Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Canadian Ferry Accident

Photo source
A Canadian ferry lost power but not momentum and caused boat owners some problems as reported here.
Witnesses said the 7,000-tonne Queen of Oak Bay missed the terminal berth and was blowing its horn as it crashed into Sewell's Marina.
Passenger Shawn Atleo was on the bow when the 140-metre-long ferry lost power.
"There were sailboat masts that were disappearing under the bow," Atleo said.
"I saw at least two people literally running for their lives from the oncoming ship. They obviously heard the horn and I could see the look of shock on the man's face as he looked up, saw what was coming."
The blaring ferry horn made staff at the Boathouse Restaurant look up in time to see the boat careen into two fingers of the massive marina dock.
"It took out some big boats, sailboats 30 feet long," said cook Bryn McArthur.

Some Sense on China and Unocal

Read John Tamny on China, Unocal, and Free Trade, it makes sense.

A Reason Other than Piracy to Enforce the Law in the Malacca Strait

New Straits Times reports fish farm kills caused by careless (and illegal) oilo dumping. There is simply no excuse for such behavior and it's hurting people trying to make an honest living.

Calling it what it is "Crude Blackmail" and a challenge to the US

No words minced here as Investor's Business Daily lays bare the Chavez - Castro scheme to control the Caribbean.
n a way, Castro is the sales pitch: Best friend Chavez ships him 90,000 barrels of Venezuelan oil a day (oil that's not Chavez's, but the state's, the opposition points out). In exchange, Chavez gets 30,000 Castro "doctors" who are little more than spies on a mission to monitor Venezuelans. All in all, an utterly insulting exchange.

Castro's visit shows the same deal is in store for other Caribbean states that must buy Venezuelan oil. Chavez is making them an offer of subsidized oil they can't refuse. The real price will be high, however. Caribbean states may be forced to take on the Cuban "doctors" who will keep an eye on them, probably as part of a package deal.
Both these "gentlemen" need to be shown the door.

I can see the future

Headline: Iran leader linked to '79 embassy crisis

Proposed action: Another Hellfire demonstration.

Proposed result:

Probable Consquence: Iran will be unhappy. So will the UN. On the other hand, I would be delighted.

Upside: Iran will get to hold another election. Maybe this time it won't be rigged.

(Photo source)

Somali Pirates Seize UN Aid Ship

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you...The Scotsman reports Pirates Hijack Ship Carrying UN Food Aid to Somalia
Somali gunmen boarded the MV Semlow, registered in St Vincent and the Grenadines, on June 27 and took the crew of 10 hostage, the statement said. The captain of the vessel is Sri Lankan, the engineer is Tanzanian and the remaining eight crew are Kenyan.

The ship was carrying 850 tonnes of rice donated by Japan and Germany for tsunami victims in Somalia.

More complete BBC coverage here.
The 10-member crew onboard when the MV Semlow was captured by gunmen on Monday morning between Haradhere and Hobyo, some 300km (190 miles) northeast of capital Mogadishu, are reported to be safe.

"The hijackers are asking for $500,000 but we've told them we're just a small boat with relief cargo to feed your Somali people," Inayet Kudrati, director of the Kenya-based Mokatu Shipping Agency which leased the ship to the UN, told Reuters news agency.

General map of area: (red lightning bolt is in vicinity of this and another attack)

The food was destined for people who are ``still trying to rebuild their lives'' after the tsunami, WFP spokeswoman Rene McGuffin said in a telephone interview. Waves devastated coastal areas around the Indian Ocean following an earthquake off Indonesia, killing about 300 people in Somalia and leaving 28,000 people still dependent on food from the UN.

``This food was enough to feed them for two months,'' McGuffin said from Nairobi, capital of neighboring Kenya. ``When you lose everything, including your fishing boats, it takes time to rebuild.'' The WFP is appealing to local leaders and elders to intervene and secure safe passage for the ship, she said.

``It's against humanitarian law to hinder the passage of humanitarian assistance,'' the spokeswoman said. ``This is important food that needs to get on its way (source)
I think what follows is the MV Semlow involved here:

Photo source

Three Good Reads

Here are three books I have recently finished and found interesting:

1) The Pentagon's New Map by Thomas P.M. Barnett (at Barnes & Noble). Checked it out from the library and after a few pages went out and bought my own copy so I could write notes in it. Professor Barnett doesn't waste your time getting to the point. If this book is not on the required reading list for all military and State Department types, it ought to be. Read it and your view of things like Bill Gertz recently offering up what might be the "old school's" latest effort to make China into current enemy #1 might change. While Dr. Barnett's "Leviathan" and "System Administrator" concept stir up some controversy, the "core" and "gap" idea is a brilliant insight.

2) Boyd The fighter pilot who changed the art of war by Robert Coram (at Barnes & Noble ). Fascinating look at the driven and complex man whose "... writings and theories on military strategy remain influential today, particularly his concept of the "OODA (Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action) Loop," which all the military services-and many business strategists-use to this day. Boyd also was a brash, combative, iconoclastic man, not above insulting his superiors at the Pentagon (both military and civilian); he made enemies (and fiercely loyal acolytes) everywhere he went." Pretty good look at how policy has to bubble up through all the gate keepers at the Pentagon, too.

3) Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of The Last Mysteries of World War II by Robert Kurson (at Barnes & Noble). Deep wreck divers as heroes- who'd have thunk it? I couldn't put this book down, If you've ever done any diving yourself, it probably makes the book even more interesting. Part detective story, part lunatic adventure and partly a story of very driven men who sought to honor some dead warriors by identifying a mystery submarine sunk off the coast of New Jersey ...

Thus endeth my book report.

Still working away at; The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy by Peter W. Huber and Mark P. Mills... (B&N here).

Professor Hamilton makes "The case for more uniform fuel standards"

Thanks to Andrew Samwick at Vox Baby, I am now aware of (a) the Econbrowser site in general and and (b) its producer,Professor Hamilton, in particular. This good professor points out some problems with gas prices here:
An even bigger concern may be the effect that this market segmentation has in combination with two other developments. The first is the fact that over the last quarter century, half the refineries in America have shut down and no new ones have been built. The second is the number of mergers and acquisitions that we have seen in the petroleum industry over the same period. The result of the three developments together is that there are substantially fewer suppliers of wholesale gasoline available to any particular local market.
He also reproduces a nifty Exxon-Mobil chart showing the balkanized gasoline markets caused by differing standards of air quality across the country - which also contributes to the increased price of gasoline...I love the map! (click on it to make it bigger)

Lack of refinery capacity? See here. Other factors? See here. And for far more professional analysis, keep checking on Professor Hamilton.

Update: Nice chart of refining capacity v. oil supply (dated but relevant):

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Peggy Noonan on Politicians

Vanity in politicians? Peggy Noonan takes note here.

Pirates plead guilty

Indonesian pirates plead guilty to hijacking Malaysian tanker:
Ten Indonesian pirates, caught after a botched attempt to hijack an oil tanker off northern Malaysia, have pleaded guilty to armed robbery and face up to 20 years in jail and whipping, officials said on Wednesday.

The men were charged with hijacking the Malaysian-registered Neptune Delima in the Straits of Malacca on June 14.

Indo-Pak peace process still not firmly in place

Interesting read here on the Indian-Pakistani truce -peace process.

Panel cites security gaps, creeping complacency"

Gov Exec.com:
Panel cites security gaps, creeping complacency (6/28/05)
Some serious points (except for the NIMBY-ish complaint about LNG by a disgruntled mayor).
Stephen Flynn, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the maritime industry remains particularly vulnerable. "Looking in the maritime arena ... there is not much in place that would deter me from exploiting this sector and targeting this sector," he said.

He speculated that a maritime attack could bring the global trade system to its knees in a matter of days.

"We're still struggling and recognizing just how dependent we are in these systems and just how fragile they are," he said.

He noted, for example, that 21 million containers moved through the port of Hong Kong last year. He said a half hour delay at the port would snarl traffic throughout the waterways, a two-hour delay would back trucks up to the China border, and shutting down the port for about 100 hours would back trucks up 140 miles. "This is a fragile, sensitive system that we have to keep moving by both managing the threat within it and managing the mechanisms we put in place."

The United States, however, does not yet have a comprehensive maritime security strategy, he said. President Bush has created an interagency group to draft a plan by next month, he added.

But C. Stewart Verdery, former DHS assistant secretary for policy and planning, noted many efforts that the Bush administration has undertaken in recent years, particularly with regard to implementing a biometric entry-exit system at the nation's air, land and sea ports of entry. He cited several challenges the government still faces, but said many recommendations from the 9/11 commission are being carried out.

"I believe the government has moved about as quickly as is possible to turn the commission's recommendations into concrete action," he said.
Fuzzy over the concern over 21 million containers in Hong Kong? That's where we want to prescreen containers to keep any problems from reaching our shores and any screening effort that slows the process will create a big traffic jam...

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Prison Ships?

US suspected of keeping secret prisoners on warships or maybe at Diego Garcia or maybe in submarines or in outer space or in a secret base inside a live volcano...

Meanwhile, another navy heard from...defending their homeland

Another navy is working on homeland security as reported here.

No Loitering - No Lingering

Reuters reports Oil tankers told not to linger at Iraq's terminals. It makes perfect sense:
In a circular to merchant shipping in the Gulf released on Monday, the U.S. Navy said oil tankers loading at Basra and Khor al-Amaya terminals should avoid or minimise time in the deep water anchorages.
"Recent criminal activity reinforced the validity of this caution and the importance of strict security procedures to prevent or limit opportunities for unlawful boardings," it said.
"Iraqi and coalition maritime forces have responded and will continue to respond to maritime security threats, but cannot provide the same level of security at the anchorage as at the terminals."

Royal Navy: More brown water than high seas?

The Financial Times reports here on some "back to the future" thinking as the Royal Navy celebrates it's great victory at Trafalgar:
Band perhaps seem rather stereotypical: commanding, salty, respected by his men, with a characteristic sailor’s penchant for bluntness and the off-colour. But on one important subject - the future of the navy itself - Band is decidedly unconventional.

Band’s view - one that some disagree with - is that the Royal Navy should downsize and concentrate on a small core of high-end fighting ships...But, as a number of new books on Trafalgar suggest, the navy’s current predicament has parallels in the events of two centuries ago.

Band is calling for a fleet composed of smaller, cheaper craft than at present - a sort of well-armed coast guard, interdicting gun-runners and drug smugglers, monitoring shipments of materials and protecting shipping lanes for international trade. “Some people would suggest that kind of maritime security is ‘coast guardy’,” Band explains, but he disagrees with this view.

After the decades when navies were seen as glamorous floating fortresses patrolling the deep blue seas, such small-scale missions in the so-called “brown water” may seem like a paltry consolation prize. But it is not the first time the Royal Navy has faced such a dilemma.

As the festivities for the Trafalgar anniversary crank up, the new books illustrate that the image of the navy so ingrained in the public imagination - that of magnificent fleets launching fusillades at each other as they ride out the swells - is a historical exception. More often, the task of a navy - more prosaic but no less urgent - is exactly that brown-water policing role...
Admiral Sir Alan West, First Sea Lord, the Royal Navy’s top officer, says the service can learn from its past. “After the annihilating victory at Trafalgar... what did our navy do?” he asks. “All through the 19th century, the image the people in Britain had of the navy was ‘Jolly Jack Tar’ and this marvellous fleet of ships that had won at Trafalgar. But actually, it was chaps going in gunboats up the Nile to Khartoum; it was people in China in river gunboats; it was things happening in the Dark Continent; it was suppressing piracy; it was, in the first decades of the 19th century, stopping the slave trade, which the Royal Navy gets huge, huge credit for. It was the navy being involved in littoral-type operations.”

In other words, the navy is coming home...
And, given the new world we live in, the US Navy shoud be focusing on the same seemingly mundane - but actually absolutely vital - missions.

One More Post on Michael Yon's Critical Nodes

I have already posted on this once, but Michael Yon's post concerning the Iraqi oil terminals did raise an issue with me concerning the Navy's future ship needs. I'm certain there are many good reasons why a $1 billion dollar cruiser is sitting off the terminals (air protection - sea keeping, maybe?).

USS Normandy (Yon photo)

I wonder, however, if the big ship could be better used out in the blue water (nearby. maybe) and replaced with something like this: Monitor (photo source)

That Crafty Mr. Rove - Speaking Truth Makes Dems Hopping Mad

Alec Rawls has a nice post here on the problems facing "liberals" who would challenge Mr. Rove's recent speech concerning 9/11 response modes.

And, yes, I know that Jerry Falwell and some others identified as "conservatives" also made idiotic statements in the wake of 9/11. However, last time I looked, Mr. Falwell, et al, were not expressing outrage at the treatment of the Gitmo prisoners...

Latest Piracy Report ICC Commercial Crime Services (to 27 June 05)

No major events reported here, but a continuing series of minor robberies or attempted robberies. The following seems to fit the MO of Malacca Strait kidnap for ransom pirates: 0.06.2005 at 1015 LT in position 01:17N - 104:12E, Singapore straits.
Persons wearing dark clothes in four speedboats with open tops about 6-8 mtrs long, approached a tug underway. Bosun raised alarm and crew mustered. One boat came very close to stern and persons inside attempted to board. Crew activated fire hoses and boats moved back and later moved away. One lesson is that an alert crew makes a difference.

China and Oil

Interfax (the Russian news agency) offers up an interesting analysis by David Stanway here :
It is well-known that China's thirst for oil is increasing rapidly. What is often overlooked is that China is itself quite a significant oil producing nation, and for a long period domestic output was enough, with the Daqing oilfield pumping 50 mln tons out per year. By 1993, however, economic growth had stretched domestic capacity to its limits, and China became a net importer for the first time in its history.

Since then, economic growth has continued at a rapid rate, and the volume of imports has increased relentlessly. Efforts to boost production, particularly in the relatively new oil fields of Xinjiang in China's far west, have not kept up with the rise in demand.

Output was up to 175 mln tons in 2004, a meager rise of 2.9%. Consumption, however, was up 16.8% to 288 mln tons. The import volume of 115 mln tons was another new record, and placed China behind only the United States in the list of top crude importers, overtaking Japan...

...China is still heavily reliant on the Middle East, with three fifths of its imports coming from the region - and through the Malacca Strait. Saudi Arabia and Oman are the biggest sources.

There is, furthermore, a so-called "Asian premium" of up to USD 2 per barrel for oil shipped from the Middle East to the Far East, which is a significant increase in costs. This is something that Japan has put a lot of thought into as well. Japan has been suggesting joint regional efforts to try to remove the tariff.

China wants to boost the proportion of oil imported from Russia, and the volume is set to increase even though the plan to construct a pipeline from Siberia to Daqing has suffered a setback. A number of deals have been signed to boost the amount of oil coming in by rail and by truck across the border. Kazakhstan is also expected to lift its imports to China by a significant proportion in a few years.

Transportation problems are significant. All China's oil shipments from the Middle East must pass through the narrow Malacca Strait, a hotbed of pirates and - some fear - a potential target of terrorist attacks...

China's foreign policy is almost completely dominated by these energy concerns. Liu Jianchao, the Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman, last year said that energy was the single most important issue for China on the world stage.
It's a complicated problem for China and for its competitors for oil supplies.

Update: Simon has a number of links to several interesting China energy posts like this and this. And a link to this post taking on the Bill Gertz heavy breathing on China's "up arming." All food for thought and all provide some different perspectives on things.

Monday, June 27, 2005


After careful consideration, I doubt there is any conservative lawyer who has expressed his feeling concerning the Kelo case as well as Eugene Volokh at The Volokh Conspiracy :
I've been trying all day to craft a post that could capture my astonishment--ok, outrage--towards this ruling. But I keep getting so wound up that I have to scrap it. I'll just give you a few snapshots of my false starts as Subject Lines for posts since mid-day today:
1. Government by the "Honor System": The only restraint on government violations of the Bill of Rights is the "honor system"--certainly would make it easier to conduct the war on terror and censor political criticism if those rights were also enforced by the honor system...

2. Wal-Mart Celebrates: Now Wal-Mart need not lobby for huge development and tax subsidies for its new stores, it can just get the government to take the land it wants...

3. Would the Supreme Court feel the same way if Pfizer was building its new office on the Chevy Chase Country Club?...

You can probably get the drift of why I scrapped each of these as perhaps being a bit too over-the-top.

So I'll just add--temperately enough, I hope--that I thought the purpose of the Bill of Rights was to create rights that would be protected from the government, so that we wouldn't have to rely on the honor system of the government to do the right thing, but had rights that would be enforced. Why not apply the honor system to constitutional protections for speech, religion, and criminal procedure? We can't trust the government when it comes to allowing a prayer at a high-school graduation, but we can when it comes to taking an old-woman's house in which she raised her family? It would sure make the war on terror easier if the government could just arrest anyone in the name of the public good as long as it cut an undercompensatory check for the inconvenience afterwards.

The potential for abuse in this ruling is obvious, and the fact that governments cannot be trusted to do the right thing is exactly the reason why the Michigan Supreme Court reversed Poletown earlier this year. And Justice Thomas hits the nail on the head when he observes that it won't be (and historically hasn't been) the rich and powerful who are finding their homes condemned and given to corporations, Wal-Mart, or simply someone who will build a bigger house and promise to pay more property taxes (as Will Wilkinson observes, "That is, if you have something somebody richer than you wants, watch out.").
Sure it took him a couple of tries, but all the false starts were pretty good.

Limits on the government? Let's suppose you live in a nice neighborhood and your house is taxed on a valuation of $300,000. However, if Joe Big Developer convinces the local authority that by condemning your house (and those of your neighbors) he will build a development of homes which will be valued at $600,000 (doubling the revenue to the local authority) then you can pretty much say adios to your house if the local authority bites on the deal. Think it won't happen? Just wait.

My suggestion: time to check out the protections offered by your state constitution. As I understand it, state consitutions can provide greater protection than those offered by the US Constitution (but not less). Therefore, it may be possible to stop the madness by using local law. What an interesting result the Supremes may have wrought by blowing off the clear intent of the founders - bringing back the importance of states.

Update: What a typo rich environment. I think I caught most of them. Never let the gremlins have their way.

From the Front: Protecting the Iraqi Oil Terminals

My hat's off to Michael Yon for his excellent coverage of the Navy's role in trying to protect what may be the two most valuable assets in Iraq in his piece Walking the Line II.
ABOT and KAAOT are not oil wells, but oil terminals. The actual wells are on land, and the oil flows through 4-foot diameter piping approximately 52 miles to the terminals. Ships from all over the world come alongside, fill their bellies and sail away, while money flows back to Iraq. If the pipes are ruptured, a minimum of the 52 miles of oil sitting in the 4-foot diameter piping will flow into the North Arabian Gulf, causing serious ecological damage and leaving Iraq less than penniless. There are shut-off valves which theorectically would limit the extent of the disaster. There is also some question about whether these aging valves actually work. Assuming they do limit the flow of oil to the sea, this might reduce the number of dead sea birds who tar and feather the coast, but it won't stop the government from bleeding its bank into the sea.

With so much at stake, the insurgents set their sights on the destruction of ABOT and KAAOT, while the Iraqi government and the Coalition assemble there to defend it. Only time will tell which side will hold. Coalition forces are not leaving the outcome to chance. They have set up defenses in depth. Warships from the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia surround the terminals. Although the terminals are sovereign Iraqi property, and the plan is to turn over the entire defense to Iraq as soon as possible, the show below is under the command of a senior Australian naval officer and his staff.

See my previous posts on these terminals here, here and here. And also, here's a NYTimes article on the protection of these assets.

(Hat tip to Chapomatic)

Update 6/30/05): A little surprised a barrier system like this hasn't been installed as a semi last-gasp measure.

Another problem for Guam - Japanese tourism dwindling

Headline: Japanese love affair with Guam, Saipan cools Ouch. Particularly when comments like this are made:
"There's absolutely nothing you can say that sets them apart from other places," Yuji Shimokawa, a travel writer, tells Nikkan Gendai (June 22). "They lack high-grade hotels, and the local food tastes awful. There's no culture to attract visitors.
And here's some stuff the Guam Tourism Bureau probably won't be happy with, either:
The islands have also proved less than satisfactory for holding overseas weddings, which in Japan's case constitute a major portion of the travel market.

"There are lots of problems," says a wedding organizer. "It's hard to obtain the food items that are easily available in Hawaii, for instance. There are regular power outages, and due to the steamy climate, the bride's floral bouquet will often begin to wilt. The flight time from Japan is short, and it's popular with people traveling with kids," he shrugs, "but otherwise, there's nothing."

Another problem, Nikkan Gendai finds, is that the two islands have failed to redevelop their facilities to appeal to travelers the way Bali and Phuket have managed to market themselves as exotic tropical resorts.

"The accommodations remind you of the run-down rural hotels you see in Japan, designed to put up large groups," says travel writer Teruno Watanabe. "All they do is put a damper on a beautiful view of the sea."

If the decline in visitors to Guam and Saipan continues, author Shimokawa remarks, "at least they'll be able to truthfully boast of being quiet, uncrowded islands."
Ouch and ouch.

Update: Tumon Beach on Guam (photo from here)

Update2: Saipan, on the other hand has a distinguished visitor: The Emperor of Japan is there to honor the dead from the great battles fought 61 years ago...(The Battle of Saipan was from June 15 to July 9, 1944).

In addition, according to this, "China promoting Saipan as wedding destination"
Months after granting the CNMI an Approved Destination Status, the Chinese government is promoting the Northern Marianas as a wedding and honeymoon destination, a development that the Marianas Visitors Authority considers a milestone in its Chinese tourist market.

Guam and Saipan also share some good news, Northwest Airlines unveiling new Japanese routes with Guam, Saipan. JAL taketh away, NWA giveth.

Guam Sub Officer Shooting Follow-Up

Some time ago I posted on an officer who was shot while performing his duties on Guam Not too surprisingly, it appears the wound was self-inflicted, as reported at The Stupid Shall Be Punished: Guam Sub Officer Shooting Follow-Up.

Better add a new item to the "Getting underway" checklist - making sure that there are no unauthorized weapons aboard. Having someone go "postal" at patrol depth would not be a good thing...

Papua New Guinea Fight "Fish Pirates"

A different sort of piracy in Papua New Guinea:
We believe that it's about time this ongoing maritime robbery was stamped out.
When these ships are boarded by our officials, their holds are rarely found to be empty, or with only the catch that their licences indicate is permissible.
Often, they are carrying a wealth of prohibited marine products, fished from our own waters.
This piracy, for that is an appropriate word for these activities, is increasing rather than diminishing, despite the allegedly excellent relations that are purported to exist between our small country and our giant Indonesian neighbour.

The LA Times Notices Pirates

After a Lull, Pirates Are Back in Strait of Malacca says the LA TImes. Some interesting information, though:
Last year about $1 million in ransom was paid by shipowners in the region. The average paid per kidnapping is estimated at $50,000. During the period 40 sailors were kidnapped in about 20 incidents in the strait and surrounding waters. Four were killed.
Further, the LAT notes that the insurance companies may be taking harder line on coveraged in the are and demanding that additional 'war coverage" be purchased to cover operations in the Malacca Strait
Protection and indemnity clubs — the mutual associations that cover 90% of merchant shipping tonnage — are reviewing coverage, say experts. An insurer's circular given to the Financial Times suggests that owners of ships sailing through the strait should take out a "comprehensive war policy" to insure hull and cargoes, and a kidnapping and ransom policy.

The document, dated April 29, from the London-run Shipowners' Mutual Protection and Indemnity Assn., advised that its coverage "does not extend to include the payment of ransom demands and/or any loss or damage to the vessel or loss of earnings etc during a piracy attack."

The association insures mostly smaller and specialist ships, the type most vulnerable to attack.

Charles Hume, chief executive officer designate, said the circular was a first draft and had not been sent. "The club is naturally sympathetic to any member facing a kidnap situation and will always try and assist in any way it can on a case-by-case basis," he said. "However, the club's rules which set out its written cover do not include cover for ransom payments."
As usual, if you "follow the money," you might find the motivation behind some suggested actions to control the pirate problem in the Strait - no ship owner wants his profits cut by the cost of additional insurance or higher fees...

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Surface Line - Mighty Fine

Caption: "The XO wants what?"

Update: Inspired by this post and this one and the comments thereto - life at sea for sailors on busy ships (and the officer pictured above was on a very busy ship) is a case study in sleep deprivation and odd hours. In addition to performing your regular duties, you stand 6- 10 hours of watch a day. And, if you are lucky enough, sometimes you work all day and all night and then get to go on watch while others get to grab some shut eye. On the other hand, being busy does help make the time fly by.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Boat people condemn loss of monuments

Monuments to the "boat people" - the Vietnamese people who fled South Vietnam after it's fall to the forces of the North- are being destroyed at the request of the current Vietnamese government as reported here.
Leaders of the Vietnamese community in Melbourne have expressed anger and disbelief that a monument erected in March on an Indonesian island once home to hundreds of Vietnamese refugees has been removed at the request of the Vietnamese Government. Another monument, erected on the Malaysian island of Bidong, is under threat after a similar request to local authorities.

The monuments were erected as a symbol of the refugees' gratitude to their rescuers in the two countries. The Vietnamese community in Melbourne said the monument on Bidong "honours the humanity and the compassion of the Malaysian people towards their fellow human beings in time of need"...Every former refugee had an extraordinary story to tell, often of terror on the seas in dangerously overcrowded boats, of murderous pirates who raped women and girls and of people at sea dying of hunger, thirst or by drowning.
And what the Vietnamese government doesn't want the world to remember is what the refugees feared was a fate worse than that suffered in the boats...

Friday, June 24, 2005

Bye Bye Google ADs

Mention Karl Rove, get ads for "Democrat" stuff in my ads? No thanks.

Adios Google ads.

I feel so much cleaner now.

Interesting Call to Action on North Korea

Read this, it's good and it's from Hong Kong. Sample:
It is also patently absurd that one arm of the UN should be acting as North Korea's quartermaster and feeding a third of the population, while North Korea refuses to cooperate with the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors. It is all too similar to what happened in Iraq where the UN had a dual role of delivering food and medicine through the oil-for-food program while investigating the hidden WMD programs.

China and Unocal

CNOOC, China's offshore oil producer offers big money for Unocal, as reported here. Many are atwitter with concern over the Chinese buying "our oil supply" - I, on the other hand, like it. I would rather the Chinese buy into the US market than almost anything. It shows they are, despite their Communist tradition, playing in the fields of capitalism and are truly members of the "core."

And if Chevron outbids them, then goodie for the Unocal shareholders.

By the way, Citgo is owned by the Venezuela's PetrĂ³leos de Venezuela (PDVSA) (think Chavez) - and China already has owned some interests in US refineries - Sinochem owned part of Pacific Refining Company in Hecules, CA (closed down 1994) (source). And don't forget British Petroleum (BP) owning Amoco and Total ( a French corporation) owning oil reserves in the US.

Karl Rove

The quotes are here.

Told of Mr. Rove's remarks, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, replied: "In New York, where everyone unified after 9/11, the last thing we need is somebody who seeks to divide us for political purposes."


The Irony Meter just blew up.

Lagos Nigeria Warning in Latest ONI World Wide Threat to Shipping Message (22 June 2005)

Go to ONI World Wide Threat to Shipping and click on the date.

Highlight - A Warning Concerning Lagos Nigeria:
1. NIGERIA: A press report dated 21 Jun states that vessels are being urged to exercise extreme caution and to stay at least 20 km off Lagos Roads at night, only reporting back during the day once their pilot booking has been confirmed. This follows recent piracy attacks on Lagos Roads, one involving serious injury to a crewmember. There has been an increase in maritime armed crime in Nigeria recently, including four incidents since 24 May around the fairway buoy off Bonny River, and the hijacking of an offshore processing tanker. Consequently, the Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Safety and Security has increased security to Level 2 (LL, IMB).
See my earlier post that includes information on the offshore processing tanker here. It should be noted that the attacks off Nigeria are of two distinct types - some are routine robbery and some are "economic terrorism" in that local residents occasionally seize a ship or oil platform in order to force the oil companies "share the wealth" with the impoverished locals. A number of oil companies have entered into agreements with these forces ... more later on this in an update.

Update: Here's a good summary of the mess Nigeria's oil area is in
Security problems in Nigeria increased with the exit of its military dictatorship, which firmly controlled the various tribes within the country. Political and ethnic strife in the Niger Delta region, including violence, kidnapping, sabotage and the seizure of oil facilities, often disrupts Nigerian oil production. In December 2004, SPDC and ChevronTexaco suspended Nigerian oil exports of 134,000 bbl/d due to unrest in the Niger Delta. In January 2005, ChevronTexaco announced that it was losing 140,000 bbl/d of oil due to the closure of facilities in the Niger Delta.

Discontent within oil-producing communities has grown due to a perceived lack of transparency in the government's management of oil revenues. In February 2005, Human Rights Watch released a report on violence in the Niger Delta, calling for increased transparency in "oil producer-community relations" through increased area police forces and provision of assistance to the displaced. Because of suspected corruption in the NNPC, its budget will be included in the federal budget beginning in 2006. A World Bank report released in October 2004 indicated that up to 80 percent of revenues from Nigeria's oil industry accrue to only one percent of the general population. In January 2005, two Nigerian Navy admirals were convicted of facilitating the theft of an oil tanker in August 2004, confirming long-held suspicions of theft of crude oil for profit, with navy officers often colluding with criminals. In the same month, Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) began to investigate allegations of tax evasion by multinational oil companies in collusion with government officials. In February 2005, the Nigerian government began an investigation into the illegal existence of 193 unlicensed airstrips and helipads operated by large multinational oil companies.

NNPC estimates that from January 2004 to September 2004, 581 cases of pipeline vandalism were recorded. In December 2004, an explosion at a petroleum products pipeline in Ilado attributed to pipeline vandals resulted in the death of 26 people. As a result of frequent attacks on oil and electricity infrastructure, the Nigerian Legislative Committee proposed an anti-vandalism law in December 2004, outlining penalties including life imprisonment for the crime.

Recent violence between Ijaw groups in Warri is thought to be part of a struggle over which group will receive compensation from an oil spill that occurred in 2003. Youths have also taken violent action when denied employment with multinational oil companies, and kidnappings have been carried out to demand payments from the firms. In September 2004, the People Volunteer Force, led in the Niger Delta by Mujahid Dakubo-Asari, warned oil companies to leave the region, causing the international price of crude to rise dramatically. In October 2004, the Nigerian government began negotiations with Asari over demands concerning the control of resources. In December 2004, militants took 75 oil workers hostage in the Niger Delta region, attacking several oil flow stations and gasoline stations and calling for better infrastructure and welfare for the local population. In February 2005, Nigerian security forces killed up to ten unarmed Ugborodo protestors at the Escravos oil terminal. Members of the Ugborodo community entered the facility following failed negotiations with ChevronTexaco regarding employment issues.

In both January and February 2005, after unsuccessful talks with the government, NUPENG and PENGASSAN renewed a commitment to strike in southern Nigeria due to the refusal of several firms to fire officials accused of insulting behavior during wage negotiations. Nigerian strikes have pushed up international oil prices. Coupled with strikes are layoffs by both NNPC and the oil majors. In December 2004, NNPC laid off 2,355 workers. PENGASSAN alleged that layoffs were also taking place at Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), ChevronTexaco, Halliburton, and Belbop as well.

Update2: Recently:
[Nigeria's] Secretary to Delta State Government (SSG), Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, has said the recurrent hostilities between host communities and multinational oil companies was often as a result of breach of agreement singed (sic -signed) with host communities.

He assured that the state government would find a solution in which the companies would be more friendly with the host communities, vice versa.

The SSG dropped the hints in Warri when he played host to the German Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Dietmar Kreusel.

On the kidnapped oil workers in Bayelsa State, Uduaghan told Kreusel that "you heard somthing today about a firm, we are already working on it although it is outside the shore of Delta State, but the same Niger Delta, we cannot leave it alone."

He advised oil companies that wherever they are moving around Nigeria Delta waterways, they should ensure that they do so with tight security.

"Before any movement, we advised that they should inform security agents that are here and they will give them some security. Although the crisis is down, we still have sea pirates locking (sic -lurking) around the palce and somtimes they can cause problem," he said. (source)

Update3: Of course, there is this cheery assessment:
Construction firm Julius Berger Nigeria Plc has said that it pays at least one million naira for each ship that is allowed to "come up the river" unmolested by youths operating along the Warri water ways in Delta State.

A top official of the firm also said that armed soldiers and Naval personal deployed to escort the company's vessels are often the first to take to their heels sighting pirates, hence the resort to settling the youths.

The company's materials coordinator, Mr. Jurgen Jahuke disclosed this in Warri over the weekend.

Jahuke who said that Warri is the coordinating base for all Julius Berger's logistics operations, added that the practice is to ensure that the company's imported materials, including vehicles are not vandalised.

Although Yahuke admitted that the situation has calmed down along the waterways with regard to the activities gun totting pirates, the insisted that the only gurantee against resurgence was to "send some money down the river so that the ships could come up the river to the port unmolested".

On why military escorts were not used by the company as deterrent against the pirates, Ahuke condemned such resort as ineffective and some of the soldiers as "useless".

He said that it had become the experience of the company to know that at the slightest hint of trouble, the soldiers and naval personnel atached to the vessels were normally the first to take to their heels. (source)

The Port Meme

Thanks to Chaotic Synaptic Activity, I was tagged for the "port meme." Well , nothing is ever easy, even counting ports...I mean does Oakland count as part of San Francisco or as a separate port? As member of ship's company or do duties ashore in a port count?

Number of ports I've visited: over 50

Most recent port I visited: On US Navy ship- Doha, Qatar
On Navy duty: Manama, Bahrain
On my own: Norfolk, Va

Port I never want to see again: King Abdul Aziz Port, Dammam, Saudi Arabia. Nice port facility but I've seen enough of it.

Three ports that were the most memorable:
(1) Hong Kong: One of the most amazing cities I've ever been in - we were on an extended deployment - my wife came to Hong Kong when we visited for some R&R - we stayed out at Repulse Bay in a great old hotel (now gone)...and the XO gave me some "basket leave" - tram to Victoria Peak, ferries across to Kowloon and some great, great food...
(2) Kuwait City: Involved with reopening of port after hostilities ceased in Desert Storm. It was stunning driving up through Kuwait while the oil fields were still on fire and rolling through Kuwait City and seeing the senseless destruction the Iraqis had carried out - more like vandalism than warfare. The "highway of death", the smells, the sand table where the Iraqis planned to meet the amphibious invasion they knew was coming...
(3) Subic Bay: Often visited, never forgotten. Our wealth compared to the poverty outside the gates. Before martial law, the streets of Olongapo were like the Wild West complete with gunfire and holdups of "casinos" - the little kids making a living diving into the filth of "Perfume River" for coins tossed by sailors. And the base golf course actually had a hole that had a "rope tow" to get to the tee box. The Chuck Wagon bar with "Randy and the Boys", the main club and visits to the Cubi O'Club (now recreated (mostly) at the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola). Grande Island. The shipyard workers were great and you could get almost anything done in Subic.

And Wellington, New Zealand (beautiful country and great people- need to wander back there someday) and Singapore - clean, friendly and it was a great experience sitting in the Raffles Hotel having a Singapore Sling or a gin and tonic (shades of Somerset Maugham). And I seem to recall some sort of "curry alley" where I learned about a new level of spicy food... And who could forget returning to San Francisco after a long deployment...

House pushes Navy to buy more ships in 2006

"Here," says Congress to the Navy, "Spend more money building ships- and we're not even sure on what kind." As reported here (Hat tip to Stygius).

I'll help - the Navy doesn't need any more huge "destroyers" (at 500+ feet the Burke class of DDG's are long- the old battleship Texas (BB35) was 573 feet long- the Ticonderoga class cruisers are 567 feet long).

Burke class destroyer:

The Navy knows this:
The Navy is working to figure out what changes are in order for its blue-water fleet, which is designed to fight a conventional enemy on the high seas. Until the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Navy prepared for two major theater wars with the expectation that all other missions — from humanitarian relief to peace-keeping to counterterrorism — could be accomplished with the organizations, equipment and skills at hand.

Prepared by the Navy’s Information, Plans and Strategy staff at the Pentagon, the draft strategy acknowledges that the likelihood of major war on the high seas has significantly diminished. While maintaining the ability to conduct a major combat operation the Navy must be prepared to deal with a wider array of maritime security operations, including stability operations, the global war on terrorism (GWOT) and homeland defense.

The draft strategy anticipates a “limited number” of new requirements will take shape to fulfill these missions, and that some existing capabilities will need modification to keep them relevant in the new strategic landscape, “while other capabilities will need to be expanded in scale to meet the challenges of the post-9/11 security environment.” (source)
It needs more quick small ships to go after terrorist/pirate ships. We already own the blue water, we need some ships for the littorals.

We should not be using billion dollar ships to interdict dhows and fishing vessels. And a $3 billion dollar DDX may be too expensive to risk in ordinary operations.

The Navy needs some cheap hulls to carry war to the littorals and some platforms for support of troops ashore. Quickness, fighting power and numbers ought to be it's mantra.

The Littoral Control Ship was promising, but
LCS was originally meant for operations close to shore. But the LCS design has grown to the point where the LCS is no more capable of coastal operations than most other ships with the same displacement...The LCS will be 2,500-3,000 tons, about the size of late World War II destroyers. (source)
And yes, it's suppposed to be multi-mission because of its innovative "mission module" package:
The LCS has a large “cargo hold” that can be quickly fitted with gear to turn it into a mine clearing ship, a submarine hunter, or just about anything (anti-aircraft, shore bombardment, commando support, or even command and control.
Question: When the decision have to be made about which package will be used? And if you change your mind, where are the other modules kept and how do you install them on the fly?


We don't need 100 ships that can't do the job they were thought up for. The once revolutionary LCS has become a classic "design by committee" ship pounded into familiar modes by a reluctant to change surface Navy.

What happened to the Cyclone class PCs? "The primary mission of these ships is coastal patrol and interdiction surveillance, an important aspect of littoral operations outlined in the Navy's strategy, "Forward...From the Sea." (source) Oh yeah -
They have limited endurance for their size, and their combat systems and ammunition allowance do not compare well with similar ships in most other navies. They are about ten times the size of their predecessors but carry about the same payload. It was belatedly discovered that they are too large for the close inshore work for which they were intended.

Smaller than most Navy vessels, at 180 feet, PCs still pack a lot of punch. With a top speed of 35 knots and two 25mm chain guns capable of pumping out a blistering 175 rounds per minute, as well as many other small arms, a would-be terrorist should think twice before trying to make a run past these guys.
If 180 feet long and a displacement of under 500 tons is "too large" why would we build even bigger ships?

Cyclone class PC:

The answer is of course in the need to keep the shipyards alive. It's a very expensive answer -especially if the product doesn't meet the Navy's real needs... And the Navy has wasted some money on some really bad ideas before:

Malacca Strait 'high risk' due to piracy/ terrorism fear?

Concerns expressed here
Piracy has made the Malacca Strait off Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore extremely dangerous for international shipping, requiring joint action by countries in the region before the problem worsens by perhaps involving terrorist groups, a US Coast Guard official said.

"The Malacca Strait is very well known in the maritime community as a very high risk area for piracy and other armed robberies," Commander Clay Diamond, a liaison officer to the US state department, told AFP on the sidelines of an international Maritime Security conference in Nantes, western France.

But with more than 1,000 vessels and more than 10 million barrels of oil passing through the zone every day, and Asian extremist groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah active in southeast Asia, there are fears that the Strait may become targeted by terrorists.

"There is every indication to think there's a link between pirates and other maritime criminals and terrorist organisations," Diamond said.

He added that there was the "obvious" scenario of a ship -- a gas or oil tanker for instance -- being hijacked and used to attack a port city as a floating bomb.

"But less obvious and just as problematic is that piracy and other criminal acts at sea can be used as fundraising operations for terrorists."

He added: "We want to break the nexus between smuggling, drug smuggling and the terrorists."
But you knew all this...

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The "Demoralizing" Nancy Pelosi

As reported here,
Seven Republican members of Congress said yesterday House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was "demoralizing" U.S. troops by saying twice Tuesday that the war in Afghanistan is over during a press conference she held to call for an investigation of detainee abuses.
"Would you prefer that they gave up the fight, stopped hunting for Osama bin Laden and allowed the terrorists to run free?" the Republicans, all members of the House Armed Services Committee, wrote in a letter to the California Democrat...
... The Republicans who signed yesterday's letter said Mrs. Pelosi is wrong about the war being over. They pointed to a battle that left 40 insurgents and a police officer dead in southern Afghanistan this week, as well as eight U.S. troops wounded in Afghanistan last week.
The letter was signed by Reps. John Kline of Minnesota, Joe Wilson of South Carolina, Kay Granger of Texas, Geoff Davis of Kentucky, Candice S. Miller of Michigan, H. James Saxton of New Jersey and Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania.
Ms. Pelosi apparently has decided her concerns over the treatment of some detainees and whatever political hay she can make out of it far outweighs any responsibility she might have to our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines serving in the field. Of course, all attacks on US service personnel are the President's fault:
She said President Bush's failure to prosecute the war there, and his effort to go to war in Iraq, have complicated the conflict in Afghanistan.
"One of the main reasons that our troops continue to be attacked by al Qaeda and Taliban fighters today is because President Bush decided to invade Iraq, diverting critical resources needed to secure Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the demands of the war in Iraq have made the job of our brave troops in Afghanistan much more difficult," the spokeswoman said.
Somehow the idea that her own speech will be widely reported in the Arab world and will offer aid and comfort to the enemy forces does not seem to occur to her.

One of the aspects of watching the British House of Commons on C-SPAN that I like is that the parties take the opportunity to cheer for things and thoughts they like and heartily "boo" those to which they are opposed. In that vein, I render a most hearty "Boo!" to Ms. Pelosi and her ilk who seem unable to grasp the concept that the GWOT is a long-term, difficult process. Her failure to understand what war is being fought and why makes her the perfect "useful idiot" for the "bring back the past" terrorists of whom Osama and the Taliban are but two examples. She operates in the worst traditions of the anti-American left trying so desperately to climb back into power.

Boo! I say. BOO!

Something to add to the reading list

Anyone remember La Salle? The French explorer? Anyone? Well, here is a book review concerning a book that raises the LaSalle name and his failed expedition to the Texas coast.
“With the failure of France’s effort to colonize an uncharted land,” he writes, “Spain seized the moment to fill the void, sent missionaries and soldiers to build missions and presidios in Texas, and indelibly imprinted Hispanic culture on the Lone Star State.” Simply put, if La Salle had been able to establish settlements along the Mississippi and use the river as an intercontinental highway for the fur trade, ATMs in this country would offer you the option of communicating in either English or French.
Need to add this to the seemingly evergrowing "read" list... (Amazon info)

Fleet of 168 ships for Trafalgar commemoration

The news that 168 ships from around the world will gather to commemorate the Battle of Tralagar (reportedhere) is interesting, especially since the article points out the decline of the Royal Navy, which once ruled the waves.
The review on Tuesday, part of a six-day festival in Portsmouth, will include 67 British warships. Navy officials hope to use the event to "re-engage" the public when the service is under pressure to cut spending and is seeing its main surface ships cut in number from 34 to 25...Navy officials hoped the Trafalgar events would show the "relevance" of the navy in a post-cold war world, and argued tasks such as protecting shipping lanes and countering piracy were critical to ensuring global trade. (A complete list of the Royal Navy fleet is here.)

Admiral West said more than 95 per cent of British trade came by sea and the maritime industry generated £3.7bn in revenues every year, twice that of aerospace.(emphasis added)
"Rule, Britannia, Britannia rule the waves,
Britons never will be slaves!"
The review will include aircraft carriers from the French and Spanish navies - the two countries that made up the fleet defeated by the Royal Navy under Horatio Nelson in 1805. Charles de Gaulle, the French carrier, will be the largest ship in the review. The US is sending the USS Saipan, a helicopter carrier.

HMS Ark Royal:

USS Saipan:

French nuclear carrier de Gaulle:

Spain's aircraft carrier Principe de Asturias

Navy's QDR Preps

Thanks to the Navy League for letting us peek under the tent into the machinations of the Navy in getting ready for the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR).
Meanwhile, the Navy has drafted a new strategy of its own: “Navy’s 3/1 Strategy: The Maritime Contribution to the Joint Force in a Changed Strategic Landscape.” This narrative captures ideas that senior service officials have expressed since January when Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations, declared the Navy was not well suited to deal with challenges of the future.

The Navy is working to figure out what changes are in order for its blue-water fleet, which is designed to fight a conventional enemy on the high seas. Until the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Navy prepared for two major theater wars with the expectation that all other missions — from humanitarian relief to peace-keeping to counterterrorism — could be accomplished with the organizations, equipment and skills at hand.

Prepared by the Navy’s Information, Plans and Strategy staff at the Pentagon, the draft strategy acknowledges that the likelihood of major war on the high seas has significantly diminished. While maintaining the ability to conduct a major combat operation the Navy must be prepared to deal with a wider array of maritime security operations, including stability operations, the global war on terrorism (GWOT) and homeland defense.

The draft strategy anticipates a “limited number” of new requirements will take shape to fulfill these missions, and that some existing capabilities will need modification to keep them relevant in the new strategic landscape, “while other capabilities will need to be expanded in scale to meet the challenges of the post-9/11 security environment.”

To enhance its ability to contribute to the GWOT category, the Navy will enhance its theater security cooperation. “The maritime dimension of the GWOT — the ability of terrorists to exploit the seas — requires the U.S. Navy to operate in a manner analogous to that of the British Navy in the 18th century during its campaign against piracy,” the strategy states. The idea is to improve the proficiency of navies around the world at policing their own regional waters, freeing the U.S. Navy to work elsewhere.

Clark has issued guidance designed to increase the ability of other nations’ navies to conduct enhanced maritime interdiction operations, counterterrorism and piracy patrols, perform maritime law enforcement and collect intelligence on what ships are active on the seas.

To improve its effectiveness in the war on terror, the service is enhancing its maritime domain awareness, an understanding of anything on or below the seas around the world that could affect the security, safety, economy or environment of the United States. The purpose is to generate actionable intelligence.

The Navy is also examining its role in stability operations. Following the turmoil that erupted in Iraq following the quick military defeat of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, the Pentagon is examining ways to improve its ability to restore order in the aftermath of major combat activity.

The Navy’s draft strategy, however, notes that the sea service is well acquainted with stability operations given its recent contributions in the Balkans, East Timor and Haiti. From the sea, the Navy has contributed to stability operations by enforcing embargoes, sanctions and quarantines; conducting antipiracy operations; drug interdiction; oil and gas field patrols; and maritime counterterrorism missions; as well as supporting counterinsurgency operations...The Navy, accordingly, is planning to adjust its near-term investment strategy to better handle future missions in the global war on terrorism, a move that service officials hope will anticipate recommendations from the QDR. The service is boosting spending on technologies and programs that will improve its ability to conduct network-centric operations and fund the first of a new fleet of expeditionary logistics ships that can be used as floating bases to launch thousands of ground troops and their equipment ashore.

“That’s exactly where we’re looking to fund,” said Vice Adm. Joseph Sestak, deputy chief of naval operations for warfare requirements and programs.

The question of whether those investments are on target will be answered this summer as the QDR sets forth a new game plan for the entire U.S. military.

(hat tip: NOSI)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Thailand backs Singapore Anti-Piracy Center

Thailand supports Singapore as the anti-piracy center for the Strait of Malacca here.
Singapore sought Thailand's backing to become a centre for sharing information and training to tackle increasing problems in the world's busiest commercial sea lane during talks between their foreign ministers in Singapore yesterday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Sihasak Phuangketkeow said.

Stop! Pay toll: Japan body urges security fee for Malacca Straits

How about a "security fee?" says Japan here.
Users of the Malacca Straits should pay a fee to boost security on one of the busiest seaways in the world, a major sponsor of maritime safety said.
Yohei Sasakawa, president of Japan's Nippon Foundation, also said cooperation was essential to reduce the risk of piracy and terrorism, industry newspaper Lloyd's List reported.
Speaking at the International Maritime Organisation's (IMO) headquarters in London late on Tuesday, Sasakawa said there was "a need to re-evaluate our traditional thinking that safety on the seas is always offered free of charge".
The Nippon Foundation, a philanthropic body which has given tens of millions of dollars to improve maritime safety in the Malacca Straits, said security in the strategic waterway was too difficult to be tackled by individual governments.
"In high-risk areas where the safety of navigation incurs high costs, we need to examine a new system where the burden should be borne not only by the coastal countries by also by the users," he said of the channel.
Perhaps there could be floating toll booths at Strait entrances...

I am always reminded of the tool booth scene in the movie "Blazing Saddles" - described here:
Jim, Mongo, and Bart set up a toll booth outside of the fake town with a red and white striped gate crossing, and a sign which reads: "Gov. William J. Le Petomane Thruway. Toll 10 cents." It even has an Exact Change Lane, but none of the gang have dimes, so Taggart orders: "Has anybody got a dime? Somebody's gotta go back and get a ****load of dimes." Each one of the riders waits patiently as they proceed through the booth - one at a time. Of course, neither Taggart or his men notice that the toll booth is in the middle of the expansive desert and that they could easily ride around the gate crossing. (edited for this site - the entire movie contains something that will offend virtually everyone and you have been warned)
Who will enforce a fee?

Tsunami Increases Piracy?

From Thailand's Phuket Gazette
The national commander of the Marine Police, Pol Maj Gen Suraphol Thuanthong, visited Phuket on June 18 to discuss ways of protecting vessels going through the Straits of Malacca from pirate attacks, which he said have become more frequent since the tsunami.Gen Suraphol explained,"We don't really have accurate statistics, because not all cases are reported, but I think the trend of attacks has been increasing since the tsunami, as poorer people struggle to recover from it." On June 1, the Thai skipper of a tanker taking fuel from Rayong, on Thailand's Eastern Seaboard, to Krabi was captured in the Straits, a long-time haunt of pirates, and held to ransom.The pirates initially demanded US$1 million (about 40 million baht) for his release. Sources in the Marine Office told the Gazette he was freed after the ship's Bangkok-based owners paid US$40,000 (1.6 million baht).Gen Suraphol, who neither confirmed nor denied the details about the ransom, said, "CThe captain is safe, but we need to take action to ensure that the sea is safe and peaceful.

I don't want to see this happening again, even outside Thai territorial waters. We have to raise awareness among fishermen and other people on the sea about the danger from pirates." He continued, "It is crucial that we network with our neighbors, especially in Malaysia and Indonesia, and especially on incidents that happen outside Thai waters.

It isn't always easy to track down people - foreign nationals or Thais -who have either committed a crime in Thai waters then fled outside them, or committed the crime outside our waters and then entered Thai waters.

But we are working with our neighbors to coordinate information, which may solve this problem."

In addition to Phuket, the General also visited Marine Offices in Satun, Trang, Krabi and Ranong.

Duo nabbed over ship hijack

Sez here
Two men, suspected to be accomplices of the mastermind behind the hijacking of a diesel-laden tanker off Langkawi last Tuesday, have been arrested.
It is learnt that a special taskforce set up by the Kedah police arrested the duo in the Klang Valley during an operation yesterday.
They have since been remanded to assist police in their investigations.
Sources familiar with the investigation said the taskforce had identified the mastermind. (emphasis added)
Well, identifying is good - arresting is much better...

And that's just what they did:
The hijacking in the Straits of Malacca seven days ago was masterminded by a man who lived in a terrace house in Setapak near here.
The 42-year-old suspect was detained last night. Police obtained a remand order for four days.

A police team from Kedah arrived here over the weekend and, with the assistance from Kuala Lumpur police, were led to his house in Taman Melati.

The man allegedly masterminded the hijacking of the Malaysian tanker Nepline Delima and its RM12 million cargo of diesel.

He was brought to court today. It is learnt that the man will be taken to Kedah for questioning.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Cricket Speak

From Maritime Advocate Online - apparently coded messages - what can it mean?
Ashes to ashes

IT is early days, but this could be a summer to remember. It may only be the pyjama game at this stage, but the England cricket team has beaten the Australians twice in a week. Your editor is hoping for great things in the forthcoming Ashes series, and makes no apology to those who have no idea what he is talking about.

Caught out

STILL on the subject of cricket, your editor was dismayed last summer (July 27 and 28) to see one of his trickiest off-breaks dispatched contemptuously by his grandson, into the arms of a tall tree which stands outside the small bedroom at the back of your editor's house. We haven't spoken since.

A new development, however, may see justice prevail. Your editor's trees have recently been pollarded, and, lo and behold, the ball is now clearly visible in a crook near the top of the tree. All that remains is for your editor to borrow an aluminium extendable ladder to retrieve the ball one-handed from the tree while his feet are off the ground, and the catch remains valid, while the six which went against your editor's bowling analysis is expunged from the record.

Hmmm? Is this a threat of some sort we should be worried about?

A Beef in the Ocean: this time Taiwan v. Japan

In the "Why can't everyone just get along?" category: Taiwan ship joins island dispute. It all involves the Senkaku Islands, claimed by Taiwan, China and Japan.
A Taiwanese warship visited disputed fishing grounds on Tuesday, after Taiwanese fishermen complained of harassment by Japanese patrol boats.
Defence Minister Lee Jye and a group of MPs including speaker Wang Jin-pyng were aboard the frigate, which visited the area around the Diaoyu Islands...The dispatch of the Fengyang comes after 50 Taiwanese fishing boats staged a rare protest in the disputed area earlier this month.

They were protesting at being frequently driven out of the waters by Japanese patrol boats.

Some Taiwanese fishermen have reportedly called for protection from China, Taiwan's arch-rival.

One unnamed fisherman told a Taiwanese TV station he was please to see the frigate being sent out.
Reminiscent of The Cod War...Will we never learn?

Update; A Taiwanese fishing boat: {caption (ironic it is, too)}:
The Taiwanese fishing boat, Hasuda 1226 which was recently apprehended for illegally fishing in Papua New Guinea waters is on sale by tender on an “as is where is” basis. The National Fisheries Authority is seeking tenders from interested parties. The authority placed a public notice in The National newspaper yesterday, announcing the tender. The vessel was subjected to court proceedings and ordered forfeited to the NFA. The squid-tern trawler was caught in the Dog Leg area of Western province on Jan 6 by PNG patrol boat HMAS Tarangau. Nationalpic by EKAR KEAPU (source)

China's Wuchang Shipyard Gets Some New Software

According to this,
PTC (Nasdaq: PMTC), the Product Development Company(TM), jointly announced today with Wuchang Shipyard the implementation of PTC's Shipbuilding Solution comprising Windchill PDMLink(TM), Windchill ProjectLink(TM) and CADDS(R) 5i, which will be used as a production design management platform in Wuchang Shipyard. Wuchang Shipyard is now using the solution in production, making the shipyard one of the most technologically advanced companies in China's highly competitive shipbuilding industry.

Wuchang Shipyard, founded in 1934, is a subsidiary of the China Shipbuilding Industrial Corporation. It is one of China's largest and most modernized shipyards with capabilities to design, build, and repair various types of ships for civil, military and tourism use, and which are used in China and exported to other countries. Wuchang Shipyard has had almost a decade of a working relationship with PTC.

The completion of the PTC Shipbuilding Solution implementation is expected to bring about revolutionary changes in Wuchang Shipyard's business processes, particularly in the way product data is managed. The shipyard uses Windchill ProjectLink as a collaborative tool for the R&D, manufacturing and production departments, thereby enabling concurrent engineering, shortening product design lead-time and accelerating time-to-market. Windchill PDMLink consolidates what used to be scattered islands of information, controlling the typically chaotic product change management processes, thus increasing productivity and preventing costly design errors. The broad functional application set of CADDS 5i is used for ship design and 3-D modeling, enabling the users' ability to reference each others' evolving designs and facilitating concurrent engineering. The PTC Shipbuilding Solution allows project managers to better control and resolve problems earlier in the development cycle.
According to this:
The Wuchang shipyard in Wuhan is responsible for conventional submarine construction. Products include military ships such as Cruise-missile submarines, Medium sized conventionally powered submarines, New type and mordernized submarines, Heavy landing ships, Minesweepers and Sea salvage ship. Wuchagn Shipyard, founded in 1934, was subordinated to the China State Shipbuilding Corporation prior to the 1999 formation of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation.

Wuchang Shipyard is the biggest modern and comprehensive shipbuilding enterprise in inland China. The shipyard covers an area of 820,000 square meters with the total employees of more than 8,000, among them 200 are technical management staff, including 200 senior engineers, 15 experts enjoying state special subsidy.

With the capability to design, build and repair various type of civil ships below 8000DWT and military ships of 3000t, it has constructed and exported multipurpose cargo ships of 3830/6130 DWT, anchor handling / tug supply vessels of 4800KW, submarines and mine sweepers to Germany, Norway, Hongkong, Egypt, Bangladesh and etc, and all those ships have got approval by the International Classification Societies like CCS, GL, DNV and etc. Nowdays, all the ships are being constructed by a completed, advanced shipbuilding prodution line.
Am I concerned? Well, I've been reading again, this time The Pentagon's New Map, and I'm trying to embrace the idea that a fully functional China as part of the "core" is a good and wonderous thing. As Dr. Barnett notes, however, it's not the way I was brought up in the Navy, so it's a tough paradigm shift... (more on the book in a later post)

Malaysia says international aircraft may help look for pirates

Malaysia proposed on Tuesday that foreign surveillance planes help to fight piracy in the Strait of Malacca, one of the world's busiest sea lanes, in its clearest invitation for international assistance.(here)
"Perhaps the international community can provide maritime aircraft for 24-hour surveillance over the Straits of Malacca. They can fly these aircraft but the consoles and monitors (inside them) can be operated by Malaysians, Indonesians and Singaporeans."
Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore guard the strait, which carries a quarter of global trade and nearly all oil imports for Japan and China. There are fears the waterway, already plagued by pirate attacks, could become a target for a terror attack.
The United States and Japan have offered help, but Malaysia and Indonesia in particular have resisted suggestions that foreign forces could operate within their territories. Sovereignty is the paramount concern for the littoral states.
It was widely reported last year that U.S. special forces or the Marines could be used as part of efforts to enhance security in the strait, provoking opposition from Malaysia and Indonesia.
Najib's comments are a departure from previous rhetoric. With piracy attacks rising after a lull following the Dec. 26 tsunami, there is growing pressure on the littoral states to do more.
I hear the US Navy P-3 community is looking for work...or maybe everyone could use the P-3 AEW that US Customs uses (though I note Singapore and Japan already use a variant on the E-2C Hawkeye- which I think uses the same radar as the P-3 AEW).

P-3 AEW version

E-2C Japanese version:

Designed and built by Northrop Grumman Corporation, the all-weather Hawkeye aircraft is an airborne battle management and command and control center. The aircraft has been in active service with the U.S. Navy since 1973. Egypt, France, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan also operate the E-2C.(source)

Latest Piracy Report from ICC Commercial Crime Services (to 21 June 05)

Latest ICC Commercial Crime Services piracy report here. Highlights: (among lots of robbers boarding at anchorages and thwarted boardings by alert crews)
14.6.2005 at 0400 LT off Langkawi Island, Malacca straits.
Ten pirates armed with weapons in a speedboat hijacked a tanker underway. One crew managed to escape in the boat used by pirates. He landed ashore and contacted marine police at Langkawi Island. Police despatched a patrol boat and located the hijacked tanker off Pulau Lebar. Subsequently, pirates surrendered and they were taken to Langkawi for investigations. (see post on this being a potential "inside job" here and links therein)

12.06.2005 at 1100 LT at Warri region, Nigeria.
A group of armed persons boarded an offshore processing tanker. They took hostage all 45 crewmembers. After negotiations boarders departed on 15.06.2005 at 0945 LT. No injuries to crew. (update: Tanker apparently the Jamestown. Tale of a released hostage here)
Update2: Info on Jamestown here.
The Jamestown is a Steel Tanker Floating Production System built in 1957 at Newport News, Va. The Jamestown was converted to an FPSO [Floating Production, Storage and Offloading] in 1995 at J. Ray McDermott's Fabrication Facility at Harbor Island, Port Aransas, Tx.

Update3: Nigeria - red arrow points to general area of seizure

Update4: Nigeria and its oil here.

Coast Guard Ready on Security

The Coast Guard has a three-pronged strategy as reported here:
The Coast Guard's post-Sept. 11 maritime security strategy has three critical elements, Collins said: enhancing awareness of vulnerabilities and threats on the water, creating an effective security regime, and increasing the Coast Guard's presence in the nation's ports and waterways...

The Coast Guard has been adapting and will continue to adapt to meet the needs of post-Sept. 11 America, Collins said. The responsibility of protecting the nation's waters is one he does not take lightly, he said, and efforts are being made to contribute to America's security.

"We must and will not fail," Collins said. "The stakes are simply too high. The American people expect our best efforts, and they will get them."
The Coasties have always done a lot with less. Let's give 'em what they need now...

Australia to Help Philippines with Maritime Security

Defence News reports here:
”The complex challenges in modern maritime security require close working relationships between governments in our region,” Hill said.

”This conference has highlighted ways Australia and the Philippines can cooperate to enhance maritime security and is an important step in further developing our defense engagement with the Philippines.”
I like a regional approach.

More Malacca Strait Cooperation Sought

Indonesia goes on record here:
Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla called for continued cooperation among Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore to combat piracy in the Malacca Strait, an officer was quoted Tuesday by the Media Indonesia as saying.

"The vice president supports this seminar, because the issue of (piracy in) the Malacca Strait has not been settled," said M. Kamaluddin, chairman of the Committee for the Seminar of Navigation in Malacca Strait, after meeting the vice president at his office on Monday. He was referring to a seminar on the security of Malacca Straitto to be held in August.

On the same occasion, Chairman of Indonesian National Shipowners Association (INSA) Oentoro Surya said that the piracy in the narrow strait causes 100 million US dollars loss for the country annually.
Not ot mention the loss of tourist and cruise ship money...

Developing the African Economy

Interesting opinion piece from allAfrica urging Africa to learn from the Chinese and Indians and join the world economy here:
Can Africans learn something from today's Chinese and Indians? Can we learn that a strong market for goods and services is a leading cause of economic growth, and that market is itself a major cause of capital, investment, and technological advancement? Are we now convinced that economic growth is an organic process, involving many interrelated factors? What about understanding that even the banking industry and other financial institutions do not create the conditions for economic growth, since they are only important when an economy is sufficiently sophisticated to make efficient and creative intermediation between savings and business?
Well, I, for one, hope so.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Malaysia Wants High-end Tourists for Cruises and Yachts

Malaysia has a Bid to woo tourists with cruises
Malaysia is focusing on developing cruise tourism and yachting to attract high-end tourists from the United States, Canada and Europe, said Tourism Minister Dr Leo Michael Toyad.

He said cruise liners plying the Caribbean and the Mediterranean would have a “new playground” in the South-East Asian region, with routes beginning in the Andaman Sea and stopovers in Phuket and Langkawi.

They would pass through the Straits of Malacca, Java and around Borneo Island before ending in Manila Bay.
Pirates? Terrorists? What pirates? What terrorists?

Other than that, pretty good idea.

Must Read: Winning or losing in Iraq?

As politicos and others begin the "Withdraw with honor" dance, reasonable people might ask, "Are we winning or losing in Iraq?"

One approach to an answer is found in this must read post by Grim at The Fourth Rail: In Response to a Question.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Iron Ships and Iron Men

12 crewmen opt out of journey They fear further pirate attacks

According to this,"12 crewmen opt out of journey They fear further pirate attacks."
Haunted by the memory of a recent pirate attack, 12 crew members have decided not to continue their journey onboard MT Nepline Delima.

Captain Sasongko Samugy is having a big ‘headache’ because only three of the crew members were willing to continue their journey to deliver the RM12mil worth of diesel to Myanmar.

“Most of them have a phobia of going into their own cabins. They are traumatised by the incident,” he said.

In the incident on Tuesday, 10 pirates stormed the tanker located 23 nautical miles to the west of Langkawi at 4am.

The pirates held the captain and crew members hostage for 12 hours before surrendering peacefully to the marine police.

Two crew members, both Indonesians, were arrested for alleged liaison with the pirates...Mohd Najib, 23, said one of the crew members who was arrested by the police deserved an 'Oscar' for his convincing act and likened him to a traitor.

“He screamed and looked very scared when the pirates stormed the bridge,” Mohd Najib said.

Mohd Najib claimed that the traitor, who is a low-ranking staff member, was close to a high ranking officer who was also detained.

Captain Sasongko said at least 12 crew members holding specific positions were needed, otherwise the tanker could not continue its journey.
See my earlier post on this ship here.

Father's Sailing Day Fun

There are many things that can be done to honor fathers on Father's Day. Picnics, gifts, etc. Today, the last child remaining at home and his mother decided it would be good to take dear old dad to the lake for sailing.

Now, I love to sail. We own a Klepper boat (a folding kayak that can be sailed) because we used to move a great deal and the boat, sails, paddles and all fit into 4 bags, easily transported. When sailing, the Klepper looks like this:

(not my boat, but from the Klepper website)

However, the Klepper needs some work (it's over 30 years old and has been in the Pacific, Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and a variety of lakes and rivers in between the coasts) and so it's been more a few months since I was on the water. We decided to go to a local park and rent a little Sunfish. In it's proper sailing form, the Sailfish looks like this:

What fun! And for a while the youngest child and I kept the boat like that. Then, a sudden wind gust and we (I) managed to try the experience of inverted sailing. So that our boat now looked like this (blue is sky, green is water):

The great thing about a Sunfish is that they are easy to right after capsizing. It helps to capsize facing into the wind (or with the sails lowered) or re-righting your boat can be an additional adventure so that when the boat pops up the wind doesn't immediately grab the sail and pop it right back over. Of course, you usually don't capsize in those circumstances, so it usually requires that some adjustments be made before attempting to right the boat.

In short, we got it back upright and back to the beach and announced to the assembled spectator (my wife) that we were engaging in "capsizing drills" - I'm not sure she believed us. The concessionaire, on the other hand, was nice enough to mention that capsizing a Sunfish was not "as embarassing as falling off the fishing dock into the water." I think he was speaking from experience...

Even if the day ended with my son not particularly impressed with my sailing skills, it was a good Father's Day for me.

I hope the rest of you dads are being well taken care of, too.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

A simple lesson in how to end smuggling

Sometimes lessons about things pop up in odd places, and here's today's such lesson from MCOT (Thailand):
Thailand's problem of fuel smuggling in the Andaman Sea has almost completely disappeared, the chief of the Marine Police revealed today, attributing the disappearance to the convergence of oil prices in Thailand and neighbouring countries.

Speaking in the country's southern resort province of Phuket, where he was visiting the local marine police force, Pol. Maj. Gen. Suraphol Thuanthong said that while some smuggling might still be going on, it was on an extremely small scale.

While oil smuggling is a major problem when the prices of fuel in Thailand are significantly higher than that in Singapore, this difference has been ironed out, while the government has provided financial compensation to fishermen to help cushion the blow of fuel price rises.

As a result, the chief of the marine police said, oil smuggling is no longer a worthwhile proposition.
Wait, you mean people won't go to the trouble of breaking the law if there's no profit in it? Wow.

Sometimes a great idea...

Jay Tea at Wizbang, sets out a great idea in the midst of a fine post on what seems to be the ever increasing ratcheting up of invective in our political speech- the "heckler's veto" (shouting down a speaker with who you disagree) modified for print or blogs:
So they went looking for a way to adapt the heckler's veto to work, and they seem to have found one. If you can't increase the volume of your argument, increase the intensity. Ratchet up the rhetoric. Push everything into the extreme, and hope that the sound and fury of your words will overshadow the lack of substance.

With that tactic, everything becomes easier. Bush isn't a bad president, he isn't woefully wrong, he isn't misguided, he isn't leading us into disaster. He's Hitler, he's Satan, he's evil incarnate. Karl Rove is no longer a cunning political operative, a brilliant strategist, a visionary with a plan that you disagree with. He's Machiavelli, he's the evil genius, he's the puppet master, he's the shadowy power behind the throne. The war in Iraq isn't an error, it isn't a failure, it isn't wrong, it's American genocide and a ravenous lust for oil. And less-than-delicate treatement of prisoners, captured bearing arms against Americans on the battlefield while not in uniform (in violation of the Geneva convention) isn't mistreatment, it isn't questionable, it isn't a cause for concern, it's torture and slaughter and death camps and Gulags and the Killing Fields all over again.
Here's his great idea -a suggested addition to Godwin's Law:*
I've mentioned before "Godwin's Law," and I'd like to see it extended a bit. I'd like to see anyone who makes a comparison to some great atrocity in the past be immediately challenged to explain exactly what that great atrocity entailed, and then go into detail showing precisely how the current event compares with the historical one. (my emphasis)

*(Godwin's law (also Godwin's rule of Nazi analogies) is an adage in Internet culture that was originated by Mike Godwin in 1990. The law states that:
As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.
There is a tradition in many Usenet newsgroups that once such a comparison is made, the thread is over, and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress.)source