Military Ordinance Dumped in Gulf of Mexico

By MarEx 2015-08-03 16:29:32

Texas A& M oceanographic researcher have reported that unexploded bombs and other military ordnance washing up on the Florida coast has brought more awareness U.S. government materials dumping decades ago in the Gulf of Mexico could pose serious threats.

Niall Slowey, along with professor emeritus William Bryant, who have more than 90 years of combined research experience, say millions of pounds of bombs and other types of ordnance are scattered over the Gulf of Mexico and also off the coasts of at least 16 states, from New Jersey to Hawaii. The bombs can get caught in fishermen’s nets as they trawl along the ocean seafloor, or wash up on shore such as last week near the Tampa area.

The military began a massive dumping of unused bombs into the Gulf and other sites that started in 1946 and continued until 1970, when it was finally banned.

“Up until the 1960s, people thought the seafloor was beyond the reach of human activity,” explains Slowey.

“They could not imagine the types of activities that are commonplace today. As more and more of these bombs and other ordnance are discovered, it has to be assumed that they are still dangerous until proven otherwise.”

Millions of pounds — no one, including the military, knows how many — were sent to the ocean floor as numerous bases tried to lessen the amount of ordnance at their respective locations. The bombs included land mines standard military bombs, and also several types of chemical weapons. It is likely that some of the chemicals are leaking due to 60 to 70 years of exposure on the ocean floor, and this could pose a serious environmental threat, the researchers say.

“When exposed to air, some of these chemicals can be gaseous and can cause burns and nerve damage, and these types of cases have been reported in the Baltic Sea area where some of the most massive dumping occurred,” Slowey adds.

There have been numerous reports of fatalities caused by such bombs, such as in 2005 when three Dutch fishermen were killed when they accidentally snared a World War II bomb in their nets.

As for the Gulf of Mexico, Slowey notes that “the seafloor off the Texas-Louisiana coast is among the most active in the world, with constant activity related to energy production. It is exactly in this region where many of the munitions were dumped. As time passes, more and more people are working on the seafloor and the chance of encounter with these bombs and other ordnance is becoming greater.”

With the ship traffic needed to support the 4,000 energy rigs, along with commercial fishing, cruise lines and other activities, the Gulf can be a sort of marine interstate highway system of its own. There are an estimated 30,000 workers on the oil and gas rigs at any given moment.

Bombs used in the military in the 1940s through the 1970s ranged from 250- to 500- and even 1,000-pound explosives, some of them the size of refrigerators. The military has a term for such unused bombs: UXO, or unexploded ordnance.

One huge problem is that record keeping of the military dump sites is incomplete and sketchy at best. It’s also believed that many of the munitions were “short dumped,” meaning they were discarded outside designated dumping areas by private contractors hired at the time.

“The real mystery is that no one knows what is down there, or where all of it is,” Slowey notes.

“Although most of these bombs do not have triggers in them, some types of ordnance , such as torpedoes and mines, can become more unstable over time, so their case the chance of an accidental explosion is increasing.

“Because chemical weapons potentially pose environmental contamination risks, and because explosive material in many of the standard bombs and other ordnance may still be viable, we need to determine exactly where they are and then have a plan for removing them or at least monitoring their condition,” Slowey says.

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SubSea 7 Vessel Catches Fire

By MarEx 2015-08-03 16:00:07

A fire broke out onboard the ROV Subsea Viking 7 while it was moored in Scotland at the Hatson Pier on Orkney Island. It was reported that short circuit in the diesel generator caused the fire which spread aboard the vessel. A Scottish coast guard tugboat extinguished the fire quickly and no one was injured.

The 1999-built Subsea Viking is a construction/flexlay vessel owned by Eidesvik Shipping and was on charter to Subsea 7. A ferry due to call at the pier last night diverted to a neighboring facility.

The vessel has overall length of 103.00 m, molded beam of 24.00 m and maximum draft of 6.20 m. The deadweight of the ship is 6,350 DWT and the gross tonnage is 7,401 GRT. The ship was built in 1999 by Umoe Sterkoder in their shipyard in Kristiansund, Norway.

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Mapping the Arctic Floor

By MarEx 2015-08-03 15:38:10

The University of New Hampshire and scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently completed a three-week expedition to map the Arctic Sea floor. The Arctic is one of the least-known seafloor areas in the world.

The mapping expedition was completed by two NOAA ships, the M/V Rainer and the M/V Fairweather and the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Healy as well as a private contractor covered nearly 12,000 nautical miles in order to update current nautical charts.

The seafloor data collected during the expedition will enable scientists better understand the underwater landscape in the Arctic and improve climate and ocean current circulation models. This was the fourth expedition in a series of cruises to map the Arctic sea floor.

For more information on seafloor mapping, visit www.noaa.gov.

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Slave Ships Harvest World’s Seafood

By MarEx 2015-08-03 15:10:40

Papa New Guinea authorities arrested a Thai fishing vessel crewed with slave laborers. Six Cambodian and two Burmese were rescued from the Blissful Reefer.

The fishing vessel was impounded in Daru, Papua New Guinea, which is about 120 miles north of Australia. Authorities state that the Blissful Reefer is one of 33 fishing trawlers suspected of being part of a trans-national human-trafficking network that distributes seafood caught by imprisoned slaves around the Indonesian islands of Benjina. The trawlers are being tracked in the fishing grounds off the south coast of Papa New Guinea.

The Thai seafood sector is a massive $7.8 billion industry, which is the third largest seafood exporter in the world. Thailand also has an extensive history of using slave labor. According to the Global Slavery Index, people are routinely enslaved and forced to work on Thai-owned trawlers. It was noted by the Index that about 500,000 people are currently enslaved in Thailand for illegal forced labor.

Not much is known about the crime syndicates that capture and use the slaved labor. But, Thai seafood trawlers are known to transport catches to a large refrigerated “mothership” that ships the fish back to Thailand.

In June 2014, the U.S. State Department downgraded Thailand to the worst category in its annual ranking for human-trafficking, and puts it into the same category as North Korea and the Central Africa Republic. In response to U.S. claims, the Thai government has increase its efforts to prevent and suppress human-trafficking.

Meanwhile, the Royal Thai Navy says it is aware of people being held captive on slave ships off its coast. “The truth is they use fishing boats to transport people and the bottom of the boat becomes like a room to put the people, but it seems like a commercial fishing boat,” said Royal Thai Navy spokesman Rear Admiral Kan Deeubol.

The Maritime Executive reported on Thailand’s slavery problem earlier this year. You can read the article here.

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MPHRP announces new head under ISWAN

Tom Holmer, former head of the International Transport Workers’ Federation’s Seafarers’ Trust, has been chosen to lead the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP). Holmer will take up his new roleat MPHRP once it becomes part of the International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance
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