Friday, March 31, 2006

Ship Sinks Off Bahrain Coast

As many as 54 people drowned after an overloaded tourist boat with more than 130 people on a dinner cruise capsized and sank off the tiny Gulf kingdom of Bahrain. Coastguard commander Youssif al-Ghatam said 63 people had been rescued so far. He said most of those on board were Asians, but passengers also included Europeans and Arabs. Television stations put the death toll at 54, although officials said the number was lower. US navy divers and helicopters were searching for bodies. US and Bahraini officials said there was no indication that the sinking was the result of an attack. "Up to this moment, it appears totally unlikely," Information Minister Mohammed Abdul-Ghaffar Abdullah told Al Arabiya television. The owner of the boat blamed overloading.
"It has a capacity of 200 but it is allowed to carry only 100 passengers," Abdullah al-Qubaisi of the Al-Dana company said on state television. He said the boat was rented to a tour company which arranged the dinner and cruise for European and Asian employees of a local company. "They loaded the boat with more than its capacity. The captain refused to sail but they forced him to leave," Qubaisi said. A survivor told reporters that the two-storey boat had capsized after apparently hitting a wave as it was turning about 1.5km off shore of the Gulf island state. Abdullah said initial reports suggested around 25 Britons, 20 Filipinos, 10 South Africans and 10 Egyptians were among those on board. Bahrain's Health Minister Nada Haffadh told Al Arabiya television that a group of 11 rescued passengers included six Indians, one South African, one Briton, and two Singaporeans. She said all were in a stable condition. The British Foreign Office in London said it was "very likely" the ship was carrying British passengers. British diplomats were at the Bahrain coastguard centre and the hospital where survivors and the dead were being taken, the spokesman said. Commander Jeff Breslau, a spokesman for the US Navy's 5th Fleet which is based in Bahrain, said 16 navy divers and a US ship were assisting in rescue efforts. He said the boat had sunk in a harbour close to the shore. "The first report we received was that a dhow (traditional wooden boat) has capsized. We are preparing a helicopter to join the rescue," Breslau said. "There is no initial indication that this was an attack."

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Three Drown As Cargo Ship Hits Boat In Lake Victoria

Three fishermen drowned in Lake Victoria and another narrowly escaped after their fishing boat was hit by a cargo vessel. Nyanza police boss Jambeni Bakari said Mr John Odhiambo, Mr Meshack Ondege, Mr Boniface Otieno and Mr David Ouko had gone on a fishing mission off Litare beach in Suba. After fishing for several hours in the strong winds, they anchored their small canoe deep in the lake to wait for a storm to subside. A vessel said to be from Tanzanian hit the canoe throwing the fishermen into the cold waters. All, except Mr Ouko who swam to the shore, were swept away by the strong waves. Their bodies had not been found by yesterday although the damaged canoe was retrieved. Mr Ouko said the vessel stopped briefly then left towards Kisumu port.
Mr Bakari said they were looking for the vessel, adding: "We are working with the port managers in Kisumu to try and authenticate whether any vessel arrived there from the Tanzanian side of the lake when the accident happened." Bodies of three other fishermen were found floating in the lake in Bondo last week after an accident. The East Africa Community (EAC) secretariat, during an extra-ordinary meeting on the Lake Victoria Basin in Arusha two weeks ago, called on Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, to establish maritime safety and security administration units in their countries to curb accidents on the lake. Their recommendations are covered in a special proposed draft legislation known as the Lake Victoria Transport Bill expected to be tabled before the EAC's sectoral council on legal and Judicial Affairs.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Army Denies Enlistment To Man Given Choice Of Military Or Jail

The Army has denied enlistment to a man who was given the chance by an upstate New York judge to join up instead of facing a jail sentence, his attorney said. Michael Guerra, of North Tonawanda, outside Buffalo, was sentenced to three years probation, said Robert Graff, a Niagara County Court official. Guerra pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge for hitting a woman who came between him and his girlfriend during a fight. In January, a judge gave Guerra 30 days to join the Army after Guerra said he wanted to enlist but did not think he could if he were sentenced to probation.
Michael Guerra was facing up to a year in jail when a judge told him he could avoid incarceration by joining the Army.
Queried by Stars and Stripes at the time, Army spokesman Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty said that the Army does not accept people who want to join to get out of pending charges. When Guerra asked about joining the Army, recruiters told him he was ineligible as long as charges against him were pending, said Sgt. Andrew Patterson, commander of the Army recruiting station in Tonawanda. Still, Guerra said he believes the Army chose not to take him because of the publicity surrounding the case, said his attorney, Matthew P. Pynn. “It was disappointing that he didn’t get in,” Pynn said.
“His father was in the military and died when he was 11, and he always wanted to get in, but it didn’t work out for him, so if he’s going to have a future he’s got to have a different dream.” Hilferty said that the Army sets the bar high for potential recruits. “Not everyone is qualified to join this team,” Hilferty said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes. “To enlist you have to both meet our high standards and be motivated to serve your country — motivation or qualification alone is not enough.”

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Casino Ship Loses Power & Runs Aground

A Sun Cruz casino ship ran aground in Dania Beach Monday night after losing engine power, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said. According to spokesman Dana Warr, the vessel blew five short blasts to indicate something was wrong about 9:30 p.m. and a Dania Beach bridge opened to let it through. The ship's engines were restarted and it was drifting into the channel once more when it ran ashore for reasons not yet determined, he said.
Only crewmembers were aboard and no one was injured. Warr did not immediately know where the ship was leaving from or heading. Estimates about damage the vessel sustained were also unavailable.

North Korea Calls On Australia To Pay Reparations

North Korea on Tuesday called on the Australian government to pay reparations for a North Korean vessel and its crew members seized three years ago on suspicions of trafficking narcotics. "The Australian government must sincerely apologize following the outcome of the trial, and compensate the crew members it has detained until now for their physical and mental losses from the seizure of the crew and their boat," an association of North Korean residents in Japan said in a commentary carried by the North's Korea Central News Agency.

Monday, March 27, 2006

US Navy Destroyer Collides With Merchant Ship

A U.S. Navy destroyer collided with the oil tanker M/V Rokya 1 in the Persian Gulf off Iraq, slightly injuring four people. The USS McCampbell (DDG 85) collided with the tanker late Saturday about 30 miles southeast of the Iraqi coastline. Two sailors and two crewmembers of the tanker were treated for minor injuries at the scene, Navy spokeswoman Lt. Leslie Hullryde said.
USS McCampbell (DDG 85)
No oil was spilled in the collision. Both ships suffered minor damage but were deemed seaworthy. The oil tanker was flying the flag of the Pacific island nation of Kiribati. USS McCampbell (DDG-85), home-ported in San Diego, is one of several coalition forces vessels conducting maritime security operations for southern Iraqi ports. Oil passing through the terminals is the main source of revenue for Iraqi reconstruction. The collision was at least the third for a Navy vessel in the Gulf since 2004. In August 2004, a small traditional Arab sailboat crashed into the USS John F. Kennedy. None of the sailboat's passengers were found.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Dutch Destroyer Saves Crew From Burning Freighter

HNLMS De Zeven Provincien (F 802), a destroyer from the Netherlands and the command ship of Combined Task Force 150, came to the aid of a vessel in distress and rescued 27 people off the coast of Yemen March 21 while conducting maritime security operations (MSO) in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in the area. While operating as a part of their MSO mission in the Gulf of Aden, De Zeven Provincien provided assistance to Motor Vessel Hyundai Fortune at approximately 11 a.m. local time. Approximately 43 miles off the coast of Yemen, the cargo ship was in distress as the result of a large fire on board. The cause of the fire is not known at this time.
HNLMS De Zeven Provincien (F 802)
The De Zeven Provincien crew came to the aid of the cargo ship by rendering firefighting assistance, evacuating the burning ship’s crew and offering humanitarian aid and medical care once on board. The fire could not be contained, so the master of the cargo ship gave orders to evacuate the ship. The De Zeven Provincien commanding officer Capt. Maarten Stenvert said his crew performed the rescue in a “superb manner.” “They were continuously aware what was going on and of the potential dangers that the Hyundai Fortune posed to them (explosion, falling containers, etc.),” said Stenvert. The Hyundai Fortune’s crew is comprised of 27 personnel. One crew member sustained non-life-threatening injuries and has been evacuated to the French Navy aircraft carrier FS Charles De Gaulle (R 91) - which hosts the nearest surgical facility - by a Lynx helicopter from the French destroyer FS Montcalm (D 642) for further examination. CV Charles de Gaulle and FS Montcalm are part of coalition TF 473, which is led by French Rear Adm. Xavier Magne and is supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Motor Vessel Hyundai Fortune
The remaining 26 crew members evacuated from Hyundai Fortune will be transported to shore, according to Stenvert. Stenvert credits the MSO mission for enabling coalition forces to rescue and provide humanitarian aide. “Because of the active patrolling in the light of MSO,” said Stenvert, “De Zeven Provincien was able to close the merchant vessel under distress with no time delay. Therefore, it was possible to render assistance immediately.” De Zeven Provincien is the CTF 150 command ship. Commodore Hank Ort of the Royal Netherlands Navy leads CTF 150. The coalition forces of CTF 150 conduct MSO in international waters of the Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea, parts of the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. MSO set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment and complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. Coalition forces have a longstanding tradition of helping mariners in distress providing medical assistance, engineering assistance, and search and rescue. CTF 150 is one of three task forces acting under the direction of Vice Adm. Patrick M. Walsh, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.

Vessel Hits Sandbar On Columbia River

The nearly 200 passengers aboard a luxury sternwheeler cruise ship made it to shore in good spirits Friday night after the ship ran aground in the Columbia River. "Go with the flow," Ruth Larson of Ontario, Calif., said with a smile after she disembarked the recovery ship. "Go with the flow." The 360-foot Empress of the North struck a sandbar in the river channel. Passengers and crew remained onboard for more than eight hours until they were loaded, via a barge, to a sister sternwheeler. The recovery ship, the 230-foot Queen of the West, took passengers and crew to the nearby Port of Washougal. No injuries were reported.
Empress of the North
It was an unexpected twist for passengers on the weeklong cruise that left Astoria on Sunday. Guests came from across the nation to take the scenic river trip, which included several stops for area attractions. But many onboard said they were still pleased with the experience despite running aground. "It was the first time we felt anything the whole trip," said Muriel Zimmerman, of Cherry Valley, Calif. "It was such a smooth trip." Passengers said when they hit the sandbar, the boat jolted and rumbled like it was riding over gravel. Guests said the staff quickly informed them that the ship was trying to avoid an upcoming barge and as a result, accidentally hit a sandbar. The Multnomah County Sheriff's office said wind and choppy waters may have sent the vessel off course. The cause of the accident is under investigation.
The Queen of the West, right, is pulled alongside the Empress of the North, a 360-foot luxury sternwheeler cruise ship, in order to take aboard passengers and crew members after the larger ship ran aground during a Columbia River cruise.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Australian Customs Puzzled Over 'Ghost Ship'

There was no sign of anyone aboard an 80m "ghost ship" found floating in Australian waters, Customs officials said. The tanker, Jian Seng, was about 180km south-west of Weipa in the Gulf of Carpentaria when Customs officers boarded it this morning. There was no sign of recent human activity aboard, nor any signs that it had been engaged in illegal fishing or people smuggling. "Tellingly, it has a parted tow line dangling off the front," a Customs spokesman said. "Based on a search of the vessel by our boarding team, Customs believes the vessel was under tow when it broke free and was subsequently abandoned." It is believed the ship has been adrift for at least a week. The spokesman said the vessel was identified as the Jian Seng through some material found on board.
"We haven't been able to find its port of registry or origin at this stage. "We did find a large quantity of rice on board and we believe the vessel was possibly being used to resupply fishing boats with food and fuel in waters outside the Australian exclusive economic zone, and it has drifted to its current position. "It appears to have been adrift for some time before we boarded it. The engines are inoperable and can't be restarted and it's drifting slowly southwards." The spokesman said Customs had no further interest in the vessel. However, the patrol boat Storm Bay would continue to monitor it until a decision was made about its future, in consultation with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. The Jian Seng is the second so-called ghost ship to enter Australia waters in recent years, the spokesman said. The other was the Taiwanese High Aim Six, which was found off the West Australian coast in 2003. No sign of the crew was ever found. The High Aim Six was scuttled in 2004 near Broome as a fishing reef.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Deadly Fire Breaks Out On Star Princess

A fire broke out aboard a cruise ship Thursday as it sailed through the Caribbean sea, leaving one passenger dead and 11 others injured, according to reports reaching here from the Jamaican capital of Kingston. The fire broke out at around 3:00 a.m. local time (0800 GMT) in the passenger accommodations and spread to adjacent cabins when the Star Princess was traveling between the Cayman Islands and MontegoBay, Jamaica, said the reports.
One passenger died of a heart attack while two suffered "significant smoke inhalation injuries" and nine others had "minor complications resulting from smoke inhalation," the Miami-based Carnival Corp., which owns the cruise ship, said in a statement. The dead man was identified as 75-year-old Richard Liffidge from Georgia, Jamaican police said, adding that more than 100 cabins were scorched after the crew put out the fire, the cause of which was not immediately known.
The Star Princess departed from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on March 19 with 2,690 passengers and 1,123 crew on board, and was bound for the Caribbean and the Mexican coast.

Navy Uncovers Centuries Old Spanish Ship

Navy construction crews unearthed a rare Spanish ship, which had been buried for centuries under sand on Pensacola's Naval Air Station. Archaeologists confirmed the find Thursday and said the vessel could date to as early as the mid 1500s when the first Spanish settlement in the United States was founded here. The settlement was abandoned two years later after a hurricane. "It's possible that it's one of the earliest ships," said Elizabeth Benchley, director of the Archaeology Institute at the University of West Florida. But Benchley said the exposed portion of the ship looks more like ships from a later period because of its iron bolts. "There are Spanish ship wrecks in Pensacola Bay, we have worked on two — one from 1559 and another from 1705. But no one has found one buried on land, this was quite a surprise to everybody," Benchley said. The first Spanish settlement in the United States was founded at Pensacola in 1559.
The location of the original settlement is a mystery, but archaeologists have found clues from the 1559 wreck in Pensacola Bay. The Spanish did not return until more than a century later in 1698 at Presidio Santa Maria de Galve, now Pensacola Naval Air Station. The French captured and burned it in 1719 but handed Pensacola back to Spain three years later. A series of hurricanes forced the Spanish to repeatedly rebuild. Construction crews dug up the ship while rebuilding the base's swim rescue school that was destroyed during Ivan. "It's ironic that a hurricane probably put this ship there and now we have uncovered because of hurricane," said Alex McCroy, who is with the Navy's construction office that is overseeing repairs from Hurricane Ivan in 2004. The exposed keel of the ship juts upward from the sandy bottom of the pit and gives some guess of the vessel's form.
Archaeologists estimated the rest of the ship is buried by about 75 feet of sand. Pam Boudreaux, cultural resources director for Pensacola Naval Air Station, said the Navy plans to enclose the uncovered portion of the ship, mark the site and move construction over to accommodate future work by archaeologists. But it's unlikely an archaeological dig will occur anytime soon, Benchley said. "We don't have plans to excavate the entire ship. It's going to be very expensive because it's so deeply buried and we would have to have grant money," she said. During initial work to determine the ship's origin, archaeologists found ceramic tiles, ropes and pieces of olive jars. The find was especially exciting for Benchley who doesn't dive. "I've never been on the things we've excavated in the Bay. This time, I got to walk around on the planking," she said.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Towboat "Reggie G" Opens Shipping Season

Reggie G
The shipping season officially opened on the Upper Mississippi River. A spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said that at 6:33 a.m. the towboat Reggie G moved through the lock and dam system at Hastings, opening the season. The boat was on its way to St. Paul, Minnesota.
Reggie G
The Reggie G is operated by the Alter Barge Line of Bettendorf, Iowa. The tow broke through the ice on Lake Pepin on the Upper Mississippi on Tuesday. For the last 30 years, the average opening date for the navigation season is March 20.
Reggie G

Royal Australian Air Force Bombing Run Sinks Heroin Ship

The North Korean heroin smuggling ship Pong Su has been sunk off the NSW coast by a bomb dropped from an Royal Australian Air Force F-111 jet fighter. The 3500-tonne freighter, which was used to import 150kg of heroin into Australia, was sent to the bottom of the ocean 140km off the NSW south coast in a military exercise this morning. Australian Federal Police confirmed the ship was sunk after the RAAF completed safety checks and cleared the area. The freighter was towed out of Sydney Harbour on Tuesday, where it had been berthed since it was seized three years ago after a four-day chase by Australian soldiers, federal police and customs officers.
Pong Su
The Pong Su was intercepted off the NSW Central Coast in April 2003 after dropping off a cargo of drugs on the coast of Victoria. Earlier this month, four Pong Su officers accused of aiding and abetting the importation of heroin were acquitted and released. However, four other men involved in the operation earlier pleaded guilty and two have been jailed. The Pong Su has been costing Australian taxpayers about $2500 a day to maintain, while the taxpayer-funded defence of the four ship's officers has been estimated at up to $3 million. AFP commander Frank Prendergast said the sinking of the ship showed the police's resolve to fight drugs. "The AFP is committed to working with its partner agencies to disrupt organised importation or drugs and protect the community from the devastating effects of the illegal drug trade," he said.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Towboat's Back In Action In St. Paul

With state leaders in tow on the first day of spring, the Itasca pushed a barge up and down the Mississippi River in St. Paul. For deckhands Tom Hanes and Greg Gorgosz, Monday was the first day of spring training. For the first time since early December, Hanes of St. Paul and Gorgosz of Eagan were tossing fire-hose-size lines and cables and scrambling over a barge being pushed up and down the Mississippi River in St. Paul by the towboat Itasca. "I've missed the smell. I've missed the water," said Hanes, who has worked for Upper River Services since 1993, putting in about eight months a year. "Now we get to see all our friends."
Saint Paul Tugboat: Itasca
While Monday's run up and down the river was largely ceremonial, allowing state and local dignitaries to blast the horn signaling the opening of the shipping season, the work will begin for real later this week. That's when the first of the major downriver "line boats" arrive in St. Paul to begin swapping loads of fertilizer, salt, cement, caustic soda, coal and other commodities for corn, soybeans and some scrap steel and asphalt. Boats are smashing through frozen Lake Pepin, the last barrier between St. Paul and the rest of the shipping world, and the first vessel could arrive as soon as Wednesday, said Lee Nelson, president of Upper River Services.
After tying up the barge, Tom Hanes made his way back to the towboat so that the passengers could be dropped off at Lambert’s Landing in downtown St. Paul
Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau, who also is the state transportation commissioner, and Agriculture Commissioner Gene Hugoson were on the Itasca Monday to emphasize the importance of river shipping to the Minnesota economy, particularly agriculture. Each river barge can carry the same material as 15 rail cars or 60 trucks, and many tows can push 15 or more barges at a time. They can push a ton of commodities 514 river miles on a gallon of fuel, according to the Transportation Department. About 6 percent of the nation's export grain gets shipped by barge out of the Twin Cities.

Army Changes Tattoo Policy

The Army has revised its policy on tattoos in an effort to bolster recruitment of highly-qualified individuals who might otherwise have been excluded from joining. Tattoos are now permitted on the hands and back of the neck if they are not “extremist, indecent, sexist or racist.” Army Regulation 670-1, which was modified via a message released Jan. 25, also now specifies: “Any tattoo or brand anywhere on the head or face is prohibited except for permanent make-up.” For women, allowable make-up would be permanent eye-liner, eyebrows and makeup applied to fill in lips, officials said. They said permanent make-up should be conservative and complement the uniform and complexion in both style and color and will not be trendy.
The change was made because Army officials realized the number of potential recruits bearing skin art had grown enormously over the years. About 30 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 have tattoos, according to a Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University survey. For those under age 25, the number is about 28 percent. In all, the post-baby-boom generations are more than three times as likely as boomers to have tattoos. As a result of tattoo attitude changes, Army Regulation 670-1, chapter 1-8E (1) has been modified via an ALARACT 017/2006 message. Additionally, paragraph 1-8B (1) (A) was revised to state: “Tattoos that are not extremist, indecent, sexist or racist are allowed on the hands and neck. Initial entry determinations will be made according to current guidance.” The Army has never allowed indecent tattoos on any part of the body, G1 officials pointed out. The new policy allows recruits and all Soldiers to sport tattoos on the neck behind an imaginary line straight down and back of the jawbone, provided the tattoos don’t violate good taste. “The only tattoos acceptable on the neck are those on the back of the neck,” said Hank Minitrez, Army G-1 Human Resources Policy spokesman. “The ‘back’ of the neck is defined as being just under the ear lobe and across the back of the head.
Throat tattoos on that portion of the neck considered the front, the ear lobe forward) are prohibited.” Soldiers who are considering putting tattoos on their hands and necks, should consider asking their chain of command prior to being inked. “While the Army places trust in the integrity of its Soldiers and leaders, if a Soldier has a questionable case regarding tattoos, he or she should seek the advice of the local commander through the chain of command,” added Minitrez. Should a Soldier not seek advice and have tattoos applied that aren’t in keeping with AR-670, the command will counsel the Soldier on medical options, but may not order the Soldier to have the tattoos removed. However, if a Soldier opts not to take the medical option at Army expense, the Soldier may be discharged from service. The U.S. Coast Guard has a limitation on the size of a tattoo in percentages of a given area that will not exceed 25 percent of the space between wrist and elbow, knee and ankle, but it does not allow tattoos on the hands or neck.
The Army’s new policy, however, does not mean Soldiers should rush out and have the backs of their necks or their hands entirely covered in decorative art, Minitrez said. “The Army does not have a percentage policy for tattoos,” Minitrez said. “As long as tattoos do not distract from good military order and discipline and are not extremist, racist, sexist or indecent they’re permitted.” If a Soldier’s current command has no issue with his/her tattoos, the Soldier should have personnel files so notated that the Soldier is in line with AR-670, officials said. Though not mandatory, having the notation entered serves as back-up documentation at a follow-on command which might feel the Soldier’s tattoos don’t meet Army regulations.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

3 Sailors Killed, 9 Missing After Ship Collision

Three Chinese sailors aboard a cargo ship were killed and nine others are missing following a collision with another vessel near Inchon Port of the Republic of Korea. Five sailors were saved last night, according to the China Maritime Search and Rescue Centre under the Ministry of Communications. The Republic of Korea maritime police sent 40 boats and one helicopter to search for the missing sailors after the boat sunk in the crash. "Divers have also been sent to search the sunken ship for sailors," centre official Zhang Rongjun said. The 2,972-ton cargo ship, Xinhai7, was registered in the island country of Tuvalu in the southern Pacific Ocean by Sinbei International Shipping, a Hong Kong company.
It ran into a 3,980-ton Korea Gas vessel at 4:05 am yesterday, when it was entering the port. "Based on the information we got from the ROK maritime police, the vessel might have not seen the anchored freighter," said Zhang. The Korea Gas ship only sustained minor damage with all its crew reported safe. However, Xinhai7 sunk immediately. Five sailors were saved by Teng Yuan, a Chinese fishing boat nearby. They are now under medical observation at a hospital in Inchon and have already contacted their families in China, Zhang said. The Republic of Korea maritime police salvaged three bodies in the rescue, and are still searching for the missing. The Embassy of China to the Republic of Korea has sent officials to Inchon to deal with the accident. Ning Fukui, China's Ambassador to ROK, has met the head of the Republic of Korea maritime police. The latter vowed to make full efforts to search for the missing sailors.

Monday, March 20, 2006

US Naval Ships Exchange Fire With Pirates

Two U.S. Navy warships exchanged gunfire with pirates off the coast of Somalia; one pirate was killed and five were wounded, the Navy said. Seven others were detained after the morning shootout, according to a 5th Fleet spokesman. No sailors were wounded. The clash occurred about 25 nautical miles off the Somali coast in international waters.
USS Cape St. George (CG-71)
USS Gonzalez (DDG-66)
The USS Cape St. George (CG-71) and USS Gonzalez (DDG-66) were patrolling as part of a Dutch-led task force when they spotted a 30-foot fishing boat towing skiffs and prepared to board after seeing what appeared to be rocket-propelled grenade launchers. When the suspects began shooting, gunners returned fire, the Navy said. The UN has encouraged naval forces operating off Somalia to take action against piracy.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Stowaway Arrested

A Illegal immigrant who stowed away on a Russian cargo ship was taken to police cells in the Hebrides last night. The unidentified man, thought to be in his late forties, had been bought ashore in handcuffs at Stornoway. Two police constables escorted the barefooted, jacketless man from the customs cutter Sentinel in Stornoway harbour and led him into a police van waiting on the quayside. Three high steel gates around King Edward wharf were closed, sealing off the area and thwarting any chance of escape. It followed a day of protracted discussions between the authorities over how best to deal with the situation. The stowaway was discovered on the 19,590-tonne Russian bulk carrier Aleksandr Nevskiy, which is registered in Murmansk, as the vessel sailed up the Minch.
Aleksandr Nevskiy
Chief Constable Murdo Fraser said: "A joint operation on behalf of immigration authorities, Northern Constabulary, Stornoway Port Authority, HM Customs and the MCA, successfully transferred a stowaway from the Aleksandr Nevskiy. The man is now detained and will be held in police cells in Stornoway." A spokesman for Clyde Coastguard, which first dealt with the incident, said: "While it is understood that the man has a partial understanding of a number of languages or dialects, there appeared to be a difficulty in communicating with him in English." The Russian ship was on its way home after discharging cargo in Newport, Wales, when the man was discovered.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Boat Scheme Probe In Ireland

The Republic’s ombudsman is to launch an official investigation into a European Union-backed compensation scheme launched five years ago to reimburse fishing vessel owners who had lost boats at sea. Emily O’Reilly has described the Lost at Sea scheme of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources as “seriously deficient and flawed”. The scheme was launched in 2001 by then Fianna Fáil marine minister Frank Fahey. It ran for six months but just six out of 67 applicants qualified for compensation. It is known that some of the beneficiaries of the compensation programme were from Mr Fahey’s Galway West constituency. One of the applicants, the Byrne family from Bruckless in Co Donegal, were excluded from the scheme and launched an official complaint. Francis Byrne was the owner and skipper of the Skifjord, which sank off the Donegal coast in October 1981.
Emily O’Reilly
Mr Byrne, his son Jimmy and three crewmen died. Two of the bodies were never recovered. Mr Byrne’s wife was left to rear her surviving eight children. A surviving son, Danny, made the complaint to the ombudsman. Jim Higgins, the Fine Gael senator and MEP, has backed the family’s campaign. He said of the Lost at Sea scheme: “At its launch, it looked like an excellent scheme but it’s turned out to be more of a scam than a scheme. “It was only advertised in three marine publications — the Marine Times, The Skipper and the Fishing News. The scheme was not publicised on national or local television or radio or in the national or local press. “As a result, individuals or families who had lost fishing vessels and were no longer involved in fishing were unaware of the scheme and could therefore not apply. “The Byrnes were no longer involved in fishing and were totally unaware of the scheme. They applied late via minister and local TD Mary Coughlan but their application was rejected on the basis that it was too late.” Mr Higgins has praised the diligence of the ombudsman in investigating the case. “When the ombudsman went digging for information in relation to the Skifjord — in which five people had drowned — the department replied that they had no record of the Skifjord case. When the ombudsman persisted, the department eventually recovered two files on the Skifjord which had been ‘in cold storage’. “We are also demanding to know where the tonnage and the licence of that boat went after it sank,” he said. Senator Higgins added: “Clearly the ombudsman is angry and frustrated at the refusal by the Department of the Marine to address the ombudsman’s reservations about the scheme. “It has since come to light under a freedom-of-information application that 75 per cent of the replacement tonnage allocated under the scheme went to two of Minister Fahey’s constituents. It has also emerged that a recommendation by a senior civil servant to reject the application of one of Minister Fahey’s constituents was overruled.” In a letter from the ombudsman’s office, Danny Byrne was told: “A formal investigation is very rarely resorted to by the ombudsman and takes place when she is unable to secure redress for a complainant under standard informal investigation.” Under the law, the ombudsman can demand any information, document or file from a public body complained of and can require any official to give information about a complaint. In most instances, the ombudsman’s recommendations are complied with. If the public body concerned fails to act on the ombudsman’s recommendations, she may present a special report to the Houses of the Oireachtas on the matter.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Hospital Ship Finds 24 Bodies Of North African Migrants Off Mauritania

The Spanish military hospital ship Esperanza del Mar picked up the bodies of 24 migrants in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Mauritania. The bodies were floating about 720 kilometers south of Spain's Canary Islands. Authorities believe they were North Africans who drowned while trying to reach Spain. The bodies were found one day after more than 330 migrants reached the islands in several boats - a single-day record for the Canaries.
Esperanza del Mar
A delegation of Spanish officials plans to fly to Mauritania Thursday to discuss the migrant situation. Spain has already offered the west African nation patrol boats to intercept would-be immigrants. Spanish officials say about 3,000 North Africans have reached the Canary Islands in the first three months of the year. The Red Cross says more than 1,000 died trying.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

U.S. Military Still The Most Trusted Institution

The military continues to be the most admired institution in America, according to the latest Harris Poll. A total of 47 percent of Americans said they have a "great deal" of confidence in the military. Some 38 percent of Americans said they had "only some" confidence and 14 percent said they had "hardly any" confidence in the military. The military was followed in the poll by small business - a new category in 2005 - with 45 percent of Americans saying they had a great deal of confidence; colleges and universities, 38 percent; the Supreme Court, 33 percent; and Medicine, 31 percent. At the bottom of the survey, released March 2, were law firms at 10 percent, Congress at 10 percent, organized labor at 12 percent, major companies at 13 percent and the press at 14 percent.
Anchoring the middle was organized religion at 30 percent, the White House at 25 percent, public schools at 22, the courts and justice system at 21, and television news at 19. The military has done well in the poll since the mid-1980s. The first poll, conducted in 1966, had the military at 61 percent approval rating. The next poll, conducted in 1971 showed the corrosive effect of the Vietnam War on America. Only 27 percent of Americans had confidence in the military then. The public confidence in the military climbed after the 1970s and by 1989 the military was the most-trusted organization in the United States. Harris Interactive, based in Rochester, N.Y., conducts the poll without sponsors. "We do this on our own," public relations coordinator Kelly Gullo said. Gullo said Harris Interactive pollsters canvassed 1,016 U.S. adults via telephone. She said the sampling error for the survey is plus or minus 3 percent.

Runaway Barge Collides With Busy Maryland Bridge

An runaway barge loaded with boulders drifted down a river and hit a highway bridge that had been hurriedly closed. No serious damage was reported. The barge came to rest between two piers of a bridge over the Severn River. Workers struggled in a stiff wind to secure the barge, and its owner finally towed it away. Police were alerted about the barge as it drifted downstream, and the six-lane U.S. 50 bridge was cleared of traffic by the time the vessel hit around midmorning. A two-lane bridge downriver was also closed for fear the barge could cause catastrophic damage.
U.S. 50 is a major highway leading to the state capital and the U.S. Naval Academy. It connects Washington, D.C., with Maryland's Eastern Shore. The only damage to the bridge was cosmetic, said Chuck Gischlar, spokesman for the State Highway Administration. The barge was loaded with riprap, or rocks used to prevent erosion. The Coast Guard was investigating how and where the barge broke loose.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

No Sign Of Missing Sailor

An extensive search of waters off Kahala to Makapu'u yesterday turned up no trace of a Pearl Harbor sailor, who was swept out to sea Saturday while swimming at Spitting Caves at Portlock. Zachary Ryan Johnson was last seen by witnesses and friends floating on his back at 3:25 p.m., police said. Fire, Coast Guard and Ocean Safety personnel searched until about 6:30 p.m. and returned yesterday at 6 a.m.
Coast Guard Cutter Washington
Yesterday's search resources included two Coast Guard helicopters, a Fire Department helicopter and Fire Rescue divers. Petty Officer Jennifer Johnson said the Coast Guard Cutter Assateague continued after sunset to search an area from Koko Head to Makapu'u. Officials plan to resume the search today, with the help of the Coast Guard Cutter Washington.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Cargo Ship In Trouble On The Irish Sea

A cargo ship which drifted off the Northern Ireland coast was today safely brought to shore after a five-hour rescue operation. The 1,500-tonne Belgian-owned Sesam, with its crew of six Russians, developed engine trouble in the Irish Sea and drifted nine miles off the coast in Millisle, Co Down. Lifeboats from Larne and Donaghadee went to the vessel’s aid and helped tow it into Belfast Harbour.
the vessel Sesam
The Irish Lights vessel, The Granuaille, was also involved in the operation and did the bulk of the towing. It is understood the Sesam, which was carrying steel, was bound for Coleraine in Co Derry when it developed engine trouble in stormy seas. Despite high winds and poor visibility, the rescue operation managed to bring the boat to shore in Bangor. It is now expected to go to dry dock in the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast. A Coastguard spokesman said they were pleased with the mission.
Lights vessel, The Granuaille

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Container Ship Panama Set Free At Last

A container ship stuck in the sand since last Christmas Day is finally free. The APL Panama, stripped of the containers that had been stacked above deck, floated away from the beach at 4:41 a.m. Friday. Tugboats pulled the 874-foot vessel free from the sand after a channel had been dredged close to the ship.
The cargo ship APL Panama floated yesterday after being freed from sand near the port of Ensenada, where the 874-foot vessel with 1,800 containers from Asia ran aground on Christmas Day. Mexico won't allow the vessel to leave until the beach where it was stranded is restored.
After the vessel was freed, the APL Panama was about two miles offshore in rough seas, held in place by tugboats at her bow and stern. Mexican Navy vessels and helicopters remained nearby, as did a containment vessel to pick up any possible oil spills. “It's being taken to a safe anchorage for inspection,” APL spokesman Mike Zampa said from the company's regional headquarters in Oakland. “There's no apparent damage to the cargo, no leaks or spills. There's an environmental team on standby to make sure we don't have any problems.” The dredger Francesco di Giorgio had to be brought up from Nicaragua to dig a channel near the APL Panama after repeated attempts to pull her free with tugboats and other equipment failed.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Ship Sinks Off Egyptian Coast

At least one Russian sailor has been killed and four have been injured after a Maltese-flagged cargo ship sank off the Egyptian coast, Reuters reported. The Teklivka container vessel sank in strong winds and high waves 75 miles from Port Said in northern Egypt, where it was heading from the Turkish port of Izmir. Most of its 16 crew members were Russians and Ukrainians. Only nine of them, including four Russians, were rescued and rushed to a hospital. Their health condition is now satisfactory, doctors say. The Captain of the ship, Petr Rodionov of Russia could not explain the cause of the sinking due to the employees of the employees of the Russian embassy in Egypt referring to that fact that he did not feel good. The Malta Maritime Authority said it was investigating the sinking of the Teklivka, which Lloyds Casualty Reporting identified as a 4,168 deadweight tonne general cargo ship. Its cargo was not known, Lloyds said in London.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Ship Catches Fire Off Cebu City

Cebu City vessel carrying passengers and cargo caught fire 128 km off this city, but no one was reported hurt. Superferry 12, of the Aboitiz Transport Services, was on its way to Cebu from Manila when fire struck its stateroom, a first-class accommodation on Deck 4, at 11:50 a.m., reports reaching the Coast Guard said. John Rojo, the shipping firms assistant vice president for public relations, said the management was still determining the cause of the fire. Rojo said the fire was put out at 2:47 p.m. or almost three hours after it started. He said Coast guard personnel who inspected the vessel allowed the ship to continue its trip at past 3 p.m. Superferry 12 was supposed to arrive at the Cebu port at 8 p.m.
Superferry 12
The ship was anchored at the vicinity of Bulalagui point, 60 nautical miles from the port until it was cleared to continue sailing. Petty Officer 1st Class Pablo Gonzales, of the Hagnaya, San Remegio Coast Guard substation, said the ships Officers and Crew led by their Captain, Jose Yap, were the ones who put out the fire because Coast Guard personnel were not allowed at first to board the vessel. Rojo said the engines were not damaged, but ship officials were assessing if they would allow Superferry 12 to proceed to its next stop, Cagayan de Oro City. Manolito Malig-on, Cebu Coast guard station commander, said the ships captain had been required to submit a marine protest so that an investigation could immediately begin. Rojo said the Superferry management would cooperate in the probe.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Hoax 'Sinking Ship' Calls Made To Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard received hoax distress calls from a person believed to be making fake radio transmissions from a location between New Smyrna and St. Augustine. Officials said the calls were made by the same person who radioed several other hoax distress calls on Thursday and over the weekend, according to the report. The calls have been made over a non-existent radio frequency and report that a vessel is sinking. The Coast Guard responds to every call as if it was an actual call for help and stressed that they would like to capture the prankster because searches are time consuming and expensive.
Recent Coast Guard searches for the phony ships have already costs tens of thousands of dollars. A news release said a falcon jet costs nearly $7,000 hourly to operate, and a Coast Guard helicopter can cost nearly $10,000 an hour to operate. For Thursday's case, the rescue boats searched a total of eight hours; the falcon jet searched a total of three hours; and the rescue helicopter searched for nearly three hours. The maximum penalty for making hoax distress calls is five to 10 years in prison, a $5,000 civil fine, a $250,000 criminal fine and reimbursement to the Coast Guard for the costs incurred responding to the false call. If anyone has information concerning the hoax caller, they are urged to call Crimeline at (800) 423-TIPS.
Click Here to Hear the distress call to the U.S. Coast Guard

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Black Enlistments Decline

War. College. A better job. The answers are as numerous as the number of young black people who are deciding against a military career. Defense Department statistics show that the number of black active-duty enlisted personnel has declined 14 percent since 2000. The decrease is particularly acute among the troops most active in the Middle East: The number of black enlisted soldiers has dropped by 19 percent and the number of black enlisted Marines has fallen by 26 percent in the same period. Even in this area near Fort Bragg, where serving in uniform is a family tradition, the drop in Army enlistment by blacks from 2000 to 2005 matches the national average.
The first black paratrooper in the Army, Retired 1st Sgt. Walter Morris poses next to his grandson, 1st Lt. Michael Fowles, at the Airborne School graduation.
Kashonda Leycock is the daughter of a soldier, and the 17-year-old has been a member of the Junior ROTC at Westover High School for more than two years. She joined to prove to her parents and herself she could do it — not because she wants to join the military. She doesn’t. Her primary objection is the war in Iraq. “Why are we fighting?” Leycock asked. “Nobody has really said why the war is still going on. I don’t think it should be going on because it’s not solving anything. ... None of my people want to go there.” The lack of support for the war by blacks — in uniform or not — is striking. A poll of Cumberland County residents, commissioned last year by The Fayetteville Observer, showed that 69 percent of whites said the war in Iraq was worth the costs. Only 19 percent of blacks agreed. The survey, conducted between March 31 and April 18, found that 71 percent of whites with military ties believed the Iraq war was worth fighting, but only 21 percent of blacks with military ties. Curtis Gilroy, who works on recruiting issues for the Department of Defense, said that sentiment has been noticed nationwide — and with concern.
“We want to make sure all recruits see the military as a viable career option. But we also understand the reservations that individuals might have,” he said. He noted the influence of adults such as parents, teachers and ministers on young people — and how their opposition to the war would make them less likely to recommend a military career. “Mothers, in particular within the black community, play a more prominent role and are far less likely to recommend military service,” Gilroy said. Despite the declines, the percentage of blacks in the military continues to exceed the percentage in the U.S. population. Nineteen percent of the military’s active-duty enlisted force is black, compared to 13 percent of the country’s population. And there are young black people who do see that career option, despite or even because of the Iraq war. Tyrell Rembert, a Westover senior, is a private in the North Carolina Army National Guard. He joined in April 2004 at the age of 17, picking the Guard over active duty so he could begin training before graduation. He said he joined because he knows people who have served and are serving in Iraq. “I wanted to be able to help them out, I guess you’d say,” he said.

Navy Approves New Uniforms

The Navy will be changing uniforms in fall 2007 to a camouflage working uniform and a single-service uniform for E-6 and below. The uniforms are:
Navy working uniform
This is a predominantly blue digital-patterned camouflage uniform made of a permanent press cotton and nylon blend. Two pockets are above the upper chest and two more on the sleeves. Over the left breast pocket is an embroidered Navy insignia. It is worn with a blue cotton T-shirt, blue camouflage eight-point cap, black web belt, black leather boots or, for those not on ships, optional polish-free suede boots. The uniform is touted as “near maintenance free” in a Navy release.
Two Sailors pose aboard USS Constitution while wearing the blue digital patterned battle dress uniform concept. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen approved plans for a single working uniform for all ranks, E-1 to O-10.
Service uniform
Comprised of a short-sleeve, wash-and-wear 75 percent polyester and 25 percent wool blend khaki shirt and black pants. Women’s shirts will be an untucked “over-blouse,” similar to those worn in the other services while men’s shirts will continue to be tucked. Shirts will have permanent military creases. Men will wear a belt with their trousers, while women will have the option of beltless pants. The uniform will be topped with a black unisex garrison cap. Silver anodized rank insignias will be worn on shirt collars and garrison caps.
Petty Officer 1st Class Erin Morgan models the khaki uniform that was selected to replace the Navy summer white and winter blue service uniforms for E-6 and below servicemembers.

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