Long ago and far away

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

A Not So Comforting Article on "Terrorism in the Offshore Oilfield"

This DiveWeb reprint of (a March/April 2003) UnderWater Magazine's interview with Neal Adams (author of Terrorism and Oil, "Terrorism in the Offshore Oilfield", is discomforting:
UW: We are familiar with the "terrorists take rig workers hostage" scenario. Is this ploy still used by terrorist groups, or are they focusing more on the rigs and vessels themselves, rather than the workers?
NA: Seizure of rigs and offshore structures is becoming a commonplace event. We saw this more in 2002 in Nigeria.
Also, in Colombia, terrorists are moving away from bombing pipelines toward attacking rigs and refineries. Pipeline attacks were reduced from about 200 to 45, while a number of rigs, supply depots, refineries, and loading terminals have been attacked. This coincides with terrorist statements that they would begin to focus on the larger infrastructure facilities.
The same is true in Indonesia. ExxonMobil has been targeted, particularly in the Aceh region in northern Indonesia. The same holds true for the Indonesian oil fields, but to a smaller degree thus far.

UW: Can you describe the ways offshore oil rigs are specifically vulnerable to the threat of terrorism?
NA: Offshore rigs (platforms, etc.) are the largest industrial complexes in the world that are void of security measures. This includes security systems, personnel, and any means of repelling an attack. This anamoly in the industrial community is due largely to the prior absence of a real need for security, save perhaps for the forementioned countries of Nigeria, Colombia, and Indonesia.
The vulnerability begins with the jumping-off points where crew and supply boats have their docks and heliports have loading terminals. These sites have no security measures, are manned by non-security trained personnel, and provide little or no means of equipment inspections for items to be sent offshore.
At the rig or platform, security and surveillance capabilities are non-existent.
Further, offshore structures contain large quantities of industrial materials suitable for making devastating bombs, so ordinary explosives are not required.
A greater threat may be the simple commandeering of a heavily loaded workboat as it nears the rig or platform, and then ramming the platform while under maximum throttle.

UW: Can you detail some past instances of terrorism in the offshore oilfield that Americans may not be aware of?
NA: Some have been touched upon in my earlier comments. Seizure of jackup rigs and platforms are common in the aforementioned countries.
Also, it is becoming more common in Angola, Gabon, Ivory Coast, and, to a lesser degree, in South Africa.
Remember that this is often terrorism-for-profit and not necessarily terrorism for political ends. As such, it is likely to continue long after Al-Qaeda fades into the history books. Also, it is more likely to spread worldwide, as many groups will see the financial benefit even though they may have no political motives.


Update: Added date information concerning article.

Malacca Piracy and organized crime> Ya Think?

Some interesting thoughts here about piracy and suspected links to a larger criminal enterprise.
Zulkilfli AR, Head of Operations, Indonesia's Marine Police, Riau province, said: "There are three different groups operating in Riau. One is the traditional people, a small group of robbers trying to earn a living. Their targets are basically boats belonging to fishermen. The second group, in Batam, is a combination of various ethnic groups. Their targets are barges, tugboats, which they seize in order to sell them. Another group is the armed group. Their targets are tankers, cargo ships with foreign flags."

That's why in Singapore, there are Accompanying Sea Security Teams or ASSET.

Their job is to stop pirates, or even terrorists who pose as pirates, from taking over sea-going vessels.

Every day since March 2005, the ASSET teams have been boarding and escorting some of the 1,000 ships that make their way to Singapore each day.

Lt-Col Lee Khai Leong, Commanding Officer of 180 Squadron, said: "ASSETS will embark together with the pilot on board the ship, the one that we have identified.

"Once on board, they will proceed to the bridge and then they will secure the ship at various locations to prevent her from causing any catastrophic damage.

"We will then follow the ship all the way into harbour."

Some may think that such security measures are a little extreme, others believe it is necessary since maritime trade is a lifeline for Singapore, just as it is for many other Asian nations.
Singapore seems to be getting a handle on this...

PR is all.

I had a good laugh at this Simon World :: My Empire for a PR hack.

Better Eyes in the Sky

Naval aviators have a new Wing-mounted technology that really helps fight the bad guys. Problem, there are too few of them and they want more.

Hat tip: NOSI

Latest Piracy Report from ICC Commercial Crime Services

Latest ICCCCS report here. Highlights:

30.05.2005 at 1720 UTC in position 04:00.50N - 099:36.20E, Malacca straits.
A general cargo ship underway sighted a craft, five metres long with white hull. When craft came within two miles, it increased speed and commenced approaching the ship. Master raised alarm, took evasive manoeuvres and crew mustered. Craft altered course and moved away.

30.05.2005 at 1615 UTC in position 03:12N - 105:24E, 14nm off Anambas island, Indonesia.

Five pirates armed with high-powered guns and long knives boarded a general cargo ship underway. Duty A/B at poop deck spotted them and locked himself inside accommodation and raised alarm. Pirates fired warning shots and broke open accommodation doors and entered bridge where they tied up 2/O, two A/Bs and an oiler. Two pirates remained on bridge with hostages. Other three pirates went to cabins of C/E and master and stole personal belongings, cash and equipment. Finally, pirates took master, C/E and an A/B to poop deck and escaped in a boat...

05.05.2005 at 1030 LT in position 02:46.064N - 106:12.285E, NW bay of Ayerabu island, Anambas islands, Indonesia.
Eight robbers armed with ak47 machine guns boarded a yacht at anchor. They ordered crew to remain below deck. They held skipper at gun point and took cash, stores and crew personal belongings and escaped.
Question related to the last incident: With increased merchant ship protection, will the local pirates go after apparently easier prey, such as yachts? And will the escalation of protection bring a corresponding increase in armament by pirates?

Indonesia Needs More Ships

In order to patrol the Malacca Strait effectively, Indonesia needs some more ships as reported here.

Malaysian Borneo: Armed escort for commercial vessels, tugboats

Another country (update: well, more correctly, a part of Malaysia) offers up Armed escort for commercial vessels, tugboats in Sabah waters
Sabah Police Chief Datuk Mangsor Ismail said marine police are prepared to provide armed escorts for commercial vessels and tugboats crossing pirate-infested waters off the east coast of Sabah.
"We have discussed the matter with tugboat operators who wished for armed escorts against robbery at sea," he said after witnessing the East Coast Waters Coordination Exercise in Takun waters, off Tungku, some 30 nautical miles from Lahad Datu District.

Datuk Mangsor said the security emphasis would be on gazetted shipping lanes and areas that had become the focus of the tourism industry as well as security of smaller boats in Malaysian waters.


Update: Map of the area, Sabah province is at top of Borneo, just below the Philippines.

Sri Lanka's strategic importance

From the HindustanTimes.com comes a pretty good summary of how strategic the island of Sri Lanka is:
If the world is showing an extraordinary interest in the peace process in Sri Lanka; if the western donor nations have given $3 billion for post-tsunami reconstruction work in the island; and if India wants to be kept informed about what is going on constantly, it is because of Sri Lanka's strategic importance.

This conclusion is inescapable if one reads 'Strategic Significance of Sri Lanka' by Sri Lankan researcher Ramesh Somasundaram of Deakin University.

In this 2005 publication, brought out by Stamford Lake, Somasundaram tells us that Sri Lanka has had strategic importance in world history since the 17th century, attracting the Portuguese, Dutch, French, the British, and the Indians, in succession. Now, we may add a new entity, "the international community", to the list of interested parties.

The author gives three reasons for such interest: (1) Sri Lanka is strategically situated (2) It is ideally situated to be a major communication center, and (3) It has Trincomalee, described by the British Admiral Horatio Nelson as "the finest harbour in the world".

Sri Lanka occupies a strategic point in the Indian Ocean, whose vast expanse covering 2,850,000 sq miles, touches the shores of the Indian subcontinent in the North; Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia in the East; Antartica in the South; and East Africa in the West.


"New Game" in Asia

A column in The India Express "There's a new game in Asia" is an interesting peek into the issues facing the Indian Ocean nations as both China and India develop.
The rapid growth of China’s interests abroad, particularly energy needs, has broadened Beijing’s military’s missions. China’s navy and air force have begun to project power in the South China Sea, where several islands are under dispute and vital oil supplies pass through, and in the East China Sea, where China and Japan are locked in a fight over sea-bed mineral rights and several contested islands. With China-Taiwan tensions on the rise, preventing Taipei from declaring independence has become a national objective and Chinese naval power in the region has acquired a new edge.

As part of its effort to secure its energy interests, China is elevating its military profile from the Persian Gulf to the South China seas. Chinese assistance to the construction of a high profile port in Gwadar on Pakistan’s Makran coast, overlooking the world’s energy supplies from the Persian Gulf, has become emblematic of the new Chinese maritime strategy. According to a report prepared for the Pentagon by Booz Allen Hamilton, the consulting firm, China has developed a “string of pearls” strategy, seeking military-related agreements with Bangladesh, Cambodia and Thailand in addition to those with Burma and Pakistan. Reports in the South Asian media also point to growing Chinese naval interests in Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

At the same time, Beijing has stepped up political and diplomatic efforts to convince its neighbours that China’s rise is not threatening to the region. It has unveiled a focused military diplomacy to reach out to neighbours and major powers...

High Tech Pirates - Bigger Prey?

Interesting take on the modern sea-going pirate here.
What distinguishes piracy past and present is that the contemporary skull-and-crossbone operators can, and increasingly do, exploit modern technology and weapons to attack ships in a way that serves as a signpost for terrorists.

Pirates in Southeast Asia have become bolder and started targeting bigger ships. This is worrying Japan and China, two of the major users of the Malacca and Singapore Straits where the latest attacks occurred. It is also putting extra pressure on Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore to agree on measures to make the straits safer.
As we have seen, there are now talks underway regarding the Malacca Strait between the littoral nations. However,
Piracy is a menace to shipping and safe navigation. Even when pirates board just to steal, they sometimes leave the crew tied up or locked in cabins while they make their escape. The vessel will continue on its way with the bridge unattended until one or more crew members can break free. There is a serious risk of collision or grounding in the narrow and crowded shipping channels of the straits.

And it is often impossible for law-enforcement agencies to know whether a ship has been seized by pirates or terrorists.
Exactly, although many of the reported occurrences are simple thefts or "sea robberies" there are the kidnappings, ship seizures and much more...

Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial Day History

A history lesson here:
"Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service."


Argghhh! has a Memorial worth visiting. And remembering.

Update: USS Cole Memorial

USS Stark info

Navy EC-121 Shootdown info

Update2: Sometime it's hard to remember that 50 years ago the B-52 was a new airplane. Castle AFB, where my dad was stationed, was their first home. The early days were not pretty, and several flight crews died before the planes were improved and became the long-flying legends they are today. Since the Strategic Air Command was a family, and at Castle everyone knew everyone else, the crashes impacted the entire community. It was a grim time.
Like Boeing bombers before it--most notably the B-17 and the B-29--the B-52 suffered from more than its share of growing pains. A number of crashes in 1956, including some spectacular midair explosions over California, had begun to erode public confidence in the B-52, threatening the program's very survival.

The trouble began on 16 February 1956, when a B-52 exploded in midair near Tracy, California, while on a flight from nearby Castle AFB. The crash made national headlines, in part because of the B-52's then unprecedented cost of $8 million.6 More negative headlines followed when General LeMay testified before Congress that a "serious component failure" had caused the Air Force to reject 31 of the first 78 B-52s produced. The component in question--an alternator flywheel--had been implicated in the February crash.7

Several months later, however, an in-flight explosion claimed a second Castle B-52 and the lives of five crew members.8 Once again, the electrical system of the Stratofortress was implicated.9 This time, however, the controversy about the B-52 had built to the point where the entire fleet was grounded, with an Air Force spokesman admitting that he had "no idea" as to how long the grounding would remain in effect.10

About this time, a free-lance reporter named P. D. Eldred began to interview air crews, maintenance people, and families at Castle, gathering enough information for an article highly critical of the B-52. General LeMay learned of Eldred's upcoming article and began planning a counteroffensive--a demonstration that would show the American people that SAC's newest bomber was a safe and effective weapon system.11

The result of this was called "Operation Quick Kick," an endurance flight involving eight B-52s that--supported by a fleet of tankers--flew nonstop around the perimeter of North America. The demonstration received wide publicity, and for a very short time neutralized the efforts of Mr Eldred.12

But just five days after the completion of Quick Kick, yet another B-52 crashed, again in spectacular fashion, killing all 10 crew members. Located with photoflash bombs to enable nighttime photography, the bomber burned and exploded for hours, generating still more negative press and breathing new life into P. D. Eldred's article. This time, the Associated Press bought his B-52 expos_, intending to run it worldwide. Further, Congressman B. F. Sisk, (D.-Calif.) called for a congressional investigation to determine whether the B-52 was a "safe aircraft for our airmen to fly."
source) To those crews and their families, some of us remember, every Memorial Day.

Update3: On July 17, 1944,
A massive explosion destroyed the Port Chicago, California, naval ammunition base on the Sacramento River near San Francisco Bay. It killed 320 naval personnel and civilians, including 202 Black stevedores--ammunition loaders; and several hundred injured. Others killed were nine white officers in charge of the loaders, 70 members of the mixed crews of the two ships, 15 Coast Guardsmen on vessels nearby, and several civilians.
(source)

Update4: On June 3, 1969, USS Frank E. Evans (DD-764) lost 74 men when the ship was cut in half by the Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne while operating together in the South China Sea (source)

Update5: On May 22, 1968, USS Scorpion (SSN-589) was lost with all hands, 99 men. (source)

Update6: On July 29, 1967, an accidental missile firing on the deck of USS Forrestal (CVA-59) caused a fire that took the lives of 134 men.(source)

Update7: On April 19, 1989, 47 members of the gun crew for number 2 turret on USS Iowa (BB-61) died when the mount exploded. (source)

Update8: On April 10, 1963, USS Thresher (SSN-593) sank with all hands, killing 129 men. (source)

Update9: US Merchant Marine deaths in WWII: 9,512 of 243,000 who served or 3.90% or 1 in 26 (the highest ratio of any service in WWII) (source)

Remember the dead.

In honor of my uncle Bob, killed in Burma as pilot with the 75th Fighter Squadron (succesors to the AVG "Flying Tigers").

Sunday, May 29, 2005

NBC's Meet the Press: Stopping Nuclear Terrorism

There are some things the MSM usually does right, and one of them is Tim Russert and Meet the Press. Today's topic "[T]he threat and prevention of nuclear terrorism." (Transcript )
Chairman Kean, are you convinced that al-Qaeda is single-minded about obtaining nuclear weapons?

FMR. GOV. THOMAS KEAN, (R-NJ): I don't think there's any question about it. They've talked about this, as you've said, for 10 years. He talks about a Hiroshima. He's studied it. He feels that when we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, that it psychologically ended the war because the Japanese couldn't continue anymore. He believes that if he did the same thing to an American city, that we would get out of the Middle East, and therefore, it's his goal, and he's doing everything he can--they have been doing everything they can to acquire the means of both the methods and the materials in order to do this to an American city....
...MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe it's a huge threat?

MR. KEAN: Absolutely, and it requires a whole new mind-set. We went through all the Cold War and the idea is mutual destruction. We wouldn't throw it at them because we'd get it right back. They wouldn't throw it at us because they would be destroyed if they did, and we got through, 50 years or so, thinking about that. This is entirely different. These are small bands of people in uncontrolled parts of the world who don't care about that anymore. They simply want to destroy us. If some of them get destroyed themselves in the process, it doesn't matter any different--anymore. It's a whole new way of thinking. We got to understand that. If we understand that, then we've got whole new approaches on how to deal with that, and I'm not sure we have those approaches the way we should as yet...
..MR. THOMPSON: It's amazing sometimes how much we have to hear in order for it to sink in in this country. We were--Osama bin Laden declared war on us in 1985; we kind of let that slide. We were aware of our intelligence deficiencies; we kind of let that slide for a long while. And now we're hearing this, and we still are not prioritizing perhaps as much as we should. And what has happened here, of course, is that the threat has been there for a long, long time. These loose nukes and so forth have been around. The destruction they could do to an American city--that threat has been there for a while. What has changed now is the number of people who are willing to carry out an operation to use those weapons. So you have the addition of the suicidal terrorists, plus the new nation-states, rogue nations, if you will, that are clearly developing the similar capabilities.

So it's--we're just in the very, very beginning, in terms of attention, in terms of need for leadership, in terms of money in this nation in addressing this problem, which surpasses all the other problems that we think we have in this country.
Chilling. Read it.

Kosovo faces renewed war

The UN Security Council sends Kosovo off on a journey as set forth here, but whether it's liberation or war, it's too soon to tell.
Serbians warn that, if Kosovo is given independence against their will, then extreme nationalists will come to power and plunge the region into chaos.

But Kosovo Albanians say the same. Without independence, they say, the radicals will begin an intifada, 'cleanse' the remaining Serb population and spread war into Serbia and Macedonia.

There is no easy answer for Kosovo. But one thing is sure. If nothing is done, the violence will be back and then British, French, Italian and US troops stationed there will come into the firing line and the UN mission could collapse.

Honoring those who died -a deep dive to USS Cooper (DD-695)

You might not know of the Battle for Ormoc Bay, but some divers attempted to honor those of the crew of USS Cooper who died there, when the ship was sunk by a torpedo in heavy fighting in the Philippines as reported here. And the dive was a world record success when the lead diver placed a memorial plaque on the deck of the ship as reported here
A nine-man technical diver team has set a new deep wreck scuba diving world record of 193 meters (633 feet).

Lead diver Rob Lalumiere reached the deck of the USS Cooper this morning at 8:22am, seven minutes after starting his descent, and placed a memorial plaque on the shipwreck to honor the 191 officers and crew who went down with the ship when it was torpedoed by the Japanese during the Battle of Ormoc Bay on December 3, 1944.

Over five hours later, as Lalumiere was completing his last required decompression stop at a depth of three meters, surviving USS Cooper crew 81-year-old Henry "Hank" Wagener asked to be taken from the surface support vessel to the top of the descent line which was connected to the ship he served aboard 60 years ago.

There Wagener waited for Lalumiere to surface as he held the descent line to "touch the souls" of his fallen comrades.

At 1:45pm, exactly five and a half hours after the dive started, Lalumiere resurfaced and shared an emotional embrace with Hank Wagener followed by high-fives and handshakes from the many tired but elated team members who worked for many months planning and preparing for the dive.
Old shipmates never forget...

Update: USS Cooper photo from here

A Movie Meme

I've been tagged by an amphib to answer deeply meaningful questions of life, death and movies:

Total number of films I own on DVD/Video: With four kids we own a lot of videos and DVDs. In fact, it's a quarterly task for the youngest kid to sort them out into some sort of order. Having said that, as the kids have gotten older, our number of non-child movies has grown with them. A rough count puts it at over 250. I should mention that I was a member of the film society when I was in college and enjoy movies immensely.

The last film I bought: Band of Brothers

The last film I watched: Hotel Rwanda

Five films that I watch a lot or that mean a lot to me (in no particular order): (Wow! is it tough to pick out just 5)
(not in any order)
1) She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
2) Casablanca
3) To Kill a Mockingbird
4) O Brother, Where Art Thou?
5) Dirty Harry

And I tag Scribbles, Attila, Stygius and Error Theory.

Now, there are about 50 more that came really, really close....

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Malaysian and Indonesian marine police hold anti-piracy meeting

More signs of cooperation between the Malaccan Strait states here.
Northern region marine police chief Asst Comm Sahadan Halus said the two sides, which shared the common problem, held a brain storming session on Friday to find ways to deal with it effectively.

He said they agreed to beef up and organise more co-ordinated patrols along the straits, adding that they also discussed methods to streamline their information sharing for quicker action.

A delegation of 30 Belawan marine police personnel, led by its chief Anang Syarif Hidayat, arrived at the marine police jetty in Batu Uban, Penang, on Thursday for the piracy prevention meeting with their Malaysian counterparts.

Not a Newsflash: Kosovo is still a mess

UN and Serbian Representatives Clash Over Report on Kosovo.

The Axis of Evil: Iran equipped for atomic weapon by North Korea (via Pakistan)

WorkdNetDaily saysIran equipped
for atomic weapon
The news has stunned President Bush, according to Geostrategy Direct, an intelligence news service led by national security reporter Bill Gertz of the Washington Times.

"It's an incredible piece of intelligence that overshadows everything we thought we knew on Iran's nuclear program," one U.S. intelligence source said.

Geostrategy says the intelligence information asserts North Korea this year transferred components to Iran to assemble a plutonium-based nuclear warhead.

The components were believed to have originated in Pakistan.

Iran insists its nuclear program is only for generation of electricity.
I'm surprised the President is allegedly surprised, unless he was relying on the same CIA analysts who seem to find "rosy scenarios" everywhere except after the fact.

Back in Fantasyland,
Meanwhile, the head of the U.N. atomic watchdog, Mohamed ElBaradei, praised Iran for its decision Wednesday to continue suspension of its enrichment program and to continue talks with the EU-3 -- France, German and Britain.
But wait, there's more:

The CIA believes Iran could immediately assemble several nuclear warheads for the Shihab-3 arsenal.

"This means that U.S. forces in Iraq and southern Europe are under immediate Iranian threat," Geostrategy says. "Israel and Saudi Arabia are already under Iranian nuclear threat."

Navy seizes 2 tons of hash in Arabian Sea

Coaltion ships are multi-tasking as seen here.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Doing the Right Thing

Great example of leadership here.

The Riots of the Faithful

Read this.

Hat tip: Little Green Footballs

Update: With this

Nigeria: Cracking Down on Pirates

One area where "sea robbers" have been active has been off Nigeria. However, it looks like that might change as set forth here.
Naval authority has said it has arrested about 112 sea pirates and illegal bunkering operating within the waterways in the Niger Delta area of the country in the past one year.
The Flag Officer, Eastern Naval Command, Rear Admiral Ganiyu Adekeye, who told journalists in River State, said no fewer than 112 illegal bunkerers and pirates were arrested by naval personnel combing the water ways in the Eastern Command of the force in search of crude oil thieves.
Adekeye said those arrested include four foreigners - two Ghanaians, a Togolese and a Beniniose. He added that 48 barges, nine self-propelled barges, six tug boats and 10 wooden canoes belonging to the illegal bunkerers were also impounded.
The barges and the canoes, according to him, were arrested with an unspecified quantity of crude oil and other refined products illegally taken from the country's oil facilities in the Niger Delta.
He also revealed that the force has, during the period recovered N6 million being stolen by suspected sea robbers from one of a bank in Bayelsa State.
The money, Adekeye said, has been handed over to the police and the bank after a thorough proof of ownership was presented.
He warned crude oil thieves in the area, noting that it will no longer be business as usual as the force is now more determined to ensure that peace reigns within the waterways.
He added that within the command's area of responsibility, it will ensure that the robbers and sea pirates, particularly crude oil thieves, no longer have a rosy time, adding that a massive importation of arms and ammunition is in the pipeline to checkmate insurgents in the Niger Delta area.
Wow! There's a new sheriff in town.

Latest ONI World Wide Threat to Shipping posted (25 May 05)

Go to ONI World Wide Threat to Shipping and click on the date. Not much new and no mention of the allegedly seized German cargo ship off Somalia.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Singapore Strait Radar Goes Operational

From TODAYonline:
Indonesia and Singapore are set to launch a surveillance radar system in a bid to boost waterways security in the Singapore Strait, Indonesian navy spokesman Colonel Sumantri told AFP.

The system will start monitoring the narrow stretch of water from today.
Good.

Very Interesting: The Way Ahead In East Asian Cooperation?

e.sinchew-i.com
Another problem we must worry about is the continuing threat of extremist terrorism, and particularly the issue of maritime security.

Some 50,000 ships sail through the Strait of Malacca and Strait of Singapore every year. Although the littoral states have primary responsibility for ensuring maritime security in the strait, we need the assistance of the US, Japan and China, and indeed of all major interested parties.

Japan has taken the lead in focussing global attention on the problem of maritime security. It has indicated its intention to help ASEAN, in particular Indonesia, build capacity and capability to ensure the security of major sea lanes in the archipelago. This is an important contribution to regional security.
The problems mentioned earlier in the piece include Taiwan, North Korean, Sino-US relations and Sino-Japanese relations. Read it all, it's interesting.

Maritime Security: Actions Taken, Concerns Remain

Jim Kouri, CPP: Maritime Security: Actions Taken, Concerns Remain
The main challenges Government Accounting Office has identified include failure to develop necessary planning components to carry out the programs; difficulty in coordinating the activities of federal agencies and port stakeholders to implement programs; and difficulty in maintaining the financial support to continue implementation of security enhancements.
Yep. It's that old planning and communication thing.

Bolton

Well, Mr. Bolton is certainly no stranger to controversy. The Counterterrorism Blog has somewhat of a split on him, beginning with BOLTON AND THE ART OF COOKING INTELLIGENCE and joined by It's about changing the U.N..

And my friend Stygius, who has been all over this matter from the beginning, has been live blogging the hearings here.

Very interesting.

Maritime watchdog plays down fears of terrorist attack in Malacca Strait

Maritime watchdog plays down fears of terrorist attack in Malacca Strait
"After 9/11, you cannot ignore the possibility of a maritime terrorism," said IMB director Pottengal Mukundan, but noted that law enforcement agencies in the region were on high alert when such large vulnerable vessels pass through the Malacca Strait.

"Big vulnerable vessels don't go into the center of population, so it is not easy to achieve the type of results terrorists are looking for... which is worldwide publicity for a long period of time," Mukundan told reporters at a symposium to develop Asian waterways as a new cruising playground.

He said the vast majority of attacks on ships in the waterway _ which carries half of the world's oil and a third of its trade _ were opportunist, low-level crimes. There were only two recent maritime terrorist incidents _ the attack on the Limburg tanker off the coast of Yemen in October 2002 and a bomb placed on a superferry in the Philippines last year.

No great environmental problems were caused in the Limburg case and impact on commerce was minimal, said Mukundan, who works in the maritime watchdog's London office.
Mukundan welcomed the development of yachting and other tourism and commercial activities in Southeast Asian waters, saying it would spur governments into action.

"The more commerce and leisure activities, the greater the imperative on law enforcement agencies and governments to keep the waters safe. It's a multi-million-dollar industry and they will protect it," he added.
So, if you are on alert, you lessen the chance of terrorist attacks? How about that!

Maybe they're getting serious: Malaysia asks Indonesia, Philippines permission to pursue pirates

In what may be a sign that the area is getting serious about working on the piracy problem, Malaysia is seeking "hot pursuit" agreements with its neighbors, Indonesia and the Philippines as reported here.
Allowing naval and marine police of the countries into their waters would be an unprecedented step for the three Southeast Asian countries who zealously guard their territorial integrity. A Sulawesi Sea territorial dispute between Malaysia and Indonesia led to souring of relations between them recently.
For those unfamiliar with the international law, this a a summary of why such an agreement is necessary:
“Pirates operate often along territorial borders because they know there is no right of pursue across territorial waters. We want to see some mechanism within the region to improve bilateral cooperation,” he said.
Global Security sums up the problem pretty well:
Piracy is an international crime consisting of illegal acts of violence, detention, or depredation committed for private ends by the crew or passengers of a private ship or aircraft in or over international waters against another ship or aircraft or persons and property on board. (Depredation is the act of plundering, robbing, or pillaging.)
In international law piracy is a crime that can be committed only on or over international waters (including the high seas, exclusive economic zone, and the contiguous zone), in international airspace, and in other places beyond the territorial jurisdiction of any nation. The same acts committed in the internal waters, territorial sea, archipelagic waters, or national airspace of a nation do not constitute piracy in international law but are, instead, crimes within the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the littoral nation.

Sea robbery is a term used to describe attacks upon commercial vessels in ports and territorial waters. Such attacks are, according to international law, not true acts of piracy but rather armed robberies. They are criminal assaults on vessels and vessel crews, just as may occur to truck drivers within a port area. Such attacks pose a serious threat to trade. The methods of these attacks have varied from direct force using heavy weapons to subterfuge in which the criminals have identified themselves on VHF radio as the national coast guard.

These maritime criminals are inclined to operate in waters where government presence is weak, often lacking in both technical resources and the political will to deal effectively with such attacks. International law permits any warship or government vessel to repress an attack in international waters. In a state's territorial waters, such attacks constitute an act of armed robbery and must be dealt with under the laws of the relevant coastal state. These laws seldom, if ever, permit a vessel or warship from another country to intervene. The most effective countermeasure strategy is to prevent criminals initial access to ports and vessels, and to demonstrate a consistent ability to respond rapidly and effectively to notification of such a security breach....

...International law has long recognized a general duty of all nations to cooperate in the repression of piracy. This traditional obligation is included in the 1958 Geneva Convention on the High Seas and the 1982 LOS Convention, both of which provide: "[A]ll States shall cooperate to the fullest possible extent in the repression of piracy on the high seas or in any other place outside the jurisdiction of any State."
Because, by definition, piracy occurs only on the "high seas" the narrow waters of, say, the Strait of Malacca with its adjacent territorial waters means there is no "international waters" involved. Instead, these "sea robberies" occur within the territorial waters of one state or another. But there are limits on "hot pursuit" of such criminal, who may commit the crime in the waters of one state, then duck into the waters of another before pursuit can be begun:
Article 23

1. The hot pursuit of a foreign ship may be undertaken when the competent authorities of the coastal State have good reason to believe that the ship has violated the laws and regulations of that State. Such pursuit must be commenced when the foreign ship or one of its boats is within the internal waters or the territorial sea or the contiguous zone of the pursuing State, and may only be continued outside the territorial sea or the contiguous zone if the pursuit has not been interrupted. It is not necessary that, at the time when the foreign ship within the territorial sea or the contiguous zone receives the order to stop, the ship giving the order should likewise be within the territorial sea or the contiguous zone. If the foreign ship is within a contiguous zone, as defined in article 24 of the Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, the pursuit may only be undertaken if there has been a violation of the rights for the protection of which the zone was established.

2. The right of hot pursuit ceases as soon as the ship pursued enters the territorial sea of its own country or of a third State.

3. Hot pursuit is not deemed to have begun unless the pursuing ship has satisfied itself by such practicable means as may be available that the ship pursued or one of its boats or other craft working as a team and using the ship pursued as a mother ship are within the limits of the territorial sea, or as the case may be within the contiguous zone. The pursuit may only be commenced after a visual or auditory signal to stop has been given at a distance which enables it to be seen or heard by the foreign ship.

4. The right of hot pursuit may be exercised only by warships or military aircraft, or other ships or aircraft on government service specially authorized to that effect.

5. Where hot pursuit is effected by an aircraft:

(a) The provisions of paragraph 1 to 3 of this article shall apply mutatis mutandis;

(b) The aircraft giving the order to stop must itself actively pursue the ship until a ship or aircraft of the coastal State, summoned by the aircraft, arrives to take over the pursuit, unless the aircraft is itself able to arrest the ship. It does not suffice to justify an arrest on the high seas that the ship was merely sighted by the aircraft as an offender or suspected offender, if it was not both ordered to stop and pursued by the aircraft itself or other aircraft or ships which continue the pursuit without interruption.

6. The release of a ship arrested within the jurisdiction of a State and escorted to a port of that State for the purposes of an enquiry before the competent authorities may not be claimed solely on the ground that the ship, in the course of its voyage, was escorted across a portion of the high seas, if the circumstances rendered this necessary.

7. Where a ship has been stopped or arrested on the high seas in circumstances which do not justify the exercise of the right of hot pursuit, it shall be compensated for any loss or damage that may have been thereby sustained.
(source or here)

More info:
Article100

Duty to cooperate in the repression of piracy

All States shall cooperate to the fullest possible extent in the repression of piracy on the high seas or in any other place outside the jurisdiction of any State.


Article101

Definition of piracy

Piracy consists of any of the following acts:

(a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed:

(i) on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;

(ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State;

(b) any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;

(c) any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described in subparagraph (a) or (b).


Article102

Piracy by a warship, government ship or government aircraft

whose crew has mutinied

The acts of piracy, as defined in article 101, committed by a warship, government ship or government aircraft whose crew has mutinied and taken control of the ship or aircraft are assimilated to acts committed by a private ship or aircraft.


Article103

Definition of a pirate ship or aircraft

A ship or aircraft is considered a pirate ship or aircraft if it is intended by the persons in dominant control to be used for the purpose of committing one of the acts referred to in article 101. The same applies if the ship or aircraft has been used to commit any such act, so long as it remains under the control of the persons guilty of that act.


Article104

Retention or loss of the nationality of a pirate ship or aircraft

A ship or aircraft may retain its nationality although it has become a pirate ship or aircraft. The retention or loss of nationality is determined by the law of the State from which such nationality was derived.


Article105

Seizure of a pirate ship or aircraft

On the high seas, or in any other place outside the jurisdiction of any State, every State may seize a pirate ship or aircraft, or a ship or aircraft taken by piracy and under the control of pirates, and arrest the persons and seize the property on board. The courts of the State which carried out the seizure may decide upon the penalties to be imposed, and may also determine the action to be taken with regard to the ships, aircraft or property, subject to the rights of third parties acting in good faith.


Article106

Liability for seizure without adequate grounds

Where the seizure of a ship or aircraft on suspicion of piracy has been effected without adequate grounds, the State making the seizure shall be liable to the State the nationality of which is possessed by the ship or aircraft for any loss or damage caused by the seizure.
(source)

Update: The Standard of Hong Kong take.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

India, Thailand to conduct joint naval patrols

And in another potential blow to the freedom of the seas some pirates have enjoyed India, Thailand to conduct joint naval patrols.
India and Thailand have signed an agreement for their navies to carry out joint patrolling to prevent piracy, arms smuggling and the movement of terrorists in the Andaman Sea.

An Indian Navy spokesman Wednesday described the pact as "another firm step forward" in the country's maritime engagement with Southeast Asia as part of New Delhi's "Look East Policy".

Under this policy, India has stepped up efforts to bolster the navy's blue water capability, or its ability to operate at great distances from the Indian shores, as part of a move to use naval power to make the Indian Ocean a zone of peace.

"One of the main concerns of New Delhi has been the suspected smuggling of arms across the Andaman Sea to India's northeastern states and Sri Lanka," the navy spokesman said.

Indonesia, Singapore to initiate new maritime surveillance system

According to Radio Australia:
Indonesia and Singapore will launch a surveillance radar system later this week in a bid to boost waterways security in the Singapore Strait.

An Indonesian navy spokesman says the system will begin monitoring the narrow stretch of water on Friday.

He says the system aims to provide better security monitoring -- including the surveillance of potential pirate attacks in the Singapore Strait -- one of region's major shipping routes.

Since late February, at least eight pirate attacks on ships in the Malacca Strait and Singapore Strait have been recorded by the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre in Malaysia.
Of course the problem with any radar is picking out the right targets from the numerous blips that appear on the scope. But I wish them luck.

Bill Maher

Nonsense.

Just. Shut. Up.

US Fifth Fleet Area of Responsibility

On its website NavCent/Fifth Fleet has a nice map of itsArea of Responsibility which is preceded by the following:
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/ Commander, 5th Fleet's area of responsibility encompasses about 7.5 million square miles and includes the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean. This expanse, comprised of 27 countries, includes three critical chokepoints at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab al Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.
Note the three major "chokepoints" within the AOR on the map.
(CentCom/5th Fleet logo)

Of equal interest is the Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO) as detailed beginning here. Note that it is very much an international task force as shown by this photo. The primary idea is to keep the sea lanes and choke points free of bad guys who seek to do harm to the coalition forces. That they also perform humanitarian missions (one of which is detailed here) is a bonus. I note that many yachtsmen passing through the area are in radio communication with the coalition forces as they worry about pirates from Somalia or Yemen...


Caption: 050510-N-9693B-006 Gulf of Oman (May 10, 2005) - A Sailor aboard the Pakistani Naval ship (PNS) Tariq (DDG 181) keeps watch over a dhow during a Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) in the Gulf of Oman. Tariq’s VBSS missions support maritime security operations (MSO) in the Gulf of Oman under the direction of Commander, Task Force One Five Zero (CTF-150). U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 2nd Class Sarah Bibbs (RELEASED)

Taiwan threatens to board Chinese surveillance ship in island's waters

As reported here, Taiwan takes its national waters seriously.
Taiwan has threatened to board a Chinese surveillance ship which it says has ignored repeated demands to leave the island's waters, officials said Tuesday.
"We will forcefully board 'Fendou No. 4' if our warning continues to be ignored," an official with Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration told AFP following a two-day standoff between a fleet of coast guard frigates and the Chinese ship.

Pirates return to Asian seas as noticed by the International Herald Tribune

Maybe it's a quarterly requirement to publish something about pirates but now the International Herald Tribune has joined Reuters in reporting that there are pirates "out there" in Free flow: Pirates return to Asian seas.

Still no new word on the reported seizure by Somali pirates of a German cargo ship as reported here.

China's Wars: Not the Way of the West

Ht tip to Winds of Change for linking to Daniel Starr: For China, Foreign War Is Just A Tool For Domestic Politics.

Read it with Robert Kagan's "The Illusion of 'Managing' China, the Winds of Change post China's Stresses, Goals, Military Buildups... and Futures, Daniel Starr' Six Tools to Keep China from Making Trouble, the links at Simon World's Daily Linklets, Bill Rice's Rising Nationalism Will Be China's Undoing and contemplate Simon's pithy point:
Bill Rice says rising nationalism will be China's undoing and he's asking for thoughts on China's short and long term diplomatic goals. I can give you the simple answer: all their diplomacy is aimed at keeping the CCP in power. To do that they need a growing economy with access to markets and resources, rising living standards, spreading wealth and a dash of nationalism now that Chinese Communism doesn't mean anything any more.
All good stuff. And remember that somewhere there's a US military planner whose job it is to wory about the "worst case" scenario and draw up plans accordingly. And that soomeone has to take those plans and decide how to put in place systems to effectuate them should it become necessary. And the "other guys" are doing the same thing. Move and countermove. keeping options open.

Oil's global choke points:Toronto Globe and Mail

Someone at the Toronto Canada Globe and Mail has been doing their homework and wrote a piece on Oil's global choke points.
More than 35 million barrels of oil is transported by ship and pipeline very day, and much of it passes through bottlenecks that are narrow and risky - some even known to be targeted by pirates or terrorists.
Much of the article seems to have come from here courtesy of the US Department of Energy. Which includes this sat photo of the Persian(Arabian) Gulf with the Strait of Hormuz at the bottom:



For more on sea lanes and choke points, see this and this.

Welcome aboard, Globe and Mail!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Oh, I wanna be a Power Point Ranger! Lead a life of love and danger!

John of Argghhh! finally gets a weapons post all former staff weenies (who like to remember when they were real warriors) can agree onhere, with links to a Naval Institute piece by a retired warrior who has "concerns" over the cultural effects of Power Point.

Admiral Archie Clemmins, while he was at PacFlt (and who helped move much of the fleet into computer savvy stuff), did not hold morning briefs to watch Power Point Rangers in action, at least during my short stint working with his staff. Instead, he had the briefs sent to him so he could review them on his own computer. Wise man.

Update: The patch and tab from here are too good to not post at least one:

I think the Navy equivalent is a badge consisting of a gold (officer) or silver (enlisted) mouse with PPT written across it.

Sort of like this:

Sea Power Interviews Adm. Clark

Very interesting and presented by theNavy League. His final words:
What are you going to miss the most after your retirement?

CLARK: The people. I have loved this experience. I never thought I would get a chance to do something like this. What a thrill it is to rub elbows with people who believe in the lifestyle of the service and are willing to commit themselves to the principles and the values that this nation holds dear. I’m going to miss that something awful.

I love the tone of it. I love being in a Navy that has the longest waiting list to get in that we’ve ever had. I love being in the Navy where you’ve got to compete to be part of this team. I love being part of an organization where people care about themselves and others. At one point, the Chief of Naval Personnel came over and said retention was 82 percent. When I first came in the service, it was 7 percent.

It’s that way today because the Navy is a great place to be. We’ve studied the Gen-X (those born between 1965 and 1975) and Gen-Y and the Millennials (birthdates from 1980-2000). Young people today want a chance to prove what they can do. We promise to give them a chance.
Best Navy - ever.

Iran picks South Korea's Daewoo for VLCC contracts

Iran is ordering 3 318,000-ton very large crude carriers from Daewoo as reported here. It's part of a National Iranian Tanker Co. (NITC) ship building boom:
In February, NITC issued a tender to shipyards for the construction of five 1-million-bbl Suezmax tankers and five 2-million-bbl VLCCs.

Altogether, NITC has announced plans to order 35 vessels to be built by 2010, including 20 chemical tankers and 10 LNG carriers.
The oil has to get to China -uh- the buyers somehow.

Who's Keeping an Eye on the Iraqi Oil Terminals? US Navy Mobile Security Detachments

While it's a simple change of units story, it does point out that these units are providing protection for the oil terminals through which 90% of Iraqi GDP flows.


Caption: 050127-N-0401E-002 Persian Gulf (Jan. 27, 2005) - A Sailor assigned to Mobile Security Force Detachment Two Two (MSD-22) stands watch aboard Al Basrah Oil Terminal (ABOT). MSD-22 is providing security for Iraq’s oil terminals as part of a joint effort between United States and coalition forces to provide security against terrorist attacks to Iraq’s oil platforms. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class Wes Eplen (RELEASED)


Caption: 041212-N-6932B-015 Persian Gulf (Dec. 12, 2004) - Hundreds of oil tankers each year receive their payload from Iraq’s Al Basrah Oil Terminal (ABOT). Mobile Security Force Detachment 22 (MSD 22) is currently defending Iraq’s oil terminals as part of a joint effort between U.S. and coalition forces to provide security against terrorist attacks to Iraq’s oil platforms in the North Persian Gulf. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class Richard J. Brunson (RELEASED)

More on the Mobile Security Force here. During Desert Storm, Navy (Navy Reserve) Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare Units and Coast Guard (Reserve) Port Security Units performed similar duties for Saudi terminals and ports...

Update: Fixed a error in the title. "Who's", not "Whose". I know better, but the gremlins don't.

Once more into the container concern zone

Reuters raises the shipping container as possible terrorist tool issue while reporting on some Indian arms smuggling here.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the multi-billion dollar maritime industry has introduced a raft of security measures, including the Container Security Initiative (CSI).
U.S. fears remain, however, with some 35 million containers estimated to be in use globally.
"What they are worried about is that there is a nuclear device somewhere out there that someone is going to smuggle in (thriller writer) Tom Clancy-style and set it off in Baltimore or New York," said Donald.
"It is a concern that they have got to address and it is very much driving the CSI agenda," he said.
John Pike, director of U.S.-based GlobalSecurity.Org, said the discovery hinted at the scale of the illicit movement of arms via containers.
"One of the challenges in all of this has been to try to figure out whether it (the problem) is bigger than a bread box -- and how much of an effort needs to be put on it and what it needs to focus on.
"There is just no way that you are going to physically inspect every container. And so if you're not going to open up and rummage around every container, what are you going to do?"
He said the answer may be to narrow down and inspect containers from specific world regions.


Reuters, which also recently noticed that it may be possible for terrorists to do some damage to a major choke point, as I noted here, seems to be awakening to the Global War on Terrorism, albeit a little later than the rest of us.

You might find this older post of some interest in thinking about ways in which the smuggling of arms might be carried out.

Kerry Signed SF-180?

According to Captain's Quarters, John Kerry may have signed his SF-180. However, the thingie at the end of my blog stays up until he releases all the records.
Let's see what's in there. All of it, just like the President.

Secret Worlds (or putting the politics of Washington in perspective)

Need some perspective? Try this.

'Act of sheer bravery' changes Norfolk crew

Earlier I posted on the rescue of some Somalis from a capsized boat by Coalition naval forces. Here are more details.


Caption: A vessel 25 miles off Somalia coasts along prior to capsizing in the Gulf of Aden. Eighty-nine people survived, and five were pronounced dead at the scene. The U.S. Navy guided missile cruiser USS Normandy - based in Norfolk, the USS Typhoon and the USS Firebolt, along with German frigate FGS Karlsruhe, assisted in the rescue effort.
U.S. NAVY PHOTOS. (looks like the Karlsruhe in the background)

94 people on that boat? Yikes!

May is Stroke Awareness Month

I've been somewhat remiss in not reminding people that May is Stroke Awareness Month. As a very lucky stroke survivor (it was more like a warning shot across my bow) I am well aware that ignorance can kill or result in complications that might not be as severe if medical aid is immediately sought. For the most part, strokes are painless as are their precursors, transient ischemic attacks

Some good resources on stroke can be found here and at the American Stroke Association.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke lists the following five symptoms as the most common indicators of a stroke:

• Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arms or legs

• Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding others

• Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes

• Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination

• Sudden severe headache with no known cause


See this, too.

Recovery? Caught in time, things can be turned around. Sen. John McCain's wife, Cindy, is a stroke survivor who has been able to complete a half marathon as is set out here:
When Cindy McCain crossed the finish line last January, her feet had blisters and her legs were sore, but the wife of Sen. John McCain didn't mind. "I felt that I had really accomplished something," she says.

What Cindy had accomplished that day was a 13-mile half marathon. But her real achievement was surviving the race of her life. Of course, there had been other races: her husband's 2000 presidential bid, when the intensely private and protective Cindy was thrust into the rough-and-tumble world of a national campaign; his subsequent battle with skin cancer; her youngest daughter's ongoing reconstructive surgeries to fix a cleft lip and a cleft palate. But finishing this race was all about her.

On April 12, 2004, Cindy was having lunch with friends at a restaurant near her home in Phoenix. She felt under the weather, but she had just returned from Japan, so she attributed it to jet lag. But then she began having trouble with her vision, and her speech slurred.

"I worried that people would think I was drunk, but I knew something was really wrong with me," says Cindy. She took out her car keys, wanting to drive home. Fortunately, her friends realized something was amiss. They took her to Barrow Neurological Institute of St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix. The doctor there saw that Cindy was having a stroke, and she was admitted to the intensive care unit. "They moved so fast, it's all a bit of a blur," Cindy says.
Having friends recognize the problem and getting help quickly makes a huge difference.

My own plans include getting back to serious running, keeping weight off and blood pressure down. I ran 5 marathons before the stroke and my younger son says he'll train with me for number 6 (I hope in January in Houston). Keep an eye out for a slow guy with a big grin on his face...

And learn the symptoms of stroke! The life you save may be your own or that of someone you love.

Piracy Report to 23 May

The weekly piracy report fromICC Commercial Crime Services reveals a slow week with only this incident of major interest:
21.05.2005 at 0330 LT in position 05:34.5N - 099:51.0E, 21nm NW of Penang island, Malacca straits.
A craft doing over 20 kts approached a product tanker underway. When craft came within 0.5nm crew mustered, activated fire hoses, directed searchlights and switched on lights. Craft followed for 20 mins and moved away.

German Cargo Ship Seized off Somalia?

SomaliNet says here that
Reports from Harardhere district of Mudug Province say two armed boats attacked and later kidnapped a German cargo ship at sea near Gaan, 25 km east of Harardhere.

Eye witnesses said the kidnapping took place midnight last night. Unconfirmed reports add there were some casualties and district officials unsuccessfully tried to persuade the attackers to release the ship and the crew.

A Japanese cargo ship was seen in the area earlier this month.

Most kidnapping of this kind happen near Somali coastal towns and pirates often release ships and crew after ransom money is paid. Sea pirating flourished after Somalia central collapsed in 1991.




Lightning bolt is off the coast of the Mudug Province of Somalia.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Training for Maritime/Port Security

Navy Times says there's a big week long exercise in LA and Long Beach here to train:
About 1,200 personnel, 19 commands and six vessels, including countermine ships Devastator and Scout and the guided-missile frigate Crommelin, will join in the training, which will include the Coast Guard cutter George Cobb, mine-hunting helicopters, Navy explosive ordnance disposal and mine clearance teams, Coast Guard maritime security teams and two Navy dolphins, part of the service’s marine mammal teams. Military forces will partner with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, 24 in all, including the Department of Homeland Security, 9th Civil Support Team and the FBI.
Whooee! Ships, planes, EOD and dolphins...Train like you'll fight...

Iran and China to expand communication ties

Iran News - Iran-China to expand communication ties reports.

Another Sea Where the Future is Unclear: The Black Sea

Click on Bulgaria, Romania and the Changing Structure of the Black Sea's Geopolitics to get a local perspective on another area where economic development and geopolitics are in play. And click here for some more views.
“We know from our own experience that no plan to tackle security problems will be successful without a human, individual dimension. This is an important liberal contribution to the notion of security that is long overdue.
“We will not be able to address the larger security challenges unless we ensure the creation of effective democratic institutions and functioning market economies, which provide opportunities, generate wealth and ensure civic solidarity,” Passi said.
Romanian prime minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu told the conference that security in the Black Sea region lay in the core values of liberty, prosperity and co-operation.
“No region is really secure unless its people are free,” Tariceanu said.

Fears of terrorism by sea in Southeast Asia

Reuters discovers Fears of terrorism by sea in Southeast Asia
Indonesia and Malaysia -- which also share the Malacca Strait -- are considering allowing weapons on ships after several pirate attacks this year revealed a bolder and more violent streak of the sea piracy that has bedevilled Southeast Asia for centuries.

Foreign ministers from Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia will meet on the Indonesian island of Batam next month to discuss allowing commercial vessels to arm themselves, but Singapore and Malaysia are alone in providing armed escorts in their waters.

"Within Singapore's section, I would say that is well guarded, well patrolled and very safe," said Michael Richardson, author of "A Time Bomb for Global Trade", a book about the Malacca and Singapore straits.

"The problem is when you get into particularly the Indonesian controlled section of both the Singapore Strait and the Malacca Strait," said Richardson, now a researcher at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.


ASSeT details as provided by the Singapore Defence Ministry:
Maritime security is a multi-agency effort and each agency has an important role to play. The RSN works closely with our neighbouring countries and national agencies such as the Police Coast Guard, Maritime and Port Authority as well as the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority to carry out co-ordinated patrols and 24/7 maritime security patrols in Singapore waters.

The 180 Sqn was recently set up within the RSN to perform two critical functions. The first function is to analyse the shipping data and identify high interest merchant vessels. This is no easy task given that about 1,000 vessels transit daily through Singapore Straits. The second function is to provide security to selected vessels in our waters through the deployment of armed sea marshals, or Accompanying Sea Security Teams, also known as ASSeT.

ASSeT personnel will be placed on selected merchant vessels to deter and to prevent any terrorist activity onboard these vessels in Singapore waters. ASSeT will embark together with the PSA’s Harbour Pilot for vessels that are calling into or leaving the Port of Singapore. When onboard, ASSeT will be deployed to various parts of the ship to provide security. ASSeT will disembark together with the Harbour Pilot when the vessel is berthed or when the vessel is about to leave Singapore waters.
(sources here)

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Leaving the left

Excellent read by Keith Thompson.

Hat tip: Chapomatic

Canadian Oil Sands Fuel at a Cost

Canada has the oil reserves, but it's a little messy getting the oil out as set out here.
These oil sands are the world's most expensive, most polluting source of oil under large-scale production. Wringing four barrels of crude oil from the sands requires burning the equivalent of a fifth barrel. The mines and refineries release huge amounts of greenhouse gases -- the equivalent each day to more than a third of California's daily car emissions.

Yet Alberta's oil sands are destined to be the main supply of foreign oil to the United States for at least the next century. The sands hold proven reserves of 175 billion barrels, second only to Saudi Arabia's 262 billion, and far more than the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's estimated 10 billion...


Oh, yeah, China's moving in, too.

Things you learn department: Baseball Usage

Just for fun, read this excellent piece from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: MLB: The true life story of baseballs.

I wonder how many cricket balls get used each year...

Barnett: India's 12 Steps to a World Class Navy (oldie but goodie)

In an older article (4 years) Professor Thomas Barnett of the US Naval War College provided some food for thought on the future of the Indian Navy in India's 12 Steps to a World Class Navy
It is fair to say that every Indian admiral I spoke with represented his own school of thought, but I sensed two broad strategic factions, which I dub the Soviet School and the British School. This division recalls not only the perceived operational disparity between the Eastern and Western fleets (the former long considered the "Russian half" of the Indian Navy; the latter the "British half") but also the difference between a land-oriented great power's strategic employment of naval force and that of a sea-oriented one.

Not surprisingly, most of the British School admirals I met had studied at the U.S. Naval War College. Conversely, I could discuss my love for Russian poetry - in the original - with those of the Soviet School. I further subdivide each school into two wings: those admirals who believe the Indian Ocean "belongs" to the Indian Navy (and not to any "meddlesome outsiders," including the U.S. Navy) and those who believe the Indian Navy "belongs" to something larger - typically, the collective good of global maritime security.


Which path? Describing a then up-coming Naval Commanders Conference it was written:
The last decade has seen an increase in the presence of extra regional forces in the Indian ocean, in terms of both numbers and capability. This trend is likely to continue in the foreseeable future and the maritime security environment would only become more complex, more fluid and significantly more challenging. This would be an area of focus during the conference to ensure the Indian Navy remains operationally focused force, capable of dealing with changing environment of the 21st century.
(source here)

Thus far I haven't been able to find any reported results of the Conference.

India to hold joint maritime patrols with Thailand to reduce piracy and smuggling

In a further sign of India working on a safer maritime environment, it has committed to join with Thailand as reported here:
India on Friday signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Thailand for joint maritime patrols to prevent piracy and arms smuggling.

Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Arun Prakash and his Thai counterpart Admiral Sampop Amrapala, signed the agreement in Bangkok.

In an interview to The Hindu , Admiral Prakash, who attended an international maritime event here before he left for Bangkok on Thursday, said the accord would help to ensure "the whole vulnerable area of the Andaman Sea is generally covered by joint patrols" with the relevant countries. India already entered into similar agreements with Indonesia and Sri Lanka. An understanding with Myanmar too could be reached in future...

One of New Delhi's main concerns was the suspected smuggling of arms across the Andaman Sea to India's north-eastern States and Sri Lanka...

Admiral Prakash said a broader defence cooperation agreement would be discussed with Thailand. Singapore was perhaps among the first countries with which India developed "a close cooperation" in all three military wings. The interactions with Singapore "seems to be progressing on the right lines ... and the outlook is bright"...

On India's defence links with Japan, Admiral Prakash said, "Of late, a certain convergence of interests has emerged". As for Japan's "seaborne-energy needs", India "happens to sit astride the [relevant] sea lanes". In the event of "turbulence" along these lanes, "the Indian Navy would have a major role to play".

Nigeria seeks to double oil exports

Nigeria, it is reported here, wants to grow its oil output but there are a few obstacles - including pirates and "ethnic militants":
The attractions of Nigerian oil are easy to see. It is largely sweet, light, low-sulphur crude -- which is easy to convert into petrol -- and lies near the shipping lanes to the fuel-hungry US and Brazil's emerging market.

But the industry has been plagued by Nigeria's unstable political scene.

Onshore wells in the swamps of the Niger Delta are often targeted by pirates and ethnic militants.

Total shut down its operations in the block known as Oil Mining Licence 57 in the western delta swamps near Warri on March 15 2003 after its tank farm there was destroyed in an attack that left five people dead. About 10 000 barrels per day in production have been lost.

ChevronTexaco's nearby wells have also been shut since March 2003 following the same ethnic violence. Several tens of millions of barrels in estimated reserves have lain untapped under Ogoniland since Shell quit the area following the controversial execution of minority rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995.

Compared to such risks, the added engineering difficulties of working offshore become insignificant. Some offshore licences have also come with more favourable terms from the government, allowing firms to recoup their development costs over several years before sharing profits with the Nigerian state.

But the sense of security provided by the sea separating the rigs from the chaos and poverty of the delta may turn out to be false if Nigeria cannot learn to translate its oil wealth into greater well-being for its people, Nigerian and international officials warn.

A family adventure- including some pirates

Nice little article about a family that sailed toether, with some more adventure than they had bargined for:
The most harrowing experience Renee recalled was in spring 2003. They were passing between Yemen and Somalia in the Gulf of Aden, approaching the Red Sea. Pirates had boarded and stripped a boat the day before, so the Outlandish set out in a diamond-shaped formation of four boats. An Australian power boat, about 76 feet long, was the lead boat.

Three small power boats, with about six men in each, approached the lead boat from the rear and bumped into the stern. Then the pirates started trying to board. The captain, a stocky American Vietnam veteran, charged up with bright red flares in his mouth and his hands. Language was no barrier as he pantomimed the motion of using the lighter in his hand to light fuses and toss the flares into their boats.

"I'm sure that they thought it was dynamite," Renee said.

The men retreated, but they followed closely, looking for another chance at the four boats until dark.
Since the article was written upon their return, I supose it's safe to assume that pirates did not have their way with the convoy.

Armed Forces Day

Today is Armed Forces Day. When I was kid, living on Air Force bases, we would get to go to the flight line and climb aboard the big jets and tankers and see various demonstrations. Go do it at the nearest facility available.

And to the our soldiers, Marines, airmen, Coast Guardsmen and sailors, active, reserve or Guard, I say thanks. Thanks to the unsung: the corpsmen, the freshwater guys, the transportation crews, the supply people, the mechanics, the postal clerks, the signalmen, the gas turbine techs, and thanks to the often unarmed members of the Armed Services who serve around the world. Thanks to the flight deck guys and to the engineers, to the EOD and the Mine Warfare teams, to the Desert Ducks and to all who serve. Thanks to the Mess Specialists, the MPs, the HTs, and all the rest who we don't often see, but without whom it wouldn't get done at all.

(and a special thanks to my older son who carries on the family tradition of service as a Naval aviator.)

America does support you all!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Philippine Coast Guard is player in anti-terrorism

Headline: PCG scores in anti-terrorism
Millions of sea passengers and millions worth of cargo were secured from terrorist threats and attacks after the Philippine Coast Guard deployed sea marshals onboard ships more than a year ago. Guns, explosive devices and drugs were intercepted and confiscated either at the port or onboard ships renewing security confidence that has since been shattered when an explosion engulfed a ferry in flames.
Gunrunning was recorded with the highest incidence of security breach at 31 percent, 20 percent involved public safety and 11 percent video piracy and illegal recruitment. Since its creation last year, the Task Force Sea Marshal that is under the command of the Coast Guard’s National Capital Region released its report for the first time in an internal newsletter of the command.
Way to go PCG!

Wonder who the hired guns of the Malacca Strait are?

According to this, it's "Aussie guns for hire", making a small fortune:
Former Australian soldiers and police are being paid a small fortune to ride shotgun in the Straits of Malacca, protecting against pirates and terrorism threats.

Several former Australian Defence Force and police specialists are employed by Background Asia Risk Solutions, a Singapore-based company that provides armed escorts for tankers and oil platforms in the seas north of Australia.

The US EP-3E and China: First Shot by China Fired in 2001?

I wonder if we will look back at the 2001 forced landing of the US Navy Ep-3E aircraft as described here as the first salvo fired?
For us, the EP-3E is a lightning rod. The incident shows that the Chinese are serious. If indeed they forced the airplane down, and did not merely allow it to land after their fighter accidentally and almost fatally damaged it, they have seized a U.S.-flag airplane in international airspace. That is an act of war, no matter the manner in which it is cloaked. The effrontery of demanding an apology harks back to the Chinese idea that their legitimate sphere of sovereignty is the entire Far East, in which we are intruding.

Presumably the Chinese view is that forcing down a U.S. airplane is not nearly as dangerous as attacking a U.S. warship, and that our reaction will show just how serious we are. In that case focusing on the crew is a mistake. At the least, we ought to be demanding an apology from the Chinese, and probably some restitution for damage to the airplane. It is argued that the Chinese cannot afford the loss of “face” that would be involved. However, the Chinese are equally aware that a U.S. step down will seriously damage our own prestige in the Far East. Indeed, that may have been the purpose of the incident.

The burden would seem to be on the Chinese to prove that the incident was not an intentional attack. The Chinese pilot has repeatedly been described, in the U.S. press, as a maverick who liked to show off. Given the tight control the Chinese government excercises, and the very high level at which the United States was accused of various misdeeds, a more plausible explanation would be that he was a particularly expert pilot brought in specifically to cause aerial incidents short of military action. The Chinese have to make a plausible case that his actions were not authorized at the highest levels. Although the incident is quite serious, given other factors it is not likely to lead to war, or even to a breach of relations. More likely a cold war with the Chinese is developing, and the EP-3E incident will be seen, in five or ten years, as an important early indication of just where the situation was going.

For the United States, the incident probably shows that the Chinese believe that their small force of ballistic missiles gives them considerable freedom of action against us. A credible U.S. national missile defense would go a long way toward dispelling any such view, because it would indicate to the Chinese leadership just how serious the United States was. Most of the missile defense debate has occurred on two levels. One is technical: how easy would it be to defeat? Another is political: how badly will a U.S. system upset our allies? Neither is altogether relevant. The real issue is how such a system would affect the calculations of its likely enemies, which certainly include the Chinese.
(from a 2001 Naval Institute Proceedings article by Norman Friedman)
It occurs to me that our Western minds don't always grasp the issue of "face" as understood by the Chinese or the North Koreans (who have on display as a "war memorial" the seized USS Pueblo). In retrospect, should we have taken a harder line in the EP-3E matter? Probably...

Second Pacific Carrier to Guam?

Inside the Ring says here that there's a debate on where to "forward deploy" a second aircraft carrier - to Guam or to Hawaii...
Pentagon force structure planners are still working on where to 'forward deploy' a second aircraft carrier battle group in the Pacific.

As part of the global military force posture review, the Pentagon has decided it needs a second carrier group closer to hot spots such as the Taiwan Strait and North Korea.

The United States has the USS Kitty Hawk carrier battle group based in Yokosuka, Japan, near Tokyo.

Defense officials say the choices for deploying the second carrier are Honolulu and the western Pacific island of Guam.

Pentagon officials say Hawaii is a choice because it already has a well-developed port and other infrastructure. It also is home to the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Command.

Guam, however, is more strategically located and would allow U.S. power to reach Asia more quickly, a key element of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's goal for military force restructuring.

Defense officials say unsettling conflict scenarios related to China's rapid military buildup - primarily Beijing's new warships, submarines and aircraft designed specifically to attack U.S. warships - are lending support to deploying the carrier at Guam, where up to eight U.S. attack submarines also are being deployed.

On the other hand, China's development and purchase of precision strike cruise and ballistic missiles have some strategists in the Pentagon saying that a second carrier should be stationed safely at Honolulu.
Safely in Hawaii? Gosh, remember something called Pearl Harbor?
And see this for more info on the China-US threat, and this for some more info on the LCS and China's expressed intent to take out a US carrier should it come to that...

Update: According to this site, the US Navy may be acquiring some "Sunburn" missiles for target practice...And this Newsmax piece on the subject. And this here and this. Hmmm.

Update2: After thinking it over, I say we need to go aggressive on the positioning of a second carrier and there's no better place than Guam. After all, Guam is US Territory, has a huge AFB at one end and a pretty good navy facility already in place. It doesn't take long to find deep water and it's a several days closer to potential trouble spots than Hawaii. It also has golf courses, good beaches, excellent snorkeling, diving, a University, cable tv, etc, etc. Watch out for the stone fish, men-of war, coral infections and the poisonous cone sea shells (when I lived there, we always wore wading shoes in the water)...

Guam, its military installations and its place in the Pacific (map from U. of Texas Library):



Apra Harbor from the air:


(Apra Harbor photo from here)

Submariner is Naval academy's first black commandant

Submariner is academy's first black commandant -
Twenty-five years after he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, Navy Capt. Bruce E. Grooms will become the academy's first black commandant of midshipmen, a position similar to the dean of students at a civilian college or university.
Congratulations!

Friday, May 20, 2005

"Military-haters in the press" from The American Thinker

The American Thinker has it: "Military-haters in the press" and it's worth reading:
The last few years have seen a heightened awareness of the mainstream media's anti-military bias. Plenty of people are noticing it, and even some media brand name correspondents are admitting it. There is plenty of evidence.

The New York Times has run front-page articles regarding the defense forces’ putative reliance on unemployable people opting to become cannon fodder by "volunteering" for the military, to get a paycheck because other employers would not hire them. CBS News has run similar pieces. Neither considered anything so mundane as serving one’s nation or fulfilling family tradition as a possible motivation for enlistment.

The overblown Abu Ghraib coverage, which enflamed the Muslim world, was the product of an editorial inclination to believe the very worst about our military, and to force responsibility up the chain of command, to the very top -a principle the press never applies to its own top management. Few in the press noted that the military justice system was already pursuing the miscreants at the very time the press obtained photos.

The alleged ransacking of an Iraqi weapons cache by insurgents while it was under Army guard did not happen, and the reports were refuted by the blogosphere, not by the vaunted fact-checking editorial function of the mainstream media, supposedly its key advantage over internet bloggers...


Update: And the effect - read this from Chrenkoff. The steady drumbeat of negativism takes a toll... as this email proves:
Even my family back home is starting to think it's a Vietnam-style "quagmire". Al-Qaeda couldn't get better PR service if they paid for it, and the media are providing gladly and free-of-charge!

If this is how liberals support the troops, then could they please f*cking STOP already? Don't tell those of us in the military you "support the troops", and then spend 110% of your time and print space breaking your necks to paint us all as bloodthirsty criminals because of the acts of a few – all as a thinly-disguised way to grind a political axe with a President with which 90% of the media has a deeply personal beef. It isn't fooling anybody – especially "the troops".


Exactly. But while the military recovered from Vietnam, the media seems not to have...

Update2: Since I am not sure where else to put this, I'll add it on here- David Brooks's take on "bashing Newsweek" while the real enemy seems forgotten:
Many of my friends on the right have decided that the Newsweek episode exposes the rotten core of the liberal media. Dennis Prager, who is intelligent 99 percent of the time, writes, "Newsweek is directly responsible for the deaths of innocents and for damaging America." Countless conservatives say the folks at Newsweek were quick to believe the atrocity tales because they share the left-wing, post-Vietnam mentality. On his influential blog, Austin Bay writes that the coastal media "presume the worst about the U.S. military - always make that presumption."

Excuse me, guys, but this is craziness. I used to write for Newsweek. I know Mike Isikoff and the editors. And I know about liberals in the media. The people who run Newsweek are not a bunch of Noam Chomskys with laptops. Not even close. Whatever might have been the cause of their mistakes, liberalism had nothing to do with it.

Meanwhile, the left side of the blogosphere has erupted with fury over the possibility that American interrogators might not have flushed a Koran down the toilet. The Nation and leftish Web sites are in a frenzy to prove that the story is probably true even if Newsweek is retracting it.

This, too, is unhinged. Would it be illegal for more people on the left to actually be happy that a story slurring Americans may turn out to be unproven? Could there be a few more liberals willing to admit that prisoners routinely lie about their treatment? (Do we expect them to say their time in captivity wasn't so bad?)

Then I click my mouse over to the transcripts of administration statements and I can't believe what I'm seeing. We're in the middle of an ideological war against people who want to destroy us, and what have the most powerful people on earth become? Whining media bashers. They're attacking Newsweek while bending over backward to show sensitivity to the Afghans who just went on a murderous rampage.

Talk about the bigotry of low expectations.
Reminds of those old Bob Dylan lyrics, "You're right from your side, I'm right from mine - we're both just one too many mornings an' thousand miles behnd." Have a nice day.

Defining "diaster" down: Norwegian Dawn and the Rogue Wave

Nice piece here from the WSJ OpinionJournal - Taste written by a passenger on the ship during its meeting with a rogue wave:
And what was the toll of Mother Nature's wrath this time, just months after a tsunami killed hundreds of thousands? Two windows shattered, 62 cabins flooded (out of a total of 1,112)--and four cases of minor cuts and bruises. As one of the more than 2,000 tempest-tossed passengers on the Dawn, I feel free to say that we sure have defined disaster down.
Read it all.

SS-N-27s to China

Russia selling antiship cruise missiles to Chna as set out here. They go along with the Kilo-class subs.

Malaysia Says "Not a Good Idea" to Private Escort Ships in the Malacca Strait

As reported in Khaleej Times Online
Private armed escort services for ships using the pirate-infested Malacca Strait are not welcome, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said on Friday.

The security of seafarers and cargo in the vital shipping lane was the responsibility of the three littoral states -- Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, Abdullah said.

“If we entrust the monitoring of security to civilian parties, something may happen and it could spark off reactions that may be difficult to control,” he was quoted as saying by the official Bernama news agency.

“Our opinion is that it is better for the monitoring to be done by Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia,” the prime minister told Malaysian journalists accompanying him on an official visit to the Netherlands.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenande had raised the issue of security in the strait -- which carries a third of global trade -- during their talks, he said.
See my earlier post on this topic here.

Update: Modified title to read the way it was supposed to to begin with. Drat the gremlins...

Latest ONI World Wide Threat to Shipping

For the latest click ONI World Wide Threat to Shipping, and then choose 18 May 2005. Highlights:

SOMALIA: The unidentified ship boarded and hijacked
10 Apr at 1200 UTC while underway in position 00:50S, 047:36E,
off the eastern coast of Somalia was freed 28 Apr according to 5
May reports. The ship, an LPG tanker proceeding empty to its next
load port, was lured into the Somali coast by an apparent
deceptive distress flare and then surrounded by a fleet of small
boats. There is some confusion as to how far to sea the hijacking
occurred with accounts giving the initial encounter as for out as
135nm. The ship was forced to anchor close offshore while ransom
talks were begun with the owners who refuse to be named. A U.S.
naval vessel stood by during the incident, but was not reported
involved in the ransom talks. Unspecified ransom demands are
understood to have been met and the 17 crew were released
unharmed while the hijackers returned ashore unmolested...

...OMAN: An unidentified offshore supply vessel received
distress calls 27 Apr at 1945 local time while underway in
position 21:57.7N, 060:26.9E from a fishing vessel claiming there
was a "crash". Master proceeded to reported position and found no
men in the water upon arrival at the scene. Ship received another
distress call and proceeded towards that position about 3nm away.
Master suspected something amiss during conversations with the
"skipper" of the fishing vessel and felt this was a trap. Ship
moved away from the area at full speed and warned vessels in the
area on VHF (Note by Eagle1 - same tactic use on the LPG carrier above?)

... STRAIT OF MALACCA: An unidentified general cargo ship
reports being approached 13 May at 0110 local time while underway
in position 05:13N, 098:06E by an unlit 7m boat carrying armed
persons. The duty officer undertook evasive maneuvers but the
boat contacted the ship's hull on port side causing some damage.
The duty officer sounded ship's whistle and tried to contact the
boat on VHF ch 16 without response, but no boarding took place...