Prospects for the Latin American defence market are beginning to look robust. Although Latin American military spending is relatively small compared to the Middle Eastern or Asian markets, the region’s military procurement right now shows little sign of slowing.
Plagued with obsolete equipment and outdated technology, the region as a whole finds itself hard-pressed to modernize. Financial constraint has forced many countries to refurbish existing equipment; however, it is no match for the new technology that others in the region can afford.
Over the years, U.S. arms restrictions have hindered many sales to the region, prompting some nations to diversify their options. Colombia and Mexico, though, will likely remain faithful to the United States, as it provides a large portion of defence funding and equipment needs for the two nations. Colombian defence procurement is based wholly on counter-insurgency, and Mexico is beginning to arm for the same. Meanwhile, Chile is nearing the end of a procurement cycle, while Argentina and Ecuador appear to be ramping up. Brazil has entered into a phase of self-sustainment in which future procurements will either be produced domestically or involve intensive technology transfer. The Brazilian Navy’s nuclear submarine program has been resurrected, with $550 million to be invested in the project over the next eight years.
The U.S. arms embargo that provided significant blockades to Venezuelan military procurement has already caused a dramatic shift toward Russian-made equipment. Better prices, loan availability, and fewer restrictions are helping Russia penetrate the Latin American market.
NATO is planning to carry out more anti-piracy duties off the coast of Somalia in coming months, the military alliance’s chief spokesman said Feb. 19. “You can expect to see another NATO naval operation off the coast of Somalia in the spring,” spokesman James Appathurai told reporters in Krakow, where NATO defence ministers were holding informal talks.
Diplomats have said the anti-piracy work will involve vessels from one of NATO’s standing naval maritime groups as they make their way to Singapore and on to Australia, via the Gulf of Aden, on a series of port visits. Parts of that trip could be changed to allow a short anti-piracy mission. The defence ministers were set to “discuss the details.
Pirates attacked more than 130 merchant ships in the Gulf of Aden last year, more than double the 2007 total, according to the International Maritime Bureau, which tracks piracy and shipping security issues. More than 150 suspected pirates were arrested by naval patrols in the Gulf in 2008.
Heavily armed pirates operate high-powered speedboats and sometimes hold ships for weeks before releasing them for large ransoms paid by governments or ship owners.
In late October, NATO launched its first naval mission against pirates, patrolling the waters off lawless Somalia, with two other ships protecting UN food aid convoys to the strife-torn Horn of Africa country.
A University of Manitoba climate researcher says the growth of Arctic sea ice in 2008 is NOT cause for optimism. What scientists are seeing is mostly thin, first-year ice that is likely to melt during the summer, David Barber is quoted as saying last week in the Winnipeg Free Press. The amount of thicker multi-year ice that once covered the entire Arctic basin before it began melting decreased last year, Barber said.
Satellite images have recorded that sort of decrease for the last three decades, noting a decline of more than 10 per cent per decade. The 2007 retreat in ice was the largest on record, allowing clear navigation of the Northwest Passage for the first time in human memory.
In another surprising development, satellite images taken last July showed a slab of ice measuring four square kilometres had broken away from the Ward Hunt Island Ice Shelf in Nunavut. Canadian and U.S. researchers who studied the fracture said it was more evidence of accelerated climate change in the northern polar region.
With scientists predicting ice-free summers as soon as 2013, government and industry interest in the Arctic has peaked over the possibility of valuable new shipping lanes.
Ecosystems in danger from melting ice
But the melting ice is also evidence of rising temperatures across the globe and bad news for northern communities and the Arctic ecosystem, from plankton to polar bears. Barber led the $40-million Circumpolar Flaw Lead study, which ended its nine-month research stint in the high Arctic last August. Some of the study’s preliminary findings will be presented to the public at a Geneva conference this week as International Polar Year draws to a close.
International Polar Year (IPY) was touted as the largest-ever international program of scientific research focused on the Arctic and Antarctic regions. IPY, organized through the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), is actually the fourth polar year, following those in 1882-3, 1932-3, and 1957-8.
In order to have full and equal coverage of both the Arctic and the Antarctic, IPY 2007-8 covers two full annual cycles from March 2007 to March 2009 and involved over 200 projects, with thousands of scientists from over 60 nations examining a wide range of physical, biological and social research topics. It is also an unprecedented opportunity to demonstrate, follow, and get involved with, cutting edge science in real-time.
Twenty – two crew members of the Spanish fishing trawler Monte Galineiro which sank off Newfoundland this past Sunday are happy to be back on land.
The captain of a Spanish fishing vessel said Monday he and his crew were in mortal danger when a Canadian Coast Guard ship pulled them from the frigid North Atlantic.
“In five minutes, the ship was sinking very fast,” Ivan Blanco, the captain of the Monte Galineiro, told reporters in St. John’s on Monday, just a day after the entire crew of 22 were safely plucked from the Atlantic after a fire ripped through the ship.
Blanco said an explosion in the ship’s engine room caused the fire. He said they had mere minutes to escape the ship and were delighted that the CCGS Leonard J. Cowley was on the scene soon after the distress call went out.
The Cowley arrived Monday in St. John’s, carrying 21 sailors who had been rescued about 400 kilometres east of St. John’s. Another crew member, who had been suffering from hypothermia, had already been flown to hospital in St. John’s. He has since been released.
Blanco said the crew is very grateful for the assistance they received from the Canadian Coast Guard, the Red Cross and citizens of St. John’s who have volunteered assistance. Members of the Spanish trawler’s crew smiled and waved from the Cowley as it arrived in port, and appeared happy as they left the vessel.
The ship’s manifest shows that the crew is predominantly Spanish, though some came from other countries, including Ghana, Morocco and Romania. The crew are expected to leave St. John’s for Spain on Tuesday night.
This was a happy ending to what otherwise could have been a terrible tragedy at sea.
Note: The dramatic photos showing the sinking of the Monte Galineiro are shown below (Source: Canadian Coast Guard)
The body which champions the UK’s subsea industry – an industry which employs 40,000 and contributes £4.5 billion to the UK economy – fears that oil and gas companies may be re-considering their R&D budgets in light of the recent drop in oil prices.
“A decline, even temporarily, in research and development activities could have a devastating effect on the industry and ultimately on security of supply. With oil and gas production taking place in more complex, challenging and deeper water environments, the need for new technology to successfully extract the remaining reserves, is critical,” says Alistair Birnie, chief executive of Subsea UK. He continues, “The creation and commercialization of new smart subsea technologies will have an impact on our ability to secure a major share of the predicted £41 billion global market in 2011.”
Subsea is rapidly becoming the technology of choice for the exploitation of reserves in mature offshore hydrocarbon provinces like the UK and the deepwater environments around the world. With new deepwater provinces coming into play together with the existing areas such as Brazil and Gulf of Mexico, subsea production has become a truly global technology used in every major offshore hydrocarbon province around the world. Global spend on deepwater developments is estimated to grow by 74% in the period to 2012.
Mr. Birnie adds: “Subsea technology is one of the great successes of the oil and gas industry in recent years but its future development could be at risk. The dramatic change in oil price, coupled with a cost base which has risen equally dramatically in the last few years will be forcing companies to reassess their business priorities and their budgets. At a time of escalating costs, we need more than ever to examine how technology can play a role in delivering improved value while enabling an increase in production. The industry must continue to work together to identify the gaps between the technology the oil and gas operators need and the technology currently being developed in the sector.”
In a somewhat related matter, last week the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear a case brought by two oil companies about the millions of dollars they are required to spend on research and development.
Hibernia Management and Development, which runs the Hibernia field off Newfoundland’s east coast, and Petro-Canada, the operator of the nearby Terra Nova field, had wanted the country’s top court to deliberate a dispute over research spending rules. Under the terms set by a federal-provincial board, both companies are required to spend some of the revenues they earn from offshore oil on research and development. The companies objected to the requirements set by the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB), and argued that the CNLOPB — which regulates the offshore oil industry — did not have jurisdiction in the matter.
Hibernia and Management and Development and Petro-Canada had previously lost similar challenges at Newfoundland Supreme Court’s trial and appeals divisions.
The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the application last Thursday, February 19th.
The existing infrastructure for responding to maritime accidents in the Arctic is limited and more needs to be done to enhance emergency response capacity as Arctic sea ice declines and ship traffic in the region increases, according to new report recently released by the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The report details findings from a panel of experts and decision-makers from Arctic nation governments, industry and indigenous communities convened by the Coastal Response Research Center, a UNH-NOAA partnership housed at the university. The panel assessed the potential threat of maritime accidents in the Arctic and the ability of nations in the region to respond effectively to vessels in distress, oil spills and other situations.
The reduction of polar sea ice and the increasing worldwide demand for energy will likely result in a dramatic increase in the number of vessels that travel Arctic waters. As vessel traffic increases, disaster scenarios are going to become more of a reality. The report’s key recommendations include:
- Strengthening multinational plans and agreements for all types of responses,
- Improving logistical support capabilities for disaster responders,
- Updating weather data and navigational charts for the Arctic,
- Improving technologies for spill response in Arctic conditions,
Designating potential ports in the Arctic where damaged vessels can be taken to safeguard them against the Arctic’s harsh environmental conditions and reduce the risk of harm to the environment.
The report is available at: www.crrc.unh.edu/workshops/arctic_spill_summit/index.htm
And the results are paying off.
Last week, the USN arrested 9 more suspected pirates in the waters of the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia on Thursday — the second such capture in two days. In a written statement, the USN said that U.S. warships on patrol in that area received a distress call from an Indian-flagged ship, which reported that it had been fired upon by a small skiff, and pirates were attempting to board it.
A helicopter was launched from the Vella Gulf and fired two warning shots at the skiff to force it to stop. A navy boarding team investigated the skiff’s crew and found rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons on board. Nine suspected pirates were taken into custody.
Earlier in the past week, the U.S. navy captured 7 suspected pirates in the Gulf of Aden. The navy is now holding a total of 16 suspected pirates while the U.S. and Kenyan governments are working out legal details on how the suspects will be moved to Kenya for prosecution. Last month, the United States and Kenya signed an agreement saying that suspected pirates captured by U.S. ships will be moved to Kenya to be tried for their crimes.
Piracy has become a chronic problem off the Horn of Africa in recent years, with some pirates operating from Somalia. Pirates attacked nearly 100 vessels and hijacked as many as 40 in the waters off the coast of Somalia in 2008, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
Many countries have sent naval ships to the Gulf of Aden to combat piracy.
Scientists have for the first time calculated the likely impact of climate change on the distribution of more than 1000 species of fish around the globe. Published last week in the journal ‘Fish and Fisheries’, the research was carried out by scientists at the University of British Columbia, Princeton University and the University of East Anglia.
The new study is predicting a dramatic shift in fish populations in the world’s oceans. Scientists say fish and other sea life will be seeking out cooler waters as the ocean temperatures rise.
It has long been known that ocean conditions such as temperature and current patterns are changing due to climate change, and that these changes directly affect the numbers and locations of different species of fish. The research team developed a new computer model that predicts for the first time exactly what might happen under different climate scenarios to the distribution of commercially important species – including cod, herring, sharks, groupers and prawns.
Current conservation and fisheries management measures do not account for climate-driven species distribution shifts and it is hoped this research will change this. The demonstrate for the first time that there will be a large-scale re-distribution of species, with most moving towards the Poles. On average, fish are likely to shift their distribution by more than 40km per decade and there will be an increasing abundance of more southern species in the north. Developing countries in the tropics will suffer the biggest loss in catch – while northern countries such as Canada, Iceland and Norway will gain increased catch.
The research shows that the impact of climate change on marine biodiversity and fisheries is going to be huge. The researchers said that governments and policy-makers must act now to adapt fisheries management and conservation policies to minimize harm to marine life and to our society.
‘The capacity and likelihood of climate change adaptation in the world’s fisheries’ by William Cheung (UEA), Vicky Lam (UBC), Jorge Sarmiento (Princeton), Kelly Kearney (Princeton), Reg Watson (UBC) and Daniel Pauly (UBC) was published on February 12, 2008 in the journal ‘Fish and Fisheries’.
Climate change acts directly on productivity of commercial fish species by altering growth, reproduction and other aspects of life history, either positively or negatively, renowned scientist Keith Brander said recently.
Brander, Project Coordinator, International Council for Exploration of the Seas, said the frequency and intensity of extreme climate events was likely to have a major impact on future fisheries production in both inland and marine systems.
‘The effects of fishing and of climate interact because fishing reduces the age, size and geographic diversity of populations and biodiversity of marine ecosystems, making both more sensitive to additional stresses such as climate change,’ he said in his keynote address at a seminar on impact of climate change on marine ecosystems and fisheries.
Brander pointed out that since the industrial revolution in the 19th century, increase in greenhouse gases has resulted in a sharp rise in global temperature, ‘whose effects on marine biota can be detected now.’ He said the rising Carbon dioxide level and consequent acidification of oceans was having an impact on metabolism and calcification in many organisms, with damage to vulnerable ecosystems like coral reefs.
‘We depend on the oceans and coastal seas for many ecosystem services – supporting, provisioning, regulating and cultural- and there is real cause for concern that these services will be damaged and degraded by climate change,’ he said. Most studies of long-term changes and climate impact to date have come from temperate parts of the Atlantic and Pacific. There was the need for matching information from tropical areas, particularly in the Indian Ocean.
Brander also said climate change is not the only pressure which humans impose on marine environment. Pointing out that there were many stresses on the marine systems, he said fishing, habitat degradation, pollution and introduction of new species also has many undesirable consequences and they also interact with each other. In coastal and inland waters, there are also effects of changes in land use, damming, flood control and alteration of waterways,he said.
He said the species are moving into cold water and that might be the reason why fishing activity is happening in deeper areas. Brander said the recent changes in distribution and productivity of a number of fish species could be ascribed to regional climate variability.
These actual recordings were taken by Marport’s Irish distributor Sonartron onboard the well known Killybegs vessel Western Endeavour, skippered by Jens Bach.
These recordings were made while mackerel fishing of the west coast of Ireland.
One can clearly see the fish entering the net and going into the cod-end with crystal clear clarity. The echo from the net and bottom are clearly visible. The innovative new sounder looks both downwards and backwards to see fish going into the cod end. It also has depth and temperature, catch , pitch and roll. All in one sensor.
The only requirement is a 40Khz transducer and of course Marport’s revolutionary new underwater technology. No more guessing what’s happening at the brailer or if the fish going in…see it yourself. This unit can also be used as a wireless net sounder. No more cable splices or bad connections. Just a clear picture of the way ahead!
(Special thanks to Jim and the crew at Sonartron for the recordings)