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Friday, February 29, 2008

Port Security: Smart Sensors on the Job


How do you see in the dark or see what can't be seen? Some tools identified here:
The mission of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. military is, in part, to ensure the protection, safety, and security of the nation and its citizens. Science and technology are playing an ever increasing role in this mission. In fact, the Directorate for Science and Technology, the primary research-and-development arm of DHS, is working in partnership with private businesses, national laboratories, universities, domestic and foreign government agencies, and the military to drive the development and use of high-tech solutions in support of securing the nation. Together, the homeland security and military communities are making significant strides in technology, particularly in the vital areas of intelligence and surveillance.
One example here.

UPDATE: On the other hand, these tools have to be part of a larger effort, not the sole line of defense.

Yeman and the Global War on Terror

Jane finds an article that questions Yemen's intentions here:
Increased U.S.-Yemen military relationship has been hotly debated between CENTCOM and Middle East specialists in Washington, primarily at the Defense Department. Former U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine, an experienced Middle East specialist, supported these specialists’ view. As early as March of 2000, she recommended that the Navy not authorize ship visits to Aden. In fact, the State Department’s 2000 report on terrorism states that “lax and inefficient enforcement of security procedures and the government’s inability to exercise authority over remote areas of the country continued to make the country a safehaven for terrorist groups.”

Much of this concern was borne later that year with the October 12 attack on the USS Cole while refueling in the port of Aden. Given what we knew and the ambassador’s analysis, why was the ship in Yemen at all?

After the attack, former CENTCOM commander, retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, testified before Congressional committees that he had made the decision a few years earlier to use the Yemeni port for refueling U.S. Navy ships. Zinni stated that he was presented only with poor choices of refueling locations. This statement flies in the face of conventional wisdom - there are numerous safer refueling locations in the region - Abu Dhabi, Jebel Ali, Dubai, Fujayrah, and Muscat come to mind. When you add the fact that this particular ship had a range in excess of 4000 miles, the claim of the requirement to refuel in Aden loses credibility.

Although there is no doubt about the need to use more foreign ports due to cutbacks in military spending and the resultant loss of refueling ships to support underway replenishments, the USS Cole issue has more to do with politics than with logistics. The ship visits – including that of the USS Cole – to Aden were more of a misguided CENTCOM effort to show the flag and build the bilateral U.S.-Yemeni relationship than a valid logistical requirement. Of course, political expediency and military prudence do not always go hand in hand. It was a bad decision, one for which Zinni has never taken responsibility.
Ouch.

Friday Reading

CDR Salamander: Fullbore Friday covers a Hollywood legend who supported the troops.

Xformed points to a National Guard sergeant who is a "winner" in more ways than one here.

For those of us who served in or around Vietnam, here's an article that confirms that John Kerry and his "Winter Soldiers" were just as full of hooey as we thought at the time. Not that there may not have been real problems which should have been addressed through channels - remember the helicopter pilot, Hugh Thompson, who reported the My Lai mess...What's the big deal? Another Winter Soldier "investigation" is looming on the horizon.

John has a tale of a hero who you've never heard about.

Chap provides some intel on how AFRICOM is proceeding. Hmm. Priorities.

Lex looks a possible plan for O-6 retention. I guess those of us on the older retirement plan always figured at some point the work was for 1/2 pay (since if you retired at 20 years, you'd get 1/2 of the base pay for life) but new pay plans seem to have created some odd wrinkles. Naturally, Salamander has an thoughts. Inside baseball? Maybe...

Interesting look at the North Korean shell game on its nuclear program here. Not that duplicity on that subject should be a surprise, as the DPRK seems to me to be down to two bargaining chips: (1) its nuclear program and (2) invading South Korea. Good quote: "History is not likely to be kind to most of those involved in the North Korean nuclear negotiating fiasco." Amen. Read the comments, too.

Econbrowser has thoughts on possible recession and the Fed.

UDPDATE:
A look at Kosovo in the greater scheme of foreign relations. Feel free to disagree, but it might give you pause to ask what relationships we are willing to trade so that the Kosovar Albanians have their own country which cannot support itself but which may fester into something much worse.

Update: A look at the Kosovo economy from a couple of weeks ago here:
As Kosovo seeks international recognition of its declaration of independence, the round-the-clock rumble of thousands of portable power generators threatens to drown out the celebratory fireworks. And its problems go far beyond an electricity grid so unreliable that just keeping the lights on can be a daily struggle.

Roads are badly rutted or unpaved. Joblessness runs close to 50 percent, and much of the work force is uneducated. The average monthly salary is a paltry $220.

By virtually every measure, Kosovo joins the family of nations with the dubious distinction of being one of Europe's poorest.

Black Sea missing ship mystery


Been following this story for a couple of days, as India pressures Turkey to keep looking for the missing ship Rezzak:
The Panama-flagged MV Rezzak and its 25 Indian crewmembers were traveling from Novorossisk, Russia, to Bartın, Turkey with a shipment of steel billets. The ship lost communication with tracking centers in the early hours of Feb. 18. Turkish authorities have found no trace of the ship except a life raft drifting some five nautical miles off the Turkish coast, India's DNA newspaper reported on Feb. 23.
***
Officials from the İstanbul-based CMR Denizcilik Ve Ticaret A.Ş., which owns the Rezzak, were not available for comment.

DNA, however, noted that while it is common for vessels to go missing in African waters, where pirates thrive, a vessel disappearing without a trace in an inland sea is very unusual. The Rezzak was built in 1984 and is equipped with the latest communication equipment, DNA reported.

DNA also reported that Pelican Marine had been the management for the Jupiter 6, a ship that went missing in the Indian Ocean on Sept. 5, 2005.
***
Turkish maritime officials speaking to Today’s Zaman said they suspected there may have been a plot behind the incident.

The same officials raised several questions and assumptions over this bizarre incident. They say that, if it sank, it is strange that neither the bodies of the crew nor traces of the ship have been found, except a life raft from the vessel drifting off the Turkish coast. Other interesting facts are that the ship failed to send any distress signals -- raising questions of whether its communication equipment had been switched off -- and that the Pelican company allegedly does not have legal authorization to hire people.

There were also questions about whether the incident could be a plot aimed at receiving insurance payment from the relevant insurance company, namely British Marine of the United Kingdom. The ship was said to be insured for around $6 million while the crew was insured for $200,000 each. Recently the families of the crew have allegedly stopped calling the Pelican company to seek the whereabouts of their loved ones.
Maritime insurance fraud? Sadly, there is a history of such things...

Some background here.
Photo is supposed to be the Rezzak, according to this, but I have some doubts since the dates of launching don't match.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The CLE Monster has me

Someday I will write about the uselessness of Continuing Legal Education and what a scam it is.

But not now.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Righting the ship Cougar Ace


Remember the Cougar Ace, the Mazda car carrier which tried to turn turtle and took the life of salvage surveyor?

There's an excellent article on how the car carrier, which took on a severe port list was brought back to even keel at Wired's High Tech Cowboys of the Deep Seas: The Race to Save the Cougar Ace:
By the end of the second day of pumping, the Cougar Ace is upright. A few days later, the owners come aboard to reclaim the ship. What initially seemed like a lost cause is now floating freely. It did not sink. Ninety-nine percent of its cargo is intact. There was no environmental disaster.
How it was saved is a great read.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Monday Reading

Fred Fry takes Maritime Monday to gCaptain here with some great photos of an LNG tanker offloading (safely!) at a U.S. port. No NIMBYS appear to have been burned alive, despite their worst fears...

and Fred has much more. Go over.

Galrahn mocks the NYTimes for its late arrival on the scene in observing that the Chinese are building a lot of submarines. The Times in the Department of Duh? Of course.

Richard Fernandez of Belmont Club sees into the future and the Fall of Musharraf.

Places to go, things to do.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Ship History: The Aleutians Campaign

We tend, for good reason, to think of the Pacific Ocean part of World War II as happening in the balmy South Pacific Islands, with the pleasures promised by Bali Hai counterpointed with Tarawa, Peleliu and the "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot." But for several thousand American soldiers, sailors and airmen, the war was not grass huts and coconut palms, but rather a a war in a place described as "a region of almost perpetual mist and snow" ( The Two Ocean War, Samuel Eliot Morison, p. 265) and that same historian was inspired to describe the Aleutian Campaign as one of massive frustration:
For over nine months after Midway, events in this sector were a sequence of naval bombardments by us which did no damage, reinforcement missions by the enemy which accomplished nothing, and operation by United States submarines which usefully diminished the Japanese merchant marine.
How did this "campaign" come to pass? It is, mostly, geography's fault, I suppose. That and the Japanese plan to stage a diversion in the effort to draw the American fleet out of Pearl Harbor for a great battle ... an effort thwarted when the Japanese code was broken and the intent to make Midway the focus of their main attack became known to the Americans (remember the trap set by the American code breakers when a plain language message was sent out by Midway reporting a casualty that the Japanese dutifully encrypted and allowed the U.S. to learn that the main target of the Japanese was "AF" known to them to Midway). The Japanese diversion turned into an invasion and capture of U.S. soil in the forms of the islands of Attu and Kiska, at the end of the Aleutian island chain.

Sometime before the Japanese occupation of these islands, there was some interest in the American military in using the Aleutian chain as a possible staging area for operations as set out here:
American interest in the North Pacific as a potential theater of operations in a war against Japan antedated Pearl Harbor. Based originally on the hope of gaining air bases in the Soviet Maritime Provinces within easy reach of Japan, this interest was reinforced later by the desire for an air ferry route to facilitate the delivery of lend-lease planes. But those pushing for air operations based on Soviet territory made little headway against Stalin's determination to maintain a neutral position in the Far East. Moreover, the requirements from other parts of the Pacific and the plans for an offensive in Europe left little for an area that was not in urgent need and where operations did not hold out the promise of decisive results.
In addition, events overcame the "North Pacific" plan:
By the spring of 1942 the Army planners in Washington, despite strong arguments from the commanders in the theater and from the Army Air Forces, were beginning to view the idea of bombing Japan from Siberia with increasing skepticism. To the argument that such air attacks would relieve the pressure on Russia, the Army planners replied that the Soviet Union would benefit more if the Allies undertook an offensive in the South Pacific. Such action, they thought, would have the effect of containing Japanese forces, thus removing the danger of a Japanese attack against Siberia.
In the absence of any indication of cooperation from Russia, operation in the Aleutians were to be defensive in nature while the main thrust of American efforts was to be in the South and Central Pacific. The North Pacific was a backwater.

This changed somewhat when the Japanese were reported to have attacked Siberia and did, in fact, successfully invade Attu and Kiska:
The seizure of Attu and Kiska on 6 and 7 June, combined with the movement of Japanese air forces to Paramushiro in the Kurils, seemed ample confirmation of this information. Moreover, it was feared that as a preliminary step in their invasion of the Maritime Provinces the Japanese would seize additional positions in the North Pacific in order to cut the line of communications between Siberia and Alaska. To this fear was added the real concern felt by officers in the theater and in Washington and by the American people that Japan would use its newly acquired bases in the Aleutians as a springboard for invasion of the United States.
This fear spurred development of other project that would assist the war effort in Alaska and Western Canada, including the heroic completion of the Alcan Highway - the first road from the lower states running all the way into Alaska.

If the weather and location didn't complicate matters enough, there were problems in cooperation among the Navy and Army forces assigned to the area. Rear Admiral Theobald was supposed to have operational control of forces but there is many an misunderstanding possible when there is not a unified command structure. In short, Admiral Theobald did not seem to get along well with his Army counter part, Lt. Gen. John L. De Witt

Lots of other arguments militated against the use of the Aleutians as a staging base for operations against the Japanese homeland- including a horrendous climate and the tremendous logistical pipeline which was needed to sustain even the minimum forces...

LtGen DeWitt, however, was not content to be a backwater commander and kept urging grand schemes of reconquest of the American soil being retained by the Japanese (also at the end of a long logistics pipeline). Most of these plans fell on deaf ears in Washington as there were more urgent needs elsewhere in the global war being fought and support shipping and equipment were not available in numbers sufficient to sustain an offensive in the Aleutians.

DeWitt persisted and finally hit on plan that met with some approval - he would capture an island close enough to Kiska to negate the Japanese air base located there. He asserted that this mission could be accomplished by the forces he had on hand - and as in most organizations, doing something that cost no more than doing nothing generally meets with approval. However, here the lack of a unified command reared up it ugly head - the Navy vetoed the island selected by DeWitt, obstensibly due to navigation issues and after some delays while the Navy did its own investigation, the Navy decided that Adak would be preferable to the island chosen by DeWitt. After substantial wrangling the decision was deferred to Washington and the Navy view prevailed. Adak was selected over Tanaga. This, of course, did not improve Army-Navy relations in the area:
Although the Tanaga-Adak debate had finally been settled and the operation successfully concluded, relations between the Army and Navy officers in the area were such that there was grave doubt in Washington that joint operations in the theater would be conducted with the degree of cooperation required for success. Many factors contributed to this lack of harmony, not the least of which was the personality of some of the senior commanders. Unified command, difficult to attain under ideal conditions, was impossible without a determination on the part of all commanders to subordinate their individual convictions to the common good.
In short, sometimes the rumors of disagreements amongst flag officers of different (or even the same) services are true, much to the exasperation of both superiors and subordinates.

The Navy did use the harbors of the Aleutians for routine maintenance of submarines, such as the one shown in drydock nearby.

Back at Pacific Fleet Headquarters, Admiral Nimitz saw the need to free up ships being tied down in messing with the Japanese forces on Attu and Kiska and was hoping for a resolution of the issue the the North Pacific. Nimitz urged a plan to eliminate the Japanese forces. This, in turn, drove an Army training plan for amphibious operations in the Aleutians. Planning was helped by the arrival of RADM Kinkaid in relief of Theobald. In Janaury 1943, American forces landed on Amchitka Island and set up an airbase for operations against Kiska.

The stage was being set for an assault on Kiska, which was being bombed and attacked by ships as often as weather permitted. Admiral Kinkaid seeing that he hadn't the likelhood of getting sufficient ships to support a Kiska operation, proposed instead an attack against Attu, believing there were already assets on hand to carry out that mission. The attack on Attu was set for May 1943.

Before the assault on Attu, a surface naval action broke out, later described by Morison:
Finally, on 26 March 1943, a really interesting event broke: the Battle of the Komandorski Islands.

A small task force ...fought a retiring action against a Japanese force of twice its size and fire power; the battle lasted without a break for three and a half hours of daylight; the contestants slugged it out with gunfire at ranges of eight to twelve miles, without intrusion by air power or submarines. It was a miniature version of the sort of fleet action that the Navy, after World War I, expected to fight in the next war, with the important difference that neither side did the other any great damage.
It was, as noted here, "...the only engagement exclusively between surface ships in the Pacific Theatre, and the last pure gunnery duel in American naval history." Somewhere nearby is a map of the action, but what matters is that the outgunned, underdog Americans showed superior gunnery skills and, apparently, so confused and confounded the Japanese admiral that he abandoned the fight and headed for home. Black shoes did it all by themselves! Of course, the Japanese might have been aware that bombers might be arriving at any time from Dutch Harbor, so that may have help to convince him to withdraw..


On May 11, 1943, the 7th Infantry Division landed on Attu and after a tussle, reclaimed that bit of American muskeg. The Japanese force, outnumbered and with no hope of rescue or assistance, chose to die fighting.


Psychological warfare was used to attempt to lower the Japanese morale through a series of leaflet drops, as set out here, though it didn't seem to lower their morale all that much:

Attu was recaptured by the U.S. Army Seventh Infantry Division in May 1943. The battle to reclaim Attu lasted three weeks. 2,351 Japanese soldiers were found dead; only 28 surrendered. 549 out of 15,000 US soldiers were killed; 1,100 were wounded. 60,000 of the kiri leaflets were dropped over Attu and Kiska before troops landed on Attu in May 1943. The American Air Force regularly bombed and leafleted the Japanese garrisons.
After another big build up, including a vigorous bombing campaign, Kiska was reclaimed in July 1943 when it was discovered that the Japanese had, under the cover of the fog of war, withdrawn their forces from the island. The unopposed invasion included 29,000 U.S. troops and 5,300 Canadian soldiers.

And, thus, with a whimper, ended the Aleutian Campaign. The Aleutians went back to being a backwater, Admiral Kinkaid went on to greater fame and his relief, VADM Fletcher was "awarded" the job of managing the bleak Aleutians.

Remembering that our sailors, soldiers and airmen do not get to choose where they will fight their wars, the courage and tenacity of the men who served in the Aleutians should not go unrecognized. Offer up a salute to these men who fought bravely in a harsh and unrelenting area of the world, while their brothers were also carrying the fight to the enemy.

As a side note, the son of General Claire L. Chennault of Flying Tigers fame, served in the Aleutians.

Among the good things that came out of the Aleutian Campaign was the Naval Air Station Adak, which served as a Cold War base for U.S. anti-submarine aircraft, and this Academy award winning documentary about the Aleutian front here:









Additional reading suggestions here and here.

The Ship Nobody Wants


Reported in Marianas Variety:
A TUGSHIP towing a disabled cruise liner loaded with polychlorinated biphenyls or PCB and asbestos is reportedly on its way to Guam to refuel here after being refused entry in Hawaii.

The SS Independence -- now called the Oceanic -- is being towed by the tug ship Pacific Hickory, which needs to refuel before heading toward India, where the 57-year-old contaminated liner will be scrapped.

KITV News in Hawaii reported that the tug ship was headed to Guam, towing the SS Independence.

Activist and former senator Hope Cristobal has asked the Guam Environmental Protection Agency to stop both ships from coming anywhere near Guam.

"The ship was refused entry into the Hawaii by the State of Hawaii EPA because it poses too much health risk. Now, it is being towed toward Guam. We have reason to be very concerned," Cristobal said.

"Just to get it near Guam will be very dangerous. We don't want to die here. If the tug ship needs to refuel, it needs to refuel out in the ocean and away from Guam," she added.
***
The international activist group called Save the Classic Liners has urged the U.S. Coast Guard and EPA to impound SS Independence, warning that breaking it down in Asia would release toxic PCBs and asbestos.

SS Independence, which was one of the prides of the U.S. flag merchant marine, was built in Quincy, Mass., by Bethlehem Steel and launched in 1950. It made its maiden voyage from New York on a cruise to the Mediterranean 57 years ago this month.

Its operator, American Hawaiian Cruises, went bankrupt when tourism dropped after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

According to the global toxic trade watchdog organization, Basel Action Network or BAN, SS Independence was purchased by NCL in 2003. In 2005 ownership was transferred to what is believed to be a shell company known as California Manufacturing Corporation.

The historic ocean liner had its final voyage from Honolulu, arriving in San Francisco on Nov. 8, 2001 and has since mothballed in the berth.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The case of the disappearing ship

Start the music from The Twilight Zone as there's another mystery of the sea reported as Egypt's own X-file:
Egypt's missing cargo ship Badr 1 was supposed to reach Sudan more than 20 days ago, but it never made it. Badr 1 was reported missing in the Red Sea by the end of last month although it disappeared from sight and from radar screens only three days after its departure on 9 January while heading to Port Sudan from the Suez Canal, an almost 800-mile trip which normally lasts just a few days. Neither Egyptian nor Sudanese authorities have been able to locate the vessel since.

Most authorities concerned and government officials state that Badr 1 has yet to be found. Some people, though, claim they know something others don't.

The ship's owner, for example, insinuates that Badr 1 had been seized for ransom and that international intervention by the United Nations might be needed to end the crisis.
****
Ship owner Ashraf Farag told Al-Ahram Weekly that the ship was found stalled and immobile 70 miles away off Port Sudan shores on 15 February, and that a tugboat had been sent to pull it to the safety of Sudanese shores for repairs.

The ship's fuel, according to Farag, had been mixed with water, thus affecting its performance. "The ship will appear within the next few days," Farag said confidently but without explaining why. "It did not sink and its 14 crew members are safe." He said he believed the lack of mutual contact with the ship was due to an excessive amount of static which impaired the ship's transmitting devices. Such faulty transmission prevented the GPS device (akin to a jet plane's black box) and SOS signals from working, thus causing a total loss of transmission. "This explains why the ship's captain was unable to send or receive messages to and from any of the concerned authorities," argued Farag. "Further details on the ship's whereabouts during the past weeks are currently being kept secret to preserve the safety of the ship as well as its crew," he said.
***
Badr 1 had enough food supplies and water to last for two months. It has been missing for 43 days.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ho hum, another day at the office

Now that I'm a retired Navy guy, I spend time pursuing justice in various ways, most of which seem to involve the review of endless streams of paper or electronic communication.

In the meantime, all the young Navy kids are out there in their "offices" doing, well, their jobs. But as I told my younger son the other day, when they get asked, "What did you accomplish today?" -well-they don't have to tell about the great set of interrogatories they drafted or how their sparkling questions at a deposition may have saved/won their client money.
Instead, sometimes they get to take pot shots at pirates, or land on a carrier at night, or ...do something like take a dangerous satellite out of circulation... like the crew of USS Lake Erie did at 153 miles above the earth.



Way cool.

And I am sooo jealous.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hob Nobs


CargoLaw has a great set of photos on the grounding of M/V Riverdance wherein the title to this post will be revealed.

The photo is of Riverdance in better times. More info here, under "Sally Eurobridge."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Coast Guard nabs another, more sophisticated drug sub

With a big hat tip to Coast Guard News, a Pentagon Channel report on what appears to be an attempted stealth (low radar profile) submersible or semi-submersible drug hauler:



The terrorist possibilities are noted... 4 tons of cargo...

More here, with more video and a warning of boats carrying up to 15 tons.

Piracy Report and Latest ONI Worldwide Threats to Shipping Report (to 13 Feb 08)

The latest ONI Worldwide Threats to Shipping (to 13 Feb 08) can be found here. Highlights:
1. WORLD FOOD PROGRAM ESCORT: The Danish Navy has taken over the task of
escorting UNWFP ships to Somalia per 06 Feb 08 reporting. The Danish took over from its French counterpart which has been escorting WFP ships from Mombasa to Somalia following increased cases of piracy along the coast of the Horn of Africa country. Denmark has agreed to resume escorting duties for the next two months (LM: US News Service, Daily Nation).
***
.
2. NIGERIA: Naval vessel attacked by unidentified assailants, crewmembers killed, 11 Feb 08 at the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) plant, Bonny Island. The Nigerian Navy has confirmed that a Naval vessel escorting a petroleum-industry watercraft was shot at by unknown gunmen. It is believed that the attackers opened fire on the bridge and then boarded the vessel. One sailor was reportedly killed and another died later at a hospital. After heavy retaliation from the Navy, the gunmen retreated (LL, REUTERS, AFP, LM: This Day, Nigerian Tribune).
.
3. NIGERIA: Security vessel (PATIENCE) boarded, robbed 11 Feb 08 at Buoy 35, Bonny Channel. The vessel, belonging to the Elf Petroleum Nigeria Limited, was boarded by unknown gunmen and reportedly threw a crewmember overboard. The crewmember was later rescued by another vessel. The gunmen injured other crewmembers and stole military firearms. There are conflicting reports that the attack between this incident and the Naval vessel at the NLNG plant were the same or happened simultaneously (LL, REUTERS, AFP, LM: This Day, Nigerian
Tribune).
.
4. NIGERIA: Container ship boarded 01 Feb 08 at 0315 UTC, Berth Tin Can No. 4, Lagos port. Three robbers boarded the vessel and broke into the forward paint locker. The duty officer raised the alarm and the robbers escaped in a waiting boat. Nothing was stolen (IMB).
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5. NIGERIA: Product tanker boarded 30 Jan 08 at 2130 UTC in position 06:17.62N-003: 24.7E, Lagos anchorage. Four robbers armed with handguns and knives boarded the vessel. The alert crew raised the alarm and the crew mustered. The robbers stole ship’s stores and escaped in their waiting boat (IMB).
.
6. NIGERIA: Nigerian Navy vessel NNS (KWAYEH) engaged in militant clash, one killed, others arrested, 24 Jan 08, Andoni River. The naval vessel was patrolling when four men were sited on a speedboat fully armed. Conflicting reporting states that the suspected militants opened fire on the vessel causing them to retaliate, while an additional report from the Nigerian Navy states they fired the initial warning shots at the vessel causing the militants to fire back. The Navy was able to overpower them, killing one militant on the spot while three others were
arrested. There were no causalities for the navy. The militants were reportedly among those who have been terrorizing vessels along Andoni and Bonny Rivers. The identities of the three remaining attackers were given to authorities for further investigation and prosecution (LM: Panapress, This Day, Vanguard).
***
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3. GULF OF ADEN: Product tanker fired upon 01 Feb 08 at 1510 local time while
underway in position 12:55N-051:23.6E. A small wooden fast boat with four men onboard was observed approaching the vessel. The alert crew put their piracy attack plan in place, locking the accommodation doors and starting the fire pumps. The small boat approached the tanker on the port side at a distance of about 60 meters and the men signaled the vessel to stop. The master had already commenced evasive maneuvering at which point the aggressors started firing at the tanker’s accommodations. The tanker continued evasive maneuvers and discharged fire hoses throwing water along the deck and aft. The speedboat followed the vessel for about six miles appearing on the port and starboard quarter alternatively with the tanker’s zigzagging. The small
boat aborted the chase at 1530 local time. No damage to tanker except for bullet marks on exterior accommodations. All vessels in the vicinity were alerted on VHF and the incident was reported to Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain (IMB, Operator).
.
4. GULF OF ADEN: Tug (SVITZER KORSAKOV) hijacked 01 Feb 08 at 1400 UTC while
underway in position 12:57N-051:24E. An unknown number of Somali pirates attacked and
hijacked the vessel, taking its crew of six hostage. All crewmembers are reportedly unharmed and negotiations are underway for an unknown ransom amount. The spokesman of a group of gunmen who reportedly hijacked the ship has said that they are not pirates but are members of the Ocean Salvation Corps. He stated they are a group of Somali nationals who take it upon themselves to protect Somalia’s shores. On 06 Feb 08, it was reported that Puntland authorities decided to send forces to rescue both hijacked vessels (the SVITZER KORSAKOV and the Omani fishing vessel) believed to be in Eyl. On 11 Feb 08, Abdullahi Said, the district commissioner for Eyl told the media that a warship had fired at Somali pirates while trying to resupply the hijcked vessel. According to Said, there were no casualties, and the pirates managed to escape. On 13 Feb 08, Hassan Osman Mohammad, Puntland’s minister for petrol and mineral resources, stated Puntland troops in the northern region of Puntland exchanged gunfire with the hijackers. The fighting broke out when Puntland troops fired at the hijackers as they were docked nearby in Eyl. The pirates were reportedly waiting to have food and weapons delivered to them by accomplices in smaller boats. He claimed one civilian was killed in a nearby village and one Puntland soldier was wounded during the gunfire exchange. He stated the pirates had used long-range arms, which struck a few houses in the nearby fishing village
(Operator, IMB, AFP, AP, Reuters, LM: Garowe, InsideSomalia).
***
7. SRI LANKA: Possible fishing vessel manned by suspected LTTE members attack, kill sailors of Sri Lankan Navy, 04 Feb 08 at 1830 local time, off Talaimannar. LTTE reportedly hijacked an Indian fishing boat and used it to fire at the Sri Lankan Navy; however; Indian authorities believe the firing was not done from an Indian boat but from an LTTE vessel. The LTTE fired RPG’s from the possible Indian trawler, destroying a naval craft and killing six of the seven sailors on board. No retaliation could be taken because it was getting dark and there were approximately 400 Indian fishing vessels in close proximity. It is also unclear on exactly
how the LTTE obtained the fishing vessels. Ten local fishermen are being questioned to verify reports about their vessels being used in the attack against the Sri Lankan Navy. Coast Guard officials stated that it may be a possibility that the fishermen were never hijacked but could have been lending out their boats to the LTTE in exchange for a rent payment on the vessels and would also allow the fishermen to fish in the area where plenty of fish was available (LM: The Hindu, Daily News and Analysis).
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8. SRI LANKA: Yacht (COBRA) reported suspicious approach 29 Jan 08 while underway in position 06:00.8N - 082:01.9E, 130nm East of Galle. A red fishing boat with five men onboard approached the vessel. The crew fired shots in the air and the suspicious craft moved away. The boat attempted to close in on the yacht twice, at 0830 and 1100 UTC but was unsuccessful (Operator: Noonsite.com).

Latest Weekly Piracy Report (to 18 Feb 08) from ICC CCS found here. Highklights:

-14.02.2008: 0341 LT: 06:43.5S – 039:43.8E, 20 nm off Tanzania coast.
Three pirates boarded the ship from a small wooden boat equipped with an out board engine. The ship was drifting, awaiting berthing instructions. Alert duty crew noticed the pirates and the alarm was raised, ship’s whistle sounded, crew mustered and master increased speed. Pirates fled immediately. Upon inspection, two containers were found opened.

-11.02.2008: 0540 UTC: 13.38.5N – 050:22.0E, Gulf of Aden.
Two suspicious vessels one with blue hull and the other with red hull and both with white superstructure increased speed and altered course towards a bulk carrier. Master increased speed and altered course to increase CAP. Later both suspicious vessels stopped following.

Speaking of oil & gas prices and what about this, Al Gore?

Oil prices up after refinery explosion, fire :
Petroleum prices were reported up in early trading Feb. 19 on the New York market following an explosion and fire Feb. 18 at Dallas-based Alon USA Energy Inc.'s 70,000 b/d sour crude refinery in Big Spring, Tex.

Four workers were injured but no fatalities were reported. Company officials said the refinery likely would be offline for weeks. Alon USA was formed when Alon Israel Oil Co. Ltd.—the largest Israeli-based fuel company—purchased from Total SA about 1,700 FINA retail stations, a refinery, pipelines, and terminals in the US. That included an oil pipeline system of some 500 miles and a product pipeline and terminal network of 7 product pipelines totaling 840 miles and 6 product terminals.
Special note for Al Gore and the global warming crowd:
Natural gas is up 3% this morning as heating degree days (contributing to this week's withdrawal) were reported at 13% more than the forecast.
An increase in cold days? Hmmm.

Oil & Gas: When prices get high enough...

As reported here, one of the results of higher oil prices is a drive to get oil that was too expensive to go after before the prices increased:
Not since 1859, when Edwin Drake drilled the world’s first oil well at Titusville, Crawford County, has there been so much interest in non-coal energy deposits in Pennsylvania.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has issued about 4,500 oil and gas drilling permits in each of the last two years. And now geologists at Penn State University and the State University of New York, Fredonia, say that roughly 50 trillion cubic feet of natural gas is recoverable from a vast geological formation known as the Marcellus shale.
***
The Marcellus shale, about 6,000 feet underground in most places, covers 54,000 square miles, running in a northeast-southwest direction from the Southern Tier of New York, across Pennsylvania into Ohio and West Virginia. Bradford County is among those where prospecting and some drilling is occurring.

Terry Engelder, Ph.D., a geologist at Penn State, has estimated that the total amount of natural gas in the Marcellus shale is somewhere between 168 trillion and 516 trillion cubic feet. About 10 percent of a known reserve usually is considered to be recoverable, but the amount can range considerably higher, according to Dr. Engelder.

For Pennsylvania, the potential exploitation of the field poses some substantial issues. Parts of the field are beneath some of the state’s prime forest land, and under other environmentally sensitive surface features. Given that the expansion of conventional drilling leases in state parks and forests already has led to controversy, drilling for the deep shale would be closely scrutinized.

There is something of an advantage, in that multiple shale deposits are accessible by horizontal drilling underground from single vertical shafts.


The tree huggers have yet to be heard from...

Map of potential fields and view of producing gas well from Mid-East Gas. Clicking on them should make them bigger.

Trans-Malaysian Pipeline Delays


As reported here, work has not yet started on the pipleine designed to allow avoidance of the Strait of Malacca:
After a promotional blitz last spring and summer, developers of a proposed $7 billion oil pipeline across the Malay Peninsula have gone quiet.

The pipeline, traversing 310 kilometers, or 193 miles, of northern Malaysia, was originally planned to break ground this year, with a $2.3 billion first phase expected to be operational by 2011. But no work has started on the three planned pipes, and no firm date for the start of construction has been announced.

Norliah Daud, a senior executive at Ranhill Engineers & Constructors, the big Malaysian company that is the designated engineer for the project, said last week that the project had been delayed, mainly because of land acquisition issues.

Hasbullah Abdul Jalil, general manager of Trans-Peninsula Petroleum, or TPP, a privately held company that is spearheading the project, confirmed that no land had yet been acquired, pending completion of a survey and confirmation by the government of existing land titles.

Analysts say the delay has done nothing to disperse long-running doubts about the project's feasibility.
***
Other questions focus on the economics of using the pipeline to ship oil from the Middle East to East Asia.

The pipeline would bypass the Strait of Malacca, through which one-third of the world's oil flows, shortening the tanker route and avoiding the waterway, which is one of the world's most congested and is known for pirates, though that danger has declined in recent years.

About 18,000 oil tankers move through the strait every year, or nearly 50 a day, Rahim, TPP's chairman, said. Without the pipeline, traffic through the waterway is expected to double by 2020, TPP says, with voyage times and risk of collisions both increasing.

As well as siphoning off crude oil from the strait, TPP might benefit from synergies with a planned refinery complex near its western terminal, in Kedah. A local company, Merapoh Resources, has proposed a refinery with a processing capacity of 200,000 barrels a day. In October, Merapoh signed an outline agreement with CNPC Jihua Beijing Marketing, a unit of China National Petroleum Corp., to sell its entire output to CNPC under a 20-year contract, starting in 2013.

Mohamed Shafii Mustafa, executive director of Merapoh, said synergies could include sharing power and waste treatment plants and unloading facilities, though the refinery's products would be shipped to China by tanker, not through the pipe.

With demand for oil expected to double in East Asia, including China, to 20 million barrels a day by 2020, Rahim said, the pipeline would offer both maritime safety and geopolitical security benefits for countries that could be at risk from a shutdown of the strait.

In a thinly veiled reference to the United States, President Hu Jintao of China was quoted by Xinhua News Agency as far back as 2003 as warning that "certain major powers" might seek to control oil flow through the strait. Analysts say China and some Middle East countries, including Iran, that depend heavily on the strait to supply East Asian consumers would welcome alternative routes and reserve storage facilities.

Still, using the pipeline would involve unloading and reloading, processes that could be costlier and more time-consuming than supertanker transit through the strait and around the tip of Singapore.

Also, pumping oil over the Titiwangsa Range, the backbone of the peninsula, would involve significant energy expenditures, Chris Eng, senior vice president at OSK Research in Kuala Lumpur, said in a report last month.

"We have raised some concerns about the economic viability of the project," Eng commented last week.

Still, some East Asian oil ports do not have sufficient water depths to handle very large crude carriers, and it would make sense for some shippers to use the pipeline to transfer the oil onto smaller vessels on the east coast terminal, he said.

To be profitable, analysts say, the pipeline would need to be used on a consistent basis by an oil-thirsty East Asian country, but TPP says no users have signed up.

"The fact that you don't see the major state-owned East Asia oil importers rushing forward suggests to me the project isn't moving anywhere fast," said Michael Richardson, visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, in Singapore.

Kevin McConnachie, senior consultant with Facts Global Energy in Singapore, questioned the project's underlying assumption that Asian demand for Middle East oil was going to continue rising.

"We don't think this demand growth rate is going to be as high as people think," he said. "And we don't think the Middle East is going to be able to handle the demand growth rate there is."

Even if Middle East sellers can provide enough oil, Asian consumers are already diversifying overland routes.

PetroChina, for example is building a $19 billion pipeline to bring natural gas from Turkmenistan, and a major oil pipeline from Kazakhstan is being expanded. China is also in talks with Myanmar to build oil and natural gas pipelines, including a transit line that would deliver Middle East oil to southern Chinese provinces.
Red line on map is rough pipeline route.

Tsunami buoys 'need pirate protection'

The headline pretty much says it all...Tsunami buoys 'need pirate protection':
Meteorologists are worried that proposed tsunami warning buoys to be located between Australia and Indonesia will be stolen by pirates.

The Bureau of Meteorology plans to position two buoys in international waters between the two nations, meteorology director Geoff Love said today.

"We are negotiating an agreement with the Indonesian Government to make sure they don't become victims of pirates, scrap metal collectors," Dr Love told a senate estimates committee in Canberra.

"That has happened to Bureau of Meteorology assets off northwest Australia in the past – we've found automatic weather stations for sale in Hong Kong," he said.

"We don't want that that to happen again, so I'd like the Indonesians to have some ownership of these."

Dr Love said he wanted the Indonesian navy to play a role in protecting the buoys.

The bureau planned to float the buoys this year, he said.

But the relevant Indonesian agencies were tied up with the installation of US buoys in the Indian Ocean.

The 2004 tsunami, which began off the Indonesian island of Sumatra, killed more than 225,000 people and devastated coastal communities in a number of Asian nations.
Arrgh. Pirates (or in this case, thieves) tend to look out for themselves and not worry about the lives of thousands of others...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Monday Reading

The remarkable Fred Fry International: Maritime Monday 98 announces among all the good maritime stuff that next week he's moving the Maritime Monday series to gCaptain. Way to go Fred! In the meantime, read Fred for info on a South African shipping company and whole lot more.

Sunday Ship History: Special Presidents Day Monday Edition


















Of the 43 men who have served as president of the United States, six served in the United States Navy as officers. In fact, five of them served as presidents in a row and five saw service in the Pacific during World War II.

Of the six, one served as a naval aviator, one as a submariner, one a ship's navigator, one handled air cargo operations, one was (for a brief time) an "aerial observer", and one was PT boat skipper.

Can you name all six of them? For some help with these former officers see here.

Who said: "Any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction, 'I served in the United States Navy,'"?

For what they did during the war, see here.

Four of them have had or will have Navy ships named in their honor. Can you name the ships?











You might also note that a couple of other presidents served as assistant Navy secretaries...and had ships named for them, too. Think Roosevelt...





Friday, February 15, 2008

Illegal immigrants with munitions?


A couple of days ago, two workers at a Raleigh metal processing plant were injured when some non-disclosed munitions (Army artillery rounds or mortar shell) blew up while being processed. As time progressed, additional munitions were discovered at the plant and detonated by, I assume, ARMY EOD personnel from nearby Ft. Bragg.

Ah, well, accidents happen...but today the story takes on a new twist as set out in Two scrap metals collectors arrested:
Two scrap metal collectors in Sanford have been arrested in connection with the military anti-tank shells that exploded Tuesday in a Raleigh scrap metal yard.

The two men, whose names weren't released, were charged Tuesday with immigration violations, said Capt. David Smith, a spokesman for the Sanford Police Department. It was not immediately clear whether they also have been charged with possessing explosives.

Meanwhile, Raleigh officials said at a news conference today that military experts were in the "latter stages" of destroying munitions found at the scrap metal facility, Raleigh Metals Processors on Garner Road. But they did not know when the work would be complete.

"'Latter stages' means most of the work has been done," Mayor Charles Meeker said. "That doesn't mean we can give a precise timeline. 'Latter stages' means they are mainly done."

Officials declined to say how many munitions had been located and destroyed, saying the military experts would conduct a debriefing when their operations are complete.

The live munitions, including more than two dozen anti-tank rounds, turned up in a load of scrap metal dropped of last week at the scrap yard. Some of the ammunition exploded on Tuesday, injuring two workers, as it was being compacted into bales for recycling.

Investigators traced the explosives to the Sanford men, who told police they had gotten the munitions in the Fort Bragg area, said Smith, of the Sanford Police Department. He declined to elaborate, saying he did not want to harm the ongoing federal investigation.

"That's what the suspects told us in the course of our involvement," he said. "They gave us specific information, but I can't go into that."

A Sanford police SWAT team found one of the men, along with spent shell casings and one live artillery round, at a home in the Carver Drive area in Sanford, Smith said. The second man was found in the Broadway area of Harnett County.

The fact that the live ammo was in a yard "makes me believe they just didn't know what they had," he said.

The two men were being held while the FBI and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms continued their investigation. The federal agencies are taking the lead in the probe, Raleigh officials said.

Raleigh Police Chief Harry Dolan declined to say at today's news conference how many munitions had been located and destroyed. The military experts will conduct a debriefing when their operations are complete, he said.

Today is the fourth day of detonations at the plant. Raleigh police closed a section of Garner Road near the company again today, and nearby residents once again had to evacuate, though they have been allowed to return to their homes at night.

The concussive booms and evacuations have been a major disruption for those living near the largely industrial area just south of Raleigh's Beltline.
Spent shell casings? I can understand those, but a live artillery round? Holy catfish!

According to this three men arrested, all "Hispanic."

Iran's Strategic Weakness

Reported as National Iranian Oil hires vessel to ship gasoil from Singapore:
National Iranian Oil Co. hired a tanker to transport 80,000 metric tons of gasoil or diesel to the Middle East gulf from Singapore, a shipbroker said.

The state oil company's shipping unit National Iranian Tanker Co chartered Champion Pride, owned by Nippon Yusen for a voyage starting on 22 February for US$550,000, Odin Marine (Singapore) said in a report today. The company last month hired Silvaplana, owned by Lukiardopulo & Co, to deliver a similar cargo from Singapore.

Iran, the second-largest oil producer in the Middle East, imports products such as gasoline and diesel as it doesn't have adequate refining capacity to meet rising demand. Iran imports around 100,000 barrels a day of gasoline, Energy Security Analysis said in its six-monthly Asian oil product report.

A US-led push to isolate Iranian banks from the global financial system because of terrorist-related activities intensified since 2006, said the Wakefield, Massachusetts-based research firm in the report e-mailed to Bloomberg News.

Non-US banks including BNP Paribas and Credit Agricole stopped providing letters of credit, used to guarantee payment on overseas fuel purchases, to banks in the Islamic Republic, the report said. Indian refiner Reliance Industries and Swiss oil trader Vitol Group ceased 50,000 barrels a day to 70,000 barrels a day of gasoline sales to Iran, it said.

Iran has agreements to buy gasoline and diesel from the Kuwait-based Independent Petroleum Group and a Trafigura-linked company over the next six months, International Oil Daily said this week, citing unidentified traders.

Friday Reading

Heroes of the Edsall at CDR Salamander: Fullbore Friday.

Happy Birthday, NFOs! From Steeljaw Scribe.

Chap meets some open-minded "truthers" on their own turf and discovers a life truth about such true believers: "Never try to teach a pig to sing. It won't work and it only annoys the pig." Read all the links and comments, too, in case you sense of Alice in Wonderland has been flagging.

Lex has, at the end, a question for you.

Jane has an interesting piece concerning nose bleeds in Yemen which may result from innocent bad doers or, depending on your level of paranoia, maybe not.

Econbrowser finds some rational thought behind some mortgage defaults which, undoubtedly will not be reported by anyone except an economist with his own blog, but should be.

Spook86 has look at what happens in education when "dead white guys" like those who lead our revolution, wrote the constitution and all that, get deemphasized.

Pinch does some pretty pictures.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Glorious Modern Iranian Victories Celebrated

Asymmetric warfare has its disadvantages, the victory parades tend to be a little on the weak side, as noted at Information Dissemination: Speaking of Iranian Parade Humiliations.

Boots shaking in mine.

Not.

LNG Tanker poses no threat


Stalled LNG tanker towed to sea for repairs
The 992-foot-long disabled Spanish tanker that found itself without power in 20-foot seas off Chatham early Monday was towed to a point seven miles off Gloucester Tuesday night for repairs.
Despite the effort of the report to make it sound as if doom was averted, no one was ever in any danger:
According to the Coast Guard, the Catalunya Spirit lost power at 3 a.m. Monday about 35 miles east of Chatham. The ship was headed to Boston from Trinidad and Tobago.

Technicians from the ship's owners, Teekay LNG Partners of Vancouver, British Columbia, and marine inspectors from the Coast Guard were dropped to the ship from a helicopter Monday afternoon. They believe a computer that helps maintain constant pressure coming out of the ship's boilers might have failed. The boilers power the steam turbines that drive the ship. The boilers are fueled by burning some of the natural gas onboard.

Massachusetts Maritime Academy engineering professor James McDonald found it hard to believe there was no backup system to manually control the boilers. But the vessel and its crew of 29, drifting powerless at nearly 4 mph to the southeast, notified the Coast Guard at about 6:30 a.m. Monday that they could not resolve the problem and needed help.

In a telephone conference call yesterday, Cmdr. Howard Shaw of the Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba said seas were extremely rough when they found the Catalunya Spirit at 3:40 p.m. Monday. He said 30- to 40-knot winds and 18- to 20-foot seas were pounding the vessel and there was some concern about it drifting toward shallows on Georges Bank.

"What was critical was the tugs getting there," he said.

Tugs arrived late Monday night, with at least 30 miles before the ship encountered any shallow water. Four tugs towed and escorted the tanker north Tuesday at about 4 mph in light seas and wind, and the flotilla arrived at a safe anchorage seven miles off Gloucester Tuesday night.

By 11:30 a.m. Monday, the Coast Guard initiated an emergency plan that brought together federal and state agencies responsible for potential pollution and security risks and to coordinate the tanker's towing. Coast Guard spokesman Keith Hanley said there are always tugs available along the New England coastline, ready to help stricken vessels.

Somalia: Puntland soldiers fire at pirates


Reported as Puntland troops trade fire with Somali pirates:
Somali troops in the northern semi-autonomous region of Puntland exchanged fire on Wednesday with pirates who have hijacked a Russian ship and its crew off the Horn of Africa, an official said.

"This morning the pirates opened fire at our troops as they were trying to use force to release the ship," said Puntland's minister for petrol and mineral resources, Hassan Osman Mohamed.

The fighting broke out as troops on land fired at pirates docked nearby as they waited to have supplies of food and weapons taken to them by accomplices in smaller boats, he said.

The pirates, who call themselves "eco-warriors", took hostage four Russian crew members, an Irish chief engineer and a British captain when they seized the 34.5 metre (113 ft) Svitzer Korsakov on its maiden voyage 10 days ago.

"We understand that our troops and the pirates exchanged gun fire killing one civilian in the nearby village and wounding one of our troops," he told Reuters by telephone.

He said the pirates has used long-range arms, striking a few houses in a nearby fishing village.
Another allegation is that "U.S. missiles" hit a village, but these are first reports and so on:
A local source in Eyl said the missiles were aimed at small boats approaching the Svitzer, with another source suggesting that the boats were "aiding the hijackers" by bringing them materials.

Puntland Energy Minister Hassan "Alore" Osman, who is in Eyl, confirmed to reporters today that he personally visited the location where the missiles hit and there was no damage to report.

But he said the Puntland government was "clueless" regarding the objective of the U.S. warship that fired into parts of Eyl town.

He said Puntland security forces were conducting operations inside Eyl to cut off the supply link between hijackers on board the Russian vessel and their partners on land.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Things to read

Things haven't quite been 24/7 around here, but they have been 17/7 for a few weeks and it's has caused me to be a little slow in posting. Things are slowing down though, so...

In any event, you might want to be reading Fred Fry International: Maritime Monday 97 a weekly contribution of all matter maritime and this week Fred highlights the United Arab Shipping Company. Fred also mentions a suit brought by a shipping company alleging that U.S. government failed, among other things, to keep a buoy in position... alleging the buoy was 25 yards from its charted position. Funny, when I was a navigator, I was taught to never trust the charted buoy positions...maybe times have changed...

Xformed has Monday Maritime Matters in which he educates us about the man behind a Navy ship's name, this time a submariner, CDR David Connole.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Book I Am Reading




Shocked, I tell you, shocked! Corruption in Kosovo

John Rosenthal sends along links to a couple of his articles including Corruption and Organized Crime in Kosovo: An Interview with Avni Zogiani:
As Kosovo prepares for new Prime Minister Hashim Thaci to declare its independence in the days or weeks ahead, Kosovo society is wracked by corruption and organized crime. According to the estimate of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), organized crime accounts for some 15-20 percent of the Kosovo economy: a figure that would presumably be far higher if one subtracts the substantial portion of Kosovo GDP made up of foreign aid.
John also offers up a view of Kosovo becoming an EU protectorate (more likely a millstone about the EU neck) here:

As noted in the Executive Summary of the Ahtisaari Plan -- or, as it is officially known, the "Kosovo Status Settlement" -- the powers of the ICR will "include the authority to annul decisions or laws adopted by Kosovo authorities and sanction or remove public officials whose actions are determined by the ICR to be inconsistent with the letter or spirit of the Settlement." In addition to naming the ICR, the EU will dispatch a "European Security and Defense Policy" (ESDP) Mission to Kosovo. Whereas this mission is commonly described as having merely advisory or "mentoring" functions, a glance at the details of the plan (Annex IX, Article 2.3) makes abundantly clear that it will in fact assume the ultimate operational responsibility for a wide range of essential police and judicial matters in Kosovo. In short, the Ahtisaari Plan does not foresee the independence of Kosovo, but rather its definitive separation from Serbia and the establishment of an EU protectorate over the territory.
Kosovo has been a back burner issue for some time, but that pot is bubbling...

One more reason to investigate "first reports"

Offshore oil platforms could, possibly, be at some risk from certain terrorist actions...but a report of one suffering a "dream attack" as set out here, suggests that a little pre-panic investigation might have saved a lot of time and trouble:
The evacuation on Sunday of an oil platform off the northeastern coast of Britain was very real and very urgent at first, as one of many initial news agency reports indicated:

An oil rig in the North Sea issued a security alert Sunday and authorities sent helicopters to evacuate more than 500 workers, the Ministry of Defense said.

What was the trouble? Rumors of a bomb-disposal team on its way to the rig to investigate an unusual device added impetus to the emergency, as more than a dozen helicopters made bee lines to extract the rig crew from harm’s way. A Nimrod spy plane was sent to coordinate the exodus.
***
According to witnesses, a 23-year-old catering worker on the rig woke up on Sunday utterly convinced that her nightmare was about to come true: the rig was about to explode. Exacerbating the situation further was a furious game of telephone that ensued, resulting in what one energy news site said was the biggest evacuation in the history of the North Sea.

The site, Energy Current, has the explanation from a union official who was left slackjawed by accounts of the incident from his members:

The guys on the platform are saying she had a dream, and from there it just grew arms and legs. How it ever got to where it did astounds me. I still find what happened yesterday to be absolutely crazy. There was never any need for it. If this girl was hysterical, as they suggest, then there are ways to deal with that, and there are procedures for checking these sort of things. But I’m not criticizing the management out there.
Well, he may not be criticizing them, but I am. There should have been a plan in place that was followed to work through this situation...

UPDATE: Another assessment:
Britannia Operator Ltd, the company which owns Safe Scandinavia, said the "down-manning" - or evacuation - "occurred following allegations by a worker on the Safe Scandinavia that there was a possible suspicious device on the flotel".

Hundreds of the 539 people aboard the platform were moved across a connecting bridge to an adjacent oil rig, and 161 were moved to nearby installations. The Coastguard and RAF provided helicopters and fixed-wing planes, with the aerial fleet reaching a peak strength of 13. Bomb-disposal teams were placed on alert, but a thorough search found nothing of any concern.

Gary Hay, a North Sea offshore worker interviewed by the Beeb for his reaction to the incident, said the shutdown would have cost the oil companies large sums in lost production, "but it will be Joe Public who will pick up the cost of the evacuation operation", he added.

A union official contradicted the view that an irresponsible employee was to blame. Jake Molloy of the Offshore Industry Liaison Committee told the Guardian:

"It appears that the whole thing was started when someone was a bit upset about a dream they had... This girl had a dream about a bomb being on board."

He said the story of a bomb had reached senior rig management and the rumours had led to an alert being issued.

"That appears to have sparked one of the biggest security operations the North Sea has ever seen," said Mr Molloy, describing the incident as "complete madness on behalf of everyone. There was never any reason to evacuate the platform ... The cost has been astronomical and there was never any need for it".


UPDATE2: "Dream girl" faces charges?
A Romanian woman has appeared in court after a security alert led to the evacuation of a North Sea oil platform.

Dana Rosu, 23, described by friends as a "normal girl who has never been in trouble", appeared in private at a court in Aberdeen in relation to a charge of breach of the peace.

She made no plea or declaration at the brief hearing and was remanded in custody to hospital for assessment.
She was detained after an incident led to the eva
cuation of 161 oil workers from the Safe Scandinavia floating hotel, 130 miles north-east of Aberdeen.

Somalia: Potshots at Pirates


Reported here:
The U.S. Navy has fired on Somali pirates who hijacked the Russian crew and British captain of a ship sailing off the Horn of Africa, a maritime official said on Tuesday.

Four Russian crew members, an Irish chief engineer and a British captain were aboard the Svitzer Korsakov, an ice-class tug vessel, when it was seized early in February as it was making its way to Russia's Pacific Coast.

"A U.S. warship fired at one of the boats. We don't know if there are any casualties," said Andrew Mwangura, director of the Seafarers Assistance Programme.

The U.S. Navy declined to comment on reports that shots were fired.

"We have ships in the area monitoring the captured vessel, the Svitzer Korsakov," Navy spokeswoman Denise Garcia said.

"We have a full range of options available to deal with piracy and we will utilise them as the situation dictates," she said late on Monday.

Garcia said the navy was trying to stop the pirates from re-supplying.

Mwangura says the gunmen claim to be "eco-warriors" and not pirates.
Initial report of capture here. Galrahn has more.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday Ship History: U.S. Navy in Africa

These days, the news is about the U.S. Navy's Africa Partnership Station
Africa is the subject of renewed strategic focus for the United States and many in the international community. The potential for both progress and peril has invited this focus, even as it has been amplified by the positive and negative effects of globalization. One issue among many facing the continent is illegal activity flourishing in the waters that surround it. Coastal states are contending with a range of challenges at sea, to include: illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing; oil theft; piracy; illicit trade; narcotics trafficking; human trafficking; illegal immigration; and environmental degradation. This paper is intended to introduce an initiative by the U.S. Navy to improve maritime safety and security in Africa in partnership with all interested stakeholders.
***
Naval Forces Europe is focused on taking action to address maritime insecurity in Africa. To learn about these complex issues and build consensus for action, the U.S. Navy led a series of workshops and seminars on the topic of maritime safety and security, bringing together representatives from governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGO), public and private sectors. Based on trends in trade, shipping, criminal activity, and level of interest among African partners, the initial area of focus was the Gulf of Guinea.
***
The next major effort that will employ the full range of these partnerships is the deployment of USS FORT MCHENRY (a large amphibious ship) and HSV SWIFT (a smaller “High Speed Vessel”) to the Gulf of Guinea for seven months beginning in November 2007. This is part of the U.S. Navy “Global Fleet Station” initiative designed to provide a platform with the capacity and persistent presence to support sustained, focused training and collaboration on a regional scale. USS FORT MCHENRY and HSV SWIFT will remain on station in the Gulf of Guinea region and make repeated visits to multiple nations in concert with other U.S. Navy and partner assets. Current plans include visits to Senegal, Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon, Gabon, and Sao Tome & Principe, while engagement opportunities with several other African nations are also being explored. We are calling this new concept of engagement the Africa Partnership Station.

APS is the beneficiary of experience gained during previous U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, and European Navy deployments and will include several new innovations. Its unique attributes include:

• Self-sufficient. APS requires no bases and minimal footprint ashore. The ships will provide the necessary support services and cargo capacity, serving as a floating continuing education and training facility.
• Multinational. A multinational staff is responsible for APS planning and execution. Five European partners are contributing staff members or training teams, and invitations have been sent to multiple African nations. The U.S. intends to participate in future deployments of this type by European partner nations.
• Tailored and flexible training schedule. APS education and training will encompass a full spectrum of topics germane to the creation of effective maritime forces and a maritime safety and security regime. The APS agenda is not limited to Navy-related training alone. From leadership to seamanship, and from personnel to port security, APS events will be tailored to the unique needs of each African nation that have been developed from an analysis and prioritization of needs in consultation with African partners. At the same time, the training regimen will be flexible enough to accommodate changes during the deployment. APS will sail a training circuit, making repeated visits to each nation and taking aboard ship riders for at sea training. Sailors and experts will train side-by-side, sharing best practices, exchanging ideas, and forming relationships to improve maritime safety and security over the long term.
• U.S. Joint/Interagency Participation. The U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Department of State, and U.S. Agency for International Development have been integral contributors to APS planning and will participate throughout its execution. A U.S. Coast Guard Officer is part of the command staff. Additionally, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration will sail with APS to advance several key projects.
• Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). In addition to core maritime activities, APS will support several humanitarian and environmental assistance projects in the region, as it offers an ideal transport and logistics base. An effort was made to encourage broad NGO participation. Several NGOs have signed on to sail with APS, and coordination continues with others.
• Transparent, collaborative working environment. While exact ship schedule information is classified for force protection reasons, all other information about APS is unclassified and will be shared via an unclassified website. Journalists will be invited to embark the ship and observe training activities. This entire effort is aimed at building trust and sustaining partnerships among African, European, and U.S. partners at the national, sub-regional, and regional levels. Indeed, APS and maritime partnerships in general float on trust.
Important work to be sure, but how many remember the U.S. Navy Congo Expedition of 1885?

Probably not too many, since the "Expedition" seemed to have consisted of one Naval officer, a Lieutenant E.H. Taunt, U.S.N. who filed, in February 1885 a report of his six month long trip on the Congo River into an Africa vastly different than the one we know today -see the map from 1885 and compare it to the modern map nearby.

Quite frankly, much of LT Taunt's letter report is a little too detailed for my taste, but he had a mission:
" Sir: I have the honor to submit the following report of my six months’ journey of the river Congo, southwest coast of Africa:
In obedience to orders, received from Rear-Admiral Earl English, U.S.N., to “proceed to Stanley Pool, and farther if practicable, reporting,” &c., I left the U.S. flagship Lancaster at Banana Point on May 2, 1885..."
When the Admiral sends you on a mission, you go on a mission. And so the good lieutenant went:
I had heard many criticisms concerning the report of the United States agent, Mr. Tisdel, to the effect that “he had not seen the Congo Valley,” that “nothing was claimed for the cataract region,” &c. I therefore felt it my duty to go into the interior as far as practicable and gain all the information possible of the valley of the Congo.

My goods and stores were made up, so that I was able to cross to M’Poso Station and the south bank of the Congo on May 13. From M’Poso, on May 15, I started for Stanley Pool with a caravan of fifty natives, carrying my goods, canned provisions, camp equipage, &c. I therefore felt it my duty to go into the interior as far as practicable and gain all the information possible of the valley of the Congo.
The going was hard:
I left Lutété on the afternoon of June 3. On the 5th, passed the rear sections of the steamer Stanley. This steamer was for use on the Upper River, and was being transported by sections to Stanley Pool. Each section was transported on a large iron-wheeled truck that required about ninety men to handle. Some fourteen months had already been occupied in the work of transportation, at an immense cost to the State. The advance section of the steamer were about three hours’ march ahead of the rear ones. At midday on June 7, I arrived at Leopoldville Station, Stanley Pool, having taken twenty-three days from M’Poso, including six days’ delay at stations, to travel a distance of 236 miles, over a mountainous, rocky, barren country.

At Leopoldville, I was received by Captain Saulez, chief-of-division, and the principal officials of the station. The Houssa guard was drawn up to received me, and the United States flag saluted. Captain Saulez assigned me a portion of his own quarters.

Before leaving Vivi I had received permission from the acting Administrator General to take passage on board the steam cutter Royal from Leopoldville to Stanley Falls. On my arrival, I found that the Royal was loaded to her gunwales, and that, in addition, she was to tow a loaded whale-boat. Captain Saulez was sending a relief expedition to Stanley Falls, with two Krupp guns, stores, ammunition, &c., to last six months. The expedition was in command of Mr. W. Deane, late of the English army. Mr. Deane was to fortify the Falls Station, and make it secure against a possible attack of the Arabs. These gentlemen offered to make room for me, but I knew, that in order to do so, they would be obliged to leave behind important and much-needed stores.

I learned from the American Mission that by waiting until July 1, and supplying some deficiencies in the engineer’s and other stores, I could take passage on the small launch Henry Reed, belonging to the Mission. I therefore declined the kind offer of Captain Sauleez, and accepted that of the Mission.

While waiting at Leopoldville, I visited the different native villages in the vicinity of Stanley Pool, the station of Kinchassa, and the French station of Brazzaville, on the north bank of the Pool. M. de Brazza and M. Chauvain, his second in command were in the interior. I made a trip around Stanley Pool in the launch Peace, belonging to the English Baptist Mission, and was able to visit all the points of interest.
***
The river had fallen but a few inches, and the banks were flooded some distance inland, making it most difficult to cut fuel for the launch. Frequently we would not be able to run more than two hours per day.

We reached Bolobo Station on the evening of July10, and were received most cordially by Lieutenant Leibrecth (Belgian army), chief-of-station. Here Mr. Billington was taken with fever, and we were obliged to lay over the 11th and 12th, leaving Bolobo for Lukelela Station on the morning of the 13th, Mr. Billington still quite ill.

On the afternoon of the 13th we passed and communicated with one of the whale boats bound to Bolobo, and arrived at Lukelela on the evening of the 16th. Here we found Mr. Glave (English), a chief-of-station, who received us very kindly. We remained at Lukelela over night, and left the next morning for the Equator Station. Between these two stations, we had the greatest difficulty finding fuel, and did not reach Equator Station until 9.30 p.m. July 21, having been obliged to run a few hours by moonlight. We were received here by Lieutenant Pargels (Swedish army), and by the members of the American Mission, who have established their advanced post at this station.

We remained at the Equator until July 24, we pushed on and entered the mouth of the Lalulango River July 26. After steaming some 30 miles up this river, we returned to the Congo on the afternoon of the 27th. The Lalulango River is supposed to be one of the largest of the affluents of the Congo.

We had up to this point kept to the south bank of the river, but as Bangala, the next station, was on the north bank, we crossed to the north bank, and reached Bangala on the morning of July 30. Lieutenant Coquilhat, of the Belgian army, was chief of Bangala, with Lieutenant Westmark, Swedish army, as assistant.

We were now in the cannibal country, and rigged our arrow guards (wire netting) fore and aft the launch. In the next 500 miles we knew we would find no white men, our first and last station, beyond Bangala, being the one at Stanley Falls.

Below Bangala we had seen no signs of hostility on the part of the natives, but we now met an entirely different race of people, suspicious, savage, and hostile.
And then the adventure began:

Leaving Bangala on the morning of August 1, we anchored some 40 miles above the station, and about a mile below a large village, the people of which, thinking we had come to fight, sent their women to the islands, and then came down in canoes with the information that they were waiting for us. Nothing would reassure them, and they were around us all night in their canoes. We steamed past the village the next morning, and found the men fully armed with spears, knives, bows, and poisoned arrows, and rigged out in war bonnets. At 1.30 p.m. the same day we reached a large village, “Ikelengo,” and slowed down to buy food. The people declined to sell unless we ran to the beach. This I would not do, for in case of trouble I could only depend upon my Zanzibari to fight. The Loangos were useless, and the missionaries had stated, very properly, that they would not resort to firearms except in last extremity. We steamed ahead, and tied up about 4 p.m. some 8 miles above the village. At 8 p.m. I could hear canoe astern of us, but after a warning they drew off. I posted my Zanzibari and two others to watch during the night. At daylight a large war canoe was astern of us. After some talk with the guide, they came alongside, when I found that they had eight flint lock guns stowed away. These were the last fire-arms I saw in possession of the natives until we reached Stanley Falls. My guide learned, from the chief in the canoe, that they had been watching us all night. I then decided not to lie about the beach at night, but to anchor well off, and have all hands sleep on board the launch until we were clear of the cannibal country.

From the 4th until the 7th of August we passed no towns. About noon on the 7th we ran up to the town of M’Pesa, of the Irengo District. This town was protected by a strong boma (palisade) about 30 feet high, and evidently but recently erected. There were no women in sight and the men were in war costume, and fully armed. The greater part of the town had been burned. The people would have nothing to do with us, and I afterwards learned that Mr. Deane, in the Royal, had been attacked here but a few days before our arrival. He, however, had captured and burned the town, killing a number of men.

We were anxious to get food for our men, so we pushed on to the Upoto district, and about 2. p.m. we anchored opposite the town of Bukela. The people proved very friendly, and brought food to us in their canoes. That night, although we had anchored well above the villages the people were very suspicious of us, as their war-drums were going all night. Our movements had evidently been signaled ahead for each night after this we had canoes watching us, and could hear the war-drums, although we were not in sight of the villages.

On August 11 we passed several large towns of the Yembingo District, and tried to buy food, but they insisted on our going to the beach. This I declined to do, knowing that if the cannibals once got a foothold on the launch, they were in such numbers, it would be almost impossible, with my small force, to drive them off.

August 12 we anchored near a large village, Rubunga, on one of the islands. The people came out in canoes, and told us they would come with a force to fight us in the morning. We attempted to talk with them, but they insisted that we were Arabs, &c. The next morning they came out in large numbers, and, after a long talk with our guide, they ended in selling us food.

After 1 p.m., August 13 we steamed into Monogeri Channel. This is a stretch of water, about 50 yards wide, running between one of the large islands of the Congo and the north bank. We found it full of snags and very shoal. I had heard that Stanley and Lieutenant Van Gile had both been obliged to burn villages here, but I never imagined we would meet with the reception we did. At 2.30 p.m. we ran up opposite the large village of Monogeri. To our surprise, we were greeted with yells, war-drums, war horns, &c. The men were armed to the teeth with knives, spears, and poisoned arrows, and, to all appearances, were frantic with rage. I took my guns out and placed them in full sight, but at this they only increase their uproar.

Finding that we were streaming on, some of the men, absolutely devoid of fear, rushed waist-deep into the water to throw their spears, and as we passed the town, others launched their canoes to follow, many running along the banks. Three hours we were steaming in the narrow channel, and in that time passed several small, and two large villages; all of these had been notified of our approach by the signals and war-drums from below. The din of the yells, mingled with the drums and horns, was something terrific, for each village in turn had contributed to the number of yelling savages that followed us.

After passing the last town I calculated that we were followed by from two to three hundred men, some in canoes, and the others running along the banks. To add to my anxiety, I found that we were running short of wood, and I knew that if we were obliged to anchor in the channel it would be a hard fight all night, and a harder one in the morning when we attempted to land for wood. Fortunately, however, about 6 p.m. we ran out into the river, having just one-half hour’s wood left on board, and anchored in lee of one of the many islands of the Congo. It came on to blow hard, with rain, about 7 p.m., and I did not think the canoes would be able to follow on account of the sea that was running in the river. Shortly after 8 p.m., to our surprise, we were again greeted with the yells and war-horns, and I found that we were surrounded by from ten to twenty war-canoes filled with men. It was some time before we drove them off, and then finally took refuge on the islands near us. We could hear them all night, but they drew off at daylight.

These people had no fire arms, and I am sure that a few well-directed shots when we were first attacked in the channel would have saved us any further trouble, but I yielded to the entreaties of the missionaries not to fire except as a last resort.

On the night of August 14 we were anchored among the islands some miles above a large village, Yosaka. Here we were again surrounded by war-canoes. During the night, while I was forward, my Zanzibari discovered a canoe when only a few feet from the stern of the launch, evidently trying to board us. These savages above Bangala seem absolutely indifferent to danger, and it is only after many of them are shot down during the fights that they will draw off.

At midday August 15 we passed the mouth of the Arrowimi River, and met with much the same reception from the natives here as we had received below. The Arabs, under the famous chief “Tippoo Tib,” had raided down as far as the Arrowimi in the early spring of 1885, and had burned the villages on both banks, taking captured slaves and ivory back to Stanley Falls. This raid of the Arabs had not been altogether successful, as they had lost over one hundred men. Small-pox broke out among them, then threatened starvation forced them to return to Stanley Falls.

Shortly after passing the Arrowimi, the Royal and whale-boat were sighted just ahead, coming down the river. We dropped our anchor, and they were soon alongside.

The Royal, with thirty men, in charge of Mr. Harris, an Englishman, had been sent by Mr. Deane, from Stanley Falls, to warn me against the hostile natives, and to render such assistance as I needed, but, as I had passed the most dangerous localities, their assistance was not required. I learned from Mr. Harris that a few days before, Deane and his men had camped on shore, in the narrow channel, a few miles below the village of Monongeri.

The Royal was made fast to the beach. Deane sent his native guide, in a canoe with two other men, to the village to buy food. They paddled up to the village, the guide going on shore. He was at once surrounded, killed, and arrangements made to eat him. The two men escaped in the canoe, and brought the news down to Deane’s camp. As night was coming on, it was decided not to attack the village until the early morning.

About 2 a.m. the next day, Deane’s camp was attacked by a large body of savages, during a heavy tornado, the State losing seven killed and six wounded, among the latter being Mr. Deane, who had received two dangerous spear wounds. The killed were buried the next day on an island some distance form the camp, and the Royal started for Stanley Falls to obtain proper comforts for the wounded. This fight occurred in the same channel where the Henry Reed had been so savagely attacked on the afternoon of the 13th.

When passing the mouth of the Arrowimi River with the wounded, fifteen war-canoes had tried to surround the Royal about midday, but drew off after several natives had been killed and two canoes swamped.

We remained at anchor the night of the 15th, in company with the Royal. We were not troubled until about 3 a.m. the 16th, when two canoes were detected trying to steal upon us. A warning from the lookout soon drove them off.

At daylight, we discovered eight large war-canoes, with from thirty to forty men in each, lying alongside an island opposite to us. It was necessary to fill up with wood. I therefore sent my men on shore, with a guard from the Royal. The people had been cutting about an hour when the sentries discovered some natives lurking in the bushes. They were driven off with a few shots, and gave us no further trouble. We got underway about midday, and in company with the Royal started for Stanley Falls. The war-canoes followed us with horns blowing, but we soon distanced them, and in two hours they had given up the chase.

From the Arroowimi to Stanley Falls the natives were living in canoes; the villages on both banks hand been burned by the Arabs in the spring, and in only a few instances had the people commenced rebuilding. We had no more trouble with the natives, but were inconvenienced considerably by not being able to buy food for the men.
LT Taunt describes a world full of fevers, and " bad bilious attack" but it was also a world of some pride:
I have the honor to state that, when in camp, the American ensign was hoisted over my tent, and while on the Upper Congo my flag was always, from sunrise to sunset, hoisted at the bow of the launch.

I'm the only representative of any Government, other than the Congo State, and am one of the thirteen white men who have been able to penetrate to Stanley Falls.
Given the temper of the times, it is probably not surprising to find a spot of prejudice in our LT:
In my opinion, it is not yet expedient to attempt to govern these savages by kind treatment. The only thing they respect is power, and, with the coming of the white man, they look for wealth and power.
And in his work analyzing the nature of the Congo, he is so impolitic as to note a few issues troubling to him:
The Arabs do not attempt the slightest concealment in the matter of slave traffic. I was offered a slave by an Arab at what was supposed to be a reasonable price, and this within 100 yards of the station.
***
Slavery exists among the natives of the entire Congo Valley; but, as before stated, the men slaves are more retainers than slaves. The women, however, are slaves in every sense of the word. The most cruel phase of the native slavery is the right of the owner to put to death any slave at will, and this frequently exercised, especially in the case of the women.
Today, much of the river traveled by LT Taunt lies in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), about which the CIA Factbook says:
Established as a Belgian colony in 1908, the Republic of the Congo gained its independence in 1960, but its early years were marred by political and social instability. Col. Joseph MOBUTU seized power and declared himself president in a November 1965 coup. He subsequently changed his name - to MOBUTU Sese Seko - as well as that of the country - to Zaire. MOBUTU retained his position for 32 years through several sham elections, as well as through the use of brutal force. Ethnic strife and civil war, touched off by a massive inflow of refugees in 1994 from fighting in Rwanda and Burundi, led in May 1997 to the toppling of the MOBUTU regime by a rebellion backed by Rwanda and Uganda and fronted by Laurent KABILA. He renamed the country the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), but in August 1998 his regime was itself challenged by a second insurrection again backed by Rwanda and Uganda. Troops from Angola, Chad, Namibia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe intervened to support KABILA's regime. A cease-fire was signed in July 1999 by the DRC, Congolese armed rebel groups, Angola, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zimbabwe but sporadic fighting continued. Laurent KABILA was assassinated in January 2001 and his son, Joseph KABILA, was named head of state. In October 2002, the new president was successful in negotiating the withdrawal of Rwandan forces occupying eastern Congo; two months later, the Pretoria Accord was signed by all remaining warring parties to end the fighting and establish a government of national unity. A transitional government was set up in July 2003. Joseph KABILA as president and four vice presidents represented the former government, former rebel groups, the political opposition, and civil society. The transitional government held a successful constitutional referendum in December 2005 and elections for the presidency, National Assembly, and provincial legislatures in 2006. KABILA was inaugurated president in December 2006. The National Assembly was installed in September 2006. Its president, Vital KAMERHE, was chosen in December. Provincial assemblies were constituted in early 2007, and elected governors and national senators in January 2007.
So it goes.

UPDATE: Stanley's work "The Congo and the Founding of its Free State: A Story of Work and Exploration" here with illustrations such as the following sketch of Stanley Pool:




UPDATE2: Some people say you shouldn't swim in the Congo River.


Goliath Tiger Fish.