Saturday, June 30, 2007

Transformal ship salvage

A big coal carrier ran aground near Newcastle Australia and efforts have been on-going to get her off the beach. See here, but the ship has not been able to be re-floated. Over at the Maritime Links Editor's Blog, the MLE posted this from You Tube, showing a new wave in ship salvage.

The MLE also gets a hat tip for posting the video from a St. Lawrence Seaway smash-up which reminded me to do a post on the SLS.

Nice slideshow and some background here.

UPDATE: Video from the air of grounded ship:
(Barefoot flying, too!)

Progress reported in salvage here:
Good progress is being made on the Pasha Bulker salvage attempt with the ship moving further off Newcastle's Nobbys Beach.
Extensive coverage at CargoLaw and here which includes this link to a live webcam of the beach.

UPDATE (2 July 07): Ship is now free.

St. Lawrence Seaway System

Just an interesting Saturday evening read about a waterway that allows ocean shipping to transit all the way to Duluth, Minnesota via a series of locks. Go to Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System and click around for the story of an mazing engineering feat.

Details of the map: The St. Lawrence Seaway proper extends from Montreal to Lake Erie. The Montreal/Lake Ontario section encompasses a series of seven locks over roughly 300 kilometres (187 miles) – five Canadian and two American – from Montreal, Quebec to Iroquois, Ontario enabling ships to navigate between the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. The Welland Canal links Lake Ontario and Lake Erie with a series of eight locks over approximately 42 kilometres (27 miles) – all Canadian. The Welland Canal provides more than half the lift needed between tidewater and the lakehead. All of the seven locks of the Montreal/Lake Ontario section of the Seaway (St. Lambert, Côte Ste. Catherine, Lower and Upper Beauharnois, Bertrand H. Snell, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Iroquois) as well as those of the Welland Canal, are 233.5 metres long (766 feet), 24.4 metres wide (80 feet) and 9.1 metres deep (30 feet) over the sill.Further to the northwest are the Soo locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, which provide a vital connection between the upper Great Lakes and Lake Superior. Access to Lake Superior and the Canadian lakehead at Thunder Bay, Ontario and the U.S. lakehead at Duluth, Minnesota is gained via the locks on the St. Mary’s canal, which are administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.The two locks currently operational for commercial navigation purposes are the Poe and the MacArthur. The Poe lock is 1200 feet long (366 metres), 110 feet wide (33.5 metres) and 32 feet deep (9.8 metres). The MacArthur lock is 800 feet long (244 metres), 80 feet wide (24.4 metres) and 31 feet deep (9.4 metres).
Map is from here. More info here.

A ship in the Eisenhower lock:

Of course, there is this famous crash:

Described here as
The Windoc freighter is stopped dead in its tracks at the Welland Canal when the bridge crashes down on top of the ship before it passes through. Its wheelhouse, the nerve centre of the grain ship, is sheered off, and the vessel veers out of control until the crew drop anchor. However, the danger is far from over. In this CBC Television clip, amateur footage shot by a local resident captures the ship bursting into flames.

An overnight struggle begins as firefighters work to keep the fire from reaching the fuel tanks and prevent an explosion. The next morning, the fire still burns, as the Canal is blocked by the crippled, smouldering ship. Local residents suspect human error on the part of those operating the Canal. “I don’t know how you don’t see a laker like that coming. It’s just beyond me,” said John Crooker, the man who shot the amateur footage.
More videos at this CBC site.

You might also keep an eye out for a History Channel "Modern Marvels' show in the Seaway. See here.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday Reading

CDR Salamander hosts Fullbore Friday, this ssue being about USS Pennsylvania. See the pretty boat!

And Steeljaw Scribe presents Flightdeck Friday: Skipbombing and The Bismarck Sea featuring B-25 bombers taking on ships with a unique approach to putting ordnance on target. Way cool!

N. Korean Freighter Captured by Somali Pirates? or Just Missing?

Reported here, (although the title at the time I found the article read: " Korean firefighter disappears in Kenya"):
A North Korean-flagged freighter has gone missing off the Horn of Africa coastline after last being spotted seven weeks ago, a Kenyan maritime official said on Friday.

The MV Sea Prince was last seen loading cargo in Djibouti port in May, Andrew Mwangura, of the Kenyan branch of the Seafarers' Assistance Programme, said.

"On May 11, it was spotted loading 2400 tonnes of cereals in Djibouti port and was headed to the Somali ports of Berbera and Bosasso. Since then, it has gone missing and we have not heard any word from the captain or the owners," Mwangura told AFP.
Mwangura said information on the missing freighter had been handed over to the US Navy patrolling the Horn of Africa, diplomatic missions in Nairobi and the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre.

Four vessels - one from Taiwan, another from Denmark and two from South Korea - are already currently in the hands of pirates off the coast of war-torn Somalia.
UPDATE: Or maybe it's a South Korean ship. See here.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

International Maritime Organisation asks Security Council to act on Somalia piracy

Speaking of Somalia, once again the IMO wants somebody to do something about Somali pirates, as set out here:
The world's top maritime body said on Thursday it had asked the U.N. Security Council to help stamp out a growing number of piracy attacks in waters off Somalia.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO), a U.N. agency based in London, said the alarming rise in attacks in the last few months was putting humanitarian aid shipments at risk as well as maritime commerce.

"The continuing incidence of acts of piracy and armed robbery in waters off the coast of Somalia is of great concern to IMO member states, the IMO secretariat and to me personally," IMO Secretary-General Efthimios Mitropoulos said in a statement.

He said raising the matter at the Security Council should prompt Somalia's transitional federal government to take action.

The IMO said the transitional government may allow foreign navies to pursue the assailants into its territorial waters, which could be key to fighting the problem.
(E1 note: Finally!)

Mitropoulos said that when the IMO last raised the issue of piracy at the United Nations in 2005, attacks and armed robbery off Somalia fell as member states with naval assets and military aircraft operating in the vicinity intervened.
IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan told Reuters four ships and their crews were still being held at locations close to Harardheere and Hobyo.

He said a South Korean merchant ship was rumoured to have been hijacked in the last week, but he was still awaiting confirmation of the attack from the ship owners.

Pirates killed a crew member from a Taiwan-flagged merchant ship earlier this month after owners refused to pay a ransom. Somali pirates normally take cargo instead of a life if their demands are not met. (emphasis added)
Allowing "hot pursuit" would be a huge help in fighting these pirates.

UPDATE: StrategyPage doesn't mention the pirates of Somalia, but they are just another group making a living off DIsaster Relief and sometime a little more. See here.

Training in Maritime Security: Thinking about problems

Someone is working on issues of terrorism prevention and the small boat threat, as set out here, which I assume is from the Homeland Security National Small Vessel Security Summit". One scenario:
An Al Qaeda-supported group targets the cruise ship terminal in the Port of Miami. Two dirty bombs (chemical or radioactive, not nuclear) are assembled in Colombia and shipped in a container to the Bahamas.

The terrorists acquire (unclear if bought or stolen) two 45-foot yachts in Miami and dock them at Bayside Marina, where they plan to detonate one as a diversion before attacking the cruise terminal. Their surveillance involves taking photographs while posing as taxi drivers around the port, driving across nearby bridges, and hanging out in a park across the water.

The yachts sail from Miami to the Bahamas, where the bombs are trucked from the container port to a marina and loaded. The bombs sit on the back decks, covered in tarps. The vessels approach Miami from the south. The first yacht docks at Bayside and detonates. When marine patrol boats at the cruise terminal move to respond, the second vessel detonates alongside several cruise ships at the terminal.
How would you prevent it?

Talking Pirates at the Tank

A conversation of sorts between W. Thomas Smith Jr. and Steve Schippert at the National Review Blog "The Tank" which began with Mr. Smith noting that the Danish crew of the Danish ship recently captured by Somali pirates reportedly have run out of food and fresh water (as noted first here) here. Followed by Steve's expression of some frustration with the situation here:
At the risk of sounding . . . overly simplistic, what exactly caused us to back off a hijacked ship — the mighty Somali Navy? Respect for the integrity of Somali borders? It seems we can't even discern yet whether we tangibly and directly support the only semblance of government there. And we are going to cede safe haven for pirates beyond an imaginary line crossing onto an undefended and unpoliced expanse of water?
Mr.Smith answered by visiting the "Territorial Waters" issue but also sharing some frustration here. Smith also offers up some Navy insight from Pentagon sources here, which insight includes international law, having arguably the wrong asset available for interdiction (not intentionally, but as a matter of where warships happened to be on that day) and the fact that by the time the U.S. Navy was involved, the situation had mutated:
... by the time the U.S. ship came upon the Danish ship, the situation had "matured" to the point that it was no longer a pirate attack, but a hostage situation with bad guys and good guys aboard.
Which "maturation," of course, has been involved in the discussions that my good friend CDR Salamander and I have been having about the situation.

Mr. Schippert is not satisfied (and I suspect most people who are following this situation are with him in this), as he sets out here:
There are times when we either need to pursue the rules to their fullest extent (asking for permission to enter waters?) or disregard them in instances where they hurt our people more than protect.

I'm sorry, but no explanation satisfies the hard fact that we know that hostages are held, who has seized them, their dire conditions (brought about by weeks of inaction), and know where they are but still do nothing.

There's something shamefully wrong with that.

Well, not quite "period." Mr. Smith responds here:
The same thing could be argued about the situation in Darfur or any number of other places and situations worldwide where people are oppressed, tortured, starving to death, illegally held captive, you name it.
Which point is well made, if a familiar one - "Why here and not there?"- is a familiar refrain for those trying to decipher U.S. policy and interventions.

Steve responds (and you should read all the links, as I am taking bits and pieces and may not, in your opinion, fairly convey the ideas therein), here:
Your point referencing Darfur is a good one. At the same time, the logic both for or against taking some action for the captive crew could be buttressed with the argument of, "It's not an entire country in conflict, we're only talking about four crew members."
The latest Smith response is here, in which the "ease" with which a hostage rescue might be undertaken is touched on- as in "it's not easy" to perform hostage rescues at sea against a moving ship.

From my point of view, this discussion is an excellent example of the issues facing the civilian leadership and military commanders of the United States and other countries as they try to weigh and balance appropriate responses to crisis situations. On one hand is the desire to take action- action that is well within the capabilities of most modern militaries. Balancing that is the need to conform to international laws and not set the precedent of allowing willful, public violations of sovereign waters (even if those waters are of a failed state) even if for a good cause such as "hostage rescue." I assume the staffs involved are involved with things like:
  1. Weighing the known history of the pirates (perhaps only one hostage ever killed by Somali pirates) against the risks of harm to the hostages if a rescue were attempted.
  2. Assessing the international and regional fallout from an armed intervention into another (largely Muslim) state, where our track record has not been particularly good.
  3. Considering the effects of an assault on the tribal fabric holding what little central authority there is in Somalia.
  4. Considering the impact of not acting on the hundreds of thousands of Somalis who may starve if the piracy is not quelled and food shipments restarted.
  5. Weighing whether intervention in Somalia will cause us to "own" a new problem country.
  6. Determining what the "vital national interest" is this matter and whether there are competing vital national interests that carry more weight.
  7. And don't forget that part of the process is simply waiting for the Danish shipping company to negotiate with the pirates for the release of the ship and crew - and I view one part of those negotiations the release of this "crew is out of food and water" information, as a pressure application technique on the Danes.
  8. Decision makers must weigh the possible cost in lives and dollars a hostage rescue versus the cost of paying the ransom and rewarding piracy, again.
  9. Additional assessments must be made of preventing future incidents - warning ships to stay 200+ miles off Somalia's southern coast, providing patrols, escorts, convoys, etc. The costs associated with prevention must be factored in.
Finally, consider that this Somali pirate issue is but one of many, some far more urgent, on the plates of the staffs and decision makers...but I also suspect that there are some contingency plans being worked...

Read it all and decide what you would do.

UPDATE: Prior posts on the Danish ship situation here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

UPDATE2: Discussions at Milblogs re the Danish ships (in reverse chronological order, so start wthe the last first): here, here, here, here, here, and here.

UPDATE3: The IMO wants action!

China: Taking on flags of convenience

China is taking steps to get some Chinese-owned ships to give up flag of convenience registration and take up the Chinese flag, as set out here:
Ocean-going ships flying foreign flags of convenience will be given tax exemptions as an incentive to register in the country, a top official with the Ministry of Communications said yesterday.

Effective July 1, Chinese-owned ships registered overseas by the end of 2005 will be allowed to register domestically - in Shanghai, Tianjin and Dalian - and exempted from customs duty and import value-added tax for the vessels.

Registration in the country will mean improved maritime security and better protection of national interests, said Vice-Minister Weng Mengyong.
Sea cargoes account for more than 90 percent of the country's foreign trade, 95 percent of crude oil imports and 99 percent of iron ore imports, Weng said.

As shipping fleets continue to grow, the number of Chinese vessels registering overseas is also increasing; and accounts for half of the country's total international tonnage.
Vessels plying international routes can register in countries that offer an "open registry" for business convenience or commercial expediency.

Countries that offer flags of convenience usually charge a small amount in registration fees, but do not have sound safety supervision systems, according to Weng.

He said that Chinese-owned vessels flying foreign flags could hurt the healthy development of the shipping industry and national economic security.

"Lack of adequate safety supervision leads to poor shipping services," he said.

Terrorism slowing growth of Sri Lanka sea trade?

Terrorism gets mentioned, but... here:
Sri Lankan exporters are being squeezed as fewer container ships heading west call into Colombo, with global shipping lines moving more business to India and its booming economy.
Inefficiencies at the 125-year-old Colombo port and enhanced security measures to prevent Tamil Tiger rebels from damaging the main harbour may also have contributed to the shipping lines' decision, said Perera.

"The entrance to the Colombo port is now partially closed at night to prevent terrorist attacks. Only one ship can come in and go out at a time, causing congestion and unwanted delays," Perera said.

Despite the constraints, the port's volumes rose 26 percent in the first quarter of this year, with more than three-quarters of the cargo being trans-shipped.
26% growth? I guess it could be better...but there seems to be no shortage of reasons other than anti-terrorism steps for any loss of additional business:
Over the longer term, a proposed south port in Colombo is expected to be operational after 2011, while the government this month initiated another port at southern Hambantota, closer to the main international shipping lanes.

Both projects have been delayed for over a decade because of poor government policy and analysts fear that further delays could see Colombo lose its hub status.
Antiquated port, off the main shipping lanes...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

If your country sinks, are you still a country?

Mark Tran points out some interesting questions that might come to pass if the seas rise, the land masses sink and Algore is right about something here.

And he points to a study by "retired US generals and admirals" here, to bolster his case. The flag officer list:
* General Gordon R. Sullivan, USA (Ret.)
* Admiral Frank “Skip” Bowman, USN (Ret.)
* Lieutenant General Lawrence P. Farrell Jr., USAF (Ret.)
* Vice Admiral Paul G. Gaffney II, USN (Ret.)
* General Paul J. Kern, USA (Ret.)
* Admiral T. Joseph Lopez, USN (Ret.)
* Admiral Donald L. “Don” Pilling, USN (Ret.)
* Admiral Joseph W. Prueher, USN (Ret.)
* Vice Admiral Richard H. Truly, USN (Ret.)
* General Charles F. “Chuck” Wald, USAF (Ret.)
* General Anthony C. “Tony” Zinni, USMC (Ret.)
You can download their report here, but the highlights their sponsor notes:
The report includes several formal findings:

* Projected climate change poses a serious threat to America's national security.
* Climate change acts as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world.
* Projected climate change will add to tensions even in stable regions of the world.
* Climate change, national security and energy dependence are a related set of global challenges.
Where's the report on projected asteroid strikes?

UPDATE: Having glanced through the report, what strikes me is that these flag officers are applying military course of action analysis to a perceived problem. It's a big "What if..." - as normally seen in developing strategies based on potential enemy capabilities. As they note, it's an analysis drived by projection of "worst case" scenarios, something the military does train you well to do :
Although there is a great deal of agreement among the world’s climate scientists regarding the overall picture of a changing climate, there is also some disagreement about the extent of future changes. Regardless of this continuing discussion, the board’s view is quite clear: The potential consequences of climate change are so significant that the prudent course of action is to begin now to assess how these changes may potentially affect our national security, and what courses of action, if any, our nation should take.

This approach shows how a military leader’s perspective often differs from the perspectives of scientists, policymakers, or the media. Military leaders see a range of estimates and tend not to see it as a stark disagreement, but as evidence of varying degrees of risk. They don’t see the range of possibilities as justification for inaction. Risk is at the heart of their job: They assess and manage the many risks to America’s security. Climate change, from the Military Advisory Board’s perspective, presents significant risks to America’s national security. Before explaining some of those risks, we touch on an
important scientific point.

A global average temperature increase of 1.30F (plus or minus 0.30F) occurred over the twentieth century. But the temperature change on its own is not what shapes this security assessment. Rather, it is the impact that temperature increases can have on natural systems, including:
• Habitats
• Precipitation patterns
• Extreme weather events
• Ice cover
• Sea level

Throughout this report, we do not attempt to tie our findings regarding security implicationsto any one particular projection of future temperature changes, precipitation changes, or sea level rise whether due to ocean expansion or ice sheet breakup. Rather, our goal is to articulate the possible security implications of climate change and to consider mitigating steps the nation could take as part of an overall national security plan.
Fine, as as I snidely comment above, there is also some risk of an asteroid hitting the earth and causing signifiicant changes to habitats, precipitation patterns, extreme weather events, ice cover and sea level. We have some pretty good evidence that things have struck the earth before, causing, as some scientists assert, mass extinction of animal life and other dramatic changes.

We know that things like the potato blight have caused massive waves of immigration. We even know for certain from the geologic record, that the planet has been both hotter and cooler, that big sections of the United States were once covered by oceans or by vast sheets of ice. We know that plagues and diseases running rampant, killing millions. Presumably, we kow that such things can happen again. And, presumably, we should have a concern for each potential disaster.

However, let me sound one note of caution. Most of these events, having the potential to cause untold amount of damage, putting the costs at trilliions of dollars and millions of lives, have exceptionally low probabilities of occurring. Yes, I know that even a .025% chance of trillion dollar (a million million dollar) disaster would justify spending $25,000,000,000 on a project to avert it, however, there is a 99.975% chance that the disaster won't happen, and rounded up - that's virtully no chance. In other words, some "worst cases" are so unlikely that it simply makes no sense worrying about them, even if the law of big numbers makes them look scary. So, where are we with what we know of the odds of the "flag board" scenario? One general says:
Former U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gordon Sullivan enjoys a good debate. But he also knows there are times when debate must stop and action must begin. With respect to climate change, he says that time has arrived. “We seem to be standing by and, frankly, asking for perfectness in science,” Gen. Sullivan said. “People are saying they want to be convinced, perfectly. They want to know the climate science projections with 100 percent certainty. Well, we know a great deal, and even with that, there is still uncertainty. But the trend line is very clear.” “We never have 100 percent certainty,” he said. “We never have it. If you wait until you have 100 percent certainty, something bad is going to happen on the battlefield. That’s something we know. You have to act withincomplete information. You have to act based on the trend line. You have to act on your intuition sometimes.”

In discussing how military leaders manage risk, Gen. Sullivan noted that significant attention is often given to the low probability/high consequence events. These events rarely occur but can have devastating consequences if they do. American families are familiar with these calculations. Serious injury in an auto accident is, for most families, a low probability/high
consequence event. It may be unlikely, but we do all we can to avoid it.

During the Cold War, much of America’s defense efforts focused on preventing a Soviet missile attack—the very definition of
a low probability/high consequence event. Our effort to avoid such an unlikely event was a central organizing principle for our diplomatic and military strategies.

When asked to compare the risks of climate change with those of the Cold War, Gen. Sullivan said, “The Cold War was a specter, but climate change is inevitable. If we keep on with business as usual, we will reach a point where some of the
worst effects are inevitable.”

“If we don’t act, this looks more like a high probability/high consequence scenario,” he added.

Gen. Sullivan shifted from risk assessment to risk management.

“In the Cold War, there was a concerted effort by all leadership—political and military, national and international—to avoid a potential conflict,” he said. “I think it was well known in military circles that we had to do everything in our power to create an environment where the national command authority—the president and his senior advisers—were not forced to make choices regarding the use of nuclear weapons.

“The situation, for much of the Cold War, was stable,” Gen. Sullivan continued. “And the challenge was to keep it stable, to stop the catastrophic event from happening. We spent billions on that strategy.

“Climate change is exactly the opposite. We have a catastrophic event that appears to be inevitable. And the challenge is to stabilize things—to stabilize carbon in the atmosphere. Back then, the challenge was to stop a particular action. Now,
the challenge is to inspire a particular action. We have to act if we’re to avoid the worst effects.”
Well, he's right about one thing. Climate change is inevitable. But there are few things I think need more examination.

For example, "During the Cold War, much of America’s defense efforts focused on preventing a Soviet missile attack—the very definition of a low probability/high consequence event." The efforts were being made to preserve our freedom of action - which was threatened if the "other side" gained a strategic advantage- this was, in my view, a high probability/high consequence event. In short, the Cold War was not largely about preventing a Soviet missile attack. The whole arms race was about trying to gain an advantage or at least maintain parity.

Further, time is not of the essence. The enemy is not at the gate.

Contingency planning is fine, but this is not a time for "When in danger, when in doubt, run in circles scream and shout!"

Reputable scientists have reasonable doubts. So should the rest of us. We may never get 100%, but we can do better than what we have now if we allow for real scientific study and honest debate.

Border insecuirty in the U.S. Virgins?

A cost-saving effort that could backfire...reported here:
The U.S. Virgin Islands have long been known as a convenient Caribbean paradise, boasting sandy beaches, palm trees and sunshine -- and no passport requirement for American citizens.

But that convenience is also making the Virgin Islands a conduit through which illegal immigrants, and possibly terrorists, are finding their way onto U.S. soil, according to law enforcement and government officials.

"It's a good way to enter the United States," said former Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent Mike Cutler. "If you can get yourself to the Virgin Islands, you're in the United States ... the likelihood is no one is going to even look at you, you just show a driver's license, get on the airplane, and you're on the way."

At one point, the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) are separated from the British Virgin Islands by just four miles of open water. It's also one of the busiest cruise ship destinations in the world. Yet U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has told USVI officials not to expect any additional help anytime soon.

In a report to Congress, CBP officials note they are not planning to "establish a Border Patrol Station in the U.S. Virgin Islands," despite repeated requests from Christian-Christensen and a public plea by the island's police commissioner.

CBP officials say the justification is simple: There aren't enough illegal immigrants moving through the USVI to warrant devoting resources to the islands, and there hasn't been any specific terrorist threat for the USVI.

The CBP report does note, however, "potential vulnerabilities for exploitation by terrorist groups may exist in this or any part of the border, [but] none of the available assessments reviewed suggest ... the area is being exploited as an entry point for terrorist activities."

Tampa Offshore LNG terminal: " No Threat"

LNG expert says 3 mile buffer is good here:
A proposal to build an offshore terminal for unloading liquefied natural gas 28 miles southwest of the Tampa Bay area would not pose a threat to people onshore, an LNG expert said Tuesday.

LNG terminals should be at least three miles from densely populated areas, said Jerry Havens, a chemical engineering professor at the University of Arkansas who has studied LNG safety issues for 30 years.

Port Dolphin Energy LLC, a subsidiary of Norway-based Hoegh LNG LLC, wants to build a submersible unloading system about 28 miles off the coast for tankers carrying liquefied natural gas. At that distance, people onshore would be protected from an explosion, fire or vapor cloud resulting from a spill caused by an accident or terrorist attack, Havens said.

"There is not any event that I can imagine that could occur that far offshore that could affect anybody onshore," Havens said.

But boaters or cruise ships that get too close to a tanker filled with millions of gallons of LNG risk serious injury or even death. A significant spill of liquefied natural gas could create a fire capable of burning people three miles away, Havens said.

"The primary concern is the very large pool fires," Havens said. "We're talking about the [heat] from the fire being sufficient to cause somebody to get burned beyond the edge of the fire."

At one to three miles, the risk of serious injury is slim, Havens said.

"We're talking about a situation that applies in the worst kind of cases, where people couldn't get out of the way," he said.
More on the plan here. And here. Info on the company that wants to develop the site here, from whence the drawings of a "deep water" LNG connection come.

Coast Guard's .998 Batting Average Raises Suspicions

As reported here:
Decisions by judges in the Coast Guard's administrative court system almost always favor the agency over civilian mariners, according to a newspaper's review of court records and other documents.

One former judge testified that judges were pressured to side with the Coast Guard, The Sun of Baltimore reported Sunday.

The agency's administrative court system handles charges against tugboat captains, engineers, charter fishermen and others who need licenses or other documents from the Coast Guard to work. The harshest penalty in the system is revocation of those credentials.

Mariners have won just 14 cases out of more than 6,300 charges filed by Coast Guard investigators since 1999, when the agency restructured its judicial system to broaden defendant's rights, the paper said it found through a computer analysis of court records.

In a sworn statement, Judge Jeffie J. Massey has testified that Chief Judge Joseph N. Ingolia told her to always rule in the Coast Guard's favor, and she said she came under intense pressure when she did not, the newspaper said.
14 of 6300? That's batting .002 for the defense side. The Coast Guard's average? .998

I wonder how bad the 14 cases were?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Selecting the Wrong Target

Poor target selection involved in Ex-Marine teaches pickpocket a lesson. But then the former Marine had good motivation:
Barnes said he'd probably do the same thing again under the same circumstances, if for no other reason than what he would face back home.

"I wouldn't want my wife to give me hell for lettin' that guy get my money," he said with a smile.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Where the pirates may hang out

Let's go pirate hunting! We know that Somali pirates have taken a Danish ship to their protected water off Hobyo. Now what's that look like? Click on the images to make them bigger.

Well, we know Somalia:

And we can find Hobyo on the map:
And then we can use Google Earth to find the lovely garden spot of Hobyo. Literally, according to this, the town's name means "has water"

But they don't put captured ships that far inland, so where would they be?

Well, there is a sort of sheltered anchorage (with some houses nearby) close to Hobyo:

And in that sheltered water you can see some boats... which might - just speculating here - belong to pirates. Or maybe not.

Much of the rest of the long Somali beach in the area looks unfriendly to ships, though.

A China Brief

Some positive spin in a China Brief from the Jamestown Foundation:
Indeed, these developments indicate that China’s senior leaders and strategists are increasingly concerned with traditional and non-traditional threats (e.g. piracy, smuggling, terrorism and other disruptions by non-state actors) to ocean commerce. The recently released U.S. Department of Defense annual report on the Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2007 confirms the concerns of China’s most senior leaders. The DoD report states: At present, China can neither protect its foreign energy supplies nor the routes on which they travel, including the Straits of Malacca through which some 80 percent of China’s crude oil imports transit – a vulnerability President Hu refers to as the “Malacca Dilemma” [emphasis added by author] [1].

Corroborating this assessment, the vice chairman of a major Chinese security think-tank asserted to this author in April that China is looking beyond Taiwan to sea-lane security missions for the PLAN. He noted, however, that the task is too large for the PLAN and even for the U.S. Navy to undertake alone; cooperative efforts would be required. (This unprecedented statement interestingly implies that the U.S. Navy may not have been relegated to the singular role of a prospective disrupter of oil flow to China.) Aware of U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Mullen's recent invitation to PLAN Commander Vice Admiral Wu Shengli for China to join the "Thousand-Ship Navy"—a freeform voluntary transnational network of navies—the vice chairman offered two minor caveats with respect to initiating exercises and operations between the two navies [2]: (1) Historic sensitivities favor beginning bilaterally, and then perhaps folding in Japan and South Korea as well as other regional navies; (2) Asking China to cooperate in Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) operations would be a step too far, given Beijing’s concerns about Pyongyang’s reaction.

By and large, the invitation has been well received by the Chinese military, and Admiral Wu expressed interest toward the idea, pending further discussion during Admiral Mullen's mid-June visit to China (AFP, April 10). A senior PLAN officer well connected to China’s military leadership expressed to this author in late April unreserved support for U.S.-China cooperation in conducting exercises and coping with threats to the security of the SLOCs. A recently retired but also well-informed PLAN officer expressed similar support in April, cautioning only that a wary Beijing may be painfully deliberate in considering participation in more complex exercises and in operational cooperation at sea [3].
Baby steps.

Indonesia pirates rob ship

As a ship was docking, "sea robbers" climb on, as reported here:
Six Indonesians armed with parangs (machetes) and pistols sneaked on board a vessel and robbed eight crewmen of their belongings and cash, resulting in some RM25,000 worth of losses.

The ship Mujur Samudra was docking near Pulau Lima here while on its way to Vietnam at 9.45pm on Saturday when eight Indonesians arrived on a speedboat.

Six of the robbers came on board while two stayed behind.

They surprised the eight crewmen and demanded their belongings, but when two of them did not comply, the suspects hit them on their heads with their parangs.
Hat tip: World Maritime News.

Pulau Lima is an island off the coast of Malaysia. Lightning bolt is in general area, I believe. Note that the Malaysian press indicates the pirates were Indonesian.

A piracy analysis

An analysis of modern piracy found here:
The reality of today is that many localities cannot control their adjacent waters with serious implications for the marine industry.

In most cases the methodology employed for boarding is generally similar and the robbers will be equipped with modern aids such as GPS, mobile and satellite telephones and they will mount their attack in fast boats propelled by large outboard motors. Often they will approach from behind in the blind arc of the ship's radar and board the ship with speed and agility. In the case of straightforward robbery, within 30 minutes they can be away to continue their crimes elsewhere.
The International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code is an important factor in the fight against piracy and whatever the critics of the code say, if nothing else it has increased general awareness, it has instilled a sense of reality into ship operators and their crews and it has formalised procedures to raise the alarm and for authorities to respond.

Of particular relevance to operators is prevention and although an unpopular contingency - an increase in ship manning numbers does provide some measure of insurance.

At the present time it is somewhat absurd that ships are operating with proper, flag-state-approved ship security plans that in many cases could not be effectively implemented for any length of time due to low manning levels.

It is also evident that many flag states seem not to take proper account of ISPS code needs when stipulating minimum safe manning - perhaps the IMO in its wisdom should rename the certificate the 'Minimum Safe and Secure Manning Certificate' in recognition of this situation.
Not that I disagree with Mr. Kennedy's analysis, but I do wonder where the line is between increased manning adding "insurance" value and where it just adds additional hostages?

Hot topic: Short-Range Rocket Defense

Urgent interest in Israel about short range rocket defenses:
Last summer’s war between Hezbollah and the IDF culminated in the longest sustained rocket attack since the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s. During the first two weeks of August 2006, an average of 200 Hezbollah rockets slammed into targets in northern Israel each day. All told, in some 30 days of hostilities, 3,970 Hezbollah rockets exploded in northern Israel killing 43 civilians and severely wounding another 250. Despite the fact that the IDF/Air Force was able to destroy almost all of Hezbollah’s medium- and long-range missile launchers in the opening days of the

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) apparently agrees and is funding work on the David’s Sling Weapon System (DSWS), a new Short Range Ballistic Missile Defense (SRBMD) cooperative program between the U.S. and Israel. According to the MDA’s February 2007 Research and Development, Test and Evaluation Budget Item Justification, “the summer conflict between Israel and Hezbollah underscored the strategic effect of short range, inexpensive ballistic missiles attacks on civilian populations. The current Israeli Missile Defense Architecture (comprised of Patriot and Arrow) has capability against some of these short-range missile threats but does not provide a cost-effective defense. The goal of DSWS is to provide a lower cost ($350K per missile) defense capability (as compared to the $2-3M per Arrow or Patriot missile). With the completion of the Joint Feasibility and Risk Reduction study, the David’s Sling Weapon System is beginning Full Scale Development.”
The United States and Israel also co-developed the Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL)
throughout the 1990s, which uses a chemical laser to destroy airborne targets. In a series of tests conducted between 2002 and 2004, THEL successfully destroyed artillery shells, mortar rounds, and a salvo of 25 Katyusha rockets in flight. Despite the low-cost-per-kill ratio (approximately $3,000 per shot) THEL received no funding for development or production since 2004 in either the U.S. or Israeli defense budget. The system did incur substantially increased R&D costs associated with American efforts to make the system smaller and more mobile. None of these ‘problems’ would be of any concern to Israel however, where but five permanent systems could conceivably protect all of northern Israel from attack. According to a September 5, 2006 report on the matter by James Jay Carafano, a Senior Research Fellow for National Security and Homeland Security at the Heritage Foundation, THEL could be produced in as little as 18 months at a cost of $150 million, and additional systems would be far less expensive once full-scale production started.
More on THEL here.

UPDATE: Thanks to "Worker" in the comments, a YouTube link:

Captured Danish crew of Somali pirate- seized ship running out of food and fresh water

Reported here:
A Danish cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates earlier this month has run out of food and fresh water at sea, a Kenyan maritime official said on Monday.

The MV Danica White and its five Danish crew members were carrying building materials from Dubai to Kenya when it was seized off Somalia in the world's most dangerous waterway.

"The news we are getting is that food has run out in that ship and there is no water," said Andrew Mwangura, director of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers Assistance Programme.

The vessel's generator had apparently broken down, Mwangura told Reuters, so its water purification equipment also failed.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sunday Ship History: Operation PLUTO

Out in Nevada, one road across the Great Basin Desert, Highway 50, is referred to as "the Loneliest Road in America." Gas stations on this 287 mile road are few and far between, which means that some planning is required to make sure that you have fuel enough to complete the trip.

What is true in the high desert of Nevada is also true in war-fighting. If you plan an invasion, perhaps of occupied Europe, you need to have a plan to get the fuel needed by trucks, tanks, aircraft and other machines of war. In World War II, the plan for providing the invading Allied armies with fuel was ingenious, far ahead of its time and known by its acronym Operation PLUTO:
The Pipeline Under the Ocean (PLUTO) was designed to supply petrol from storage tanks in southern England to the advancing Allied armies in France in the months following D-Day.
A reliable supply of petrol for the advancing Allied forces following the D-Day landings was of the highest priority. Planners knew that the future invasion of Europe would be the largest amphibious landing in history and without adequate and reliable supplies of petrol any advance would at best slow down and at worst grind to a halt. A loss of momentum could jeopardise the whole operation as German forces would have time to regroup and counter-attack. Conventional tankers and 'ship to shore' pipelines were in danger of cluttering up the beaches, obstructing the movement of men, armaments and materials and, in all circumstances, were subject to the vagaries of the weather and sea conditions and they were easy targets for the Luftwaffe. The idea of a pipeline under the ocean, (the English Channel), was an innovative solution.
The terminals and pumping stations were heavily disguised as bungalows, gravel pits, garages and even an ice cream shop!
... systems had to be capable of laying down their pipes on the sea-bed in a fast single procedure. The HAIS pipe would be coiled on board the cable laying vessel and fed out as the vessel progressed across the Channel and the HAMEL pipe would be coiled around huge drums towed behind a tug-like vessel and fed out as they drum rolled along.
These pipe-lines were vital arteries, which enabled the Allied Air Fleets and Land Forces to maintain the vital momentum needed to secure victory. Moreover Operation PLUTO made it possible to dispense with the fleets of tankers, which otherwise would have been necessary and spared them the ordeal of concentrated enemy attacks in congested waters, thus undoubtedly saving many hundreds of gallant lives.
That the pipelines experienced delays in installation which meant that they were not fully operational until a couple of months after D-Day does not in any way diminish their importance. The volume of petroleum product transported was vital to the war effort and required a pretty hefty group to make it work:
By the time the two HAIS flexible pipelines and two HAMEL steel pipelines were pumping petrol the Allied armies were well on their way to Belgium. The length of the supply lines needed to be shortened so 11 HAIS pipelines and 6 HAMEL pipelines were laid in a swept channel two miles wide between Dungeness and Ambleteuse near Boulogne. In all about 500 miles of pipeline were laid in an average laying time over the 30 mile stretch of about 5 hours. In January 1945 the system delivered a disappointing 300 tons but by March this had increased to 3000 tons and later still to 4000 tons. This amounted to over 1,000,000 gallons per day giving a total of 172,000,000 gallons delivered in total up to the end of hostilities. During the operation to lay the cables an HQ ship, several cable ships, tugs, trawlers and barges were employed on this specialised work - a total of 34 vessels with 600 men and officers under Captain J.F.Hutchings.

The CombinedOps site has much more, including many photos of the PLUTO Operation.

The map and the PLUTO joint image are from that site. See also here:
Along with the Mulberry Harbours that were constructed immediately after D-Day, Operation Pluto is considered one of history's greatest feats of military engineering. The pipelines are also the forerunners of all flexible pipes used in the development of offshore oil fields.

According to this site, the drum used to unreel the pipeline was nicknamed "HMS Conundrum." Photo of the drum from here. The ABS has a nice piece on PLUTO here.

Escorts were provided for the pipeline laying ships, as set out here:
In June of 1944 both the "Campanula" and the "Dianthus", together with the sloop "Magpie" acted as escorts to two ocean going Tugs (escapees) from Holland that were renamed the HMRT Bustler and the "Growler" and one other smaller Tug , but I can't remember her name (possibly the HMRT Marauder or HMRT Danube V), towed huge "spools" of two inch pipe from Ryde to Cherbourg, 72 miles give or take a few.
In the WWII Pacific Theater, the Army Quartermaster Corps was responsible for getting fuel to the equipment on the beaches, as set out here:
Class III products (or POL) consisted of various grades of gasoline, kerosene, aviation fuel, diesel oil, fuel oil, and an assortment of petroleum based lubricants. It is absolutely critical for sustainment of mechanized forces. More vital even than clothing and general supplies. For without it the engines of war – planes, ships, tanks, motorized vehicles, and all the generators for electrical use – would cease to operate. Neither fighting units, nor logistical support units, could accomplish their varied missions without POL. As General Patton once said: "My troops can eat their belts. But my tanks gotta have gas."

Class III generally had fewer problems in the Pacific than did other areas of Quartermaster supply. The high priority accorded POL usually kept shipping delays to a minimum, and helped with efforts to build up needed reserves. U.S. Quartermasters were also able to draw from private oil company reserves in Australia, and made full use of their excellent bulk storage and handling facilities. Also because petroleum is less fragile and does not deteriorate quite so easily as other materials, it suffered fewer storage hazards. Still there were problems.

Lack of Bulk Storage and Distribution. Allied Class III personnel found they could rely on Australian refineries and their excellent bulk storage facilities for support in the Southwest Pacific until the action moved to New Guinea in 1943. Thereafter their assault had to move forward with limited access to bulk storage facilities. Engineers in New Guinea constructed medium-sized tanks for a few grades of gasoline and diesel oil, and created special dumps and laid aviation fuel pipelines in the vicinity of airports. But even these medium- to small-sized temporary storage facilities failed to meet all needs.

The problem became more acute in later 1943 and early 1944 as the island-hopping campaign got into full swing, and a succession of new bases and sub-bases were built. Larger petroleum vessels had difficulty moving into shallow waters. And when they got in, they often found that hastily built storage tanks were too small to permit complete pacific unloading of petroleum. What they needed, but seldom received, were smaller vessels capable of hauling fuel between bases and to forward supply points.

In the South Pacific area, the Quartermaster Corps had a responsibility to provide POL to New Zealand ground forces, and land-based US Navy and Marine units, as well as the Army. They established massive POL storage areas on Guadalcanal when that became available, at Green Island, and Espiritu Santo.

The Packaged Alternative. The virtual absence of permanent type bulk storage facilities and pipelines throughout the Pacific meant that almost all POL was stored and distributed in containers – mostly in 55-gallon drums. This contrasted sharply with experience in Europe. There QM Gasoline Supply Companies received most of their POL from huge fixed storage facilities, barges or railroad tanker cars, and promptly decanted it into 5-gallon jerricans. These were stacked in warehouses, open dumps, and along roads. And moved to user units in 2 ½-ton trucks and ¼-ton trailers. In the Pacific, they found the use of the much smaller jerricans neither practical nor desirable.

The 55-gallon drums were bulkier, heavier, and more difficult to handle. But they got around that by using forklifts and winches to load drums onto cargo trucks. When these were not available, they simply used planks and manually rolled them onto the trucks. Petroleum Supply Companies also attached pipes and nozzles right on to the drums, and used them to fill vehicles directly. They found that nearly twice the amount of fuel could be loaded on a standard 2 ½-ton truck using 55-gallon drums rather than jerricans.

Despite a persistent shortage of drums, and the absence of modern bulk storage and distribution facilities, Quartermaster efforts to furnish Class III supplies to Allied troops in the Pacific can be judged an overall success.
Today planning for petroleum delivery to combat shore areas is on-going. As noted here, the basic system is the Offshore Petroleum Discharge System (OPDS). OPDS is defined as
Provides a semipermanent, all-weather facility for bulk transfer of petroleum, oils, and lubricants (POL) directly from an offshore tanker to a beach termination unit (BTU) located immediately inland from the high watermark. POL then is either transported inland or stored in the beach support area. Major offshore petroleum discharge systems (OPDS) components are: the OPDS tanker with booster pumps and spread mooring winches; a recoverable single anchor leg mooring (SALM) to accommodate tankers of up to 70,000 deadweight tons; ship to SALM hose lines; up to 4 miles of 6-inch (internal diameter) conduit for pumping to the beach; and two BTUs to interface with the shoreside systems. OPDS can support a two line system for multiproduct discharge, but ship standoff distance is reduced from 4 to 2 miles. Amphibious construction battalions install the OPDS with underwater construction team assistance. OPDS are embarked on selected ready reserve force tankers modified to support the system.
All of which means that the Navy runs a pipeline to the beach from a mooring buoy offshore to which product tankers can connect and pump their cargo to storage facilities operated by the Army on the shore. This system is operated by the Military Sealift Command:
The U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command awarded a $26.6 million contract with options to Edison Chouest Offshore, based in Galliano, La., for the time charter of one Offshore Petroleum Discharge System, or OPDS.

The OPDS consists of two ships -- a support ship and a tender -- that work together to pump fuel for U.S. military forces from a commercial oil tanker moored at sea to a temporary fuel storage area ashore.

To begin the process, the 348-foot support ship and 165-foot tender work together to install up to eight miles of eight-inch-diameter flexible pipe. Next, the support ship positions the tanker for safe off-load operations. While the tender holds the tanker in place, the tanker's lines connect to the flexible pipe through the support ship. Booster pumps aboard the support ship increase the pressure of fuel, pushing the fuel to shore.

The OPDS is especially valuable in areas where fuel piers are unavailable, and tankers are unable to tie up ashore to off-load fuel. The OPDS can pump up to 1.7 million gallons of fuel per day.
The system has been recently exercised. And, no, that ship is not sinking, it's just positioning itself to offload the Single Anchor Leg Moor component of OPDS.

All of which just reaffirms the original point - planning ahead matters, whether on the "Loneliest Highway" or getting ready for combat.

UPDATE: Comparison of "old" OPDS with new contract OPDS:

From PowerPoint presentations which can be reached from here and here.
The new system allows for use of other tankers, greater offshore distance and more flexibility.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Friday Reading

Fullbore Friday at CDR Salamander featues the cruiser St. Paul (you know you are getting old when you had shipmates who served in her) - but what a fine ship!

And Steeljaw Scribe salutes them that keeps 'em flying at Flightdeck Friday.

Surface Warfare ship driving, sometimes referred to (by me) as "Death in Slow Motion" has its looonnngg moments, an example of which is described in a post at Chaotic Synaptic Activity. Some of the gray hairs on my head are from waiting for a merchant ship to "do the right thing."

Somali pirates let go captured Indian dhow

Apparently, after they struck a deal with its owner, Somali pirates turn loose a captured Indian dhow:
Somali pirates have released an Indian merchant ship after holding it for a month, but four others were still being held, a maritime official said on Friday.

The MV Nimatullah, a dhow with 14 Indian crew members and a cargo of 800 tonnes seized close to Mogadishu on May 24, was free and its crew safe, East African Seafarers Assistance Programme Director Andrew Mwangura said.

"The dhow was released about three days ago, it is currently offloading its cargo in Kismayu port," Mwangura told Reuters.
fishing boat from Taiwan, two from Tanzania and a Danish cargo ship are still being held.They were seized at various times.

The Nimatullah's cargo of clothes, sugar, cooking oil, slippers and cosmetics belong to Somali businessman Sheikh Saney.

"We believe the gunmen reached a deal with the Somali owner of the cargo," he told Reuters. He could not confirm if a ransom demanded by the pirates had been paid, and Saney could not immediately be reached for comment.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Global Cooling?

Surprise! The sun may have part in Earth's heating/cooling cycle! Shocking details revealed in Read the sunspots.
Climate stability has never been a feature of planet Earth. The only constant about climate is change; it changes continually and, at times, quite rapidly. Many times in the past, temperatures were far higher than today, and occasionally, temperatures were colder. As recently as 6,000 years ago, it was about 3C warmer than now. Ten thousand years ago, while the world was coming out of the thou-sand-year-long "Younger Dryas" cold episode, temperatures rose as much as 6C in a decade -- 100 times faster than the past century's 0.6C warming that has so upset environmentalists.
Our finding of a direct correlation between variations in the brightness of the sun and earthly climate indicators (called "proxies") is not unique. Hundreds of other studies, using proxies from tree rings in Russia's Kola Peninsula to water levels of the Nile, show exactly the same thing: The sun appears to drive climate change.

However, there was a problem. Despite this clear and repeated correlation, the measured variations in incoming solar energy were, on their own, not sufficient to cause the climate changes we have observed in our proxies. In addition, even though the sun is brighter now than at any time in the past 8,000 years, the increase in direct solar input is not calculated to be sufficient to cause the past century's modest warming on its own. There had to be an amplifier of some sort for the sun to be a primary driver of climate change.

Indeed, that is precisely what has been discovered. In a series of groundbreaking scientific papers starting in 2002, Veizer, Shaviv, Carslaw, and most recently Svensmark et al., have collectively demonstrated that as the output of the sun varies, and with it, our star's protective solar wind, varying amounts of galactic cosmic rays from deep space are able to enter our solar system and penetrate the Earth's atmosphere. These cosmic rays enhance cloud formation which, overall, has a cooling effect on the planet. When the sun's energy output is greater, not only does the Earth warm slightly due to direct solar heating, but the stronger solar wind generated during these "high sun" periods blocks many of the cosmic rays from entering our atmosphere. Cloud cover decreases and the Earth warms still more.

The opposite occurs when the sun is less bright. More cosmic rays are able to get through to Earth's atmosphere, more clouds form, and the planet cools more than would otherwise be the case due to direct solar effects alone. This is precisely what happened from the middle of the 17th century into the early 18th century, when the solar energy input to our atmosphere, as indicated by the number of sunspots, was at a minimum and the planet was stuck in the Little Ice Age. These new findings suggest that changes in the output of the sun caused the most recent climate change. By comparison, CO2 variations show little correlation with our planet's climate on long, medium and even short time scales.

Malaysia pipeline news

Repored here:
Trans-Peninsula Petroleum Sdn., the developer of a $7 billion pipeline across Malaysia, is in talks to sell some of the venture to Middle Eastern oil producers to help them bypass one of the world's busiest shipping routes.

Overseas oil companies will be the pipeline's biggest users and may own 70 percent of the company, said Syed Izhar, deputy chairman of Trans-Peninsula. The company, in talks with as many as four Middle Eastern investors, needs to secure funding and overcome political opposition to complete the project.
The 300-kilometer (186-mile) pipeline would save companies such as Saudi Aramco three days in transport time to China, the world's second-biggest oil user, and avoid the piracy-prone Malacca Straits where tankers were among 11 ships attacked last year. Neighboring Thailand's plan to build a pipeline has yet to materialize, more than seven years after it was first proposed.
The first of three pipes, valued at about $2.3 billion, will be ready in 2011 and the project is due to be completed in 2014, Trans-Peninsula and Ranhill said last month. The pipeline, which will join Yan in Kedah to Bachok in Kelantan, will initially be able to transport 2 million barrels of oil a day.

Offshore mooring facilities will be built at both ends of the pipeline to accommodate very large crude carriers.

Building storage facilities will account for about 60 percent of the project's cost, Syed Izhar said. The first storage facility, to be built in Kelantan on Malaysia's east coast, will have the capacity of storing 60 million barrels.

``Demand for an alternative shorter route does make sense,'' according to a May 30 report by OSK Research. The pipeline will save three days compared with transporting oil through the 960-kilometer Malacca Strait, the report said.

Companies could save 69 cents a barrel, or $1.38 million a day, compared with shipping crude oil on Asian routes from the Persian Gulf on an Aframax tanker, according to OSK Research. So-called Aframax tankers carry about 600,000 barrels of oil.
Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang from the Democratic Action Party wants the government to ``freeze'' the project.

``The project lacks transparency,'' Lim said in a telephone interview in Kuala Lumpur. ``How can they approve the project'' without conducting a study to determine its ``feasibility, its viability and its'' impact on the environment?

The pirates of Guyana

Pirates strike off Guyana and take a hijacked boat to Suriname, as reported here. Police interest is alleged to be mild, but the pirates are picky about what ships they want:
Four days after masked pirates seized a large fishing boat named, "Jessica" and used it to load their booty while terrorizing and robbing fishermen in the Berbice River, the boat was recovered on the shores of Suriname.
Fishermen from that complex and the Rosignol Fisherman's Co-op Society He also said they called the New Amsterdam Central Police Station and were told that only two female ranks were on duty and that they could not locate the captain for the police boat. He said the police eventually went out to sea at 6 pm.

"If they had gone out at the same time that I called them they would have been able to catch the pirates."

But the police in Berbice are refuting this claim and said they went out earlier. They said they would not have waited until 6 pm to go because they would not have seen anything. Limited (RFCSL) told Stabroek News that the attack started on Thursday night and continued until Saturday night. They lost engines, gasoline, cooking gas, large quantities of fish, fish glue and groceries.
He went to the Springlands Police Station on Monday to make a report but left without doing so after waiting for about two hours.
He also said they called the New Amsterdam Central Police Station and were told that only two female ranks were on duty and that they could not locate the captain for the police boat. He said the police eventually went out to sea at 6 pm.

"If they had gone out at the same time that I called them they would have been able to catch the pirates."

But the police in Berbice are refuting this claim and said they went out earlier. They said they would not have waited until 6 pm to go because they would not have seen anything.

Meanwhile Pooran, 44, of Number 2 Village, East Canje said he and his four crew members were working around 1:30 pm when three pirates came up to his boat with a gun. He said they put him to lie flat on his stomach while they broadsided a crew member with his [Pooran's] cutlass.

The pirates ordered his workers to discharge a quantity of fish, glue, engine lead and compass into their boat. He said the men told him his engine was too old for them to take and started chopping it with a cutlass. When that did not work they used Pooran's hammer to pound the engine.

Sri Lankan Navy takes on Tamil Sea Tigers

Reported here:
Sri Lanka's navy says it has destroyed five Tamil Tiger vessels after coming under attack from two dozen boats off the island's far northern tip, estimating it had killed dozens of separatist fighters.

Tuesday's clash at sea off Point Pedro in the northern army-held Jaffna peninsula, which is cut off from the rest of the island by separatist-held areas, was the latest in a string of land and sea battles and air strikes in recent months.

A navy spokesman said more than 40 Tigers were "presumed dead".

"We destroyed five boats and damaged seven to eight more.

"They were trying to attack our patrol boats, but they failed," DKP Dassanayake said, adding that no nav
StrategyPage take here:
Over the last two days, the navy engaged a fleet of two dozen LTTE boats off the northeast coast. The LTTE were trying to smuggle in people, explosives, weapons and ammunition. Four of the boats were rigged with explosives and manned by crews who planned to ram larger navy gunboats. About a third of the LTTE boats were sunk, and another third damaged. The navy suffered no losses, but most of the boats got away, heading back to India. The LTTE lost about 40 people, plus another thirty in unrelated land combat.

Very interesting video of Sea Tigers versus Sri Lankan Navy, with close ups of Tiger suicide boats ("design based on U.S. stealth bomber?") and a one-man suicide "torpedo" (image above is from video)...the torpedo seems to be guided by a diver operating handle bars and propelled by an outboard motor. The warhead appears to be three mortar rounds (?) at the bow, perhaps tied in with a larger round. The function of the snorkle thing in front of the motor eludes me. The thing is probably easy to stop if you see it coming, but seeing it coming might be a problem. I don't think its a weapon for use in open water, but might be a challenge in ports and restricted waters.

As I have noted before, this is not the first time that suicide boats or suicide submarines have been put to use. The Japanese had both and examples were captured during the capture of Okinawa.

The Kaiten submarine was described as "not so much a ship as an insertion of a human being into a very large torpedo." Suicide boats discussed here.

UPDATE: More on "torpedo" - the simplicity is stunning.

China and Burma

Burma falls under China's sphere of influence, as set out here:
Burma has now become China's most important ally in Asia. China's support for the Burmese junta has recently strengthened immeasurably, as the Chinese leaders have made Rangoon the cornerstone of their revised strategy towards Southeast Asia in the face of what it fears is the growing and unwanted influence of the United States in the region.
Some time ago China decided that Burma was crucial to its economic development, especially for the more backward southern regions of the country which have lagged behind the economic development along China's eastern coast. But until recently, China's leaders have feared that Burma's military junta lacked real legitimacy and could collapse overnight, leaving Beijing's military and economic investment in the regime worthless. There is no doubt that China's greatest fear remains Burma's stability. More than a million Chinese farmers, workers and businessmen have crossed into Burma in the last 10 years and are working and living there. The Chinese authorities fear that any upheaval in Burma would result in a mass exodus of Chinese back across the border, creating increased industrial and social unrest in their border regions.

In the past few years Chinese businessmen and provincial government enterprises have boosted their investment in Burma: Lashio, Mandalay and Muse are virtually Chinese cities now. Even in Rangoon, the Chinese are involved in building a special tax-free export zone around the port.

China already has major oil and gas concessions in western Burma, and is planning overland pipelines to bring it to southern China.

Burma is an important strategic transit point for goods produced in southern China. They want to transport these by road to the Rangoon port for shipment to India, the Middle East and eventually Europe. Repair work is under way on Burma's antiquated internal road system that links southern China, through Mandalay to Rangoon.
Already along the Burmese border with China, every small town has restaurants and stores run by migrants from China, many have been there for more than a decade. Chinese teachers are also being recruited to work in the Chinese-language and bilingual schools that are popping up in many of the major cities in northern Burma. Already in the major border towns in Shan state like Mongla and Muse, only the Chinese currency _ the renminbi or yuan _ is used; Chinese calligraphy dominates the landscape: billboards, street signs and shopfronts almost all use Chinese characters exclusively; very little Burmese writing can be seen.

In some towns along the border the clocks are set to Beijing standard time rather than Burma's clock to facilitate cross-border contact, according to local Burmese officials.

The Chinese authorities are planning to use Burma as a crucial transit point, not just for the products grown or manufactured in southwest China, but as a means of transporting goods from the country's economic power-houses along the eastern seaboard.

''By shifting the transit route away from the South China Sea and the Malacca Straits to using Burma's port facilities to reach South Asia, the Middle East and Europe they hope to avoid the dangers of crowded shipping lanes and pirates _ the Malacca dilemma as Beijing calls it,'' a senior Chinese analyst told the Bangkok Post on condition of anonymity.
Control of Burma would certainly simplify access to the Indian Ocean for China...