What Keeps the Coast Guard Awake at Night

By Wendy Laursen 2015-09-15 23:59:15

Rear Admiral Gary Rasicot, the Coast Guard’s director of marine transportation systems, told reporters at the GLACIER conference last week Crystal Cruises’ Serenity keeps him awake at night.

In August next year, Crystal Serenity will sail from Alaska, through the Canadian Arctic to Greenland and then New York with 1,050 guests and 650 crew members on board.

Alaska Dispatch News quotes Rasicot saying: “As a Coast Guardsman, I don’t want a repeat of the Titanic, and we need to make sure that we think this through,” he said. “I want to make sure that those 1,700 people, when they lay their head on the pillow at night, they’ll be rest assured that if something bad happens we’ll be able to respond.”

For Rear Admiral Daniel Abel, U.S. Coast Guard – 17th District Commander, also speaking at GLACIER, it’s the Coast Guard Cutter Healy’s current mission to the North Pole that keeps him awake.

The vessel is there on her own in a hostile area, he says, there is no buddy system for her and “there’s nothing with a U.S. flag that is going to come save her” if difficulties arise.

Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard, Charles D. Michel, answered questions with Abel at the event, and he spoke of the need for cooperation in the face of Arctic challenges.

“The Coast Guard really is a bureaucratically agile agency and has always existed in a partnership type format, even down in the Lower 48, but it becomes increasingly important here in the Arctic and Alaska because of the great distances involved, the weather associated with this, the tremendous logistics, communications, navigation challenges that are necessary. Virtually everything up here is done by partnership,” he says. “The Coast Guard can do almost none of this on its own.”

Answering concerns from the floor, Michel highlighted general recognition for the need for more U.S. icebreakers. Russia has over 40 heavy or medium or heavy icebreakers, yet the U.S. has a fleet of three, with one broken, he said.

“The bottom line is, if you want to provide global access seven by 24 to ice covered regions, you’ve got to have icebreakers. Other nations of the world understand that. The United States has always understood our need to access these regions for either pollution response, search and rescue national security reasons.”

“That fleet demands serious recapitalization,” says Michel. However, in the case of building U.S. icebreaker capacity, co-operation is being hampered by cross-agency need with a number of U.S. agencies being users of icebreakers that are essentially a billion dollar national asset. It’s a difficult problem for Washington, he says, citing cross-committee and cross-agency bureaucracy.

The U.S. has not built an icebreaker since the Polar Sea and Polar Star in the 1940s. Michel says the industry required to shape the unique steel used in icebreakers’ hulls has atrophied. “We are going to have to rebuild this,” he said.

It usually takes up to 10 years to build an icebreaker, and on his way to GLACIER, President Barack Obama proposed a faster timetable for buying a new heavy icebreaker for the U.S. Arctic. 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.

Meanwhile, the Healy continues on its mission GEOTRACES to study trace elements in the Arctic Ocean, and Crystal Cruises has a waiting list of over 700 people wanting to get on to the already-booked-out Serenity cruise.


U.S. Navy Agrees to Limit Sonar Activities

By MarEx 2015-09-15 20:19:48

A federal court in Honolulu entered an order settling two cases challenging the U.S. Navy’s training and testing activities off the coasts of Southern California and Hawaii on Monday.

The order secures long-sought protections for whales, dolphins and other marine mammals by limiting Navy activities in vital habitat. The settlement stems from the court’s earlier finding that the Navy’s activities illegally harm more than 60 separate populations of whales, dolphins, seals and sea lions.

For the first time, the Navy has agreed to put important habitat for numerous populations off-limits to dangerous mid-frequency sonar training and testing and the use of powerful explosives. The settlement aims to manage the siting and timing of Navy activities, taking into account areas of vital importance to marine mammals, such as reproductive areas, feeding areas, migratory corridors and areas in which small, resident populations are concentrated.

Many of the conservation organizations who brought the lawsuits have been sparring legally with the Navy and the National Marine Fisheries Service, the agency charged with protecting marine mammals, for more than a decade, demanding that the Navy and Fisheries Service comply with key environmental laws by acknowledging that the Navy’s activities seriously harm marine mammals and taking affirmative steps to lessen that harm.

“We can protect our fleet and safeguard our whales,” said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, whose lawyers challenged the Navy’s activities in Southern California and Hawaii on behalf of NRDC, Cetacean Society International, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Pacific Environment and Resources Center, and Michael Stocker. “This settlement shows the way to do both, ensuring the security of U.S. Navy operations while reducing the mortal hazard to some of the most majestic creatures on Earth. Our Navy will be the better for this, and so will the oceans our sailors defend.”

“If a whale or dolphin can’t hear, it can’t survive,” said David Henkin, an attorney for the national legal organization Earthjustice, who brought the initial challenge to the Navy’s latest round of training and testing on behalf of Conservation Council for Hawaii, the Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Ocean Mammal Institute. “We challenged the Navy’s plan because it would have unnecessarily harmed whales, dolphins and endangered marine mammals, with the Navy itself estimating that more than 2,000 animals would be killed or permanently injured. By agreeing to this settlement, the Navy acknowledges that it doesn’t need to train in every square inch of the ocean and that it can take reasonable steps to reduce the deadly toll of its activities.”

Scientific studies have documented the connection between high-intensity mid-frequency sounds, including Navy sonar, and serious impacts to marine mammals ranging from strandings and deaths to cessation of feeding and habitat avoidance and abandonment.

Until it expires in late 2018, the agreement will protect habitat for the most vulnerable marine mammal populations, including endangered blue whales for which waters off Southern California are a globally important feeding area; and numerous small, resident whale and dolphin populations off Hawaii, for which the islands are literally their only home.

Southern California and Hawaii represent two of the Navy’s most active ranges for mid-frequency sonar and explosives use.


Southern California provides some of the most important foraging areas anywhere on the globe for vulnerable species such as endangered blue and fin whales, and contains important habitat for small populations of beaked whales, a family of species that is considered acutely sensitive to naval active sonar, with documented injury and mortality.

“Numerous beaked whale strandings and deaths have been linked to naval uses of high-intensity sonar,” said Bill Rossiter, executive director for Advocacy, Science & Grants of Cetacean Society International. “Now, beaked whale populations in Southern California that have been suffering from the Navy’s use of sonar will be able to find areas of refuge where sonar will be off-limits.”

Key terms of the settlement applicable to Southern California include:

The Navy is prohibited from using mid-frequency active sonar for training and testing activities in important habitat for beaked whales between Santa Catalina Island and San Nicolas Island.

The Navy is prohibited from using mid-frequency active sonar for training and testing activities in important habitat for blue whales feeding near San Diego.

Navy surface vessels must use “extreme caution” and travel at a safe speed to minimize the risk of ship strikes in blue whale feeding habitat and migratory corridors for blue, fin and gray whales.


Hawaii represents an oasis for numerous, vulnerable populations of toothed whales, such as spinner dolphins, melon-headed whales and endangered false killer whales. Studies have shown that they are distinct from other populations in the tropical Pacific and even, in some cases, from populations associated with other islands, with only a few hundred individuals in existence. The Big Island of Hawaii and the Maui 4-Island Complex host many of these populations.

Key terms of the settlement applicable to Hawaii include:

The Navy is prohibited from using mid-frequency active sonar and explosives for training and testing activities on the eastern side of the Island of Hawaii and north of Molokaʻi and Maui, protecting Hawaiian monk seals and numerous small resident populations of toothed whales including the endangered insular population of false killer whales and Cuvier’s beaked whales.

The Navy is prohibited from exceeding a set number of major training exercises in the channel between Maui and Hawaii Island and on the western side of Hawaii Island, limiting the number of times local populations will be subjected to the massive use of sonar and explosives associated with major training exercises.

Navy surface vessels must use “extreme caution” and travel at a safe speed to minimize the risk of ship strikes in humpback whale habitat.


Seafarer Won’t Stand By and Watch People Drown

By Wendy Laursen 2015-09-15 19:56:23

A German merchant navy captain has joined the ranks of maritime industry professionals helping to save the lives of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean.

Klaus Vogel has established the humanitarian group SOS Mediterranee and is raising money to charter a rescue ship.

The group says: “Since January 2015, over 100,000 people have risked their lives, leaving off the coast of Libya and crossing the Mediterranean Sea, hoping to find refuge in Europe. According to the OIM (the International Migrations Observatory), more than 2,500 refugees lost their lives in an attempt to reach European shores.

“Given the current situation, the numerous shipwrecks and the lack of available resources, SOS Mediterranee is launching a first European initiative for the rescue of refugees at sea, using a crowdfunding campaign.”

Vogel formerly sailed container ships around the world for Hapag-Lloyd, where he once encountered a stowaway. This gave him an understanding of the desperation of people in danger who are forced to make such journeys.

The new organization is aiming to staff a ship with experienced crew and medics from Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World).

So far, a fundraising page has raised more than £52,000 ($80,000) for the project, which aims to charter a 60m vessel that can carry 400 people for up to two days.

SOS Mediterranee is a humanitarian association, politically and religiously independent, based on the principles of respect for human beings and their dignity, without partiality as concerns their nationality or origin, their social belonging, religious belief, political position or ethnic identity.

The initiative is led by a group of European citizens with various professional backgrounds (naval, humanitarian, medical, legal etc…) in order to organize the rescue operations of refugees in distress on the Mediterranean Sea. Their goal is to also help those individuals benefit from a better protection once on land while also reporting their situation to the public.

The association is also hoping to open conversations between European, Mediterranean and African governmental institutions, all directly involved with the migratory issues currently affecting the Mediterranean Sea.

Vogel founded the organization in May this year after 1,300 people died in April.


Deep Sea Mining Simulator for Solwara 1

By MarEx 2015-09-15 19:29:40

Nautilus Minerals has signed a contract with Tree C Technology for a simulator and a mining site monitoring system for the world’s first seafloor production system at Solwara 1 in Papua New Guinea.

Solwara 1 is expected to be the world’s first commercial high-grade seafloor copper-gold mine project. The mine site is approximately 30km (18 miles) from shore in the Bismarck Sea in around 1,600m (5,000 feet) of water. The site has indicated resources of one million tons grading 7.2 percent copper, five grams (0.18 ounces) of gold per ton, 23 grams (0.81 ounces) of silver and 0.4 percent zinc. Inferred resources add 1.5 million tons of 8.1 percent copper, 6.4 grams of gold, 34 grams of silver and 0.9 percent zinc.

The planned mining operation at Solwara 1 is the first of its kind, using bespoke designed equipment and a new remote control system designed specifically for the seafloor production tools (SPTs) that will be used.

The excavation and collection of mineralized material has been split into three individual tasks, which will each be carried out by a different seafloor production tool. The auxiliary cutter is designed as the pioneering tool which prepares the rugged sea bed for the more powerful bulk cutter. These two tools gather the excavated material; the third, the collecting machine, will collect the cut material by drawing it in as seawater slurry with internal pumps and pushing it through a flexible pipe to the subsea pump and on to the vessel via the riser and lifting system.

Successful execution of the mine plan is contingent on the safe and efficient manipulation of all of the elements of the seafloor production system. The simulator will enable operators to use the consoles and control software that will be used during the actual operation. The virtual environment will respond and behave as close as possible to the real world conditions at this depth requiring the best of simulation technology available today in terms of physics, hydrodynamic and wire dynamics engines.

Nautilus will employ an operations manager who will take overall responsibility for coordination of the seafloor production system. The Tree C developed mining site monitoring system will be a critical tool that shows a simulated but actual view of the subsea mining assets and surface support assets in real-time. The operations manager will direct all SPT and equipment moves based on the monitoring system since there will be no visibility due to turbidity and lack of light at this depth.

The simulator is based on the actual control systems and consoles that will be used and is built within a 30-foot container. Delivery is scheduled for the first half of 2017.

It is anticipated that the proposed Solwara 1 project will commence operations in the first half of 2018 subject to project financing and completion of the company’s seafloor production equipment and vessel. The production support vessel is being built in China by Fujian Mawei Shipbuilding.

When completed, the vessel will measure 227m (750 feet) in length and 40m (130 feet) in width with accommodation for up to 180 people and generate approximately 31MW of power. All of the below deck mining equipment will be installed in the vessel during the build process to minimize the equipment integration to be completed following delivery of the vessel. The vessel is expected to be delivered by the end of 2017.


Japan’s First LNG-Fuelled Tug Delivered

By MarEx 2015-09-15 18:45:35

NYK has taken delivery of Japan’s first LNG-fueled tugboat from Keihin Dock. The vessel has been named Sakigake and is expected to confirm the viability of LNG as a marine fuel.

Sakigake has been chartered to Wing Maritime Service Corporation from NYK and will be operated mainly at the ports of Yokohama and Kawasaki.

The new tug is equipped with dual-fuel engines that can use either of LNG and diesel oil, depending on conditions. Compared with conventional tugboats that use marine diesel oil, Sakigake emits about 30 percent less carbon dioxide, 80 percent less nitrogen oxide and no sulfur oxide when using LNG as fuel.

The small size of most tugboats, the limited amount of space and the large variation in engine power make it difficult to build an LNG-fueled tugboat, said NYK in a statement. However, Keihin Dock was able to achieve an excellent level of environmental performance while maintaining the same hull form and steering performance of existing tugboats.

To do this, Keihin Dock worked closely with Niigata Power Systems to design and manufacture the dual-fuel engine, and Air Water Plant & Engineering to develop equipment for supplying LNG.

LNG for this vessel will be supplied from a tanker truck at a pier in Yokohama, and much effort has been made together with the supplier, Tokyo Gas to ensure that the LNG can be safely and efficiently supplied in compliance with relevant laws and regulations. A trial fueling of the vessel from a tanker truck was successfully carried out for the first time in Japan in July.

Patents are pending for the LNG receiving system and LNG carburetion system used on board.

The project received subsidies from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, which support projects promising energy-saving logistics and innovative maritime transport improvements. ClassNK also provided joint research support.

The NYK Group has already built the world’s first LNG-fueled car carrier, in addition to an LNG supply vessel, and the group is set to participate in the LNG bunkering business. In accordance with the group’s medium-term management plan, “More Than Shipping 2018,” NYK will contribute to the continued spread and development of LNG fuel for ships, applying the knowledge and know-how the company has gained through the expansion of its eco-friendly operations.


Length overall: 37.20 meters

Breadth: 10.20 meters

Molded depth: 4.40 meters

Gross tonnage: 272 tons

Main engine: NIIGATA 6L28AHX-DF x 2

Shipowner: NYK

Flag: Japan

Class: Nippon Kaiji Kyokai


White House Does Not Support Lifting Export Ban

By Reuters 2015-09-15 15:57:42

The White House said on Tuesday it does not support a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal the 40-year-old ban on exports of crude oil.

“This is a policy decision that is made over at the Commerce Department, and for that reason, we wouldn’t support legislation like the one that’s been put forward by Republicans,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters at a briefing.

“The administration believes that the American people are better served by making sure that we pursue the kind of approach that also invests in renewable energy,” he said.

The full House is expected to pass the bill to repeal the ban in coming weeks, after a vote on Thursday in the chamber’s energy panel.

Energy interests say the domestic drilling boom could soon choke on a glut of crude if producers are not allowed to ship the oil to consumer countries in Asia and Europe.

A similar bill faces a tough battle in the Senate, however. Even if all 54 Republicans in the 100-member Senate voted for the bill, they would need support from six Democrats to overcome a procedural roadblock.

In July, the Senate energy panel passed a bill to lift the ban, but no Democrats voted for it.

The top Democrat on the panel, Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington state, has said she needs to know more about whether lifting the ban would be good for consumers. Cantwell has also voiced concerns that repealing the ban could increase the number of trains carrying oil through her state.


U.S. Navy Names Littoral Combat Ship

By MarEx 2015-09-15 14:54:24

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced today that the next Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) will be named USS Tulsa (LCS 16).

The selection of the name honors Oklahoma’s second largest city. Tulsa will be the second, commissioned ship to bear the name. The first, a patrol gunboat commissioned in 1923, conducted training exercises in Central America and sent its Marines and Sailors ashore to protect life and property during civil unrest in Nicaragua during the 1920s. The first Tulsa also operated during World War II and received two battle stars for its work patrolling shores in China and the Philippines and for serving as an escort to supply ships in Australia. During this time, Tulsa was part of the rescue operation of the British merchant ship City of Manchester.

A fast, agile surface combatant, the LCS provides the required war fighting capabilities and operational flexibility to execute a variety of missions in areas such as mine warfare, anti-submarine warfare and surface warfare.

The ship will be built with modular design incorporating mission packages that can be changed out quickly as combat needs change in a region. These mission packages are supported by detachments that deploy both manned and unmanned vehicles, and sensors, in support of mine, undersea, and surface warfare missions.

Tulsa will be built by Austal USA in Mobile, Alabama. It will be 419 feet long and be capable of operating at speeds in excess of 40 knots.


Japan Offers Maritime Security Aid to Vietnam

By MarEx 2015-09-15 14:39:04

Tensions continue to rise in the East as Japan has promised Vietnam ships and equipment to strengthen its forces in the South China Sea. Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines are currently locked in a bitter dispute with China over what they view as Chinese over-aggressiveness in the region.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that it will supply Vietnam with used vessels as well as a donation of $1.7 billion. While not mentioning China by name, Abe cited stability-threatening, large-scale land reclamation projects and the building of outposts as the primary motivators for the donations.

The number of ships Japan will provide wasn’t announced, but last year it promised six used ships to Vietnam. Two of the vessels have been delivered, and Vietnam expects to take delivery of the remaining four before 2016.

China conducted several reclamation projects in the South China Sea earlier this year, and in early August Japan released 14 photos pinpointing 16 offshore platforms located in disputed territories in the East China Sea.

Beijing has downplayed the concerns of its littoral neighbors, asserting that the majority of the new facilities will be used for drilling, processing and storing natural gases, but Japan contends the structures can easily be fashioned with air defense radar systems and heliports.

China announced that it had ceased its offshore reclamation projects in the South China Sea shortly after Japan released the photos of the offshore platforms. However, China’s statements did not quell regional unease as many believed that Beijing only halted its projects because it had completed construction of the platforms.

China currently claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.


Diesel Smugglers Detained in Venezuela

By MarEx 2015-09-15 14:28:09

Venezuelan authorities arrested seven people suspected of smuggling diesel aboard a tanker owned by state-owned oil company PDVSA last week. The tanker was authorized to load just 10,000 barrels of diesel fuel at Venezuela’s Cardon refinery but was discovered with 60,000 barrels.

The discovery was made in the late hours of September 7, and authorities believe the suspects intended to resell the fuel overseas.

Venezuelan smugglers are currently enjoying a thriving black market. According to reports, a tank of gasoline can be purchased for less than the equivalent of one cent. Government officials estimate that this has cost the Venezuelan government up to $12 billion in revenue.

In January, Venezuelan authorities arrested an oil ministry official charged with overseeing the domestic fuel market for alleged irregularities associated with gasoline distribution.