Remembering S.S. Eastland

By MarEx 2015-07-25 22:54:21

by Senior Chief Petty Officer Alan Haraf

In 1915, the “Act to Create the U.S. Coast Guard” was signed, merging the Revenue Cutter Service and U.S. Life Saving Service to form the modern-day Coast Guard. The merging of these two organizations formed a service whose unique capabilities would prove to be invaluable just six month later on the Great Lakes.

Early on the morning of July 24, 1915, 7,000 employees and guests of the Western Electric Company gathered on a wharf between LaSalle and Clark streets on the Chicago River to board five steamers heading to a company picnic in Michigan City, Indiana.

One of those vessels, the S.S. Eastland, quickly filled to its 2,500-person capacity and prepared to leave the wharf for a four-hour journey to the picnic location. Due to a heavy stream of passengers embarking on the gangplanks, ballast water was added to the vessel to correct a list to the port side. Just as deckhands began to cast lines off, the steamer listed again and then capsized into the Chicago River, sending hundreds into the water and trapping many more below decks.

Petty Officer 1st Class William E. Preston had the duty watch of Station Old Chicago that morning and was first alerted of the disaster at 7:30 a.m. He and seven other surfmen who rushed to the scene responded to what became the modern-day Coast Guard’s first major rescue operation, according to the Coast Guard Historian’s Office.

When Preston and his crew arrived at the Eastland, they joined hundreds of others in the rescue and recovery efforts from the Chicago River. During the first day alone, the Coast Guard rescued 84 people and recovered 570 of the 844 who perished. At least 1,656 passengers survived the ordeal.

Ever since its maiden voyage in 1903, the Eastland frequently suffered from instability due to design flaws. A high center of gravity and top-heaviness made the ship prone to listing, which occurred during boarding of the vessel on the morning of July 24, 1915. Additionally, the Eastland’s ballast system was slow to react in changes to weight distribution and had no side-to-side transfer. These factors, along with a ship filled to absolute capacity or even overcapacity, were probable causes of the fateful capsize.

On the heels of the sinking of the Titanic just three years earlier, lessons were also learned from the Eastland disaster. In the years to follow, maritime safety responsibilities fell under various agencies and organizations including the Steamboat Inspection Service, Bureau of Navigation and Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation. By 1946, all responsibilities were transferred to the Coast Guard.

Today, Coast Guard marine safety personnel ensure that commercial vessels are in full compliance with applicable federal laws and regulations. Marine inspectors ensure that vessels are seaworthy and properly maintained, that vessel repairs are made in accordance with established standards, that crews are adequately trained and proficient in their duties, and that lifesaving and firefighting equipment are properly maintained and readily available.

Station Old Chicago is still in service to this day. Now known as Coast Guard Station Chicago, it is a seasonal detachment falling under the command of Station Calumet Harbor and shares the location with the Chicago Police Marine and Helicopter Unit, Chicago Fire Department and Illinois Conservation Police.

This weekend, 100 years later, representatives from Marine Safety Unit Chicago and Coast Guard Station Calumet Harbor will participate in ceremonies marking the anniversary of the disaster on the same spot in the Chicago River.

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Tribal Life Threatened by Andaman Island Expansion

By MarEx 2015-07-25 21:41:59

Bollywood music blares from a line of food stalls serving tourists outside the entrance to a thickly-forested tribal reserve on India’s far-flung Andaman and Nicobar islands.

Beyond the barrier patrolled by police, a few hundred members of the Jarawa tribe hunt the lush rainforest for turtles and pigs and shoot fish with bows and arrows, largely unseen and untouched by the outside world.

As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government seeks to accelerate development on the islands to promote its military, trade and tourism, preserving the pristine environment and handful of unique tribes is likely to get harder.

“The islands are fragile, they are in a seismically active zone not far from Indonesia’s Aceh coast,” said Pankaj Sekhsaria of Indian environmental group Kalpavriksh.

“Above all, they are home to indigenous tribes. This is their land, their history. There are serious concerns about the impact of tourists … If history is any indication, interaction between our world and their world has proved damaging for them.”

Tourism is only part of New Delhi’s vision for the Indian Ocean islands. Lying on a busy shipping route between mainland India and Southeast Asia, they are seen as ideal for extending India’s economic and military reach.

With that in mind, Modi’s government is determined to push harder than previous administrations to develop the islands, while at the same time protecting tribes and landscapes.

“The support we have got from the central government over the last year has been phenomenal. They want things to happen,” A.K. Singh, lieutenant governor of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and India’s top official there, told Reuters.

“We want comprehensive development of the islands and its people while protecting the interests of the tribes as well as the environment. Ours is a transparent, deliberate policy. There is nothing to hide.”

TO INTEGRATE OR ISOLATE?

The dark-skinned Jarawas, numbering around 400 and one of six tribes believed to have lived on the islands for up to 55,000 years, refused until recently to have any contact with the outside world.

“There are two schools of thought. One is to protect and preserve their cultural identity and avoid inter-mingling with the outside world,” said D.M. Shukla, the islands’ tribal welfare secretary.

“The other is to mainstream them into the outside world so that they enjoy the fruits of the development.”

The latter argument is gaining momentum, with government officials saying economic development must not be held back.

Boosting tourism and other industries is not easy in a territory where over 90 percent of land is off-limits forest.

But already the military is lengthening runways at airfields in the north and south of an archipelago that generals believe is a key but long-neglected outpost to counter the Chinese navy’s thrust into the Indian Ocean.

The civilian administration, energized by Modi’s push to boost development, plans direct air links to Southeast Asia, an undersea cable to improve communications and a free port area.

State carrier Air India will begin flights this year between the Andaman capital Port Blair and Thailand’s Phuket, which gets more tourists than all of India put together, according to island officials.

“If we get even a fraction of that traffic to our beaches, it would transform the islands,” said the islands’ chief secretary Anand Prakash.

A more ambitious plan to build a port in Great Nicobar Island near the mouth of the Strait of Malacca, through which some 60,000 ships pass annually, is on hold because it would need vast amounts of land in an ecologically sensitive belt, Prakash added.

“DOLE-BASED ECONOMY”

Vivek Rae, former chief secretary of the Andaman and Nicobar islands, said it was unrealistic to reserve 1,000 square km of forest for 400-odd Jarawas.

“While it is nobody’s case that the entire land mass should be denuded of forest cover and the tribes relegated to the dustbin of history, there is surely a compelling case for clearing up some of the land for exploiting the economic and strategic potential of these islands,” he wrote in India Today.

Some business leaders on the archipelago agree.

“Ours is a dole-based economy. Everything is subsidized, from our food to our travel to the mainland. How sustainable is that?” said Mohammad Jadwet, of the Jadwet Trading Company, one of the islands’ oldest enterprises.

Proposed measures will put Delhi on a collision course with environmentalists and human rights groups who have long argued that the archipelago of 556 islands, 37 of which are inhabited, should be left undisturbed.

The dark green islands dotting an azure sea boast bird, reptile and butterfly species found nowhere else, as well as some of the finest corals in the world, Sekhsaria said.

At Jirkatang, tourists travel in convoy with police cars at the front and back, and no photography or contact with tribes is allowed in order to protect them.

But occasionally images are captured and food thrown to tribe members, and Survival International has called for the main road through the Jarawa reserve to be closed to tourists. It calls their activity there “human safaris.”

Survival International says the Jarawa are extremely vulnerable to exploitation by outsiders and could face a similar fate to that of the neighboring Great Andamanese tribe, who were decimated by forced settlement and diseases introduced by British colonizers. Last year, it was revealed that poachers regularly enter the Jarawa reserve and some lure young Jarawa women with alcohol or drugs to sexually exploit them.

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Tribal Life Threatened by Andaman Islands Expansion

By MarEx 2015-07-25 21:41:59

Bollywood music blares from a line of food stalls serving tourists outside the entrance to a thickly-forested tribal reserve on India’s far-flung Andaman and Nicobar islands.

Beyond the barrier patrolled by police, a few hundred members of the Jarawa tribe hunt the lush rainforest for turtles and pigs and shoot fish with bows and arrows, largely unseen and untouched by the outside world.

As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government seeks to accelerate development on the islands to promote its military, trade and tourism, preserving the pristine environment and handful of unique tribes is likely to get harder.

“The islands are fragile, they are in a seismically active zone not far from Indonesia’s Aceh coast,” said Pankaj Sekhsaria of Indian environmental group Kalpavriksh.

“Above all, they are home to indigenous tribes. This is their land, their history. There are serious concerns about the impact of tourists … If history is any indication, interaction between our world and their world has proved damaging for them.”

Tourism is only part of New Delhi’s vision for the Indian Ocean islands. Lying on a busy shipping route between mainland India and Southeast Asia, they are seen as ideal for extending India’s economic and military reach.

With that in mind, Modi’s government is determined to push harder than previous administrations to develop the islands, while at the same time protecting tribes and landscapes.

“The support we have got from the central government over the last year has been phenomenal. They want things to happen,” A.K. Singh, lieutenant governor of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and India’s top official there, told Reuters.

“We want comprehensive development of the islands and its people while protecting the interests of the tribes as well as the environment. Ours is a transparent, deliberate policy. There is nothing to hide.”

TO INTEGRATE OR ISOLATE?

The dark-skinned Jarawas, numbering around 400 and one of six tribes believed to have lived on the islands for up to 55,000 years, refused until recently to have any contact with the outside world.

“There are two schools of thought. One is to protect and preserve their cultural identity and avoid inter-mingling with the outside world,” said D.M. Shukla, the islands’ tribal welfare secretary.

“The other is to mainstream them into the outside world so that they enjoy the fruits of the development.”

The latter argument is gaining momentum, with government officials saying economic development must not be held back.

Boosting tourism and other industries is not easy in a territory where over 90 percent of land is off-limits forest.

But already the military is lengthening runways at airfields in the north and south of an archipelago that generals believe is a key but long-neglected outpost to counter the Chinese navy’s thrust into the Indian Ocean.

The civilian administration, energized by Modi’s push to boost development, plans direct air links to Southeast Asia, an undersea cable to improve communications and a free port area.

State carrier Air India will begin flights this year between the Andaman capital Port Blair and Thailand’s Phuket, which gets more tourists than all of India put together, according to island officials.

“If we get even a fraction of that traffic to our beaches, it would transform the islands,” said the islands’ chief secretary Anand Prakash.

A more ambitious plan to build a port in Great Nicobar Island near the mouth of the Strait of Malacca, through which some 60,000 ships pass annually, is on hold because it would need vast amounts of land in an ecologically sensitive belt, Prakash added.

“DOLE-BASED ECONOMY”

Vivek Rae, former chief secretary of the Andaman and Nicobar islands, said it was unrealistic to reserve 1,000 square km of forest for 400-odd Jarawas.

“While it is nobody’s case that the entire land mass should be denuded of forest cover and the tribes relegated to the dustbin of history, there is surely a compelling case for clearing up some of the land for exploiting the economic and strategic potential of these islands,” he wrote in India Today.

Some business leaders on the archipelago agree.

“Ours is a dole-based economy. Everything is subsidized, from our food to our travel to the mainland. How sustainable is that?” said Mohammad Jadwet, of the Jadwet Trading Company, one of the islands’ oldest enterprises.

Proposed measures will put Delhi on a collision course with environmentalists and human rights groups who have long argued that the archipelago of 556 islands, 37 of which are inhabited, should be left undisturbed.

The dark green islands dotting an azure sea boast bird, reptile and butterfly species found nowhere else, as well as some of the finest corals in the world, Sekhsaria said.

At Jirkatang, tourists travel in convoy with police cars at the front and back, and no photography or contact with tribes is allowed in order to protect them.

But occasionally images are captured and food thrown to tribe members, and Survival International has called for the main road through the Jarawa reserve to be closed to tourists. It calls their activity there “human safaris.”

Survival International says the Jarawa are extremely vulnerable to exploitation by outsiders and could face a similar fate to that of the neighboring Great Andamanese tribe, who were decimated by forced settlement and diseases introduced by British colonizers. Last year, it was revealed that poachers regularly enter the Jarawa reserve and some lure young Jarawa women with alcohol or drugs to sexually exploit them.

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China Plays Down South China Sea Exercises

By Reuters 2015-07-25 21:22:47

The Chinese navy played down recent military drills in the South China Sea and criticized other countries for “illegally” occupying islands in the area, the official Xinhua news service reported on Saturday.

China has launched a naval drill in waters to the east of Hainan Island, a largely unpopulated region of reefs and shoals in which a number of countries maintain contradictory and overlapping territorial claims.

“Holding sea drills is a common practice for navies with various countries. The annual drill by the Chinese navy aims to test the troops’ real combat abilities, boost their maneuverability, search and rescue power and the abilities to fulfil diversified military missions,” Xinhua quoted Chinese navy spokesperson Liang Yang saying.

China’s recent assertiveness in the South China Sea has increased military and diplomatic tensions between it and rival claimants including Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

China’s naval stance also clashes with the air and sea movements of units of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, which aims to protect sea lanes critical to U.S. trade with Southeast Asia and the oil-rich Middle East.

Beijing has been building up uninhabited reefs in the area in recent months, constructing airports, defenses systems and even civilian administrations on rocks with no access to fresh water but seen as bolstering legal arguments around its territorial claims by converting uninhabitable reef into defended, populated Chinese islands.

The United Nations Convention on Laws of the Sea says countries can’t claim sovereignty over land masses submerged by tides or previously submerged but which have been raised above high tide levels by construction.

China has also approved guidelines that would make civilian vessels quickly convertible for military use, according to state media. Many of China’s confrontations with neighbors have been conducted with a mixture of military and civilian vessels, including fishing boats.

Other claimants have also built facilities on reefs, they claim.

“Some neighboring countries have long been illegally occupying some of the islands, building facilities there such as airports and even deploying heavy offensive weapons,” Liang said.

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China says U.S. Trying to Influence Philippines’ Case

By Reuters 2015-07-24 19:04:41

China’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday the United States was trying to influence a South China Sea arbitration case filed by the Philippines after a senior U.S. official said China would be obligated to abide by the tribunal’s decision.

China has for years insisted that disputes with rival claimants to the South China Sea be handled bilaterally.

But this month, its claims came under international legal scrutiny for the first time when the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague began hearing a suit the Philippines filed in 2013.

China has refused to take part in the case.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel told a conference in Washington this week that as both Beijing and Manila are signatories to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, legally they have to abide by the tribunal’s decision.

China issued a position paper in December arguing the dispute was not covered by the treaty because it was ultimately a matter of sovereignty, not exploitation rights, and the Foreign Ministry said it stood by that.

“Attempting to push forward the arbitration unilaterally initiated by the Philippines, the U.S. side just acts like an ‘arbiter outside the tribunal’, designating the direction for the arbitral tribunal established at the request of the Philippines,” it said.

“This is inconsistent with the position the U.S. side claims to uphold on issues concerning the South China Sea disputes,” the ministry added, calling on Washington to live up to its promises and not take sides.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, believed to be rich in energy deposits, where about $5 trillion in ship-borne goods pass every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have conflicting claims.

China has become increasingly assertive in the South China Sea with rapid reclamation around reefs in the Spratly archipelago in particular sparking concern, both in the region and in the United States.

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Iran Already Making Shipping and Oil Deals

By MarEx 2015-07-24 18:44:46

Iran has outlined plans to rebuild its main industries and trade relationships following its nuclear agreement with world powers.

According to the agreement, all economic and financial sanctions against Iran will be removed and all bans on Iran’s Central Bank, shipping, oil industry and many other companies will be lifted.

Container Shipping

An Iranian official has already indicated that the French shipping company CMA CGM is arranging to start calling at the southern Iranian port Shahid Rajaei, reports Iran Daily.

Ebrahim Idani, director general of Hormozgan Ports and Maritime Department, indicated that CMA CGM’s Andromeda will be the first container ship to berth at the port as a result of the lift in sanctions. It is anticipated to arrive in early August with 11,500 teu of containers.

Idani stated that the Andromeda has already started its journey from the Far East and is bound for the Persian Gulf. He also said that recent developments at Shahid Rajaei port mean it is suitable for large container vessels. The port is equipped with 18 gantry cranes and 41 docks, making it the biggest and most modern container port in Iran.

Oil and Gas

Iran is also targeting oil and gas projects worth $185 billion by 2020.

Iran’s Minister of Industry, Mines and Trade Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh said the Islamic Republic would focus on its oil and gas, metals and car industries with an eye to exporting to Europe after sanctions have been lifted, rather than simply importing Western technology.

“We are looking for a two-way trade as well as cooperation in development, design and engineering,” Nematzadeh told a conference in Vienna.

“We are no longer interested in a unidirectional importation of goods and machinery from Europe,” he said.

Global Interest

Many European companies have already shown interest in reestablishing business in Iran, with Germany sending its economy minister Sigmar Gabriel on the first top level government visit to Tehran in 13 years together with a delegation of leading business figures.

Iran’s deputy oil minister for commerce and international affairs, Hossein Zamaninia, said Tehran had identified nearly 50 oil and gas projects worth $185 billion that it hoped to sign by 2020. OPEC-member Iran has the world’s largest gas reserves and is fourth on the global list of top oil reserves holders.

In preparation for negotiations with possible foreign partners, Zamaninia said Iran had defined a new model contract which it calls its integrated petroleum contract (IPC).

“This model contract addresses some of the deficiencies of the old buyback contract and it further aligns the short- and long-term interests of parties involved,” he said.

He said the deals would last 20-25 years – much longer than the previously less popular buybacks, which effectively were fee paying deals with global oil majors such as France’s Total for services they performed on Iranian oil fields.

He said Iran would introduce the projects it has identified and the new contract model within 2-3 months.

Projects Approved

Deputy Economy Minister Mohammad Khazaei said Iran had already completed negotiations with some European companies wanting to invest in the country.

“We are recently witnessing the return of European investors to the country. Some of these negotiations have concluded, and we have approved and granted them the foreign investment licences and protections,” Khazaei told the conference.

“Even in the past couple of weeks we have approved more than $2 billion of projects in Iran by European companies,” he said, without naming the firms or providing further details.

Most European oil majors and oil service companies have so far expressed caution about the prospects of a windfall of deals in Iran, saying their compliance departments will want to first see sanctions being fully removed before any meaningful work can start on projects.

Looking for Joint Ventures

Beyond oil, Nematzadeh said Iran was looking to move away from state ownership in many sectors, creating joint ventures for auto parts manufacturers with the aim to produce 3 million vehicles by 2025, of which a third would be exported.

Central bank deputy governor Akbar Komijani said Iran’s financial sector was offering opportunities for cooperation between domestic banks and foreign investors.

Nematzadeh said Iran aimed to join the World Trade Organization once political obstacles were removed and would be interested in trade deals with Europe and central Asian countries.

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