Monday, April 27, 2009

Technical Problems

This blog will be out of commission for the next few days due to technical problems. We hope to be up and running by Thursday or Friday. Please accept our apologies.

Friday, April 24, 2009

6 People Rescued When Boat Began Sinking Off Florida Coast

Six people whose boat was sinking off the Florida coast were rescued by another vessel. Those aboard the 26-foot Team Steiger Craft out of Port Canaveral notified the Coast Guard Thursday morning the boat was sinking about 90 miles east of Jacksonville. The Coast Guard headed to the scene with a dewatering pump. Another boat in the area responded and rescued passengers floating in life jackets from the water.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Key West's Ship Finally Comes In

It took more than $8 million and 10 years, but the Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg arrived in Key West at 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, greeted at its temporary dockage, the Truman Waterfront, by a crowd of several hundred people. Plans are for the 523-foot decommissioned military vessel to be intentionally sunk in late May or early June as an artificial reef six miles south of the city. It's expected to provide a huge boon to the dive and snorkel industry. "Not only will it be the second largest ship in the world ever intentionally sunk to become an artificial reef, but it is of huge historical significance," Mayor Morgan McPherson says. The largest ship intentionally scuttled as an artificial reef is the 888-foot USS Oriskany, which took the plunge in 2006 off Pensacola. The 510-foot Spiegel Grove was sunk off Key Largo in 2002 at a cost of $1.4 million. While the Vandenberg has reached its final destination after spending time in the Navy's mothball fleet on the James River and after being cleaned of contaminants at a Norfolk, Va., shipyard, there are still lots of nuts and bolts left in the operation. "I'm exhausted," said Key West City Commissioner Bill Verge, the city's point man on the project. "It doesn't end here, it just begins here. Everybody acts like it's done."
The 'Vandenberg' is towed into Key West
Final preparations include cutting 47 holes into the hull, final asbestos inspections, a once-over from federal regulators, and rigging for the explosives that will eventually send her to the bottom. The ship passed Marathon on Monday and arrived off Key West late Tuesday. Wednesday morning, the ship was maneuvered by tug and pilot boats into harbor and docked near the USS Mohawk on the East Quay Wall. The ship will not be open to public tours due to safety concerns, but a good view of the Vandenberg will be available from the East Quay Wall and from aboard the Mohawk. Plans are for the ship to be on the ocean's bottom by June 1, the start of the six-month hurricane season. After preparations are complete, the Vandenberg will be towed out to the scuttling location and anchored in spot. The Coast Guard, with help from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, will set up a perimeter of 500 yards around the ship. Verge said he heard reports that when the Vandenberg was in transit down the Keys, many boaters were motoring right up next to it and ignoring the steel lines attaching the tugboats to the powerless Vandenberg.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

2009 Military Pay

The Obama administration has called for a 2.9 percent increase in basic pay (over 2009 basic pay rates) for military members, effective January 1, 2010. 2.9 percent is the minimum President Obama could have requested under current law, as this percentage would match, but not exceed, average private-sector wage growth. Under law, each year ’s increase must at least match the private-sector wage growth as measured by the Labor Department’s Employment Cost Index.However, every year for the past several years, Congress has approved a military pay raise slightly larger than that requested by the President, and 2010 is no exception. Both the House and the Senate has agreed to include a 3.4 percent across-the-board military base pay raise in the 2010 Defense Authorization Act. This makes a 3.4 percent raise (1/2 a percent above President Obama's request) pretty much a sure thing.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Joe’s First Shout As Helmsman Is To Rescue A Fishing Boat.

Newquay RNLI’s lifeboats launched on Friday 17th April 2009 to assist a broken down fishing vessel in Newquay Bay. At 16:50 hrs on Friday afternoon the fishing vessel Prah Nang reported that she had lost engine power and was adrift in Newquay Bay, 1 mile NNW of Park Head. They had identified the root of the problem as a split fuel line and managed to effect a repair. However, they had lost fuel and had insufficient fuel to return to the harbour.Newquay’s RNLI Atlantic 85 lifeboat, Gladys Mildred, launched with Joe Emmett at the helm. Joe and his crew took spare fuel out to the disabled vessel and then escorted her back to the harbour. This was Joe’s first shout as an Atlantic helmsman having successfully completed his competencies the day prior to the shout. Joe joined the crew in 1997, becoming a D-class helmsman in 2007. Atlantic Crew: Joe Emmett (helm), Daniel Gilbert, Christian Brown, Ian Jepson.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Asylum Seekers Set Own Boat On Fire

Asylum seekers on board a boat that erupted in a deadly explosion last week off Australia's coast had doused the deck with gasoline, officials said. The Australia Broadcasting Corp. reported Sunday that police said they were still investigating Thursday's blast off Australia's northwest coast. ABC reported that government sources said asylum seekers doused their vessel in an attempt to force the Australian navy to allow them to dock rather than turning them back to Indonesia.The network reported at least three Afghans died and another two were missing presumed dead after the explosion. Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett called for a through investigation into the incident, which left 41 survivors hospitalized. "Surely there does need to be and there will be a detailed investigation which will bring out the fine detail but I believe there needs to be some clarification, after all we are three days on," he said. "I would hope that the federal government does make a more detailed statement to the Australian people."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Italy Blocks Cargo Ship Carrying Rescued Migrants

A 15-year-old girl among 154 migrants on board a Turkish owned cargo ship being refused landing by both the Maltese and Italian authorities has been airlifted to Lampedusa because she was in need of assistance. The Panamian flagged Pinar E, currently some 25 nautical miles off Lampedusa, picked up the migrants 41 nautical miles off Lampedusa (114 from Malta) on Thursday. It was refused entry into Italian waters by the Italian authorities, who are insisting the migrants should be brought to Malta, which is responsible for the search and rescue region.
The Pinar E which currently has 154 immigrants on board, some of whom have taken over the engine room.
Malta is insisting, however, that in terms of international conventions, the migrants have to be landed at the nearest safe port, which in this case is Lampedusa. The sources said that a number of the migrants on board the ship required treatment. Some of them were to be airlifted to Lampedusa later today and a pregnant woman was draped and put on a lifeboat. Meanwhile conflicting reports are being received about the situation of the 154 migrants on board. These include that some of the migrants had taken over the engine room and barricaded themselves in it. Other sources denied that this was the case.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Coast Guard Rescues Fishing Crew That Abandoned Ship

Five fishermen whose vessel began taking on water in Southeast Alaska early this morning have been rescued and brought to safety, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. One of the crew members sustained back injuries and was airlifted to Ketchikan for treatment, according to the Coast Guard. The crewman's condition was not immediately available. The crew of the 58-foot Seafarer, based out of Klawock, sent out a Mayday call at 12:51 a.m. as they began to abandon ship onto an 18-foot skiff, said the Coast Guard. At the time, the vessel was in Clarence Strait, about seven miles north of Thorne Bay. The Coast Guard dispatched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Sitka as well as a 47-foot lifeboat and 25-foot response boat from Ketchikan. It also diverted the cutter Naushon to the scene.The chopper was first to arrive and found the crew safe on the skiff. It waited at the scene until just before 3 a.m., when the lifeboat reached the scene. The injured crewman was taken aboard that vessel, then lifted into the Jayhawk, which flew him to Ketchikan for emergency medical treatment, the Coast Guard said. The remaining crew members remained on their skiff and were towed to Thorne Bay by the lifeboat. According to the Coast Guard, the crew's use of an electronic locator beacon and a flashlight helped speed the rescue. "The fact that they had (the beacon) and a flashlight made locating them much easier," Lt. Cmdr. Eric Carter, Jayhawk commander, said in a prepared statement. "The (beacon) didn't give us an exact position but the use of the flashlight led us right to them using our night-vision goggles."

Friday, April 17, 2009

USS Stockdale, The Navy's Newest Ship, To Be Commissioned This Saturday

USS Stockdale (DDG 106), the Navy's newest Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer, will be Commissioned at Naval Base Ventura County Port Hueneme on Saturday, April 18 at 11:00 during a formal ceremony featuring H. Ross Perot as the Honorary Chair for the event and Admiral Keating as the Keynote Speaker. An estimated 100 Vietnam Veterans and former Prisoners of War, Medal of Honor recipients and family members are attending this historic commissioning and the surrounding events. The fast warship - which is the same class of Navy ship as the USS Bainbridge deployed to the waters off Somalia to help in the rescue efforts of Capt. Roberts Phillips - will provide multi-mission offensive and defensive capabilities. As the first destroyer named for the Navy's highest ranking POW, the ship embodies the spirit and patriotism of Medal of Honor Recipient Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale.
Former POW, Charlie Plumb - who himself was held prisoner for six years Northern Vietnam - has been involved in the Stockdale Commissioning and says of the event, "We Ex-POW's from the Vietnam war see the commissioning of the USS Stockdale as more than just putting a new destroyer into naval service. This great ship represents an American icon, Admiral James Bond Stockdale. Many of us owe our very lives to this great leader." The Ventura/Santa Barbara visit is fitting for the Commissioning Ceremony as the Santa Barbara Council of the Navy League of the United States was invited to adopt the USS Stockdale last October. Following the Commissioning event, The Navy League of the United States - Santa Barbara Council, is hosting an afternoon POW "Return with Honor" Reunion, recognizing the late Stockdale, his wife Sybil, Charlie Plumb and his fellow POWs as well as the future heroes preparing to serve aboard the USS Stockdale (DDG 106). A live television feed of the Commissioning Ceremony and the POW "Return with Honor" Reunion will be made available @

Thursday, April 16, 2009

French Navy Captures 11 Pirates; US Ship Attacked

The French navy detained 11 Somali pirates yesterday who tried to seize a Liberian-flagged merchant ship. The French frigate Nivose captured the pirates’ mothership, which was carrying two small assault boats, some 900km east of the Kenyan port of Mombasa, the French Defence Ministry said.
FS Nivôse (F 732)
The Nivose, deployed to prevent attacks in the gangs’ widening hunting grounds off the coast of Somalia and neighbouring Kenya, tracked the pirates after its helicopter thwarted an attack on the Liberian-flagged Safmarine Asia. Meanwhile, Somali pirates attacked an American freighter with rockets to “destroy” the ship in revenge for an operation that freed a US captain last weekend, one of their commanders said yesterday. The freighter escaped the attack.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Career Intermission Pilot Program

Need a one to three year break from Navy service? Sailors can now take a break from active Navy service, courtesy of the new Career Intermission Pilot Program (CIPP). The Fiscal Year 2009 Defense Authorization Act allows each of the services to establish programs which allow military members to take a break from active duty military service, in exchange for an extended active duty service obligation upon their return. The Navy is the first branch to implement this authority. The Navy has decided to test the program for the next four years. The pilot program provides an opportunity for up to 20 officers and 20 enlisted participants each year in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Under the terms of the program, selected officers and enlisted will be transferred from active duty to the IRR (Individual Ready Reserve) for one to three years. While participating in the program, members will receive a monthly stipend of one-fifteenth of their basic pay. Additionally, they will retain active duty Tricare medical benefits for themselves and their family members, and are even eligible for a one-time funded move to anywhere in the continental United States, when they enter the program.All program participants will return to active duty at the end of the period prescribed and will incur a two-to-one service obligation for every month in the program (served in addition to any previously existing obligation). Time spent in the IRR will not count toward retirement, computation of total years of commissioned service, or high-year tenure limitations. The break in service excludes participants from promotion consideration. Upon returning to active duty, officers will have their date of rank adjusted, and enlisted members will have their active duty service date adjusted in order to be competitive with others of similar time in grade on active duty. According to Navy officials, the pilot program is only for top performers who have the desire to "Stay Navy," but need some time off. It could be for any number of reasons – to pursue a degree full-time, to take care of an ailing parent, or to start a family. Interested Sailors can read more about the program in Navy Administrative Message 095/09. Complete eligibility information and application procedures can be found in OPNAVINST 1330.2.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

All 22 Crew On Hijacked Greek Ship Unharmed

All 22 crew aboard a Greek-owned bulk carrier that was hijacked by Somali pirates on Tuesday are unharmed, a regional maritime group said. The East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme said the nationalities of the sailors remained unclear. The MV Irene E.M. was seized before dawn by gunmen from Somalia in their latest attack on commercial shipping in the vital waterways.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Somali Pirates Vow Retaliation

Somali pirates on Monday vowed to retaliate for the deaths of three colleagues who were shot dead by U.S. Navy snipers hours before in a daring nighttime assault that freed a 53-year-old American captain. The Navy Seals late Sunday rescued freighter Capt. Richard Phillips, who had been held by pirates on a lifeboat that drifted in the Indian Ocean for five days. "Every country will be treated the way it treats us," said Abdullahi Lami, one of the pirates holding a Greek ship anchored in the pirate den of Gaan, a central Somali town. "In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying," he told The Associated Press by telephone. "We will retaliate for the killings of our men." He gave no details and it was not clear in what way the pirates could retaliate, though some fear they could take their revenge on the hundreds of other foreign nationals they hold on seized ships. The rescue dealt a blow to pirates who regularly seize passing ships and hold them captive until multimillion dollar ransoms are paid. But it is unlikely to help quell the region's growing pirate threat, which has turned the Gulf of Aden and the waterways along Somalia's coast into some of the most dangerous shipping lanes on the planet. Pirates currently hold more than a dozen foreign ships, most moored along the Horn of Africa nation's long coast, with about 230 foreign sailors from Russia to the Philippines. The American rescue followed a similar operation Friday carried out by French navy commandos, who stormed a pirate-held sailboat, the Tanit, in a shootout at sea that killed two pirates and freed four French hostages. The French owner of the vessel was also killed in the assault. Residents of the Somali town of Harardhere said tensions were growing there. Abdullahi Haji Jama, who owns a clothing store in the town, said: "We fear that the pirates may retaliate against the foreign nationals they are holding." But he also said people feared "any revenge taken by the pirates against foreign nationals could bring more attacks from the foreign navies, perhaps on our villages."Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, said the American operation "could escalate violence in this part of the world, no question about it." Jamac Habeb, a 30-year-old self-proclaimed pirate, told The Associated Press that the three pirates' deaths were "a painful experience." Speaking from the pirate hub, Eyl, he added: "this will be a good lesson for us." "From now on, if we capture foreign ships and their respective countries try to attack us, we will kill them," Habeb said. "Now they became our number one enemy," he said of U.S. forces. So far, at least, it has been rare for Somali pirates to harm captive foreign crews. Several years ago, a crew member of a Taiwanese fishing boat hijacked for six months was killed by pirates, but no reason was given but it appeared to be an isolated incident, according to Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. No reason was given but it appeared to be an isolated incident, he said. Somalia has been engulfed in fighting and anarchy since the 1991 overthrow of Siad Barre, and remains today a country with no effective government, a nation ruled by tribal clans. The piracy scourge appears to have evolved partly out of an attempt by Somali fishermen to protect their waters against illegal foreign trawlers who were destroying their livelihoods. Some of the vigilantes morphed into pirates, lured by the large profits they could win in ransoms. Somalia's prime minister welcomed the U.S. Navy's operation Sunday. "The Somali government wanted the drama to end in a peaceful way, but anyone who is involved in this latest case had the choice to use violence or other means," Abdulkhadir Walayo, the prime minister's spokesman, told The Associated Press. "Anyway, we see it will be a good lesson for the pirates or anyone else involved in this dirty business." Pirates were defiant though, vowing the events would not stop them form seizing more ships. One pirate vowed the events would not stop them from targeting more ships. "The mere killing of three and capturing one will not make us change our mind," said one pirate holding a German ship anchored in the Somali town of Harardhere who refused to give his name. "We are determined to continue our business regardless of the recent killings and arrests."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Pentagon Delays Decision On Carrier Move

The Defense Department has decided to delay the decision on whether to homeport an aircraft carrier in Mayport, Fla., until it comprehensively reviews the issue during the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review. The decision had not been officially announced as of late Thursday. The Virginian-Pilot learned of it via an e-mail sent by a Navy officer in the defense secretary's office to congressional staffers Thursday afternoon. The e-mail also said the Navy will proceed with dredging work at Mayport Naval Station so that it can serve either as a future homeport or as an emergency location for a carrier. In January, after a 2 1/2-year environmental study, the Navy formally endorsed plans to homeport a nuclear carrier at Mayport. The Navy said at the time that dispersing the East Coast fleet would reduce the risks of a catastrophic attack or natural disaster. Florida leaders celebrated the decision as Virginia officials fretted over the loss of an estimated 11,000 jobs and $600 million in annual income that accompany a carrier . Meanwhile, the two states' congressional delegations prepared for a legislative face off. Virginia questioned the wisdom of spending at least $565 million to prepare Mayport for a nuclear carrier. Florida, which lost the conventionally powered John F. Kennedy from Mayport when it was decommission ed in 2007, touted the national security benefits of the move. A trio of senators from the two states weighed in on the unannounced decision Thursday. "I am gratified that the Department of Defense has formally decided to postpone the major elements of the Navy's proposal until after a proper strategic review has been conducted, as I have consistently urged," Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., said in a statement."I look forward to reviewing the rest of the proposal - which includes a request for funds to conduct minimal dredging and pier work at Mayport - on its merits, as part of the Fiscal Year 2010 budget process." Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., struck a similar tone . "This is a promising development for the taxpayers and for the Navy, and I am pleased the Pentagon has agreed with our request to focus on the fiscal and strategic realities of building an extra nuclear carrier facility at Mayport," he said. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine was more cautious, saying the decision "offers some room for optimism." On the other end of the fight, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson's office weighed in. "The deputy secretary of defense told Sen. Nelson today they're still proceeding with construction of the pier and dredging to make Mayport naval station ready for a nuclear-powered carrier," spokesman Dan McLaughlin said in a written statement. "And, there's been no change in the Navy's prior conclusion that basing a carrier there is critical to national security." Frank Roberts, director of the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance, said the Navy had more pressing needs than spending $600 million to prepare Mayport Naval Station for a nuclear carrier. "It's definitely the right and appropriate decision," he said. Considering the move as part of next year's quadrennial defense review will delay a decision until at least 2011, he said. This means the Navy will keep its fleet of five operational carriers at Norfolk Naval Station. However, Roberts does not think the issue is dead. "I don't think we're ever safe," he said. "We have to be constantly vigilant."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Chemicals-Laden Turkish Ship Sinks In Sri Lankan Waters

A Turkish ship carrying thousands of tonnes of sulphuric acid sank off the Trincomalee Harbour in the eastern coast of Sri Lanka triggering fear of massive marine pollution. Reports said that Sri Lankan Marine officials along with the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) were taking urgent measures to minimise the environmental damage caused by the Turkish ship, MT Granba, which sank 8 kilometers off Foul Point in Trincomalee.
MT Granba
Ranjith Kularatne, Chairman of the Marine Environmental Protection Authority said the stretch of sea near Foul Point in Trincomalee was getting polluted due to the continuing leak. The ship was carrying 6250 metric tons of sulphuric acid when it began to sink off Foul Point in Trincomalee. The 19 crew members have been evacuated and handed over to police.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

New Boat For Tehama County Sheriff's Office

The Tehama County Sheriff's Department is getting a new patrol boat for the Sacramento River. The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the request in March, allowing Tehama County Sheriff Clay Parker to use a $80,000 state boating and waterways grant to purchase a $62,201 ThunderJet Alexis, 2009 22-foot aluminum-hull patrol vessel and trailer. "We plan on having it on the water by June," Parker said. The new custom, high -performance, all-weather jet boat features a five-panel windshield with canvas cover and dive platform/pump protector. Power for the vessel will be a new V-8 powered gas engine and jet propulsion.Tehama County deputies patrol 85 miles of the Sacramento River, as well as Black Butte Lake, to ensure equipment and safety regulations are adhered to, according to Parker. Any accident or incident occurring on public waterways within the county is investigated by the Tehama County Sheriff's Boating Unit, said Tehama County Undersheriff Dennis Garton. The new boat will join two others like it that are used for waterway patrol. The boats, equipped for rescue in all weather conditions, are capable of speeds in excess of 50 mph and can operate in less than 5 inches of water, said Garton.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

U.S. Navy Arrives At Scene Of Hijacked American Ship

The U.S. is gearing up for a standoff with the band of pirates who hijacked a U.S.-flagged cargo ship off the coast of Somalia as a Navy warship reportedly arrived at the scene early Thursday. The crew of the Maersk Alabama were able to regain control of the vessel Wednesday, but the pirates escaped with the captain as a captive. Kevin Speers, a spokesman for the owner of ship, told reporters that a U.S. Navy warship arrived at the scene, and the pirates and their hostage were a short distance away in one of the ship's lifeboats. Family members said Capt. Richard Phillips surrendered to the pirates to secure the safety of the crew. "What I understand is that he offered himself as the hostage," said Gina Coggio, 29, half sister of Phillips' wife. "That is what he would do. It's just who he is and his response as a captain." It is unclear, however, how the standoff will end, given that Western countries in the past have faced legal difficulties in pursuing such pirates in international waters. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Wednesday for world action to "end the scourge of piracy" as U.S. warships raced to confront the pirates. "Specifically, we are now focused on this particular act of piracy and the seizure of a ship that carries 21 American citizens. More generally, we think the world must come together to end the scourge of piracy," she said. A defense official said four pirates are in the lifeboat with their captive, and there is no clear evidence that a pirate remains captive with the U.S. crew.
Maersk Alabama
Earlier Wednesday, speaking on the ship's satellite phone, one of the 20 crew members said they had been taken hostage but managed to seize one pirate and then successfully negotiate their own release. "All the crew members are trained in security detail in how to deal with piracy," Maersk CEO John Reinhart told reporters. "As merchant vessels we do not carry arms. We have ways to push back, but we do not carry arms." John Harris, CEO of HollowPoint Security Services, which specializes in maritime security, said that the crew's overtaking the pirates could help prevent future hijackings, especially since the military can't protect the entire high seas. "Any time you can get intel from them, they can give you any kind of significant information, they more than likely will not, but anything we can get will always help us in the future," Harris told reporters. "Naval vessels ... can't be everywhere at one time, just like law enforcement," he said, noting that the U.S. Navy has been protecting the most vulnerable shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean. "If you saturate an area long enough in the shipping lanes, if you saturate it with war ships long enough, they venture out. In this case that's what they did. They want 350 miles out of the coast where no Naval vessels were present," he said. As for the boldness of the pirates taking a ship operating under a U.S. flag, Harris said pirates don't care which ship they grab. "We have not seen it matters at all. This is a business to them. They are not intended on carrying what cargo we're carrying. All they want to do is see a dollar figure. They know if they catch a big ship, they get big money. All they want is ransom out of this. They are not worried about crew or cargo," Harris said. Pentagon Spokesman Bryan Whitman said earlier Wednesday he has "no information to suggest the 20 crew members of the Maersk Alabama have been harmed by the pirates." During its one communication with the ship, Maersk was told the crew was safe, Reinhart said. He would not release the names of the crew members.
Capt. Richard Phillips
Cmdr. Jane Campbell, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, said that it was the first pirate attack "involving U.S. nationals and a U.S.-flagged vessel in recent memory." Wednesday's incident was the first such hostage-taking involving U.S. citizens in 200 years. In December 2008, Somali pirates chased and shot at a U.S. cruise ship with more than 1,000 people on board but failed to hijack the vessel. The top two commanders of the ship graduated from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, the Cape Cod Times reported Wednesday. Andrea Phillips, the wife of Capt. Phillips of Underhill, Vt., said her husband has sailed in those waters "for quite some time" and a hijacking was perhaps "inevitable." The Cape Cod Times reported his second in command, Capt. Shane Murphy, was also among the 20 Americans aboard the Maersk Alabama. Capt. Joseph Murphy, a professor at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, says his son is a 2001 graduate who recently talked to a class about the dangers of pirates. The newspaper reported the 33-year-old Murphy had phoned his mother to say he was safe. The 17,000-ton Maersk Alabama was carrying emergency relief to Mombasa, Kenya, at the time it was hijacked, for the Copenhagen-based container shipping group A.P. Moller-Maersk. Robert A. Wood, Deputy State Department Spokesman, told reporters the ship was carrying "vegetable oil, corn soy blend and other basic food commodities bound for Africa."

Four-Legged Marines Sniff To Save Lives

Since ancient times, dogs have been trained specifically for battle. Roman war dogs were organized into attack formations, often clad in sharply-spiked collars and coats of chain mail. Throughout the ages, war dogs have served many other purposes, including sending messages, pulling carts, dragging wounded men, and even blowing up tanks. Over time, their role has evolved and changed to suit the needs of the ever-changing battlefield. With the current threat of explosives, the Marine Corps’ K-9 handlers aboard Camp Al Taqaddum, Iraq, train their dogs to sniff out bombs, drugs and even people, to help with ensuring the safety of their fellow Marines. “The threat is still here,” said Sgt. Mark D. Vierig, Camp Al Taqaddum’s Kennel Master, attached to Task Force Military Police. “And as long as there are bombs, we still have a job [to do].” Their training is a result of the Military Working Dog program, which was developed in 1942 soon after the United States entered World War II. The Corps started to train dogs and their handlers to be capable of scouting and patrolling during combat operations where the dogs’ keen sense of smell enabled Marines to search a larger area in a shorter amount of time. Unlike other branches of the military where service members become dog handlers after several years of enlistment, to become a dog handler in the Marine Corps, Marines go from boot camp to Military Police school and straight on to the dog handling school, after a very selective process. “We’re the only branch of service that gets dogs right out of boot camp,” said Vierig. “It’s a lot of responsibility … [so] they make sure you’re mature and responsible.” While at MP school, individuals interested in the K-9 field must be in the top ten percent of their class. After writing an essay on why they want to be a handler, they will then go on an oral board to get selected for the K-9 school.Just like the handlers, the dogs go through a selective process as well. Coming mostly from European vendors, Vierig said the dogs must show courage, good prey drive, and have the right temperament. “Not every dog makes it, not every dog is meant for this job,” Vierig said. “Very few dogs can actually do what these dogs do.” He explained that dogs begin training when they are nine months to a year old. Like Marines, they go through a basic boot camp to learn the rudimentary skills of being a military working dog. The training can be as quick as a few weeks to as long as several months depending on the dog, but after boot camp it’s up to the handler to make advancements in their skills. Cpl. Daniel P. Pierce, specialized search dog handler, attached to Task Force Military Police, said they try to train with the dogs everyday. The handlers set up scenarios in open areas, roadways, abandoned buildings, and vehicles where they hide simulated explosives. Once they’ve picked an area to hide the explosives, the handlers will conduct a search with their dogs, allowing the dogs to improve their skills. “It keeps it in the dog’s head that they’re out here to do a job,” Pierce said. “The more they train, the sharper they are.” Keeping their dogs’ noses sharp, the handlers are better able to assist units in need of their help. “We’re assisting in a big way … the major threat is bombs and the dogs play a major role in this part of theater,” Vierig explained. “Dogs have capabilities that we just don’t have. You can take out an engineer with landmine capabilities but his machinery isn’t going to pick up scent like dogs can. By no means do they replace Marines but they are force multipliers.” Whether it is a combat mission, raid, route clearance operation, or even a health and comfort inspection, Camp Al Taqaddum’s military working dogs and their handlers support all units on the base for whatever they need sniffed out.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Coast Guard Responds to Submerged Dredge Barge

U.S. Coast Guard Sector Field Office Grand Haven and Station St. Joseph responded to the partially submerged dredge barge Alconon, in the St. Joseph River. The barge was reported to be leaking oil with small visible sheen in the water. Responders were not able to identify any areas of recoverable oil. A sheen was observed from Pier 33 to the CSX railroad bridge. The source of the spill has been contained with no new reports of oil in the water.
U.S. Coast Guard Sector Field Office Grand Haven and Station St. Joseph responded to the partially submerged dredge barge Alconon, In the St. Joseph River
The owner of the Alconon has a crane on scene stabilizing the dredge, while environmental and salvage contractors utilized a vacuum truck to remove and recover the water in the dredge. The dredge is now re-floated with no visible damage. It is believed the dredge sank due to a rise in the water level coupled with a portion of the dredge pipe getting caught between the dredge and the pier. “Mariners in the area are to proceed with caution as the dredge line is still in the water and unlighted,” said Jon Grob, Sector Lake Michigan's Chief of Waterways Management.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Canadian ship thwarts pirates

A Canadian warship on Sunday thwarted a pirate attack on a merchant vessel in the Arabian Sea, the military said in a statement. HMCS Winnipeg was deployed in the Nato led counter-piracy mission Operation Allied Protector, escorting ships in the region, when it spotted 'several small skiffs' nearing the Motor Vessel Pacific Opal.The Pacific Opal radioed for help. A navy helicopter was immediately dispatched and put itself between the Pacific Opal and the pirate skiffs, forcing them to withdraw, said the warship's commander.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Japan Destroyer Aids Singapore Ship Off Somalia

A Japanese destroyer on an anti-piracy mission off Somalia has given emergency protection to a Singapore-registered ship by chasing off four suspicious boats, the defence ministry said on Saturday. The 4,650-tonne Sazanami, deployed to protect Japanese-registered vessels in and around the Gulf of Aden, received a radio call for help from the Singaporean ship at around 1740 GMT on Friday, the ministry said. The warship issued a verbal warning through loudspeakers and beamed a searchlight at the four suspicious boats, which had been pursuing the Singaporean ship, a defence ministry spokeswoman said. The four boats - one "sizable" vessel and three small boats - then left the area, the spokeswoman said, adding that neither side used weapons and that the four suspicious vessel were not identified.
JDS Sazanami (DD 113)
The incident was Japan's first action against suspected pirates off Somalia since the Sazanami and the 4,550-tonne Samidare were dispatched to join an anti-piracy mission there last month. The nation's armed forces could face combat abroad for the first time since World War II in the rare mission. Japan's major past overseas missions - including in Iraq, near Afghanistan, and as UN peacekeepers - have been largely for logistical and support purposes such as refuelling, transport and reconstruction. Under the pacifist constitution Japan adopted after World War II, the mission will allow its soldiers to use force only for self-defence and to protect Japanese interests, defined as its nationals, ships and cargo. The ministry spokeswoman said the Japanese navy's action fell under the law of the sea which calls on any ships to assist vessels in distress.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Boat Hit By Ship, Eight Fishermen Escape Unhurt

Eight fishermen on board a trawl boat engaged in deep sea fishing had escaped on Thursday morning when it was hit by a ship. Manager of the boat Arun Bengre said that the ship could not sight the boat and its occupants. Mr. Bengre, who was not on board, said the driver of the trawl boat quickly tried to swerve out of the pathway of the ship but could not avoid getting hit by the side of the ship. A few fishermen were thrown into the waters because of the impact while the boat suffered a major damage. A part of the wooden plank of the boat came off. The fishermen in the vicinity rushed to the rescue of the men on board. Since water was gushing into the damaged boat, they managed to plug the leak and hold it afloat.He said that he got the message about 12 hours after the incident and rushed to the spot with two boats from Mangalore fishing harbour. The damaged boat was brought to Mangalore shore on Friday morning. The boat was in the sea for the past nine days. Since water entered the fish-hold, fish worth Rs. 2 lakh had decayed. Mr. Bengre said the boat, A.B. Fisheries, was owned by Prabhakar Suvarna of the city. The repairs to the boat could cost over Rs. 5 lakh, he said. Deputy Director of Fisheries Sureshkumar Ullal said the incident had not come to his notice. The office of Mangalore Trawl Boat Meenugarara Sangha was also not aware of it. Mr. Bengre said the information could not be conveyed to them as he was busy salvaging the boat.

Friday, April 03, 2009

One Pirate Killed As Navy Vessel Sinks Somali Pirate Ship

At least one Somali pirate was killed and two others wounded after a naval vessel patrolling the Indian Ocean fired on their boat and destroyed their mother ship, witnesses said Thursday. Local fishermen in the pirate den of Harardhere in northern Somalia said the incident occurred on Wednesday afternoon, but the naval vessel was unknown. "One pirate died and three others were injured after they approached a navy ship. They were given warning signals but they ignored and kept approaching and their mother boat was destroyed," local fisherman Abdullahi Isa Mohamed told reporters. Other residents who confirmed the incident said the men were on board small boats hunting for ships to attack.But the US Navy Fifth Fleet command and the European naval mission off the pirate-infested Somali coast said they had no information regarding the sinking of a pirate mother ship. The coastal town of Harardhere is often used by Somali pirates to hold hijacked vessels and their crews, releasing them after often hefty ransoms are handed over. A surge in vessel attacks off Somalia's unpatrolled coast last year prompted the deployment of a multinational naval force to secure one of the world's key shipping routes. More than 130 merchant ships were attacked in the region last year according to the International Maritime Bureau.

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