MH60S

Friday, March 30, 2012

Somali Pirates and Other Piracy: The ONI Weekly Reports

Good stuff found from the Office of Naval Intelligence (pdfs).

First, a recapture of recent Somali pirate incidents:

Now, the weather-related prediction of good areas of operations for the small boat pirates (red is good for the pirates, bad for the merchant shipping world):
What the pirates are holding and for how long - one crew is going into their 3rd year of captivity:
And then, a brief summary of other piracy events:

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Somali Pirates: Send Them Toward Home Without Any Trophies

An EU effort "catches and releases" a Somali pirate team as reported here:
EU Counter Piracy Naval Forces (EUNAVFOR) have tracked down and stopped a group of suspected pirates who were believed to have tried to attack a Hong-Kong flagged tanker approximately 400 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia.

FS Aconit
Luxembourg MPRA (EUNAVFOR photo)
EU Naval Force warship FS Aconit was called to investigate after the tanker came under attack on 26 March 2012. Aconit was directed onto the fleeing pirates by a Luxembourgish Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft (MPRA), which have recently completed 3500 Flights Hours with EUNAVFOR.

The MPRA quickly located the suspects who were towing a small skiff behind a larger sea going whaler. The MPRA provided imagery showing pirate paraphernalia.

In order to conceal the evidence of their piracy activities, it is believed that the suspected pirates had cut loose and sunk the smaller skiff, containing weapons, ladders and a certain amount of fuel.

Aconit boarding teams investigating suspect whaler (EUNAVFOR photo)
Aconit’s helicopter intercepted and stopped the whaler, which had 10 suspected pirates onboard, by firing warning shots on 27 March 2012. A team from Aconit boarded the whaler and the suspects have been transferred on board the frigate. Two suspects received medical care by the Aconit’s medical service.

As no pirate paraphernalia was recovered the crew of the Whaler were sent back to the Somali coast with only enough water and fuel for a one-way journey.

The French Navy frigate Aconit’s intervention made it possible to hamper the action of a complete pirate action group, thus preventing them from committing new attacks in the area.
Apparently no trophies were awarded to the pirates for the "good effort" or for their "cooperation" in deep-sixing their pirate tools.

We are left to contemplate a long voyage in an open boat . . .

Somali Pirates: Piracy Leads to Standard Contract for Private Armed Counter-Pirate Guards

Unknown to much of the general public, the ships that travel the great sea lanes usually operate under contracts to carry goods and oil and other things from point A to Poiint B.
After years and years, these contracts (known as "charter parties") have become standardized in format - so that they are often a matter of "fill in the blank." In many instances, a contract for engaging a ship to carry something may consist of an email which reads, in part, something like "standard BIMCO terms," BIMCO (Baltic and International Maritime Council) being a trade organization the members of which have agreed on the terms of certain charter parties that form the standard contracts. The variations in the terms are covered in the emails by writing out the exceptions rather than the entire agreement. So, the terms may read, "standard BIMCO terms, except . . ." and the exception is set out. Using standard contracts saves a great deal of time and keeps lawyer fees down, a very important thing indeed.

Well, now, it is reported, as expected, that BIMCO publishes much anticipated GUARDCON Contract:
Soon to be under contract?
BIMCO is pleased to announce the publication of the GUARDCON standard contract for the employment of security guards on vessels. This brand new contract has been developed to provide ship owners and private maritime security companies (PMSC) with a clearly worded and comprehensive standard contract to govern the employment and use of security guards, with or without firearms, on board merchant vessels. While BIMCO would not like to see the use of armed security guards on ships becoming institutionalised, it recognises that while the industry awaits a more permanent long term solution, armed guards currently provide an effective deterrent to piracy attacks.

BIMCO’s Chief Officer Legal and Contractual Affairs, Grant Hunter said “In response to ship owners’ increasing demand for security services, an ever growing number of private maritime security companies have entered the market to meet that demand. In the absence of a standard contract for these services, ship owners and their P&I Clubs are currently faced with the difficult and time consuming task of assessing large numbers of contracts from these security companies, all with varying terms and conditions. GUARDCON’s objective is to create a contractual benchmark for the employment of security services so that minimum levels of insurance cover for PMSCs are established and that adequate safeguards are put in place to ensure that liabilities and responsibilities are properly addressed and that all necessary permits and licenses are obtained.”
So, using GUARDCON should help answer questions relating to the duties of an embarked security team and of the master of the vessel with respect to that team. You can view GUARDCON at the BIMCO site, along with an explanation and "Guidance on Rules for the Use of Force (RUF) by Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel (PCASP) in Defence of a Merchant Vessel (MV)."

Thus, the "wild west" aspect of private security teams is tempered by lawyers and liability is accounted for. The cats have been herded.

 Well, except for the inevitable things that aren't clear in the contract . . . UPDATE: The security firm Sea Marshals, LTD announces it's one of the first to qualify for insurance under the BIMCO rules:
SeaMarshals Ltd is one of the first security companies to fully comply with the new BIMCO Guardcon contract released on 28th March 2012.

Among the many things we fulfill to comply you will find;
General liability insurance, 3rd party - USD 5 million
Professional indemnity insurance, USD 5 Million
Maritime employers insurance, USD 5 Million
Personal accident and illness, USD 250 000 per person
Valid licences for embarking and disembarking armed teams
Legal weapons, European origin, government EUC's
All men with STCW95, ENG1, SSO, CRB check, Weapons training, Military/Navy background and more..
100s of references from satisfied ship owners and masters from past transits.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Freedom and "The Eternal Inequality of Man"

From Owen Wister's The Virginian
It was through the Declaration of Independence that we Americans acknowledged the ETERNAL INEQUALITY of man. For by it we abolished a cut-and-dried aristocracy. We had seen little mere artificially held up in high places, and great men artificially held down in low places, and our own justice-loving hearts abhorred this violence to human nature. Therefore, we decreed that every man should thenceforth have equal liberty to find his own level. By this very decree we acknowledged and gave freedom to true aristocracy, saying, "Let the best man win, whoever he is." Let the best man win! That is America's word. That is true democracy. And true democracy and true aristocracy are one and the same thing. If anybody cannot see this, so much the worse for his eyesight.

Seems Like a Good Idea: A Patrol Frigate Based on the Coast Guard National Security Cutter

Advertised not as a LCS substitute, but rather as - something else -  Press release
National Security Cutter
Artist Conception of new Patrol Frigate
Huntington Ingalls Industries will participate in Doha's International Maritime Defense Exhibition and Conference (DIMDEX) this week, highlighting the new patrol frigate derivative of the company's proven U.S. Coast Guard National Security Cutter. The patrol frigate could be built at the company's Ingalls Shipbuilding facility in Pascagoula, Mississippi. "The Ingalls patrol frigate design has already proven its seaworthiness in U.S. Coast Guard service," said Dan Holloway, HII's corporate vice president for customer relations. "Our analysis has shown there are foreign navies with requirements for patrol frigate capabilities and that this particular design will address naval multi-mission needs. The patrol frigate's technologically advanced ship features, coupled with Ingalls' experienced workforce and active construction line, will generate an affordable platform for a variety of potential customers." In addition to its patrol frigate, Ingalls will highlight its long history of maintenance and overhaul support to the U.S. Navy, as well as its successful experience as one of the primary builders of DDG 51 destroyers. Ingalls has delivered three National Security Cutters to the Coast Guard, and two more ships are currently under construction. There are two patrol frigate variants: Patrol Frigate 4501 and Patrol Frigate 4921. Patrol Frigate 4501 is closely aligned with the basic National Security Cutter hull with limited design changes. The ships are 127 meters (418 feet) long with a 16.5 meter (54 feet) beam and displace 4,600 tons with a full load. The ship has a 12,000-nautical mile range and can operate in speeds up through 28-plus knots. They have an endurance of 60 days and accommodations for 148. The ship includes an aft launch and recovery area for two rigid hull inflatable boats and a flight deck to accommodate a range of aircraft, with twin hangars for storage of one H-60 class helicopter and two rotary-wing unmanned aircraft. The ships are equipped with various sensors and surveillance systems as well as a 57-mm gun, a 20-mm close-in weapon system and six 50-caliber machine guns. Patrol Frigate 4921 has additional mission capabilities for anti-aircraft, anti-submarine, anti-surface and mine-warfare provided by a 76-mm gun, a 12-cell vertical launch system, an anti-ship missile launcher and torpedo launcher, sonar dome and remote-controlled and manned 50-caliber machine guns. Both frigates retain the NSC's propulsion system of one LM2500 gas turbine and two MTU20V 1163 diesels in combined diesel and gas configuration. All variants incorporate the current quality-of-life features on the NSC, including modern berthing compartments, entertainment facilities and workout facilities.

The Future Is Not Bleak

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Somali Pirates: A German Look at Inshore/Ashore Counter-Piracy

Well, if the Somali pirates read der Speigel, they will know how far to nest off the beach, as set out in here, that distance is 2 klicks/km or 1.2 miles:
Last Friday, EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels agreed to expand the operation to include the coastal region. According to information obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE, the ministers agreed that Atalanta units should be able to target pirates and their infrastructure up to a limit of two kilometers (1.2 miles) inland. If the expansion is approved, it will be the first time that Western forces are allowed to target pirates on the Somali mainland.
The last sentence is not entirely accurate. It is clear that France took forces ashore to whack some pirate thugs 4 years back (see here and here), the U.S. has, on occasion, gone inland to rescue hostages (see here, and there are - rumors - that other countries have had forces doing stuff off the water.

Still, 2 km is progress of sorts in taking the counter-piracy op ashore. In an earlier report in which the Germans revealed "consideration" of taking the fight ashore (see here), there was this whining noise:
Omid Nouripour, the defense spokesman for the Green Party's parliamentary group, was even more outspoken. He called the idea of targeting the pirates' onshore facilities "sheer madness." He spoke of the danger of mission creep should the pirates retreat further onshore in response to attacks.
And my suggestion of a suitable strike distance - somewhat deeper than 2 km:
Someone ought to explain to Omid Nouripour the difficulties imposed on the pirates by making them perform logistics 100 miles from the beach.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Right to a Fair Trial

Over 30 years ago, I graduated from law school.

At the time, if there was one figure that I thought of as representing the best of the legal profession, the ideal of a lawyer doing the right thing at the right time, it was summed up in a movie scene where attorney Atticus Finch sits on the jail house steps waiting for the lynch mob he knows is coming for his client.

While the mob is off getting riled up, Atticus quietly reads a book under a light that looks like it came from someone's parlor.



 The right to a fair trial.

We've been through a lot to guarantee that to each and every accused, no matter how the lynch mob has howled.

No matter how certain the crowd was of guilt. No matter how the news media played up the voices of mob leaders.

We can be thankful that our constitution had added to it the Bill of Rights, and thankful that some lawyers have fought to keep those rights alive.

Even when it is unpopular.


You know, 30+ years later, Atticus Finch on that porch is still my ideal of a lawyer doing the right thing at the right time.

From Our Canadian Friends: CBC's "Pirates and Privateers"

CBC's Land and Sea: "Pirates and Privateers":

Book Updates

First, the editors of Maritime Private Security: Responses to Piracy, Terrorism, and Waterborne Security Risks in the 21st Century face the -um- appear at the Heritage Foundation where they discuss the book and answer questions about - well - about piracy and, um, maritime private security. As I write this, the video is not up yet for viewing, but it should be there soon.
UPDATE: Video is up:
Second, James D. Hornfischer's excellent book Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal is now out in paperback with a new cover design and a ranking as a “Best of 2011” by Military History Quarterly.

Night attacks at sea, failure and successes in command, death, destruction and great, great courage make for a compelling tale.

Somali Pirates: Iranian Vessel Hijacked in Maldivian waters

Eglantine (from here)
Reported as Pirates hijack cargo vessel in Maldivian waters:
A foreign cargo vessel has been hijacked by Somali pirates in Maldivian waters, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has confirmed.

The Bolivian-flagged vessel was hijacked about 190 nautical miles northwest of Hoarafushi island in Haa Alif Atoll, said MNDF Spokesperson Major Abdul Raheem.
Maldives circled in red

The MNDF have dispatched defence vessels to the scene of the hijacking. The vessel was identified on Somalia Report as the Iranian-owned MV EGLANTINE, with 23 crew members on board. The vessel, which has previously been named the Bluebell and the Iran Gilan, is owned by Darya Hafiz Shipping.

“Since it is a hijacking it is possible that the pirates will be armed. I cannot give further details on the mission. There are factors to be considered before going to a direct confrontation or rescue,” said Major Raheem. Foreign authorities have been asked for assistance, he confirmed.
Flags of Convenience reports the ship, being Iranian owned is on the U.S. Department of State's Speically Designated Nationals list.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Midrats Episode 116 The Irregular History of Warfare 03/25/12

Join us at 5 pm (Eastern U.S.) for Episode 116 The Irregular History of Warfare 03/25 on Midrats at Blog Talk Radio:
There is an echo that regular listeners to Midrats are very familiar with; the critical importance of an understanding of history in the profession of arms.

More than almost any other field, there is nothing new under the sun. The tools may change, but the play of power, economics, intellect, and drive which makes the difference in war and therefor human history remain the same.

A professional must reach back to Sun Tsu and Alexander the Great ... but he must also look closer.

To discuss for the full hour will be returning guest LCDR Benjamin "BJ" Armstrong. He recently returned from deployment as the Officer-In-Charge of an MH-60S Armed Helo Detachment which conducted operations with the BATAAN ARG and 22D MEU in support of Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR in the 6th Fleet AOR and maritime security/counter-piracy operations in the 5th Fleet AOR.

When BJ isn't off playing helicopter pilot, he is an occasional naval historian. His research extends over the subjects of naval history and irregular warfare. He is the author of numerous articles including "The Most Daring Act of the Age: Principles for Naval Irregular Warfare" in The Naval War College Review, and "Nothing Like a Good Maritime Raid" in USNI's Proceedings.

His article "Immediate Redress: The USS Potomac and the Pirates of Quallah Batoo" is forthcoming in the May issue of Small Wars and Insurgencies.
You can listen live by clicking on this link, or download the show later from the same link or on iTunes.

Friday, March 23, 2012

CyberWar: Time to Reboot

DARPA has a warning about cyber security and national defense "Don’t Try To Predict The Future Of Cyber Security Build It":
To date, there has been much focus on increasing DoD cyber defensive capabilities. To be sure, the list of needed capabilities is long. DoD networks may be safer than they were, but systems are often easily penetrated, accounts are routinely hacked, intellectual property and sensitive information are compromised, and the supply chain is not verifiably secure.

The Agency’s recent testimony before congress reinforced that malicious cyber attacks are not merely an existential threat to DoD bits and bytes; they are a real threat to physical systems—including military systems—as well as to U.S. warfighters.

The U.S. will not prevail against these threats simply by scaling current approaches.

“With respect to cyber offense, it is our firm belief that the Department, indeed the Nation, is at an inflection point,” said DARPA Director, Regina E. Dugan. “It is increasingly clear that the operational needs of the Department of Defense (DoD) cannot be achieved by scaling traditional methods for cyber. To be relevant, the DoD needs cyber tools that are matched in diversity of effect and scale, address different timescales and entirely new targets. It will require the integration of cyber and electronic warfare at unprecedented levels.”

Armed with original research spearheaded by Dugan and the Agency’s Deputy Director, Kaigham J. Gabriel, the Agency created a cyber analytical framework as a means of identifying specific opportunities and gaps in capabilities. “The DARPA Cyber Analytic Framework, completed over a period of months through original research and detailed investigation, concluded that the U.S. approach to cyber security is dominated by a strategy that layers security on to a uniform architecture,” said Dugan. “We do this to create tactical breathing space, but this approach is not convergent with an evolving threat.”
In normal English, that means that the current efforts are akin to little kids building sand walls to divert the sea around sand castles. It doesn't matter how many of those walls you build, they are still sand and easily defeated by the rising tide. In cyber world, layered defenses on a easily broken system are like those sand walls - and the tide of threats is rising.

How to fix it? That's DARPA's quest.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Somali Pirates: EU to take the fight ashore?

Interesting report, and about damn time, as it appears that the EU to back strikes on Somali pirates:
The European Union will probably approve plans on Friday to strike Somali pirate equipment on beaches, widening the scope of its naval operations four years into a mission to protect shipping.
***
"Military officers say they want to render harmless the ships on the beach that could be used. This was a convincing argument," German deputy defence minister Christian Schmidt said after a meeting of EU defence chiefs in Brussels.
***
Warships and helicopters will have "very well defined conditions" for firing at pirate equipment in order to avoid harming people, a European official said, noting that Germany and other nations wanted strict rules of engagement.
Now I'll be waiting to see how Friday's vote goes. But if it goes as indicated above - well, hot dang!

UPDATE: EU Extends Counter Piracy Mission Off Coast of Somalia :
On Friday 23 March 2012 the Council of the European Union confirmed its intention to extend the EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) counter-piracy mission, Operation ATLANATA off the Somali coast until December 2014. At the same time the Council also extended the area of operations to include Somali coastal territory and internal waters. Today’s decision will enable Operation Atalanta Forces to work directly with the Transitional Federal Government and other Somali entities to support their fight against piracy in the coastal areas. In accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, the Somali government has notified the UN Secretary General of its acceptance of the EU’s offer for this new collaboration.


Let the suppression of the Somali pirates begin!

And follow up with a mandatory blockade in which every boat leaving Somalia must get clearance before leaving Somali waters or face being sunk without warning.

Somali Pirates: "Piracy fighters use floating armories"


As noted in my chapter, "Legal Considerations for Private Naval Company Armed Anti-Piracy Escorts," in the new book Maritime Private Security: Market responses to piracy, terrorism and waterborne security risks in the 21st century, one of many challenges facing maritime private security companies is the restrictions placed on weapon transportation and the dangers a variety of laws pose to the armed teams.

One way around these laws is to keep the weapons at sea. This logical step is now being taken - as the AP reports: "Piracy fighters use floating armories":
Private security firms are storing their guns aboard floating armories in international waters so ships that want armed anti-piracy guards for East Africa's pirate-infested waters can cut costs and circumvent laws limiting the import and export of weapons, industry officials say.

Companies and legal experts say the operation of the armories is a "legal gray area" because few, if any, governments have laws governing the practice. Some security companies have simply not informed the governments of the flag their ship is flying, industry officials said.
***
Storing guns on boats offshore really took off as a business last year. Britain — where many of the operators are from — is investigating the legality of the practice, which has received little publicity outside of shipping industry circles.
There has been a discussion of what to do with weapons here for some time.

Energy Thursday

One reason gas prices go up - refiners are tired of losing money so they are shutting down refineries. See Valero again suspending refinery in Aruba from the Oil and Gas Journal:
Citing “unfavorable refinery economics and the outlook for continued unfavorable refinery economics,” Valero Energy Corp. said it will halt crude runs at month’s end of its 235,000 b/d facility in Aruba.

Valero’s move follows by 2 months the announcement by Hovensa LLC, a joint venture of Hess Corp. and Petroleos de Venezuela SA, of closure of the 350,000 b/d refinery at St. Croix, VI (OGJ Online, Jan. 18, 2012). Hovensa will operate the facility, capacity of which had been reduced from 500,000 b/d, as a terminal.
***
Valero said it has been operating the refinery at reduced rates and at a financial loss. While holding open the possibility of a restart, it said it is considering converting the refinery to a terminal.
Hmm. Refiners losing money? How could that be?


Investors Business Daily hammers President Obama for his fake "I bring you more oil" nonsense in its editorial "Obama's Keystone XL Visit A Potemkin Village Photo-Op":
The president stages a photo-op in Oklahoma to take credit for the portion of the Keystone XL pipeline that doesn't need his approval and for oil production on private and state lands beyond his jurisdiction.
Of the things within his power, on the other hand, he seems to not quite grasp some concepts - like the cost structure of the oil and gas industry. Here's the president speaking to employees of a federally subsidized solar energy company, complaining about the "subsidies" "given" to those nasty "old" oil companies:
And, yes, that means we make investments in stuff that is new, and we stop subsidizing stuff that’s old. The current members of the Flat Earth Society in Congress -- (laughter) -- they would rather see us continue to provide $4 billion -- $4 billion -- in tax subsidies, tax giveaways, to the oil companies -- $4 billion to an industry that is making record profits. Every time you fill up the pump, they're making money. They are doing just fine. They're not having any problems.

And yet, on top of what we're paying at the pump, we're also going to give them $4 billion in subsidies that could be going into making sure there were investments in clean energy for the future? That doesn’t make any sense. Does that make any sense?

AUDIENCE: No!

THE PRESIDENT: All right, I just wanted to make sure. Because I didn’t think it was a wise use of your tax dollars. (Laughter.)

We have subsidized oil companies for a century. We want to encourage production of oil and gas, and make sure that wherever we've got American resources, we are tapping into them. But they don’t need an additional incentive when gas is $3.75 a gallon, when oil is $1.20 a barrel, $1.25 a barrel. They don’t need additional incentives. They are doing fine.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: It is our retirement!

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. A century of subsidies to oil companies is long enough. It's time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely been more profitable, and double down on investments in an energy industry that has never been more promising. (Applause.) That’s what we need to do.

So Congress needs to pass more tax credits for projects like this one; needs to provide certainty when it comes to these tax credits. We need to go out there and do what a lot of states are doing right now, which is saying, let's get a certain percentage of our energy from clean energy sources. Because when we do that, that gives a company like this one certainty that they're going to have customers, and they can invest more and build more. (Applause.)

First, as has been pointed out elsewhere, oil does not cost oil companies "$1.20 a barrel, $1.25 a barrel" or even that per gallon. Maybe he meant $120 a barrel?

Oil costs, according to the Crude Oil Price gauge over there on the right - $104 a barrel. A barrel is 42 gallons of crude, unrefined oil. So, a gallon of unrefined crude, before the costs of transport, refining, drilling, storage, administrative overhead costs $104/42= $2.28/gal. Thus, a barrel of oil costs about 86 times what the president says it does and even if he meant gallons, he got it wrong by nearly 1/2.Now, if he meant $120 a barrel, what does that mean? It means that oil companies are paying a higher price for the product that they use to produce gasoline. Yes, those higher costs get passed on to consumers. That price of crude makes up about 76% of the price of gasoline at the pump (see below) - it is not profit to the "oil companies."

Not all of a barrel of oil can be converted to gasoline. Of any given barrel, according to the Texas Oil and Gas Association, only about 19.5 gallons of gasoline are derived from an average barrel of crude. That's less than 1/2 of the barrel, but let's say we could actually by that 1/2 barrel for 1/2 the price of a whole barrel - it would cost $52 for 19.5 gallons or $2.67 per gallon (at $120 barrel it would be $3 per gallon). According to the U.S. Energy information agency, 76% of the price of gas at the pump is attributable to the cost of crude (see here), 11% to distribution, marketing and refining and - 12% to taxes. Your local taxes may vary. Here in North Carolina, it's about $.35 gallon. According to this site, Exxon (for example) makes about $.02 per gallon profit, or about 1/15 of what the state takes in. Total taxes - well, the American Petroleum Institute has a nice map:

I guess it really sucks to be in California, New York and Connecticut where the combined federal/state taxes are over $.60 per gallon or over 30 times  the oil company profit per gallon.

Now, what sort of subsidies does the solar company - the employees of which the president was addressing - get? According to the Las Vegas Sun, the plant got $12 million from the State of Nevada in incentives and (the side comments are the Sun's, not mine):
The federal government gave Sempra Generation about $42 million in tax credits, 30 percent of the price tag for Copper Mountain. The Economic Development Commission said the 48-megawatt project cost $141 million.

State officials provided sales tax abatements for equipment purchases and a 55 percent property tax reduction for 20 years. Those incentives amounted to $12 million. The state gave Sempra an additional $2 million in concessions for El Dorado, an adjacent 10-megawatt solar array.

“Even with the abatements, the state is still netting $27 million over the life of the project,” Sempra spokesman Scott Crider said. “This money would not be available to the state if not for the solar project.”

The cash comes from property and sales taxes Sempra pays at a reduced rate.

Similar incentives are offered to any renewable energy company that commits to a project that generates more than 10 megawatts of energy, enough to power several thousand homes. Firms also must abide by certain hiring and spending requirements to receive tax breaks.

“If they didn’t have the federal or state incentives, they probably couldn’t make these projects work,” Boulder City Mayor Roger Tobler said. (emphasis added)
Copper Canyon provides electricity to 14,000 homes. With $54 million in incentives, tax credits, etc, that works out to over $3800 per house.

The benefits to Nevada? Las Vegas Sun:
Temporary construction jobs created: 350. Not bad.

Nevadans employed: 262. That’s a good share.

Solar power coming to Nevada: 0. Zip.

Parts manufactured in Nevada: 0. Zilch.

Permanent jobs created: 5.
So, Nevada offers up $12,000,000 for 5 permanent jobs and 262 temp jobs (now ended)? Wow, talk about a lousy return on investment. Especially since the 14,000 homes being "electrified" are in California. It's really nice that Nevada decided to subsidize California's energy needs.

Oh, and as to Sempra, the owner/operator of Copper Canyon:
Sempra Generation is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy, which owns two Southern California utilities, natural gas pipelines and storage facilities in North and South America and wind farms in Indiana and Mexico. In 2010, it reported $9 billion in revenue.
Of course, the $9 billion number is misleading because revenue is not profit - but rather income before accounting for expenses. In its 2010 report, Sempra reports earnings of $739 million. For 2011, Sempra reports earnings of $1.4 billion and raised its dividend by 25%.

There is nothing wrong with this. It is the way we do business in this country.

Sempra provides gas and electric service to much of southern California through natural gas powered and one nuclear powered plant. In contrast to the output of its two solar facilities in Nevada, providing power to a total of 17,000 people, its nearby by gas powered electrical generating plant provides power to 350,000 homes.

According to its 2010 annual report, Sempra reports the following "subsidies (according to the Obama adminstration these are exactly the same sort of  "subsidies" complained of that the "oil companies" took). From Sempra's 2010 Annual Report:

As a mostly regulated company (gas pipelines and electricity have their rates approved by various agencies), that has a certain level of profit guaranteed (you can look it up), Sempra has done quite well for its investors over the past few years compared to both the S and P 500 and the S and P 500 Utilities:


So, it what sort of world would the president be making sense? Well,I guess in a world in which the price of every gallon of gasoline sold was over 2/3 profit to the oil companies and in which there were no costs except for the price of crude oil and there were not federal or state taxes in the price of gasoline at the pump.

In this world, though, the president is "talking through his hat."

Too bad so many people will fall for it.

Look, here's a look at Exxon's 2010 consolidated statement of operations to compare with Sempra's:

Yes, it's bigger in numbers, but those "costs and deductions look pretty similar, don't they?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Arctic Sea Routes: DARPA seeks monitoring systems

NOAA photo
As ice levels thin at the northernmost latitudes, the concern of how to keep an eye on the flow of sea traffic in the area grows. There are plans being floated to monitor the area for several reasons, including maritime security, as reported by Information Week as DARPA Pursues Security As Polar Ice Caps Melt:
The Department of Defense (DOD) is exploring new sensor technology to remotely monitor the Arctic region in anticipation of more shipping activity in the area as polar ice caps continue to melt.

Through the Assured Arctic Awareness (AAA) program, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is looking into environmentally-friendly ways to monitor the Arctic region both above and below the ice without the need for more expensive means of monitoring--such as aircraft, satellites, or manned ships and submarines--of the largely remote region, according to the agency.
DARPA's press release states:
The Arctic region is poised for greater regional significance as polar ice retreats in coming decades. Ship traffic likely will increase during summer months, and commercial activity focused on the sea floor is expected to grow. The Arctic is largely isolated, vast and environmentally extreme. Remote sensing may offer affordable advantages over traditional methods of monitoring the region—aircraft, satellites or manned ships and submarines—due to the great distances in the Arctic.
***
DARPA seeks proposals that specifically take the perceived negatives of the harsh polar environment and turn them into positives for a suite of unique Arctic capabilities.

“We’re looking for creative ideas for compelling component technologies and a vision for applying them to monitor the region—whether proposers have expertise in the Arctic or not,” said Andy Coon, DARPA program manager.

Probably not what DARPA wants - the two boy kayak observation team.
For example, those with experience in unattended ground or maritime sensors, low-temperature electronics, distributed remote sensing technologies, or autonomous operations could contribute to the development of novel technology solutions applicable to the Arctic. DARPA seeks input from these and other technical communities to develop components that address system attributes such as design, mobility and deployment, persistence, survivability, energy management, sensing, and long-haul communications back to the United States. Tests of component proposals will occur, for the most part, in climatic laboratories to assess how well they handle simulated Arctic conditions before taking them to the Arctic for field trial.

“We seek to increase the diversity of contributors, including environmental research organizations, academia, traditional defense contractors and others,” said John Kamp, DARPA deputy program manager.

The program does not seek warm latitude solutions to be applied to the Arctic, nor does it seek new platforms for access.

“The goal is to identify one or two compelling system concepts enabled by new technologies and insights gained from the effort,” Coon said. “Compelling system concepts are those that enhance future maritime security in a cost-effective and responsible manner.”
Detail on how to apply at the DARPA link above.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The "Entitlement Mentality"

So, I'm reading the Wall Street Journal guest editorial by Congressman Paul Ryan, "The GOP Budget and America's Future" (budget available here).

But the best part of the editorial to my mind lies in the following comment and counter-comment to the piece:
Marianna Landrum Wrote: And the Ryan budget takes from most of us and gives to the rich. Tax the very wealthy instead of taking away programs from others. You will have a society of the very rich and and [sic] undereducated and struggling group at the bottom. The last Republican administration started working towards that goal so now you want to finish it. A backwards looking approach.

Paul Cooper Replied: It says a great deal about where you're coming from that you see a failure to take more from the rich as giving to them, and a failure to provide more to you as taking from you. Your sense of entitlement is grand indeed. (emphasis added)
Well said, Mr. Cooper.

The SSGT Bales PTSD Defense: Let's Throw All Iraq and Afghanistan Vets Under the Bus

It is true that many veterans of recent wars suffer from some part of a cluster of symptoms that fall with the category of "post traumatic stress disorder." But, it is irritating to see that a defense lawyer seems to be trying to exculpate his client by insinuating that his client is just another PTSD "victim" of wartime service, as set out in Sgt. Robert Bales: Defense team begins building case on PTSD reported at CSMonitor.com.

Exceptionally few PTSD sufferers grab guns and go off on killing sprees, unlike, say non-combat veteran postal workers (the phrase is not "going crazed combat veteran" but it is "going postal"), or failed Marines who never saw combat (Lee Harvey Oswald), a couple of teen age high school sociopaths (Columbine), a South Korean lunatic student (Virginia Tech), another failed Marine who also never saw combat (Charles Whitman, Texas Tower 1966) or a non-combat veteran reportedly killing for religious reasons (Major Hasan, Fort Hood, 2009).

Here's the irritating comment from the Bales defense attorney:
The defense is expected to argue that the Army sergeant was not in a healthy mental state, suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after four tours of duty and two injuries. "Everybody who has had three or four deployments to the Middle East is going to have some form of PTSD," Browne said.
Really? Really? Even the VA estimates that only 10 to 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan vets may, in fact, suffer from PTSD.

It should be clear that until now not one of this 10 to 20% group has suddenly has arisen in the night to go off on a shooting and burning spree. Now, allegedly, there is one. One of what? 100,000? 150,000? .001% or less?

Let me repeat that point - a huge majority of veterans suffering with PTSD, let's say 99.999%, do not run amok ever.

To suggest, that is the PTSD that causes such a killing spree as SSGT Bale is accused of is to tar all the other PTSD sufferers as potential maniacs. This is patently unfair.

If SSGT Bale's defense is that he lacked the mens rea to commit murder, then the defense must be made only as to SSGT Bale. There is no need to call into question the mental state of thousands of honorable men and women who have served and continue to serve their country well.  Counsel for defense should confine his remarks solely to his client.

We've seen this sort of dangerous broad brushing of veterans before - after Vietnam.

Some good thoughts at Does PTSD Make You Dangerous?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Iran: Increases oil storage capacity on Kharg Island "to foil EU sanctions"

Kharg Island from space (2002)
Well, it's an Iranian Press TV report, so it doesn't need to make sense, I guess, but the logic of "Iran increases oil storage capacity to foil EU sanctions" is elusive to me.

Storing more oil on an island does not seem like way to make sanctions go away - at least in my world:
Managing director of Iranian Oil Terminals Company (IOTC) Seyyed Pirouz Mousavi said on Monday that in order to reduce the impact of the European Union sanctions on Iran’s oil sector, the country has re-commissioned a new storage facility at the Kharg Island oil terminal which can hold as much as one million barrels of crude.

The official added that increasing oil storage capacity will improve oil production and export conditions.

He stated that overhauling the facility has been carried out by domestic contractors and manufacturers, adding that Iran owes 70 percent of the increase in its oil storage capacity during the current Iranian calendar year (ending March 20) to domestic manufacturers.

Mousavi had announced earlier that Iran is capable of storing crude oil in the Persian Gulf for a period of 10-12 days, adding that the figure should hit 30-40 days by building the new storage facilities.

International experts believe that increasing oil storage capacity will improve Iran's position in marketing and selling crude oil.

The country started building its first private oil terminal capable of holding 8 million barrels of oil in the Genaveh port city in January.

The Kharg oil terminal is currently handling about 98 percent of Iran's crude exports and the island has more than 40 storage facilities capable of holding a total amount of 22 million barrels of crude oil.

Iran has also started building four new storage facilities on Kharg Island with the overall capacity of 4 million barrels of crude oil.
Dude, you've just designated a "target rich environment" to the rest of the world.

You won't see  it coming, Seyyed!
Nice little oil storage island you've got there, Seyyed Pirouz Mousavi. Be a shame if anything happened to it. Let's see, how much of your pitiful economy is based on exporting oil?

The U.S. Navy and the Persian Gulf: Ramping up slowly

Iran rattles sabers and the U.S. Navy does a slow ramp up. L.A. Times reports, "Navy says it will add ships to Persian Gulf amid Iran threats":

MHC Coastal Minehunter
The U.S. Navy is upgrading its defensive and offensive capabilities in the Persian Gulf to counter threats from Iran to seize the Strait of Hormuz and block the flow of oil, the chief of naval operations said Friday.

MH-53E Mine-sweeping helicopter
Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert told reporters in Washington that the Navy will add four more mine-sweeping ships and four more CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters with mine-detection capability. The Navy is also sending more underwater unmanned mine-neutralization units to the region.

Cyclone-class Coastal Patrol ship
Greenert said he plans to assign more patrol craft to the gulf, possibly armed with Mark 38 Gatling guns. The same kind of guns might be placed on ships that provide protection for U.S. aircraft carriers or perhaps on the carriers themselves.

U.S. ships have excellent long-range defenses but could use weapons for closer combat, Greenert said.

"It’s like being in an alley with a rifle and maybe what you need is a sawed-off shotgun," he said.
One of the Big Dogs at Sea
The Iranians have boasted that they could "swarm" large U.S. ships with their smaller, fast-moving craft. They have also reportedly been laying mines along their coastline.
My guess, which is exactly that, is that the mine-sweeping stuff is for cleaning up the mess after the "AirSea Battle Concept (ASBC) (modified)"  gets a test run. There is almost no better geographic area to do a little joint air-sea work out.

Or, if required to bust some sort of Iranian attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz in an effort to effect access denial to the Persian Gulf.

This is no rush to war, but a sensible response to the known capabilities of the Iranian forces.

Anti-swarm at sea? SEAD, then kill the swarms from the air. Have we got enought A-10's? See here. Our "swarm" is better than theirs. Or, in a few words:"Find 'em, Blind 'em, Kill 'em" Use all the tools in the box.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Midrats Sunday 5pm: Episode 115 "Now Next With LtGen Van Riper" on Midrats

On Midrats, Sunday 5pm, Episode 115: "Now Next With LtGen Van Riper":
. CDR Salamander writes:
You have heard the phrase, "Well, I've seen this movie before."

After over a decade of disjointed conflict that is still yet to play out, what have we learned, what do we still need to learn, and what do we need to forget?

Has the global threat that brought about the attacks of 11 SEP 01 been reduced, have they grown, or have they morphed in to something different?

To meet the challenge ahead, are we preparing our forces best intellectually, structurally, and materially?

Do we have the command climate and culture to encourage innovative and bright leaders to shape our approach to the unexpected challenges that we will face?

Our guest for the full hour will be Lieutenant General Paul K. Van Riper, USMC (Ret.). He served his nation with over 41 years of commissioned and enlisted service from the Dominican Republic crisis, to Vietnam, to DESERT STORM and more through retirement in 1997.

He continues to serve his nation in both the government and private sector with a depth of experience that yes, he's "seen a lot of movies before."
You may remember him as the leader of the war game OPFOR that used "swarm tactics" to get the games of to a "bad start" for the Blue Team. That's part of a much bigger story. Tune in live by clicking >here. Or, you can't make the live show, go that site or iTunes and download the show for later listening.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Baloney I get tired of: The President and His "2% Oil Reserves Myth"

Institute for Energy Research: "Exposing the 2 percent oil reserves myth":
According to President Obama, the United States contains only 2 percent of the planet’s proven oil reserves, Of course, he’s right — to a point. In classic fashion, he’s using a technicality to skirt the facts and keep the myth of energy scarcity alive. The reality is that the U.S. has enough recoverable oil for the next 200 years, despite only having 2 percent of the world’s current proven oil reserves.

Proven oil reserves are not all of our oil resources—not even close. In fact, proved reserves represent a tiny portion of our total oil resources. Proven (or proved) oil reserves are reserves that have already been discovered, typically through actual exploration or drilling, and which can be recovered economically. That estimate does not include oil that we know about, yet are unable to access because of regulatory barriers. For example, the billions of barrels of oil in ANWR are not included in our proved oil reserves. So let’s look at the facts.

Currently, the United States has 1,442 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil, but only about 20 billion barrels are considered proven oil reserves.[ii] That is partly because the federal government is denying access to hundreds of millions of acres oil-rich federal lands: the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, the Naval Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, federal waters off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, at least 45 percent of the Gulf of Mexico, the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, and oil shale on federal lands in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, to name a few. In the case of oil shale (an oil composed of kerogen), technology needs to be perfected to make its production viable, but this will not happen until the land is leased. Regrettably, the Department of Interior has stopped a leasing program Congress directed it to undertake.
Remember, some people predict a coming Golden Energy Era". And, remember, the strategic issue is not necessarily the use of oil, but rather the failure to develop infrastructure to insure we can be "energy independent" (within limits - Canada is our energy friend) - see here, where I wrote:
It is the importation of foreign oil that is a strategic issue, not their use. It's the long lines of commerce that bring oil to our shore that are vulnerable.

I guess this makes me a member of the "flat earth club" according to the President. UPDATE: Investors Business Daily sings from the same fact base:
The U.S. has 22.3 billion barrels of proved reserves, a little less than 2% of the entire world's proved reserves, according to the Energy Information Administration. But as the EIA explains, proved reserves "are a small subset of recoverable resources," because they only count oil that companies are currently drilling for in existing fields. When you look at the whole picture, it turns out that there are vast supplies of oil in the U.S., according to various government reports. Among them: At least 86 billion barrels of oil in the Outer Continental Shelf yet to be discovered, according to the government's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. About 24 billion barrels in shale deposits in the lower 48 states, according to EIA. Up to 2 billion barrels of oil in shale deposits in Alaska's North Slope, says the U.S. Geological Survey. Up to 12 billion barrels in ANWR, according to the USGS. As much as 19 billion barrels in the Utah tar sands, according to the Bureau of Land Management. Then, there's the massive Green River Formation in Wyoming, which according to the USGS contains a stunning 1.4 trillion barrels of oil shale — a type of oil released from sedimentary rock after it's heated.

Somali Pirates: Tweet! Tweet!

Photo source
Reported as "#Pirate? Tracking modern buccaneers through Twitter":
Shipping companies may have found a new tool to fight piracy: It turns out, pirates like to tweet.

Not only that, Somali-based pirates blog and are on Facebook, security experts say. And it is through social media that shipping companies are increasing their understanding of how they operate.

"Somalia is a very sophisticated economy, it has one of the best mobile phone communication systems in the world," said Jessica Lincoln, director of intelligence at Rubicon Resolution, a risk consultancy.

Lincoln follows pirates' activities using what she describes as "normal" web tools. She gathers whatever individuals and organizations like al-Qaeda's Somali affiliate Al-Shabaab post online about attacks. ***
For how much longer until the pirate version of OPSEC is imposed? Or is the lack of other suitable Somali methods of communication mean that these channels are ripe for exploitation?

Book Plug: "Maritime Private Security: Market responses to piracy, terrorism and waterborne security risks in the 21st century"

Off the presses of Taylor and Francis -Maritime Private Security: Market responses to piracy, terrorism and waterborne security risks in the 21st century", edited by Patrick Cullen and Claude Berube:
This book examines the evolution, function, problems and prospects of private security companies in the maritime sector.
***
Foreword Rear Admiral (Ret.) Terence McKnight
Part I: The Historical and Contemporary Market in Maritime Private Security Services

1. Introduction: The Post-Cold War Growth of Maritime Private Security Claude Berube and Patrick Cullen
2. The United States and Maritime Private Security from the War of Independence to the 21st Century James Carafano
3. Surveying the Market in Maritime Private Security Services Patrick Cullen
4. Private Gunboats on the Horizon? Private Security and Contemporary Naval Presence Christopher Spearin

Part II: The Emergence of Privatized Anti-Piracy Escorts in the Commercial Sector5. Commercial Anti-Piracy Escorts in the Malacca Straits Area Caroline Liss

6. Private Security at Sea: A Customer’s Perspective Gordan van Hook
7. Anti-Piracy Escorts in the Gulf of Aden: Problems and Prospects Claude Berube
8. Legal Considerations for Private Naval Company Armed Anti-Piracy Escorts Mark Tempest

Part III: The Privatization of Coast Guard Services
9. Privatizing the Coast Guard in War-Torn Sierra Leone Patrick Cullen
10. Private Security, Maritime Protection and Surveillance in Somaliland Stig Hansen
11. Private Security Fighting Pirates and Illegal Fishing in Puntland Christopher Kinsey
12. Securing the Off-Shore Oil Industry in the Gulf of Guinea Roger Hawkes Part IV: Private Security Responses to Maritime Terrorism
13. Maritime Terrorism: Scope, Potential Threat of Contingencies and the Role of Private Security Compnaies Peter Chalk
14. Commercial Risk Consulting and Management in the Maritime Sector Elke Krahmann
15. Integrating Private Security into Port Security in a Post-9/11 Environment Bill DeWitt
16. Maritime Eco-Extremism Reconsidered: Understanding Fourth Generation Eco-Warriors in the Modern Media Age Brendon J. Mills and Howard R. Ernst
Conclusion: The Future of Private Security at Sea Claude Berube and Patrick Cullen
It's a slim volume and is not a free read (a couple of tanks of gas at today's prices). There is a Kindle edition available.

A Navin R. Johnson moment, you know though -  without the sniper, please:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"Expanding Private Sector Partnerships Against Piracy"


From the U.S. Department of State: "Expanding Private Sector Partnerships Against Piracy":
Yet we must also recognize that best management practices do not guarantee security from pirates. Pirates operate in too large of an area for naval forces to respond quickly. The reality is that international naval forces simply might not be there to respond. The problem of piracy is one that can’t simply be solved by national governments. Therefore, we have also supported industry’s use of additional measures to ensure their security – such as the employment of armed security teams. To date, not a single ship with Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel aboard has been pirated. Not a single one.

These teams serve as a potential game-changer in the effort to counter-piracy. This is because – and as anyone in the Navy or Marines can tell you – one of the most difficult combat maneuvers to undertake is to board a ship when coming under fire. While many expected these teams to be made up of undisciplined “cowboys” that would increase the violence at sea, from what we have gathered and observed the opposite has happened. We have not seen cases of pitched battles at sea between armed security teams and pirates attempting to board under fire. In fact, in most engagements between armed security teams and pirates, the situation ends as soon as pirates are aware these teams are on board. We have found these teams to be highly professional. In most cases, as pirates approach a ship the armed security teams will use flares or loudspeakers to warn the pirates. If the pirates keep coming, they will fire warning shots. That is usually when the interaction ends. Pirates break off the attack and turn their skiffs around and wait for another less protected target.

At the State Department, we have encouraged countries to permit commercial vessels to carry armed teams. However, we do note that this is a new area, in which some practices, procedures, and regulations are still being developed. We are working through the Contact Group and the International Maritime Organization or IMO on these issues. For instance, we have advised that armed security teams be placed under the full command of the captain of the ship. The captain then is in control of the situation and is the one to authorize the use of any force. Last September, we were encouraged to see language adopted by the IMO that revised the guidance to both flag States and ship operators and owners to establish the ship’s master as being in command of these teams.

There have been some logistical and technical issues that have arisen with armed security teams – particularly relating to weapons licensing and the transit of these teams through third countries. The United States regularly works with other governments to help resolve questions on weapons licensing to facilitate compliance with the laws of individual port States as related to firearms transfer. We engage through the Contact Group and the IMO to encourage all port and coastal States to adopt legislation that is conducive to smooth, facilitated movements of security team firearms and equipment. Currently, some States present challenges in this regard by requiring transfer to a third party while a vessel is moored in a port. Others impose fee schedules that directly charge against the presence of these weapons. In response, we have demarched port and coastal States and let them know that U.S. vessels may have firearms onboard and we request that these teams and their firearms be facilitated under applicable laws. We have also worked with the Coast Guard and Department of Transportation at the IMO and through the Contact Group to further encourage port and coastal States to develop regulations that facilitate the use of these teams aboard commercial vessels. We are working hand in glove with industry in all these endeavors to ensure these teams are both properly regulated and properly equipped.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Gulf of Guinea Pirates or Maybe Not

Arrow points to Ghana
A sort of case of piracy or, well, employee theft, reported as Ghana Navy detains vessel with stolen oil by DefenceWeb:
Ghana’s Navy has detained an oil tanker that was trying to offload oil stolen in Nigeria.

The Ghana Armed Forces on Saturday said that it had detained the MV Madina whilst it was attempting to discharge oil at the Saltpond Offshore Producing Company Limited.

Colonel M’Bawine Atintande, director of public relations at the Ghana Armed Forces, said that the ship was arrested on Thursday after a tipoff from counterparts in Nigeria.

Quincy Sintim Aboagye, CEO of Saltpond Offshore Producing Company, ensured that the MV Madina was prevented from leaving the facility until vessels from the Ghana Navy arrived, Pana Press reports.

The owners of the vessel said the MV Madina was supposed to transfer oil from a small field in Nigeria into a larger ship, the MV North Wind Grace, but the captain and crew instead decided to steal the cargo, the Ghana News Agency reports.