Night ops

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Shutting down the Tamil Tiger supply line


Six charged in Maryland with trying to run guns to the Tamil Tigers, as set out here. Some of the action used Guam as a shipment point:
For the last six months federal authorities working in Maryland and Guam have been conducting an undercover operation as six individuals with ties to a foreign terrorist organization attempted to purchase firearms and night vision equipment locally. Sealed indictments and complaints were handed down in Maryland on September 19. The federal complaints and charges were unsealed today charging six individuals with conspiracy to export arms and munitions. Three of those defendants were additionally charged with conspiracy to provide support to a foreign terrorist organization and money laundering.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the six were arrested in Guam after attempting to purchase sniper rifles, sub-machineguns with suppressors, grenade launchers and night vision equipment. The arms and support were to be given to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which is listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department and twenty-eight other countries.

55-year-old Haniffa Bin Osman of Singapore, 60-year-old Erick Wotulo and 69-year-old Haji Subandi, both of Indonesia, were arrested on Guam charged with conspiracy to export arms and munitions, providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization and money laundering. A complaint was also filed in the District Court of Guam this week against 36-year old Thirunavukarasu Varatharasa, a citizen of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, charging him with being a member of the arms trafficking conspiracy.
***
The Tamil Tigers organization has been linked to assassinations, ethnic cleansing, recruiting and using child soldiers, extortion, and suicide bombings
The Tigers are also inventors of the suicide vest and well-known for their use of boats as suicide bomb platforms.

The Tigers have been active:
Last month, U.S. officials in New York announced that eight emissaries of the rebel group had conspired to buy surface-to-air missiles in the United States amid an escalating conflict with military forces in Sri Lanka. The men charged in that case also tried to get the Tamil Tigers removed from a list of terrorist organizations and sought to bribe U.S. officials for classified information, according to a criminal complaint.
.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Fighting voter fraud- getting serious

Andrew Samwick at Vox Baby has an interesting post on Voter Fraud, well worth the read. When even minimal measures of ensuring that only citizens vote are deemed to be "too burdensome" then something is broken.

Surely we can add a couple of bucks to the normal driver's license fees to provide a fund for issuing identity cards to those who cannot afford even the $12 fee in Arizona ($10 in North Carolina, Virginia, New York offers a senior discount ID card for non-drivers for $6.50, Florida $3) for such a card or even funding a system for having a portable ID shop travel to locations-such as senior centers- where the residents are unable to travel by themselves.

Professor Samwick notes that on Election Day, the logistics of getting these voters to the polls seem to be well-handled by the campaign staffs.

USS Macon remains being explored




USS Macon was a U.S.Navy dirigable that crashed and sank off the California coast in 1935.

Researchers have now sent a remotely piloted vehicle to the site to explore the debris field as set out here:
Over the course of a five-day archeological investigation, researchers from the NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, the University of New Hampshire and Stanford University have documented two major debris fields associated with the submerged wreck site of the rigid airship USS Macon, a U.S. Navy dirigible lost off California's Big Sur coast in 1935.
***
Distinguishable features included the airship's hangar bay containing four Sparrowhawk biplanes and their detached landing gear. Five of the Macon's eight German-built Maybach 12 cylinder gasoline engines also were identified. Objects from the ship's galley were found, including two sections of the aluminum stove, propane tanks that supplied fuel for it, and the enlisted men's dining table and bench. A second debris field contained the Macon's bow section including the mooring mast receptacle assembly. This field also contains aluminum chairs and desks that may have been in a port side officers' or meteorologist's office.
More pictures at the link.

Top photo is Macon

Second photo is "a port wing of one of four Curtiss Sparrowhawk F9C-2 biplanes found at the USS Macon site. Credit “NOAA / MBARI.”

Third photo is Sparrowhawk fighter mooring to Macon.

US State Department on protecting container ships from terrorists

Following up on the speech of Thomas Lehrman, director of the State Department's Office of Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism, see here, in which he
,,,, stressed, international coordination among specialists in weapons design, transportation and international finance is needed to prevent illegal shipments of WMD.
***
Lehrman emphasized the importance of public-private partnerships in an era when more than 90 percent of global trade in goods is transported in containers through the maritime supply chain, making ports and related infrastructure "an inviting target."
***
Illicit WMD traffickers such as A.Q. Khan have used the maritime supply chain to transport WMD materials and delivery systems, he said, making the Proliferation Security Initiative an important effort to confront this threat. With more than 75 nations supporting PSI, Lehrman said more than 30 high-risk shipments have been stopped, including centrifuge parts en route to Libya.
A related piece here, describes a Proliferation Security Initiative workshop in London in which 20 nations participated:
David Cooper, director of nonproliferation policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, led the U.S. delegation to the London workshop. He said the workshop identified "how governments working with maritime industry, can intercept WMD-related shipments, while minimizing the disruption of legitimate cargo flows." For Cooper, the London gathering reflected continued efforts by PSI governments and industry partners to cooperate against WMD-related proliferation traffickers.

The workshops are also important sources of information for the PSI Operational Experts Group, which develops concepts of operation and fosters development of cooperative relationships between PSI governments and industry experts.

This was the third PSI government-industry workshop. A previous workshop on maritime issues took place in Copenhagen, Denmark, in August 2004, and then an air cargo workshop was held in Los Angeles in September 2005.

Specific topics discussed in London included port governance, the roles of freight forwarders and shipping line owners and operators, the disposition of cargo, implications of the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, the government decision-making process, and means by which industry can participate further with PSI supporting nations.
Eternal vigilance is the price of security, too.

Russia wants to join anti-sea pirate Agreement

As set out here, Russia is "keen" to join in the Asian Regional Cooperation Agreement in Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery (RCACPAR) now that it is coming into effect after being ratified by 11 countries.

Russia does have a large Asian coast.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

World Maritime Day 2006

Oh, Happy World Maritime Day 2006!

Port of Oakland gets no respect (and SF,too)



Poor Oakland, California. Slammed by native Gertrude Stein ("The trouble with Oakland is that when you get there, there isn't any there there."), host to the formerly proud Raiders whose silver and black colors have besome symbols of futility. Even the A's are ripped by baseball fans for the inability of the team to win in the playoffs.

But now, shortly after the Port of New York/NJ whines ints way into millions, the Port of Oakland, the nation's fourth largest container port learns that it will receive nothing -nada- zip- zero-nil- in the way of Homeland Security funds. According to an article found on the Cargonews Asia site:
The Port of Oakland asked for US$6 million this year to help guard against terrorist attacks, but the federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said the nation's fourth-largest container port will get nothing.

While the Bay Area's various transit agencies received $11.2 million from a $400 million transportation grant programme, the ports of San Francisco and Oakland were left out in the cold.

"We are a little bit puzzled about how the decisions were made,'' said Marilyn Sandifur, spokeswoman for the Port of Oakland. "We're very disappointed.''

The port wanted the money to pay for security projects totalling $8 million. The port, which got $2.9 million last year, would have spent the money on a system to better track employees and trucks inside its gates, better detect intruders and make communication improvements, Sandifur said.

San Francisco asked for $1.5 million to buy security cameras, improve lighting and fencing along its nearly eight-mile long waterfront.

Funding was awarded for specific projects based on a port's "relative risk'' of being attacked and how well the projects meshed with federal security priorities, but department spokeswoman Joanna Gonzalez did not know why San Francisco and Oakland were skipped over.

The announcement added to a string of woes for Bay Area agencies over homeland security funding. In June, the federal agency awarded the region $28.3 million under an urban security grant -- $5 million less than the prior year and far short of the $333 million that Bay Area cities sought under a joint application.

Security officials figured on more, not less, funding after Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff pledged a new formula based on a complex calculation of threats rather than population or politics.

A report this year from the Public Policy Institute of California found that California's largest seaports received just 19 percent of federal port security grant funds, despite handling 40 percent of all containers coming through US ports.

Russia to have aircraft carrier by end of year and plans more


Reported here:
The Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia's only aircraft carrier, will join the Northern Fleet by the end of the year after modernization, the Navy's chief said Wednesday.

The ship, also known as Project 1143.5 heavy aircraft carrier, was commissioned in the Russian Navy in 1991 and became fully operational in 1995. But it was plagued by technical problems, including faulty arrester gear, and was put into dock earlier this year for a technical overhaul.

"All preparatory work has been completed on the Admiral Kuznetsov and it will leave port for a combat training mission at the beginning of next week," Admiral Vladimir Masorin said after a visit on board the ship.

The Navy commander also said that several Su-33 Flanker-D fighters assigned to the aircraft carrier would return to the ship after a brief technical overhaul. The vessel is capable of carrying up to 26 fixed-wing fighters and 24 helicopters.

Russia's military leadership is considering building several modern aircraft carriers after 2015.

"The Russian Navy will operate several aircraft carriers in future," Masorin said in February, adding that Admiral Kuznetsov would probably remain in service until 2030.

Port Security: Ignorance is not bliss


Worth reproducing almost in its entirety, this article from the Providence Journal's Timothy C. Barmann:
To understand the threat posed by a terrorist attack on a major American port, Stephen E. Flynn suggested we consider our response to the recent "spinach problem."
Even though the source of E. coli-contaminated spinach has been traced to a three-county area in California, Americans have virtually eliminated the leafy vegetable from their dinner tables. Regardless of where it was grown, people stopped buying spinach, leaving spinach growers elsewhere "in a world of hurt."
That tendency to overreact, and the chain of events that follows that reaction, is what creates the real crisis, rather than the incident itself, he said.
Flynn is a former commander of the U.S. Coast Guard, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a widely cited expert on maritime and port security issues. He spoke at the University of Rhode Island yesterday as part of an international conference on port security, natural disasters and marine transportation issues. The conference continues today.
Americans, and especially their elected representatives, are "overwhelmingly ignorant" of how the global transportation system works, he said.
"They have a woeful under-appreciation of its value, of the critical role it plays in our prosperity. And as a consequence of that, they are prone to do silly things."
He described such a scenario. Suppose a cargo container carrying a "dirty bomb" -- an explosive device carrying highly dispersible radioactive material -- exploded at a major marine terminal, and officials couldn't identify the source.
"The response, I can predict with 100-percent certainty, is that our government will behave irrationally from a standpoint of risk," he said.
"We will close all our ports down and we will basically try to inspect our way to a sense of security."
The ripple effect of that will be that the global trade system will be brought to its knees within two weeks, he said.
"The threat here was not the act of terror itself. The threat here is . . . how the American policy will respond to a perceived breech of security that threatens this community.
"If we don't get it right soon, not only will the United States suffer, but the international community will suffer as well."
***
Salerno described the system in which the Coast Guard determines where to place its resources to address potential security threats.
He said the agency uses the Maritime Security Risk Assessment Model, in which potential targets, such as liquefied natural gas facilities or bridges, are assigned a number that takes into account the threat, vulnerability and consequences.
That model allows the Coast Guard to make comparisons regionally and nationally, so it can better deploy its resources, he said.
Barani, of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, described some of the security improvements that were made since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The authority has installed an intruder-detection system that monitors 45 miles of airport perimeters and it has hardened all the support structures that hold up the George Washington Bridge "so it will not go down," he said.
And the Department of Homeland Security has established a "countermeasure testbed" with the port authority to test new technologies that detect threats to railways and monitor aviation facilities, roadways and seaports.
Norwitz, of the U.S. Naval War College, proffered that the current war on terrorism could be viewed as being World War III.
Like the first two world wars, Norwitz said, the current war is against an ideology -- Islamic extremism.
"If the world is in fact at war, then certainly the world's oceans will become part of that battle space," Norwitz said.
"Pirates, as mercenary armed groups or surrogates acting on behalf of terror organizations, will play a unique role in frustrating marine commerce as part of a global war strategy."
Of course, should there be any success in pentrating the defenses, then all the logic of risk modeling will be forgotten in the stampede to irrational solutions.

Prevention of WMD through maritime security

A speech on "Preventing Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Terrorism in the Maritime Supply Chain" found here:
Reducing WMD Terrorism Risk through a Layered Defense-in-Depth

Defending the United States and our international partners from a covert nuclear or biological attack by terrorists presents many operational and technical challenges. Since we cannot afford to fail in this mission, we must embrace a strategic approach capable of reducing this risk to its absolute minimum. We also know that no matter how effective, no single capability can provide a fail-safe protection from a WMD terrorist attack.

To reduce our collective risk from WMD terrorism, we must develop with our partners a layered defense-in-depth. A layered defense, or defense-in-depth, is a strategic concept employed in a diverse range of security-related fields, from missile defense to cybersecurity. Its central premise, especially applicable to combating WMD terrorism, is that no single layer, or capability, can provide us with sufficient protection against a determined and adaptable terrorist adversary. However, a terrorist or a terrorist facilitator who has to overcome multiple defenses in the course of his attack plan is more likely to be detected or deterred, or to fail during the attempt.

Indian Navy ship and merchant vessel "glance" off each other


Reported here. Not the sort of thing you want to be involved with, but it could have been worse.
The merchant vessel, MV Kity, was on passage to Colombo when it sustained "a glancing blow" from a guided-missile frigate of the Navy, the 2,800-tonne INS Dunagiri, around 30 nautical miles off Mumbai port on Monday night.

"The warship was manoeuvering to avoid some fishing vessels when the mishap took place. Fortunately, no significant damage or injury was suffered by either ship. A collision could have led to loss of human lives, apart from a huge ecological disaster in terms of an oil spill," said a source.


More on the "Leander-class" ships (to which the INS Dunagiri belongs) here.

How to effectively control Bill Clinton, Keith Olbermann and other irritants

The only way that former president Bill Clinton or Keith Olbermann or others of their ilk get into my house or life is if I invite them.

I have discovered the perfect tool to stop the noise.



I should use it more often.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Port security: A couple of different views of reality

The headline sums it up: Chertoff, Democrats disagree over cargo scans:
Mr. Chertoff said U.S. and foreign officials soon will conduct some screening at the ship's point of departure, but the answer did not satisfy Mr. DeFazio.
"We retain the right of sovereignty in international trade and we can refuse the entry of any cargo," said the Oregon Democrat. "The Chinese regularly do this for commercial purposes; we can sure as heck do it for homeland security purposes.
"Anybody who isn't cooperating with us, we say, 'Well, that's fine, but guess what? Nothing's leaving your port to the United States of America anymore.' It's pretty simple."
Such action, Mr. Chertoff said, would cut off 75 percent of international trade and lead to a depressed economy.
Mr. DeFazio proposed a three-year period to implement such a strategy, but Mr. Chertoff balked and called it an "artificial deadline" that would be "as unrealistic as passing a law that says in three years cancer has to be cured."

What I wish today had been like


I'd have much rather been engaged in friendly race instead of the adventures that fell my way today. You know:
An interesting event took place off Monaco last Sunday morning when owners of two of the world's largest sailing yachts went head to head in their own friendly match.

With Joseph Vittoria and Tom Perkins at the helms of Mirabella V and Maltese Falcon respectively, the yachts converged in 10-15 kts of breeze and sailed for an hour close-hauled in an increasing wind.
Why own one if you can't go fast...

Let's see, what's the Powerball is up to?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

ICC CCS Weekly Piracy Report (to Sept 25 2006)

The latest ICC Commercial Crime Services Piracy Report (to 25 Sept 2006) is here. Highlights- lots of robbers boarding ships to steal things.

Seems to be a problem in Trindad among the yachting set, too.

Clinton's sly tantrum


For all the reasons set out here:

Bill Clinton is a smart (and calculating) politician.
And rage is the order of the day.

USS Trenton to be transferred to Indian Navy


Reported here:
With military ties growing, the US is transferring one of its amphibious ships 'USS Trenten' to India to give the Indian Navy the capability to move troops and equipment to greater distances, a top American Commander has said.

The transfer is expected to take place sometime this December, Commander of the American Pacific Fleet Admiral Gary Roughhead said.

"USS Trenton', the Admiral said, will give capability to the Indian Navy to move troops and equipment to great distances and the ability to remain off shore for a prolonged period of time.
More on the Austin-class LPDs here.

Coast Guard diver deaths - a "mystery?"


Reported as Mystery surrounds deaths of Coast Guard divers in the Arctic:
"What I can tell you is this: These people were very well trained. Every time we did something we had to have a safety briefing," Stevenoski said. "There was an accident that was completely unforeseen. What's unusual is we don't know why they died."
***
According to Coast Guard protocol, they would have created a "dive profile," detailing who was diving, how far down they were going and how long they would spend at various depths.

Typically such plans are drawn up by a ship's dive officer, though the captain is ultimately responsible for the safety of divers. That could explain why Capt. Douglas Russell, who transferred from a desk job in Washington, D.C., to the Healy in June, was relieved of command less than two weeks after the accident. Vice Adm. Charles D. Wurster, commander of the Coast Guard in the Pacific, said he had lost confidence in Russell.
Nice of VADM Wurster to wait for results of the investigations.

USCGC Healy website.

Whining works: Port of NY/NJ to Get More Funding


Reported here:
Annual funding to protect the perimeters of New York's and New Jersey's ports will be boosted nearly fourfold, the Department of Homeland Security was to announce Monday. The increase, from $6.6 million to $25.7 million, follows a public outcry sparked in June, when the agency decided to slash New York City's share of terror grants for cities by 40 percent, or $83 million.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The not so "Golden Age" of piracy

Philippines wants in on regional cooperation


Reported here:
THE Philippine Government is eyeing improved boarder patrol agreement with Indonesia and Malaysia to deter the entry of operatives of Southeast Asian regional terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) into Mindanao.

In a forum, Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz said he has proposed to his Malaysian and Indonesian counterparts the setting up of sealanes to effectively monitor the movement of ships in the boarder.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo


"To prevent the JI from coming into Mindanao, what I have been proposing to the ministers of defense of Indonesia and Malaysia was that we should set specific lanes between Indonesia and the Philippines and Malaysia," said Cruz.

He said the creation of the lanes "would allow legitimate traffic and movement of people within these lanes." "These lanes would allow authorities from the three countries to check ships traveling outside these designated lanes," he added.

"We should be able to board and inspect vessels out of these lanes to make sure that there are no unauthorized boarder crossing, including strengthening our boarder controls in the ports that will be receiving legitimate goods and people from Indonesia and Malaysia," said Cruz.

Diving for the Port of Long Beach


Diving for your safety at the Port of Long Beach. Found here:
Friday marked the end of the team's latest training drill, this time with security experts sponsored by the Department of Homeland Defense and focusing on anti-terrorism tactics. Even with a cache of new members, the Joint Forces Team earned high praise from the trainers.

"That was significant," Johnson said. "It's also a good example to other agencies across the country that (combined teams) do work."

In addition to their joint team, Long Beach is also a part of an even larger association known as the Port Dive Operations Group.

The group consists of the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Fire Department, Los Angeles Port Police, Long Beach Police Department, Long Beach Fire Department, Long Beach Lifeguards, the U.S. Coast Guard, FBI and Customs.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sunday ship history: When the Japanese Attacked Oregon


After the various declarations of war that followed Pearl Harbor, the Germans began a devastating U-Boat campaign off the U.S. East Coast. On the West Coast, the Japanese also conducted some attacks, but, as will be seen, they were in no way close to being severe. On the other hand, one remarkable submarine, the I-25, was involved in a series of attacks that included launching an aircraft to drop fire bombs into the Oregon forests, shelling U.S. forts and attacking shipping in the Pacific. Most of the story is set out here, but here are a few highlights of the I-25's wartime career:
The I-25 was one of eleven Japanese submarines configured to carry a seaplane. The aircraft provided a unique reconnaissance capability, but could also carry two bombs. Although the plane-equipped submarines were primarily intended for reconnaissance and scouting missions, they were heavily armed and capable of surface and submerged attack.
***
The I-25 displaced 2,584 tons submerged, with a length of 356 feet. Its twin diesel engines and two propeller shafts were capable of providing a cruising range of over 14,000 miles. The submarine carried a crew of 97 men, including a pilot and crewman for the seaplane.

Armament included 17 torpedoes and a 5.5 inch deck gun, as well as two 25mm antiaircraft guns.

The seaplane was housed in a watertight hangar forward of the conning tower. The wings and floats were removed and the horizontal stabilizer folded up to fit in the hangar. Two launch rails extended from the hangar to the bow. A compressed-air catapult launched the reassembled plane. For recovery, the pilot landed on the surface, taxied to the submarine and was hoisted aboard.
During Pearl Harbor, the I-25 was standing by to launch her aircraft for battle damage assessment, however, her aircraft was damaged while transiting across the Pacific, and she was unable to fulfill her mission:
7 December 1941: Operation "Z" - The Attack on Pearl Harbor:
The I-25 patrols a line 120 miles NE of Pearl Harbor with the I-9, -15 and -17 during the attack. One of the primary tasks assigned to the I-25 is post-attack aerial reconnaissance; however, her Yokosuka E14Y1 "Glen" floatplane is damaged in transit making such a flight impossible.(Source)
She does attempt to chase the U.S. carrier Yorktown, but comes under air attack from planes from USS Enterprise and eventually is ordered to patrol off the U.S. West Coast near the Columbia River. On 27 December 1941, I-25 attacks an oil tanker, Connecticut, which, while hit, does not sink, but grounds itself off the Oregon coast. After patrols off Australia and New Zealand and various refittings, I-25 is sent to recon Dutch Harbor, Alaska as part of the pre-Midway feint desinged to split US forces. In June, 1942, she arrives again off the Oregon coast where she engages in activities designed to confuse and harass the Americans, including launching small floating fake periscopes, attacking shipping and, in a remarkable show of courage, shells Fort Stevens, one of the forts guarding the entrance to the Columbia River. See here:
On June 21, 1942, the Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-25 shells the U.S. Army's Fort Stevens coastal defenses on the Oregon side of the mouth of the Columbia River. The Japanese are retaliating for the U.S. bombing of Japan the prior April. The U.S. batteries do not return fire and there is no serious damage. The attack is the first enemy shelling of a U.S. mainland military installation since the War of 1812.

(Photo caption:
Soldiers and Japanese shell crater, Fort Stevens, Oregon, June 1942
Courtesy National Archives, (ARC 299678)

The mouth of the Columbia River was defended by three Army forts: Fort Stevens on the Oregon side and Forts Canby and Columbia on the Washington side. In 1942, Coast Artillery and National Guard units manned heavy guns and mortars dating from the turn of the twentieth century. The weapons covering the beaches dated from World War I.
***
On the evening of June 21, 1942, the I-25 used a screen of fishing boats to avoid minefields off the Columbia and took position off Fort Stevens. On the surface, the crew fired its 14 cm (5.5 inch) deck gun at the shore without taking aim. At the first shot, soldiers at the fort manned their guns and searchlights, and lookouts could see the sub firing. But the enemy ship was plotted (erroneously) to be out of the range, and the artillerymen never received permission to return fire. Also, the fort's commander did not want to give away the precise location of the defenses.

The I-25's shells fell harmlessly in the sand and scrub around Battery Russell, damaging only the baseball diamond backstop and a power line. One soldier cut his head rushing to his battle station. At about midnight, firing ceased and the sub departed to the west, then north.
The shelling of Oregon would be a remarkable feat on its own, but I-25 came back for more:
In the summer of 1942, the Japanese high command developed a plan to attack the dense forest in the Pacific Northwest. The Japanese hoped that a large forest fire would draw American attention to defense of the west coast and cause the U.S. Navy to reposition its Pacific fleet closer to the mainland. The I-25 was ordered to undertake this operation, and was provided with six incendiary bombs for the mission.

So began a very successful patrol for the I-25. The submarine departed Yokosuka on August 15, 1942, and arrived off the Port Orford Heads on the Oregon coast by early September in bad weather. By September 9, weather conditions had improved. The I-25 surfaced just before dawn and the Glen seaplane was assembled and readied for the attack. Fujita took off at sunrise and flew northeast toward the easily visible Cape Blanco lighthouse. After flying southeast for about 50 miles, Fujita dropped one of his two incendiary bombs on Mount Emily, releasing the second a few minutes later a several miles east of the first. The bad weather that had delayed his mission a few days earlier had saturated the woods, and rendered the bombs ineffective. Otherwise, the bombs could have started large forest fires.

After releasing the bombs, Fujita descended to low level and returned to the waiting submarine. A U.S. Army A-29 bomber aircraft on patrol from McChord Field in Tacoma spotted the submarine, now on the surface to recover Fujita’s aircraft. The A-29 attacked the submarine with several bombs, but only inflicted minor damage as the submarine dove to the relative safety of the ocean floor just west of Port Orford.

The captain of the I-25 mounted a second attempt to ignite a large fire in the Oregon forests. The submarine surfaced just after midnight on Tuesday, September 29, about 50 miles west of Cape Blanco. Although the entire west coast of Oregon was blacked out, the Cape Blanco lighthouse was still in operation. Using the light as a navigation beacon, Fujita flew east over the coast for about 90 minutes and dropped his bombs. Although Japanese Navy records indicate that Fujita observed flames on the ground after this attack, no traces of the attacks have ever been located. The only U.S. records of this attack were of an unidentified aircraft flying east of Port Orford.

The I-25 did not use its last two incendiary bombs, and reverted to torpedo attacks on American shipping. On Sunday, October 4, the submarine sank the freighter SS Camden off Coos Bay on the south Oregon coast; one crewman was killed. The following Tuesday, the I-25 was successful again, this time sinking the tanker SS Larry Doheny off Cape Sebastian. Two crewmen and four U.S. Navy Armed Guards manning guns on the Doheny were killed in the attack.
As noted in its history, the I-25 is also suspected of sinking "USS Grunion (SS-216) near Kiska in the Aleutian Islands" and "the Soviet submarine L-16 while the Russians were in transit from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to San Francisco."

I-25 continued her missions until her luck ran out:
On September 3, 1943, the U.S. Navy destroyers USS Ellet (DD-398) and USS Patterson (DD-392) sank the I-25 approximately 150 miles northeast of Espiritu Santo.
A remarkable ship and crew.

Thought you might like to know.

Friday, September 22, 2006

How much of a stock fall supports this headline?

The headline is Stocks fall amid pessimism about economy. At the time of the report, the Dow Jones Industrials were down .27%:
In midmorning trading, the Dow was down 31.30, or 0.27 percent, to 11,501.93, having dropped nearly 80 points on Thursday.
Let's see. .27% is equal to .0027. If you had $100, .0027 of it would be 27 cents, leaving you with $99.73. And the $100 got there by growing from some lesser amount. See the chart below provided by Chart of the Day:
COD says:
There are a lot of issues that are currently weighing on investors minds (i.e. weakening economy, relatively high prices, war and other geopolitical issues, etc.). Despite all these concerns, the market has managed to rally over the past few months and now trades near record highs. However, it should be noted that the Dow is also fast approaching the top of the trading channel that has been in existence since early 2004.
Yeah, well, I don't think I'll hit the panic button just yet.

Hezbollah's C-802 surprise


Navy League's Sea Power magazine take on the Hezbollah C-802 here:
Along with the Harpoon, the C-802 is considered one of the most effective antiship missiles in the world, and experts are quick to point out the significance of such a capability in the hands of terrorists.

“I think because [the attack on Hanit] was seen as an isolated incident, people think it is some kind of fluke, or they got lucky, or there was just one,” said Guy Ben-Ari, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “I don’t think that’s the case.”

Ben-Ari added that the prevalence of the C-802 around the world is the “$64,000” question.

“I think it’s anybody’s guess how many there are out there,” he said. “If they can operate one or two successfully, they can operate many successfully. If they target an Israeli ship one day, they can target an American ship.”
***
I don’t believe there are any Navy captains that believe they can’t protect their ships,” said Jim Wolf, program director for Phalanx Systems at Raytheon. “I think the Navy is fully capable to handle anything that might come its way.”

Without going into details, Cothron said there would be logical changes to force protection schemes in light of the Hanit attack.

“There certainly is awareness that this type of capability is there that wasn’t there before,” he said. “So commanders of all navies and merchant ship captains in the area will make changes that are appropriate to their own capabilities and based on their mission.”

Somalia's Islamists Hold First Public Execution

I'll bet it won't be the last: Somalia's Islamists Hold First Public Execution. For murder.

New Littoral Combat Ship Freedom to be christened


As set out here, the first Littoral Combat Ship Freedom will be christened on September 23.

Honoring Medal of Honor winner Paul Ray Smith, his wife, Birgit, is the ship's sponsor.
Freedom is the first of two LCS seaframes being produced. Freedom is an innovative combatant designed to operate quickly in shallow water environments to counter challenging threats in coastal regions, specifically mines, submarines and fast surface craft. The LCS is capable of speeds in excess of 40 knots and can operate in water less than 20 feet deep.

Freedom will be manned by one of two rotational crews, blue and gold, similar to the rotational crews assigned to Trident submarines. The crews will be augmented by one of three mission package crews during focused mission assignments. The blue crew commanding officer is Cmdr. Donald Gabrielson, who was born in northern Minnesota and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1989. The gold crew commanding officer is Cmdr. Michael Doran, who was born in Harrisonville, Mo., and graduated from Villanova University in 1989. Upon the ship�s commissioning in 2007, Freedom will be homeported at Naval Station San Diego.
God speed Freedom!

Also, news of one of the weapon systems to be available to the LCS class ships here:
Navy and Army officials held a contract signing ceremony at the Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala. Aug. 28 to signify the cooperation between the services in the joint procurement of the Netfires Non-Line-of-Sight Launch System (NLOS-LS). The Navy is procuring the NLOS-LS for use on Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) surface warfare mission module.

"The NLOS-LS system brings considerable capability to the Littoral Combat Ship Surface Warfare Mission Package, allowing precision engagement of multiple moving sea targets at ranges of up to 40 kilometers," said Capt. Walt Wright, program manager, Littoral Combat Ship Mission Modules (PMS 420), Program Executive Office Littoral and Mine Warfare (PEO LWM).
***
The Navy version of the NLOS-LS consists of the Raytheon-built Precision Attack Missile (PAM) and Lockheed Martin's joint Container Launch Unit (CLU). The PAM is a low-cost direct attack missile that is seven inches in diameter and weights about 117 pounds. It has a variable thrust rocket motor, dual-mode uncooled infrared/semi-active laser seeker, and a multi-mode warhead. Two-way data links on the PAM allows the missile to be re-tasked in flight and to down-link images of targets. The CLU contains 16 missile tubes in a 4 by 4 configuration. One missile tube is used for command and control and the other 15 tubes contain missiles.

The LCS will have a modular weapons bay built into the ship that will contain four CLUs for a total of 60 missiles. Once all missiles are expended, the CLUs can be removed and new units can be installed to replace them.
More on NLOS-LS here.

Testing anti-torpedo technology


One of the biggest threats to a surface ship is the torpedo. Some modern technology is being tested to help counter that threat, as reported here:
The tests conducted during the underway period involved firing more than 25 disarmed torpedo volleys at BHR that were detected by both the U.K. SEA SENTOR and the U.S. TRAPR DCL system while the ship conducted high-speed maneuvers. SEA SENTOR provided the ship with several options to evade the torpedoes, and the data collected by the TRAPR system gave testers a wealth of information to improve the system.

“A single torpedo can be extremely deadly and can sink a large ship,” said David Howard, vice president, Ultra Electronics Ocean Systems. “So having a system that can defend thousands of Sailors and Marines from torpedo attacks is very important to us.”
Cool.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

I repeat: Make Voting Harder

As another election nears, I say again: Make Voting Harder!

UPDATE: Read Don Surber on why some people don't want voters properly registered and identified here.

Hat tip: Instapundit.

What kind of week is this lawyer having?

Here's a hint:




Personal responsibility?

How old fashioned.

Sea Robber reports


With the decline in pirate attacks off Somalia and in the Strait of Malacca, the latest reports of ICC Commercial Crime Services and ONI's Worldwide Threat to Shipping are mostly about "sea robbers" who board ships to rob the crew or to pilfer small, easily transportable objects as seen here and here.

Of course, the reasons for the decline vary from the imposition of some sort of order to Somalia to the regional cooperation of the Malacca Srait littoral countries. Bangladesh seems to be hot bed of anchored ships being boarded by robbers in the wee hours of the morning. There was this brazen attack, though, attempted while cargo operations were being conducted
2. BANGLADESH: Bulk carrier approached 16 Sep at 0200 local
time in position 22:16.94N – 091:43.08E at Chittagong anchorage
‘a’. Four robbers in a small motorboat approached ship at stern
during cargo operations. Three robbers jumped off the boat and
clung themselves down the rudder/propeller while the boat moved
away. Alert crew mustered and master turned the propeller.
robbers jumped off from the rudder post and were picked by their
boat. Master called port control but received no response (IMB).

A bad day on the Bay of Bengal: 3000 missing


Reported here:
Over 3000 fishermen and a naval commander went missing as a naval ship, about 630 trawlers and 25 boats capsized in the Bay of Bengal when violent storms hit the sea and the country's coastal belt Tuesday evening.

In Bagerhat, over 300 fishermen and a naval commander were missing as some 100 fishing trawlers and a naval ship capsized in the Bay of southern Bangladesh during a sudden storm Tuesday evening.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Fishy terrorism defenders: Bluegills on watch for you

bluegill

Keeping an eye on domestic water supplies for terroristist introduced "bad stuff' are bluegills, as reported here:
San Francisco, New York, Washington and other big cities are using bluegills — also known as sunfish or bream — as a sort of canary in a coal mine to safeguard their drinking water.

Small numbers of the fish are kept in tanks constantly replenished with water from the municipal supply, and sensors in each tank work around the clock to register changes in the breathing, heartbeat and swimming patterns of the bluegills that occur in the presence of toxins.

"Nature's given us pretty much the most powerful and reliable early warning center out there," said Bill Lawler, co-founder of Intelligent Automation Corporation, a Southern California company that makes and sells the bluegill monitoring system. "There's no known manmade sensor that can do the same job as the bluegill."
Plus they are fun to catch and you can eat them, too.

UPDATE: How long before PETA complains?

UPDATE2: Added bluegill photo from Flickr since I can't seem to get the Blogger photo thing to work.

"Boat trap" contract

Reported here:
Boat Trap is a non-lethal, ballistic net that is deployed from a helicopter into the path of a threatening watercraft traveling at a high rate of speed. This net-based propeller entangling system ensnares the propellers of a target speedboat, causing the craft to immediately stop.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The development of the "Combat Defense Lawyer"

From an interesting piece by Brendan Miniter on the Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal (here titled "When Mirand Met Osama":
When I met with Mr. Hunter, it was impossible to foresee the kerfuffle over a letter that had not yet been written. But the chairman pointed out that it was a JAG (though not one of the officers who signed the letter), who persuaded him to support the president's legislation. In setting up terrorist tribunals the administration has two options. It can adopt the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the same body of law used to court-martial soldiers, in its entirety or with certain exceptions. This is the path Sens. Graham and McCain want the administration to take. Or it can write a new set of laws specifically designed to handle unlawful combatants.

Before making up his mind on which direction the administration should take, Mr. Hunter asked military officials testifying before his committee a very simple question: If terrorists apprehended on the battlefield are to be tried under the UCMJ, when will the right to an attorney kick in? The answer, Mr. Hunter learned, is about when soldiers have a suspected al Qaeda operative "spread eagled over the hood" of a HMVEE. It was clear to him then that the legal code for military tribunals "has to be something custom made for the war on terror."
Somewhere out there the gods of law are laughing their heads off.

Soon, in a combat theater near you, the 82nd Airborne will be dropped into combat against terrorists. Additional aircraft will drop into combat the 666th Combat Defense Attorney Brigade (the legendary C-DABS). As each trooper in the 82nd lines up a shot at a terrorist aiming at him, one set of the 666th CDAB attorneys will file a motion with the Combat Field Judge asserting that the trooper is about to violate the rights of the jihadist at whom he is aiming. The trooper's counsel will point out the imminent danger faced by his client and will assert "self defense" - meanwhile, the jihadist is blazing away at the trooper, ignoring the temporary injunction papers being waved at him by the Combat Marshal.

Other members of the terrorist group are gunning down members of the 666th Brigade as they try to present their business cards and establish an attorney-client relationship. Eventually the terrorists run out of ammunition only to discover that their AK-47s have not come close to being able to damage the American military as will the legal system about to invoked on their behalf by American law.

CDAB deaths will always be high, but given the ever-increasing number of American law schools cranking out an endless stream of unnecessary attorneys looking for work, the losses will be quickly replaced.

IMO: Only pirates should have guns

Armed merchant ships as an anti-piracy measure? Oh, no, says secretary-general of the International Maritime Organization, that would be bad- right here:
The chief of the world maritime body made a strong plea on Tuesday for merchant ships travelling in pirate-infested waters to resist the temptation of carrying firearms to fight off attacks.

Efthimios Mitropoulos, secretary-general of the International Maritime Organisation, said vessels that carried such weapons could make themselves targets of pirates hoping to seize the guns and use them for unlawful purposes.

"Merchant ships should not carry firearms for a number of reasons," Mitropoulos told Reuters in describing the IMO's concern over a growing trend among commercial shippers to hire private security firms for protection in pirate-infested waters.
***
Apart from the prospect of the weapons being a lure for pirates, risks also arose from the need to train people in the use of firearms and the chance that they might kill others if they took excessive steps in defence, Mitropoulos said.

"So you may aggravate things rather than doing what you want, which is to prevent pirates from attacking ships in the first place," he added. "So, for all these reasons, the position of the IMO is that merchant ships should not carry firearms."

Today is --Talk Like A Pirate Day!


Astonish your friends, confound your enemies and confuse everyone because, Matey, today be Talk Like A Pirate Day. Arrrr!

Some people may not be amused, like this prig from the Huffpo:
Yes, I know it is only entertainment, and a campy sort as that, but why the hell are we romanticizing the deeds and cadence of pirates?

I'll say this just once. Pirates were, and are, bad people. Then and now. They were- and are- bandits, terrorists of the sea.
Get a plank. Or a humor transplant.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Interim Somali leader survives bomb

Reported here, some one's attempt to make the word "interim" mean "former"...:
At least 11 people have died in an apparent bid to assassinate Somalia's interim president outside parliament in the town of Baidoa, say officials.

A suspected car bomb went off soon after a convoy left carrying President Abdullahi Yusuf. The leader is said to be unharmed but his brother was killed.

A second blast went off near the first, setting at least five cars ablaze.
***
Somali Foreign Minister Ismail Hurre said the attack had been an assassination attempt on the president.

"Five people were killed from the presidential convoy and three wounded," the minister told reporters in the Kenyan capital.

"Six attackers were also killed and two captured."

He said he did not want to speculate on who was behind the attacks but said whoever was responsible wanted peace talks with the UIC set for 30 September to fail.
***
Somali Foreign Minister Ismail Hurre said the attack had been an assassination attempt on the president.

"Five people were killed from the presidential convoy and three wounded," the minister told reporters in the Kenyan capital.

"Six attackers were also killed and two captured."

He said he did not want to speculate on who was behind the attacks but said whoever was responsible wanted peace talks with the UIC set for 30 September to fail.
Two blasts in a short period of time is sort of an al Qaeda tactic.

Somalia is still a mess.

Maritime Monday at Fred Fry International

It's Number 27 and will have to last two weeks ('cause old Fred is taking some time off), but it's always worth visiting. It's Fred Fry International: Maritime Monday 27!

450 kilos of ammonium nitrate taken off Philippines ferry

Reported here:
The Philippine Coast Guard and police seized 450 kilos of ammonium nitrate from a ferry docked at the Zamboanga City port Monday morning.

The chemicals were discovered around 6 a.m. inside nine sacks on board the MV Katrina. Crewmen claimed the sacks were containing dried fish.

Authorities believe the chemicals will be used illegally since no documents support its shipment.

Six crewmen including the captain of the vessel have been taken to Zamboanga City police station for questioning. The ship's cargo checker was also detained at the port police office.
Another source says it was 600 kilos tied allegedly "Sayyaf-owned". See here:
Ammonium nitrate is a fertilizer for farmers, but lawless elements, like the Abu Sayyaf, are using it to manufacture bombs.

Echeveria said the ammonium nitrate was packed in 24 sacks of 25 kilograms each. No one among the passengers claimed ownership of the cargo.

The boat's checker was placed under investigation when it appeared that he has knowledge about the shipment of the ammonium nitrate.

Monday's discovery came less than a month after military forces recovered 10 sacks of ammonium nitrate in Patikul, Sulu.

The chemicals were recovered by military troops pursuing the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf in the area.

The boat was held just minutes after it arrived in Zamboanga from Jolo, where security forces are battling members of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group.

Aside from the cargo inspector, four policemen assigned in Jolo were held for questioning in connection with the illegal cargo, said Major Frank Clavecillas, commander of the port police in Zamboanga City.

"This is definitely intended for terrorism; a ton of this chemical can make a lot of homemade bombs," he said, referring to the 20 sacks of ammonium nitrate his group seized.

He said the cargo inspector tried to escape by jumping from the ferry, but he was later arrested after a long chase inside the port area.

"We have intelligence report that the cargo is intended for the Abu Sayyaf group, which is planning to bomb civilian targets next month in time for the celebration of the Fiesta Pilar in Zamboanga City," he said.

"We have tightened security in Zamboanga port and is closely coordinating with law enforcement agencies to prevent the entry of explosives or bombs in Zamboanga," Clavecillas said.

Solar 1 sinking off Philippines: Overloading, bad weather, bad captain

Inquiry into the sinking of the tanker Solar 1 says here:
...the Special Board of Marine Inquiry looking into the sinking of the tanker Solar 1 blamed the incident on overloading, bad weather and an incompetent ship captain. The findings of the board were released Thursday by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC). The DOTC said the Solar 1’s captain, Norberto Aguro, the ship’s owner Sunshine Maritime Corp. and Petron are to be held liable for the sinking of the tanker that has resulted in the country’s worst environmental disaster. The sunken Solar 1 released close to half a million gallons of oil into the waters of Guimaras Strait. The oil has contaminated coastline in Guimaras and idled fishing communities. The board said the ship suffered from a loss of reserve buoyancy because it was overloaded by approximately 150 tons, as determined from the ship’s load line, or the free space a vessel must maintain for safety.
Ouch.

Original Manila Times article here:
DOTC Secretary Leandro R. Mendoza said the Solar 1’s captain, Norberto Aguro, the ship’s owner Sunshine Maritime Corp. and Petron are to be held liable for the sinking of the tanker that has resulted in the country’s worst environmental disaster.

“Based on the findings of the SBMI, the master of the ship and the Sunshine Maritime is administratively liable for the vessels sinking. I have ordered their suspension,” Mendoza said.

Petron, who contracted the tanker, “is liable for overloading the vessel and rendering it unseaworthy,” he said.


An earlier report mentioned indictments:
The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday recommended the indictment of the Filipino and Japanese incorporators and officers of Sunshine Maritime Development Corporation (SMDC), owner of the oil tanker that sunk off Guimaras Island, for possible violation of the anti-dummy law.
And another report says the load was within limits:
REPRESENTATIVES from the Maritime Industry Authority on Tuesday defended the amount of load it allowed the Solar I tanker to carry, saying that it was still within allowable limits.

But a member of the Special Board of Marine Inquiry believed that letting the Solar I carry more load affected its stability and contributed to its sinking on August 11 while loaded with 2.1 million liters of oil.

The incident caused a massive oil spill that affected Guimaras and Iloilo.

Marina naval architect Carlos Odi testified Tuesday that the tanker’s Marina-approved freeboard, which refers to the distance between the main deck of the vessel and the portion of it level with the water line, was within the allowed limit and also let the tanker carry more load and earn more revenue.

The Marina-approved freeboard was lower than that specified by private classification society Bureau Veritas, which had inspected the tanker. A higher freeboard means there should be less load on the vessel.

When asked during the SBMI hearing what he thought was the effect of adding more load to the Solar I, Odi answered: “I think that is the revenue.”

He said that with the Marina-approved freeboard, the tanker could have a 98 percent load, whereas with the Bureau Veritas freeboard, the load was only 70 percent.

Malaysia: Everybody can help make the Strait of Malacca safer

Reported here:
Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore have welcomed state users and stakeholders of the Melaka Straits to participate to enhance safety, security and environmental protection in the international waterway, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Monday.

The Deputy Prime Minister said state users and stakeholders could contribute in ensuring the straits' safety by collaborating and sharing resources with the three littoral states.

Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore have taken steps to ensure state users' security in collaboration with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

"The security efforts have indicated positive results," he told reporters after opening the Straits of Melaka and Singapore three-day meeting themed "Enhancing Safety, Security and Environmental Protection".

The three countries have beefed up security precautions to protect the straits from piracy and possible terrorist attacks as it is regarded as the maritime corridor for international merchant ships.

For the past two years littoral states have been cooperating by carrying out coordinated patrols and taking part in the "eyes in the sky" aerial surveillance programme.

Najib said piracies reported in the straits had dwindled from 38 cases in 2004 to 18 last year and only three cases in the first half of this year.
***
Najib said at the moment there was no intelligence report indicating any imminent terrorist attack.

IMO secretary-general Efthimos E. Mitropoulos, in his keynote address, said littoral states should not be complacent on security.

Later at a joint press conference with Najib, Mitropoulos said the IMO and the littoral states were cooperating to develop a system called Maritime Electronic Highway.

"It is a state-of-the-art navigation and communication system to ensure the straits' safety," he added.

The system, costing US$6.86 million, will automatically identify any ship entering the straits and improve navigation maritime system.

It will also be equipped with long-range tracking system..
Constant improvement, that's the key...

Interesting tale of the oil business on a local scale

Life as a distributor in rapidly changing times found here.
With that kind of volume, even minor changes in gas prices can have a huge impact on the company’s profitability. Recent volatility in the petroleum market also increases the uncertainty.

“This is probably the most volatile market I’ve seen in 36 years,” Herron said. “In the old days, the oil companies would send you a telegram and give you two weeks notice for a price change. Now, we get multiple price changes in a day.”
The times they are a'changing.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Tamil Tiger arms ship sunk?


Terrorist force rearming ship taken down by Sri Lanka navy, air force :
Sri Lanka's navy and air force in a joint operation destroyed and sank a large vessel believed to be carrying weapons and ammunition for Tamil rebels, killing an unspecified number onboard, a defence ministry spokesman said Sunday. The vessel was destroyed 100 nautical miles off the coastal town of Kalmunai, 240 kilometres east of the capital, on Sunday after those onboard failed to respond to warnings by the navy, the spokesman said.

Large quantities of weapons and ammunition, including artillery, were believed to be onboard the vessel when it was destroyed, the spokesman said.
***
Tamil rebels and government troops have been fighting each other during the past 10 months in the north and eastern parts of Sri Lanka, leaving over 2,000 from both sides as well as civilians dead while prospects of reopening peace talks under a Norwegian backed peace process have been diminishing.
More here from the Sri Lankan government point of view:
The vessel sailing in deep seas around one hundred nautical miles off Kalmunai without a flag was detected by the Navy around 7.30 a.m. today. The ship had completely ignored the warning shots fired by the Navy patrol craft to stop. Instead the vessel had opened fire towards the Navy craft. Subsequently the Navy with the assistance of the Air Force destroyed and sunk the suspected vessel.

It is now confirmed that the vessel had illegally carried weapons and ammunition for the LTTE. The LTTE's continuous attempts to acquire weapons and ammunition during the past failed due to measures taken by foreign countries. This incident is a clear indication that the LTTE has not stopped their attempts in procuring arms and ammunition to further their terrorist activities.

Sunday Ship History: Q-ships



Until recently, the number of pirate attacks in the waters off Somalia or in the Malacca Strait appeared to be escalating in both number and in threat level. Instead of simple boardings to rob crew or steal ship supplies, the pirates were beginning to seize entire ships and seek ransom for the ship and crews (Somalia style piracy) or steal the entire cargo and/or the ship for later sale (as happened in some Malacca cases). As I have been commenting on piracy, a couple of readers have suggested that one means of defeating pirates might be the use of "Q-ships." A "Q-ship," for these purposes,being an ostensibly harmless merchant or fishing vessel which, surprise, surprise, is actually a heavy armed ship with enough firepower to overwhelm any attacker and turn the tables, as it were, on would be pirates.

As set out here, Q-ships came into use during World War I:
When the U-boats [German submarines] were at their worst in World War I, the British Admiralty approved and authorized the conversion of merchant vessels to heavily armed raiders which would have her guns disguised or concealed in such a way that the merchant vessels might serve as decoys which would encourage U-boats to attack them. Then, provided the disguised merchant vessel had been given sufficient buoyancy, so that one or two torpedoes would be unable to sink her, the disguise was to be thrown off, the guns brought to bear, the U-boat sunk.
Of course, the key element was surprise:
The entire effectiveness of the enterprise depended on the successful use of surprise, and once the U-boats were aware of the ruse, the chances of success were so greatly reduced that only a few ingenious Commanding Officers were able to conduct Q-ship campaigns throughout the remainder of World War I with any distinction.
For a variety of reasons, the British did not use Q-ships during World War II, but the American Navy, faced with massive losses of commercial shipping off the U.S. East Coast - from January to June 1942, a total of 397 ships were sunk - decided to give Q-ships a try. For an excellent read about this period, I recommend Homer Hickam's Torpedo Junction: U-Boat War Off America's East Coast 1942.

Unfortunately, one of the first of the American Q-ships, USS Atik (AK-101)(top photo) was sunk by a submarine while the Q vessel was on its first cruise after refitting into a warship. The results were set out in the pages of the New York Times:
The next piece of information came from Berlin on April 9, 1942, in the form of a broadcast recorded by the Associated Press in New York. It was printed in the New York Times on the following day, April 10, 1942:

"The High Command said today that a Q-boat--a heavily armed ship disguised as an unarmed vessel--was among 13 vessels sunk off the American Atlantic coast and that it was sent to the bottom by a submarine only after a `bitter battle.' (In the last war, Q-boats accounted for many submarines which slipped up on them thinking they were easy prey. When the submarines came into range, false structures on the Q-boats were collapsed, revealing an array of guns.)"

"The Q-boat, the communique said, 'was of 3,000 tons and was sunk by a torpedo after a battle 'fought partly on the surface with artillery and partly beneath the water with bombs and torpedoes.'"
As the Navy history notes:
So far as United States Q-ships were concerned in World War II, this was the first and the last action with U-boats which produced any positive results. It appears from this unfortunate beginning that the Germans were well aware of Q-ship possibilities; that the element of surprise which had made this type of vessel effective against submarines in World War I had been so completely lost that the Q-ship had become something of an anachronism.
In addition, Q-ship duty was hazardous, as noted in the bibliography of the Navy article (citing Samuel Eliot Morison):
Morison observes that 148 personnel, 1/4 of all personnel involved in the program, died, making it the most hazardous branch of the Navy.
For another Q-ship saga, see here for information on USS Asterion (second photo). Q-ships simply didn't work against a thinking opponent.


Using a Q-ship for anti-piracy work seems to me to be dubious proposition at best. Having a specially outfitted vessel means the element of surprise might easily be surrendered if the same ship "trawls" the same pirate-infested waters too frequently. Further, these modern pirates use small teams of men in small boats, which may be easily replaced by the "pirate kings" without risk of more expensive ships or the "brains" of the pirate operation. The costs of the operation of an anti-pirate Q-ship would be high, and it difficult to think of any entity that would step up to pay those costs, especially if there are less expensive options, including increasing crew awareness in high risk areas (read the reports- most attempted boardings of ships traveling through the Strait of Malacca are thwarted by alert crews armed with powerful fire hoses). In addition, since many pirate attacks take place in territorial waters, there is the question of having the legal right to respond to what is felt to be an attack while in a state's waters as opposed to being on the high seas. See here.

Some escort services in the Strait of Malacca have caused the adjoining littoral states to assert that the escorts have no right to engage "sea robbers" (the proper term for pirates found inside the waters of a state and not on the high sea). See here. The more popular solution seems to be providing security personnel to ride ships transiting dangerous waters.

In sum, Q-ships were a moderately good idea once for a short period of time. In today's world, there is no use for such a vessel.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Yemen foils attacks on oil facilities


Reported here:
Yemeni authorities say security forces have foiled two separate suicide attacks on oil installations, killing all four attackers.

Officials say one security guard was also killed in the exchange of gunfire at one of the installations.

They say the attackers using booby-trapped vehicles and dressed as oil workers tried to hit the facilities during the change of shifts early Friday morning.

They say the targets were the refinery in Mareb province and the storage deport at the Al-Dubba port in the province of Haramut.

Say "Good-bye" to the Dolphin


Small ship, tight crew and a parting of the ways as set out here:
USS Dolphin (AGSS 555) completed her final cruise Sept. 9 when she tied to the pier at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center San Diego.

During the underway, the diesel-electric powered test and research submarine made her 1,560th and final dive to a depth exceeding 3,000 ft.

"It's bittersweet," said Chief of the Boat, Master Chief Missile Technician Joe Eller. "Last night, we sat up on the bridge and today we drove her in. We had a good cry this morning down in the engine room. I didn't think I would miss it, but I will miss it."

The submarine was commissioned in 1968 and is the sixth oldest ship in the fleet. Dolphin was designed for research, development, test and evaluation and is one of the worldís deepest diving submarines with a maximum operating depth in excess of 3,000 ft.

A couple of historically interesting ships up for adoption




Notice of Availability for Donation of the Test Craft Ex-SEA SHADOW (IX-529) and Hughes Mining Barge (HMB-1):
The Department of the Navy hereby gives notice of the
availability for donation, under the authority of 10 U.S.C. 7306, of
the Test Craft ex-SEA SHADOW (IX 529) and the Hughes Mining Barge (HMB-
1), both located at the Maritime Administration's Suisun Bay National
Defense Reserve Fleet, Benicia, CA. Ex-SEA SHADOW is contained inside
HMB-1, which is a covered floating dry-dock, and is being offered for
donation as a single unit. The donee may display the two vessels as
currently configured as a single unit, or display them individually. In
either case, the Navy intends to donate the two vessels as a single
unit and the donee will be required to remove the two vessels from Navy
custody as a unit. Eligible recipients include: (1) Any State,
Commonwealth, or possession of the United States or any municipal
corporation or political subdivision thereof; (2) the District of
Columbia; or (3) any organization incorporated as a non-profit entity
under section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Senate acts, Port Security to go to conference


As set out here, Port Security is going to conference between the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House:
The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted unanimously to strengthen security at American seaports, but refused to set a deadline for overseas scanning of U.S.-bound cargo for nuclear weapons.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar bill in May, and the two chambers must now negotiate a consensus version.
***
The bill approved by the Senate 98-0 requires the government to finish installing radiation-screening equipment at major U.S. ports by the end of 2007 to detect nuclear or "dirty bombs," which combine conventional explosives and radioactive material. It authorizes some $3.5 billion for port security spending, aides said.

But the overwhelming vote masked election-year wrangling of recent days, as each party sought to claim the high ground with voters on the key issue of national security. Provisions to boost rail and mass transit security were added.
***
The Senate, controlled by Bush's Republicans, voted 61-37 earlier to scrap a Democratic proposal for a four-year deadline for scanning all U.S.-bound cargo while still overseas. Such a deadline is also opposed by the shipping industry and the Republican majority in the House.
Of course, my favorite stuff comes from Senator Schumer, always on the look out for his constituents:
New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer, who sought the deadline, said that it was not enough to install radiation detection devices at home.

He said other countries should install scanning systems that capture an image of contents of U.S.-bound container ships to help inspectors spot suspicious cargo. Shipping companies could pay the cost, about $8 per container, Schumer said.

"We all know we have to push this outward. If a nuclear weapon (explodes) on a ship in New York, and has not yet been unloaded onto a truck, the same terrible consequences exist for the people of New York," Schumer said. (emphasis added)
I am unclear as what difference it makes whether the nuclear weapon is on a ship or on a truck as far as "terrible consequences" that might be suffered by New Yorkers.

I also know, as Mr. Schumer seems to forget, that the costs of screening containers will be borne by the consumers, not the shipping companies, who will just pass their costs along.

UPDATE: Of course, there is this:
Finally, even if container security proves completely effective, it will not make America safe, not even from weapons of mass destruction entering from the sea. One can horrifically imagine, in vivid detail, a glorious oceangoing yacht sailing on a beautiful day into Miami, or Los Angeles, with bikini-clad fashion models and packs of photographers cavorting on deck: Scores of small sailboats circle, stare, and wave, while down below, someone sets off the nuke.
From "4. Boom Boxes: Containers and Terrorism" by Stephen S. Cohen, Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy (BRIE), University of California, Berkeley, published in Protecting the Nation’s Seaports: Balancing Security and Cost Editors: Jon D. Haveman and Howard J. Shatz (2006), Copyright © 2006 by Public Policy Institute of California

UPDATE2: And, of course, this small problem:
With passage Thursday, the Senate version of the bill must now be reconciled with the House's. While the bills are similar in many ways, it may be difficult to finish work before Congress adjourns for the year, lawmakers said.

If that happens, bill would have to be reintroduced next year when a new Congress convenes.
You know, then:
Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do, crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see

Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind
Kansas. And Bill & Ted.

Russia breaks "blockade" with sea route to Kalingrad


Kalingrad is a Russian outpost isolated from Mother Russia by Lithuaninia and due to a spat between Vilnius and Moscow, was in danger of being cut off from Russia by land. But, as reported here, a sea route and ferry service has been implemented to break the "blockade":
Russia has broken what it regarded as an unfriendly European Union blockade of Kaliningrad by opening a sea route to connect the heavily militarised Russian enclave with "the motherland" for the first time.

A sliver of Russian territory sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania, Kaliningrad found itself marooned hundreds of miles from the Russian mainland when the two countries joined the EU in 2004.

Since then the enclave has been a source of tension between Moscow and Brussels, with Russia arguing that its access to the region is hampered by Lithuania's government, with which it enjoys frosty relations.

Russia's fears were compounded recently when Vilnius threatened to close the main rail route into Kaliningrad "for repairs" in a tit-for-tat row with Moscow over oil supplies. Moscow is therefore billing the new twice-weekly ferry service as an antidote to what has been sarcastically called a new iron or "blue" curtain (the colour of the European Union flag). From now on the Kremlin will be able to supply its most westerly region via a one-day sea route stretching across the Baltic Sea from the port of Baltiisk in the Kaliningrad region to the port of Ust-Luga in the Leningrad region, near St Petersburg.
"Blue Curtain". Heh.

It should be noted that Kalingrad is described as "heavily militarized."

New Navy Riverines get more training


Reported here:
Sixty Sailors from Riverine Squadron (RIVRON) 1, a Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), successfully completed the first of two phases of small unit riverine craft (SURC) training through the Special Missions Training Center (SMTC) at Camp Lejeune along the water banks of Cape Fear River Sept. 10.

The seven-week training lesson with a week of exercises is known as the coxswain course. The program teaches the basics of maneuvering SURC on rivers with the weaponry system element added, to properly plan and execute missions.

“The final exercise for the boat coxswain and captain courses basically teaches the Sailors to go from a basic level of knowledge of Marine Corps infantry skill sets, to developing them into riverine operators, teaching them tactics, techniques, procedures, knowledge of the waterways and things they are likely to encounter,” said Marine Corps Maj. Roberto Martinez, commanding officer, SMTC.



Photo:
Riverine Squadron One (RIVRON-1) conducts an operational training mission along the banks of the Cape Fear River at Camp Lejeune. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kenneth R. Hendrix

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Somali businessmen decide not to form an anti-piracy force


Decision reported here:
The Somalian Business Council (SBC) in Dubai has dropped its plan to deploy a ‘private armed force’ to protect UAE vessels from pirates in the Somalian territorial waters.

The decision came in the light of the latest political development in Somalia wherein the Shariah Court has taken control over the major parts of Somalian territory, including the capital Mogadishu. The Somalian Business Council in Dubai had decided three months ago to deploy a ‘private armed force’ in Somalian territorial waters following two UAE ships hijacked by pirates there.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Sheriff Ahmed, Somalian Business Council’s Chairman in Dubai said: “We have been monitoring the developments in Somalia after the Shariah Court took power three months ago. The situation now is much better than before. The main problem makers were the pirates, and the Shariah Court has managed to send them out of the country, while all their bases are under the control of the court.”

Chevron supply ship attacked off Nigeria- 1 dead


Reported here:
Militants yesterday attacked a Chevron supply vessel, leaving one person killed and others seriously injured in yet another of several attacks on oil facilities and personnel in the oil rich Niger Delta region where oil workers have embarked on a three day warning strike action.