Wednesday, September 30, 2009

US Air Force Class of 2009: Pilots Who Won't Fly

The US Air Force is marking something of a milestone as it positions itself to better address the need for round-the-clock intelligence in Afghanistan and Iraq. Last week, the service graduated the first class of pilots without flight training. Just eight officers graduated from an experimental training program for the MQ-1 Predator, a remote-controlled aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). But it marks a shift for a service that has defined its leaders by their prowess as flyboys and that is now coming to terms with the less glamorous but critical demands of the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also suggests the Defense Department's shift to fighting so-called irregular warfare is starting to be institutionalized across the department. Lt. Gen. David Deptula, deputy chief of staff for Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, calls the graduation a "transition point" for the Air Force in terms of the way it trains the kind of pilots that are needed today. "It's a departure from how we've selected and trained pilots for remotely-controlled planes before," he says. Unlike most of the service's other UAV pilots who have undergone 12- to 18-month pilot training for their various aircraft, the eight officers have never flown Air Force planes. And they may never do so. The new training program is four to six months and includes basic flight screening and equipment training. Deptula emphasizes that this is a test program, and he's not yet sure it will become permanent.The experimental training is spurred by the insatiable appetite that ground commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan appear to have for the quick intelligence provided by surveillance and reconnaissance missions undertaken by remotely-controlled aircraft. Such pilots an maintain a persistent presence in the sky, monitoring terrorist or other insurgent activity for hours on end and feeding "real-time" video imagery to the people who need it on the ground. These eyes-in-the-skies can help commanders to make better tactical decisions before they send ground forces into harm's way. The data can also help them to identify broader trends among insurgents -- about where fighters are coming from, for example. Many of the pilots who fly these unmanned aerial vehicles are actually based at Air Force bases in the US, such as the one at Creech Air Force Base in suburban Las Vegas, which flies UAVs over Afghan skies thousands of miles away. The Air Force has a short-term goal of flying 50 remote-controlled planes over Iraq or Afghanistan at any one time by 2010. Currently, the service flies about 36 remote-controlled airplanes over the two war theaters. For years, the Air Force has been accused of focusing too much on potential future threats from "near-peer" countries such as Russia or China, at the expense of immediate needs in Iraq and Afghanistan. But more recently -- and with Defense Secretary Robert Gates' pointed encouragement -- the service has redirected its energies to better support ground commanders in the current conflicts.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Cruise Ship Pullout Could Be an Economic Detriment To Caribbean Nation

A recent decision by Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines to drop Antigua and Barbuda from its seven-night Southern Caribbean cruise itinerary could cost the tourist-dependent nation more than $40 million, the country's tourism minister told reporters Tuesday. John Maginley, who is attending the Americas Conference, said he only learned last week via email that Carnival would no longer be anchoring its Victory ship in Antigua as of Jan. 3, 2010. Instead, the 2,758-passenger ship will be sailing to St. Maarten. ``There was no discussion, none,'' Maginely said. ``We're supposed to be partners in this thing, and all we got was an email sent to the agent in Antigua that Carnival is pulling its boat.'' Maginley has a meeting scheduled with Carnival on Thursday. He says before the cancellation, he had been speaking to Carnival about increasing the number of cruise ships visiting Antigua. He was told, he said, that it takes 18 months to two years to make such a decision. Maginley pointed out that the decision came three weeks after six Carnival Victory passengers were jailed in Antigua following a scuffle with police and claims by a local taxi driver that they had refused to pay a $100 taxi fare. The incident made international headlines with popular radio and TV personalities calling the Caribbean island a rogue nation, and accusing it of illegally detaining Americans. Maginley said the comparisons are unfair, and the passengers are being given due process in what is being considered a police matter. Further, he said, U.S. embassy officials have been in touch with the passengers who have been released and are awaiting a court appearance in Antigua. ``Until this date, they have not communicated to me as tourism minister ...saying they are pulling the boat,'' Maginley said.The Victory brings in about 150,000 passengers annually, and according to 2006 figures, each passenger spends an average of $115 on souvenirs and other purchases. The head-tax, alone, he said, adds about $500,000 to Antigua's government coffers. Carnival has denied that the decision has anything to do with the arrest of its passengers. Jennifer de la Cruz, spokeswoman for Carnival Cruise Lines, told The Miami Herald that the company had ``opted to take Antigua off the itinerary as of the beginning of January and replace it with St. Maarten. ``We had been looking at that itinerary for quite some time; we have not modified it in four years,'' she said. ``It is the only ship based in San Juan that does a southern itinerary. We occasionally change out ports of call.'' De la Cruz said: ``We do have another ship that calls in Antigua about once a month, Freedom, which sails out of Port Everglades. It will continue to call in Antigua.'' Still Maginley said the decision not only means a loss of almost 150,000 passengers but what is to prevent Carnival from canceling its other ships. ``The difficulty for us as a government is this: We built a new port that we have to pay for so that we can take in these boats and part of the long term plan is the commitment from cruise lines to come and do something,'' he said. ``If they pull out without any conversation, what do I tell the people who are financing the dock? It puts us in jeopardy.'' He added: ``I am concerned about Carnival, yes, but I am also very concerned about what is being said about Antigua around the United States as a result of this incident,'' he said. ``All I would like is an opportunity for fair and clear minds to discuss this issue and take it for what it was.''

Monday, September 28, 2009

Oil Spill Forces Ship Channel Closure

A two-mile stretch of the Houston Ship Channel's north tip will be closed at least three weeks while crews clean up 10,500 gallons of oil that spilled into the water Friday night after a vessel struck a barge, the U.S. Coast Guard said. “It's slightly over the threshold of a medium spill. The threshold is 10,000 gallons,” said Capt. James Whitehead. “Mainly we look at the impact of the area. It's low economic impact at this point.” The area will be closed to all vessel traffic north of the Sidney Sherman Bridge. U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Marcus Woodring said while the spill is a considerable mess that will interrupt business and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to clean, it was fortunate the accident didn't happen in a busier stretch of the 52-mile channel, such as the south end. Companies whose business is affected by the shutdown will have to endure the delay or use their insurance to cover any losses, Woodring said. The 458-foot vessel was trying to turn around near Brady's Island around 9 p.m. Friday when it struck Buffalo Barge #251.
MT Chemical Supplier
One of the vessel's fuel tanks was damaged, and heavy fuel oil leaked for more than four hours out of a 2-foot-by-4-foot gash that was about 5 feet above the water line, officials said. The ship's crew transferred the remaining No. 6 ship fuel from the ruptured tank into an empty fuel tank on board. “It stuck to everything,” said Woodring. “It's going to take a while. It will be labor intensive because we basically have to scrub rocks.” Woodring said workers will be restricted to working only during daylight hours while cleaning oil and vapors trapped under the pier. Workers also will need to scrub hulls of several vessels. At least 10 vessels — barges, ships and tug boats — are trapped in the affected area until it re-opens. The ship, Chemical Supplier, is owned by W.O. Ship Management out of the Marshall Islands. Its cargo was airplane fuel, but none of that leaked, Woodring said. The crew aboard the ship all were routinely tested for drug or alcohol use, Woodring said. On Saturday, the U.S. Coast Guard placed plastic and foam boom across the ship channel to contain the spill and collected some 5,000 gallons of oil-water mixture. The response includes such resources as more than 15,000 feet of containment boom, 11 work boats, two helicopters and an oil spill recovery barge.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Indian Warship Rescues Fishing Boat

A warship of the Southern Naval Command rescued a stranded fishing boat by towing it to safety off the Kochi coast. According to a Navy media communiqué, Indian Naval Ship (INS) Bangaram, which was on patrol, received a distress message from fishing vessel ‘Arogyamatha’ at about 4 p.m. on Wednesday. During search, the vessel was located adrift about 50 km off the Thrissur coast.
INS Bangaram T65
The shaft plate of the boat had broken and its engine had gone silent. INS Bangaram took the vessel under tow and after nearly nine hours, it was released off the coast of Munambam in the reassuring company of other fishing boats. The owners of the vessel were identified as Preemus of Kanyakumari district and Thankachan and Samban from Munambam. INS Bangaram is commanded by Lieutenant Commander Varghese Mathew.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Australian Sailors Save Ship From Pirates

Armed sailors from the Royal Australian Navy have rescued a cargo ship being pursued by Somali pirates. The frigate HMAS Toowoomba was on an anti-piracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday when it picked up a call for help from the merchant vessel BBC Portugal, which was being pursued by an armed gang in a high speed launch. In a multinational rescue effort, a Japanese P-3 Orion patrol plane flew over the cargo ship and a German warship launched a helicopter to help. The Australian frigate sped through the Gulf with a boarding party standing by to take on the pirates. Frigate captain Ivan Ingham told The Age his crew was in close contact with the Japanese and the Germans, who confirmed that the attackers were heavily armed with automatic rifles and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. The helicopter crew reported that the Somalis had dumped into the sea equipment including a ladder. Toowoomba launched an armed boarding team to seize the suspect launch and the Australians found the weapons and a large amount of ammunition. The Somalis initially tried to escape but realised they were heavily outgunned and gave up.
HMAS Toowoomba (FFH 156)
Those aboard the 12-metre launch denied that they were pirates and said they did not plan to attack the merchant chip, Commander Ingham said. He said the pirate vessel came from from the Somali port of Ceelaayo. The Somalis were 50 nautical miles off the coast of Yemen when they were apprehended. Commander Ingham said he had no doubt that the quick intervention of HMAS Toowoomba and the coalition helicopter ensured that the incident did not escalate into a direct attack on the ship. "The boarding party was instructed to disarm the suspect pirates and confiscate their lethal military weapons,'' he said. Once that was done, the Australians confirmed that the launch had enough food, water and fuel to make it home to Somalia," Commander Ingham said. "It is Australian Government policy to deter, warn, intercept and disarm those vessels and persons suspected of engaging in acts of piracy. "This approach provides an effective measure to reduce an immediate threat posed by these types of groups operating in the area.'' It was the frigate's first anti-piracy operation since it moved down to the Gulf of Aden from the northern Arabian Sea two weeks ago. HMAS Toowoomba is continuing its counter-piracy patrol.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Search Mounted For Missing Cruise Ship Passenger

A search has been launched in the waters of Southeast Alaska and Canada for a 67-year-old woman reported missing from a cruise ship. The passenger, who hasn't been identified, was noticed missing when she didn't leave the Sapphire Princess at the Port of Vancouver, British Columbia, Wednesday morning. The Princess Cruise liner departed Ketchikan on Monday on an Inside Passage cruise. She was not located during a search of the ship, and her personal belongings were in her stateroom. The U.S. Coast Guard has sent a helicopter and boats to search from Ketchikan 86 miles south to include Dixon Entrance, Tongass Narrows and the northern end of Hecate Strait.Canadian officials are searching from Vancouver 517 miles north to Hecate Strait. In August, the body of a passenger aboard the Zaandam, Amber Malkuch, 45, was found off Douglas Island in Southeast Alaska. The Arlington, Wash., resident had been reported missing earlier in the day. Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters on Wednesday said the cause of death was drowning. However, she said the agency may never come to a determination if the death was accidental or a suicide, as the cruise ship company said at the time.

Tattoos And The Army

Tattoos and the military have a long and colorful history. Modern pop culture credits the Navy with introducing the art of tattooing to the United States in the early 1900s, when Sailors returning from distant lands displayed their skin-art souvenirs.Although the times have changed, the military's love affair with tattoos has not. Today, it seems, you couldn't throw a rock into an Army formation without hitting a Soldier with at least one tattoo. "I would say, across combat arms especially, probably a good 90% of everyone has a tattoo," said Staff Sgt. James Campbell, a tattooed infantryman and platoon sergeant with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade. While styles and themes vary greatly depending on the tastes of each individual, there are definite trends among Army tattoo enthusiasts, with a large number of tattooed Soldiers sporting Americana- and military-themed ink. That might not seem surprising until you consider that very few civilians walk around with their company's corporate logo permanently etched on their skin. First Sergeant Aki Paylor, Echo Company, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 10th CAB senior enlisted advisor, believes that for many Soldiers, tattoos are a way to express themselves as individuals - especially when their day-to-day lives revolve around conforming to Army standards. But when military service has shaped a large portion of your life, it is only natural that who you are and the experiences you have had would be best represented by military images."Every tattoo I have on my body says something about who I am, where I'm from, or the things I've been through," explained Paylor, who got the Warrior Ethos tattooed on his left forearm while home on leave in April. "I've got 16 years in the service. After this deployment, I'll have 37 months in combat. The Army is not just a job; it's a way of life. For me, the Warrior Ethos - that's who I am." Paylor's tattoo could be classified as "pride in service," one of four themes commonly spotted among tattooed troops. In addition to the eagle and U.S. flag tattoos falling under the "patriotic" category, many Soldiers use permanent ink to showcase their pride in a specific unit or occupational specialty. For Staff Sgt. Spencer Bowers, force protection noncommissioned officer in charge for the 10th CAB's 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, the 10th Mountain Division is "home." "I've been with the 10th Mountain Division for over 10 years - the longest I've been with any unit," Bowers explained.After deploying for the first time to Afghanistan with the Division's aviation brigade in 2006-2007, Bowers had the 10th Mountain patch tattooed on his right shoulder, where Soldiers wear the combat patch on their uniforms. "Throughout my service, I always said whoever I deployed with first, I was going to tattoo that unit's patch on my body, kind of as a symbol of unity and allegiance to that unit. And I did it," Bowers said. "You always dance with the one that brought you, and the one that brought me is the mighty 10th Mountain." Staff Sgt. Freddy Soza, a combat engineer with Fox Company 2-10, finds his pride in being a Sapper - so much pride, in fact, that he recently got an engineer castle tattooed on his chest over his heart. "It's something to signify my service and being a combat engineer," Soza explained. "I've always wanted to get it done. The camaraderie we have as engineers, the way we's a source of pride." Campbell sees this type of tattoo a lot, especially among Soldiers in combat arms. "Your military tattoos on guys who are in combat arms [military occupational specialties] really have to do with pride," Campbell agreed. "Most people don't fall into that MOS when it's combat arms; usually it's something they've wanted to do for a long time. When you finally get to your first unit after going through the rigorous training, you have a sense of pride. These tattoos are like a badge of honor."The last category of military tattoo is regrettably becoming the most popular. Since the start of military action in Afghanistan and Iraq after the 9/11 attacks, more and more servicemembers are getting memorial tattoos. For the many Soldiers today who have lost their friends and comrades, these pieces serve as a silent tribute when words are not enough. "There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about my best friend," Campbell said, referring to Sgt. Mike O'Neal, killed in action while fighting in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2004. Campbell has a four-leaf clover and the initials "M.O." tattooed on his left forearm, surrounded by the words "Gone but Not Forgotten." "It takes a lot to get somebody's name or initials tattooed; that's forever, it's not going anywhere. But that's exactly why it's there - because I want to remember him, forever," Campbell explained. Sgt. Hugh Fry, an infantryman in Campbell's platoon, is working on a memorial half-sleeve covering his left forearm."I have a tattered American flag, with the names of most of the guys we lost out there; a field cross for one of my best friends that died; and a purple heart," Fry explained. "The field cross, I wanted it to be kind of geared toward my best friend - I wanted a piece just for him. The flag was because that's what they give to the families; I didn't get to be there for the funerals, so that was my version." Fry plans on finishing the piece with the phrase "OEF 07-08," mountains in the background to signify the terrain of Afghanistan, and his unit crest. "It's something to remind me where I've been, and who's been there with me," summed up Fry, who is planning on ending his term of service when he redeploys this year. While Soldiers like Campbell and Fry got their tributes tattooed where people can see them, and welcome questions from strangers - "I don't mind if people ask - they made the ultimate sacrifice, and they should be remembered for that," Fry said - some troops keep their tattoos as a private reminder, like the piece on Spc. Steven Baker's back. "I have three Soldier's crosses on my back with the names of three Soldiers I lost on my last deployment," Baker, a Fox Company infantryman, explained. "I wanted to get something done, but I didn't want it to be blatantly out in the open for everyone else to see. But every time I want to reflect and think back on them, I can look in the mirror and remember."Tattoos can also be a sign of closure for some troops - it may help Soldiers move on with their lives knowing that their buddies will never be forgotten. "It's's not going away," Baker said of his piece, which he got "pretty soon after I came to terms with what had happened." Remembrance is the theme common to most Soldiers' service-related tattoos. Whether they are getting tattoos to remember the good times or the bad, friends made or lost, inked Soldiers carry with them a permanent reminder of specific, often life-changing events in their lives. "To me, it's something to look back on," said Sgt. Jeremy Leak, a force protection sergeant with 3-10 GSAB who has the words "to remember" tattooed in Arabic on his ankle as a tribute to two friends killed in Iraq. Leak said he plans to get another tattoo when he gets back to the U.S. to commemorate this deployment. "As you get older, you might forget the small things," he explained. "If you have a tattoo of that time in your life, when you're 60 and you look at that's kind of like a time capsule that you put on yourself."

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ship Graveyard Gives Up Secrets

Archaeologists are working at a ships' graveyard known as the Purton Hulks in Gloucestershire to expose and record the remains of a barge. Laser scanning equipment is being used to capture 3D images of the Kennet-built Harriett. Eighty ships and barges beached in the 1940s were used to shore up the Sharpness Canal against erosion from tidal flow of the River Severn. Efforts to save the site for the nation was begun by the Friends of Purton. Laurent Coleman, head of archaeology with The Friends of Purton, said exposing the surviving timbers of the vessel would enable them to study the vessel's construction and its current state of preservation. "In addition, this excavation will address specific areas of interest including the dimensions of the keelson and construction of the mast step, and assess wear and tear of the remains of this immensely important and rare example of the country's only remaining Kennet-built barge," he said.The Purton Hulks received national exposure on the BBC programme Coast in July and will be featured on the investigative reporting series Inside Out West. The sunken boats are early-20th Century coasters, schooners, trows, and barges. Harriett was lost 21 February 1944 at Stonebench Turn on the Sharpness to Gloucester Canal, following a collision with motor barge Severn Trader. Mark Beattie-Edwards, Nautical Archaeology Society programme director, said: "The NAS is very excited to see just how much survives of the Harriett at Purton. "We are looking forward to learning more about how this vessel was originally constructed and perhaps later modified by its owners - she really could give us a window into the past."

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Airplane Nearly Hits Ship Kite

Now that more and more ships are using skysail kites which sometimes fly as high as 300 meters (~1000 feet) to help tow them along to conserve on fuel, a dangerous situation is posed to airplanes by both the kites and the tether. Last Tuesday a pilot was flying at over 300 meter height just below the clouds in its chosen flight path over southern Nordsea, and had started to descend. Then suddenly the pilot saw a skysail of tens of square meters and had to take evasive action. He barely avoided collision, according to Eurocontrol, the European air traffic control.Shocked by the incident, Eurocontrol issued a statement saying: "We call on the aviation authorities in different countries to take action as soon as possible and see if the rules for the use of kites can't be strengthened." Rembo1, who brought this to our attention, asks: "Isn’t airspace below 300 meters and above the sea free to use for all -- uncontrolled airspace? If so, why would the kite be the one to be restricted?" Obviously, something will need to be done so that both can be deployed without endangering each other.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Holes In Ship

Reports have surfaced that the Princess Ashika was being repaired at night in Tonga to avoid public scrutiny of the ferry's seaworthiness before its fatal voyage.The Tongan Kele'a newspaper made the revelation, referring to the contents of a letter written by the head of the Ports Authority, Commander Lupeti Vi, to Tongan Prime Minister Feleti Sevele on August 11, six days after the sea tragedy. Mr Sevele had said the ship was seaworthy.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

USS McCampbell Hosts 9/11 Survivor

Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85) welcomed retired New York City Fire Department Capt. Alfredo Fuentes, a survivor of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center for a luncheon and tour of the ship. Fuentes's visit to McCampbell was part of his visit to Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka where he served as guest of honor and keynote speaker at the base's annual 9/11 memorial event. The tour began with McCampbell's Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Charles Johnson formally welcoming Fuentes aboard the ship. After receiving a ship's coin and McCampbell ball cap, Fuentes presented Johnson with an autographed copy of his book American by Choice. McCampbell's antisubmarine warfare officer and New York City native Ensign Ander Heiles led Fuentes through numerous spaces on the ship, including the combat information center, MK 45 five-inch gun mount loader room and the ship's damage control spaces. Fuentes then joined McCampbell Sailors on the mess decks for lunch. Before the meal, Fuentes expressed his appreciation for the crew and the work they do."I have to tell you I'm honored and humbled to be in your presence today," Fuentes said. "The way we responded in New York is the way you guys respond everyday to not just combat situations, but also to your humanitarian missions. I thank you for what you do for our country." Following lunch, Fuentes autographed an American flag hanging in the mess decks. The tour concluded with visits to the ship's pilot house and forecastle. Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Alejandro Martinez-Rodrigues of Makakilo, Hawaii, who explained the functions of the MK 45 five-inch gun mount to Fuentes, described the importance of hosting a hero on the ship. "It takes you back to that day and reminds you why we're doing what we do. You have a lot of important people who visit the ship, a lot of commanders who direct our actions, but when you get someone who actually survived the attack, it's a different situation," said Martinez-Rodrigues. "I was very proud to have him aboard and talk about the role we play in the naval service." USS McCampbell is one of seven Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers assigned to Destroyer Squadron 15 and is permanently forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New Maneuver Center Insignia Announced

When the first Soldiers of the maneuver center don new shoulder insignia during the Maneuver Center of Excellence activation ceremony Oct. 1, it will be a revised version of the new patch introduced in February 2008. Fort Benning's Chief of Staff Col. Chuck Durr made the announcement earlier this week. The new octagonal design, approved by the Army Institute of Heraldry and the Army G-1, replaces the spear-shaped patch that was often perceived as an upside-down 'Follow Me' patch.An upside-down emblem in the military normally is a signal of distress or defeat, said retired Lt. Col. Selby Rollinson, deputy chief of staff for Fort Benning. The interior design remains the same with the lightning bolt and yellow depicting the Armor's speed, power and branch color. The bayonet and blue symbolize the Infantry's mission to close with and destroy the enemy and branch color. The red symbolizes valor and sacrifice. The MCOE shoulder insignia, motto and crest were designed from a compilation of suggestions submitted during a 2007 Army-wide design contest. A spokesman for AAFES said the new patch will be available in stores in about 90 days.

Fishing Boat Destroyed In Huge Fire At Sea, Crew Rescued

Coast Guard crews responded to a boat fire approximately 40 miles from the coast of Willapa Bay, Wash., on Monday. Coast Guard Group/Air Station Astoria, Wash., received a call at 6:38 a.m. from a crewman aboard the 39-foot fishing vessel Titan reporting that the vessel was on fire. The crewman reported that they realized there was a fire in the engine room when the alternators cut out. The two crew members aboard Titan were able to relay coordinates to a Coast Guard watchstander before abandoning ship into a life raft.Coast Guard Air Station Astoria launched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew and Station Grays Harbor, Wash., launched a 47-foot motor lifeboat crew to assist. The crew aboard the charter vessel Ms. Magoo was in the vicinity and was able to recover the Titan’s crew from the water. The MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew arrived on scene at 7:36 a.m. The MLB crew met the Ms. Magoo at 8:10 a.m. where the crew from the Titan was transferred to the MLB and are in route to Westport, Wash. The Titan reported having approximately 400 gallons of diesel fuel. There were no reports of injuries. The cause of the fire is unknown.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Haldia Port Alarm After Ship Escapes Disaster

A major disaster was averted off the Haldia Dock Complex (HDC) on Monday when a naphtha-laden tanker narrowly missed running aground in shallow waters at Lower Auckland. The river pilot on board took evasive action as soon he realised that the ship's bottom was nearing the riverbed. Had the ship been stranded in the channel, port operations at HDC would have come to a stop. The sinking of the ship would have resulted in extensive ecological damage. The incident came as a shock to pilots responsible for guiding ships in and out of the port. Some said that the port management may not be giving them true statistics regarding draught of the navigation channel. "The MT High Efficiency was waiting at the Sandheads since September 7 with 18,986 tonnes of naphtha. It was to berth at HDC's Oil Jetty 3 on Monday and required a draught of 7.60 metres. When the pilot was negotiating the shallow waters at Lower Auckland, the ship lost speed. The pilot realised that the bottom of the ship had come very close to the riverbed. He immediately steered the tanker towards deeper waters and reported the matter. The ship could have run aground, blocking the channel completely," a senior officer said.According to Kolkata Port Trust sources, the pilots had recently written to the chairman, seeking a clarification on the draught positions at Jellingham and Auckland. In 2008, when HDC was going through a rough patch due to poor draught, pilots had come to the port's rescue by reducing the under keel clearance (UKC) the distance between the riverbed and the lowest part of the vessel from 1.25 metres to 0.9 metres. For smaller vessels, they agreed to a UKC of 0.7 metres. Of late, the port management has maintained that they have maintained a depth of 4.3 metres at Lower Auckland. But pilots are not too sure. "We were taking a big risk when we agreed to reduce the UKC. It takes nerves of steel to guide large vessels through such shallow waters. We can pull off the job if the management gives us the true picture. If the management does not give us true figures, pilots will make mistakes. All responsibility for any mishap will then pass on to the pilot. If we do not get actual statistics, we shall revert to the original UKC," a pilot said.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sunken World War II Navy Patrol Boat Found

A U.S. Navy patrol boat sunk during WWII has been found and photographed 20 miles off Cape Hatteras, N.C. The wreck of the YP-389, a converted fishing trawler, rests in about 300 feet of water in a region known as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic," where several U.S. and British naval vessels, merchant ships, and German U-boats sunk during the Battle of the Atlantic. Six sailors died when the YP-389 was attacked by a German submarine June 19, 1942. There were 18 survivors. The research mission was led by NOAA. The relatively intact remains of the YP-389 rest upright on the ship's keel, NOAA said in a statement this week. The wreck site is home to a variety of marine life.
The YP-389, sunk off North Carolina by a German submarine on June 19, 1942
Much of the outer-hull plating has fallen away, leaving only the intact frames exposed. "She rests now like a literal skeleton, a reminder of a time long ago when the nation was at war," said Joseph Hoyt, Monitor National Marine Sanctuary archaeologist and principal investigator for the project. Built originally as a fishing trawler, the YP-389 was converted into a coastal patrol craft and pressed into service after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The ship was equipped with one 3-inch deck gun to protect the ship from enemy aircraft and surfaced submarines and two .30-caliber machine guns.
This file photo from the National Archives, shows the Navy YP-389 undergoing conversion to a Navy patrol boat in the Brooklyn New York Navy Yards.
However, on the day of the attack by the German submarine U-701, the ship's deck gun was inoperative, and the YP-389 could return fire only with its machine guns. "The story of the YP-389 personifies the character of the Battle of the Atlantic along the East Coast of the United States, where small poorly armed fishing trawlers were called to defend American waters against one of Germany's most feared vessels," said David W. Alberg, expedition leader and superintendent of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. "It is one of the most dramatic accounts of an engagement between Axis and Allied warships during the dark days of World War II."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cargo Ship Sinks Off Paradip

Black Rose’, a Mongolia-based cargo vessel, sank in the sea, 5 km off Paradip port, on Wednesday evening. It had 27 crew members and all, barring one, were rescued by the Coast Guard and port authorities. One member was still missing. The ship was carrying iron ore. After unloading the quota at Paradip, it was to start off for Haldia in West Bengal around 5 pm. While it still stayed anchored off the port, the ship started sinking prompting its captain to send an SOS. Soon, Coast Guard forces and port authorities rushed to the spot and saved the crew members, many of whom are Russian and Bangladeshi nationals.The vessel was carrying 24,000 mt iron ore before it offloaded half of it at Paradip and was to set sail. Sources said 12,000 mt iron ore has been washed away. Apparently due to a technical snag, the vessel tilted and started sinking. All the rescued members have been admitted to Paradip hospital. Paradip Port Trust (PPT) deputy chairman Biplab Kumar said search operation was on to trace the missing crew member. The vessel, he said, might have sunk due to cargo imbalance. An inquiry will be conducted to ascertain the cause of sinking, he added.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

T-Hawk Class 1 UAV - AKA: The Flying Bug

Monday, September 07, 2009

9 Dead, 926 Rescued From Capsized Philippine Ferry

Passengers leapt into the dark sea and parents dropped children into life rafts when a ferry carrying nearly 1,000 people capsized in the middle of the night in the southern Philippines. Nine people died and more than 30 were missing though rescue efforts saved about 900 terrified victims on the Superferry 9 early Sunday after it turned on its side 9 miles (15 kilometers) off Zamboanga del Norte province. The vessel's violent rotation roused frightened passengers from their sleep and sent many jumping in the darkness into the water, coast guard chief Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo said. Many aboard panicked as the huge ferry listed, said passenger Reymark Belgira. He said he saw parents tossing children to people on life rafts below, but he could not immediately jump himself. "I held on to the ferry for hours until daybreak. I couldn't jump into the water in the dark," Belgira said.Rescuers transferred 926 of 968 passengers and crewmen to two nearby commercial ships, a navy gunboat and a fishing boat, Tamayo said. A search was under way for 33 missing people. "We really hope they're just unaccounted for due to the confusion," Tamayo told reporters. A coast guard statement said rescue efforts were continued through the night. Passenger Roger Cinciron said he felt the ferry tilting at about midnight but was assured by a crewman that all was well. About two hours later he was awoken by the sound of crashing cargo below his cabin, he told DZMM radio. "People began to panic because the ship was really tilting," he said as he waited for rescuers to save him and a group of more than 20 other passengers. Navy ships were deployed and three military aircraft scoured the seas, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro said. American troops providing counterterrorism training to Philippine soldiers in the region deployed a civilian helicopter and five boats, some carrying paramedics, to help, U.S. Col. William Coultrup said.Teodoro said two men and a child drowned during the scramble to escape the ship. The bodies of two other passengers were later plucked from the sea by fishermen, the coast guard said, adding three people were injured. A Canadian tourist, Jeffrey Predchuz, was among the survivors, officials said. The cause of the listing was not clear. The ferry skipper initially ordered everyone on board to abandon ship as a precautionary step, said Jess Supan, vice president of Aboitiz Transport System, which owns the steel-hulled ferry. There were reports the 7,268-ton vessel listed to the right because of a hole in the hull, the National Disaster Coordinating Council said. Aerial photos from the navy showed survivors holding on to anything as the ferry tilted. Others climbed down a ladder on the side as a lone orange life raft waited below. The ferry left the southern port city of General Santos on Saturday and was scheduled to arrive in Iloilo city in the central Philippines on Sunday but ran into problems midway, Tamayo said.There were no signs of possible terrorism, he said. Al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf militants bombed another Superferry in Manila Bay in 2004, setting off an inferno that killed 116 people in Southeast Asia's second-worst terrorist attack. The weather was generally fair in the Zamboanga peninsula region, about 530 miles (860 kilometers) south of Manila, although a tropical storm was battering the country's mountainous north, the coast guard said. Sea accidents are common in the Philippine archipelago because of tropical storms, badly maintained boats and weak enforcement of safety regulations. Last year, a ferry overturned after sailing toward a powerful typhoon in the central Philippines, killing more than 800 people on board. In December 1987, the ferry Dona Paz sank after colliding with a fuel tanker in the Philippines, killing more than 4,341 people in the world's worst peacetime maritime disaster.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Kissing Couple Fall From Lady Brisbane Cruise Ship

A 23-year-old Irishman missing in the Brisbane River was kissing his companion when they fell from a cruise vessel last night, according to the boat company. The man was celebrating a birthday when he fell from the Lady Brisbane with his 26-year-old female companion, about 10.25pm (AEST) near the Hale Street Link at Milton. The woman was quickly rescued but the man, who could not swim, did not surface. Jim Kelly, from Brisbane Cruises, said he held grave fears for the man's safety.”The girl came up straight away but there was no sign of the gentleman unfortunately,” he said. ”We're still hopeful and police are still searching.” The pair had shared a romantic moment before they fell, he said. ”There was some sort of romantic involvement, bit of kissing and smooching at once stage,” Mr Kelly said. A search by water police, a coast guard vessel and a rescue helicopter was quickly under way.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Historic Tug USS Wenonah Salvaged

The U.S. Coast Guard, California Department of Fish and Game's Office of Spill Prevention and Response, and other partner organizations completed salvage operations of the Tug Wenonah, which sank at its berth on Pier One of Treasure Island Aug. 17, 2009. Global Diving and Salvage subcontracted American Bridge-Flour Joint Venture's barge crane, the Left Coast Lifter, to assist in the raising and disposal of the 300-ton tug, Wenonah.The surfacing process included:

* Preventative measures to ensure integrity of containment boom and increase absorbent materials around tug.

* Two access channels being dug under the hull of the tug, fore and aft of the vessel.

* Two 90-foot segments of chain capable of lifting 450 tons positioned under the tug and winched together above the vessel by a crane.

* Left Coast Lifter raising the tug to the waterline.Coast Guard Pacific Strike Team members boarded the tug and commenced de-watering, compartment-by-compartment. The Treasure Island Development Authority, a resource trustee, will oversee the disposal of the tug. The unified command oversaw cleanup of any further oil discharge that occurred during the resurfacing of the tug. The Left Coast Lifter is a 400-foot long shear leg crane used in the construction of the new east span of the San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge. The crane can lift up to 1,873 tons.

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