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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

More on the Tamil Tigers


From here:
The Sri Lankan naval craft today attacked a suspected Tamil Tiger gun running vessel off the island's southern coast, a naval spokesman said.

The navy detected the boast off Dondra and despite repeated warnings to change course and arrive at a port for inspection, the vessel tried to get away, the spokesman said.

He said the vessel began firing at the navy when it fired warning shots.

"There were some explosions aboard the suspicious vessel and we think they were transporting weapons and explosives," the spokesman said.
All well and good, but buried deeper is this:
The clash came one day after the Tigers shelled two military helicopters carrying ambassadors from France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States, European Union and the heads of UN agencies.

The Italian and US ambassadors and the UN resident coordinator were lightly injured.
More on that attack here:
Ambassadors from Italy and the US were injured by artillery shrapnel yesterday after Tamil Tiger rebels shelled their helicopter seconds after it landed in eastern Sri Lanka on a fact-finding mission.

The attack - the first against Western diplomatic personnel since Sri Lanka's civil war began in 1983 - comes amid seven months of escalating fighting between rebels and government troops.

The ambassadors of Canada, France, Germany, Japan were also on the flight but escaped unscathed as the shells fell on a disused playground outside the eastern town of Batticaloa. Up to 12 Sri Lankan security personnel were injured.

Hospital officials said that the Italian Ambassador, Pio Mariani, had a piece of shrapnel removed from his head, but that the metal had not penetrated his skull. US Ambassador Robert Blake was treated for a slight graze to his arm.

Both men were later described as "fine" by officials, however the attack drew an angry response from the Sri Lankan government who ordered a series of air-strikes against rebel positions later in the day.

The Tamil Tigers expressed 'deep regret' at the incident, but blamed the Sri Lankan military for failing to advise them that diplomats were in the area. The Sri Lankan government described the attack as "deliberate".

Latest ICC CCS Piracy Report (to 27 Feb 07)

Latest ICC Commercial Crime Services Piracy Report (to 27 Feb 07) here:
Recently reported incidents
*25.02.2007 0603 UTC in position 11:50N - 051:35E, North East Somalia.
Pirates attacked a general cargo ship underway. Vessel under control of armed pirates is believed to have been hijacked. Negotiations for the vessel’s release are under way.

*18.02.2007 0100 LT in position : 06:16.2S - 108:27.7E at SBM Balongan, Indonesia.
Four robbers armed with knives boarded a tanker discharging at a SBM. They entered the engine room. They were noticed by the duty oiler who Informed the duty officer. The alarm was raised and crew alerted. The robbers escaped empty handed. The crew mustered and a search was carried out but found nothing stolen.

*03.02.2007 0245 LT in position 06:03.0N - 003:25.5E, Lagos Roads, Nigeria.
Five pirates armed with guns boarded a tanker drifting 20 miles off the breakwaters. Pirates threatened the duty AB at forward station by pointing a gun at him.
They entered the bosun store. Other duty crew informed OOW who raised the alarm.
Crew mustered. Port control informed but call ignored. Pirates stole ship's stores and escaped in a motor canoe. No one was injured
The first item refers to the capture by Somali pirates of MV Rozen, a UN chartered food ship. See here and here.

ONI Worldwide Threat to Shipping Report (to 21 Feb 07)


Found here. Highlights include news about the LTTE Tamil Tiger operations at sea:
7. INDIA: The Indian Coast Guard seized a suspected LTTE explosive
laden boat 14 Feb, off the Chennai Coast in the Palk Straits at Kodikarai. Two
Indians and three Sri Lankan nationals who were in the boat were arrested. Arms
such as an AK-56 rifle, five hand grenades, one 24 rounds of AK 56, one explosives
vest weighing around 7.5 KG and some chemicals were found on the laden boat (LM: timesnow.com).
.
8. INDIA: The Indian Navy seized boat carrying explosives 13 Feb, off the
Rameswaram Coast. A boat carrying about 100kg of explosives, which could be
used in making land and sea mines, has been seized by the Indian Navy. The seizure
included IED, fuse wire, steel clips, remote control equipment, steel washers and
aluminum plates, worth several lakhs of rupees, according to police. The boat with
a high-power motor, was en route to Talaimannar from Tuticorin on the evening
of 12 Feb when a naval patrol vessel intercepted it after it tried to speed away
while ignoring signals. Two person on board have been arrested and stated that
Tuticorin based LTTE militants’ agents had requested them to ferry the boat until it
reached LTTE territory (LM: NDTV.com).
.
9. SRI LANKA: The Sri Lankan Coast Guard destroyed a seized LTTE boat
20 Feb, Chennai. The Coast Guard seized the LTTE boat on 13 Feb; at mid sea
after finding that the gap between the fibre sheets of the boat was packed with
gunpowder and could explode at any time. The boat was towed by the Coast
Guard to open water to be blown up. Five persons on board were arrested. During
questioning it was said that the boat was packed with ammunition, which could
be blown up anytime using a hidden switch which was found after a thorough search
of the ship (LM: The Hindu).
.
10. SRI LANKA: The Sri Lankan Navy destroyed two suspected LTTE boats
15 Feb, Colombo. The boats were hauling hundreds of thousands of steel balls
often used in bombs. Four rebel fighters were believed to be killed. A Navy
spokesman reported that divers retrieved 28 bags filled with the steel balls from
the sunken boats. Also found was an automatic rifle, ammunition and a satellite
phone from the boats. No immediate comment on the sea battle was available
from the LTTE (AP).
.
11. SRI LANKA: Sri Lanka’s Navy destroyed one suspected LTTE boat and
damaged another 12 Feb before dawn, 25 miles north of Trincomalee. The
Naval patrol along the Eastern coast observed two suspicious boats moving
southwards around 0430 local time. When approached, the suspicious boats
fired upon the navy. The Sri Lankan Navy patrol returned fire and
completely destroying a boat and severely damaging the other. The
boats were equipped with machines guns and 85 horsepower out board
motors. It was unclear how many people were aboard the boats but it is
suspected that at least 10 LTTE members were killed (REUTERS).
.
12. SRI LANKA: Container ship sustained blast damage 27 Jan, at
0530 local time in position 07:01.38N – 079:39.22E, Colombo Roads.
At 0530, a guard at a lighthouse spotted three vessels in a restricted zone.
According to a military spokesman, as the boats approached Colombo
harbor, they were told to stop, but failed to do so. Meanwhile, as the
container ship (PALAPONESIA PRIDE) was waiting for pilot, the
port control instructed the master to proceed to open sea at full speed.
According to the incident report given to the IMB, these small boats
followed the ship and one of the boats, with two persons onboard, hit
the ship’s hull at starboard quarter and exploded. Another boat continued
to chase the container ship. The master immediately called for port control
assistance. Two naval boats attended and finally destroyed the small boat.
Five doors to accommodation and six empty containers were damaged on
the container ship. According to a military spokesman, the Navy hit one
of the boats six nautical miles from the harbor while the other two were
pursued further out to sea and eventually destroyed. The military spokesman
explained that the containership sustained damage because the small boats
were in close proximity to the vessel when the Navy destroyed them. He
claimed it was clear they were Tamil Tiger boats but that it was too early to
say if it was a suicide attack. He said it was suspected that the attack was
aimed at the nearby Rangala Naval Base (IMB, BBC Sinhala, LM).
Busy little bees, aren't they?

Collegel level piracy opinion


A columnist from the newspaper at Mr. Jefferson's University takes on piracy here. Perhaps a tad overly dramatic. And in reading it, remember that the IMB and other entities count robbing ships in port (or at anchor) as "piracy" whereas the classic definition involves ships on the "high seas."
According to a CNN report, most pirates, especially those in the Indian Ocean, are well trained fighters who don military uniforms, ride speedboats equipped with state-of-the-art GPS systems and wield weapons ranging from anti-tank rocket launchers to various types of grenades and automatic weapons.

Their objectives, however, remain equally crooked: targeting passenger, cargo and fishing vessels for ransom or loot with which buy weapons. The aid vessel was hijacked yesterday without its cargo since it had already made its delivery to Somalia, leading experts to believe that the motive could be to hold the 12 crew members for ransom. It was the third case of piracy involving a U.N. ship in Somali waters in just over a year.

The causes for this worrying phenomenon vary by nation, but Somalia and Bangladesh have long been blacklisted as the world's two biggest piracy hotspots by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), the body that deals with naval issues ranging from security to commerce. In Somalia, a BBC report has suggested that the Islamist government that held power there last year was vigilant about cracking down on piracy.
***
Bangladesh's coastal region houses Chittagong, the world's most dangerous port due to rampant piracy. The region is also impoverished and lacks the resources to combat the security threat. Last year the IMB reported an alarmingly high 33 incidents of piracy in Bangladesh. In response, A.M. Shahadat Hossain, Chairman of the Chittagong Port Authority, dismissed the report as "bogus" according to Opinion Asia, illustrating that Bangladesh has not even acknowledged the full extent of the problem

Unlike Somalia, where attacks occur in open waters, 75 percent of Bangladeshi piracy incidents are carried out in port areas, showing an arguably non-existent level of security. Although the IMB has commended Bangladesh on its measures so far against piracy, such as joint naval-coastguard operations, there is clearly much more that needs to be done.
***
The international community must address the issue of sea piracy while being fully cognizant of the potential nexus between piracy and the vice of international terrorism. For example, The South Asia Analysis Group has noted that piracy is an integral part of the activities of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. There is no reason why Al Qaeda might shift its focus from spectacular airborne attacks to sea hijackings. The bombing of the USS Cole, after all, is still etched in the memory of US defense forces.
Of course, if I were at UVA, I might have tossed in something about Thomas Jefferson and the Barbary pirates.

UPDATE: Speaking of the Barbary pirates, there's some interesting research on why they were so hard to catch at sea here.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tuesday Night Pointer to Maritime Monday 48 at Fred Fry International

All the maritime stuff Fred could dig up from last week with many pictures - Fred Fry International: Maritime Monday 48.

4 Arrests in latest Somali pirate case


Reported here:
Somali authorities have arrested four suspects in the hijacking of a U.N.-chartered cargo ship delivering food aid, the U.N. said Tuesday. The MV Rozen, however, was still under the control of four pirates who remained aboard with 12 crew members as hostage, said the U.N's food agency.

The ship had been contracted to deliver aid to Somalia, where around 1 million people are suffering from a drought that hit the region last year. It had just delivered 1,800 metric tons of food when it was seized.

The suspected pirates were arrested after they went ashore to buy supplies, Peter Goossens, the head of the U.N.'s World Food Program in Somalia, said in a statement.

"The arrest is welcome news, but the safe release of the crew and the vessel remains our chief concern," Goossens said. "We very much hope this ordeal will finish soon."

The pirates are armed with AK-47 assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, said Andrew Mwangura, head of the Kenyan chapter of the Seafarers Assistance Program, an independent group that monitors piracy in the region.
Earlier report of U.S. warship heading to area here:
A U.S. warship yesterday moved into waters off the coast of Somalia, where pirates have hijacked an empty World Food Program cargo ship.
***
Officials of the internationally backed interim Somali government said they contacted the U.S. military regional command, based in neighboring Djibouti, to request assistance.
"We have asked the U.S. Navy in the Red Sea ... to help us in the operation, and they told us they have started to move toward the ship," Col. Abdi Ali Hagaafe, police chief of the Bari region, told the Associated Press yesterday.
He said Somali police boats had spotted the hijacked ship, but were told to hang back out of concern for the safety of the ship's crew.
And an earlier indication that Puntland might use force here.

UPDATE: Sorta. Here.

Monday, February 26, 2007

What it is

Posting has been and may continue to be a little slow for a couple of days. The Eagle Mate came down suddenly with an acute illness that has necessitated some ER time and hospital care probably until next Monday, with a little surgery (well, we hope little) tossed in.

The Eagle Mate is, I am pleased to report, visibly improving as those antibiotic wonders do their thing.

Not as serious as some things in the illness line, but one that would lead down the same path as those if not taken care of properly. Which is,of course, what we are trying to do. Now. And we know a lot more about the symptoms. Now. Hindsight being what it is.

Meantime, life goes on and the number of balls in the air remains the same even if Eagle Mate is not feeling up to par. Things are beginning to fall into a "new" normal and the oldest Eaglet is returning to the nest to help out. The youngest one being helpful and at home but still in school, so... it'll be nice to have another pair of hands to help with the juggling.

The other two kids are in constant contact, on standby, with fingers posed over the "fly home" button if needed.

So we are just maintaining course and speed. A little extra rudder needed to hold the course, but we're hanging on.

Thanks for whatever kind thoughts you may have.

Sunday Ship History: Heavy Cruiser off Vietnam

Due to some unexpected adventures culminating in a trip to the emergency room and more, this Sunday's Sunday Ship History is a re-run.

A blast from the past, involving the heavy cruiser Newport News.

Sorry.

Man proposes, God disposes.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Somali pirates capture food ship


History repeats itself as Somali pirates seem to have grabbed a UN food aid ship as reported here:
Pirates hijacked a cargo ship delivering U.N. food aid to northeastern Somalia on Sunday _ at least the second time in recent years that a vessel contracted to the United Nations has been hijacked off the country's dangerous coast.

The ship, MV Rozen, had just dropped off more than 1,800 tons of food aid in the semiautonomous region of Puntland in northeastern Somalia when the pirates struck, said Stephanie Savariaud, a spokeswoman for the U.N.'s World Food Program.

It was not immediately known if any of the 12 crew members aboard _ six from Sri Lanka and six from Kenya _ were injured in the attack.

"We know it has been hijacked by pirates but we do not know how many pirates there are," Savariaud said. "We are very concerned about the safety of the crew."

Lawfare 'splained

Consul-at-Arms gets a hat tip for his post re: "Criminalizing War":
This is perhaps the best explanation of "lawfare" that I've seen yet and should be required reading for anyone possessing the franchise, certainly for anyone on the bench or presuming to practise law.

Money quote(s):

"The term "lawfare" describes the growing use of international law claims, usually factually or legally meritless, as a tool of war. The goal is to gain a moral advantage over your enemy in the court of world opinion, and potentially a legal advantage in national and international tribunals."

That's it. The definitive definition of waging war by other means, a legal form of assymetrical judo where our own strengths are turned into vulnerabilities.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Weapons smugglers caught crossing Tigris River


Reported here:
Baghdad Soldiers engaged gunmen attempting to smuggle weapons across the Tigris River by boat in a southeastern section of the Iraqi capital Feb. 23.

Members of 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, attached to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, initially engaged two armed men on the west bank side of the Tigris River. The smugglers fled in their boat to the east side of the river, where they were joined by three other gunmen.

After an initial firefight, the five gunmen took cover in a bunker and a large shipping container along the river bank. They continued firing across the river at the troops. The Soldiers returned fire with small arms, and eventually used tank rounds to destroy the bunker and end the attack.
One more reason the Riverine Force is needed...

Friday, February 23, 2007

U.S. Coast Guard to keep Cyclone class PCs



Although the small coastal patrol ships are enjoying a surge in popularity for littoral work by the Navy, the Coasties have a pressing need, as reported here:
The Coast Guard will keep three of five Cyclone-class patrol boats under its jurisdiction until a new ship class, called the fast response cutter, is built under Coast Guard’s Deepwater modernization program, Commandant Adm. Thad Allen told congressional lawmakers during an oversight hearing.

The Coast Guard was to return the ships to the Navy at the end of fiscal 2008, according to a 2004 agreement between the two services.

But the Coast Guard faces a shortage of operational hours with its patrol boat fleet and is negotiating to keep the ships to meet mission requirements, Allen said.

The PC-179s, as the Coast Guard calls them, each support up to 2,500 operational hours per year for the Coast Guard.
***
Three Coast Guard’s five PC-179s are homeported in Pascagoula, Miss., and two are stationed in San Diego.

Under the terms being worked out with the Navy, the Coast Guard will return one San Diego-based boat and one Pascagoula boat. It will then move its remaining San Diego-based boat to Pascagoula, ensuring that three remain on the Gulf Coast.

“Since we laid up the 123s, that is an area that certainly would have the most acute need,” explained Cmdr. Scott Smith, the Coast Guard’s legacy cutter facilities manager.

Under the original agreement, the coastal patrol boats were commissioned as Coast Guard cutters, with the Navy retaining ownership and paying for long-term maintenance and depot management, while Coast Guard crews manned and operated them.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Sacred ground: Should be an untouched war grave


WWII. British troops trying to get off the Continent at Dunkirk. The British troop ship HMT Lancastria, loaded with 6000-9000 soldiers and others gets bombed by the Germans. 4000+ die, 2477 survive.

Now, some of the survivors are tyring to prevent exploitation of the wreck, as reported
here:
Next week Mr Brown will hand over a petition, which currently has about 3,500 signatories, to ask the government to designate the wreck a war grave under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.

The petition was set up by the Lancastria Association of Scotland, which campaigns to bring greater awareness of the disaster. It wants greater protection for the Lancastria after reports of divers visiting the wreck.

Mr Brown, 87, says: "It is sacred, it is a grave. I think it is disgusting to think of frogmen or whatever they are, going around messing with the ship."

Mark Hirst, from the association, whose grandfather Walter was another survivor, says: "The aim is to bring awareness of these people who made the ultimate sacrifice.

"It has been forgotten by history and we are trying to address that."

In May 2006, the French government placed a 200m exclusion zone around the wreck to discourage diving.
A "war grave" it should be now and forever.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Gone missing: Homemade yellow submarine


Reported here:
A 3 1/2-ton yellow submarine has fallen off the radar. The 10-foot-long sub, built by a resident to patrol Monterey Bay during the 1940s and 1950s, was reported missing Feb. 15 from its Santa Cruz Mountains berth on Steinmaier Road by owner Carl Barker.

"It sounds bizarre," said Detective Kevin Coyne of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office. "All I know is ... there's no suspects."
Perhaps the neighbors thought it was lowering their property values?

Sub in photo is tourist boat from Hawaii. Imagine it yellow. And smaller.

UPDATE: 2/22/07 Found. Misunderstanding.

India's Defence Minister sees the "tip of the iceberg"


As set out here:
Describing the recent seizure of arms and explosives off Chennai as possibly "the tip of the iceberg," Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Sunday warned of "lurking dangers" along the coast.

He was addressing presspersons on board ICG ship Sagar after the fleet review of Coast Guard ships and aircraft held off the Goa coast to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the force.

In reply to a question on the incident involving a suspected LTTE boat, he said: "It is not only Chennai, it could just be the tip of the iceberg. There could be similar incidents at sea; there could be many other instances which go unreported."

Stating that constant vigil is needed to secure the long coastline and territorial waters, he declared "hereafter, surveillance of the coast will be the topmost priority of the Coast Guard and the Navy."
***
With the economy growing, sea-borne trade, energy needs, and under-sea cabling needs are bound to mount over the next few years. "We need to curb maritime terrorism, piracy, drug trafficking and smuggling," he said.
Sounds like India is gearing up and for whatever the contribution of the terrorist group LTTE (Tamil Tigers) is to that, I say, "Thanks!"

More on Philippines-U.S. war games: Defense of oil rigs



Reported here:
The United States and the Philippines began drafting plans on Tuesday to deal with maritime security threats, including how to defend the Asian country's oil and gas rigs and pipelines from potential attacks.

About 130 military planners -- including observers from Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia -- will simulate several scenarios dealing with threats such as terrorism, piracy and smuggling over the next seven days.

As part of annual U.S.-Philippine war games, the countries will also look at other specific threats, such as potential terror threats on oil and gas platforms and pipelines.
Original report on exercise here.

UPDATE: The Malaysian Navy is paying a friendly visit to Cebu in the Philippines, too, as set out here:
Two naval ships from the Royal Malaysian Navy arrived here Monday for a three-day goodwill visit.

The KD Baung and KD Pari, both fast attack vessels, arrived past 9 a.m. from their naval base in Sandakan, Saba, Malaysia, said Capt. Zyril Carlos, deputy commander of the Naval Forces Center (Navforcen).

The visit of the Malaysian ships, Carlos said, was aimed at strengthening diplomatic ties between Malaysia and the Philippines, especially on cross border issues and other maritime concerns like terrorism, piracy and smuggling
Everyone seems to be at least looking at the same sheet of music.

The KD Baung and KD Pari are Lurssen built TNC 45 Fast Patrol Boats.

Martime Security through Nanotechnology?


Concept explained here:
Scientists and engineers are hard at work seeking technological solutions to the container security challenge. One area that offers promise is nanotechnology. Nanotechnology is the development of devices, such as sensors, that are on a nano scale.
***
“We (PEL Associates) have developed technology which can readily achieve the goal of container security at a low cost. The method is based on smart sensors, a version of which is being developed for DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency).” Added Wallach, “In this approach micro-sensors (~2-3mm spheres) are designed with surface groups reactive with chemicals and biological hazards. On reaction the sensors emit an agent specific color or IR signal wirelessly to a control system.”

Continued Wallach, “In the case of a dirty bomb or WMD the sensors are designed with a conductive coating. In the presence of such hazards which characteristically emit energetic particles the air in the container becomes ionized and on contact with the sensors the conductivity is changed in a characteristic manner which is picked up wirelessly by central control systems.” Wallach concluded by noting how the nanotechnology is physically applied, “the sensors are impregnated on to the surface of a thin plastic film which is adhered to the wall of the container.” According to Wallach the cost is “very small,” about 3-5 cents per sensor or five dollars per container.
The authors of the piece describe other security-driven uses of nanotechnology in the piece.

As some wise person once said, "There is always a better way- the challenge is to find it." This might be a better path.

Grounded ship update: MSC Napoli

BBC says Grounded Napoli 'will be removed'.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Iranians and their anti-ship missiles (rev 2)


CDR Salamander spots some Silkworms here in a nice video.

Remember last year? Silkworm on the Hormuz, anyone?

Map of Silkworm range from that post and links therein.

The Elephants Dance: China moves in Southeast Asia

Nice piece by David Fullbrook in the Asia Times on China's strategic Southeast Asian embrace. The U.S. and Chinese elephants are engaged in a strategic dance and when elephants dance....
Beijing's friendly overture would appear to mark a significant strategic departure, with China moving toward more limited multilateralism rather than its historical unilateralism to advance its regional-security interests. Developing cooperation with neighboring militaries would hypothetically help China secure its porous southern periphery and free up more resources for projecting its power and influence globally.

China is implementing what appears to be a two-phased strategy toward the region, characterized first by promoting growing economic and investment linkages and now by offering limited military assistance. It's a well-calculated gambit aimed at stealing a march from the United States, specifically through the development of competing linkages and personal relationships with individual ASEAN members' militaries.

China's strategic overtures obviously have the US on edge. This week, Washington announced that it would indeed stage its annual "Cobra Gold" joint military exercises with Thailand. Those exercises, the largest in Southeast Asia and which have in the past included troops from Singapore and Malaysia and observers from China, had been in doubt because US law prohibits certain types of military assistance to governments that seize power through anti-democratic means - as was the case with last September's Thai coup. Soon thereafter, Beijing attempted to fill the military gap by offering Thailand US$49 million in military aid and training.
***
Beijing arguably started to embrace military multilateralism in the late 1990s with the formation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which loosely links four Central Asian states, Russia and China together through combined training and patrols in fighting against terrorism, extremism and separatism. China's trade and investment have since risen sharply in Central Asia, giving it greater influence to counter America's regional strategic designs, which included military bases in Uzbekistan for a few years and the ongoing use of a base in Kyrgyzstan, on China's border.

If diplomatically possible, China would doubtless like to lead a similar security organization for Southeast Asia - a particularly strategic passageway for China's booming seaborne trade with India, the Middle East, Africa and Europe, which passes through the region's busy and congested shipping lanes.

Moreover, Southeast Asia is fast emerging as an important supplier of China's industrial commodities and energy, and the region as a whole now runs a trade surplus with China. China is set to displace the US as ASEAN's top trade partner as early as next year, a position the Sino-ASEAN free-trade agreement should cement when it comes into force in 2010. Meanwhile, there is still no sign of a counterbalancing free-trade proposal with the US.

To be sure, longtime disputes among ASEAN's member states, driven alternately by nationalism, territorial disagreements and historical rivalries, have given the lie to the group's pretense of harmony and have complicated China's attempts to push through universally accepted proposals - particularly on military matters. The United States' still-strong influence plus ASEAN's traditional distrust of multilateral security arrangements have meant China has had to tread carefully for the past decade.
***
China has notably not made any hard demands on ASEAN, in effect practicing the group's own adherence to "non-interference" in other countries' domestic affairs. At the same time, Beijing is now adroitly and aggressively leveraging its recent successful diplomacy and growing economic linkages to overcome historical distrust and build new strategic assurances aimed at displacing the United States' strategic influence over the region. And judging by ASEAN's warm response to its recent overtures, China's grand designs are proceeding very much as planned.

ADM Fallon moves on

Admiral William Fallon moves to CentCom and has a few thoughts on this PacCom tour, noted as "works in progress" he leaves for Admiral Keating here:
China With the backing of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Fallon has nurtured a gradual expansion of military exchanges with China. Those contacts are intended to assure the Chinese that the US is not planning to attack them but also to caution them not to miscalculate US military power.

An intriguing question: In his new assignment, will the admiral, who has visited China three times, seek help from China in Iraq or Afghanistan or in the war on terror? He declined to speculate on specifics. He noted that tensions between China and Taiwan had been reduced and that Pacific Command had been "working with Taiwan to build a credible defense."

Terror and Piracy In the southern Philippines, Fallon said, US special operations forces had achieved some success in helping the Filipino armed forces in their fight against Muslim terrorists known as Abu Sayyaf.

In the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea, Indonesian, Malaysian, and Singaporean forces have reduced piracy and, so far, prevented a tie-up between pirates and terrorists. "They are doing it," Fallon said, "and we are helping in the background."

Contingency Plans The admiral said he had ordered the command's contingency plans, such as sending reinforcements to South Korea to fend off a North Korean invasion, to be overhauled and tested "to make sure we can do it."

Fallon said he had placed renewed emphasis on what military planners call "Phase Zero," which is to engage both friendly nations and potential adversaries in an effort to head off open conflict. "We did this so we would not have to employ the kinetic parts of the plan--not have to shoot'em up."

Some joint maritime planning between the Philippines and the U.S.


Reported here:
Taylor said the objective of the staff exercise is to address transnational threats, mostly in areas within the Western Mindanao area. The region is under the area of responsibility of the Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command headed by Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo.

"We’re at both terrorist and piracy as well as drugs and smuggling, those are among our maritime security issues," Taylor said, adding that the specific concerns they would like to address includes the movement of terrorist leaders by boat.

Other specific threats being looked at are a bomb threat on a Superferry, terrorist threat at the Malampaya oil pipeline, a cargo ship containing illegal drugs, a piracy attack in the Sulu Sea, a Superferry disaster occurrence, and armed drug smuggling fires at Filipino troops.

After the briefing conducted by Taylor, Philippine military chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr said there was a chance that the plans could be put into actual operations.

"Later on, these could be translated into actual plans. The orders could come from any headquarters, including the Western Mindanao Command," he said.

"For example, there is a terrorist leader moving out from Jolo by boat, so what do our troops do? It’s very simple. But if you would start your planning right there and then, you might be too late in your actions," he said.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Latest ICC CCS Piracy Report (to 13 Feb 07)

The latest Latest ICC CCS Piracy Report (to 13 Feb 07)here:
08.02.2007 2130 LT in position 02:00.44N - 045:20.7E, 1.5nm off Mogadishu, Somalia.
Five pirates armed with guns attempted to board a product tanker at anchor. Master raised alarm, crew mustered and activated fire hoses. Pirates fired upon the ship and escaped. Master contacted port control and agent for assistance. Four port security gun men with tug came and searched the area at 2245 LT and then boarded the ship. One bullet hit near the starboard navigation light. No injuries to crew.

08.02.2007 1950 LT in position 05:23.4N - 005:11.7E, vicinity of Forcados River, Nigeria.
Five heavily armed pirates in a speed boat boarded a tug underway. They ordered master to drop anchor and forced all crewmembers and supernumeraries to the bridge. Pirates smashed master's head with a bottle. Then, they ransacked crew members’ cabins and took all personal belongings of crew, vessel's property and escaped at 0130 LT. Vessel’s calls for assistance from ashore was ignored by authorities.

06.01.2007 0107 LT at Boma Anchorage, Congo River, Democratic Republic of Congo.
Robbers boarded a container ship waiting for berth at Matadi. Alert crew noticed the robbers, raised alarm and tried to obstruct them but failed. Robbers jumped overboard and escaped with two drums of lub oil in a canoe. Master sent distress alarm by VHF but no response from port authorities
Also noteworthy from the ICC CCS page:
Unusual attack off Kuala Tanjong, Indonesia
23 January 2007
Several unlit fishing vessels approached a container ship underway. One of the boats briefly collided at the starboard bow of the vessel. Subsequently, two persons were found on board, apparently unarmed but with mobile phones.

Masters are requested to exercise caution in these waters and report all suspicious incidents.
Also, interesting reading at the ONI Worldwide Threat site with a report current to 7 Feb 07. Good lesson in spotting a pattern of trickery here:
1. ARABIAN SEA: General cargo ship approached 02 Feb, at
1100 local time in position 10:40N - 062:07E. The general cargo ship was
underway when it received a call on VHF from a craft advising she is a Korean
fishing vessel asking for fresh water. The Master suspected piracy and raised the
alarm and steered away from the craft. The suspicious vessel followed the ship.
The Master increased speed at 1210 local time and the vessel aborted the chase.
Soon after, another four small high speed crafts approached the suspicious craft
while talking/laughing on VHF ch. 14. The suspect craft was wooden, painted
white and green with a speed of 15-20 knots with no fishing equipment on
deck (IMB).
.
2. ARABIAN SEA: Vehicle carrier approached 28 Jan, at 0610
UTC in position 11:20.0N 065:09.9E. The vehicle carrier was underway
when it received a call on VHF ch.16 from a small craft asking for fresh
water. The craft closed in to 2nm from the starboard quarter. Two other
craft approached the ship on the port and starboard bow. The vehicle
carrier increased speed, and raised the alarm and sounded the whistle.
The small craft reduced speed and moved away (IMB).
Much much more, including good coverage of environmental pirates "Sea Shepards" and their activities harassing Japanese whalers:
1. SEA SHEPHERD CONSERVATION SOCIETY: Whaling vessel(NISSHIN MARU) harassed by Sea Shepherd vessels (FARLEY MOWAT) and (ROBERT HUNTER) 09 Feb, starting at 0530 local time approximately 100 NM ENE of Sturge Island, Southern Ocean. According to Sea Shepherd news releases, six liters of butyric acid was “successfully delivered” onto the
flensing deck of the (NISSHIN MARU) and plates have been nailed over the
vessel’s scuppers with the use of Hilt nail guns. Japan expressed outrage,
terming these activities as “piratical, terrorist acts”. Two Japanese crewmen
were reportedly injured, one when he was hit in the face by an empty container
of acid, and the other when acid was squirted into one of his eyes. According
to Sea Shepherd, two crewmembers from the (FARLEY MOWAT) went missing
for eight hours after their Zodiac sustained damage when it struck the side the whaling vessel in heavy seas. After the (FARLEY MOWAT) issued an official maritime distress call for the missing crewmembers, all vessels, including the
whaling vessels, worked together to find the missing protesters. After finding the two crewmembers, the master of the (FARLEY MOWAT) thanked the whaling vessels for their assistance then declared they were recommencing their harassment efforts. In a 09 Feb news release, Sea Shepherd reported they were pursuing the whaling fleet in position 66:46S-169:52E, 122 NM ENE of Sturge Island and has requested the Greenpeace vessel (ESPERANZA), believed to be in the area, to join them in their harassment efforts (Sea Shepherd News, REUTERS, AFP)
Photo caption:
The Robert Hunter crunches into the side of the Japanese whale-spotting ship the Kaiko Maru in sea ice south-east of Australia.
The Robert Hunter is one of the anti-whaling vessels seemingly bent on endangering human life while "saving the whales." Though the Sea Shepard Society denies attempting to hurt humans here.

Actions described here:
The Sea Shepherd crew has successfully delivered six liters of butyric acid onto the flensing deck of the Nisshin Maru. This "butter acid" is a nontoxic obnoxious smelling substance. The foul smell has cleared the flensing deck and stopped all work of cutting up whales.

Sea Shepherd crew in Zodiacs have nailed plates to the drain outlets (near the waterline) on the Nisshin Maru that spill the blood of the whales from the flensing deck into the sea. This is backing up the blood onto the flensing decks. The plates are secured by Hilt nail guns that drive steel nails through solid steel.
UPDATE: Sea Shepherd to withdraw due to low fuel, Greenpeace to remain chasing whalers - see here.

Burundi to send 1,700 troops to Somalia


Stabilizing force? Burundi to send 1,700 troops to Somalia:
Burundi will send some 1,700 troops to Somalia as part of an African Union peacekeeping mission to stabilise the chaotic Horn of Africa nation, the army said on Sunday, adding that an advance team would leave in days.

Somalia’s interim government, whose forces ousted Islamists from Mogadishu and much of the south in December with help from Ethiopian troops, has called for the 8,000-strong AU force to be deployed as soon as possible.

Uganda is to send a 1,500-strong force in the next few days to Mogadishu, where frequent attacks underline the challenge facing the government in trying to tame a nation where anarchy has prevailed since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre’s 1991 ouster.
On the map, the blue arrow point to Burundi, the red to Somalia.

Know our enemy: Turkish bombers sentenced, show defiance


Reported here:
A Turkish court handed down life sentences Friday to seven men, all accused of having links to Al Qaeda, in connection with truck bombings that ripped through central Istanbul in November 2003, killing nearly 60 people.

Dozens of other defendants received lighter sentences, ranging from three to 18 years, for their role in the attacks days apart that targeted two synagogues, the British Consulate and a London-based bank.

Pandemonium erupted in the cramped, low-ceilinged courtroom as the chief judge announced the sentences.

"A long sojourn in hell for infidels!" shouted one of the convicted men, Fevzi Yitiz.

"God is great!" cried another.

Before the sentencing, one of the principal defendants, Harun Ilhan, harangued the court for five hours with a scorching denunciation of Western mores and the secular Turkish authorities who put him on trial.

"There is a war between my world and your world," said Ilhan, the only defendant to confess to a role in the bombing plot. "I am a prisoner of war…. You can kill me, but you cannot judge me."

Among those receiving life sentences was Louai Sakka, a Syrian accused as the mastermind and chief financier of the bombings. He also made a defiant statement before the sentencing.

"We are close to victory," he proclaimed. "I'll win my freedom and once again join the jihad."

***
Some of the defendants, including Sakka, face other charges. He is accused in a 2005 plot to attack an Israeli cruise ship bound for the Mediterranean resort of Antalya, in southern Turkey, which led to his arrest.
More on Sakka here and at the links therein.

Maritime Monday 47 at Fred Fry International

If it ain't comprehensive, it's still a big bundle of info on maritime things at Fred Fry International Maritime Monday 47.. This week includes Danish RoRos and a link to info on the "John Frum 'Cargo Cult'" in the South Pacific.

Enough to make you feel the spray of salt water...

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Turkey warning the U.S.?

Hmmm. Retired general: Turkey warns US with Putin speech

Ports to come under U.S. control

As set out here, the end(?) of the Dubai Ports World flap:
Six major U.S. port operations will come under U.S. ownership after Dubai Ports World cleared a $50 million hurdle Friday to end a yearlong political conflict over security at the nation's cargo terminals.

DP World, based in United Arab Emirates, agreed in December to sell its U.S. ports operations to AIG Global Investment Group, following months of criticism that the UAE firm could not be trusted to run the security-sensitive shipping apparatus.

That deal suddenly foundered this week when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which must consent to the sale, asked the two companies for tens of millions of dollars in cash and future infrastructure work at the Port Newark Container Terminal.

The business brinksmanship led two U.S. senators on Thursday to dub the Port Authority's demands greedy and to threaten political payback if the agency didn't back down.
***
The latest standoff began when Port Authority officials asked for roughly $30 million in past improvements to the Port Newark Container Terminal -- and a commitment from AIG for future infrastructure work. The companies said the agency originally demanded $84 million, and that the Port Authority was the last obstacle to completing the sale.

At that, Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J., found themselves in an odd position: coming to DP World's defense after more than a year of publicly ripping the company.

Both senators on Thursday threatened the Port Authority with less federal aid if the agency didn't back down.

Schumer called Friday's deal fair and said he was glad the Port Authority ``has come to its senses.''
More than a little irony in all this.

Scanning containers to stop fraud


As reported here:
Eight containers said to be carrying furniture were about to be loaded onto a ship when a Customs team arrived.

The documents were in order, carrying stamps of approval from the relevant authorities and the name of a renowned furniture manufacturer as the exporter.

However, the Customs officers were not convinced and ordered the containers opened — and found a BMW X5 in one container and a Toyota Hilux in each of the other seven.

Selangor Customs Department director Datuk Abdul Razak Yaacob said the falsified documents "looked very much like genuine" ones as the forgery was done by "experts".

Preliminary investigations by the Customs and police revealed that the cars were stolen in Malacca and Johor.

They were loaded into the containers and brought to Westport and were about to be loaded onto a ship which was bound for Batam island in Indonesia after a transit stop in Singapore.

Razak said that the group involved in the smuggling would have gotten away with it had the Customs not received a tip-off from an informer.

Police took over the investigation since it involved stolen cars, but Selangor deputy police chief SAC I Mohd Noh Kandah refused to comment on the case.

Razak expressed confidence that smuggling activities and false declaration of goods at ports would end when high-tech speed scanners were installed.

The scanners, costing RM12 million each, will X-ray the contents of each and every container when they arrive and leave the port from next week.

It takes 20 seconds to scan a container and verify its cargo with the declaration forms.

At present, only 30 per cent of the 17,000 containers that are moved in and out of the port are scanned.
Port Klang is in Malaysia.

Sunday Ship History: Aircraft Repair Ships



As World War II in the Pacific wore on, the military plans to attack Japan following the "island hopping" campaign that brought the Japanese Home Islands within bomber reach included some interesting logistical thinking.

One part of the plan developed by the Army Air Force involved bringing aircraft repair shops to the airplanes instead on taking the aircraft to the shops.

As set out here*, Project "Ivory Soap" (because it "floats," I assume) took some 24 ships and 5,000 men and turned the ships into floating aircraft machine shops:
In the Pacific Theater everything depended on conventional warfare, with B-29s bombers carrying the island-hopping war all the way to the Japanese home islands, with P-51s protecting the bombers.

One thing was certain: the invading aircraft would face a skilled and deadly foe in the air. Major damage to our planes was inevitable, but many of them would limp safely back to base. What then? No advanced air field had either the men or the machine shops and other facilities necessary for major airplane and engine repair and rebuilding.

Thus was born Ivory Soap, a secret project kept "classified" for more than a half-century. It is not even mentioned in the official history book "The Army Air Forces In World War II."

The idea arose in Air Corps staff meetings in Tunisia and Italy. It then went to Washington, where it was approved by the commander of the Army Air Corps, Gen. Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, and by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Ivory Soap consisted of 24 ships and some 5,000 men drawn from the Army, Navy, and Merchant Marine. The ships were six Libertys and eighteen 180-foot freight/salvage (F/S) auxiliary vessels that were converted into floating machine shops and repair and maintenance depots. Their main "clients" would be B- 29s and P-51s but they could handle any other aircraft as necessary.
This was not a Navy project:
The Libertys were designated Aircraft Repair Units, Floating (ARUs), each with a total complement of 344 men. The Aircraft Maintenance Units (AMUs) were 187 foot long ships built by Higgins in New Orleans and had a complement of 48 men. The ARUs (Libertys) had shop space big enough to accommodate components of the enormous B-29s. The more numerous and smaller AMUs could handle the fighters. Because of their shorter cruising range fighters advanced bases had to be more numerous, and closer to the targets; so did their floating repair depots.

The ships were operated by the Army Transport Service (ATS), all of whose officers and men were merchant mariners. They were well-armed against air attack: each Liberty had a 3-inch 50 at the bow and a 5-inch 38 aft, plus twelve 20mms and two 40mms. Proportionately less firepower went aboard the auxiliaries. The guns were manned by Naval Armed Guard crews.
***
The Liberty ships selected for Ivory Soap were:
Original name..........Name as Aircraft Repair ship
Rebecca Lukens................Maj. Gen. Herbert A. Dargue
Nathaniel Scudder.............Brig. Gen. Alfred J. Lyon
Richard O'Brien...............Brig. Gen. Asa N. Duncan
Robert W. Bingham.............Brig. Gen. Clinton W. Russell
Daniel E. Garrett.............Maj. Gen Robert Olds
Thomas LeValley...............Maj. Gen. Walter R. Weaver

Inevitably, the six hybridized Libertys were known as "The Generals." The 18 auxiliaries, each named in honor of an Army Colonel, naturally, were "The Colonels."
Success?

These ships returned hundreds of wrecked or seriously damaged B-29s and fighters to battle.
What was life like for the crews and shop workers? A bit of oral history (also linked in the USMMA article)here by a helicopter pilot, whose mission is described as
The ships took six months to modify and were fitted with heavy equipment for complete machine, sheet metal and fabric repair shops. The ships also carried two R-4B Sikorsky helicopters used for observation, spotting downed planes, rescue work and ferrying shipworkers and parts to and from Pacific islands.
Actual words from the pilot, 1st Lt Daniel Nigro:
"The way we had to fly the choppers was really primitive," Nigro said, "because we often carried many parts needing repair. We did anything - even taking off the 'copter doors - to lighten our load."

***


Back aboard the Dargue, the 2nd ARU continued performing third and fourth-echelon aircraft overhaul, Nigro said. "We did aircraft repairs that couldn't be done on land, because the large machinery and skilled labor simply wasn't there. For example, we had a complete machine and sheet-metal shop, with fully trained Army Air Corps technicians who could repair B-29 Super- fortresses limping back from bombing raids on Japan and P-51 Mustangs flying fighter escort duty. I was very proud of our technicians. They could fix anything from a wristwatch to an aircraft engine."

Nigro's ship was one of the few Liberty ships credited with shooting down not one, but two Japanese "Betties," he said. "It was on Dec. 6, 1944, about two o'clock in the morning, while we were anchored at Saipan," he said. "I remember afterwards that our squadron artist painted the Rising Sun flag - emblem of the Japanese empire - on our smokestack, as proof of our kill." The Dargue's eagle-eyed Navy gunners later took out another Bettie - and added another rising sun - near Iwo Jima on May 22, 1945.

Well, rack up some more credit for the logisticians, and from here, some thoughts on the Army Transport Service:
Without adequate transport and logistics military grand strategy and brilliant tactics are hopeless. It has been said that amateurs talk of strategy and tactics, professionals of logistics. Concentration of forces is worthless if they have no supply, no ammunition, no food -- if you cannot concentrate them in the first place. The Army had to rely on its own maritime resources until fairly recently in our history. It had difficulty. The following quote is the opening of a piece attributed to an unknown author on a page of Logistics Quotations (LogisticsWorld):

Logisticians are a sad and embittered race of men who are very much in demand in war, and who sink resentfully into obscurity in peace. They deal only in facts, but must work for men who merchant in theories. They emerge during war because war is very much a fact. They disappear in peace because peace is mostly theory. The people who merchant in theories, and who employ logisticians in war and ignore them in peace, are generals.


And for all who served in these ships, and who had to keep their service under wraps for so many years, a salute in recognition of a job well done!


Air Force photo albums of the Army Air Forces Mobile Air Training Command, Marine Training School, Point Clear, Alabama here:
The Army Air Forces Mobile Air Service Command established the Marine Training School at Point Clear, Alabama in the summer of 1944. Its purpose was to provide training in elementary seamanship, marine training, and aquatic training for all officers and enlisted personnel of the Aircraft Repair and Maintenance Units (Floating).
Photo caption:

Here another group of Aircraft Repair Unit personnel receive training in elementary marine navigation.
However, since the caption on the chart says "Relative Bearings" - I think it was training in how to report contacts relative to a ship's heading instead of navigation training.

* Part of the excellent American Merchant Marine at War site
**First two photos are of SS Brig. Gen. Alfred J. Lyon circa 1964 and one of the "Colonels"- Colonel Armand Peterson.
***Lower photos are of ARU Maj. Gen. Herbert A. Dargue from here, provided to that site by the son of an officer who served in her. Original captions: Upper:
Maj. Gen. Herbert A. Dargue
This is in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, October 1944
Photo Courtesy of Lt. George W. Muller
Second Aircraft Repair Unit
Text Courtesy of William Muller
Lower:
Maj. Gen. Herbert A. Dargue
This is off Iwo Jima in March, 1945, and the ship shows some wear.
You can clearly see the Sikorsky R-4B on deck.
There are two, when you study the photo.
Photo Courtesy of Lt. George W. Muller
Second Aircraft Repair Unit
Text Courtesy of William Muller


UPDATE: The Military Sealift Command currently operates some ships for aviation logistics purposes. See here.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Some thoughts on the Canadian Navy


Some thoughts on the future of the Canadian Navy and its place in the new world here:
Looking into the future is an inexact science at best, but Boutilier says there are some trends that can be followed.

“We are now looking at what’s going to be the future of our Navy,” he says. “We’ve gone from the golden period on the ‘90s to a time when we are getting into difficulty. Some of our destroyers are more than 30 years old, our supply ships more than 30 years old, and these ships are nearing their half-life. From my perspective, we are in the most dynamic maritime era of almost living memory. There’s container traffic, oil and gas traffic moving by sea, there are submarines, offshore disputes, piracy, terrorism. What is going to be the responsibility of the Navy?”

The Chinese Navy is on the rise, the Indian Navy is on the rise. With much of the Canadian naval assets deployed to the Indian Ocean after 9/11, how will this impact on the fleet? What about other trouble spots? What about the opening up of the Northwest Passage?

“Where do we put our Navy? Do we have ships like this right on the coast, or far out at sea? Should we move more ships from the Atlantic to the Pacific?” he asks. “There are more and more challenges not stemming from terrorism, but from fisheries. What does it mean when oil and gas become more and more critical to the economies of China and India?”

These issues, he says, are often overlooked in the public debate, because, unlike armies, they tend to keep a fairly low profile.

“When the navies are doing their job, they’re out of sight, out of mind, unlike armies,” he says. “The Navy does its job over the horizon.”

Friday, February 16, 2007

Proof we have the House we deserve


House OKs "symbolic" measure opposing troop surge . What a bunch of chickens. Won't fade the heat of ending the war that they seem to feel now was so wrong and won't take a stand in favor of victory.

It's what you get when you vote in the irresponsible, "we'll say anything, promise anything" to get elected crowd to dominate politics.

I say, in 21 months, throw the rascals out!

Meanwhile, I hear a paraphrase of the quote from MacBeth: A non-binding House resolution is a resolution passed by idiots.."full of sound and fury. signifying nothing."

What collection of dodos.

UPDATE: The head buffoons:


UPDATE2: Ralph Peters is a tad more articulate. (with a H/T to Chap).

And by "we deserve," I mean this is what you get when you decide not to vote or to send a message by voting in a collection of chowderheads because something about the old majority group irritated you. These morons believe they have a mandate.

Guns on yachts?



I occasionally get asked about whether or not yacht owners and crews should have access to weapons to assist in dealing with "pirates"." I generally advise against anyone (homeowners or boat owners) who is not experienced with weapons or combat in close quarters acquiring anything other that a shotgun for home defense.

There is a very good article, written by Dave Kellerman, available at MaritimeSecurity.com:
Obtain formal training and education in the handling and employment of a firearm, to include a thorough understanding of "deadly force" issues. Those that think the mere possession of a firearm provides an increase in security are ignorant. Without proper education and training, the firearm is a liability, not an enhancement to security.
More on Remington tactical shotguns here.

UPDATE: I'm not giving you legal advice, but it is a really, really good idea to know the laws pertaining to weapons and use of deadly force in the areas where you live, transit and visit.

The next time some Yankee tells me about how well prepared for winter weather they are...

I'm sure its "global warming "lake effect, etc, snow related, but ...6 Inches of Ice Close Pennsylvania Highways:
A thick layer of ice kept major highways closed Friday morning, a day after hundreds of drivers became stranded on a hilly stretch of eastern Pennsylvania that had been hit by a monster storm.

National Guard troops used Humvees to ferry in food, fuel and baby supplies on Thursday to the lines of motorists caught in a 50-mile traffic jam on Interstate 78. Friday morning, the troops were busy towing away the remaining vehicles while road crews struggled to melt ice that had built up four to six inches in places.

Some drivers were angry that they had been let on the road at all. State police didn't close all the entrance ramps to I-78 until around 5 p.m. Thursday, more than 24 hours after cars and trucks started getting caught. They also closed sections of I-81 and I-80, to help keep the area clear.

"Why would they have that exit open if they were just going to let us sit there?" said a crying Deborah Miller. Her 5-year-old son was trapped in the car with her, running a 103-degree fever from strep throat.
Unlike when some threat of snow closes down my fair city, I have not been ringing up my friends in Pennsylvania telling them what wusses they are for letting a litttle bad weather stop their daily operations. However, the temptation is great...

And as for Deorah Miller's question...some people do listen to the radio to keep track of weather and road conditions before they set out in a car with a sick 5 year old...you know, that "personal responsibility" thing

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A bid for a full socialist state in Venezuela


Reported as Chavez bid for more state control:
President Hugo Chavez has pledged to nationalise key Venezuelan companies, as part of plans to transform the country into a full socialist state.

Mr Chavez said he wanted to see major Venezuelan power and telecoms companies come under state control.

He also called for an end to foreign ownership of lucrative crude oil refineries in the Orinoco region.

Mr Chavez's comments came in an address to the nation following the swearing in of his new cabinet.

"All of that which was privatised, let it be nationalised," he said during the speech.

"The nation should recover its ownership of strategic sectors."

***
Mr Chavez said Venezuela was moving towards "a socialist republic" that required "deep reform of our national constitution".

"We are in an existential moment of Venezuelan life," he said. "We're heading toward socialism, and nothing and no-one can prevent it."

Mr Chavez demanded an end to the current autonomy of the country's central bank and said he would ask Venezuela's parliament to grant him additional powers to legislate by presidential decree.

He has argued in the past with bank directors who have opposed his lavish spending of Venezuela's vast oil wealth.

His calls for nationalisation appeared in particular to affect Electricidad de Caracas, which is currently owned by US firm AES, and CA Nacional Telefonos de Venezuela (CANTV), the country's largest publicly traded company.

Mr Chavez had threatened to nationalise the company earlier this year unless they lifted their pension payment to meet those of the minimum wage.

The BBC's Daniel Schweimler says that these bold moves by Mr Chavez, who now has allies across Latin America, will shock some and be welcomed by others.
Why do all tin horn dictators sound the same?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I have a suggestion: Put the lawyers on patrol


Lawyers in war reported here:
When the history of the war on terrorism is written one day, historians no doubt will credit risk-averse lawyers with making the war longer.
Legal restrictions are hampering soldiers from defending themselves in the streets of Baghdad and are limiting the effectiveness of secret operations by special operations forces and intelligence personnel, defense officials say.
One Special Forces commando stated that the lawyers are risking lives in Iraq because of confusing written rules on when troops can fire weapons in "Escalation of Force" cases, that is, combat against insurgents and al Qaeda terrorists.
"Escalation of force is ridiculous over there," the commando said. "If an EOF occurs and a weapon is fired, it is to be reported so 'a 15-6 investigation' can be initiated."
An Army Regulation 15-6 investigation requires a commanding officer to gather evidence, interview witnesses and write a report every time a weapon is fired, a time-consuming and useless bureaucratic exercise in a war zone where numerous firefights take place almost every day.
Put the lawyers out there with the troops and see if they can convene "instant" investigations, or let them handle the paperwork while the warriors are otherwise occupied.

Lawyers at war? Monographs here.

Russia - the West's enemy rises


Like a villian in a horror movie who cannot change his evil ways, Comrade Putin of the Russian Federation is selling arms to the West's enemies and rearming Russia at a rapid pace. A nice editorial from Investor's Business Daily lays it out here:
Take, for instance, defense expenditures. Russia will spend $32.4 billion this year, a post-Soviet high and 23% more than last year. It's a four-fold jump from 2001.

During 2007, Russia will build 17 new ICBMs when in previous years it has built no more than 10. As well, Moscow will purchase 31 new ships.

Why all the attention to the military? Is Russia threatened by anyone? Every nation has the right and the duty to protect itself, but there is no Nazi column ready to roll across the border, no Luftwaffe just waiting to unleash hell on the Soviets.

There is no Napoleon in France dreaming of conquest, no European alliance itching to fight another Crimean War.

Neither is there a threat to Russia from global Islamofascism, though there is no denying that it has its own "Muslim problem" in Chechnya.

While the U.S. and what remains of the civilized world are busy trying to figure out how to defend themselves from rogues, Russia is arming them with advanced military hardware.

The Council on Foreign Relations calls Russia the world leader in dealing arms to the Third World. Overall, Moscow sells weapons to 70 countries, two of which are Iran and Venezuela, oil-rich nations that have chosen to make the U.S. an enemy.

Under Putin, the warm promise of a new Russia in the early days of the Soviet crackup has turned stone cold. The West needs to turn up the heat.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

MARLO Conference Dec 06 Dubai

A reader sends on this link to the briefs presented at the Maritime Liaison Office (MARLO) at NSA, Bahrain's Conference held in Dec 2006 at Dubai, UAE. All are in pdf format and are worth wandering through.

Much of the materialwill not be a surprise, some of it may seem obvious, but it is still worth taking a look at. The breif from the International Centre for Polical Violence and Terrorism Research (part of the IDSS, Nayang Technological Univeristy, Singapore) has some "lessons learned" from previous al Qaeda attacks on shipping, including successful and planned but unsuccessful attacks. The slide below captures some of that information:


You might note the attention paid to key chokepoints in the presentation. See also here.

Sri Lankan Defence Ministry on LTTE and cross border terrorism: threat to entire world


The medai war being waged by the Sri Lankan government against the Tamil Tigers goes on as seen in LTTE and cross border terrorism: threat to entire world:
From day one, LTTE has been involved in human cargo smuggling, illicit drug and narcotics operations, smuggling of arms to raise funds for their outfit. This has not been limited to Sri Lanka or its closest neighbours, but widely operated through their front organizations right around the world the latest being sea piracy, breaching all maritime laws and conventions.

LTTE's first cross border terrorist act was the assassination of Indian Premier Rajiv Gandhi on his own soil. Indian Courts found Prabhakaran and Pottuamman guilty of murdering Rajiv Gandhi. USA has recently under FIB Sting Operations, arrested 4 LTTEers and two Indonesians who were helping LTTE to procure arms in USA. Two Indonesians on the arms procurement operations have pleaded guilty and 4 LTTEers are awaiting judgement. It was also reported that FBI has trailed a deposit of $700,000 by LTTE as a down payment to procure arms. It is also a well known fact that LTTE agents in USA have attempted to bribe some congressmen to procure arms illegally.

On the other side of the world, there have been cases in India and most recently in Qatar. Indian Police recently arrested some arm dealers affiliated to LTTE from Tamil Nadu attempting to ship 6 tons of steel balls to manufacture claymore mines. Following this arrest, another arrest has been made by Mumbai Police, of LTTE attempting to ship equipment including 65 Japanese digital cameras for spying, 500 ball bearings, 21 camera lenses, 300 FM radio sets and other accessories valued at India Rs, 15 million. Four people were arrested including three from Tamil Nadu according to Indian media reports.

LTTE's most common form of terror is to hound any one who opposes the LTTE in any part of the world and kill them. They have planted hit-men in many countries to carry out these assassinations. Last week in Qatar, 5 LTTE cadres were sentenced to death for bludgeoning to death another Tamil who had been a Karuna supporter. LTTE like Al Qaeda has already proved that they are terrorists sans borders. These assassinations of LTTE opponents outside Sri Lanka clearly demonstrate that LTTE has its tentacles of terrorism spread over many countries and not only a threat to Sri Lanka but to the whole civilized world. It is also a well known fact that LTTE has links with Al-Qaeda.

A report by an advisor to US Government states that The Al Qaeda-LTTE relationship was formed in 1991. LTTE is also linked to Maoists in Nepal and many other secessionists groups in India.

Despite all these connections and cross border terrorist activities, it's appalling to see that the western block of the International community thinks that LTTE is only a domestic threat to Sri Lanka.


Comparisons with al Qaeda made here:
When will the world wake up to the fact's that terrorist's groups like al-qaeda are copying the LTTE media wing who for years have spread LTTE propaganda around the world of LTTE attack's and over loaded the western media with claims and images of dead civilians in the same manner Al-qaeda are now doing via their very own Bin Laden TV.
Medai coverage is one of many fronts on which these terrorist groups need to be fought.

Al Qaeda in Turkey


A Washington Post piece reprinted in a Turkish paper as Al-Qaeda's Hand in Istanbul Plot:
By then, Aktas was in Syria with other organizers, one of whom crossed the frontier with a load of underwear meant to make him look like a merchant headed to market. They made their way to Aleppo, where Sakka, the Syrian al-Qaeda man, had a house. Hiding in it, they cheered the televised coverage of the bombings. They laid low for five months, then made their way into Iraq, according to evidence from two suspects interrogated in Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib prison.
In Iraq, Sakka served as a senior lieutenant to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born leader of the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq. Sakka, his features altered by plastic surgery, was captured in the Turkish resort town of Antalya while allegedly making final preparations for an attack on a cruise ship. He apparently planned to survive by escaping on an underwater scooter.
The Abu Ghraib prisoners said Aktas later died in Fallujah, scene of repeated fighting between Sunni insurgents and U.S. troops.

Monday, February 12, 2007

CENTCOM rep coming to Milblog Conference 2007


Andi notes that USCENTCOM is sending a panelist to be on the "potluck" panel at the Conference. He or she will join LTC P, Murdoc, Noah Shachtman, Eagle1, Neptunus Lex. The moderator will be John Donovan.

Should be interesting...

CENTCOM has a couple of the world's hotspots on its map...

North Korean Missile/Cargo Ships



The DPRK may have some hidden assets as reported here:
A recent report by the U.S. Congress’ research unit Congressional Research Service (CRS) has raised questions about North Korea's ability to transform cargo ships into missile launch pads. The CRS report said that North Korea has developed a submarine- or ship-mounted ballistic missile system with a range of at least 2,500 kilometers. The North has also transformed ordinary cargo ships to launch the missiles, the report said.

South Korean military authorities and experts said Wednesday that while the deployment of a submarine-carried missile is unlikely, but it would be possible for Pyongyang to use a cargo ship as a launch pad. North Korea’s new ballistic missiles with a range of 2,500km to 4,000km are based on the decommissioned Soviet R-27 sub-launched missile.
***
Missiles can be carried in a launch pad that looks like an ordinary container and be fired by simply raising the container upright, experts say. A cargo ship would be excellent way to conceal a missile as the enemy would likely ignore it as a simple commercial vessel. Intelligence authorities note that the new North Korean 12-meter ballistic missiles would fit inside a standard container. The CRS report also said that using a commercial cargo ship would be the easiest way for North Korea to carry missiles.
More here on submrine launch threat.

The CRS report may be found here in an html version. It is also available as a pdf.

See my earleir post on the subject of merchant ships carrying missiles here. See also MissileThreat.com, inclduing its movie of a merchant missile attack on Hollywood here.

Drawing of missiles in containers is from The Chosun Ilbo article. Scud TEL on a ship is my own creation.

Sri Lanka Navy kills another Tamil Sea Tiger boat and 10 Tigers, too


Reported here:
"The Navy detected two boats at around 4:30 in the morning (2300 GMT Sunday) ... and we have engaged in the sea and from land," said Navy spokesman commander D.K.P Dassanayake. "We have destroyed one boat and recovered another fitted with weapons."

Maritime Monday 46 at Fred Fry International

Monday, Monday -- time for Fred Fry International: Maritime Monday 46.

Includes the latest gouge on ATP-2 (B) NCAGS. Which was once NCS and NCAPS... see here.

Anti-terrorist naval blockade in Philippines



Reported here:
More than 10 warships are around Sulu in what could be the single biggest naval blockade meant to trap Abu Sayyaf terrorists in their lair.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Saturday the naval blockade formed part of the "small unit tactics" designed to eventually wipe out local and foreign terrorists holed out in Sulu, as part of the military’s ongoing offensive dubbed Oplan Ultimatum.

He said the new tactic involves a coordinated land and sea approach to smashing the terrorists.

Believed trapped in the jungles of Sulu, aside from the remnants of the Abu Sayyaf, are Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah militants. The two groups are linked to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda global terror network and are on the US list of international terrorist organizations.

In an interview with The STAR, Esperon disclosed that BRP Rizal leads the Navy vessels in patrolling the Sulu Sea to seal off the terrorists’ potential escape routes. The military’s offensives have been going on since August last year.

Esperon was hesitant to call it a blockade "because the ships are moving around."

But reliable sources said the Philippine Navy was getting assistance from US forces for the blockade.

Given the size of the Navy ships involved, Esperon said, the actual blockade would stretch to only a kilometer – certainly not enough to cover the wide expanse of the Sulu Sea.
***
He also stressed that the USS Blue Ridge, which is in the country for humanitarian mission, is not part of the Sulu Sea patrol. The Blue Ridge is the flagship of the US Seventh Fleet.

"If they (US ships) are there in Sulu, they must be in the international waters. I don’t even know if they are there," Esperon said. The US Navy vessel, which docked at the Manila South Harbor recently, is also scheduled to visit Cebu and Gen.Santos City.

The Sulu offensive has led to the deaths of top terrorist leaders Khadaffy Janjalani and Abu Solaiman.
Red burst on map is in general area of the blockade.