Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ship Stranded

A merchant ship ‘Gurukripa’, bound for Kochi from the Old Port (fisheries harbour) here, ran aground in the shallow waters here on Saturday. According to the Port officer Captain Mohan Kudri, the ship got stuck in the soft soil at around 12 noon while it was heading out to the open sea carrying a consignment of sand.
Forced halt: A merchant ship ‘Gurukripa’ that ran aground near the fishing harbour at the Old Port in Mangalore on Saturday.
The 80-metre-long vessel blocked a large portion of the route used by ferries that shuttle between the mainland and the Taneerbhavi Sandspit, causing smaller boats to take detours. Captain Kudri said that the ship would be aided in its attempts to sail out into sea by local, privately owned trawlers. But for that to happen, the water levels must rise sufficiently. Locals complain of deposits of silt. Captain Kudri informed The Hindu that port authorities and a private infrastructure firm from Mumbai will take up the dredging work.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Indian Navy Investigating Ship Found With Corpse On Board

An Indian navy spokesman says officials are investigating an abandoned trawler found carrying a corpse near the coast of Mumbai.Captain Manohar Nambiar says the trawler was found drifting 15-20 miles off the coast of Mumbai. He says a corpse was on board.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Proud Warriors Lend a Hand to Ocean Tug

The guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) and the embarked Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 42 "Proud Warriors" provided logistical assistance to the Military Sealift Command fleet ocean tug USNS Catawba (T-ATF 168). Vella Gulf responded to Catawba to conduct a vertical replenishment (VERTREP) after high seas prevented Catawba from conducting a scheduled replenishment at sea (RAS) with the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Laramie (T-ATO 203). Pallets containing mail and repair parts intended for Catawba were transferred to Vella Gulf during a RAS on Nov. 11. Those pallets were then flown to Catawba on Nov. 12 using HSL 42's SH-60B Sea Hawk helicopters. HSL 42 then flew seven more pallets of food and repair parts from Laramie to Catawba Nov. 13. "Laramie arrived two days ago to provide underway replenishment but was unable to pass any stores to Catawba," said Vella Gulf's Commanding Officer Capt. Mark Genung. "After realizing the sea state was not going to change, we conducted a VERTREP from Laramie to Catawba, which the ship is capable of doing despite the relatively heavy seas." "The first day, Catawba received mail and some repair parts," continued Genung. "[The following day], the ship received food and other stores. Since Catawba will be with us through the end of the month, it was important the ship received the materials it needed."
USNS Catawba (T-ATF 168)
Vertical replenishments are not a typical mission for HSL 42. "We practice VERTREPs, however it's not something we do a lot," said Lt. Cmdr. Matt Bradshaw, an officer assigned to HSL 42. "The reason is, our aircraft are a lot heavier than the SH-60S you normally see doing VERTREP due to the tactical stuff we carry. Our aircraft are a much lighter version of the SH-60B. With something small like this replenishment, it's pretty easy." Vella Gulf Sailors were happy to help another ship and grateful for the experience gained. "It was a pretty good experience," said Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 2nd Class Jason Farris. "It's not a ship that we would normally VERTREP to, and being as small as it is, it's not a ship that you would see out to sea for a long period of time. A lot of the guys aboard, when we were flying over there, looked really happy to see that they were getting some groceries. So, it was nice." Vella Gulf is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to conduct Maritime Security Operations (MSO). MSO help develop security in the maritime environment. From security arises stability that results in global economic prosperity. MSO complement the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations and seek to disrupt violent extremists' use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

1 Dies, 3 Missing As Cargo Ship Sinks In Batanes

A cargo vessel sank last Tuesday 10 nautical miles northwest of Calayan Island, Batanes, leaving one dead and three crewmen missing, while 16 others were rescued by passing vessels, the Philippine Coast Guard said yesterday. Capt. Athelo Ibañez, PCG North Luzon district commander, said the Mark Jayson 1, a 51.42 gross-ton Landing Craft Transport vessel, was on its way to Basco from Manila carrying aggregates and construction equipment when it suffered engine trouble amid strong winds and high seas near the Batanes group of islands. The shipping vessel had 14 crewmen and six equipment operators. In a report to PCG commandant Vice Admiral Wilfredo D. Tamayo, Ibañez said the identities of the dead and the missing were still unknown. But he identified those rescued as Nestor Sumokol Jr., Nestor Sumokol Sr., Melvin Evangelista, Mark Regonan, Ryan Mejares, Dante Resona, Alejandro Senagugote, Mark John Palcis, Rexy Cabaola, Ryan Herminio, Jackie Gan, Larry Sasidon, Galeleo Jaug , BJ Geronimo, Reynald Dapiton. One of the rescued was still unidentified."We are presently conducting search and rescue operations for the missing crew of the vessel," Ibañez said. Tamayo ordered two PCG rescue vessels and one aircraft to search for the three missing crew. He also sought the cooperation and coordination of local government officials in Batanes to help in the search and rescue operations. According to PCG reports, the Mark Jason-1, owned by Jomalia Shipping Corp., flashed a "distress call’ at around 1:15 a.m. last Tuesday. This was confirmed by a certain Jesus Dukut of the MV Kamo, who called up Coast Guard Northern Luzon District. Five passing vessels helped in the rescue of the survivors. The MV Ultrace rescued four; the MV Umlaghan, rescued seven; the MV Lutos Gas, three; and the MV Asia Bridge and the MV Siam Victory rescued one each. Tamayo said he will form a special board of marine inquiry (SBMI) to probe the cause of the sinking. He designated Ibañez as chairman of the probe.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Flying Submarine Or Submerging Seaplane?

The answer is simple: Submarines cannot fly, but seaplanes can submerge -- if you build them properly. That's what the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is seeking to develop. A recent Request for Proposal (RFP) from DARPA calls for a submersible aircraft [that] would combine the key capabilities of three different platforms: (1) the speed and range of an aircraft; (2) the loiter capabilities of a boat; and (3) the stealth of a submarine. "By combining the beneficial characteristics the and operating modes of each platform, DARPA hopes to develop a craft that will significantly enhance the United States tactical advantage in coastal insertion missions," according to the RFP. The irony of the RFP is that the U.S. Navy was developing such a craft some 45 years ago. The objectives issued by DARPA are for a vehicle that would have an airborne tactical radius of 1,000 nautical miles, a low-level flight radius of 100 nautical miles (which may leverage surface effects), and a submerged tactical radius of 12 nautical miles. The sum of these must be achieved within eight hours. Endurance on the surface has to be 72 hours in sea states up to five between inserting and extracting personnel. The craft's payload objective is eight men and their equipment with a total cargo weight of 2,000 pounds. DARPA has identified the major challenges to the project as (1) weight, (2) fluid flow regime, (3) structure, (4) lifting surface geometry, and (5) power and energy storage. These factors force the consideration of a seaplane that can submerge as opposed to a "submarine that can fly." The relatively light construction of an aircraft can be submerged to shallow depths, and to even great depths with internal pressurization. But submarine-like vehicles, built to withstand greater depths, are too heavy for consideration. The U.S. Navy had begun contemplating the merger of aviation and submarine technologies into a single vehicle as early as 1946. By that time several Navy laboratories were looking into the required technologies. When asked by the press in 1946 whether such a vehicle could be produced, Vice Admiral Arthur W. Radford, at the time the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Air, replied: "Nothing is impossible."A decade later, in 1955, studies were being conducted under contract from the Department of Defense by the All American Engineering Company while aviation pioneer John K. (Jack) Northrop was designing such craft. The All American vehicle was to alight on and takeoff from the water on "hydro-skis"; once on the water the craft could be "sealed" and submerge. Although nothing resulted from these studies, by the early 1960s the U.S. Navy was ready to invest in such a vehicle. A Navy engineer working on the project, Eugene H. Handler, explained, in a 1964 article in the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, "there is... a tremendous amount of [Soviet] shipping in the Soviet-dominated Baltic Sea, the essentially land-locked Black Sea, the Sea of Azov, and the truly inland Caspian Sea. These waters are safe from the depredations of conventional surface ships and submarines." The Navy's Bureau of Naval Weapons -- at the time responsible for aircraft development -- awarding a contract to Convair in 1964 to examine the feasibility of a "submersible flying boat," which was being called the "sub-plane" by those involved with the project. The Convair study determined that such a craft was "feasible, practical and well within the state of the art." The Bureau of Naval Weapons specified a set of design goals: air cruise speed 150 -- 225 mph air cruise altitude 1,500 -- 2,500 feetair cruise radius 300 -- 500 n.miles maximum gross takeoff <>
To submerge, the pilot would cut off fuel to the engines, spin them with their starter motors for a moment or two to cool the metal, close butterfly valves at each end of the nacelles, and open the sea valve at the bottom of the fuel tank. As the seaplane submerged, water would rise up into the fuel tank beneath the rubber membrane, pushing the fuel up into the engine nacelles. Upon surfacing, the fuel would flow back down into the tank. The only impact on the engines would be a cloud of soot when the engines were started. When the engines were started their thrust would raise the plane up onto its skis, enabling the hull, wings, and tail surfaces to drain. The transition time from surfacing to takeoff was estimated to be two or three minutes, including extending the wings, which would fold or retract for submergence. Only the cockpit and avionics systems were to be enclosed in pressure-resistant structures. The rest of the aircraft would be "free-flooding." In an emergency the crew capsule would be ejected from the aircraft to descend by parachute when in flight, or released and float to the surface when underwater. In either situation the buoyant, enclosed capsule would serve as a life raft. The craft would have a two-man crew and could carry mines, torpedoes or, under certain conditions, agents to be landed or taken off enemy territory. The Navy Department approved development of the craft, with models subsequently being tested in towing tanks and wind tunnels. The results were most promising. But in 1966 Senator Allen Ellender, of the Senate's Committee on Armed Services, savagely attacked the project. His ridicule and sarcasm forced the Navy to cancel a project that held promise for a highly interesting "submarine." Although the utility of the craft was questioned, from a design viewpoint it was both challenging and highly innovative. DARPA would do well to check the Navy's historical records as it embarks on the development of a flying submarine -- -oops, I mean submerging seaplane.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Turkey Ship Harassed Oil Vessels, Says Cyprus

Cyprus has complained to the United Nations, saying a Turkish warship harassed two oil and gas exploration vessels earlier this month, documents showed yesterday. The move is likely to cast a shadow over talks aimed at reunifying Cyprus, an island divided along ethnic lines after Turkey invaded in 1974 and occupied the north. “The two ships were forced, by the Turkish warship, to cease their operations and withdraw within the territorial waters of the Republic of Cyprus, under fear for the lives of their crews and the integrity of the ships,” Cypriot President Demetris Christofias said in a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon released yesterday. The foreign-flagged exploration ships were carrying out surveys on November 13 on behalf of the Greek Cypriot government when the incident occurred, Cyprus said in its formal protest. Last year, Cypriot moves to tap potential deepwater reserves in the Mediterranean angered Turkey, with Ankara declaring that oil and gas exploration could upset negotiating efforts. The reunification talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriots commenced in September and are expected to continue into 2009.“The gravity of the incident cannot be overstated, taking into account the crucial time in relation to the efforts for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem,” said Christofias in the November 14 letter. “I can only convey the dismay of my government over what transpired,” he said. Cypriot authorities had not disclosed the incident before. Greek Cypriots have defined eleven offshore blocks south and south east of the island for hydrocarbon exploration, with large areas still uncharted. A senior Cypriot energy official said on November 21 that authorities were close to awarding an exploration contract to a US based firm for one of the blocks, and that negotiations were ongoing with two more companies for a further two blocks. The island planned to hold a second licensing round, a process where companies express an interest in exploration, in June next year, he said. Christofias said the vessels were 27 miles off the south coast of the island when the incident occurred. They were within, he said, Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The Turkish warship said they were in the Turkish zone. Such a zone defines a maritime boundary, normally 200 nautical miles from the shore, within which a country maintains exploitation rights.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cruise Ship Rescues Four From Yacht

A cruise ship docked 24 hours late in Australia Sunday after taking a detour to rescue four people from a sunken yacht. The Pacific Sun, a P&O vessel, received a distress signal from the Sambaluka, which had struck a reef in the Coral Sea, the Brisbane Times reported. The ship was on the way back to Brisbane after a 7-day cruise to New Caledonia, the Loyalty Islands and Vanuatu. Capt. Justin Lawes said this was his third rescue but his first while in command. One of his main concerns was how accurately his charts described the area."There's always an element of risk and danger involved in any rescue operation," he said. "We were using charts last surveyed in 1974, but some waters around Australia haven't been surveyed since Captain Cook's time." Mark Iaconetti of New Zealand , captain of the Sambaluka, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. the reef he hit did not appear on the charts he was using. He and the others on the yacht, another New Zealander and a French couple, were able to survive because a French rescue plane dropped a life raft.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

World’s Biggest Cruise Liner Launches

The world’s biggest cruise ship was launched yesterday when its milestone float-out ceremony took place. The 220,000-tonne leviathan, called Oasis of the Seas, is being built by American company Royal Caribbean at the STX Europe shipyard in Turku, Finland. The 1,187ft vessel, that can carry 6,296 passengers, is so big that its exhaust stack retracts so it can pass under bridges as it travels the world. Representatives from the owners and the shipyard turned a wheel to let the water into the dry dock where the 65% finished vessel is still being built. The £700 million (€827m) vessel is 40% bigger than any other cruise ship afloat and it has a Central Park-style open-air space aboard the size of a football field with its own micro-climate.The world-first attraction means that guests can have the option of a sea or tree view. Completing the attractions is a 750-seat AquaTheater concept, modelled on an ancient Greek amphitheatre, located at the stern of the ship which allows guests the chance of lounging around the biggest pool afloat in the day and then going back at night for shows including acrobatics, synchronised swimming, water ballet, and professional high-diving. Other amenities include loft-style apartments and an ice rink. The ship will be completed next year.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Indian Warship Praised For Sinking Pirate Ship

An anti-piracy watchdog group on Thursday welcomed an Indian warship’s destruction of a suspected pirate vessel in waters off Somalia, where hijackings have become increasingly violent and the hijackers increasingly bold. In a rare victory in the sea war against Somali pirates, the Indian navy’s INS Tabar sank a suspected pirate “mother ship” in the Gulf of Aden and chased two attack boats on Tuesday. Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur said he was heartened by the Tabar’s success. “It’s about time that such a forceful action is taken. It’s an action that everybody is waiting for,” Choong said. “If all warships do this, it will be a strong deterrent. But if it’s just a rare case, then it won’t work” to control the unprecedented level of piracy in the Gulf of Aden, he said. The pirates have stunned the maritime community with their brazen attacks, highlighted by last week’s hijacking of a Saudi-owned supertanker loaded with $100 million worth of crude oil.
INS Tabar (F44)
A spokesman for Vela International Marine Ltd., the tanker’s owner, said the company “took the decision to maintain no comment” on issues concerning the tanker, including the ransom demanded for release of the vessel and the 25-member crew. Spokesman Mihir Sapru said he could neither “deny nor confirm” that negotiations between the pirates and the oil tanker’s owners are under way. The Indian navy said the Tabar, operating off the coast of Oman, stopped the ship because it appeared similar to a pirate vessel mentioned in numerous piracy bulletins. It said the pirates fired at the Tabar after the officers asked it to stop so they could search it. Indian forces fired back, sparking fires and a series of onboard blasts — possibly caused by exploding ammunition — which destroyed the ship. Since the beginning of the year, 95 ships have been attacked in the Gulf of Aden. Of those, 39 were successfully hijacked. Eight were hijacked in the last two weeks. Besides India, other countries including the U.S. and NATO have warships patrolling the area. But attacks have continued off Somalia, which is caught up in an Islamic insurgency and has had no functioning government since 1991.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fishing Boat Capsizes off Gampo

A 79-ton fishing boat capsized 72 km off the east of Gampo, South Gyeongsang Province at around 2:42 a.m. on Wednesday. Three crew members, including 49-year-old Hwang Yong-jin, have been rescued and hospitalized for hypothermic shock and injuries. Seven others, including 46-year-old captain Kim Chung-gil, are missing. “I was sleeping with five other colleagues in a cabin, but awoke when I felt the boat suddenly tilting. I then saw water leaking in,” said Hwang. “We were locked in the cabin but managed to swim out of there at dawn, thanks to the lifesaving equipment. Before I went to bed, I had seen our captain and some other crew members on the deck and in the steering room.”The total of 10 crew members included captain Kim, eight Korean sailors, and one Indonesian national. The boat departed Port Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, to go crab fishing at 8 a.m. on Tuesday. They reported a shipwreck at 3:25 a.m. before losing contact. The Pohang Coast Guard said, “We are looking for the missing people with one helicopter and over 10 patrol boats, but because of strong winds of 12-14 m/sec and a high tide, it is currently difficult accessing the wrecked boat.” An official at the Pohang Coast Guard said, “As the crew members were sleeping, we are guessing the capsizing wasn’t due to an engine defect, but because of the strong winds and high tide.”

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mandate Keeps NATO From Hijacked Tanker

NATO has no plans to intercept the Saudi supertanker hijacked by Somali pirates since its warships in the area have no mandate to board captured merchant vessels by force, a spokesman said Tuesday. NATO officials have said the hijacking of the 318,000-ton UAE-owned MV Sirius Star on Saturday took place in a part of the Indian Ocean far removed from the area where an alliance flotilla has been operating since last month. The four-ship contingent was dispatched to the region under a U.N. mandate to escort vessels chartered by the WFP to Somali ports, and to conduct patrols designed to deter pirates from attacking merchant ships transiting through the Gulf of Aden. Two warships - the Greek frigate HS Themistokles and the Italian destroyer ITS Durand - are escorting cargo ships chartered by the World Food Program to carry food aid from Mombasa to Mogadishu. A Turkish frigate, the TOG Gokova, and the British frigate HMS Cumberland are conducting deterrence patrols in the Gulf of Aden, where they engaged in a firefight last week with pirates attempting to hijack a Danish ship. The area where the Sirius Star was attacked, located about 520 miles (833 kilometers) southeast of Kenya - closer to Tanzania than Yemen - is far outside the range in which Somali pirates are normally considered a threat.
"This attack took place a thousand miles away from where one would normally expect this type of attack to take place," Alliance spokesman James Appathurai told reporters. "The NATO ships could have intervened to prevent the seizure had they been there ... but what they don't have the mandate to do is to board ships that have already been hijacked to free the crew." "NATO's mandate is not related to interception of hijacked ships outside the patrol area," Appathurai said. "I'm not aware that there's any intention by NATO to try and intercept this ship." Attacks on the 20,000 commercial vessels sailing around the Horn of Africa are up 70 percent this year. The pirates are reported to use some of the $100 million they received in ransom payments to acquire better and faster boats, global positioning systems and satellite phones that help them in locating the merchant ships. A number of shipping companies are said to be considering rerouting their vessels from transiting through the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal, and instead sending them around the Cape of Good Hope. Experts say this is a much longer journey that would add 12-15 days to the trip at a cost of btw $20,000-$30,000 a day to the cost of the journey. The attack on the Sirius Star is not the first time that pirates have targeted an oil tanker. In April, they used rocket propelled grenades in a failed effort to board the Takayama, a Japanese tanker.

Purple Heart Recipient Back Into The Fight After Injury

Wounded in a convoy operation, one NCO couldn't wait to get back into the fight. Seven weeks after almost losing a leg in a mortar attack during an Operation Iraqi Freedom mission, Tech. Sgt. Jerome Baker not only returned to duty but also volunteered to stay in the area of operations for an additional 70 days. Sergeant Baker, the 56th Logistics Readiness Squadron training NCO at Luke Air Force Base, was on his third tour of duty in Iraq this year when he was wounded in action. Sergeant Baker was assigned to a protective service detail in Baghdad for a high ranking officer. His team's duty was to provide security and transport the officer as he traveled around the city and beyond. Sergeant Baker was familiar with his assignment and the country. For five months in 2003, he was assigned to convoy duty and for seven months in 2004 to 2005, he served in an armed convoy escort with the Army. He volunteered to go back to serve in his most recent tour because, as he put it, "Unless I am out there doing my job and getting shot at, it's just not worth it." And get shot at he did. "Insurgents started throwing rockets into the Baghdad area on Easter Sunday -- 105- and 107-mm rockets, that were 5 or 6 inches round, and 5 to 6 feet long," Sergeant Baker said. "Until that point, it had been pretty quiet. The first attack was at 5 a.m. and from then on for the next week or so, we were getting seven to eight attacks a day. It was just, 'Boom! Boom! Boom!' all day long." In one of the first attacks, Sergeant Baker's armored sport utility vehicle was hit by a rocket. Luckily, no one was in it at the time and the only casualty was the truck itself. But March 26 brought a rocket attack that would change the NCO's life. "I was outside in front of a building working on the wiring of one of the trucks that didn't get blown up and the incoming rocket alarm went off," Sergeant Baker said. "I started running for cover and within five seconds, the first rocket landed 400 to 500 meters away from me. Two seconds later, I could hear another rocket coming. When one comes toward you, it sounds like a jet engine. It was getting louder and louder. I got down behind a large concrete curb right before I saw it hit. I felt the concussion wave, saw a big fan of smoke and heard the shrapnel hitting the building, blowing out windows."Sergeant Baker paused for a second and then kept running for the front door. He was less than 5 feet from the front entrance of the building when a third rocket hit. "I saw the rocket hit about 30 feet from me, and I thought it had hit the ground," he said. But in reality, the rocket had hit a vehicle parked in front of the building. A piece of the truck blew off, ricocheted off of the building and flew up the driveway, hitting Sergeant Baker. "As I was running, I saw this thing about the size of a dinner plate coming at me and I tried to dodge it," he said. "I turned my body away from it, but it hit me in the upper right thigh; taking out my legs. I went down face first, and smashed my elbow and knee on the curb where I fell. At first, I thought about my elbow and knee and how much they hurt. But when I started moving, I couldn't feel my right leg. It was numb and I could see blood coming through my uniform." His colleagues dragged him to safety and applied first aid until medics arrived. The medics continued caring for the wounded NCO and transported him to a combat surgical hospital. Unfortunately for Sergeant Baker, another patient in worse condition had to be taken into surgery first. After three hours of waiting, he went in. The shrapnel that hit him had missed a major artery in his leg by half an inch, but took out a large chunk of flesh. The surgeons cleaned and stitched up the wound. The next day, as Sergeant Baker was awaiting transport to Joint Base Balad, Iraq, the general he was working with told him he would be receiving the Purple Heart. But even the presentation of that award would not go without incident. "I was in the hospital, and the rocket attacks started again," Sergeant Baker said. "I was moved, along with everybody else, into the hallway away from the windows. And I got my Purple Heart right there in the hospital hallway. I couldn't fully appreciate it at the time because I was too worried about losing my leg and just wanted to get out of the city." A day later, Sergeant Baker was medically evacuated to Joint Base Balad and then to another air base in Southwest Asia, where he stayed for the next six weeks. When he got his stitches out 10 days after arriving there, the doctors discovered the wound had become infected, and they had to remove more muscle in his leg that had died off. After the second surgery, Sergeant Baker continued to do everything the doctors told him he needed to do to heal, and continued to focus on returning to the fight. "I kept asking the doctors when I could go back to Baghdad. I was just sitting on my butt for six weeks and I was going crazy!" he said. "I was used to working 12-plus hour days, six or seven days a week and wanted to get back and do my job."After six weeks, the doctors let Sergeant Baker go back to Baghdad, where his boss made him wait another week before getting back to work. "I begged him to let me get back to work," he said. "I told him I would take care of my leg, and it would be fine. Besides, they needed bodies, and I was available." Just seven weeks after being wounded in action, Sergeant Baker went back to work on convoys. Even though his leg wasn't completely healed, he said he was working on missions outside the wire; glad to be back in the saddle. In June, his team was short one member, and Sergeant Baker volunteered to stay on for an extra 70 days to fill the vacancy. "They asked me if I was sure I wanted to stay," he said. "I told them that I wanted to make up for the seven weeks that I was out of commission, so we filled out the paperwork, and I stayed." Sergeant Baker is now back at Luke AFB and adjusting to life stateside. "Coming back this time, it was harder to adjust," he said. "Over in Iraq, we controlled the roads; people got out of our way. We had lights and strobes and signs that told people to stay back or get shot. Here, cars are right next to you on the road, and I am just waiting for something bad to happen. I'll see a piece of trash on the side of the road, and wonder, 'What is that doing there?'" Physically, Sergeant Baker is having circulation problems in his injured leg. With the damage to the soft tissue, his blood will flow down his leg, but it won't flow back up on its own, causing painful swelling. He has to wear an anti-embolism stocking to control the swelling whenever he knows he is going to be standing or up and about. He can walk, but can't stand for more than an hour or run. Sergeant Baker said he plans to see a specialist about a third surgery to help with the circulation problems in his leg. Despite the obstacles caused by the rocket attack, Sergeant Baker said he would go back and serve in Iraq.

Threat Reported On Bremerton Ferry

The Washington State Patrol says a threat has forced a state ferry to turn around and return to Bremerton. Trooper Krista Hedstrom said it happened about 12:45 p.m. Tuesday, about five minutes after the ferry left Bremerton.Hedstrom said an anonymous 911 caller said he overheard two men saying there was going to be a terrorist attack on the ferry. The caller disconnected and dispatchers were not able to get the man's name or number. Coast Guard officials said the ferry turned around and was immediately off-loaded. State ferry spokeswoman Susan Harris said the Bremerton terminal is closed while the ferry Hyak is there. She said another ferry leaving Seattle for Bremerton has been redirected to Bainbridge Island.The incident is being handled by the Department of Homeland Security, and the Coast Guard sent three small patrol boats to the Bremerton terminal. Video from AIR 4 showed police searching with dogs the passenger terminal and area around the docked ferry, and a bomb squad was called to the scene.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Australian Navy To Shut Down Over Christmas

Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon says a two-month Navy shutdown over Christmas has been ordered to give staff a rest as the Navy continues to grapple with staff shortages. The shutdown will involve all ships not on operational duties and some staff will be allowed to work from home. Mr Fitzgibbon says the Government is working to address staff shortages in the Navy. "We're doing a lot of work trying to find new and innovative ways both to retain skilled people and recruit new people and this is an interim initiative designed to just give some rest and respite to people in Navy where we have our biggest challenge," he told a reporter."These people have been facing an extended period of operational tempo and it's just a way of saying thank you and encouraging them to stay in the service rather than leave." He has also not ruled out further Christmas shutdowns in the future. "There's no reason why we can't have a longer stand down period each Christmas and we're looking at all sorts of ways of encouraging people to stay," he said. Mr Fitzgibbon says a review is under way into family work balance in the Navy. "By the first part of next year we should be in a position to place some new initiatives to help us better retain those people and indeed recoup more people to the services more generally," he said.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Students Were 75 Feet From Shore When Boat Sank In The Fox River

Investigators said that the Chicago students who drowned in the Fox River were 25 yards from shore when their boat sank. Students from North Lawndale College Prep were on the last day of an eight-day leadership retreat at Camp Algonquin when some students sneaked out of a dorm and pushed six paddle boats into the river. One, with two teens onboard, quickly sank as it took on water. A boy on the shore swam in the river to try a rescue, but he soon went under as well.
Rescue workers pulling a paddle boat out of the Fox River.
The students who died were Melvin Choice III, 17; Jimmy Avant, 18; and Adrian Jones, 16. Illinois Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Stacey Solano said Saturday that authorities will interview the trip's chaperons and 16 students who left the dorm. She said officials must still confirm that the boats sank because plugs had been pulled from their bottoms in preparation for winter.

High Court Rules for Navy in Sonar Case

The Supreme Court lifted restrictions on the Navy's use of sonar in training exercises off the California coast, a defeat for environmental groups who say the sonar can harm whales. The court, in its first decision of the term, voted to allow the Navy to conduct realistic training exercises to respond to potential threats by enemy submarines. Environmental groups had persuaded lower federal courts in California to impose restrictions on sonar use in submarine-hunting exercises to protect whales and other marine mammals. Environmentalists link sonar to beached whales, internal bleeding around marine mammals' brains and ears, and other damage. The Bush administration argued that there is little evidence of harm to marine life in more than 40 years of exercises off the California coast. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, which was joined by Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Six justices agreed with the outcome, although Justice John Paul Stevens did not join the majority opinion. Justice Stephen Breyer would have allowed some restrictions to remain, while Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter said the prospect of harm to the whales was sufficient to justify limits on sonar use.The court did not deal with the merits of the claims put forward by the environmental groups. It said, rather, that federal courts abused their discretion by ordering the Navy to limit sonar use in some cases and to turn it off altogether in others. The overall public interest tips "strongly in favor of the Navy," Roberts wrote. He said the most serious possible injury would be harm to an unknown number of the marine mammals. "In contrast, forcing the Navy to deploy an inadequately trained anti-submarine force jeopardizes the safety of the fleet," the chief justice wrote. In dissent, Ginsburg said that the Navy's own assessment predicted substantial and irreparable harm to marine mammals from the service's exercises. Ginsburg said that "this likely harm ... cannot be lightly dismissed, even in the face of an alleged risk to the effectiveness of the Navy's 14 training exercises." Roberts pointed out that the federal appeals court decision restricting the Navy's sonar training acknowledged that the record contained no evidence marine mammals had been harmed. The exercises have continued since the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled in February that the Navy must limit sonar use when ships get close to marine mammals. A species of whales called beaked whales is particularly susceptible to harm from sonar, which can cause them to strand themselves onshore.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Greece & Turkey Standoff Over Survey Ship Ends

A standoff between a Greek and a Turkish navy ship in the Aegean over a Turkish-sponsored oil prospecting survey ended yesterday after the operation was called off, Greek officials said. A Norwegian survey ship commissioned by the Turkish government to conduct the search was departing after Greek officials complained to Norwegian and Turkish authorities, the Greek foreign ministry said. “Under the international convention on the law of the sea, a large part of this area includes a continental shelf (seabed) belonging to Greece,” foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said. The Norwegian ship, the Malene Ostervold, on Friday began prospecting for oil in the southeastern Aegean near the Greek island of Kastellorizo, escorted by the Turkish frigate Gediz, Koumoutsakos said. A standoff ensued when a Greek gunboat was dispatched in the area to impress “that this sort of research requires permission from Greek authorities,” the Greek general staff said.
The Malene Ostervold
The Malene Ostervold departed shortly after midnight after the Norwegian ambassador had been summoned by the Greek foreign ministry, but returned early on Saturday morning, the general staff said. The incident ended after Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis called her Norwegian counterpart Jonas Gahr Store, Koumoutsakos said. Oil prospecting and quake research in the Aegean, a highly seismic sea believed to hold oil reserves, has been a habitual cause of tension between Greece and Turkey for the past two decades and nearly led to war in 1987. Greece has many islands a short distance from the Turkish coast. On the basis of post-World War II treaties, it claims waters which Turkey insists are neutral. Turkey also questions Greek claims to airspace around these islands. Greek warplanes are routinely sent to intercept Turkish fighter aircraft whenever they enter these zones, leading to the occasional mock dogfight. But relations between the neighbours have markedly improved in recent years. Greece is supporting Turkey’s bid to join the European Union, a number of confidence-building measures have been enacted, and high-level military delegation visits - once unthinkable - are now exchanged on a regular basis.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Pirate-Seized Tuna Boat Has Japanese

A Chinese tuna boat with a Japanese crew member has been hijacked off Kenya, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported Friday.The Japanese crew member, who has not been identified, was among 24 people on board the Tanyo 8 when it was seized Thursday night, Xinhua reported, quoting an unnamed official at the Chinese Transport Ministry.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Korean Ship Forced To Return To Harbour

The Mumbai harbour witnessed high drama as a South Korean ship was forced to return as it attempted to leave the shores defying a Bombay High Court notice on consignment unloading, sources said on Thursday. The captain of the South Korean vessel MV Han Splendor tried to speed away on Wednesday night after court officers served the legal notice, but a Coast Guard vessel intercepted the ship and brought it back to the harbour, they said. The notice has been served after an Indian steel firm moved the court not to allow the ship to leave the harbour until its consignment was unloaded at the contracted price. “The court issued an order stating that the ship cannot leave the harbour without the permission of the Coast Guard and the high court,” a senior police official said. On Wednesday three officials, two from the police and a bailiff, boarded the Korean vessel anchored near Alibag from a Coast Guard vessel to serve the document. However, the captain of the vessel decided to weigh anchor and leave the city’s harbour and the private firm arranged for a fishing boat to allow the Indian trio to disembark, they said. As the Han Splendor attempted to leave, the Coast Guard vessel deployed there established radio contact with the Korean vessel and forced it to return to its original position, sources said. After high drama in mid sea for over a couple of hours the ship was brought back to the harbour, they said.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

India-Bound Turkish Ship Hijacked

A Turkish ship heading for India has been hijacked off the coast of Yemen, state-run Anatolian news agency said today. The Karagol, with 14 Turkish crew on board, was transporting chemicals to Mumbai when it was hijacked by unidentified attackers. Last month pirates in Somalia hijacked a Turkish ship off the lawless Horn of Africa country.
The Karagol
Indian Navy today foiled an attempt by heavily-armed pirates to capture two merchant vessels, including an Indian flag carrier, off the notorious Somalia coast. Yesterday, the Indian warship INS Tabar foiled pirate attacks on an Indian cargo vessel MV Jag Arnav and a Saudi carrier MV NCC Thihama within 25 nautical miles of each other. A statement from the Turkish Maritime Affairs Directorate said the Karagol was hijacked 26km off the coast of Yemen.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Saluting In Civilian Clothes

A provision of the 2009 Defense Authorization Act changes federal law to allow U.S. veterans and military personnel not in uniform to render the military hand-salute when the national anthem is played. The new law took effect on October 14. This change adds to a provision which was passed in the 2008 Defense Bill, which authorized veterans and military personnel in civilian close to render the military salute during the raising, lowering or passing of the flag. In a press release, Department of Veteran Affairs Secretary Dr. James B. Peake said, “This provision allows the application of that honor in all events involving our nation’s flag.”Traditionally, veterans’ service organizations rendered the hand-salute during the national anthem and at events involving the national flag while wearing their organization’s headgear, although this wasn't actually spelled out in federal law dealing with respect to the flag. As with all other Americans, the etiquette is to place the right hand over the heart. U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, an Army veteran, sponsored both pieces of legislation. “The salute is a form of honor and respect, representing pride in one’s military service,” Inhofe said in a written statement. “Veterans and servicemembers continue representing the military services even when not in uniform. The U.S. Code is now consistent for veterans and all service members in regards to the symbolic gesture of the military salute.”

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Six Rescued As Boat Sinks In Foveaux Strait

Six people were saved by a passing ferry when their boat began to sink in the Foveaux Strait near Stewart Island today. The six were believed to have been out fishing or diving when their boat began to sink, Invercargill Senior Sergeant Dave Raynes said.They sent out a mayday call at 12.10pm and were rescued by a nearby ferry which makes regular crossings between Bluff and Stewart Island. Police were talking to the six about the cause of the incident. It was not known why the boat sank.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Fears Around Rusting Ship

The seized fishing vessel Taruman was left drifting in the River Derwent after it lost power while leaving port. Witnesses said the rusting hulk, carrying 270,000 litres of heavy fuel oil, came close to running aground on the rocks off Bellerive Bluff on Saturday, potentially causing an environmental disaster. But TasPorts said the vessel was never in serious danger. The FV Taruman has been rusting on Hobart's Macquarie Wharf since June 2005, when it was seized by armed customs officials for illegally fishing for patagonian toothfish in the Southern Ocean. The tender to scrap the ageing vessel was only recently awarded, but the operation to move the vessel to the scrap yards in India did not go to plan on Saturday. While manoeuvring the vessel away from port late on Saturday afternoon, the ship's engines failed to fire and it began drifting helplessly across the river towards the Eastern Shore, pushed on by strong winds.
FV Taruman
An accompanying vessel Kap Favel, which was also headed for the scrap, had to turn around at Taroona and limp back to the scene to tow the much larger ship to safety. The Taruman was undergoing emergency repairs off Blinking Billy Point yesterday. Witness Roger King, who put in a rival bid to scrap the vessel, said a disaster was averted only by a change in the wind direction. "They had a pilot on board who probably saved the day at the end of it all -- there were no tugs to tow it to safety," Captain King said. "It came very close to Bellerive Bluff." He said due diligence maintenance works to the ship's engines did not appear to have been done before it left port. TasPorts spokesman Charles Scarafiotti played down the incident. "I don't think there was any risk or danger there -- when they realised they didn't have power the other vessel took over," Mr Scarafiotti said. In 2006 Spanish fishermen from the Taruman were fined $118,000 for illegal fishing.

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