Friday, July 29, 2005

Honeymooner's Mediterranean Cruise Disappearance Appears Suspicious

US Attorney Kevin O'Connor says the disappearance of a Greenwich man from a Mediterranean cruise abord the cruise ship Brilliance of the Seas appears suspicious.
The Brilliance of the Seas
George Smith the Fourth vanished somewhere between Greece and Turkey. He was on a 12-night honeymoon cruise and was reported missing when the ship docked at a Turkish resort area on July Fifth. Turkish authorities have handed the investigation over the U-S officials. O'Connor, the first American prosecutor to comment on the case, has offered the strongest indication so far that Smith's disappearance may involve foul play. O'Connor tells the Associated Press that no one has reached a definitive conclusion, but his office is operating under the assumption that a crime could have been committed. Investigators found blood stains running from the balcony of Smith's cabin to life boats. They also found a hand print on the side of the ship. Family members have been asked to provide blood samples so investigators can determine if the blood on the ship is Smith's.

Fire Destroys Drilling Platform, 3 Killed

A major fire today destroyed a big oil platform off Mumbai coast, killing three people. The fire has also disrupted crude production from the country's prime oil field. The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) platform is located 160 km from the coast.
The Coast Guard says it has rescued 330 ONGC employees while a few others are still stranded. The fire has been brought under control and search and rescue operations will continue through the night. According to initial reports, the platform has been completely destroyed in the fire which began at 4.30 pm (IST). "We had a major fire and the platform has been completely destroyed. There is bound to be some loss of life and injuries," Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar said. The fire broke out at ONGC's BHN oil platform, which is the main oil processing platform of the Bombay High North field, and is connected to two other platforms. However, there is little information available on casualty figures and possible damage as incessant rains in the area have snapped all communications links. "We had a major accident. We don't have details as of now. We are assessing the damage," said Subir Raha, ONGC Chairman and MD.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that the fire was triggered after two oil rigs collided. Speaking to reporters, Aiyar said the Navy and the Air Force have been deployed for rescue operations. A total of eight Navy and Coast Guard ships have been sent to the accident site to pick up the survivors. In addition, Dornier aircraft has been pressed into operation to drop life rafts near the burning platform. Naval Commando helicopter Sea King, which has just completed a rescue mission in Kalina and Badlapur, has also been diverted with life raft to the accident site. Action has been taken to mobilise medical assistance and evacuation measures as early as possible. Meanwhile, ONGC Chairman said the platform will take several months to return to normal production. The Bombay High field produces 38 per cent of India's just over 33 million tonnes crude oil output and is the home for the country's biggest gas field, Bassein. Following today's fire, the daily production is likely to come down by 80,000 barrels, which is a third of the total production.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Sailor Presumed Drowned

The remaining two crew members on board the yacht 'Mystic Lady' were brought safely to Port St Francis in the Eastern Cape on Tuesday night, the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) said. Spokesperson Craig Lambinon said the two members, a man and a woman from New Zealand and Germany, were stranded off the coast near Port Elizabeth on Tuesday morning after a third crew member fell overboard.
"The yacht had a crew of three and the man fell into six-to-seven metre swells about seven nautical miles off-shore of Cape St Francis," Lambinon said. NSRI station commander Clive Shamley said the institute launched its seven-metre inflatable rescue boat 'Spirit of St Francis'. Other nearby vessels and a police helicopter joined an immediate search of the area. "On (our) arrival the search continued until all efforts and possibilities had been exhausted," said Shamley. "The search has been called off and the crewman is presumed to have drowned." Shamley said vessels in the area had been requested to keep a sharp eye and the NSRI would react to any new information. The crew of 'Mystic Lady' were sailing from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town when the incident occurred. The missing sailor, presumed to have drowned, is suspected to be from the United Kingdom and officials from the UK, locally and abroad, have been informed and are taking all the necessary steps to assist further, said Lambinon. He said the two crew members brought to safety do not wish to be identified. They are safe and are staying with friends.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Pirates Of The Red Sea Failed Again

The pirates of the Red Sea once again tried and failed to attack an Italian ship.
Cielo di Milano
At 11.10 a.m. local time (13.10 p.m. Italian time) and 85 miles away from Somalia coasts the Italian ship "Cielo di Milano" (174 meters, 24000 tonnes, 24 people crew, ship-owner D'Amico) was attacked by 2 small pirate boats. The ship captain immediately sent "SOS" signals to the Italian port authorities that contacted harbour-master's offices of the friendly countries straight away. However, the "Cielo di Milano" captain used the ship's fire-fighting devices against pirate boats and seceded in preventing the pirates from getting any further. The trip continued its regular course. A similar attack occurred last July 20 in the Red Sea, at the distance of 125 miles from Somalia coasts when another trade ship "Jolly Marrone" was also unsuccessfully attacked by pirates.
Jolly Marrone

USS Bataan Sailor Dies In Training Accident

A Norfolk-based sailor was killed in a training mishap involving a forklift while underway aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD-5) , the Navy’s 2nd Fleet said.
Killed was Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Lawrence Salamone, 19, of Revere, Mass. Salamone was taking part in an integrated training team drill during a shipwide general quarters drill when he was killed inside a weapons magazine on the USS Bataan’s 5th deck, said Journalist 2nd Class Stephanie Bissell of 2nd Fleet. She said she couldn’t provide further details about Salamone’s involvement in the mishap or how it occurred, citing an ongoing investigation. Salamone had been in the Navy for 19 months. He was pronounced dead at 2:29 p.m. and flown off the ship the same day, according to Lt. Cmdr. Charles Owens of 2nd Fleet. The ship was 120 miles off Key West when the mishap occurred.
USS Bataan (LHD-5)
USS Bataan had gotten underway out of Norfolk on July 20 to take part in PANAMAX, an annual training exercise in which U.S. and Latin American navies plan and coordinate a response to a mock security threat to the Panama Canal.

The United States and the Republic of Cyprus Proliferation Security Initiative Ship Boarding Agreement

The United States and the Republic of Cyprus signed a reciprocal Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) Ship Boarding Agreement.
Cypriot Foreign Minister Georgios Iacovou signed the agreement on behalf of Cyprus.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed on behalf of the United States. The Proliferation Security Initiative was announced by President Bush on May 31, 2003, and is aimed at establishing cooperative partnerships worldwide to prevent the flow of weapons of mass destruction, their delivery systems, and related materials to and from states and non-state actors of proliferation concern. Proliferation Security Initiative partners marked the recent second anniversary of the Initiative through a series of activities, including an exercises in the Czech Republic and Spain and an event hosted by Secretary Rice on May 31 for the Washington diplomatic corps. The ship boarding agreement signed by the U.S. and Cyprus will facilitate cooperation between the two countries to prevent the maritime transfer of proliferation-related shipments by establishing points of contact and procedures to expedite requests to board and search suspect vessels in international waters. If a U.S.- or Cypriot-flagged vessel is suspected of carrying proliferation-related cargo, either Party to this agreement can request the other to confirm the nationality of the ship in question and, if needed, to authorize the boarding, search, and possible detention of the vessel and its cargo. The agreement does not apply to the vessels of third states. Cyprus is the world’s sixth largest ship registry by gross tonnage and the first European Union member state to sign such an agreement with the U.S. Today’s Proliferation Security Initiative Ship Boarding Agreement is our fifth – following ones with Liberia, Panama, the Marshall Islands and Croatia. The combination of states with which we have boarding agreements and Proliferation Security Initiative partner commitments means that more than 60 percent of the global commercial shipping fleet dead weight tonnage is now subject to rapid action consent procedures for boarding, search, and seizure. Signing the ship boarding agreement demonstrates the commitment of Cyprus and the United States to ensuring the highest standards of security for their flag registries. This reciprocal agreement also sends a clear message to proliferators that neither the U.S. nor Cyprus will tolerate the involvement of their vessels in the trade of proliferation-related cargoes. We believe that Proliferation Security Initiative ship boarding agreements simultaneously deter proliferators and attract legitimate commercial shipping interests that want to ensure their goods are transported under a reputable and responsible flag, which is not "misused" to transport illicit proliferation-related shipments.

Ship Rescues 14 Sailors Near Andamans

INS Savitri
An Indian warship rescued two African and 12 Asian sailors from a cargo ship disabled in rough seas off the Andaman and Nicobar group of islands, a naval spokesman said on Monday. Spokesman Salil Mehta said the 82-metre vessel carrying logs lost power and steerage and was taking in water off the northern Andamanese island of Piget late on Sunday when in a daring operation its crew were rescued in choppy seas by the Indian warship. “The waves were as high as five metres and it was dark when INS Savitri spotted her listing dangerously and went in for the rescue,” Mehta said.

Pirates Say Crew Of Hijacked Ship To Be Released

Gunmen have pledged to release the crew of a United Nations-chartered vessel carrying food aid for Somali tsunami victims which was hijacked off Somalia's coast last month, the ship owners have said. After weeks of intense, delicate and frustrating negotiations, the hijackers got word to diplomats that the crew would be freed, according to Karim Kudrathi of the Motaku Shipping Agency in the Kenyan port of Mombasa which owns the vessel.
The MV Semlow
"We have had the information (that they will be freed) from the Kenyan ambassador to Somalia but we are still waiting for their release," he said from Mombasa. "We talked with the ship's captain who told us that they had not yet left the ship," Kudrathi said, adding that his understanding was that only the crew would be released and not the cargo or the vessel itself. The UN World Food Programme (WFP), which chartered the ship and suspended aid deliveries to Somalia pending its release, said it was aware of reports of movements in the matter but could not confirm any developments. The hijackers stormed the freighter carrying 850 tonnes of Japanese- and German-donated rice about 300km north-east of Mogadishu on June 27 and had been demanding a $500,000 ransom for the release of the crew, ship and its contents. The WFP has repeatedly refused to pay any ransom and negotiations between the hijackers, Somali elders and politicians and foreign diplomats had dragged on for weeks without any result. The ship, the St Vincent and the Grenadines-registered MV Semlow, was on its way from Mombasa to Bossaso in Somalia's north-east Puntland region when it fell afoul of the pirates in waters deemed highly unsafe by international maritime agencies. Both the International Maritime Board (IMB), a division of the International Chamber of Commerce, and the US have in recent months issued increasingly dire alerts about threats to shipping off the Somali coast. The IMB said last week that the coast of Somalia, which had seen few attacks for almost two years, has suffered a resurgence of assaults by pirates with guns and grenades, with nine incidents recorded in the past three months. Earlier this year, the IMB advised vessels not making calls in the region to stay at least 85km, and preferably further, from the coast of the lawless nation.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Sea Patrolling Intensified, North Korean Vessel May Land Arms

Less than 48 hours after Naval intelligence alerted Maharashtra’s Customs officials to look out for a North Korean ship allegedly carrying arms and ammunition and heading towards India’s western coast, a fresh message was sent this evening asking Customs to call off the operation. Sources said there was no explanation from the Navy but they suspected that Naval intelligence must have tracked down the ship. Or, the ship, identified as M V Shangdok, had altered its course. Commander Abhay Lambhate, spokesman for the Defence Ministry in Mumbai refused to comment on ‘‘this sensitive issue’’. A top official at the Naval Headquarters in New Delhi said: ‘‘Whatever it is, it is a matter of national security. Let those involved do their jobs. These things cannot be discussed.’’ What added to the mystery was a press release sent by Commissioner of Customs, Ahmedabad, Ruchira Pant this evening: ‘‘It has been reported in certain sections of the Press that (the) Navy has alerted Customs authorities regarding a ship carrying arms towards Maharashtra or Gujarat coast. The Customs department in Gujarat is in constant touch with the Navy and the Coast Guard and all Customs (preventive) formations along the coast have been put on high alert. All necessary steps have also been taken to step up preventive surveillance in the coastal areas of Gujarat.’’ Earlier in the day, Customs officials in Mumbai — whose weekly offs had been cancelled following the alert — said that the ship was likely to enter the country’s territorial waters within the next 72 hours if it stayed on its ‘‘pre-charted course’’. This week-ends alert had mentioned that M V Shangdok might dock at one of the minor ports on the western coast. This evaluation by the intelligence officials was primarily based on the fact that according to international maritime procedures, it’s not mandatory for any shipping line to appoint its agents at the port of call.

Happy Birthday Airman Sean

Happy Birthday Airman Sean
From your proud Father

Monday, July 25, 2005

Four Dead, Five Missing In Ship Collision

The Wei Hang 9
Four Chinese crew members were confirmed dead while five others remain missing following a collision between two ships off Japan's eastern coast, a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo said. The collision occurred at 5:10 AM (2010 GMT) about 10 kilometers southwest of the Cape Inubosaki in the Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo. The Wei Hang 9, a 3,947-ton freighter registered in Malta, with 21 Chinese crew members onboard sank after the incident. The other ship, a Japanese-registered 499-ton freighter, survived the accident and its crew remained unhurt. The embassy has formed an emergency team to deal with the aftermath, and contacted relevant Japanese departments to search and rescue the missing. Two consulates from the embassy have arrived at the hospital and visited the rescued sailors, some of whom were slightly injured. Japan Coast Guard ships and helicopters searched for the missing Chinese crew members. The cause of the accident is still under investigation. The sunken ship set off from Shiogama in Japan's Miyagi Prefecture and was bound for Dalian, a port in northeast China's Liaoning Province, carrying 5,800 tons of scrap iron.

Navy's New Transport Ship Full Of Problems

Navy inspectors have uncovered significant manufacturing problems in the service's newest transport ship. In its assessment of the USS San Antonio, the Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey found a dizzying array of safety deficiencies throughout the ship, the first in a new class designed to ferry Marines and their weapons into battle.
USS San Antonio (LPD-17)
The ship is infested with corrosion, is badly wired, poorly built and deemed so unsafe that inspectors warned the Navy not to take it to sea. Construction and craftsmanship standards were "poor," they wrote following an inspection conducted from June 27 through July 5. Workers left a "snarled, over-packed, poorly assembled and virtually uncorrectable electrical/electronic cable plant." Watertight integrity was compromised throughout the ship by multiple cable lines. The inspectors predicted the San Antonio "will be plagued by electrical/electronic cable plant installation deficiencies throughout its entire service life" if corrective work is not completed. Though those actions are on the drawing board, inspectors warned that the San Antonio should not be put in to service until "significant" damage control and firefighting systems are installed. The report was first disclosed by the Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Norfolk, Va. The newspaper said the inspection was dated July 8. Although the Navy agency found many problems, it also concluded that the San Antonio has "great potential for future useful service to the fleet." The Navy and shipbuilder Northrop Grumman Ship Systems say the San Antonio has encountered fewer problems than other vessels like it. "There's a big picture to complex ships," Northrop Grumman Ship Systems spokesman Brian Cullin said Thursday. "It is the first of class and every first of class has significant challenges." The ship was delivered to the Navy this week with little fanfare. It passed inspection after winning "satisfactory" scores in testing conducted by the shipbuilder. But the San Antonio was deemed "an incomplete ship," missing everything from deck drains to berthing compartment sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers, according to the report. The San Antonio is the Navy's first ship designed to be less visible on enemy radar screens, although the report said that cost cuts forced the Navy to eliminate some of the ship's radar-evading traits. It's the fleet's first "gender-neutral" ship, with living quarters and showers for women. It is also the first ship designed to carry the V-22 tiltrotor, the Marine Corps' newest aircraft. Designed entirely on computer, the San Antonio was to be the first of 12 amphibious transport dock ships built under a $16 billion program. But soaring overruns have forced the Navy to reduce the project by three ships. The San Antonio's cost has surged from $830 million to a projected $1.85 billion. Northrop Grumman's Cullin said costs have increased in part because the ship still was being still being designed two years into its construction. "I can understand why the Navy and Northrop Grumman are defensive about this," said retired Rear Adm. Steve Pietropaoli, a former top Navy spokesman and executive director of the U.S. Navy League, an educational organization in Arlington, Va. "But the fact is we're not getting the product we need to support Marines in the future." The ship measures 684 feet, displaces 24,900 tons and will carry a crew of 360 seamen and 700 Marines.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Homeland Security Holds Up Paddle Boats

Mississippi Queen docked at Lambert's Landing in St. Paul
The paddle boats Mississippi Queen, Delta Queen and other luxury vessels won't be able to dock at Lambert's Landing in St. Paul until the Coast Guard approves a security plan for St. Paul's riverfront. City officials have worked for more than a year to meet the Coast Guard's homeland security requirements for the landing. "This has been a very complicated process, because this was never an issue before 9/11," city parks security director Eric Thompson said. "Maritime security was something we never had to deal with before." About 400 passengers of the Mississippi Queen were taken by buses Saturday from Red Wing to the Twin Cities so they could finish their planned vacation or make travel connections. Another 400 were picked up and bused to Red Wing to begin their southbound voyage to St. Louis. "Red Wing is a lovely town to visit, but of course a lot of people on this cruise are looking to get into St. Paul," said Lucette Brehm, a spokeswoman for the Delta Queen Steamboat Co. in New Orleans. The company operates about six paddlewheeler trips a year into St. Paul. Previous excursions were exempt from the new rules while security officials gave cities time to implement them. But passengers on last week's seven-day cruise received mailed notices about three days before their departure telling them the Mississippi Queen could not dock in St. Paul for security reasons. "If little places like Red Wing and La Crosse have security plans in place, what's the matter with St. Paul?" asked Juergen Weidling, a St. Paul businessman who called the St. Paul Pioneer Press to complain. A first-time passenger last week on the Mississippi Queen, he and his wife arranged for their daughter to pick them up in Red Wing at 1 a.m. Saturday rather than wait for the motorcoach convoy later that morning. "I took a trip, and the deal was from St. Louis to St. Paul," he said. The Delta Queen has trips to St. Paul scheduled Aug. 6 and Aug. 20, and the Mississippi Queen has three visits planned in October. Because the Mississippi and Delta queens are too large to fit under the Robert Street bridge, they can't dock at Harriet Island, which already meets Coast Guard approval for smaller vessels such as the Jonathan Padelford riverboat. The Coast Guard in St. Louis has jurisdiction in Minnesota and requires detailed compliance with security measures such as locked access during heightened alert periods. But if a city can persuade the Coast Guard that a landing is a public access facility, rather than a New York City-type commercial port, it faces less stringent guidelines. "We've had a difficult time to get people in the Coast Guard to understand this is basically a concrete dock in a regional park," said Thompson, of St. Paul Parks and Recreation. "The frustrating thing was learning all of the different Coast Guard regulations that are required." He said the delay was caused more by the city and Coast Guard negotiating terminology and definitions than in actual deficiencies at Lambert's Landing. He planned to send Coast Guard officials another revised security plan this week.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Two Ships Collide Near Manila Bay

Two ships collided off the coast of Corregidor Island, the Philippines, Thursday, according to initial reports reaching the Philippine Coast Guard. There was no immediate report of casualties or damage after the MV Express 2 and Arowana barge collided at around 7:25 a.m., eight nautical miles off Corregidor Island, which is located in the Manila Bay. Coast Guard spokesman Armand Balilo told a local radio that they are investigating the cause of the collision. Navy spokesman Captain Geronimo Malabanan told reporters that two Navy ships were sent to the accident site for search and rescue operations.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Somalia, Iraq Emerge As New Hotspots For Piracy Attacks

The number of piracy attacks worldwide hit a six-year low in the first half of 2005. Indonesian waters, however, keep first place as the most dangerous, while Somalia and Iraq are emerging as the new piracy hotspots.
Sailors stand near rocket launcher pods during a show the launching of Indonesian Navy's anti-sea piracy operation
Pirate attacks on ships worldwide fell by 30 percent in the first half of this year dropping from 182 in the first half of 2004 to 127. There have also been no piracy-related killings compared to 30 fatalities by this time last year. That is the good news from the International Maritime Bureau, a non-profit shipping watchdog, which issued a new report Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur. The bureau's deputy director, speaking from offices in London, Captain Jayant Abhyankar, attributes the decline to the December 26 tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean and to a new United Nations port security convention enacted last year. "Tsunami had a dramatic impact of the decline in attacks, certainly in the first two months or first three months of this year…. The second reason is that there is a new regulatory security code for ships in ports which came into focus on the first of July, 2004… That would have had some impact I'm sure because the ports are now tightening up their own in-house security measures," he said. Attacks also declined 16 percent off Indonesia, which has the world's most dangerous waterways in terms of piracy. It still accounted for a third of all pirate attacks worldwide. Other countries which reported fewer pirate attacks include Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Cameroon, Mauritania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Brazil, Venezuela, Ghana, Columbia, and Ecuador. India, Bangladesh, and Somalia came in second with eight attacks each. The International Maritime Bureau's Jayant Abhyankar noted Somalia and Iraq are growing areas of concern. "About Somalia, we're more concerned than the Iraq situation because Iraq you at least have the coalition forces, there is some degree of law enforcement," said Jayant Abhyankar. "As against Somalia there is no law whatsoever, there's no government, and there's no security forces to protect ships." Piracy was almost unknown off Iraq. This year there have been four incidents.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

91 Year Old Ship Mystery Solved!

Amateur wreck hunters have now received their reward for finding a missing freighter that sank in Lake Superior over 90 years ago.
A ceremony marking the find took place in Duluth, Minn. The Benjamin Noble was hauling 2,900 tons of steel rails on April 28, 1914, when it mysteriously disappeared. None of its 20 crew members were ever found. The only clues to the missing 239-foot steamer were that a storm blowing 64 mph winds crushed Lake Superior that morning, the captain of another ship in the vicinity saw lights disappear in the night -- and pieces of the ship were found floating in the water later that day. While looking for another ship last October, four wreck hunters found the Benjamin Noble. They have donated the reward to preserving the ship.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

US Lawmakers Urged To Press On With new Navy Ship

Pentagon officials on Tuesday urged U.S. lawmakers to press ahead with plans for a new Navy warship, the DD(X) Destroyer, and not impose cost caps. Northrop Grumman Corp., with a shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi, has had a leading design role in the DD(X) program.

Production is to be split with General Dynamics Corp.'s shipyard in Bath, Maine. Defense Department and Navy representatives told a House Armed Services subcommittee that the DD(X) destroyer was needed to deal with future military threats and would cost less to operate in the long run than older-generation DDG destroyers. "The department needs more than what DDG-51 ships can deliver," Kenneth Krieg, the Pentagon's top weapons buyer, told the House Armed Services Projections Subcommittee. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vernon Clark told the subcommittee that the DD(X> will be needed to deal with future military threats in land-attack situations. He said the destroyer's stealth capabilities and more powerful guns made it vastly better than the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke destroyers. The Navy wants to acquire 8 to 12 DD(X) ships but escalating costs of the new destroyer have become a major concern. The first DD(X) is projected to cost $3.3 billion with an average cost of $2.6 billion per copy once the rest are built. In February, President Bush's spending plan for fiscal 2006, starting Oct. 1, called for cutting $3 billion and two ships from the program. In May the full House Armed Services Committee proposed capping at $1.7 billion the cost of the DD(X), roughly half of the Navy's projection for the first ships. Krieg, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, said it wasn't possible to provide all the new capabilities the Navy needs and stay within the $1.7 billion cost cap. The highly automated DD(X) would require a smaller crew, lowering operating costs. Krieg said that would save $4.2 billion in personnel costs over the 35-year life span of 10 ships. Krieg said the Pentagon was "committed to finding ways to control costs and improve shipbuilder cost performance" but he did not elaborate. He was still studying a "dual lead ship" strategy for the DD(X) program in which Northrop and General Dynamics would simultaneously build the initial DD(X) destroyers. That strategy would be an alternative to a tag-team strategy currently mandated by Congress that would force the Navy to order one ship from one of the yards in 2007 and from the other in 2008.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Naval Coastal Warfare Group 1 Units Deploy For Middle East

Nearly 200 Navy Reservists from Inshore Boat Unit (IBU) 14, from St. Louis, Mo., and Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare Unit (MIUWU) 101, from Everett, Wash., deployed July 10 to support U.S. 5th Fleet operations in the Persian Gulf. Together, the combined units arrived in San Diego in late April to begin pre-deployment training and qualifications with Naval Coastal Warfare Group One (NCWG 1). "We will be providing force protection, assuring that no one gets too close to military installations," said Lt. Cmdr. Dave Rahmer of MIUWU 101. "Training consisted of security measures, tactical convoy movements, first aid, and weapons qualifications," said Operations Specialist 2nd Class Shel Cox of IBU 14. "We are ready to defend, if needed." NCWG 1 has been deploying units for eight to ten months since 9/11; each time drawing from Navy Reserve units from across the United States.
NCWG 1 is the operational commander for four Naval Coastal Warfare Squadrons, 11 MIUWUs, seven IBUs and two Mobile Security Squadrons (MSS), which have five detachments located throughout the western United States and Guam. The primary mission of NCWG 1 is force protection.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Replica Of Columbus Ship To Sail The Mississippi River

Columbus never sailed up the Mississippi River, but a replica of his favorite ship will this week. A handmade replica of the "Nina'' will start a five-day visit at Levee Park in Winona on Thursday. It was built without the use of power tools in Brazil and has been touring since 1992 as a ``sailing museum.'' The ship and its four-person crew began the current tour up the Mississippi by departing Mobile, Alabama, on May 25. Winona is the first port of call in Minnesota on the summer tour, which will include the upper Mississippi and the Ohio rivers.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Swedish Sub Heads To Sea, Readies For Mock Battle

Swedish Submarine Gotland
With their fill of margaritas, burritos and some American-style barbecue hamburgers, a Swedish navy crew took their attack Submarine Gotland into the Pacific Ocean and prepared to wage mock battle and combat operations with U.S. 3rd Fleet. On July 11, Gotland slipped from the submarine piers at the Point Loma Naval Base and glided from San Diego Bay into the Pacific’s tepid, deep waters for a three-week training cycle at sea. For a crew more accustomed to the frigid waters of the Baltic and sub-Arctic region, this historic California deployment — the first for the Swedish navy — is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They were eager to get to see and note the differences in the Pacific’s temperature, salinity, topography and even its sea life, sure to test sonar technicians’ keen senses. “It’s a much larger ocean out here, much deeper,” noted Lt. Cmdr. Jens Nykvist, 36, commander of the “gold” crew, which arrived in San Diego July 5 and hustled to get Gotland out to sea. “The sonar picture is going to be quite interesting for the first time at sea,” said Lt. Tobias Soderblom, 32, combat information systems officer. “The ship will operate almost as if home, obviously in deeper waters and bigger space.”

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Russian Sailors Will Play Football At U.S. Naval Air Station In Iceland

Admiral Levchenko
Russian Sailors will play football at the U.S. naval air station in Keflavik, Iceland, spokesman for the Russian Navy, First Class Captain Igor Dygalo said Tuesday. Dygalo said the Northern Fleet's Admiral Levchenko large anti-submarine ship will arrive in Keflavik during its visit to Iceland. The Admiral Levchenko arrived in Iceland's capital Reykjavik July 9 and will leave Iceland July 15, Dygalo said. The Vyazma tanker of the Northern Fleet arrived in Reykjavik Tuesday. Russian seamen will lay wreaths at the monument to Northern Escorts, which delivered U.S., British and Canadian aid to the Soviet Union during World War II.

Hurricane Dennis Flips Sunken Ship Upright

What humans were unable to do, Hurricane Dennis handled nicely. The former USS Spiegel Grove (LSD-32), serving as artificial reef on the bottom in 130 feet of water off Key Largo, flipped upright as the core of the storm passed some 200 miles to the west.
USS Spiegel Grove (LSD-32)
It's a position project organizers wanted since the retired 510-foot ship prematurely sank and rolled over May 17, 2002, leaving its upside-down bow protruding from the water. A salvage team managed to fully sink the vessel three weeks later _ on its right side instead of its keel.
The Spiegel Grove is the most popular artificial wreck in the Florida Keys, home at least 166 different fish species, said Lad Akins of the Reef Environmental Education Foundation. But its realignment will make it a better platform for sports divers. "I'm flabbergasted," Rob Bleser, volunteer project director, said Monday afternoon after a dive on the newly oriented Spiegel Grove. "Nature took its course and put it where it belongs." The Spiegel Grove reef is about six miles off Key Largo. The ship, designed to carry cargo and craft for amphibious landings, was retired by the Navy in 1989.
A diver swims between coral-encrusted guns on the wreck of the USS Spiegel Grove (LSD-32) , Tuesday, July 12, 2005, off Key Largo, Fla., in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Since it was fully sunk on June 10, 2002, the decommissioned Navy Landing Ship Dock has rested on its starboard side. But Monday, July 11, 2005, divers discovered the ship _ serving as artificial reef on the bottom in 130 feet of water off Key Largo _ flipped upright as the core of Hurricane Dennis passed some 200 miles to the west.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Yokosuka Destroyer & Sasebo Minesweepers Make Naval History In Russia

USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54)
Three U.S. 7th Fleet ships took part in the first minesweeping countermeasures operation exercise between the U.S. and Russian navies July 5. USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), commanded by Cmdr. John T. Lauer III, with USS Patriot (MCM 7) and USS Guardian (MCM 5) under Mine Countermeasures Division (MCD) 11 Commodore, Cmdr. Kurt E. Hedberg, participated in the bilateral training exercise between the two nations, and to observe the paving out and retrieving of the large magnetic cable used to neutralize assorted types of explosive mine ordnance. "It is a privilege for me to command a ship and to conduct such a military training exercise with Russian naval forces," said Lt. Cmdr. Richard Brawley, Patriot commanding officer. "I am very grateful that we started this first operation. It opened warm friendly relations and interaction between two great and strong nations. I never thought this could happen before." The three ships also visited Vladivostok, Russia, July 3-5 to celebrate the 145th anniversary celebration of the city, the Fourth of July, and to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony for Russian Sailors who sacrificed their lives in World War II. During the port visit, the American Sailors had the opportunity to tour a Russian Naval Ship while Russian Sailors, government officials and children from a local orphanage received tours of the U.S. Ships. Patriot and Guardian are mine countermeasures ships forward deployed to Sasebo, Japan. Curtis Wilbur is a guided-missile destroyer forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan.
USS Patriot (MCM 7)

Friday, July 08, 2005

Gov. Pawlenty Veto Blocks Refit Of Research Ship

UMD's (University of Minnesota Duluth) research vessel Blue Heron was cruising across calm water near the Apostle Islands Wednesday and into an uncertain future. Gov. Tim Pawlenty recently vetoed funding for a much-needed refit of 20-year old former fishing boat.
Research Vessel Blue Heron
``We haven't investigated in detail the consequences of this but we're facing the very real possibility that we will have to lay up the ship until we can find the money to do this,'' said Steve Colman, director of the Large Lakes Observatory, which operates the vessel. Laying up the Blue Heron could result in the loss of research grants for various projects, Colman said. Colman estimates that the vessel may have brought as much as $6 million in direct and indirect funding to Minnesota over the past several years. ``Regardless of the politics involved, this is just penny-wise and pound-foolish,'' Colman said of the veto of $295,000 to upgrade and overhaul the Blue Heron. ``She needs to have a lot of things done,'' Blue Heron Capt. Mike King said. ``We need the engine tweaked, we need new paint, we need a new foghorn, a forward-looking sonar. A lot of things both big and small.'' The Blue Heron refit was one of 75 projects the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources recommended for funding and lawmakers approved Thursday. Pawlenty vetoed 12 of the projects. ``The governor wants to make sure that the money spent from the environment natural resources fund is used in a manner consistent with the constitutional language,'' Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said. ``The language is much tighter than the spending process has been over the past several years. Research, while important, is not among the uses listed in the constitution.'' The 12 items that were vetoed totaled $4.1 million of the $39.3 million in the legislative commission's projects. Four of the vetoed projects were in the Northland. In addition to the Blue Heron funding, Pawlenty axed: $466,000 to the Virginia Public Utility to lease land and plant about 1,000 acres of hybrid poplar that would be harvested and burned to produce power. $250,000 to the Natural Resources Research Institute at UMD to study how global warming would affect Minnesota's lakes and rivers. $240,000 to UMD to study the economic and social benefits of producing renewable energy. The governor's veto kills the global warming project, NRRI director Mike Lalich said. ``It's the kind of stuff that needs to be done,'' he said. ``We just have to keep plugging away and trying to find other ways of getting things done in the longer term.'' The 86-foot Blue Heron was built in 1985 and worked as a fishing boat for several years. UMD obtained the boat in 1997. The vessel is two years overdue for a major Coast Guard inspection, Colman said. The University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System, however, does inspect the Blue Heron biannually. The group inspected the Blue Heron earlier this year and recertified it to continue operating as a research vessel. The Blue Heron spends about 70 days a year on Lake Superior, conducting research projects paid for by the National Science Foundation and federal and state agencies. ``If we have to lay up the vessel it will be a big blow to long-term planning of environmental research on the Great Lakes,'' Colman said.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


Boom Time As US Navy Ship Docks In Mombasa

Security has been tightened in Mombasa as one of the biggest US military ships was expected to dock at the port today. The USS Gonzalez (DDG 66), a guided-missile destroyer, was expected early today with more than 300 sailors and 23 officers on board.
USS Gonzalez (DDG 66)
The ship will be the first US navy ship to dock in Mombasa since 1999. US Ambassador William Bellamy and senior military officers from Kenya were expected to receive the naval ship. Prostitutes, curio dealers and tour operators were also preparing to receive the Sailors in anticipation of booming business. Curio dealers smarting from a low tourist season arranged their wares at strategic places on Moi Avenue, which connects the port to the rest of the town. Red-light night spots also witnessed an increase in the number of prostitutes, some of whom said they travelled from as far as Kampala and Dar es Salaam just to screw a American Sailor. A Press statement from the US embassy yesterday said the ship was in the region as part of the task force for maritime security operations. "We want to beef up security in the region to ensure that it is not used as a venue for (terrorist) attacks or to transport personnel, weapons or any other material," the statement said. After military training with their Kenyan counterparts, the soldiers are expected to tour the town and other tourist sites at the Coast. The US embassy press attach , Mr Richard Mei, said the one-day stop-over was meant to allow the ship to get fuel and other supplies and give the sailors time off from their ventures in the Indian Ocean. According to the Press statement, maritime security operations were designed to complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of nations in the region.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Ship Runs Aground In Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine Preserve

The U-S Coast Guard says a ship on a mission to remove marine debris from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands ran aground in a protected marine preserve early today.
The Casitas
The American-flagged ship Casitas sustained severed damage when it ran aground at two a-m on Pearl and Hermes Atoll. A Coast Guard C-130 plane flew to the scene about one thousand miles northwest of Honolulu and has dropped dewatering pumps to the ship so it can remove water from it's hull. No oil has leaked from the ship, but the Captain of the Port Honolulu has taken initial steps to manage any potential spill.
The marine preserve where the ship ran aground is home to monk seals and other protected species. The Coast Guard says the Casitas was en route to Maro Reef and the French Frigate Shoals to remove marine debris under contract from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A federal research vessel is expected to reach the scene tomorrow evening. The Coast Guard Cutter Walnut should arrive in five days.
The Coast Guard spokeswoman says authorities are monitoring what other needs the Casitas may have in the meantime.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

WFP Suspends Aid To Somalia After Ship Hijacked

The MV Semlow
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) suspended on Monday all shipments of humanitarian assistance to Somalia following the hijacking of a WFP-chartered vessel carrying food aid for 28,000 tsunami survivors. "The decision was taken because of the insecurity of Somali waters along the east coast," WFP said in a statement. "It will be reviewed depending on the release of the detained relief food, vessel and crew." The MV Semlow was hijacked on 27 June between Haradheere and Hobyo, some 300 km northeast of the capital, Mogadishu. WFP had chartered the ship from the Kenyan port of Mombasa, with a crew that included a Sri Lankan captain, a Tanzanian engineer and eight Kenyan crew members. "If there is a quick, favourable solution, we hope there will be no major interruption of WFP operations in the country," WFP Somalia Country Director, Robert Hauser, said. "The 10 crew members are reported to be in good health and we remain hopeful that the humanitarian cargo on The MV Semlow will be allowed to continue its journey to Bossaso in the northeast of the country unconditionally," he added. "But for now, the waters off the Somali coast present too great a threat to send further shipments."
WFP said a government delegation had travelled to Harardheere District to facilitate the release of the food, the vessel and the crew. The head of this mission, Hirsi Aden Roble, the Somali transitional vice-minister of ministry of marine transport, was joined other influential elders. The vessel left Mombasa on 23 June destined for Bossaso in Puntland, carrying 850 tonnes of rice donated by Japan and Germany.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Canadian Ferry Crashes Into Dock

The Canadian ferry Queen of Oak Bay has crashed into a marina, smashing into a number of boats. It happened this morning at Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver. A ferry spokeswoman said the ship lost power while trying to dock. Witnesses say the Queen of Oak Bay missed the terminal berth and was blowing its horn as it crashed.
A passenger on board said there was an announcement before the crash, telling people to get into their cars and brace themselves. She told Canadian television she didn't feel a great impact. She said no one on the ferry was hurt. The owner of a restaurant which overlooks the harbor said the ferry destroyed 15 or 20 boats before it stopped. The ferry can carry 1,500 passengers and 362 cars.
Several boats are crushed after the British Columbia ferry Queen of Oak Bay lost control and smashed into a dock at Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver today. There are no reports of injuries.

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