News Archive - December 2007

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South Korea still tackling oil spill: South Korea's coastguard want to arrest four men related to the December 7 oil spill. They are the captain of the Hebei Spirit tanker, the captains of two tugboats towing the barge, and the person responsible for the sea-bound crane. The barge operators were suspected of failing to heed warnings not to take the crane out in rough waters, and the captain may not have responded properly to emergency calls. In addition, a towline between the crane of one of the tugboats severed about 15 minutes before the accident, and the tanker did not move out of the way in time. See "South Korea seeks arrests in its worst oil," Reuters at The Sydney Morning Herald, 12/21/07.

Olof Linden, a member of a UN environmental team dispatched to help assess the damage form the oil spill, says that cleanup efforts have been successful, and the ecosystem should fully recover within three to five years. The Korean Federation for Environmental Movement, a major South Korean environmental group, expressed skepticism about Linden's prediction. See "SKorea's coastal ecosystem should recover from oil spill within 3-5 years: U.N. expert," Associated Press at SignOnSanDiego.com, 12/21/07.

Japan postpones humpback whale hunt: Japan has agreed to abandon plans to slaughter endangered humpback whales for the next one to two years amid calls from Australia to spare the species during a research hunt in the Antarctic. The species has been protected since 1966. Nobutaka Machimura, Japan's top government spokesman, confirmed that humpbacks will not be targeted, but added," there will be no change in our stance on research whaling." Officials in Tokyo denied Japan had backed down in the face of renewed international pressure, particularly from Australia. A foreign ministry spokesman said the decision had been reached earlier this month during talks in Washington between fisheries agency officials and the US, the current chair of the International Whaling Commission. See "Japan Scraps Plan To Hunt Humpback Whales," Associated Press at CBS News, 12/21/07.

New Zealand looks at safety on its new frigate: New Zealand's Defence Minister has called for a review of the HMNZS Canterbury. In July the ship lost a rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) at sea, and then on October 5 a 22-year-old seaman drowned when trapped under a capsized RHIB. An inquiry into the July 10 tragedy has highlighted a shortcoming in the design of the RHIB alcove and in operational issues. The design shortcomings have been discussed with shipbuilder Tenix, and should be easily resolved. Additional inquiries are ongoing. The Chief of Navy, the Maritime Component Commander and the ship's captain said that they all had confidence in the ship. See "Safety fears spur review for new frigate," NZPA at New Zealand Herald, 12/21/07.

Cosco Busan leaves San Francisco Bay: The Cosco Busan, the container ship that collided with a tower of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on November 7 and released 58,000 gallons of oil into San Francisco Bay, has been authorized by the US Coast Guard to resume maritime commerce. Temporary repairs to the ship were completed, the vessel and crew have been verified safe to sail, and the ship is on its way to China for final repairs. Also on Thursday, Caltrans announced it has completed repairs to the damaged fenders on the bridge — the fenders were ripped off by the container ship. Several lawsuits have been filed against the ship's owner, Regal Stone Ltd. of Hong Kong, as well as its insurer and the man piloting the ship when the accident happened. See "Patched-up Cosco Busan sails out of bay, lawsuits in its wake," Marisa Lagos, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/21/07.

Faulty weld probe is expanded at Newport News: The US Navy will review all welds on vessels built or serviced by the Northrop Grumman Newport News shipyard in the past seven or so years. The yard is also examining the scope of the problems. Included in the investigation are at least seven aircraft carriers, six Virginia-class submarines, three Los Angeles-class submarines and a cruiser. Potential long-term problems associated with faulty welds will also be reviewed. Several yard workers told the Daily Press that the problems under investigation were caused by pipe fitters who tacked pipes together using nickel-copper compound, instead of stronger stainless-steel filler prescribed for the job. The improper welding material could lead to cracking of joints and result in leaks on internal non-nuclear piping systems. The yard and the Navy stressed that the faulty welds posed no short-term risk for the vessels. But the welds could prove dangerous in high-pressure pipes, particularly on a submarine. See "Welding probe to expand at shipyard," Peter Frost, Dailypress.com, 12/20/07.

India probes Scorpene deal: An Indian court has ordered police to complete a probe into charges that a bribe was paid in a multi-billion dollar deal to buy Scorpene submarines from a French defense firm. The Delhi High Court told the Central Bureau of Investigation to complete an inquiry within three months. The order came a month after a non-government organization said New Delhi was shielding Indian middlemen who allegedly took a commission from French defense giant Thales, which owns Armaris, to clinch the deal. Thales and the French government have denied the allegations. See "India probes $3 bln French submarine deal," AFP at Khaleej Times Online, 12/20/07.

International regulations enter into force on January 1: Several international maritime regulations will come into force on January 1, 2008. These include the regulation in SOLAS chapter V, "Safety of Navigation," which introduces LRIT as a mandatory requirement for several ship types on international voyages. Amendments to the STCW convention and Code add new minimum mandatory training and certification requirements for persons to be designated as ship security officers (SSOs). Amendments to part A of the STCW Code add additional training requirements for the launching and recovery of fast rescue boats. Finally, amendments to the IMDG Code will modify requirements for transport of several chemicals. See the press release "Long-range identification and tracking of ships - SOLAS amendment enters into force on 1 January 2008, from the International Maritime Organization, 12/20/07.

South Korean oil spill is bigger than officials thought: New calculations of the spill from the Hebei Spirit off South Korea's western coast put it at 20% bigger than previous estimates. An official on Thursday put the spill at nearly 80,000 barrels of oil, which is nearly a third the size of the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster. The spill has jeopardized the ecosystem and spoiled hundreds of seafood farms in the area, which is also a prime tourism attraction. About 37,000 people, 845 ships and 10 helicopters were still working on cleanup on Thursday. See "SKorean oil spill 20 percent worse than initial estimates," Associated Press at AOL News, 12/20/07.

EU will allow more fish to be caught next year: European Union fisheries ministers will allow fishermen to catch more cod in the North Sea next year, against the recommendations of environmentalists. The quota for North Sea cod was increased by 11% on fishing quotas for 2008. The sea council had recommended a reduction of 50% in the total removal of cod from the area, a figure that includes both legal and illegal fishing as well as natural death of the fish. The scientists also called for a reduction in the quota of haddock fished. The ministers instead allowed it to rise 5%. However, there will be a cut in the number of days fishermen spend at sea. Details of the deal are still emerging, but ministers said measures to be taken would include moves to reduce catches of unwanted fish. See "EU ministers to allow more fish to be caught next year," Elisabeth Rosenthal, International Herald Tribune, 12/19/07.

Immigrants found dead on beach: The bodies of 56 illegal immigrants, mostly from Somalia and Ethiopia, were found on the south coast of Yemen. According to other migrants who reached Yemen safely, 50 women and five children were among 148 illegal immigrants on the vessel. Apparently the boat was overloaded. Passengers were being beaten to force them off the boat and lighten the load, and capsized the vessel. The Yemeni defense ministry said 41 others were rescued and 69 were listed as missing. It takes two days at best to cross the Gulf of Aden from Somalia to Yemen, and the trip is made especially dangerous by shark-infested waters, strong currents and inhumane conditions on poorly maintained vessels open to the elements. See "Dozens of illegal immigrants found dead on beach," The Australian, 12/19/07.

Norwegian helicopter rescues Russian crew: A Norwegian rescue helicopter has rescued the crew from a Russian freighter off the far northern port of Murmansk. The weather was so bad that other Russian ships in the area couldn't risk approaching the vessel, and the helicopter was close by. The Russian ship lost engine power and ran aground in the bad weather. The aircraft flew the crew, all unharmed, to the Norwegian border town of Kirkenes. See "Twelve Russian crew members rescued by Norwegian helicopter in Arctic," Associated Press at Pravda, 12/18/07.

Tanker capsizes at Indonesian port: The small tanker Karisma Selatan, owned by Indonesian company PT Pasifik Selatan, capsized Tuesday at a port in central Indonesia. It isn't clear how much oil has leaked, but the ship was loaded with more than 4,000 barrels of medium fuel oil. Authorities have placed rubber buoys around the tanker to prevent the slick from spreading, and they're trying to determine how best to lift the tanker without causing more oil to spill. The cause of the accident is unknown. See "Rescuers try to contain oil slick after tanker capsizes at Indonesian port," Associated Press at AOL News, 12/18/07.

Trouble for Alaska's cruise industry?: A new interpretation of some provisions of the US Jones Act could spell trouble for the local cruise industry in Alaska. The changes, which are being considered to help the Hawaii cruise industry, would require cruise ships sailing Seattle to Southeast Alaska routes to stop longer in Canada and thus cut the number of passengers in Juneau. This could mean the loss of hundreds of thousands of shopping and tour customers in Alaska. Drew Green, Juneau port manager for Cruise Line Agency of America, would like the criteria to be isolated to solve the Hawaiian Islands dispute. See "121-year-old sea act could cause trouble for Alaska cruise industry," Greg Skinner, JuneauEmpire.com, 12/18/07.

World's first ship tunnel is planned: Strong winds, waves and currents in the area of Stad on the western coast of Norway make ships waste time waiting for calmer conditions. The idea of building a tunnel to cut through a peninsula was suggested in 1920 — and possibly as early as 1870. But in the 1980s, the concept gained momentum and the government got involved. A new report from the Norwegian Coastal Administration, which takes into account the cost of waiting, suggests a tunnel would be cost-effective. The report recommends building a mile-long tunnel using a design that would provide flexibility for future growth in ship sizes. See "Norway plans world's first ship tunnel," Reuters at Yahoo! News, 12/17/07.

Nineteen missing after ship collision: Nineteen people were missing after their fishing boat collided with a Liberian-registered ship in the East China Sea. The accident occurred late Saturday off the coast of China's Zhejiang province. One person was rescued after the local fishing boat sank. No other details of the collision were provided, including whether the Liberian vessel suffered any damage. Apparently, all the missing people were from the fishing vessel. Rescue efforts are ongoing, but cold water temperatures would make survival difficult. See "19 missing, 1 rescued when Chinese, Liberian vessels collide in East China Sea," Associated Press at AOL News, 12/16/07.

Modern sailing ships: SkySails inventor Stephan Wrage and German engineers have spent more than five years perfecting a system to harness wind power for modern cargo ships. In January, the 433-foot MV Beluga SkySails will make its maiden voyage across the Atlantic to Venezuela, up to Boston and back to Europe. It will be pulled by a computer-guided kite tethered to a 50-foot mast. Under favorable wind conditions, the kite is expected to reduce fuel costs by up to 20% or more, and cut carbon dioxide emissions by a similarly significant amount. There are other shippers lining up to buy the system if the Beluga Shipping trial goes well. But the immediate impact on cutting CO2 caused by ships will be limited, simply because there are so many ships being used worldwide. See "German ship fights climate change with high-tech kite," Erik Kirschbaum, Reuters at Yahoo! News, 12/16/07.

Taiwan gets closer to buying submarines from the US: A committee of the Taiwan legislature has approved a spending package for a submarine design. Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the US-Taiwan Business Council, says that "the odds are pretty high" that the money will survive a pending vote of the overall legislature. That could happen in 2008. Taiwan has wanted submarines for some time, and in his first months in office, President Bush offered Taiwan eight submarines. But high costs and a standoff between Taiwan's political parties locked up weapons purchases for years. The US hasn't made diesel subs since it started making nuclear boats. If the deal goes through, one of the country's two submarine builders — General Dynamics Electric Boat or Northrop Grumman Newport News — would probably get the job of relearning how to build more modern diesel submarines. See "Taiwan Vote May Help EB," Jesse Hamilton, Courant.com, 12/15/07.

Korean military talks end in stalemate: Three days of talks between Korean military leaders failed to reach a decision on creating a shared fishing zone along their disputed sea border. North Korean officials want the joint zone to be situated south of the Northern Limit Line, but South Korea wants the zone to straddle the NLL, encompassing waters belonging to both Koreas. The disagreement prompted two deadly skirmishes in 1999 and 2002 in rich fishing waters around the border. The two countries did agree to simplify customs inspections and other border-crossing procedures for South Koreans in the North. The North also agreed to allow South Koreans in two joint industrial and tourism ventures, to use the internet and wireless telephones beginning next year. See "Koreas fail to agree on sea border," Associated Press at CNN.com, 12/14/07.

Broken hose caused oil spill: StatoilHydro said Friday that a 25,000-barrel North Sea oil spill was caused by a broken hose used to load crude onto tankers. The leak has stopped, and the Statfjord field is producing normally. The oil, spilled at the Statfjord offshore field on Wednesday, was not expected to reach the Norwegian coast, about 125 miles away, and much of the light crude was expected to evaporate or break up in waves. The crude spilled when it was being transferred to an oil tanker from a floating loading buoy. The cause of the broken hose was not immediately determined. The spill was the second worst in Norway's offshore history. See "Hose said to cause Norway oil spill," Associated Press at Boston.com, 12/14/07.

Sinking ship threatens chemical spill in China: Officials say a half-sunken cargo vessel loaded with extremely corrosive chemicals poses a low pollution threat to the Yangtze River. The ship, loaded with 130 tons of liquid caustic soda, was found to be taking on water early Friday morning. A rescue ship and salvage team showed up by afternoon. Although the cargo hold is under water, the doors are sealed, and no pollution has been detected from the vessel so far. See "Ship carrying chemicals sinking on Yangtze River," Reuters at tvnz.co.nz, 12/14/07.

Korean military talks get physical: North and South Korean generals are trying to work out how best to implement agreements made by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun at their October summit. On Thursday, their meeting briefly became physical when the North Korean side tried to show reporters a specific location on a map. The South considers information related to their maritime border sensitive, and a South Korean naval officer physically prevented the North Korean official from showing the location. The Northern Limit Line, drawn by the United Nations, is one of the most tense security issues confronting the two Koreas. See "Korean Military Talks Get Physical in Dispute Over Maritime Border," Kurt Achin, VOA News, 12/13/07.

Salmon farms kill wild stocks: Sea lice infestations from salmon farms can drive populations of wild salmon toward extinction, and in fact that's happening in Canada's British Columbia, scientists report in the journal Science. After examining four decades of data on pink salmon in the Broughton Archipelago, the experts said those populations have been rapidly declining over the last four years. The researchers expect a 99% collapse in another four years if the infestations continue. Previous studies have shown that sea lice from fish farms can infect and kill juvenile wild salmon. The new study is the first to examine the impacts on overall wild salmon stocks. The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans said the study overstates the risks. See "New U of A study says sea lice from fish farms could wipe out wild salmon," Jeff Holubitsky, Ottawacitizen.com at canada.com, 12/13/07.

Japanese fishermen caught in disputed waters: Russia has seized four Japanese fishing boats in disputed waters. Japan claimed that the detention was unacceptable and demanded an explanation from Moscow. The boats were captured by the Russian border coast guard in the early hours off Kunashiri Island, one of four disputed islands between the countries. Japan calls the island group the Northern Territories and Russia calls them the Kurils. No other details were immediately known. The boats and their 11 crew members, who were unharmed, have been taken to nearby Shikotan Island, also part of the disputed island group. A bilateral fisheries accord allows only registered vessels to operate in the disputed waters. See "Russia seizes 4 Japanese fishing boats," Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press, Herald-Leader at Kentucky.com, 12/13/07.

Norway suffers second biggest oil spill: As much as 25,000 barrels of oil has spilled into the North Sea during a mishap while crude was being loaded from the Statfjord Alpha oil field to a tanker. A StatoilHydro ASA spokesman said it was a serious spill, but posed no immediate threat to the coastline because the field is far from land, about 125 miles off the western Norway city of Bergen. He said the cause of the spill was not immediately known but the loading had immediately been stopped. The Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority has scrambled its preparedness team. It said the spill might be the second-worst in Norway's offshore oil history, even though it was far smaller than the most serious spill of 78,000 barrels during a platform blowout in 1977. See "Large oil spill near North Sea oil platform: Norway," Pierre-Henry Deshayes, AFP at Yahoo! News, 12/12/07.

Golden Nori is released by pirates: Pirates freed a Japanese tanker and its 22 crew members apparently unharmed off the Somali coast Wednesday. A man who claimed he was one of the pirates said by phone that a ransom was paid for the release, but the claim could not be independently verified. The US Navy said the release meant no ships were being held by Somali pirates for the first time in more than a year. The chemical tanker Golden Nori, seized six weeks ago while carrying highly explosive benzene, was freed days after reports that the pirates had demanded $1 million in ransom and threatened to kill the crew. Lt. John Gay, a Navy spokesman, added that the USS Whidbey Island was monitoring the pirates from "a visible distance." The Golden Nori is being escorted by Navy vessels to an undisclosed destination. See "Pirates release Japanese tanker and crew off Somalia, all crew members safe," The Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 12/12/07.

Shipping pollution begins to get noticed: The global shipbuilding industry is in the midst of its biggest boom ever with the numbers of tankers and bulk carriers expected to increase by 50% by 2012. The coming deluge of new ships has the world's largest ports scrambling to expand capacity, and politicians, finally, beginning to take notice of what environmentalists argue is an industry that is already doing as much damage to the environment as aviation, and which could do much more. By several estimates, shipping emissions could account for more than twice the greenhouse gases that flying does. The International Maritime Organization will publish its pollution recommendations in February. See "Huge rise in shipping sparks emissions alert," Danny Fortson, The Independent, 12/11/07.

Korean oil spill efforts hit a snag: South Korean fishermen briefly stopped helping cleanup efforts because they weren't receiving compensation for fuel. But after debate, they agreed to resume helping after an insurance company said it would pay for their fuel. President Roh Moo-hyun visited the area and instructed officials to make efforts to quickly recover from the disaster and compensate residents. But lakes of oil were still visible Tuesday, despite the efforts of thousands of recovery workers, soldiers and volunteers. An insurance company for the Hong Kong-registered supertanker Hubei Spirit, and the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds, an intergovernmental organization that South Korea participates in, will pay the bulk of the compensation. The insurance company can later request that the owner of the barge, Samsung Co., pay for damages following a court hearing to determine which ship was responsible for the accident. See "S. Korea oil cleanup delayed by pay dispute," Associated Press at MSNBC.com, 12/11/07.

Pirates demand $1 million in ransom: Pirates holding a Japanese chemical tanker off the northeastern coast of Somalia are demanding a $1 million ransom. They have threatened to kill the ship's 22 crew members of they don't receive the money. The Golden Nori, carrying tens of thousands of tons of highly explosive benzene, was hijacked on October 28 along with its crew from Myanmar, the Philippines and South Korea. The US Navy came to the aid of the vessel in late October. At one point, the USS Porter opened fire on pirate's skiffs tied to the tanker, but the pirates remained on board. Rampant piracy off Somalia stopped briefly during the strict rule of an Islamist movement in the second half of 2006, but resumed after Ethiopian and Somali government troops ousted the Islamists at the end of 2006. See "Somali pirates holding Japanese tanker demand $1 million ransom," The Associated Press at International Herald Tribune, 12/10/07.

Korean beaches blackened by epic oil spill: South Korea deployed over 100 ships and thousands of troops, fishermen and volunteers on Sunday to clean up the worst oil spill in its history, which has blackened beaches, coated birds in tar and endangered a nature reserve. Ships deploying containment fences and oil skimmers have been trying to lessen the spill's impact. But the 7,000 people gathered on shore have been unable to contain the damage on about 12 miles of the country's coast. The very large crude carrier (VLCC) Hebei Spirit was about five miles outside port when it was struck by a barge in stormy seas on Friday. About 2.8 million gallons of oil were spilled. About a third the size of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, this spill is threatening to become a major environmental disaster. Officials say it will take at least two months to complete the cleanup. See "Korea oil spill an ecological disaster," Choe Sang-Hun, New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle at SFGate.com, 12/10/07.

US Navy may use more nuclear power: The US Congress is recommending a defense policy bill that would require all major classes of warships to use nuclear power in the future. Currently, only aircraft carriers and submarines use nuclear power, not surface warships. Navy officials are interested in nuclear power because it means that ships don't need to refuel. But the nuclear element could add between $600 to $800 million to the price of each ship. Lawmakers acknowledged the cost, but are looking at national security. They say it is too dangerous for the US military to depend on foreign oil and frequent refuelings during long deployments. There are currently only two US shipyards capable of building nuclear vessels. Conventional shipyards could be converted, but it would be expensive and could take years to complete. The nuclear policy was included as part of a defense bill authorizing $693 billion in military programs for the fiscal year that began October 1. See "Measure would require future surface warships to be nuclear," David Lerman, dailypress.com, 12/9/07.

Fish less to make more money: A study published in the Friday edition of the journal Science suggests that commercial fishermen could make more money if they fished less. But a cooperative fishery, where individual fishermen own a share of the total harvest, is needed. The more common competitive fisheries, where fishermen race to catch the most fish, do too much damage. The idea is that when there are more fish and no race to catch them, fishermen spend less on fuel and other costs chasing far and wide to fill their nets, and can concentrate on delivering a high-quality product. Leaving more fish in the sea, a fishery management target called maximum economic yield, leads to higher profits than the traditional target known as maximum sustainable yield. The United Nations has classified 25% of the world's fish stocks as being below a level that produces a maximum sustained yield. Australia will start to manage some of their fisheries using this ideal method next year. See "Catch cuts 'bring bigger profits'," Richard Black, BBC News, 12/7/07.

Seaweed considered in fight against global warming: A group of scientists from 12 countries believes that seaweed can be used to control global warming. Carbon sinks such as rain forests can remove damaging carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. While most attention on carbon sinks is focused on forests, the scientists point out that nearly 8 million tons of seaweed and algae are cultivated every year. Proponents say seaweed and algae's rapid rate of photosynthesis is a top factor in its effectiveness in carbon absorption. Some types of seaweed can grow three or four yards in only three months, and some seaweeds can absorb five times more carbon dioxide than terrestrial plants. But skeptics say that trees are effective for carbon storage because they can last for many years, while seaweed is cultivated and harvested in cycles of only months, meaning the storage will be hard to measure or control. In addition, huge floating farms could complicate fishing, shipping and other marine activities. See "Group Touts Seaweed As Warming Weapon," Joseph Coleman, Associated Press at Examiner.com, 12/7/07.

Shipping costs are on the rise: The Baltic Dry Index, the benchmark for commodity shipping rates, more than doubled this year, and rose 600% since 2003. Shipyards in Japan, China and South Korea responded with the biggest construction program in history. The carrying capacity of the global fleet of commodity ships has climbed by 6.2% since last November, according to data that was compiled by Lloyd's Register-Fairplay. But Baltic Exchange chairman Michael Drayton wonders what might happen if China — whose growing demand for commodities has fueled much of this growth — suddenly curbs this escalation. He said, "I just hope that when China turns the taps off, it turns it slowly." See "Demand puts shipping costs at a record high," Bloomberg at The Australian, 12/6/07.

Government hiding damaging climate report, critics charge: Canada has failed to release the report "From Impacts to Adaptation: Canada in a changing climate 2007," written by Natural Resources Canada. Some of the report's conclusions include the fact that changes in Canada's North could generate more conflict over the oil and minerals under the ice. Lower water levels in the Great Lakes region could hamper the shipping industry and hydroelectric power. Many fisheries could be threatened by global warming, as well. Critics say Canada's government is trying to hide the report in order to avoid embarrassing political questions at a two-week United Nations climate change conference that began Monday in Bali, Indonesia. See "Government shelves damaging report," Mike De Souza, The Ottawa Citizen at Canada.com, 12/4/07.

Britain's defense budget under fire: Efforts to portion out Britain's defense budget over the next decade have created a rift at the Ministry of Defence — and a postponement of the release of the latest 10-year industrial strategy. At issue are the funds required to meet commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and prior commitments to Trident and two new aircraft carriers. Proposed cuts could include reducing the number of new Astute nuclear-powered submarines from eight to as few as four; and canceling orders for the seventh and eighth Type 45 frigate, or diverting the ships from the Royal Navy by selling them to Malaysia. See "Cabinet split over £15bn proposed defence cuts," David Hencke, Guardian Unlimited, 12/4/07.

Wisconsin may regulate ballast water: The shipping industry acknowledges contaminated ballast is trouble for the Great Lakes and agrees that new regulations are needed, but it has fought the idea of Great Lakes states acting on their own. Their fear is that a state-by-state patchwork of potentially inconsistent regulations could cripple an industry operating in so many jurisdictions. Federal legislation that would establish a nationwide ballast treatment law has been stalled for several years. But now a dozen environmental organizations claim the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has the authority under existing law to regulate ballast water discharges from oceangoing freighters. Conservationists generally agree that federal legislation is the most practical solution to the problem, but until that happens, they say the states have a responsibility to take matters into their own hands. See "DNR can regulate ballast, some say," Dan Egan, JS Online, 12/3/07.

Refloating of beached tanker fails: The 75,000 metric ton, coal-powered bauxite carrier coastal trader Endeavour River became wedged in the mud in Gladstone Harbour on Sunday. It had been fully loaded after traveling from Weipa to the Queensland Alumina Ltd wharf at Gladstone. Divers checked the hull of the vessel and found it had not been breached. But an attempt by five tugs to refloat it on the high tide late on Monday was unsuccessful. Authorities said there was no risk of pollution from the stranded carrier and it was not posing a hazard to navigation. But the ship could be stuck for days. See "Ship still stranded off Qld coast," AAP at The Sydney Morning Herald, 12/3/07.

Cosco plans changes: Shipbuilding and repair firm Cosco Corp is focusing its resources on three main business lines: ship repair, new shipbuilding, and marine engineering. The company plans to sell its fleet of 12 bulk carriers as it divests non-core assets. Since last year, Cosco has won several big orders for conversion and construction of offshore oil and gas drilling rigs and vessels. The company has started to consider expansion into other Asian countries such as Vietnam, India, Philippines or Indonesia to tap cheap labor and less stringent pollution restraints. See "Cosco to sell carriers, eyes expansion outside China, Nathan Layne and Emi Emoto, Reuters, 12/3/07.

Somali pirates free ship: Andrew Mwangura, of the East African Seafarers' Assistance Program, has announced the Al Marjan has been released. The ship was headed to Mogadishu when it was seized 10 nautical miles offshore on October 21, and has been held with its crew of 22 since then, with no communication. The ship is owned by businessmen from the United Arab Emirates, and flies a Comoros flag. The crew were mainly Indian nationals. Although no details are known, Mwangura believes a ransom may have been paid. See "Somali pirates free UAE-owned cargo ship," Reuters at Khaleej Times Online, 12/2/07.

Troubles for polar cruises: The sinking of the cruise ship Explorer has brought potential dangers of polar cruises to light. Tourism is becoming more popular, and global warming may well open areas previously inaccessible because of ice. Ships are beginning to venture into nearly, and sometimes literally, uncharted waters in both Antarctica and the Arctic. The industry has made efforts to regulate itself. Members of the International Association of Antarctica Tourism Operators (IAATO) and the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) follow guidelines such as limiting the number of tourists landed in sensitive areas, and restricting proximity to wildlife and icebergs. But some companies have declined to join. Argentina has announced it will move to limit tourism in the Antarctic. See "Are polar cruises safe? Not all ships are equal," Colin Woodard, The Christian Science Monitor at The Seattle Times, 12/2/07.

Cranes, warehouses tumble into Yangtze river: A 100-meter stretch of the Yangtze river's bank has collapsed in eastern China, sending some 10 warehouses and several cranes into the river. The landslide occurred on Saturday near the city of Wuhu in Anhui province, about 100 kilometers south-west of Nanjing. A local official stated the collapse could have been caused by a vortex of water. But others believe construction at a nearby shipyard might have loosened the foundations of a dyke and caused the collapse. No casualties were reported. See "100-meter stretch of Yangtze embankment collapses," Xinhua at China Daily.com, 12/2/07.

Britain's Navy in a budget crunch: A leaked study reports that Britain's Royal Navy is being diminished by cutbacks in warships and having to operate with an aging fleet. Although the Navy has new amphibious ships and has a next generation of carriers and submarines in the pipeline, it would currently find it difficult to mount a medium-scale operation. The report said that the Navy's strategic effect had been adversely affected by the reduction in the ships, from 136 in 1987 to 75 today. The Ministry of Defence said it did not comment on leaked documents. See "Royal navy 'would struggle to fight a major war'," AFP at Yahoo! News, 12/1/07.

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