Saturday, August 31, 2013

Transportation on the Water: The Erie Canal and the Opening of the American West

Nice little historical glimpse at the importance of a really bright idea.

Digging a canal was easier than building good roads:
When Governor DeWitt Clinton first proposed a Canal from the Hudson River to the Great Lakes, detractors dismissed the project as "Clinton's folly." The Erie Canal took seven years to build and was the engineering marvel of its day -- yet it was constructed without the aid of a single professional engineer. It cut through 363 miles of wilderness and featured 18 aqueducts and 83 locks, with a rise of 568 feet from the Hudson River to Lake Erie.

Finished in 1825, it spurred the first great westward migration of American settlers, opened the only trade route west of the Appalachians, and help make New York the preeminent commercial city in the U.S. The Erie Canal was enlarged three times to accommodate heavy traffic, most recently between 1905 and 1918 when the present-day Canal system was configured.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday Fun Film: "Meet the Fleet"

"Is that the Pacific Ocean?"

Yep, you aren't in Kansas.

And so forth.

Say, is that the Superman of my youth in ranks?

For an interesting look at the U.S.Navy in 1915, take a look here.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Syria: Magical Mystery Tour

Once upon a time . . . military planners were tasked to set up war plans that included asking questions that would make the mission about to be undertaken make sense. Sense, that is, from a military planning and action point of view. This form of planning gained some fame after the Vietnam flail.

Labeled the "Powell Doctrine" (see also here) the planners were to look at the following:

  1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?
  2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?
  3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
  4. Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
  5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
  6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
  7. Is the action supported by the American people?
  8. Do we have genuine broad international support?

At some point some of the vigor of this doctrine seemed to have slipped away.

As a result, we get the application of military force in the form of pin pricks (in the words of SecState Kerry and potential enemy often cushioned by leaks (see, e.g. "Loose Lips on Syria").

Quote(s) of the Day

From H. Jackson Brown's mother
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream._Discover.
Which may remind you of a quote often attributed (wrongly it seems) to Goethe:
"Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."
Good advice.

No matter the source.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sea Pirates: Reverting to Form

There was a time - before the private security ship-riding teams and before the EU, NATO,China, Japan, South Korea, the U.S. (and, of course, the mighty battle fleets of Iran) took on patrolling the Gulf of Aden and Somalia's shores- when piracy was a hot topic and a true danger to shipping transiting the upper Indian Ocean.

Of course, the failed and corrupt "state" of Somalia sitting on major sea lanes was necessary jumping off point for most of the area's pirates until the de facto blockade of its known pirate bases coupled with the convoys and private security teams has apparently severely limited the scope Somali pirate activity.

What piracy concerns remain?

Well, of course, the increase in hijacking off Nigeria and in the Gulf of Guinea.

Then it's back to the pattern of days before Somalis in small boats loaded with AK-47s and RPGs bothered the high seas - back to the days of low grade theft, muggings and sea robbers.

This is best illustrated by some reports. First, from the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence's
Worldwide Threats to Shipping Report (in this case dated 21 August 2013:
2. (U) Summary
1. (U) BANGLADESH: On 16 August, an anchored container ship was boarded at the Chittagong Anchorage.
2. (U) NIGERIA: On 15 August, an anchored tanker experienced an attempted boarding at the Lagos Anchorage.
3. (U) BANGLADESH: On 15 August, a fishing trawler was hijacked, along with the kidnapping of 15 fishermen, along the Meghna River under Hatia upazila of Noakhali.
4. (U) NIGERIA: On 15 August, a product tanker was boarded in the Gulf of Guinea.
5. (U) BANGLADESH: On 14 August, two fishing trawlers were hijacked, along with the kidnapping of 21 fishermen, along the Meghna River.
6. (U) NIGERIA: On 12 August, an offshore support vessel was fired upon approximately 35nm off the Nigerian coast.
7. (U) BANGLADESH: On 10 August, an anchored container ship was boarded at the Chittagong Anchorage.
8. (U) INDONESIA: On 2 August, an underway product tanker was boarded approximately 9nm north of Bintan Island.
So, let's give a salute to the efforts of the group mentioned in the first paragraph above - open sea piracy off
Somalia is off the reports - at least for now.

So, let's look at the most dangerous areas that exist now.

Being a fisherman off Bangladesh must suck - especially since some of the previous kidnapping have ended poorly for the victims (see Killer Pirates of the Bay of Bengal: 20 Bangladeshi fishermen Found Dead for example).

Such piracy is not an international issue - at least not one that will get NATO, the EU, etc involved. Further, as noted in the ONI report, in these two cases at least 10 of the 36 victims have been rescued by local authorities.

Further, as long, and very well, documented by the ICC's IMB Live Piracy Report ("Piracy and Armed Robbery Report"), threats to sailors often come from people climbing aboard anchored or moored ships and stealing loose gear or robbing crews at gun or knife point. For example:
10.08.2013: 2345 LT: Posn: 00:16.0S – 117:36.3E, Samarinda Anchorage, Indonesia.
Three robbers in boiler suits boarded an anchored bulk carrier awaiting for the cargo barge. The robbers held the 3/O who was on routine rounds at the forecastle. They hit him and threatened him with a knife while another five robbers boarded the ship, broke the hatch cover with pipes and crowbars and began to steal ship’s stores. The robbers escaped in a speed boat with the stolen stores and the 3/O personal belongings upon seeing duty crew approaching the forecastle. Upon investigation it was found that the robbers boarded the ship by breaking the hawse pipe security steel grill /cover bolt and nut lock.
Much of this activity occurs within the territorial waters of nations and it is thus local crime (but one that may affect international commerce).

All of which is a long way of getting back to what this post's headline states - we are seeing a reversion to form - more sea robbery, fewer ship hijacks.

Thank goodness.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Midrats 25 Aug 2013: Episode 190: "Crowdsourcing the Admin Overhead"

Join us on 25 August 2013 at 5pm (Eastern, U.S.) for Midrats Episode 190: "Crowdsourcing the Admin Overhead":
If the CNO's #1 priority is war fighting, how do leaders focus on that priority inside a 24-hr

In a complicated structure of Administrative and Operational Chains of Command and the unending hunger of a bureaucracy for metrics and the reports that feed them - when does a system itself become and "Administrative Burden."

On person's administrative burden is another person's critical requirement - so how does an organization's leadership balance subordinate priorities so they do not interfere with #1?

Our guest to discuss this and more will be Rear Admiral Herman Shelanski, USN, Director, Assessment Division, (OPNAV N81). Specifically, we will discuss the CNO's crowdsourcing initiative "RAD" (Reducing Administrative Distractions) specifically looking at removing those non-value added distractions in the Fleet keeping Sailors away from the Navy's top priorities.

Friday Fun Film: "Getting Ready Physically"

Advice on getting fit to go fight one "police action" or another. Another classic Coronet film from the olden days when the AV club members had to know how to thread film (a skill, I might add, that many young surface officers found useful later in life).

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Littoral "Combat" Ship Fantasy Goes On and On and . . .

Our friends at USNI News set out the "basics" of the Littoral Combat Ship and its amazing "mission
modules" in "LCS Mission Packages: The Basics"
The beating heart of both variants of the littoral combat ship (LCS) is the series of three mission packages the Navy is developing to handle some of the service’s most dire needs in the littorals.
On paper, the new capabilities and updates of existing functions will greatly increase the Navy’s ability to rapidly undertake some of its most dangerous jobs.

However, the mission packages have experienced delays of up to four years in fielding because of design problems, cost overruns, and manufacturing delays, according to the Government Accountability Office.
USNI News has an interview:
On Aug. 8, USNI News interviewed Capt. John Ailes, program manager for Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Program Executive Office Littoral and Mine Warfare’s (PEO LMW) LCS Mission Modules, for an update on the embattled mission package program.

Ailes acknowledged past failures in the program but painted an optimistic picture of the way forward for the mission packages.

“It’s a wondrous time to be the mission package guy today compared to three years ago because you can point to the successes,” he said.

No mention of  an "anti-air" mission module.

Oh, wait, that's not an LCS mission set. Of course, since we "own" the sky - only close-in protection might be needed.

The common denominator for all the packages (anti-surface, anti-submarine and mine counter-measures) is the helicopter carried by the ship, along with a variety of drones and yet-to-be found missiles, etc. Looking at the pictures, what's the single thing that would make the LCS useless in its missions?

Why, of course, the loss of its helicopter.

The most important mission for the LCS is mine hunting and minesweeping.
In the 2015 OPEVAL the Navy plans to test the fundamental components of the MCM package: the helicopter-deployed airborne laser mine detection system (ALMDS); the mine-killing airborne mine neutralization system (AMNS); the remote minehunting system (RMS), composed of the remote multi-mission vehicle and the AQS-20A sonar.
Problems with the RMMV have delayed the MCM package more than any other component of the mission package. “It’s had a storied past,” Ailes said. “Mostly for reliability.”

The Lockheed Martin system operates just below the surface of the water paired with the AQS-20A sonar. The 14,500-pound, 23-foot long behemoth is deployed from the boat launch of an LCS and is controlled by an operator on board the ship.

Early iterations of the RMMV failed on average every eight hours. The Navy had improved the average to 45 hours before NAVSEA undertook a reliability program to improve the performance.
In June, NAVSEA completed its reliability work and now states that reliability numbers for RMMV has grown to more than 200 hours.
AQS-20A is the primary sensor of the mine-hunting systems on LCS. The Navy has largely corrected detection problems found in early developmental testing with training and software and hardware upgrades, Ailes said. A plan to field the sonar from the package’s MH-60S was canceled for safety reasons.

“We took the Q20 and flew it from a 60S for a long time but the problem was, if an engine failed you could lose the aircraft,” Ailes said. “It hardly ever happens but once you lose an engine it would be catastrophic.”
The fourth capability for the first part of the MCM package is the airborne mine neutralization system (AMNS).

AMNS is lowered by a helicopter in the water after the crew has detected mines and is guided by an operator on board the helicopter to neutralize the mine. The system struggled with breaks in the fiber-optic cord that tied it to the sled; operators also had difficulty engaging the mines.

Ailes said that improvements to the arrangement of the neutralizers and skilled operators have blunted some of the impact of earlier problems with the system.
The surface warfare (SuW) package for littoral combat ship (LCS) is the simplest and most-tested mission package the Navy plans to field.
In addition to the 57mm main deck gun, the SuW package includes twin 30mm Bushmaster cannons, a planned surface-to-surface missile, and an MH-60R helicopter.
The Navy canceled a version of the ASW package that would have used the RMMV to patrol for submarines in favor of a so-called “in stride” capability that would allow the ship to move at speed to detect submarine threats.
The offensive component of the ASW package is on the MH-60S helicopter, which fields Mk-54 airdropped lightweight torpedoes. The GAO was the least critical of the ASW package in its July report.
So, see, it's all on track.

By the way did you catch the concept that you need two variations of the MH-60 helicopter as part of the "mission modules?" A MH-60R for surface warfare and a MH-60S for ASW and MCM? Just out of idle curiosity - has anyone checked on the qualifications the crews of these birds are going to need to fulfill these mission sets?

Just asking.

By the way, no criticism of Capt Ailes is intended. He's playing the hand he got dealt.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

African Trade: China, India and others

Nice report by BBC News "China and India: The scramble for business in Africa":
Throughout Africa - at building sites, on the street, and at ports and airports - the Chinese presence is growing.

Competing for a slice of the wealth along with traditional stakeholders are new ones such as Brazil and South Korea - and India, China's neighbour.
India's $65bn (£44bn) of trade with Africa is dwarfed by China's $200bn.

Chinese companies are active across the continent with big infrastructure projects, including ports, railways and sports stadiums.
Hmm. No mention of U.S. companies vying for work?

But, to follow on, the BBC is helpful with, a report of $5 billion deal between China and Kenya.

Kenya is on the outs with the U.S. and the EU due to issues with Kenya's president, whose spokespeople suggest nothing but good things from their relations with China:
In a statement, his office said the deals with China were a "massive boost" to his government.

"The rail link, particularly, is important in the context of East Africa's shared goal of ensuring quicker movement of peoples, goods and services," it quoted Mr Kenyatta as saying.

It will link the Kenyan border town of Malaba with the port of Mombasa, one of the busiest in Africa.
Funny, I remember the days when China was attacking the "exploitation" of Africa by western countries. Now, in Wikileaks released message, a U.S. government official brightly notes:
"China is not in Africa for altruistic reasons," he says. "China is in Africa primarily for China."
I would think any person who ever attended a "Great Powers" course might understand that.

I suspect the Africans and the Chinese do.

So, if you find yourselves asking why China might need a blue water navy to protect its sea lanes - you might consider the routes from Africa to China and the chokepoints that they might see as problematic.

You might also speculate about the experience that Chinese fleet is getting operating in the Indian Ocean as part of the anti-Somali pirate forces.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Gulf of Guinea Pirates: What Happens When Pirates Face A Navy? 12 Dead Pirates

If it were Somalia, the captured ship and its crew would be stashed while awaiting negotiations to begin. But off Nigeria, something a little different happened, as Reuters reports "Nigerian navy says kills 12 pirates in gun battle":
Pirates took control of the St. Kitts and Nevis-flagged MT Notre on August 15, but an emergency signal was sent to the navy and several gunships were deployed to recover the vessel, Navy Flag Officer Rear Admiral Sidi-Ali Hassan told reporters.

Navy gunships caught up with the vessel and forced it into Nigerian waters but while negotiating the ship's release, the pirates tried to escape on a speed boat. The navy boats pursued but were fired upon by the hijackers.

"The gun battle lasted for about 30 minutes after which they were overpowered. On taking over the speed boat, four of the militants were alive and unhurt while the rest of the pirates were killed in the crossfire," Sidi-Ali Hussan said.

The crew were all rescued unharmed from the MT Notre, which was carrying 17,000 metric tons of gasoline, he said.
Proving, I suppose, that even a not famously effective government can occasionally stumble into doing something right . . . and even a not famously effective government seems to be better than no government at all.

Hat tip to Lee.

Monday Movie: Old School Capitalism

From the "substitute teacher" film file:

Friday, August 16, 2013

On Midrats 18 August 13, Episode 189: "The Union and Confederate Navies" with James M. McPherson

Please join us for Midrats at 5pm (Eastern U.S.) on Sunday, 18 August 13, for Episode 189: "The Union and Confederate Navies":
The War Between the States, the American Civil War - whichever description you prefer - this crucible on which our nation was re-formed has legions of books, movies, and rhetoric dedicated to it. Most of the history that people know involves the war on land, but what of the war at sea?

What are details behind some of the major Naval leaders of both sides that are the least known, but are the most interesting? What challenges and accomplishments were made by the belligerents in their navies, and how do they inform and influence our Navy today?

Our guest for the full hour to discuss this and more will be James M. McPherson, the George Henry Davis '86 Professor of History Emeritus at Princeton University. He has published numerous volumes on the Civil War, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom, Crossroads of Freedom (which was a New York Times bestseller), Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution, and For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War, which won the Lincoln Prize.

As a starting off point for the show, we will be discussing his book, War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865.
Please join us live or listen later by clicking here.

Friday Fun Film: History of the U.S. Navy 1815 - 1860

Forty-five years of U.S. Navy history - protecting sea lanes, fighting pirates, anti-slavery patrols, setting up trade with countries in Asia, enforcing the Monroe Doctrine, steam engineering, screw-driven ships, new guns, U.S. Exploring Expedition, the Naval Observatory, founding of the Naval Academy, the Mexican War amphibious operations, soft power with Japan - just a boring little period, "making the world safe for American commerce."

"Annoy the enemy!"

Thursday, August 15, 2013

An Odd Iran -India Confrontation

Oil spill and arrest or bold international governmental hijacking?

Maritime Bulletin reports that India accused Iran of hijacking Indian suezmax tanker Desh Shanti, but there might be more to the story:
Indian crude oil tanker Desh Shanti was reported on Aug 6 13 dumping oil into the sea near Iran waters.

On August 15 the story got a new twist, developing into an international scandal.

India accused Iran in actually, hijacking Indian suezmax tanker under a pretext of oil pollution. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) detained Desh Shanti in international waters and according to The Times of India, is escorting tanker to Bandar Abbas.

 Desh Shanti ( shipspotting.com)
As of 01:30 UTC Aug 15 vessel according to AIS, was sailing in Persian Gulf towards Hormuz Strait, off Iran inner waters, abeam of Bandar-e Kangan, Iran, some 300 nautical miles to go to Bandar Abbas. Initially, tanker loaded with Iraq crude oil was en route from Iraq to India.

Indian authorities claim arrest is some kind of political gesture to express Iranian dissatisfaction with Indian recent cut in import of Iranian oil, as a fallout of sanctions imposed by the US and the EU.
Times of India report here:
For India, it is not far-fetched to draw the conclusion that Tehran is peeved with India's rising crude imports from Iraq and that the seizure of the ship may be a way of showing its displeasure. But this doesn't just have consequences for India-Iran ties but also internationally, as it will raise questions about what Tehran intends to do in the Persian Gulf where it has even threatened use of force in the past to show its influence in the oil trade.
A news report from 6 Aug 13 on allegations the ship was "dumping" oil here:
Bahrain is on “high alert” following an oil spill in the Arabian Gulf, also called the Persian Gulf, which authorities say was deliberately caused by an Indian ship.

The Indian-flagged crude oil tanker Desh Shanti was caught dumping oil near Iranian waters on Tuesday after ignoring official communications from concerned authorities, says a report in the “Gulf Daily News.”

Commissioned in 2004, the Desh Shanti is a 158,030 tonne oil tanker managed by the Shipping Corporation of India, Ltd., a government of India enterprise.

The spill caused an oil slick 10 miles long, according to the Marine Emergency Mutual Aid Centre, a regional intergovernmental organization based in Bahrain.
No explanation is provided as to why a ship loaded with valuable crude oil would release a portion of its cargo off Iran instead of carrying it all the way to its destination. There seem to be few, if any, reports of communications by the ship to report a problem.

So, perhaps, the ship, through some sort of accident, put oil in the water. Or, perhaps, the Iranians did something to the ship to put oil in the water.

 Or, perhaps, there are even less fruitful avenues of idle speculation for me to follow.

Keeping an eye on this.

India's Navy: The Indian Carrier

Eric Wertheim, who edits the U.S. Naval Institute's Combat Fleets of the World , discusses some ramifications of India's fleet growth:

Let me express my condolences to the Indian Navy (and the families affected) on the loss of its sailors in the recent submarine explosion and fire. It is a sad reminder that sea service is a high risk profession.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

China's Naval Power

A brace of articles by James R. Holmes: The second of which refers to the first - here's the second - How to Measure China’s Maritime Power :
Bumper sticker: it's tough to predict how swiftly and surely PLA Navy hardware and crews will mature, but China will remain a seafaring power in the broadest sense of the term. It will remain a power to reckon with.
And, the first, which lies behind a Foreign Policy login
Red Tide: Just how strong is China's navy, really?
Presently, there's reason to question the PLA Navy's battle-worthiness. If the PLA Navy operates at a higher tempo over the next decade, keeping task forces at sea for weeks or months at a time, it will evolve into a formidable force.
Well, as most military thinkers know, it helps to have interior lines of communication, which China seeks inside the "first island chain."

We discussed some of the issues involving China with Professor Holmes's frequent partner in writing on Midrats recently in Episode 187: From I to C of the BRIC with Toshi Yoshihara

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sunday Ship History: USS 19 1/2

With a hat tip to PigBoats.com's "The Wackiest Sub in the Navy", which you ought to read.

This may be the only ship/boat in the U.S. Navy ever to have a "1/2" as part of her hull number;. For proof, see USN Ships--USS G-1 (Submarine # 19 1/2):
USS G-1, a 400-ton Lake type submarine, was built at Newport News, Virginia. Launched with the name Seal, she was renamed G-1 in November 1911 and commissioned in October 1912. Her first years of service were spent operating with the Atlantic Torpedo Flotilla, including a cruise off the East Coast in March-May 1915. From the middle of that year, she was employed in experimental and training duties in the Long Island Sound area, operating out of the New London Submarine Base, Groton, Connecticut. During 1918 she also briefly conducted anti-submarine patrols in that vicinity. USS G-1 was decommissioned in March 1920 and expended in depth charge tests in June 1921.
Photo credit to NavSource which posted it with this comment: "Photo Submarine Force Museum and Library and submitted by Robert Hurst."

Among other wrinkles in the 19 1/2 design were wheels for "bottom crawling."

Her designer, Simon Lake, is well-described in Edward C. Whitman's The Submarine Heritage of Simon Lake:
. . . two of Lake's most characteristic design features - hull-mounted wheels for bottom crawling and "level diving" by means of amidships hydroplanes - became an intriguing "road not traveled" in the evolution of submarine design.
Lake's 1893 design, for which he applied for a patent in April of that year, reflected his early interest in developing submarines primarily for commercial purposes, and particularly for marine salvage. It was intended to submerge on an even keel using a combination of judicious ballasting and horizontal control planes and to operate largely on the ocean bottom using a set of powered wheels for propulsion.
More about that 19 1/2:
Built under a subcontract with Newport News Shipbuilding in fiscal year 1908, USS Seal (later G-1) was Lake's first U.S. Navy submarine - and after 19 predecessors, the first U.S. submarine not built by Holland and/or Electric Boat. Clearly an afterthought, she was later designated SS-19 1/2 a source of some amusement to Lake and his colleagues. Seal was launched in February 1911 and commissioned in October of the following year. In design, she was very similar to the Kaimans that Lake had built for Russia, and at 516 tons and 161 feet long, she was essentially intended for harbor defense or coastal patrols. As built, Seal had Lake's customary wheels, amidships planes, and an airlock, as well as trainable (external) torpedo tubes mounted in the superstructure. Her twin screws were powered by four 300-horsepower gasoline engines (two in tandem on each shaft) and 375- horsepower electric motors. Although Seal was a notoriously slow diver, and her tandem engines caused recurring breakdowns until one of the two on each shaft was removed in 1916, she squeaked through her trials, and Lake was paid.
Design Sketch NR-1 - note the wheels
Just as a point of interest, the U.S. research submarine NR-1 also was equipped with "bottom crawling" wheels - well, "bottoming" wheels.

Now you know.

From the More Things Change Department: 'The Navy ain't what it used to be - and never was.'

For the historically minded among you: "The Enlistment, Training, and Organization of Crews for Our New Ships"
A modern ship, being a complicated machine, requires the most intelligent kind of men to handle and fight her effectively. On account of the cramped living space, the number of men on each new ship must be reduced to the lowest margin. Each man being thus a most valuable unit, we must proceed on the theory of picking our men and building up a trained nucleus of American men-of-wars men, capable of meeting the demands that will necessarily be made upon each individual in our organization in case the service is suddenly expanded to meet the exigencies of war. With the improved type of enlisted men now demanded by modern conditions, we need new Watch, Quarter, and Station bills, adapted to modern and improved types of cruisers and battle-ships. To man and fight these ships effectively, we need better methods of recruiting and training.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Friday Fun Film: Missile Might

Raw power!



Other stuff!

From 1962.

The "Sparrow" missile's grandchildren are still around though they are being phased out.

UPDATE: Playback may hang up after 10 minutes or so. Don't panic. You can safely close it and go about you normal activities, knowing that the biggest things we worried about in 1962 haven't happened yet . . . of course, there have been a few other things . . .

Or, perhaps, this is better:

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Energy Wars: Philippines Offshore Oil and Gas Developments

 Let's see, countries with young, ambitious populations, growing energy demands and ready-made disputes over adjoining water space  - what could possibly go wrong?

Very nice RIGZONE report, "The Philippines Pushes Ahead with Offshore Development Efforts":
. . . The Philippine Department of Energy (DOE) said it aims to make the country 60 percent self-sufficient in energy by 2024 in a 2011 public address.

In the same year that the DOE committed to raise the country's energy self-sufficiency, the agency launched its largest ever petroleum block contracting round. The fourth Philippine Energy Contracting Round (PERC 4), which was launched June 30, 2011 saw 15 oil blocks – 12 offshore and three onshore – spanning an area of more than 25.5 million acres (10 million hectares) being offered.

The contract areas cover hydrocarbon prolific areas within the basins of the Northwest Palawan, East Palawan, Sulu Sea, Mindoro-Cuyo, Cagayan, Central Luzon and Cotabato.

The Philippines produced some 1.64 million barrels of oil in 2012, a remarkable achievement considering that the country produced no oil before 2000, according to the DOE. The Galoc field, sited 37 miles (60 kilometers) northwest of Palawan Island, accounted for 1.5 million barrels. The Nido oil field is the second largest producing field, followed by the Matinloc and North Matinloc oil fields.

"Although [the country's] current production of crude oil is quite modest, the Philippine petroleum industry may have significant potential in the disputed area of the South China Sea Basin, which is adjacent to the Northwest Palawan Basin," according to an August 2012 report published by the International Monetary Fund.
Which of, course, bumps it up against China's claims in the South China Sea or, as the Philippines would have it, the "West Philippine Sea" -
"This afternoon, the Philippines has taken the step of bringing China before an arbitral tribunal under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in order to achieve a peaceful and durable solution over the West Philippine Sea," the DFA said.

"The Philippines has exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful negotiated settlement of its maritime dispute with China. We hope that the arbitral proceedings [will] bring this dispute to a durable solution," the DFA added. (Jan 23)
Now, the Oil and Gas Journal reports a modest effort to expand production from the Galoc field:
A unit of Otto Energy Ltd., Perth, heads a group that is drilling two horizontal wells in a second development phase at Galoc oil field offshore the Philippines.

The company expects the Galoc-5H and 6H wells, being batch-drilled in 311 m of water
Otto Energy Map of Galoc Area
each with a planned 2,000-m lateral, to begin producing in the fourth quarter to the Rubicon Intrepid floating production, storage, and offloading vessel.
Info from Otto Energy on its Galoc development here. A little investment info:
Early this month, Otto Energy announced the entry of Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Co. (Kufpec) as partner in the Galoc project.

Otto Energy, the main operator of Galoc, holds a 33 percent working interest in the project. Kufpec assumed control of 26.84473 percent working interest in the joint venture project following its acquisition of Risco Energy Pte Ltd., the parent firm of Galoc Production Co.

The Galoc field consortium is eyeing first oil to flow from the drilling of two additional wells by the first half, bringing total daily production to about 12,000 barrels per day.
Some history of Philippines oil and gas exploration from the Philippine DOE:
In 1989, relatively large fields were discovered in the deep waters off Palawan when Occidental Petroleum tested gas in its Camago Structure. Alcorn Philippines, in 1990, discovered the West Linapacan Field and commenced production two years later until 1996. Also in 1990, Shell discovered Malampaya gas field becoming, by far, the largest gas discovery in the country. The field started to produce commercially in 2002, providing clean fuel for power generation to Luzon grid. At present, Malampaya natural gas provides about 40% of Luzon’s power requirement.

Onshore in northern Luzon, the Philippine National Oil Company developed and produced the San Antonio Gas Field in 1994 and supplied natural gas as fuel to the local electric cooperative in the Province of Isabela.
Wrap up this backgrounder with a U.S. Energy Information Administration brief on the South China Sea:
EIA estimates the South China Sea contains approximately 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in proved and probable reserves. Conventional hydrocarbons mostly reside in undisputed territory.
While national oil companies (NOCs) have been successful in extracting hydrocarbons near the shorelines of the South China Sea, the majority of the area presents daunting challenges to development. In addition to the geopolitical disputes, the contested areas of the sea face geological and technological concerns.

EIA estimates the South China Sea to be more viable as a source of natural gas than as a source of oil, so producers would have to construct expensive subsea pipelines to carry the gas to processing facilities. Submarine valleys and strong currents present formidable geologic problems to effective deepwater gas infrastructure. The region is also prone to typhoons and tropical storms, precluding cheaper rigid drilling and production platforms. Industry sources point to innovations in deepwater drilling pioneered throughout the Gulf of Mexico as models for developing the South China Sea, including tension leg tethering of production installations and managed pressure drilling to operate in the high-pressure deepwater environment. NOCs have partnered with international companies to provide technology and equipment for deep sea exploration and drilling operations.
Of course, from a maritime security point of view, there is this:
More than half of the world's annual merchant fleet tonnage passes through the Straits of Malacca, Sunda, and Lombok, with the majority continuing on to the South China Sea. Almost a third of global crude oil and over half of global LNG trade passes through the South China Sea, making it one of the most important trade routes in the world.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

If it's not one thing, it's another: "Marine Life gets Drowned Out as Oceans get Noisier"

Ocean News and Technology reports: Marine Life gets Drowned Out as Oceans get Noisier:
Obviously, the seal never heard it coming . . .
Human-generated noise, predominately caused by shipping, has been rising since at least the 1960s in line with trends in global trade. Now researchers are concerned that this increased noise is masking vocal communication between marine mammals, such as whales and dolphins, limiting the range over which they can communicate.

In response to increased levels of noise in the oceans, recent research suggests that marine species may be changing their behaviour; something which could impact on individual survival and population levels.
And, of course, this add-on:
There is also growing evidence to support the idea that climate change will also impact noise levels in the oceans as much of the carbon dioxide linked to global warming is absorbed into sea, causing it to become more acidic. This increased acidity reduces the ocean’s ability to absorb sound, meaning global noise levels may rise in line with trends in carbon dioxide levels.
Sailing ships are much quieter, but it is hard to carry meet demand for all those iPads, etc when you are facing a transit lasting - what? - several weeks if not months. The sail boat record to Hawaii from LA is about 6 days and that boat wasn't hauling Nissans or Kias.

Personally, I blame "continental drifting" - and whoever caused the continents to be too far apart to allow us to use high speed rail . . . . .

Bring back Pangaea!

It might also help if we could get those damn noisy shrimp to stop their cavitation ruckus and shut up.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Tuesday Video Treat: Flight Ops on an LHD

Sure, perhaps it's propaganda.

Except that this is true stuff as done every day by our Navy.

UPDATE: Except, you know, without the slo-mo and the sound track . . .

Saturday, August 03, 2013

On Midrats 4 Aug 13 - Episode 187: "From I to C of the BRIC with Toshi Yoshihara"

Please join us at 5pm (Eastern U.S.), 4 Aug 13, for Midrats Episode 187: "From I to C of the BRIC with Toshi Yoshihara":
Remember when "Afghanistan" became "AFPAC" in the second half of the last decade? Concepts morph the more you study them.

Just as you started to get used to the 'Pacific Pivot" - in case you missed it this summer, it is morphing in to the Indo-Pacific Pivot.

Extending our view from WESTPAC in to the Indian Ocean, how are things changing that will shape the geo-strategic environment from Goa, Darwin, Yokohama, Hainan, to Vladivostok?

Our guest to discuss this and more will be Dr. Toshi Yoshihara, Professor of Strategy and John A. van Beuren Chair of Asia-Pacific Studies at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, and author of Red Star over the Pacific, which was just translated into Chinese.

A returning guest to Midrats, Dr. Yoshihara some of the last few months in China and India, bringing an up to date perspective on this growing center of power and influence.
Join us live or listen later from the archive by clicking here.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Friday Fun Film: "115 Volts -- Deadly Shipmate"

There are many ways to get killed or injured on a ship. This movie, made in 1960, tells of one of them.

Still looking for the classic about the "Kingsbury Thrust Bearing."

Thursday, August 01, 2013

The Lovely Irony of ("former") Somali Pirates, Protection Rackets and Other Scams

Anyone who has followed any aspect of the rise of the Somali pirates knows that they have long used the excuse (see here (2006) and here (2005)) that they were acting as some sort of Coast Guard to protect the fisheries of Somali waters from incursions by illegal, outside fishing boats.

Those with a little more knowledge will know that outside fishing interests used to pay fees to "leaders" in Somalia to gain "licenses" to allow their fishing boats to go unmolested in Somali waters. You will also recall that the Somali "coast guards" began to attack ships having nothing to do with fishing and which traversed waters far from any possible Somali claim. In short, the pirate life in Somalia has always been based on a foundation of misrepresentation. As noted by UN report linked below,
For the past decade, the Monitoring Group has reported extensively on Somali piracy. It has mapped how piracy grew out of a kind of protection racket in response to illegal fishing and toxic waste dumping, and evolved into a money-driven, clan-based, transnational organized crime, constituting a threat to global shipping.

So, given that, should the recent UN report revealing that "former" Somali pirates are hiring themselves out to protect fishing vessels illegally fishing in Somali waters be much of surprise?

How about the fact that some of these pirates are being funded by a group of Arabian Gulf money men? See Muscat Daily's report GCC businessmen supporting illegal fishing in Somalia:
A UN report released last week has revealed fears that businessmen in the Gulf region may be actively supporting illegal fishing in Somali waters, often using former pirates as armed guards for the fishing vessels.
‘Puntland officials estimate tens of thousands of tonnes of illegal catch has been fished from Puntland’s coastline between 2012 and 2013 by hundreds of illegal fishing vessels. The vessels are mainly Iranian and Yemeni-owned and all use Somali armed security. The Monitoring Group inspected four forged fishing licences registered between May and October 2012 that have been confiscated from unlicenced Iranian vessels by international naval forces,’ stated the report. ‘Local fishermen from different communities along the Puntland coast between Las Qoray and Hafun have confirmed that the private security teams on board such vessels are normally provided from pools of demobilised Somali pirates and coordinated by a ring of pirate leaders and associated businessmen operating in Puntland, Somaliland, the UAE, Oman, Yemen and Iran.’
You may recall an earlier post about the successes of Somalis protecting illegal fishing from May 2013, Somalia: Sometimes you have to laugh - "Puntland seizes 5 illegal fishing boats, 78 Iranians arrested".