Friday, November 30, 2007

UAE Detains Ship As Grip On Tehran Tightens

The United Arab Emirates has impounded a vessel bound for Iran to verify whether chemicals found aboard contravene United Nations and UAE regulations. The move, which Iranian analysts say is causing concern in Tehran, comes as tighter international sanctions close their grip on the Iranian financial system, with the UAE - a vital trade partner for the Islamic republic - becoming more active in attempts to rein in Iranian business interests. UAE-Iran trade rose to $12bn (€8.1bn, £5.8bn) last year, with Dubai's re-export hub the single most important entry point for goods coming into Iran. In September the UAE, a strong US ally, introduced an export control law to prevent traders using the country to transport materials that could be used in, for example, nuclear weapons or explosive devices used against allied troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The impounded vessel was offloading goods at Dubai's huge Jebel Ali port, one of the main gateways into Iran. "We need to make sure it abides by a new export law passed a few weeks ago. [We] have to make sure items are in line with our laws and abide by existing resolutions," said a UAE official source.The test results are due to come back in a "matter of days", he said. The authorities had intercepted other vessels and would continue to do so as "normal procedure", he added. Encouraged by the US, the UAE says it has implemented other searches of vessels that stop at its ports. It is part of the government's drive to stop the UAE's openness to business being abused for terrorist financing and money laundering. The US embassy in Abu Dhabi declined to comment. At the same time the UAE has become the main window to foil official and de facto sanctions against Iran, say businessmen in Tehran. The Iranian government, they add, has established "private companies" that help to bypass the effects of sanctions. "There are so many ways to do business through the UAE and Americans cannot do much," said one former official. Following UN sanctions targeting the Iranian banking sector, most money transfers are made via UAE banks. Despite declines in trade with European countries, including Germany and Italy, many believe unofficial trade with these countries is rising through Dubai. Most international banks have stopped doing business with Iran because of US pressure, which has gone beyond the UN sanctions placed on a few big Iranian financial institutions. UAE-based banks are reluctant to deal with companies that are likely to import goods into Iran, says Nasser Hashempour, vice-president of the Dubai-based Iranian Business Council.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Aegis Ship To Test-Fire U.S. Missile Interceptor

A Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force Aegis-equipped ship will test-fire a U.S. missile interceptor for the first time off Hawaii on Dec 17, Japanese officials said Wednesday. The move is part of Japan's efforts to accelerate the deployment of missile defense capabilities since North Korea's test-firing of missiles in July last year.
Kongou (DDG 173)
The test-firing of the sea-based Standard Missile 3 interceptor by the Kongou destroyer will be conducted off the island of Kauai at around 10 a.m. local time, with the U.S. military providing support for it. It could be delayed, depending on weather conditions. The 7,250-ton destroyer has participated in the U.S. Navy's missile interceptor testing since June last year.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

China Warship Makes Visit To Japan

A sign of better relations between two Asian powers. A Chinese warship has dropped anchor off Tokyo, in China's first military visit to Japan since World War II.The port call by the guided missile destroyer Shenzhen was part of a mutual exchange that will bring a Japanese warship on a visit to China at a later date.
It was the first visit ever to Japan by Communist China's People's Liberation Army. The Chinese ship arrived under heavy security with a Japanese destroyer as its escort and a half dozen helicopters buzzing the sky.
On board, a navy band played "Anchors Away," while cheering Chinese well-wishers waved Chinese flags and performed a lion dance. During its 4-day stay, the ship will be opened to the Japanese public for tours.

Army Fixing Uniforms Prone To Rips

The Army is retrofitting 1 million uniforms to bolster pants that have been tearing during the rigors of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Soldiers in Iraq began reporting "crotch durability problems" with their combat uniforms in July 2005, according to the Army. Jumping into Humvees, hopping from helicopters and scrambling after insurgents have popped inseams on the baggy pants. Rougher terrain in Afghanistan prompted complaints this past August from soldiers who said their uniforms gave out quickly. "This is a result of soldiers working in steep and harsh terrain and literally sliding down steep hills and mountains," Army spokesman Sheldon Smith said in an e-mail. Single-stitching has caused most of the blown-out inseams, said Erin Thomas, an Army spokeswoman. The new trousers are more durable, she said. A torn uniform inseam is no laughing matter, said Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute, a defense think tank. "Any well-made uniform should maintain its stitch in virtually all combat situations except direct fire," he said. "It is a serious problem if it becomes a distraction to the war fighter who needs to concentrate on completing a mission."The Army unveiled its current combat uniform in 2004. It has a digital camouflage pattern and pockets that can be reached while wearing body armor. The half-cotton, half-nylon uniform is supposed to last six months. U.S. plants make hundreds of thousands of them a month. Soldiers deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan receive two sets of combat uniforms and two sets of fire-resistant ones. By January, all of the uniforms soldiers receive will be made of fire-resistant material. The Army began issuing the flame-resistant clothes last year after insurgents began using incendiary bombs and targeting the fuel tanks on troops' vehicles. There are about 120,000 soldiers in Iraq and 20,000 in Afghanistan, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros said. The new uniform represented an upgrade from a design that dated to the early 1980s. But it hasn't proved tough enough. Inseam blowouts became an issue in Iraq in 2005, Smith said. The Army "redesigned the assembly method for the crotch and incorporated the fixes into ACU (Army combat uniform) production." Improved uniforms were shipped last year, and stocks of existing uniforms were retrofitted with additional material, he said. In Afghanistan, the solutions are different. The Army is investigating improvements that include new uniforms built with more rugged material and a protective garment to be worn over the current uniform. Rips are to be expected under those conditions, said John Pike, director of, a website that analyzes military issues. "These are harsh environments," he said. "They're putting some wear on (their uniforms). That's the way these things go." Uniforms should have been designed originally to account for the strain, Thompson said. "Losing a crotch is supposed to happen sometime after a Thanksgiving meal, not in combat."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Crew Rescued From Burning Ship

Iranian teams have rescued 14 crew members on board a Panamanian commercial vessel that caught fire in waters near the port of Bushehr. After the Absosal, loaded with paper and computer equipment, caught fire and sent out a call for help, a rescue operation was mounted by the Marine Rescue Coordination Center and the crew were evacuated to safety.Immediately after receiving the distress signal, three boats were dispatched to the scene of the incident, Head of Marine Protection at Iran's Ports and Shipping Organization, Mohammad-Reza Qaderi, said. Qaderi said that all the crew members were rescued and taken to the port of Bushehr, south of Iran. According to the latest information the ship is sinking in the Persian Gulf.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Workers Back On Oil Rig After Fire

Workers evacuated from a North Sea oil platform are returning to the rig after a fire was put out, the Health and Safety Executive said. Ninety of the 159 people on board the remote Thistle Alpha platform, 120 miles north-west of Shetland, were airlifted to safety following the blaze. There were no casualties and the crews are now returning to the rig, an HSE spokeswoman said.Only last week, health and safety inspectors warned the North Sea offshore industry to improve safety on its oil and gas installations. A damning report by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed maintenance of appliances is not being given enough attention. Nearly 100 North Sea installations were targeted in the three-year HSE inspection.In more than half the platforms the overall state of the plant was found to be poor. Seven helicopters, including two from Norway, and a Nimrod from RAF Kinloss were initially scrambled to rescue the workers from the Thistle Alpha rig. But the operation was later scaled down, RAF Kinloss spokesman Michael Mulford said. The workers were airlifted to three neighbouring oil platforms five or six miles away.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

U.S. Navy Ship, Helicopters In Bangladesh To Help

A U.S. Navy vessel arrived in Bangladesh yesterday to help relief efforts. The country's deadliest cyclone in 16 years killed about 3,500 people and left thousands missing or injured. At least 2 million people have been displaced, officials and aid workers say.
USS Kearsarge (LHD 3)
The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge anchored off Chittagong. The USS Essex was expected to arrive today. Each carries about 20 helicopters, which can deliver water, food, and medical supplies to remote areas in the battered south and southwestern regions, officials said.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Passengers, Crew, Safe After Canadian-Owned Cruise Ship Hits Ice In Antarctic

A group of tourists, including 12 Canadians, spent up to six hours in lifeboats in the frigid waters off Antarctica after their cruise ship hit ice and started sinking in the middle of the night. All 154 passengers and crew aboard the MV Explorer, owned by a Toronto-based company, were rescued safely by the Norwegian cruise liner Nordnorge, which responded to a distress call. They were to spend the night at a military base in Chile before being flown home, officials said Friday. Despite being in lifeboats for hours in rough waters, none of the passengers suffered hypothermia, said Arnvid Hansen, captain of the Nordnorge. "The passengers are absolutely fine," Susan Hayes of G.A.P. Adventures, owner of the Explorer, said in an interview. "They're all accounted for. No injuries whatsoever." A Chilean ornithologist identified as Paola Palavecino was quoted in an Argentine media report as saying she and others aboard went into the lifeboats before dawn and endured subfreezing temperatures for a few hours until they were picked up about 6 a.m. EST. "The ship took on water quickly," she was quoted by the Argentine news agency Diarios y Noticias as saying in a call from the Nordnorge. The 75-metre-long Explorer was carrying 91 passengers, nine expedition staff members and a crew of 54. It was completing an ecological tour of Antarctica when the accident took place around midnight Eastern time Friday about 850 kilometres southeast of Ushuaia, the southernmost Argentine city. "The ship ran into some ice. It was submerged ice and the result was a hole about the size of a fist in the side of the hull so it began taking on water ... but quite slowly," Hayes said. The Chilean navy said in a release that water began gathering in the ship's machine room and the captain ordered passengers to abandon ship about 90 minutes after the first call. They and the crew took to eight semi-rigid lifeboats and four life rafts, with the captain leaving the ship later. Hayes called the evacuation process "calm" and said pumps aboard the Explorer were able to deal with incoming water until the Nordnorge arrived. After the rescue, the survivors arrived at Fildes Peninsula, west of King George Island, at 1:20 p.m. local time. "No one was hurt or suffered any major injury," said Felipe Gracia, a Chilean navy commander with the Coast Guard. The Explorer, meanwhile, was in danger of sinking, but G.A.P Adventures hadn't given up hope on it yet, Hayes said. "We're quite hopeful: There's a passionate group of people who work here who are very committed to this ship, so we have not given up." Hours after the pre-dawn accident near Antarctica's South Shetland Islands, Chilean aerial photographs showed the ship listing heavily, its white superstructure and red hull starkly visible against the grey, choppy waters and overcast skies. Besides the 12 Canadians, the passengers and staff included 24 Britons, 17 Dutch, 14 Americans and 10 Australians. There were also four people aboard from Ireland, four Swiss, three Danes, two from Hong Kong, two Argentines, two Belgians, one Chinese national, one French national, one German, one Japanese, one Colombian and one Swede. Officials at the Fildes Peninsulda port authority said the passengers had started disembarking from the Nordnorge in late afternoon, after being anchored at the bay since 1:20 p.m. local time. "They're going to spend the night here waiting for the Chilean air force plane from Punta Arena which will take them inland," a Chilean port official said. "There is very bad visibility and some wind." Chilean authorities were arranging travel to Punta Arenas from the base. Passengers were to be flown to Punta Areas, the closest city, on Saturday, and then home. But until the weather improved, there was no point rushing people off the Nordnorge, Gracia said. "Under those conditions airplanes cannot land either." G.A.P. Adventures provides eco-friendly excursions with an environmental focus. The Explorer was in the midst of a 19-day circuit of Antarctica and the Falkland Islands that allowed passengers to observe penguins, whales, and other forms of local wildlife. Hayes said the Explorer, built in Finland in 1969, sails from Antarctica up to Norway every year and is "absolutely equipped for the high seas." "It has an impressive polar record. It may be small but it's mighty," she added. The company is still investigating the accident, and said navigating Antarctica's icy waters is never foolproof. "You've got instruments to detect, but instruments aren't perfect," Hayes said. "It's not something we ever would have anticipated."
Facts on the cruise ship The Explorer and the rescue of its passengers after it struck ice off Antarctica.

Owner - Toronto-based G.A.P. Adventures, since 2004.

Registry - Monrovia, Liberia.

Built - 1969, Nystad, Finland.

Refurbished - 2004.

Length - 75 metres.

Weight - 2,603 tonnes.

Carrying - 91 passengers (including 12 Canadians), 54 crew, nine expedition staff members.

Purpose - 19-day, eco-friendly excursion of Antarctica and the Falkland Islands.

Problem - Struck submerged ice off Antarctica and began taking on water.

Location - 850 kilometres southeast of Ushuaia, southernmost Argentine city.

Distress call - Issued at 12:24 a.m. Friday.

Evacuation - 90 minutes after distress call.

Rescue - Norwegian cruise liner Nordnorge picks up passengers and crew after they spend more than five hours in lifeboats.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Ship Sinks: 30 Rescued

A Philippine fishing vessel sank in the South China Sea around 8 a.m. Thursday while the ship was trying to take shelter from typhoon "Hagibis." Seven Chinese fishing vessels in the area immediately went to the accident spot and successfully rescued about 30 Filipino crew members, according to a report of the Chinese Embassy to the Department of Foreign Affairs. More than 80 crew members were reportedly on board the sunken fishing vessel. The China Maritime Rescue Center has already dispatched rescue vessels to the area to search for the missing crew members. It has also asked vessels passing by the area to join in the rescue operations that were still being conducted as of press time. The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration Thursday said typhoon Hagibis is on its way to Vietnam. The weather bureau said Hagibis was spotted 160 kilometers south southwest of Pagasa Island or 530 kms west of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.Storm warning signal no. 2 was still up Thursday at the Kalayaan Group of Islands while signal no. 1 was raised in southern Palawan. Typhoon Hagibis (local name "Lando") left 10 people dead in the Philippines and forced President Arroyo to come home a day earlier than her scheduled departure from Singapore where she attended the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit. "We return to the Philippines one day ahead of schedule, saddened by the plight of the victims of the typhoon, but satisfied that as a result of our efforts in Singapore, the Philippines will benefit from greater security, stronger economic growth and enhanced solidarity to make progress to protect our environment," the President said in her departure speech in Singapore.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

USS Kitty Hawk Carrier Denied Access To Hong Kong

China has refused permission for a US aircraft carrier and accompanying vessels to visit Hong Kong for a long-planned Thanksgiving holiday visit, the US State Department said. The Kitty Hawk group and its crew of 8,000 US airmen and sailors had been expected in Hong Kong on Wednesday, but will now spend the holiday on the South China Sea. Hundred of relatives of crew members of the USS Kitty Hawk had flown to Hong Kong to celebrate Thanksgiving with their loved ones. Hong Kong has been a regular port of call for US sailors on R & R (rest and recuperation) since the Vietnam War. The Chinese move comes as a surprise just weeks after a visit to China by US defense Secretary Robert Gates, which he said he hoped would lead to a long-term dialogue. "At present, it appears the USS Kitty Hawk strike group will not be making a port call in Hong Kong as previously planned as a result of a last minute denial by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs," State Department spokeswoman Nicole Thompson said. The United States was pressing China for an explanation and to reconsider its decision, she added.
USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63)
There are several possible sources of discontent that may have prompted the decision - including US plans to sell Taiwan a $940 million upgrade to its missile system and a meeting last month between US President George Bush and the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist leader who Beijing considers a traitor. The Foreign Ministry in Beijing declined to make an immediate comment. Last year, a Chinese submarine surfaced uncomfortably close to the Kitty Hawk near the Japanese island of Okinawa, an incident that highlighted the potential for friction between the two powers. "The US Consul General in Hong Kong is in touch with the Kitty Hawk families," said Anthony Hutchinson, a Public affairs director at the US Consulate in Hong Kong. "I've seen some spouses and family come in, they're now sightseeing ... they'll adjust," said another US consular official who asked not to be named. The move by Beijing coincides with airspace controls on Wednesday which Xinhua news agency said affected the air travel plans of 7,000 people in south and east China. The controls were introduced for "unspecified reasons". The Kitty Hawk, laid down in 1956, has the second longest active service of any ship in the US navy after the USS Constitution, a 208-year-old ceremonial sailing ship kept in Boston Harbour. It is the only conventionally fuelled carrier in the U.S. fleet and is due to be decommissioned next year.

Japanese Navy Ship Returns Home After Afghan Mission Ends

The first of two Japanese navy ships returned home Thursday from the Indian Ocean after the country's mission in support of coalition forces in Afghanistan was scuttled by opposition in parliament earlier this month. Japanese warships had been refueling vessels from countries fighting in the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan since 2001. The mission was abruptly halted on Nov. 1, when opposition parties raised concerns it was too broad and possibly violated the constitution. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has vowed to resume the mission soon. The U.S. has also been pushing for a resumption. The two ships in the region, a destroyer and a refueler, came back to Japan following an order from Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba. On Thursday, the destroyer, Kirisame, and its crew members of about 200 returned to the Sasebo port in southwestern Japan to a crowd of welcoming family and military members, according to Yoichi Kubo, spokesman for Sasebo base. The refueler, Tokiwa, will arrive on Friday at a Tokyo port where the ministry will hold a ceremony, to be attended by Ishiba.
JDS Kirisame (DD 104)
"Unfortunately, we have to come to a point where we have to welcome them home, but they were engaged in work for a long time in a difficult environment," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura. Last week, Japan's lower house of parliament approved a resumption of a watered-down mission in the Indian Ocean. The legislation is now in the opposition-controlled upper house. It limits Japanese ships to refueling and supplying water to craft used in monitoring and inspecting vessels suspected of links to terrorism or arms smuggling.During its six-year mission, Japan provided about 490,000 kiloliters of fuel in the Indian Ocean to coalition warships, including those from the U.S., Britain and Pakistan, according to the Defense Ministry.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Leaking Ship Allowed Through Barrier Reef

Australia's maritime safety bureau allowed a foreign container ship leaking a dangerous chemical to sail through the Great Barrier Reef, an investigation has found. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has released its findings into the journey of the Kota Pahlawan through the Great Barrier Reef in June last year, which went ahead despite the ship's master reporting the ship was leaking a dangerous chemical. The German-owned, Liberian-registered Kota Pahlawan left Singapore for Brisbane on June 12, with eight containers of chemicals known as xanthates, which are used in industry and mining. According to the ATSB report, a highly flammable and foul-smelling vapour known as carbon disulphide is emitted by xanthates when it comes into contact with moisture. The vapour can be ignited through contact with an ordinary light bulb or a warm steam pipe, the report said. Four days into the ship's journey the crew noticed a foul odour coming from containers carrying the xanthates, and the ship's master observed that the chemicals had not been packaged according to international standards.
Kota Pahlawan
The master informed the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) of the leaking vapours early the next day, on June 18. Just three hours later an Australian pilot boarded the ship to guide the Kota Pahlawan through the Great Barrier Reef. But he was unaware of the report to the AMSA, and guided the ship through the northern part of the reef later that day. The following day the AMSA issued a defect report for Kota Pahlawan and advised Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) of the risks posed by leaking vapours from xanthates. The ship continued its passage down the Queensland coast and anchored off Brisbane on June 21, where the containers were discharged and purged. In its report, the ATSB recommended the AMSA take action to address the delay to "appropriately assess the risks" associated with the leakage of the flammable vapours.

First Black Marines Legacy Revealed

Although the history of the Montford Point Marines is not very well known, these Marines played a significant role in shaping the Marine Corps of today, said Ronald K. Culp, author of the new book The First Black Marines. “Before I began researching the history of Montford Point, I realized that everyone knew about the Tuskegee Airmen and the Buffalo Soldiers, but no one really knew about the Montford Marines,” said Culp. Culp has spent more then four years researching the Montford Point Marines, who were the first black men to enlist into a then segregated Marine Corps. This is only the tip of the iceberg regarding their story, said Culp. The book covers the history, life and legacy of the Marines who went through the training at Montford Point from 1942-1946. Training at Montford point began on June 25, 1941, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802 establishing the fair employment practice that began to erase discrimination in the armed forces. Following its implementation in 1942, Montford Point opened its doors to the Marine Corps’s first black recruits at what is now Camp Johnson, a satellite facility of Camp Lejeune.Even though the executive order allowed blacks to serve, America was still racially segregated. This separated the black recruits from training with everyone else. More than 20,000 Marines graduated from Montford Point. Training continued there until July, 1948 when President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9981 ending segregation in the armed forces. September 1949, Montford Point was deactivated. According to the Montford Point Marine Association Web site located at Although the camp is a large piece of history, the Marines who passed through are what captures the story, he said. “I enjoyed meeting these men and hearing their stories,” Culp said. “I wanted to get their story out so everyone could know who they were.” Culp presented the book to Maj. Gen. Robert C. Dickerson, Marine Corps Installation East commanding general and Finney Greggs, the director of the Montford Point Marines Museum on Camp Johnson. “I believe that history is an intricate part of our lives, and I believe that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” said Greggs. “This book will let everyone know about the amazing things these men did and the things they’ve endured. These men fought for the right to fight, and without them I might not have been able to wear the Eagle, Globe and Anchor.” For more information contact the museum at 910-450-1340. The Montford Point Marines Museum is housed in the east wing of building M101 on Camp Johnson. Museum hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Petra Looks Forward To Cozy Winter With Plastic Boyfriend

In a world of celebrity relationships gone bad, it's good to know that some limelight loves survive. Take Petra, for example. Last year, the beautiful black swan from Münster in Germany made headlines across the world after she fell head-over-heels for a gigantic, swan-shaped pedal-boat. No matter what park officials at the Aasee lake tried, Petra would not be separated from her true love. One year later, the couple is still together, with Petra having spent her summer blissfully following the boat as it was pedalled around the lake. What's more, Petra is getting a brand new, winterized hutch so she can spend the cold months near her oversized, plastic sweetheart as well.Every year, the rental boats are brought in so they are not damaged as the lake freezes over. Last year, though, Petra was so distraught when she was separated from her boyfriend the boat that the two -- the real and the fake swan -- were given the use of a pond in the nearby zoo for the winter. And Petra was handed the keys (more...) to a mini-shelter normally used by one of the zoo's pelicans. This year, Petra and the pedal boat will likewise spend the winter in the pond, but a new hutch for Petra means the pelican need not vacate its home. Moving day for the happy swan couple is Dec. 5, according to a zoo press release. Next year, the folks at Aasee are hoping for a more permanent solution. As part of a shore refurbishment project, winter quarters for both the boat and its girlfriend are to be built -- directly on the lake shore.

Boat Joy Ride Ends With Teen Stuck On An Island

Two Oakville area teens stole a boat and a 14-year-old decided to take it for a joy ride down the Chehalis River in East County, according to the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office. Except the 12-foot row boat didn’t have any oars and the boy ended up being carried away downriver by the current at around 4:30 p.m., according to Lt. Matt Stowers, with the Sheriff’s Office. While a 17-year-old boy raced along the shore, the 14-year-old tried to grab hold of branches extending over the river. Eventually, the boat made it to a small island in the middle of the Chehalis. “He was stuck there,” Stowers said.The lieutenant and another deputy grabbed a boat from the Sheriff’s Office and made their way out to the island. Meantime, emergency personnel from an Oakville-area fire district helped locate the specific spot on the island where the boy was stuck. “It was dark, the water was high and it was hard to get to him, but we eventually plucked him off the island and gave him a ride to shore,” Stowers said. Once on shore, he was checked out by a medical team and eventually released to his parents. Stowers said he isn’t sure where the boat was taken from. “Probably a local fisherman.”

Monday, November 19, 2007

Russian Ship Sinks In Sea Of Japan

Rescue operation is continuing as one person is still missing after a cargo ship sank in the Sea of Japan on Sunday. All 36 on board, including members of the Russian crew and six passengers, escaped on four inflatable rafts. The timber freighter Kasper-1, sailing under the flag of Saint Vincent and Grenadines, was en route from the Russian Far Eastern port of Nakhodka to China when it sank in a storm 180 miles south of the port. The captain said the ship sank due to cargo shifting during the storm.Olga Alkina from the Far East regional emergencies says the rescuers have found one more raft carrying 12 people from the ship. “Now we know of 35 people who have been saved and are currently on board three Russian and one British vessels,” she said. “The fate of one other crew member remains unknown. It’s unclear whether he managed to leave the sunken timber carrier and get to a raft. The search for the missing person continues. At the moment four ships and an Emergencies Ministry plane are working at the site,” Alkina added.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Russian Vessel In Distress In Caspian Sea

A Russian vessel is in distress in the central part of the Caspian Sea, the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry's Southern Regional Center told Interfax. "A distress signal came at about 10:53 a.m. Moscow time Saturday from an emergency buoy of the Kamyust-1 ship sailing under the Russian flag and registered at the Taganrog port while she was en route from Astrakhan to the Iranian port of Enzeli with steel articles on board.A border guard cutter was dispatched to the distress area at 11:35 a.m. Moscow time," it said. The cutter is supposed to reach the site at about 5:30 p.m. Moscow time, it said. The vessel "is in the central part of the Caspian Sea closer to the Dagestani coast," it said. There are 12 people on board the vessel. Telegrams have been sent out to the captains of vessels close to the Kamyust-1, it said.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Russian Frogman Claims He Killed Real Life British 'James Bond' Placing Mine On Khruschev's Ship in UK Waters

A former Russian frogman has told a Russian documentary team that he cut the throat of a British Naval hero thought to have inspired Ian Fleming's fictional superspy James Bond. Retired sailor Eduard Koltsov said he caught Commander Lionel "Buster" Crabb placing a mine on the hull of a Russian ship docked off Portsmouth in 1956 during the visit of Soviet leaders Nikita Khruschev and Marshal Nikolai Bulganin. Commander Crabb went missing during the dive. A headless body identified as his was found in Chichester the following year. Koltsov told the team he needed to tell the truth about the Cold War mystery before he died, according to the BBC. The Russian, who was 23 at the time, said he was ordered to investigate suspicious activity around the ship when he spotted Commander Crabb fixing a mine to the hull. He then showed the documentary team the dagger he claims he used to kill the Englishman and the Red Star medal he was later awarded secretly for his bravery. "I saw a silhouette of a diver in a light frogman suit who was fiddling with something at the starboard, next to the ship's ammunition stores," Mr Koltsov told the film crew, according to the BBC. "I swam closer and saw that he was fixing a mine."
Cold War cover-up: Commander Lionel 'Buster' Crabb, left, pictured with Ray Hodges when the pair examined a damaged submarine in the Thames Estuary
The headless body of a frogman was found in Chichester in June 1957 and a coroner later ruled that it was Crabb's body. Secret documents relating to the controversy were released to the public at the National Archives in Kew, south-west London, last year. They reveal the determination of officials to cover up what really happened, even rejecting a request for maintenance from ex-wife Margaret Crabb. Prime minister Sir Anthony Eden told the House of Commons that it would "not be in the public interest" to disclose the circumstances of his death. He added that "what was done was done without the authority or knowledge of Her Majesty's ministers". The cover-up prompted wild speculation for years, including claims that he was alive and well and living in Russia as an officer in the Red Navy, and others that he was killed by the Soviets. The secret documents released last year revealed that five months after Crabb's death, WH Lewin, head of Naval Law, wrote in a memo: "If this came out ... it would not seem to square very well with our statement that Crabb had been out of the Navy for over a year at the time of his death." The official Admiralty line following the incident on April 19 was that Crabb had been "specially employed in connection with trials of certain underwater apparatus" and was missing, presumed drowned. Lomond Handley, 61, one of Crabb's few living relatives, said: "The government told lie after lie, successive governments too, not only the Government of the day.
Mystery: 'Buster' Crabb, pictured here at the centre of a Tobermory Treasure Hunt
"No government has ever come out with the truth. It just shows that governments cannot be trusted." However today she downplayed Koltsov's claims, saying: "I find it astonishing and hard to believe. For any of Her Majesty's Navy to endanger a visiting ship would have been unthinkable. "Any explosion would have embarrassed our Government and destroyed the relationship between the British and the Soviet Union which our Government was trying to build up. "It's possible that Crabb may have gone down to see whether there were mines and it would have been his duty to get rid of them." Miss Handley's mother Eileen was a distant cousin of Crabb and was brought up with him. She spent her life trying to find out what happened to Commander Crabb but "came up against brick walls", Miss Handley said. She added: "It's absolutely incredible and I find it hard to believe that any Soviet divers or sailors would have committed murder of a British sailor in our waters. "What he is admitting to, this gentleman, is committing an act of murder. "I simply don't believe it." Crabb, a Royal Navy commander like his fictional successor James Bond, was a decorated war hero. He won the George Medal for his work as a frogman specialising in removing German limpet mines from merchant ships.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Pirates Kill Chinese Sailor

Somali pirates killed a Chinese sailor aboard a Taiwanese fishing ship they released last week, an official said. The death was discovered after the Ching Fong Hwa No. 168 arrived in the Kenyan port of Mombasa, said Andrew Mwangura of the East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme. It had been seized in May off Somalia. "The pirates shot him because they were angry that the ship owner was not talking to them," Mwangura told reporters.
Ching Fong Hwa No. 168
There were fourteen other crew on board: 10 Chinese, two Taiwanese and two from the Philippines. Mwangura said they were traumatised by their ordeal, but uninjured. "They are now thinking of going home. They are waiting for the ship's owner to provide them with air tickets," he said. "This experience shows owners of hijacked vessels need to co-operate with the pirates, as the crew are at their mercy." Somali pirates in one of the world's most dangerous shipping lanes are still thought to be holding hostage a cargo ship registered in Comoros and a Japanese-owned chemical tanker.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

WWII-Era Ship Will Be Part Of Artificial Reef

It started as a World War II-era transport and attack ship. It was mothballed twice and retired in 1996 as the oldest ship in the Merchant Marine fleet. On Thursday, the Texas Clipper will plunge to the bottom of the sea and become part of Texas' growing artificial reef system. But it almost never happened. The 473-foot Clipper sank in its berth at the U.S. Maritime Administration facility near Beaumont. It was pulled from the water, patched up and saved. Then the vessel was towed to Brownsville to undergo environmental remediation and preparation to become a reef. "It would make a good movie, the twists and turns in this story," J. Dale Shively, artificial reef program coordinator for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, said in a statement. "There were times when we thought for sure the project was dead." The Texas Clipper's new home is 17 nautical miles off South Padre Island. It will become the latest addition to the artificial reef program, resting 134 feet below the surface on a hard sand bottom, according to the Parks and Wildlife Department.
Texas Clipper
The ship was launched as the USS Queens on Sept. 12, 1944. It carried troops and wounded soldiers from battlefields in the Pacific, where it was one of the first attack transports to arrive at Iwo Jima. From the end of World War II until 1958, it was commissioned as the SS Excambion as part of American Export Lines, carrying cargo and passengers between New York City and Mediterranean ports. From 1965 to 1994, it sailed as the USTS Texas Clipper, a maritime training vessel for Texas A&M University-Galveston, before finally being retired in 1996. In the mid-1970s, the state sank 12 World War II-era ships to start the program. The program is built around more than 90 petroleum structures at 58 sites. It has received more than $10 million in donations. The reef sites are popular with saltwater anglers and divers. The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Parks and Wildlife will monitor biological growth on the ship's hull. Texas A&M University and the National Marine Fisheries Service will conduct an ongoing experiment to look at the pace of corrosion in Gulf waters. The study will help gauge the potential environmental impact of wrecks of oil tankers or other ships containing hazardous substances.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

GSAs Gives Sailors More Options

More predictability for Sailors is the goal as the Navy transitions from individual augmentee (IA) assignments to Global war on terrorism Support Assignments (GSA), announced Chief of Naval Personnel (CNP), Nov. 7. "The more I talk to Sailors around the fleet the more I'm convinced Global war on terrorism Support Assignments is the right thing to do. I look forward to pressing ahead on this plan," said Vice Adm. J.C. Harvey, CNP, who released the latest GSA NAVADMIN 297/07, Nov. 7, to provide an update on the transition. The Navy first introduced the GSA detailing concept in June 2007, via NAVADMIN 147/07. This process allows Sailors to negotiate for an IA when it fits their needs. Eventually it will replace the need to pull Sailors from other assignments mid-tour in order to fill an IA, according to Rear Adm. Sonny Masso, Deputy Chief of Naval Personnel. "We're done studying the issue. We've tested enough billets to make sure the system will work. It's time to move out and make this happen," added Masso.The plan allows Sailors to negotiate eight-month or 14-month PCS orders to an Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center (ECRC) for an assignment in theater in support of GWOT, according to Master Chief Sonar Technician Surface (SW) James Stone, head, enlisted GSA detailer. In addition to billets in Iraq and Afghanistan, GSA detailing will also cover assignments to the Horn of Africa, Kuwait, Bahrain, Germany, South America, Cuba, Kosovo, Philippines, and even stateside duty in Tampa, Fla., and Arlington, Va. "The feedback from the Sailors I've detailed has been positive so far. They get to choose where and when they go, and it helps commands because they don't have to choose what Sailors they are going to send," said Stone. Currently Information Systems Technician, Master-at-Arms, and Yeoman are the most in-demand enlisted ratings, added Stone. However, Sailors with comparable skills sets from other ratings may also volunteer, said Stone. To date, more 372 Sailors have negotiated orders to an ECRC for GSA, which coordinates and supervises Sailors' pre-deployment training before sending them in theater. Approximately 1,500 enlisted GSA billets are currently available on Career Management System-Interactive Detailing, the program enlisted Sailors use to apply for orders.

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