Obama Pushes for More Icebreakers

By Reuters 2015-09-01 17:52:11

On Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama proposed a faster timetable for buying a new heavy icebreaker for the U.S. Arctic, where quickly melting sea ice has spurred more maritime traffic and the United States has fallen far behind Russian resources.

The move, part of a push to convince Americans to support Obama’s plans to curb climate change, has long been urged by Arctic advocates as climate change opens up the region to more shipping, mining and oil drilling.

The announcement came as Obama heads to the coastal town of Seward, named after Secretary of State William Seward, who negotiated the purchase of Alaska in 1867 from Russia.

In the first step of Obama’s new timetable, the government would buy a heavy icebreaker by 2020 instead of the previous goal of 2022. The United States used to have seven icebreakers, but the fleet has dwindled to three creaky vessels, only one of which is a heavy-duty vessel, the White House said.

“Russia, on the other hand, has 40 icebreakers and another 11 planned or under construction,” it said.

Obama will have to convince Congress to pick up the tab for any new icebreakers, each of which come with a price tag of about $1 billion.

“The devil, as always, will be in the funding and procurement details,” said Heather Conley of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, who has studied the need for more Arctic icebreakers.

The region also needs enhanced navigation aids, satellite communications, deep water ports and other related investments not mentioned in the White House announcement, Conley noted.

At a time of dwindling big-ticket weapons programs, Obama’s announcement lays the groundwork for the U.S. Coast Guard to launch a competition to build a new icebreaker.

“Great powers should have the capabilities for playing a role in the theater,” said Malte Humpert, the head of the Arctic Institute, a think tank. “Russia is ready for anything that happens in the Arctic, and China is getting ready to have those capabilities,” he said.

As the Arctic opens to more shipping, tourism and oil drilling, the United States risks not having enough capacity to carry out search and rescue and oil spill response missions.

Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc, which built the newest U.S. ice breaker and delivered it in 1999, said it was keen to bid on new hardened ships for the Coast Guard.

General Dynamics Corp, the other large U.S. military shipbuilder and a possible bidder in an ice breaker competition, had no immediate comment.

The company that built the other existing U.S. icebreakers, Lockheed Shipbuilding and Construction, has exited the business, and its shipyard was shut down in 1988.

It usually takes up to 10 years to build an icebreaker, and it was not immediately clear when any proposed new vessel might be ready.

The White House also said the government should start planning for additional vessels. The Coast Guard has previously recommended it needs eight icebreakers, although no administration budget has yet included the huge funding request.

The Coast Guard had no immediate comment about the White House push.

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Torture Ship Sparks Protests

By MarEx 2015-09-01 17:17:34

About 60 people gathered in London on August 29 to protest the arrival of La Esmeralda. The vessel is a Chilean naval ship used during General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship as a torture and interrogation center. The ship docked in London’s Canary Wharf.

Protestors call La Esmeralda a torture ship and see it as a symbol of Chilean life under military rule. The Ministry of Defense contends that the vessel’s arrival is symbolic of the U.K.’s strong relationship with Chile.

Pinochet displaced Salvador Allende in a bloody military coup in 1973, and more than 3,000 people were killed during his 17-year rule. Reports from Amnesty International and the Chilean Truth and Reconciliation Commission describe La Esmeralda as a floating jail and torture chamber for Pinochet’s political prisoners.

Family members of those detained and tortured on the vessel are still seeking justice. British priest Michael Woodward was among those detained and killed on the ship.

The arrival of the 400-foot La Esmeralda has also sparked protests in Amsterdam, Dartmouth, Pearl Harbor, Quebec and Vancouver.

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Islamic State Vessel Arrested

By MarEx 2015-09-01 16:48:46

The Greek Coast Guard has intercepted a foreign-flagged cargo ship near Crete that is believed to be transporting weapons and explosives to Islamic State. Reports indicate that the weapons are linked to an ISIS-affiliated militant group in Libya.

The crew aboard the vessel has been arrested, and the vessel was taken to the port of Iraklion for further investigation.

Libya has been in a state of civil war since 2011 when Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown. Each of Libya’s rival governments and ISIS are under a U.N. arms embargo.

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Royal Navy Unveils Futuristic Warship Concept

By MarEx 2015-09-01 16:31:13

A group of British naval engineers have released design concepts for the Royal Navy’s warship of the future. Dubbed the Dreadnought 2050, the concept art depicts a vessel with an acrylic hull that is nearly invisible to the naked eye. The Royal Navy hopes to deploy a vessel of this type by 2050.

The design is part of Startpoint, a new Maritime Missions System initiative that will debut at the Defence and Security Equipment International exhibit in October. The Dreadnought concept features a hull that can be turned translucent make it invisible­­—as well as laser and electromagnetic weapons and its own fleet of drone vessels.

An operation room fashioned with a 3D holographic command table to improve the crew’s situational awareness is also part of the design. And while most warships of this size are crewed by up to 200 sailors, the Dreadnought will require just 50.

Engineers also considered ballast tanks that could be filled with water which would make the vessel a stealthier and smaller target as it sits lower in the water.

The Dreadnought 2050 is named after the HMS Dreadnought. The HMS Dreadnought was a Royal Navy battleship that entered service in 1906 and represented such a technological advancement that it rendered other ships obsolete.

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Royal Navy Unveils Furturistic Warship Concept

By MarEx 2015-09-01 16:31:13

A group of British naval engineers have released design concepts for the Royal Navy’s warship of the future. Dubbed the Dreadnought 2050, the concept art depicts a vessel with an acrylic hull that is nearly invisible to the naked eye. The Royal Navy hopes to deploy a vessel of this type by 2050.

The design is part of Startpoint, a new Maritime Missions System initiative that will debut at the Defence and Security Equipment International exhibit in October. The Dreadnought concept features a hull that can be turned translucent make it invisible­­—as well as laser and electromagnetic weapons and its own fleet of drone vessels.

An operation room fashioned with a 3D holographic command table to improve the crew’s situational awareness is also part of the design. And while most warships of this size are crewed by up to 200 sailors, the Dreadnought will require just 50.

Engineers also considered ballast tanks that could be filled with water which would make the vessel a stealthier and smaller target as it sits lower in the water.

The Dreadnought 2050 is named after the HMS Dreadnought. The HMS Dreadnought was a Royal Navy battleship that entered service in 1906 and represented such a technological advancement that it rendered other ships obsolete.

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China Regulates Marine Pollution Too

By MarEx 2015-09-01 16:20:17

The Chinese Ministry of Transport has released new guidelines to curb ship and port pollution. By 2020, China hopes to reduce sulfur and nitrogen oxide emissions in the Pearl River Delta, Yangtze River and Bohai Rim by 65, 20 and 40 percent, respectively.

Following implementation, about 90 percent of vessels calling on ports in China will use shore power, and about 50 percent of container and cruise terminals will be capable of providing shore power. China is also developing Emission Control Areas (ECAs) in its major ports.

China ranks in the top tier of countries with health-hazardous air, and a recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) revealed that maritime activity generates about 67 percent of Hong Kong’s sulfurous pollutants. China is home to seven of the world’s ten busiest container ports.

According to the NRDC report, a single cargo ship can emit pollutants equal to about half a million idling commercial trucks.

Because of increasingly stringent regulations outside of Asia, China has already begun the move towards clean fuels. Beginning in January, vessels calling on ports in North America, the U.S. Caribbean, the U.K. North Sea and the Baltic Sea were required to lower sulfur emissions from 10,000 parts per million (ppm) to 1,000 ppm. And by 2016, any vessel in North American coastal waters or the U.S. Caribbean will be required to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 75 percent.

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