Monday, March 29, 2010

U.S. Warship Rescues 30 Off Coast Of Somalia

The Norfolk-based destroyer USS McFaul (DDG-74) rescued 30 Somali men, women and children who were stranded aboard a skiff with no food and little water last week. The Arleigh Burke-class ship was on routine patrol about 100 miles north of Somalia on Thursday when crew members spotted the skiff, a Navy news release says. The skiff’s outboard motors had failed, and the people aboard had been without food for about four days, according to the release.They and the boat were taken aboard the McFaul and given food, blankets and a place to sleep. The skiff’s engines were repaired, and the people who had been on board were taken to the northern coast of Somalia. The McFaul is assigned to a multinational task force to conduct counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and the east coast of Somalia.

Friday, March 26, 2010

South Korean Ship Sinking, North Attack Suspected

A South Korean naval vessel with more than 100 aboard was sinking on Friday in waters near North Korea and Seoul was investigating whether it was hit in a torpedo attack by the North, South Korean media said. Broadcaster SBS said many South Korean sailors on the stricken vessel were feared dead.South Korea's YTN TV network said the government was investigating whether the sinking was due to a torpedo attack by the North, and Yonhap news agency said the Seoul government had convened an emergency meeting of security-related ministers. Yonhap also reported a South Korean navy ship firing toward an unidentified vessel to the north. North Korea in recent weeks has said it was bolstering its defenses in response to joint South Korean-U.S. military drills that were held this month.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Abandoned Boat Sparks Search In Hawke's Bay

An abandoned boat sparked a marine search and rescue operation in Hawke's Bay at the weekend with police believing the occupants had been thrown into the sea. A dinghy was found in the surf at Whirinaki Beach, 15km north of Napier, about 3pm. It had fishing gear on board, its outboard motor still attached, and other items believed to be from the boat were found in the sea Police, the Coastguard and a helicopter searched for two hours but found no sign of the occupants. After publicity about the search, two Hastings fisherman told police they had abandoned the boat. They had tried to launch it off the beach but it was carried out to sea and they decided to leave it there.The operation had cost thousands of dollars and it could have been averted had the fisherman informed police or the coastguard they had abandoned the boat, police search and rescue co-ordinator Senior Sergeant Luke Shadbolt said. "It's imperative that if you abandon or lose any sort of sea vessel -- whether it's a boat or a kayak or whatever -- it should be reported to the police or coastguard immediately," Mr Shadbolt said. "This saves everyone a lot of trouble and expense and is just plain common sense." Police were also urging boaties to mark their names and contact details on their boats, to help police identify people in situations like Saturday's. The boat owners were spoken to by police.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Towboat Sinks On Ohio River; Man Missing

Two people made it to shore after a tow-boat they were on sank in the rain-swollen Ohio River this afternoon, but rescuers were still searching for a third person. The person who was still being sought was a man wearing a green sweater and an orange flotation device, a dispatcher said. Two other men apparently swam to shore along River Road in Boone County. They were taken to St. Elizabeth Hospital in Florence for treatment of hypothermia, said Michael Fronimos, a spokesman for the Hebron Fire Department. "With the water going as fast as it is, (the missing crewman) could be down river in just minutes," Fronimos said.Lt. Tom Scheben of the Boone County Sheriff's office said the two survivors told investigators they were surprised at how quickly the 40-foot tow boat sank. Their names were not released. Complicating matters, Scheben said, is that the boat might have been carrying up to 500 gallons of fuel, making it a possible hazmat situation. Police received a call around 4:37 p.m. that the boat had sunk in the Ohio River, between Anderson Ferry and Taylorsport. The two men who were rescued came out of the river near Taylorsport, Fronimos said. Rescuers and police from Cincinnati, Lawrenceburg, the Coast Guard and Northern Kentucky were assisting in the search. Rescuers planned to continue the search after darkness. No information was available on what caused the boat to sink.

Freedom Seizes Coke From Go-Fast Vessel

The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1), conducting counter-illicit trafficking (CIT) operations in the U.S. 4th Fleet area of focus, intercepted and captured a high-speed "go-fast" vessel carrying more than 1 1/2 tons of cocaine. The late-night seizure of the "go-fast," its illicit cargo and five suspected drug smugglers was the second narcotics seizure in 10 days for Freedom and its embarked Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22, LCS Surface Warfare Mission Package and U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET). It also marked Freedom's first apprehension of personnel suspected of narcotics trafficking and their vessel. Freedom was on routine patrol when it intercepted a suspected drug vessel, and launched an MH-60S. The "go-fast" attempted to elude the MH-60S, but Freedom closed on the vessel and intercepted it, forcing the suspects to stop. Freedom then launched a response team of Sailors and Coast Guardsmen to apprehend the suspects and secure the vessel and its illegal cargo.A search of the vessel yielded 51 bales of cocaine weighing 1,506 kilos (3,315 pounds), all seized by the LEDET as evidence in preparation for possible criminal prosecution. The five suspects were taken into custody aboard Freedom. The coordinated actions of the Navy, Coast Guard and JIATF-S were instrumental to the successful interdiction of narcotics. Freedom's first CIT seizure came on Feb. 22, when it disrupted a high-speed "go-fast" vessel and recovered more than a quarter of a ton of cocaine from the western Caribbean Sea. Freedom, which will be homeported in San Diego, is currently on its maiden deployment in the Caribbean and the coasts of Central and South America under the operational control of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (NAVSO)/U.S. 4th Fleet. Freedom is conducting CIT operations in support of JIATF-S, U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and U.S. Coast Guard District Seven.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

New Zealand Terrorist Arrested On Japanese Whale Ship

Japan's coast guard arrested an anti-whaling terrorist from New Zealand yesterday for illegally boarding a whaling ship last month in the latest incident in the ongoing battle over Japanese whaling. Peter Bethune, a member of the US-based Sea Shepherd terrorist group, is accused of jumping aboard the whaling vessel from a Jet Ski on February 15 in Antarctic seas, where Japan was conducting its annual whale hunt. Boarding a Japanese vessel without legitimate reasons can bring a prison term of up to three years or a fine up to 100,000 yen (US$1,100). Japan's annual whale hunt is allowed by the International Whaling Commission as a scientific program, but opponents call it a cover for commercial whaling, which has been banned since 1986.
Peter Bethune
Sea Shepherd, among its critics, aims each year to stop Japanese whaling activities. The terrorists trail whaling boats and try to disrupt the hunt by dangling ropes in the water to snarl the ships' propellers. The whalers have responded by firing water cannons and sonar devices meant to disorient the activists. Sea Shepherd said Bethune jumped aboard the Shonan Maru 2 to make a citizen's arrest of its captain and hand over a US$3 million bill for the destruction of a high-tech protest ship Bethune captained, the Ady Gil, that sank in January after colliding with the whaling ship. Since his boarding, Bethune has been in custody aboard the ship while it made its three-week voyage back to Japan. About 10 right-wing protesters were waiting for the ship's arrival at Tokyo port, holding up signs branding Bethune an "eco-terrorist."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Perils Of Alcohol Abuse

For Marines, liberty is a time for personal interests and relaxation. But sometimes Marines don’t understand the serious consequences that can occur when they lose restraint, especially when alcohol is involved. “Alcohol can be a catalyst for many negative things,” said Gunnery Sgt. Carson Zumalt, Barracks Substance Abuse Control Officer. “Age is irrelevant when considering the negative effects it has on a Marines life.” A Marine can end up spending thousands of dollars just on court fees and attorney expenses when they receive a DUI, not including violation fines and cuts in pay. “I lost half my pay for two months and had to pay a hundred dollars a month for probation fees,” said Pfc. Mark Fidler, Battalion Training NCO, Headquarters and Services Company. “I’m living paycheck to paycheck just to pay off the loan I had to take out for all the expenses.” Illegal drinking offenses aren’t the only financial setbacks that come from alcohol. Alcohol can cause Marines to spend much of their paychecks on alcohol, leaving them with very little or no money for emergencies, Zumalt said. The economic effect of alcohol is dreadful, but alcohol can also destroy your body. “One night of binge drinking can alter a person’s life forever,” said Zumalt, “Alcoholism is a progressive disease that can force a person to become dependent on its consumption.” According to, long term alcohol abuse can cause permanent damage to vital organs such as the brain and liver. “Alcohol is one of the only drugs that can actually kill you,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Monté Grace, Medical Leading Petty Officer, Branch Clinic Navy Yard. “If you try to stop abusing alcohol cold turkey, based on the dependency it could end your life.” Long term alcohol abuse may have serious health risks, but short term alcohol use can be just as harmful if the substance is abused. “The impairment of judgment and lack of coherency can cause people to harm others or themselves if not careful,” said Grace. “Several different service members I’ve known throughout my military career have injured the passenger or themselves in car accidents do to alcohol abuse.” Many times Marines will go out drinking, unaware of how much they are actually consuming, said Grace. A lot of cases Marines drink four to five times the normal intake of alcohol recommended.It isn’t always the Marines health that is the biggest concern. When a Marine drinks alcohol irresponsibly, often it affects other Marines surrounding the abuser and causes problems for the command. When a Marine is caught abusing alcohol he must be evaluated immediately, said 1st Sgt. Peter Ferral, Headquarters and Service Company First Sergeant. With this comes a set back for the entire command and the mission doesn’t get completed in time. Ferral is hardly a rookie when it comes to dealing with Marines and alcohol abuse. Ferral entered the Marine Corps in 1986, and with his twenty four years of experience, Ferral has seen the ends and outs of alcohol abuse and its effects on Marines. While serving with 3rd Battalion 3rd Marines in 1997, Ferral watched hopelessly as a fellow Marine in his platoon was kicked out of the Marine Corps for having constant incidents of alcohol abuse. “He was the best machine gunner in the company!” said Ferral. “When he was discharged we were one man down, making it harder on everyone.” For years alcohol has been getting the best of Marines and their families. Often, alcohol abuse starts at a young age and increases into a terrible problem over time. “Many times alcoholics were introduced to alcohol through their parents,” said Grace. “They grew up thinking drinking heavy amounts was the normal thing to do, we have kids drinking at thirteen and fourteen years old in ways of coping with things because that’s the way they see their parents deal with it.” Whether the abuse originated through family or not, the abuse of alcohol is detrimental for a Marines family, command, and career. “Many Marines lose their careers do to alcohol, when you drink, the first thing that goes out the window is judgment,” Said Ferral. “You’ve got to have that smart guy, or designated driver at all times.” Whether it’s in formation or in writing the Marines appointed in high leadership positions like Ferral continue to push the message of responsible drinking habits. “If Marines plan on drinking, they need to have a plan. A DUI isn’t just bad because of the punishments that come with being caught,” said Ferral, “it’s bad because of the injury or death you might cause if you make the decision to get behind the wheel drunk.”

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Sophia Loren Christens Cruise Ship MSC Magnifica

MSC Magnifica -- the fourth Panamax cruise ship in the MSC Cruises Musica class -- joins MSC Cruises as the 11th ship in the fleet after being christened in Hamburg, Germany on March 6. Renowned Italian singer Eros Ramazzotti, adult contemporary/soft rock/pop artist, performed on stage during the christening while Italian screen legend and icon Sophia Loren, participated in the ribbon cutting as the godmother of her eighth MSC ship. MSC Magnifica combines the intimacy of her three Musica Class sister vessels -- MSC Musica, MSC Orchestra, and MSC Poesia -- with the state-of-the-art facilities and comfort of the company's larger flagships, MSC Splendida and MSC Fantasia. A magrodome or retractable roof covers the pool, La Grotta Azzurra, making it possible to enjoy one of the four pools throughout the year regardless of the weather. The Il Bar del Sole area on the top deck boasts its own whirlpools and solarium.The ship's 16 bars and lounges, four restaurants, and a large new buffet area -- Sahara -- will serve Italian and international cuisine; an a la carte restaurant, L'Oasi, will provide fine dining in an exotic Moroccan atmosphere. Culinary masterpieces by Mauro Uliassi, the Michelin Star Chef, recipient of three prized Gambero Rosso forks, and winner of the prestigious Kungsfenan Award for the best seafood, are available in the L'Oasi restaurant; soon, they'll be offered in all of MSC Cruises' Musica Class a la carte restaurants.
There's even a Tiger bar, themed after the striped feline, serving up cocktails and musical acts. Other entertainment features on board include a high-tech 4D cinema, mini-bowling alley and a billiard table in the L'Olimpiade sports bar. L'Olimpiade is the first sports bar featured in the Musica class of ships, and its theme is inspired by the Olympics. Relaxation opportunities await guests in the MSC Aurea Spa wellness center for massages, facials, and other specialty spa treatments in a resort-standard setting. Two treatments created just for MSC and are being offered on the MSC Magnifica -- Aurea Papaveris, a 60-minute slimming and cellulite treatment, and a Himalayan massage. MSC Magnifica sails 7-night Eastern Mediterranean itineraries departing Venice, Italy and calling at Bari, Italy; Katakolon (Olympia) Greece; Izmir, Turkey; Istanbul, Turkey; and Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Tugboats Tow Disabled Container Ship To Tacoma

Two tugs had to tow a disabled container ship south through Puget Sound to Tacoma Wednesday afternoon. The 712-foot container ship, the Horizon Tacoma, had smoke coming out of one of its turbochargers in its propulsion engine about three miles north of Neah Bay late Tuesday evening. The ship's captain and engineer decided to shut down the engine, a Washington Department of Ecology news release said.
A repair crew boarded the ship at 7 a.m. Wednesday and decided a tow was needed. The Hunter, a state-funded emergency response tug, plus another escort tug, the Garth Foss, responded to take the ship to Tacoma. The tugs and container ship were expected to pass west of Seattle mid-afternoon Wednesday. Owned by Horizon Lines, the Horizon Tacoma was sailing from Dutch Harbor in Alaska.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Army Requests New Combat Vehicle

The Army released a request for proposal for the Ground Combat Vehicle -- marking an official start for defense contractors to begin competing for the right to build the service's next combat vehicle. Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli said the new vehicle will not be simply a rehash of the cancelled Future Combat Systems, but a relevant combat vehicle based on Army experiences in combat. "This is a vehicle here that takes into account the lessons of eight years of war. It is not just FCS warmed over," said Chiarelli, during a video teleconference, Feb. 25, with attendees at the Association of the United States Army's Institute of Land Warfare Winter Symposium and Exposition in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The general said key performance parameters for the vehicle include, among other things, full-spectrum capability, net-readiness, and mobility. It should have the operational mobility of the Stryker and underbelly protection of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, or MRAP, according to the Brigade Combat Team Modernization Plan released Feb. 19. Chiarelli said the Army is hoping for "three solid proposals" on the RFP -- those proposals must be in by April 26. The Army will then award technology development contracts to bidders in September -- marking milestone A in the GCV development process. Contract awardees will then enter the technology development phase that runs through December 2012. Ultimately, Chiarelli said, the Army expects to award a low-rate initial production contract for the GCV by March 2016, and achieve initial operational capability in the second quarter of 2019. Chiarelli said adaptability to the operational environment is key for the GCV. "It will allow commanders to make a determination on what level of protection they need on that vehicle based on the enemy situation they find themselves in," he said. Chiarelli also discussed the nature of America's enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan, countering claims they are less than capable adversaries."They are truly formidable adversaries," Chiarelli said. "But because they are not state-sponsored, many dismiss them as not being worthy opponents. There are those, and I'd argue too many, who somehow think because they are terrorists, they are not as capable opponents as we have fought in past conflicts." The general also pointed out the enemy's adeptness at passing information to its lowest foot soldiers. "The enemy is very, very good," Chiarelli said. "In fact, he has done a much better job, in some instances, in pushing information down to the tactical edge -- his tactical edge. He doesn't have the same security requirements that we do, in doing that. But he has been more than willing to push that information down, using technology." The enemy's lack of information security, however, is a weakness that can be exploited by the Army, Chiarelli said. "The fact that he lacks some of that security has in many ways allowed us to track him down," he said. "We end up catching or killing many of his fighters as a result. But he is willing to accept those losses." The general also said the way the Army has operated has changed, as Soldiers at the farthest reaches of the battlefield are today providing as much information upstream to commanders as commanders are pushing information downstream. The change has resulted in a need to move decision-making responsibility closer to the Soldier. "I believed you had a period (in the past) when decision making basically flowed from the top on down," he said. "Orders were given to the different levels of the chain of command. Today, we see as much information being passed up, from the edge, as we see being passed down from above. Whereas before we had decision making, very strict decision making, today, we have commanders who provide intent to Soldiers that are down on the edge." Facilitating the faster, more secure flow of information is something Chiarelli said the Army is working on by developing its information network, including the "Everything over Internet Protocol" concept.

Freak Wave Hits Cruise Ship

A massive wave rocked a cruise ship carrying almost 2,000 people in the Mediterranean, Wednesday, March 2, leaving two dead and 14 injured, Spain's maritime rescue service reports. The freak wave "smashed windows in the lounge area" of the Louis Majesty," the service reported. The accident occurred Wednesday off the coast of Spain's north-eastern Catalonia region. The cruise ship was on its way to Italy where it was scheduled to dock at a Genoa port.After the wave, reported to be 26 feet high, hit the vessel, the captain rerouted the ship to the Barcelona, Spain, where the injured passengers were brought to a local hospital. A 62-year-old woman suffered breaks in both legs and was listed in serious condition Wednesday night. According to ship employees, one of the passengers killed was from Italy and the other from Greece. Both names are being withheld until families are notified of the accident. There were 1,930 people on board the ship, including passengers and the captain. The Louis Majesty has 732 cabins.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Australian Navy Intercepts Asylum Seeker Boat

The 17th asylum seeker boat to arrive in Australian waters this year has been intercepted near Christmas Island off the coast of north-west Australia.
HMAS Wollongong (ACPB 92)
A statement from Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor said the boat was intercepted by HMAS Wollongong last night, 13 nautical miles away from Christmas Island. Fifty-seven people are on board the boat. They are now being taken to Christmas Island for health and security checks.

Britain Says Warship Contacts Argentine Ship Near Falklands

Britain said Friday a Navy warship came into contact with an Argentine vessel last month not far from the territorial waters of the Falkland Islands. But defence officials insisted there was "friendly dialogue by radio" between the ships, amid a growing sovereignty row with Buenos Aires over the islands which are ruled by Britain but claimed by Argentina. Britain's Ministry of Defence also declined to comment on a report in the Sun newspaper that a submarine had been sent to the Falklands, but added it was not increasing its forces in the area. "We can confirm that on 28 January this year during rough weather and at night, HMS York and an Argentine ship were operating in the same locality," said a ministry statement. The incident happened in international waters around 50 miles from the territorial waters of the Falklands, known as the Islas Malvinas in Spanish, said the ministry. "After a friendly dialogue by radio they each continued with their own exercises," said the statement. The Falklands are at the centre of a dispute between London and Buenos Aires after three British oil companies announced drilling plans off the islands, over which Argentina and Britain fought a short war in 1982. The Sun newspaper reported the York monitored the progress of the Argentine warship ARA Drummond before radioing the vessel to change course. The paper said the ship had entered a so-called conservation zone, the area where Britain is carrying out oil exploration.
HMS York (D98)
The Ministry of Defence would not comment on a report in the Sun that a submarine had been dispatched to the islands, but said forces in the Falklands had not been increased. "We do not comment on (British) submarines," said the ministry. "Our force structure remains unchanged and is being maintained at routine levels," it added. In Caracas, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Thursday said that if the submarine report was true, then "there is a real threat of the use of military force from the old worm-eaten English empire. "If it is true," Chavez said at a press conference, "this is ridiculous." Chavez reiterated his support for Argentina over the Falklands controversy. "There is no reason that justifies the United Kingdom maintaining its colonial domination over the Malvinas islands," he said. Latin American and Caribbean leaders meeting in the Mexican resort of Cancun on Tuesday called for fresh talks on the sovereignty of the Falklands Islands. Drilling off the Falklands aims to determine the oil potential of the British waters, with estimates they could be home to somewhere between 13 and 60 billion barrels of oil. British oil exploration firm Desire Petroleum this week started drilling in waters off the Falklands, which are located 450 kilometers (280 miles) off the Argentine coast. Argentine troops staged a surprise landing on the Falkland Islands to assert their claim to the territory on April 2, 1982, prompting a 74-day, bloody war with Britain in which 649 Argentine troops and 255 British soldiers died.
ARA Drummond

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