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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Chinese aircraft carrier?

Reported here, some speculation over the Chinese Navy and a possible aircraft carrier:
There is tight security surrounding the Varyag in Dalian harbor, but work on the vessel is clearly visible from nearby highways.
Recent photographs show extensive repairs or maintenance to the carrier's superstructure and deck.
"There is a lot of work happening on that thing which is not consistent with a gambling casino," Fisher said.
More on the Varyag here at Varyag, including this photo, which I have liberated:

I love a mystery.

Varyag World also posts links to articles dealing with the fate of other other Russian aircraft carriers like Minsk (amusement park?) and Kiev (tourist attraction?). Sort of like the USS Alabama, I suppose. but it seems odd to use a ship from another country's navy...

Philippines: Beach terror alert

Reported here:
Newly assumed PNP provincial director Sr. Supt. Omar Buenafe may have his first bap tism of fire, courtesy of the rebel movement after intelligence reports say that three southern towns are due for attack by the NPAs.
These towns are Dauin, Siaton and Zamboanguita of southern Negros.
Incidentally, these are also the towns where beach resorts owned by foreigners with Filipina spouses, are splattered all over.
Buenafe did not cite specific targets but police stations and beach resorts are the primary areas on the watch list by the police and a special task force.
Only recently, President Arroyo ordered the formation of a special air, land and sea task force from the air force and navy to guard the shorelines of the province and that of Siquijor, Panglao, in Bohol, Apo island, and those in Dipolog for possible sea criminals, pirates and kidnappers. One of the modus operandi of terrorists is to pose as soldiers, riding on commandeered government vehicles, pretend to hold inspections and make a surprise attack.

Piracy down overall, but bad for Somalia

This headline, Ship piracy sinks to 6-year low, but ravages Somalia, pretty much says it all. Of course, Somalia was pretty well on its way to being "ravaged" before the piracy level kicked up...

A summary of how the global level of piracy has dropped here.

Interesting side comment here in a article on the transfer of the alleged Somali pirates captured by a US destroyer to Kenya:
While the Navy responds to distress calls from mariners attacked by pirates, it does not actively patrol for pirates, according to a Navy statement.

"The world is 70 percent water. The Navy is not big enough now, nor would it be big enough with 600 ships to actively patrol and police the entire world for piracy," the statement says.
And the smaller navy, it might be added, focuses on sea lanes deemed essential to the US national interests. Which, I argue, does not include the coastal waters Somalia. However, there is a "multinational" task force in the area:
Kenyan soldiers are being trained by US and French naval forces in combating piracy. The pirates are using rocket-propelled grenades to disable cruise ships and cargo vessels. Sources say the training is being treated as a matter of priority since business at the port at seriously affected.

The port serves several countries in the region, including Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Eastern Congo, southern Sudan and Ethiopia.

The possibility is that, if the menace continues, these countries could look to other alternative ports.

Ships have already hiked their fees, which could lead to higher costs of imports.

This has been necessitated by the need for armed escorts for ships and increased insurance premiums.

Kenyan security forces have so far been unable to contain the threat, fearing a link to international terrorism.

Kenyan security sources claim that Al-Qaeda could be using the attacks to help finance operations.

They cite the captured maritime military manuals of Al-Quad chief Bad al-Raman al-Nature, who masterminded several suicide attacks on military ships.

The training for the Kenyan soldiers and officers from the anti-terrorism unit began late last year.

Military spokesman, Bogita Ongeri, said yesterday they have established a strategic monitoring centre for this purpose.

He said military personnel have always provided security to ships arriving and leaving the Kenyan waters.

"We are always informed on ships arriving and leaving, which we escort. We also have security radars that monitor any activity at the ocean," he said.

Head of anti-terrorism unit police headquarters, John Kamwende, said the incidences are being taken seriously.
UPDATE: Regional impact of Somali pirates further discussed here.

Monday, January 30, 2006

You cannot be serious

The scary part is that Cindy For Senate seems not to be a joke site.

Well, not an intentionally funny joke site.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Captured suspect Somali pirates transferred to Kenya

Reported here:
10 suspected pirates seized in the Indian Ocean were flown to Mombasa on Sunday.

Two US jet fighters flew to Moi International Airport from a US destroyer, USS Winston Churchill, anchored in the Indian Ocean. American soldiers, off the Somali shore, seized the suspects aboard a dhow over the weekend. Sources said they were captured after hijacking 16 crew of an Indian fishing vessel.

They were handed over to Kenyan detectives at the airport.

Sources said the suspects hijacked a dhow near Mogadishu Town and used it to stage attacks on ships in the Indian Ocean. The officers had earlier received information that the suspects had fired at a ship sailing to Kenya.

Sources said they later admitted having links to terrorist activities. In November, pirates freed a Ukrainian ship and 22 crewmembers after holding them hostage for 40 days. (emphasis added)
I doubt jet fighters were involved - perhaps helicopters... but note the part about "terrorist activities."

UPDATE; (1-30/06) BBC says:
Ten Somalis arrested by the US navy have been flown to the Kenyan port of Mombasa, where they are to be charged.
Kenyan sailors, taken hostage on a ship carrying UN food aid to Somalia, have reportedly identified some of the men.

Meanwhile, three more Taiwanese fishing boats seized by pirates off the Somali coast have been freed, officials say...

...The Indian crew on board the ship was freed. They had attracted the attention of the US navy by writing "Help" on the side of the ship, reports Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper...

...In the Taiwanese capital, Taipei, foreign ministry official Michel Lu told the AFP news agency: "The three ships have set sail from Somalia, and the crew are all safe."

The four vessels carried a total of 62 crew from Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Another Taiwanese ship was freed last week...

A bone in her teeth...

"USS Barton, DD 722, at 33.55 knots on run 15S, standardization trials, Rockland, Maine, 29 December 1943."

Lex likes airplanes. John likes guns. Bubblehead likes subs. I like ships.

Photo from here.

How's it go? Those who can't remember the past...

Hey, sometimes it is worth paying attention to some simple common sense like this:
Who, we may reasonably ask, is crazier: the alleged crackpots who have a habit of delivering on their threats, or those who serially ignore history and assail policies that actually deal with those threats?

When is a state lottery for "education" not a lottery for all public school students? When it's in North Carolina!

Governor Mike Easley of North Carolina has been pleading for a state lottery to help defray the costs of public education. He finally got his wish, but the lottery proceeds will not go to benefit all public school students:
North Carolina's education lottery was touted as a win for education, but not all public schools will benefit.
The state's 99 charter schools will not receive any of the proceeds earmarked for school construction programs because, by law, they are supposed to fund their own capital projects.
"I was shocked to learn that we wouldn't be benefiting from this the way other public schools would," said Principal Tom Humble, of Raleigh Charter High School. "Charter school students are public school students, just like students in any Wake County school or Durham County school, and they should be getting the same benefits."
Even some lawmakers who supported the lottery bill said they did not realize charter schools would not get any of the proceeds.
State House Rep. Winkie Wilkins, D-Person County, said he was considering introducing a new bill to change the lottery law to add charter schools to the more than 2,200 school systems in the state.
"There will be some tweaking, I do believe," Wilkins said. "And this may be a worthwhile addition."
Two years ago, charter schools sued for the right to receive money from fines and forfeitures, like other public schools, and won. Charter school leaders have not said whether they will sue in this case.
Not too surprisingly, the charter school (which are public schools funded by the state under NC law) are fighting back:
he first games are scheduled to begin in April and could bring in more than $400 million annually in net profits. The money is supposed to go toward public school construction, efforts to reduce class sizes and expand pre-kindergarten, as well as need-based college scholarships.
Tom Vass, of North Carolina Students for Equitable Lottery Funding, says lawmakers need to fix what he calls a legislative oversight and dedicate a portion of funds to charter schools.
Nearly 100 charter schools in North Carolina serve about 30,000 students. They get state funds based on a per-pupil formula. Traditional public schools also receive local construction funds, but charter schools do not.

I see the powerful lobby of the teacher's union in play here, despite the fact that the charter schools employ teachers and administrators...

Incidentally, Raleigh Charter High School was ranked 9th in the nation in Newsweek's 2004 list of "The 100 Best High Schools in America."

Saturday, January 28, 2006

More on the Navy Riverines

Found here:
Marine Riverines attached to the 24th MEU conducted a river raid in late November near the village of Hard Duwaish, about 20 miles upriver from Fallujah, according to a Nov. 28 report in The New York Times. The Marine units were deployed earlier in November during the battle of Fallujah to cut off a possible escape route for insurgents after U.S. troops had encircled the city.

Though the need for fast-moving Riverines continues in Iraq, the Marines’ Small Craft Company was disbanded as a result of “resource constraints” since Johnson’s last tour, he said.

Navy Riverine units played a large role in the Vietnam War. The Navy’s nascent effort to re-create a Riverine capability remains in the concept and development phase, but it plans a force far larger than the 100 Marines deployed to Iraq. The Navy’s initial plan is to build three 12-boat squadrons with a total of about 700 sailors. A portion of that force will patrol the Euphrates and Tigris corridors.

These high-profile units will be part of the new Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) that will include the Seabees, explosive ordnance demolition units, the Naval Expeditionary Logistics Support Force and Navy prison guards at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Vice Adm. Albert T. Church, then-director of the Navy Staff, said in July that the Riverines are part of a larger Navy effort to take some of the strain off heavily taxed Marine and Army expeditionary forces. The Navy will take over some transport duties in Iraq, for example, and relieve Marines stationed in Djibouti and Cuba.

Rear Adm. Donald K. Bullard, commander of the NECC, said that while the Riverines will prove critical to coalition control of Iraq’s waterways, they will be in demand in other theaters as well. In places such as Africa and South America — as well as Iraq — the Riverines will be a tool for helping partners in the war on terrorism, he said, exercising with and learning from many nations that do not have, or want, a blue-water navy.

“Many other countries only have a very small navy that is coastal,” Bullard said. “For us to get in and train in areas of security interdiction, customs and law enforcement means we increase their efforts in the war on terrorism.”

...Adm. Mike Mullen, chief of naval operations, told an audience at the Naval War College in August that the Navy “is missing a great opportunity to influence events by not having a Riverine force” that can push the front lines of battle as far forward as possible.

“A naval force floating off the continental shelf with no impact onshore is not decisive,” he said. “Think of the vast areas of the world covered by shallow water — those connected to the oceans by rivers and harbors and rugged shorelines. These are the decisive strips of sea that make all the difference, and we need to be there,” Mullen said, noting that nearly 30 percent of the North Persian Gulf is inaccessible by ships with drafts of more than 20 feet.
ADM Mullen gets it.

Photos of USMC Riverine Asault Craft from here. A reminder of US Navy river operations in our Civil War - the USS Cairo (photo source). Cairo was sunk by a mine, but the Union Navy won the river battles eventually-

Somali pirates let one go

Reported here:
One of four Taiwanese fishing boats hijacked last year off the Somalia coast has been set free, Taiwan's government says...

..."Under the rescue efforts by related government units and ship owners, Chung Yi 218 has safely set sail from Somali waters and was on its way home," Taiwan's Fisheries Administration said in a statement.

The Chung Yi 218 and two other ships were seized separately on 16 August 2005.

A fourth ship, the Feng Rong, was hijacked in November.

"The crews on the other three ships are safe and we will continue the rescue efforts," the Taiwanese statement said.
Some of the Somali pirates have justified their ship seizures by asserting that foreign fishing vessels are poaching in Somali waters.

UPDATE: A possible explanation for the release here:
The owners of the Taiwanese vessels are now willing to pay the US$500,000 ransom demanded by Somali rebels who are holding 12 Filipino crewmembers hostage, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

In a letter to Misamis Oriental Gov. Oscar Moreno, DFA officer-in-charge Pedro Chan said the Philippine Embassy in Nairobi reported that Taiwanese owners of the shipping vessels seized in Somalia in October 2005 have agreed to pay the ransom for the release of the vessels and their crew.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Terrorist divers may rue the day

Reported here, some technology to help solve the "terrorist diver" problem-- if there is one.

Hat tip: DefenseTech.

Latest ONI World Wide Threat to Shipping (to 25 Jan 06)

For the latest ONI World Wide Threat to Shipping report, go here and click on the date. Highlights:
USS Winston S. Churchill responded to an IMB Piracy Reporting Center
report of a boarding attempt by armed pirates in two small speedboats
onto a bulk carrier approximately 213NM off the east coast of Somalia, per
20 Jan reporting. After unsuccessfully attempting to board the bulk carrier,
the speedboats reportedly returned to a nearby cargo dhow. The warship
successfully chased down and took control of the dhow in question and
discovered it was a victim of piracy as well. The suspected Somali
pirates have been taken into custody pending further investigation.
ONI Note: The continued brazen attempts to attack merchant vessels at
unprecedented distances from the Somali coastline, despite coalition
presence, demonstrates the need for mariners operating in the area to
stay at least 200 NM off the east coast of Somalia and take heightened
anti-piracy precautions at all distances off the Somali coastline...

2. NIGERIA: Support vessel (LIBERTY SERVICE) boarded 11 Jan
while underway approximately 7 nm off the coast of Bayelsa State.
An estimated 40 armed men traveling in three canoes forced their way
aboard the vessel and abducted four western expatriates. An e-mail
statement issued by a little known group calling themselves The
Emancipation of the Niger Delta claimed responsibility for the
kidnapping, but the claim cannot be verified. Violence against
the oil sector is frequent in the Niger Delta, where an estimated
20 million people live in poverty alongside a multi-billion-dollar
industry. Resentment, coupled with break-down of law and order,
has fuelled killings, sabotage, kidnappings, and oil theft (LL,

PHILIPPINES: The fishing vessel (MAN CHUN YI) came under
fire 15 Jan in the morning hours while underway between Batan
Islands and Babuyan Islands, Bashi Channel. Five individuals in
military style uniforms fired dozens of shots at the vessel then
raided it. Master was killed and one crewman was shot in the leg.
Philippine authorities said no naval or coast guard vessels were
in those waters when the incident occurred and is investigating
the attack. Local fishermen’s association called for the
government to increase protective measures for the nation’s
fishing boats from pirate attacks (LM)...

and (NISSHIN MARU) scraped hulls, 08 Jan. The bow of the (ARCTIC
SUNRISE) and the starboard side of the (NISSHIN MARU) sustained
minor damage, there were no injuries, and both vessels are still
operational. Both vessels claim the other was responsible for the
collision. On 09 Jan the (FARLEY MOWAT) backed into the (ORIENTAL
BLUEBIRD) starboard hull to starboard hull. The master of the (FARLEY
MOWAT) claims responsibility and explained it was intentional. Both
vessels sustained minor damage, There were no injuries, and both
vessels are still operational. On 25 Jan (FARLEY MOWAT) was
reported “detained” by South African authorities for deficiencies
in crew documentation. ONI NOTE: These collisions are
driven by political differences and stubbornness on the part of
all parties. They are likely to continue unless international
authorities intervene on behalf of one side or the other. The
dangers stemming from these differences are typically limited to
the involved parties and do not pose a more generalized threat to
international shipping (GP, Institute of Cetacean Research, Sea
Shepard Conservation Society, ONI)..

Japan catches weapon smugglers

Reported here:
Japanese police have arrested four men, two of them from the Philippines, on suspicion of smuggling explosives and guns that could be used in a terrorist attack, domestic media said yesterday.

Police suspect the four shipped an unspecified quantity of explosives, along with revolvers and ammunition, to the port city of Yokohama on a Philippines-registered ship, Kyodo news agency said.

Investigators also searched premises belonging to a crime syndicate known as the Inagawa-kai in Yokohama in connection with the incident, Kyodo said.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Somali Pirate Leader Makes Threats

Possibly signing his own death warrant, a Somali pirate leader threatens an escalation of violence here:
Somalia waters have been known as the most dangers of all seas for sometime now and American apprehension of ten pirates over the weekend might have made the situation more dangerous. In a rare interview with Mogadishu radio station Shabelle, the commander of a central Somalia’s pirate group threatened to kill anyone onboard ships they capture in the future unless the US releases their comrades unconditionally. He said America has no business in Somalia and Indian Ocean.

“No one has been killed in these hijackings so far but we are now starting to kill anyone we catch in Somalia waters unless our men are freed”. He said.

US Navy hunting Al-Qaida members in the Indian Ocean seized a hijacked ship and detained ten men this past weekend.

Mr. Garaad Mohamed who claimed to be the commander of a volunteer national coast guard group said they are doing national duty by dealing with foreign ships that took advantage of Somalia’s inability to guard its waters. He said the money they receive from these ships is not ransom but penalty for entering Somalia waters illegally.
Escalation works both ways, Matey!

UPDATE: (1/27/06) Mr. Mohamed seems to be a little behind on Somali Government policy:
Two Somali ministers dismissed Mohamed's threat saying the latest arrests were part of a government plan to fight piracy along Somalia's long coastline.
"We don't recognise him. He cannot do anything," Information Minister Hayr told Reuters in Nairobi.
"The government is aware of the arrests and is coordinating with the Americans on this matter."
I would suggest he take a chill pill. Or, he can select Option B: .

Sailor at work

INDIAN OCEAN – A member of USS Winston S. Churchill’s (DDG 81) boarding team conducts an inspection Jan. 22 of a dhow suspected of being used in an attempted act of piracy after a report from the International Maritime Bureau (Photo By PM3 Andrew King)
Reports on the dhow capture here. Photo from the CentCom website.

"Away the boarding party!"

"High speed, low drag and no noise, please"

DefenseTech has a look at a spiffy looking "SEAL Ship".

Philippines to get some navy help from South Korea

The Philippine Navy will get two high speed vessels from South Korea, as reported here:
During his visit to the headquarters of the Philippine Navy, South Korea's Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-Ung said "Seoul would deliver the two Patrol Killer Medium (PKM) gunboats by the middle of the 2006."
Info on PKM here.

Navy riverine force for Iraq

The Navy's new Expeditionary Combat Command is going into the riverine business, as reported here:
The Navy this month officially stood up its new Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, which will be responsible for fielding a riverine force and getting it ready for a deployment to Iraq by early 2007.
The Marine Corps currently has a riverine force protecting a dam in Iraq, but the service is eliminating its river component as part of a force structure reorganization. The Navy's new river force will take over the Iraq dam protection mission from the Marine Corps starting in March 2007, said Rear Adm. John Bowling, deputy director of the expeditionary warfare division.

Training for the first riverine force sailors is scheduled to begin in June, and the Navy plans to brief a riverine force concept of operations to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Mullen next month, Bowling said Jan. 11 at the Surface Navy Association's annual conference in Arlington, VA. U.S. Special Operations Command also plans to help in training the sailors, he said.

The Navy expects to stand up three riverine squads, consisting of 12 boats each, he said. The Navy has not yet decided what kind of boats to use, though the Marine Corps' Small Unit Riverine Craft and SOCOM's river craft are candidates, Bowling said. Both craft cost more than $500,000 each, he added. Missions envisioned for the riverine force include surveillance, barrier operations, patrol, interdiction, and delivery of land forces from a river, he said.

Somali pirates grab another ship, hold 20 more sailors

The Somali pirates don't seemto be too risk adverse as they catch another ship and crew - reported here:
Armed pirates have renewed attacks on merchant ships off Somalia, hijacking one and holding 20 of its crew hostage, an ocean crime watchdog said on Wednesday.

The attacks, one on a United Arab Emirates general cargo ship on Sunday and another launched from a so called "mother ship" last Friday, come only days after a U.S. Navy warship captured a band of suspected pirates with a cache of arms.

"With these attacks we now have a grand total of five ships and around 100 mariners being held hostage in Somalia, it was as many as 200, and some have been held for four months," Jayant Abhyankar, deputy director of the IMB, told Reuters.

The IMB said gunmen stormed the UAE-owned Al Manara 150 nautical miles off the east coast of Somalia, threatened the crew, and are now demanding a ransom for their release.

One industry newspaper on Wednesday reported that the crew were low on drinking water and supplies.

In a second attack, the IMB said pirates in two speed boats, chased and fired machine guns at a dry-bulk ship off Somalia's east coast before giving up on an attempted boarding.

The IMB said the speed boats were launched from a "mother ship" similar to one that launched attacks in the Indian Ocean last November.
This report fills in item #1 from here.

UPDATE: Or maybe not:
A global ocean crime watchdog said on Thursday a United Arab Emirates merchant ship with 20 crew aboard had not been hijacked off Somalia as the agency had reported on Wednesday.

Instead, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said in a statment that with the master's consent, two Somali militia men had boarded the general cargo ship Al Manara to discuss security issues with the crew on Sunday, the day of the reported hijacking.

Following an investigation by the U.S. Navy it was found that the master of the ship, fearing an attack and hijack, panicked and issued a mayday call for help.

The IMB, however, said a second attempted attack off Somalia it reported on Wednesday with the use of speedboats had taken place.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Nigeria oil field attack

Reported here:
Nigeria's army is using helicopters to search the creeks around the southern city of Port Harcourt for the group which attacked an oil firm on Tuesday.
Despite the massive manhunt, no arrests have been made yet.

A BBC correspondent in the region says many employees of Italian oil firm Agip have not turned up for work after armed men in speedboats attacked its office.

It is the latest in a string of attacks on oil companies in the Niger Delta, home to most of Nigeria's oil wealth.

Four foreign oil workers were kidnapped in the area, by an armed group demanding the release of two ethnic leaders and more local control of oil resources.

It is not clear which group carried out Tuesday's attacks on the Agip offices...

..At least nine people were killed in the Port Harcourt assault on Agip's riverside offices, reportedly including eight policemen.

UPDATE: Why is unrest in the Nigerian oil fields important to the US? Look here:
Crude Oil Imports (Top 15 Countries) (Thousand Barrels per Day)
Country Nov-05 Oct-05 YTD 2005 Nov-04 Jan - Nov 2004
CANADA 1,776 1,493 1,619 1,561 1,622
MEXICO 1,658 1,468 1,536 1,604 1,603
SAUDI ARABIA 1,267 1,180 1,438 1,631 1,499
NIGERIA 1,163 1,094 1,049 1,032 1,085
VENEZUELA 1,009 909 1,235 1,237 1,289
ANGOLA 641 501 452 402 306
IRAQ 572 563 532 629 658
COLOMBIA 281 111 158 123 143
KUWAIT 273 271 210 324 245
ALGERIA 265 216 230 240 217
ECUADOR 264 273 270 237 229
UNITED KINGDOM 229 219 237 156 232
EQUATORIAL GUINEA 107 41 71 67 63
NORWAY 103 145 124 105 150
TRINIDAD & TOBAGO 70 74 62 32 52
Nigeria is a huge suppiler of oil to the US. Bigger than Iraq & Kuwait combined. You know, "IT'S ALL ABOUT THE OIL!"

UPDATE: Original story on the Nigeria attack here.
Also an article on an attack on oil workers in

Benefits of capturing pirates: Making the world safer for cruising yachts

An Australian yachting site recognizes a potential benefit of stepped-up anti-piracy patrols in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and off of Somalia here:
The presence of a more active US Navy and a new Somali contract for security could mean less danger for cruising sailors on their way through the Gulf of Aden this year.

The danger of crossing the notorious ‘Pirate Zone’ between Yemen and Somalia deepened in March last year when the crews of two American Sailboats were lucky to escape with their lives. Until that attack, pirates had only stolen goods, not threatened the lives of cruising sailors as they did when they approached the two American boats, Gandalf and Mahdi.

Since then, there have been a number of pirate attacks which have involved shootings, mostly on commercial shipping, some of which has been well reported – 35 incidents in the last nine months...

...The next season’s strung out fleet of cruising boats is about to start the journey from South East Asia or the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea on their way to Europe, and to do so must pass through the ‘Pirate Zone’ in the Gulf of Aden. Whether actions of the US Navy, with its contingent of ships in the area, and, less hopefully, the marine security company, are a sufficient threat to keep the waterways safe is yet to be seen.
Reports on attack on Gandalf & Mahdi here and here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Latest Piracy Report from ICC Commercial Crime Services (to 23 Jan 06)

Latest ICC CCS piracy report to 23 Jan 2006 here. Highlights:
22.01.2006 in position 02:48N-048:36E, off east coast Somalia.
Pirates armed with guns hijacked a general cargo ship underway. They fired warning shots and threatened the 20 crew members. They are demanding a ransom for the release of the crew and ship.

21.01.2006 at 1810 UTC in position 15:50N - 041:45E, southern Red Sea.
Persons in several speedboats attempted to board a hopper dredger underway. D/O raised alarm, crew mustered and directed searchlights and speedboats moved away.

20.01.2006 at 0700 LT in position 05:25.1N - 052:34.6E, 213nm east of Somali coast.
Two speedboats, operating from a mother ship chased a bulk carrier underway. One boat had three men with machine guns and the other had two men. They opened fire aiming for the bridge. Boats came close to ship and persons inside attempted to board. Ship increased speed and took evasive manoeuvres. Later boats stopped chase and returned to mother ship.
Red lightening bolts on map are general areas of reported attacks.

Iran threatens (again) closure of the Persian Gulf

Commented on by Jihad Watch here, the Iranians have invoked their standard threat to the West in the event of UN sanctions: Closing the Persian Gulf. Comments to the Jihad Watch post alone are worth the price of admission.

I suggest you visit the Energy Information Administration site for this page titled "Persian Gulf Oil and Gas Exports Fact Sheet." All part of the EIA "World Oil Transit Chokepoints" series.

The Iranians may be feeling their oats (and counting their chickens) after the apparently successful completion of a couple of mini-submarines (photo liberated from The Stupid Must be Punished).

Caption for top photo:
This oblique, north looking view shows the Strait of Hormuz (25.5N, 56.0E) which connects the Persian Gulf, to the left, with the Gulf of Oman, to the right. The mainland of Iran is at the top, north, and the Musandam peninsula lies to the south. ... the largest island is that of Kishm.To the right of Kishm island are the smaller islands of Hormuz, top, and Larak, below.
(photo from NASA but retrieved from here, which is part of an interesting site all about Hormuz). Some interesting photos of some of the islands in the Strait here a site with information on sport diving in the Strait


Indonesia to Buy 12 "Kilo"-class subs?

Reported here:
Indonesia has expressed its intention to purchase 12 submarines from Russia before 2024.

First Admiral Abdul Malik Yusuf, the chief spokesman for the Indonesian Navy was quoted by RIA-Novosti news agency as saying combat submarines were strategic armaments allowing the country to maintain security in its territorial waters.

The admiral said the Indonesian waters were defenseless against the penetration of foreign ships. In light of this, the Indonesian navy turned to the country’s leadership with a proposal to purchase six Kilo-class submarines worth $1.9 billion from Russia in the next five years. The proposal had not yet been accepted due to insufficient budget funds. (hat tip: ThreatWatch)
Taking sovereignty seriously are the Indonesians, Yoda might say.

EMP- heard again?

Despite the headline of this book review Electro-Magnetic Pulse: The Biggest Threat No One Talks About, there's been a lot of discussion on EMP.

See here, here, here, and here.

As I posted in April 2005:
How EMP weapons work here and an August 2004 Heritage report here:
An EMP attack damages all unprotected electronic equipment within the blast's "line of sight" (the EMP's "footprint" on the earth's surface). The size of the footprint is determined by the altitude of the explosion. The higher the altitude, the greater the land area affected. A Scud-type ballistic missile launched from a vessel in U.S. coastal waters and detonated at an altitude of 95 miles could degrade electronic systems across one-quarter of the United States. A more powerful missile launched from North Korea could probably deliver a warhead 300 miles above America--enough to degrade the electronic systems across the entire continental United States.

Need more? A July 2004 Missile warning:
Such an attack would not require state-of-the-art missiles. Neither high accuracy nor a long range would be necessary. On the contrary, the report notes, terrorists or state actors could deliver an EMP attack with a “relatively unsophisticated missile.” And yet today, we remain defenseless against even an “unsophisticated” missile attack. It is worth noting that although the EMP threat from “terrorism” and “non-state actors” figure prominently in the report, Reuters’ reporting mentions neither, and notes only that North Korea and Iran could be seeking such a capability.

It's that old asymmetrical warfare thing again...
What follows is FIg. 4 from Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack Volume 1: Executive Report 2004 (available as a pdf download from this -uh- somewhat "doomsaying" site):
Each critical infrastructure in the US is dependent upon other infrastructures (Figure 4). The interdependence on the proper functioning of such systems constitutes a hazard when threat of widespread failures exists. The strong interdependence of our critical national infrastructures may cause unprecedented challenges in attempts to recover from the widespread disruption and damage that would be caused by an EMP attack. All of the critical functions of US society and related infrastructures—electric power, telecommunications, energy, financial, transportation, emergency services, water, food, etc.—have electronic devices embedded in most aspects of their systems, often providing critical controls. Electric power has thus emerged as an essential service underlying US society and all of its other critical infrastructures. Telecommunications has grown to a critical level but may not rise to the same level as electrical power in terms of risk to the Nation’s survival. All other infrastructures and critical functions are dependent upon the support of electric power and telecommunications. Therefore, we must make special efforts to prepare and protect these two high-leverage systems.
Nice pictoral demonstration of Interdependent Infrastructure Sectors from page 17 of the report:
Won't be a surprise to those who studied the problems caused by Katrina...

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Officers' Club reminds us of a bad Navy day

Reminded here of the seizure of USS Pueblo by the DPRK.

Little do these younsters know of how much controversy was raised among Naval officers of the time about CDR Bucher and what he should have done at the time...

There was a lot of heroism by CDR Bucher and his crew and not much glory in the response of the 7th Fleet at the time.

The ship remains a "tourist" attraction and centerpeice of the fictional glorious history of the DPRK and a lesson for the "It's all Bush's fault" class (as in Nicholas D. Kristof, whose column is linked at the designated site: "It's time for us to learn from the Pueblo again. The Bush administration's dismissal of serious, direct diplomacy has made Korea more dangerous. Engagement may be arduous, frustrating and often unsatisfying, but it's the only option we have left.")

Somalia seeks UN peacekeepers

Reuters article here:
Somalia urgently needs international peacekeepers to enable its fledgling government to function properly and help train its own security forces, the country's foreign minister said on Saturday.

The East African nation has been without central government since 1991 and remains a patchwork of fiefdoms ruled by rival warlords. An interim administration formed in neighbouring Kenya returned last year but has limited control over the country.

"The security situation in Somalia is still precarious," Foreign Minister Abdullahi Sheekh Ismail told Reuters on the sidelines of an African Union (AU) meeting in Sudan.

"There is a great need for the international community and the region to take into account Somalia's call for the deployment of a peace and stabilisation mission until we manage to put in place our security forces," he said.

Somalia collapsed into chaos after the overthrow of military ruler Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991, and conflict and famine have killed hundreds of thousands of people since then.

President Abdullahi Yusuf's government -- the 14th attempt at effective administration in almost as many years -- has had to settle in a provincial town, Jowhar, because of security concerns in the capital Mogadishu.

Some East African states have said they would be willing to contribute peacekeepers but Somali officials say the United Nations would need to lift an arms embargo before any foreign soldiers could be deployed.

"There is an overall general agreement by all continental and regional actors to come to our help. From here on we will be moving towards the U.N. Security Council to request them to lift the arms embargo," Ismail said...

...Previous foreign peacekeeping missions in Somalia have ended disastrously. The United States sent troops in 1992 ahead of a U.N. force but left two years later after tough resistance from warlords, including a 1993 clash which killed 18 U.S. soldiers.

"Somalia has been ignored by the big nations after the U.S. failure. The U.N. is embarrassed after the failure of its mission, that is why they do not want to get involved again," said Somali presidential envoy, Abdirashid Sed.

"At that time there was no Somali government. But now there is a Somali government and, as a member of the United Nations, it is asking for support from the international community."
Good luck with that.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

American navy ship may have captured some Somali pirates

Reported here:
The US Navy Fifth Fleet command in Bahrain said late Saturday that one of its ships captured a group of suspected pirates Saturday afternoon in the Indian Ocean, about 85 kilometres off the central eastern coast of Somalia.

The Navy said that after receiving a report Friday morning of an attempted act of piracy from the International Maritime Bureau in Kuala Lumpur, the guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill and other U.S. naval forces in the area located the the suspected vessel and reported its position.

'Churchill then shadowed the suspect pirate vessel through the night and into the morning hours of January 21,' the statement said.

At 8:03 a.m. local time Saturday, the Churchill attempted to make contact with the vessel over ship-to-ship radio, to no avail. With no response, the destroyer began aggressive manoeuvring in an attempt to stop the suspect vessel.

'The vessel continued on its course and speed,' said the Navy. 'At 11:31 a.m. Churchill fired warning shots. The vessel cut speed and went dead in the water.'

The statement said that at 1:02 p.m., the Churchill issued a warning via ship-to-ship radio that further actions would be taken to force the crew to respond to questioning and depart the vessel.

After additional warning shots, the crew of the suspected pirate vessel established communications by radio. Before 3 p.m., the master of the pirate vessel started sending members the crew to the Churchill.

When US sailors boarded the vessel and discovered small arms on board.
USS Churchill seems to have done well by it name...

UPDATE: Navy photos of encounter from here
The U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) follows a suspected pirate vessel in the Indian Ocean Jan. 21.
Dhow controlled by suspected pirates intercepted by the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81)
Small boat under tow by a dhow operated by suspected pirates later apprehended by U.S. naval forces.
A boarding team from the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81), approaches a suspected pirate vessel to conduct a boarding and inspection at sea, Jan. 21. All U.S. Navy photos by Chief Information Specialist Kenneth Anderson.

Navy news release here:
...At 8:03 a.m. local time Jan. 21, Churchill began querying the pirate vessel over ship-to-ship radio. Churchill requested that the crew leave the vessel and board the two small boats the vessel had in tow. Following repeated attempts to establish communications with the vessel to no avail, Churchill began aggressive maneuvering in an attempt to stop the vessel. The vessel continued on its course and speed.

At 11:31 a.m. local time, Churchill fired warning shots. The vessel cut speed and went dead in the water.

At 1:02 p.m. local time, Churchill issued a warning via ship-to-ship radio that it would begin taking further actions to force the crew to respond to questioning and depart the vessel. At 2:21 p.m. local time, Churchill fired additional warning shots, and at that time the crew of the suspected pirate vessel established communications by radio and indicated that they would begin sending personnel to Churchill via their small boat in tow.

At 2:54 p.m. local time, the master of the pirate vessel started sending members of the crew to Churchill. U.S. Navy Sailors from Churchill then boarded the suspect vessel and discovered small-arms weapons on board.
An exciting few hours for all hands...

USS Churchill has already been featured in one "urban legand" as set out here.

UPDATE2 (1/22/06): More details here -26 men captured, 16 Indians and 10 Somalis. The ship that reported a piracy attempt was fired on - "The Navy said it captured the dhow in response to a report from the International Maritime Bureau in Kuala Lumpur on Friday that said pirates had fired on the MV Delta Ranger, a Bahamian-flagged bulk carrier that was passing some 320 kilometers (200 miles) off the central eastern coast of Somalia." Some interesting military connection to the merchant vessel's name... More info on the MV Delta Ranger here.

UPDATE3: Piracy law refresher here:
Piracy is an international crime consisting of illegal acts of violence, detention, or depredation committed for private ends by the crew or passengers of a private ship or aircraft in or over international waters against another ship or aircraft or persons and property on board. (Depredation is the act of plundering, robbing, or pillaging.)

In international law piracy is a crime that can be committed only on or over international waters (including the high seas, exclusive economic zone, and the contiguous zone), in international airspace, and in other places beyond the territorial jurisdiction of any nation. The same acts committed in the internal waters, territorial sea, archipelagic waters, or national airspace of a nation do not constitute piracy in international law but are, instead, crimes within the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the littoral nation.

Sea robbery is a term used to describe attacks upon commercial vessels in ports and territorial waters. Such attacks are, according to international law, not true acts of piracy but rather armed robberies. They are criminal assaults on vessels and vessel crews, just as may occur to truck drivers within a port area. Such attacks pose a serious threat to trade. The methods of these attacks have varied from direct force using heavy weapons to subterfuge in which the criminals have identified themselves on VHF radio as the national coast guard.

These maritime criminals are inclined to operate in waters where government presence is weak, often lacking in both technical resources and the political will to deal effectively with such attacks. International law permits any warship or government vessel to repress an attack in international waters. In a state's territorial waters, such attacks constitute an act of armed robbery and must be dealt with under the laws of the relevant coastal state. These laws seldom, if ever, permit a vessel or warship from another country to intervene. The most effective countermeasure strategy is to prevent criminals initial access to ports and vessels, and to demonstrate a consistent ability to respond rapidly and effectively to notification of such a security breach.

Acts of piracy can only be committed by private ships or private aircraft. A warship or other public vessel or a military or other state aircraft cannot be treated as a pirate unless it is taken over and operated by pirates or unless the crew mutinies and employs it for piratical purposes. By committing an act of piracy, the pirate ship or aircraft, and the pirates themselves, lose the protection of the nation whose flag they are otherwise entitled to fly.

To constitute the crime of piracy, the illegal acts must be committed for private ends. Consequently, an attack upon a merchant ship at sea for the purpose of achieving some criminal end, e.g., robbery, is an act of piracy as that term is currently defined in international law. Conversely, acts otherwise constituting piracy done for purely political motives, as in the case of insurgents not recognized as belligerents, are not piratical.

International law has long recognized a general duty of all nations to cooperate in the repression of piracy. This traditional obligation is included in the 1958 Geneva Convention on the High Seas and the 1982 LOS Convention, both of which provide: "[A]ll States shall cooperate to the fullest possible extent in the repression of piracy on the high seas or in any other place outside the jurisdiction of any State."
Convention on the High Seas here.

UPDATE4: Interesting deckload on the dhow...sandbags or what? Red arrows to cargo. Blue arrow to man with what appears to me to be a child riding piggy back. Red arrows to cargo bags(?) from above.

Interesting...I say again.
UPDATE5: (1/23/06) Not too surprisingly, there is more to the dhow's story: "Sailors aboard the dhow told Navy investigators that pirates hijacked their vessel six days ago near Mogadishu and used it to stage attacks on merchant ships." source

UPDATE6: Update on story here, as Navy tries to sort the pirates form the non-pirates. (Hint: The ones with peg-legs, parrots, eye-patches and who can only say "Aarrgggh!" are probably pirates.)

UPDATE7: (1/24/06) PIrates got sorted:
The crew of the Norfolk-based destroyer Winston Churchill has returned 16 Indian crewmen to their ship and arrested 10 suspected Somali hijackers after foiling a piracy in the Indian Ocean...

...Since the Indian crew members all had passports and their sailing papers, and the Somalis did not, “it was pretty easy to find out who was who,” Leavitt said.

Besides, the Indian crew men were all talking and the Somalis were quiet, he said.

The dhow, which was carrying charcoal and general cargo, was filthy and roach-infested, said Petty Officer 1st Class Russell Allen, one of the Churchill sailors to go aboard.
BZ Churchill!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Pirates, guns and people smuggling

Caption: The bodies of asylum seekers forced to jump off of a traffickers' boat wash ashore in Yemen, last September. © SHS/N.Bajanoub

Not enough that guns and pirates are rampant in and around Somalia, I guess, so let's throw in some people smuggling as reported here:
The U.N. Refugee Agency says six dead bodies were found when a boat carrying 65 people reached Yemen earlier this week.

UNHCR Spokesman, William Spindler, says another 14 people reportedly died during the voyage. Among them, he says, were six people who threw themselves into the sea because they could not bear the thirst. He says the bodies of eight other people who died on board of thirst and hunger were thrown overboard.

"The boat left port near Bossaso in the Puntland region of Somalia with little food or water, allegedly to maximize space for its human cargo," he said. "After its engine failed, the boat drifted in the Gulf of Aden for six days, with passengers growing hungrier and more desperate by the hour. UNHCR staff in Yemen arranged medical assistance for survivors-some of whom had bite marks from crazed fellow passengers."

...In September, the UNHCR called for international action to stem the flow of desperate people across the Gulf of Aden. This followed a particularly bad three-week period in which 150 people died. UNHCR Spokesman Spindler says the agency is forced to renew this appeal because no action has been taken.
And don't forget the starving masses in Somalia whose WFP supplies are being interdicted by the pirates...

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Astrophysics fighting terrorism

Reported here:
The first part of McLean's project is to create a specialized chip that turns a semiconducting crystal into a detector that can find a radiation source up to 100 meters away and tell whether it's harmful radiation from a dirty bomb, or harmless radiation from, say, a truckload of fertilizer. In the second phase, which could begin by the middle of 2006, he'll build a workable device.

The problem with current detectors is that they are often set off by essentially benign materials. They also tend to be large pieces of equipment located only at the nation's entry points, such as ports.

McLean wants to make detectors that will ignore natural radiation sources like fertilizer and that will also be small and mobile, so that security officers can take them anywhere and target any ship, truck, or building.
First, a "truck load of fertilizer"- as we have come to know- may not be harmless. Second, I hope this is more than a BS detector.

Iran: New missiles?

The CounterTerrorism Blog reports Purchase of North Korean Missiles Extends Iran's Force Projection Capability:
Reader Timothy Thompson, who is always able to provide keen insight into weapons systems, comments on the missile purchase:

[The BM-25 missiles that Iran purchased] can easily be launched from [a] freighter modified with launch tubes and blast channels. They give Iran a projection of force capability far beyond the 2000-3000 km range of the missiles. It is possible -- though not confirmed -- that Iran may not use the BM-25's but only bought them to get the R-27 rocket motors for a missile of their own design.
Earlier reports had Iran apparently experimenting with Scud and/or cruise missiles on freighters. Info on the SS-N-6 (on which the BM-25 is based) here:
The SS-N-6 was an intermediate-range, submarine-launched, liquid propellant ballistic missile. It represented a considerable leap forward in the Soviet Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM), incorporating a second-stage engine, vastly superior range and accuracy, and Multiple Re-entry Vehicles (MRV). It used storable liquid propellants with a pre-launch time of roughly 10 minutes and a missile that could be launched from a submarine with an interval of 8 seconds between launches. It used an inertial guidance system.
On the same Missile Threat page is a report from August 2004 of North Korea deploying a "ship-launch" capable variation of the SS-N-6:
Jane’s Defense Weekly reports that North Korea is deploying two different forms of a new missile system, with capabilities to strike both U.S military forces in Guam and Japan and also the continental United States. The new missile is believed to be based primarily upon the Russian R-27/SS-N-6 submarine launched missile, as well as some SS-N-5 technology and assistance from the Russian missile manufacturer VP Makeyev Design Bureau. The land-based mobile version of the missile has an estimated range of missile 2,500-4,000 km, and the submarine- or ship-based version some 2,500 or more.
Besides the indication of Russian proliferation, the significance of such a ship-launched missile to North Korea is the very scenario so often discussed here on a ship-launched ballistic missile attack upon the United States. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld spoke of such a threat in October 2001, and Assistant Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz has since warned of the same. Such a prospect points to the need for a much more robust missile defense architecture, which includes space based systems. The long range midcourse interceptors to be deployed in Alaska and California would not have sufficient time to meet and destroy such a missile. A space based laser, reacting at the speed of light, is one serious alternative.
The Claremont Institute's MissileThreat web site even has a movie of a ship-based launched attack on Hollywood here big file, smaller versions available here (among other things).

UPDATE: A Missile Defense Advocay group.

UPDATE2: A North Korean missile warhead lands in Alaska? Says so here (hat tip: DefenceTech).

RFID boarding passes as anti-terror tactic

Singapore to lead the way in using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) on cruise ship boardings as reported here:
The boarding pass, the size of a credit card, will contain information such as the name of the passenger, the name of the vessel the passenger will be boarding, the destination and the boarding time.

The passenger will need only to tap the card to check in luggage and to pass through various turnstiles until boarding the ship.

The system not only provides a smoother and more hassle-free experience for passenger but also a higher level of security.

Officials said the new system will be able to more efficiently detect passengers who do not board planes or vessels after checking in their luggage -- seen as a tell-tale sign of a terrorist.

Piracy insurance to be offered

Reported here:
A U.K. company is rolling out piracy protection insurance this week, citing evidence that sea-faring criminals are increasingly holding ships and their crews for ransom.
The plan includes ransom money and access to negotiation specialists. Insurance intermediary Seacurus Ltd. has teamed up with Cooper Gay — a broker for insurance giant Lloyd's of London — to offer the coverage.
Pirates historically earned their doubloon by stealing and reselling ships and their cargoes, said Thomas Brown, managing director of Seacurus, from his office in Newcastle, England.
But he said piracy is getting deadlier. "Pirates realized it's actually easier to hold the humans who man these ships for ransom."
Actually, the Barbary pirates knew that a long time ago.

Mexican pirates - sea robbers

Reported here:
Today´s breed of pirate, however, uses high-powered guns, and, at least in Mexico, seems to be interested primarily in robbing shrimp boats.

In the last six years, according to statistics from the Marine Secretariat, the Mexican Navy has registered 41 acts of piracy against fishing boats. The vast majority of attacks have taken place along the coasts of Sonora and Sinaloa states, and at less than 12 miles off the shore.

The most recent incident came off the coast of Sinaloa in November of 2005, when three small Navy craft took heavy fire while responding to a pirate attack on the shrimp boat Benito Juárez. The attack was initially repelled when two crew members from the Benito Juárez opened fire on the attackers.

But just as the case in the other 40 registered attacks, no arrests were made...

Mario Vela Domínguez, a Navy captain, explained that part of the problem stems from the fact that the pirates work in conjunction with local fishermen, who help hide them from law enforcement in lagoons, marshes and swamps.

And he said that is it increasingly rare that pirate attacks are reported, most likely because crew members on the affected vessels are connected with the robbers.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Car break

Hmmm. I wonder if it drives well...
1929 Isotta Fraschini TIPO 8A

More in keeping with my budget, a 1955 MGTF

Latest ONI World Wide Threat to Shipping ( to Jan 11, 2006)

For the latest ONI WorldWide Threat to Shipping, go here and click on the date.

Lots of pursuit (unsuccessful) by fishing boats and speed boats off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden.

Stunner here, though:
14. SRI LANKA: A Sri Lankan Navy Fast Attack Craft was destroyed by an explosive rigged fishing vessel 07 Jan in the early morning while conducting a routine patrol off the eastern port city
of Trincomalee, near Foul Point. Twelve sailor were reported killed
and one missing. The Tamil rebels are the suspected perpetrators of
the attack. Indian newspapers report this was the first major attack
on the sea since the Norwegian-brokered truce agreement between
the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tiger rebels came into
operation on Feb 2002. As a result of this attack, the Sri Lankan
navy has imposed restrictions on fishermen around key harbors and
camps in the northeast (LM).
Precisely the sort of attack many of us have been concerned about (see here and, more on point, here).
More on the attack here, here, here and here.
Navy officials quoted two sailors, who jumped into the sea just before their Dvora gunboat was blown up, as saying that a small craft that mingled with a flotilla of fishing boats had carried out the attack.

"The craft was about 30 metres away when the sailors noticed it making a dash for the gunboat," a navy source quoted a sailor as saying. "There was not enough time to move away or open fire."
I should have reported this sooner... time to update the news gathering system...

Hawai'i's Coast Guard security zones

Reported here, Hawaii coastal security zones.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Safer LNG delivery-move the problem offshore 15 miles

Reported here:
An Australian energy firm said it has a safer, environmentally agreeable way to ship liquefied natural gas to California that doesn't use terminals proposed by three other companies.
The plan by Woodside Natural Gas Inc., a subsidiary of Woodside Energy Ltd., would convert natural gas from a liquid state on tankers and bring it ashore through a pipeline rather than making the conversion at an onshore facility.
Woodside planned to announce its plans at a Sacramento news conference Wednesday but the location of the Southern California system won't be disclosed. The project could supply up to 15 percent of California's natural gas needs, Woodside Natural Gas president Jane Cutler said.
The safest way to import the fuel has preoccupied the LNG debate. Three terminals have been proposed, one at the port in Long Beach and two off the Ventura County coast.
Unlike those projects, however, the Woodside plan doesn't require building a terminal to convert the liquid back to a gas. Woodside would construct special conversion tankers to deliver the natural gas directly into an underwater pipeline 15 miles off shore.
All four proposals need state and federal environmental approval. The final environmental review for the Long Beach project is expected by summer and a revised review of one Ventura County project, proposed by Australian-based BHP Billiton, is expected in March.
Crystal Energy has also proposed a terminal off Ventura County.
In Long Beach, a proposed Mitsubishi-ConocoPhillips onshore terminal inside the city's port has drawn concern from state officials and some residents that a terrorist attack or major accident could kill or injure hundreds of people.
The two proposed terminals off the Ventura County coast have been criticized because environmentalists worry they could produce air pollution and interfere with shipping lanes.

Iran kidnapping Iraqi sailors?

Reported here:
Iraqi officials on Tuesday accused Iranian forces of "kidnapping" a coastguard patrol after a clash on their tidal frontier and demanded the men's release, but Tehran's envoy in Baghdad denied the incident took place.

The affair is a test of the new warmth in relations between Baghdad and Tehran since pro-Iranian Shi'ites took control in Iraq after U.S. forces overthrew Saddam Hussein, a Sunni.

Iraq's foreign minister called in the Iranian envoy to seek the release of eight or nine coastguards Iraq said were seized after an exchange of fire involving suspected oil smugglers on their long-disputed border along the Shatt al-Arab estuary.
Hat tip: ThreatsWatch.

A pirate attack in the Philippine Sea?

Reported here:
A crewmember of a Taiwanese fishing boat yesterday told authorities of a harrowing ordeal in which his boat was attacked in the Philippine Sea by pirates possibly disguised as military personnel, resulting in the shooting death of his brother.

The crewman, who himself was shot in the leg during the attack, said he saw people in military uniforms shooting at him before boarding the boat.

But Philippine authorities said no naval or coast guard personnel were involved, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"Top Secret" Royal Navy file found in pub

Well, really, I wondered how the bar girls always knew our ship's overly sensationalized here. "Top Secret?" uh- no.
A spokesman for the Royal Navy said: "..."It is not classified but it is sensitive and we make it clear that those given copies should look after them."

Someone will get a stern talking to, I suppose. He might be a little sensitve afterwards...

Anti-piracy seminar in Muscat

Reported here, a regional meeting on maritime security:
Chris Trelawny, IMO representative and who spoke on behalf of IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E Mitropoulos, praised efforts by the littoral states of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden Sea, including Oman, to forge better links on maritime security.

The seminar will discuss international developments in combating the phenomenon and seek to find a regional framework for close cooperation between countries on the rim of the Red Sea, Strait of Bab Almundab and the Gulf of Aden, and come up with recommendations to control it. It will also study a proposal to set up a regional information centre that will offer assistance to ships in the event of attacks by pirates.

Besides officials from countries in the region, the delegates include representatives from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Interpol, International Chamber of Shipping, UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and the Italian and British navies.

Monday, January 16, 2006

CNN reporters banned in Iran

Imagine this-
CNN accused of faulty reporting and getting banned as a result.


Iranian mini-subs

Bubblehead at The Stupid Shall be Punished has a report and photos on Iranian minisubs here.

Go there and be informed.

Oil field troubles continue in Nigeria: Shell pulls out workers

Reported here:
Shell has evacuated around 330 workers from four sites in the Niger delta area of Nigeria following a gunboat attack.
Gunmen fought Nigerian soldiers on Sunday as they overran the Benisede pumping station near the port of Warri.

Five Shell workers were injured and there are unconfirmed reports that some soldiers and gunmen died in the attack.

The evacuations from Benisede and three other pumping stations will not affect production, already halted because of a pipeline attack last Wednesday.

The latest attack helped put upward pressure on oil prices, with markets already worried about the nuclear standoff involving Iran, the world's fourth largest crude oil exporter.
In a related story, corn farming prospects are looking up as more ethanol may be needed to supplement gasoline:
"We're leaning more toward corn," said Garold Den Herder, a farmer who cultivates 2,400 acres in a combination of corn and soybeans and is on the board of directors of the Siouxland Energy and Livestock Cooperative, which opened an ethanol plant here in late 2001. Last year a bushel was selling for about $2 here, but near the plant it was about 10 cents higher.

Farmers expect it to go higher soon if oil prices stay high. Ethanol was up to $1.75 a gallon, last year, from just over $1 the year before.

The rising corn prices may be good news for farmers, but they are worrying some food planners.

"We're putting the supermarket in competition with the corner filling station for the output of the farm," said Lester R. Brown, an agriculture expert in Washington, D.C., and president of the Earth Policy Institute. Farms cannot feed all the world's people and its motor vehicles as well, Mr. Brown said, and the result is that more people will go hungry.

Others say that the price of goods that have corn as an ingredient, including foods like potato chips or Danish pastries, will rise.

But Robert C. Brown, a professor of mechanical engineering at Iowa State University and a specialist in agricultural engineering, said the use of corn for nonfood purposes sounded harsher than it was. "The impression is that we're taking food out of the mouths of babes," Professor Brown said. In fact, corn grown in Iowa is used mostly to feed farm animals or make corn syrup for processed foods.

And Bernie Punt, the general manager of the Siouxland plant, said, "It's not as big a loss as what it seems like," pointing out that the corn remnants that come out of the other end of the plant were used for animal feed...

..."I do not just expect somewhat higher food prices, but new instability as well," he said in an interview. "In the future, instability of energy prices will be translated into instability in food prices."

Gustavo Best, the energy coordinator at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, said growing crops for energy could provide new opportunities for small farmers around the world and finance the development of roads and other valuable infrastructure in poor rural areas.

But, Mr. Best added, "definitely there is a danger that the competition can hit food security and food availability."

Some experts scoff at the idea of corn shortages, but others say it is possible. Wendy K. Wintersteen, the dean of the College of Agriculture at Iowa State University, said that possibly as early as this summer, "we will have areas of the state we would call corn deficient," because there will not be enough for livestock feed - the biggest use of corn here - and ethanol plants.
Watch out for the cartel of PONE (Producers of New Energy)...

Rise of the "dirt sailors"

An updated report on the Naval Expeditionary Combat Command here, as it gets formally established on 13 Jan 06:
The new command pulls together Seabees, cargo handlers, ordnance disposal experts and maritime security forces under one structure. It will also create a new riverine force for patrolling inland waterways in countries plagued by terrorists, drug runners and pirates...

...The unit “is not about a naval infantry,” said Fleet Forces Commander Adm. John B. Nathman. Infantry will continue to be handled by the Marines, with Navy forces following, he said.

The command also marks the comeback of the “brown water Navy.” During Vietnam, sailors regularly patrolled rivers and ports in small, fast boats...

...Lt. Gerald Lowe, executive officer of an underwater construction team based at Little Creek, said new structure will provide uniform training and raise the profile of the dirt sailors.
Earlier report on the NECC here.

UPDATE: (1/18/06) Biography of Commander, NECC found here.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

A dangerous pirate? Oh, wait, he's a "conservationist"...

Troubling look at one the anti-whaling "green" pirates (read "terrorist') who attacks ships at sea with the intent to cause harm, found here. Naturally, he rejects the label "terrorist."
"When critics say we are going too far, our answer is that, for the whales, things have already gone way too far," says the grey-bearded Canadian who rejects the label "terrorist" but doesn't mind "pirate".

During the past week, Watson's crew attempted to use steel cable to foul a whaling ship's propeller. They sideswiped the whalers' supply ship using their "can opener", a steel blade designed to inflict maximum damage to a ship's hull.

He says he's not the only one playing hard, accusing a Japanese captain of trying to run down his much smaller vessel on Christmas Day.

Watson says his tactics work. He reckons whalers flee whenever he arrives on the scene and as long as they're not whaling that's good enough for him.

But the willingness to get physical leaves some people uneasy. On Wednesday Conservation Minister Chris Carter labelled Watson's sideswipe attack "very irresponsible" and said it was contributing to the whalers' "increasing anxiety".

Late last month, Carter's Australian counterpart, Ian Campbell, attacked what he called a "war-like" statement by Watson that he was willing to lose his ship to stop the whalers.

"The word deranged came to mind when I read it," Campbell said.
Of course, it's all justified by this logic:
Property damage is not really violence, Watson says. Violence, he insists, is inflicting harm on a living creature, something he says has never happened in his campaigns.
I'll bet if someone torpedoed his ship, he'd call it violence...
Watson's campaign tally since 1977 includes eight whaling ships sunk, in port, either by known Sea Shepherd operatives or by others whom he prefers to describe as "allies". There have been no injuries, a record he says he's dedicated to maintaining.
UPDATE: More on Watson's position here, as he tries to assert that he is following the non-violent teachings of Martin Luther King...

Friday, January 13, 2006

Japan wants to reduce crude oil dependence

Japan sits at the end of a fragile and expensive pipeline. Quite properly, it would like to reduce its need for outside supplies of fuel and is looking to cut 20% of its crude oil needs, as reported here.

It's almost as if they have an energy policy or something...

Nigerian oil woes: Attacks on producers

Shell Oil reports that it is reducing production up to 20% from Nigeria as set out here. because of kidnappings and attacks on pipelines:
Shell has cut its Nigeria oil output by 20% after a pipeline explosion and the kidnapping of four foreign oil workers.
It is losing 226,000 barrels a day after shutting its EA platform in the southern Delta region and closing the pipeline feeding an export terminal.

Royal Dutch Shell shares fell by 0.9%, or 16p, to £18.35 in morning trading.

The disruption helped push oil prices to new three-month highs on Thursday, but prices have since fallen back, with Brent crude trading at $62.50 a barrel.

Diplomats say the hostages seized from Shell's EA platform came from the UK, the US, Honduras and Bulgaria.

CNO: Navy to Expand Missions

Calling for a Navy that meets real world needs, the US Chief of Naval Operations has vision for the future that includes a different mix of blue water and other operations as he told the Surface Navy Association here:
Addressing the SNA for the first time since taking the helm as CNO, Mullen said the Navy's view of sea power needed to expand, incorporating both traditional and nontraditional missions.

"I believe sea power as a notion has become way too narrowly defined," Mullen said. "For far too long it's been centered in my view on one of two things - programs and blue water, building big things and putting them to sea."

Mullen called for a balanced fleet with the capability to win the big and small wars. "I have probably talked to upwards of 15,000 Sailors in the course of more than a half-dozen trips at sea and ashore. And the vast majority were involved in operations I would consider green or brown water in nature," he explained.

"We're standing up the Naval Expeditionary Combat Command this month to wrap their hands around what I would call the 'below the line' skill sets in our service -- EOD [Explosive Ordnance Disposal], Seabees, master-at-arms and the Expeditionary Logistics Force to name a few," CNO added.

The Navy's mission is growing every day as the service assumes command of joint task forces, security and relief operations worldwide. "This is not the way we have traditionally thought of sea power, but it is sea power for this new century and we are going to harness it," CNO said.

Mullen then moved to his second point, the maritime domain, which he described as "getting smaller every day."

"There's still the same amount of water in the world - it still takes you about the same amount of time to get across the pond, but there isn't much happening out there that doesn't affect most nations," he said, referring to the increased emergence of trafficking, piracy and smuggling.

"You may have heard me talk about the 1,000-ship navy, about a world fleet of like-minded navies and coast guards teaming up in a sort of global neighborhood watch," CNO explained. "People realize our fates are lashed together now more so than at any other time in history."
More on the Naval Expeditionary Combat Command here.

Pacific Rim countries promise to fight pirates & terrorists

Another meeting, another set of pormises to fight terrorism and piracy as noted here:
Transport ministerial-level officials from the Group of Eight nations and six Pacific Rim countries pledged Thursday to join hands to fight piracy in the Malacca Strait and prevent terrorism targeting aircraft in statements they adopted on the first day of their two-day security talks.

The participants in the Ministerial Conference on International Transport Security, the first such conference involving the 14 nations, also said in a separate statement they will consider setting up an international working group to enhance railway and transit security.

Terrorist resupply by sea?

Reported here, a logistics run for terrorists apparently interrupted:
The Lebanese army caught a boat on its way to Israel last week that was loaded with weapons, including long-range missiles...

According to military sources who confirmed the report, the boat was on its way to Gaza from Lebanon and planned to drop off canisters filled with weapons, explosives and rockets off the coast where they were to be collected by Palestinian fishermen.

Government officials speculated that the boat was funded by Iran or Syria and that the weapons were meant to reach either the Hamas or the Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Malaaca Strait security: Time for insurance rate changes?

Opined here:
As Indonesia and other Southeast Asian states tighten security in the Malacca and Singapore straits, one of the world's key waterways for international shipping, pressure is growing for insurers to withdraw a controversial rating that classed the channel as a war-risk zone threatened by both pirate and terrorist attacks.

In a series of steps over the past 18 months, coastal states flanking the 600-mile long straits have taken more effective measures to guard against piracy and terrorism. Only two cases of piracy were reported in the straits in the third quarter of 2005, compared to eight attacks recorded from January to June. This has not only led to the new demands for lower insurance rates; it is also providing reassurance to China that the U.S. military will not be directly involved in securing a maritime artery that carries about three quarters of Chinese oil imports.

As a result, Beijing appears to be taking a more relaxed attitude towards countries like India and Australia, which have close ties to the United States, taking part in patrols of regional waters with the agreement of Southeast Asian governments. And for the first time, Beijing has offered to provide aid to regional countries that want to improve their maritime safety and security.

Singapore shippers say that the risk of terrorism in straits has eased and they are campaigning to persuade the organization in London that sets guidelines for marine insurance to remove its war-risk rating. The classification, announced last June, led to higher insurance premiums for vessels passing through the waterway, which provides the shortest route to and from Asia for international shipping between the Indian and Pacific oceans. In some cases, ships were having to pay an extra US$5,000 per trip. As many of them pass repeatedly through the straits, this amounted to a hefty surcharge.
What? You didn't know piracy involved the great dance of powerful countries? You do now.

Townhall; Modern pirates

A summary of where piracy is today found in 21st Century Pirates by W. Thomas Smith, Jr..

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Not much new under the sun: Offshore radar platform

Part of the national defense against missile attacks from loony dictators living on the North Korean peninsula, here is an article and photograph of an offshore radar rig:
Longer than a football field, the Sea-Based X-Band Radar is a high-tech, fifth-generation semisubmersible oil-drilling platform that is self-propelled and can be positioned any place in the world.

Designed to be integrated into the military's Ballistic Missile Defense System, the radar platform is so sensitive that it can detect objects more than a continent away.

Not a new concept - back in the 1950's the US Air Force put radars on offshore platform known as "Texas Towers" in an effort at early warning against attack. See also here. Much more info on the Texas Towers here with many photos and the following map of the locations of the Towers.

The more things change...

UPDATE: More information on the radar here:
The X-band radar itself, which will sit on top of the floating platform, will be the largest, most sophisticated phased array, electro-mechanically steered X-band radar in the world. It will consist of thousands of antennae driven by transmit/receive (T/R) modules. T/R modules are multi-functional circuits that can transmit, receive, and amplify signals. In the X-band radar, they will provide the full fire control sensor functions for the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system, including search, acquisition, tracking, discrimination, and kill assessment. The radar will be capable of distinguishing between objects as close as 15 centimeters.

After the radar has been mounted on the vessel, the entire structure will measure over 280 feet from the keel to the top of the radar’s dome, displacing 50,000 tons of water. To put this in perspective, SBX will be roughly the size of two football fields. A commercial C-band satellite will establish communications between the platform and shore facilities. It will take between 50 and 55 people on the platform and an addition 30 to 40 on shore to maintain the system.

Once operational, SBX will use its finely focused beam to track an incoming ballistic missile through space during the 20 or so minutes that it is outside the Earth’s atmosphere. The radar will transmit detailed tracking information to GMD’s command unit, which will calculate a fire mission and launch its Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) missile. As the GBI streaks towards the threat, SBX will distinguish between warheads and decoys, ensuring the interceptor’s accuracy. The radar will continue to relay updated targeting information after GBI launches its Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV), which will proceed on a collision-course trajectory toward the target. SBX will determine whether or not the EKV destroyed the warhead, and prepare to support a second launch if necessary.

The one drawback of SBX is that X-band radars, like all other radars, cannot see over the curvature of the earth, known as the “radar horizon.” SBX’s ability to detect incoming missiles (and discriminate between warheads and decoys) depends completely on where the radar is located in relation to the incoming missile. Thus, the closer to rouge nations and terrorist-sponsoring states that SBX is positioned, the better the odds that GMD will be able to complete a successful interception.