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Friday, July 31, 2009

Pirates in the Baltic Sea?

A strange sea tale out of Sweden - a ship hijacking in the Baltic Sea reported here:
A ship was hijacked in Swedish waters early Friday morning last week, news wire TT reports. The boat was sailing between the islands of Öland and Gotland when the hijacking occurred.

Arriving in a boat with "police" painted on the side, a group of masked men searched the Malta-registered timber boat after tying up the crew, which was Russian.

The Swedish police only got word of the hijacking when the Russian Foreign Ministry called the Swedish police to ask why they acted in that fashion. But the Swedish police had never boarded the boat.

Ingemar Isaksson, who is heading the police investigation, said on Thursday that the hijackers spent more than 12 hours on the ship. Though it’s not completely clear what the English-speaking hijackers were after, the police suspect they were looking for drugs.

“This is the first time that I’ve heard about something like this happening in Swedish waters,” Ingemar Isaksson told TT.

Swedish police started investigating the case on Wednesday, but they have still haven’t come into contact with the ship, which apparently continued its normal route after the attack.
Other reports here, here and more details from here:
The attackers, who spoke English, tied the members of the crew of the Arctic Sea and beat them. They also searched the vessel thoroughly before leaving the ship at about noon on the same day.

Swedish police investigating the case are at a loss to come up with a motive for the attack, or who may have been responsible. Suspicions were raised by the fact that that the act of piracy was not reported until several days after the alleged events took place.
The head of the investigation, Ingemar Isaksson of the Swedish police believes that a hijacking did indeed occur, and that the shipping line and the crew were reluctant to approach Swedish authorities, because the pirates claimed to be police officers looking for drugs. Swedish authorities say that there is no suspicion that the ship would be carrying illegal substances.
UPDATE: It should be noted that NATO and EU member navies, as well as Russian naval forces, already patrol the Baltic Sea ... just like they patrol the waters off Somalia ...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Latest ONI Worldwide Threat to Shipping Report (to 30 July 09)

The latest ONI Worldwide Threat to Shipping Report (to 30 July 09) can b found here. Highlights:
1. ATLANTIC OCEAN: General cargo ship reported attempted boarding 30 Jun 09 at 0500
UTC while underway in position 11:20N ñ 017:15W, approximately 60NM off the coast of
Guinea Bissau. Twelve armed men in a boat reportedly attempted to board the vessel while
underway. Due to the quick action and defensive measures by the master and crew, the armed
men were unable to board and aborted their attempt (IMB).
2. C‘TE DíIVOIRE: Tanker robbed 12 Jul 09 at 2336 UTC while anchored in position
05:12.5N ñ 004:03.9E, Abidjan anchorage. Two robbers armed with knives boarded the tanker
via the forecastle. The robbers stole the ships stores, and escaped in a small boat when
discovered (IMB).
3. C‘TE DíIVOIRE: Bulk carrier boarded 29 June 09 at 0200 UTC while anchored in
position 05:12.98N ñ 004:02.98W, Abidjan anchorage. Two robbers boarded the vessel and cut
the shipís line in an attempt to steal it. One robber then approached the duty watch man with a
long sharp knife when the watch man sighted and shouted at the robbers. The watch man ran
away and raised the shipís alarm. The robbers escaped with nothing stolen and there were no
injuries reported (IMB).
4. NIGERIA: Oil facility attacked 12 Jul 09 at 2230 local time at the Atlas Cove jetty in
Lagos. Four naval officers and four civilians were killed in an attack reportedly carried out by
MEND. The militants exchanged gunfire with naval officers guarding the facility, before they
used dynamite to hit 10 pipes. A MEND spokesman confirmed that the group was responsible
for the attack. According to the spokesman, 18 militants in two gunboats were involved in the
attack. About 20 workers were injured in the fire (LM: AllAfrica).
5. NIGERIA: Chemical tanker (SIEHEM PEACE) boarded, crewmembers kidnapped 5 Jul
09 at 2045 local time while underway, approximately 20NM from Escravos. The militant
organization MEND claimed it seized the six crewmembers from the vessel and would hold the
crew until further notice. The group also claimed it had destroyed a strategic Chevron facility.
There were no indications of casualties (AP, Bloomberg).
2. MALAYSIA: Container ship reported suspicious approach 28 Jul 09 at 2157 local time
while underway in position 04:39.2N ñ 112:45.0E, approximately 75NM west of Miri. Twelve
men in a 7m long, unlit boat approached the vessel underway. They chased the ship and tried to
get alongside. The duty officer raised the alarm, conducted evasive maneuvers, and alerted
crewmembers while the master fired three rocket flares. The men aborted their pursuit (IMB).
3. MALAYSIA: Tanker boarded 21 Jul 09 at 0030 local time while underway in position
01:17.94N ñ 104:09.24E, approximately 3NM south of Tanjong Stapa. Six men armed with
machetes boarded the vessel and tied up the vesselís captain and the 15 Thai crewmembers.
Malaysian marine police received a tip-off about the attack and responded, arresting five of the
men as they were robbing the ship (IMB, AFP).

Pretty quiet week really.

Name that Carrier ---- Enterprise!

I believe we now have enough aircraft carriers named after politicians. Time for a classic name to reappear: Enterprise!

Spearheaded by Steeljaw, here's the info on one way to have your say:

Whereas the namesake ENTERPRISE has been proudly borne by two combat aircraft carriers of the United States Navy; Whereas the first USS ENTERPRISE (CV-6) (seventh ship to bear this name) and her embarked airwing and crew gallantly fought in every major battle in the Pacific during World War Two, including the signatory battle at Midway when vastly outnumbered by the ships and planes of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Combined Fleet, ENTERPRISE, with YORKTOWN and HORNET struck a mortal blow, sinking four enemy aircraft carriers and turning the tide of the war in the Pacific; Whereas the same ENTERPRISE concluded that war as the most decorated warship in the United States Navy with 20 battle stars, a Presidential Unit Citation, a British Admiralty Pennant, Navy Unit Commendation, Philippine Presidential Unit Citation, and Task Force 16 Citation among many other accolades; Whereas the second United States Navy aircraft carrier to be named ENTERPRISE (CVAN/CVN-65) was the first such ship of her class in the world to be nuclear powered; Whereas that ENTERPRISE, the eighth ship to bear that name in the United States Navy is concluding a half-century of service to this nation and has honorably served in every theater of operations from leading the naval quarantine off Cuba in 1962 to conducting the first strikes following the terrorist attack on the United States on September 11th, 2001; Be It Resolved That the next nuclear aircraft carrier to be constructed (CVN-79) should bear the name USS ENTERPRISE in recognition and honor of the fighting men and women of the United States navy who have sailed in her namesakes through the centuries. We The Undersigned: Call upon the Congress of the United States to remand H. CON. RES. 83 and replace it with a resolution supporting the naming of CVN-79 or the next nuclear aircraft carrier to be constructed, the USS ENTERPRISE. Call upon the Secretary of the Navy to support this petition of the tax-paying people of these United States and name the next nuclear aircraft carrier to be constructed the USS ENTERPRISE

Add your name to the petition here.

Wired's Pirate Game: "Cutthroat Capitalism: The Game"

Wired has put up a game in which you get to play "Somali Pirate King for Day."

Hit the link to play the game - good luck!

I have a serious dispute with the game title. The "cutthroat" part is pretty hard to argue with. My issue is that pirates simply are not "capitalists" (as per Wired) but rather are "parasites" (as per me).

For the Wired view, see the article, "Cutthroat Capitalism," on which the game is based, here.

In my view (which should be clear by now if you have ever read this blog) is that pirates are sea going kidnappers, robbers and extortionists. There is no "free market" involved. In fact, just the opposite. In a free market, I have never had my vehicles captured and the lives of my employees threatened as part of a "business deal." For the Somali pirates, however, such threats their main stock in trade. This makes for poor customer relations and discourages repeat business.

Former "pirate customers" who do come back tend to return with destroyers, frigates and sharpshooters to put a halt to future transactions and provide "sunk costs" for pirate investors.

On the other hand, the game is sort of fun.

H/T to Eric.

Anti-Pirate School Houses

An article in The Village Voice concerning "Pirate School, For the Merchant Sailor in You". While the title of the piece should more properly read "Anti-Pirate School" it does cover training being conducted at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and SUNY Maritime:
The training "enables students to be prepared and be aware of their surroundings and other modes of transportation," says Larry Howard, chair of the Global Business and Transportation Department at SUNY Maritime. "It's a necessary part of not just being able to respond to attacks, but limiting them." If a pirate crew encounters a ship that has hardened itself, it may move off to easier prey. . .
H/T: Jeremy

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Reality Knocks

Somali Pirates: Hans Stavanger Crew Stuck as Pirates Get Greedy

Greed is not good - especially for the crew of a merchant ship held by Somali pirates - as reported in "Hostage talks stall after Somali pirates up demands":
The imminent release of 24 hostages on board a German ship hijacked off Somalia in April has been delayed after pirates demanded a higher ransom, a gang member said yesterday.

The German-flagged container vessel Hansa Stavanger with five Germans, three Russians, two Ukrainians and 14 Filipinos had been expected to be released on Monday.

The pirates had agreed to a US$3 million ransom, but some members of the gang said that was too little, a pirate named Hassan told Reuters.

'Some of our friends say we are many and so the Germans must add US$1 million or US$500,000 to make the ransom about US$4 million,' he told Reuters by phone from Haradheere, about 17 kilometres west of Gan, where the ship is being held.

'The Germans seemed to be angry after we broke the promise. They rarely answer our calls. Now they insist on the agreed US$3 million, but we are divided on this issue. We do not know how long it will take to release the ship,' he added.
Pirates without honor. Who would have guessed?

Some may recall the pirates used Hansa Stavanger to attempt to find their pirate brethren holding Captain Philips during the standoff involving Maersk Alabama.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pirates of the Amazon - River Pirates

A report of some river pirates working the Amazon River and robbing passengers on a river cruising boat here:
On Sunday, the Aqua, a luxury river cruising boat just beginning a turn down the Amazon, was boarded and raided by six weapon-yielding bandits who robbed the vessel's 24 passengers of money and other valuables. Luckily that's all the pirates took as no cruisers were hurt.
River cruise line website. Map is from that site.

Nigeria also has river pirates, as reportedly do Russia, Romania and, as you see if you look to the updates to this post, did the Mississippi River and California's Sacramento River.

UPDATE: Simpler times:

Caribbean: People Smuggling

Headline reads "113 Haitians rescued, 2 dead, 85 missing off Turks and Caicos":
While authorities in the island fear that it was yet another smuggling operation gone array -- the tiny British-dependent island chain is a popular route among Haitian smugglers trying to get to South Florida from Haiti's north coast -- Johnson said, ``We are unsure if it's a smuggling venture.

``Right now, we are concentrating on locating an estimated 85 people that may still be missing,'' she said.
More info from Coast Guard News. And here. And from a Coast Guard Headquarters press release:
The U.S. Coast Guard is assisting Turks and Caicos authorities as they rescue up to 70 Haitian migrants who are stranded on a reef after their vessel capsized and sank.

It is estimated that 160 to 200 people may have been onboard the vessel when it capsized.

An HH60 Jayhawk helicopter assigned to Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos (OPBAT) arrived on scene and hoisted four of the most injured migrants to the airport in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos for further transfer to medical personnel. Authorities from the Turks and Caicos used smallboats to rescue approximately 40 of the stranded migrants. Up to 20 migrants remain on the reef and are in the process of being rescued by Coast Guard and Turks and Caicos personnel. Three survivors have been located on an adjacent reef and four bodies have been located.

An HH-65 helicopter from Air Station Miami is on scene and searching for survivors in the water. The Coast Guard Cutter Valiant is en route. The reef is located approximately 2.3 miles southeast of West Caicos island.
A report on the allegedly "growing" problem of Haitian people smuggling to the Bahamas here:
More than two hundred Haitian economic refugees who came ashore in three separate groups last week are believed to be a part of a smuggling ring.
Officials believe that migrants are coming to The Bahamas because the economic situation is worsening in the region, particularly in northern Haiti.
UPDATE: A site on the Haitian "disaspora in the U.S." here offers up this map of the migration route:

UPDATE (7-29-09): The search continues with 67 still missing and 15 confirmed dead:
The boat, believed to be a shoddily built sail freighter 30 to 50 feet long, had been heading north from Haiti.

Survivors said the boat had departed carrying 160 people and had picked up 40 more before sinking, according to Coast Guard officials. All were believed to be migrants. Most of the missing passengers have probably drowned.

“We’re getting reports of 20-knot winds and six-foot seas out there,” said Petty Officer Jennifer Johnson, a Coast Guard spokeswoman in Miami. “If you put 200 people on a vessel that’s 30 or 40 feet, it’s bound for disaster.”

The sinking is potentially one of the worst disasters in years to strike Haitians fleeing the destitution of their country, the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. If no other survivors are found, the death toll will be the largest since at least 2007, when about 80 Haitians drowned or were eaten by sharks after their boat capsized near Turks and Caicos with 150 people aboard.
Video caption:
MIAMI - An HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, Fla., deployed in support of Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos, rescued a Haitian migrant Monday after his boat capsized and sank near West Caicos Island, Turks and Caicos Islands. The migrant was one of an estimated 200 people aboard the grossly overloaded vessel. Of the 200 aboard, 118 have been rescued and 15 have been recovered deceased. (USCG video)

Somalia: People Smuggling - Refugees Waiting to Cross Gulf of Aden

In an annual warning, UN agencies report up to 12,000 Somali refugees collecting near the port city of Bassaso on Somalia's Gulf of Aden coast awaiting transport in Fighting in Somalia forces more refugees across the Gulf of Aden:
According to our network of partners in Somalia, some 12,000 people have reached and found temporary shelter in the town of Bossaso in northern Somalia since 7 May. There, a majority of them are waiting for the first opportunity offered by smugglers to take the perilous journey across the Gulf. These internally displaced people (IDPs) are part of some 232,000 Somalis who have been forced to leave their homes since 7 May when the fighting between Al-Shabaab and Hisb-ul-Islam militia groups and government forces erupted in several districts of the Somali capital. Our partners in Bossaso report that the areas where potential migrants usually settle are getting more and more crowded and smugglers are already collecting bookings and cash from Somalis bound for Yemen. As the sea is already very dangerous because of the prevailing weather conditions, the majority of the people are expected to camp in Bossaso and wait for September, when winds are more favourable. In 2008, more than 50,000 new arrivals reached Yemen's shores – a 70% increase from 2007. The trend has continued during the first six months of 2009 with around 30,000 new arrivals – the total for the whole of 2007. It's a dangerous journey. More than 1,000 drowned en route in 2008 as they were thrown overboard or forced to disembark too far from the shore by unscrupulous smugglers. So far this year, almost 300 have died or gone missing.
Expect some bodies on the beaches when the migration continues.

Tuesday Reading

Fred Fry's Maritime Monday 172 with a look at Russia's FESCO Transport with lots of photos of ships in cold places.

Flying weather? Ask Alawi's grandma.

A hat tip to Tigerhawk for link to a different sort of "global warming" warning from a reputable scientist "Resisting climate hysteria":
In view of the above, one may reasonably ask why there is the current alarm, and, in particular, why the astounding upsurge in alarmism of the past 4 years. When an issue like global warming is around for over twenty years, numerous agendas are developed to exploit the issue.
Follow the money and power.

Somali Pirates: Navy Warning to Merchants - Watch Out When the Monsoon Wind Stops

Just in case there is a slow group of mariners out there off the coast of Somalia, Combined Maritime Forces offers up a thought "Watch Out When the Monsoon Wind Stops":
MANAMA, Bahrain – The Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) are warning mariners of an anticipated increase in piracy incidents when the southwest monsoon ends in the coming weeks, and are reiterating that merchant mariners must continue to take proactive action to help prevent piracy attacks.

High sea states over the past few weeks in the Somali Basin have resulted in fewer attacks on vessels transiting the area but mariners must continue to remain vigilant.

“The prior preparation and vigilance of merchant mariners at all times of day and night is more important now than ever,” said Turkish Rear Adm. Caner Bener, Commander, Combined Task Force (CTF) 151. “CTF 151 and other multi-national maritime forces deployed to the region are successfully coordinating counter-piracy efforts. While our ability to deter and disrupt attacks has improved over time, we are constantly adapting the way we do our business as the pirates adapt and modify their tactics.”

Using the Internationally Recognized Transit Corridor in the Gulf of Aden, reporting to the UKMTO and the EU’s Maritime Security Center before transits, keeping a constant lookout, and embarking security teams are all recommended actions that will help reduce the risk of a successful attack.

Naval forces from CTF 151, the European Union, NATO and a number of other international nations continue to coordinate their activities in an international effort to deter piracy and reassure the maritime community that every effort is being made to ensure the safe and lawful passage of maritime traffic throughout the region.

However, while more than 30 ships and aircraft from 16 nations continue to patrol the waters off the Somali coast, the closest military ship or aircraft may not be close enough to render assistance to a vessel under attack.

Bener recently met with task force commanders from NATO and the European Union to discuss Coalition counterpiracy operations off the coast of Somalia. The task force commanders meeting was held at sea and focused on new strategies and future plans were development to more effectively and efficiently track down suspected pirates and to protect sea lines of communication.

“In this environment, the importance of merchant mariners as first line defenders against pirates is absolutely vital,” said Commodore Tim Lowe, Deputy Commander, Combined Maritime Forces. “The crews of those merchant vessels that have employed evasive maneuvering and other defensive measures to protect their ships and their cargoes have proven to be more successful at evading attack.”

Analysis continues to show that vessels travelling at slow speeds with low freeboard, failing to employ adequate lookouts particularly during periods of heightened risk, are ships that continue to be pirated off the Somali coast.

International naval forces will continue to patrol the waters off the Somali Coast in an effort to deter, disrupt, and interdict pirates and help ensure lawful maritime order.
Hey, let's be careful out there!

Monday, July 27, 2009

11% Increase in New Home Sales? 11% above what?

The "How to Lie with Statistics" moment of the day - after a day spent listening to the media hype over an 11% increase in new home sales - I checked on line to see if any real economist had taken on that magical 11% number being touted as a "sign" of economic turnaround. And I found it here:
“An 11% month-over-month increase looks good, but it’s an 11% increase over a very small number,” said Paul Ashworth, Senior US Economist at Capital Economics in Toronto. “It’s the beginning of a new phase, but I’m not sure it’s an exciting new phase.”

Ashworth said sales might have bottomed, but the recovery will be slow.
More from the "dismal science" here, including this:
The news sounds better than it looks … despite the jump in sales in June, new home sales remain at very low levels, and the not seasonally adjusted data show a total of 36,000 homes sold nationwide in June, the lowest sales total for June since 1982
I don't think I'll be cracking open the champagne just quite yet.

Evil Oil Companies: Creating an "Asphalt Shortage"

Is there no end to their evil?

Oil companies "improve" their refining processes to squeeze the last ounce of fuel out of a barrel of oil - leaving less of the icky dregs at the bottom of barrel - like asphalt. Which means, naturally, a shortage when it comes to fixing roads.
Part of the story can be found at TigerHawk and another part at an article from last year he linked to but which can be found here.

The asphalt shortage is directly related to a refinery shortage (about which I have posted before) as well as to improved efficiency. In a speech titled "Asphalt - 2007 and beyond"- an industry representative noted the trends

  • No grass root refineries have been constructed since Marathon’s facility at Garyville, LA over 30 years ago (>100 environmental permits required)
  • 149 refineries are operating in the U.S. today, 38 produce asphalt or asphalt related products
  • Asphalt = ~3.2% yield of U.S. refinery system
  • The asphalt consumption rate is projected to increase 1.2-1.3% annually through ‘09
  • EIA data October ’05 YTD vs October ’06 YTD indicates asphalt supplied was down 4%
Oddly enough, if production falls and demand increases, there just might be a shortage.

I wonder how electric cars do on gravel roads?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sunday Ship History: Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers

The history of the U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer program well set out in U. S. Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer Program by LCDR Richard M. Wright, USCG (Ret.):
Congress, therefore, mandated in the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 1984 that "The Commandant of the Coast Guard shall use such sums as are necessary, from amounts appropriated for the operational maintenance of the Coast Guard, to establish a helicopter rescue swimmer program for the purpose of training selected Coast Guard personnel in rescue swimming skills."
October will mark the 25th Anniversary of the first Coast Guardsmen to graduate from the Navy Rescue Swimmer School and the real founding of the CG program. Since then, numerous lives have been saved.

Training is rigorous - with a 50% drop rate.

Lower photo: Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Scott D. Rady, 34, of Tampa, Fla., pulls a pregnant woman from her flooded New Orleans home here today. Rady is a rescue swimmer sent from Clearwater, Fla., to help aid in search and rescue efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Petty Officer 2nd Class NyxoLyno Cangemi


He Said/V.I.P. Said by Mark Steyn on National Review Online:
By common consent, the most memorable moment of Barack Obama’s otherwise listless press conference on “health care” were his robust remarks on the “racist” incident involving Prof. Henry Louis Gates and the Cambridge police. The latter “acted stupidly,” pronounced the chief of state. The president of the United States may be reluctant to condemn Ayatollah Khamenei or Hugo Chávez or that guy in Honduras without examining all the nuances and footnotes, but sometimes there are outrages so heinous that even the famously nuanced must step up to the plate and speak truth to power. And thank God the leader of the free world had the guts to stand up and speak truth to municipal police sergeant James Crowley.
Sometimes you have to judge a man by the size of the opponent he picks.

You might observe how upset with Sgt Crowley's behavior are the other officers.

Philippines: "Security in ports tightened after bomb found"

One would hope: Security in ports tightened after bomb found :
The Philippine Coast Guard on Sunday ordered stricter security measures in all sea ports following the discovery of a cache of homemade explosives in an inter-island ship in Lucena City, its spokesman said.

Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo, the Coast Guard chief, directed all commanders to implement rigorous security checks in all piers to thwart terrorist attacks or the transport of weapons and materials for terrorism, said Lieutenant Armand Balilo.

Balilo said that even before the discovery of the bombs, Tamayo put all seaports in the country on heightened alert to prepare for the State of the Nation Address of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Monday.

"We advised all our commanders to deploy additional sea marshals, boarding team, and response groups in their areas if needed," he said over the phone.

A K9 Unit of the Coast Guard was doing a routine check on M/V Blue Water Princes in Lucena City on Saturday afternoon when a bomb-sniffing dog found improvised bombs in a trash bin near the female comfort room on the second deck of vessel.

Balilo said the bombs, placed inside 12 empty glass bottles, were "obviously made to harm people." He said there were no indications that the bombs would just be used for blast fishing.

"Those who made the bombs put nails inside the glass bottles to make sure that it would harm those aboard the ship. If it exploded, it would surely damage the ship and cause it to sink," he said.

Balilo said the roll-on, roll-off vessel, with 80 passengers and 35 crew members aboard, was about to depart for Masbate when the bombs were discovered.

I'm no economist, but

James Hamilton is, and he's concerned see Part 1 Econbrowser: Looking for an exit


Part 2.

He asks some good questions.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Somali Pirates: Turkish Frigate Bags Five Suspected Pirates

Reported as Turkish frigate captures 5 Somali pirates:
The Turkish navy frigate TCG Gediz has launched an operation against Somali pirates, who were feared to be preparing to seize another ship off the coast of Somalia, capturing five of the pirates.

In a weekly press conference yesterday, Metin Gürak, chief of the communications department of the General Staff, stated that the Gediz rendered the band of Somali pirates ineffective as a result of the operation. “Five pirates were captured after our frigate was informed about their preparations to seize another ship off the Somali coast. Our frigate was assisted by a helicopter from the TCG Gaziantep,” stated Gürak.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thursday-Friday Reading

Tax dollars at work - The Skeptical Bureaucrat: This is Not a Joke

Fred Fry's Maritime Monday 171 (hey, I was busy) featuring Mystic Seaport in photos and a pair of cute kids and a lot of other great maritime related stuff. Enough to hold you until- well, next Monday.

Betsy Newmark on the myths of the Health Care Debate.

Why did Asian Forest sink? Here's a report:
A China-bound cargo ship rolled abruptly, injuring 18 crew members, after it hit rough weather in the Arabian Sea. The ship tilted to about 30 degrees throwing almost everything that was not nailed to its deck off Mangalore coast.

The ship, Asian Forest, was carrying 13,600 tonnes of iron ore from New Mangalore to China. There were 22 people on board when the incident happened.

Ship officials blamed the mishap on cargo loading error. The coast guard managed to save about 18 crew members including the ship's captain Yang Seng Yang. They have been brought to Mangalore and are receiving medical treatment."The ship, which had sailed out Thursday, sent an SOS to the new Mangalore Port saying that that they were coming back after they hit bad weather. That's when the ship tilted," chairman of the New Mangalore Port P Tamilvanan told DNA.

According to the marine engineers, the ship will sink sometime on Saturday as the listing was severe on the starboard side and the cargo will only get more wet and gain weight which will hasten the final plunge.
Bryan has thoughts:
The reporter has the story a little lopsided – what he does not know is that the cargo was rejected by another vessel who’s Owners had employed a qualified surveyor.

This cargo was wet, showing signs of liquefaction.

The crew is lucky the vessel was narrow and that the free surface effect in the weather conditions did not overwhelm the vessel right away. This is what enabled the crew to be rescued by the ICG SANKALP.

The sad fact is that the suppliers will cover up and the real perpetrators will continue to do the same thing until the next hapless vessel sinks.

Sooner or later this will happen to a more visible vessel – perhaps chartered to a major name – and the repercussions will be more serious.

There has to be accountability at some point.
A little about the free surface effect.

Interesting graph:

Somali Pirate Weather Check

In light of the Iranian claim to have conquered Somali priracy. perhaps this isn't needed, but here is the wind reports for the Gulf of Aden and off the eastern Somali coast:

Pretty vigorous winds out there. Except over there by the Red Sea . . .

Somali Pirates: Iran 'abolishes' piracy off Somalia

Laugh of the day: Iran 'abolishes' piracy off Somalia:
The Commander of Iran's Navy Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari says Iran has managed to halt the activity of pirates in the Indian Ocean.

"The presence of the Iranian warships in the northern Indian Ocean has nearly abolished the phenomena of piracy in the region," Fars news agency quoted Sayyari as saying.

Earlier this month, the Iranian Navy successfully finished its first patrol mission in the pirate-infested waters off Somali and the Gulf of Aden.

Iran deployed two warships in the troubled region in May to secure the safety of its cargo ships and oil tankers in the region.

Sayyari had earlier declared that during the two-month mission, the stationed warships kept a vigilant eye on 366 merchant ships, 36 of which were owned or leased by Iran.
I guess the ships from all the other navies should head for home, since the Iranians obviously have it all under control. With only two ships.

Admiral Habibollah Sayyari is all set to replace Baghdad Bob as a reliable spokesman.

Couldn't be the monsoon had an impact either, could it?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Catastrophic health insurance

How the government can help with health care - by limiting health care coverage provided by the government to the purchase of catastrophic health insurance for legal U.S. residents who need it and allowing tax deductible health savings accounts for money to pay for routine care (which can be taken as a payroll deduction):
Catastrophic health insurance carries a high deductible and a low premium. It is designed for patients who are generally healthy and don’t necessarily need to visit their physician regularly. The plan usually does not cover regular doctor visits (check ups, etc.) but it does provide major hospital and medical expenses coverage. If you are in good health and simply want to be covered in case of a major illness or accident, then a catastrophic health plan might be the best option for you.

Catastrophic health plans usually cover hospital stays, x-rays, and surgical expenses, but do not normally cover mental health care or maternity care.
States can create funds for people with pre-existing health conditions.

Having catastrophic coverage would ease the worry of people going bankrupt when a major health event occurs.

UPDATE: Medicaid for dummies:
Many groups of people are covered by Medicaid. Even within these groups, though, certain requirements must be met. These may include your age, whether you are pregnant, disabled, blind, or aged; your income and resources (like bank accounts, real property, or other items that can be sold for cash); and whether you are a U.S. citizen or a lawfully admitted immigrant. The rules for counting your income and resources vary from state to state and from group to group. There are special rules for those who live in nursing homes and for disabled children living at home.

Your child may be eligible for coverage if he or she is a U.S. citizen or a lawfully admitted immigrant, even if you are not (however, there is a 5-year limit that applies to lawful permanent residents). Eligibility for children is based on the child's status, not the parent's. Also, if someone else's child lives with you, the child may be eligible even if you are not because your income and resources will not count for the child.

In general, you should apply for Medicaid if you have limited income and resources. You must match one of the descriptions below. (Even if you are not sure whether you qualify, if you or someone in your family needs health care, you should apply for Medicaid and have a qualified caseworker in your state evaluate your situation.)

Pregnant Women

Apply for Medicaid if you think you are pregnant. You may be eligible if you are married or single. If you are on Medicaid when your child is born, both you and your child will be covered.

Children and Teenagers

Apply for Medicaid if you are the parent or guardian of a child who is 18 years old or younger and your family's income is limited, or if your child is sick enough to need nursing home care, but could stay home with good quality care at home. If you are a teenager living on your own, the state may allow you to apply for Medicaid on your own behalf or any adult may apply for you. Many states also cover children up to age 21.

Person who is Aged, Blind, and/or Disabled

Apply if you are aged (65 years old or older), blind, or disabled and have limited income and resources. Apply if you are terminally ill and want to get hospice services. Apply if you are aged, blind, or disabled; live in a nursing home; and have limited income and resources. Apply if you are aged, blind, or disabled and need nursing home care, but can stay at home with special community care services. Apply if you are eligible for Medicare and have limited income and resources.

Other Situations

Apply if you are leaving welfare and need health coverage. Apply if you are a family with children under age 18 and have limited income and resources. (You do not need to be receiving a welfare check.) Apply if you have very high medical bills, which you cannot pay (and you are pregnant, under age 18 or over age 65, blind, or disabled).
Medicare is a health insurance program for:

* people age 65 or older,
* people under age 65 with certain disabilities, and
* people of all ages with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant).

Somali Pirates: Yemen Fights Off Attack on Oil Tanker

Reported as Yemen Navy Repels Pirate Attack On Tanker:
The Yemeni navy repelled a attack by Somali pirates on a Yemeni oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden on Tuesday, a military spokesman said. "Somali pirates on 14 boats tried to attack the oil tanker Yemen Oil 7 on its way from Aden to Hudeida" on the Red Sea, the spokesman said in the defense ministry's online newspaper "Navy forces immediately took on the boats, submitting them to a burst of fire which forced them to flee," he said.
14 pirate boats? That seems a large number.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Malaysian marine police capture pirates

Reported here:
Malaysian marine police on Tuesday rescued 16 crew members of a Malaysian ship and detained five Indonesian suspected pirates, officials said.

Six masked men had boarded the PNG Express early Tuesday in waters off Johor state, and tied up the ship's Malaysian captain and 15 crew - all of whom are Thai nationals - before robbing them of their belongings, said federal marine police commander Isa Munir.
All the suspects are Indonesians with valid passports.

'We managed to recover all stolen items along with four machetes, four masks and binoculars belonging to the suspects,' said Isa.
Five arrests, one escapee who jumped overboard to avoid arrest and for whom there seems to be no search and rescue effort.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday Ship History: Vacation

On a mini vacation to celebrate our 38th anniversary. As you can see, we are on the road.

Check back Monday evening for a Coast Guard related, but belated Sunday Ship History.

Somali Pirates: Over 5,000 Strong?

The Russians think there are 5000 Somali pirates, according to this report:
At least five large groups of pirates totalling over 5,000 people are operating in the Gulf of Aden, the first deputy chief of the Russian Navy General Staff has said.

"Pirates have become more daring and aggressive recently - there were instances when they seized vessels right in front of the ships that were responsible for the security of commercial shipping," Vice Admiral Oleg Burtsev said in an interview on Ekho Moskvy radio station Saturday.

According to the United Nations, Somali pirates collected $150 million in ransom payments from ship owners last year, while overall losses from piracy were estimated at $13-16 billion, including the soaring cost of insurance and protection for vessels, as well as sending ships on longer routes to avoid high-risk areas.

Somali pirates said Saturday they had released a German ship after receiving a ransom of $1.8 million. The German foreign ministry also confirmed that a German-owned ship had been released.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Reading

Michael Yon writes a dispatch from Afghanistan.

From CDR Salamander -removing a live RPG from a living patient. Major Oh and the medical team and an EOD named SFC Brown save SPC Moss life at no small risk. Next time someone talks about some rock star as a "hero" left them know what heroism really is. When you are scared and you do what needs to be done anyway . . .

It's Friday - so naturally it's time for Fred Fry's Maritime Monday 170!

The health care plans assembled by people who need to buy votes to stay in office? CBO Chief: Health Bills To Increase Federal Costs. The "over-under" on him keeping his job is two weeks.

Speaking of which, this flow chart

about the proposed health care system reminded me of Dr. James H. Boren's "three dimensional organization chart" (from his out of print book on professional bureaucrats, When in Doubt, Mumble)

... except Dr. Boren's was meant to be a joke. And was easier to understand.

Further to which, my congressman emails me again, this time asking about my health care:

You might note that the responses to "Which of the following do you believe are the most critical components for healthcare reform?" do not include:
1. Tort reform - no lawyer should become a multi-millionaire due to another person's suffering
2. Leave the system alone
3. Get illegal immigrants off the free health care gravy train
4. Improve health saving accounts and making sure there are nationwide insurance programs for "catastrophic" health care coverage.
5. Vouchers for "wellness care"for the poorest among us.
6. Go "solve" something easier - like illegal immigration, why we have "Department of Education" or a "Department of Energy". . .

Or maybe Congressman Miller meant it to be a joke.
Probably not.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Somali Pirates: Indian Dhow and Crew Freed

Reported here:
A 14-member Indian crew on board a country-made vessel hijacked by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden have been rescued in a joint

operation by Indian and French warships, the Navy said on Thursday.

The combined action by the two friendly navies patrolling the pirate-infested waters had led to the seven sea brigands, who were holding the crew at gun point, to release the Indians without any ransom being paid and to abandon the dhow.

The proactive action took place near Bab el Mandeb on Wednesday after the French warship had thwarted the sea brigands' attempts to capture a Liberian merchant vessel A Elephant by using the hijacked Indian dhow as a mother ship, a Navy spokesperson said here.

The dhow was in the control of the pirates since July 10 when they had taken it forcibly after firing at it with their AK-47 assault rifles and threating to fire rocket propelled grenades at the vessel 10 nautical miles off Boosaaso in Puntland, Somalia.
The dhow was on its way to Dubai after off-loading cargo at a Somali harbour when the pirates had attacked it.

The rescue took place after the French warship belonging to the European Union Naval Force (EUNAVFOR), which was in the vicinity, received an SOS call from the Liberian tanker, which was being fired upon by the pirates during their attempt to forcibly board the merchant vessel.

The French warship launched its helicopter towards the distressed merchant vessel and on noticing the naval chopper, the pirates gave up their hijack effort, the Navy said.

The French warship, however, did not remain contented with saving MV A Elephant and moved swiftly to shadow the pirated dhow, being operated as the mother ship by the Somali pirates.

The French also put well-practiced standard operating procedures with the Indian Navy into effect and exchanged information with the Godavari class frigate on the anti-piracy patrol.

Both the navies' warships continuously tracked the dhow and cornered it after the Indian frigate launched its Sea King helicopter with Marine Commandos on board.

The pirates, however, freed the 14 Indian sailors and abandoned the dhow, escaping on their skiffs after robbing the crew members of all their cash and valuables around 0300 Hours, the spokesperson said.

The dhow's crew, thereafter, contacted the Indian warship on Very High Frequency radio sets and sought assistance. The frigate closed in on the dhow and in coordination with the French warship, boarded the merchant vessel to provide food, water and medicines, apart from ensuring they were safe. Later, the dhow sailed to Al Mukkalla in Yemen, he added.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Piracy: Double the Trouble

Proof that the law of economics is alive off the coasts of Somalia and other places - in that you will always get more of what you are willing to pay for - as the International Maritime Bureau reports "Piracy doubles in first six months of 2009":
Piracy attacks around the world more than doubled to 240 from 114 during the first six months of the year compared with the same period in 2008, the ICC International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB) said today.

“As in the last quarterly report, the rise in overall numbers is due almost entirely to increased Somali pirate activity off the Gulf of Aden and east coast of Somalia, with 86 and 44 incidents reported respectively,” the report said.

The year’s second quarter saw 136 reports of piracy compared with 104 in the first three months of 2009, an increase of almost a third.

A total of 78 vessels were boarded worldwide, 75 vessels fired upon and 31 vessels hijacked with some 561 crew taken hostage, 19 injured, seven kidnapped, six killed and eight missing. The attackers were heavily armed with guns and knives in the majority of incidents. “Violence against crew members continues to increase,” the report concluded.

Nevertheless, the presence of navies in the Gulf of Aden from several countries have made it difficult for pirates to hijack vessels and has led them to seek new areas of operation such as the southern Red Sea and the east coast of Oman, where Somali pirates are believed to be responsible for a spate of recent attacks.

The report said that attacks off the eastern coast of Somalia had decreased in recent months after peaking in March and April, with no attacks reported in June. But the Piracy Reporting Centre attributed the decline to heavy weather associated with the monsoons that are expected to continue into August. The centre said vigilance should nevertheless remain high during this period.

Nigeria continues to be a high risk area, with 13 incidents reported in the second quarter to the IMB and at least 24 other attacks which have not been directly reported.
Think how bad it could have been without the navies protecting ships...

IMB Piracy Maps for 2009 to date (in order World, Off Somalia, Gulf of Aden):

Top photo from here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"Equal Justice Under Law"

Across the top of the Supreme Court Building in Washington, DC are the words:

"Equal Justice Under Law"

That's about all a Justice needs to keep in mind, I would think.

Otherwise, run for political office.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Somali Pirates: Philippines to Send Anti-Piracy Liaison

Philippines to Send Anti-Piracy Liaison to join forces off Somalia. As set out here:
The Philippine government has designated a Philippine Navy officer to act as liaison to the multinational task force conducting maritime security and anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), however, would not name the officer until his actual deployment in Manama, Bahrain where he would work with the Anti-Piracy Task Force under the United States 7th Fleet.

The appointment of a naval liaison was an initiative of Vice President and presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers Noli de Castro as the Philippines’ contribution to international efforts to stem piracy.

De Castro cited the “urgency” in assigning a Filipino naval attaché in the Anti-Piracy Task Force to help monitor the condition of Filipino seamen held hostage by the pirates and immediately coordinate assistance to the seafarers.

He said the assignment of a naval attaché also aims to establish a command that will provide guidance and safety instructions to vessels with Filipino crewmembers, passing the danger zone of the Gulf of Aden.
A large number of Filipinos are being held captive by Somali pirates.

By the way, it's the 111th anniversary of the Philippine Navy.

Not So Much Breaking News: Afloat Nuclear Power Plants

There are a lot information, even in her own report, available contrary to the breathless ignorance of "Ariel Schwartz" who claims credit for the bit of misinformation titled Radiation on the High Seas: First Floating Nuclear Power Plant Due in 2012, in which she writes:
Nuclear power is one of the most controversial energy-generating methods, mainly because of safety and terrorism concerns. But that hasn't stopped the United Industrial Corporation, a Russian manufacturer, from pressing forward with plans to build the world's first floating nuclear power plant. When completed in 2012, the plant will provide power to the town of Viluchinsk, a city and atomic submarine base on the Kamchatka peninsula (emphasis and italics added by E1.)
As most of us know, those "atomic submarines" are - shock and horror- both "nuclear powered" and, for the most part, "floating." Yes, that's nuclear powered propulsion as opposed to powering street lights, but even so ...

It is unclear what sort of power Ms. Schwartz thought was "atomic."

Even worse for here, a little research would have revealed at least one other "floating nuclear power plant" dating back to the 1960's - the MH-1A Sturgis, pictured above:
The MH-1A Sturgis floating nuclear power plant, a 45-MW pressurized water reactor, was the first floating nuclear plant to be built (and the last nuclear power plant built and operated by the U.S. Army). It provided power at Panama Canal during Vietnam war years, allowing more boats to pass through the canal (2,500 a year more is the # we've seen) than otherwise would have been possible.
See also here:
Built during WWII as the Liberty Ship SS Charles W. Cugle, this vessel was purchased by the US Army in 1965 and underwent conversion to house an experimental Nuclear Reactor as part of a feasibility study on the potential usefulness of mobile, floating nuclear power plants.

The ship was renamed Sturgis and had the experimental MH-1A Nuclear reactor installed into its hull in 1966, which became operational in 1967. The ship was towed to Fort Belvoir where it's reactor was tested and showed it was able to continually and safely produce up to 45 Megawatts of power. Following its testing period, the ship was towed from Fort Belvoir to the Panama Canal, where it was stationed inside the US-controlled Canal Zone and provided power to the Canal Locks and operating systems from 1968 to 1976.

Budget cutbacks in the US Army, the high price of maintaining the vessel and an upcoming nuclear refueling led the US Army to remove the Sturgis from the Panama Canal and shut down the MH-1A reactor in 1976. The ship was brought to the Reserve Fleet at Fort Eustis where she was stripped of her Nuclear Fuel and sealed off to prevent any potential contamination to the surrounding areas. She is presently maintained by the US Army Corps of Engineers and is slated for disposal, most likely through the US Navy's Nuclear Ship & Submarine Recycling Program (NSSRP) at Bremerton, WA.
And my own humble post on the topic from 2 years ago referencing an even earlier Popular Science report. PopSci had doubts, too, but safety shouldn't really be an issue.

Semi-related: Powerhouse Ships.

Straits of Singapore Pirates: Tug Attacks

Reported here:
Masked parang-wielding pirates robbed a Singapore-registered tug boat towing a granite-ladened barge in the Straits of Singapore Sunday morning.

'Weihai 5' was towing 'Jovan 1', the barge loaded with granite from Lumut, Perak enroute here, when five pirates boarded it northeast of Helen Mar Reef in the east bound lane of the Singapore Straits from their speed boat at 2.25am.

Four of them wearing masks and armed with parangs, snatched mobile phones, money and other valuables from the six Indonesian crew on board the tug boat, according to the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia Information Sharing Centre (ReCAAP ISC) here today.
And another attack report from ReCAAP:
On 12 July 2009 at about 0200 hrs (local time), a Singapore-registered tug boat, Kenryo towing barge Al Jabber 35 carrying a load of oil rig equipment was at position 01° 09.90' N, 103° 46.0' E (east of Raffles Lighthouse, Singapore Strait) when five robbers boarded the tug boat from a speed boat. The incident occurred when the tug boat was underway to Singapore from Batu Ampar, Indonesia. Four of the robbers worn masks and armed with parangs. The robbers took away mobile phones, money and other valuables from the crew of Kenryo. They also damaged the communication equipment onboard Kenryo before fleeing in the speed boat. The 12 crew who are Indonesians were not harmed.

There's Nothing Like Experience: A Short Report on Unintended Consequences

From the U.S. Coast Guard Home Page a link to an AP report on why some things maybe can't be rushed: Tugboat pilot plan may have backfired:
A federal program to recruit more tugboat pilots may have backfired by allowing thousands of novice captains to take the helm and contributing to a 25 percent increase in the number of accidents on the nation's rivers.

An Associated Press review of Coast Guard records indicates that the U.S. tugboat fleet is increasingly piloted by captains who have spent as little as one year in the wheelhouse.

"The system has failed," said David Whitehurst, a tug captain and member of the board of directors for the National Mariners Association, a national tug workers' group based in Houma, La.

"We have the highest horsepower in history, pushing more tonnage than ever in history, with the least knowledgeable personnel in history. It is a disaster. Look at the accidents we've had in the past few years."

Said Richard Block, secretary of the mariners' group: "You can't learn to run a towing vessel overnight, and some of these companies are simply rushing it too much."

Pushing or pulling barges piled high with freight, today's river tugboats are the 18-wheelers of the waterways, transporting all manner of goods such as oil, grain and chemicals.

At the start of the decade, the Coast Guard was under pressure from the shipping industry to revamp its training and licensing process for river pilots because an older generation of captains in their 50s was beginning to retire, creating a labor shortage.

The agency scrapped the time-honored "master's system" in which captains hand-selected rookies for pilot training. Instead, officials began allowing companies to pick trainees and pay for them to become "apprentice steersmen."

Under the new system, someone can get behind the controls of a tug after just a year, whereas the old arrangement required new pilots to spend years working their way up to the captain's seat.

In 2003, just 16 pilots were issued new apprentice towing licenses. By 2007, that number ballooned to 871, and last year to 885. The new pilots come cheap, too. An apprentice earns about $175 a day compared with $450 a day for a top-grade pilot.

But as the industry has added thousands of new pilots, the number of accidents involving tugs, barges and related vessels has jumped 25 percent, from 1,399 in 2003 to 1,754 in 2008.

And it's not because more goods are getting shipped. Over that same span, cargo volumes rose by only about 3 percent.
As the saying goes, "Do you now or do you want it right?"