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Friday, March 31, 2006

Al Qaeda related Abu Sayyaf plot to seize passenger ship uncovered in the Philippines

Reported here:
Authorities have uncovered Friday a supposed plot by the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group to seize passenger ships and take hostage their passengers in Mindanao, officials said.

Officials did not say how the plot was discovered, but a report by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (Nica) in Northern Mindanao claimed the Abu Sayyaf was also planning to hostage the passengers.

"We ordered tightened security in all passenger ships in Northern Mindanao. We have contingency measures, and are ready to address any situation. We cannot rule out the possibility of a terror attack after the recent bombing in Jolo," regional police chief Florante Baguio said.

The report identified the leader of an 11-member Abu Sayyaf team that would carry out the hijacking as Abu Awillah, and that among the targeted were ferry vessels sailing from Manila to Mindanao.

Baguio said the police have intensified their intelligence operation to track down members of the terrorist group in the region.
Clicking on the map makes it bigger.

More on latest Somali pirate capture

The pirates so far have made no demands since hijacking the United Arab Emirates-registered MT Lombigo near Adale, about 150km north of the capital.

An El Ade port official, Ali Beere Adow, said the MT Lombigo, which carries a Panamanian flag and had a crew of 32 Filipinos, had off-loaded its cargo.

"About 20 armed pirates on two speedboats attacked the tanker and then scaled it. After 10 minutes I could see the tanker commandeered to the high seas," said Jimale Kaahin, a fisherman who said he witnessed the hijacking.

Shades of Admiral Kimmel: The unfairly punished will stay punished

Memo to Flag Officers and Flag Officer wannabes: Don't be in charge when a surprise attack occurs. See this for an example.

The family of Admiral Husband E. Kimmel can appreciate the tale.

Hey, wait, governments might blame others for their woes?

John Rosenthal at the excellent Transatlantic Intelligencer offers up an example from the French.

Iran tries out radar-evading, multi-targeting missile?

Reported here:
Salami said the Iranian-made missile, which he did not name, was test-fired as large military maneuvers began in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian sea.

"This missile can simultaneously hit several targets, has near stealth capabilities with a high maneuverability, pinpoint accuracy and radar avoidance features," Salami said.

The general said the range of the missile would depend on the weight of its warhead.

"It can avoid anti-missile missiles and strike the target," he said.
GlobalSecurity reported work on a stealth missile dating to June of 2004 and gave this:
Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) spokesman Mohammad Reza Imani told AP on 01 June 2004 that Iran is building its first stealth missile -- a rocket that can evade radar detection -- although he did not give a range. Parts of the missile, known as Kosar, were on show at a Tehran fair showing MODAFL products to government officials. The missile, designed "for defensive purposes" and comparable to the cruise missile, is built by MODAFL's Aerospace Industries Organization. It can be launched against ships from land, ship, or air and is designed with the geography of the Persian Gulf and the Oman Sea in mind. The missile can sink "small and medium-sized naval vessels" should it strike them.
This source says that the Chinese have variants of the Iranian missile:
China has become a leading supplier of missile systems and technology for Iran. Iran has claimed several Chinese missiles as its own, including the C-701 anti-ship missile.

The anti-ship missiles, displayed at the China Air Show 2004 in November 2004, were identified as the JJ/TL-6B, JJ/TL-10A and KJ/TL-10B.

Industry sources said the Chinese missiles are identical to Iran's Nasr and Kosar, also known as the TL-6 and TL-10. The TL-10 and C-701 missiles were said to be part of Iran's Kosar program, Middle East Newsline reported.
This report puts C-701 antiship missiles on some high speed catamaran missile boats the Chinese sold to Iran:
In July 2002 a conventional-arms sale triggered sanctions on several Chinese companies. Beijing had transferred high-speed catamaran missile patrol boats to Iran. The C-14 patrol boats are outfitted with anti-ship cruise missiles. Short-range anti-ship missiles for the patrol boats also were sold from China to Iran in January 2002. The catamaran and anti-ship missile sales were first disclosed by The Washington Times in May 2002, shortly after the first of the new C-14 patrol boats was observed by US military intelligence at an Iranian port. The high-speed gunboat can carry up to eight C-701 anti-ship cruise missiles, and usually have one gun. There have also been reports of Iran possessing another type of anti-ship system. Up to 16 Sunburst anti-ship missile systems were traded in the early 1990's from the Ukraine.
Washington Times report (by Bill Gertz) here Info on China's Ying Ji-7 (C-701) anti-ship missile here:
The YJ-7 (C-701) lightweight anti-ship missile was first exhibited at 1998 Zhuhai Airshow. This missile was specially designed to attack small surface targets such as missile fast attack craft and patrol boats. With minor modifications, the YJ-7 could also be used as an air-to-surface missile to attack land targets.
The YJ-7 is a light-weight anti-ship missile designed specially to attack small surface targets. Powered by a solid rocket engine, the YJ-71 has a range of 15-20 km and a cruising speed of 0.8 Mach. The C-701 can be launched from ships, land-based launchers, and fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, and has a potential to be developed into a multi-purpose air-to-surface missile
Photos are of the C-14 patrol boat and the Chinese C-701.

UPDATE: More here. Some reports continue to assert this is a "ballistic" missile, but I don't think the description of its intended targets supports that description. I am waiting for the video clip that was shown on Iranian TV to become available.

UPDATE2: An excellent analysis of the confusion caused by the contradictory assertions (or perhaps exceptionally poor translations) of the Iranian spokesman set out here at ThreatsWatch:
Any projectile that travels in an arced path is considered ‘ballistic’, though that term has a very specific meaning in missile and missile defense circles. That fact may not have been lost on General Salami when the term was used.

The guys at Q and O Blog probably got it about right early on in the day: For use against ships indeed. Remember that this apparent test came on the opening day of Iran’s massive naval exercise in the Persian Gulf.

Essentially, until there is a verification of a ‘ballistic’ launch detection, this could be smoke without a fire, at least without a MIRV ICBM fire, as is being speculated currently. And, if they did produce such a missile, is Iran going to indigenously produce their first nuclear warhead small enough to fit several of them on one missile?

At this point, two things are needed: A full transcript of General Salami’s words and a ‘ballistic’ launch detection verification.
The title to Steve Schippert's piece says it best: "Iran Missile Test: Vagueness of Detail Leads to Wild Speculation."

UPDATE3: Another version at Pravda with the accompanying photo labeled simply as "missile." It is unclear to me if this is a picture of the new Iranian "wonder weapon" or jsut an example of a missile. I do note that it looks very similar to the C-701 pictured above.

UPDATE4: Steve Schippert is on target again with his post on what the media has turned into a minor version of "When in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout." Or, as the RapidRecon headline reads: "Disservice: Media Panting on Iran's Claimed Test."

UPDATE5: (4/3/06) Revised first link to make up for a link gone bad. After reviewing some of the news reports again, it is very hard to tell if the Iranians are talking about a ballistic missile with a MIRV capable warhead (with steerable vehciles?) or something else. Judging by the launch imagery as provide by Kathryn Cramer (in the comments), if the image seen is the launch of their new wepon, it is not invisible during the boost phase. Some people have proposed a specific approach to shooting down ballistic missiles during this "boost phase," for example here:
The system I have advocated since 1991 would use the Defense Support Program satellites that detected every ballistic missile launch during the Gulf War -- even SCUD missile launches in the 300- kilometer range -- and feature NMD-class 15-ton interceptors based within about 1,000 km of prospective ICBM launch sites.
Far better minds than mine have been discussing this issue for some time now.
UPDATE6: (4/5/06) Looks like a box launcher, acts like a box launcher (or as Steve Schippert put it, an "Iranian MLRS":
From here. Missile identified as a "Kowsar." Looks like a TL-10 to me.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Bahrain ferry accident-now 57 dead

Reported here. 51 bodies recovered so far. US Navy has provided some assistance. Apparently the boat was providing a tour for the employees of a Bahrain based company. Employees were from a variey of countries:
Bahraini authorities have confirmed that 20 Filipinos were among the 130 passengers of a tourist boat that sank in Manama, Bahrain, learned Friday.

In an al-Arabiya television interview, Information Minister Mohammed Abul-Ghafar said 20 Filipinos were among the ferry's passengers.

There were also 25 Britons, 10 South Africans and 10 Egyptians, Ghafar added.

Interior Minister Sheik Al Kahlifa said most of the ferry's passengers were employees of a Bahrain-based company.
Commander Jeff Breslau, a spokesman for the US Navy's 5th fleet which is based in Bahrain, said 16 Navy divers and a US ship were assisting in rescue efforts. He said the boat had sunk in a harbor close to the shore.
UPDATE (3/31/06) More info here:
The Al-Dana was a modified version of the traditional dhow sailboat common throughout the Persian Gulf. An official with the vessel's owner, Al Kobaisi Travel and Tours, said it was an old dhow that had recently been refitted to host dinner cruises.

The official, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the vessel could carry a maximum of 150 people.

Dinner is served while the vessel is docked. Later, the vessel routinely sails for two hours close to the shore. The official said the vessel only had a small kitchen, and the food served to passengers was cooked on shore.

Television stations showed what they called a file photo of the al-Dana, which appeared to be about 65-95 feet long with two decks.

The passengers were celebrating the completion of the structure of Manama's World Trade Center in a party organized by several corporations, India's ambassador to Bahrain, Balkrishna Setty, told the AP.

Interior Minister Sheik Al Kahlifa said most of the passengers were employees of a Bahrain-based company.

"Things were going all right, people were dancing, people were having fun, but the boat was very crowded," Khalil Mirza, a Bahraini survivor, told the AP.

The boat then listed as it made a left turn soon after leaving the harbor, he said.

An odd case of ship arrest involving pirates, well, not pirates, but the US Navy and,well,...

An abandoned caro ship with a load of charcoal is under arrest in the Seychelles and there's a littel something odd going as reported here:
Circumstances surrounding the ship’s voyage have been shrouded in mystery since December last year, when normally reliable international news agencies first said it was attacked on high seas, but soon issued corrections saying that the ship’s captain, Deaa Abed Naseh, apparently panicked and thought his ship was under attack by pirates on high seas and called for help.

Marines from a U.S. Navy patrol warship reportedly came to the rescue of the Al Amara crew and were said to lock two suspects up on board the vessel.

Abed Naseh nevertheless later told Nation that the ship was attacked by representatives of the owners of the ship and of the cargo.

Sources who spoke to Nation on condition of anonymity said that the two sailors who left on Saturday were on board the vessel to guard the charcoal on the orders of the cargo’s owner.

Captain Abed Naseh has repeatedly talked of a major rift between him and the ship’s Iraqi owner, Saad Bahar.
It's all as clear as...

Pirates catch a tanker off Somalia

According to this, Somali pirates have struck again:
Somali pirates have hijacked a fuel tanker 150km north of Mogadishu, according to port officials.

The ship had just offloaded a cargo of fuel and had left El Ade port - a site seized by Muslim fighters in fighting with an alliance of regional commanders last week that killed at least 70 people - when armed men stormed it on Wednesday.

"The ship was hijacked yesterday near Adale, 150km north of El Ade, after it dispensed oil," said Fuad Ali, who works with El Ade's port authoritiesl, said on Thursday.

"We have yet to find out details of the hijacking."
Reuters adds: "Somalia has no coast guard to protect vessels, but the U.S. Navy earlier this month returned fire on a suspected pirate ship, killing one and wounding five while on patrol."

UPDATE: (3/31/06) A little more info here:
Somali pirates have hijacked giant oil tanker near El Ade port in North Mogadishu.

The tanker is reported to have recently unloaded diesel in the port.

The name of the tanker is said to be MT-Line and it has a crew of 32 whose nationalities are Philippines.

Flags of our -er - fathers

Wizbang notes Houston Principal Flies Mexican Flag at School and a student says
"Just because you're in the country doesn't mean you can't show your culture," said Lewis Ramirez, 16, a sophomore at Reagan High.
Without going into the debate of "culture" as opposed to, say, heritage, let me propose the UN solution for our schools. Surround the buildings with flag poles and fly every flag. Thus, no "culture" will be left unshown.

In fact, give each student his or her own flagpole and let them fly the flags of their forefathers and mothers.

Wouldn't that be special?

Predator 3. IED Bombers 0.

CENTCOM News release here:
An MQ-1B Predator unmanned aerial vehicle engaged three anti-Iraqi forces in the process of placing an improvised explosive device along a road near Balad Air Base yesterday evening. The Predator launched an AGM-114 Hellfire missile against the group.

The Predator monitored the three individuals for about half an hour while they used a pick ax to dig a hole in the road, placed an explosive round in the hole and strung wires from the hole to a ditch on the side of the road. When it was clear the individuals were placing an IED, the Predator launched the 100-pound Hellfire missile, resulting in the deaths of all three insurgents.

In the interest of full disclosure, the "results" photo was from a Predator attack in Yemen a few years ago.

Somalia food aid "logistical nightmare" in a political desert

As reported here:
- Pirates, gun-toting militiamen and endless checkpoints make delivering aid in anarchic Somalia a "logistical nightmare", a U.N. official said, as insecurity hampers efforts to feed 1 million hungry people.
A severe drought has killed dozens of people and hundreds of livestock in the Horn of Africa country after seasonal rains failed for three years in a row, leading to Somalia's worst harvest in a decade.
Lawlessness in the nation carved into fiefdoms run by rival warlords since 1991 is making food distribution extremely difficult, the U.N.'s World Food Programme (WFP) says.
"You can say that this is a logistical nightmare," WFP Country Director for Somalia Zlatan Milisic told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.
"We have problems on every corner -- pirate attacks, there are shootings on different convoys, there's shootings at the distributions, we get stopped at checkpoints."
The importance of logistics is almost always underrated, but in this case, the lawlessness and unchecked militias would seem to make the issue of logistics take a back seat to the political environment.

It seems to me the UN is trying to "push a string" from the wrong end. Throwing more food and aid supplies into the maw of the beast that Somalia has become, without taking action to bring even disorder out of the chaos is doomed to fail except in some weird "trickle down" theory of feeding millions by putting so much stuff out there that some of it is bound to get through to the starving masses. See my earlier post touching on this here.

As quoted there the first UN/US effort in Somalia which preceded "Blackhawk Down" was a successful application of force to feed the starving but failure ultimately came because
"...the chaotic political situation of that unhappy land bogged down U.S. and allied forces in what became, in effect, a poorly organized United Nations nation-building operation. ...its forces received increasing hostility as they became more deeply embroiled into trying to establish a stable government. The military and diplomatic effort to bring together all the clans and political entities was doomed to failure as each subelement continued to attempt to out-jockey the others for supreme power. The Somali people were the main victims of their own leaders...
The people at the World Food Program are certainly doing their best, but "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

There is a large natural element to the unfolding disaster as the drought continues, but an even larger role is played by the human element.

The UN needs to revisit Somalia. And the US needs to be there.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Terrorists, WMD and the "Global Supply Chain," Oh My!

Found at the Council of Foreign Relations is The Limitations of the Current U.S. Government Efforts to Secure the Global Supply Chain against Terrorists Smuggling a WMD and a Proposed Way Forward - Council on Foreign Relations, with some interesting words that carry the argument beyond the port issue:
In short the stakes are enormous. But there are four factors associated with the scenario that I just laid out that usefully informs the focus of this hearing. First, the threat is not so much tied to seaports and U.S. borders as it is global supply chains that now largely operate on an honor system because the standards are so nominal. Second, no transportation provider, port operator, or border inspector really know what are in the containers that pass through their facilities and the radiation portal technology currently being deployed at U.S. borders and as a part of the Second Line of Defense and Megaports programs can be evaded by placing light shielding around a weapon. Third, private companies must be a part of the solution since they have huge investments at stakes. Fourth, the scenario I just laid out involved Vancouver as the offload port in North America, highlighting that the challenge of securing global supply chains can involve both port security and border security measures simultaneously.
I believe that we are living on borrowed time when it comes to facing some variation of the scenario I have just laid out. This is because both the opportunity for terrorists to target legitimate global supply chains remain plentiful and the motivation for doing so is only growing as jihadis gravitate towards economic disruption as a major tactic in their war with the United States and the West. Let me elaborate on this latter point.
And the author, Stephen E. Flynn, does just that with thoughts such as this one :
Against this strategic backdrop, I believe there remains too little appreciation within the U.S. government that global supply chains and the intermodal transportation system that supports them remains a very vulnerable critical infrastructure to mass disruption. Instead, U.S. border agencies and the national security community have been looking at supply chains as one of a menu of smuggling venues.
Amen, Brother, tell it!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

ONI Worldwide Threats to Shipping Report (to 22 March 06)

Go here and click on the date. Some highlights from the Gulf of Aden and off Somalia:
1. GULF OF ADEN: Unidentified vehicle carrier approached 19Mar at 0600 UTC while underway in position 12:42.7N - 045:46.2E. Three speedboats approached the vessel. One boat came within five
cables and master raised alarm. Boats moved away after following for one
3. SOMALIA: Unidentified LPG tanker reported being
followed 14 Mar at 1150 UTC while underway in position
06:12N - 054:56E. A craft, blue hull and white accommodation, followed the vessel. Master took evasive maneuvers and increased speed. Craft reduced speed and moved away (IMB).

Accidents may make ship insurance rates rise

Reported here:
The cost of insuring ships may rise following a series of accidents in the past week, according to Marsh & McLennan Cos. and Aon Corp., the world's largest insurance brokerages.
A fire on the Hyundai Fortune may have damaged one-third of the 5,000 containers, costing insurers up to $100 million, shipping newspaper Lloyd's List reported. An accident involving a Canadian ferry, the Queen of the North, off British Columbia, may lead to claims of $60 million. A fire on the cruise ship Star Princess, which affected 100 cabins, will also cost insurers, the newspaper reported.
Info on Queen of North here. Info on Hyundai Fortune here. Info on Star Princess here and here. Unmentioned in the article but a recent sinking of the MV California due to collision here. Also noteworthy, though probably not affecting the insurance market is the collision involving a US Navy guided missile destroyer and a merchant here, which also refers to two collisions involving Chinese ships.

A rise in insurance rates may increase the cost of goods shipped...

The future of "Big Oil?"

Commercial oil companies as exploration and production arms of state-owned oil companies? That's the vision set out here:
National oil companies increasingly are using a "might and market" strategy to outbid multinational majors for oil and gas reserves, said Joseph Stanislaw, a cofounder of Cambridge Energy Research Associates...

His view of "might" is the mobilization of national governments' economic power, he told participants at the US Energy Information Administration's 2006 energy outlook conference.

"Combine that with a large market and you have an entity that not only aggressively pursues oil and gas but is willing to pay more than anyone else," Stanislaw said.

He said he first heard of this strategy at the 1997 World Petroleum Congress in Beijing when China's president and prime minister each quietly signaled the country's intention to aggressively secure supplies.
We've certainly seen China in action...

And speaking of oil, the US and Nigeria are a current topic as seen here:
President Bush is slated to meet with Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in Washington Wednesday to discuss regional and energy security in West Africa, amid attacks on oil supply lines that U.S. officials consider strategic to U.S. 'national interest.'

Militants claiming to fight on behalf of a disenfranchised Niger Delta ethic minority released three foreign oil worker hostages Monday, but vowed to continue their three-month sabotage campaign that has cut Nigeria`s daily oil exports of 2.5 million barrels by a quarter and contributed to international oil prices jumping to over $60 per barrel.

Although Nigeria`s pipelines have long been vulnerable, the stakes have been raised as the United States increasingly depends on West African oil.

A surging energy demand in Asia and volatile climates in the Mideast and Latin America first prompted the Bush administration to call West African oil a 'strategic national interest' in 2002 -- a label that freights the use of force to secure and defend such interests if necessary.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan reiterated Nigeria`s role as a 'strategic partner' in a Friday statement ahead of bilateral talks.

Nigeria stands as the fifth-largest supplier of oil to the United States, with 35.9 billion barrels of proven reserves. The shorter distances American tankers must travel to pick up crude that is both lighter and 'sweeter' than the Mideast variety has moved U.S. energy officials to stake the Gulf of Guinea will provide a quarter of U.S. crude by 2010.

This would place the region in front of Saudi Arabia as a leading oil supplier. Other major producers in the region include Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Gabon and Congo-Brazzaville.
You might recall that the commander, US Naval Forces Europe has begun shifting Navy focus to Africa as posted here:
...U.S. naval forces in Europe are in the midst of fundamental reform to deal with a rapidly changing strategic environment shaped in part by military concerns about terrorist activities across in Africa, more demanding U.S. maritime security requirements and a growing U.S. dependence on West African crude oil.

U.S. military leaders have pointed to Africa as an incubator for terrorists. Gen. James L. Jones, NATO commander, told Seapower in 2004: “In Africa, there are clear signs of fundamentalists taking root and fomenting all kinds of problems for the future.”

Adm. Mike Mullen, chief of naval operations, said in January: “We’ve captured what we believe are some pirates off the Horn of Africa. There is piracy in lots of places. There is drug trafficking. There is weapon trafficking. There’s illegal immigration. … It’s the full spectrum.”

This is particularly worrisome, said Ulrich, because, “A lot of shipping is coming from … Africa, either around the Cape [of Good Hope] or originating in Africa.” One of his goals is “to have better awareness of where that shipping is coming from [and] what it’s doing, and to be able to provide that information back to the East Coast of the United States.”

Achieving that end will require partnerships with nations in the region. Ulrich is working with “the maritime forces on the west coast of Africa” to improve their security, surveillance and policing capabilities “so they know what’s going through their waters and what’s originating from their ports.”
He noted two advantages of crude from West Africa.

“It is very easy to load up to a tanker and pop straight across to the [U.S.] Gulf Coast market, one of the most important crude markets in the world. West African crudes have become a swing crude between the Atlantic and Pacific basins. Wherever the prices are best, the crude can flow either way, east or west,” Qureshi said. “It tends to be high-quality crude, it’s easier to process, it produces more of the clean products we need more easily, so it’s more valuable.”

Illegal pilfering of oil is a problem, especially in Nigeria.

“Generally, all sorts of pirating is going on,” Qureshi said. “A lot of puncturing of pipelines. About 20 percent of Nigeria’s crude production right now is offline because of ethnic and criminal unrest going on in the Niger Delta. The communities in the Niger Delta are extremely unhappy about the distribution of revenues within Nigeria, and we’ve seen increasing willingness to express that though violence directed specifically at the oil industry.

“If significant volumes are taken offline in Nigeria, that can affect the price [of oil], especially if the market is tight anyway from other factors around the world,” he said.
Also see this on the US Navy operating in the Gulf of Guinea, which is bordered by the countries of Nigeria, Angola, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Sao Tome and Principe.

Yemen & UN meet over Somalia

As reported here:
A unanimous talking that underwent between the United Nations and Yemeni government focused on the way to halt the torrent of Somali refugees in Yemen.

Yemeni deputy Prime Minister Nashad Mohammed Al Alimi has had meeting with Baro Shameski, an official from the UN leading the committee assigned for the surveillance of the arms ban against Somalia.

Both sides talked about the problems in Somalia, such as the insecurity, economy and the illegal immigrants who risk their lives entering Yemen by riding poorly made boats from North-Eastern Somalia.

The two officials concentrated on the illegal arms transported to Somalia which they said can easily be available to the pirates in Somalia.
And, no, I don't know what a "unamimous talking" is meant to convey, but I'm giving an "A" for the effort.

Slow week for piracy acts: ICC Commercial Crime Services piracy report to (27 March 06)

Latest ICC CCS report here: Highlight-
Suspicious crafts
26.3.2006 at 1435 LT in position 15:03N - 041:58E, southern Red Sea.
Two fast boats with white hull approached a tanker underway. D/O took evasive manoeuvres and crew mustered. Boats moved away in northerly direction.
Other reported incidents mostly robbery or theft at anchor.

Monday, March 27, 2006


Just read: Moussaoui Says He Was to Hijack 5th Plane.


Greenpeace helps Guinea catch fishing "pirates" off West Africa

Leading me to wonder whatever happened to the word "poacher" comes this tribute to Greenpeace helping the government of Guinea enforce its Exclusive Economic Zone:
Environmental group Greenpeace said on Monday it was helping Guinea hunt for foreign trawlers fishing illegally in West African waters and threatening the livelihoods of local communities.

Greenpeace said it had been monitoring nearly 70 vessels off West Africa over the past ten days and found many operating illegally and depleting fish stocks.

Two Guinean officials with the powers of arrest had joined its surveillance boat, it said.

"Pirate fishing is a global threat to the oceans and those who depend on them," Greenpeace oceans campaigner Sarah Duthie said in a statement.

"The first thing that must be done is to close ports to pirate fishing boats, deny them access to markets and ensure that companies are prosecuted," she said.

The authorities in Guinea, which lacks any efficient marine surveillance system, said Greenpeace had started working in their waters on Sunday and would continue its operation until Thursday.

"They are working in the context of a programme involving a large stretch of the West African zone, down from Gambia," said Pascal Konate, deputy director of Guinea's national fishing protection and surveillance centre.

Greenpeace said of the 67 foreign-flagged vessels it had been monitoring from Korea, China, Italy, Liberia and Belize, 19 were not authorised to fish.

Eight vessels were within the 12-mile (19 km) limit reserved for local fishermen.

The group said foreign trawlers typically transferred the illegal catch to refrigerated ships which then transported it to Europe, often through Las Palmas in Spain's Canary Islands.
Some interesting(?) - important- legal issues on the EEZ here.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Fish wars: Somaliland v. Yemen

The lack of a government in Somalia hurts its fisherman, as noted in this opinion piece: "Stealing My Fish, Adding Insult to Economic Injury":
The independent breakaway republic of Somaliland has accused Yemen of fishing in its territorial waters.
Several fishermen and their boats have been seized by Somaliland forces. Officials from Somaliland’s capital Hargiesa are visiting Sana’a to discuss developments in the region – and solve the fishing dispute.
While Yemen say that 86 Yemeni boats have been seized, Somaliland say that only 17 boats have been taken.

A former British protectorate in the north-west of former Somalia, Somaliland split from the rest of Somalia after a bloody civil war in 1991. Unlike much of the region in southern Somalia, Somaliland has succeeded in establishing peace and begun to rebuild the country left shattered by fierce fighting, holding its first democratic parliamentary elections last September.
Here Faysal Diriye, a Somalilander living in the Canadian city of Ottawa, gives his opinion of the situation and gives a grim warning of the future if the situation does not improve.

"Stealing fish from another country’s territorial waters is an act of piracy. For Yemenis to catch fish outside their national territorial waters is forbidden. To have them continuously scooping out Somaliland’s rich marine resources is not only unjust but is an international theft.
The question is: For how long can we sit back and watch our fish be stolen? These incursions have gone on for the past fifteen years, but very recently the level of fish piracy became unbearable.
After the ban of livestock trading imposed on Somaliland by Arab countries, the illegal fishing comes as another economic slap in Somaliland’s face by a neighboring Arab country - Yemen. It poses another harsh question: Wasn’t the ban of Somaliland’s livestock harsh enough?
Somaliland fishermen might be compelled to defend their marine resources by arming themselves, and would not hesitate to defend their territorial waters at any cost.
Illegal fishing in Somaliland’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) may result not only in stolen fish, but also in lost lives.
Once shots are fire Yemen will claim there are “terrorists” in the Red Sea, also known as poor Somaliland fishermen defending their rights.
Recently Yemen’s Foreign and Migrants Affairs Minster Abubakr al-Qirbi said that “Somali pirates” kidnapped a number of Yemeni fishermen and their boats.

Was the Minster calling the Somaliland Coastguards pirates?
The minster also spoke of the danger of piracy in the Golf of Aden. Yet he failed to mention that his own country poses a greater threat to Somaliland’s fishing communities than anything else.
So much for Yemen being a good neighbor, and its hollow mantra of “helping” Somalis. Clearly, its rhetoric contradicts its actions. Aside from the livestock ban, illegal fishing, the plight of the Somali refugees in Yemen where they are reported to have experienced rape, torture and murder, and sending weapons to Somalia - where some of these weapons would be used against Somaliland: there has yet to be seen the so-called “love” that our Yemeni “brothers and sisters” are supposed to share with us.
My earlier posts on the Somali fishing problem here and, in part, here (the part about the Somali Exclusive Economic Zone).

Some info on Somalia's Coastal and Marine Ecosystems here.

UPDATE: Added crudely drawn map of 200 mile (approx) Exclusive Economic Zone claimed by Somalia. Corrections are welcome...

UPDATE2: Preamble to UN Conventionof the Law of the Sea here covering "Exclusive Economic Zones." Happy reading.

The Chinese way

Interesting piece on doing business with China -set in the offshore oil context- here:
Currently offshore China is mostly in shallow waters in an area encompassing approximately 1.3 million sq km, including Bohai Bay, East China Sea, and South China Sea. National oil company Cnooc dominates and accelerates China’s offshore E&P activities. Sixteen projects are expected to come onstream during 2006-2007. During the period 2006-2010, China plans to invest $15 billion and double its 2003 offshore production by 2010, particularly in Bohai Bay and the South China Sea.

Exploration offshore China remains hot, due to a number of factors, including China’s energy hunger, security, challenges in finding oil overseas, and high oil price. Considering their ambition to become major international players, the government’s strategic and financial support, and their lack of expertise in deepwater projects, Cnooc and its subsidiaries such as China Oilfield Service Ltd. (COSL) eagerly require foreign involvement. Other Chinese nationals such as CNPC and Sinopec won approval for offshore explorations once monopolized by Cnooc until 2004, and these areas will also need foreign cooperation.

Current offshore oilfields developed by Cnooc are at water depths to 500 ft. Future oilfield developments are going deeper, and thus create opportunities for foreign companies. More opportunities await foreign E&P service companies in particular. However, there are a number of factors that any foreign company should understand to succeed in the offshore China marketplace.

• Labor cost and access to the right resources.

• Cultural conflicts. For instance, the Chinese are reluctant to sign a contract before trust is built, while westerners are willing to sign a binding contract up-front. Those subtle cultural issues could be significant in making deals.

• China operations. To accurately predict the market demand and build solid relationships with the Chinese requires getting closer to decision-makers and understanding both Chinese customers and management. In the opaque and inconsistent Chinese market, foreign companies are concerned with such issues as corruption and intellectual property rights, but China is moving toward a better, open market. Government interference is becoming less of a factor.

Despite shared Chinese heritage, there are tremendous differences between mainland China and the rest of the greater China region, which often lead to limited access to Chinese resources, miscommunication, and ineffective operations. About 10 years ago, foreign companies understandably needed Singapore or Taiwan as springboards to run China operations. This practice has changed. A good example: a major foreign company’s processing division has China-based offices and won not only large projects in China, but also Chinese refinery projects in the Middle East. The same company’s offshore division, using its Singapore office for China business, has not yet had a chance to bid.

Chinese companies once admired Southeast Asian countries for their ties to foreign companies, technologies, and products. As China is now more open to western countries, Chinese companies would rather deal with companies with a presence in China or directly with foreign headquarters than through Asian intermediaries, who often cause missed opportunities, miscommunication, and operational inefficiency.

In fact, China now has resources and capabilities to effectively deal with foreign companies. For instance, one Chinese oil company has over 5,000 western-educated and trained employees. In addition, foreign companies may fare better by using their native Chinese employees, who understand western business, have connections to China, and are business savvy.

Canadian ferry sinking

News on the sinking of the Queen of the North starts here with a report of an unaccounted for passenger couple:
The RCMP has taken over the search for two missing people who may have been aboard a B.C. ferry that sank in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The Coast Guard called off its water search Wednesday evening saying too much time had elapsed for the couple to have survived in the frigid Pacific waters, according to air force Captain Jamie Davidson.

It's not clear whether the pair, who had reservations on the passenger ferry, were among the nearly 100 passengers aboard when it struck a rock and sank in choppy waters near Gil Island in Wright Sound.

Coast Guard officials had previously said all passengers and crew aboard B.C. Ferries' Queen of the North were accounted for, but later confirmed with that they were uncertain about the whereabouts of Gerald Foisy and Shirley Rosette, both of 100 Mile House.

Coast Guard Captain Leah Byrne said no one has heard from the pair since the accident, including their families. But, B.C. Ferries said in a press release that it has unconfirmed reports from passengers that the two were seen at the rescue centre at Hartley Bay.

The RCMP's missing persons division has taken over the search for the couple.

The accident happened shortly after midnight on Wednesday.

The Queen of the North — carrying 99 passengers and crew — was sailing south to Port Hardy from Prince Rupert, a 450-kilometre trip along what is known as B.C.'s Inside Passage, a series of islands just off the north coast of the province.

The 125-metre-long vessel had left Prince Rupert about 8 p.m. PST on Tuesday and was about five hours into the trip when the accident happened.
The residents of Hartley Bay pulled together a rescue effort that saved many lives as reported here:
What the rescuers saw when they reached the open waters of Wright Sound after a 20-minute ride across a dark, windy stretch of water was an image that left them shaken. There, just off the north end of rugged Gil Island, the massive Queen of the North, a ferry that can hold up to 700 people and 115 cars, was sinking, ablaze with lights. Drifting nearby were five life rafts lashed together, where most of the 101 passengers and crew were huddled in the rain.
The boats from Hartley Bay eventually shuttled 64 people back to the community. Other survivors were taken aboard the Coast Guard vessel Sir Wilfrid Laurier, which was on scene by 2:15 a.m.
The sea is a dangerous place...


Last hours of ferry detailed here. A coherent summary here:
At approximately 12:26 AM on March 22, 2006, the Queen of The North, having cast off from Prince Rupert at 8PM on March 21st, and steaming her regularly scheduled route from Prince Rupert struck rocks at Gil Island located approximately 80 miles south of Prince Rupert and 5 hours into the voyage, gashing the bottom of the hull.

The ship was on a regular scheduled cruise southbound to Port Hardy carrying about 16 vehicles, and 101 passengers and crew.

Weather at the time was reported to be 50 knot winds with choppy seas with heavy rain squalls. A nasty night.

After an hour on the surface, she foundered and went to the bottom, resting in 450 m of water. All passengers
except two who unfortunately had perished in the mishap and all crew were safely evacuated from the ship via her
lifeboats. The citizens of nearby Hartley Bay heard the Mayday call and in the truest sense of the traditions of
the sea reflecting providing assistance and help to ships in distress, rapidly dispatched their boats to the

The Canadian Coast Guard vessel Sir Wilfred Lauier at anchor for the night 30 miles southwest of the ferry dispatched its rapid response boat. The passengers were taken to Hartley Bay where the passengers and crew were given comfort, hot meals and additional clothing by the people of Hartley Bay who made all efforts to comfort
the passengers and crew in their time of desperate need. The passengers were transferred to the Sir Wilfred
Laurier and returned to Prince Rupert.
This last site has a tour of the Inside Passage from which the lower photo of the Queen of the North was taken. An excellent job has been done by the owner of the site covering this sinking. UPDATE2: Changed sinking location map out for two taken off the Atlas of Canada site.

UPDATE: 3/27/06 More info here.

USS McCampbell and merchant ship collide in NAG

Reported here:
The Kiribati-flagged merchant vessel M/V Rokya 1 and USS McCampbell (DDG 85) collided at 11:09 p.m., local time, March 25, approximately 30 miles southeast of the Iraqi coastline in the North Persian Gulf.

Two U.S. Sailors received minor injuries as a result of the collision. Two crew members from Rokya 1 also received minor injuries and were treated on-scene by McCampbell’s independent duty corpsman.

Rokya 1 and McCampbell, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, both received damage on the bow and are deemed seaworthy. The cause of the accident is under investigation.
Kiribati is part of the Gilbert Islands (along with Tarawa) in the South Pacific. It's not on the list, but I suspect that Kiribati is a "flag of convenience" country...

UPDATE: More ship collisions, both involving Chinese ships- one in the Pearl River (1 sailor missing) and one in the Yellow Sea off Inchon (3 dead, 9 injured).

US efforts in the southern Philippines

A quiet battle being waged on Mininao and the Sulu archipelago as reported by the Stars & Stripes:
continuous presence in the southern Philippines since July 2002, with people rotating in and out about every six months, said Army Lt. Col. Mark Zimmer, task force spokesman.

The mission is counterterrorism.

Predominately Muslim and poor, Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago in the southern Philippines are considered a terrorist hotbed. Navy Adm. William Fallon, U.S. Pacific Command commander, recently said those areas “remain a sanctuary, training and recruiting ground for terrorist organizations.”

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Collision in Malacca Strait- one ship sinks

Reported here:
A Panamanian-registered ship sank in the Malacca Strait in southern Malaysia after colliding with another vessel, but all 24 crew members were rescued, authorities said.

The accident occurred on Friday morning about 20 kilometres southwest of Undan island in the southern Malaysian state of Malacca, the Peninsular Malaysia Marine Department said in a statement issued through the national news agency Bernama.
More here:
Twenty-four Ukrainians were rescued after their cargo ship sank following a collision with a South Korean vessel in the Malacca Strait off Malaysia, marine officials said Saturday.
The Panamanian-registered MV California with its Ukrainian crew was en route from India to China when it collided early Friday with the container ship the MV Sinokor Seoul, said officials.

The accident took place some 11 nautical miles from an island near Malaysia's southwestern coastal state of Malacca, which faces the strait.

"When the collision happened, water was pouring into the ship, so all the members of the crew used their lifeboats and were then rescued by the Sinokor," an officer with Malaysia's southern marine police told AFP.

He said the Sinokor, which suffered some damage, had 25 crew members, comprising 18 Koreans and seven Filipinos, and was traveling from Malaysia's western Port Klang to Singapore.
No reports of any blockage of the strait caused by the incident.

Photos of Sinokor Seoul from here its owner's website.

Tamil rebels blow themselves and a Sri Lankan gunboat up

Reported here, another incident involving Tamil rebels taking themselves out when blowing their boat up:
"The navy suspected that the trawler was involved in gun-running and got near it to carry out a search," a defence official told the AFP news agency.

As the navy drew near, those on board the trawler "blew themselves up", he said.

Rebel spokesman S Puleedevan denied the Tamil Tigers were involved in the incident.

"There are a lot of smuggling and illegal activities going on in that area, including illegal immigration. It could be one of those boats involved," he told the Associated Press news agency.

In January, suspected Tamil Tigers blew up a similar navy gunboat, killing 15 sailors in a suicide attack near the port of Trincomalee in the north-east, officials said.
More here:
At least six Tamil Tiger rebels were killed and eight Sri Lankan Navy personnel went missing Saturday when rebels blew up their trawler and sank a naval gunboat that approached the vessel for inspection.

"It was not an attack on us," Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe, a military spokesman, said. "They got scared as we approached them and blew themselves up."

The force of the blast from the trawler sank the naval vessel which had 19 crew members on board. "Eleven sailors were rescued and eight are missing," Samarasinghe said.
This incident follows the capture of a suspected Tiger trawler on March 22 as reported here:
The fishing boat, which was within a restricted zone, was detained along with five people aboard, the military said.

A subsequent search led to the discovery of 20 dynamite sticks, it said, adding the fishing crew were being questioned.

The incident came as troops came under attack at Manalkadu in the Jaffna peninsula and retaliated. They later recovered an automatic assault rifle, the military said.

The Sri Lankan Navy has repeatedly accused the Tigers of taking the cover of fishermen to attack security forces.
Of course, some fishing with dynamite does occur in the oceans of the world. More here and in Sri Lanka here.

Report on January attack here.

Following up on Star Princess fire

Princess Cruise Lines comes off pretty well in post-fire interviews with passengers from the fire struck Star Princess as reported here:
Many passengers awaiting flights home from Montego Bay praised crewmembers' response to the fire. The company said it would refund the cost of the vacations for all 2,600 passengers and offered a 25 percent discount on their next cruise.

"If we did go on a cruise, we'd go on Princess," Beth Bostrom said. "We were impressed with them."

Richard Cox, a passenger who awoke to the smell of smoke, said the crew made passengers feel safe.

"You could see the lifeboats, they were getting them ready to go. That's when I knew there was something really important," said Cox, of Mason, Ohio. "When I saw that I went 'Oh boy, we're really going to go off the ship.'"

But the passengers did not abandon ship. Instead, they waited in designated safety zones for several hours, as they are instructed in the emergency drills that are required for all passengers at the start of a voyage. The ship then made its way to Montego Bay and canceled its final stop on a private island in the Bahamas.

A smoldering cigarette is suspected as the cause of the fire, but Princess Cruises spokeswoman Julie Benson said authorities were still investigating.

For those interested in such things, the images are from the Princess Cruise web site (main site for this ship here) and show some of the cabin locations involved.

UPDATE: The Baron sees possible sinister connections here:
we have an occasional correspondent in the intelligence business, and last night she contacted us with an intriguing idea from the murky shadows of spookdom. Apparently certain elements in the intelligence community are convinced that Al Qaeda has taken an interest in cruise ships as targets after the attempted pirate attack on such a vessel off the coast of Somalia last November.
I guess the Baron has not been following the arrest and trial of the putative cruise ship bomber in Turkey. See here, here and here.

UPDATE2: Shipboard fire safety standards have changed, but the apparently intentionally set 1990 fire on the Scandinavian Star that killed 158 is instructive:
The reasons for the very large loss of life
a). SOLAS Requirements
The Committee found that in principle the Scandinavian Star complied with those requirements in SOLAS 1960 and SOLAS 1974 that a ship built in 1971 was supposed to comply with. However they did find the following deficiencies in the ship and its equipment:

workshops and stores had been set up on the car deck
some of the sprinkler heads on the car deck were blocked with rust
pressure bottles were stored incorrectly
there was a defective fire door on the port side of the car deck
the motorised lifeboats were generally in poor repair
a fire door was missing from the aft starboard part of Deck 6 and the door opening had been fitted with a glazed door
three alarm bells were missing from the fire alarm system
These deficiencies were generally not significant, apart from the missing alarm bells which I shall discuss in the next section.
b). The fire alarm system
The fire occurred while many of the passengers were asleep in their cabins. Consequently the fire alarm system was important in arousing people from their sleep.

As a result of the missing alarm bells it was found that only in about 37% of the cabins was the sound level of the alarm over 68 dB, which was considered to be "probably sufficient". In addition, as buttons had to be held down on the Bridge to maintain the sounding of the alarm, the alarm was not sounded for long enough periods
More info on recent cruise ship fires here.

SOLAS fire safety provisions for passenger ships include:
Today, the structural or "passive" fire protection requirements have been complemented with many improvements in the area of "active" fire protection which includes fire detection and fire suppression systems. Many of the new requirements for active fire protection are also being retroactively applied to vessels built prior to 1 October 1994. One of the most notable of active system retroactive requirements is that for automatic sprinkler, fire detection and fire alarm systems in accommodation and service spaces and stairway enclosures and corridors in passenger vessels. All passenger vessels not meeting SOLAS 74 or SOLAS 60, Part H (the unratified 1966 and 1967 fire safety amendments) had to meet these requirements as of October 1997. Passenger vessels meeting the more stringent "passive" fire protection design requirements found in SOLAS 74 and SOLAS 60 Part H, must be in compliance with these requirements by October 2005.

Fire at sea: The Forrestal fire

Looking for heroes? Read this about the USS Forrestal fire and her crew's response during the Vietnam War in 1967:
This is the story of the brave men of USS Forrestal.

It is not a story about just a few individuals. Or ten. Or twenty. Or fifty. It is the story of hundreds of officers and enlisted men who were molded by disaster into a single cohesive force determined to accomplish one mission: Save their ship and their shipmates.

It is the story of the acts of heroism they performed-acts so commonplace, accomplished with such startling regularity, that it will be impossible to chronicle all of them. It will be impossible for a very simple reason:All of them will never be known.

Capt. Beling also commented on his crew: "I am most proud of the way the crew reacted. The thing that is foremost in my mind is the concrete demonstration that I have seen of the worth of American youth. I saw many examples of heroism. I saw, and subsequently heard of, not one single example of cowardice."

Forrestal men were men like that.
Book on the fire - Sailors to the End.

The path of the warrior

Looks like the Marines are finding more good ones than usual from the US Naval Academy, with 209 middies of a class of 992 opting for the Corps.

Or, as the helpful (but entirely clueless) reporter Bradley Olson put it (in his effort to be- what- ironic?):
Despite a war that has entered its fourth year with mounting casualties and waning public support, more and more midshipmen at the Annapolis military college are volunteering for the Marines when asked to choose how they will fulfill the five-year commitment required of all academy graduates.
Bradley, these are warriors in training, who have grown up in a time of war after their country was attacked and who chose to attend Annapolis when many other, non-service options beckoned. They are the men and women about whom we ask after the battle is joined, "Where do we get such men?"

The others in the class will become naval aviators, submariners, SEALS, SeaBees, EOD, EDO or surface warfare officers, and also will take up the banner carried by great warriors of the present and past. We hope for a Nimitz or a Spruance among them as they grow into the fleet.

God speed them on their paths! May they all find meaning, purpose and joy in their lives as they take on their duties as officers in the service of this great country.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Uh, how dumb?

A scandal involving some members of the Dutch navy reported here. For some reason they thought it would be fun to make a joke of what the idiots at Abu Ghraid did.

Pretty sad. And not the only issue facing the Dutch.

Is a collection of morons a gaggle. a flock or a herd?

Oil prices

From Chart of the Day -
Today, crude oil futures surged $2.14 settling at a lofty $63.91 per barrel. While oil is near 23-year highs, it is still well below the inflation-adjusted highs of 1980. It is also interesting to note that most oil price spikes were a result of Middle East crises and often preceded or coincided with a US recession.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Commander, US Naval Forces Europe shifts historical focus

Sea Power magazine has the gouge:
Vice Adm. Henry G. Ulrich III, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe (CNE), spent time early this year in Ghana, Gabon, Angola and South Africa looking for military partners, offering security assistance and searching for ways to create new military coalitions with networked communications.

Ulrich also has cast his eyes — and his forces — eastward, building relations with nations in the Black Sea region, including new NATO members Bulgaria and Romania, as well as Russia, the Ukraine, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Meanwhile, he has continued the efforts of his predecessor to reduce the Navy’s footprint in the Mediterranean to a fraction of its level of a decade ago, when naval forces totaled about 25 warships, including several submarines. Today, two ships are permanently assigned to the Sixth Fleet, the U.S. operational command in the Mediterranean, normally augmented by four warships and one or two submarines from the Atlantic Fleet. The dedicated naval aviation presence there comprises four P-3C maritime patrol aircraft plus a few utility helicopters and transports, a stark contrast to the 15 or more P-3Cs in the region just a decade ago.

The U.S. naval presence in Europe and the Mediterranean is diminished to the point that it often is difficult for commanders to make ships available to train with longtime U.S. allies in Western Europe, said Cmdr. Craig Anderson, desk officer for international security strategy in Northern Europe and NATO for the chief of naval operations.
After 60 years of intensive focus on Western Europe and the Mediterranean regions, U.S. naval forces in Europe are in the midst of fundamental reform to deal with a rapidly changing strategic environment shaped in part by military concerns about terrorist activities across in Africa, more demanding U.S. maritime security requirements and a growing U.S. dependence on West African crude oil.

U.S. military leaders have pointed to Africa as an incubator for terrorists. Gen. James L. Jones, NATO commander, told Seapower in 2004: “In Africa, there are clear signs of fundamentalists taking root and fomenting all kinds of problems for the future.”

Adm. Mike Mullen, chief of naval operations, said in January: “We’ve captured what we believe are some pirates off the Horn of Africa. There is piracy in lots of places. There is drug trafficking. There is weapon trafficking. There’s illegal immigration. … It’s the full spectrum.”

This is particularly worrisome, said Ulrich, because, “A lot of shipping is coming from … Africa, either around the Cape [of Good Hope] or originating in Africa.” One of his goals is “to have better awareness of where that shipping is coming from [and] what it’s doing, and to be able to provide that information back to the East Coast of the United States.”

Achieving that end will require partnerships with nations in the region. Ulrich is working with “the maritime forces on the west coast of Africa” to improve their security, surveillance and policing capabilities “so they know what’s going through their waters and what’s originating from their ports.”

For most of the nations in the region, “their big focus with maritime safety and security is economic,” said Cmdr. Mark McDonald, spokesman for CNE. Petroleum, vital to the economic development of the region and to the U.S. economy, is of particular interest. Gabon, for example, is concerned about attacks on, and pilfering from, oil wells at sea, he said.

“Fishing is, in many cases, critical to their survival,” he said. Piracy, smuggling and illegal fishing are serious problems in the region, as is human trafficking.
He noted two advantages of crude from West Africa.

“It is very easy to load up to a tanker and pop straight across to the [U.S.] Gulf Coast market, one of the most important crude markets in the world. West African crudes have become a swing crude between the Atlantic and Pacific basins. Wherever the prices are best, the crude can flow either way, east or west,” Qureshi said. “It tends to be high-quality crude, it’s easier to process, it produces more of the clean products we need more easily, so it’s more valuable.”

Illegal pilfering of oil is a problem, especially in Nigeria.

“Generally, all sorts of pirating is going on,” Qureshi said. “A lot of puncturing of pipelines. About 20 percent of Nigeria’s crude production right now is offline because of ethnic and criminal unrest going on in the Niger Delta. The communities in the Niger Delta are extremely unhappy about the distribution of revenues within Nigeria, and we’ve seen increasing willingness to express that though violence directed specifically at the oil industry.

“If significant volumes are taken offline in Nigeria, that can affect the price [of oil], especially if the market is tight anyway from other factors around the world,” he said.
You know, read the whole thing. It explains a lot.

UPDATE: While you are at it, read the interview with Admiral Fallon, commander Pacific Command which also reveals the challenges faced on that side of the world:
Some states in the region — such as the Philippines — are breeding grounds for what Fallon calls a “worldwide terror network … pretty much focused in Southeast Asia.” Other Pacific nations long have been known for anti-American sentiment stemming from the days when the United States supported dictators such as Indonesia’s Mohammed Suharto, who limited personal freedoms, allied with the West and built a fortune for himself and his family by controlling large swaths of the nation’s economy.

Fallon is improving communications with China’s military as a means to create a more transparent relationship and build mutual confidence. Special Operations Forces under his command provide antiterrorist training to several countries dotting the Pacific, and he’s determined to build on the goodwill generated by the U.S. forces that sped to the aid of nations devastated by the 2004 tsunami. PACOM’s hospital ship, the USNS Mercy, returns to the region this spring for an extended tour to provide medical services in Indonesia and elsewhere.

Floating hotel catch fire - cigarette blamed

Reported here, Princess Cruise ship Star Princess had a fire aboard, 1 guest dead (heart attack), 9 others with minor smoke inhalation injuries. A cigarette is blamed. 3,813 people were on board. More details here, with a nice slideshow of the damage, from which I liberated the pictures above.

The IMO has had some safety concerns for these large vessels as reported here:
Safety, of course, is a vital concern for passenger ship designers and operators. These vessels have the highest of profiles and their success could be undermined entirely if the public were to lose confidence in them.

Although it cannot be denied that a number of incidents in recent years have indicated the vulnerability of these ships, it is also true that overall, their safety record is good. By and large, they avoid the worst excesses of the weather. Passengers demand that they should do so and a typical power installation capable of providing 25-knots enables them to outrun a hurricane.

But while the modern cruise giants have the power and speed to dodge the weather, they are particularly vulnerable to fire. Every passenger is a potential ignition source and the hotel services clearly have an inherent risk.
The IMO is the International Maritime Organization. US Coast Guard oversight laid out here. By the way, it is a good idea to pay attention during the fire and lifeboat drills while on a cruise.

This incident could have been much worse.

World Food Program wastes its time

The United Nations World Food Program (or World Food Programme apparently has a very short corporate memory, and, as reported here, is asking the militias to protect aid agencies.
Following a fatal shooting at a food distribution in southern Somalia, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) appealed today to leaders and militias throughout Somalia to provide access and protection to humanitarian agencies to enable them to respond to a worsening drought emergency.

Some 1.4 million people in southern Somalia need emergency food aid and other humanitarian assistance because of drought. However, the massive effort needed to save their lives is being seriously jeopardized by threats and attacks against aid convoys and workers as well as acts of piracy at sea.

On 21 March, WFP-contracted trucks with WFP food aid were being unloaded at a food distribution in Salagle village in Sakow district in the south when two local militias exchanged gunfire. At least one local person was killed and several others were wounded. The distribution was stopped and WFP staff withdrew.

The food distribution was unable to resume the following day because of continuing tension in the area.

WFP condemns in the strongest terms this act of violence and calls on the local communities in southern Somalia to act decisively against the culprits. The agency expresses its sincere condolences to the family of an innocent bystander killed in this incident and hopes for the speedy recovery of the injured.

"Targeting humanitarian assistance is totally unacceptable; it is callous and violates all international humanitarian principles,"” said Zlatan Milisic, WFP Somalia Country Director.

"Humanitarian agencies cannot operate where assistance is being targeted. We are already seriously challenged by the logistics of this mission and shouldn'’t have to watch our backs as well. We rely on Somali leaders to guarantee the safety of humanitarian workers and cargo,"” Milisic added.

WFP stressed that insecurity delayed the humanitarian response and caused unnecessary suffering at this difficult time for those in need, particularly the most vulnerable - women and children. Milisic appealed again to all those with power and influence in Somalia to combine their resources and help their people survive.

Humanitarian operations in Somalia, where this year a total of 2.1 million people are in urgent need of food aid and other support, are being seriously hampered because of insecurity and lawlessness...
I don't think the message is getting through to anyone who cares.

UPDATE: The CIA World Factbook says it all about Somalia:
The regime of Mohamed SIAD Barre was ousted in January 1991; turmoil, factional fighting, and anarchy have followed in the years since. In May of 1991, northern clans declared an independent Republic of Somaliland that now includes the administrative regions of Awdal, Woqooyi Galbeed, Togdheer, Sanaag, and Sool. Although not recognized by any government, this entity has maintained a stable existence, aided by the overwhelming dominance of a ruling clan and economic infrastructure left behind by British, Russian, and American military assistance programs. The regions of Bari and Nugaal and northern Mudug comprise a neighboring self-declared autonomous state of Puntland, which has been self-governing since 1998, but does not aim at independence; it has also made strides towards reconstructing a legitimate, representative government, but has suffered some civil strife. Puntland disputes its border with Somaliland as it also claims portions of eastern Sool and Sanaag. Beginning in 1993, a two-year UN humanitarian effort (primarily in the south) was able to alleviate famine conditions, but when the UN withdrew in 1995, having suffered significant casualties, order still had not been restored. The mandate of the Transitional National Government (TNG), created in August 2000 in Arta, Djibouti, expired in August 2003. New Somali President Abdullahi YUSUF Ahmed has formed a new Transitional Federal Government (TFG) consisting of a 275-member parliament. Discussions regarding moving the new government from Jawhar to Mogadishu are ongoing. Numerous warlords and factions are still fighting for control of the capital city as well as for other southern regions. Suspicion of Somali links with global terrorism further complicates the picture.
In other words, not much has changed in Somalia and I'm not sure anyone is anxious to go back in, even for humanitarian reasons...

History of US Army ops in Somalia 1992-1994 here from the US Army Center of Military History. Wonderful conclusion:
The United States entered Somalia in December 1992 to stop the imminent starvation of hundreds of thousands of people. Although it succeeded in this mission, the chaotic political situation of that unhappy land bogged down U.S. and allied forces in what became, in effect, a poorly organized United Nations nation-building operation. In a country where the United States, perhaps naively, expected some measure of gratitude for its help, its forces received increasing hostility as they became more deeply embroiled into trying to establish a stable government. The military and diplomatic effort to bring together all the clans and political entities was doomed to failure as each subelement continued to attempt to out-jockey the others for supreme power. The Somali people were the main victims of their own leaders, but forty-two Americans died and dozens more were wounded before the United States and the United Nations capitulated to events and withdrew. American military power had established the conditions for peace in the midst of a famine and civil war, but, unlike later in Bosnia, the factions were not exhausted from the fighting and were not yet willing to stop killing each other and anyone caught in the middle. There was no peace to keep. The American soldier had, as always, done his best under difficult circumstances to perform a complex and often confusing mission. But the best soldiers in the world can only lay the foundation for peace; they cannot create peace itself.

DPRK: We only have perfect children...

Read The worst regime in the world to find out why the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (aka North Korea) has no "defectives."

But they may be able to attack the US with a nuke.

What a special place.

CTF 150 rescues 27 from burning ship off Yemen

HNLMS De Zeven Provincien, a destroyer from the Netherlands and the command ship of Combined Task Force 150, came to the aid of a distressed vessel and rescued 27 people off the coast of Yemen earlier this week, while conducting maritime security operations (MSO) in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in the area, a statement issued by the US Naval Forces Central Command, said here yesterday.
CTF 150 is one of three task forces acting under the direction of Vice-Admiral Patrick M Walsh, US Naval Forces Central Command. While operating as a part of their MSO mission in the Gulf of Aden, De Zeven Provincien provided assistance to Motor Vessel Hyundai Fortune at approximately 11am local time. Approximately 43 miles off the coast of Yemen, the cargo ship was in distress as the result of a large fire onboard. The cause of the fire is not known at this time," it sadded.

The De Zeven Provincien crew came to the aid of the cargo ship by rendering fire fighting assistance, evacuating the burning ship's crew and offering humanitarian aide and medical care once onboard. The fire could not be contained; the master of the cargo ship gave orders to evacuate the ship.

The De Zeven Provincien commanding officer, Captain Maarten Stenvert, said his crew performed the rescue in a "superb manner." "They were continuously aware what was going on and of the potential dangers that the Hyundai Fortune posed to them such as explosion, falling containers, among others" said Stenvert. The Hyundai Fortune's crew is comprised of 27 personnel. One crewmember sustained non-life threatening injuries and has been evacuated to the French Navy aircraft carrier FS Charles De Gaulle, which hosts the nearest surgical facility, by a Lynx helicopter from the French destroyer FS Montcalm (D 642) for further examination. CV Charles de Gaulle and FS Montcalm are part of coalition TF 473, which is led by French Rear Admiral. Xavier Magne and is supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

The remaining 26 crewmembers evacuated from Hyundai Fortune will be transported to shore, according to Stenvert. Stenvert credits the MSO mission for enabling coalition forces to rescue and provide humanitarian aide. "Because of the active patrolling in the light of MSO," said Stenvert, "De Zeven Provincien was able to close the merchant vessel under distress with no time delay. Therefore, it was possible to render assistance immediately." De Zeven Provincien is the Combined Task Force 150 command ship. Commodore Hank Ort of the Royal Netherlands Navy leads CTF 150. The coalition forces of CTF 150 conduct MSO in international waters of the Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea, parts of the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.
A fire at sea can ruin your whole day...

UPDATE: Cargo Law has much more (in a very slow loading site) here. US NAVCENT has more photos here, including the following provided by the Royal Netherlands Navy:

Some pretty heavy damage port side after (port quarter), below the main deck.
UPDATE: Speculation is that a container or more of fireworks is involved as a cause.
UPDATE: (3/28/06) Cargo Law has gone to a second page with daily updates here. Still very slow loading. Reports vessel is now being towed to port.
UPDATE: (3/30/06) As comment from Martin (below) states, there are denials that fireworks were involved in the fire.
UPDATE: 4/1/06) Additional photos:

CargoLaw has more post fire photos here. The stern of the vessel took some heavy damage- nearly burning down to the water line. Also, many more photos here at the SvitzerWijsmuller slavage company site and from Royal Navy (UK) here. The new additions to this post are from those sites.

Ship sinks off Cameroon -127 feared dead

Reported here:
It said the boat was traveling from the eastern Nigerian port of Oron to Port Gentil in Gabon and that the passengers included nationals of Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Benin and Mali.

Arrest in attempt to ship technology to Iran

Reported here:
A Los Angeles man was arraigned in federal court yesterday for his role in a scheme to illegally export more than 100 Honeywell sensors to Iran in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). According to the manufacturer, the sensors, which detect the pressure of liquid or gas, could potentially be used to detonate explosive devices.
The war goes on.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Two SLOCs: Strait of Malacca security issues

Asian coast guards meet to discuss improving security as reported here.

Not too surprisingly, China and Korea (probably S. Korea) want to play, too, as reported here:
China and Korea are interested to be major players in preserving security in the Strait of Malacca, according to Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) Director-General Vice-Admiral Datuk Mohammad Nik.

Mohammad said both countries had expressed their intention as they perceived the strait as an important route for international shipping and line of communication.

"The strait has two SLOCs. One is the Sea Line of Communication and the other is Sea Line of Commerce and they value it and want it to be safe from maritime crime," he told reporters during a press conference after the Second Heads of Coast Guard Agencies Meeting, Asia, here Wednesday.

He said usually countries which were interested would invest in the form of capacity building, ships, grants, communication system and other navigation aide.

Currently, Japan is the largest contributor in protecting the security of the busiest strait in the world with the latest handing over of a ship which is expected to arrive from Tokyo early next month.

On the whole, he said the meeting was a success as the delegations were satisfied especially with the 13 resolutions agreed upon by all 17 Asian countries at the end of the conference.

Among the framework presented were measures in safeguarding piracy, robbery at sea, disaster management, transnational crime and maritime terrorism.
I like the "two SLOC" comment.

Earlier post on sea lanes
Major sea lanes for Asia:
(Figure 7 from Straits, Passages and Chokepoints: A Maritime Petroleum Distribution by Jean-Paul Rodrigue Rodrigue)