Wednesday, August 31, 2005

What the Army is doing for Katrina relief

The Army continues to grapple with the issues Katrina has wrought as set out here. It's a big list and wide-spread:
Access to breach sites continues to hamper efforts to close them, officials said. Barges and cranes cannot be moved through the Industrial Canal due to motor vessels and other large debris blocking the canal. Vessels must go around and through the Gulf Inner-Coastal Waterway or the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet.

The Mississippi River is closed to vessel traffic from Southwest Pass to Natchez, MS. The Army National Guard, U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Guard, other federal and state authorities, and private contractors are all working alongside the Corps to bring in necessary materials, supplies and equipment to begin making inroads to the damage.

The Corps is working with two major contractors to determine the scope of unwatering services available to inundated areas.

The Corps of Engineers Motor Vessel “Kirby Responder” is surveying the Gulf Inner-Coastal Waterway from Pascagoula, Miss., toward News Orleans with U.S. Coast Guard members on board to help determine what can be navigated.

They will survey Baptiste Collette Aug. 31, officials said, weather permitting.

The survey vessel LaFourche is currently surveying the condition of the navigation channel from Baton Rouge to Southwest Pass.

Corps of Engineers motor vessels are also delivering barges with cranes and excavating equipment and critical recovery materials.

The Port Allen Lock reopened Aug. 30 and remains on auxiliary power, officials said. Algiers Lock and Harvey Lock are operating.

The Industrial Canal Lock is operating on an emergency generator and officials said the lock is expected to be operational in the near future. The canal is blocked with vessels, loose barges and boats. All other Corps of Engineers waterway facilities are open for normal operations.

The Port Allen Lock has been designated as a staging area for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In support of FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is contracting for:

• emergency clearance of debris to enable reconnaissance and movement of emergency personnel and equipment.

• temporary construction of emergency access routes, including damaged streets, roads, bridges, ports, waterways, airfields, and any other facilities necessary for passage of rescue personnel

• emergency restoration of critical public services and facilities including supplying adequate amounts of drinking water, temporary restoration of water supply systems and providing water for fire fighting

• emergency demolition or stabilization of damaged structures and facilities as designated by state or local governments

• immediate emergency supplies including ice and water

• emergency power generation at critical sites (hospitals, shelters, etc.)

• temporary roofing and temporary housing

• technical assistance and damage assessment, including structural inspection of structures

• unwatering to assist the state of Louisiana by performing and or contracting to remove water from New Orleans and the greater metropolitan area.

While the Corps is coordinating public works and engineering activities under FEMA, it will also provide direct assistance under Flood Control and Coastal Emergency authorities, officials said.

Aerial reconnaissance of the region has been conducted. Corps ground reconnaissance teams have observed that most houses have major damage to their roofs and officials said they expect roofing to be a huge mission. Communications also continues to be a major issue, they said.

Corps teams forward in the area have been unable to contact all parish emergency officials and determine pump station conditions. They are currently contacting Levee Boards to determine local capabilities for assistance in filling breeches, evaluating the extent of damage, etc., and are coordinating with the Louisiana Emergency Operations Center, officials reported.

The Corps has also maintained close communication with the U.S. Geological Service regarding water stage data in Louisiana. Gage data for Lake Pontchartrain indicates that the lake is slowly draining, officials said. Based on the present rate of fall observed for the last eight hours, they said the lake level should return to normal level in about 36 hours.

As recovery efforts continue to gather momentum, numerous U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel from across the nation are arriving in the region to help tackle the mission ahead.

Other military efforts in the area incude:

• Defense Coordinating Officers and Defense Coordinating Elements, known as DCEs, are on site in Clanton, Ala., Baton Rouge, La., and Jackson, Miss., to liaison between U.S. Northern Command, FEMA and the Department of Defense.

• Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., Naval Air Station Meridian, Miss., Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Alexandria, La., and Ft. Polk, La., have been designated as federal operational staging areas to expedite the movement of relief supplies and emergency personnel to affected areas.

• U.S. Transportation Command is flying 8 swift water rescue teams from Calfornia to Lafayette, La. These California-based teams provide about 14 personnel with vehicles and small rigid hulled boats who are highly trained and capable of rescuing stranded citizens from flooded areas.

• The hospital ship, USNS Comfort, is departing Baltimore to bring its medical assistance to the Gulf region. The Comfort should reach the area in seven days, officials said.

• Three Army helicopters from III Corps at Fort Hood, Texas, are in Baton Rouge and two more in Mississippi to assist with search and rescue and damage assessment.

• USNORTHCOM established Joint Task Force Katrina to be the military’s on-scene commander in support of FEMA. Lt. Gen. Russel HonorĂ©, commander of First Army at Fort Gillem, Ga., is the JTF commander. JTF-Katrina will be based out of Camp Shelby, Miss.

• JTF-Civil Support is providing a joint planning augmentation cell.

• U.S. Northern Command’s Joint Operations Center is on 24-hour duty in Colorado Springs, Colo., to facilitate any additional requests for assistance that may come from FEMA representatives.
Yes, it takes time. But it is getting done.

UPDATE: More troops coming
More than 11,000 Army and Air National Guard members and 7,200 active-duty troops, mostly Navy, are supporting hurricane relief operations along the Gulf Coast, and 10,000 more National Guard troops are expected to join the effort within the next 48 hours, Defense Department officials said today.
Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told Pentagon reporters today the additional troops, who hail from 13 states outside the region, will be evenly divided between the hardest-hit states, Mississippi and Louisiana. There, he said, they will augment forces already on the ground helping law enforcement agencies with security and traffic control; transporting and distributing food, water and ice; conducting searches and rescues; providing generator support; and carrying out other missions to support life and property.

About one-third of the added troops will be military police, to help civilian law enforcement authorities guard critical facilities, prevent looting, apprehend curfew violators and assist in law-and-order enforcement, Blum said.

More National Guard engineers also will join the relief effort, helping clear roads of obstructions that block movement into and out of the affected areas, and transportation units will bring fleets of 5-ton trucks capable of maneuvering through heavy floodwaters to deliver desperately needed equipment and supplies.

Meanwhile, the Navy is arriving -Photo caption:
ulf of Mexico (Aug. 31, 2005) - A Landing Craft, Utility (LCU) assigned Assault Craft Unit Two (ACU-2), departs the well deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) bound for New Orleans. The LCU is loaded with sandbags, water, a small flat bottom boat, 300 lifejackets, a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) and enough supplies to last ten days as part of the relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina hit the Southern Gulf Coast States. Bataan's involvement in the humanitarian assistance operations is an effort led by the Department of Defense in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Bataan has been tasked to be the Maritime Disaster Relief Coordinator for the Navy's role in the relief efforts. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate Airman Pedro A. Rodriguez


Just heard USS Harry S, Truman and USS Whidbey Island may be enroute. Truman is large deck nuclear aircraft carrier. Whidbey Island is a landing ship that can carry 4 LCAC's.
The Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) is a high-speed, over-the-beach fully amphibious landing craft, capable of carrying a 60-75 ton payload. It is used to transport the weapons systems, equipment, cargo and personnel of the assault elements of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force from ship to shore and across the beach. LCAC can carry heavy payloads, such as an M-1 tank, at high speeds. The LCAC payload capability and speed combine to significantly increase the ability of the Marine Ground Element to reach the shore. Air cushion technology allows this vehicle to reach more than 70 percent of the world's coastline, while only about 15 percent of that coastline is accessible by conventional landing craft. (source)

NOAA mobilizes resources for Hurricane Katrina recovery

As noted in the comments to a prior post, port survey work is essential to getting relief supplies to the Gulf Coast and NOAA is on the case:
NOAA quickly mobilized a wide-range of its resources immediately following Hurricane Katrina’s landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast. NOAA ships, planes and many experts are helping to assess the damage caused by the powerful storm that is responsible for widespread destruction and loss of life.

NOAA pre-positioned Navigational Response Teams, or NRTs, which are mobile emergency response units equipped and trained to survey ports and nearby shore waterways immediately following the hurricane. These teams can be rapidly transported on a trailer and launched from them for a quick response. This is especially vital to New Orleans, La., and Mobile, Ala., two of the nation's major commercial ports. The NOAA Office of Coast Survey, working in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and local port management will be coordinating the response.

The Navigational Response Teams use multibeam, sidescan sonars and diving operations to check the port, river or sea bottom for submerged obstructions that could cause hazards to shipping.

The NOAA National Geodetic Survey is using a NOAA plane to take aerial surveys of the impacted areas to assess for damage from erosion, such as occurred to the levees and major evacuation routes. These images will assist both in recovery operations, and long-term restoration and rebuilding decisions. The images will be made available to the public on a NOAA Web site on Wednesday.

The NOAA Office of Response and Restoration and Damage Assessment Center is deploying NOAA scientists and other specialists -- in coordination with federal, state and local emergency centers -- to assist in evaluating the damages to the many oil and chemical pipelines and platforms in the region.

Water levels, storm surges and flooding are a concern, and NOAA staff is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA to coordinate the flow of appropriate information and data that will guide deployment of resources.

Makes Sense: Katrina Refugees Will Go to Astrodome

In a sensible move, 25,000 or so refugees from New Orleans will be trasferred to the Huston Astrodome as reported here:
Rusty Cornelius, administrative coordinator for the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, told The Associated Press that initial plans were being made early Wednesday.

"We are planning on being able to do a full shelter operation for 25,000 people," he said.

Cornelius said the refugees would be bused to Houston, but all would not necessarily be on the road at the same time. He said specifics of the transport and housing for the refugees were still being worked out with the Red Cross and state government officials.

"We want to accommodate those people as quickly as possible for the simple reason they have been through a horrible ordeal," he said.
The Astrodome is air conditioned and huge. It's a far better idea than trying to set up a tent city off in the boonies someplace. I'm sure they'll have lots of portable showers, laundries and toilets, too.

Hurricane Refinery News

Chevron Pascagoula MS refinery?
Eight refineries along the US Gulf Coast were shut down by Katrina. Refineries are pretty tough, so I think estimates of "several weeks" of shut down are exaggerated. The capacity shut down is about 10% of US total. At least two report no damage.

List of the active refineries in the area here.

Valero says down two weeks

Citgo/Exxon Chalmette reopen ""Once the U.S. authorities lift the alert we will bring the refinery back up," said Alejandro Granado, refining director for state-run Petroleos de Venezuela S.A."

DOE EIA info here
As of August 19 (the most recent data available), U.S. commercial crude oil inventories were well above the average range for this time of year. However, gasoline inventories were at the lower end of the average range, and with demand growing at a 1.6 percent rate over the most recent 4-week period, they are very low in terms of the amount of days gasoline inventories would supply. Distillate inventories remain above the average range for this time of year. Inventory data as of August 26 will be available at 10:30 am ET on Wednesday, August 31.
Not a shortage of crude (so, in case you are wondering, the release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is mostly window dressing in my opinion). The real issue is refining capacity.

Navy ships to help Gulf Coast

USS Shreveport
USS Grapple
Five US Navy ships are enroute to the battered Gulf Coast as reported here:
The amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima, the dock landing ship Tortuga, the amphibious transport dock Shreveport and the rescue and salvage ship Grapple will join the amphibious assault ship Bataan, which was already in the Gulf of Mexico for a weeks-long training exercise, Navy officials said.

The ships will be supported by six disaster relief teams as well as elements from a mobile diving salvage unit, an assault craft unit and a beach unit. Disaster relief teams include amphibious construction equipment, medical personnel and supplies.

“They’ve got helicopters to help with search and rescue, food and water and medical people if need be,’’ said 2nd Fleet spokesman Chief Petty Officer Jerry Sekerak.

The trip from Norfolk to the Gulf of Mexico takes two to three days. Sekerak said the ships will stay in the area “as long as it takes.’’

More here and here.

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Bataan swings into action here. Photo caption:
An MH-60S Seahawk helicopter, assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Two Eight (HSC-28), takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) to assist in search and rescue (SAR) missions in the New Orleans area as part of Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. Bataan is currently operating in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 100 miles South of New Orleans. The ship’s involvement in the humanitarian assistance operations is an effort led by the Department of Defense in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist Seaman Joanne De Vera

UPDATE 2: Additional Navy units to be working the problem:

Navy support elements from Mobile Diving Salvage Unit 2, Assault Craft Unit 2, and Beach Master Unit 2, all based at NAB Little Creek, will also join the disaster relief effort.
ACU-2 info. MDSU-2 info and BMU-2 info. You can also assume that additional helicopter assets will be moved to the Gulf.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Relief Ops: Mississippi Port Information

Don't know if ships can get in these ports yet, but a good place to start looking is Mississippi Ports Home Page




Ships could bring in a lot of supplies and also provide some power and clean water.

UPDATE: Port of New Orleans info

USNS Comfort

USS Iwo Jima (with USCG Bark Eagle

USNS Comfort web site

USS Iwo Jima web site

UPDATE2: May need the space - more Navy ships enroute, including the USNS Comfort and the USS Belleau Wood
The Pentagon effort includes the Navy amphibious assault ship USS Bataan, whose helicopters have been flying relief missions from off the Louisiana coast.

The ship, which resembles a small aircraft carrier, can produce large quantities of fresh water and is equipped with 600 hospital beds. (Watch video report on storm-related health risks)

Several other ships, including a rescue and salvage vessel and the USS Iwo Jima, another amphibious assault ship, are on their way from Norfolk, Virginia, the Navy said.

The USNS Comfort, a floating hospital based in Baltimore, Maryland, will depart in coming days. A medical crew from Bethesda Naval Hospital will staff the ship. It has full hospital capabilities, including operating rooms and hundreds of beds.

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Diaster Relief- Give, Volunteer but Do Something!

Pick one! (material is from the websites of the agencies)

Red Cross
The American Red Cross has mobilized thousands of volunteers to respond in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which completely devastated parts of Louisiana and left at least 55 people dead.

The Red Cross plans to send close to 2,000 volunteers in the area to begin the initial response in the next few days.

Red Cross emergency response vehicles (ERVs) will visit damaged neighborhoods like this one in Florida after Hurricane Charley last year. (Photo: Bonnie Gillespie).

“Volunteers are truly the lifeblood of the American Red Cross, and we are calling on them now by the thousands to help support relief efforts in Louisiana and other states after Katrina,” said Pat McCrummen, American Red Cross disaster spokesperson. “We are looking at a long term, very significant response to this storm.”

The Red Cross is mobilizing every available resource from across the country including thousands of staff and volunteers to respond to this storm. Red Cross volunteers and donors are neighbors helping neighbors.

Volunteers are already on the ground staffing shelters for tens of thousands of people in five states—Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas.

The Red Cross is launching the largest mobilization of resources for a single natural domestic disaster, in part because the extent of the damage is so widespread over a large geographical area. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin including sending nearly 1,900 staff and volunteers into the field in the next few days, and sending more than 250 Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) out to provide food and water to affected residents.
Salvation Army
The Salvation Army is prepared to serve 400,000 hot meals per day to residents and first responders in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. More than 200 volunteers, employees and officers will serve the meals from 72 mobile canteens that are able to provide up to 5,000 hot meals per day. In addition, the Army is prepared to move in two, 54-foot mobile kitchens that can provide 20,000 hot meals per day.

Southern Baptists gear up, too, including bringing laundries (a great idea for people who have been living in one set of clothes), see here (caption:
Laundry service
A Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief crew headed to the Gulf Coast is equipped with a new laundry unit based out of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn. David Acres, director of the state’s disaster relief teams, inspected the machines before departing from the staging area at Cherry Road Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn. The system, capable of washing about 20 loads of laundry per hour, contains a hot water heater, four washer units and five dryer units, he said. Photo by Morris Abernathy )
More info on donations to the Baptists' North American Mission Board Diaster Relief here.

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Hurricane Relief: Bring in the Navy!

Official U.S. Navy file photo of the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5). U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate Airman Jeremy L. Grisham (RELEASED)
According to this Defense News.com article, the US Navy had the USS Bataan standing by to render hurricane aid
The Norfolk-based amphibious assault ship Bataan is standing by off the Texas coast to provide humanitarian assistance if called upon, 2nd Fleet spokesman Lt. Mike Kafka reported Aug. 29. Bataan, which recently completed a training exercise near the Panama Canal, “will remain in the vicinity of impacted areas until otherwise directed,” according to a 2nd Fleet statement.

At least two MH-60 helicopters are aboard the Bataan, and Kafka said three MH-53 helicopters out of Corpus Christi Naval Air Station, Texas, were to fly aboard Aug. 29, with another joining them Aug. 30.
As was shown during the tsunami relief effort, these large deck amphibs and their helicopter capabilities and their LCACs can perform a substantial role in getting aid into areas near the water where roads are out.

Bring 'em in!

UPDATE: Don't forget the Seabees! See this
Gulfport is home to 3,665 active-duty Navy people, and a total of 1,256, including Seabees, sailors training for guard duty at Guantanamo and some family members, remained behind. Some of the Seabees remained on station in order to start getting the base back in working order once the hurricane passed, said Navy spokeswoman Corey Schultz.

Dooling said it was too early to tell if the Seabees would be able to help fix hurricane damage in the surrounding community.

“They’re going to have to fix themselves before they can go out and fix the community,” he said.
And this and this.

UPDATE2: Martial law in New Orleans. Water rising. Send more amphibs, generators, water purification systems and portable fire fighting systems. Logistics, logistics, logistics.

UPDATE3: Photo caption:
Gulf of Mexico (Aug. 29, 2005) - Crew members assigned to the “Blackhawks” of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron Fifteen (HM-15), stationed at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas, prepare to unload personnel and equipment from MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters on board the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5). HM-15 embarked three MH-53E helicopters in preparation for possible relief efforts along the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The MH-53E Sea Dragon is capable of carrying 55 passengers and 16 tons of cargo 50 nautical miles. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Jeremy L. Grisham
More photos here.

UPDATE4: 1st Army spools up
The First U.S. Army has deployed three disaster coordination teams equipped with satellite communications equipment to help federal relief efforts in Gulf Coast states hit by Hurricane Katrina.

Army Lt. Col. Richard Steele, a spokesman for the First U.S. Army, said the Defense Coordinating Elements teams deployed to Alabama, Florida and Mississippi. Each team has as many as 30 people. They are equipped with handheld Iridium satellite phones and military single channel tactical satellite communications terminals for voice communications.

The First U.S. Army handles disaster response east of the Mississippi River while the Fifth U.S. Army handles that mission west of the river, Steele said.

The Defense Coordinating Elements teams are also equipped with Inmarsat terminals and video teleconferencing systems made by U.K.-based Scotty Group, Steele said. A team deployed to Baton Rouge, La., has similar satellite communications capabilities.

The teams will handle requests for military support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state officials and pass on those requests to military officials. If they approve the requests, the teams will then control and manage any military assets or systems sent to the disaster areas.

Col. James Hickey, chief of staff for the First U.S. Army, said satellite communications are often critical in a hurricane’s aftermath. “One of the things we learned last year with the series of hurricanes that passed through Florida was the need for satellite communications,” Hickey said.

As usual, the US Coast Guard is doing a magnificent job. Their Katrina web site is here. Photo is from their site. Their aircraft have rescued over 1200 people.

UPDATE6: More on DOD effort here
The Army Corps of Engineers was preparing to support debris removal and laying plans to survey and begin emergency repairs on the levee system around New Orleans that partially gave way during the storm, Gene Pawlik, a Corps of Engineers spokesman, said.

As of 8 a.m. today, almost 3,800 Louisiana Army and Air Guard members were on duty to remove debris, provide security and shelter, distribute water, food and ice, and offer medical and law-enforcement support, National Guard Bureau officials said.

The Louisiana Guard was coordinating with Florida, Georgia and Texas to secure two UH-60 Black Hawk and five CH-47 Chinook helicopters to support their operations, officials said.

In Mississippi, more than 1,900 Guard troops were providing similar support, basing their operations at Camp Shelby.

The Mississippi Guard coordinated with the National Guards in Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Arkansas to add four UH-60s and three CH-47s to the relief effort. In addition, the Alabama National Guard is contributing an engineer battalion and military police battalion to Mississippi's hurricane response.

In addition to the 300 military police and 500 engineers it is sending to Mississippi, the Alabama National Guard had another 800-plus troops on duty to support that state's Emergency Management Agency, Army Lt. Col. Bob Horton, an Alabama Guard spokesman, said. These troops are staging support equipment around flood-struck areas, and 450 of them will head to Mobile today to support law enforcement officials and enforce security, he said.

The Arkansas National Guard also mobilized 350 members to assist with hurricane relief efforts in Mississippi. The Arkansas troops include an engineer battalion, transportation company and military police company, officials said. In addition, two UH-60s plan to leave Camp Robinson, Ark., to support search-and-rescue operations.

The deploying troops will also contribute Humvees, dump trucks, 5-ton trucks, tractor-trailers, generators and lights to the effort, officials said.

In Florida, more than 700 Florida Guard members were on active duty, working out of logistical support sites in Miami and Homestead to provide ice and water distribution support.

The Guard was preparing to ship 1,000 cots to Louisiana to support relief operations there, officials said.

Krenke called the interstate cooperation a sign of the success of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact. This interstate agreement enables Guard troops from one state to support operations in another state and has significantly boosted the National Guard's response capability, she explained.

Through these agreements, 98,000 Guard troops from 12 states in or near the hurricane-stricken region are available to immediately support emergency operations, she said. Nationwide, an estimated 337,000 Guard troops are available to be deployed to states impacted by the hurricane.

UPDATE7: Michelle Malkin on military action.

UPDATE8:More on military activity: here.
The Pentagon effort includes the Navy amphibious assault ship USS Bataan, whose helicopters have been flying relief missions from off the Louisiana coast.

The ship, which resembles a small aircraft carrier, can produce large quantities of fresh water and is equipped with 600 hospital beds. (Watch video report on storm-related health risks)

Several other ships, including a rescue and salvage vessel and the USS Iwo Jima, another amphibious assault ship, are on their way from Norfolk, Virginia, the Navy said.

The USNS Comfort, a floating hospital based in Baltimore, Maryland, will depart in coming days. A medical crew from Bethesda Naval Hospital will staff the ship. It has full hospital capabilities, including operating rooms and hundreds of beds.

More than 125,000 National Guard troops have been activated in 19 states and Washington, D.C., to help local agencies with traffic control, security, distributing food, and search and rescue, a Guard spokesman said.

The Coast Guard, whose crews have been assisting in the rescue of people stranded by high water in the New Orleans area, is recalling 550 reservists to assist in the relief effort.

The Air Force said it was sending two large cargo planes to the region -- a C-5 Galaxy to Louisiana and a C-17 to Mississippi.

Besides humanitarian aid, the C-5 is bringing in swift boats, which can maneuver in shallow floodwaters to ferry rescue workers and victims. The C-17 is outfitted to evacuate 36 sick and injured people at a time.

The Air Force also deployed MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to Mississippi for search and rescue efforts.

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Africa: Navy chiefs unite for security summit

Interesting summit concerning an African "Rapid Reaction Force" to react to, among other things, pirates and terrorists. Reported here.
Nigeria's navy secretary Olasaad Ibrahim presented a paper on piracy and the trends and counter measures that could be exercised through co-operation by African Navies.

One of the problems experienced by Nigeria was the theft of crude oil, with almost 100 000 barrels a day lost to pirates at sea. "There are ships waiting for these illegal supplies, which they can sell cheaper because they have been stolen," said Ibrahim....Kenyan navy chief Pastor Awitta said that because a neighbouring country like Somalia didn't have a central government it made it easy for terrorists to smuggle weapons into Kenya. "It is believed that terrorists use the sea to get into the country," said Awitta, referring to several attacks in Kenya.
Good first steps.

(Note: orignal posting time changed to put Katrina post on top)

Latest ICC CCS Piracy Report (to 29 August 2005)

Report is here. Couple of highlights:

-Off Iraq -
27.08.2005 at 0230 LT anchored in posn 29:43.7N - 048:39,1E, buoy no. 3 and 5, Khawr Abd Allah, Iraq.
Three robbers armed with machine guns and steel bar boarded a LPG tanker. They smashed bridge window and held 2/O and master at gunpoint. They fired a shot at the master missing his shoulder by 20 cm and forced him to open safe and stole cash. Robbers then threatened C/E and escaped at 0315 LT stealing ship’s stores. Master reported to coalition forces who asked him for details of attack. Master advised ships not to anchor in this area during night hours.
and Somalia:
16.08.2005 off Kismayo port, Somalia.
Pirates hijacked three deep sea fishing vessels. They are holding crew members as hostages. Further information is awaited.


(note: orginal posting time changed to put Katrina post at top)

Monday, August 29, 2005

Malaysia seeks removal of Malacca Strait from security threat list

Not surprisingly, Malaysia says "no terror" in Malacca Strait and "piracy is under control" as reported here.
Malaysia urged an international insurance body to remove the Malacca Strait from a list of waterways deemed dangerous, saying ships are safe from terror attacks and piracy is contained.

Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore are working closely to ensure security in the 960-km long passage, used by 50,000 ships a year that carry one-third of world trade, Transport Minister Chan Kong Choy told Agence France-Presse.

'There is no threat of terror in the Malacca Strait,' he said. 'And the threat of piracy is contained. The waterway is safe for ships.'

Chan urged insurance companies not to impose security premiums on vessels plying the busy route, saying: 'I don't think it is fair to impose additional premiums. I hope the Malacca Strait is withdrawn from the list.'

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has listed the strait, and the waters around Indonesia, as among the world's worst for piracy, and some regional governments believe ships could be targeted by terrorists.

Last year the Malacca Strait recorded 38 pirate attacks, second only to Indonesian waters, which saw 94 attacks, the IMB said.
It must be noted that most of the attacks involve local shipping and not international hulls. On the other hand...
(Map: Malaysia -left target is Strait of Malacca, right target is dive area of Borneo Divers)

Another group asserting that piracy is not a problem - the diving industry in Borneo as reported here by the Cyber Diver News Network:
Soon after Muslim rebels attacked Sipadan Island and took 21 dive tourists and resort staff hostage, Clement Lee and Steve Fish of Borneo Divers launched a business-as-usual campaign designed to lure divers back to Sipadan.

The media-bashing campaign, which remained on the internet until the second attack on Pandanan dive resort near Sipadan, exemplifies a growing tendency in the diving industry to deliberately conceal problems that pose a threat to the safety and well-being of dive travelers.

Standard operating procedure is to lash out at the media and dismiss news reports as inaccurate and exaggerated. While press reports are rarely if ever 100% accurate, we all know they get much closer to the truth than the travel industry, which aims to filter out any and all disagreeable elements that detract from the "paradise" theme.
The truth is out there...somewhere.

UPDATE: Borneo DIvers site

Hurricane Watch

I have relatives along the Mississippi coast and Florida panhandle and I am a more than a little distracted by current storm events, though I believe everyone got to higher, relatively safer, ground.

My sister's house near Biloxi might be submerged. The area is so flat and there is so much water...and, thank goodness, it's only a house and her office we are worrying over...

Send money to the Red Cross to help out, please.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Project Valour-IT

Click on one of the picture or the Soldier's Angles link and make a donation to this very worthwhile cause - providing voice-activated laptops for wounded servicemembers who can use them even if their injuries might preclude the use of a keyboard and mouse. Help our neighbors, our neighbor's sons and daughters and help our troops. You know, even if you are opposed to the war, you can do this and not compromise any of your position.

Soldiers Angels

Dirty bomb source 'found?'

Headline: Dirty bomb source 'found'.
AUSTRALIAN nuclear experts working to prevent terrorists launching a regional "dirty bomb" attack have found large, unsecured sources of dangerous radioactive material in Southeast Asia.

In one case, radiation safety experts from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation found a substantial piece of cobalt, used for medical therapy, which had been abandoned when a radiation therapy centre was closed.
A conventional bomb wrapped around a small stick of cobalt could contaminate a large area of a city, dramatically boost cancer rates and force out residents for decades, scientists say.

Another radioactive source, possibly also cobalt, was found in a second country in similar circumstances. About 25 other radiation centres are also being investigated in a third country.

"There are two countries where we have located quite large sources," ANSTO's chief of operations Ron Cameron said. He declined to identify them until the material had been properly secured.

ANSTO's concern came as intelligence reports from South Korea revealed that Australia had been listed by the al-Qa'ida terror network as a prime target for an attack this year.

South Korea's National Intelligence Service last week told the country's parliament that a "senior" al-Qa'ida operative arrested last month had made specific reference to Australia in a list of targets. "According to NIS, this terrorist testified that South Korea, Japan and The Philippines are secondary targets, while the US, Britain and Australia are the prime targets for this year," a South Korean parliamentarian said yesterday.
Well, I find the headline just a tad misleading, but the content of the article is still disturbing...

New Jag- Looks Familiar to Me

Autoblog reports the newJaguar 2007 XK . I dunno, but it sure looks similar to the 2001 Oldsmobile Aurora. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
New Jag at top, old Olds at bottom.

You know, I wouldn't mind having a 2001 Aurora.

South Korea is concerned about terror threat

Reported here:
While South Korea has a reputation as a racially homogenous country, the growing number of Muslims living in South Korea, currently estimated at over 81,000, reportedly poses a security risk. While migrant workers have not been known to engage in terrorism-related activities, terrorist operatives have been finding it easier to hide among them.
However, Mr. Chung warned that the long-term threat of terrorism against South Korea will not come only from the Middle East. "In the long run, terrorists from Southeast Asia will be more of a threat than those from the Middle East," Mr. Chung said. "I fear them more than I fear those from the Middle East."
Mr. Chung believes that any attack during the APEC meeting might be executed by Southeast Asian organizations such as Jemaah Islamiyah, which was responsible for the Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta, Indonesia. "It is easier for them to go in and out of South Korea as they please," he said.
The methods could also differ. Aside from the ground and air attacks witnessed over the past decades, Korean authorities are expecting a serious maritime threat in the form of "floating bombs," — hijacked ships carrying conventional or nuclear bombs that sail into major port cities, such as Busan.
Justifying such a concern is the threat of maritime terrorism, which is worsening in East Asia in places such as the Malacca Strait, which has been home to the majority of the world's piracy.
In the past, pirates have ranged from organized criminals and rebel groups to sailors from the Indonesian and Chinese navies, according to Lee Chun-keun, a maritime expert. In recent years, hijackers have not always sought booty, but demanded hostages to teach them to sail container ships.

Terrorist Attack: Ferry bomb injures 30 in Philippines

Ferry bombed in the Philippines as reported here:
A bomb stashed in a rubbish can exploded on a ferry in the southern Philippines as it was loading passengers Sunday morning, wounding at least 30 people, including nine children, military officials said. The region had been on alert for terror attacks.

The M.V. Dona Ramona was docked at the wharf at Lamitan, on the island of Basilan, around 7:30 a.m. (2330 GMT) as it prepared to depart for nearby Zamboanga. At least six people were badly burned, including a soldier.

The south is the homeland of the country's Muslim minority and a decades-old separatist insurgency.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Buenaventura Pascual said in Manila that a homemade bomb was placed in a rubbish can. Brig. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, who rushed to the scene, said a firebomb may have gone off near the ferry's canteen, citing a statement by the skipper and the nature of the victims' wounds.

"It's an IED," said Ferrer, the army commander in Basilan, referring to an improvised explosive device - the military term for homemade bombs.

"Initially, this could be a concealed explosive device without metallic parts. The apparent intention was to injure and scare people," he told a local radio station by telephone as he inspected the ferry's lower deck that was hit by the blast... Troops and police have been put on alert in major cities in the southern region of Mindanao because of possible diversionary attacks as the military wages a nearly 2-month-old offensive to capture a group of Abu Sayyaf members, including the group's chieftain Khaddafy Janjalani, in southern Maguindanao province.

While Janjalani and other Abu Sayyaf leaders were reported to be in Maguindanao, the rebel group has long organised units called Urban Terrorist Groups to strike in key cities, including in Basilan, which has always been regarded as a high-risk area for terror attacks.

The Abu Sayyaf, which is on US and European lists of terrorist organisations, has been blamed for a number of other bombings. Philippine security officials say the group also has ties with Jemaah Islamiah, which has cells in several Southeast Asian countries.

US counterterrorism training has been credited with helping the Philippine military oust the Abu Sayyaf from their southern strongholds, including Basilan, and capture or kill key commanders and members. The Abu Sayyaf is on the US list of terror groups.
BBC report here. As reported here someone is sure who it was:
The Abu Sayyaf group was the perpetrator of a blast which injured 30 people Sunday morning on a ferry in Basilan island, southern Philippines, said a Philippine official.

The vice mayor of Lamitan town where the blast took place, Jimmy Andong, told local media that the blast was the handiwork of Abu Sayyaf bandits, who were disguised as fishermen.

UPDATE: Not so fast, second report casts doubt on "terrorist" bombing as reported in the Manila Times here:
The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao police director, Chief Supt. Sukarno Ikbala, was quick to dismiss speculations that the blast was terrorist-related.

He told The Manila Times that an accident triggered the explosion after materials used for dynamite-fishing, wrapped in paper, was ignited by a carelessly disposed cigarette butt. The explosive materials, he said, was purchased yesterday and was bound for Zamboanga.

Ikbala said the owner of the package remains unidentified.

But Pascual said that bomb experts, backed by K-9 dogs, said the “fumes were of gunpowder or some kind of chemical.”

A police source, who asked not to be named, said it was possible the explosion was terror-related.
Dynamite fishing materials?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Interview with North Korea Expert Nicholas Eberstadt, on the Talks and Aftermath

Nicholas Eberstadt is a Korea expert. One Free Korea recently interviewed him and the interview is posted at The Command Post here. Very interesting discussion of the DPRK and the US- South Korea relations. Highly recommended reading.
OFK: I want to move to the "what next" question, in the event the six-nation talks fail. In your latest piece, you said, “Washington should impose real-time penalties on Pyongyang.” Can you elaborate on what you mean here?

NE: What we have to begin to do is penalize North Korea economically. The United States can increase North Korea’s economic penalties more or less unilaterially thru the Proliferation Security Initiative—working, of course, with those nations that have joined the PSI, and leading that coalition. We should be doing that anyhow. That’s just police work.

NE: We should also insist on a more humanitarian food aid program, which is to say a more intrusive and accountable food program, versus the one the World Food Program and others are kicking in for now. The current program feeds the North Korea government better than it feeds North Korea people. We should change that immediately.

NE: One other issue here is the need to confer more effectively with our European allies on international aid flows to the DPRK. Europe professes great concern for human rights in principle. North Korea is the worst human rights disaster on earth.

NE: The most important and difficult areas in aid flow are with South Korea and China. The U.S. needs to be much more effective in making its case to the South Korean public that aiding the North Korean state means endangering the South Korean state. The South Korean government is almost unconditionally supporting North Korea through its aid programs. That unconditional aid does not reflect the actual state of public opinion in South Korea; in fact, the South Korean public is deeply divided on the question of unconditional aid to the North. Making the case against unconditional aid to the North in various venues would be very helpful changing South Korean policies in this regard.
There's a lot more.

Cuba blames U.S. for shipwreck that killed 31

Cuba says US immigration policy is to blame for the continued deaths of people fleeing Cuba to seek a better life, including 31 who died recently as reported here.

It appears to the Cuban government is not the wretched living conditions of their island paradise that is driving people to acts of desperate escape, but rather the fact that the US has an open door policy for those who make the break successfully. "Do away with the welcome mat," the Cubans say, "and Cubans will have no incentive to try to get to the US."

The 31 deaths would make this the worst tragedy in years involving Cuban emigres who brave the crossing by the hundreds each year to leave Communist Cuba for the United States.
"We call on the U.S. authorities once again to put an end to the smuggling of people that is organized and financed from the United States," the Cuban statement said.
Havana blamed a U.S. law that grants Cuban emigres almost automatic residency if they make it ashore in the United States for encouraging the illegal emigration. It called the Cuban Adjustment Law a "killer."

Geez, it makes me want to say, "Give some freedom to your people, El Presidente, and they will have less incentive to flee." And the only "killer" is you.

UPDATE; They probably don't see them as they drift ashore from Cuba, but the words still must reach into Castro's homeland:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Friday, August 26, 2005

"Gates of Fire" Michael Yon

Must read for the weekend: Yon: "Gates of Fire".

Excellence in war coverage.

Latest ONI World Wide Threat to Shipping (to 24 August 05)

Go to ONI World Wide Threat to Shipping and click on the date. Highlights:
2. NEW WAR-RISK AREAS: Effects continue to ripple from the London insurance market’s Joint War Committee decision to list the Strait of Malacca among areas subject to special war risk insurance coverage. Following the 31 Jul effective date for notices of cancellation, Industry reaction to the requirement for specific war risk insurance has been mixed, with most groups either protesting the move or advising their members not to secure the more expensive insurance. The principal lines of resistance are reportedly that the shift is not justified based upon a commercial consultancy’s report and that the risks faced, those of pirate attack rather thanterrorism, are not clearly covered under the specialized war risk insurance. Private communications indicate that actual rates being charged for the war risk cover have already had to be drastically adjusted downward. Perhaps predictably, the only group to jump enthusiastically upon the Joint War Committee bandwagon, has been NUMAST, which issued a call for hazard pay in a 23 Aug letter. Ironically, the NUMAST argument is that the case for hazard pay for crews is at least as strong as the argument for war risk cover for ships. The international shipping community appears unconvinced that the risk to either is at crisis stage (LL, LM, ONI)...(see my post here)

2. TURKEY: On 11 Aug, Turkish courts charged a suspected
terrorist with plotting to use a speedboat packed with explosives
to attack Israeli cruise ships. Reports quote the suspected
terrorist, a Syrian national, as saying “I wanted to attack
Israeli cruise ships in the open seas without harming Turkish
civilians. I have no regrets.” On 05 Aug, Israel’s transport
ministry diverted four Israeli cruise ships bound for Alanya,
Turkey, after Turkish Police discovered the alleged plot while
investigating a suspicious apartment fire. The apartment fire,
located in Antalya, Turkey, aroused suspicions after a sharp smell
of chemicals began spreading in the vicinity of the fire. Police
said they found incriminating evidence, including the suspect’s
passport. As a result of the recent Turkish anti-terror efforts,
the Israeli Counter Terrorism Bureau downgraded its Turkey
terror warning (LM, FP, REUTERS)...(see my post here)

6. SOMALIA: The general cargo ship (SEMLOW) was hijacked
26 Jun while underway in position 04:47.6N, 048:12.0E, off Hobyo.
Hijackers are demanding $500,000 to free the vessel and ten
crewmen. The vessel was under charter of the UN World Food
Program (WFP) and is carrying 850 MT of rice, donated by Japan
and Germany, destined for Bossaso, Somalia. On 12 Jul, the UN WFP
director warned the pirates that if the vessel, crew, and cargo were
not released within 48 hours, then the WFP would blacklist the area
of Haradheere and Hobyo for the next 10 years. Mohamed Abdi
Hassan/Afweyne, the leader of the group holding the vessel, denied they
were demanding ransom but rather simply guarding the seas against
illegal fishing and dumping of toxic waste, and impounded the vessel
because of improper documentation. Per 01 Aug reporting, the
hijackers said they were going to release the eight Kenyan
crewmembers, but were going to keep the Sri Lankan master and
Tanzanian crewmember in captivity. Per 10 Aug reporting, the
pirates have failed to release the vessel and crew as previously
negotiated, and it is feared the talks have broken down. As part
of the negotiations, the vessel was to be allowed to return to a
Somali port by Aug 9th, and the rice onboard to be distributed
throughout the central region, vice its intended destination to
the north. Per 17 Aug reporting, the hijackers are unloading the
rice themselves for local distribution/sale in the town of Haradheere.
As a result, it is reported the price of rice had dropped sharply
and some businessmen in Mogadishu are sending lorries up to
purchase the cheap rice. Muhammad Shaykh Ali, the self proclaimed
district commissioner of Haradheere, denies any rice has been
offloaded and sold. The UN/WFP believes the majority of the rice
is intact and unsold per 19 Aug reporting. On 23 Aug, Muhammad
Shaikh Ali announced that the crew from the (SEMLOW) will be
prosecuted for illegally entering Somali waters but neglected to
neither provide details of the law nor explain why the crew would
be tried under it. Both Ali and Afweyne explained the vessel’s
owners and the WFP are wasting their time by using intermediaries with no power to release the ship, referring to the fledgling transitional federal government. ONI NOTE: Given the increased number of attacks near the location of where the Semlow was hijacked, it is possible the pirates wish to take control of another vessel for security purposes before releasing the (SEMLOW). This is likely the same militia group responsible for the attempted boarding of M/V (TIMBUCK) and successful hijacking of a LPG tanker back in April (see 20 Apr ONI Worldwide Threat to Shipping report paragraphs 5.H.3 and 5.H.4). After 18 days of captivity, the LPG tanker and crew were released unharmed upon receipt of ransom payment. All vessels should heed the IMB warning to stay as far away as practical from the eastern coast of Somalia, particularly in the area off Haradheere and Hobyo. (IMB, REUTERS, BBC, LM, ONI, LL)....(see my post here)

1. IRAQ: General cargo ship (CEY PIONEER) was boarded 21
Aug at 1945 UTC while anchored in position 29:43.6N, 048:39.E, Um
Qasr-Khawr Abd Allah Channel while awaiting berthing. Two boats
slowly approached the vessel from the port side. Three watchmen
and the officer on watch started flashing search light and torch
lights at the approaching vessels. Meanwhile, four robbers armed
with machine guns and knives, boarded unnoticed from the port side
and overpowered the watchmen. Robbers gathered up a total of seven
crewmembers and forced them into the master’s cabin at gunpoint.
By this time, the master had escaped down to the engine room.
Robbers assaulted the hostages and threatened them with guns and
knives and ordered them to open the safe. As none of the hostages
knew the combination, the robbers forced the crew to offload the
safe onto their boat. The robbers escaped in a 2 m dark green
speedboat at 2020 UTC (IMB).(see my post here)

Commander Pacific Fleet on Why China Needs Its Navy

Found here:
"Clearly, the Chinese are developing a very capable modern military, especially the navy," Adm. Roughead said in an interview at his Pearl Harbor headquarters.

If that navy "is to ensure the free flow of commerce, that would not be surprising," he said, nodding toward the sea lanes in the South China and East China seas through which pass the oil and raw materials that feed China's expanding economy, not to mention its soaring exports.

The admiral added, however: "What if the intent is not purely to defend the sea lanes?" He left the question open.

Adm. Roughead said his command had been watching the maneuvers centered in China on the Shandong Peninsula across the Yellow Sea from the Korean Peninsula.

He was keenly interested in learning what ships and aircraft the Chinese and Russians had sent into the war games, how they operated together, and how they integrated their commands and communications.
More on the Russian-Chinese war games here and here.

China's vital sea lanes are portrayed in the map below. Red blobs represent location China has or is attempting to secure for sea lane control purposes.

See earlier posts on China's strategic sea lanes here and here.

UPDATE: Japan, which uses essentially the same sea lanes as China expressed some concern.
Joint military exercises on China's Shandong Peninsula mark the start of a strategic initiative in which Russia would support Beijing's suppression of any move by Taiwan towards independence, a Japanese minister has suggested.

Economics, Trade and Industry Minister Shoichi Nakagawa noted that the unprecedented Sino-Russian war games, which ended on Thursday, were directed at curbing terrorism and separatism, "which obviously means they have Taiwan in mind, as well".

UPDATE2: More on the Chinese - Russian exercise here.

And thanks to Mudville Gazette's Open Post!

85th anniversary of US Women Getting Right to Vote

19th Amendment adopted August 26, 1920, as noted here.
Its two sections read simply: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex" and "Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."
I note that Wyoming, in 1890, was the first state to grant women the vote and its nickname "The Equality State" followed.

The Counterterrorism Blog: Radical Indoctrination in the U.S. Prisons

Worth a read: The Counterterrorism Blog: Radical Indoctrination in the U.S. Prisons
The investigation of a recent alleged terrorism plot that law enforcement officials say was hatched in a California prison has raised fears about radical Islamic indoctrination in the country's prison system.
Don't know if it is a big problem yet, but it is a situation worth looking into...

USS Jimmy Carter: Spy Sub

Okay, I'm not a sub guy. But I know a lot of them and I'd be willing to play one on TV. So I figure that gives me the go ahead to link to this Popular Science post on the USS Jimmy Carter titled "Exposing the Spy Sub of the Future." It's got a link to a nice slide show showing the roll out of the boat (on land) and it sliding through the ocean.

And there's jus enough "gee whiz" hints in the brief article that I couldn't resist it. I mean the drawing makes it look like there's a SEAL garage built into the hull! Way cool.

Oh, yeah, official Navy info here.
Full Seawolf Warfighting Capabilities - plus Special Operations
Despite her modification to conduct classified RDT&E, Jimmy Carter will retain all her organic warfighting capability, as shown in the accompanying table. She will support the fleet commander as an attack submarine in conducting undersea warfare, surveillance and reconnaissance, covert special operations, mine warfare, and strike operations, just as her two sister ships do. She will also be available to the Navy to test future concepts for weapons, countermeasures, and non-traditional payloads - tasking that is currently divided among several submarines. In addition to these robust capabilities, Jimmy Carter will also be capable of supporting Special Operations Forces (SOF), with provision for operating the Dry Deck Shelter (DDS) and Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS). Moreover, one of the ship's most important functions will be to support research and development for future Naval Special Warfare (NSW) undersea mobility requirements, tactics, techniques, and procedures. Jimmy Carter had already been programmed to support NSW, but the additional volume and length of the OI provides even greater potential to develop new roles for submarines in special operations. The OI will provide a hangar or garage capability for locking-in and locking-out future generations of SEAL delivery vehicles, and her reconfigurable cargo area can accommodate dry stowage and access for maintenance. Other internal volume will be available as command and control space for mission planning and monitoring, plus dedicated berthing space for up to fifty SOF Team members. The extra external volume created by the hourglass design allows for stowage of SOF supplies like Combat Raiding Craft, fuel, munitions or delivery vehicles.
So there is a garage built in! And more...

Australia expects a few wrinkles in new port implementation

Reported here.

Best line:
The overhaul, which will included the introduction of a Maritime Security Identification Card for wharfies, seafarers and long-haul truck drivers servicing ships, would begin in October with the Port of Melbourne, followed by Sydney and Townsville.

"There is very much a larger population working at sea ports who have a criminal history and the fact these people will not be issued with another card is likely to cause some stresses and strains," Mr Truss told The Australian newspaper..
Hmmm. Let's see. They are doing honest work now, which because of past misdeeds, they may not be able to continue. Leaving them with what options, exactly?

UPDATE: More here. A little umbrage from the union boss:
The criteria that disqualify an applicant for a maritime card will not include offences relating to assault or armed robbery because, according to one senior government official, it would mean "we would probably lose 20per cent of the workforce".

Maritime Union of Australia national secretary Paddy Crumlin denied there was a high degree of criminality on the waterfront and said the new regulations would have a minimal effect on dock workers.

"It won't be disruptive at all. We're happy with what's been determined as long as the recommendations from the department and the stakeholders are followed," Mr Crumlin said.

"Through the merit-based, employer-controlled employment selection process, it really is as clean as any other industry.

"It's about national security and we're just as concerned about this as any other area of the community and we're prepared to work co-operatively.

"But we're not prepared to have our reputation belittled for political reasons. There is no criminality on the waterfront whatsoever. There is no corruption, that's an urban myth."
Urban myth? What fun...

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Important Work: Marine Civil Affairs Groups

A vital part of improving Iraqi life and defeating the "insurgents" lies in, to use the old Vietnam phrase, "winning hearts and minds." Sea Power magazine discusses the role of the U.S. Marine Civil Affairs groups here.

Despite the constant threat of insurgent retaliation against them, these Iraqi citizens have come to the Civil Military Operations Center (CMOC) in Fallujah hoping that the 5th Marine Civil Affairs Group (CAG) will help them rebuild their lives. In the heart of what was once the most notorious insurgent stronghold in Iraq, CMOC has now become a model for joint efforts aimed at winning the hearts and minds of the local population throughout the country. Joining Marine CAGs in the effort are Army contractors and civil affairs units, Air Force personnel and Navy Seabees.

Unlike the long-term peacekeeping roles usually associated with the Army, the role of the CAGs is to provide an immediate base of aid and relief in order to help stabilize the Marines’ area of operations. Central to Marine urban combat doctrine is the concept of the “three-block war:” direct combat in block one, security and stabilization in block two, and civil affairs and humanitarian aid in block three.

Former Marine Corps Commandant Charles C. Krulak defined the concept, postulating that in addition to providing aid, the civil affairs groups would ensure fighting units had their rear flank covered, and the local population could be converted to supporters and intelligence assets of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force. That force coordination is vital in urban insurgencies, where the battlespace is fluid and enemies are often indistinguishable from noncombatants....

... as ground operations in Iraq stretch into a third year, the Marine Corps has added two provisional CAGs into its normal rotation of four permanent civil affairs groups.

The CAGs are composed entirely of reservists who are rigorously selected for civilian expertise outside the normal skillsets of active duty Marines, such as advanced engineering, linguistic and cultural ability, and legal and governmental affairs. Far from being “weekend warriors,” CAG Marines are expected to be trained to Marine rifleman standards, and to play an integral role in the planning and execution of combat operations.

In a combat zone, even providing basic aid is challenging — and dangerous. Approximately 10 percent of 4th CAG Marines received the Purple Heart in the battle for Fallujah, and the 5th CAG has already lost one officer since it assumed the post in March. In the midst of combat, Civil Affairs Marines had to assess damage and impose curfews, as well as provide immediate humanitarian relief before long-term reconstruction could begin. Joined by Army personnel, the job expanded in ways they had not foreseen.

“One of the major concerns of the international press was [the possibility] that we had a major humanitarian crisis brewing, primarily because the Iraqi Red Crescent Society starting publicizing reports [about lack of food and medicine] before they had ever entered the city,” said U.S. Army Maj. James Orbock, 445th Civil Affairs Battalion commander.

“We also anticipated using local contractors for body removal of civilian casualties, but the [insurgents] started booby-trapping bodies and the civilians did not want to [do the job]. So we had to implement a remains removal program. As the animals starting running out of pet food, they started eating the bodies, and as we started removing the bodies, they started looking at us as the source of their next meal. So then we had to start [controlling] the dogs and cats.”

...Lt. Col. Bill Brown, then-director of the CMOC...
“The way to defeat an insurgency is getting the people to believe in what you’re doing. That’s one of the reasons we’re here,” he said. “It’s been a part of Marine Corps planning for a very long time, and we’re getting more and more important to the Marine Expeditionary Force.

“The people of Fallujah have had enough of the insurgents, and the people of this city are the ones who are going to defeat them in the long run. They feel they can trust us now, and they feel safe with us. Hundreds of people come here every day because they feel safe, and a lot of that is the work of civil affairs Marines,” he said...

...The Marine Corps, by virtue of its structure as an expeditionary force, limits its civil affairs to relief efforts that can be conducted during and immediately after hostilities. As the war in Iraq lengthens, CAGs find their missions blending into reconstruction efforts that normally are handled by the much greater resources of the Army.

The Army civil affairs force contains more than 6,000 soldiers, 90 percent of whom are reservists. The Marine Corps has less than 10 percent of that number, and its forces are entirely reserve. Unlike the Corps, the Army civil affairs force is attached to U.S. Special Operations Command, where certain units can provide support to Army Special Forces, which specialize in long-term missions with indigenous peoples.

Offer up a salute to the Marines doing this work and to their Army counterparts. Theirs is an important mission in a country in transition.

What? "Stop the terrorism at the gas pumps"

Oh, stop, you're killing me with the satire- presented here: (added letter as an UPDATE )

Thursday August 25, 2005
Dear Editor:

When one thinks of a terrorist, the image that comes to mind is that of ruthless individuals or groups who seek to destroy by violence. However, there are other kinds of terrorists - those who are more docile in their methods, but effectively destroy an economy and a way of life from within. The silent terrorists are at work today throughout this nation, but much more noticeably here in Boyle County where we live. I refer to those in the petroleum industry.

It seems any flimsy excuse can be - and is - used to raise fuel costs to an unjustly exorbitant level without realistic justification. Some may blame the local retailers; some, the "jobbers;" and others, the large oil companies. Some may even go so far as to accuse government officials of being in the hip pocket of the oil companies. The bottom line is that Americans are paying far too much for fuel due to the greed of large corporations and those connected with them.

It now costs me more to fill my gas tank this week than it did yesterday, but that isn't where it stops. It will now cost more to ship the goods I purchase in the grocery, the pharmacy, the clothing stores, etc. And guess what? Those prices will soon go up as well. Those individuals with low or fixed incomes will feel the effects the most as usual, but we will all be victims of this greed.

It appears though that our government officials don't care about that. I recently heard a representative say there was nothing the government could do about oil prices. It is time for the American public to voice their objections in a lawful manner and tell our government officials to get off their fat billfolds and start representing the good of this country by putting a stop to this unjustified inflation of fuel costs. We the people have the power to make ourselves heard, and it is high time we used that power to the fullest.

Harold Jones

The petroleum industry as "silent terroists" --tee hee.

And raising fuel prices on "any flimsy excuse"--just too much.

Tossing in the line about the "the greed of large corporations and those connected with them" --priceless (no pun intended).

Wait - I think it's supposed to be a serious letter to the editor. Sorry.


Extremely greedy former oil company employee looking forward to getting my pensions presumably funded from oil company profits

p.s. Mr. Jones, you might want to read this and look at some graphs like these from an earlier post:

Update2: From the American Petroleum Institute (yes, there might be some bias) , an interesting price increase comparison (click on the graph to make it bigger):

Wow, look at those price increases in the medical and education areas!

Update3: Just to complete the cycle:
(originally posted here (and liberated- uh- borrowed from The Big Picture)
Hey, you can even go here and compare notes. Can you determine exactly where the big price increases are in relation to inflation?

Looks to me like "Big Oil" has been saving you money relative to inflation for several years.

Don't worry, I'm sure they won't ask for a refund.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Maritime Patrol & Recon - P-3s Forever (apparently)

Talk about staying power - who knew the US Navy's venerable P-3s may have to last another 14-15 years? RADM Holmes, that's who, and the story of how he and his minions are trying to keep the MPR force aloft is well told by Sea Power:
Over the last decade, the Navy’s maritime patrol and reconnaissance (MPR) forces have flown missions never before envisioned for them, including firing long-range cruise missiles at land targets and spying on insurgents in the mountains of Afghanistan and the cities of Iraq. The demands of the global war on terrorism have stretched the already widely dispersed force further even as its force level declines and it struggles to sustain a shrinking and aging aircraft fleet.
Man, I spent part of a midshipman summer cruise flying with VP-8 on their P-3s a little over 37 years ago. It was interesting and all, but I never thought that aircraft would still be carrying the load all these years later.
(Hat tip: NOSI)

Would-be ship bomber purports to have an important secret life

When last we heard of this wannabe speedboat terrorist, the Turks had nabbed him before he could take on some Israeli cruise ships off Antalya, Turkey. Now, it seems, there may be more to him than we knew, as reported by Captain's Quarters:
Sakra lived in the German town of Schramberg from September 2000 to July 2001, during the period when the Hamburg cell actively supported Mohammed Atta and the primary leaders of the attack plot. By July 2001, when he left, most of the heavy lifting had been done by those abroad, and the rest of the attack preparation took place in the United States. Sakra would have moved on to a new assignment at that time.

However, according to Sakra, he had plenty of connections to other agencies other than al-Qaeda. He claims to have tipped off the Syrians about the 9/11 attacks, who waited until afterwards to notify the Americans of the tip. The tip, according to DS, accurately predicted that the AQ operation would use commercial aircraft as missiles against buildings in the US. The Turkish media also claim that the CIA made contact with Sakra twice in 2000 but were unable to turn him despite offering Sakra large sums of money. They turned to the Turkish intelligence group MIT, who could not track him down until August 2001, four weeks before the 9/11 attacks -- but released him, apparently without coordinating with the CIA.
Captain Ed suggests caution in deciding whether or not to accept his story. When captured he did have bunch of explosives and a speed boat, so...he had some sort of secret life going on...

But I wonder where his "friends" are that he spoke about here:
Police said Sakra is also suspected as a go-between for al-Qaida and Turkish extremists responsible for the 2003 bombings of two synagogues, the British Consulate and a British bank. The bombings killed some 60 people. He also is suspected of having helped the bombing masterminds flee the country...

...“I have no regrets,” Sakra shouted to journalists from a window after he was led into the courthouse.“I was going to attack Israeli ships. If they come, my friends will attack them.”

“I had prepared a ton of explosives,” he added in a barely audible voice.

He also shouted “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” before officials pulled him back and closed the window. He spoke in Turkish with an Arabic accent.

A police official said Sakra was planning to attack Israeli cruise ships with speedboats packed with explosives. The official was speaking on condition of anonymity because only top officials are allowed to speak on the record without prior authorization.

Police suspect Sakra was still in contact with al-Qaida operatives planning future attacks.

As Sakra left the courthouse, he shouted: “I was planning an attack in open seas. Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar.”

Another defense lawyer, Osman Karahan, said authorities caught his client with 1,650 pounds of explosives.

“He was planning to hit Israeli ships in international waters with these explosives,” CNN-Turk quoted Karahan as saying.
According to this, 16 other people allegedly involved in the cruise ship plot were arrested at the same time as Sakra. The same article publishes some more of his allegations of what a wheel he was with al Aqaeda:
The Syrian, whom the Turkish authorities suspect was among those behind the November 2003 terrorist attacks on Istanbul that killed 61 and injured over 600 people, was arrested in Diyarbakir, southeastern Turkey, last week. Simultaneously, a total of 16 people were arrested in the country who are believed to have plotted, under Sakra's command, to blow up a cruise liner in Antalya with Israeli tourists on board.

The suspects had prepared about a ton of explosives for the attack...

...Sakra said he had sent dozens of people to carry out terrorist attacks in the United States, Britain, Egypt, Syria, and Algeria.

He also confessed he had fought against U.S. troops in Falluja, Iraq, along with Abu Musab al-Zargaw, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Sakra said they had held 10 Americans in Falluja whom he had killed "with his own hands."
I guess we will find out someday if he was such a player or just a lying nut job with some explosives and 16 friends...

It's a.....er...an odd looking ship thingie

Bayview, Idaho (Aug. 23, 2005) - The Advanced Electric Ship Demonstrator (AESD), Sea Jet, funded by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), is a 133-foot vessel located at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division, Acoustic Research Detachment in Bayview, Idaho. Sea Jet will operate on Lake Pend Oreille, where it will be used for test and demonstration of various technologies. Among the first technologies tested will be an underwater discharge water jet from Rolls-Royce Naval Marine, Inc., called AWJ-21, a propulsion concept with the goals of providing increased propulsive efficiency, reduced acoustic signature, and improved maneuverability over previous Destroyer Class combatants. U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams (RELEASED)

Perhaps the "Jimmy Durante" class?

UPDATE: More info here.

Theater Commanders Meet to Discuss EUCOM's Future

Hmm, this could be interesting:
Top U.S. military commanders in Europe are meeting here in August to develop a common understanding about their future role.

The focus of the two-day seminar is to candidly discuss what the European theater will look like in the year 2013, in order to achieve a strategic vision of influence for Europe and Africa.

“Just as U.S. military leaders found themselves at a critical time in history after World War II, we find ourselves at a pivotal moment where we can help shape the future of the European theater,” said Marine Gen. James Jones, commander of U.S. European Command. “We can’t afford to squander this opportunity.”

EUCOM’s leaders are using the seminar to identify opportunities that will allow the United States to counter extremism, terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the European and African regions.

“Our fundamental tenet is that EUCOM has the ability to influence our collective security through partnerships,” Jones said. “We need to ensure we have the right tools in place and a well-articulated common vision in order to prevent future conflicts from emerging.”
Ah, to be a fly on the wall...

The meeting is being held on the USS Mt. Whitney (LCC-20)

The Black Sea Maritime Security Initiative

You remember the Black Sea, right? Up there above Turkey?

Things are happening there in Maritime Security as reported here. Our old ally Turkey is taking a lead role:
The Black Sea Naval Cooperation Task Group (BLACKSEAFOR), a regional maritime security initiative started by Turkey in 2001, was activated August 14-27. With world attention devoted to Iraq and the Middle East, important developments in the nearby Black Sea region involving energy politics, frozen conflicts, and new regional security initiatives have gone mostly unnoticed. The Black Sea is a stable but complex basin with vast economic resources and strategic importance as a medium for energy transportation...BLACKSEAFOR, which has been activated for the fifth time, this year under Romanian leadership, has successfully provided a security system in the Black Sea. Since 2004, BLACKSEAFOR members have held meetings aimed at transforming the organization to better cope with asymmetric risks and other illegal activities at sea. The ultimate aim is to turn BLACKSEAFOR into a viable standing multinational maritime task force, with permanent headquarters, capable of covering maritime risks.

BLACKSEAFOR is the first operation in which Russia and NATO countries work together toward the same objective, giving, Russian and other non-NATO members a priceless experience in interoperability. This experience has made it possible for the Russian and Ukrainian navies to consider participation in other NATO operations.

Turkey also conducts a national maritime operation, Black Sea Harmony, securing sea lanes in the Black Sea in line with UN Security Council resolutions to provide support in the global war on terror. This operation is affiliated with the NATO-led Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean. Russia has expressed its desire to participate in Operation Black Sea Harmony, and Turkey hopes to see other littorals join the initiative, turning it into a multinational effort. Once BLACKSEAFOR becomes operational full-time, it could take over Operation Black Sea Harmony...The Black Sea is a new energy lifeline for the West. As the bitter aftermath of the invasion of Iraq has shown, security cannot be imported; it must be provided by locals. Black Sea security should be based on the consent of the littorals, keeping lines of coordination and cooperation open with NATO and the transatlantic security structure. To this end, Operation Black Sea Harmony, under Turkey's leadership with other littoral states encouraged to join, can have an ever-increasing, complementary role alongside NATO's Operation Active Endeavour in the global war on terror.
Good for Turkey and good for the area.

Seafarer concerns re Malacca Strait

We've heard a lot about the "squeeze" being put on shippers by the proposed Malacca Strait "war rate" premium increase in ship insurance, here or here:
But the increased premiums have drawn considerable criticism in the past week from shipowners.
"Yes, there have been piracy attacks, but there is a big difference as far as we're concerned between a piracy attack and a terrorism attack," said John Fawcett-Ellis, general counsel and regional manager in Singapore for the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners, based in Oslo.
The have been other attempts to distinguish between simple piracy and terrorism. The reason is simple - it will cost shippers and ship owners and charterers more money if the premium rates go up- so they are trying to dismiss the level of risk. (UPDATE:(8/25/05) NY Times takes up the isue here.

But in addition to the shipper, charterers and ship owners, there's another group with an interest in ship security that I have failed to address.
Reader Steve offered up a change in perspective on the Malacca Strait insurance rate kerfuffle in a recent email and pointed me to the web site of NUMAST. According to that site,
NUMAST is the acronym for the National Union of Marine, Aviation and Shipping Transport Officers...NUMAST is a trade union, representing shipmasters, officers, cadets and other staff serving in the UK and international fleets and ashore in maritime related industries.
With that background, consider the following from the NUMAST web site here:
The International Chamber of Shipping has tried to persuade the London insurance market’s Joint War Committee to reconsider its "war risk" rating for the Malacca Strait and, during this time, to refrain from imposing additional premiums in the area.

NUMAST general secretary Brian Orrell said the wrangling underlined the depressingly low esteem in which the owners hold their seafarers. "Behind all their semantics about the methodology of assessing the threat levels in such areas lies the stark reality that there is a 'clear and present danger' to seafarers and ships and that this will only be taken seriously if sufficient political and industrial will is generated.

"The fact that the Joint War Committee's decision focussed minds on the nature of risk has got to be welcomed and NUMAST hopes that it will lead to some suitably serious consideration of the ways in which those risks can be reduced, rather than sterile debate about the nature of the assessments," he said.
Steve also copied this letter to an editor (from an unknown publication):
Subject: War Risk in the Malacca Straits - From the SeaFarers Perspective

Malacca debate must highlight real risks

From Brian Orrell- Tuesday August 23 2005
Letter To The Editor

SIR, Your report 'Joint War Committee stands by Strait
ruling' (August 17) on the shipowners' failed attempts
to have the Malacca Strait reclassified as a 'war
risk' area underlines the depressingly low esteem in
which they hold their seafarers.

Behind all their semantics about the methodology of
assessing the threat levels in such areas lies the
stark reality that there is a 'clear and present
danger' to seafarers and ships and that this will only
be taken seriously if sufficient political and
industrial will is generated.

The fact that the Joint War Committee's decision has
focused minds on the nature of risk has to be welcomed
and Numast hopes it will lead to some suitably serious
consideration of the ways in which those risks can be
reduced, rather than sterile debate about the nature
of the assessments.

While the latest International Maritime Bureau figures
suggest there has been a decline in the number of
attacks on shipping in the first half of this year,
the same statistics show an increase in the number of
seafarers being taken hostage or kidnapped - 188 cases
this year compared with 139 in 2004.

The IMB has also noted that demands for ransom are
higher than ever before and that the lack of effective
law enforcement infrastructure can increase the risks
facing ships and their crews.

Numast, therefore, commends the move by the insurance
market to find a more sophisticated mechanism for
assessing threat levels and we support its stance that
the Malacca Strait's status as an area of high risk
should remain until there is evidence that anti-piracy
measures are being effective.

The case for a 'war risk premium' to be paid to
seafarers serving in these 'frontline' areas is surely
as strong as the case for an additional premium for
the ships upon which they live and work.

We see little merit in shipowners' attempts to
separate 'threat' assessment from 'vulnerability'
assessment, nor to remove the spectre of terrorism
from the equation.

The statistics clearly show very little distinction
between the types of vessels attacked and, as the
activities of the Aceh rebels in Indonesia showed, the
dividing lines between 'piracy' and 'terrorism' are
very thin.

Seafarers - who all too often pay the heavy price of
death, injury or theft of their own personal
belongings - are entitled to feel frustrated by the
debate over the Joint War Committee's actions.

It matters little to seafarers whether, as the owners
seek to argue, 'most incidents were confined to slow,
small coastal vessels' (and Numast questions whether
this is in fact true) - for the insidious effects of
these attacks affect everyone, from the resulting
additional workload in conducting anti-piracy watches
onboard to the ever-present stress generated by the
fear of attack or becoming the next hostage.

Brian Orrell

General secretary

Mr. Orrell's comments about the "thin" line between terrorism and piracy parallel my own thoughts as set out in this earlier post.

I should note the NUMAST member will get more pay for sailing through "war risk" areas, so they, too, are not exactly working this issue with "clean hands."

But I appreciate the seafarer view. It's their lives on the line.

Lots of oars in the water on this issue. Not all of them pulling in the same direction, I'm afraid.