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Friday, November 30, 2007

UAE detains Iranian ship pursuant to UN and UAE Regs, wackos get excited

The rather incredibly named "Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran" (that's "Iranian dupes" "Iranian Front Group" or CASMII for short)takes note UAE detains ship as grip on Iran tightens:
The United Arab Emirates has impounded a vessel bound for Iran to verify whether chemicals found aboard contravene United Nations and UAE regulations.

The move, which Iranian analysts say is causing concern in Tehran, comes as tighter international sanctions close their grip on the Iranian financial system, with the UAE - a vital trade partner for the Islamic republic - becoming more active in attempts to rein in Iranian business interests.

UAE-Iran trade rose to $12bn (€8.1bn, £5.8bn) last year, with Dubai's re-export hub the single most important entry point for goods coming into Iran.

In September the UAE, a strong US ally, introduced an export control law to prevent traders using the country to transport materials that could be used in, for example, nuclear weapons or explosive devices used against allied troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The impounded vessel was offloading goods at Dubai's huge Jebel Ali port, one of the main gateways into Iran.

"We need to make sure it abides by a new export law passed a few weeks ago. [We] have to make sure items are in line with our laws and abide by existing resolutions," said a UAE official source.

The test results are due to come back in a "matter of days", he said. The authorities had intercepted other vessels and would continue to do so as "normal procedure", he added.
It is, of course, all the U.S.'s fault that her neighbors mistrust Iran's peaceful intentions.

New Game: Count the "Muhammads" or variations thereof

It's a new game sweeping the world!

Count the "Muhammads" here.

Wrong - you forgot the Teddy Bear!

Human trafficking: Busted!


In addition to going after pirates, looks like some other scum are getting their due as set out in British and Yemeni Forces Stop Human Traffickers in Gulf of Aden:
A number of suspected human smugglers were arrested, and two vessels were seized in a joint operation between Coalition warship HMS Richmond and the Yemeni Coastguard in the Gulf of Aden Nov. 19.

Having covertly tracked two suspicious dhows throughout the day, Richmond followed the two smuggling boats as they headed toward Somalia. Under the cover of darkness, Richmond coordinated a close-quarters intercept.

It’s believed the boats had been used to smuggle humans into Yemen from Somalia.

“Monitoring the suspected smuggling vessels from afar using the ship’s tracking capabilities, we could clearly see some suspicious activity underway,” said Richmond’s Commanding Officer, Commander Piers Hurrell. “Using the stealthy features of the Type 23 Frigate, 13 suspected human smugglers were arrested, and two vessels seized. The message this sends to others involved in this illegal activity is quite clear.”

The U.K., U.S. and German navies are working with the Yemeni government under the umbrella of the Pakistani-commanded Combined Task Force 150 to promote lawful use of the maritime environment in the Gulf of Aden and the wider region to reduce the activities of human smugglers and pirates.

According to UN High Commissioner for Refugees figures, nearly 25,000 refugees have made the journey from war-torn Somalia to Yemen and there have been more than 1,000 recorded deaths.
More on human trafficking here. And a typical story here:
More than 60 migrants, mostly Somalians, drowned while crossing the Gulf of Aden on their way to Yemen in a desperate attempt to flee battles back home, a security official and witnesses said on Thursday.

Twenty-five others survived and managed to reach the Yemeni southern shores of Redhoum in the Shabwah province, after their boat capsized in the waters on Wednesday night, a security official here said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the media.

He said that fishermen informed the authorities on Wednesday night of seeing bodies floating in the water. The army and the local citizens took part in a rescue operation.

The 25 survivors were taken to the refugee camp in the city of Lahij north of Aden. Witnesses said the dead were buried in mass graves Thursday by the local people and the soldiers.

It was not immediately clear how the boat had capsized and some survivors claimed there were six refugees missing.

The UN refugee agency has reported that at least 439 migrants have died while crossing the Gulf of Aden this year and at least another 489 are missing.

Migrants from the Horn of Africa - particularly from Somalia where ongoing violence between the UN-supported interim government and Islamic groups has caused thousands to flee their homes - regularly face abuse at the hands of smugglers at sea.

Some are attacked during the journey and thrown overboard into shark-infested waters, while smugglers often force passengers to disembark offshore to avoid Yemeni coast guard patrols.

The high season for human trafficking across the Gulf usually runs from early September to May when the sea is less stormy than during summer. More than 10,000 people have reportedly arrived in Yemen by boat this year.

Maritime Civil Affairs learning from Army


As reported here, a great use of an existing knowledge base in furtherance of mission accomplishment:
A five-man Maritime Civil Affairs Team from the Maritime Civil Affairs Group at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Va., trained with the Army’s 486th Civil Affairs Battalion, assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, in villages located in the northern region of Djibouti, Sept. 20-Oct. 18.

The team set out to give people a face to go with their recently established group, while also gaining knowledge on how civil affairs teams function in real environments. The MCAG was officially stood up in March by the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command and deploys small groups of Maritime Civil Affairs Teams to different countries to aid U.S. Naval forces by conducting civil military missions in a coastal and riverine environment.

The mission of the Navy and Army’s civil affairs teams are similar, however the MCATs additionally focus on commercial port operations, marine and fishing resources, and harbor and channel construction and maintenance.

“We’re hoping to learn from the Army’s civil affairs team since they’ve been in business for a long time and have already established a standard of operation that we hope to draw from and adapt to the Navy’s mission,” said Lt. Rayburn Massiah, MCAT leader.
***
While the MCAT was in Djibouti, they were able to participate in a Medical Civic Action Program that was conducted by the 350th Civil Affairs Command in the town of Obock. The team assisted where they were needed and gained hands-on experience at the MEDCAP.

“There’s only so much you can learn in a classroom about civil affairs,” said Senior Chief Electronics Technician Scott Huss, team chief for the MCAT. “Being able to participate in an actual mission shows us how things are done in the real world.”

Maritime civil affairs missions provide the opportunity for naval, joint forces and civilians in operational areas to work together.

“The 486th has provided excellent support to us throughout our mission,” said Operations Specialist 1st Class Weston McAuslan. “We really appreciate the help and guidance they have given us.”

The MCAT members learned how to nominate potential projects for a village, conduct village assessments and build relationships with locals. They also attended meetings with the Ministry of Education to discuss the prioritizing of village projects.

“I really like being a part of something where you can see the effects of the help we’re giving,” said McAuslan. “With the diversity of the work we do, we can go everywhere and work with different people and services. But our mission is always the same; we are giving these people the tools that build confidence in their abilities to help themselves and their neighbors.”

Enlisted members of the team completed a minimum of nine weeks of training, with officers undergoing 12 weeks of training, which includes the Maritime Civil Affairs Qualification Course and the Expeditionary Combat Skills Course. Maritime civil affairs forces also receive training in cultural awareness, language, communications, small boat operations, advanced marksmanship and Combat Life Saving.

MCAG team missions include humanitarian assistance and disaster relief; non-combatant evacuation operations, refugee operations, assistance with restoration of local infrastructure in the aftermath of military operations or natural/man-made disasters, and regional engagement activities intended to build support for the U.S. government.
Great idea and good for both services for making it happen...

Photo caption:
Operations Specialist 1st Class Weston McAuslan and Senior Chief Electronics Technician prepare a pair of adaptive eyewear prescription glasses for a local at a Medical Civic Action Program held in Obock, Djibouti. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Regina L. Brown (RELEASED).

Friday Reading

CDR Salamander: Fullbore Friday with a tale of a father being inspired by a fallen son. Good parents often are.

Steeljaw Scribe has part 2 of the TFX saga here. Part 1 is here.

IMO to Somalia: "Do something about piracy!"

In yet another strongly worded press release- er- resolution, the International Maritime Organization, a UN body urges Somali government to act on piracy:
The IMO urged the government "to take any action it deems necessary to prevent and suppress acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships" and ensure "that its coastline cannot be used as a safe haven from which attacks can be launched."

The government should ensure that "all ships seized by pirates and armed robbers and brought into waters within its territory are released promptly and that ships sailing off the coast of Somalia do not become victims", it said.

The resolution adopted by the 25th IMO assembly also urged foreign nations to assist Somalia in fighting piracy, notably by cooperation and sharing information.


However, there was some meat in the nut:
The resolution asked the government "to advise the UN Security Council that, in response to a previous request from the IMO Council, it consents to warships or military aircraft entering its territorial sea, when engaging in operations against pirates or suspected pirates and armed robbers."

In theory, a 1992 UN arms embargo on Somalia still bars armed warships and military planes from venturing into Somali waters, although the restriction has seen numerous violations.
UPDATE: Good roundup here.

Update on the Seabourn Spirit Latest Pirate (?) Adventure

A follow-on to this report of some possible new pirate trouble for the Seabourn Spirit cruise ship-

Was it much ado about nothing? See Cruise Critic News: Was Seabourn Spirit Encountered by Pirates ... Again?:
But this time, thankfully, appears to have been a false alarm.

Seabourn spokesman Bruce Good tells us that on the morning of November 16, outbound from Salalah, Oman, headed for Khasab, Oman, Seabourn Spirit saw three speedboats approaching portside. As is standard operating procedure, the captain sent the security officers aft and notified the regional authority, which happened to be the Royal Navy based at Dubai.

"[The Royal Navy] replied that they had an 'asset' 80 nautical miles away and asked if he required assistance," Good tells us. "[The captain] said no, that there appeared to be no threat to the ship but that it was 'good to know.' They told him to call if he needed anything. Next message from them was that they were sending a helicopter, but by then the boats were gone. The encounter had lasted just a few minutes. The helicopter did arrive, but as noted the boats were gone. There is nothing to indicate that these were pirates -- seems more likely they were curious to see what our ship was."
Better safe than...

Iran's Revolutionary Guards at Sea

An Iranian power shift in the Arabian Gulf, with the Revolutionary Guard in charge, as noted in Iran's Revolutionary Guards patrol Persian Gulf, U.S. says:
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has taken command of Iranian naval operations in the Persian Gulf, the U.S. military has revealed.

That means U.S. naval forces are operating in the same waters as an organization the United States considers a major supporter of terrorist activity.
***
Afterward, in a written statement, the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet in Bahrain said, "Based on activities observed in the Arabian Gulf over the past several months, it appears the Iranian navy has shifted its patrol areas to the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman -- leaving the IRGC navy to provide the primary Iranian naval presence in the Arabian Gulf."

The move is of concern to the U.S. Navy, which has long viewed the IRGC's forces as more antagonistic than Iran's regular navy.

Mullen said Iran made a "strategic decision" in recent months to "essentially give the entire Gulf to the IRGC over the next four or five years."

"That's a big deal, because I think part of the leading-edge challenge with Iran is the IRGC specifically," Mullen said.

For the past several months, IRGC forces have occupied a sunken barge and crane near Iraqi oil terminals at the northern end of the Persian Gulf. The IRGC is using the site as an observation post for the area, which is patrolled regularly by U.S. and coalition naval forces.
***
The IRGC was formed in 1979. Under Iran's constitution, the corps' task is to protect the revolution, which generally means that it makes sure that domestic forces don't threaten the theocratic state, said analyst William Samii of the Center for Naval Analyses. The center is a government-funded think tank for the Department of the Navy in Alexandria, Virginia.

In contrast, the conventional forces are tasked with protecting the country's borders and guaranteeing its security.

The naval move "makes perfect sense," Samii said in a telephone interview.

In recent years, the Iranian military has recognized that, in a toe-to-toe fight with the U.S. military, "they'd get squashed," Samii said.

In response, it has been focusing more on alternative tactics, in which the Revolutionary Guards excel, such as setting mine fields and using large numbers of small boats either packed with explosives or manned by personnel carrying rocket-propelled grenade launchers. The thinking is that at least one would be able to get close enough to a large enemy military vessel to attack it, Samii said.

"Iran is trying to send a signal that it is ready for any military eventuality and that it is prepared to defend itself aggressively," he said.
On a related note, it appears the Iranian "Kilo-class" submarines have been underway, according to Navy Times:
Officials aboard the cruiser Vicksburg spotted and photographed two surfaced Iranian Kilo-class submarines in the Persian Gulf a few weeks ago, the ship’s skipper told Navy Secretary Donald Winter during a visit to the ship on Saturday.

The Russian-designed diesel-electric attack subs were tracked and photographed by sailors onboard the Mayport, Fla.-based ship, said Capt. Chip Swicker. Crew members showed Winter the photographs of the surfaced subs. The Vicksburg did not communicate with either of the subs, Swicker said.

“They watched us and we watched them,” he said.

Crew members aboard the cruiser didn’t consider the encounters hostile, although it wasn’t clear if the Iranian boats surfaced within view of the cruiser or if the U.S. warship happened to see the Iranian subs while they were already running on the surface. Iran has a fleet of three Kilo-class SSKs, according to Jane’s Fighting Ships.
Galrahn has a whole lot more on the Iranian subsurface threat here, here and Bubblehead also keeps an eye on them - as he does here.

Terrorism: It's not just for governments to worry any more


International corporations need to be thinking about counter-terrorism, as noted in Be very afraid, Lloyd's warns us from the National Post of Canada:
Yesterday, at Toronto's venerable Empire Club, Lord Levene from Lloyd's described a scary new world of terrorism and political risk directed as much against businesses as against governments.

"Right now, Lloyd's is a very significant provider of insurance for terrorism risks in Canada," he said. "The real estate, hotel and transportation sectors are amongst those we cover and the 2010 Winter Olympics is already buying terrorism coverage from Lloyd's."
***
t is not a company but a giant risk marketplace, where individuals take pieces of underwritings. Lloyd's was created to bolster the Empire by meeting the need to insure Britain's global fleet of cargo ships from ruinous losses due to piracy or war.

So, really, nothing is new. The world has always been dangerous, only more so, said Levene. While self-serving, he is also correct. The global economy means businesses are operating everywhere, including dangerous places, where local governments are inadequate and troops cannot be stationed to protect assets.

His speech was scary but important. Here are some excerpts: - "Business is as much at risk as government from terrorism and political violence." - "20% of terrorist attacks are directed against business, or between 150 to 200 incidents per year." - "After 9/11, 200,000 jobs were lost or relocated from New York City." - "In addition to 9/11 [casualties], nearly 2,000 people have died in the last decade in terrorist attacks on business worldwide."
***
- "21st-century terrorism means thinking about the worst. A fifth of global companies, and a third of larger ones, now cover this threat in their planning."
Supply chains, forward based employees...

And, yes, Lloyds does want your business, but...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

What You Can Expect If You Have a Rotorhead in the Family

Pictures of helicopters at work:


Protecting Somalia's Fishing Grounds

Protecting merchant shipping and World Food Program shipping from Somali pirates is a good thing, but protecting the rich Somali fishing grounds from exploitation by other international fishing fleets also ought to be a priority of the UN until Somalia has a government capable of looking after its own interests. I have noted the problem facing the Somali fishermen before. See here and at the links therein.

The Somalis have asked for U.S. help before (see here) and there are some arguments that the pirates have been capturing fishing vessels poaching in Somali waters:
In recent months, fishing trawlers from Taiwan, China, Ukraine and other countries have been captured by Somali pirates, and released when ransoms have been paid. Since there is no government, it might be understandable if the Somalis are attempting, in the only way they have, to keep their waters free of foreign fishing craft. The argument is diluted, however, by the capture of non-fishing vessels and attacks on merchant shipping passing through the area (or up to 160 miles offshore).
UN reference for "exclusive economic zones" here:
1. In the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State has:

(a) sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil, and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from the water, currents and winds;

(b) jurisdiction as provided for in the relevant provisions of this Convention with regard to:

(i) the establishment and use of artificial islands, installations and structures;

(ii) marine scientific research;

(iii) the protection and preservation of the marine environment;

(c) other rights and duties provided for in this Convention.

2. In exercising its rights and performing its duties under this Convention in the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State shall have due regard to the rights and duties of other States and shall act in a manner compatible with the provisions of this Convention.

3. The rights set out in this article with respect to the seabed and subsoil shall be exercised in accordance with Part VI.


Article57

Breadth of the exclusive economic zone

The exclusive economic zone shall not extend beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.
Pending the development of a unified national government in Somalia, the UN probably ought to undertake a declaration of the Somali EEZ as some sort of "UN protectorate" and sanction the patrolling of those waters for the benefit of the Somali people. This also has the benefit of taking out the only possible legitimate reason the Somali pirates have for capturing ships off Somalia...

Hunting for the "Mother Ships" of Somali pirates


A new campaign - Anti-piracy coalition turns their sights on elusive Somali mother ship:
The U.S.-led coalition working to secure sea lanes beset by pirates believe skiffs like the ones used in the attack on the Japanese ship must have come from elusive "mother ships."

"The small boats which are used for piracy could not travel," from shore as far into the ocean as ships have been attacked, said Commodore Khan Hasham of Pakistan, one of the U.S. allies in the anti-piracy operation. "So they needed a mother ship from which the pirates could launch skiffs."
***
The patrols address a growing problem. The International Maritime Bureau has recorded 31 attacks off Somalia this year but believe many more go unreported. The 31 includes the seizure a month ago of the Japanese tanker carrying as much as 40,000 tons of highly explosive benzene in the Gulf of Aden.

Initially, American intelligence agents worried terrorists from Somalia's Islamic extremist insurgency could be involved, and might try to crash the boat into an offshore oil platform or use it as a gigantic bomb in a Middle Eastern port. When the Japanese vessel was towed back into Somali waters and ransom demanded, the coalition was relieved to realize it was just another pirate attack.
Until you find a "mother ship" the best bet is to set up traffic lanes and offer up escort services in loose convoys.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Time to take the fight to the Somali pirates?


Maybe. See here:
Britain has launched a drive for an international accord granting the Royal Navy and Western warships rights to enter Somali territorial waters in pursuit of pirate gangs linked to al-Qa’eda.

Pirate activity has soared off the Horn of Africa this year with the emergence of highly sophisticated gangs that use fast patrol boats, launched from “mother ships” to board cargo vessels in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.

The lucrative multi-million-dollar kidnap and ransom trade, which is dominated by al-Qa’eda, according to terrorism experts, threatens to disrupt international shipping lanes used to carry cargo from the Far East to Europe.
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A meeting in London of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the United Nations’ watchdog of the seas, is to consider a resolution today instructing Somalia’s interim government to drop its legal right to block foreign navies from entering its waters.

A declaration would pave the way for Royal Navy vessels to rescue ships held for ransom in Somali coves or pursue pirates involved in attacks on ships in international waters.

A spokesman for the regional naval command in Bahrain said that passage of the IMO resolution would be an important step to “help deter piracy off the coast of Somalia”.

***

Pirates used the haven provided by Somalia’s lack of leadership to defy 46 warships from 20 countries in the international coalition centred around America’s Bahrain-based 5th fleet.

“Piracy has become a lucrative business based on ransom demands and cargo theft inside Somali territory,” said Cdre Keith Winstanley, the deputy commander of the coalition. “It has not been possible to suppress it because vessels pirated, sometimes a long way off the coast, are held somewhere in the vicinity of the Somali coast.”

It is a murky situation and even the figure of 26 reported incidents is thought to vastly underestimate the extent of the problem.

While vast sums of money are involved - ransoms can exceed £500,000 — Cdre Winstanley said that official concern had been expressed over intelligence reports that little of the money filtered down to the Somali regions.

“Piracy and terrorism is a difficult picture to build,” he said. “The extent of money diverted to terrorism is not known, but I don’t see evidence that the money is going into houses, schools and jobs onshore.”

Complicating the picture for the navies involved is a human wave of refugees on the move out of the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 200,000 have fled fighting in the last month, many of whom are ready to pay $150 (£75) to be smuggled across the Gulf of Aden.

The Somali pirate capture of the M/V Danica White - finger pointing


Fred Fry has the story. Get thee over to Fred Fry International: DANICA WHITE / KOBAYASHI MARU - Update

Fred's original KOBAYASHI MARU post is here.

Some earlier posts on the Danica White capture here,
here, and here.

From the Sea: Emergency Aid to Bangladesh Logistics


Noted from DefenseLink News Transcript: DoD News Briefing with Adm. Keating :
So we flew Thursday night, landed Friday morning early, the 23rd, in Bangladesh, and met with General Moean, the chief of Bangladesh's defense forces, and Ms. Geeta Pasi, who is our charge d'affairs. We don't have an ambassador there, so she's in charge. And Ms. Denise Rollins, who is the head of USAID.

So we had a series of meetings with them. They reiterated the need for assistance that could be provided in part by the United States military. We had moved earlier the USS Kearsarge; anticipating the Bangladesh request, we had moved the Kearsarge from the Central Command area of responsibility to the Bay of Bengal just south of Bangladesh, and on board Kearsarge is the 22nd MEU, Marine Expeditionary Unit -- about 1,200 Marines; they have 20 helicopters and some landing craft.

We then, well, simultaneously moved Brigadier General Ron Bailey, United States Marine Corps, Marine One Star, out of Okinawa.

He was there for our meetings on Friday with Bangladesh officials and U.S. officials. Ron is running the operations ashore. And we also -- Admiral Willard from Pacific fleet gave us Rear Admiral Carol Pottenger. She is on Kearsarge.

So we've got a Marine one-star ashore, a Navy one-star afloat, around 1,200 sailors, another 1,200 Marines, 20 helicopters to provide relief operations in support of -- and that's the important word here -- in support of our USAID efforts to give the Bangladeshis whatever assistance they need. We have commenced helicopter operations. We are in our -- I get the time zone and days mixed. It's our third or fourth day of operations. We've flown several dozen relief sorties.

The needs right now are fairly simple, though they're still needs. Water is the overarching requirement. We're making water on the ships. We have -- the Air Force out of Hickam has flown several Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Units -- ROWPUs. USAID has several of these. So there are several of these water-cleaning machines in theater, in Bangladesh. And that's what we're doing, moving water around. The Bangladeshis have identified distribution points. They tell us where the water is being made. We're bringing water in and then we're helping move the water out to the outlying areas affected by the storm.

We are attempting as best we can to make sure that the Bangladeshis understand it's their operation and we are in support. We will do nothing that they don't ask for, and when they are done with us, we will leave. And Kearsarge will go back to its Central Command responsibilities. We may -- we have the USS Tarawa, another big-deck amphib with a Marine Expeditionary Unit headed that way. Whether or not we'll have to use Tarawa or not, we'll see. We're prepared to if the need remains.

So, another area where we're helping is medical assistance. As most of you know, I'm sure, the big-deck amphibs bring with them a significant medical capability. We have about 75 medical personnel, from surgeons, corpsmen, anesthesiologists, nurses . We are bringing those folks ashore to supplement Bangladesh medical and foreign medical assistance. There are Pakistani medical personnel there, for example. And if folks are in sufficient need, we can bring them out to Kearsarge, where we have some significant hospital emergency surgery facilities. As yet, that has not been the case, is my understanding, but significant medical assistance is being provided as well, all at the direction of the Bangladeshis.
More info on Navy/Marine efforts here:
Marine helicopters from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit Special Operations Capable (SOC) delivered more than 2,500 gallons of water Nov. 27 along with 12,000 lbs., of medical supplies to areas in Bangladesh hardest hit by Tropical Cyclone Sidr, a storm that ripped through the country Nov. 15.

The Marines made an initial delivery of water on Nov. 23, marking the first delivery of U.S. military aid to the storm-battered nation. USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) and the 22nd MEU (SOC) have contributed to planning efforts with the Bangladeshi Government and military, relief agencies and other U.S. military and U.S. State Department representatives. Kearsarge and the MEU are now ramping up distribution operations with the added capabilities of the embarked helicopters.

A majority of the water delivered Nov. 27 was produced aboard Kearsarge, which has the capability to produce 200,000 gallons of fresh water daily. Five-gallon collapsible bags were filled with the water, placed on pallets and loaded into the aircraft for distribution.

"We've coordinated within the combined U.S. and Balgadeshi civil-military construct to ensure that we are getting water and supplies to the people who need it the most," said Col. Doug Stilwell, commanding officer of the 22nd MEU (SOC). "We have now moved into a more robust phase of operations."

The Marines also used their long-range CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters to pick up a World Health Organization medical kit, food, bottled water and 18 U.S. military medical personnel from Dhaka, the nation's capitol. The supplies and medical personnel were delivered to Patuakhali, Bangladesh.
UPDATE:Photo caption:
PATUAKHALI, Bangladesh (Nov. 26, 2007) U.S. Army and Bangladeshi Soldiers unload food, bottled water, and medical supplies from a A CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 261. HMM-261 is attached to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit. USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) and the 22nd MEU (SOC) are providing humanitarian aid to the victims of Tropical Cyclone Sidr, which tore through Bangladesh Nov. 15. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Peter R. Miller (Released)
I've argued before (see also here and links therein) that the UN ought to have a "Ready Reserve Force" of ships on standby to deliver emergency aid in situations like this.

China and the Kittyhawk: Payback?



Chinese hardball before their big "we are a peaceful nation" Olympic fest? Mad about Patriot sale to Taiwan?
Bill Gertz has more in China's action troubles admiral�-.

Admiral Keating is not the only one troubled...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Latest ICC CCS Weekly Piracy Report (to 26 Nov 07) & ONI WWTTS (to 21 Nov 07)


Latest ICC Commercial Crime Services Weekly Piracy Report (to 26 Nov 07) can be found here. Highlights:
24.11.2007: 0345 LT: 06:17.8S – 003:21.2E, Lagos anchorage, Nigeria.
Four armed robbers in a small wooden boat boarded a container ship from aft.
They stole ship’s store and escaped. No injuries to crew.

21.11.2007: 0212 LT: 06:12N-003:18E (15 miles from shore), Lagos, Nigeria.
Five pirates armed with knives boarded a tanker drifting around 15 nm from shore. Duty crew spotted the pirates and informed the duty officer. Alarm raised and crew mustered. Pirates escaped with ship stores
***
08.10.2007: Panaji, off the Yermal coast in Udupi: Karnataka: India.
Pirates in canoes boarded a vessel carrying scientists on a
Marine research project. After a brief struggle with the scientists, the pirates took the scientific instruments. It is unclear if the instruments were thrown into the water or stolen. The scientists are reported to be safe.
Latest ONI Worldide Threat to Shipping Report (to 21 Nov 07) here. Highlights:
1. SOMALIA: The French Navy began escorting two WFP vessels to Somalia, 16 Nov 07
to protect them against pirate attacks. The Freighters (ROZEN) and (SEMLOW) were escorted
on a two month arrangement by the French Navy from Mombasa, Kenya and arrived at Merka
port (south of Mogadishu) on 19 Nov 07. This is part of a two month arrangement with the
French Navy to deter threatening food shipments to Somalis (REUTERS, AFP).
***
1. GULF OF ADEN: Vehicle Carrier reported suspicious approach 17 Nov 07 at 0550 local
time while underway. The vessel spotted three suspicious crafts on the starboard side and one
suspicious craft on the port side at a distance of 0.4NM. The Master took all necessary
preventive measures and the suspicious crafts later moved away (IMB).
.
2. GULF OF ADEN: The Panamanian-flagged chemical tanker (GOLDEN NORI) hijacked
28 Oct at 0216 UTC, approximately 70 NM north of Caluula, Somalia in the Gulf of Aden. The
vessel sent out a distress call on 28 Oct after coming under attack. Combined Maritime Forces
Command (CMFC) responded to the distress call and directed a nearby coalition warship to
investigate. The warship fired warning shots, but the vessel did not heed the warning and
continued toward Somali territorial waters. The warship then fired on the 2 skiffs that were used
by the pirates to board the vessel and sunk them. Coalition warships continue to monitor the
vessel. The hijackers have made no immediate demands. There are 23 crew members onboard.
The vessel was transporting highly flammable benzene (IMB, CMFC incident report).
.
3. GULF OF ADEN: Vessel reported suspicious approach 24 Oct 07 at 0730 UTC, while
underway in position 14:05.0N-054:44.5E. The vessel was approached by a fishing boat on the
starboard beam asking to trade water for fish. When the vessel declined the suspicious craft
altered its course and increased its speed to join a group of three other fishing vessels 4-5 miles
northeastward. The vessel was in good condition and relatively new. There was wooden
construction with grey house aft and white awnings rigged. An attempted call on any coalition
ship in the area was made, but no reply was received (Operator).
.
4. GULF OF ADEN: Vessel reported suspicious approach 22 Oct 07 at 0350 UTC while
underway in position 12:32N-045:24E. Initially, seven boats were following the vessel and the
vessel managed to out maneuver five of the boats. Two boats continued following the vessel at
a distance of about 3-4NM. At the time of the reporting, all efforts by the vessel to shake off the
following boats were unsuccessful. The Master of the vessel was advised to transmit an urgency
signal to shipping in the vicinity as well as convey the situation to the local security authorities to
Yemen, the nearest Coastal State (Operator).
.
5. GULF OF ADEN: LPG tanker reported suspicious approach 21 Oct 07 at 2250 local time
while underway in position 13:14N-048:13E. The vessel was warned by other vessels up ahead
about unlit boats that had failed in approaching them. The master of the tanker raised the alarm,
mustered the crew on the bridge, and briefed them. The target boat was picked up on radar and
was seen approaching the vessel from the front. The master carried out evasive maneuvers. The
boat tried to pursue the vessel but could not keep up. The entire incident lasted almost an hour
and a half (IMB).

***
N. ENVIRONMENTAL AND ECONOMIC NON-STATE ACTIVIST GROUPS:
.
1. GREENPEACE: Tanker (MT WESTAMA) was blocked while at berth by Greenpeace
activists 16 Nov 07, Dumai, Sumatra Island, Indonesia. Activists reportedly anchored the
Greenpeace vessel (RAINBOW WARRIOR) beside the (MT WESTAMA) blocking the vessel
from leaving its berth destined for India with its palm oil cargo. The protest aimed to highlight
the role palm oil plays in driving global deforestation and peatland destruction, which are major
contributors to climate change. The vessel was finally able to depart from its birth on 18 Nov 07
(LM: REUTERS, AFP).
.
2. GREENPEACE: Activists blocked shipment 14 Nov 07 at port Tarragona in
northeastern Spain. Activists blocked a shipment of coal in a protest over climate change.
Police arrested six protestors along with four journalists and press photographers in
GreenpeaceĆ­s motorized inflatable boats. Other Greenpeace activists attached themselves to
cranes offloading some of the 155,000 tons of coal from the ship. The protest was still
continuing in the early afternoon. About 20 Greenpeace activists took part in the protest,
aimed at drawing attention to the burning of coal as a source of greenhouse gas emissions (AFP).

Small boats, busy port= Maritime Securty Risk



Pretty well done article on the issues facing maritime security folks in a busy port where small boats and big ships minglehere by a Kimberly Moore of Florida Today:
At the Small Vessel Security Summit this summer in Washington, D.C., Coast Guard officials recommended to lawmakers that all 17 million boat operators in the United States -- including tens of thousands in Brevard County -- should carry identification when they are on the water. They said it would help Homeland Security build a database of people found in restricted waters, such as some places within Port Canaveral and Mosquito Lagoon.

In addition, officials would like boats to come equipped with Global Positioning Systems so problem boaters could be tracked.

Some local sport and commercial fishermen said they don't mind carrying identification, but suggest that security officials are targeting folks who just want to do their jobs.

Officials' concern stems from an attack on the U.S.S. Cole in October 2000 in the port of Aden, Yemen.

Suicide terrorists used a rubber dinghy laden with explosives to blow a hole in the side of the $1 billion missile destroyer, killing 17 servicemen and women.

The incident also spotlighted the vulnerability of ships in ports.

In a recent talk, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said he wants "to raisethe protection level with respect to small boats."

Brevard County has licensed more than 40,500 small boats, defined as vessels being less than 109 feet long.

More than half of those boats are between 16 and 26 feet long, larger than the dinghy used to attack the Cole.
***
Rosalind Harvey, Port Canaveral's director of communications, said the port pays the state to patrol its waters, while the Brevard County Sheriff's Office monitors the docks to maintain security.

In addition, the Coast Guard has a heavy presence at the port.

"There are several layers of security at the port," Harvey said. "There's landside and waterside. Some you do see. Some you don't see."

Port Canaveral security regulations require boaters to stay:

# 25 feet away from all docks.

# 100 feet away from berthed ships.

# 200 feet away from berthed Navy vessels.

However, large ships and small boats share the same waterways as they come and go at the port.

Despite local port regulations, Florida's boating law administrator, Richard Moore, said the state's ports are "quite vulnerable" to terrorist bombings from small vessels.

"We don't have anything to counteract that," said Moore, who attended the June summit in Washington. "We need to be more aware of what's going on around us on the water. We need to know that if we see something out of the ordinary, we should report that."

Monday, November 26, 2007

It's the end of the universe as we know it and --oh, never mind

Looking is the same as touching ..sorta...We Shorten Universe's Life Just By Looking! Or Not...

You know:


UPDATE: Or maybe



Of course, I love the Universe, I just have a little trouble getting my arms around it....

Monday Reading

It's Maritime Monday 86 over at Fred Fry International full coverage of the ship sinking in the Antarctic, transport of offshore wind generators and lots of good Monday links.

More to follow.

UPDATE: Like Monday Maritime Matters at Xformed's place something about a general, weather, Army skivvy waving and an Army ship.

Cruise ship threated by pirates? Again?



Reported here:
Just two years after outrunning pirates off Somalia, the cruise liner Seabourn Spirit has been saved from a potential repeat attack.

Royal Navy warship HMS Campbeltown responded to a call for help from Seabourn Spirit ... as the liner transited for Muscat, Oman.

The cruise ship's crew had grown increasingly concerned about small skiffs believed to be pirates closing on their position.

Over 120 nautical miles away Campbeltown's maritime attack Lynx helicopter was dispatched to the scene, armed with its machine gun to reassure the cruise liner, and if necessary intercept the pirates.

By the time the helicopter reached the liner the skiffs had disappeared.
***
Campbeltown is currently one month into a seven-and-a-half month deployment east of the Suez Canal. Up to and including Christmas, the ship is operating in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

Gulf of Aden and Red Sea? Sounds like an anti-piracy patrol...

Sunday Ship History

Sunday Ship History appears to have taken the week off.

(Computer issue)

Stay tuned.

Sorry for any inconvenience.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Bugged!

Well, people are out there looking for Bigfoot and dinosaurs, so next we'll be looking for living evidence of this bad boy bug, I suppose:
Eurypterids, or ancient sea scorpions, are believed to be the extinct aquatic ancestors of today's scorpions and possibly all arachnids, a class of joint-legged, invertebrate animals, including spiders, scorpions, mites and ticks.

Braddy said the fossil was from a Jaekelopterus Rhenaniae, a kind of scorpion that lived only in Germany for about 10 million years, about 400 million years ago.

He said some geologists believe that gigantic sea scorpions evolved due to higher levels of oxygen in the atmosphere in the past. Others suspect they evolved in an "arms race" alongside their likely prey, fish that had armor on their outer bodies.

Braddy said the sea scorpions also were cannibals that fought and ate one other, so it helped to be as big as they could be.

"The competition between this scorpion and its prey was probably like a nuclear standoff, an effort to have the biggest weapon," he said. "Hundreds of millions of years ago, these sea scorpions had the upper hand over vertebrates — backboned animals like ourselves."

That competition ended long ago.
Cannibalistic sea scorpions? Look for the SciFi channel movie version.

Besides, if you think that bug is big, you've never seen a southern "Palmetto" bug.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Friday Reading

CDR Salamander: Fullbore Friday with a Polish connection.

Who is funding what for Russia and what it means for world security over at Information Dissemination:
It actually gets stranger though. Congress is spending $448 million dollars on reducing Russian nuclear weapon systems. Perhaps they are not aware, but this fiscal year Russia is spending 10 billion Rubbles, or roughly $411 million dollars on new Borei Class ballistic missile nuclear submarines.

In other words, by paying the cost of decommissioning nuclear weapons for Russia, Congress is giving Russia a free pass on the responsibilities of life cycle costs of being a nuclear power, and thus enabling Russia to build more nuclear weapons and more nuclear weapon delivery systems like SSBNs.


Chap does some linking for thinking.

Iran wants to push Bahrain around, 'cause it's a bully and doesn't like Bahrain's friends.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving! and an old Navy "Mealodrama"

From the collection of Lieutenant Commander Edward R. Morris, USN (Ret.) and found here, a little twist on a Naval Air Station Thanksgiving:

His Day
A Three Act
"Meal-o-Drama"

Featuring
Mr. Tom Turkey and
a Supporting
All-Star Cast


Presented at the
United States
Naval Air Station
Lakehurst, N.J.
Thanksgiving
1942

Commanding Officer
Captain W. E. Zimmerman
U.S. Navy
Executive Officer
Commander J. D. Reppy
U.S. Navy



[Tri-fold program, text as follows:]

The U.S.N.A.S., Lakehurst, NJ Presents
His Day
A Three Act Meal-o-Rama
Thanksgiving Day
1942


IN CHARGE OF PRODUCTION

Director............................ Ensign H. C. Krueger, (SC) USN
Assistant Director ........... Pay Clerk W. L. Bucher, USN
Cast Director ................. W. L. Healy, CCStd, USN (Ret.)

STAGE HANDS
Downing, Hary ........................ CCStd McConnell, G. W ......................... SK2c
Rowland, L. ............................. SC1c Gesswein, A. M. .......................... SC3c
Hartnett, H. H. ........................ SC1c Hetzel, G. H. ................................ SC3c
Wood, W. V. .......................... SC1c Laughlin, J. E. .............................. SC3c
Pataky, S. J.............................. SC1c Greene, R. E................................ SC3c
Mollina, A. B. ......................... SC1c Metcalf, E. F. .............................. SC3c
Lumbo, A. B............................ SC1c Maccri, A. A. .............................. SC3c
Chavis, C. ............................... Stf. Sgt Degenhart, W. ............................. SC3c
Bolton, W. .............................. Bkr1c Synder, H. J. ............................... SC3c
McKelvey, H. D. ................... SC2c Long, G. L. ................................. SC3c
Glod, S. ................................. SC2c Rundiio, C. S. ............................. SC3c
Donald, G. A. ........................ SC2c McLean, G. M. ........................... Bkr3c
Lamberson, H. M. ................. Bkr2c Drosdick, B. ............................... Bkr3c
Schoen, Chas. ....................... Bkr2c Nattress, G. A. ........................... Sea2c
Davis, F. G. ........................... Bkr2c Warner, A. ................................. Sea2c
O'Rourke, I. J. ........................ SK2c McDermott, S. ........................... Pfc. USMC


A WORD ABOUT THE PLOT

This play concerns Mr. Tom (Corn-Fed) Turkey, a big feather and duster man from
the "wide open spaces." In line with the increased naval expansion program -- this
delectable character and his gang decided to visit the United States Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, NJ, this Thanksgiving Day to be "stowed away" for a short hop.

The scene of action is the USNAS, Lakehurst, NJ, on Thanksgiving Day, at high noon.
An enthusiastic committee, (all hands), welcome "Tommy" and "His Gang" aboard, with
knives and forks at "Present Arms!" . . . . Now the fun begins!

CAST OF CHARACTERS

The various members of the cast are listed in the order that they come over the gangway. If our star appears a bit uneasy, the management knows that our audience will not judge him too harshly . . . . . . . Let's go on with the show!

OVERTURE

"Celery Soup and Crackers," a Symphony, sung by the entire audience, without silencers.
. . . . Let joy be unconfined!

PROLOGUE

Mr. See Pickles and his sweetheart, Miss Celery Hearts, who is is well stuffed -- Relished by all. Followed by a solo by that appetizing California celebrity .......... Miss Ripe Olives.

ACT ONE
A Young Vermont Gentleman ......................... Mr. Tom Turkey
His Weakness ............................. Miss Giblet Gravy
A Saucy Maid ......................................... Miss Cranberry Sauce
Her Boy Friend .......................................... Mr. Oyster Dressing
One of the Can-Can Girls ........................... Miss Buttered Peas
An Irish Dandy ...................................... Mr. Whipped Potatoes


ACT TWO
A Ham What Am ........................................... Mr. Squeal Grunt
A Red Headed Feller ................................... Mr. Tomato Salad
Rolls (a hot guy) ........................................... Mr. Parker House

INTERMISSION

Upon arriving at this point our audience will find it advisable to take time out for a short period before attempting Act III.

ACT THREE

The Villain .............................................. Mr. O. U. Bumpkin Pie
A Chilly Virgin.................................................. Miss "I" Scream
An Innocent Lass ..................................... Miss Vanilla Wafer
The Tan Dandy ......................................................... Mr. Coffee


SPECIALTIES

A One Act skin-game, featuring those well known artists,

The Vitamin Kids .............................Orange and Apple
A visit to the Nut House ................................................. A Sketch
Mr. and Mrs. Mixed Nuts .................. assisted by a Nut Cracker
"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" ............................. A Popular Ballad
The Knights of Nicotine ............................. Assorted Cigarettes



EPILOGUE

A Siesta is now in order. "All Hands," not on watch, to their bunks until the effects of the play have partially subsided.

WE HOPE YOU LIKED IT

All the best to you and yours! And to all the men and women serving overseas and at sea - we're keeping the lights on for you...

John F. Kerry: Lying Wimp

Summary of recent Kerry Bravo Sierra and the start of the Crybaby Kerry clock here. The Kerry Crybaby clock can be seen on the American Spectator homepage. Anyone keeping track of the number of days/months/years since Kerry said he'd release all of his military records?

Kerry has responded on his website by asserting that Boone Pickens has "moved the goalposts:"
I must remind you, however, that this was and is your “challenge,” not mine. You are, after all, the one who said explicitly at the dinner — in a way that was calculated to challenge any naysayer — that you would give one million dollars “to anyone who could show that anything the SBVT said was false.” (RedState.Com) These were your words — and nowhere did you ever suggest, as you are now trying to, that your challenge referred specifically and exclusively to any advertising by the SBVT.

As you know, the lies of the SBVT were not confined just to their ads; they were a constant barrage of television, radio, Internet, speeches, and forums in which — significantly bankrolled by you — they launched and repeated lie after lie. Your challenge expressly stood behind all of their allegations.

It is disturbing that in reaffirming the challenge you issued, your parsing and backtracking seems eerily reminiscent of the entire approach of the SBVT — say one thing, put out an allegation, then duck and weave, hedge and bob when your words catch up with you. I want to believe that this was not your intent because I am told that you are a man of your word, not “all hat and no cattle.”

Honor and duty, which you purport to defend, demand that you not selectively back away from your original challenge. Your offer clearly said — boldly, unequivocally — to an audience of your friends and supporters — that you would give “a million dollars to anyone who could prove wrong anything the Swiftboat Veterans charged about Kerry.” (AmericanThinker.com) In my letter, that is the offer which I accepted.

I was interested to read in your response that you don’t want to see the SBVT “maligned,” and that you aim “to prevent this important part of American history from being unfairly portrayed.” I accepted your offer precisely because I want to prevent the honorable records of the courageous men who served with me from being maligned by the repeated lies of this organization. I want to see the word “Swiftboat” restored to its original meaning — synonymous with honorable service to country, not political lies aimed to distort and divide. I would hope that your interests should also be in protecting the record of all those who served our country.

As I’ve said to you before, I am prepared to prove the lie and marshal all the evidence, the question is whether you are prepared to fulfill your obligation — no variations, no back pedaling, no retreat, no new bets, no changing the subject.
Well, Senator, how about a little less talk and a lot more action? Just prove up the lies now, in public, for all the world to see and then go after Mr. Pickens...

And still no responses to my request for anyone to step forward who can verify Kerry's "flying dog" story. I don't have a $1 million bucks, but I will make a donation to any charity specified by anyone who comes forward.

UPDATE: Note the careful phrasing by Mr. Kerry - he doesn't deny the accuracy of the ads but challenges other, as yet unspecified "repeated lies."

I assume he taking the position that any misrepresentation completely deflates all the truths in the Swift Boat ads. On that basis, I again urge anyone who knows anything supportive of the "flying dog" tale to come forward to give Mr. Kerry the opportunity to prove the truth of that tale.

I also note that Mr. Kerry has already come up with one whopper about his service in Cambodia:
"I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and have the president of the United States telling the American people that I was not there; the troops were not in Cambodia. I have that memory which is seared -- seared -- in me."

However seared he was, Kerry's spokesmen now say his memory was faulty. When the Swift boat veterans who oppose Kerry presented statements from his commanders and members of his unit denying that his boat entered Cambodia, none of Kerry's shipmates came forward, as they had on other issues, to corroborate his account. Two weeks ago Kerry's spokesmen began to backtrack. First, one campaign aide explained that Kerry had patrolled the Mekong Delta somewhere "between" Cambodia and Vietnam. But there is no between; there is a border. Then another spokesman told reporters that Kerry had been "near Cambodia." But the point of Kerry's 1986 speech was that he personally had taken part in a secret and illegal war in a neutral country. That was only true if he was "in Cambodia," as he had often said he was. If he was merely "near," then his deliberate misstatement falsified the entire speech.

Next, the campaign leaked a new version through the medium of historian Douglas Brinkley, author of "Tour of Duty," a laudatory book on Kerry's military service. Last week Brinkley told the London Telegraph that while Kerry had been 50 miles from the border on Christmas, he "went into Cambodian waters three or four times in January and February 1969 on clandestine missions." Oddly, though, while Brinkley devotes nearly 100 pages of his book to Kerry's activities that January and February, pinpointing the locations of various battles and often placing Kerry near Cambodia, he nowhere mentions Kerry's crossing into Cambodia, an inconceivable omission if it were true.

Now a new official statement from the campaign undercuts Brinkley. It offers a minimal (thus harder to impeach) claim: that Kerry "on one occasion crossed into Cambodia," on an unspecified date. But at least two of the shipmates who are supporting Kerry's campaign (and one who is not) deny their boat ever crossed the border, and their testimony on this score is corroborated by Kerry's own journal, kept while on duty. One passage reproduced in Brinkley's book says: "The banks of the [Rach Giang Thanh River] whistled by as we churned out mile after mile at full speed. On my left were occasional open fields that allowed us a clear view into Cambodia. At some points, the border was only fifty yards away and it then would meander out to several hundred or even as much as a thousand yards away, always making one wonder what lay on the other side." His curiosity was never satisfied, because this entry was from Kerry's final mission.

After his discharge, Kerry became the leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). Once, he presented to Congress the accounts by his VVAW comrades of having "personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires . . . to human genitals . . . razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan . . . poisoned foodstocks." Later it was shown that many of the stories on which Kerry based this testimony were false, some told by impostors who had stolen the identities of real GIs, but Kerry himself was not implicated in the fraud. And his own over-the-top generalization that such "crimes [were] committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command" could be charged up to youthfulness and the fevers of the times.

But Kerry has repeated his Cambodia tale throughout his adult life. He has claimed that the epiphany he had that Christmas of 1968 was about truthfulness. "One of the things that most struck me about Vietnam was how people were lied to," he explained in a subsequent interview. If -- as seems almost surely the case -- Kerry himself has lied about what he did in Vietnam, and has done so not merely to spice his biography but to influence national policy, then he is surely not the kind of man we want as our president.
Or here:
Fortunately for Kerry, the Swift Boat Vets arrayed against him have wasted a lot of time arguing about the validity of Kerry's various medals. Any veteran knows all too well that where there are awards there are injustices. The Marquis in Stendahl's Red and the Black put it this way to the ambitious young social climber, Julien Sorel, the antihero of the novel: 'Medals are not earned, they are bestowed.' Any veteran hearing that line will nod ruefully in agreement.

However, the Swiftvets may have scored a hit below the waterline on Kerry's candidacy with the collapse of the florid 'Christmas in Cambodia' fairytale Kerry has been flogging for 30 years to the press, in speeches, and in his own campaign publications and webpage. In a speech on the floor of the Senate Kerry called it one of the defining moments of his life.

But the Swiftvets forced Kerry to admit what his own journal and historian Douglas Brinkley's Tour of Duty showed—Kerry spent Christmas 50 miles from Cambodia in Sa Dec. So now Kerry says he misremembered —— his trips into Cambodia actually took place in January or February of the following year. His campaign has to back this up to save what is left of Kerry's credibility, before the embarrassed silence of the major media gives way to a real desire to find out what else Kerry may have lied about. And it's not going to be easy.

Kerry's memory failed earlier in March explaining that he couldn't remember his participation in a vote by a national meeting of hundreds of members of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War considering the assassination of six US Senators supporting the war effort in Vietnam back in November of 1971. He had been placed at the meeting by eyewitnesses, some who currently worked for his campaign, and contemporaneous FBI reports. Kerry was on the VVAW Executive Committee at the time, and when he was asked about it, he was a US Senator himself. He had denied being present. Now he admitted it must have slipped his mind.

This time Kerry has done exactly what he did the last time. He never personally answers the accusations. At least Bush replied directly to NBC's Tim Russert about the AWOL charge. Kerry leaves that task to his ever—changing spokesmen. And now the thankless job of trying to prove Kerry went on secret operations in Cambodia has been left to Kerry's official biographer Douglas Brinkley while Kerry goes on yet another vacation.
A sorta counter view here, saying, essentially, it was an honest mistake, maybe:
The available facts make Kerry's comment quite understandable. Given Kerry's stance on the war, it's safe to assume he was aware of and appalled by the Nixon administration's decision to expand the war into Cambodia. While he may or may not have ever actually entered Cambodia, Kerry probably went upriver far enough to have been near the border. And the incident regarding his being shot at (or near) by South Vietnamese troops probably happened as well. So, twenty-plus years later, his memory conflated those events during his Senate speech. Memory does that all the time. Is it possible Kerry intentionally lied to make his point about Nicaragua? Sure. But is there any evidence he did, as opposed to his simply making an error? Personally, unless there's a little more evidence showing that Kerry's statement was a calculated lie designed to advance his position, I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Of course, the comments get to the meat:
I don't know, Andrew. I'm a bit concerned that he didn't just conflate several real events, but that he also folded in the better part of a movie. And I disagree that there wasn't a big distinction between "near" Cambodia and "in" Cambodia.

What concerns me is not so much that he "lied," which he probably did... but it's hard to determine intent. The real concern goes to judgment. What kinds of executive decisions are required of a President, and what does this say about Kerry's tendency to "fuzz the line" to an extraordinary degree. What decision involving war and peace in this "War on Terror" does not involve making judgments about the lesser of a number of evils, or the choice of a "guilty until proved innocent" paradigm vs. an "innocent until proved guilty" method? Hans Blix got completely lost in nuance, and simply couldn't distinguish between the two. And he's a bastion of clarity compared to Kerry and this "Xmas in Cambodia" thing.

More to the point, as Lileks observes, he claims this as a formative event in his life. Yet it appears to be an event that didn't actually happen. Was he ever in Cambodia, and just got the date's wrong? Was he watching the scene from Apocalypse Now as the swift boat pulled into the USO Christmas Party, and just allowed his memories to be rewritten?

This fellow was motivated by these false or at least seriously flawed memories to some rather significant anti-American behavior. What else is locked up in that inscrutable Boston blue-blood psyche? What might it motivate him to do, when confronted with a critical turning-point?

I don't know whether there's electoral gold in it for the Republicans, but it sure scares the hell out of me.
Over to you, Senator. Report for duty.

Piracy alert level high in Horn of Africa area

In the "it's about time" category,Regional shipping on piracy alert:
Ship Master's, pilots and crew are being warned to be vigilant on the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Aden and Red Sea by the International Maritime Bureau's (IMB) Piracy Alert service.
Nigeria gets a mention, too.

Stowaways on military cargo ships...

A possible terrorist link gets looked at as stowaways found on a ship carrying military cargo in the port of Beaumont, Texas (and it's not the first such incident):
KFDM News has learned two foreign nationals are in custody Tuesday night after they were found hiding on a ship that was carrying military equipment to the Port of Beaumont.

The Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit says the Alaskan ship owned by Tote was headed into the port, however the stowaways were discovered and taken into custody before the vessel entered the Sabine-Neches waterway.

Investigators tell us they were taking no chances and that's why they searched the suspected ship Monday night.

About two weeks ago, the ship's crew found two Ethiopian stowaways from Djibouti.
***
The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, including the swat team, as well as Beaumont police and port police and the Coast Guard were looking for other stowaways, but they did not find any other people hiding and no weapons were found.

Investigators say the two men now in custody approached crew members on the ship asking for food and water.

That's when authorities were notified. Coast Guard officers say the men remain in custody for questioning and the area is secure.
On the other hand,
Military investigators tell us they will continue questioning the men. They say it's quite possible the stowaways were just trying to get out of their country seeking a better way of life here in the United States.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Latest ONI Worldwide Threat to Shipping Report (to 12 Nov 07)

Latest ONI Worldwide Threat to Shipping Report (to 12 Nov 07) is found here. Highlights:
2. PHILLIPINES: Military troops kill suspected pirate and seize boats during a raid, 21 Oct 07, in Batu Pantan, Lagayas, Tawi-Tawi. Western Mindanao Command spokesman, Major Eugenio Batara Jr., said the troops launched the raid following the reported presence of the pirates in Batu Pantan. The raiding troops seized two “jungkong” type vessels believed to be used by the pirates. Local pirates are reportedly operating in the waters of Sulu and Tawi-tawi, victimizing traders and fishermen in the area. They are said to be heavily armed and wreaking
fear on the nearby population. Batara claimed the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) has also allied themselves with the lawless elements operating in this part of the country and urged the local population to be vigilant and report such kinds of individuals and organizations to the authorities Batara assured the residents in the area that the Western Mindanao Command remains steadfast in its mandate to protect the Filipino people against lawless elements. (LM: Sunstar Zamboanga).
.
3. GULF OF ADEN: Human smuggling activity leading to multiple fatalities continues 21 Oct 07, off Yemen coast. Up to 66 people drowned after being forced overboard by smugglers, according to survivors. The tragedy involved two smugglers’ boats that left the Somali coastal town of Bossaso on 20 Oct 07, with 244 people aboard, mostly Somalis and Ethiopians. The two vessels reached the Yemen coast off Hawrat Al Shatee on 21 Oct 07, the passengers were then forced into deep water and many drowned. A total of 28 bodies were buried on the beach, while 38 (29 Ethiopians and nine Somalis) remain missing. ONI Comment: Mariners in the Gulf of Aden are more likely to have encounters associated with smuggling activities during the October through November fall transition period between monsoon seasons. Mariners are advised to maintain strict vigilance and report all suspicious activity (UN News Service, ONI).
***
6. SOMALIA: The North Korean-flagged general cargo vessel (DAI HONG DAN)
infiltrated on the evening of 29 Oct while in port Mogadishu. An allegedly corrupt security detachment hired by a Mogadishu shipping agent boarded the vessel prior to its departure from port where it discharged its cargo. After departure, the security team began to demand money and attacked the crew, taking control of the bridge. Crewmembers were still able to control the steering and engineering spaces of the ship. The Combined Maritime Forces Headquarters in Bahrain received a call from the International Maritime Bureau on the morning of 30 October, providing the status of the DAI HONG DAN. At that time, USS JAMES E WILLIAMS (DDG 95) was approximately 50 NM from the vessel. They arrived in the vicinity of the vessel midday local time on 30 October and contacted the perpetrators via bridge-to-bridge radio, ordering them
to give up their weapons. Shortly after, the North Korean crew, which according to reports, numbered 43 persons, confronted the infiltrators and overpowered them, regaining control of the vessel. They began communicating with WILLIAMS, requesting medical assistance. Three corpsmen from WILLIAMS, along with a boarding team, provided medical assistance and other support as needed to the crew of the vessel. Reports from the crew are that three of the perpetrators were critically injured and one is dead. The vessel transited safely to the port of Aden, Yemen on 5 November where three of its wounded crewmembers received medical attention. The vessel also received supplies and fuel to continue its journey home. (IMB, CTF-
150, LM: Saba Net).

8. SOMALIA: General cargo vessel (JAIKUR II) fired upon 21 Oct 07 at 1250 local time while underway approximately 60NM off the coast near Baraawe, (100NM south of Mogadishu). The master sent out a distress call to the UN World Food Program (WFP) Somalia, claiming he was being attacked and chased by pirates in two speedboats and was advised to turn off all lights and head out to sea. The pirates continued to chase and fire at the vessel while in position 00:26N-044:38E. The vessel eventually increased its distance from the attackers and escaped to open sea. The vessel was under charter for the UN WFP and had unloaded its cargo in Mogadishu. It was returning to Mombasa to load more cargo for a second voyage for UN WFP. CTF-150 contacted the ship’s master after the incident and he claimed he was safe and no
significant damage to the crew or vessel had occurred. The UN WFP informed NATO shipping and MARLO who in turn advised CTF150 (UKMTO, CTF-150, AFP, IMB).
.
9. SOMALIA: General cargo vessel (ALMARJAN) hijacked 17 Oct 07 at 1830 local time, approximately 10-20NM from Mogadishu port after departing bound for Mombasa, Kenya. According to the owners of the ship, the last message they received from the ship’s master was that armed pirates in a speedboat chased the vessel, opened fire with automatic weapons, and boarded by using a ladder. The vessel was hijacked and sailed into coastal waters and anchored closer to shore. To date, the owners lost contact with the vessel. At this time, there has been no further contact with the vessel’s master or the hijackers. The vessel was under charter for the UN World Food Program (WFP) and had discharged its cargo in Mogadishu (IMB, SAP, AFP).
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18. MADAGASCAR: Sailboat boarded, robbed, crewmembers assaulted 19 Oct 07 at 0200 local time, Majunga harbour. Four robbers boarded the sailboat, assaulting the skipper and taking the skipper’s wife hostage before trying to strangle her. Both the skipper and his wife received many injuries, including fractured ribs. The robbers stole cash and valuables before escaping (IMB).
***
1. PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Fishing vessel (SHENG ENG 168) reported suspected mutiny,
captain killed 08 Nov 07 off the northern coast. Indonesian police have arrested eight Indonesian crewmembers suspected of trying to take over a Taiwanese vessel resulting in the death of a captain, along with three other crewmembers reportedly missing and feared dead after a mutiny event. Indonesian deckhands reportedly wanted to steal the vessel and its large catch of fish. The vessel was reportedly brand new, (valued at $620,000) with a large fish haul (REUTERS, LM: allheadlinenews.com).

Monday Reading

Monday Maritime Matters at Chaotic Synaptic Activity on a Medal of Honor recipient who had a big ship named after him.

And it's Maritime Monday 85! over at Fred Fry International with a look at new Canadian ferries and a whole lot more. Oh, and Fred does repeat his earlier question in a new context:
Space War analyzes Russia's plans to build the world's second largest aircraft carrier fleet. (I say again, just why are we still giving the Russians almost a Billion dollars a year???)"

Laugher of the Day: Myanmar: Washington’s geopolitics and the Straits of Malacca


The author of this particular piece of idiocy, a Sarah Flounders, is in way over her head as she tries, on the "Workers World" site - "workers & oppressed peoples of the world unite!" - to let everyone know of the evil intentions of the United States with regard to Myanmar in Myanmar: Washington’s geopolitics and the Straits of Malacca. According to Ms. Flounders, it all about "THE OIL" and control of the Strait of Malacca
What has received little attention in the U.S. corporate media is Myanmar’s geopolitical position and its rich resources. A U.S. base in Myanmar is considered vital for control of the most strategically important sea lanes in the Pacific.
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Hiding behind ‘humanitarian relief’

The U.S. Pacific Fleet moved back into South Asia by providing emergency relief during the Dec. 26, 2004 tsunami near Indonesia.

Using the cover of tsunami relief, the U.S. Navy also moved back into the giant U-Tapao base on the Gulf of Siam in Thailand. This had been a major front-line U.S. base during the Vietnam War, from which the Pentagon launched 80 percent of its air strikes against North Vietnam.
Ms. Flounders notes Chinese concerns, but somehow fails to mention China's efforts in the area, which I have discussed before including in China looks to the sea:
Of particular interest in recent days are the sea lanes China is working to find ways to protect. As you can see from the following (which just reference crude oil shipments) these lanes are heavily traveled. In the... chart, I have marked U.S. allies in blue (yes, Singapore is over-sized) and areas that China is making claims or working to establish relations as red bursts. Note that the red bursts sit athwart the sea lanes.

China is also assisting in building a large naval base in western Pakistan, "China's pearl in Pakistan's waters" as so aptly named in the linked article from the Asia Times:

For China, Gwadar's strategic value stems from its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz. About 60% of China's energy supplies come from the Middle East, and China has been anxious that the US, which has a very high presence in the region, could choke off these supplies to China. "Having no blue-water navy to speak of, China feels defenseless in the Persian Gulf against any hostile action to choke off its energy supplies," points out Tarique Niazi, a specialist in resource-based conflict, in the Jamestown Foundation's China Brief.


A presence in Gwadar provides China with a "listening post" where it can "monitor US naval activity in the Persian Gulf, Indian activity in the Arabian Sea and future US-Indian maritime cooperation in the Indian Ocean", writes Haider. A recent report titled "Energy Futures in Asia" produced by defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton for the Pentagon notes that China has already set up electronic eavesdropping posts at Gwadar, which are monitoring maritime traffic through the Strait of Hormuz and the Arabian Sea.

Drawing attention to China's "string of pearls" strategy, the report points out that "China is building strategic relationships along the sea lanes from the Middle East to the South China Sea in ways that suggest defensive and offensive positioning to protect China's energy interests, but also to serve broad security objectives". The port and naval base in Gwadar is part of the "string of pearls".

The other "pearls" in the string include facilities in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and the South China Sea that Beijing has acquired access to by assiduously building ties with governments in these countries.
Wonder why she left China's efforts out of her little piece? Oh, yes, because it's a "worker's paradise."