Wednesday, October 28, 2009

'Mini Herc' Set To Join Air Force Fleet

Air Force plans to include the C-27J Spartan, the latest propeller-driven airlifter planned for the Air Force inventory, are steadily progressing. In April, through Resource Management Decision 802, Defense Secretary Robert Gates moved the C-27J program and its related direct support mission from the Army to the Air Force. Since April, the Air Force and Air Mobility Command have taken a serious approach to building the program, officials said. "The program is in transition from an Army-led joint program to a sole Air Force program," said Lt. Col. Gene Capone, AMC's C-27J test manager at the Joint Program Office. "Making a switch like this is no small affair, especially at this phase in the acquisition process. Because the Army lost all fiscal year 2010 C-27J funding due to RMD 802, the Air Force is funding the Army to continue leading the program through completion of Multi-Service Operational Test and Evaluation." The Air Force will field 38 C-27Js, operated by the Air National Guard. Two are currently going through qualification and operational testing. According to Air Force officials, the C-27J is an "extremely rugged" aircraft, designed for austere environments. And, although it has yet to complete its testing, they say it should thrive in the "dirt." "Think of the C-27J as a 'mini-Herc' -- it looks like and acts like a C-130, but it is about half the size (3.5 pallet positions versus 6 to 8 pallets for the C-130)," Colonel Capone said. "This smaller size brings efficiency of scale to the Air Force's portfolio of airlifters.The colonel also said the aircraft is very powerful and agile. "It flies a lot like a C-130, but with a bit more power for its weight," he said. "Of course, as with most airplanes the pilots who fly the aircraft love it -- myself included." AMC officials here say work to make the C-27J capable of fully supporting the Army's needs in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility is also continuously progressing. "The Secretary of Defense gave the C-27J and its mission to the Air Force and we are 100 percent committed to making this work," said Maj. Gen. Brooks Bash, director of AMC's Air, Space and Information Operations Directorate. A formal test is taking place from October through December in Iraq to gather information on this new Air Force mission. "This test will help us work out the command and control structure of the direct support mission and help us to validate requirements," said Col. Bobby Fowler, also with the Air, Space and Information Operations Directorate. Air Force officials say there is still a lot to do as more and more C-27s come into the inventory. "A concept like this will take time and effort, but most importantly it will also require feedback from the forces," Colonel Fowler said. AMC and Air Force officials plan to continuously review and update the C-27J using input from field commanders until it is incorporated into joint doctrine.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sailors Rescue Civilian Mariner at Sea

A merchant mariner who fell overboard was rescued by coalition naval assets operating as part of Combined Task Force (CTF) 152 in the Central Arabian Gulf. USS Benfold (DDG 65) received a distress call and reported it to CTF 152, which coordinated the rescue efforts from its operations headquarters in Bahrain. Benfold arrived on station and assumed duties as the on-scene commander, directing the Lynx helicopter embarked aboard HMS Kent (F 78), a Royal Navy Type 23 Frigate, to search for the missing mariner. Kent received information that the man had fallen overboard while conducting routine Maritime Security Operations (MSO) in the Arabian Gulf more than 150 miles north of where the incident occurred, . Kent's helicopter was launched at first-light this morning to conduct search and rescue efforts. The search lasted an hour before the missing mariner was spotted.
USS Benfold (DDG 65)
"Safety of life at sea is something close to every mariner's heart," said Cmdr. Simon Hopper, Kent's commanding officer. "As Sailors, we hope that we will never be a position to need assistance. I'm delighted that Kent was able to respond to the distress of another mariner and save a life." The helicopter spotted the mariner who had been adrift in the water for approximately six hours and rescued him. He was then flown aboard Benfold (DDG 65) where he was medically evaluated and deemed fit for duty. The man was then returned to M/V Peter Paul. "We train for incidents such as this all the time," said Air Engineering Technician Mike Purcell. "Saving the life of another Sailor and highlighting the importance of being able to respond to such incidents at the drop of a hat, shows how important this training really is." Benfold and Kent are deployed to the Combined Maritime Forces area of responsibility to conduct MSO, which complements the security activities of Gulf Cooperation Council nations.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mystery Of Sinking Ghost Boat

Mystery surrounds the sinking of a boat off the coast north of Darwin. The boat was spotted by fishermen who watched as it sank quickly before their eyes last week. But authorities have been unable to find out what happened to the vessel or its owners. Fisherman Brent Matthews, 28, said he and his mate saw the boat as it was about three-fourths submerged as they returned from a fishing trip in Shoal Bay at about 6.45pm last Wednesday. "There was no one around, no gear floating in the water," he said. "The boat sank quickly before our eyes and within minutes it was completely submerged. We did a survey of the surrounding area looking for the occupants but could not find anyone." He said the boat was about 4.5m long and looked in relatively new condition.
Brent Matthews captured this picture just as the boat went under
It was about 800m from shore so he searched up and down the coast for any of the vessel's occupants. "I scouted along the coast - I did a little bit of a grid pattern looking to see if anyone was floating." He reported the matter to police, who had received several calls. Yesterday police said the area was searched on Thursday morning but there had not been a person nor a boat reported missing recently. Darwin Watch Commander Megan Bakewell said there was nothing further to report in the vessel's fate. "There was no one around the (vessel)," she said. "All indications are that there's no owner to it." Mr Matthews said he hoped the boat's occupants had made it safely to shore and walked home through the mangroves. He said they may have bailed out, or the boat may have drifted off its mooring, or even floated over from the Tiwi Islands.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Japanese Fishing Boat Missing

A Japanese fishing boat with eight crew members was missing in the Pacific after losing radio contact with other boats, the Japan Coast Guard said Sunday. The 19-ton Kofuku Maru No. 1 was 300 kilometres (186 miles) south of Tokyo when it last communicated with the fleet on Saturday afternoon, a local coastguard official said. The coastguard sent patrol boats and helicopters to search for the vessel but by Sunday afternoon had not found the missing crew members, the official said. 'Rescuers started the search in the waters today and reported high waves of some six metres (19.8 feet),' the official said. The fishing boat had planned to return the Shimoda port in central Shizuoka prefecture on Sunday, Jiji Press reported.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Asylum Seekers On Hunger Strike On Australian Ship

Some of the 78 Sri Lankan asylum seekers on board an Australian customs vessel are staging a hunger strike. The Oceanic Viking is making its way to the Indonesian port of Tanjung Pinang where the asylum seekers will be given temporary accommodation while their cases are processed. A spokesman for Australia's Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor said the men on the ship were refusing food but were drinking water. The women and children on board are not involved in the hunger strike. The spokesman said a doctor was on board and will continue to regularly check the passengers' health. The Oceanic Viking, which rescued the asylum seekers from their stricken boat inside Indonesia's search and rescue zone last Sunday, is taking the group to an Australia-funded detention centre on the Indonesian island of Bintan.Meanwhile, a top Indonesian official says Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's plan to pay Indonesia to intercept asylum seekers will top $A50 million, the ABC reports. Four boats carrying asylum seekers have been intercepted in in Australian waters in the past week alone. Indonesia's director-general of immigration has told the ABC Indonesia will need at least $A50 million to adequately process asylum seekers. He said at least $10 million for one checkpoint alone and at least five checkpoints are needed. But the Australian Government will not confirm the amount. Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor says Australia will continue working with Indonesia on the issue.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Spec Ops Helo Crashes Into Navy Ship

An Army Black Hawk helicopter crashed on a Navy ship during training, killing one service member and injuring eight, the Navy said. Service members were rappelling down a rope from the helicopter to the USNS Arctic around 8 p.m. Thursday off the Virginia coast near Fort Story when the crash happened, Navy spokeswoman Lt. J. G. Megan Issac said. The helicopter crashed into the ship's stern and ended up on its side, Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby, commander of the Military Sealift Command, said at a news conference Friday morning at Naval Station Norfolk. A small fire on the ship's deck was quickly extinguished. The cause of the crash was being investigated. A second helicopter took the injured people to a hospital for treatment. None had life threatening injuries, Issac said. Names of the dead and injured and their service affiliations were not immediately released. "We deeply regret that it occurred, but unfortunately, it is part of the business we do at sea," Buzby said.Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Phil Rosi said the training exercise involved the two Army helicopters and members of a Naval Special Warfare unit. "It was a routine visit, board, search and seizure exercise that takes place between Army and Navy units on a fairly regular basis," Buzby said, adding that ships like the Arctic are used because they are similar to merchant ships. The exercise trains the service members on how to quickly board a ship that might be threatened by pirates or terrorists, for instance, Buzby said. The Arctic has returned to Naval Station Norfolk, and the damaged helicopter remained aboard the ship. The Arctic was damaged and will be repaired quickly. Its deck had superficial damage where the helicopter landed, but the ship's propulsion was not affected. Officials said the Arctic has no official home port but frequents naval stations in Norfolk and Earle, N.J.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

China Warns Pirates Who Commandeered Ship

China has vowed to rescue the crew of a coal-laden cargo ship seized by pirates far off the coast of Somalia, but a negotiated settlement is more likely, maritime experts said Wednesday. European naval officials said that the 25 Chinese crew members of the seized ship, the De Xin Hai, were uninjured but that the captors were moving the vessel toward the Somali coast, where the hostages were expected to join 120 other hostages from other countries who are also awaiting their freedom. The seizure of the ship, which was attacked on Monday 700 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia, suggests that pirates are traveling farther offshore in their effort to evade the international flotilla that has been sent to the Gulf of Aden to maintain security in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. The ship had been en route to India from South Africa, filled with about 76,000 tons of coal. It is not the first time a Chinese vessel has been attacked by pirates off Somalia; a fishing vessel, the Tianyu No. 8, was hijacked by pirates last November and a second vessel, the Zhenhua 4, repulsed a pirate attack last December. But maritime experts said the seizure of the De Xin Hai represented the first time that a vessel had been raided so far out at sea, well beyond the corridor, which is 300 nautical miles off the coast, in which ships can expect some protection. “We’ve effectively clamped down and prevented many acts of piracy, which has pushed them further out into the ocean,” said Cmdr. John Harbor, a spokesman for the European Union Naval Force, whose main task is to protect ships carrying food aid to Somalia. Despite a brief lull during the monsoon season that just ended, pirate attacks off the Somali coast have increased this year.
De Xin Hai
In a report released Wednesday, the London-based International Maritime Bureau documented 47 attacks during the first nine months of 2009, up from 12 during the same period last year. Despite the spike in attempted raids, only one in nine was actually successful, compared with one in six last year, according to Cyrus Mody, the bureau’s manager. “It’s primarily because of increased cooperation between naval vessels and merchant ships,” Mr. Mody said in a telephone interview. “The masters of the ships have also learned how to prevent pirates from boarding until help can arrive.” On Tuesday, China issued strong words, suggesting that it might attempt to rescue those captured. “We will continue to follow developments closely and make all-out efforts to rescue the hijacked ship and personnel,” said Ma Zhaoxu, a Foreign Ministry spokesman. Last year China sent three warships to the region, although they, like most patrol vessels, stay within the Gulf of Aden. Shipping experts said the pirates now in command of the De Xin Hai would probably continue heading toward the Somali coast. Once close to shore, the pirates were expected to drop anchor and begin negotiations with the ship’s Chinese owners. Then the haggling presumably would begin. “The normal trend has been a negotiated resolution based on the idea that the safety of the crew is of paramount importance,” said Commander Harbor of the European Union. If recent settlements are any guide, the results will be costly. In August, the owner of a German ship paid $2.7 million to free a crew of two dozen that included Filipinos, Russians and Ukrainians.

Treasure Hunters Seek Lake Superior's 'Holy Grail'

Ninety years after their disappearance in a Lake Superior blizzard, shipwreck hunters are trying to find two French warships that vanished without a trace, taking two Canadian Great Lakes captains and 78 French sailors with them. The wrecks of the Inkerman and Cerisoles, newly built at the Canada Car foundry in what was then called Fort William, Ont., caused the greatest single loss of life in a marine accident on Lake Superior. No one knows what happened to the 50-metre ships and their crews after they left Thunder Bay in late November 1918. Legendary shipwreck hunter Tom Farnquist has taken up the challenge of finding the two minesweepers, the last warships to be lost on the Great Lakes. He wants to answer one of the great mysteries of the Great Lakes: how could two warships built for the Atlantic Ocean simply disappear? The ships were Navarin-type minesweepers designed for clearing the thousands of German and Allied mines laid along the French coast and in the English Channel during World War I. Canada Car had a contract to build 12 of the ships under supervision of French naval engineers. Each ship carried two 100 mm guns with a range of 20 kilometres. The Inkerman, the Cerisoles and their sister ship the Sebastopol, which left Thunder Bay with them, were named after famous French victories. The ships' crews were reluctant conscripts pulled from the trenches of Flanders, who arrived at the Lakehead by train shortly before their ships were to make their maiden voyages. They left Thunder Bay less than a month after the war ended, sailing together into what Farnquist, executive director of the Great lakes Shipwreck Museum in northern Michigan, calls "a classic Lake Superior storm." Canadian Great Lakes skippers Capt. R. Wilson and Capt. W.J. Murphy were on the two ships as advisers. The storm that hit them was packing dense snow pushed by 80 km/h winds that whipped up waves the size of houses. The few ships still on the lake raced for safe harbours while the minesweepers struggled southeast toward Sault Ste. Marie. Two days after the storm hit, the Sebastopol emerged from the storm on the Michigan side of the lake, but the Inkerman and Cerisoles disappeared. Marius Mallor, a French sailor on the Sebastopol, later wrote, "We had to get out the life boats and put on lifebelts ... the boat almost sank – and it was nearly `goodbye' to anyone hearing from us again. "You can believe me, I will always remember that day. I can tell you that I had already given myself up to God." Water had poured into the Sebastopol, flooding part of her engine room and nearly putting out the coal fires in her boilers. After taking shelter near Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula, the Sebastopol struggled through pounding seas for two days before finally reaching Sault Ste. Marie. Capt. De Vaisseaux Leclerc, overall leader of the expedition, waited in vain for the other two ships. The search for the missing ships began Dec. 3, 10 days after the three ships left the Lakehead. Fort William's mayor at the time, Harry Murphy, hinted the two ships might still be sailing somewhere on the Great Lakes, under a shroud of censorship and official secrecy. In the next few days, rumours swept Fort William that the ships could have secretly moved through the locks at Sault Ste. Marie without being registered because they were naval vessels. Stories that the two lost ships had been seen together at Whitefish Bay on Lake Superior by the crew of the steamer Osler also spread along the city's waterfront. There were false reports that the ships were on Lake Huron or Erie, or headed for the Welland Canal. The speculation has never ended. Here's what we do know. In the few weeks between the disappearance of the Inkerman and the Cerisoles and the winter freeze-up, tugboats searched the islands and shoreline of northern Lake Superior. On the U.S. side of the lake, searchers were misled by wreckage cast ashore by the storm that turned out to be from another ship. After that initial search, neither Canada nor France lifted a finger to try to find the resting place of the ships and their crews.Presumably, the two are French war graves. Even in those early days, people connected with the wreck acted mysteriously. Leclerc, the expedition commander, sent a telegram to Thunder Bay suggesting the ships had turned up at the Lake Erie end of the Welland Canal. People in Thunder Bay wondered what was in the sealed orders given to each captain by French authorities as they left Thunder Bay. They were not allowed to open them until they cleared the harbour. If the French government, the Canadian navy and the bureaucrats in charge of investigating shipwrecks did take any interest in the wrecks, their correspondence has been purged from Canadian archives. The federal government's Great Lakes shipwreck registry book, now held in the collection of Library and Archives Canada, has a one-line entry saying the ships disappeared on Lake Ontario. Except for photographs of their construction, Canada Car's records of them have disappeared. Outside of Thunder Bay, there was virtually no press coverage of the loss of the ships. Wartime censorship lasted in Canada until late 1919. Rumour replaced fact. People in Thunder Bay said the ships were built poorly, and a rumour persists that, because of wartime shortages, they were held together with wooden pegs instead of steel bolts. Peter McCorkindale, representative of Lloyd's Insurance Co., which held a policy on the ships until they left Canadian waters, watched the construction project and denied the ships were unseaworthy. "The French minesweepers built at the Canadian Car and Foundry Co.'s shipyards were structurally strong and seaworthy, and as perfect a type of boat that I have ever inspected," he told a Thunder Bay reporter. In 1918, there were even wilder rumours: somehow a German U-boat had made it into Lake Superior; the minesweepers had been seized by the Americans. In recent years, attention has shifted to UFOs and the so-called "Lake Superior Triangle" that consumes ships and airplanes. Meanwhile, marine historians have tried to find the two ships. Some have speculated they foundered on Lake Superior Shoal, a patch of shallow water near the middle of the lake that was not charted until more than a decade after the minesweepers were lost. Most, however, like Farnquist, believe the ships foundered in U.S. waters near the spot where the Sebastopol emerged from the blizzard. "It must have happened fast. They had wireless radios, but they had no chance to use them," said Farnquist, known for salvaging the bell of the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1996. The discovery of the minesweeper wrecks would be a career-making achievement for shipwreck hunters, who have scoured French and Canadian archives for clues. They've also tracked down rumour after rumour, some of them published, that parts of the wrecks have been found and that bodies have been discovered. So far, all have been dead ends. There is a range of opinions on the site of the wrecks. Some sailors said at the time they saw the Inkerman and the Cerisoles near Manitou Island, Mich., in the southwest part of the lake, which could place them near the Edmund Fitzgerald. Farnquist believes they are further to the north and west, off the Keweenaw Peninsula. Farnquist, who also heads the Great Lakes Shipwreck Society, is determined to find the two warships. He has led one attempt to hunt them down and plans to try again, using state-of-the-art underwater scanning. That search will likely take place in August 2010. Early August is usually the most tranquil time on the temperamental lake. "This is the Holy Grail of Lake Superior, to find two 155-foot brand spanking new minesweepers with 5-inch guns fore and aft," he says. "One might have got into trouble and the other went to help it and was swamped when it turned its side into the wind. If we're lucky, they'll be close together." Farnquist is pinning some hope on Ottawa, which will send frigates into the Great Lakes next summer in celebration of the centennial of Canada's navy. He hopes they can help him "mow the lawn," using high-tech equipment to do grid searches of the lake bed. "This would be a good project for a partnership between the Canadian, French and U.S. navies, since the ships were built in Canada for the French and were lost in U.S. waters."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Two Ships Collide In Gulf Of Mexico

The Coast Guard says the tank ship AET Endeavor collided with an 820-foot Liberian-flagged tanker vessel about 40 miles off the coast. The collision caused damage to the second ship, which is now leaking oil into the Gulf. No injuries have been reported at this time. The Marine safety unit is investigating the incident.

US, Japanese Soldiers Exchange Tactics

Hundreds of U.S. and Japanese troops took to the wood lines this past weekend in a simulated combat field training exercise as a culmination of Exercise Orient Shield. Soldiers from the New York Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment, identified enemy fighting positions and collected information on the makeup and strength of the simulated enemy. This was used to assist both the U.S. Army and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Soldiers set up hasty defense positions, then attack and defeat enemy forces. Ground and mounted Soldiers from both forces crossed steep elevations and rivers, concealing their movements as they denied the enemy the capability to conduct counter attacks on friendly forces. The ultimate goal was to advance the 7th Regiment, JGSDF, to their appointed objective and secure it. During the field exercise, which took place Oct. 16-18, Soldiers put into play many of the combat skills and techniques they demonstrated to one another over the past week, while participating in Orient Shield 10. "Orient Shield is an exercise we run every year with the Japanese in a bilateral environment to really strengthen the relationship between the U.S. Army and JGSDF," said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Francis J. Wiercinski, U.S. Army Japan/I Corps (Forward) commanding general, Camp Zama, Japan. "The 1-69th Soldiers have been training side by side with their Japanese counterparts and sharing their knowledge; not only what they've learned in combat, but their Soldiers skills as well," Wiercinski said. Throughout the week-long exercise designed to promote regimental and battalion-level command training opportunities, combat readiness and tactical level training, U.S. and JGSDF soldiers exchanged combat skills and techniques. Demonstrating how they conduct military maneuvers in urban terrain operations, air assault missions, squad movement and reconnaissance techniques. Of particular interest to Japan forces was learning to engage targets while moving in a confined area and reacting quickly to unstable targets."The command and control abilities of the 69th Regiment commander, staff activities and basic action of each Soldier, are very helpful for us," said Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force Col. Hiroyuki Hata, 7th Infantry Regiment commander. "They've also learned about Japanese leadership skills and techniques, tactics and procedures and that's what this whole thing's about," Wiercinski added. "This training is a way to build up connections between the U.S. and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force. It is most important in case we must conduct combined operations under each chain of command," said Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force Lt. Gen. Mamoru Fujisaki, commanding general for the 3rd Division, JGSDF, Camp Senzo, Japan. "This field training exercise is remarkable, which has a direct bearing on interoperability." For many of the Soldiers, it was their first opportunity to train with troops from a different culture with totally different weapons systems. "This has been a great opportunity to assess how they perform their missions and possibly utilize some of their practices," said Staff Sgt. Johnny Madera, a squad leader with Bravo Company, 1-69th Infantry from Queens Village, N.Y. "Their mission performance was executed on point with successful use of their equipment. Everything we saw convinces me I'd fight alongside them any day," Madera added. Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force Sgt. Masahiro Jyoko, a Company 5 Rifle Platoon squad leader, said he gained a great deal of information from the combined training opportunity. "The 69th Infantry Regiment fights effectively and has experience from combat. I am very happy to teach these important skills to my subordinates," said Jyoko. "We should train more and we must reflect on what we have studied from U.S.," Hata said. "The friendship and trust built between 1st Bn., 69th Regiment and the 7th Infantry Regiment is forever," he said. "It's an honor to have the 69th here. They have a great history, a magnificent combat record and they come here with an attitude of learning and an attitude of teaching and that's exactly what we need," Wiercinski said. "My hat goes off to them for doing such a superb job out here, for extending U.S. and Japanese relations, and really being great ambassadors for the United States of America," Wiercinski said.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ship Lost In Storm Near Dokdo Islets

A South Korean ship with five crew members went missing yesterday near the Dokdo islets in the East Sea, the Coast Guard said. A search and rescue mission was launched early in the day after the waste disposal ship was reported missing around 1:37 a.m., according to maritime authorities. The 118-ton ship had been working to collect disposed fishing nets in the area since sailing from its home port in Pohang on Monday. It was on its way to Ulleung Island to take shelter due to worsening weather. At the time, the area saw 4 meter (13 feet) high waves and strong winds of up to 16 meters per second. “We launched the search and rescue mission after receiving a distress call from the ship shortly after midnight,” an official at the Coast Guard said. A thin belt of oil has been spotted in the area where the ship was last heard from, the Coast Guard added.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Several Injured In Kentucky Steamboat Accident

Several passengers aboard the Belle of Louisville suffered minor injuries Saturday when a strong wind pushed the steamboat into a parked barge on the Ohio River, authorities said. The incident happened around 1:45 p.m. about a quarter-mile north of Harrods Creek. Vince Luney, a 911 supervisor, told The Associated Press there were minor injuries, but he didn't know how many passengers were involved. Belle of Louisville CEO Linda Harris told The Courier-Journal of Louisville that about 300 people — many of them elderly — were aboard the steamboat and that about six to eight people suffered minor injuries.
Two tug boats help guide The Belle of Louisville after striking a a turning barge.
David Karem, executive director of the Waterfront Development Corp. that manages the Belle for the city, said the steamboat was pushed into the barge by a strong wind while it was on a public cruise that started around noon. The Belle suffered paddlewheel damage and lost power. "The paddlewheel is pretty wrecked," said Maj. Kevin Tyler of the Harrods Creek Fire Department. Two tugs guided the Belle back toward downtown, where it arrived about 3:30, officials said.

Human Smuggling Suspected As Ship Seized Off B.C. With 76 Aboard

A rusting ship carrying 76 men has been intercepted off the west coast of Vancouver Island and escorted into Victoria by Canadian authorities in what officials suspect is a case of human smuggling. An armed RCMP boarding party took control of the vessel late Friday afternoon in the Strait of Juan de Fuca between Vancouver Island and Washington State. There were no shots fired in the takeover and no one was injured. It was guided to a berth at Ogden Point in Victoria Saturday afternoon under the watchful eyes of several RCMP vessels and the frigate HMCS Regina. Once the vessel, which bears the name Ocean Lady, reached shore, Canadian Border Services Agency assumed control of the it and the passengers on board. Earlier Saturday night, Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said from Ottawa early indications are the people aboard are from Sri Lanka, although that has not been confirmed. A vicious civil war on the island nation ended earlier this year with the defeat of Tamil separatists. "Obviously, they are arriving in a non-conventional fashion so that raises concerns . . . of human smuggling," he said. In Victoria, a CBSA official said at a news conference Saturday night that meeting the health needs of the passengers on board the ship while upholding the safety of Canadians is the first priority. "Let me assure you the CBSA will exercise due diligence in the screening of all irregular migrants for both security and criminal threat," said Rob Johnston, director of enforcement. Before and during the press conference, CBSA agents boarded the vessel and removed passengers three at a time. CBSA took great pains to shield the faces of the men from the media and curious on-lookers gathered on shore. A fenced walkway set-up Saturday afternoon was covered by blue tarpaulins and agents carried black umbrellas as they led people off the boat.If refugee claimants' photographs are shown in their home country, leaving them open to persecution, it makes the success of a refugee claim almost automatic, according to RCMP Sgt. Tim Shields. But Johnson said the boat's passengers were not handcuffed or shackled as they are being processed under the Immigration and Refugee Act. Johnson couldn't say how long the ship has been at sea, but he said all passengers appeared to be in good health. He would not say where the passengers were from or what language officials were using to communicate with them. Johnson wouldn't reveal where exactly -- or how long -- the passengers will be kept in the Victoria area. He did, however, say CBSA has a "strong partnership" with B.C. Corrections. Once the vessel was tied up at Ogden Point, Coast Guard officials circled it with a containment boom. Officials offered little explanation about where the boat originated from or who owns it. Earlier in the day, Van Loan's department issued a statement on the matter."An RCMP Emergency Response Team trained in maritime intervention boarded and took control of the vessel. A Canadian Forces navigational and safety crew is now piloting the vessel. The RCMP vessels Higgitt and Lindsay along with the Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Regina are working to safely escort the Ocean Lady into port," it said. "Their goal is to ensure the security of Canada's borders while facilitating the entry of legitimate travellers and goods. The CBSA works closely with domestic and international partners to combat irregular migration to Canada, including smuggling and trafficking in persons. The RCMP and CBSA will continue to collaborate in the investigation within their respective mandates," he said. Ten years ago, in the summer of 1999, four ships smuggled close to 600 Chinese migrants to the West Coast.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Cargo Ship Carrying Oil Catches Fire In The Commercial Port Town Of Bossasso

A cargo ship carrying oil catches fire in the commercial port town of Bossasso in the semi- autonomous north eastern Somali region of Puntland. The Indian-owned boat was engulfed in flames while workers were off loading the oil consignment. The spectacular accident caused a brief suspension of work at the port.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Surprising Ship 'Contrails' Seen From Space

Although ships sail on the ocean, they can leave tracks in the sky. On Oct. 5, a NASA satellite snapped a shot of this phenomenon forming in a bank of clouds off North America’s west coast. The white trails look vaguely like the condensation trails, or contrails, left behind by airplanes, but they actually result from ship exhaust. The exhaust trails appear whiter than the surrounding clouds because the "tracks" contain smaller cloud droplets, NASA's Earth Observatory explained in a statement.Compared to surrounding air, ship exhaust has more particles, and each particle can act as a nucleus around which water vapor condenses. Because the available water is divided up among a greater number of particles, the resulting ship tracks consist of cloud droplets that are smaller and more abundant than those of the surrounding clouds. A cloud-free area to the east in the new image apparently holds drier air, which lacks sufficient moisture to lead to cloud formation, the researchers said. The true-color image was captured by NASA's Terra Satellite, launched in 2000 as part of NASA's Earth Observing System.

Explosion On Ship Leads To An Evacuation

A small explosion on board the RFA Argus at Falmouth Docks on Saturday led to the ship being evacuated and men being sent home. The explosion in the switchboard room, which is situated below decks and close to the engine rooms, happened at about 10.45am. Fire crews from Falmouth, Truro, Redruth and Camborne were soon at the dockyard, where the ship is undergoing a refit. Although there was no actual fire, there was a considerable amount of smoke so firefighters boarded the vessel wearing breathing apparatus. Peter Child, managing director of A&P Falmouth, said: "There was a small explosion that blew a hole in a panel. "There was a loud bang and a bit of smoke, but nobody was hurt.
RFA Argus (A135)
"We were initially worried that the ship would lose its live on board capacity and that the crew would have to move off. "We brought in our full evacuation procedure and had to isolate the room – everything went brilliantly. "Everything was restored by 7pm and it was back to business as usual." With the ship evacuated, some of the docks' workforce were sent home early, while the second shift was cancelled. RFA Argus, which specialises in aviation training and is also a floating hospital, has been in port since January and is undergoing a major refit as part of a 30 year Ministry of Defence contract worth £53 million. The work to repair the damaged switchboard room should be complete within 10 days.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Counter-IED Teams Deploy To Afghanistan

Servicemembers who participated in the first state-side training program for joint counter-IED teams have just arrived in Afghanistan for a year-long assignment. The Tidal Sun pilot program trained servicemembers to work as part of counter-IED teams to gather information and evidence from improvised explosive device event sites -- locations where IEDs have exploded or were discovered -- and then send that information to higher headquarters for further analysis. The pilot training program was conducted by the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization's Joint Center of Excellence at the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. "The goal of these teams is to be able to ... learn about who might have built and placed the device and any other tell-tale things," said Marine Corps Col. Christopher Mahoney, chief of staff of the JIEDDO JCOE. "That will enable us to go back in the process and prevent similar devices from similar people under similar circumstances from being emplaced in the first place. "The long and short of it is, we don't want the explosion to ever happen. These teams are going to be a great enabler to do that." Mahoney said that as part of Tidal Sun, both American servicemembers and NATO partners were trained to gather physical evidence from a site, such as pieces of bombs, circuit boards, or evidence of explosives, to analyze it and to then send it off for further analysis. Instructors for Tidal Sun included experienced agents from Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. "Part of the power potential of this program is collaborating with our NATO allies and inter-agency partners," Mahoney said. "And using the immense experience offered by Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents in our training program, for example, gives us a perspective and a depth of knowledge that the Department of Defense simply does not have. This type of partnering is a major key to success, no question."New information discovered about the tactics of the networks of individuals that planted the IEDs can then be sent downstream to help those in theater better discover IEDs before they explode and cause injury or death. While counter-IED teams already exist, are currently serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the teams have until now been assembled in theater from servicemembers who sometimes trained for the task of tactical site exploitation on the job, in theater. This is the first time those bound to work on a counter-IED team have been gathered together stateside, before deployment, and formally trained for the job they would perform in theater, said Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Burnett, JIEDDO. "We brought them all together and kind of put them in a team environment before they go into theater," Burnett said. "This time we wanted to create a program where we bring them together in a training environment and teach them the stuff -- to do tactical site exploitation, to do finger printing, to exploit a site where there's been an IED event." The counter-IED teams are made up of members from all services: Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force. Having servicemembers work together in a training environment prior to deployment means they'll be better able to work together once in theater, Burnett said. Burnett said JEIDDO leadership was pleased with the way training played out as part of Tidal Sun. "This was a pilot program, we liked how it worked, so that's what we'll do -- hence forth we'll bring them all together," he said. In Afghanistan, Burnett said, the counter-IED teams will be officially assigned to Task Force Paladin, the counter-IED command in that theater. But the individuals who attended the pilot iteration of the training conducted at Fort Irwin will actually be attached to and will serve units within the 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division -- which is already deployed into theater.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Happy Birthday, US Navy

Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sends his wishes to the men and women of the U.S.Navy. On Oct. 13, 1775, the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and passed legislation creating what would become the United States Navy. America celebrates this day every year, marking the service, sacrifice and devotion to duty of our Sailors around the globe. More than 45,000 Sailors are supporting joint, interagency and multinational operations throughout the world -- building, engaging and securing -- as always, delivering peace through strength.They serve on nearly 200 ships and submarines underway, at any moment providing critical capabilities for ballistic missile defense, counterterrorism operations, anti-piracy efforts and humanitarian relief missions. Their impressive and persistent presence, however, would be impossible without the steady support of our Navy families. Without them, we could not accomplish a single mission. On behalf of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I congratulate you and your families on 234 years of proud Navy service. Your rich heritage, combat readiness, and relentless tenacity make us very proud of you all. Bravo Zulu and happy birthday, shipmates!

Iran Used German Ship To Send Arms To Syria

American soldiers stationed in the Gulf of Suez discovered containers of ammunition aboard a German-owned cargo ship allegedly transporting the arms from Iran to Syria, the influential German daily newspaper Der Spiegel reported on Monday. The newspaper quoted a German diplomat as saying that the incident represents "an embarrassing affair" for Berlin, the consequences of which could be troublesome for trans-Atlantic relations. The ammunition, which comprised 7.62 millimeter bullets suitable for Kalashnikov rifles, is believed to have been intended for either the Syrian army or Hezbollah. U.S. soldiers boarded the freighter Hansa India, which is registered to a Hamburg-based shipping company known as Leonhardt & Blumberg, according to Der Spiegel.American officials said the arms shipment is a violation of UN Security Resolution 1747 which forbids all weapons shipments into and out of Iran, the newspaper reported. Iran has been a supplier of weapons and materiel to Syria and Hezbollah, the Shi'ite Lebanon-based group which fought a war with Israel in 2006. According to Der Spiegel, the freighter company said the ship, which was intercepted by two U.S. warships in the Gulf of Suez, had been under charter to Iran's state-owned shipping company. After the German government intervened in the matter, the Americans permitted the ship to dock at Malta, where the containers holding the ammunition were secured, according to Der Spiegel.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bob Barker Donates $3M To Injury Center

The price appears to be right for former game show host and Naval Aviator Bob Barker, who donated $3 million to help build a premiere Defense Department center for wounded warriors suffering traumatic brain injuries. The donation brings the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund to its $60 million goal to build the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, Bill White, president of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, announced yesterday. The 72,000-square-foot, two-story facility is expected to open next year next to the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund will pay to build the center and equip it with the most advanced medical equipment for traumatic brain injury research, diagnosis and treatment, White said. Once construction is completed, the fund will turn the center over to the department to operate."This amazing gift puts us over the top," White said yesterday in announcing Barker's donation to the effort. "Thousands of Americans have given to this important effort, and Bob Barker has today stepped up to the task. We are immensely grateful for his wonderful generosity and his support for our nation's servicemen and women." Richard T. Santulli, chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, called reaching the financial milestone to begin construction of the center "a great step forward in our mission." The group raises money to provide financial help for families of U.S. servicemembers killed in the line of duty, and began raising funds for the new treatment center in 2007. Barker, a naval aviator during World War II who's best known as the long-time host of "The Price is Right" game show until his 2007 retirement, called his donation a way to give back to those who serve or have served in the military. "I am very happy to do whatever I can to support the brave men and women who have given so much in service to our nation," he said. "They have given so much for us. All Americans owe them a debt of gratitude for their tremendous service and sacrifice."

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Navy Ship To Bear Medgar Evers Name

Nearly two decades ago, when Ray Mabus was Mississippi's governor, he promised Myrlie Evers-Williams that someday he would find a way to honor her late husband, slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers. On Friday, Mabus, now secretary of the U.S. Navy, surprised Myrlie Evers-Williams by keeping that promise and naming a Navy supply ship after him. "The memory of Medgar Evers and what he did will be carried around the world," Mabus said. The USNS Medgar Evers is the first ship Mabus has had the opportunity to name since being sworn into the secretary post in June. "I wanted it to be very special," he said Friday at Jackson State University. The 700-foot Lewis and Clark-class ship will be used to deliver supplies like food, ammunition, fuel and parts for the Navy's fleet. It also could be used in humanitarian missions, Mabus said. "We have worked so long and so hard to see that he is remembered," Myrlie Evers-Williams said. "I cannot thank (Mabus) enough for honoring Medgar in this manner." Medgar Evers organized nonviolent protests, voter registration drives and boycotts in Mississippi during the civil rights movement. He became the field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People before being assassinated in the driveway of his Jackson home in 1963 at the age of 37. His killer, Byron De La Beckwith, was convicted in 1994.
Medgar Evers
Myrlie Evers-Williams said she hopes the ship serves as a vessel to spread her late husband's story across the globe and that the servicemen who work on it will be inspired to learn about his life. The honor came as a surprise to her. "It's perhaps the best secret that has been kept from me," she said. The ship will be built at General Dynamics NASSCO in San Diego. Mabus said construction will begin soon and will take about two years. Mabus said ships in the Lewis and Clark class typically have been named in honor of "visionaries, explorers and pioneers." Others have been named after Amelia Earhart, Sacagawea and astronaut Alan Shepard. Only one other ship in the class - the USNS Carl Brashear - has been named in honor of an African American. Brashear was the first African American to become a U.S. Navy Master Diver. "Medgar Evers was a visionary, pioneer and American hero," Mabus said. "The struggle for equal rights is not over, but look how far we've come." Medgar Evers served in the Army during World War II before becoming active in civil rights work. "Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think there would be a day such as today," Evers-Williams said. "I will be eternally grateful." Evers' brother, Charles Evers, said he thought it took courage on Mabus' part to pick his brother as the first person he would honor. "Being a Mississippian, you had to have the nerve to do it," he said. "Thank you so very much."

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Pirates Attack French Navy Ship By Mistake

Somali pirates attempted to storm the French Navy’s 18,000 tonne Indian Ocean fleet flagship after mistaking it for a cargo vessel, the military said on Wednesday. The crew of ‘La Somme’, a 525-foot command vessel and fuel tanker, easily saw off the brazen night-time assault by lightly armed fighters on two open-topped motorboats and captured five pirates, a spokesman said.
La Somme
“The pirates, who because of the darkness took the French ship for a commercial vessel, were on board two vessels and opened fire with Kalashnikovs,” Admiral Christophe Prazuck said. ‘La Somme’ is overseeing French air, sea and land forces fighting Somali pirates and hunting terrorists under the banner of the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom. The pirates tried to flee when they realised their mistake but were pursued and held after an hour-long chase.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Cruiser Sails With Fuel-Saving Coating

Navy engineers announced that a new underwater hull coating applied to USS Port Royal (CG 73) is being tested to validate the projected saving of more than $180,000 in fuel costs per year. Testing will assess fuel cost savings for the ship while underway. The special coating is part of Naval Sea Systems Command's (NAVSEA) Fleet Readiness Research & Development Program (FRR&DP) Underwater Hull Coatings initiative to apply new anti-fouling hull coatings on Ticonderoga-class cruisers and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. Marine fouling causes hydrodynamic drag, significantly impairing fuel efficiency, and coatings to prevent or inhibit this growth are constantly evolving. "Marine fouling is a chronic and costly problem for Navy ships," said Petter Kristiansen, FRR&DP program manager. "In addition to the increased fuel consumption, cleaning and recoating ship hulls is expensive and time-consuming, and recoating can only be done while a ship is in dry dock. The hull coatings will help reduce marine bio-fouling, build-ups of tubeworms, mussels, barnacles and other shell organisms on the ship's hull." Port Royal is the U.S. Navy's first guided-missile cruiser, and second ship overall, to receive the new hull coatings, that was applied during a maintenance availability period at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in September.USS Cole (DDG 67) was the first ship to receive. "The new process uses a fouling-release coating system. It is a silicone-based, non-toxic technology that provides a very smooth, slick, low friction surface," Kristiansen explained. "Settling marine organisms like barnacles, tunicates and algae can't attach themselves firmly to the slick surface. Those that do attach, do so weakly and are usually washed away when ships are underway, or are removed during regularly scheduled pierside hull inspections and cleanings." Once fully implemented on the 70-plus active ships across the two classes, the program could potentially deliver fuel consumption cost avoidances of more than $12.6 million per year, based on fuel oil prices of $100 per barrel. The Port Royal left dry dock Sept. 24 and is scheduled to rejoin the fleet later this year. Kristiansen said FRR&DP will closely monitor the coating's performance over the next 12 to 18 months. NAVSEA is committed to fiscal responsibility and streamlining our maintenance and modernization processes to maintain current readiness at a lower cost.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Sunken Ship Crew Stranded In Paradip

Crew members of the Mongolian ship, Black Rose, that sank near Paradip port on September 9, are yet to get permission to leave the country. The 26 crew members are stranded in the port town and are still waiting for permission from Director General of Shipping in Mumbai. "Although, Paradip Port Trust has given them permission to leave the town, they cannot leave the country, without the permit from Mumbai," said Anupam Parija, director of Sea Trans, the agent of the sunken ship. Parija filed an FIR with the marine police station on September 10. Following that the marine police sought help of many expert committees and organizations, including Director General of Shipping, the chairman of National shipping Board, Paradip Port Trust (PPT) to investigate into the disaster. "PPT has informed us that the ship was not insured and that the ship's captain had produced fake papers to gain entry into the port. PPT has given permission to all the crew members, including the captain, to leave the country," marine police (Paradip) OC T Patel said. "Seventeen members are from Bangladesh, while six crew members are Ukrainian citizens.
MV Black Rose in the Bay of Bengal
The three remaining ones are from Russia. If, during the investigation, any one is found guilty, we will take action against them. We will file petitions before the authority to extradite the guilty from their countries, even after the end of the investigation," Patel added. "The plugging work to check oil spill from the sunken Mongolian ship has also been delayed due to bad weather over the Bay of Bengal," Deputy Chairman of Paradip port Biplav Kumar said. "Port authority had entrusted Visakapatnam-based J Enterprisers and Dives to check the oil spill. Eight members of the company arrived at Paradip on Sunday, to begin work in the sea. But work has been delayed for five days due to torrential rain and rough sea," Kumar added. Black Rose was registered with the UK South of England P&I Club. However, its license expired on April 2009 and the owner decided not to renew it, as they said they were sending the ship for scrapping. The company then used the certificate of another ship, registered with the Toros Pearl, and cannibalized it fraudulently to insure the Black Rose.

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