Saturday, January 21, 2017

US, South Korea, Japan Stage Missile-Defense Drills

The United States, South Korea and Japan kicked off naval missile-defense drills Friday, joining forces to counter the growing threat from North Korea. The three-day exercise began amid fears that the North may test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile or stage another provocation in connection with Donald Trump's inauguration ceremony on Friday. The Yokosuka, Japan-based guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem, Japan's JDS Kirishima and South Korea's Sejong the Great participated in missile detection and tracking drills in the waters off the divided peninsula and Japan. No missiles were fired as the Aegis-equipped ships faced simulated targets in waters within the 7th Fleet area of operations, said Lt. Josh Kelsey, a U.S. Naval Forces Korea spokesman. "The U.S. Navy continually seeks every occasion to strengthen relationships and interoperability with participating allies and partners, while further developing maritime capabilities and capacity," he said in a statement. Relations between South Korea and Japan have been soured by longtime disputes, including a spat over a statue put up in front of the Japanese consulate in the port city of Busan that commemorates wartime sex slaves called "comfort women." But the three countries have agreed to boost diplomatic and military cooperation against North Korea, which has shown alarming progress in its nuclear weapons program.
The USS Stethem arrives in Shanghai, China on Nov. 16, 2015. The destroyer is conducting joint exercises with Japanese and South Korean warships.
Pyongyang conducted two underground nuclear tests and tried to fire some two dozen ballistic missiles into the sea last year. The increased pace occurred despite U.N. Security Council resolutions banning the use of ballistic missile technology and two rounds of tightened economic sanctions to punish the violations. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently said his country is in the "final stages" of developing an ICBM. That would be a key step toward its stated goal of targeting the U.S. mainland with a nuclear-tipped missile. Trump, who has yet to announce his policies regarding North Korea, responded to Kim's declaration on Twitter saying, "It won't happen!" North Korea's Foreign Ministry retorted that "the ICBM will be launched anytime and anywhere" as ordered by the country's leadership. Experts are divided over how close the North is to developing an ICBM and miniaturizing nuclear warheads that would fit on one. Some say one could be ready as early as 2020. Unidentified South Korean military officials also told the Yonhap news agency that the North probably has built two new ICBMs and placed them on mobile launchers to prepare for a test, although the defense ministry said it couldn't confirm that report. This weekend's missile-defense exercise is the third of its kind, following similar drills in June and November last year, according to Yonhap.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Korean Ship Captain Kidnapped By Abu Sayyaf Returns Home

A South Korean skipper who was held in captivity by the militant Abu Sayyaf group for nearly three months returned to Korea on Sunday (Jan 15), a day after his release from the southern Philippine island of Jolo. Mr Park Chul Hong arrived at Incheon International Airport at around 4:30 am. "We understand that the captain's health is not bad, but he would be hospitalised for thorough medical check-up, said a foreign ministry official on condition of anonymity.
Park Chul Hong (centre), skipper of the South Korea-registered carrier DongBang Giant 2, is greeted by former Sulu governor Abdusakur Tan at Jolo airport in Sulu, southern Philippines on Jan 14, 2017.
Mr Park and Filipino crew Glenn Alindajao were released on Saturday morning by the Abu Sayyaf, under an arrangement negotiated with the help of rebels belonging to the Moro National Liberation Front, a Philippine army spokesman said. The two were then flown out of the island by a presidential adviser on peace efforts.
DongBang Giant 2
Their cargo vessel, DongBang Giant 2, was sailing to Australia from South Korea when 10 Abu Sayyaf militants boarded it in October and abducted Park and Alindajao. Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza told reporters the government had not paid a ransom, though some media reported that some sort of payment was believed to have been made. The ship's owner negotiated with the terrorist group who allegedly threatened to kill the hostages unless it received the ransom. The Korean Foreign Ministry also supported the release effort alongside its Filipino counterpart. Abu Sayyaf is a terrorist group based in and around Jolo and Basilan islands in the southwestern part of the Philippines. Since its inception in 1991, the group has carried out bombings and kidnappings in what they describe as their fight for an independent Islamic province in the Philippines. In 2004, the group bombed Superferry 14, one of the Philippines' deadliest terror attacks, which killed 116 people including children. In November, a Korean man was found dead nine months after being kidnapped by the group.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Taiwan Boat Collides With Liberian-Flagged Ship, Crew Rescued

All 10 crewmembers on a Taiwan fishing boat were safe after a Liberian merchant ship ran into it from behind in the South Pacific early Saturday, opening up a leak in fishing vessel, the Fisheries Agency said. The agency said it had contacted the fishing boat, the Hsiang Yung No. 6 (祥湧6號) which is registered in Pingtung County, and learned that the leak had not worsened and no one had been hurt. Although the fishing boat can sail, its crew has been advised to wait for rescue by another Taiwanese fishing vessel in the area that was sailing toward them and was expected to reach them later in the evening, the agency said.
Fisheries Agency Deputy Director General Huang Hung-yen said there were two Taiwanese and eight Indonesian crewmembers aboard the fishing boat at the time of the collision, which occurred at 3:45 a.m. in the South Pacific. The fishing boat and the Liberian merchant vessel were about 530 nautical miles southeast of Eluanbi, the southernmost tip of Taiwan, at the time, Huang said. He said his agency had alerted Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration and had also spoken with the captain to get an update of the situation onboard the boat. The Liberian ship was to remain near the fishing vessel and wait until rescue boats arrived, Huang said, adding that the two vessels would discuss compensation later.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Sailor Rescued After 2-Deck Fall On Dry-Docked Ship

San Diego firefighters rigged a pulley system to rescue an injured sailor who fell down a 20-foot hatch on the USS Paul Hamilton (DDG-60) in drydock Thursday. A medic was lowered into the narrow hatch to tend to the injured man, who was then hauled up with ropes, a fire spokesman said. The sailor was taken to a trauma center with head and possible leg injuries, San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Capt. Joe Amador said.
A special Fire Department rescue squad was sent to BAE Systems ship repair docks on Belt Street in Barrio Logan about 9 a.m. The crew carries technical rescue gear, including an A-frame that can span a hole and secure ropes in a pulley directly above it, Amador said. He said the sailor had fallen into a hole two decks deep. It wasn’t clear if he fell the entire distance from the top or was part-way down before slipping. The rescue took about 50 minutes, Amador said.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Woman’s Body Found In Ship’s Ventilation Shaft Four Months After She Vanished

The body of a woman who went missing on a cruise four months ago has been found in a ventilation shaft on the vessel. Imelda Bechstein was on her way home from holiday in Sardinia when she apparently walked into an engine room and fell into the shaft. Her husband, Ernst, said that she could sometimes become disorientated and now believes the crew could have done more to help find the 74-year-old when she went missing. The couple had been sunbathing on the boat’s lounges as they headed back to Munich when Ernst fell asleep. Mr Bechstein said: ‘We rested in sleeping-chairs. When I woke up later, my wife had disappeared.’ The pensioner looked all over the ‘Sharden’ ferry, which can carry up to 2,908 passengers and 850 cars, but could not find his wife.
The captain ordered for the ship to be searched from top to bottom leading to the belief that Mrs Bechstein had fallen overboard. But now it has been reported that her body has been found on board the vessel in the crew’s maintenance shaft. Mr Bechstein said: ‘She should not have been able to enter the engine room area, it should have been curtained off.’ And he said if the crew had searched properly ‘she might still have been alive.’ Recent autopsy results showed that Imelda had died the night after she vanished and no other signs of violence were found on the body other than injuries from falling down the shaft. The body of the woman is still held in Genoa as the public prosecutor has not given a green light yet to release it. According to local media, investigations are currently being carried out against the captain and some others for negligent killing. Mr Bechstein said he just wants to see the body of his wife return home as soon as possible. He said: ‘I want to be able to at least bury my wife. She should finally find her last resting place.’

Sunday, January 01, 2017

23 Dead, 17 Missing After Boat Catches Fire In Jakarta River

At least 23 people were killed and dozens injured on Sunday (Jan 1) after a fire ripped through a boat carrying nearly 250 people to islands north of the Indonesian capital Jakarta, the city's search and rescue agency said. The Zahro Express caught fire shortly after leaving Muara Angke port in North Jakarta. The cause of the fire was thought to be a short circuit on a power generator, said police. "Thick smoke suddenly emerged, blanketing the cabin," said survivor Ardi who was being treated in a Jakarta hospital. "All passengers panicked and ran up to the deck to throw floats into the water. In a split second, the fire becomes bigger coming from where fuel is stored," said Ardi, who was on the boat with his son. The boat was towed back to port where a Reuters witness saw victims in body bags being removed from the badly charred ship. According to the head of Jakarta's search and rescue agency, Hendra Sudirman, 248 people were on board, more than double the previous estimate of 100, and out of more than 200 people rescued, 32 were being treated at hospitals in Jakarta. Sea accidents are frequent in Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago, with vessels often overloaded and having too few life jackets on boat. Firefighters were alerted to the incident at about 8.45 am.
The Zahro Express which caught fire en route to Tidung Island (Photo: North Jakarta fire brigade)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Mayport Set To Welcome Two More 'Ships Of The Future'

Excitement is in the air as Naval Station Mayport officially welcomes USS Milwaukee (LCS-5) and USS Detroit (LCS-7). Mayport is going to become home for all of the Navy's Freedom variant LCS's. Milwaukee and Detroit lead the way for Littoral Combat Ship Squadron (LCSRON) Two. "Not only great for our national security, which shows you the importance of Northeast Florida, but also a tremendous impact on our local economy with all the ships and planes and people", said retiring US Representative Ander Crenshaw. "The Littoral Combat Ship, the so-called ship of the future, all of those on the east coast are going to be headquartered right here in Mayport", Crenshaw said. The Navy says Mayport will be home to 12 LCS, meaning more Sailors and families coming to the First Coast.
USS Detroit (LCS-7)
This comes at an important time for the base, which has seen ship levels drop with the decommissioning of Navy frigates. LCS vessels were designed to be high-speed, shallow draft multi-mission ships capable of operating independently or with a strike group. They are designed to defeat growing littoral threats and provide access and dominance in coastal waters. A fast, maneuverable and networked surface-combatant, LCS's provide the required warfighting capabilities and operational flexibility to execute focused missions such as surface warfare, mine warfare and anti-submarine warfare. USS Milwaukee was commissioned Nov. 21, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Since arriving in Mayport last February, the ship's crew has successfully completed full-ship shock trials and is currently undergoing planned maintenance availability at BAE Shipyard. USS Detroit was commissioned Oct. 22, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. On Nov. 23, the ship arrived at Mayport and has been conducting combat system ship qualification testing (CSSQT). Over the next year three more ships, which have yet to be commissioned, will call Naval Station Mayport home: USS Little Rock (LCS-9), USS Sioux City (LCS-11) and USS Wichita (LCS-13).

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Duluth's Ship Canal Lighthouses Dubbed Historic By National Register

Two of Duluth’s signature lighthouses have been added to the National Register of Historic Places, the latest landmarks to join city staples such as the Aerial Lift Bridge, Armory and Union Depot in earning the distinction. The Duluth Harbor North Pier Light and the Duluth Entry South Breakwater Outer Light — beacons that illuminate either side of Duluth Harbor’s ship canal — were added to the registry in June. The North Pier Light, built in 1910, can shine up to 16 miles and is still used for navigation.
The black and white structure is 37 feet tall and accessible on foot via the ship canal’s north pier. Few changes were made to the lighthouse in the last century outside of routine maintenance, including repainting to limit corrosion. “[North Pier Light] evokes feelings that recall the dedication to duty characteristic of lighthouse keepers throughout the course of United States history ... and serves as a lasting reminder of the importance of maritime commerce in Great Lakes history,” according to the U.S. Coast Guard application for the National Register listing. “It embodies and exemplifies distinctive aspects of architectural design and engineering that were characteristic of early twentieth century lighthouses built on piers and breakwaters in the Great Lakes.”
South Breakwater Outer Light, the third lighthouse to stand at the end of the pier, can cast its green light up to 17 miles. The beacon, constructed in 1901, is connected to the red-roofed fog signal building. “It is widely recognized as a prominent landmark in St. Louis County,” according to its application. The lighthouses, which work together to mark a range for vessels entering the canal from Lake Superior, had their beams replaced with LED lights in 2014. In 2000, Congress established a lighthouse preservation program that allowed federal agencies, local governments and nonprofits to obtain historic lighthouses at no cost if they agree to preserve the light’s historic features and make them accessible to the public. A spot on the National Register allows the U.S. Coast Guard to donate or sell the structures, potentially transferring the high administrative costs of maintenance to another owner.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Cargo Ship Crew Airlifted After Stone Barge Collision

A major incident was declared when a cargo ship lost power and steering and began taking on water after colliding with a rock barge, off the coast of Dover. Challenging weather conditions meant the Saga Sky cargo vessel then drifted onto the Varne Bank.
The collision occurred near Samphire Hoe and was reported to the UK Coastguard around 7.20am yesterday morning, 20 November. Two Coastguard helicopters from Lydd and Lee-on-Solent were sent to evacuate crew members from the 200m-cargo vessel, which had 23 people on board. Dover and Dungeness all-weather lifeboats, and Deal and Dover Coastguard Rescue Teams were put on standby to help receive crew members rescued from the vessel. Eleven of the 23 people on board were winched off and taken to Dover.
The other 12 remained on board as the Saga Sky and worked to get the vessel moving with the aid of a tug. Duty commander Steve Carson described the weather conditions as ‘particularly challenging’. He said yesterday: ‘We have declared this a major incident.’ Saga Sky is now in a safe anchorage at Dungeness. Inspectors, including one from the Maritime & Coastguard Agency were sent to the Saga Sky to assess the damage before the vessel was moved. The Maritime & Coastguard Agency’s counter-pollution officer and duty surveyor, as well as the Secretary of State’s Representative Maritime and Salvage liaised with the UK Coastguard and the crew on the ship. There is no indication of pollution.
RNLI Dover, deputy second coxswain Robert Bendhiaf, said yesterday: ‘Facing Force 11-12 weather conditions today was one of the biggest jobs for myself as one of the youngest coxswains Dover lifeboat station has historically had. ‘I’m very proud of all the RNLI volunteer crew members I had on board with me for maintaining a calm and professional manner in such rough seas during today’s operation. ‘It’s not often we work alongside multi agencies but today showed how well our RNLI lifeboat stations can operate with each other and other SAR units.’

Sunday, November 06, 2016

15 Nigerians Arrested On US Bound Ship

Sixteen stowaways, 15 of them Nigerians and one a Liberian, have been arrested by the Search and Rescue personnel of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). The stowaways were apprehended, in conjunction with officers and men of the Nigerian Navy. on a United States bound cargo vessel, MV Columbia River. The arrest which was effected on Friday November 4, at the Lagos fairway buoy was sequel to a distress signal sent to the Regional Search and Rescue Coordination Centre based in NIMASA which in turn alerted the Nigerian Navy. The Navy immediately sent its vessel NNS Karaduwa to the location of MV Columbia River where 16 stowaways were apprehended and one of them sustained an injury on the shoulder while attempting to escape arrest.
MV Columbia River
The injured stowaway was immediately taken away by the NIMASA Search and Rescue team on its vessel NIMASA Benue to the Agency’s Search and Rescue Base Clinic for treatment while the others were taken away by the Navy for profiling and subsequent hand over to the Security Agencies for further investigation. The crew of the Hong Kong flagged vessel had originally thought that they were under attack by armed pirates but preliminary investigation showed that the persons on board the vessel were only intruders who hid in the vessel to leave the shores of Nigeria in search of greener pastures in the US. The stowaways who included one Liberian national are in custody and will be handed over to the Nigerian Immigration Service for further action. Piracy and related activities have drastically reduced in Nigerian waters as a result of the combined efforts of the Nigerian Navy, NIMASA and other stakeholders with Lagos accounting for zero incident in the last six months.
NNS Karaduwa (P102)

Monday, October 31, 2016

Empty Boat In Keyport Harbor Prompts Coast Guard Search

The U.S. Coast Guard carried out an air and water search after an unoccupied 14-foot boat was found in Keyport Harbor Monday, the Coast Guard said in a statement. A Coast Guard vessel searched the waters for five hours while a helicopter searched from above. No signs of any boaters were found and the Coast Guard did not receive any reports of missing persons.
A search of the boat itself turned up no evidence of who the boat belonged to, a spokesman also said. Anyone with information is being asked to contact Coast Guard Sector New York at 718-354-4353. The Coast Guard also urged boaters to file a "float plan" before taking to the water. A float plan can involve merely informing someone of the area where the boater plans to go and when the boater expects to return.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Abu Sayyaf Attack South Korean Ship, Seize Captain, Crewman

Suspected Abu Sayyaf militants hijacked a South Korean cargo ship and seized the captain and its crew off Bongao, Tawi-Tawi on Thursday. Western Mindanao Command spokesman Maj. Filemon Tan said some 10 gunmen boarded the MV Dong Bang Giant 2 using ropes from a speedboat and snatched the captain Park Jul Hong and Filipino crewman Glenn Alindajao. The cargo ship was on its way to South Korea from Australia when they were intercepted by the gunmen in the Sulu Sea. Initial reports said the captain was able to make a distress call before he was taken by the bandits, suspected to be the faction of Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Idang Susukan based in Sulu. The Joint Task Force-Tawi-Tawi (JTFT) under Col. Custodio Parcon has been alerted and dispatched all its units to intercept the bandits and rescue the captives once spotted in Tawi-Tawi. Tan said troops in the nearby province of Sulu have also conducted intercept operations as the area has been used by the Abu Sayyaf in hiding hostages taken near the border with Sabah.
MV Dong Bang Giant 2
“As of press time, validation and intelligence monitoring are currently being conducted by the military in coordination with local chief executives and the locals to track down the perpetrators and safely rescue the victims,” Tan said. Initial reports said the gunmen spared the other crewmembers, one of whom managed to call his family to alert the authorities. Naval patrols off Tawi-Tawi and nearby Sulu, where Abu Sayyaf militants take most of their kidnapping victims, have been strengthened in recent months due to a spate of abductions at sea of crewmembers from Malaysia and Indonesia, Tan said. “We do our best to secure that area but it’s a wide body of water,” Tan said. Similar sea attacks by the Abu Sayyaf in southern Philippines have sparked a regional security alarm. The rise of sea hijackings prompted Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia to agree on coordinated patrols to secure the region’s busy waterways. However, the coordinated patrols are yet to get underway. Abu Sayyaf, known for amassing tens of millions of dollars from kidnappings, has beheaded two Canadian nationals in recent months after ransom deadlines passed.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

US Says Littoral Combat Ship USS Coronado, Now In Singapore, Is Combat Ready

The latest U.S. Littoral Combat Ship to arrive in Southeast Asia is combat ready, according to a senior Navy officer, after a series of mechanical snafus cast doubt on the ability of the vessels to operate effectively in shallow coastal waters. The USS Coronado is "ready to go do its job," said Rear Admiral Don Gabrielson, Commander of Task Force 73 and Singapore area coordinator, adding operation, maintenance, design and training issues have been addressed. "Every ship has maintenance issues. Any time you take a new class of ship and you have a new model for taking care of the ship and training the crew, there are going to be things that you learn." "It's crossed many miles of Pacific Ocean to get here all by itself," he said on Sunday on board the ship in Singapore. The Coronado is the first deployment of an independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship to Southeast Asia and the third overall in the class. It has a larger flight deck than other LCS vessels and greater fuel capacity. It will use Singapore as a maintenance hub and carry out drills with countries in the region. The ships, designed for the kinds of shallow coastal waters that surround many islands and reefs in Southeast Asia, are a spearhead for the U.S. military rebalance to the region, a key part of the Obama administration's bid to balance China's greater military and economic clout. Still, they have been confronted with equipment breakdowns and harried crews, with the Navy now moving to revamp the $29 billion program. Issues with LCS maintenance haven't set back the U.S. presence in Southeast Asia, Gabrielson said. "There's a huge amount of demand for the Littoral Combat Ship by every nation out here in terms of exercise and integration." The ship, built in two versions by Lockheed Martin Corp. and Austal Ltd., has been criticized for its reliability flaws, limited combat power and uncertain ability to survive in combat.
USS Coronado
The service is using its first ships for more extensive testing, reducing the rotation of crew members and de-emphasizing the swapping of missions and equipment that was supposed to be a hallmark of the vessels. Two of the first vessels experienced propulsion-system failures, in December with the Milwaukee and in January with the Fort Worth. The Fort Worth was sidelined in port in Singapore for eight months. Two more vessels experienced failures in July and August. The U.S. is targeting to have four of the vessels in Southeast Asia in coming years, Gabrielson said. The presence of the LCS is not meant to send a specific message to China, he added. "It's not a message to anyone other than what is going on in this part of the world matters to the whole world." China claims the bulk of the disputed South China Sea, where its military buildup and land reclamation have created tensions with some Southeast Asian nations. It has also sparked friction with the U.S. amid a broader tussle for influence between the two powers in the western Pacific. The risk of a clash in the South China Sea lies with non-military ships, Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said earlier this month, as China deploys more heavily armed coast guard vessels in the disputed waters. Singapore has joined other nations in the region and the U.S. in warning the reliance on fishing boats and coast guards to assert territorial claims in the South China Sea raises the prospect of an incident. It's a key shipping lane that carries as much as $5 trillion in trade a year. China has used its so-called white hull fleet to chase and shoo ships including fishing boats from other countries away from the reefs it claims.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Two Missiles Fired Again At US Ship Off Yemen

Two missiles were fired today at the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Mason while it was in international waters off of Yemen, the third such incident this week, U.S. officials said. The ship was unharmed by the attack after one fell into the sea and the other was brought down by a defensive missile deployed by the destroyer. The latest attack comes just days after the United States military launched a retaliatory missile attack that destroyed three Houthi radar sites used in the previous attacks. Two U.S. officials confirm that the USS Mason was targeted by another missile attack on Saturday and that the ship was not hit. One official said initial reports are two missiles were fired at the destroyer, which used defensive countermeasures in response. According to a U.S. official one of the missiles was engaged and destroyed by a defensive missile that had been launched by the USS Mason.
The other missile fell into the sea short of the destroyer. It is the third time this week that the destroyer was targeted by missiles originating in Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen. In the earlier attacks, three missiles fired at the USS Mason all fell into the sea. It remained unclear whether two of them fell on their own into the sea or because of the defensive countermeasures used by the destroyer's crew. Those strikes led to U.S. retaliatory missile strikes on Thursday targeting radars were located in Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen. In a statement, the Pentagon warned that any new missile attacks risked another U.S. military response. Friday, a senior Administration official said there was "no doubt" that Houthi militants were behind the missile attacks on the Mason. The official said it was unclear what may have motivated the attacks and speculated that there may be factions within the group who have different agendas. The Houthis are an Iranian-backed rebel group that in January 2015 overthrew the Yemeni government. Since March 2015, they have been fighting a Saudi-led coalition that intervened militarily in Yemen to restore that government to power.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Cruise Ship Scrapes Cape Cod Bridge

At 7:08 p.m. Wednesday, an aluminum light pole on the Viking Star, a cruise ship traveling south, scraped the bottom of the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge near Buzzards Bay, said Tim Dugan, spokesman for the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Cruise Ship Biosecurity Trials To Begin

The Ministry for Primary Industries and the cruise ship industry are set to trial a new accreditation scheme to reduce the biosecurity risk posed by arriving cruise passengers. The scheme involves collecting background information about vessel stores to determine biosecurity risk, says MPI’s Border Clearance Services Director Steve Gilbert. “Cruise ship passengers are usually very compliant when it comes to biosecurity. The risk material they bring ashore is mostly snack food from vessel stores. “If we know where the stores have come from and what checks they have undergone, we can have peace of mind that any food that leaves the vessel is free of pests and diseases.” The trial scheme also involves getting assurances from cruise lines that vessels have strict systems for pest control and they actively promote biosecurity messages, such as restrictions on carrying fruit fly-host materials like bananas and apples. Mr Gilbert says the scheme will have positive benefits for cruise ship passengers. “It means we can reduce some of the biosecurity inspections we currently undertake on the gangway.
That will result in speedier disembarkation for passengers, which creates a better experience for international visitors. “It also frees up biosecurity staff to focus on higher risk areas, such as new flights coming in with passengers that are unfamiliar with New Zealand’s biosecurity rules.” He says MPI will start regularly checking accredited cruise lines in November to ensure the agreed practices are being undertaken. In some cases this will involve quarantine officers travelling aboard vessels. He says unaccredited cruise ships will continue to face MPI’s full range of biosecurity compliance controls on arrival, including bag inspections, x-ray scanning and scrutiny by detector dogs. “The joint scheme offers potential for improved biosecurity outcomes for New Zealand. It’s another layer of protection for the primary industries and New Zealand’s natural environment.” In the 2015/2016 season, 32 international cruise ships made 466 port visits in New Zealand, unloading a total of 197,541 passengers.

Missiles Fired From YemenLand Near Warship USS Mason In Red Sea

Two missiles fired from Yemen landed near a US warship in the Red Sea, the US Navy has said. They were fired towards the USS Mason - a guided-missile destroyer - on Sunday from territory in Yemen under the control of Iran-aligned Houthi rebels. Ian McConnaughey, spokesman for US Navy Forces Central Command, said it was unclear if the vessel was specifically targeted, though the two missiles were fired in its direction over a period of an hour. No American sailors were injured and there was no damage to the USS Mason. The destroyer was positioned north of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which serves as a gateway for oil tankers travelling to Europe through the Suez Canal.
USS Mason DDG-87
Last week, an Emirati-leased boat was seriously damaged when it came under rocket fire near the same area. The United Arab Emirates described the vessel as carrying humanitarian aid and having a crew of civilians, while the Houthis called the boat a warship. Sunday's attack came as a ballistic missile fired from Yemen apparently targeted a Saudi air base near Mecca, the deepest strike yet into the kingdom by the Houthi rebels. It also followed a strike on Saturday on a funeral in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, that killed more than 140 people and injured 525. Hundreds had gathered at the community hall to mourn the death of the father of rebel interior minister Jalal al Rowaishan. The Houthi rebels blamed the Saudi-led coalition, but it denied responsibility for the "regrettable and painful" attack and launched an investigation. The US, which has become increasingly vocal about civilian casualties in the civil war, said it was "deeply disturbed" and would review support for the coalition. US-Saudi ties are already strained over the kingdom's military intervention in Yemen. The United Nations and human rights groups estimate the conflict has killed at least 9,000 people and displaced nearly three million. Since March last year, the country has been the target of an air campaign launched by an Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia. It was requested by Yemen President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi's government, which is waging a war against the Houthi movement - which is aligned to Iran. The Houthis recognise former president Ali Abdullah Saleh as Yemen's legitimate leader.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Hero Perth Sailor Honoured For Preventing Potential Bomb Disaster

Leading Royal Navy diver Scott McAllister, based at Faslane, is part of Northern Diving Group (NDG), the unit responsible for bomb disposal across a huge swath of Scotland and Northern England. Scott was named NDG’s “sailor of the year” in recognition of his part in dealing with a large amount of unstable explosives found near to a primary school. On the night of November 6 last year, Scott arrived by helicopter at Scoraig, south of Ullapool, in the Scottish Highlands. A local resident had stumbled upon a supply of explosives and detonators stored in an outhouse – just metres from the village’s primary school. The previous owner of the shed had been involved in the quarrying industry and was licensed to hold a supply of plastic explosives. However, he died and they lay forgotten in the locked outhouse for around 30 years. The explosives had deteriorated to the point where they were potentially unstable, making Scott’s mission a particularly dangerous one.
After inspecting the scene, Scott used his explosive ordnance disposal expertise to tackle the situation, safely moving the plastic explosives and detonators to a nearby beach where a controlled explosion was carried out. Scott said: “When we landed on a grassy field it was in complete darkness. “All we could hear was the helicopter blades turning and it was a couple of minutes until we could see the flashlights of the local police who were standing guard on the shed. It was pretty exciting to be flown to a job by helicopter.” Scott was joined at the award ceremony by his girlfriend Xophie Hooper on board historic warship HMS Victory at Portsmouth. He said: “I was surprised and honoured to achieve this award. It goes to show that hard work, determination and motivation goes a long way to a successful and fulfilling career.” Joining the Royal Navy in 2007 aged 19, Scott immediately began training as a Clearance Diver. He passed his dive course in 2008, achieving the title of “best phase 2 trainee”. Soon after, he joined the Faslane-based First Mine Counter Measures Squadron (MCM1) where he became part of the crew on board a Sandown Class mine hunter. For the next five months he was deployed to the Gulf with HMS Pembroke, helping to protect the vital waterways in the region. His first service with Northern Diving Group came in 2010, and in 2012 he gained promotion to Leading Diver. The Perth sailor is also one of the only Rescue Chamber Operators for the NATO Submarine Rescue System in the UK and is an air diving supervisor.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Owner Of Ship That Ran Aground Could Face Huge Financial Claims

The claims for compensation faced by the owner of a container ship that ran aground off Taiwan's northern coast earlier this year could set a record high, the Fisheries Agency said Friday. Shortly after the ship, the "T.S. Taipei" (德翔台北) of T.S. Lines Co. (德翔海運) ran aground off Shimen, New Taipei on March 10, it cracked and eventually broke into two, leaking heavy oil and fuel into the sea.
The agency commissioned two National Taiwan Ocean University professors -- Cheng Sha-yen (鄭學淵) and Ou Ching-hsiewn (歐慶賢) -- to assess the scope of the damage the leak caused to marine life and fishermen. Cheng said their study found that over 40 percent of fish larvae in the surrounding waters were gone and that the losses and cost of rehabilitating the waters could be in the tens of millions of Taiwan dollars. The agency will now convene a meeting to confirm the contents of the scholars' reports, and estimated that the compensation requested could end up at over NT$100 million.
The fishermen's losses will be divided into direct and indirect losses, the agency said, noting that it has received reports of roughly NT$6 million in damage to fishing equipment or fishing boats from 42 fishing vessels. The agency said that Taiwan has asked for compensation from ships on several occasions, including from the Amorgos, a Greek freighter that ran aground in waters near the Lungken Eco-protection Area preservation area in Kenting National Park. The Environmental Protection Administration filed for compensation from the owners of the ship in that case, and the two sides reached a US$1.05 million settlement.
Fisheries Agency section chief Shih Chun-yi (施俊毅) said oil typically leaks from ships quickly and in large volumes, but in this case, the oil from the T.S. Taipei seeped out slowly, forcing authorities to expend substantial resources and manpower on the clean-up, resulting in the decimation of the fish larvae. "If there are no fish larvae, how can we have adult fish?" he lamented, adding that the "ecological losses are hard to calculate."

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Tug Collides With LCS Montgomery, Cracks The Hull

The littoral combat ship Montgomery can’t seem to catch a break. Less than three weeks since a pair of engineering casualties sent the trimaran into port for repairs, Montgomery took a hard knock from a tug as it sortied from Mayport, Florida ahead of the Hurricane Matthew. The Tuesday collision opened up a foot-long crack amidships along a weld seam, about three feet above the waterline, according to a report obtained by Navy Times. The crack was letting in about a gallon of water every three minutes until sailors plugged the quarter-inch crack with wedges, the report said. Sailors installed dewatering systems to the space; the ship does not need to come back into port. The accident happened in choppy waters with winds gusting up to 30 nautical miles-per-hour in Mayport harbor. "As the ship was departing the [Mayport] basin, pilot requested tugs come along the starboard side to push Montgomery further from the quay wall and the aft landed hard on the starboard side" the report reads.
Sailors also reported five of the horizontal beams in the hull – called stringers – were bent. Naval Surface Force Pacific confirmed to report in a statement, adding that an investigation was underway to determine the cause of the fender-bender. "USS Montgomery (LCS 8) sustained a crack to its hull while getting underway from Naval Station Mayport under orders to sortie Oct. 4,” the statement read. “This crack resulted in minor seawater intrusion, but was contained by the crew. An investigation into possible causes is underway, and the ship will receive more permanent repairs upon her return to port.” Montgomery, alongside the cruiser Anzio and amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima, were sortied from Mayport ahead of the storm, which is expected to slam into Florida’s east coast as a massive Category 4 hurricane. The Air Force Hurricane Hunters measured the storms’ winds overnight at 125 mph, and the storm is expected to strengthen as it approaches Florida tonight. Montgomery suffered a pair of engineering failures within 24 hours, the Navy announced Sept. 16. The ship pulled into Mayport on its own power for repairs, which were under warranty from the manufacturer.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Egypt Condemns Houthi Militia For Targeting UAE Aid Ship

Egypt, on Sunday, condemned the Houthi militia for targeting the leased civilian ship "Swift", owned by UAE Marine Dredging Company, in Bab al Mandab, which was on a routine voyage to deliver medical and relief aid to Aden. ''Such attacks on humanitarian aid convoys violate international laws and norms, and represent a flagrant breach of International Humanitarian Law,'' said Ahmed Abu Zaid, spokesperson for Egypt's Foreign Ministry, in a statement issued today.
In a statement late on Saturday, the Command of Coalition Forces Supporting Legitimacy in Yemen said the vessel was on its usual route, to and from Aden to transfer relief and medical aid and evacuate wounded civilians to complete their treatment outside Yemen. The coalition rescued its civilian passengers, and no crew members were injured.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Tuskegee Airman Leo Gray Dies At 92

Retired Lt. Col. Leo Gray, one of the original Tuskegee Airmen who were the first African-American fighter pilots in the military, died at his home in Florida. His death Friday follows fellow Tuskegee Airmen Dabney Montgomery, who died at age 93 on Sept. 4, and Capt. Roscoe Brown, who died at the age of 94 in July. Gray recently visited Montgomery this summer and was one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, nicknamed the "Red Tails" who flew over Europe during World War II. In June, he joined a dozen other aviation legends at Maxwell Air Force Base for the 35th annual Gathering of Eagles event. He shared his role of signing up to fight with 16,000 other Red Tails. Gray knew that they were fighting for their country, but he didn’t realize his service would eventually eliminate segregation in the military.
“We were just doing what we were supposed to do,” Gray had told the Montgomery Advertiser. “We were trying to become pilots in the United States Air Force with no thought at all of the historical significance that was taking place.” At that time, African-Americans were deemed unfit both physically and mentally to fly something as complex as an aircraft. Gray and others who volunteered to fly in the 1940s, proved the myth wrong. In fact, the Tuskegee Airmen, were recognized for an excellent flying record. “They said we couldn’t fly, but we thought we could,” Gray said. “Everyone else could fly. Everyone’s blood turns red.” Gray was a single-engine pilot for with the 100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group. After his graduation from the Tuskegee Army Air Field, he was sent to Ramitelli, Italy, as a combat fighter in the P-51 Mustang. He completed 15 combat missions over German-occupied territory escorting B-24 and B-17 bombers. After logging 750 flying hours, he left the service in 1946 and served in the Air Force Reserves until 1984 and served a total of 41 years. Those years in the service were the most memorable of his life, Gray said. He appreciates the camaraderie he still has with fellow veterans who bonded during service. A Boston native, Gray had enlisted after high school and used his story of “overcoming adversity,” to encourage audiences around the nation.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Navy Removes All Historic Job Titles

The Navy announced Thursday that it’s removing all historic job titles and replacing them with occupational specialty codes, as opposed to direct titles, effectively removing the word “man” from job titles in a roundabout way. According to Navy Times, what this decision means in practice is that “Fire Controlman 1st Class Joe Sailor…would be Petty Officer 1st Class Joe Sailor.” “We’re going to immediately do away with rating titles and address each other by just our rank as the other services do,” Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke told Navy Times.
“We recognize that’s going to be a large cultural change, it’s not going to happen overnight, but the direction is to start exercising that now.” The shift gets rid of pesky job title names like “yeoman,” which the Navy bureaucracy had no idea how to make gender-neutral, thereby fulfilling a request from Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus to make positions more female-friendly to facilitate integration.In June, the Marine Corps removed the word “man” from 19 job titles, although the service did keep certain iconic job titles like “rifleman” and “mortar man.” The reason the Navy has taken so long to implement changes is because its review of titles was far more in-depth. The Navy also does not have nearly the same kind of cultural opposition to name changes as does the Marine Corps. There is an exception. Sailors at the rank of E-3 and below will continue to be called seamen. A Navy spokesman said there was no “direct line” between the all-out effort for gender-neutrality and the new job title overhaul.

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