy personnel discovered their actions. The crew neither maintained inspection records nor conducted the required inspection of the chemical levels associated with the cooling system, Navy officials said. The crew then went back and falsified existing records to make it appear the work had been done. "There is not, and never was, any danger to the crew or the public," the Navy said in a statement. See "Nuclear sub sailors failed to check reactor for a month, Navy says," Pauline Jelinek, The Associated Press at The Seattle Times, 10/22/07.

Australia's Navy plans two new ships: The military think tank Sea Power Centre believes two proposed landing helicopter doc (LHD) ships would be useful for both disaster relief and major military operations. The two new ships, based on a design by the Spanish shipbuilder Navantia and due in 2013, will be called HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide. The hulls will be constructed in Spain and fitted out at the Tenix Williamstown dockyard in Melbourne. Each will be able to transport up to 1,000 troops, as well as helicopters, vehicles including tanks, and landing craft. They will be among the largest ships ever to serve in the Royal Australian Navy. See "Navy landing ships 'will be very useful'," AAP at The Sydney Morning Herald, 10/22/07.

Pirates seize cargo freighter off Somali coast: Somali pirates have been busy off the east African coast this week. Gunmen hijacked the cargo ship Almarjan last Wednesday. The incident took several days to confirm; officials still don't know the number or nationalities of the crew on board. Two other ships were attacked with guns off the Somali coast on Saturday, and on Sunday pirates in two speedboats attempted to seize a ship carrying cargo for the World Food Program. This is the third attack on a WFP ship this year. Andrew Mwangura, the program coordinator of the East Africa Seafarers Assistance Program, said the rise in hijackings could be linked to the overthrow of an Islamic group that had cracked down on piracy after seizing control of the Somali capital and much of southern Somalia last year. See "Somali pirates seize cargo ship off east African coast in spate of high-seas attacks," The Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 10/22/07.

Shippers face low water levels in the Great Lakes: Water levels are falling in the Great Lakes, and it's starting to affect shipping. For every inch of water that the lakes lose, ships must lighten their loads by 270 tons or risk running aground. As a result, more ships are needed. The average consumer won't see much of a difference, since most of the Great Lakes ships handle raw materials. But the increase in transportation costs for major manufacturers, or firms managing big projects, can be significant. Maritime experts estimate this is adding millions of dollars to shipping companies' operating costs. The International Joint Commission, which advises the United States and Canada on water resources, is conducting a study to determine whether the current shrinking of the Great Lakes is a seasonal cycle, or if it's a result of climate change. A final report is expected in March 2012. See "Inch by Inch, Great Lakes Shrink, and Cargo Carriers Face Losses," Fernanda Santos, The New York Times, 10/22/07 (free subscription may be required).

Bollinger Shipyards leaves New Orleans: The US Army Corps of Engineers has recommended closing the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a major source of flooding during Hurricane Katrina. This directly affects the New Orleans yard run by Bollinger Shipyards. Located on the Industrial Canal, the New Orleans shipyard relies on the outlet to bring in the ships that the company works on. About 80 people now work at the Industrial Canal facility, and all of them were offered jobs within the Bollinger organization. The company will begin shifting its current business to other company yards in Morgan City and Sulphur. International Shipholding Corp., Southern Scrap Material Co., and New Orleans Cold Storage are just some of the other businesses that have left the Industrial Canal. See "Bollinger closing New Orleans yard," The Associated Press at The Clarion Ledger, 10/21/07.

Global warming leads the US Coast Guard into the Arctic: The US Coast Guard plans to establish a base in the Arctic, to respond to the cruise ships and tankers that are already starting to travel there. The base will probably be established near the US' northernmost town of Barrow, Alaska. Small at first, the base would be expanded as necessary, to help speed responses to oil spills from tankers, and emergencies involving cruise ships. The Coast Guard has also begun discussions with the Russians about controlling anticipated ship traffic through the Bering Strait. Coast Guard commandant Admiral Thad Allen declined to discuss the scientific issues related to global warming. But environmentalists have expressed some relief that the service will help protect the fragile environment. See "New task for U.S. Coast Guard in Arctic's warming seas," Matthew L. Wald and Andrew C. Revkin, International Herald Tribune, 10/19/07.

Chile makes its own claim to Antarctic territory: Responding to Britain's plans to claim sovereignty over territory in Antarctica under the Law of the Sea Convention, Chile has repeated its own claims to parts of Antarctic territory and waters. Currently, five-sixths of the Antarctic continent is claimed by seven countries and most of the existing British stake is also claimed by either Argentina or Chile. A Foreign Office spokeswoman said that even if the claim were granted, Britain would not contravene the existing 1959 treaty that prohibits oil, gas and mineral exploitation in Antarctica. The claim is a safeguard should that treaty be abolished. See "Chile repeats own Antarctic claim," BBC News, 10/19/07.

Britain seeks bigger chunk of Antarctica: Britain will submit a claim to the United Nations to extend its Antarctic territory, possibly sparking disputes with South American nations such as Argentina and Chile. Britain plans four other territorial requests, including Atlantic seabed territory around South Georgia and the Falkland Islands, South Atlantic territory around Ascension Island, and in the Hatton-Rockall basin off Scotland's coast. Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana said his country was working on its own presentation to the United Nations. May 13, 2009 marks a deadline for all states to stake their claims to the United Nations, in what some experts are describing as the last big carve-up of maritime territory in history. The territory could hold riches from oil and gas to marine organisms. Britain has also lodged one joint claim with France, Spain and Ireland for extended territorial rights in the Bay of Biscay. See "Britain to claim more of Antarctica," Reuters at, 10/18/07.

Poland's Gdansk shipyard will be sold: Poland's Gdansk shipyard has been under threat since the European Union demanded that it somehow repay state subsidies received since Poland joined the bloc in 2004. The yard couldn't afford to pay back the subsidies, and might have been forced to close. Now the yard's chief executive has announced that Industrial Donbass Union, one of Ukraine's biggest financial and industrial groups, will buy the yard. Donbass will acquire an 83% stake in the yard, with the possibility of buying the remaining 17% from the state. Donbass will likely pay state aid back to the EU to avoid cutting shipyard capacity. The deal is expected to win approval from Poland's competition watchdog. See "Poland to sell Gdansk shipyard," Reuters at The Sydney Morning Herald, 10/17/07.

EU seeks ways to stamp out illegal fishing: EU regulators plan to crack down on illegal fishing in European waters, demanding more paperwork and threatening stiff fines to curb practices that pose a serious risk to marine biodiversity. The draft law calls for a certification program where the import of all fisheries products would require certification by the country whose flag the vessel is flying to prove the fish had been legally caught. If vessels broke the rules, they might find EU ports closed to them. The phenomenon known as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) is nothing new, either in EU waters or elsewhere, but in recent years it has come back into the spotlight as depleted fish stocks demand ever stricter control measures. The EU has one of the worlds largest fishing fleets and is the top market and importer of fisheries products. See "EU steps up fight against illegal fishing to protect dwindling stocks," The Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 10/17/07.

Deep sea treasure causes problems: The interception of a treasure-hunting ship off the coast of Gibraltar is the latest attack in a tense battle between a US-based salvage company and Spain over an unidentified shipwreck and its cargo of gold and silver coins. On Tuesday, patrol boats from Spain's maritime police intercepted the Odyssey Explorer, owned by underwater salvage firm Odyssey Marine International, three miles off the coast of Gibraltar. It was ordered to the Spanish port of Algeciras for inspection. Spain suspects that a Spanish galleon is being secretly plundered, or that the wreck lies in Spanish waters. Odyssey Marine Explorations says it is keeping the location of the wreck secret to protect the site from looters; some say the ship holds the greatest underwater treasure yet discovered. The haul is now at a secret location in Florida, where Odyssey is based. See "Treasure seekers run the gauntlet over world's biggest haul of gold," Thomas Catan, Times Online, 10/17/07.

Preventing wars is the new focus of the US military: In the first major revision of US naval strategy in 25 years, US maritime officials said they plan to focus more on humanitarian missions and improving international cooperation as a way to prevent conflicts. The strategy reflects a broader Defense Department effort to use aid, training and other cooperative efforts to encourage stability in fledgling democracies and create relationships around the globe that can be leveraged if a crisis does break out in a region. This represents the first time that the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard have all collaborated on a single, common strategy for defending the US homeland and protecting US interests overseas. Some critics said the strategy does not go far enough toward creating a seamless US maritime force. See "New Maritime Strategy to Focus on 'Soft Power'," Ann Scott Tyson, 10/17/07.

Piracy off Somalia's coast increases: Maritime pirate attacks worldwide shot up 14% in the first nine months of 2007 from a year earlier, according to the International Maritime Bureau. Indonesia remained the world's worst piracy hotspot, with 37 attacks in the first nine months of 2007 — but that was an improvement from 40 in the same period a year earlier. Nigeria suffered 26 attacks so far this year, up from 9 previously. Attacks rose rapidly in Somalia to 26 reported cases, up from only 8 a year earlier. Political instability in Somalia has given pirates a great amount of power; Somalia's UN-backed government has been struggling to assert control over the country since it accepted the aid of Ethiopian soldiers to chase a powerful Islamic alliance from power. Only four attacks were reported in the Malacca Strait this year, compared to 8 in the same period in 2006, thanks to increased cooperation between states straddling the waterway. See "Piracy surges off Africa coast," Tom Maliti, Associated Press at, 10/16/07.

Arctic explorers to chart sea ice melt: Three British polar explorers will travel next year to the North Pole to try to establish when Arctic summer sea ice will finally vanish because of global warming. The sea ice is already receding at a rate of 115,000 square miles a year, but despite some submarine and satellite measurements there is no accurate measure of how rapidly it is also thinning. The only way to get an accurate gauge of the ice thickness, says expedition leader Pen Hadow, is to take ground-based measurements. So the explorers will attempt to fill in the missing pieces by spending three months dragging ground-penetrating radar behind them on their journey, which will measure the ice thickness and snow depth every 8 inches. Ice samples will also be drilled every 12.5 miles. See "Polar expedition to record shrinking Arctic ice," Duncan Graham-Rowe, New Scientist, 10/16/07.

First workers apply for US port security credential: On October 16, port workers, longshoremen, truckers and others at the Port of Wilmington, Delaware, become the first in the US to enroll in the Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program. The program's goal is to ensure that any individual who has unescorted access to secure areas of port facilities and vessels has received a thorough background check and is not a security threat. The program has been expensive, and has seen many delays from technical glitches. Although the program was supposed to have been running at the nation's top 10 high-risk ports by July, and at 40 more by January 1, the department now plans only to begin enrollment at a dozen ports by the end of this year. In addition, it still could be at least a year before the operation moves beyond background checks and fingerprinting. See "Delaware port launches ID card program," Mimi Hall, USA TODAY, 10/15/07.

Details of the Pasha Bulker grounding revealed: The Sydney Morning Herald reports that more than four months after the Pasha Bulker shipping disaster the NSW government is keeping secret a report which showed the grounding was the result of a number of blunders. The bulk carrier ran aground on June 8; at the time, the ship's captain was below deck eating breakfast, and the junior crew were in charge. The captain revealed this news three days after the ship grounded, but neither the Government nor the ship's owners told the public. A series of mistakes and incompetence began on the evening of June 7, with a warning of an approaching storm. The events ended with the bulker running aground near Newcastle. See "Captain at breakfast as ship sailed to doom," 10/13/07.

Online mapping service reveals Chinese subs: Hans Kristensen, an analyst and blogger for the Federation of American Scientists, has done it again. In July, he discovered the first publicly available pictures of the secret Jin class Chinese submarine on Google Earth in July. He has now discovered what appears to be a second and possibly a third Jin class nuclear-powered submarine at a naval shipyard in north-eastern China. The photo was taken by a commercial satellite on May 3, 2007, and showed up on Google Earth after the most recent imagery update. According to published US intelligence reports, China is believed to be building five of these new submarines that have a capacity to launch ballistic nuclear missiles with a range of nearly 5000 miles. The new images of the Chinese subs are the latest in a recent string of submarine sightings on free online mapping services. See "Desktop naval gazers know a sub when they see one," Stephen Hutcheon, The Sydney Morning Herald, 10/12/07.

Maritime drill begins off Japan: A Japan-hosted maritime drill on preventing weapons of mass destruction from proliferating started Saturday in the Pacific off the port city of Yokosuka, with naval vessels and aircraft from six countries planning to join. The exercises are part of a series of three-day drills called the Proliferation Security Initiative featuring a joint chase of mock "suspicious" boats in the sea and ship inspections at the ports of Yokosuka and Yokohama. Forty-one countries plan to take part in the three-day drills, either with vessels and aircraft, or by sending observers. See "Ship interception naval exercises by 7 countries hosted by Japan in Pacific," The Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 10/12/07.

The Blue Lady is being scrapped at Alang Shipyard: India's Supreme Court gave permission for the Blue Lady to be scrapped at the Alang Shipyard last month after a legal battle led by environmentalists who warned of health risks. But the workers at the yard are happy to have jobs again, and say their health is secondary to the need to earn enough money to feed themselves. The Supreme Court insisted that strict guidelines be followed to ensure worker safety, but officials admit privately that the workers are poorly equipped and have no health insurance. They also admit that mock drills and safety workshops take place very rarely. Environmental group Greenpeace says the yard doesn't have the technology to safely dismantle the ship. See "Poor labourers happily scrap 'toxic' Blue Lady," Reuters at The Times of India, 10/10/07.

Cunard opts for Italian build: Italy's state-owned shipbuilder Fincantieri signed a $700 million deal to build a new 2,092 passenger liner to be named Queen Elizabeth for Cunard Line, a unit of Carnival Corp. The cruise ship will be built at Fincantieri's Monfalcone shipyard with delivery expected in the fall of 2010. The contract brings to 16 the number of ships on order at Fincantieri's shipyards, corresponding to a market share of 40 percent. The 92,000 ton liner will be the second-largest Cunard has ever had built. The agreement is subject to approval by Carnival's board of directors. Design details and initial itineraries will be announced later. See "Italy's Fincantieri signs deal to build 92,000-ton liner for Cunard," AP WorldStream at Hoover's, 10/10/07.

Greenpeace starts a new whale study program: Conservation group Greenpeace is using a new satellite-based tracking system to monitor endangered South Pacific humpback whales. The system is being used to study whale migrations from breeding grounds in the South Pacific to feeding grounds in the Southern Ocean. The group used the announcement of its program to lambast Japan's scientific whaling program, which has killed thousands of whales as part of what it calls necessary research. Greenpeace New Zealand's oceans campaigner, Mike Hagler, said "The Great Whale Trail non-lethal tracking program is intended to show that whales don't need to die for science." Japan's whaling fleet is expected to sail for the southern ocean some time next month, and plans to hunt up to 50 humpback whales, 50 fin whales and 935 minke whales. See "Greenpeace starts non-lethal method of studying whales, ridicules Japanese killing system," The Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 10/10/07.

New study finds sea freight is cleaner than road and rail: An Australia Institute report, commissioned by the Maritime Union of Australia, finds that sea freight is cleaner than road and rail, and should play a greater role in freight transport. Shipping currently accounts for 22% of domestic freight in the country, but just 4% of freight-related greenhouse gas. Road freight accounts for 40% of the domestic market, but is responsible for 80% of greenhouse gas emissions from freight. The report's author, Australia Institute deputy director Andrew Macintosh, said shipping should play a greater role in the domestic freight network, as part of Australia's efforts to curb greenhouse emissions. Government intervention will likely be needed to encourage the transfer of freight from road to either rail or ships, but with roads growing more and more crowded, it should be considered. See "Sea freight 'cleaner than rail, road'," AAP at The Sydney Morning Herald, 10/9/07.

Russia to change its fishing regulations: The head of Russia's Federal Agency for Fisheries has announced some changes. First, Russia will stop assigning quotas for commercial fishing starting January 1, 2008; and second, the country must control all fishing in its commercial waters. While quotas will end, new regulatory measures will be established to determine the fishing output, number of vessels, and methods of allowed fishing. The average per capita consumption of fish and seafood in Russia has decreased significantly in the last 20 years. See "Russia set to abolish fishing quotas in 2008," RIA Novosti, 10/9/07.

Ships on alert after iceberg warning: Ships have been put on alert after an "iceberg" was spotted floating off St. Francis Bay in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The large white mass, said to be about 35 nautical miles offshore, is estimated to be 25 meters long and 20 meters high. It was reported by the trawler Ntini, which was sailing in the area on Monday night. The National Sea Rescue Institute issued an immediate maritime radio warning to vessels to prevent a possible collision. NSRI spokesperson Craig Lambinon said on Tuesday they were forced to take the sighting seriously, until it was either proven, or disproven, conclusively. Some are skeptical. See "Iceberg in SA? 'Impossible'," Tisha Steyn, Die Burger,, 10/9/07.

Nicaragua-Honduras maritime border set: The UN International Court of Justice settled a territorial dispute between Nicaragua and Honduras by giving Honduras sovereignty over four islands and redrawing the maritime border between the Caribbean neighbors. The decision awards more or less half of the disputed territory, which offers rich fishing grounds and potential oil and gas reserves, to each party. The boundary line now makes a slight detour around the islands which Honduras gained sovereignty over, and settles the dispute which almost led to war between the two countries in 1999. The Court ruled Honduras has sovereignty over the islands of Bobel Cay, Savanna Cay, Port Royal Cay and South Cay. Both countries found elements to like in the judgment: Honduras got the islands, while Nicaragua could argue that the court gave it more than it asked for. See "UN Draws Honduras, Nicaragua Sea Border," Mike Corder, The Associated Press at, 10/8/07.

Queen Mary 2 gangplank disaster trial opens: Eight people and two companies went on trial in France on Monday over the Queen Mary 2 gangplank accident that killed 16 people. The victims were mostly relatives and friends of shipyard workers in Saint Nazaire invited to an open day on the ship, the world's largest liner, a few weeks before its maiden voyage in 2003. Fifteen people died on the day and 29 were injured. In 2005, another person died of injuries sustained in the accident. The company that built the ocean liner, Chantiers de l'Atlantique, and the company that built the walkway that allowed visitors to pass from the dock to the vessel, Endel, were both named as suspects in the trial. The eight people were employees of Endel and the building sites. The trial is expected to last through October 23. See "Companies charged in oceanliner accident," Associated Press at, 10/8/07.

New Global Maritime Distress and Safety System book: The International Maritime Organization has issued a complete revision of the GMDSS. Formerly the GMDSS Handbook, the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System Manual is intended for use by ship personnel, shore operators, trainers, administrations, regulators and anyone else concerned with ship communication. It includes an explanation of principles, radio communication requirements and recommendations for implementation, operational performance standards and technical specifications, and the procedures for and method of operation of the various radio services which form the GMDSS and the Master Plan for the GMDSS. See the press briefing "IMO publishes new GMDSS Manual (4th edition)" from the IMO.

Pilot scrubber project actually contributes to greenhouse gas: In May, cruise line Holland America announced the installation of a pilot sea water scrubber on the air stacks of the ship Zaandam. The equipment uses sea water pumped through the stacks to chemically scrub sulphur and other contaminants from engine emissions, then dumps the water back overboard. However, new research indicates that when sulphuric acid is added to sea water by scrubbers, carbon dioxide is freed from the ocean surface. The news that the project has actually ended up contributing to increased greenhouse gases was discussed at a meeting where shipping, environment and labour leaders gathered to urge Canada to join a global push for mandatory use of cleaner fuels by shipping lines worldwide. See "Cruise-ship pollution initiative actually contributes to problem," Christina Montgomery, The Province at 10/7/07.

Questions still surround iron-seeding: The California company Planktos wants to use iron-seeding to fertilize a crop of carbon dioxide-gobbling plankton. The technique could address collapsing fisheries, ocean acidification, and even global warming. If the plan works, the company aims to cash in by selling "carbon-offset" credits to industrial polluters. But the company's plans have been repeatedly postponed: there are too many questions and concerns from environmentalists, scientists and government regulators, and too little oversight. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change calls iron-seeding a ''speculative'' strategy. Others fear the push for profit could trump scientific prudence. Several other companies have similar plans, hoping to cash in on the emerging markets in carbon credits, which can be quite lucrative in Europe. See "Pumping iron into ocean gets chilly reception," Curtis Morgan,, 10/7/07.

New study says the Bay of Fundy is safe for LNG supertankers: Washington-based Downeast LNG says a new study finds no immediate risks of having LNG supertankers go through the Bay of Fundy to a proposed plant in Maine. Downeast wants to build the plant at Robbinston, Maine to connect to the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline. The LNG would come from plants in the Caribbean and elsewhere, re-gasified at Robbinston and then shipped into the US northeast. Ottawa has threatened to ban supertankers from the Bay if the US approves the project, as local residents and environmental groups are worried the tankers could be damaged in the narrow passage. But the study indicated the tankers could safely pass if proper precautions were taken. The application for the terminal is before the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. See "Supertankers 'no risk' to Bay of Fundy," Peter Morton, Financial Post at, 10/6/07.

New figures suggest shipping is dirtier than previously thought: New findings from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) suggest that the quantity of carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere by the shipping industry is 50% higher than was previously believed. The figure is almost twice that of the emissions most commonly attributed to the aviation industry. Shipping's reputation of being an efficient means of transportation likely won't be lost, but the sector will be under pressure to reduce emissions. See "Shipping emissions are vastly underestimated," Lewis Smith, The Times Online, 10/4/07.

US Maritime Administration could be fined: There are 74 obsolete ships in Suisun Bay, northeast of San Francisco. At least 56 of the ships are slated for disposal by the US Maritime Administration. Concerned about toxic paint falling into the Bay, the Bay Area Water Quality Control Board had ordered the Administration to submit a cleanup plan by August 6. When MarAd replied with a letter saying the matter would be studied, the Board warned fines and penalties for noncompliance could reach $25,000 per day. It would take a formal vote by the regional water board to issue fines. See "Fines threatened over ghost fleet in Suisun Bay,"Associated Press at, 10/3/07.

Ships won't flock to the Northwest Passage: Global warming could open up Arctic trade routes, cutting the distance between Europe and the Far East by 4,700 miles, compared to the traditional route through the Panama Canal. But Simon Bennett, secretary of the International Chamber of Shipping, says that the shipping industry does not consider the Northwest Passage as a "serious alternative" to the Panama Canal. There are a number of reasons for this: ice cover, and the melting of the ice, is impossible to predict from year to year; the channels are narrow and the water can be shallow; there is currently no infrastructure; insurance costs would be high, and few firms would be willing to take the risk. Additionally, the current high demand for cargo ships means owners don't need to look for short cuts. See "Ships to shun Northwest Passage," David Ljunggren, Reuters at Yahoo! News, 10/3/07.

US Navy pays for damage to tanker: The American submarine USS Newport News collided with the commercial tanker Mogamigawa near the Strait of Hormuz on January 8. No injuries, oil or radiation leaks were reported, but the tanker was damaged. While not disclosing the exact amount of the cash settlement with shipping firm Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd., the US Navy has said it reached a settlement, for compensation and to cover repair costs. See "U.S. Navy to pay for hitting tanker," The Japan Times Online, 10/3/07.

Bush administration warms to UN Law of the Sea Treaty: President Bush says US approval of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea would give the country a voice when rights over natural resources in the melting Arctic are debated in international forums. Several entities agree that the US should join the Convention, including the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England. But the full Senate has never taken it up, and opponents say it would impinge on US military economic sovereignty. The United States, with its Alaskan coast, is the only Arctic nation that is not party of the treaty. See "Senate considers acting on sea treaty," Jim Abrams, Associated Press at Yahoo! News, 10/3/07.

US Supreme Court refuses Carnival case: The US Supreme Court has refused to hear a case involving whether Carnival Corp. is responsible for the malpractice of its onboard physicians, letting stand a Florida Supreme Court ruling in favor of Carnival. The case hinged on federal maritime precedent that says cruise lines are not liable for their doctors' actions. The case involved a 14-year-old Michigan girl, Elizabeth Carlisle, who boarded the Carnival Ecstasy in March 1997. The ship's onboard physician, an independent contractor, misdiagnosed her illness as influenza. Carlisle was later diagnosed with a ruptured appendix and an abdominal infection that left her sterile, a suit filed in Miami-Dade Court said. Trial court initially dismissed the suit, but the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami reinstated it in 2003, finding that the doctor was Carnival's agent and the Miami-based company could be held responsible for his actions. The Florida Supreme Court did not agree, and ruled for Carnival in February. See "Justices reject Carnival case," Martha Brannigan,, 10/2/07.

US Navy is revising its sonar impact study: The US Navy is getting concerned about a proliferation of relatively quiet diesel submarines that are hard to detect in congested coastal waters, and has proposed new sonar training ranges. But it acknowledges that its use of mid frequency sonar contributed to the stranding and deaths of beaked whales in the Bahamas in 2000. Three other mass strandings of marine mammals have been associated with naval sonar use since then. The Navy's own environmental analysis of the effects of a sonar training range spurred more than 40,000 pages of public comments that were overwhelmingly critical. Because of that, and new research on effects of sonar on marine mammals, the Navy is working on a revised environmental impact statement, which should be finished next spring. The Navy hopes to have the first part of the sonar training range operational by 2013. See "Navy recalculating effect of sonar training," Kate Wiltrout, The Virginian-Pilot at, 10/1/07.

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