Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cattle Stuck As Ship Runs Aground Off King Island

A ship carrying live cattle from King Island to Tasmania ran aground overnight and is waiting for high tide to try to unload 283 beasts. The general manager of King Island Council Andrew Wardlaw says the vessel Matthew Flinders had to return to port on Monday night after encountering rough weather but overnight dragged its anchor into King Island's outer harbour.
Matthew Flinders
He said the ship, which has a front loading ramp, is stuck on Sandblow Beach and attempts to unload the cattle on Tuesday morning were aborted because it was too dangerous. He said the six-man crew hoped to be able to unload the cattle on Tuesday's high tide.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Cruise Ship Aurora Threatened By revolt From Angry Passengers

Angry passengers on a £200m cruise ship threatened to revolt, claiming they were "imprisoned" on the liner after stops at ports were cancelled to make up time spent on repairs. More than 600 holidaymakers on P&O's Aurora formed a protest committee and demanded to see the captain after they visited two ports in 22 days. The 76,000-tonne ship has experienced a series of mishaps since its launch in 2000 when the champagne bottle swung by Princess Anne failed to break - considered a bad omen. The Aurora's latest problems started when it was stuck in port in Auckland, New Zealand, for five days while repairs to the engines were carried out. The delay meant the vessel had to miss stops in Wellington, Napier and the Bay of Islands, Moorea in French Polynesia and Papeete in Tahiti, to keep to schedule.
P&O Aurora
Jennifer Dunthorne, a protest committee member, told Hampshire's Southern Daily Echo: "So many people worked hard for so many years to afford this cruise. It is truly unforgivable." Passengers on the ship, which is part way through a round the world cruise, will have paid at least £8,599 for the three-month trip. The Aurora, which had reached Huatulco in Mexico yesterday and was heading for the Panama Canal. A P&O Cruises spokeswoman said: "We very much regret the disruption to Aurora's world cruise. In recognition of this we have since offered a compensation package which we believe to be a fair reflection of the disruption to the cruise, the actual amount of which will vary depending upon the fare paid."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

7 Drown As Boat Sinks

Seven Egyptian fishermen drowned and four others went missing as their boat capsized on Friday in the eastern Mediterranean, a security official said. The fishermen sent out an SOS after their boat ran into strong winds off the coast of Buheira, the official said. Rescue workers recovered seven bodies and were searching for the rest of the crew.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Carnival Corp. To Cut Ships From Alaska Due To Tax

Carnival Corp. Chairman Micky Arison said his cruise company doesn't like Alaska's $50 head tax and plans to pull ships from the state's ports, according to a recent report. Advanced bookings and ticket prices for Alaska cruises are down significantly, the company said during an earnings conference call reporting first-quarter results. Lower fuel prices, cost-cutting and other one-time benefits helped cruise operator Carnival Corp. raise its profit 10 percent in its fiscal first quarter, far exceeding Wall Street's expectations, the company reported March 24. Competitor Royal Caribbean is also reducing capacity in 2010, and Arison said his company also will cut capacity in the same year, and may make further cuts in 2011. Carnival Corp. is leader in Alaska, with 15 ships this year and a notable land-based operation for cruise tours that includes hotels, trains and buses. He did not give details on what would be cut, according to the report. Arison said it is evident that since the initiative that passed in 2006, tourism growth to Alaska stopped immediately. Arison added that the economic impact will also be felt in western Canada, Vancouver in particular. Carnival has already announced the Carnival Spirit will be based in Seattle in 2010, rather than in Whittier and Vancouver, where it is home-ported this year. Overall, Carnival has maintained strong booking volumes by slashing cruise prices. The Miami-based company lowered its forecast for fiscal 2009 earnings, however, in part because prices have remained weak for cruises booked for the second half of this year, according to reporters."Given the significant slowdown in the global economy, I think it is fair to say that this has been one of the most challenging booking environments we have ever experienced," said Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer Howard Frank during a conference call with investors. For the quarter that ended Feb. 28, earnings grew to $260 million, or 33 cents per share. That's up from $236 million, or 30 cents per share, a year ago. Carnival said its revenue fell 9 percent to $2.86 billion, from $3.15 billion in the first fiscal quarter of 2008. The cruise line has achieved a 10 percent year-over-year increase in bookings but was forced to slash prices to "levels not seen in recent years," Frank said. "It was strong volumes against very lousy rates," Arison added. Bookings for the most expensive cruises, particularly those to remote regions of Alaska, have fallen further than less expensive Caribbean jaunts. Carnival said budget-conscious vacationers also cut spending on gambling, shore excursions, shopping and photos during their cruises, although they continued to spend on spas and drinks. "As expected, 2009 will be a challenging year for the industry, but it is encouraging that consumers are willing to spend money on attractively priced vacations," said Susquehanna Financial Group's Robert LaFleur. At the end of the first quarter, Carnival reported $3.7 billion of liquidity and said it will not need new financing for 2009. The company noted it will continue to look for opportunities to improve its liquidity. Carnival shares slipped 48 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $22.83 in trading March 24, after gaining as much as 7 percent early in the session. The stock has traded between $14.85 and $43.54 during the past 52 weeks.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Navy Lab Touts Cold Fusion Advance

A U.S. Navy researcher says her lab has produced "significant" new results that indicate cold fusion-like reactions. If the work by analytical chemist Pamela Mosier-Boss and her colleagues is confirmed, it could open the door to a cheap, near-limitless reservoir of energy. That's a big if, however. The announcement at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society comes in the same location -- Salt Lake City -- as one of science's most infamous episodes, the announcement 20 years ago by chemists Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann that they had produced cold fusion. Unlike nuclear energy reactors and bombs, which split atoms, the atoms in stars such as the sun fuse together to produce spectacular amounts of energy, so much so that we are warmed by a stellar furnace 93 million miles away. Devising a fusion-based source of energy on Earth has long been a "clean-energy" holy grail of physicists. Pons and Fleischmann claimed to have created fusion reactions in a tabletop experiment, at room temperature. Their claims of producing small amounts of excess heat -- energy -- in their experiments were at first met with excitement, then skepticism and finally derision as other scientists were unable to reproduce the results. Nevertheless, in the years since, a small group of scientists has continued trying to produce fusion reactions at low temperatures. If such experiments did produce fusion reactions, they would generate highly energetic neutrons as a byproduct. These are what Mosier-Boss says her San Diego-based group has found. "If you have fusion going on, then you have to have neutrons," she said. "But we do not know if fusion is actually occurring. It could be some other nuclear reaction."The announcement is based partly on research published by Mosier-Boss' group last year in the journal Naturwissenschaften. In this sense, she has not repeated the mistake of Pons and Fleischmann, who announced their findings before they had been tested by the peer-review process and published in a scientific journal. But that does not mean the results indicate cold fusion, said Paul Padley, a physicist at Rice University who reviewed Mosier-Boss' published work. "Fusion could produce the effect they see, but there's no plausible explanation of how fusion could occur in these conditions," Padley said. "The whole point of fusion is, you're bringing things of like charge together. As we all know, like things repel, and you have to overcome that repulsion somehow." The problem with Mosier-Boss' work, he said, is that it fails to provide a theoretical rationale to explain how fusion could occur at room temperatures. And in its analysis, the research paper fails to exclude other sources for the production of neutrons. "Nobody in the physics community would believe a discovery without such a quantitative analysis," he said. Still, the announcement may turn heads, given its stage at the American Chemical Society's big meeting and the fact that the organization promoted it to science journalists in advance. "It's big," said Steven Krivit, founder of the New Energy Times publication, which has tracked cold fusion developments for two decades. Krivit said the neutrons produced by Mosier-Boss' experiments may not be caused by fusion but perhaps some new, unknown nuclear process. "What we're talking about may be more than anybody actually expected," he said. "We're talking about a new field of science that's a hybrid between chemistry and physics."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

USS Chinook Makes First Overnight U.S. Ship Visit To Iraq

USS Chinook (PC 9) departed Umm Qasr, Iraq, March 25, marking the first overnight port visit to Iraq by a U.S. ship. "The U.S. Navy has operated in the region for more than 60 years, and Chinook's visit marks the first time a U.S. ship has remained overnight in Iraq; that's extremely significant," said Rear Adm. T.C. Cropper, deputy commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT). "Chinook's visit exemplifies the great confidence we have in our Iraqi partners and reflects the excellent improvements in security that they have achieved. It also demonstrates our commitment and partnership with the Government of Iraq, its people and the Iraqi Navy." While in port, the ship's crewmembers were able to participate in friendship-building activities with several senior Iraqi officers as well as conduct a logistics' replenishment, where the ship took on fuel and other various supplies. "This is an important day for us and for Iraq," said Lt. Allen Maxwell, Chinook's commanding officer."Our visit gave us a chance to interact with senior Iraqi Navy leadership and further enhance cooperation with the Iraqi Navy and Marines.
The coastal patrol craft USS Chinook (PC 9) makes a port visit to Umm Qasr, Iraq, marking the first overnight port visit to Iraq by a U.S. Navy ship.
Today was an extraordinary opportunity, and I am proud to have made a positive difference in Iraq's future." USCGC Aquidneck (WPB 1309)'s daylight-only port visit to Umm Qasr Dec. 15, 2008, marked the last visit by a U.S. ship to the Iraqi port. Cropper was pierside for Chinook's arrival to Umm Qasr and said he hopes more coalition ships will visit the Iraqi port in the months and years to come. "Visits like this are important because they help reinforce the strong ties that already exist between our two navies," said Cmdr. Thomas Cawley, NAVCENT's country engagement officer to Iraq. Coalition maritime forces in the North Arabian Gulf maintain a naval and air presence to safeguard the region's vital links to the global economy. These key maritime infrastructure nodes are the foundation for the region's economic growth, stability and prosperity as well as significantly impact the global economy. "Our forces are here to foster security and cooperation in the region and conduct operations that contribute to peace and stability," said Cropper. "U.S. and coalition forces provide the assurance of security and stability that enables the economic development and growing prosperity throughout this region."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tugboat Sinks In Lake Superior Bay

A piece of history at the Duluth port is now on the bottom of Lake Superior Bay. The hull of the tugboat "Essayons" slipped to the bottom of its slip Tuesday, due to nasty weather and the ship's age. The historic retired Army Corps of Engineers tugboat has been a Twin Ports fixture since 1908.The tug's engine is on display at the Marine Museum in Canal Park. The vessel's hull has been used for various tourist attractions for years. Marine Museum curator Thom Holden hopes the boat's owner will be able to raise it. The tug's owner was hoping to turn the boat into a floating bed and breakfast. According to the Marine Museum, this isn't the first time Essayons has gone to the bottom. It also sank on April 1, 1919.

JET Airmen Last To Broadcast

Broadcasting to servicemembers supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, a group of joint expeditionary tasking, or JET, Airmen assigned to 732nd Expeditionary Support Squadron's American Forces Network-Iraq may be the last Airmen to execute this mission. Working in a joint environment with Navy and Army counterparts, these JET Airmen broadcast live on AFN radio, produce a daily newscast and prerecord announcements in small containerized studios in a parking garage under an office building. The current AFN-I team will be replaced by an all-Army unit soon, bringing an end to Air Force presence at AFN-I. "We broadcast radio for more than 92 hours a week from here," said Chief Master Sgt. Kerry Porter, the station manager deployed from Ramstein Air Base, Germany. "Also, (we broadcast) a 10-minute newscast Monday to Friday which airs on AFN and the Pentagon Channel." Chief Porter also explained they broadcast radio not only to Iraq, but to Afghanistan and Kuwait as well. At one end of the AFN-I work area is a wall of photographs and the transcripts from important briefers and their briefings. On the other side of the wall is the Combined Press Information Center, or CPIC, which includes a fully functional briefing room with audio and video control room and separate room for interpreters to produce real-time translations. "Here we support the CPIC with the press conference center for live conferences," said Chief Porter, a native of England. "Doing this, we support the U.S. State Department." AFN-I not only works in studios, the team also travels the country to get its stories. "It can be challenging getting our people to the locations where you can only travel by convoys or helicopter," said Tech. Sgt. Marty Rush, a deployed broadcaster from Yokota AB, Japan. "The best part is when we go out and find that young Soldier in the dirt and highlight what he is doing for the world to see. "We have a good mixture of folks here," added Sergeant Rush, the AFN-I NCO-in-charge of news and a native of Eldon, Mo. "I like to see the young folks master new skills and tell the story about what is going on here."
Senior Airman Holly Roberts, a broadcaster with the 732nd Expeditionary Support Squadron's American Forces Network-Iraq.
Keeping AFN-I running not only in the studios but all around Iraq is the responsibility of a small team of visual imagery and intrusion-detection systems technicians. One maintance team is based out of Camp Slayer, Iraq, and travels around to the 22 repeater sites and more than 50 forward-operating bases and combat-operating bases. "We ensure that $826,000 worth of broadcast equipment inventory is maintained," said Tech. Sgt. Garrett Rosier, an Ogden, Utah, native deployed here from Mannheim, Germany. "The sand here gets into everything and can stop the equipment from working." Over in the television studio one sees the commonly seen backdrop of "Freedom Journal Iraq." The set is decorated with camouflage netting, sand bags and two large televisions with the show's logo blazing on the flat screens. The set is lit and cameras stand at the ready. This is where the show is recorded five days a week. "More than 5.9 million viewers see my face daily," said Senior Airman Tyler Alexander, a broadcaster from Wiesbaden, Germany, and the anchor of "Freedom Journal Iraq." "I feel like I get to know more about what is going on in Iraq by viewing the news stories sent in from the public affairs units in-country." Down the hall, outside one container, a red light goes on above a sign saying, "ON AIR." Inside, an Airman wearing a headset works radio controls while talking into a microphone. "I provide entertainment and information," said Senior Airman Holly Roberts, a broadcaster deployed from Spangdahlem AB, Germany. "I inform servicemembers in Iraq about things from morale, welfare and recreation information to health and safety." Airman Roberts, a native of Arlington, Neb., hosts a daily radio show called "Holly's Hot Afternoons" where she plays music from a song database of more than 44,000 songs. "The best part about this job is when people who hear me on the radio thank me for playing their favorite music," she said.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Canada Puts Sea Shepherd Protest Ship Up For Auction

Potential buyers of the Farley Mowat, a ship owned by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society that was seized by the Canadian government last year, have until April 21 to submit a bid on the former fishing vessel. In a court-ordered sheriff's sale, the ship, often used to protest marine activities -- including the annual seal hunt -- is up for grabs to the highest bidder, pending court approval. The ship was seized in waters off Canada in April 2008 and has been tied up in Sydney, N.S., ever since. The sale notice said the successful bidder of the ship, which was built in Norway in 1957, will win title to the vessel.It won't be without some risk. In a news release earlier this month, Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society issued a stern warning to any potential buyer of the ship, which he claims was illegally seized. "I have no intention of recognizing the validity of any sale ordered by the Canadian government," Watson said in the release. "Whoever buys the ship should be aware that we retain the registry and the original bill of sale and we will take back what is ours at the first opportunity. "You don't steal a ship from a pirate without repercussions." The vessel was raided after a confrontation with a Canadian Coast Guard ship off Nova Scotia. The U.S.-based group maintains the ship was in international waters observing the seal hunt at the time.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Coast Guard Rescues 2 Fshermen

Two fisherman are safe and sound after being rescued by the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard says Luke Erwinski and Brandon Phillips were fishing Saturday when winter weather forced them to beach their 20-foot boat on Knight Island. Their employer reported them overdue late Saturday.A Coast Guard helicopter was dispatched from Kodiak, and located the men on the island, about 60 miles south of Anchorage, early Sunday morning. There were no injuries, and the Coast Guard says the two built a fire while waiting rescue. They also had food and water with them.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fog To Blame For Yacht And Cargo Ship Collision

The value of the Automatic Identification System (AIS) has been underlined again with the collision between a yacht and a ship off the southern coast of England. Falmouth Coastguard has co-ordinated a call out to help a yacht which was hit by a cargo vessel in fog 15 miles south east of Lizard Point. The station received the call from the crew of the yacht called Maelys at around midday. The Lizard RNLI Lifeboat was launched and a Royal Navy helicopter with a salvage pump on board was scrambled. Using its AIS (Automatic Identification System) the coastguard was able to identify the ship near to the position given by the yacht's crew. This was identified as a small cargo vessel called Helen, eighty metres long. The six crew on board admitted that their ship had hit the yacht.
MV Helen
The ship was on passage to Bonnieres and the Marine Accident Investigation Branch has been notified. The 34-foot long yacht had just been bought. It was on its way from the UK to France with two crew on board who are both French. No one was injured but the yacht’s hull is damaged. At first the crew said they would carry on to France but they then decided to heed the coastguard’s advice and return to Falmouth to have the yacht properly assessed. Henry Purbrick, watch manager at Falmouth said: 'We are pleased that everyone is safe and well, given that this situation could have had a different outcome. “The collision danger is ever present in poor visibility, all vessels are reminded to keep a sharp lookout at all times and to only make their journey if strictly necessary.' Here is another incident in which, had the yacht had an AIS on board, even in thick fog, they could have been aware of the presence of the cargo ship.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Transporting Goods By Ship On Great Lakes Best Way To Travel

Great Lakes freighters are the most efficient and environmentally friendly way to transport coal, limestone and other cargo to industries around the region, according to a new government study. The so-called lakers -- ships that haul cargo exclusively within the five Great Lakes -- move freight at much less cost than trucks or trains and generate far less air pollution, according to the study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Great Lakes freighters save industries $3.6 billion annually in transportation costs, according to the Corps report. "This translates directly into more competitive American steel, lower cost energy, and lower cost concrete for construction in our cities and on highways," the report said. The study marked the first time the government has quantified the value of the Great Lakes Navigation system, a network of 63 commercial ports and locks on the U.S. side of lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario. "The Great Lakes Navigation System is a vital component of America's transportation system ... it contains 25 of the nation's top 100 harbors, by tonnage," the report said. The study shed new light on an industry that has struggled to distance itself from one of the Great Lakes' worst environmental problems: Shipborne invasive species. Glen Nekvasil, a spokesman for the Lake Carriers Association, said lake freighters have not imported a single invasive species to the Great Lakes, a claim supported by numerous studies."It is frustrating that many people and organizations do not make the distinction between salties (transoceanic freighters) and lakers," Nekvasil said. "Our ships never leave the Great Lakes, so they have never introduced an exotic." Lake freighters have contributed to the spread of foreign species across the Great Lakes, but only after ocean freighters deposited the invaders in the lakes. Ocean freighters, which account for about 5 percent of all cargo shipped on the Great Lakes each year, have imported 57 foreign species since the St. Lawrence Seaway opened the lakes to ocean shipping in 1959, according to government data. Previous studies have found that lake freighters account for about 95 percent of all cargo shipped on the Great Lakes. Lake freighters hauled 173 million tons of cargo to and from ports on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes in 2006, roughly 10 percent of all U.S. waterborne domestic shipping traffic, the Corps report said. Ships generate less air pollution than trucks or trains because freighters can carry cargo much farther per gallon of fuel. A Great Lakes freighter can travel 607 miles on one gallon of fuel per ton of cargo -- 10 times farther than a semi-truck and three times farther than a freight train, according to the report. The 1,000-foot freighters that routinely deliver coal to the B.C. Cobb power plant in Muskegon can haul 70,000 tons of cargo, enough to fill 3,000 semi-trucks. Ships deliver 1.2 million tons of western coal annually to the Cobb facility, said Kelly M. Farr, a spokesman for Consumers Energy, which owns the power plant. The Cobb plant's coal is mined in northeastern Wyoming and hauled by train to a massive coal storage facility in Superior, Wis., at the west end of Lake Superior, Farr said. The coal is loaded on freighters at the Port of Duluth-Superior and shipped to Muskegon.
The 1,000-foot freighters that routinely deliver coal to the B.C. Cobb power plant in Muskegon can haul 70,000 tons of cargo, enough to fill 3,000 semi-trucks.
Consumers' other West Michigan power plant, the Campbell facility in Port Sheldon, receives coal shipments by train, Farr said. "Having the ability to receive coal both by boat and rail gives Consumers Energy diversity in terms of fuel transportation to our power plants," Farr said. "It gives us a competitive advantage of not having to be 100 percent reliant on railroads for fuel shipping." Nekvasil said lake freighters could play an even larger role in supporting the regional economy if the Corps would spend money the federal government has in its coffers to maintain a standard depth in all Great Lakes channels. Below average Great Lakes water levels in recent years have forced freighters to lighten payloads to avoid running aground; several ships got stuck in Muskegon and other West Michigan ports last year. Environmental advocate Jennifer Nalbone, a spokeswoman for Great Lakes United, said climate change could be devastating for the shipping industry. Some studies have predicted that climate change could cause Great Lakes water levels to drop several feet by the year 2100. "The industry needs to start preparing now for lower water levels," Nalbone said. Nekvasil said the federal government could help the shipping industry adapt to lower water levels by conducting more dredging in shallow shipping channels.

Friday, March 20, 2009

2 Navy Vessels Collide In Strait Of Hormuz

Superferry Pulling Ship Out Of Hawaii

The Hawaii Superferry announced on Thursday morning that it will pull its ship out of Hawaii, at least temporarily, following a ruling this week by the state Supreme Court. Hawaii Superferry President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Fargo made the announcement in a news conference at Pier 19. (Watch the entire Hawaii Superferry news conference.) The Hawaii Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a law allowing the Superferry to operate while conducting an environmental impact statement was unconstitutional. "The problem before us today is there appears to be no short-term solution to this ruling. To conduct another EIS even with the work done to date and move it through the legal review that might take a year or so, and other options do not provide the certainty that's necessary to run a business. As a result, we are going to have to go out and find other employment for Alakai for now," Fargo said. Senate President Colleen Hanabusa was on KITV 4 Island Television News This Morning. She said she was surprised the Superferry is leaving.While Fargo said the company will pull the Alakai out, he left the door open for the company to return. "Our intention is not to dissolve Hawaii Superferry as an entity. Make no mistake about it. Our clear belief again, is that there is a clear need for a high speed interisland ferry system here," Fargo said. The governor said she hoped the Supreme Court will take another look at its ruling that the law was unconstitutional to allow the Superferry to operate while completing its environmental review. "The Legislature is looking at perhaps requesting a reconsideration along with us. Ask the Supreme Court to take another look at this beyond the Superferry issue. There are larger implications from the decision," Gov. Linda Lingle said. The governor said the Supreme Court decision is too broad because it said the Legislature can never do anything to favor one group over another but that is what lawmakers do every day. Superferry made its last round trip for now to Maui to return stranded vehicles and customers to their homeports on Thursday.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Police Arrest Teens After Paddle Boat Chase

Police have arrested three teenagers accused of stealing a paddle boat and taking officials on a wild chase Monday evening. According to officials, they received a call that night claiming that three juveniles had stolen a paddle boat. Officials responded to the scene on their powerboat, but the teens tried to outrun the police's engined boat with their paddles. "First, stealing something like that and, second of all, trying to get away, I mean, if I saw any normal person, a casual observer or whatever you want to call it, sees a boat like this, with flashing blue lights and a siren coming at you, you would normally stop, not paddle faster," said Bal Harbor Police Detective Paul Eppler.Authorities said the teenagers who tried to get away were between 15 and 16 years of age. "I don't know how much of a chase human power against twin 250s would be," said Eppler, referring to the two engines powering the police vessel. The teenagers are facing charges of grand theft, burglary and resisting arrest without violence. All three of the teenagers, police said, have serious criminal backgrounds. "Whether this is just a case of kids being kids, I don't know, but because of their past, we're obviously taking this pretty seriously," said Eppler. Officials said that during the chase, two of the teens jumped in the water when they realized they were outpowered and swam to shore. "They did the better thing by bailing from that boat and swim faster than they could paddle that," Eppler noted.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Task Force To Focus On Protective Gear

A new Army task force is focused on ensuring continuity and synchronization across the procurement process for Soldier protective gear. Task Force Soldier Protection, announced March 12 during a media roundtable at the Pentagon, falls under Program Executive Office Soldier -- an Army agency responsible for developing, procuring, fielding and sustaining virtually all things carried and worn by Soldiers. Al Dassonville heads up the new task force. "I look forward to the challenge of running this task force -- synchronizing all of our resources across the Department of Defense -- to make sure we maintain the highest standards for our Soldier protective equipment and to ensure we have got all the appropriate resources synchronized to bring the best world-class equipment to Soldiers," Dassonville said. The new task force will ensure that Army standards and policies for procurement of Soldier protective gear -- including such things as body armor, helmets and eyewear -- are followed across the entire chain of agencies and organizations involved in fielding such equipment. "We are trying to ensure we maintain synchronized and well-communicated and well-integrated actions associated with Soldier protection items," said Brig. Gen. Peter N. Fuller, Program Executive Officer Soldier. "We are stepping up the game." According to Dassonville, top priorities for the task force include ensuring that contracting, testing and quality control of protective gear are conducted appropriately and efficiently; and ensuring that quality control continues to follow Army standards across all agencies involved in procurement of protective gear."It is easy enough to write a standard," Dassonville said. "It is one thing to write it -- it is another thing to go back and make sure everybody involved in the process understands it and does it. That is the other part that this task force is going to do." Across the Department of Defense, there are multiple organizations involved with getting a new idea for Soldier protective gear into the hands of a Soldier, Fuller said. He explained that from the inception of a new piece of gear to the placing of that gear into a Soldier's hands, there are agencies that develop items, write contracts, produce equipment and test it. Not all of those organizations are strictly Army organizations. But the goal of Task Force Soldier Protection is to ensure they all know what their mission is, and that they all are following the same set of strict Army guidelines for Soldier protective gear, Fuller said. "The point of TFSP is to synchronize and integrate all the stakeholders working on Soldier protection items," said Fuller. "We want to make sure everybody is working on the same thing and understands what the left and right are doing in relation to what they are working on. The Army wants to ensure that the highest standards are consistently applied to all processes related to Soldiers' survivability equipment." Task Force Soldier Protection is currently intended as a temporary organization. In June, the results of the task force will be reviewed, officials said. A decision to dissolve or continue the task force will be made at that time.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Coast Guard Tows Disabled New Bedford Vessel

A 225-foot Coast Guard cutter towed a New Bedford, Mass., fishing vessel to safety, after it became disabled approximately 70 miles east of Chatham, Mass. The five-member crew of the 70-foot Sea Siren is not in any distress. After receiving the call from the stern trawler, Coast Guard Sector Southeastern New England directed the Coast Guard Cutter Juniper, homeported in Newport, R.I., to assist Sea Siren's crew. "Communicating with the disabled vessel was difficult due to how far offshore they were," said Petty Officer 1st Class Nicholas Sawka, the operations unit controller at Sector Southeastern New England. "Luckily, the crew was able to use their satellite phone to let us know they were having engine problems."The cutter, which was about 80 miles from the Sea Siren, arrived on scene. "When we arrived on scene there were 10-foot seas and winds gusting up to 30 knots," said Seaman Terrance Daignault, a crewman aboard the Juniper. "The boat was dead in the water and taking waves on its broadside." The cutter crew launched a tow line to the Sea Siren using a line throwing gun and the fishing boat's crew pulled the line onto their boat and hooked up the tow. The Juniper is towing the Sea Siren toward Buzzards Bay, Mass., at a speed of about three knots, where they are scheduled to meet a commercial tug. The tug plans to tow the Sea Siren into New Bedford.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Seabees Going Strong After 67 Years

The U.S. Naval Construction Force (NCF) shares a proud past with the island of Guam and the region through its contributions to mission readiness in the areas of construction and reconstruction of vital facilities and infrastructure. It was in 1941 when Rear Adm. Ben Moreell, chief of the Navy's Bureau of Yards and Docks, recommended establishing naval construction battalions to provide a force capable of defensive military operations as well as construction. The first units were recruited from the civilian construction trades and deployed to Pacific and Atlantic fronts in support of the nation's warfighting efforts in World War II. From building airstrips and roads to hospitals and homes, the Seabees were credited for constructing all of the essentials for forward-base facilities, and playing a significant role in the success of the World War II and other conflicts that followed. "World War II signalled the Seabee's entry into the Pacific theater," said Ensign Michael Warren, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 40. "Thousands of Seabees were instrumental in paving the way for warfighters." In 1944, during a three week battle for Guam, the Seabees participated by unloading ships and performing vital construction jobs directed at eventually turning the island into the advanced headquarters for the United States Pacific Fleet, an air base for Japan-bound B-29s, and a huge center of war supply, according to the official NCF Web site. The invasion of Tinian called for yet another exhibition of Seabee ingenuity. Because its narrow beaches were covered with low coral cliffs, Seabees devised and operated special movable ramps which made the landings possible. Once ashore, and even as the battle raged, their bulldozers accomplished feats of construction on the damaged and unfinished Japanese airfield.More than six decades later, the Seabees continue build on their proud heritage. Today there are 16,336 Seabees in the NCF providing central command support with multiple Seabee regiments and battalions providing contingency operations throughout Iraq, Afghanistan Kuwait, and Bahrain in direct support of Marine Expeditionary Force – Forward, U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, and various special operations force efforts. Projects include construction of base camps and forward operating bases; road, airfield and bridge repairs; building renovations; and electrical and force protection upgrades. Task-organized units of various sizes provided force protection and mission support projects such as hardened dining facilities, Southwest Asia huts, and tension fabric structures at established camps and expeditionary forward operation bases (FOBs). Battalions also continued to run convoy security teams through the dangerous streets of Iraq, ensuring that supplies are safely and successfully transported to all camps and FOBs in Iraq. Convoy teams traveled more than 197,000 miles in 2008. Continued emphasis will be to construct camps and bases throughout Afghanistan and facilities for Iraqi Security Forces proved the value of Seabees operating in austere, dangerous environments. "With our motto "Construimus, Batuimus" or "We Build, We Fight" the Seabees have been alongside fellow Navy and Marine Corps units in every major conflict the U.S. has been involved in since World War II," said Warren. "Equipped with a "Can Do" attitude, our Seabees are accomplishing every construction task that is asked of us."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

South Africa Seizes Taiwanese Shark Fishing Boat

South African authorities have seized a Taiwanese fishing boat accused of violating limits on shark fishing. Inspectors confiscated 1.6 tons of dried shark fins from the vessel and said it was "the biggest alleged illegal consignment during recent years." The boat's permit was valid for just 220 pounds (100 kilograms) of shark fins.The environment ministry said the amount of dried shark fin suggested that the vessel had caught at least 30 tons of sharks, nearly 15 times what the crew claimed to have caught.In a statement Saturday it said the vessel would remain in Cape Town pending criminal proceedings and would be blacklisted worldwide. Shark-finning is fueled by big profit margins with shark fins estimated to fetch between $400-$700 per kilogram (2.2 pounds).

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Freighter Under Investigation After Colliding With Chinese Fishing Boat

A Panama-registered freighter was being investigated in east China's Zhejiang Province Saturday afternoon after a collision with a Chinese fishing boat Friday morning left eight Chinese fishermen missing, local authorities said. The Southern Wallaby, which belongs to Japan's Tatsumi Marine Co. Ltd, arrived at the Ningbo Port at 2 p.m. for investigation, a Ningbo municipal immigration inspection department official said. There were 20 seamen on the freighter, including two from the Republic of Korea and 18 from the Philippines. They were all in good condition, the official said.
The Southern Wallaby
"Because the freighter has a huge tonnage and is fully loaded, it suffered no damage in the collision. While the fishing boat sank and all the eight fishermen are missing," he said. The freighter, built in 2003, is 123.5 meters long and 20.2 meters wide. It set sail on March 5 from Singapore bound for Rizhao Port in east China's Shandong Province, with a cargo of 11,951 tonnes of palm oil, he said. Rescuers are still searching for the eight missing. The collision occurred at 1 a.m., in Chinese waters off the coast of Ningbo City. The fishing boat was registered in Zhejiang Province.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Destroyer To Protect Ship Near China

The U.S. Navy has dispatched a guided-missile destroyer to the South China Sea after Chinese ships allegedly harassed an American ship operating there last weekend, a Pentagon official said yesterday. The USS Chung-Hoon, armed with torpedoes and missiles, is stationed in protection of the USNS Impeccable, an ocean surveillance ship. On Sunday, five Chinese vessels surrounded the Impeccable, which is unarmed. The Chinese ships approached to within 25 feet and blocked the Impeccable's path with pieces of wood, the official said. "Chung-Hoon is there, in the area, keeping an eye on Impeccable, which continues lawful military operations," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. The Hawaii-based destroyer, with a crew of about 275, was in the region for a regularly scheduled deployment and was diverted to the escort mission, the official said. "It's not like we specially deployed another ship," he said. Pentagon officials did not say whether such escorts will now be routine for surveillance ships in the area, but they suggested that this one will continue for the duration of the Impeccable's current operation. The arrival of the destroyer underscores the Pentagon's determination to continue with the surveillance mission in spite of China's claims that it represents an illegal military activity -- aimed, according to Chinese experts, at monitoring submarine activity south of Hainan Island.
USS Chung-Hoon (DDG-93)
It also signaled heightened U.S.-China tensions on a day when President Obama met with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi at the White House. The two leaders called for strengthening cooperation to build "a positive and constructive" relationship, according to a White House statement. Obama stressed "the importance of raising the level and frequency of the U.S.-China military-to-military dialogue in order to avoid future incidents," the White House said. National security adviser James L. Jones also raised the weekend's incident in an earlier meeting with Yang, according to the statement. Washington protested the incident Monday, but China rejected the charges, saying the U.S. vessel was conducting illegal surveying activities in one of China's exclusive economic zones. Washington and Beijing have voiced a desire to cooperate on issues ranging from the global economic crisis to North Korea. In their meeting, Obama and Yang "agreed that China and the U.S. must work closely and urgently, as two of the world's leading economies, to stabilize the global economy by stimulating demand at home and abroad, and get credit markets flowing," the White House said. Obama also expressed hope for progress in the Chinese government's dialogue with representatives of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist leader.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Luck saves sailor James Palmer from Cyclone Hamish

"My name is James." After 25 hours floating at sea, these were the only words relieved deckhand James Palmer could muster for his rescuers. In a true miracle, the 20-year-old fisherman survived mountainous swells whipped up by Cyclone Hamish after both his boat and life raft capsized. In desperation he grabbed what he thought was a stick, which in an amazing stroke of luck turned out to be an emergency distress beacon. But grave fears were last night held for his uncle, trawler skipper Russell Palmer, and crewmate Tony Tyndall, who both remained missing last night. The three fishermen were aboard Hervey Bay-based trawler MBC which capsized on Swains Reef, where they had anchored to ride out the cyclone. However, the trawler rolled on Monday morning after apparently being pounded by a huge wave. While Russell Palmer stayed with the boat, his nephew and Mr Tyndall took to a life raft which also capsized. After being separated from his crewmates, James Palmer drifted alone through wild seas and pitch darkness before he was finally rescued about 9.40am (AEST) yesterday.
Luck on his side ... James Palmer has been rescued after floating in high seas for 25 hours.
He swam to rescue helicopter crewmen from a life raft which had been dropped to him by an Australian Maritime Safety Authority aircraft. His remarkable survival stunned rescuers from the RACQ-Central Queensland helicopter service. "He relayed to us that he had an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) in the life raft with him, but when they rolled he lost control of the (device)," crewman Darren Bobin said yesterday. "The amazing thing is as he was drifting throughout that night what he thought was a stick drifting with him was actually an EPIRB that he grabbed and turned on. "It was the one that we tracked (to find him)." In Hervey Bay's fishing community, the joy of Mr Palmer's rescue was tempered by fears that his uncle and father-of-four Mr Tyndall had perished. Last night, Mr Tyndall's mother, Valerie, said she was glad Mr Palmer had been saved but admitted that hopes her son and his friend would be found alive were fading.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Air Force Adds Recruiters As Its Personnel Grows

Air Force adding recruiters as it increases personnel. With the aim of boosting its total numbers by 14,000, the Air Force is upping the number of recruiters. The Air Force wants to add 200 recruiters after deciding to increase its strength from 316,000 servicemembers to 330,000, according to a service press release. "I'm not surprised the Air Force is increasing recruiters. We go through an influx every once in a while," said Master Sgt. Brandy Martinoli, a recruiter at Aviano Air Base in northern Italy. "A couple of years back, we did a plus-up, too. And if we're taking in more recruits, we'll need more recruiters, more ' military training instructors at basic training and more ' military training leaders at the technical schools." In June of last year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that he was immediately putting a stop to further reductions of Air Force personnel. The active-duty rolls were projected to decrease to 316,600 by the end of fiscal 2009. But in announcing that Air Force numbers would increase to 330,000, Gates said that the American public's focus on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is mostly about the Army, but "the reality is that our airmen and women and those in the other services are under strain as well." The Air Force is looking to fill jobs such as linguists, combat controllers, security forces and pararescue airmen, said Christa D'Andrea, a spokeswoman with the recruiting command. As part of that effort, Air Force recruiting officials are looking for roughly 200 active-duty volunteers to serve as recruiters. It hopes to have 95 percent of the new recruiters trained and ready by September, D'Andrea said.Airmen typically select the recruiting field for three reasons: autonomy, stability and the chance to work in their hometown, Master Sgt. Craig Ploessl of Air Force Recruiting Service said in Friday's press statement. In addition to working independently to find young men and women interested in joining the Air Force, a recruiting assignment allows recruiters do work at or near their hometowns for four years, he stated. "Recruiting offers a direct opportunity for airmen to step out of their current career fields and provides them the chance to change people's lives," Chief Master Sgt. Vance Clark, the recruiting service command chief, said in a statement. "Men and women who would not have as many opportunities in their home towns are afforded the chance to train, learn, experience and see things and places in the Air Force they never would," he said. Martinoli has been in the recruiting field for more than eight years and has recruited in California, Boston and now Aviano, where she's been stationed for more than a year. "I love the job," she said. "I love talking about the Air Force and telling everyone about the wonderful benefits ' [such] as quality of life. ' I wanted to spread the Air Force word because the Air Force is not as popular as the Army and Marine Corps." For January, the most recent figures released by the Defense Department, all active-duty forces, and five of the six reserve component forces met or exceeded their recruiting goals.

* Air Force recruiters signed up 2,600 active-duty airmen for January, exceeding their goal of 2,597.

* Army recruiters signed up 9,658 recruits, 107 percent of their target, 9,000 enlistees.

* Navy recruiters signed up 2,948 active-duty sailors, meeting their target for the month.

* Marine Corps recruiters signed up 3,720 active-duty Marines, 109 percent of their target number of 3,406.

The February figures will be released Tuesday, said Cynthia Smith, a Defense Department spokeswoman. Martinoli said she doesn't find recruiting overseas more difficult than stateside, though the pool of candidates is different. Aside from recruiting children of military members, she also signs up a number of military spouses. "Spouses want to join and serve their country like their spouses, and I also have a lot of high-school seniors and juniors, even, who want to follow in their parents' footsteps." More information on eligibility is posted on the Web site at: www.rs.af.mil

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