Saturday, January 31, 2009

Norway To Raise Nazi Submarine Wreck

Norway's government has said it plans to surface a Nazi submarine loaded with mercury that sank off its shores in 1945 that poses an environmental hazard. "The fact that the wreck contains about 67 tonnes of mercury poses a significant threat to the environment," Norwegian Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs Helga Pedersen told reporters . "We took this decision out of concern for the environment, the fishermen and the local population," she said. The U-864 German sub was torpedoed in the North Sea on February 9, 1945 by the British submarine HMS Venturer as it sailed to Japan, a Nazi Germany ally, with its cargo of mercury destined for arms manufacturers and the blueprints for a new modern jet fighter, the Messerschmitt Me 262.The 73 sailors on board were killed. Broken in two, the vessel now lies on the seabed at a depth of 150 metres (almost 500 feet), two nautical miles (3.7 kilometers, 2.3 miles) from Fedje Island off Norway's west coast. Located in 2003, the wreck has been leaking several kilogrammes (pounds) of mercury a year, an insoluble pollutant that has prompted health concerns among the local population. The refloating operation is technically complex. The procedure will be carried out by Dutch company Mammoet, which also lifted the Kursk, a Russian nuclear submarine that sank in the Barents Sea in 2000, claiming the lives of its 118 crew. The operation is expected to take place in 2010, at a cost estimated at up one billion kroner (€113 million), according to Norwegian media. Norwegian coastal authorities had recommended leaving the submarine in place and covering it with a sarcophagus.

Royal Navy Helps To Train Iraq’s New Sailors

Since 2003 a largely unsung and unnoticed Royal Navy team has led the rebuilding of the Iraqi Navy, all of whose ships and small craft were destroyed or disabled during the military, naval and air actions that accompanied the US-led occupation of the country in 2003. Within the next few weeks 32 Iraqi sailors will move to La Spezia in Italy to pick up the first of four 390-tonne Saetta MkIV patrol vessels built by Fincantieri. After training they will sail her 6,000 miles — three times her normal range — to the base at Umm Qasr at the top of the Arabian Gulf. This is a giant leap for an Iraqi naval service that has existed for barely five years and has only operated small craft in home waters. The present Iraqi Navy has never before left the Gulf. As the British officers commanding the naval transition team are all too clearly aware, the Royal Navy’s people are in the country as guests, and require their trainees’ consent to be effective. An early decision was made that the Iraqi Navy should be a secular organisation and this is how it remains — Shias work alongside Sunnis with few problems. Family is crucial and religion plays a central part in their lives. British instructors are full of praise for the courage of the people they train, in an environment where even to be clean-shaven carries a risk. What is the purpose of the Iraqi Navy? It must police and defend Iraq’s coast and territorial rights where the waterway border is in dispute and navigational hazards are considerable. Generating 90 per cent of Iraqi income, the two offshore oil platforms and the Khawr al-Amaya and al-Basra oil terminals must be protected.Iraqi sailors and marines must deter aggression, smuggling and other illegal activities. The Royal Marines have been teaching boarding in what are known as “compliant” and (euphemistically) “non-compliant” scenarios. The US Coastguard trains Iraqi personnel in anti-narcotic operations. Huge progress with shoreside infrastructure has been made under American guidance. All the Royal Navy training staff are keenly aware of the vital necessity for getting out on the water right at the beginning of training and learning the practice of seamanship (as happens at Dartmouth and most other naval academies). Right from the start the philosophy has been: “Put them in a boat for four days and drive around, one has a fighting chance of teaching the theory on day five. Start in the classroom — and there’s no chance.” The “small boat mentor” was a young leading seaman, who taught shiphandling and weapons skills. His humour and language were as salty as one would expect from a sailor who has a practical message to get across — and he was greatly liked by his charges. Delivering today and building for tomorrow is not easy in Iraq. Given the area’s recent history and the devastation that has been visited on it, it is astonishing that anything can be made to work. Administration can be dysfunctional; the prevailing “Insh’allah” (“God willing”) mindset militates against forward planning and systematic engineering maintenance; budget management and logistic support can be difficult. But leadership is being learnt. The present CO of the naval transition team, Captain Phil Warwick, is broadening trainees’ experience and raising their ambitions through voyages in coalition warships and participation in helicopter patrols. “For the first time, the Iraqi personnel are outgrowing their current equipment,” he reports. The new vessels are a modification of the Dicotti class patrol boats already in service with the Italian Guardia Costiera and the Maltese Maritime Squadron. With their offshore patrol capability (they have a range of 2,100 nautical miles at 16 kts) and their complement of four officers and 34 crew, they will add a completely new dimension to the Iraqi naval experience.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Quick Action Helped Ship Stranded In SF Bay

Investigators say a ship pilot's quick action helped avoid disaster after a tanker lost power as it passed under the Golden Gate Bridge.Capt. Dave McCloy had just minutes to stop the Overseas Cleliamar from crashing into the Marin Headlands cliffs. He quickly dropped anchor—the only thing he could do without any power or steering.The 741-foot oil tanker was briefly stranded near the bridge Tuesday night. The Coast Guard says no injuries or pollution resulted from the incident. In November 2007, another ship, the Cosco Busan, rammed into a Bay Bridge support tower, leading to a major oil spill.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Japan Fishing Boat Seized By Russia

Russia has captured a Japanese fishing vessel with 10 crew members on board and Tokyo is pressing for their release, officials here said yesterday. The No 38 Yoshi Maru was seized by Russian authorities late Tuesday in waters between the two countries and has been taken to the Russian port of Nakhodka, Japanese government officials said. Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura, quoting Russian officials, said the crew members were safe and well. “We have asked for an early release of the crew and the ship from a humanitarian viewpoint,” government spokesman Kawamura told a news conference. The 122-tonne ship was seized as it was catching crabs in waters about 480km north of Japan’s western Tottori prefecture, Japanese officials said. Russia and Japan have frequently clashed over fishing rights. But Tuesday’s incident took place in the Sea of Japan (East Sea), not near disputed islands where previous incidents have occurred.
Yoshi Maru No 38
Japan and Russia have not yet signed a peace treaty to end World War II because of the dispute over the islands, which the Soviet Union seized days after Japan surrendered in 1945. Yesterday, the territorial row was re-ignited as Japan separately announced that it had cancelled humanitarian aid to the four disputed Russian-held islands, north of Japan’s northern main island of Hokkaido. Japan has provided medical services and humanitarian aid supplies to Russians on the islands - known as the Southern Kurils in Russia and Northern Territories in Japan - as part of an effort to solve the territorial row. But “immediately before unloading a ship, Russia demanded the disembarkation card be submitted in addition to the usual procedures, which was not acceptable from Japan’s position”, the ministry said in a statement. Japan and Russia in 1991 agreed to allow Russian residents on the islands and Japanese nationals to pass freely without visas.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Army Testing MCS Cannon

The lightweight Future Combat Systems XM-360 120mm cannon -- designed to sit atop the new Mounted Combat System -- was test-fired here Jan. 22. The XM-1202 Mounted Combat System is one of eight new vehicle types that the Army is developing through its FCS modernization program. The FCS vehicles will be lighter and more mobile than current Army combat vehicles; yet officials promise they will have greater lethality and survivability. Lighter and more survivable vehicles are required to combat a growing array of new and more sophisticated threats, officials here said. Greater speed and mobility, coupled with better surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, can enhance operational effectiveness, while improving survivability, they said. Composite FCS armor, for instance, which is being developed at Aberdeen, provides better armor protection at significantly less mass and weight. “This will change the nature of warfare,” said Rick Crozby, an official with the Combined Test Organization for the FCS Brigade Combat Team at Aberdeen. “With these new [FCS] technologies, our Soldiers will have the ability to checkmate their enemies before their enemies even know that they’re there.” FCS is being developed at dozens of test and development sites nationwide, and some of the significant work is being done at Aberdeen. Maj. Cliff Calhoun, assistant product manager for the Mounted Combat System, said the test-firing is one of several that would occur over a few days that would bring the total number of firing trials for the cannon to 1,000. The weapon, he said, is significant because it is as powerful as the one mounted on the M1-A2 Abrams tank -- also a 120mm gun -- but comes in with significant savings in weight and provides automation that will help prevent the loss of lives. "The Mounted Combat System is going to feature an automatic ammunition handling system," Calhoun explained. "Our current force Abrams has a crew of four men -- a gunner, tank commander, driver and loader. On the MCS, there's a crew of three men -- an automated loader takes care of that loading function. So instead of having four Soldiers in harm's way, only three Soldiers are in harm's way with the MCS." The MCS carries up to 27 shells that are for a mechanized loader to pull into the cannon. The automated system means that Soldiers do not need to hand-load the heavy shells. Coupled with other FCS technology, the MCS will also bring beyond-line-of-sight capability to the battlefield, Calhoun said."In the current force, a tank can engage everything it can see out to about three kilometers -- if you can see it you can engage it," he said. "With the MCS, you are going to be able to -- through the network -- engage targets beyond line-of-sight." The FCS constellation of equipment includes two unmanned aerial vehicles -- the XM-156 Class I UAV and the XM- 57 Class IV UAV. Either of those could be beyond the line-of-sight of the MCS, spotting potential threats, and then feed targeting information into the FCS network for use by MCS commanders. "If we have an enemy vehicle on the far side of a terrain feature, for example, the network will be able to send imagery back to the MCS and we can engage and destroy in distances exceeding 10 kilometers," Calhoun said. The armament on the MCS mission module is also going to be lighter, as a result of carbon-fiber composites and an aluminum frame construction, said Edward Hyland, of Benét Labs. "Our main goal was that we wanted all the performance of a current gun, but in a lightweight compact package," Hyland said. "To do that we looked at the entire design of the gun, at every part, and asked how can we make it lighter and push it to the edge." Hyland said the Army, in cooperation with defense contractor General Dynamics, looked at new high-strength gun steels, lightweight alloys, titanium, aluminum, and carbon-fiber composites. "The barrel on the Abrams tank is over 2500 pounds," Hyland said. "Using these high- strength steels and carbon-fiber composites, we've taken off over 800 pounds from that. (The MCS gun) weighs a little over 1,700 pounds -- 800 pounds lighter than the Abrams. That's just the gun barrel. We did the same thing with the breech assembly and the recoil assembly. Overall the net weight savings is well over 2,000 pounds, actually 2,400 to 2,500 pounds lighter than the current gun -- yet it has all the capabilities of that gun." Hyland said a gun as powerful as the 120mm cannon needed to be modified to reduce recoil, so it would be compatible with the lightweight MCS vehicle. "What we had to do was drop the recoil forces so we could fire from a lightweight platform," Hyland said. "We did that in two ways. We added a muzzle break to the gun tube and also optimized recoil system -- like a shock absorber on a car. We've optimized it for this lightweight platform." Hyland said that modifications to the cannon did not make it any less effective or accurate, and that in the last three or four years of testing, they have demonstrated the gun has met accuracy, recoil and weight requirements for FCS. The recent series of test-firings of the XM-360 120mm cannon will bring the system to technology readiness level 6, which means the system has been demonstrated in a "relevant environment" and represents a "major step up in a technology's demonstrated readiness."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Greek Sailor Killed By Pirates Off Cameroon

A Greek sailor was shot dead by pirates off the coast of Cameroon at the weekend, the West African country's state radio broadcaster said on Monday. Around 30 pirates travelling in three boats attacked one Greek vessel in the Atlantic off Kribi, south of main port city Douala and were taking it towards international waters when a sister ship gave chase."The pirates then opened fire on the second vessel, climbed into the cabin and shot the captain ... three times in the neck," the radio report said. All other 40 people on board the two Greek vessels were rescued by Cameroon's navy later on Saturday, while the body of the captain was recovered on Monday.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Ship Sinks In Vietnam Killing At Least 39, Five Missing

At least 39 people drowned and five were missing after a river boat accident in Vietnam Sunday when a crowded vessel sank while taking people to a market, online news site VnExpress said. The boat sank in strong currents 65 feet from shore on the Gianh river in central Quang Binh province, a survivor and a provincial official were quoted as telling the VnExpress online news portal. "They have already recovered 39 bodies," Quang Binh provincial people's committee chairman Phan Lam Phuong was quoted as saying. "Most of them are women and children.They have saved 36 other people." Five people remained missing hours after the accident that happened at 0100 GMT on the river south of Vinh city, the online report said. The accident happened in chilly temperatures when passengers stood up in a rush to get off the boat as it approached a pier on the river, one of the survivors, identified as Cao Thi Huong, 39, was quoted as saying. The boat, carrying about 80 people, had been licensed to carry 40 to 50 people, said the report. Police detained the captain and owner of the boat, 44-year-old Nguyen Xuan Quy, while investigating the accident, VnExpress said.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cargo Ships Collide In Fog

Two cargo ships crashed in the middle of the Chao Phraya river on Saturday morning, as the capital was covered with thick fog. There were no reports of casualties, as crew jumped into the river and swam to shore after the crash. Two crew members sustained minor injuries. The fog caused some flights to change their landing destination to Don Mueang airport as the visibility was poor at Suvarnabhumi airport.
Chao Phraya River
Meanwhile, the Meteorological Department said thick fog would continue in the north, east and central regions in the next day or two. The Department's Saturday bulletin said that a new cold front was on its way, and thick patches of morning fog will occur in Bangkok, central, northern and eastern regions on Saturday with temperature drops of 2-4 degrees Celsius drops during the Chinese New Year weekend.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Iranian Ship Searched For Arms

The U.S. military intercepted and searched an Iranian-owned ship that officials feared was carrying arms to the militant group Hamas, but two officials said it was unclear Thursday whether those suspicions were founded. The Cypriot-flagged commercial vessel was tracked by a U.S. Navy ship in the Red Sea over the weekend, one official said. It was boarded and searched with the consent of the vessel's crew on Monday and Tuesday, said another. They both spoke on condition of anonymity because details were still sketchy and they were not authorized to speak about it on the record. One official said the two-day search turned up ammunition that included artillery shells; and since Hamas is not known to use artillery, officials are now uncertain who the intended recipient was. "There's just a lot of things we don't know yet, and it will be a couple of days before we do," he said. Lt. Stephanie Murdock, a spokeswoman for the U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain, said she had no comment on the operation.But the two other defense officials said the vessel was allowed to continue its voyage after the search. One official said Egypt has been asked to a fuller search once the ship arrives in port. Israel launched a 22-day offensive late last month on Hamas-controlled Gaza to try to permanently halt years of militant rocket fire on growing numbers of Israelis and to halt the smuggling of arms that turned Hamas into a threat to much of southern Israel. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was in Brussels on Thursday, hoping to get a deal committing the European Union to contribute forces, ships and technology to anti-smuggling operations, Israeli officials said. Most of the smuggling has been carried out through tunnels underneath the eight-mile border between Egypt and the Gaza border. Egypt has not been able or willing to stop the flow of weapons and medium-range rockets through the tunnels, along with fuel and consumer goods. Israel bombed most of the tunnels during the offensive.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Narrow Miss By Cruise Ship, Fishing Vessel In LA Port

The Coast Guard is investigating the near-collision of a commercial fishing vessel and a cruise ship in Los Angeles harbor's main channel. The Coast Guard says the 31-foot-long fishing vessel reportedly crossed within about 30 feet of the front of the inbound cruise ship Wednesday morning. The Coast Guard did not identify the vessels in a statement issued Thursday.Lt. Cmdr. John Hennigan says federal law prohibits vessels from coming within 200 yards in front and 100 yards behind or to the sides of a cruise ship that is under way. The Coast Guard says there have been several recent similar incidents in the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Turkish Tanker Sinks Off Southern French Coast

The crew of a Turkish tanker escaped unharmed after their vessel crashed into rocks and sank just outside the southern French port of Marseille overnight, the local maritime authorities announced Wednesday. Turkish tanker sinks off southern French coast, all crew safe. None of the 10 crew members of the 84-metre-long Gunay 2 were hurt in the accident, in which happened just after the vessel had left the port bound for the Italian port of Livorno. The tanker was carrying 3,000 tons of wheat at the time, but local officials said they had detected no pollution or any spillage of the cargo from the ship.
Gunay 2
The Gunay 2 crashed into rocks and sank in bad weather 4.2 nautical miles (eight kilometers) off the coast just south of the little island of Planier, where a lighthouse warns of the dangerous waters in the area. Its front starboard (right-hand-side) was caved in, letting in water to that part of the ship. Six people from the ship's crew were taken safely to the port after the accident while the captain and three more people stayed on board to help rescue teams, the Anatolian Agency said. Tugboats will tow the damaged vessel back to port on Wednesday, officials added.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Active-Duty Retirees Die Sooner Than Reservists

Department of Defense actuaries have discovered significantly higher mortality rates among active duty retirees compared to reserve retirees, and the disparity stretches back decades. In any given year, looking at populations of non-disabled military retirees age 60 and older, the death rate for active duty enlisted retirees is 20 to 25 percent higher than for reserve enlisted retirees. Active duty officer retirees who are 60 and older die in numbers roughly 10 percent higher than retired reserve peers. All retired officers, and retired reserve enlisted members, still live a few years longer, on average, than the general population. But for retired active duty enlisted, it’s about even with other Americans. Defense officials haven’t done a study to explain death rate differences among military retirees. Speculation centers on stresses of full time service including past wars, frequent moves, constant physical activity to stay in shape, and stress-induced habits such as smoking and alcohol consumption. Another possible factor, one official acknowledged, is that active duty retirees rely for decades on military health care. That’s not a knock on the care but on the fact that patients and doctors are reassigned frequently and continuity of care can suffer compared to what reservists experience. The mortality rate differences were revealed during a DoD Board of Actuaries meeting last August. They were presented to support a recommendation that retirement cost projections should begin to use dual mortality rates, one for active duty retirees and a lower rate for reserves. The board accepted the change. But one board member was unnerved by the finding of different mortality rates in the military retiree population. “Are you startled by this? I was,” John Hartnedy told fellow board members and policy advisers at the meeting, according to a transcript. Later that day, after more board business, Hartnedy reopened the issue.“I just can’t get this mortality difference out of my head,” he said, calling higher death rates for active duty retirees “very troublesome.” “Is there something out there that we can do, or that we can look at, to maybe explain this a little bit?” Hartnedy asked. It “just troubles me to no end that our active life military retirees are dying off at a rate like that.” Peter Rossi, one of the DoD actuaries who compiled and analyzed the numbers, was there last August to share results with the board. In several recent phone interviews, Rossi has explained what he and colleagues found. They looked back to the mid-1970s in calculating mortality rates for non-disabled reserve retirees, who retire at age 60, and active duty retirees. Though active duty members can retire after 20 years, only deaths of retirees 60 and older were used to make rate comparisons with reserves. Controlling for gender differences and also for whether retirees are rated as disabled by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the actuaries still found sharp differences in death rates, particularly between enlisted retirees. In fiscal years 2004 and 2005, for example, the proportion of deaths reported among active duty officer retirees, 60 and older, was 10 percent higher than for reserve officer retirees. The rate difference was 22 percent for active duty enlisted retirees versus enlisted reserve retirees. “The 22 [percent] gets you into a range where you really start to raise eyebrows,” said Jack Luff, experience studies actuary at Society of Actuaries’ headquarters in Schaumburg, Ill. “That’s worth looking into further because it’s more than you would expect.” Rossi also produced average life expectancy comparisons. In 2004, for instance, 60-year-old active duty enlisted retirees had an average life expectancy of 19.6 years. That was nearly two years short of life expectancy (21.5 years) for reserve enlisted retirees. How significant is two years? “Very,” Rossi conceded. He noted that the life expectancy difference between male and females in the general population at age 60 is three to four years. So a two-year spread between reserve and active duty enlisted retirees at 60 is “a big difference,” he said.“We all know that if you’re a man [and have] a spouse of the same age, she is going to outlive you. But active and reserve, same age, and we have a significant probability the reservist is going to outlive the active duty member? That is startling,” Rossi said. Luff concurred, pointing out that two years is also the life expectancy gap at 60 between a woman who smokes cigarettes and one who doesn’t. The life expectancy gap at 60 for officers also favors reservists over active duty retirees, by nearly a year, 24 versus 23.1. But both groups live longer from age 60 than Americans in general. That average life expectancy at 60 is just under 20 years if gender weighted to match military retirees. Tom Bush, a senior policy official for reserve affairs, suggested to the board last August that more active duty retirees might have used tobacco or alcohol more often than did reservists. Hartnedy suggested post-traumatic stress might be a factor, even controlling for VA-rated disabilities. “I would think that kind of mental strain” from years on active duty “would have an impact…very long term, after retiring,” he said. The board’s discussion shifted to whether frequent reactivation of Reserve and Guard personnel to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan will result, years from now, in a rising death rates for reserve retirees. “Maybe that mortality [rate] would converge to the same number” with wartime deployments by reservist, Rossi suggested at the meeting. “Unfortunately,” Luff told me this week, “that’s a probable conclusion.” If mortality rates do climb for reserve retirees, said Hartnedy, “it may tell us something about how we treat them when they come back.” Bush assured the board that the department and the services were reaching out to returning veterans to find and treat stress-related conditions.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Myanmar Fishermen Survive Month At Sea On Ice Box

Two Myanmar fishermen were rescued off the coast of Australia after surviving almost a month at sea floating on a portable ice box. The men, aged in their 20s, were recovering in Thursday Island Hospital off northern Australia after they were found on Jan. 17.The fishermen were dehydrated and exhausted, it said. The men said 18 other people were on board a 10-meter wooden fishing vessel when the boat sank on Dec. 23, Seven reported, adding the vessel didn’t have any life rafts.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Coast Guard Accelerates Icebreaker Operations

As temperatures drop below zero throughout the region, the Coast Guard remains on the water serving and protecting ports and ships. As icy rivers slow to a trickle, the missions of Coast Guard units in Northern New England pick up pace. The Coast Guard operates four ice breakers in Maine which keep rivers, including the Penobscot, and harbors clear for commercial ships, some of which supply the area with home heating fuel. As record temperatures freeze waterways faster than normal, the full effort of Coast Guard ice breakers is required. "We are just wrapping up a cycle of ice breaking on the Penobscot River where the ice was nearly a foot thick," said Cmdr. Brian Downey, of Sector Northern New England. "We have to be ready for emergency calls from harbormasters or commercial operators who need ice cleared to ensure commerce continues - its cold but very important work," he said. This winter, expected to be one of the coldest on record, will be the first in more than four years that the river will be used commercially. In Brewer, the newly-built Cianbro manufacturing plant will use barges to transport prefabricated materials to Texas. Coast Guard crews brace as the mercury plummets to 20 degrees below zero in Caribou, Maine, where the Coast Guard operates a long range navigation radio station."Last year, our four-member crew in Caribou was plagued with record breaking snow fall of over 100 feet", Downey said. This year, the challenge is the temperature. But Downey said with their skills and resolve, the crew continues to transmit their important navigation signal to mariners. "We're very proud of their ability to adapt and overcome environmental challenges," he said. Coast Guard units in Northern New England have important year-round missions that don't stop when it's cold. "Even during a week like this, with frigid temperatures, we continue our fishing vessel safety examinations, law enforcement boardings, and commercial shipping safety and security duties," Downey said. He said in the winter, the crews use state-of-the-art anti-exposure suits to protect against frost bite and hypothermia. The Coast Guard warns everyone working in the harsh and unpredictable marine environment to take extra care and precaution against the cold. "These temperatures can be deadly for anyone not properly prepared," Downey said. He said during a dangerously cold week like this, the Coast Guard remains true to its vision: All Threats, All Hazards, Always Ready.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Elderly Couple Vanishes From Cruise Ship

An elderly couple who disappeared from a cruise ship during a four-day cruise from California to Mexico may have jumped from their balcony. Carnival Cruise Lines said the couple, a 90-year-old man and his 79-year-old wife, boarded the Carnival Paradise in Long Beach, Calif., Monday. When the ship returned to port Friday, they had disappeared."Their cabin door was double locked from the inside with a do-not-disturb sign on the handle and the door leading from the cabin to the balcony was unlocked," the company said in a statement. "The couple's personal belongings remained inside the cabin." The ship, which carries more than 2,000 passengers, makes short cruises out of California to Catalina Island and the Mexican port of Ensenada in Baja California.

Hundreds Feared Dead After Ship Sinks

Hundreds of people are missing and feared dead after boats carrying about 400 African migrants capsized near Yemen on Saturday, the UN says. At least a dozen bodies have washed ashore in Yemen, said Laila Nassif, who heads the United Nations High Commission for Refugees office in the coastal city of Aden. Nassif said two boats carrying some 300 migrants capsized in the Red Sea. Only 30 people have been rescued so far, and rescue efforts were complicated by bad weather in the area, Nassif said. In another incident, a boat carrying 120 migrants capsized in the Arabian Sea and 80 of the migrants made it safely to shore, Nassif said.All of the ships originated in Somalia, the UN official said. Hundreds of Africans die every year trying to reach Yemen, with many drowning or being attacked by pirates and smugglers in the dangerous waters separating Somalia and the Arabian peninsula. The UN refugee agency last year reported that more than 43,500 migrants - mostly Somalis - arrived illegally by boat to Yemen. In 2007, Yemen had reported more than 1,400 dead and missing while crossing into its shores from Africa.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Shipyard Gets $373M To Plan Carrier CVN-79: Keel-Laying For The Ship That Will Follow The Gerald R. Ford Is Scheduled For 2013.

Just four months after receiving a $5.1 billion contract to built the lead ship of the Navy's next generation of aircraft carrier, Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding received another lump of money to begin planning the ship following it. The Navy awarded the company a $373.5 million contract for design, advanced planning and procurement of certain parts for the yet-to-be-named carrier, known as CVN-79. The 21-month contract provides for research and development efforts with suppliers, and it allows for the purchase of materials that take years to produce, like machinery for the carrier's nuclear propulsion plant. By the end of the year, about 300 Northrop employees will be assigned to the carrier, which will be built in Newport News. The timing of the contract is "beneficial to both the Navy and our shipbuilders," said Mike Shawcross, Northrop's vice president of the Ford-class building program. The company's Newport News shipyard, the only one in the country to make nuclear-powered aircraft carriers for the Navy, is scheduled to lay the keel of the CVN-79 in 2013. The Navy plans to commission the carrier in 2019, four years after the service is scheduled to enter the first ship of the class, the Gerald R. Ford, into the fleet. Thursday's contract sends a clear signal that the Navy is committed to continuing to build carriers for the future fleet, but it provides money only for advanced planning on the ship. A full construction contract probably won't follow until at least 2012.If, the Navy and Congress opt to continue with the ship, its construction would add stability to Newport News' manufacturing base. At its peak in 2012-13, Northrop will have about 4,500 workers employed on the Ford. And as production would wind down on that ship, work on the CVN-79 would build, allowing Northrop to retain its experienced shipbuilders. Including advanced design work and initial acquisition costs, the Navy projects the price tag for the Ford to come in about $13.9 billion. Recurring costs for future Ford-class ships, including the CVN-79, will be about $8 billion. That $8 billion includes all government-furnished equipment, such as combat systems, radar and communications, and other new equipment. The Navy plans to build 11 Ford-class aircraft carriers, and construction is projected to continue through 2058. The Ford class will include many of the design features of the Nimitz class, but Northrop and the Navy have added several new technologies to the ships, including a new flight deck with an improved weapons handling system, advanced arresting gear to catch landing aircraft, a re-engineered launch system and a new nuclear propulsion plant design. The redesign will allow the Navy to increase the daily number of flights on and off the ship from 120 to about 160. Design changes also allow for about 700 fewer sailors required in the ship's company, resulting in significant cost savings for the Navy -- a key initiative being pushed by the service's leaders.

Friday, January 16, 2009

14 People Evacuated From Alaska Platform After Moored Boat Carrying Diesel Fuel Sinks

A moored boat sank after bumping into an oil rig platform Thursday, spilling some of the vessel's diesel fuel into the Cook Inlet and forcing 14 people to evacuate from the rig. The Coast Guard said it received a mayday call early Thursday from the captain of the Monarch, an oil supply vessel. The captain reported that the 166-foot vessel was taking on water at the Granite Point platform, which is owned by Chevron Corp. The Coast Guard said seven rig workers and the boat's seven crew members were evacuated by helicopter from the platform as a precaution. The Coast Guard earlier had said the boat's crew chose to stay on the rig. Coast Guard spokeswoman Sara Francis said ice pinned the vessel against one of the legs of the platform, creating a possibly unsafe situation, but seven workers remained on the platform. Some of the vessel's diesel fuel spilled, Francis said, and it was impossible to place containment booms around the site because of the ice and extreme tides in Cook Inlet.The Monarch was carrying approximately 35,000 gallons of diesel fuel when it began taking on water.Union Oil Co. of California, a subsidiary of Chevron that operates the platform, chartered the vessel to deliver supplies to the platform, said Roxanne Sinz, a Chevron spokeswoman in Anchorage. The vessel, which is owned and operated by Ocean Marine Services Inc., overturned after it came into contact with the platform, she said. Coast Guard Petty Officer Walter Shinn had said there was "a lot of ice around the platform" and that the winds were blowing around 30 mph Thursday. A representative of Ocean Marine Services, which is based in Kirkland, Wash., had no comment Thursday. The Coast Guard was working with the vessel owner on a salvage operation. The platform is in the northern section of Cook Inlet about 45 miles southwest of Anchorage.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

2 Die When Boat Capsizes On Fishing Trip; 4 Others Rescued

Mike Hanna spotted trouble as he panned across the roiling water near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. A capsized boat. A cooler. A canteen. Lifejackets with no one in them. Two Arizona men, who had come with four others to fish for stripers, died Tuesday morning when their 18-foot boat overturned and dumped them into 45-degree water, police said. But Hanna, manager of the Maryland Pilots Association Cape Henry station, and other rescuers saved four men. Coast Guard watchstanders heard the first beckon for help at 9 a.m.: ''Mayday, mayday.'' The boaters from Arizona either didn't know how to pinpoint their location or didn't have time. But the Coast Guard cross-checked the signal from several rescue towers and dispatched a crew from Little Creek. Petty Officer Robert Polson soon saw the capsized boat, then a man, half in and half out of the water, clinging to the engine. Two Maryland Pilots launch captains saw a Coast Guard rescue helicopter hovering and a swimmer in the water, hoisting people into a basket. Matthew Bailey and Reed Sutherland could see three people clinging to the side of the overturned fishing boat. They found one man floating about 100 yards from the overturned boat and pulled him onboard with them. Hanna, in another pilot launch boat, saw two other men in camouflage gear, but without life jackets, floating face down. Rescuers knew they didn't have much time: In 45-degree seas, hypothermia would set in and a person would be unconscious in 30 minutes to an hour. About a half-hour after the mayday call, Virginia Beach Fire Capt. Billy Burket was driving over the Lesner Bridge and saw a hovering helicopter and a Virginia Pilot boat. Burket, a member of the department's marine team, was headed to Ocean City, Md., to conduct a seminar on cold water survival. His cell phone rang. It was the pilot tower: ''Bill, we have six people in the water here.''Burket turned around, hopped on a pilot boat and headed for the scene, where they pulled alongside another Virginia pilot boat. ''We got two patients on here,'' they called over. Burket jumped to the other boat. One man was in cardiac arrest, and the second had hypothermia. Burket thought the victim's heart could fail at any minute. He asked the man his name, but got no answer. ''Let's get this boat in,'' he told the pilot boat captain, and they headed for awaiting medical help. As rescuers worked, their boats bobbed in 3- to-5-foot waves and 20- to 25-knot winds whipping near-freezing air. Burket said the fingers of men performing CPR went numb within 10 minutes. By then, the Coast Guard's rescue swimmer, Petty Officer Drew Dazzo, had hoisted two people into the helicopter and made sure four others were on rescue boats. Allen Dedrick, 69, and Ned Rokey, 89, died in the accident. Coast Guard Lt. Kevin Saunders said none of the men were wearing life jackets or immersion suits, which are recommended if there's a chance of being exposed to cold water. The fishermen apparently made a habit of hauling their boat all the way from Arizona to fish for striped bass at this time of year. Recently, the director's office at the Virginia Beach Department of Parks and Recreation had received a letter from Ric Rokey, of Mesa, Ariz. Rokey wanted ''to send along an Atta-Boy'' to the men who run the Lynnhaven boat ramp. ''For the past five years we have been making the long drive ... to your city,'' Rokey wrote. ''We arrive in early December to chase stripers for a week ... then store the boat and truck ... and fly home for Christmas. We then fly back to Virginia Beach for another week of fishing ... '' Rokey said one man at the marina takes photos of them boarding their boat in the morning, then leaves the pictures on their car windshield. ''That is just one example,'' he wrote, ''of how ALL of those guys act when we 'Zonies' arrive at the ramp.''

Navy Revises Short-Term Extensions

The Navy announced a new policy for short-term extensions which will impact Sailors in overmanned ratings, physical fitness assessment (PFA) failures and some Perform to Serve (PTS) applicants. According to NAVADMIN 007/09, commanding officers may not authorize short-term extensions for Sailors in overmanned ratings without NPC's approval except to obtain obligated service required to complete initial entry training, execute permanent change of station (PCS) orders or an Individual Augmentee assignment, to obtain maternity care benefits for a member's wife or pregnant servicewoman, or to meet a fleet reserve date. Under the new policy short-term extensions for the purpose of passing the physical fitness assessment are not authorized for Sailors who cannot pass the Navy's PFA and have failed three times within a four-year period. Short-term extensions are no longer authorized for undesignated Sailors, also known as Gendets, who have not been selected for a rating or converted in the first six months of the 12-month PTS window.Commands are required to review all short term extension requests to ensure they are executed for valid program and career management reasons. Sailors are not authorized to execute short-term extensions to remain on active duty to complete a college course prior to separation. Short term extensions are not authorized for Sailors awaiting examination results or for Sailors awaiting additional quotas for automatic advancement under any automatic advancement program, such as command advancement program. "The main reasons a Sailor would need a short-term extension is to complete a deployment, match their EAOS (end of active obligated service) to their PRD (projected rotation date) extend to complete training, or for maternity benefits," said Master Chief Navy Counselor (SW/AW) Tom Albert, assigned to Navy Personnel Command (NPC). Short-term extensions are conditional extensions that extend a members enlistment contract anywhere from one to 23 months. Affected overmanned ratings will be updated quarterly or as needed and overmanned rating lists will be posted with status of extension requests, procedures, guidance, and frequently asked questions at the NPC enlisted career progression webpage.

Navy Announces Decision On Mayport Homebasing

Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Installations & Environment, B.J. Penn, signed a Record of Decision for the Mayport Homeporting Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Jan. 14. The Navy's decision is to implement the preferred alternative, which is to homeport a single nuclear powered aircraft carrier (CVN) at Naval Station (NAVSTA) Mayport, and to complete associated infrastructure modifications. These include dredging, infrastructure and wharf improvements, and construction of CVN nuclear propulsion plant maintenance facilities. "We have studied this issue very carefully and considered multiple factors," said Donald C. Winter, Secretary of the Navy. "This allows the Navy to obtain the benefits of fleet dispersal without negatively impacting our carrier capability or operations. Homeporting a carrier in Mayport best supports the Navy's mission and safeguards our nation's security needs." Homeporting a CVN at NAVSTA Mayport reduces risks to fleet resources in the event of natural disaster, manmade calamity, or attack by foreign nations or terrorists. This includes risk to aircraft carriers, industrial support facilities, and the people that operate and maintain these crucial assets. Mayport allows for advantages of fleet dispersal and survivability without impacting operational availability.On the West Coast, the fleet accepted some reduced operational availability associated with homeport dispersal. Ships lose operational availability during the additional transit time required to reach operational and training areas from the Pacific Northwest. By establishing a second CVN homeport on the East Coast, the Navy gains the dispersal advantage without the increased transit time. The proximity to training areas and transit time to operating areas is about equal from Norfolk and Mayport. West Coast CVN homeports and maintenance facilities are not viable options in planning for Atlantic Fleet CVN assets in the event a catastrophic event occurs in the Hampton Roads area. The nuclear powered aircraft carriers are too large to transit the Panama Canal, requiring a 12,700 nautical mile voyage around South America to reach the closest CVN homeport on the West Coast at NAVSTA San Diego. The EIS examined potential environmental consequences of constructing and operating facilities and infrastructure associated with homeporting additional surface ships at NAVSTA Mayport. It assessed 13 alternatives, including a "no action" alternative. The EIS evaluated resources in the Mayport area that may be affected by the proposed action, such as air and water quality, biological resources (such as marine mammals and threatened and endangered species), land use, cultural resources, and socioeconomics. The EIS also accounted for cumulative impacts from other activities in the Mayport area.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Army Mulls Weight-Loss Camp for New Recruits

The Army has been dismissing so many overweight applicants that its top recruiter, trying to keep troop numbers up in wartime, is considering starting a fat farm to transform chubby trainees into svelte soldiers. Maj. Gen. Thomas Bostick, head of the Army Recruiting Command, said he wants to see a formal diet and fitness regimen running alongside a new school at Fort Jackson that helps aspiring troops earn their GEDs. Bostick told The Associated Press that obesity looms as "a bigger challenge for us in the years ahead" than any other problem that keeps young people from entering the military, including lack of a GED or high school diploma, misconduct or criminal behavior and other health issues such as eye or ear problems. According to Defense Department figures provided to the AP, over the past four years 47,447 potential recruits flunked induction physicals at the nation's 35 Military Entrance Processing Stations because they were overweight. That is a fraction of the 205,902 such exams given in 2005 and 250,764 in 2008, but still amounts to a hefty number and comes at a time when the military is more interested than ever in recruits. The Army and Marine Corps together paid more than $600 million over the past year in bonuses and other financial incentives to attract volunteers. While the services have reported exceeding their recruiting goals in the past year, the Pentagon remains under pressure to find a constant flow of recruits. The Defense Department has announced plans to boost the active duty Army by 65,000 to a total of 547,000 soldiers by next year, and grow the Marines from 175,000 to 202,000 by 2011. Obesity afflicts recruits for other physically demanding jobs, including firefighters. Deputy Chief Ed Nied, chair of the safety, health and survival section of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, said fire departments are also making a "major push" to encourage better fitness among young people who want to join."We draw from the same exact population that they (the military) draw from," Nied said from his Tucson, Ariz., headquarters. "This comes from a lack of physical education in the high schools." In an interview during a visit to the Army's largest training installation, Bostick said a slim-down camp could be part of the new Army Prep School at Fort Jackson, S.C. The school opened in August, and gives recruits who didn't graduate from high school the chance to earn a GED before starting their nine weeks of basic training. "We are looking at the Army Prep School as a place where we might send some (recruits) that have weight issues," the two-star general said. The prep school is housed in several one- and two-story buildings on a small part of this sprawling training installation. The classrooms and living quarters are Spartan. GED candidates wear Army uniforms, exercise before breakfast and study under the guidance of enlisted officers. They do not mix or conduct weapons training with soldiers participating in the nine weeks of basic training maneuvers elsewhere on the fort. Bostick argues that many of the young people who want to join the Army have a hard time understanding a healthy diet and the importance of daily exercise, but could get within the military limits with guidance. "It took them 18 years to get to where they are at, so it's very difficult for them to lose the kind of weight that they need to on their own," said Bostick, who did not provide any timing for when his idea might reach fruition, nor any projection of its potential cost. Lawrence J. Korb, a former Pentagon chief of personnel during the Reagan administration, said the Army has to fight even harder than the other service branches to get the recruits they need. "The Army has a tough time recruiting as compared to the other services," said Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington. He said the burden for fighting an unpopular war in Iraq has fallen primarily on the military's largest service. "They are doing this because they are desperate," Korb said. Recruiters echo Bostick's worries about weight issues among potential candidates for the military."I'd say that out of every 10 applicants that come in, probably three we couldn't take - they are obese," said Sgt. Darryl Bogan, a recruiter in Columbia. An additional 20 percent to 30 percent of recruits are slightly overweight, but some can get the weight off, Bogan said. "We are getting heavier as a nation as far as our young people are concerned," Bogan said. Besides basic weight and height guidelines, Bogan said the Army uses body fat percentages and an aerobics test to determine whether recruits can withstand the rigors of basic training. Recruits must step up and down on a riser at a certain rate per minute, then perform some push-ups and sit-ups and have their heart rates measured. One of Bogan's recruits, 18-year-old Idalia Halley, was shocked when she found she was a few pounds too heavy to enter boot camp. "My mom was like, 'You better come run with me,'" Halley recalled, saying it took several weeks of healthy eating and runs with her Army-veteran mom to finally get into the service. On her second try, Halley said she weighed in at 162 pounds and logged a 30 percent rate of body fat to meet the Army's standard. Toting her M-16 during weapons exercises in basic training, Halley said she'd slimmed down even more in the first weeks of training. "I know I've lost some weight because I have to pull my pants up tighter," the Army private said. "And besides, I don't think the food's all that great - except breakfast."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Chinese Naval Force Protects Taiwanese Ship From Somali Pirates

A Chinese naval task force began escorting a Taiwanese merchant ship and three other vessels in the Gulf of Aden in a mission to protect them from Somali pirates. Two Chinese special forces teams are aboard the merchant ships, which departed yesterday, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The Chinese destroyer Wuhan is accompanying the ships. Ties between the governments in Taipei and Beijing have improved since Ma Ying-jeou became Taiwan’s president last May, ending the pro-independence stance of his predecessor. China last month deployed vessels to escort merchant vessels along Somalia’s Indian Ocean coast and the Gulf of Aden after the United Nations Security Council authorized naval forces to fight pirates in the area. Buccaneers seized 40 ships last year.
Chinese destroyer DDG-169 Wuhan
A second destroyer, Haikou, will join the mission at a later stage, Xinhua reported. The vessels are among the most sophisticated in the Chinese navy, carrying anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles, Xinhua said last month. Between January and November last year, 1,265 Chinese commercial ships passed through Somalia’s waters, according to China’s Foreign Ministry. About one-fifth of those ships had confrontations with pirates, ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said last month. The Chinese force will escort the Taiwanese merchant ship as well as two vessels from Shanghai and one from the Philippines, according to Xinhua. Taiwan and China, which regards the island as part of its territory, have been ruled by separate governments since the end of a civil war in 1949, when Mao Zedong’s victorious communist forces took control of China’s government and drove Chiang Kai- shek’s Nationalist army to Taiwan.

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