Call to Ban California Drilling Expansion

By Reuters 2015-05-27 19:27:28

Environmentalists urged California regulators on Wednesday to reject a proposed expansion of the only offshore drilling operation still permitted in state waters along the Santa Barbara coastline, seizing on public outrage over last week’s nearby oil spill.

Privately owned Venoco Inc is seeking permission to drill on 3,400 acres (1,400 hectares) of the sea floor within a state-designated coastal sanctuary adjacent to the company’s current offshore lease site. It said the plan would increase petroleum production by 6,400 barrels a day.

That additional capacity, like the crude petroleum already being pumped from Venoco’s 50-year-old Platform Holly, would ultimately be added to oil supplies carried through the pipeline that burst on May 19 about 20 miles (32 km) west of Santa Barbara.

The spill last week dumped as much as 2,400 barrels (101,000 gallons, or 382,000 liters) of crude onto a pristine stretch of shoreline and into the Pacific, leaving slicks that stretched over nine miles (14 km) along the coast. Two state beaches were closed indefinitely, along with fishing in the area.

The spill also prompted the California Lands Commission to postpone its first public hearing on Venoco’s offshore drilling proposal, originally slated for Tuesday, to June 24.

On Wednesday, the conservation group Center for Biological Diversity sent a letter calling for the Lands Commission to deny Venoco’s application to drill on tracts of the sea floor placed off-limits to new energy development under a 1994 state law.

Venoco’s proposal cites an exception under the statute that allows for adjustment of an existing offshore mineral lease to encompass oil reserves left out of its original boundaries.

But opponents said the commission instead should order decommissioning of Platform Holly, which was built in 1965 and sends oil to shore through a subsea pipeline that is itself 45 years old.

Petroleum from Venoco’s rig ultimately is added to refinery-bound supplies that get pumped through the failed 28-year-old transmission line owned by Texas-based Plains All American Pipeline that caused last week’s spill.

“It would be a grave mistake for the state to approve a project that will feed more crude into a pipeline system that just spewed thousands of gallons of oil into the Pacific,” said Miyoko Sakashita, the Center for Biological Diversity’s oceans program director.

Venoco, which operates mostly in Southern California but is based in Denver, had no immediate comment.


Whaling: Sea Shepherd Seeks U.S. Injunction

By MarEx 2015-05-27 19:13:17

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a U.S.-based non-profit marine conservation organization, has filed claims against Japan’s Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR) in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, seeking a declaration that ICR’s whaling in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica is illegal under international law.

Sea Shepherd is also asking the court to grant an injunction preventing ICR from continuing its illegal whaling, and to ban it from continuing to use what it considers to be violent and dangerous actions to protect its illegal activities from volunteer activists defending the whales.

These requests are part of the counterclaims that Sea Shepherd – joined by its founder, Paul Watson – filed in response to a lawsuit brought by ICR seeking a permanent injunction to prevent Sea Shepherd from interfering with ICR’s illegal whale hunt. ICR’s lawsuit resulted in a temporary injunction by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that required Sea Shepherd and Watson to stay at least 500 yards away from ICR’s whaling fleet while it is killing whales in the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica. The case is set for trial in fall 2016.

“Sea Shepherd intends to defend the whales in court just as it has done at sea,” said Sea Shepherd attorney Claire Loebs Davis, a partner at Seattle-based Lane Powell PC. “Although Sea Shepherd maintains that the U.S. federal courts do not have the jurisdiction to intervene in disputes occurring on the high seas on the other side of the globe, once the courts are involved, they must take into account that ICR is engaged in activity that is illegal under international law, and is using violent and aggressive measures to protect that illegal activity.”

The request for the injunction against Japanese whaling coincides with the meeting of the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) scientific committee currently taking place in San Diego, which will consider whether Japan’s latest proposal to continue to kill whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary complies with the IWC’s global moratorium on commercial whaling and its ban on whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

Since 1987, Japan has authorized ICR to kill whales by issuing it permits for the slaughter as “scientific research” – although it packages the whale meat and sells it on the commercial market. In recent years, Japan has authorized ICR to kill more than 1,000 minke, humpback, and endangered fin whales annually.

However, last year, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that ICR’s “research” had no legitimate scientific basis and amounted to commercial whaling, which is in violation of the global moratorium. In 2008, the Australian Federal Court enjoined the Japanese whalers from killing whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary, which makes up part of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Japan and ICR have ignored that injunction.

In the wake of the ICJ decision, Japan has proposed killing nearly 4,000 whales over the next 12 years in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, as part of a new scientific research plan. That plan was rejected in February by a 10-person expert panel designated by the IWC’s Scientific Committee, and will be considered by the full Scientific Committee currently meeting in San Diego.

In its counterclaims, Sea Shepherd asked the Court to prohibit future whaling by ICR in the Southern Ocean, on the grounds that its killing of whales violates international law, including by violating the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Whaling Convention, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the World Charter for Nature.

Sea Shepherd’s claim recognizes that the whales themselves – each an individual being with a sense of self, an advanced cognitive capability and the capacity to experience profound physical and emotional suffering – have a “fundamental interest in their own lives and the lives of their families.” As the exhibits submitted with Sea Shepherd’s counterclaims illustrate, ICR targets families of whales swimming as pods – including mothers and their calves – and kills them using grenade-tipped harpoons and automatic weapons, causing an agonizing death that may take as long as 45 minutes.

“Countries around the world recognize the importance of preserving whale populations that were decimated by commercial whaling before the global moratorium took effect,” said Davis. “Yet ICR has continued to kill these whales in violation of international law. Targeted species have included the endangered fin whale —one of the largest species on earth, more than 95 percent of which were wiped out by commercial whaling. Not only that, but ICR kills these whales using brutal and inhumane methods, and does so in the internationally recognized Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, where they are supposed to have safe haven.”

Sea Shepherd also claims that ICR is guilty of piracy for illegally killing and taking whales from the sea for commercial profit and for engaging in violent actions against Sea Shepherd volunteers – including ramming vessels, hurling stun grenades and grappling hooks, employing bamboo poles as spears and firing water cannons at vessels and helicopters. In addition to injunctive relief, Sea Shepherd is requesting damages done to its vessels in past years, including for the deliberate ramming and destruction of the Sea Shepherd vessel Ady Gil in 2009.

Additional counterclaims by Sea Shepherd and Watson assert that ICR has violated Sea Shepherd’s right to freedom of safe navigation on the high seas by attacking and causing significant damage to Sea Shepherd vessels and endangering the safety of Sea Shepherd crew, and that ICR has violated the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism by collecting millions of dollars to fund these acts of violence. In 2011, the Japanese government allegedly admitted that almost $30 million dollars donated by concerned individuals worldwide to be designated for the tsunami and earthquake victims had been diverted to the whaling industry, states Sea Shepherd in a statement.


ICR and the Japanese whaling corporation from which it charters its boats and crew, Kyodo Senpaku, first filed suit in the federal district court in Seattle against Sea Shepherd and Watson. In March 2012 the district court denied ICR’s motion for a preliminary injunction in a 44-page opinion, which was reversed by the Ninth Circuit.

In December 2012 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals entered its own temporary injunction, prohibiting Sea Shepherd, Watson, and any party acting in concert with them from approaching ICR’s vessels closer than 500 yards in the Southern Ocean, endangering the safe navigation of those vessels, or attacking them.

Although Sea Shepherd subsequently withdrew from the Southern Ocean whale-protection campaigns, in December 2014 the Ninth Circuit found Sea Shepherd and Watson in contempt of the injunction based on the actions of independent foreign groups that continued the campaigns. Sea Shepherd filed a petition last month asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review this decision, claiming that the Ninth Circuit exceeded its jurisdiction by interfering in a conflict involving foreign parties on the other side of the globe, and that it erroneously found Sea Shepherd in contempt even though it had complied with the injunction.

On May 1, 2015, ICR and Kyodo Senpaku filed an amended complaint in the district court renewing their request for a permanent injunction against Sea Shepherd and Watson, and also seeking contempt sanctions. Sea Shepherd and Watson filed their answer and counterclaims to the amended complaint on May 15, 2015.

The latest filing against ICR is available here.


NSA Looks to Maritime Laws for Internet Regulation

By Reuters 2015-05-27 15:00:09

The U.S. National Security Agency chief called on Wednesday for an “open, reliable and safe” Internet governed by international rules akin to the Law of the Sea, while deflecting critics who say NSA spying has undermined public trust in the cyberworld.

Admiral Michael Rogers spoke a few days after the U.S. Senate rejected a bill to extend spy agencies’ bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records, putting the programme in doubt shortly before its expiry on June 1.

Addressing a cyberwarfare conference in Estonia, Rogers adopted the diplomatic language of a grassroots online governance activist, hailing the Internet’s openness and value as a shared, public good.

“I’d like to see if we can create something equivalent to the maritime world in the cyber world that enables us to keep moving information, keep moving commerce, keep moving ideas on a global basis,” Rogers told a largely military audience.

“Can we create a ‘global commons’, so to speak, that enables open, reliable, safe and resilient communications, a flow of information and ideas?” he said. “(This should be) in a framework that maximises its use for all of us.”

He contrasted his view, which he said reflected U.S. government policy, to those of countries which argue that the Internet should be governed by the same rules of national control prevailing in sovereign states for centuries.

The deeply secretive NSA’s brief is to monitor information and data from foreign countries, and the Internet has given it unprecedented insights into the daily activities of billions of phone and computer users worldwide.

But the Internet’s decentralised and anonymous nature has also left citizens vulnerable to cyberattack by everyone from teenage vandals to criminals to military forces.

Critics in the audience welcomed Rogers’ embrace of certain open Internet principles but questioned the NSA’s role in massive surveillance of web surfing habits around the world.#

They also challenged calls by Rogers and other top U.S. and British officials to weaken encryption by enabling legally authorised wiretapping of the Internet.

Richard Hill, a former staff member of the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union, said Roger’s comments were “exactly contrary” to U.S. policy that seeks only cooperation furthering Washington’s security agenda.

Rogers acknowledged that U.S. military strategy views cyberspace as another theatre of operations similar to land, sea and outer space.

Asked to respond to a recently announced cyber warfare non-aggression pact between China and Russia, he said he had not read the details but was not too concerned since nation states routinely entered into agreements on a variety of subjects.


Chilean Strike Hits Imports and Exports

By MarEx 2015-05-27 14:31:02

A customs strike in Chile that began last week has started to affect exports and imports, particularly in the perishable goods markets.

The strike by customs officials, who say they want the government to approximately double their workforce, began on May 20, and the union says it will continue indefinitely until an agreement is reached.

It rejected a government proposal for a smaller increase in the workforce at the weekend.

“We have had dialogue but it has been tense … what we want is a signal that this will be resolved in the short term but that hasn’t arrived,” Jorge Thibaut, secretary general of the national association of customs workers (ANFACH) said to journalists on Wednesday.

Ports in particular have been affected by the strike. Last Friday there were reports of up to 900 trucks with problems accessing Valparaiso port facilities and wait times for truck drivers were estimated at over 30 hours.

The president of the Fruit Exporters Association of Chile (Asoex) Ronald Bown Fernandez expressed his concern over the situation by urging the government and custom officials to find a quick solution to conflict. According to Asoex, Chile exported over two million tons of fresh fruit last season through the Port of Valparaiso and neighboring Port of San Antonio. Fernandez estimated that the financial losses due to shipping problems were around $16 million. Chilean exporters of fruit such as apples and grapes were hit in February by a port strike on the U.S. West Coast.

Additionally, the Salmon Chile Group has stated that their industry has seen over $30 million in losses as a result of the strike.

Miners said late on Tuesday that the impact to their industry to date had been minimal.

“In the northern zone there have been no great difficulties and in the central zone, the move has led to delays in loading our products, but we have been able to comply with our contracts,” said a spokeswoman for Codelco, the world’s No. 1 copper producer.

Codelco’s main mines in central Chile are El Teniente and Andina.

Small business owners in the South American country have also complained that crucial import stocks were being held up.


Efficient Technology: Just Add Oil and Water

By Kathryn Stone 2015-05-27 13:17:10

A New Zealand ferry company is bending the old rule of never mixing oil with water in an effort to find more fuel efficient technology.

The Interislander ferry Arahura is currently running trails using Fuel Oil Emulsion (FOE) technology, which combines oil and water in a process that leads to more complete engine combustion with less harmful waste discharge. The company is experimenting with the technology in the hopes of increasing the operating efficiency of vessels across its entire fleet.

Multiple industry studies have shown that FOE significantly reduces NOX and particulate matter emissions in engines using the technology. In addition to the environmental and financial saving associated with FOE, the reduced emissions also contributes to safer working conditions and results in cooler running engines that require less maintenance.

Malcom Sims, the engineer in charge of the project seemed hopeful about FOE’s capabilities saying “The outcome looks as though it could reduce our use of fuel and the level of emissions as well as giving a significant financial saving.”

The current trial will take place over a three month period and is a follow-up to a 2013 demonstration, which showed significant promise for the technology. In the first trial FOE showed fuel savings between three to five percent, which could slash fuel consumption by up to 2 million liters a year.

If the trials prove successful, Interislander may look into adopting the technology across all its vessels. Sims stated that, “While these are still early days, there is definitely scope for potentially installing the technology across the fleet.”

The 13,621 gross-ton Arahura was chosen for the study because of its over three-decade operational history. According to Interislander, the vessel provides a reliable platform that will allow the tests to be carried out in a controlled manner.

FOE technology can be easily applied to already existing vessels as no engine modification is required to utilize the technology. Additionally, the fuel emulsion can created just prior to combustion by combining oil and water with an additive that allows the emulsion to form and remain stable.

Funding for the project is being provided by an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority grant, which encourages business to carry out demonstration projects on emerging efficient technologies that could have widespread applications. The current trial is being independently monitored and consists of a one-month baseline test with traditional fuel to use as a comparison.


Union: Callao box ops affected

Replacement labour used by APM Terminals (APMT) to fill in for striking dockworkers at Peru’s Port of Callao has started to affect container operations, according to the labour union’s spokesman.
Juan Carlos Vargas, spokesman for the Peruvian dockworkers’ union SUTRAMPORPC, disputes APMT’s