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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday Ship History

Thunderstorm. Tree. Power outage. Lost post. Revived version coming soon.

Here, amuse yourselves with these videos:

North Korea: Odd Agreement for "Peace in Our Time?"

DPRK Studies has a couple of posts which may raise more questions in your mind than answers starting with Traces of Highly Enriched Uranium Found on North Korean Plutonium Documents and followed with North Korea Blows-up Nuclear Reactor Cooling Tower, to Reap Benefits of Pseudo Engagement:
Considering the reasons behind requiring a nuclear declaration from Pyongyang, what was provided is utterly insufficient and accepting it represents a complete failure of the Bush administration and the Six-Party Talks process.
Read all the links, too.

Potemkin Village arms agreements? Great.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Somalia: No New Food Shipment Sea Escorts - World Food Program Says Somalis May Go Hungrier

Usual WFP dire warnings found here:
The UN World Food Programme has warned it may have to cut food aid to Somalia if it does not receive new naval protection against pirates.

French, Danish and Dutch frigates have protected deliveries for more than seven months during a surge in piracy, the WFP said.

But a Dutch frigate was scheduled to finish escort duties on Wednesday.

As many as two million people could be affected if the shipments cease, the WFP said.

The agency said shipping companies were reluctant to sail unescorted to Somalia, and it had no offers to take over escort duties from the Dutch navy.

About 80% of WFP aid to Somalia arrives by sea.
Here's thought - hire a Navy...surely the UN or WFP can scrape together enough money to interest some contractors to provide escorts for the WFP ships. They don't have to have a frigate, just something better armed than the Somali pirates. Logistics base would be in Kenya...near where the WFP ships load...

I'm thinking that if I (uh, I mean someone) could get something like this, there might be some business out there and perhaps off Nigeria...

Nigeria: River Pirates Kill 2, Kidnap Others

Reported here
The frequent attacks on boat drivers and passengers by pirates along the Bonny sea routes took another turn yesterday when pirates attacked a passenger boat coming from Bonny to Port Harcourt, killing two and taking others away alive.

Sources at the Bonny Waterside, Creek Road, Port Harcourt, told The Tide that the casualties were a boat driver and a passenger, adding that the vessel, an “Ibanise” boat was waylaid at KM10 along the route.

The boat, the source said, was also taken away by the pirates, who also disposesses the other passengers onboard the vessel of all their belongings before being thrown into the river to find their way home.

Meanwhile, following the incident, boat operators plying the route have embarked on an indefinite strike to press home their demand for adequate security along the Bonny-Port Harcourt sea route.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Somalia: Handsome Ransom Paid, Pirates Release Dutch Ship

Headline: Dutch Ship Owner Pays Pirates U.S. $1,250,000 Ransom:
Pirates who hijacked a Dutch ship and its crew near Bargal district have released the ship after the company that owns the ship paid US$ 1, 250,000 ransom.

Eyl district commissioner Said Aw Yusuf told Radio Garowe that pirates had received the ransom payment in the ocean not far from Ely beach.

"After releasing the ship and its crew the pirates left for Dhanaane and Ilig coastal areas near Eyl. Another German owned is still in the hands of pirates along Eyl coast, " said Eyl district commissioner.

The Puntland Minister of State of Security Jama Hersi Farah deplored the decision to pay pirates ransom to secure the release of the ship. Puntland administration will not give ransom to pirates, he said.

The German owned ship was hijacked one month ago. The payment of ransom is believed to encourage pirates to be more daring in their piracy business that affect security along Somalia's long coast despite assurances from the international community that pirates will be dealt with harshly.
More here:
A cargo ship seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia in late May has been released, with its Russian and Filipino crew members all safe and well, the ship's operators said Wednesday.

"Reider Shipping and Scan-Trans are pleased to confirm that the master and crew on board the Amiya Scan, held off the coast of Somalia by hijackers since May 25, have assumed command of the vessel," the two firms said.

"All crew members are well and unharmed," they added in a statement. "Families of the four Russian and five Philippine crew members have all been informed."

The Amiya Scan -- which was carrying a disassembled oil platform when it was captured in the Gulf of Aden -- now is "under way in the direction of Suez," although it might be another week "before the crew reach a safe port".

Somalia: One thing Somali Pirates Seem to Have Learned

In reviewing this earlier post Somalia:"Tourist boat" nabbed by pirates?, it occurred to me that the reports of the pirates taking their captives to the mountains says that they learned something from their experience with the French commando raid re-taking the sailing yacht - might be safer for the pirates to take their hostages away from the water...where it will harder to recover them unless a ransom is paid.

Just a thought...

Whales v. Navy Sonar: "...[I]t's not just you turn sonar on and instantly all the whales head for the beach..."

For several years now, there has been an on-going controversy between certain environmental organizations, particularly the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the United States Navy over the use of sonar in certain environments. In the last couple of years, the NDRC has brought lawsuits against the Navy which have resulted in lower level federal courts enjoining the Navy from using sonar under certain specified circumstances and at certain levels, felt by the courts and by NRDC to pose a threat to various whales and marine mammals. The Navy has adopted many preemptive measures to mitigate potential damage to whales and other marine mammals but asserts that adopting the full range of protective measures proposed by the NRDC would, for all practical purpose, effectively end its ability to conduct training necessary for it to prepare sailors to detect and combat quiet submarines in littoral waters.

A collection of various orders and an opinion from the Ninth Circuit can be found here. The underlying substance of the case is well set in a 2007 order lifting a complete prohibition against the use of sonar during training in the Southern California Fleet Operating Area:
The Navy and environmental advocacy organizations have battled for years about whether Navy training using sonar is too harmful to the environment, particularly whales. The Navy uses something called medium frequency active sonar, which basically bounces a loud noise off the hulls of extremely quiet submarines to detect their presence. The loud noise may be quite harmful to whales and other marine mammals. In a previous round of this litigation, the district court had approved a settlement that allowed Navy sonar training to
proceed, but required mitigation “measures.” The measures consisted of such
precautions as requiring some sailors to be on deck looking for whales, and
reducing the decibel level when whales were present, weather prevented seeing
whether any whales were around, or “surface ducting” would let the noise carry
more.(footnotes omitted)
The matter has gone back and forth to court, with the federal government attempting to invoke various other avenues to limit interference in Navy training. The current order appealed from does not put a complete halt to sonar training, neither does it give the Navy free rein in its training exercises. The basis for injunction granted by district court was set out by the Ninth Circuit as follows:
In granting NRDC’s motion for a preliminary injunction, the district court found that NRDC had demonstrated probable success on the merits of its claim that the Navy violated the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq., by failing to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”). The district court also found that NRDC had demonstrated probable success on the merits of its claim that the Navy violated the Coastal Zone Management Act (“CZMA”), 16 U.S.C. § 1451 et seq., by submitting a consistency determination to the California Coastal Commission (“CCC”) that did not take into account the planned use of MFA sonar and by failing to adopt the mitigation measures the CCC determined were necessary for the SOCAL exercises to be consistent with the
California Coastal Management Program (“CCMP”).

On January 15, 2008, the Council on Environmental Quality (“CEQ”)purported to approve “alternative arrangements,” pursuant to 40 C.F.R. § 1506.11,
that would permit the Navy to continue its exercise without first completing an
EIS. On the same day, President George W. Bush, pursuant to 16 U.S.C. §
1456(c)(1)(B), exempted from the requirements of the CZMA the Navy’s use of
MFA sonar in the SOCAL exercises.

On February 4, 2008, the district court upheld its injunction on the basis of
plaintiffs’ NEPA claim, concluding CEQ’s action was invalid and therefore not
entitled to deference. The district court also expressed concerns about the
constitutionality of the President’s CZMA exemption on the ground that it
appeared to amount to an executive revision of a judicial decision and thus violated
the principle, recognized in Hayburn’s Case, 2 U.S. (2 Dall.) 408 (1792), that
Congress cannot vest review of the decisions of Article III courts in officials of the officials of the Executive Branch. However, the court declined to decide the constitutionality of the CZMA exemption because it concluded the preliminary injunction was firmly supported on NEPA grounds.3 The district court also found that plaintiffs had demonstrated a possibility of irreparable harm and that the balance of hardships tipped in plaintiffs’ favor. Natural Res. Def. Council v. Winter, --- F.Supp 2d ----, 2008 WL 314192 (C.D. Cal. Feb. 4, 2008) (“Feb. 4, 2008 Dist. Ct. Order”).
The Ninth Circuit, in the order appealed by the Navy, affirmed the lower court and that affirmation is what is on now on appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Navy's need for certain types of training was well presented to the Ninth Circuit: (from pages 11-13 of the 2/29/08 opinion)
According to the Navy, the ability to execute anti-submarine warfare (“ASW”) is critical to a Commander’s certification of a strike group.

Improving ASW is the Pacific Fleet’s top “war-fighting” priority because of the
proliferation of extremely quiet diesel electric submarines throughout the world.

In turn, an important part of ASW is the use of active sonar, a technology
which the Navy deems absolutely necessary to detect today’s extremely quiet
submarines. The type of active sonar, the use of which NRDC challenges, is midfrequency active sonar; other categories of active sonar are low-frequency active
sonar and high-frequency active sonar.

Active sonar involves a vessel or other sonar source emitting a loud noise
underwater and then listening for whether the noise comes back to the source,
indicating that the noise may have bounced off the hull of a previously undetected
submarine. According to the Navy, active sonar has two important advantages
over passive sonar, which merely involves listening for noise made by submarines
themselves: active sonar gives both the bearing and the distance of the target
submarine, while passive sonar gives only the bearing; and active sonar allows the
Navy to target submarines that emit sound at levels below those of the surrounding
marine environment. Accordingly, the Navy has concluded that in
certain environments, including shallow coastal waters where ambient noise levels
are high, MFA sonar allows better detection of quiet submarines than passive

According to the Navy, personnel using MFA sonar must train with it
regularly, under realistic conditions, and in a variety of situations.
The Navy therefore trains with MFA sonar in the ASW exercises that constitute an
important component of the SOCAL exercises. (notes and references omitted)
The court also sets out the allegations of potential harm to marine mammals in the SOCAL Op Areas. No one who has lived on the California coast will be surprised to learn that the Op Areas are teeming with marine mammals. It seems that of particular interest to both the district court and the appellate court was the effect of MFA sonar on "beaked" whales which seem to be particularly sensitive to MFA sonar:
As the record demonstrates, substantial evidence suggests that beaked
whales are particularly vulnerable to MFA sonar. While it is not settled what
causes this vulnerability, it is clear that use of MFA sonar may lead to the
stranding of beaked whales. A 2004 Navy-sponsored study concluded that “the
evidence of sonar causation is . . . completely convincing and that therefore there is a serious issue of how best to avoid/minimize future beaching events.” Likewise,
the Standing Working Group on Environmental Concerns of the International
Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee concluded in 2004 that “[t]he weight
of accumulated evidence now associates mid-frequency, military sonar with
atypical beaked whale mass strandings,” and found that “[t]his evidence is very
convincing and appears overwhelming.”
Thus battle lines are drawn. The delicate balance between national security and environmental protection is in the hands of the highest court in the land.

Blogger Rountable with Rear Admiral Rice

On June 24, 2008, Rear Admiral Lawrence Rice engaged in a "blogger roundtable" with me, Grim from Blackfive, Colin Clark of DOD Buzz, and by submitted questions, Steeljaw Scribe. The audio of the roundtable is
available by clicking here. A transcript is available here.

Grim started off with an interesting question that I think was meant to invoke issues of "lawfare" - whether the environmental movement worldwide was using lawsuits to restrain U.S. (and allied) military operations. Admiral Rice, probably wisely, declined the opportunity to speculate on the motivations of such organizations.

My questions were (however rambling they might have been) about the differences in the approach the Navy was taking to mitigate environmental impact and still conduct necessary training with the approach the NRDC is pursuing. The response was that they are not compatible.

The Navy attempting to find work arounds and is also funding substantial research into marine mammals. (For example here). RADM Rice stated that some research was being done to determine, essentially, whether the sonar may be sending a "wrong message" to the beaked whales, causing them to panic in some way.

He noted that not every use of sonar causes whales to throw themselves onto the beach- that research has found that only in certain circumstances-
"So it's not just you turn sonar on and instantly all the whales head for the beach, there have to be very specific circumstances present."
I like the quote, because it does take away the simple "Sonar = Evil" argument I have seen in some less enlightened environmental comments.

Another matter that may not have occurred to some whale lovers is that the Navy is actually leading the way in getting scientists access to the heretofore scarcely known beaked whales, which seem to spend very little time near the surface but Navy hydrophones are helping to locate them for researchers:
The problem is because of their diving habits, we don't see them very often. And when we do our exercises -- excuse me -- when we do our research on beaked whales we have to find them with hydrophones, then send of boat out to where the hydrophone is and wait for them to surface. They dive down, as I'm sure you may have seen literature, they dive down in excess of 1,000 meters, more than a kilometer deep and they're down there for 45 minutes holding their breath. It's absolutely amazing. And then they come up to the surface for a quick breath of air and then they're back down again. So we don't see them very much; not very much is known about them so initially we thought there weren't very many of them. But when we started looking at our hydrophones on the different ranges, we found out that they are everywhere...
And that research may be the key to finding a long-term solution to "whales versus U.S. Navy." As the admiral said, we await the decision of the Supreme Court to sort out a short-term balance of national security and environmental concerns.

Now, I wonder if NRDC has an answer to ultra-quiet submarines in the littorals?

More on beaked whales here and here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

ONI Worldwide Threats to Shipping (to 18 June 08) and ICC CCS Piracy Report to 23 June 08

ONI Worldwide Threats to Shipping (to 18 June 08) can be found here. Highlights:
1. SOMALIA: International efforts continue to address Somali piracy problem, per 16 June reporting. The French Navy and its Chinese counterpart are discussing ways to strengthen intelligence exchange to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia, a senior French naval officer said. Vice Admiral Gerard Valin, commander of French joint forces in the Indian Ocean, says both navies can work together especially in the waters off Somalia, where many Chinese fishing boats ply. Mr Valin, who is in Hong Kong, says he will meet with security chiefs from the island and mainland China to further cooperate between the two sides. The need to strengthen international exchange of information at sea was a prominent theme in this year’s Shangri-la
Dialogue, an annual even held last month in Singapore, where defense ministers convened to discuss security issues for the Asia-Pacific region. In 11 June reporting, Spain’s minister of the environment and rural and marine affairs, Elena Espinosa, announced in the Congress (of Deputies - lower house of parliament) the units Spain will send to protect fishing boats working in the Indian Ocean and prevent incidents occurring like the one suffered by the fishing vessel (PLAYA DE BAKIO). Before 25 June, the government will announce the composition of the international protection force for tuna fishing boats working in the Indian Ocean. This was confirmed by the minister of the environment and rural and marine affairs in the Congress. For all that, Elena Espinosa did not confirm when it will start working. There is a hurry, she admitted, because in July the Spanish vessels will be back in the region. “The idea - and this is the offer that's been made - is that Spain should be able to head the launch of this operation, that a command ship would be required with another three or four ships, one support ship and at least two maritime patrol planes and boarding units,” a senior military official told local media (AFP, LM: Mareeg Online).
2. SOMALIA: Clash in Puntland between soldiers and pirates, on the evening of 11 Jun 08. Fighting erupted between a group of pirates and soldiers local to Somalia’s semiautonomous state of Puntland, a pirate spokesman told Radio Garowe. The spokesman, who refused to identify himself, stated that the pirates are still in control of the (AMIYA SCAN) and its crew. Clashes reportedly erupted after a soldier led by a senior Puntland police commander attacked the pirates during negotiations. The pirates’ spokesman stated that Mr. Haji Adan, who was
appointed as Puntland’s deputy police chief, had “requested a bribe” which the pirates reportedly agreed to pay. But when a pirate was sent to deliver the funds to the deputy police commander, the pirate and his guards were ordered to surrender their weapons. The fight erupted immediately afterwards, killing one soldier and wounding two others. The pirate negotiator, Mr. Timojili, was also reportedly wounded during the battle. The spokesman said the pirates will “take action against Puntland soldiers in Eyl.” Locals reportedly saw heavily-armed pirates preparing for battle in a small village called Qarhis, which is in the outskirts of Eyl. (LM:
Garowe Online).
1. NIGERIA: Oil supply vessel (SOLAR TIDE), American citizen kidnapped 19 Jun 08, 25NM west of the Pennington River entrance. The kidnapping came after a militant group in speedboats launched an attack on the Bonga flow station. After the attack, the gunmen came across the oil supply vessel and kidnapped its U.S. captain in an apparent opportunistic attack, according to a navy spokesman. A leader of the MEND claimed responsibility, Royal Dutch Shell also confirmed the attack, giving no details. The MEND reportedly attempted to break into the computer control room, which they hoped to destroy but were unsuccessful. Oil production
has been stopped from the oil field. The seizure of the American worker was confirmed by private security officials. Officials also stated that two other seamen on board were injured in the attack. The American citizen was subsequently released the same day according to a US official (AFP, AP, REUTERS).
2. NIGERIA: Security vessel (SEACOR MACOR) attacked 10 Jun 08, early morning off Akwa Ibom State, Addak’s Anthan oilfield OML123, off Qua Iboe river. The vessel, owned by Canada’s Addax Petroleum Company, was attacked by unidentified armed militants in two speedboats and reportedly killed nine Nigerian Navy members and injured four civilians according to a spokesman for the Joint Task Force. Addax said it believed the attack had been carried out by criminals rather than by politically motivated militants. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack (REUTERS, AFP, LM:,
3. NIGERIA: Oil supply vessel (ALTRA G) attacked 8 Jun 08 at 1145 local time, in oilfield OML126, approximately 22NM offshore the Nigerian coastline, south of Bonny. The vessel, owned by Canada’s Addax Petroleum Company, was traveling from Calabar area to Onne when unidentified gunmen in two speedboats reportedly ambushed the vessel that was transporting eight navy seamen. The Addax Company stated that one of the firm's contractors was killed in the attack, while one naval personnel and a crewmember were injured during the altercation before being repelled by Joint Task Force (JTF). Additional reporting states that four naval men were injured. However, the navy denies reports of any causalities or injuries and states that they successfully foiled the attack without incident. According to navy spokesman Henry Babalola, gunmen were initially repelled and two of their boats sunk after an exchange of gunfire. The attackers later regrouped and came back in six speedboats to board the vessel. He claimed about
56 militants boarded the vessel but were later dislodged when reinforcements dispersed into the surrounding creeks. Further reporting claims that the navy sunk four to six speedboats during the altercation. A foreign news agency reported that the gunmen abducted eight navy personnel in the attack, an allegation also denied by the navy. The firm said in a statement that its production facilities were not targeted in the attack. However, the Nigerian navy stated that the attack had
been against the Addax oil facility. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack (REUTERS, BBC, AFP, LM:,,,
ICC Commercial Crime Services Piracy Report to 23 June 08 can be found here.

21.05.2008: Enroute from Sulawesi to Surabaya, Indonesia.
Approximately ten pirates armed with guns and knives boarded and hijacked a product tanker laden with crude palm oil. Pirates took 14 crewmembers as hostage and sailed the vessel to unknown location. Owners contacted the Piracy Reporting Centre for assistance to locate the vessel. The Piracy Reporting Centre informed all authorities in the region to look out for the vessel and liaised with them regularly. The Royal Malaysia Marine Police located and detained the vessel on 19.6.2008 at the port of Sandakan, where the vessel had discharged the cargo. Six crewmembers are reported as missing.
On the map, red arrow points to end location of vessel, blue line is guesstimated intended route before hijacking and presumed murder.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Somalia:"Tourist boat" nabbed by pirates?

An odd little report here:
Reports coming from the Lass-Qorri district confirm that a heavily armed Somali pirates have abducted a tourist sailing bout across the red sea in which at least three men were on board while the residents of that area confirmed that the hostages were from both France and Germany.
Other recourses we are gaining from the area say that the pirates are currently keeping their hostages in a desert area in Sanag region, I repeated efforts of having further details about this issue but I failed because of the poor quality of the telephone over that area.
UPDATE: CNN report here:
Pirates took four European tourists hostage after their yacht ran out of fuel off the coast of northern Somalia in the Red Sea's Gulf of Aden, according to a Somaliland official.

The pirates then took their hostages -- a man, woman, their child and their yacht's pilot -- into hills around the fishing town of Las Qoray, said Ahmed Yusuf Yasin, vice president of the self-declared Republic of Somaliland.

Somaliland soldiers and local residents were searching for the pirates in an effort to free the hostages, Yasin said.

Las Qoray is in a territory claimed by both Puntland, a self-declared autonomous state, and Somalia. The two sides clashed over the disputed land earlier this year.

Yasin said he believed the hostages were either French or German.
UPDATE: BBC says captives are German:
A Somaliland elder told the BBC that the family was German and that he had visited them.
Mr Yusuf Yasin said at least three members of the family - a father, mother and child - were taken to a mountainous area of Somaliland by their kidnappers.

The Somaliland elder who said he had visited the family also said he was negotiating with the pirates who had captured them.

He urged restraint from authorities in Somaliland and neighbouring Somali state of Puntland who have troops massed on their border, 10km (6 miles) from where the hostages are being held.
Other reports indicate the yacht's captain is French.


Monday Reading

Fred Fry has Maritime Monday 116 up at Fred's usual outstanding collection of maritime links plus photos of a Canadian Great Lakes shipping company.

Also at gCaptain: A report on the capsizing of the Philippine ferry Princess of Stars here and this post by Bob Couttie of Maritime Accident Casebook. Also of interest is this Reuters report titled Ferry disasters, the bane of Asia's poorer nations which, though not very exhaustive, at least points out the problem. UPDATE: A fairly complete listing of Philippine maritime disasters here.

An optimistic claim from the head of the "Nigerian Merchant Navy" that ‘We can stop N’ Delta militancy, piracy’:
The Director General of the Nigerian Merchant Navy, Cdr. Benson Edema says that the force can stop militancy and piracy in the Niger Delta region.

Edema told our correspondent Saturday in Sagamu, Ogun State, that given the opportunity, the force could stop all illegal activities in the region.

The Merchant Navy commodore was in Sagamu and Ilate in Oyo State to inspect the land given to the force for its proposed base.

He noted that most members of the force, being from the region, were in a better position to understand the creeks and activities therein.

“Our training and experience put us in a better position to confront and withstand the atrocities of militants and illegal oil bunkersers,” Edema claimed.
Edema also alleged that most of today’s militants, sea pirates and oil bunkerers were former seamen who have been rendered jobless.

“It will not cost the government much to curb militancy in the region, if it provides jobs to the over 150,000 seamen who have been out of job.

“If we are given the opportunity, we will sanitise the maritime industry, regulate sea movements and carry out proper checks at sea,” he said.

He claimed that being members of the International Transport Workers Federation, the Merchant Navy members can sanitise, regulate and run the shipping sector.

On the ongoing crisis between the Nigerian Navy and the Merchant Navy, Edema said that such would not augur well for the country as the Merchant Navy is the military auxiliary arm.

He said that the Nigerian Navy has taken over the responsibility of the Merchant Navy, including policing of the high seas against pirates.
Of course, a "turf war" will help resolve the problem...and what does "If given the opportunity" mean?

UPDATE: More on the "Nigerian Merchant Navy" here which makes it sound like some other Nigerian scams:
At the Nigeria Maritime Administration Safety Agency (NIMASA) an extensive investigation was conducted to ascertain the authenticity of the corps especially following the allegation that the directives to establish the Nigeria Merchant Navy Corps were given by former President Obasanjo.
NIMASA in a letter to Presidency on November 16, 2007, had dissociated itself from the organization known as the Nigerian Merchant Navy.

The letter which was signed by the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. S.A. Dosunmu said that, “the so-called Nigerian Merchant Navy is not known in the law establishing the NIMASA (NIMASA ACT 2007) nor the Nigerian Merchant Shipping Act 2007 that delegated the function of the Maritime Safety Administration to NIMASA.”

UPDATE2: Xformed pays tribute to an one of those unsung but exceptional civilian workers.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunday Ship History: Aiming the Ship's Guns (III): Range Finders

The video below is a demonstration of a modern destroyer firing multiple rounds from a single turret.

Such fire power is useless, however, unless it can be reliably delivered on target- in the Navy this process is called "fire control." As I attempted to make clear in the first two parts of this series (Part I and Part II), the fire control issues of early warships largely consisted of getting one's own ship close enough to your opponent to exchange broadsides - a process that effectively kept the guns on the unengaged side of a war ship out of action.

With the introduction of the rotating turret on the Monitor, warships could now engage on either side without having to engage in extensive maneuvering to "unmask" guns. Given the cannon of that time, however, the process was still limited to relatively close ranges.

But the rotating turret was not the end of improvements in naval gunnery. The next big step came in the improvement of the range of the guns sent to sea, a series of steps closely paralleling improvement in land artillery.

Greater range brought new problems to naval gunnery - it was now possible to move away from "point blank" shooting into longer range attacks. However, unlike fixed artillery positions, shooting from a moving ship while trying to hit another moving ship while adjusting for increasing and decreasing range presented some new problems for ship's gunners:
Hitting a distant moving target requires observing its range and bearing, estimating its speed and direction, extrapolating into the future to compute the lead, and then calculating ballistics (that is, how to set a gun with the proper angle and elevation to hit a target at a particular range and bearing). Before the twentieth century, gunners performed these tasks manually or aided by small instruments, observing with optical telescopes and rangefinders, looking up ballistics in firing tables, and setting guns by hand.
In this part of this series, we're going to take look at these "optical telescopes and rangefinders" their effect on ship to ship gunnery.

A pretty good explanation of the problem can be found here in the words of Professor Elting Morison from "Gunfire at Sea: A Case Study of Innovation":
The governing fact in gunfire at sea is that the gun is mounted on an unstable platform, a rolling ship. This constant motion obviously complicates the problem of holding a steady aim. Before 1898 this problem was solved in the following elementary fashion. A gun pointer estimated the range of the target, ordinarily in the nineties about 16oo yards. He then raised the gun barrel to give the gun the elevation to carry the shell to the target at the estimated range. This elevating process was accomplished by turning a small wheel on the gun mount that operated the elevating gears. With the gun thus fixed for range, the gun pointer peered through open sights, not unlike those on a small rifle, and waited until the roll of the ship brought the sights on the target. He then pressed the firing button that discharged the gun. There were by 1898, on some naval guns, telescope sights, which naturally greatly enlarged the image of the target for the gun pointer. But these sights were rarely used by gun pointers. They were lashed securely to the gun barrel, and, recoiling with the barrel, jammed back against the unwary pointer's eye. Therefore, when used at all, they were used only to take an initial sight for purposes of estimating the range before the gun was fired.

Notice now two things about the process. First of all, the rapidity of fire was controlled by the rolling period of the ship. Pointers had to wait for the one moment in the roll when the sights were brought on the target. Notice also this: there is in every pointer what is called a "firing interval"-- that is, the time lag between his impulse to fire the gun and the translation of this impulse into the act of pressing the firing button. A pointer, because of this reaction time, could not wait to fire the gun until the exact moment when the roll of the ship brought the sights onto the target; he had to will to fire a little before, while the sights were off the target. Since the firing interval was an individual matter, varying obviously from man to man, each pointer had to estimate from long practice his own interval and compensate for it accordingly.
In addition to the gun pointer and improvements there, a couple of ideas were being developed. One of them being the invention of the stadimeter by a young officer named Bradley Fiske:
The stadimeter uses a system of mirrors, as in a sextant, to bring two images into coincidence. In practice, a sailor would identify a distant ship, adjust the stadimeter for its mast-head height (a figure available in published accounts), bring the image of the mast-head into coincidence with the water line, and read the distance on the instrument’s drum. Stadimeters were widely used in World War I and again in World War II.
The stadimeter allowed accurate ranging. As set out here, the stadimeter was a component of submarine periscopes:
This image shows the view through the periscope with the stadimeter in use. A split prism is used to superimpose a second image of the target over the actual image. The captain adjusts the prism so that the waterline of the second image is set on the masthead of the actual target image. The height of the masthead from the water is entered on the dial, and the reading obtained. The stadimeter actually measures angles, not distance. If the masthead height is entered accurately, the range will be correct. Getting the masthead height wrong gives an incorrect range. (The same principle is used by surveyors, though they have the obvious advantage of basing their ranges on a graduated pole of known length held by an assistant.) In practice, the most accurate ranges were always obtained during exercises, since the subs were operating against units of their own fleet, and masthead heights were always known. Enemy warships and freighters often involved a certain amount of guessing, though recognition books were careful to list masthead heights whenever they were known.
Another ranging tool was the Barr & Stroud rangefinder:
While looking through the optic, two images are seen in the right eyepiece. The upper image is upside-down; the lower, rightside-up. An object, such as a prominent rock or tree, is found in the image. A thumb wheel is then turned which will bring the two images into coincidence. When they are lined up, one on top of the other, the range to the object is read in the left eyepiece. Accuracy is quite remarkable, within about 5 yards at 1000 yards or so. They can be hand-held, but they are easier to use and more accurate if a tripod support is used. The same is true of the big binoculars. With the naval models, both images are upright.
After substantial trial and error, a system was developed to take advantage of better rangefinding as set out here:
The range-finder group consists of an officer and several men, well-trained in the practical use of the instrument and having especially keen eyesight.

When an enemy ship is first sighted, they take station at the most reliable range-finder on the ship and use this. In the event of casualty to it they either shift to another instrument, or the work is taken up by another crew stationed at the other range-finder.

When the enemy ship is forst sighted, and at the direction ofthe fire-control officer, a range-finder reading is taken to determine her distance, and the time noted by stop-watch. Also the bearing of the enemy vessel is taken at the same instant, with a contrivance called a "bearing-indicator". At intervals of 30 seconds from the first range and bearing, and from each other, take a series of ranges and bearings. By plotting each consecutive range and bearing at the proper time interval distance from each other, you can establish on a chart a series of fixes, or positions of the enemy ship at various short intervals. A line drawn carefully through these fixes will give the course of the enemy, and from it you can also determine his rate of speed. This is designated as the "determination of the course and speed of the enemy".

The actual determination of this course and speed is worked out in a station below decks, called the plotting-room, the ranges and bearings and the time intervals being communicated to the plotting-room by the range-finder group. As soon as the course and speed is found accurately, it is transmitted to the fire-control officer in order that he may make such calculations as are necessary to determine the initial (gun) range and deflection at which to open fire, allowing for all conditions at the time that are other than standard.
Until the acceptance of these improvements, however, ship to ship gunnery was not very accurate:
The pre-dreadnought battleships combined heavy-calibre ship-killing guns, typically of 12 inch, with a secondary and tertiary armament able to generate a hail of fire destroying the less protected parts of enemy ships. At the Battle of the Yalu River (1894) and the Battle of Santiago de Cuba (1898), this hail of fire destroyed most of the vessels of the defeated side. At Santiago, none of the four U.S. battleships present scored a single hit with their 12- and 13-inch guns. These were short-range engagements. At Yalu River, the victorious Japanese did not open fire until the range had closed to 3,000 yards; naval guns were still too inaccurate to score hits at a longer range.

By the early 1900s, British and American admirals expected that future battleships would engage at considerably longer ranges. They would need to do so, because torpedo ranges were increasing; for example, in 1903, the US ordered a torpedo effective to 4,000 yards. Both British and American admirals concluded they needed to engage the enemy at longer ranges. In 1900, Jackie Fisher, commanding the Royal Navy Mediterranean Fleet, ordered gunnery practice with the 6-inch guns at 6,000 yards. By 1904, the U.S. Naval War College was considering the effects on battleship tactics of 7-8,000 yard range torpedoes.

At the short ranges expected for combat in the 1890s, lighter guns had good accuracy; combined with their high rate of fire, this produced the lethal 'hail of fire' effect. As ranges increased, the accuracy of light and medium-calibre guns declined more rapidly than that of heavier weapons. "Moreover at long ranges gunners had to 'spot' the fall of shot to correct their aim... The longer the range, the lower the maximum theoretical rate of spotted fire."
The next and final post in this series will deal with the continued mechanization of the gunfire calculations and the resultant increases in naval gunfire accuracy.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Econ 101: Supply and Demand

Just a reminder to Congress - in addition to reducing demand to make prices go down, you can also increase supply. See Economics Basics: Demand and Supply.

We don't have much control over the new demand for oil being made by China and India, but we do have a lot of say over domestic production and increasing the use of meaningful alternative energy like nuclear power.

Why on earth is anyone's home still being heated by fuel oil when nuke plant electricity should be plentiful? Oh, yeah, some people don't like nuke power plants...

UPDATE: 19% of U.S. electricity is generated by nuclear power - see here:
Nuclear power accounts for about 19 percent of the total net electricity generated in the United States, about as much as the electricity used in California,Texas and New York, the three states with the most people. In 2006, there were 66 nuclear power plants (composed of 104 licensed nuclear reactors) throughout the United States.
and here:
As of December 31, 2008, there are 104 commercial nuclear generating units that are fully licensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to operate in the United States. Of these 104 reactors, 69 are categorized a pressurized water reactors (PWRs) totaling 65,100 net megawatts (electric) and 35 units are boiling water reactors (BWR) totaling 32,300 net megawatts (electric).

The current Administration has been supportive of nuclear expansion, emphasizing its importance in maintaining a diverse energy supply. But as of December 31, 2007, the last new reactor to come on line in the United States was the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar 1 reactor in Tennessee. Nuclear expansion has been through the uprating (increasing in capacity) of existing power plants. In addition, the Browns Ferry 1 reactor (included in the total of 104) was rebuilt, uprated, and returned to service in June 2007, after being shut down for decades.

On July 13, 2007, UniStar Nuclear, LLC, filed a combined license application (COL) with the NRC for construction of a new reactor at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Station. It was the first COL application filed. TVA announced plans to complete construction of the Watts Bar 2 reactor. Watts Bar 2 received a construction permit in 1973. If the unit goes on line, it will be the last reactor to receive a construction permit and license separately. As of March 31, 2008, the NRC has received 9 COL applications and is currently reviewing them.
UPDATE:Tigerhawk has pertinent thoughts:
Is it really better for American drillers to invest their capital in foreign countries, most of which are adversarial to the interests of the United States? Is it really better for our best engineers and executives to devote themselves to Nigeria, Russia, and Saudi Arabia? If you are a transnational progressive (and most anti-growth environmentalists are), do you really want to push drilling, at the margin, into environmentally sensitive places in foreign countries with less regulation and more corruption? These are the choices we make when we close our own country to new exploration and production.
I would add that the huge expense of maintaining sea lines of communication could be lessened if we did more domestic production ... and that's a matter of national security...

Nigeria: Another pipleine attack

Reported here:
Nigerian militants have blown up an oil pipeline near US corporation Chevron's Escravos oilfields, the Nigerian military says.

Chevron said the attack prompted it to shut down onshore oil production.

The loss equates to about 120,000 barrels per day, about 6.6% of Nigeria's total daily crude production...
The attack on Shell's floating oil platform at Bonga, which cut a tenth of Nigerian oil production in one go, was carried out by militant group the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta.

But the Escravos incident also highlights the vulnerability of the oil infrastructure in Nigeria, our correspondent says.

With the government planning to hold a big summit of Niger Delta leaders and more money expected to flow to the Niger Delta, perhaps the armed groups there feel it is a good time to show how relevant they are to any chance of peace, our correspondent adds.

While the loss to Nigerian crude output is significant, it is a small fraction of the daily global oil output, of about 85 million barrels per day.

Weekend Reading

Salamander posted it, but it's worth re-posting:

An opinion on the Gitmo prisoner habeas decision worth considering here:
For the first time in our history, the Supreme Court has rejected the considered judgment of both the Congress and the president on an issue of national security. The writ of habeas corpus, a bulwark of domestic liberty, has been extended to foreign nationals whose only connection to the U.S. is their capture by our military.

Where was all the left wing screaming about "rights" when this guy was a prisoner?
As not so fondally remembered:
As the American POWs returned home in 1973, they spoke out about the inhumane treatment and torture they had suffered as prisoners of war. Their stories directly contradicted Jane Fonda's earlier statements of 1972. Some of the American POWs such as Senator John McCain, a former Presidential candidate, stated that he was tortured by his guards for refusing to meet with groups such as Jane Fonda's. Jane Fonda, in her response to these new allegations, referred to the returning POWs as being "hypocrites and liars."
See also here:
There is no disputing the fact that Jane Fonda toured North Vietnam, engaged in what amount to a propaganda campaign on behalf of the communists, and participated in an orchestrated "press conference" with American POWs in 1972. There is no denying that she defamed the POWs by whitewashing their treatment in Viet Cong prison camps and later calling them liars when they spoke out.

Steeljaw Scribes covers the Hellcats of the Navy, and that is not the awful submarine movie featuring Ronald Reagan.

A disturbing link to the UN's one way standard of freedom of speech from The Counterterrorism Blog.

Irregular warfare is a problem that will be with us for some time, a Marine general says at the Small Wars Journal Blog here:

Terrorists embrace irregular warfare as a countermeasure to U.S. military supremacy, Mattis explained, noting they are intelligent, persistent and patient.

“This enemy is not going away any time soon,” the general observed.

Anyone who believes the terrorists can be reasoned with are wrong, Mattis said, noting their worldview is totally at odds with that of civilized societies.

The United States, the Soviet Union and China did not want to use their nuclear weapons during the Cold War, Mattis said. However, he said, it’d be different if al Qaida terrorists acquired nuclear or chemical weapons. “I firmly believe that if they got chemical or nuclear weapons they would use them,” he emphasized.

Me, too.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Gasoline Prices

Chart of the Day has an inflation-adjusted chart of gasoline prices here, accompanied by this:
... Over the past four months, the average US price per gallon of unleaded has risen over one dollar per gallon. When adjusted for inflation, gasoline prices are at record highs and 18% above its old inflation-adjusted peak of 1981. Also, as illustrated by the today's chart, gasoline prices have spiked above a trend channel (see red line) that has been in existence since the beginning of the century."

But before going all crazy, revisit this earlier post with the other chart explained.

Highway taxes - fuel efficient irony

The more fuel efficient our cars, the less highway tax revenue is generated, as noted in The Barrel: As Americans drive less, highway revenue is drying up. I suppose they'll find a way to make up the "shortfall" just like they have to find more money to pay for all those tobacco tax programs when no one smokes any more...

Oil tanker rates may rise due to demand

As set out in Gulf tanker rates may jump on Asia, Atlantic demand :
The cost of shipping Middle East crude to Asia, the world's busiest route for supertankers, may jump amid rising demand for West African consignments that could increase average voyage lengths and cut supply.

Crude oil shipments between West Africa and Asia will climb 46 per cent to 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) in July from June, Vienna-based energy consultant JBC GmbH said in a note. US and European refineries may buy extra cargoes to replenish depleted crude stocks, Morgan Stanley analysts said on Monday. The further ships travel, the fewer there are for hire.

'The market could be perfectly primed for a big rally,' Per Mansson, managing director of Nor Ocean Stockholm AB, a shipbroker, said in an e-mailed note on Wednesday. 'Should Asia buy all these extra West African barrels, and if Atlantic refineries really do need a big restock, then demand could be phenomenal at a time when there are ship-supply issues.'

Iran had 15 supertankers idling in the Persian Gulf on Monday, storing oil while Asian refineries underwent repairs. Those carriers will take about a month to six weeks to deliver cargoes and get back to the Middle East, making them unavailable for hire. Vessel demand is greatest for double-hull tankers that cut the risk of an oil spill, Mr Mansson said.
Owners of double-hulled very large crude carriers, or VLCCs, are making 200.19 Worldscale points on the voyage to Asia, according to the exchange. Rates have climbed for the past eight trading days.

Worldscale points are a percentage of a nominal rate, or flat rate, for more than 320,000 specific routes. Flat rates for every voyage, quoted in US dollars a tonne, are revised annually by the Worldscale Association in London to reflect changing fuel costs, port tariffs and exchange rates.

At 200.19 Worldscale points, owners of VLCCs can earn about US$161,209 a day on a 39-day round trip from Saudi Arabia to South Korea, based on a formula by RS Platou, an Oslo-based shipbroker, and Bloomberg marine fuel prices.

Frontline Ltd, the world's biggest VLCC operator, said on Feb 15 it needs US$31,400 a day to break even on each of its supertankers.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Meanwhile.. in the U.S. Idiots Want to Take Control of Refineries

As set out by Lex in Getting all ahead of themselves:
“We (the government) should own the refineries. Then we can control how much gets out into the market.” - Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY)


Near as I can tell from his bio, Mr. Hinchey has never run a business for profit.

Pirates or Militants Attack Oil Storage Ship Off Nigeria

Reported here:
SEABORNE raiders this morning attacked Shell’s 312,500dwt FPSO Bonga, 75n-miles offshore Nigeria – and it is believed that some could still be hidden on the vessel. Shell stopped operations in the oilfield after the attack, shutting in a reported 200,000bpd. Details of damage or injuries to the FPSO’s personnel or infrastructure, or to the raiding gang, have not yet been disclosed. Rainer Winzenried, Shell International’s European media manager in The Hague, told LR-Fairplay’s Sea Sentinel today that details of the raid were not yet clear and that an investigating team flown in to the oilfield was still establishing facts and searching assets.
More on FPSO (Floating production, Storage and Offloading) Bonga here:
The giant Bonga floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel is in use at Shell's Bonga oilfield (discovered in 1993 and with a life of 20 years), which lies 120km off the coast of the Niger Delta, covering an area of 60km². The vessel, which became operational in 2004, is permanently installed in water depths ranging from 1,000m to 1,125m.

The Bonga FPSO was built by Samsung Heavy Industries in Korea for the owner operator, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited (SNEPCo) and the Nigerian National Petroleum CorporationShell. The hull has a length of 305.1m or 295m between perpendiculars. It has a moulded breadth of 58m. The design draught is 23.4m and it has a scantling draught of 23.9m.
The Bonga FPSO has a storage capacity of 324,233m³ (two million barrels of crude oil). The FPSO will also have a gas export facility of 150 million standard cubic feet per day. It can also carry 10,970m³ of diesel oil as well as 138,131m³ of water ballast. Its double bottom is laid out as sludge tanks.

The oil is contained in 15 cargo tanks arranged in a 5 x 3 configuration as well as five pairs of wing tanks full of water ballast. There are two diesel tanks, two methanol tanks and two slop tanks. The methanol tanks are separated from the other compartments by coffer dams.
UPDATE: More info here:
Militants in speedboats attacked Royal Dutch Shell's main offshore facility in Nigeria on Thursday, cutting the country's oil output by a tenth and raising fears of a new campaign against deepwater installations.

The strike on Shell's Bonga field, which lies some 120 km (75 miles) off the coast and has a nameplate capacity of 220,000 barrels per day, forced the Anglo-Dutch giant to stop output from the $3.6 billion facility.

The rebel Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) -- which until now has mainly blown up oil pipelines and kidnapped expatriate workers in the shallow creeks of southern Nigeria -- warned the attack may not be its last in deep waters.
MEND said its main target had been Bonga's computerised control room, from where crude exports are coordinated, but its detonation engineers had been unable to gain access.

"Our next visit will be different," the group said.

Fears of supply disruption in Nigeria, home to sub-Saharan Africa's biggest oil industry, have sent jitters through an already volatile global oil market.
More reason to drill and produce in friendlier waters - and encourage other rational fuels...
UPDATE2: Shell on Project Bonga.

Ignorance is not an excuse

Powerline poses the question and provides the answer in Does Obama know what he's talking about?
Obama's unfavorable comparison of the legal treatment of the Guantanamo detainees with that of the Nuremberg defendants suggest either that he does not know what he's talking about, or that he feels free to take great liberties with the truth.
I know he's busy running for office and all, but a little research now and then would help him avoid ignorance on matters that he is addressing.

UPDATE: More on ignorance or convenient misrepresentation...

Want more offshore oil and gas drilling? Then you need more ships...and sailors

As set out at Shortage of Ships May Complicate Call for Offshore Drilling:
The New York Times reported that a shortage of ships used for deepwater offshore drilling may impede any rapid turnaround in oil exploration and supply.
... Demand is so high that shipbuilders have raised prices since last year by up to $100 million a vessel to about half a billion dollars, the report said.
As a result, drilling costs for some of the newest deepwater rigs in the Gulf of Mexico -- the nation's top source of domestic oil and natural gas supplies -- have reached about $600,000 a day, compared with $150,000 a day in 2002.
These record prices have spurred a new wave of drill-ship construction. This boom could lead to renewed offshore oil exploration that would eventually bring more supplies to the oil market and push down prices.
Already, 16 new drill-ships are scheduled to be delivered to oil companies this year -- more than double the number delivered over the past six years combined.
Shipyards from South Korea to Norway are working overtime to meet a huge influx of orders.
Most new orders for drill-ships have gone to Asian shipyards. Companies in Singapore and China have benefited, but South Korea's big three have gotten the bulk of orders for the most complex and expensive types of vessels.
There's shortage of sailors, too, as reported here:
THE American P&I Club’s magazine, Currents, says that the global maritime manpower shortage is a “time bomb that threatens to disrupt shipping operations severely in the near future”.
Chinese sources indicate that owners and crewing agencies are targeting the inland provinces to recruit, and some of the larger companies are headquartering their manning bases in these inland areas. These are relatively poor and the salaries offered are still attractive to the younger people. According to the Shanghai office of the American Club’s managers, quoting the Ministry of Communications, China has the most populous crew force in the world. At the end of 2006, there were 1.5m. crew working on vessels, including 510,000 on seagoing vessels. The P&I market, says Captain Gayton, is also concerned about the impending shortage of experienced, well-trained officers. The IMO has recently been under pressure to address training concerns, and currently has its STCW 95 convention under review. “However, these standards are minimum ones and actual training programmes worldwide differ significantly.”
Oddly, no mention of recruiting Americans for jobs as merchant sailors...quite possibly because they cost too much...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Midweek Reading

Been busier than a one, some of these should have been noted earlier:

Fred Fry put up Martime Monday 115 on time, on budget and on gCaptain. And he is in Finland, poor chap. Photo look at Aker Yards, and much more nautical linkage. You've got until next Monday to read all the links.

Yankee Sailor going on "standby mode" for what is hoped to be a short period.

Salamander's back. And he found a "maritime doctrine" that he likes.

Life imitating art

Cover April 1938 issue Popular Mechanics:

Photograph January 1945:

Description: The battleship USS Pennsylvania leads USS Colorado, USS Louisville, USS Portland, and USS Columbia into Lingayen Gulf before the landing on Luzon, Philippines in January 1945. Battleships and other big gun naval vessels that served in the Pacific Theatre during World War II were used primarily for offshore bombardment of enemy positions and as anti-aircraft screens for aircraft carriers.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Why I hate "hate speech"

I hate "thought Nazis."

With full offense meant to anyone offended with being compared to Nazis and to any Nazis.

Canada today, U.S. tomorrow. Canada's thought police .

What part of the "free" in "free speech" do you not understand?

Oil and Pirates...Can Big Oil Save Somalia?

The leader of the allegedly autonomous Puntland area seems to think oil development is a good thing -- even if the "devil" were involved:
The president of Somalia's semiautonomous Puntland State government has said that he will pursue all roads to achieve a successful oil exploration program, and has suggested that he will even sign "a deal with the Devil."

Gen. Adde Muse, the Puntland leader, told the BBC Somali Service during a Sunday interview that mounting a successful exploration program is linked to creating a stable security situation on the ground.

"We have found out that without security, there can be no success," President Muse said, while admitting for the first time that Puntland is undergoing "one year and a half of insecurity."

Describing the situation in Puntland, President Muse said that some of the people are "on the brink of starvation" and the government's security forces have "no salary."

He said that piracy has only worsened the situation, but added that the regional administration is taking steps to combat crime and piracy, saying: "We have destroyed places they [pirates] live and arrested others…as many as 15 men, some of them are commanders."

The Puntland leader said pirates had "bought more weapons and high-speed boats" with ransom payments collected in recent months. But President Muse expressed optimism in his security forces: "We are fully confident that we can stop them [pirates]."
In criticism of unnamed opponents of his ambitious exploration project, President Muse contradicted his prior admission about insecurity in Puntland, saying: "Many people oppose us…who spread lies about insecurity here [in Puntland]."

But Gen. Muse's most memorable remark during the interview came in response to unnamed critics: "They criticize us for making deals with 'thug companies'…forget thugs, I will make a deal with the Devil to explore my land. My people across Somalia are poor. We can fight poverty as a unified front who work together."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

al Qaeda Plot in the Caribbean?

Have British intelligence agencies uncovered an al Qaeda plot to blow up a cruise ship somewhere in the Caribbean? Says so here:
The plot was uncovered on a jihadist website which British and American security services have been monitoring since early this year.

The terror plan echoes an al-Qaeda attack on the US warship Cole in Yemen in 2000.

Terrorists loaded a small boat with explosives and blasted a 12-metre hole in the ship's hull, killing 17 crew.

MI6 foiled a plot to blow up British ships off Gibraltar in 2002. Al-Qaeda's plot to target a cruise ship may also have involved terrorists getting jobs as crew members.

Fellow fanatics would then book cabins as passengers and link up with the rest of the group once at sea.

They could scuttle the ship by opening underwater hatches or start a disastrous blaze in the engine room. Some of the world's biggest cruise liners were picked as possible targets.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Somalia: French Company to Take on Pirates and more

Reported here:
A private French military firm has signed a contract with Somali authorities to boost security off the country's coast, plagued by high-profile piracy in recent years, the chief executive said Saturday.

Pierre Marziali, CEO of the firm Secopex, said the deal would "strengthen maritime business" off Somalia.

The deal, estimated to be worth between 50 million to 100 million euros (75-150 million dollars) annually for the next three years, comes in the wake of the hostage-taking by Somali pirates of a French luxury yacht, the Ponant, in April.
According to Marziali, the contract amount will depend on an audit of existing facilities in Somalia, and will be to set up a "unified coastguard, creating a comprehensive coastguard information system" and form a special bodyguard for Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed.

"These measures mean we can offer a concrete response to any armed attack," he said, adding that any pirate attack would be met with "a return of fire."

"The economic facet of this contract is also important for Somalia, victim not just of pirates but also the victim of huge pillaging of its natural fish stocks off its coastline," the Secopex boss added.

Popular Mechanics: "The Coast Guard's Most Extreme Rescue"

Sure, it's a promo for magazine sales, but it's also a must visit to learn about Coast Guard rescue ops - 8 hours of flying in a helicopter? Yikes! Vist Alaska Ranger Down and view the video:here.

Great work, Coasties!

Photo is from Coast Guard training session.

Thanks to Big Oil!

American Thinker: Thank you, Big Oil

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday Reading

One tough, determined Marine hero at CDR Salamander: Fullbore Friday.

Steeljaw goes with a slideshow for Flightdeck Friday.

Chap links to this bit of graduation advice. Freedom isn't free, and it is very precious.

Diplomad likes the President.

Destroyermen has more photos of the rescue performed off Somalia by USS Russell (DDG-59) here.

Sppok86 recalls early missile warfare at The Doodlebug Summer.

Galrahn sees anti-piracy "Littoral Strike Groups" here.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Gasoline Prices in Perspective

A couple of years ago, the CATO Institute performed a nice but hardly noticed public service when they published Gasoline Prices in Perspective by Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren, with the neat graph which I have modified slightly:
America appears to be in a state of wild-eyed panic about the rising price of gasoline. Talk radio hosts and T.V. populists apparently think that mass riots are imminent and that whole cities will burn unless politicians do something to save America from the long, dark economic night that is descending upon us.

In truth, gasoline prices today are taking less of a bite from our pocketbooks than has been the norm since World War II.
For instance, let's look at 1955, a year most of us associate with big cars, big engines, and cheap fuel – automotive glory days, as it were. Gasoline sold for 29 cents per gallon. But one dollar in 1955 was worth more than one dollar today. If we were using today's dollars, gasoline would have cost $1.76 per gallon in 1955.

Gasoline now costs around $3.00, so we are worse off than in 1955, right? No. Because we were poorer in 1955 than we are today, $1.76 then had a bigger impact on the pocketbook (that is, it represented a larger fraction of income) than $1.76 today. If we adjust gasoline prices not only for inflation but also changes in disposable per capita income (defined as income minus taxes), gasoline today would have to cost $5.17 per gallon to have the same impact as 29 cents in 1955.

Let's pick another year we associate with low gasoline prices – 1972, the year before the Arab oil embargo. Gasoline was selling at 36 cents per gallon. Adjusted for inflation, however, the price was actually $1.36 in today's currency. Adjust again for changes in disposable per capita income and the price would have to be $2.66 per gallon to have equivalent impact today.

Were we better off then when we rolled into the filling station in 1972 than we are today? No, because our cars get 60 to 70 percent better mileage today than in 1972 (22.4 miles per gallon versus 13.5 miles per gallon). That more than offsets the 10.5 percent increase in gas prices adjusted for change in inflation and income from then to now.

Now let's look at 1981, the year Ronald Reagan took office. Gasoline sold for $1.38 that year, the equivalent of $2.74 in today's currency. Adjusting for the change in disposable per capita income, prices would have to be $4.30 today to have an equivalent impact.
Click on chart to make it bigger. Adjust for inflation and increases in income since 2006.

Of course, in 1955, there probably weren't as many 3 and 4 car families as there are now...

WSJ Editorial on our "dysfunctional" energy policy

Read $4 Gasbags:
Amid $135 oil, it ought to be an easy, bipartisan victory to lift the political restrictions on energy exploration and production. Record-high fuel costs are hitting consumers and business like a huge tax increase. Yet the U.S. remains one of the only countries in the world that chooses as a matter of policy to lock up its natural resources. The Chinese think we're insane and self-destructive, while the Saudis laugh all the way to the bank.
Democrats are going to have to grow up. The oil-rich areas they want to leave untouched are accessible with minimal environmental disturbance, thanks to modern technology. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita flattened terminals across the Gulf of Mexico but didn't cause a single oil spill. As for anticarbon theology, oil will be indispensable over the next half-century and probably longer, like it or not. Airplanes will never fly on woodchips, and you won't be able to charge your car with a windmill for some time, if ever.

Public anger over fuel prices could hardly come at a worse time for the GOP, since voters tend to blame a flagging economy on the party that occupies the White House. But the opportunity is to offer a reform alternative to Barack Obama and the high-price energy status quo he embraces. It looks like the public is increasingly ready for . . . change. In a May Gallup poll, 57% favored "allowing drilling in U.S. coastal and wilderness areas now off limits." Just 20% blamed the increase in gas prices on Big Oil, like Mr. Obama does.

Recent weeks have seen some GOP stirrings on Capitol Hill, but John McCain has so far refused to jettison his green posturings, such as his belief in carbon caps and his animus against offshore development. A good reason for a rethink would be $4 gas. At present, it is charitable to call Mr. McCain's energy ideas incoherent, and it may cost him the election.

Sri Lanka: Tamil Sea Tigers Amphibious Attack?

Something happened between the Sri Lankan Navy and the Tamil Sea Tigers as is reported here:
At least three sailors were killed and several others injured as the Navy and LTTE fought an intense battle in Mannar on Wednesday.

The Navy said its outpost at Erukkalampiddi, Mannar Island, came under a predawn attack by the LTTE. A group of Sea Tigers had come in six boats and launched the attack around 2.15 a.m. The sailors defended their post effectively, causing the terrorists to withdraw with their casualties. Four terrorists, including their leader Sirimaran, have died. Also, three sailors have been killed and others wounded during the confrontation, it said.

The Defence Ministry said that Air Force MI-24 helicopters pounded the withdrawing boats in the Gulf of Mannar, targeting the boats fleeing towards Veddithalthievu area.
Reporting the incident, pro-LTTE TamilNet website said the Sea Tigers launched a surprise attack on a Navy camp and brought the installation under their control, seizing arms and military equipment.

The Sea Tiger Marines launched the seaborne lightning strike at 2:08 a.m. and brought the entire installation under their full control within 10 minutes, it said.

TamilNet said four Tiger commandos and nine Sri Lankan troopers were killed.
Well, they agree on the number of Tigers killed.

Cameroon: "Pirates" grab 5 soldiers and an official

Reported here, Nigeria's neighbor Cameroon reports the attack came from shore:
A Cameroonian official and five soldiers were ambushed and abducted by pirates on the Bakassi frontier with Nigeria in a fresh attack in the oil producing Gulf of Guinea, authorities said on Wednesday.

Cameroon's armed forces said the attack took place on Monday at Mbenmong on the long-disputed Bakassi peninsula, which Nigeria handed back to Cameroon in 2006 in line with an International Court of Justice ruling.

A sub-prefect from Kombo-Abedimo was among those abducted after the boat in which he was travelling with an eight-man Cameroonian military patrol was fired on as it approached the fishing settlement.

"Heavily-armed pirates on the shore opened a hail of fire onto the boat," the Cameroonian military statement said.

Three of the soldiers, one badly wounded, were able to dive into the water. The six other occupants of the boat, believed to be wounded, were seized by the attackers along with the vessel and their weapons, the statement added.
Cameroon said its security forces were investigating Monday's attack, which it called the attack an act of piracy.

"These attacks linked to international terrorism are becoming more and more frequent in African maritime areas, notably off Somalia and the Gulf of Guinea," the armed forces statement said.(emphasis added)

Nigeria: Coastal Pirates Atacking Fishing Fleet

As reported in the NYTimes:
The waters off the 530-mile Nigerian coastline have been called the most dangerous in the world by a maritime watchdog group after a precipitous rise in the number of attacks over the past year. And while kidnappings of foreigners and attacks on oil installations in Nigeria have gained international attention, it is often those with a far lower profile who bear the greatest burden of the lawlessness at sea.

Pirate attacks on fishing trawlers increased from 4 reported cases in 2003 to 107 in 2007, according to the Nigerian Trawler Owners Association. In January this year, there were 50 attacks on fishing boats. At least 10 fishermen were killed.
After more than 200 foreigners were kidnapped in the Delta in 2007, foreign oil companies pulled out their nonessential employees and increased security rather than rely on the undermanned Nigerian Navy. With foreign vessels no longer an easy target, pirates have been forced to look elsewhere for their victims.

They found them in the defenseless fishing trawlers that chug up and down the coastlines, never far enough from shore to be out of reach of the pirates’ gun-mounted speedboats.

The surge in deadly attacks on fishing crews caused the Nigerian Trawler Owners Association to call the fleets of its members, nearly 200 vessels, back to shore in February. That meant a work stoppage for an estimated 20,000 workers and the drying up of the bulk of the local fish market.
The Nigerian Navy is working the problem, but...

My suggestions would be fishing boat convoy operations and taking on the pirate's shore bases.

Somalia: Volunteer needed for escort duty

For several months World Food Program releif ships have been escorted by war ships as they have sailed the waters off Somalia. Before the escort service began the WFP ships were frequent targets of Somali pirates, since the escort service, not one has been seized. The Dutch are currently providing the escort, but are due to withdraw their frigate in a couple of weeks, and no country has yet stepped forward to replace them. Now, as set out here , the WFP is looking for volunteers:
The United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) Thursday called on naval powers to provide escorts to protect its aid shipments off the pirate-ridden Somali coast, warning that millions of Somalis could starve without help.

A Dutch frigate, which ensured no WFP ships have been hijacked since last November despite numerous attacks on other vessels, is due to end its tour of duty on June 25, the WFP said.
'Without escorts, our whole maritime supply route will be threatened,' the WFP's Somalia Country Director Peter Goossens said in a statement.

'Shipping companies are reluctant to sail unescorted to Somalia, and we have no offers to take over from the Royal Netherlands Navy,' he added.
'Millions of Somalis are suffering from a combination of insecurity, drought and high food and fuel prices,' said Goossens. 'If relief shipments slow down, we could face a major catastrophe.'

The WFP, which is trying to scale up operations to help feed the displaced, said that 80 per cent of its aid arrives by sea.