Night ops

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Weekend Reading

Steeljaw Scribe sets the table for the Battle of Midway with Prelude to Midway - US Carrier-based Air, 27 May 1942- Prelude to Midway,28 ay 1942- Prelude to Midway, 29-30 May 1942-Prelude to Midway.

CDR Salamander joins in the Midway posting with Fullbore Friday: The Japanese side.

Spook86 finds some scary slow learners at Minot AFB, with more here. May the ghost of General LeMay haunt them, because he would have kept firing people until he found somebody who could get the job done...

Diplomad looks at the country of Columbia in Columbia: The Forgotten Ally.

Galrahn has a bunch of interesting posts, just wander over there and browse. I dunno about the idea of "Canadian pirate fighters," though getting the Chinese involved. Just seems like there are enough issues over sea power in the area without inviting another wolf in to play. Bring back the parachuting French admiral instead.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Preventing Pirate Attacks- the Old-Fashioned Way


If you want to stop pirate attacks then you have to do more than just wring your hands and take resolutions to the UN. The proactive approach is to set up a convoy system.

It worked in the past:
By the French Revolutionary Wars of the late 18th century, effective naval convoy tactics had been developed to ward off pirates and privateers. Some convoys contained several hundred merchant ships. The most enduring system of convoys were the Spanish treasure fleets, that sailed from the 1520s until 1790.

When merchant ships sailed independently, a privateer could cruise a shipping lane and capture ships as they passed. Ships sailing in convoy presented a much smaller target: a convoy was no more likely to be found than a single ship. Even if the privateer found a convoy and the wind was favourable for an attack, it could hope to capture only a handful of ships before the rest managed to escape, and a small escort of warships could easily thwart it.
I guess 400 years of history is too easily forgotten. Convoy ops can be modernized to allow for radar, higher speed naval ships.

Ship owners worried about time delays need to measure time vs. ransom fees.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Somali pirates grab a couple of more ships



As reported here:
Andrew Mwangura of the East Africa Seafarers Assistance Program says the two ships were taken on Wednesday, near where a Dutch ship was seized on Monday. He says he has no information about the owners or the nationalities of the crew onboard the MV Lehmann Timber or the MV Arena, or any information on the pirates' demands.


UPDATE: Photo is of "Lehmann TImber" from here. Lehmann shipping info here. Still looking for info on other ship. In the meantime, some Somali authorities have been making noises about attacking the pirates - an effort Russia has asked them to stand down:
Russia today called on Somalia not to take any action that may jeopardise the safety of Russian and Filipino crew members aboard a Dutch vessel recently seized by pirates.

''Following reports that the Somali government made a decision to use force to release the crew of the vessel, seized on May 26, Russia urges Somali authorities to refrain from any action that could put the lives of the crew in danger,'' Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said it was in contact with the owner, Dutch Reider Shipping, and governments capable of assisting in the release of the sailors.

The cargo vessel Amiya Scan, under the flag of Antigua and Barbuda, was captured by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden last Monday with four Russians and five Filipinos on board.

Local authorities dispatched forces yesterday to rescue the vessel.

Ahmed Said Ownur, fisheries and water resources minister of Puntland, a breakaway region in the northeast of the African state, confirmed yesterday that a mission had been launched to release the ship by force and asked the ship owner not to pay ransom to the pirates.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Somali Pirates: Negotiations begin with Dutch ship owners

Reported here:
A Dutch shipping company has been in contact with Somali pirates who hijacked a ship with nine crew members as it traveled through the Gulf of Aden on Sunday, a spokesman said Tuesday.
***
Lars Walder, of Reider Shipping BV, which owns the MV Amiya Scan, revealed the company has been in contact with the hijackers and that none of the crew had been harmed.

"Everybody was fine under the circumstances," he said, speaking from Winschoten, Netherlands. "They were all fine ... [and] were treated quite well."

The ship was anchored off the coast of Somalia, within Somalia's 20-kilometer (12-mile) territorial limit, Walder said.

He would not comment on the pirates' demands out of concern for the crew of four Russians and five Filipinos, and would not say whether the shipping company was negotiating with them.
Paying ransom just encourages more piracy, as is noted "Somali officials" here:
Somali officials say foreign countries encourage piracy by paying ransoms for hijacked ships that can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"As always, we are calling on the owners of the ship not to pay any ransom to the pirates, as that would only encourage criminals," Aware said in a special Cabinet meeting to discuss the hijacking.
Aren't there any Dutch war ships in the area? They used to have a great navy.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The First!


Eighty-nine years ago there was the Flight of the NC-4:
In 1919, the Navy's NC-4 and a crew of six made the first successful transatlantic flight. It took some three weeks, May 8-27, to accomplish that. Humans had only taken wing in airplanes less than 20 years before, and Lindbergh's Paris flight was still eight years away.
***
NC-4 was the first in 1919, and for always.
Certainly worth remembering.

UPDATE: The story of NC-3 is also a great read.

Nigeria: "Major" Pipeline blown up



A major oil pipeline, belonging to Shell Oil, has been blown up in the Niger Delta, it is reported here:
The Nigerian military has confirmed that a major pipeline in the country's oil-rich Niger Delta has been blown up.

But it denied a militant claim that it had lost 11 troops during the attack.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) group said in an email that it had attacked the Royal Dutch Shell pipeline in Rivers State.

The militants, who want a greater share of oil revenues for the area, said they blew up a flow station and were retreating when soldiers opened fire.

A Shell spokesman told the AFP news agency the militants had hit the main pipeline in the area and the company had to stop the flow in order to contain the spill.
UPDATE: Received an email from Kai Hasson, Coordinator, Online Outreach
CURRENT TV, LLC with a link to the following video featuring Mariana van Zeller and her cameraman as they tour the Niger delta. It is a remarkable report which should leave you wondering where, in fact, the billions of oil revenue dollars generated by the Nigerian oil fields have gone. Many questions are unanswered, too, such as who owns the oil fields (I'm thinking the Nigerian government) and what social construct would create such indifference to the waste of a valuable natural resource. Before you condemn the oil companies for their role, consider what role we want international business playing in local politics. Further, listen to the "militant" comments. They are interested in getting a "share" of the oil wealth - what would be the likely outcome for the peoples of the Niger delta if the rebels succeed?

Several years ago, in responding to a radio talk show in which the drilling in Alaska National Wildlife Refuge was being opposed on, among other grounds, the risk of pollution to the Alaska area, I told the hosts that they were incredibly naive if they believed that all world oil production was done with the care taken by the U.S. domestic oil producers. In their NIMBY world that seemed to be irrelevant.

Yes, I was an oil company guy. I can tell you that the waste of crude oil seen in the piece is not a business practice that any company that makes money by capturing and selling as much crude oil as possible would allow or condone absent other circumstances. It would be nice to have a follow on piece of Ms. van Zeller meeting with some oil company representatives...

In the meantime, my hat is off to Ms. van Zeller and her cameraman and I thank Kai Hasson for pointing this piece out.

UPDATE2: From the Shell Nigeria website regarding oil spills (2006):
In 2006, we recorded 241 oil spill incidents in Shell Nigeria, compared to 224 incidents in 2005. Of this number, sabotage accounted for 165 (69 per cent), while 50 (20 per cent) were controllable incidents (resulting from equipment failure, corrosion or human error). The remaining 26 incidents are yet to be classified or quantified due to access restrictions either by communities or the current insecurity in the Niger Delta.

Oil spills resulting from sabotage continued to be a challenge, with most incidents along our major pipelines and manifolds. Attacks by armed militant groups on some of our major pipelines and facilities in our western operations also led to spills. As in previous years, some communities denied access to spill sites, restricting our ability to respond and clean up spills in good time.

We estimate that there was a significant increase in the total volume of oil spilled in 2006. Two incidents – leaks at the Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL) at Krakrama (estimated to be 7,000 barrels) and the Nembe-IV (estimated to be 2,500 barrels) – contributed significantly to the volume of controllable spills. The Krakrama spill resulted from accidental damage to the line by a contractor laying a new pipeline along the existing right-of-way. The other spill was due to corrosion. Due to lack of comprehensive documentary evidence and the security situation that greatly limited access to affected areas, we have not published our total spills volume estimate.
***
In 2006, we recorded 241 oil spill incidents in Shell Nigeria, compared to 224 incidents in 2005. Of this number, sabotage accounted for 165 (69 per cent), while 50 (20 per cent) were controllable incidents (resulting from equipment failure, corrosion or human error). The remaining 26 incidents are yet to be classified or quantified due to access restrictions either by communities or the current insecurity in the Niger Delta.

Oil spills resulting from sabotage continued to be a challenge, with most incidents along our major pipelines and manifolds. Attacks by armed militant groups on some of our major pipelines and facilities in our western operations also led to spills. As in previous years, some communities denied access to spill sites, restricting our ability to respond and clean up spills in good time.

We estimate that there was a significant increase in the total volume of oil spilled in 2006. Two incidents – leaks at the Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL) at Krakrama (estimated to be 7,000 barrels) and the Nembe-IV (estimated to be 2,500 barrels) – contributed significantly to the volume of controllable spills. The Krakrama spill resulted from accidental damage to the line by a contractor laying a new pipeline along the existing right-of-way. The other spill was due to corrosion. Due to lack of comprehensive documentary evidence and the security situation that greatly limited access to affected areas, we have not published our total spills volume estimate.
***
In 2006, we planned to complete the remediation of 253 out of 317 previously existing oil spill sites. However, only 179 sites were accessible to us. These were restored.

The total number of old oil spill sites so far identified since 1999 is 1,516. By the end of 2006, we had cleaned up 1,338 of these sites.

Russia wants to join "international" anti-pirate fight

Russia's Navy, awakening after a lengthy slumber ( the increase in the price oil might be behind that), wants to go international pirate fighting, as set out here:
The Russian Navy has called on international navies to launch joint operations against pirates that have recently stepped up attacks on ships off Africa's coasts.

Pirate attacks have risen across the world, with most attacks occurring along the Somali coast, where more than 25 ships were seized last year.

"Coordinating operations by naval forces in the zones of pirate attacks could help partly resolve the problem," Captain 1st Rank Igor Dygalo said.
***
The Russian Navy spokesman said Russia has actively participated in international exercises during which officers are trained how to cope with "maritime pirates."

The spokesman said that last year the Russian Navy boosted its permanent presence in international waters, adding that the increased naval patrols could protect shipping and cut the number of attacks on civilian vessels.
This may not be a good time to be going into the pirate business.

Day after a Holiday Monday Reading

Xformed shares a Memorial Day thought about a fine mentor.

Fred Fry has Maritime Monday 112 up here, with a look at Intermarine, and several hours of post holiday "can't quite get back in the the groove" links to make look like you're really busy.

Galrahn discusses the Navy's tactical/operational approach here


Lex finds the CJCS echoing Napoleon's "A general-in-chief has no right to shelter his mistakes in war under cover of his sovereign, or of a minister, when these are both distant from the scene of operation, and must consequently be either ill informed or wholly ignorant of the actual state of things.
Hence it follows, that every general is culpable who undertakes the execution of a plan which he considers faulty. It is his duty to represent his reasons, to insist upon a change of plan--in short, to give in his resignation rather than allow himself to be made the instrument of his army's ruin. Every general-in-chief who fights a battle in consequence of superior orders, with the certainty of losing it, is equally blamable."

Monday, May 26, 2008

Somali Pirates: Dutch freight ship hijacked in Gulf of Aden



Somali pirates strike again:
The Netherlands' national broadcaster is reporting that a Dutch freight ship has been hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia. NOS news reports that pirates seized the ship, the MV Amiya Scan, in the Gulf of Aden.
TASS reports at least 4 of the crew were Russian.

More here:
"A ship owned by Dutch Reider Shipping was boarded off the coast of Somalia by pirates... The ship was hijacked in international waters in the Gulf of Aden," the owners said in a statement sent to AFP in Nairobi.

"The crew members are four Russian officers and five Filipino seamen. All relatives of the crew members have been informed and have been offered every support available.

"The ship owners stress that its first and foremost priority is the security of the crew members," the statement added.

The MV Amiya Scan was carrying a knocked-down drilling rig from the Kenyan port city of Mombasa when it was seized.

A Kenyan maritime official told AFP the ill-fated freighter left Mombasa on May 19 with no contact since.
Ship photo from ShipSpotting.com

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday Ship History: Aiming the Ship's Guns (II): Revolution

In last week's Sunday Ship History, the discussion centered around the ability of a ship's captain to pull his ship alongside an enemy's vessel to put his guns into range and allow them to be aimed at the opponent's ship. For the most part, aiming guns in ships with port and starboard guns was done by pointing the ship and only one side could be engaged at a time.
A “broadside” was defined by having all the guns on one side of the ship brought to bear at once. In order to bring the guns on the unengaged side to bear, the ship had somehow get to the other side of the attacked ship or, if able, run ahead of the opposing ship and turn about and run back down the same side it had attacked. Otherwise only about half of its guns could be used to fight another ship. The idea was to get close, fire several volleys and then smack into the other ships and engage in hand to hand battle.

Warships were rated by the number of guns they bore and a design balance had to be maintained between speed and the number of guns and their throw weight of projectiles. No matter how many guns, however, with the exception of bow chasers and perhaps some guns pointing astern (limited in both cases by the beam of the ship – a much narrower space then the length of the ship).

And, no matter the number of guns, maneuvering meant everything. Such maneuvering required substantial room for the ships to operate. Battles between large ships in narrow or restricted waters were rare and, almost by necessity, “passing” affairs because there was not simply not enough room to maneuver.This approach to aiming ship's guns by turning the ship essentially began with the first installation of cannon on ships and lasted for centuries.

Even with the addition of steam propulsion, ships continued to mount guns along their sides.

In fact, this approach lasted up until the American Civil War. During that war, the U.S. Navy learned that the innovative Confederate Navy was transforming the capture sloop USS Merrimac into an iron clad, the CSS Virginia.

Cladding a steam powered ship in iron was a terrific threat to the wooden hulled warships then dominating the U.S. Fleet. The Confederates were hopeful that their new ironclad wold help them break the Union blockade of Southern ports (see here).

The Union Navy began looking for a counter to the Rebel threat.

In doing so, it turned to a Swedish immigrant inventor, John Ericsson. Mr. Ericsson came up with a truly revolutionary design – creating a low free board (that the measure of the distance between the main deck of a ship and the surface of the water) ship that would be hard to batter with cannon fire. The tale is well told here.


Since the ship was steam powered with a screw, there were almost no masts or paddle wheels to interfere with the aiming of the guns. Ericsson's design was a ship that could engage and enemy ship from virtually any direction. This revolving turret was a great leap forward in war at sea.


Because the turret revolved, the cannon could be aimed by rotating the turret, regardless of the heading of the ship – Ericsson's vision made maneuvering the ship in tight confines like rivers and narrows possible.

Ericsson's creation became, of course, the Monitor, perhaps the most revolutionary ship after Fulton's Claremont and before the first real submarines.

Not surprisingly, the Navy initially rejected the revolutionary design but a competitor helped Ericsson out:
In September 1861, the Ironclad Board, which consisted of Captains Hiram Paulding, Joseph Smith and Charles Davis, recommended that two contracts be let. One went to Cornelius Bushnell of New Haven, Conn., for Galena, and the other to Merrick & Sons, Philadelphia, for New Ironsides. Both were conventional masted and sparred iron-plated broadside warships.

Ericsson was disappointed and depressed. Then he received an unexpected visitor at his home on Franklin Street: Cornelius Bushnell. Bushnell was concerned because naval authorities doubted whether Galena would be able to carry the stipulated amount of 400 tons of armor on her topsides. Bushnell had been told to consult with Ericsson on the matter.

Ericsson happily received his guest, and advised him on the matter. As Bushnell prepared to leave, Ericsson asked if he was interested to see his own plans for a totally new type of low-draft ironclad warship. Ericsson showed him the latest version of the model of his ‘Cupola Vessel’ and copies of drawings for his proposal to President Lincoln.

The ship looked simple enough, a raft with a gun turret in the middle. Ericsson boasted that it was secure against the heaviest shot and designed for action in shallow coastal waters like Hampton Roads and Southern rivers. He explained that even in narrow passages it could operate its guns in battle, since only the turret needed to be turned.

Bushnell, vastly impressed with the plans, took them to Secretary of War Welles and to President Lincoln. With such intervention, the "cheese box on a raft" was built in Brooklyn, NY. In March 1862, Monitor was towed to Norfolk, Virginia, just in time for it to confront Virginia, which had also just been completed and had been successful in its first major foray:

At dawn on 9 March 1862, CSS Virginia prepared for renewed combat. The previous day, she had utterly defeated two big Federal warships, Congress and Cumberland, destroying both and killing more than 240 of their crewmen. Today, she expected to inflict a similar fate on the grounded steam frigate Minnesota and other enemy ships, probably freeing the lower Chesapeake Bay region of Union seapower and the land forces it supported. Virginia would thus contribute importantly to the Confederacy's military, and perhaps diplomatic, fortunes.

However, as they surveyed the opposite side of Hampton Roads, where the Minnesota and other potential victims awaited their fate, the Confederates realized that things were not going to be so simple. There, looking small and low near the lofty frigate, was a vessel that could only be USS Monitor, the Union Navy's own ironclad, which had arrived the previous evening after a perilous voyage from New York. Though her crew was exhausted and their ship untested, the Monitor was also preparing for action.

Undeterred, Virginia steamed out into Hampton Roads. Monitor positioned herself to protect the immobile Minnesota, and a general battle began. Both ships hammered away at each other with heavy cannon, and tried to run down and hopefully disable the other, but their iron-armored sides prevented vital damage. Virginia's smokestack was shot away, further reducing her already modest mobility, and Monitor's technological teething troubles hindered the effectiveness of her two eleven-inch guns, the Navy's most powerful weapons. Ammunition supply problems required her to temporarily pull away into shallower water, where the deep-drafted Virginia could not follow, but she always covered the Minnesota.

Soon after noon, Virginia gunners concentrated their fire on Monitor's pilothouse, a small iron blockhouse near her bow. A shell hit there blinded Lieutenant John L. Worden, the Union ship's Commanding Officer, forcing another withdrawal until he could be relieved at the conn. By the time she was ready to return to the fight, Virginia had turned away toward Norfolk.

The first battle between ironclad warships had ended in stalemate, a situation that lasted until Virginia's self-destruction two months later. However, the outcome of combat between armored equals, compared with the previous day's terrible mis-match, symbolized the triumph of industrial age warfare. The value of existing ships of the line and frigates was heavily discounted in popular and professional opinion. Ironclad construction programs, already underway in America and Europe, accelerated. The resulting armored warship competition would continue into the 1940s, some eight decades in the future.

The "cheese box" turret lead to improvements in naval guns and allowed development of naval gun that opened the range of warfare at sea from 100 yards to several miles.


The revolution began.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Memorial Day


Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met here on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But in a larger sense we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate - we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled, here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. - Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address

Friday, May 23, 2008

Welcome Home!


Welcome home, son!

The Pentagon's New Blog

DoD LIVE

Bloggers they are.

Somali Pirates: Recently captured ship released

Somali pirates reportedly have released the MV Victoria, the "sugar ship" as set out here:
Somali pirates on Friday released a UAE-owned ship they captured a week ago, a regional maritime official said.

The owners of the MV Victoria told the East Africa Seafarers Assistance Program that the ship was released Friday and is now traveling with a handful of Somali soldiers on board to ensure its safe passage, said Andrew Mwangura, who is the coordinator of the program.

Marwan Shipping and Trading Company, based in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, owns the MV Victoria, but the vessel flies a Jordanian flag, Mwangura told The Associated Press.

He said he did not know under what terms the pirates released the ship.

The MV Victoria will travel to the Somali capital, Mogadishu — its destination before it was hijacked on May 17 — to offload its cargo, Mwangura said.

Stupid and scary

Link: sevenload.com


H/T: Hot Air

UPDATE: Powerline covers the hearings:
The industry lineup was formidable: Robert Malone, Chairman and President of BP America, Inc.; John Hofmeister, President, Shell Oil Company; Peter Robertson, Vice Chairman of the Board, Chevron Corporation; John Lowe, Executive Vice President, Conoco Philips Company; and Stephen Simon, Senior Vice President, Exxon Mobil Corporation. Not surprisingly, the petroleum executives stole the show, as they were far smarter, infinitely better informed, and much more public-spirited than the Senate Democrats.

One theme that emerged from the hearing was the surprisingly small role played by American oil companies in the global petroleum market. John Lowe pointed out:

I cannot overemphasize the access issue. Access to resources is severely restricted in the United States and abroad, and the American oil industry must compete with national oil companies who are often much larger and have the support of their governments.

We can only compete directly for 7 percent of the world's available reserves while about 75 percent is completely controlled by national oil companies and is not accessible.

Stephen Simon amplified:

Exxon Mobil is the largest U.S. oil and gas company, but we account for only 2 percent of global energy production, only 3 percent of global oil production, only 6 percent of global refining capacity, and only 1 percent of global petroleum reserves. With respect to petroleum reserves, we rank 14th. Government-owned national oil companies dominate the top spots. For an American company to succeed in this competitive landscape and go head to head with huge government-backed national oil companies, it needs financial strength and scale to execute massive complex energy projects requiring enormous long-term investments.

To simply maintain our current operations and make needed capital investments, Exxon Mobil spends nearly $1 billion each day.

Because foreign companies and governments control the overwhelming majority of the world's oil, most of the price you pay at the pump is the cost paid by the American oil company to acquire crude oil from someone else:

Last year, the average price in the United States of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was around $2.80. On average in 2007, approximately 58 percent of the price reflected the amount paid for crude oil. Consumers pay for that crude oil, and so do we.

Of the 2 million barrels per day Exxon Mobil refined in 2007 here in the United States, 90 percent were purchased from others.

Another theme of the day's testimony was that, if anyone is "gouging" consumers through the high price of gasoline, it is federal and state governments, not American oil companies. On the average, 15% percent of the cost of gasoline at the pump goes for taxes, while only 4% represents oil company profits. These figures were repeated several times, but, strangely, not a single Democratic Senator proposed relieving consumers' anxieties about gas prices by reducing taxes.

The last theme that was sounded repeatedly was Congress's responsibility for the fact that American companies have access to so little petroleum. Shell's John Hofmeister explained, eloquently:

While all oil-importing nations buy oil at global prices, some, notably India and China, subsidize the cost of oil products to their nation's consumers, feeding the demand for more oil despite record prices. They do this to speed economic growth and to ensure a competitive advantage relative to other nations.

Meanwhile, in the United States, access to our own oil and gas resources has been limited for the last 30 years, prohibiting companies such as Shell from exploring and developing resources for the benefit of the American people.

Senator Sessions, I agree, it is not a free market.

According to the Department of the Interior, 62 percent of all on-shore federal lands are off limits to oil and gas developments, with restrictions applying to 92 percent of all federal lands. We have an outer continental shelf moratorium on the Atlantic Ocean, an outer continental shelf moratorium on the Pacific Ocean, an outer continental shelf moratorium on the eastern Gulf of Mexico, congressional bans on on-shore oil and gas activities in specific areas of the Rockies and Alaska, and even a congressional ban on doing an analysis of the resource potential for oil and gas in the Atlantic, Pacific and eastern Gulf of Mexico.

The Argonne National Laboratory did a report in 2004 that identified 40 specific federal policy areas that halt, limit, delay or restrict natural gas projects. I urge you to review it. It is a long list. If I may, I offer it today if you would like to include it in the record.

When many of these policies were implemented, oil was selling in the single digits, not the triple digits we see now. The cumulative effect of these policies has been to discourage U.S. investment and send U.S. companies outside the United States to produce new supplies.

As a result, U.S. production has declined so much that nearly 60 percent of daily consumption comes from foreign sources.

The problem of access can be solved in this country by the same government that has prohibited it. Congress could have chosen to lift some or all of the current restrictions on exportation and production of oil and gas. Congress could provide national policy to reverse the persistent decline of domestically secure natural resource development.
I am a retiree from two oil and gas companies (and some day, if Congress leaves well enough alone, I hope to get checks from both of them)- as I note again - just so you'll be aware of any prejudices that might cause me or thee.

Not much of a surprise, really: Texas Court of Appeals finds Texas authorities overstepped in polygamy sect matter

Reported as Texas seizure of polygamist-sect kids thrown out:
The decision in one of the biggest child-custody cases in U.S. history was a humiliating defeat for the state Child Protective Services agency. It was hailed as vindication by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who claimed they were being persecuted for their religious beliefs.
***
But the appeals court said the state acted too hastily in sweeping up all the children and taking them away on an emergency basis without going to court first.

"Even if one views the FLDS belief system as creating a danger of sexual abuse by grooming boys to be perpetrators of sexual abuse and raising girls to be victims of sexual abuse ... there is no evidence that this danger is 'immediate' or 'urgent'," the court said.

"Evidence that children raised in this particular environment may someday have their physical health and safety threatened is not evidence that the danger is imminent enough to warrant invoking the extreme measure of immediate removal."
Protection from the government, especially for unpopular beliefs or practices- no matter how repugnant to the majority, is supposed to be one of the bedrocks of our country. Basing a raid of the type made in this matter and taking children away from their parents on the basis of a single anonymous phone call is appalling.

The Diplomad

One of my favorite blogs, The Diplomad, appears to be back.

Praise be.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hail to the Chief!


Once again John of Argghhh! gets the great Navy story, as in an honor not lightly bestowed - the story of a Navy Chief Petty Officer as set out here.

Congratulations, Chief Eberhart! And God Bless you and yours...

And thanks to all the Chiefs who made this happen as only Chiefs can...

More on the story here:
Following the ceremony, Eberhart received a personal phone call from the MCPON who congratulated him on his monumental achievement.

"It is my privilege to welcome you to the chiefs mess. You have exemplified the guiding principles of a chief petty officer. Your courage and commitment to our Sailors and our Navy has inspired all of us," said Campa.

"Having the MCPON call me and tell me I'm a chief petty officer in the Navy is amazing and is something I will never forget," said Eberhart.

Somali Pirates: "Sugar Ship" Was "Carrying Arms"


The Somali pirates who have captured the M/V Victoria now claim it was an arms transport as reported here:
Somalia pirates who hijacked a Jordanian vessel last weekend now claim that it is carrying arms to Somalia and must be opened to verify its cargo.
***
"The latest allegations by the hijackers will force the owner of the vessel to open it to verify its cargo," said Mr Mwangura, noting that it is not possible to open the ship at this time because of the prevailing weather conditions.

"The sea is rough at the moment and we may have to wait until August when the sea calms down for the cargo to be verified... the situation at the moment is complicated and we are asking the international community to help in resolving the crisis," Mr Mwangura said.

He urged the Kenyan Government to stop transacting businesses with Somalia as a strategy to reduce piracy.

"The Kenyan Government should stop illegal fishing in Somalia and the transportation of miraa in order to reduce piracy.
As I have noted many times, some Somali pirates claim to be a quasi coast guard, protecting Somalia's territorial and EEZ rights.

Update: Fixed the gremlin-induced title typo.

Piracy and Shipping Threat Reports

Most recent ONI Worldwide Threats to Shipping Report (t0 14 May 08) (a report covering a month but published weekly)here. Highlights:
3. NIGERIA: Oil ship (LOURDES TIDE) hijacked 13 May 08, evening, near Port Harcourt. The vessel, which ferries supplies for the oil company Chevron, was sailing from Onne port in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, to Escravos in Delta State when gunmen boarded and hijacked the vessel. The militants are reportedly demanding a ransom of 30m naira (approximately $259,000USD) for the boat and the crew of 11. Chevron confirmed the attack and reportedly promised to assist in the release of the hostages. The MEND has stated they were not responsible for the attack. No one has claimed responsibility (AFP, BBC).
***
4. GULF OF ADEN: Tanker reported suspicious approach 15 May 08 while underway in position 12:43.1N-045:42.6E, 31NM east southeast of Port Aden, Yemen. Four speedboats were in close proximity of the vessel. Two of the speedboats were detected on the port side and two speedboats on the starboard side. The master sounded the general alarm and briefed the crew on anti-piracy precautions. Each speedboat was manned by two persons. No weapons were observed. However, the master noticed concealed items within the boat. At 0615 UTC, the master altered its course to the starboard side. The master observed the speedboats achieve a
speed of over 20kts, but were having difficulty in the wind conditions. At 0620 UTC, the two speedboats on the starboard side crossed the ship’s bow and attempted to approach the vessel’s port side. The master altered its course to the starboard side in order to make the port side under swell direction. The master alerted the Company Security Officer in Dubai, UAE, and announced the speedboats position via VHF ch. 16. At 0635 UTC, the vessel started to gain distance from the four speedboats. At 0635 UTC, Marshall Islands Duty Officer was advised about the situation via telephone by the Ship Manager in Dubai. At 0640 UTC, the four speed boats altered its course to the port side, shore direction. Master reported again the position of the
speed boats via VHF Ch.16. Fortunately, the master was able to maneuver the vessel to take evasive action, thereby successfully mitigating the threat from the four speed boats, which headed back towards the general vicinity of the Yemen coast (Operators, UKMTO, IMB).
***
.
22. SRI LANKA: Merchant vessel (INVINCIBLE) sank by LTTE 10 May 08 at 0230 local time, while at anchorage at the Ashroff Jetty at the eastern coastal town of Trincomalee. The LTTE said their Sea Tigers underwater naval commandos launched a pre-dawn underwater demolition-type attack on the Sri Lankan Navy’s boat while it was being loaded with explosives. The boat was headed for troops operating in the island’s north. No injuries were reported. On 11 May 08, navy divers reportedly recovered body parts of the suspected LTTE suicide cadres
from where the boat was sunk. The navy believes the suicide cadres had used a suicide jacket for the blast as only the lower part of the body was recovered (LM: 7days.com, nation.lk, Daily Mirror). (see also here)
Weekly ICC CCS Piracy Report (to 19 May 08) here. Highlights:
15.05.2008: 0900 UTC: 13:02.6N-048:50.9E: Gulf of Aden.
Four suspicious speedboats chased a container ship. Vessel increased speed and took evasive manoeuvres. Thirty minutes later, the boats aborted the attempt.
***
13.05.2008: 1400 LT: Fairway Buoy area, River States: Nigeria.
A supply vessel, with 11 crew, was boarded and hijacked while underway. The hijackers have demanded a ransom for the safe release of crew and vessel.

17.05.2008: 09:50 LT: Posn: 02:13.19N – 046:49.38E, Off Somalia.
Pirates boarded and hijacked a general cargo ship underway. Ship was on passage to Mogadishu, Somalia. (see also here and here)

"Unqualified"

Got your scorecard? John from Argghhh!!! lays out the military background requirements of the Democrats. Apparently part of the "Harkin test" is that you must not have been born into a military family. John's fine work is Heh. Dems. McCain. Military Service, suitability of. He has a suggestion:
They should boil it down the basics, and save themselves the tortured logic.
In case you were wondering,under the Harkin Test, neither my older son (Navy pilot - 3rd generation military) nor I would be qualified to be president.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Readings

Been busy and out of computer range for way too many hours, but you can get your reading about ships and things at Fred Fry's Maritime Monday 111 @ gCaptain.com. Fred has pretty ship pictures and lotsa links.

Salamander looks at non-LCS approaches to shipbuilding - this time in the "Land Down Under".

Lex is battling some hosting issues, but he sure can write purty. For an old retired guy.

Steeljaw (another retired guy!) notes how small the sky can be at times. Funny, the ocean was always big and empty, too, until you got near land...

Grim Anniversary: Somalia pirates and M/V Victoria

A sorry anniversary noted as Pirates hijack aid ship on anniversary of lethal attack:
A general cargo ship has been attacked and hijacked off the Somali coast. In a cruel twist of fate, or wicked irony on the part of her attackers, the successful hi-jacking comes a year after a failed attempt which resulted in the death of a Somali guard.

The 3340 grt vessel, mv VICTORIA, was carrying a cargo of sugar from Mumbai (Bombay) donated by Denmark, bound for Somalia. The cargo had been donated as humanitarian aid.
Latest word has the ship about 350 miles north of Mogudishu and there are conflicting reports about whether a ransom has been demanded yet. If it hasn't, it's only a matter of time.

The Indian Navy is making brave noises, too, but whether another move like France's against the pirates is in the wings seems remote.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sunday Ship History: Aiming the ship's guns (Part I)


Until relatively modern times, cannon placed on ships as weapons were not precision weapons systems. Lashed to the bulkhead to prevent them from becoming "loose cannons," they were directionally aimed, for the most part, by turning the ship on which they were mounted so as to bring the gun to "bear."

A great deal of the skill of a sailing warship's captain involved his ability to maneuver his ship close enough to the enemy to engage while maintaining the ability to break off the engagement and sail out of effective range of the opposing force's guns.

And, while the guns of the 18th century might be capable of tossing a cannon ball almost a mile, truly effective fighting in the age of sail and cannon was at close range 50 -150 yards. Ships were not stationary platforms and sea battles involved problems of time and distance when trying to close an opponent and also the problems of the ship pitching (that's the bow to stern rocking), rolling (side to side rocking) and all the other motions of ships at sea.

In time, various schools of targeting came into existence. As set out here, the English thought was to fire guns on the "down roll" (as the ship rocked down toward the enemy) so as to put holes in the enemy hull - to sink the opponent's ship:
...The British navy's tactics at the time were, in the main, to fire solid shot into the hull of the enemy ship, thus trying to sink it outright.

They used to do this by timing the firing of the guns so that the ship fired its broadside 'on the downroll' ie, when the roll of the ship was such that the guns were aiming lower. This, incidentally, caused enormous casualties on the other side: not from cannonballs piercing the hulls of the enemy ship, but rather from the splinters of wood shooting across the inside of the enemy gundecks whenever the outside of the hull was hit by a cannonball. The French, on the other hand, used much more grapeshot and fired 'on the uproll', aiming for the masts and rigging of their enemies, with the final aim of simply disabling the enemy ship before closing to board and capture it.
The reason for using the ship's rolling to elevate or depress the aim of the guns was simple- it was easier than trying to wedge the gun in its carriage to effect it elevation.

So, when watching the following battle scene from Master and Commander at about 33 seconds,listen for the command Captain Aubrey gives to "on the uproll - fire!":


The guns themselves were manpower intensive, as laid out here about USS Constitution:
Each of the gun-deck 24-pounders had its assigned crew of a midshipman and 13 men. This was an unusual arrangement; midshipmen were more usually assigned to duty as assistant division officers or posted on the quarterdeck to relay the captain's orders in the din of battle. In 1812, however, Captain Bainbridge had twenty midshipmen on his strength, and decided to assign most of his young prospective officers to the big guns. Fourteen of Constitution's 15 gundeck 24-pounder crews were commanded by midshipmen; the 15th was in charge of the captain's clerk, who was apparently a versatile individual.

The gun crew first unfastened the lashings which held the gun secure at sea. This had to be done with care. Gun carriages were not fixed to the deck; if one should break loose in a seaway, the consequences could be dangerous to the ship and fatal to the men who had to bring the massive rolling weight under control. To this day, a dangerously-irresponsible individual is sometimes called a "loose cannon."

The crew now removed the covers that kept dampness out of the bore, and took various gunnery implements from their racks. Guns of this period were equipped with firing locks, but lengths of lighted slow match-cord soaked in an inflammable solution; it burned down slowly, as a lighted cigarette does-were put in safe places along the gun deck for use in case a lock should fail. Down below the frigate's waterline, the gunner and his assistants opened the forward and after magazines and began to break out sausage-shaped flannel powder cartridges for the guns and carronades. Other men took stations along the lower decks to pass cartridges up to the gun crews.
***
As Constitution drew near to her enemy, all was made ready. The captain took his station on the quarterdeck, from which he could direct the helmsman and order the handling of guns and sails. The marine detachment took their positions with loaded muskets, some on deck and others in the fighting tops. Gun crews checked the loads in their massive weapons and waited in silence for the action to begin.

When Constitution was within reasonable shooting range of her adversary—usually no more than a few hundred yards—the gun-port lids, which kept wind and spray out while cruising, were opened. At the command "run out!" men pulled on the side tackles to roll their guns forward until the muzzles protruded through the ports. One of the gun crew thrust a wire pick through the vent to pierce the cloth powder bag, inserted a priming tube (a length of quill, packed with fine powder) into the vent, and then primed the pan of the firing lock--similar to the locks used in flintlock firearms--with fine powder from a flask or horn. The lock was cocked, and the gun captain--the senior enlisted man of the gun crew--took the end of the firing lanyard and stood, knees flexed, behind the gun and sighted along the barrel.

The captain's order to commence firing was passed by megaphone to the division officers, who then directed their guns. A ship's guns might open fire together in a single broadside, or each division might be ordered to "fire as she bears." As the target came into view through his gun port, the gun captain waited for the proper moment in the ship's roll, depending on whether the object was the enemy's hull or his masts and rigging. At the right moment, the gun captain pulled the lanyard to trip the firing lock. This struck flint against steel, sending a spark into the pan. The ignited powder in the pan sent a flame through the priming tube to set off the powder charge in the gun and hurl its 24-pound iron shot at the enemy with a reverberating thunderclap of sound and a swirl of whitish smoke.
See here for the layout of USS Constitution's gun deck.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Somali: Somali Pirates hijack Jordanian ship

Somali pirates grad another aid ship, apparently unescorted, some 40 miles off Somalia, as reported here:
The vessel, Victoria, was seized about 40 nautical miles off the capital Mogadishu, said Andrew Mwangura of the Kenyan branch of the Seafarers' Assistance Programme.

"The ship was seized by the pirates at about 6:00 a.m. (0300 GMT) today in Somalia. It is now sailing northwards," he told AFP.

Earlier in the day, Jordanian Transport Minister Alaa Batayneh said the vessel, owned by a Emirati company, was carrying 4,200 tonnes of sugar donated by Denmark to the people of war-torn Somalia.

"It was going from India to Mogadishu when contact was lost," Batayneh said, adding that the crew included Bangladeshis, Indians, Kenyans, Pakistanis, Somalis and Tanzanians.

"The ministries of transport and foreign affairs are coordinating with the concerned parties to secure the release of the boat and its crew," the official said, adding that contact was being made with the Danish embassy in Mogadishu.

Mwangura said there were "at least 12 crew members on the ship when it was hijacked."

Sri Lanka: Tamil Tiger "Frog Men" Sink SL Navy Supply Ship

Posted here on a Tiger-flavored (and barely credible) blog:
Frog men of the Liberation Tamil Tigers delivered a major blow to the supply ships of the Sri Lanka navy. A-520, named ‘MV Invincible’, that allegedly carried supplies such as food, and medicine and other essential supplies to the East coast was sunk out in the Eelam waters (Trincomlaee) at 2.33 last Saturday.

According to available sources the ship was carrying nuclear missiles, Chemical and Biological weapons purchased by GoSL from Slovakia according to the officials in a 6ft deep underground bunker in Vanni. Officials strongly deny the ship was empty citing Satellite and state of the art Tamil Eelam Airways (TEA) reconnaissance intelligence.
WMD? Right.

More on the sinking here:
A Naval logistics vessel was blasted and sunk by suspected Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka's eastern port of Trincomalee early Saturday, hours before the local elections, said the military.

Navy Spokesman D. K. P. Dassanayake said a cargo vessel named A520 was damaged and sank in an underwater explosion at Trincomaleeharbor, about 270 km northeast of the capital Colombo, around 2.15a.m. (2045 GMT Friday).

Dassanayake said there was no direct evidence to show it was carried out by the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), "but in Sri Lanka no other organizations would make this kind of attack."

Dassanayake said the vessel was berthed at the Ashroff Jetty at the time of the incident and had only a skeleton crew on board for routine operational purposes.

The crew suffered no casualties and no other properties were damaged due to the explosion, the spokesman said.

The 70-meter vessel was built in 1971 and handed over to the Navy by a court order in 2003.

Pro-LTTE sources said the naval ship was sunk by the sea wing of the LTTE when the vessel was loaded with explosives to be transported to K. K. S. Harbor in the northern Jaffna peninsula.

LNG Terminal Opens on West Coast....on Mexico's Baja Peninsula


NIMBY, NIMBY, NIMBY. Keep saying that as whiny Californians will get their natural gas fed to them from a foreign country. Sempra LNG opens up its Baja LNG terminal near Ensenada, as reported here:
"The start of operations at Energía Costa Azul represents the culmination of seven years of development activity involving the acquisition of permits and commercial contracts, construction, start-up and testing," said Darcel L. Hulse, president and chief executive officer of Sempra LNG. "The journey from an idea to a whole new business has been both challenging and satisfying."

Energía Costa Azul's first cargo of imported natural gas arrived April 18 aboard the Al Safliya, a new, state-of-the-art LNG carrier from Qatar. A second LNG ship, the Bluesky, arrived at Energía Costa Azul May 6 with a cargo of LNG from Trinidad. The stringent performance testing is now complete and the terminal has successfully met all of its design criteria.

The terminal is fully contracted and capable of processing 1 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of natural gas, with room for expansion. While Sempra LNG owns 100 percent of the facility, the company is leasing half of Energía Costa Azul's processing capacity to Shell International Gas Limited under a 20-year agreement. Sempra LNG's half of the capacity at Energía Costa Azul will be supplied from a new liquefaction facility nearing completion at Tangguh, Indonesia. Shipments from the Indonesian facility should begin arriving in the second quarter of 2009.

The natural gas processed at Energía Costa Azul will be used in Baja California and the U.S. Southwest. Natural gas from the terminal will meet applicable Mexico and U.S. gas pipeline quality standards.
I applaud Sempra's success, but deplore the NIMBY attitude that causes businesses to have to locate such facilities in neighboring countries to avoid the NIMBYs. I guess the jobs associated with the LNG facility and the lower cost of shorter pipelines don't matter to some vocal, and in my view, misguided groups in California.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Reading

CDR Salamander: Fullbore Friday about Observation Squadron 67 getting some belated recognition for some brave work.

Steeljaw Scribe wishes a happy retirement to Lex, who slipped quietly out the back door yesterday. One door closes and another opens, Lex. Thanks for all the time you spent keeping us safe and training new guys to keep us safe. Lex chose a couple of poems to mark the occasion (as well as some lovely Guinness, for medicinal purposes). John of Argghhh!!!! has a lovely retirement post

The feeling the day you retire after an adult lifetime of doing Navy stuff leaves a large void before the rest of you life kicks in, and I always thought the pre-retirement scene from the movie She Wore a Yellow Ribbon sums it up:
Abby Allshard: [Capt. Brittles is retiring after tonight] Where will you go, Nathan?
Captain Nathan Brittles: Oh, West, I guess, Abby... California... new settlements.
Captain Nathan Brittles: [to Olivia] "Old soldiers...", Miss Dandridge... hah! Someday you'll learn how they hate to give up. Captain of the troop one day: every man's face turned towards you; lieutenants jump when I growl! Now, tomorrow, I'll be glad if a blacksmith asks me to shoe a horse.
[he leaves]
Best wishes, Lex. And keep on writing.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I am John Galt


I was at a book store today and the young man who was checking out ahead of me was buying Atlas Shrugged.

Maybe it's the new movie version coming out (Brad Pitt? Angelina Jolie? Not my choices), or perhaps it's the ongoing political campaign that has caused the book to reappear in check out counters.
Galt Speech:

"We are on strike against self-immolation. We are on strike against the creed of unearned rewards and unrewarded duties. We are on strike against the dogma that the pursuit of one's happiness is evil. We are on strike against the doctrine that life is guilt.
Me, too.

Helping oil prices go up with poor headline writing



Here's the BBC headline: Oil pipeline explodes in Nigeria.

Holy cow! Sounds like a spontaneous blast spelling oil shortages and all kinds of bad stuff. But here's the real story:
...a bulldozer burst the pipeline, Reuters reports.
Bloomberg reports it's a refined product pipeline, something left out of other reports:
A pipeline used to transport gasoline exploded in a suburb of Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos, killing ``many people,'' said Okon Umoh, a spokeswoman for the Nigerian Red Cross.
Later reports have narrowed the "many" to "ten."

And as the Bloomberg article points out, it is not a pipeline used for exporting crude, but
The affected pipeline is part of a domestic fuel-distribution network running from Lagos Port to different parts of the west African nation.
You know, the sort of thing that happen anywhere.

UPDATE: Death toll increases to "about 100" it says here:
"About 100 people were confirmed dead in the explosion. We have also evacuated about 20 others to the Ikeja general hospital," Mekudi told AFP. Most of the injured had suffered serious burns, he added.

Pipeline fires are commonplace in Nigeria, Africa's biggest oil producer, in part because of poor pipeline maintenance but also because of thieves who vandalise pipelines to siphon off petrol to sell on the black market.

On December 25, around 40 people died in a fire at a pipeline in a creek in Lagos after it was vandalised by looters. Exactly one year earlier, more than 200 people died scooping fuel from a vandalised pipeline in another Lagos district.

More than 1,000 villagers burnt to death in 1998 in Jesse, near the southern Delta state oil city of Warri, following the vandalisation of a fuel pipeline. Victims were suspected of scooping petrol to sell on the black market.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The "German Connection" to the Taliban in Afghanistan

John Rosenthal has an interesting piece at World Politics Review on "Germany's Taliban Trail" - a mater of apparently "little interest" as he puts it to American media. Something to keep an eye on. Of interest:
When it emerged in mid-March that the perpetrator of a deadly suicide attack on American troops in Afghanistan had come from Germany, the American media showed remarkably little interest. On March 3, 28-year-old Cüneyt Ciftci from Ansbach in Bavaria drove a pick-up loaded with several tons of explosives into a guard post in Khost province in southeastern Afghanistan and then detonated his payload while still inside the truck. According to U.S. Army and Afghan sources, two American soldiers and two Afghans were killed in the attack and another seven persons, including four soldiers, were wounded. The Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), the Taliban-affiliated Jihadist group that took responsibility for the attack, claimed a more massive death toll: some 60 dead in both the explosion itself and a follow-on attack by Taliban forces. In a Turkish-language statement posted in the internet, the IJU also identified the bomber: "This operation was successfully carried out by the brave Cüneyt Ciftci from Germany, who has traded in his life of luxury for paradise"
***
...the German media has by and large spun the presence of the two men in the region as somehow a threat to German troops well to the North -- or even to the German homeland itself -- but apparently not to anyone else. This supposition is, however, obviously contradicted by Breininger's message in the propaganda clip. Before making his appeal for new recruits, he can likewise be heard not only praising the example set by Cüneyt Ciftci, but praising Ciftci specifically for killing Americans. Perhaps not coincidentally, this last detail has gone virtually entirely unmentioned in the German media coverage.

Latest ONI Worldwide Threats to Shipping Report (to 7 May 08) and latest ICC CCS Piracy Report (to 12 May 08)


The latest ONI Worldwide Threats to Shipping Report (to 7 May 08) can be found here. Highlights:
4. UNITED NATIONS: US, France draft UN resolution to battle pirates off Somalia, per 21 Apr 08 reporting. The United States and France are drafting a UN resolution that would allow countries to chase and arrest pirates off Somalia’s coast, in response to a spate of recent attacks. France’s UN Ambassador Jean-Maruice Ripert said the resolution would authorize foreign governments to pursue pirate vessels into territorial waters, make arrests, and prosecute suspects. The International Maritime Organization has welcomed moves by the French government to seek United Nations Security Council support in tackling piracy off Somalia. Per 29 Apr 08 reporting, the US and France, backed by the UK and Panama, introduced a draft Resolution to the UN that would rally maritime nations to tackle piracy off Somalia. According to news reports, the Resolution would authorize foreign states to enter Somali waters to stop and search suspect vessels and detaining identified pirates and their craft. Intervention would require approval from Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) which has itself repeatedly called on the UN for help in tackling sea piracy. According to AP, the Resolution further urges nations with naval assets in the Horn of Africa region to co-operate with each other, the IMO and “other organizations” to track down pirates and take them into custody. The draft proposes that “relevant” states co-operate to decide on jurisdiction for detaining and prosecuting pirates (AFP, LL, LM: Daily News).
***
23. INDIAN OCEAN: Chemical tanker fired upon 04 May 08 around 1300 UTC while underway in position 01:00N 051:30E, 300NM from the east coast of Somalia. The IMB Piracy Reporting Center received a call from the vessel owner stating the tanker was fired upon by
pirates in two speedboats. The master took evasive maneuvers, increased to max speed and turned to a course of 090 degrees. Machine gun fire and some form of projectiles were reportedly directed at the vessel. At 1420 UTC, the small boats were reported to be 5NM away but still pursuing. At 1530 UTC, the tanker lost all contact with the small boats and resumed course to next destination. No injuries to crew reported. ONI COMMENT: This incident occurred well beyond the usual Somali piracy operating range of 200NM from the east coast of Somalia. All vessels are advised to maintain strict vigilance at all distances from the Somali coast and report all suspicious sightings or radar contacts of larger vessels (vessels loitering or towing small skiffs) that could be supporting this activity in the vicinity of this attack (IMB, UKMTO, ONI).
***
4. MALAYSIA: Product Tanker (PATARAVARIN 2) boarded, robbed 25 Apr 08 at 0020 local time while underway in position 01:31.00N-104:24.50E, approximately 10NM east of Tg Penawar. The vessel was carrying a cargo of jet fuel while underway towards the port of Phuket, Thailand. Six masked men armed with pistols came along side in their 20 feet long, two 300 HP Yamaha engine speedboat. They boarded the vessel and forced the ship master to reduce the speed of the vessel. They held the five Thai crewmembers at gunpoint and handcuffed them. According to the master, the pirates spoke to the crew in English and communicated among themselves in Indonesian. The pirates ransacked the vessel and took away the ship’s VHF communication equipment, notebook, crew’s personal belongings, and cash. They left the ship at approximately 0040 local time with two other pirates waiting for them in their speedboat. No crewmembers injured. The ship master reported the incident to the coastal state and the flag state (ReCAAP ISC, LM: bangkokpost.com).
Latest ICC CCS Piracy Report (to 12 May 08) found here. Highlights:
04.05.2008: 1810 LT: 15:05.0N-051:13.0E: Gulf of Aden. Two white speedboats chased a general cargo ship underway. Ship took evasive manoeuvres to prevent boats from getting closer. The two speedboats moved towards other larger vessels in the vicinity. Later, they returned with two more black speedboats, followed ship for a while, and then aborted the chase.
***
10.05.2008: 1625 LT: 05:35N - 097:05E, Northern Sumatera, Malacca straits. Pirates in military camouflage attempted to board a chemical tanker underway using a bamboo pole attached to a hook. Master raised alarm and alerted ships in vicinity. Pirates aborted the attempt and escaped in their blue hull speedboat. (see also here)

02.05.2008: 0200 LT: 03:48.98.3N – 100:43.03.3E, 4 nm off Tanjung Sauh, Malaysia. Two fishing boats and eight-crew were attacked and hijacked while the crew was resting. The boats were taken to an Indonesian island and all the crew were forced to jump overboard. A passing Indonesian fishing boat rescued the crew and handed them over to the Indonesian navy. All crew were repatriated to Malaysia safely after investigation.
***
04.05.2008: 2215 LT: 01:00N-051:30E: Off Somalia.Two speedboats chased a chemical tanker underway. Pirates opened fire on the tanker. Master took evasive manoeuvres and increased speed. Later, the boats aborted the chase. Ship continued her passage. No reported injuries to crew. (same incident as ONI #23 above)

Hear the one about the Mars lander?




Maybe I live in a cave of sorts, but did you know, as I did not, that there is an important Mars mission unfolding? May 25th, the lander element, dubbed "Phoenix" will be hitting the Martian atmosphere in what the BBC calls a "risky descent":
Scientists are preparing for "seven minutes of terror" as a Nasa spacecraft makes a nail-biting descent to the surface of Mars.

The Phoenix lander will begin its plunge through the Martian atmosphere on 25 May (GMT) as it attempts to land in the planet's polar north.

The craft needs to perform a series of challenging manoeuvres along the way.

It then begins a three-month mission to investigate Mars' geological history and potential habitability.

Water is crucial to the mission's objectives. Not only is it a pre-requisite for biology, but it has shaped the planet's geology and climate over billions of years.

Phoenix will touch down on the northern plains, which hold vast stores of water-ice just below ground.

The lander will use a 2.4m robotic arm to dig through the protective topsoil layer to this water-ice below; a scoop on the arm will lift samples of both soil and ice to the lander's deck for detailed scientific analysis.
***
But Phoenix must first make the perilous journey to the surface.

The spacecraft will enter the top of the Martian atmosphere at almost 5.7km/s (13,000mph).

Pushing hard against the Martian air, its descent will begin to slow. A parachute will then be deployed to reduce the rate of fall still further. Finally, Phoenix will fire thrusters to bring its velocity down to about 2.4m/s (5.4mph) before its three legs touch the ground.

"We fire 26 pyrotechnic events in the last 14 minutes of the journey. Each of those has to work perfectly for the mission to come off as we planned," said Barry Goldstein, project manager from Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, US.

The final seven minutes to the ground should prove to be the most dramatic. Confirmation of a successful touchdown could come as early as 0053 BST (1953 EDT).
More on the Phoenix mission here:
"This is not a trip to grandma's house. Putting a spacecraft safely on Mars is hard and risky," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Internationally, fewer than half the attempts have succeeded."
NASA site here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Attempted Pirate Attack in Malacca Strait


Reported at Maritime Global Net:
DESPITE increased activity by Indonesian and Malaysian naval forces there has been a further attempted pirate attack in the Malacca Strait area, off North Sumatra, according to the ICC International Maritime Bureau. This follows two robberies of a chemical tanker underway close to Singapore

Last Saturday, 10 May, pirates in military camouflage attempted to board a chemical tanker underway using a bamboo pole attached to a hook. The master raised the alarm and alerted ships in vicinity. The pirates aborted the attempt and escaped in their blue hull speedboat.

High oil prices and the Democrats in Congress

With a hat tip tp American Thinker Blog: Dems and High Oil Prices, the best link is to Investors Business Daily's series, Breaking the Back of High Oil.

If you are concerned about national security and our energy supply, as you should be, read the series and get mad at the Democrats.

Me, I just stay mad at 'em.

UPDATE: Maybe I missed it, but the IBD series does not mention the high cost the U.S. pays to keep the oil sea lines of communication open with both our treasure and our blood. In addition, focusing about domestic environmental concerns means that our oil and refining abilities are much more expensive than those of lesser developed nations.

CDR Salamander and The Economist on Pirates


The good CDR was kind enough to link to me in his post Yo,ho, ho, .... thar'ye be! in which he refers to an article in The Economist in which there is an handy dandy "chart of piracy." This particular article relies on International Maritime Bureau statistics to which I frequently refer in some of my "pirate" posts. However, it would be a mistake to think that every incident referred to by the IMB involves a pirate crew laying along an intended victim and doing piracy the old fashioned way. While that has happened, especially recently in international waters off Somalia, most IMB "piracy" is not like that at all, as I attempted to explain in a comment to Salamander's post:
Thanks for the link, CDR. It should be repeated, as I often do at my place, that those IMB figures on which the article is based include thieves climbing up anchor chains while ships are anchored in harbors and roadsteads (this is especially true in Bangladeshi waters) or suspicious approaches as reported to the IMB. The vast majority of the incidents occur in the the territorial waters of some state or another and do not constitute "piracy" as that term is defined in UNCLOS which requires the action to occur on the "high seas."

Given the rather liberal interpretation of piracy used by the IMB, I am somewhat surprised they don't include theft from ships moored to piers which would certainly inflate their numbers. I guess they had to draw the line some place...

Worth noting in the trend lines is the big decrease in Malacca Strait "piracy" since a multinational force from the strait's littoral countries began operations.

Somali, of course, has no effective law enforcement and there is a pretty nifty ransom scam going on but again, the addition of escorts for UN World Food Program shipping has reduced the capture of the ships involved in that business down to zero and the pirates have begun seeking unescorted and minimally manned ships in other areas. Probably a simple convoy system, even without escorts, would help slow that business down.

Nigeria is having rebel trouble.
See also here.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Killer Pirates in Philippine Waters


Reported here:
Suspected sea pirates sprayed with automatic gunfires a motorized pump boat last Monday, killing at least five persons including a three-year old child and wounding eight others, report reaching this city indicated yesterday.

The pump boat was enroute to Laminusa island in Siasi, Sulu from Jolo when it was attacked by the pirates, the report said.

The boat, carrying 20 people, was nearing the coast of Parang and Tapul, Sulu, when some 20 gunmen aboard five smaller motor boats opened fire at them.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sunday Ship History: Mother Ships

It's Mother's Day and this will be a short post because the topic is short. The question to be answered is, "How many currently commissioned U.S. Navy ships are named after women who were mothers?"

Wikipedia has a long list of Navy ships named after women here, but to my knowledge, only USS Roosevelt (DDG-80) is currently the only active Navy ship named after women who was a mother - Anna Eleanor Roosevelt. Even this distinction requires some explanation in that the ship was co-named for her husband, former undersecretary of the Navy and president of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt. She bore six children, five of whom survived childhood.

I should point out that there are some USNS ships named after women, at least one of whom was a mother - Sacagawea. See here.

Let me know if you are aware of any other "mother" ships. In the meantime, Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

China's Sea Tanker Shortfall

China needs a sea bridge which could fill the ocean with huge oil carriers. But they don't have enough and are looking to pipelines. Reported asAnalysis: China faces tanker shortage:
Driving China's pipeline strategy of seeking agreement with Russia and Central Asian states for transmission of oil and natural gas is a potential shortage beyond the energy issues so prominent in the media.

And China's potential shortage is tankers. According to a recent report in PortWorld, a prominent Chinese shipping executive commented that by 2015 China will need nearly 150 Very Large Crude Carrier tankers to meet its rising energy needs. For Beijing, the news is bad, as the country's top five shipping companies currently have a combined fleet of 27 VLCCs.

VLCCs are the second-largest class of tankers, displacing 200,000-320,000 tons, and are capable of carrying 2 million barrels of oil. Tankers are second only to pipelines in terms of efficiency, and their efficiency of large volume transport means that importing oil by tanker adds only two to three U.S. cents per gallon to cost.
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Nor would this be all. As the majority of new tankers being built for Chinese shipping firms will fly China's flag, China's navy would inevitably have to expand to provide force protection for its expanded merchant marine. To protect its Middle East and African imports, the Chinese navy would be forced to deploy far beyond the South China Sea south and westward into the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, a logistical nightmare compounded by the vulnerability of Chinese imports traversing some of the more volatile maritime choke points, from the Strait of Hormuz to the Straits of Malacca.

During the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War, free-floating sea mines were released in the 21-mile-wide Strait of Hormuz. The 600-mile-long Straits of Malacca, transited by 50,000 ships a year, is 1.7 miles wide at its narrowest point and suffers from a combination of traditional piracy and indigenous Muslim extremist movements that make passage of the waterway especially unsettling. Among the Islamic terrorist groups active in the area are the Free Aceh Movement, Jemmah Islamiyah Lashkar Jihad, Laskar Jundullah and Rabitatul Mujahideen.

Even worse for Chinese naval planners is the fact the U.S. Navy is active in both areas. In short, a massive Chinese tanker fleet represents a horrendously expensive and vulnerable logistical nightmarish scenario in which China will have to invest billions with no guarantee of 100 percent security.
Or, they could just be good neighbors and cooperate with the rest of world instead of getting all paranoid.