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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunday Ship History: "The Pathfinder of the Sea"

Near Lexington, Virgina, a road runs through a gorge carved by a river. The river is now called the Maury River. The gorge, known as the Goshen Pass, is a link to millions of years of geological history. But the road also passes a little noticed link to the history of man on the sea.

At a pull-out on that road there is a monument to a one-time Lexington resident for whom the river is now named: Matthew Fontaine Maury, "The Pathfinder of the Seas."

Maury was an oceanographer. As is noted, here, Maury perhaps was not the first oceanographer, but he was the first to think bigger than those who preceded him. When an injury ended his sailing career, he made the most of the assignments he could get:
Maury's maps of ocean currents, sea surface temperature and surface winds are among his greatest accomplishments. Maury devoted nearly all this time to assembling information on the physical properties of the ocean across the globe. His charts proved invaluable for reducing transoceanic shipping times and revealed for the first time the worldwide patterns of oceanic currents and winds.
Maury joined the Navy in 1824 and between 1825 and 1834, he sailed on three expeditions, visiting the South Pacific and Europe as well as traveling around the world. It was likely during these voyages that he realized the importance of understanding global patterns of winds and ocean currents for commerce as well as warfare.
As with many twists of fate, Maury's put him in the right place at the right time. In 1842, he was appointed as Superintendent of the Depot of Charts and Instruments for the Navy Department in Washington. It was here that Maury began to study the huge assemblage of ship's reports in the Depot's archives. From this information, be began to put together a global database on currents, winds and weather patterns across the globe. He began to publish his own charts which quickly gained a following. In such demand were his ocean maps that he could "hold them for ransom," not distributing them until the ship's captains provided the most recent logs of their journeys.

Maury's charts soon became internationally famous. In the fall of 1853, he was appointed as the U.S. Representative to the International Congress in Brussels. He urged the recording of oceanographic data aboard naval and merchant marine vessels and soon his system of recording currents and winds was adopted world-wide.

In 1855, Maury published what is considered to be his greatest contribution to oceanography, a book called The Physical Geography of the Seas (which you can view here). The book contained detailed information on the Gulf Stream; bathymetric maps with contours at depths exceeding 4.5 miles deep; and a wealth of information on currents and meteorology. Some call Maury's book "the first textbook of modern physical oceanography."

As a result of Maury's work, sailing times between the British Isles and California were reduced by thirty days. His charts took twenty days off trips to Australia and ten days off trips to Rio de Janeiro. Of more lasting impact, Maury's work forged the bonds between ocean science and national and commercial interests. In this respect, he did set the stage for modern oceanography.

But Maury's greatest contribution was that he was among the first to recognize the importance of a global way of thinking. His zeal for oceanographic data from all parts of the world ocean and his ability to synthesize massive data sets into coherent atlases of ocean properties distinguish his work from others. Clearly, Maury was a big thinker, one who could see the big picture and appreciate its relevance to understanding ocean processes.
See also here.

There is more to the story, something that kept Maury from greater national fame. At the start of the American Civil War, Maury, like many Virginians, chose to side with the Confederacy instead of the Union. Accepting a commission as a Commander, he was the source of one of the greatest dangers confronting the Union fleet, because he developed the "electric torpedo":
In Richmond, Maury set to work upon the development of underwater torpedoes. Others before him had experimented with such electrically charged devices, but Maury was the first American to use them successfully in battle. Their effectiveness was attested to by Secretary of Navy Gideon Welles, who reported to Congress after the war that the federal navy “had lost more vessels from Confederate torpedoes than from all other causes combined.”(photo from here)
His choice of Confederate side in the Civil War made him unemployable by any federal agency, so he bounced around a little before landing a position as a professor of physics at the Virginia Military Institute. His anti-Union choice, however, has not prevented modern federal agencies which owe a debt to his work from paying homage, such as was done by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)here:
Maury wrote The Physical Geography of the Sea to celebrate this new, collective interest in studying the oceans. This work introduced the new science of oceanography to a 19th century audience awed and fascinated by the mystery and majesty of the world's oceans. He covered subjects ranging from the Gulf Stream, the great ocean currents, whales and whalers, the Northwest Passage, coral reefs, sea salts, ocean climates, hurricanes, deep-sea sounding, and the Atlantic basin.
Although it also notes:
While many of Maury's theories advanced in this volume have since been disproved, The Physical Geography of the Sea remains one of the seminal treatises on oceanography. Nine editions of this work have been published, the latest in 1963.
Today, in addition to the memorial in Goshen Pass, a memorial also stands in Richmond, Virgina to this pioneer. An oceanographic research vessel operated by the United States Navy once bore his name (though it was transfered to the California Maritime Academy and renamed Golden Bear).

Today, the Goshen Pass and the Maury River are part of a Virginia state recreational area.

But there is that memorial to Maury. And on it are these words:
The Pathfinder of the Seas," it calls him. "The genius who first snatched from ocean and atmosphere the secret of their laws."
Which may matter little to the canoeists and tubers who float down the lovely Maury River. But it matters a great deal to those who put their lives at risk on the oceans of the world.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Early Weekend

Taking an early weekend. Back Sunday.

Don't forget Friday reading at CDR Salamander (Fullbore Friday) and Steeljaw Scribe(Flightdeck Friday). UPDATE: And Lex, who's a good read anytime, and Chap. Of course, Milblogs, where you can get a variety of interesting blogs in one convenient location. And, you know, Former Spook at In From the Cold...and Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal (formerly The Fourth Rail) and a host of people whose blogs appear over to the right.

Take Friday off from work and visit them all.

And, if you can, please avoid the following:

This might stir things up: Taiwan to build airbase in Spratly Islands

Blogged about by Mingi Hyunat 'Manoeuvre' in Maritime Asia: Taiwan to Construct Spratly Air Base, reported here:
Taiwan is building a military airfield on Itu Aba Island, the largest among the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, a Taiwan Defense Ministry official told The Yomiuri Shimbun on Wednesday.

Taiwan has claimed sovereignty over the Spratlys, a string of oil-rich rocky outcrops, along with China, Vietnam, the Philippines and other countries.

Planned to be used by C-130 transport planes and other aircraft, the completion of the airfield is expected to cement Taiwan's effective control of the island, observers said.

Covering an area of about 0.48 square kilometer, Itu Aba is the only Spratly island under Taiwan's control.

The 1,150-meter-long, 30-meter-wide runway is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year, with a total construction cost of about 700 million new Taiwan dollars (about U.S.21 million dollars).

Currently, Taiwan's coast guard mainly takes charge of the island's defense.
Vietnam protests.

Global Security lays out the background here.

May we live in interesting times.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Somalia: France offers to send anti-piracy warship off Somalia

Wonder of wonders: France offers to send warship off Somalia to deter pirates:
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said here Tuesday that his country was prepared to send a warship off Somalia to protect delivery of international food aid to beleaguered Somalis from attacks by pirates.
"France is prepared to send a warship to protect humanitarian supplies," he told reporters after chairing a Security Council on Africa.
Piracy is common in the waters off Somalia, which has been without an effective government since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre sparked a bloody power struggle.
"France stands ready to ensure security for the assistance provided by the World Food Program in Somalia for a period of two months using naval military resources," the French leader told the 15-member Council. "I call on all those who wish to do so to join this initiative".
World Food Program is thankful:
Speaking in Nairobi, WFP spokesman Marcus Prior told AFP the offer would provide "great protection against piracy in Somali waters" and that the agency was already in contact with France on details of the protection.

Somalia has been in the grip of near continual civil war since 2001. About 1.5 million of the 10 million population rely on humanitarian aid, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Because of the disastrous state of the country's roads and the civil unrest, aid organisations prefer to use boats and 80 percent of UN aid reaches the Somalia by sea.

But the cargo ships are a prime target for pirates, who operate high powered speed boats and carry heavy machine guns and rocket launchers.
Now, just set up some convoys and escort the heck out of them...

Free market oil?

Some interesting thoughts on why our energy policy,based on "national security," may make very little sense here:
This is unfortunate, because the national-security rationale for energy policy is no more persuasive today than it was in the 1970s.

Do we need to spend billions and, if necessary, blood and treasure to defend oil producers in the Middle East? No. Oil producers will provide for their own security needs as long as the cost of doing so results in greater profits than equivalent investments could yield. Because Middle Eastern governments typically have nothing of value to trade except oil, they must secure and sell oil to remain viable. Given that their economies are so heavily dependent upon oil revenues, Middle Eastern governments have even more incentive than we do to worry about the security of production facilities, ports, and sea lanes.

In short, the U.S. oil mission is a taxpayer-financed gift to oil regimes that has little, if any, effect on oil prices. One may support or oppose such a gift, but it is not compelled by our need for foreign oil.

Do we need to “kiss the ring” of oil producers to ensure a steady supply of oil? No. Friendly relations with producer states neither enhance access to imported oil nor lower its price.

Selective embargoes by producer nations on some consuming nations are unenforceable unless (i) all other nations on Earth refuse to ship oil to the embargoed state, or (ii) a naval blockade were to prevent oil shipments into the ports of the embargoed state. That’s because once oil leaves the territory of a producer, market agents dictate where the oil goes, not agents of the producer, and anyone willing to pay the prevailing world crude oil price can have all he wants.

The 1973 Arab oil embargo is a perfect case in point. U.S. crude oil imports actually increased from 1.7 million barrels per day (mbd) in 1971 to 2.2 mbd in 1972, 3.2 mbd in 1973, and 3.5 mbd in 1974. The long gasoline lines and high prices that we associate with the embargo were triggered by with domestic price controls, rationing, and the oil-inventory buildup accompanying fears of a regional war in the Middle East — not the embargo.

Moreover, oil-producing nations have never allowed their feelings towards oil-consuming nations to affect their production decisions. After a detailed survey of the world oil market since the rise of OPEC, MIT professor M.A. Adelman concluded, “We look in vain for an example of a government that deliberately avoids a higher income. The self-serving declaration of an interested party is not evidence.” Prof. Philip Auerswald of George Mason University agrees; “For the past quarter century, the oil output decisions of Islamic Iran have been no more menacing or unpredictable than Canada’s or Norway’s.”

While it is possible that a radical oil-producing regime might play a game of chicken with consuming countries, producing countries are very dependent on oil revenue and have fewer degrees of freedom to maneuver than consuming countries. Catastrophic supply disruptions would harm producers more than consumers, which is why they are extremely unlikely.

If American dollars spent on foreign oil actually increased the fighting strength of Islamic terrorists, then one would expect to see a correlation between oil prices (a good stalking horse for oil profits) and Islamic terrorist activity. But there is no such correlation to be found. In a recent study, we estimated two regressions using annual data from 1983 to 2005: the first between fatalities resulting from cross-border Islamic terrorist attacks and Saudi oil prices and the second between the number of cross-border Islamic terrorist incidents and Saudi oil prices. In neither regression was the estimated coefficient on oil prices at all close to being significantly different from zero.

Hence, belief that cutting oil profits would cut Islamic terrorism is a matter of faith, not a matter of fact. Given the low-cost nature of terrorism (the 9/11 attacks, for instance, cost only about $500,000), there is little chance that anyone’s energy policy is going to bother al Qaeda very much. They seemed to do very well in the 1990s when oil prices — and thus, oil profits — were at their lowest level in the entire history of the oil age.
Simply put, there is absolutely no relationship between energy policy and national security. If Republican presidential candidates want to embrace the Reagan legacy, they can start by sounding like Reagan. And that means embracing free energy markets and not federal 10-or-25-year energy plans.

Big Naval Exercise for Panama Canal Protection Ends

The almost unnoticed Panamax 2007 Exercise wraps up, as noted here:
Held under the auspices of the US Southern Command, the massive operation involved 30 vessels, 12 aircraft and more than 7,500 personnel from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Netherlands, Panama, Peru, the US and Uruguay, with El Salvador, Mexico and Paraguay sending observers.

The exercise was designed to improve terrorist countermeasures to protect the vital waterway. Simulated ground forces participated at the Soto Cano air base in Honduras.

According to the US Southern Command in Miami PANAMAX 2007 "focused on ensuring the security of the Panama Canal from both the Caribbean and Pacific approaches." Commander of the Norfolk-based Second Fleet Vice Admiral Evan Chanik led the exercise.

Deputy commanding general of US Army South, Brigadier General Manuel Ortiz, said in a statement: "This year's Panamax is a truly amazing exercise. This is the largest exercise in the hemisphere."

Participating US warships included the USS Wasp, USS Pearl Harbor, USS Mitscher, USS Samuel B Roberts and USCGC Coast Guard cutter Thetis.

While Panamax has been held annually since 2003, for the first time France sent a vessel to participate, the frigate FS Ventose. Peru contributed the frigate BAP Bolognesi and missile corvette BAP Sanchez Carrion, while Colombia dispatched the ARC Antioquia frigate and ARC Buenaventura supply ship. The Royal Netherlands Navy, home-ported in the Antilles and Curacao, dispatched the HNLMS Van Nes. Chile, one of the three original participants in the exercises since 2003, contributed the frigate CNS Almirante Blanco Encalada and a P-3 ocean surveillance aircraft. Canada sent HMCS Regina along with soldiers to Honduras to participate in simulated security and humanitarian assistance scenarios. The war games emphasized visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) of targeted vessels, maritime interdiction and flight operations.
The continued importance of the Panama Canal is noted:
Ninety-three years after its construction, the Panama Canal remains the Western Hemisphere's most vital waterway, shaving nearly 8,000 miles off ships' Pacific-Atlantic transit, allowing them to avoid the storm-laden Straits of Magellan and the Drake Passage off Argentina's southern coast. The Panama Canal represents the culmination of a centuries-old dream, having first been suggested in 1523 by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

More than 14,000 ships annually, or about 40 per day, transit the canal. According to Panama Canal Administration head Alberto Aleman, tonnage transiting the canal has risen steadily, increasing from 230 million tonnes in 2000 to nearly 300 million in 2006.

For the past eight years, the Panama Canal has been completely under Panamanian sovereignty. Ironically, during the 1970s the greatest threats to the canal's security came from the Panamanian government. During the 1960s and 1970s, Panamanians demonstrated in protests over US sovereignty, while then-Panamanian president Omar Torrijos, stymied during the initial negotiations, threatened to blow up the canal if the US did not leave. On 7 September 1977, Torrijos and then-US president Jimmy Carter signed treaties beginning the process of a 20-year phase-out of US military forces and the transfer of all US the military bases and the Panama Canal to Panama by 31 December 1999.

Since Panama received control over the canal, income generated by the waterway has increased from US$769 million in 2000 to an estimated US$1.765 billion expected for the 2007 fiscal year, which ends on 30 September.

The increased tariff revenues will come in handy as on 3 September Panama began the waterway's biggest expansion since it opened in 1914. The project will add a new set of locks to the existing two, which will allow two-way traffic through the waterway at an estimated cost of US$5.25 billion, with completion by 2015.
Ship in photo is USS Wasp.

Failed Attack by Pirates on Yacht off Sri Lanka

A failed attempt by pirates to board a yacht off Sri Lanka reported here:
Several fishing vessels chased and tried to board a yacht off southern Sri Lanka in a rare attempted incident of piracy, according to a report from a piracy watchdog.

The yacht, whose identity was not revealed, was enroute from the Maldives to Malaysia.

The yacht managed to evade the attempted attack, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre based in Kuala Lumpur said.

The attack took place 78 nautical miles off the island's south west coast early morning on August 18 but was reported by the IMB only on Tuesday. ***
Piracy in Sri Lankan waters is rare with the main concern in recent years being the threat from the Sea Tigers.

Sri Lanka is not known as a piracy hot spot unlike the Malacca Straits or the waters of Bangladesh where attacks by pirates are common.
Arrow point to general area of attack.

Ship, captured by pirates, retaken by Indonesian Navy

Pirates capture a ship in the Malacca Strait, but the Indonesian Navy foils piracy attempts in Malacca Strait:
The Indonesian Navy has foiled a hijacking attempt by a group of pirates who took over a tanker with 2,294 tons of cooking oil across the Malacca Strait, local press said Wednesday.

The Navy foiled the piracy attempt Monday after the Kraton tanker, which departed from South Sumatra's capital of Palembang en route to Central Java, was attacked by 14 pirates on Saturday.

The pirates in a small boat approached the tanker and climbed onboard waving pistols, reported English daily The Jakarta Post.

The tanker's captain, Ruskandi, said the pirates took over the tanker which was transporting cooking oil worth around 22 billion rupiah (2.4 million U.S. dollars) and steered it in the direction of Malaysia or Singapore.

All crew members were tied up.

Commander of the Navy's West Fleet Commodore Denny Novendy said six warships were deployed to chase down the tanker.

"The warships intentionally hit the tanker to give the pirates a fright. With only one shot fired by the pirates, the Navy managed to overpower them without causing any casualties," he was quoted as saying.

One of the culprits said he had been assigned to drive the tanker into Malaysian waters.

If they had made it into Malaysian waters they may have been able to avoid capture by the Indonesians. See here:
Article 111. Right of hot pursuit

1. The hot pursuit of a foreign ship may be undertaken when the competent authorities of the coastal State have good reason to believe that the ship has violated the laws and regulations of that State. Such pursuit must be commenced when the foreign ship or one of its boats is within the internal waters, the archipelagic waters, the territorial sea or the contiguous zone of the pursuing State, and may only be continued ouside the territorial sea or the contiguous zone if the pursuit has not been interrupted. It is not necessary that, at the time when the foreign ship within the territorial sea or the contiguous zone receives the order to stop, the ship giving the order should likewise be within the territorial sea or the contiguous zone. If the foreign ship is within a contiguous zone, as defined in article 33, the pursuit may only be undertaken if there has been a violation of the rights for the protection of which the zone was established.

2. The right of hot pursuit shall apply mutatis mutandis to violations in the exclusive economic zone or on the continental shelf, including safety zones around continental shelf installations, of the laws and regulations of the coastal State applicable in accordance with this Convention to the exclusive economic zone or the continental shelf, including such safety zones.

3. The right of hot pursuit ceases as soon as the ship pursued enters the territorial sea of its own State or of a third State.

4. Hot pursuit is not deemed to have begun unless the pursuing ship has satisfied itself by such practicable means as may be available that the ship pursued or one of its boats or other craft working as a team and using the ship pursued as a mother ship is within the limits of the territorial sea, or, as the case may be, within the contiguous zone or the exclusive economic zone or above the continental shelf. The pursuit may only be commenced after a visual or auditory signal to stop has been given at a distance which enables it to be seen or heard by the foreign ship.

5. The right of hot pursuit may be exercised only by warships or military aircraft, or other ships or aircraft clearly marked and identifiable as being on government service and authorized to that effect.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Latest ICC CCS Piracy Report (to 24 Sept 07)

The latest ICC Commercial Crime Services Piracy Report (to 24 Sept 07) here. Highlights of a busy few days:
- 14.09.2007: 0330 UTC: 06:18N - 003:22E, Lagos anchorage, Nigeria. Deck crew onboard a tanker carrying out STS operations noticed two small boats in the vicinity. Suddenly one of the boats with three persons on board approached the ship. The OOW was informed, alarm raised and crew mustered. Robbers noticed the alert crew and aborted the attempt.

-14.09.2007: 0216 LT: 0616.5N - 003:21.3E, Lagos anchorage, Nigeria.
The deck watchman on an anchored tanker noticed a fast boat, with 3-4 robbers, approaching from astern. One robber was seen holding a pole with a hook attached to it. The OOW was informed, alarm raised, crew mustered and port control informed. On hearing the alarm, the robbers aborted the attempt.

-23.09.2007: Kutubdia anchorage, Chittagong, Bangladesh. Whilst carrying out anti piracy rounds, on a bulk carrier at anchor, ship's crew found forecastle store, door, lock broken and ships stores missing. Even though there were a number of shore personal working onboard the robbers went unnoticed.

-22.09.2007: 1950 LT: off Palembang, Indonesia. Several pirates hijacked a tanker, enroute to Cilacap from Palembang, with a cargo of Palm Olien. The master reported to TG. Buyut pilot station and they informed the tanker's managers. IMB piracy reporting centre has alerted the authorities to look out for the tanker.

-20.09.2007: 1715 LT: 110 NM West of Berbera, Somalia. Pirates hijacked a fishing vessel and anchored it near the village of Raas Shula. All crew including the four Somali security guards have been taken out from the ship.

-19.09.2007 : 0430 UTC: 01:33.6N - 051:41.5E: Somalia. A blue-hulled suspicious vessel with white superstructure with two masts was drifting at a distance of 11.5nm from a bulk carrier. Ship altered course to stay away from suspicious vessel. The suspicious vessel altered course, and speed a number of times. The bulk carrier continued to plot the suspicious vessel until finally past and clear. Note: In this case, the IMB notes the movements of the suspicious vessel to be quite similar to those of fishing vessel.

-17.09.2007: 0250 UTC: 02:27.1N – 051:56.0E, Somalia. A bulk carrier underway sighted a vessel drifting on her port bow at a range of 12 nm. The boat suddenly increased speed and moved towards the ship. The ship took evasive action and increased speed to keep away from the suspicious craft. Due to ship’s higher speed, the suspicious boat moved away. An hour later, another suspicious boat was sighted on the stbd bow; the ship took evasive action to keep away from the boat. Due to ship’s higher speed, the boat was left behind. Ship continued her passage.

-11.09.2007: 2300 LT: vicinity of Ferguson Island, Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea. The captain of a workboat, transporting workers and cargo, jumped overboard when pirates boarded his vessel. The pirates robbed the crew and injured them with sharp objects. Later the crew received medical treatment at a shore hospital. A search party was sent to locate the captain but he could not be found.

-09.09.2007: 1145 LT: Posn 01:54.1N – 106:31.49E, 48 NM of Pulau Repong, South China Sea. Two speedboats, with an unknown number of few men and believed to be armed, were trailing a yacht underway. Suspicious of their intention, the yacht broadcast the incident via vhf radio. A passing by container ship relayed the message to Singapore port authorities. The Singapore port authorities relayed the message to MRCC Jakarta and broadcast a navigational warning via the Navtex and safety net system. The attempted attack was aborted.

-18.08.2007: 0750 LT: 05:22.58N – 078:78.9E, 78 NM from coast, Sri Lanka.
Several fishing vessels chased and attempted to board a yacht while enroute from Maldives to Malaysia. The yacht managed to evade the attempted attack.

-26.07.2007: 0730 LT: 40 NM west of Anambas islands, South China Sea.
A Chinese fishing vessel while underway was approached by a small rubber boat. Five pirates armed with guns opened fire at the fishing vessel and attempted to board. The fishing vessel increased speed and managed to escape. Bullets penetrated the bridge hull and damaged glass. No one was injured. The fishermen reported to authorities in china, Singapore and Malaysia.
UPDATE: Latest ONI Worldwide Threats to Shipping Warnings (to 19 Sept 07) posted here.

Philippines: Security for Southern Border

The Philippine Navy has some ambitious plans to get control of its nation's southern border as reported as Navy to seal off southern sea borders:
The Philippine Navy will set up 17 Coast Watch stations, worth up to P17 billion, to guard the country’s porous southern sea borders against terror groups and other transnational criminals, one of the officials on top of the project said.

At the same time, the Navy is awaiting an Executive Order from Malacañang that will define the roles of the Navy and other government agencies like the Coast Guard, the police, and the customs and immigrations bureaus under the Coast Watch South concept, said Lieutenant Commander Jorge Ibarra, chief of the International Affairs branch, under the office of the Deputy Navy Chief for Plans.

The Coast Watch stations will encircle the southern portion of the country from Palawan to Davao province, to curb the movement of terror groups and other criminal groups, Ibarra said.

"Once we monitor unusual movement, we will intercept it immediately," he said in a phone interview on Tuesday.
In a recent news forum, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. stressed the need to tighten security in southern waters.

"Our southern backdoor is especially prone to the incursion of terrorists, smugglers, pirates, and traffickers of firearms and explosives. It is also used as a transshipment point of illegal drugs," he said.

"The Coast Watch South stations would enhance the Philippine Navy's capability to conduct surveillance and interdiction against various threats that are taking advantage of our porous borders," he added.
Depending on when the funding would be released, Ibarra said the Navy plans to procure N-Shore Patrol vessels, patrol gunboats, and rigid-hull inflatable boats to set up the 17 stations in three phases.

The N-Shore Patrol vessel and gunboats would patrol a 12-nautical mile radius in open sea, while the rigid-hull inflatable boats would patrol waters closer to the coastlines, Ibarra said.

The 17 stations, worth between P16 billion to P17 billion, will augment the existing five stations in southern waters, the official said.

In a separate interview, Navy spokesman Giovanni Carlo Bacordo said the 17 stations would stretch from Mangsi Island off Palawan province to the Davao coast, forming a U-shaped "barrier."

Ibarra said the testing for the Coast Watch concept would start this year, once the Palace releases the EO. He said a workshop of all agencies involved is set at the Navy headquarters in Manila next week.

He said helicopters would provide air support to the sea patrols, in coordination with land stations.

"There will be a triad, with a sea, land, and air component," Ibarra said.

West African Pirate Capture?

With a hat tip to World Maritime, comes a confusing tale from the BBC on the possible capture of pirates titled: S Leone catches Guinea 'pirates':
Eight Guineans have been arrested by Sierra Leone for an act of piracy against locally-licensed Chinese fishermen inside Sierra Leonean waters. The Guinean authorities say the men, including several officials, were on a legitimate fisheries protection patrol. Sierra Leone naval officers say they interrupted an armed hold-up involving two speedboats crewed by armed men 18 nautical miles off Freetown. They seized one speedboat and said the other escaped towards Guinea. Daniel Mansaray, commander of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces Maritime Wing, told Reuters news agency that the arrested men were all "Guinean pirates", armed with AK-47 automatic rifles. He said they included two fisheries inspectors, a naval lieutenant and an army lieutenant from the Guinean armed forces and that they were caught in possession of bags of fish taken off the Sierra Leone-licensed vessels. *** A spokesman for Guinea's navy denied the men were pirates and said they were fisheries officers accompanied by military personnel on an official patrol. But he had no explanation for what the Guineans were doing within Sierra Leone's waters.
Well, I have at least one possible explanation...

Port Security: Diver Detector

Reported here:
In the recent test of a new anti-diver detection system, the diver off the Middletown coast was a Navy volunteer, arriving on schedule and trailing a buoy.

But the adversaries the technology is designed to spot are less cooperative, aiming to deposit explosives by Navy ships and swim off before an explosion kills U.S. sailors and destroys millions of dollars in military equipment.

The United States has discovered al-Qaida diving manuals abroad, and recently the FBI asked dive-shop owners to be alert for terrorists seeking scuba training. Countries considered hostile to the United States, such as Iran and North Korea, have trained divers in their militaries.

“The threat is real,” Ron Carmichael, a Navy systems engineer in Washington, said last week as he observed the system test. “It’s about catching the guy before he gets close enough to do any damage.”

The Coast Guard already deploys similar systems at strategic locations, and Navy ships at foreign ports guard against underwater threats by using radar, sonar and infrared technologies.

But the system being tested in Middletown, by Naval Undersea Warfare Center researchers and 10 military contractors such as DRS Technologies Inc., is the first to employ software that incorporates data from multiple types of sensors.

The goal, Carmichael said, is to reduce false alarms caused by surf, sea mammals and small boats, easing the demands on port patrols while heightening protection against incidents similar to the 2000 attack on the American destroyer Cole, severely damaged while docked in Yemen.
It should be noted that Cole was attacked by a small boat perfectly visible to the crew of its target, not a diver. Such a detection system might prove useful in thwarting attacks by divers driving suicide torpedoes as those such seemingly developed by the Tamil Sea Tigers (see here) as shown in the nearby photos.

For an opinion discounting a pure "diver threat" see here and here for older looks at the diver threat..

Monday, September 24, 2007

Iran's Swarm Attack Tactics in the Strait of Hormuz

You might have missed this article on Iran's 1000 boat "swarm force" stationed near the Strait of Hormuz...:
The U.S. Navy has determined that Iran has amassed a fleet of fast patrol boats in the 43-kilometer straits. Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, responsible for strategic programs, leads the effort.

At this point, officials said, IRGC has deployed more than 1,000 FPBs in and around the straits. The vessels, armed with cruise missiles, mines, torpedoes and rocket-propelled grenades, are up to 23 meters in long and can reach a speed of 100 kilometers per hour. ***
"This marks the implementation of Iran's swarm program, where dozens of armed speed boats attack much larger naval vessels from all sides," an official said.
IRGC swarming tactics envision a group of more than 100 speedboats attacking a target, such as a Western naval vessel or a commercial oil tanker. They said 20 or more speedboats would strike from each direction, making defense extremely difficult.
"We have devised various tactics and other ways of coping," U.S. commander Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff said. "You just don't get 1,000 or 500 or even 20 of anything under way and tightly orchestrated over a large body of water to create a specific effect at a specific time and specific place. They have their own challenges.''
Wait, they won't just magically appear all around a carrier battle group all at once? Even with their incredible Iranian stealth attack ground effect boat/planes?

More on "swarm" tactics and on the Iranian stealth effort here under the title of "Iran's Doctrine of Asymmetric Naval Warfare" -
Swarming tactics are not new; they have been practiced by land armies for thousands of years. Such tactics require light, mobile forces with substantial striking power, capable of rapidly concentrating to attack an enemy from multiple directions and then rapidly dispersing.

Iranian naval swarming tactics focus on surprising and isolating the enemy’s forces and preventing their reinforcement or resupply, thereby shattering the enemy’s morale and will to fight. Iran has practiced both mass and dispersed swarming tactics. The former employs mass formations of hundreds of lightly armed and agile small boats that set off from different bases, then converge from different directions to attack a target or group of targets. The latter uses a small number of highly agile missile or torpedo attack craft that set off on their own, from geographically dispersed and concealed locations, and then converge to attack a single target or set of targets (such as a tanker convoy). The dispersed swarming tactic is much more difficult to detect and repel because the attacker never operates in mass formations.

During the Iran-Iraq War, the Pasdaran navy used mass swarming tactics; as a result, its forces proved vulnerable to attack by U.S. naval and air power. Because of this, it is unlikely that such tactics would be used for anything but diversionary attacks in the future. In today’s Iranian naval forces, mass swarming tactics have largely given way to dispersed swarming.

Dispersed swarming tactics are most successful when attackers can elude detection through concealment and mobility, employ stand-off firepower, and use superior situational awareness (intelligence), enabling them to find and engage the enemy first. This accounts for a number of trends in Iranian naval force development in the past two decades. The first is the acquisition and development of small, fast weapons platforms—particularly lightly armed small boats and missile-armed fast-attack craft; extended- and long-range shore- and sea-based antiship missiles; midget and diesel attack submarines (for intelligence gathering, covert mine laying, naval special warfare, and conventional combat operations); low-signature reconnaissance and combat unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs); and the adaptation of the Shahab-3 medium-range surface-to-surface missile armed with a cluster warhead reportedly carrying 1,400 bomblets, for use against enemy naval bases and carrier battle groups.

Iran has also sought to improve its ability to achieve surprise by employing low-observable technologies (such as radar-absorbent paints), strict communications discipline, stringent emissions control measures, passively or autonomously guided weapons systems (such as the Kowsar series of television-guided antiship missiles), and sophisticated command-and-control arrangements. To support its naval swarm tactics, Iran has encouraged decentralized decisionmaking and initiative, as well as autonomy and self-sufficiency among naval combat elements.
Dispersed swarming? Adm Cosgrove has it right - a coordinated attack is difficult to conceal and an uncoordinated attack can lead to forces being defeated seriatim.

For some thoughts on the effectiveness of other "super" weapons, Galrahn has a good post here.

Picture of captured Iranian Boghammer boat in San Diego Harbor from here as is the Iranian Boghammer action photo which bears the following caption on the Warboats site:
Iranian Boghammer from "Operation Earnst Will." Note on the bow the box is 107mm rocket launchers and also carried 51 cal on stern, plus RPGs & SAAM missles.
UPDATE: Map of Strait of Hormuz liberated from someplace else. It purports to show Silkworm missile ranges in the area.

UPDATE2 (9/25/07): Galrahn has a new post up on Iranian Underwater Warfare Capabilities. Mines, mines, mines. Submarines. Oh, my.

UPDATE3: A much earlier post on Iran and sea mines here. And a submariner looks at the Iranian mini-subs here and at the links therein.

Monday Reading

Fred Fry has Martime Monday 77 up and ready for reading - covering everything from a pipe laying barge to "tuna wars" to some corruption in low places in India... There's enough there to eat up a morning. Or afternoon.

Xformed at Chaotic Synaptic Activity Monday Maritime Matters looks at John Paul Jones and the U.S. Navy ships named after him.

New Article: "The Threat of Maritime Terrorism to Israel"

Scholar Akiva Lorenz, who wrote Al Qaeda's Maritime Threat has a new work out available at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism website, The Threat of Maritime Terrorism to Israel and also at his blog, here. From his conclusion: maritime targets are harder to attack than most onshore targets, terrorist organizations will continue to prefer attacking those while maritime smuggling operations will continue. While the establishment of better interconnected command and control centers, and the use of unmanned, aerial and maritime UAVs will allow Israel to decrease its reaction time on the home front, on the international front Israel's maritime assets are still wide open. International counter-measures such as the ISPS code and U.S. initiatives like the Container Security Initiatives (CSI) and Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) can only be regarded as the first step in order to close this Achilles' heel.

Some of the work is a look at the history of terror actions against Israel from the sea, some of it is a look forward into continuing threats.

These on-going threats, involving port security, shipping container security, the safety of passenger carrying ships and the possible use of ships themselves as WMD (scenarios involving LNG and LPG ships, or ships carrying hazardous chemicals) or as vehicles to clog vital chokepoints, are not unique to Israel but are common threats to all nations dependent on maritime trade or operations. As such, Mr. Lorenz's piece is well worth reading, especially as a reminder that we are still in the early stages of working on preventive measures to harden our potential maritime targets.

Mr. Lorenz's blog is Intel

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sunday Ship History: "I have not yet begun to fight"

As John Paul Jones wrote of the battle here:
On the morning of that day, the 23d [September, 1779], the brig from Holland not being in sight, we chased a brigantine that appeared laying to, to windward. About noon, we saw and chased a large ship that appeared coming round Flamborough Head, from the northward, and at the same time I manned and armed one of the pilot boats to send in pursuit of the brigantine, which now appeared to be the vessel that I had forced ashore. Soon after this, a fleet of forty-one sail appeared off Flamborough Head, bearing N. N. E. This induced me to abandon the single ship which had then anchored in Burlington Bay; I also called back the pilot boat, and hoisted a signal for a general chase. When the fleet discovered us bearing down, all the merchant ships crowded sail towards the shore. The two ships of war that protected the fleet at the same time steered from the land, and made the disposition for battle. In approaching the enemy, I crowded every possible sail, and made the signal for the line of battle, to which the dalliance showed no attention. Earnest as I was for the action, I could not reach the commodore's ship until seven in the evening, being then within pistol shot, when he hailed the Bon Homme Richard. We answered him by firing a whole broadside.

The battle being thus begun, was continued with unremitting fury. Every method was practised on both sides to gain an advantage, and rake each other; and I must confess that the enemy's ship, being much more manageable than the Bon Homme Richard, gained thereby several times an advantageous situation, in spite of my best endeavours to prevent it. As I had to deal with an enemy of greatly superior force, I was under the necessity of closing with him, to prevent the advantage which he had over me in point of manoeuvre. It was my intention to lay the Bon Homme Richard athwart the enemy's bow; but as that operation required great dexterity in the management of both sails and helm, and some of our braces being shot away, it did not exactly succeed to my wish. The enemy's bowsprit, however, came over the Bon Homme Richard's poop by the mizen-mast, and I made both ships fast together in that situation, which, by the action of the wind on the enemy's sails, forced her stern close to the Bon Homme Richard's bow, so that the ships lay square alongside of each other, the yards being all entangled, and the cannon of each ship touching the opponent's. When this position took place, it was eight o'clock, previous to which the Bon Homme Richard had received sundry eighteen-pound shots below the water, and leaked very much. My battery of twelve-pounders, on which I had placed my chief dependence, being commanded by Lieutenant Dale and Colonel Weibert, and manned principally with American seamen and French volunteers, was entirely silenced and abandoned. As to the six old eighteen-pounders that formed the battery of the lower gun-deck, they did no service whatever, except firing eight shot in all. Two out of three of them burst at the first fire, and killed almost all the men who were stationed to manage them. Before this time, too, Colonel de Chamillard, who commanded a party of twenty soldiers on the poop, had abandoned that station after having lost some of his men. I had now only two pieces of cannon, (nine-pounders,) on the quarter-deck, that were not silenced, and not one of the heavier cannon was tired during the rest of the action. The purser, M. Mease, who commanded the guns on the quarter-deck, being dangerously wounded in the head, I was obliged to fill his place, and with great difficulty rallied a few men, and shifted over one of the lee quarter-deck guns, so that we afterwards played three pieces of nine-pounders upon the enemy. The tops alone seconded the fire of this little battery, and held out bravely during the whole of the action, especially the main-top, where Lieutenant Stack commanded. I directed the fire of one of the three cannon against the main-mast, with double-headed shot, while the other two were exceedingly well served with grape and canister shot, to silence the enemy's musketry and clear her decks, which was at last effected. The enemy were, as I have since understood, on the instant of calling for quarter, when the cowardice or treachery of three of my under-officers induced them to call to the enemy. The English commodore asked me if I demanded quarter, and I having answered him in the most determined negative, they renewed the battle with double fury. They were unable to stand the deck; but the fire of their cannon, especially the lower battery, which was entirely formed of ten-pounders, was incessant; both ships were set on fire in various places, and the scene was dreadful beyond the reach of language. To account for the timidity of my three under-officers, I mean, the gunner, the carpenter, and the master-at-arms, I must observe, that the two first were slightly wounded, and, as the ship had received various shot under water, and ode of the pumps being shot away, the carpenter expressed his fears that she would sink, and the other two concluded that she was sinking, which occasioned the gunner to run aft on the poop, without my knowledge, to strike the colours. Fortunately for me, a cannon ball had done that before, by carrying away the ensign-staff; he was therefore reduced to the necessity of sinking, as he supposed, or of calling for quarter, and he preferred the latter.

All this time the Bon Homme Richard had sustained the action alone, and the enemy, though much superior in force, would have been very glad to have got clear, as appears by their own acknowledgments, and by their having let go an anchor the instant that I laid them on board, by which means they would have escaped, had I not made them well fast to the Bon Homme Richard....

. . . My situation was really deplorable; the Bon Homme Richard received various shot under water from the Alliance; the leak gained on the pumps, and the fire increased much on board both ships. Some officers persuaded me to strike, of whose courage and good sense I entertain a high opinion. My treacherous master-at-arms let loose all my prisoners without my knowledge, and my prospects became gloomy indeed. I would not, however, give up the point. The enemy's mainmast began to shake, their firing decreased fast, ours rather increased, and the British colours were struck at half an hour past ten o'clock.

This prize proved to be the British ship of war the Serapis, a new ship of forty-four guns, built on the most approved construction, with two complete batteries, one of them of eighteen-pounders, and commanded by the brave Commodore Richard Pearson. I had yet two enemies to encounter, far more formidable than the Britons, I mean, fire and water. The Serapis was attacked only by the first, but the Bon Homme Richard was assailed by both; there was five feet water in the hold, and though it was moderate from the explosion of so much gunpowder, yet the three pumps that remained could with difficulty only keep the water from gaining. The fire broke out in various parts of the ship, in spite of all the water that could be thrown in to quench it, and at length broke out as low as the powder magazine, and within a few inches of the powder. In that dilemma, I took out the powder upon deck, ready to be thrown overboard at the last extremity, and it was ten o'clock the next day, the 24th, before the fire was entirely extinguished. With respect to the situation of the Bon Homme Richard, the rudder was cut entirely off, the stern frame and transoms were almost entirely cut away, and the timbers by the lower deck, especially from the mainmast towards the stern, being greatly decayed with age, were mangled beyond my power of description, and a person must have been an eye witness to form a just idea of the tremendous scene of carnage, wreck, and ruin, which every where appeared. Humanity cannot but recoil from the prospect of such finished horror, and lament that war should be capable of producing such fatal consequences....

. . . The wind augmented in the night, and the next day, the 25th, so that it was impossible to prevent the good old ship from sinking. They did not abandon her till after nine o'clock; the water was then up to the lower deck, and a little after ten I saw, with inexpressible grief, the last glimpse of the Bon Homme Richard. No lives were lost with the ship, but it was impossible to save the stores of any sort whatever. I lost even the best part of my clothes, books, and papers; and several of my officers lost all their clothes and effects.
According to this, the "most determined negative" was phrased as we know it today:
We had remained in this situation but a few min. uses, when we were again hailed by the Serapis; "Has your ship struck?" To which Captain Jones
answered, "I have not yet begun to fight."
Which is, as noted here, often used as a lesson in leadership:
A leader remains optimistic and enthusiastic. I think to be
an effective leader, you have to be a person who sees that the glass is half full - not half empty. Optimism and enthusiasm are infectious. And, the opposite is true as well. Optimism and enthusiasm overcome the greatest challenges. Captain John Paul Jones, often called the father of the United States Navy, captured this idea in an immortal quote that is echoed throughout American history.

His ship, BONHOMME RICHARD had been riddled by cannon shot from the British ship HMS SERAPIS. When a cannon blast hit the main mast and took his flag with it, the British captain yelled over for Jones to surrender. "I have not yet begun to fight" was John Paul Jonesí reply, and he went on to defeat and capture the HMS SERAPIS, even as his own ship sank.
Some biographies of John Paul Jones here, and the answer to what Jones may have really said here.

And an announcement of a search for Bon Homme Richard here and here.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Venezuela: Chavez does "Bananas"

Headline: Call him cuckoo -- Chavez changes time in Venezuela :
President Hugo Chavez wants Venezuelan clocks turned back half an hour and he wants it done in record time -- next Monday.

"I don't care if they call me crazy, the new time will go ahead, let them call me whatever they want," Chavez said on his weekly TV show. "I'm not to blame. I received a recommendation and said I liked the idea."

The shift will allow children to wake up for school in daylight instead of before sunrise, Chavez said.

That may seem reasonable to many Venezuelans but ordering the change with little notice and scant public education has raised questions over how much thought was given to the plan.

It also highlights how the anti-U.S. president's governing style can sometimes be eccentric, improvised and rushed in his self-styled revolution to turn one of the world's biggest oil exporters into a socialist state.

Chavez himself has not had time to get to grips with the practicalities of the clock shift.

In his live show, he called on his brother, the education minister, so that the two men could explain the measure. But they mistakenly told Venezuelans to move their clocks forward at midnight on Sunday, when the policy is to move them back.

Chavez dismissed criticism that moving the time only a half hour was quirky, questioning why the world had to follow a scheme of hourly divisions that he said was dictated by the imperial United States.
Reminds me of the old Woody Allen movie Bananas when the revolution comes and the new dictator, Esposito, announces some new policies:
Esposito: From this day on, the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish. Silence! In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check. Furthermore, all children under 16 years old are now... 16 years old!
Fielding Mellish: What's the Spanish word for straitjacket?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday Reading

A couple of good ones:
CDR Salamander: Fullbore Friday looks at the exploits of USS Dallas (DD-199) as she earned a PUC.

And SteelJaw Scribe promotes Projecct Valour-IT while giving us the BUFF at Flightdeck Friday.

The War with Iran: Quds Force Officer arrested in Iraq

CENTCOM Press Release here.:
Coalition forces arrested an Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps – Quds Force officer in Sulimaniyah today.

Contrary to recent diplomatic initiatives, this individual has been involved in transporting improvised explosive devices and explosively formed penetrators into Iraq. Intelligence reports also indicate he was involved in the infiltration and training of foreign terrorists in Iraq.

The Quds Force is a covert action arm of the Iranian government responsible for aiding lethal attacks against the Iraqi government and Coalition forces.
He was probably just on "vacation"...

NATO Ships off Somalia

Press release- NATO Maritime Forces Off the Horn of Africa:
As part of a multi-national deployment NATO Maritime Forces are conducting presence operations and maritime situational awareness off the Horn of Africa.

At the end of July a Force of NATO ships set sail to make a historic 12,500 nautical mile circumnavigation around Africa on a two month deployment from August to October this year as part of NATO's commitment to global security. Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1), one of NATO's four standing maritime forces, sailed from the Mediterranean in early August passed the west coast of Africa, the Niger Delta around the Cape of Good Hope and is now passing the Horn of Africa.

The multinational force, comprised of six ships from six different NATO nations, Canada, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Portugal and the United States will demonstrate the Alliance's commitment to upholding maritime security and international law. The deployment will also test NATO's logistics support systems foster closer links with some of the region's maritime forces and increase regional awareness.

The Force, under the command of Rear Admiral Mike Mahon, US Navy in the Flag Ship the USS Normandy, arrived in South Africa for a four day visit to Cape Town at the end of August. During this visit the Task Group conducted a series of exercises with the South African Navy. Last week the Task Group visited the Seychelles on a port visit.

The Task Group is now in the final phase of the deployment and this will include exercises in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia, an area in which the safe passage of vessels carrying aid and humanitarian assistance to that country has increasingly been disturbed by acts of piracy.
One hopes they will "exercise" the pirates out of business...

UPDATE: Added photo. Photo caption:
Guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) performs a sail pass with the Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen (F805) as Normandy detaches from Standing NATO Maritime Group (SNMG) 1. Normandy and Evertsen have been sailing together around Africa for the past two months with SNMG1 as they conducted several presence operations around the continent. SNMG1 is one of four joint NATO maritime task forces. U.S. Navy photo By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Vincent J. Street
UPDATE2: "Sail Pass?" Explained here:
Sail Pass is a tradition in NATO. When a ship departs the Task Group and heads back home at the end of their six-month deployment, a Sail Pass is conducted as a way to pay our respects and say goodbye. Shipmates who had previously participated in this event told us that this would be one of the highlights of the cruise.
Of course, there's more to it than that.
UPDATE3: More news
Guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) approaches guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) for a sail pass in the Indian Ocean. Bainbridge recently relieved Normandy as flagship for Rear Adm. Michael K. Mahon, commander of Standing NATO Maritime Group 1. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Vincent J. Street
Bainbridge missile firing:

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Russian Land Grab: Part 2

Russia says Arctic seabed 'belongs to Russia':
A Russian expedition has proved that a ridge of mountains below the Arctic Ocean is part of Russia's continental shelf, government officials have said.

The Natural Resources Ministry said tests on soil samples showed Russia was linked to the Lomonosov Ridge.

Moscow has mounted several expeditions recently - and risked tensions with rivals in August by planting a flag in the seabed below the North Pole.

The Arctic is thought to be rich in oil, gas and mineral reserves.

Correspondents say Russia's main rivals for the supposed spoils - the US, Canada and Denmark - have been angered by Moscow's recent aggressive strategy in the region.
Russia's claim to a vast swathe of territory in the Arctic has sparked an increasingly tense rivalry with other countries who believe they have a claim.

After Russia planted its flag in the seabed, Canada vowed to increase its icebreaker fleet and build two new military facilities in the Arctic.

Denmark recently sent a team of scientists to the Arctic ice pack to seek evidence that the Lomonosov Ridge was attached to the Danish territory of Greenland.

And a US Coast Guard icebreaker also set off late last month for a research expedition - although scientists said the trip had been planned well before the Russian move.

Competition for territorial and economic rights has heated up as melting polar ice caps have introduced the possibility of exploiting the previously inaccessible seabed.
This is how wars get started.

Earlier posts on this topic here and here.

Map from BBC.

This doesn't sound good...

Reported here:
A prosecutor on Rhodes yesterday charged four officers from a cruise ship, which began listing in the Dodecanese island's harbor on Tuesday, of deliberately trying to run the vessel aground.

The Bahamas-flagged Dream was carrying 930 Israeli tourists on a Mediterranean cruise but began listing by 10 degrees when it docked in Rhodes.

The prosecutor suggested that the ship's captain, first mate and two engineers, all Greek nationals, intentionally endangered the vessel's safety when they moved ballast from one tank to another.

All four suspects, along with a representative of the company that owns the ship, are being held at the Rhodes Port Authority while divers investigate the cause of the ship's problems. It has been claimed that the vessel struck an object while sailing from Turkey.

And another one bites the dust

CENTCOM News Release: AL-QAEDA IN IRAQ LEADER KILLED, referring to the guy who has been stirring up trouble:
Coalition forces killed an al-Qaeda in Iraq military advisor during an operation Aug. 31 west of Tarmiyah.
Coalition forces conducted a precision operation west of Tarmiyah Aug. 31. The assault force followed a vehicle containing two suspected terrorists and attempted to get the driver to stop. When the driver resisted capture, the assault force fired on the vehicle. Both the driver and the passenger were killed in the operation. Coalition forces later identified one of the men as Abu Yaqub al-Masri.

Al-Masri, who is also known as Zakkariya or Doctor, was a military advisor to al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders in Baghdad and the surrounding belts. He provided guidance and direction for attack planning, coordination and execution.

Intelligence reports indicate al-Masri was directed by senior al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders to plan attacks that would cultivate sectarian strife. The former al-Qaeda in Iraq military emir of Baghdad, now detained by Coalition forces, described al-Masri as director of the “car bomb division.”

Al-Masri was one of the primary architects behind the Nov. 26 car bombings in Sadr City that killed 181 Iraqi civilians and injured another 247. He also planned major attacks on the bridges in the Rusafa area to isolate the Shi’ite population there.

Al-Masri previously fought against Coalition forces in Afghanistan and is linked to several senior leaders of al-Qaeda.
Time for "Another One Bites the Dust"

War at Sea: Real Threats, Perceived Threats and Context

What should be an interesting kick-off to a discussion over at Galrahn's Information Dissemination: The Basics of Naval Weapon Technology:
When I engage in naval tactical discussions that include technology discussion, I usually start with a single question. Have you ever read Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat by Wayne P. Hughes? In the industry, the answer is usually no, but when it is yes I usually find myself talking to a retired officer or someone who truly understands which technologies in naval warfare matter, and which are simply hype. The reason Captain Hughes book applies is simple, the fusion between tactics and technology Hughes lays out applies as well today as it does when the first edition was written, and the second edition is even better. Bottom line, the utilization of technology in naval tactics requires understanding the conditions, and without that type of objective context to the application of technology in tactics, a technology discussion alone is ultimately futile.
One might say that "Amateurs talk technology, professionals talk conditions."

Go visit and join in the discussion. But I hope you've read Hughes.

India's "Look East" Policy

Some of the challenges India faces in the modern world, examined in an opinion piece, Military Rule and Democracy — How New Delhi should react to neighbourhood regimes:
Three countries, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand, with whom we share land and maritime frontiers, play a crucial role in our Look-East policies. Thailand has periodically faced military coups with the latest takeover on September 20, 2006, when the then Prime Minister, Mr Thaksin Shinawatra, was overthrown.
There has been sustained co-operation between the security agencies and armed forces of India and Myanmar on trans-border insurgency. The Myanmar Government has also been co-operative on issues of border management. And Myanmar has shown a readiness to co-operate with India in developing hydroelectric projects, communications links and in oil and gas exploration.

India has already built a road connecting the border town of Moreh in Manipur to the railhead in Kalemyo, and plans are under way to commence a bus service from Moreh to Mandalay. Road and rail communications through Myanmar to Mae Sot, Thailand, and to Vietnam are also envisaged.

There are plans to link the landlocked north-eastern States to the sea through Myanmar. But recent western policies of seeking to impose sanctions on Myanmar have unfortunately driven that country even closer into the Chinese embrace.
The Chinese veto in the UN Security Council has had important economic and security implications for India. Yielding to Chinese pressures following its veto, the Myanmar Government decided that the gas produced in its offshore fields, in which the ONGC and GAIL have a 30 per cent stake, should be sold to China and not India.

New Delhi must take its share of blame for this development, because of its ill-advised proposal to build a pipeline through Bangladesh, which failed to take off, because of entirely predictable, but unacceptable Bangladeshi preconditions, which led to inordinate delay in our coming up with a sensible proposal for transportation of the gas.

In the meantime, China also utilised its political leverage to get exploration rights for gas and oil in the sensitive Rakhine (Arakan) Province of Myanmar, adjacent to its borders with India.

Moreover, an agreement has been reached for two major pipeline projects to carry gas and oil from Myanmar to the landlocked Chinese Province of Yunan. These projects will lead to the development of two strategically located ports in Myanmar — Sittwe and Kyaukpyu.

We are gong to see, for the first time, a Chinese presence close to our land borders east of the Irrawady River and major port facilities on our eastern doorstep. It will be China rather than India which will be exploring the estimated reserves of 13.4-47.3 trillion cubic feet of gas in the Bay of Bengal.

China’s strategy of chaining a “string of pearls” to surround India is now becoming clear. Shortly after the visit of former Chinese Prime Minister, Mr Zhu Rongji, to Islamabad in 2001 Gen Musharraf told a Pakistani journalist at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs that in the event of a conflict, or escalating tensions with India, Pakistan would not hesitate to provide naval facilities to China at the Gwadar port, located at the mouth of the Persian Gulf in Baluchistan, being built with Chinese assistance. (China has since agreed to provide Pakistan four naval frigates).

China has also sought to develop port facilities in Hambantota in Sri Lanka and in the Maldives and Seychelles. A Chinese Admiral remarked sarcastically over a decade ago: “The Indian Ocean is not India’s Ocean”. China appears determined to build the requisite infrastructure to develop its naval presence surrounding India, to reinforce its sustained diplomacy to pre-empt Indian efforts to gain access to new sources of oil and gas.

China’s skilful diplomacy in Myanmar, which has resulted in the installation of radars in the Cocos Islands off the Andaman Coast, capable of monitoring Indian fleet movements and missile tests and its determination to develop Sittwe and Kyaukpyu are all a part of this strategy of containment of India.

Complementing this strategy is a skillfully crafted use of its “soft power” to use “Trojan Horses” within India to advocate its cause and gloss over issues like China’s claims to Arunachal Pradesh, its nuclear and missile proliferation to Pakistan and its efforts to frustrate Indian diplomacy in Nepal by joining Pakistan to provide weapons to an embattled and unpopular monarch in the kingdom.
UPDATE: More on India's "Look East" policy here, here and here.

Maritime Security: Coalition Warfare in the 5th Fleet AOR

Interview with VADM Cosgriff, Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet, reported here:
Question: How critical is the policing of the maritime lanes around the volatile areas of the Gulf and the Indian Ocean?

Answer: Well, I usually don't use the term "policing," but seeking to create a maritime order in that part of the world I think is very important. Security in that region writ large, but especially maritime security, is the foundation for regional stability, regional prosperity, and arguably a larger global economic stability, if you think in terms of just safeguarding the free flow of oil and other energy.

But within the region, there are other concerns, such as fishing, poaching or violation of fishing rules. There's piracy, there's human smuggling, drug smuggling. These are things the regional countries care deeply about. ... And again, all of that is the backdrop against violent extremism, which does have a maritime connection.

Q: You also head a naval coalition of 20 nations, contributing to the collective effort in a strategic region that is also a critical choke point for global trade. What would be the risks to global commerce of an incident in that region, and how well prepared are the forces to flush it out?

A: Big question. At least one-third of the containerized cargo moves in the Indian Ocean, probably close to 40 percent of the world's oil, and a large percentage of natural gas comes out of the Gulf proper. The coalition typically is focused on safeguarding the use of the [waters] by fishermen and by shipping companies. It is a non-country-specific [operation], in the sense ... it's a coalition force for maritime security not against a country, or countries.

Q: There have been quite a number of piracy incidents and alerts of piracy off the coast of Yemen and Somalia, and merchant vessels are asked to stay at least 50 miles off the coast. Are the resources to combat this sufficient, or would you welcome more nations to participate in this collective action?

A: There's 2.5 million square miles under our command. It's a huge area, and the Somali basin is a very large area. The coast of Somalia itself is 1,500 miles long from Kenya to Djibouti. Because of the combination of the size of the operation, and the size of the forces we have assigned to us routinely, it is a challenge to get the right forces of sufficient numbers and capacity in the right area for a long enough period of time to actually have an impact.

We know that we can disrupt piracy, [but] so far we've been unable to completely deter it. And we are pursuing other countries who want to join with us, to help us. [It is not confined to operations at sea]. There's a range of activities to help to curtail that sort of behavior. Not the least of which is to help the transnational government of Somalia develop, and get control ashore so the people there engaged in piracy can find more useful and lawful pursuits.
He also addresses naval working relations with the Iranian Navy and more - worth the short time it takes to read it all.

Quick look at cargo container security issues

Found as 100% Screening and Other Cargo Insecurities:
Those who operate ships recognize the dangers of shipping un-inspected cargo, though not as intensely as some prefer. The growing concern over the likelihood of a catastrophic act of maritime and other transport-system terrorism has led to measures for increasing physical security.

Among such measures, one could cite the strict enforcement of the International Code for Security of Ships and of Port Facilities (ISPS) Code, which was adopted in December 2002 and went into effect globally in July 2004. The code, which was introduced by the International Maritime Organization in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, attempts toward a similar strict enforcement of the Container Security Initiative.

Beyond ships and ports, the danger of importing nuclear bombs and other weapons (not to mention terrorists, themselves) in containers may have increased with the U.S. government having opened the borders and highways to Mexican truckers working for 100 companies, according to a 20-plus-year truck driver at
Which points back to the need for "tamper proof" containers discussed in an earlier post here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Attention Environmentalists: Al Qaeda Pollutes

Al Qaeda attacks an oil pipeliine, apparently headless of its environmental impact, as set out here.:
An oil leak occurred at a valve on a pipeline near the Tigris River after it was attacked by insurgents near Bayji Sept. 18.

"This act demonstrates once again that al-Qaeda does not care about the Iraqi people or the environment. This is an environmentally dangerous situation and one that hurts the people, rather than helping them," said Lt. Col. Michael O. Donnelly, spokesman for Multinational Division-North.

The Northern Oil Company, or NOC, has immediately begun excavation and repairs to the line in order to prevent any further harm to the Tigris River and surrounding areas.
The NOC has stopped the flow of oil to the leaking valve and set the oil on fire purposely to mitigate water contamination.

This leaked oil could potentially affect river integrity, agricultural crops and live stock using water from the river and other uses of daily life in northern Iraq.

"Despite this latest act of terrorism by these insurgents, the Iraqi responders reacted quickly and their resolve remains strong.
I expect a strong attack on al Qaeda by Algore and his minions.

But I'm not holding my breath.

SecDef Robert Gates- an interesting look

Well worth reading: The Education of Robert Gates by David Brooks:
Gates was decisive during the Walter Reed hospital fiasco. He is honest and trustworthy on Iraq. And on Monday, at the World Forum on the Future of Democracy at the College of William and Mary here, Gates delivered a speech that could define the center ground of American foreign policy.

He ran through the history of the never-ending debate between realists and idealists. He noted that this debate began just after the founding of the Republic. Thomas Jefferson saw the French Revolution as a triumph for liberty. John Adams saw it as reckless radicalism. (Note by E1: Sounds like somebody has been reading Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation which makes that exact point as a reason for a disagreement between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson)

Throughout the messy years that followed, Gates explained, we have made deals with tyrants to defeat other tyrants. We’ve championed human rights while doing business with some of the worst violators of human rights.

“It is neither hypocrisy nor cynicism to believe fervently in freedom while adopting different approaches to advancing freedom at different times along the way,” Gates said.

Two themes ran through his speech. First, the tragic ironies of history — the need to compromise with evil in order to do good. And second, patience — the need to wait as democratic reforms slowly develop.