Remembering U.S. Armed Forces Day

By MarEx 2015-05-16 20:20:05

U.S. President Harry S. Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service in support of our country.

On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days.

The single day celebration stemmed from the unification of the Armed Forces under the Department of Defense.

Armed Forces Day Message

As Written by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, The Pentagon, Saturday, May 16, 2015:

“As our nation marks its 65th annual Armed Forces Day, we are reminded why our men and women in uniform comprise the finest fighting force the world has ever known. They not only continue to defend our country with unmatched skill and devotion; they also help make a better and more peaceful world for our children.

“Today we are especially mindful of the nearly 200,000 service members currently beyond our shores protecting America’s interests. They are standing for our shared values in Europe against those who would turn back the clock. They are standing with our friends and allies against savagery in the Middle East. In the Asia-Pacific – where new powers rise, old tensions still simmer, and half of humanity resides – they are responding to disasters and standing up for a continuation of the decades-long miracle of development and progress underwritten by the United States. And in cyberspace, they are standing with those who create and innovate against those who seek to steal, destroy, and exploit.

“To the more than two million soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guardsmen who defend the United States of America – we thank you and your families for answering the call to serve. Know that DoD’s senior leaders and I are as committed as ever to safeguarding you, to ensuring you’re treated with dignity and respect, and, above all, to ensuring that when you’re sent into harm’s way, it’s done with the utmost care. Today, and every day, we are grateful for what you do.”


Seattle Flotilla Protests Shell’s Arctic Plans

By MarEx 2015-05-16 20:01:56

Hundreds of activists in kayaks and small boats fanned out on a Seattle bay on Saturday to protest plans by Royal Dutch Shell to resume oil exploration in the Arctic and keep two of its drilling rigs stored in the city’s port.

Environmental groups have vowed to disrupt the Anglo-Dutch oil company’s efforts to use the Seattle as a home base as it outfits the rigs to return to the Chukchi Sea off Alaska, saying drilling in the remote Arctic waters could lead to an ecological catastrophe.

Demonstrators have planned days of protests, both on land and in Elliott Bay, home to the Port of Seattle, where the first of the two rigs docked on Thursday.

Kayakers on Saturday paddled around the rig yelling “Shell No.” Others unfurled a large banner that read “Climate Justice.”

Environmental groups contend harsh and shifting weather conditions make it impossible to drill in the Arctic, a region with a fragile environment that helps regulate the global climate because of its vast layers of sea ice.

Allison Warden, 42, said she traveled from Alaska to represent her native Inupiaq tribe, which makes its home in the Arctic. She said whales central to the tribe’s culture are particularly vulnerable to oil spills.

“I don’t know what our culture would be without whaling. It’s at the center of everything we do,” she said. “It’s a different relationship than just going to the grocery store. The whale feeds the entire community,” she said.

The Guardian reports Eric Day, of the Swinomish Indian Tribe, saying drilling in the Arctic would hurt those who live off the land. “This is our livelihood. We need to protect it for the crabbers, for the fishermen,” he said. “We need to protect it for our children.”

Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace for the U.S. said the focus should be on renewable energy in this time of climate change, not dirty fuels. However, The Guardian quotes others present saying the kayaks themselves are petroleum-based products, and the cars that brought them there run on petroleum.

Opponents of the rigs docking in Seattle, a city known for its environmental causes, include Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council.

Shell was bringing in the rigs and moving ahead as planned despite the opposition and a ruling earlier this week by the city’s planning department that the port’s agreement with the company was in violation of its city permit.

“The timeline now is just to make sure the rigs are ready to go,” said Curtis Smith, a Shell spokesman.

The second rig is expected at the port in the coming days.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management gave conditional approval to Shell’s resumption of fossil fuel exploration in the Arctic, which was suspended after a mishap-filled 2012 season.

The decision was met with approval by some Alaska lawmakers, who said it would bring money and jobs to the state.

Picture insert credit: Nichole Williamson


U.S., China Clash over South China Sea

By Reuters 2015-05-16 04:38:36

The United States and China clashed over a territorial dispute in the South China Sea on Saturday, as China’s foreign minister asserted its sovereignty to reclaim reefs saying its determination to protect its interests is “as hard as a rock”.

After a private meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi showed no sign of backing down despite Kerry urging China to take action to reduce tension in the South China Sea.

“With regard to construction on the Nansha islands and reefs, this is fully within the scope of China’s sovereignty,” Wang told reporters, using the Chinese name for the Spratly islands.

“I would like to reaffirm that China’s determination to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity is as hard as a rock,” he said. “It is the people’s demand of the government and our legitimate right.”

Wang made the comments at a joint news conference with Kerry, who is at the beginning of a two-day visit to China that is likely to be dominated by deepening concern about Beijing’s ambitions in the South China Sea.

China claims about 90 percent of the 3.5 million sqare kilometers (1.35 million square mile) South China Sea. The Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam also claim large parts of the sea.

China’s rapid reclamation effort around seven reefs in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea has alarmed other claimants such as the Philippines and Vietnam.

At the same time, China has expressed its concern about a possible U.S. plan to send military aircraft and ships to assert freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

Kerry did not respond when asked to clarify whether the United States intended to follow through on what a U.S. official on Tuesday said was a proposal to send U.S. military aircraft and ships.


Kerry said the United States had stated its concerns about the pace and scope of China’s land reclamation in the sea.

“I urged China through Foreign Minister Wang to take actions that will join everybody in helping to reduce tensions and increase the prospect of a diplomatic solution,” he said.

He said Wang had agreed that the region needed “smart diplomacy” in order to conclude a code of conduct between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China, “and not outposts and military scares”.

While both countries have differences on the South China Sea, they are committed to freedom of navigation and peace and stability in the area, Wang said, adding that China hoped to continue a dialogue to improve understanding on the issue.

The South China Sea dispute is the latest source of friction between the world’s two biggest economies, which have sparred over everything from trade and human rights to exchanges of accusations of hacking.

Despite this, they cooperate in many areas such as climate change, North Korea and Iran.

Recent satellite images have shown that since about March 2014, China has conducted reclamation work at seven sites in the Spratlys and is constructing a military-sized air strip on Fiery Cross Reef and possibly a second on another reef.

The Philippines, a U.S. treaty ally, has called for urgent action.

China rejects U.S. involvement in the dispute and has blamed the United States for stoking tension by encouraging countries to engage in “dangerous behavior”. China has reiterated that the only way to address the issue is through bilateral talks.

On North Korea, Kerry said he was hopeful a potential nuclear deal with Iran could be a “message” for Pyongyang, but added that whether or not North Korea “is capable of internalizing that kind of message, that’s still to be proven”.

Kerry’s trip is intended to prepare for annual U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue next month in Washington and President Xi Jinping’s expected visit to Washington in September.


Nigeria Wants to Compete with Philippines’ Seafarers

By MarEx 2015-05-16 02:17:04

The Nigeria Maritime University (NMU) will generate more than six billion dollars in revenue when functional, says Patrick Ziakede Akpobolokemi, spokesman from Nigeria’s Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

The revenue would be generated from the training and supply of seafarers to the international maritime industry.

The university’s license, which was approved by the Federal Government on May 13, was an initiative of the agency.

“Qualified manpower will be trained in the university to guarantee sustainable manpower for the maritime industry in line with international standards,” he said. “ The university is intended to supply seafarers across the globe, not only our local industries.”

Akpobolokemi urged youths living aimlessly on the streets to come and study. “After graduating, we will give them necessary sea time experience and send them anywhere in world and let them send remittances to the government.”

The Philippines earns annually more than six billion dollars in terms of selling seafarers, he says, we have population that is useful for this application.

“We can do far better than the Philippines.”

The university is set to commence academic activities at its fully developed temporary site in Kurutie and in Warri-South West local government area.

About 32,600 students have already benefitted from NIMASA’s scholarship scheme which has run over the last four years.

The agency remained committed and focused in building human capacity for the Nigerian maritime sector through strengthening of the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP).

The program is designed to train young Nigerians in various maritime professions at degree level.

NSDP has over 2,500 beneficiaries in academic institutions in Egypt, India, Philippines, Romania and the United Kingdom; a number of whom have since graduated.

The agency has successfully established Institutes of Maritime Studies in six Nigerian universities, including the University of Lagos and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.


Great Barrier Reef Protection Extended

By MarEx 2015-05-16 00:50:37

Australia will more than double an area near the Great Barrier Reef subject to special curbs on shipping in a bid to protect the environmentally sensitive region, the government said on Saturday.

The decision to include large areas of the adjacent Coral Sea in the area will expand it by 140 percent, or 565,000 square km (218,000 square miles), Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss said in a statement.

The expansion comes as international concern is growing over the reef with the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) considering putting it on its list of World Heritage sites that are “in danger”.

“The Coral Sea is one of the world’s most distinctive and undisturbed marine ecosystems,” Truss said. “It behoves us to do all we can to reasonably and responsibly protect one of our greatest natural resources.

“Our new measures enhance protection for the Coral Sea – as well as the adjacent Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area – by helping ships traverse the region safely and avoid potentially hazardous areas.”

The Coral Sea is home to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park which was made a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) for shipping by the International Maritime Organization in 1990.

Expansion proposals put forward by Australia last year were accepted by the IMO at an MEPC meeting in London overnight. The changes should gradually come into force once associated measures are adopted by an IMO committee expected to be held next month.

Busy shipping lanes pass through the area and commercial ships are required to hire reef pilots to navigate through it.

Truss said the changes would ultimately involve a new “area to be avoided” and two-way shipping lanes to keep ships away from reefs, sandbars and shoals.

In 2010 a Chinese coal carrier ran aground in the Great Barrier Reef, provoking an international outcry.

Since then, there has been renewed concern that development, particularly coal mining in Australia’s northeastern state of Queensland, could endanger the reef.

UNESCO is due to make its decision on whether to list the reef as in danger, which would be an embarrassment for Australia, next month, after deferring a decision for 12 months in June last year.

The Coral Sea is an area of the western Pacific stretching out from the Great Barrier Reef to the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia.


China, India Sign $22 Billion in Deals

By Wendy Laursen 2015-05-16 00:36:41

China and India signed deals worth more than $22 billion in areas including renewable energy, ports, financing, marine science, mineral exploration and industrial parks, an Indian embassy official said on Saturday.

Namgya C. Khampa, of the Indian Embassy in China, made the remarks at the end of a three-day visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during which he sought to boost economic ties and quell anxiety over a border dispute between the neighbors.

“The agreements have a bilateral commercial engagement in sectors like renewable energy, industrial parks, power, steel, logistics finance and media and entertainment,” Khampa said.

China is interested in more opportunities in India’s $2 trillion economy.

During a visit to India last year by Chinese President Xi Jinping, China announced $20 billion in investments over five years, including setting up two industrial parks.

Since then, progress has been slow, in part because of the difficulties Modi has had in getting political approval for easier land acquisition laws.

Modi, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping discussed issues that have hindered cooperation between the two nations including border disputes in the Himalayas, a heavy trade imbalance in China’s favor and India’s wariness toward China’s dealings with Pakistan, India’s rival.

During his visit to China, Modi addressed students at Tsinghua University and presented a broad argument for cooperation, reports The New York Times. Both China and India face extremist terrorism whose “source is in the same region,” and uncertainty about energy supplies. Additionally, both countries depend on the same sea lanes for international commerce.

“We have a historic responsibility to turn this relationship into a source of strength for each other and a force of good for the world,” tweeted Modi from China on Friday. “This has been a very productive and positive visit. I look forward to working with President Xi and Premier Li.”

On Sunday, Modi will meet with CEOs of top Chinese companies.

Modi encouraged Chinese companies to embrace opportunities in India in manufacturing, processing and infrastructure, announcing “now India is ready for business” with an improved regulatory environment.

“You are the ‘factory of the world’ whereas we are the ‘back office of the world’,” Modi said.