Russia will create by 2020 a group of forces to protect its political and economic interests in the Arctic, but does not plan to militarize the region, a spokesman for the Russian Security Council said on Friday. He said the council had recently posted on its website a document, “The fundamentals of Russian state policy in the Arctic up to 2020 and beyond,” which outlines the country’s strategy in the region, including the deployment of military, border and coastal guard units “to guarantee Russia’s military security in diverse military and political circumstances.”
“However, it does not mean that we are planning to militarize the Arctic. We are focusing on the creation of an effective system of coastal security, the development of arctic border infrastructure, and the presence of military units of an adequate strength,” the official said.
The Arctic Group of Forces will be part of the Russian Federal Security Service, whose former chief and current secretary of the Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, is a strong proponent of an “aggressive” state policy in the Arctic.
Another goal of the new strategy is to “optimize the system of the comprehensive monitoring of the situation in the Arctic,” including border control at checkpoints in Russia’s arctic regions, coastal waters and airspace, the spokesman said.”
According to the news service the strategy envisions increased cooperation with neighboring countries in the fight against terrorism, drug-trafficking, illegal immigration and environmental protection.
Marport equipped vessel – F/V Northern Glacier – gets highest price in first two days of Seattle pollock roe auction
The auction for DAP frozen pollock roe from the Bering Sea has opened in Seattle, beginning with at-sea vessels offering their products for sales. Reports from Seattle had it that the contract prices are broadly higher than earlier predicted.
The highest price so far contracted was that for the second cruise of CP (catcher/processor) F/V Northern Glacier on the second day, with the standard grade roe fetching Y1,526 per kilo. The same vessel is reported to have contracted successfully for the products from the third and fourth cruises at similar high levels.
This year, the opening of the Seattle auction was delayed largely due to the U.S. pollock quota cutbacks and slumping harvests, but it appears that considerable number of traders are taking part in the auction.
The first impression of some auction participants was that the size of roe is large this season, underlying the prior anticipation that the auction will center on large-size products. There were a lot of roe of 350-400 grams, leading some buyers to say that it is still large even when cut into two portions. Others say that, when the roe is cut into three portions, both end parts could be used as normal products, while the middle part may be used only as lower-grade barako products. Participants are not certain whether the quality actually meets the price levels.
The focal point in determining the bidding prices will be at what point the producers and buyers would come to agreement in terms of the changed size composition and quality. However, by the end of the second day of the auction, participants feel that the prices remained strong across the board, showing the enthusiasm of buyers to procure DAP roe.
The Obama administration, looking for potential budget cuts, may take aim at the trouble-plagued US Navy surface ship programs. As well documented, the San Antonio (LPD 17) amphibious ships and littoral combat ships (LCS) are far behind schedule and over cost. Indeed, the San Antonio herself took almost three years from when the Navy placed her in commission until she was ready to undertake her first overseas deployment — probably a record for Navy surface ships.
Meanwhile, after some ten years and many millions of dollars in development, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Gary Roughead has truncated the Zumwalt (DDG 1000) advanced destroyer program — and undoubtedly wishes to cancel even the three ships already funded by Congress. Rather, Roughead wants to restart construction of the Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) class destroyers — a design that dates to 1979. Significantly, the two previous CNOs both strongly supported the DDG 1000 while saying that the Navy did not need any DDG 51s beyond the 62 ships built and under construction. Similarly, the Navy has periodically announced plans to cease further construction of LPD 17 amphibious ships, knowing that Congress would still fund the ships because of Marine Corps support for them.
These machinations have led Missouri Representative Ike Skelton, the Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, earlier this month to say that the Navy must make a final decision this year about how many and what kind of surface ships it wants to build. Skelton told the American Shipbuilding Association that he did not know yet what the administration’s Fiscal Year 2010 shipbuilding request would include, but that the Navy could not afford to wait longer before settling on a course for what warships it wants to build.
“The debate about the future surface Navy needs to end this year. A decision needs to be made. After a decision is made that both the Department [of the Navy] and the Congress can support, we need to fund the surface construction program at the level necessary to restore our fleet,” Skelton said. “Whether that number is 313 ships or 340 ships, we need to get there.”
Meanwhile, the carrier and submarine shipbuilding programs are relatively settled — and eating up large chunks of the relatively finite shipbuilding budget. With an estimated FY 2010 budget of $10 to $12 billion — at most — the Navy is now building two attack submarines (SSN) per year for a total cost of almost $5 billion in today’s dollars. The next nuclear-propelled aircraft carrier, the Gerald Ford (CVN 78), is expected by non-Navy sources to cost some $10 to $12 billion. Although the “flattop” is being funded over several years, such high-cost programs will leave minimal funding for surface combatants — cruisers, destroyers, and the littoral combat ships plus amphibious ships and fleet auxiliaries.
Today the Navy has some 280 ships in service against an oft-stated requirement of a minimum of 313 ships. To build up to 313 ships the Navy should be building some 10 to 12 ships per year — at an annual cost of more than $20 billion, clearly a “cost too far.”
Addressing the problem, Representative Skelton said, “We would like the Navy to do what the Navy keeps saying makes the most sense: build affordable ships which leverage on commonality with other ship programs, and build them in numbers that allow for economies of purchase and investment in infrastructure.” U.S. sea power today is “on a bad glide slope,” he added.
The Obama administration is looking at a military establishment that is fighting difficult and, in reality, open-ended conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Although the president has said that he plans to withdraw all U.S. “combat troops” from Iraq in a little over a year, that will leave some 40,000 or (more likely) more “support and security” troops in country. Add in the U.S. training, advisory, and counter-insurgency operations in Africa and other areas, and the perceived “strategic” threats from China, North Korea, Iran, and Russia, conventional naval forces appear to have a very limited role in the future. The more significant exception would be the planned ballistic missile defense ships — now designated CG(X) or, with nuclear propulsion, CG(X)N.
But looking into the future, with the continued loss of overseas bases, naval ships take on increased significance. This was evident when, without nearby bases, aircraft carriers and amphibious ships were the means of providing tactical support for the initial operations in Afghanistan. Similarly, the inability to fly most combat sorties from Saudi bases in the spring of 2003 again saw the need for naval forces for the invasion of Iraq.
If the United States does have a future confrontation — not conflict — with China it will most likely be over resources in Africa and South America. Similarly, Russian support for Venezuela’s regime and interests in other areas for political and economic reasons add to the probability of crises in remote areas.
And, it will be ships, carrying aircraft and embarking Marines and other troops, which will provide the U.S. president with political and military options in those areas.
The Navy’s leadership — military and civilian — must develop a reasonable and affordable program that will be saleable to Congress. As important, the program must be articulated properly so that all “players” understand the future importance of naval forces in this uncertain era.
Despite the launch of “one of the largest anti-piracy flotillas in modern history,” the clan-organized taking of vessels off the coast of Somalia will only cease when order is restored to the Horn of Africa nation, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a report released last week.
“There is a critical need to tackle the problem of piracy with a multifaceted approach” to ensure that the political process, the peacekeeping efforts of the African Union (AU) and the strengthening of institutions work in tandem, Mr. Ban wrote to the Security Council.
He encouraged Member States to place increased emphasis on ending lawlessness in war-torn Somalia, which has not had a functioning government since 1991, through support to the Djibouti peace process and the AU Mission in the country, known as AMISOM.
He adds that it is necessary for the international community to use the existing international legal framework effectively to apprehend and prosecute suspected pirates and consider further strengthening it.
The 111 attacks in the critical sea corridor linking the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean that occurred in 2008 represent an increase of nearly 200 per cent over the previous year, Mr. Ban states, adding that there have been seven reported incidents in 2009 to the end of February.
Of great concern to the UN, Mr. Ban says, is the safety of vessels carrying food and other aid on which some 2.4 million Somalis depend, 95 percent of which arrives by sea and which was threatened by the 2007 attack on a ship contracted by the World Food Programme (WFP).
According to the report, the most prominent pirate fleets are based in the fishing communities of north-eastern and central Somalia and are organized in a way that reflects clan-based social structures.
As an example, the report describes the “Eyle Group” based in Puntland, which at the end of 2008 was holding six vessels hostage with their crews and was estimated to have earned $30 million in ransom up to that point.
“It is widely acknowledged that some of these groups now rival established Somali authorities in terms of their military capabilities and resource bases,” Mr. Ban says.
In the past few months, however, political leaders in Puntland and neighbouring States have vowed to defeat the pirates, and a raft of countries, in addition to groups such as NATO and the European Union have contributed to a policing fleet under the legal framework of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and various Security Council resolutions.
Measures include protective escorts for WFP-contracted vessels with the result that no further attacks have been made on such ships, the Secretary-General says, urging that long-term continuity for those escorts be assured.
The UN Secretariat, Mr. Ban affirms, will continue to perform a central role in information and coordination in combating piracy and he urged all Member States to keep it updated about their anti-piracy activities.
Two more scientific studies show a large part of the Antarctic ice cap melting at a much faster rate than previously predicted.
The studies, published last Thursday in the London-based science journal Nature, said global sea levels could rise up to seven meters if the ice sheet in western Antarctica collapses centuries from now, as some researchers predict.
Scientists from New Zealand, Italy, the United States and Germany conducted the studies, which involved extensive drilling into the sea floor under the Ross ice shelf – a glacier several hundred meters thick and the size of France.
Research links much of the current meltdown to warming under-sea currents.
It remains unclear whether warming sea temperatures are being driven by climate change as scientists working for the United Nations Climate Panel on emissions of hydrocarbons (greenhouse gases) theorize.
Last month, scientists contributing to the U.N. Polar Year survey said ice caps on both poles are melting at a much faster pace than expected. A Polar Year statement said researchers found Arctic ice levels at their lowest point since satellites began measuring the northern ice mass three decades ago.
The report also said Antarctic researchers have found large pools of carbon, stored as methane gas, in the melting polar permafrost. Scientists have identified the large-scale release of methane into the atmosphere as one of the chief causes of global warming.
The following news article – published in last Friday’s Globe and Mail – completely supports Marport’s long-standing position that Canada needs to invest in establishing “persistent and pervasive” underwater surveillance capabilities for its Arctic waters.
Michael Harvey, Marport’s Vice President for military and offshore recently published a white paper entitled “Mission Incapable or Perhaps Mission Impossible – Canada’s Newest Class of Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships” The white paper discusses how Canada’s new fleet of Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships may be negatively impacted due to the lack of underwater sensing and communications capability aboard the vessels. As such, the vessels may be unfit for service to Canada due to their inability to conduct some of the most important surveillance and support missions for which they are intended or could be potentially employed. As currently defined, and with the exception of a simple navigation depth sounder, the proposed vessels have no underwater surveillance equipment fitted.
The white paper (in PDF format) can be downloaded from here.
Military scrambled over foreign sub sighting
Forces tried to keep August sighting, explosion in High Arctic under wraps
From Globe and Mail - March 20, 2009 at 4:02 AM EDT
OTTAWA — The Canadian Forces quietly scrambled an investigative team to the High Arctic last August to probe what it considered a “reliable” report of a foreign submarine sighting near the eastern entrance of the Northwest Passage – all the while trying to keep a public-relations lid on the matter, documents show.
The sub sighting occurred kilometres away from the location of a mysterious explosion that had been reported to authorities 10 days earlier and made news across Canada.
Today, the military refuses to discuss what it found last summer after probing the sub incident, citing operational security. Its silence on the possible underwater incursion – of a sort Canada is relatively powerless to detect or stop – stands in stark contrast to the clamour Ottawa makes when NORAD detects and intercepts approaching Russian bombers.
The sub sighting is a reminder of Canada’s difficulty with enforcing its sovereignty in the increasingly contested Arctic. The incident occurred even as officials in Ottawa were planning a trip for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to the region. It was only three weeks later that he tried to reassert Canada’s claims over the Passage and Arctic, announcing Ottawa would now require foreign vessels entering Canadian waters to report their presence.
Documents obtained by The Globe and Mail under access to information law say it was hunters – rather than Canadian authorities – who spotted the sub and relayed it to the Canadian Rangers, lightly armed reservists paid to keep a lookout for foreign intrusions.
The vessel was spotted at the northern end of Baffin Island near a hunting camp early on Aug. 9, and the hunters were adamant about what they saw, the military was told. “[They] reported it was very close and [there] does not appear to be any thoughts on the part of the person reporting that it was not a sub,” one soldier’s e-mail said later that day.
The sighting took place only days after the explosion was witnessed in the same area – an incident that was reported across the country after Parks Canada staff talked to journalists. The report of this July 31 detonation in the waters off Borden Peninsula came from a location only 10 to 15 kilometres away from the later submarine incident, one military e-mail said.
A husband and wife team of hunters who witnessed the July 31 explosion said their “whole cabin shook” from the blast and thick black smoke – “the type … seen at a garbage dump” – rose from the water.
But as the Canadian Forces fielded questions on the explosion, the military was careful to try to keep the later sub sighting under wraps, documents show. It rewrote planned responses to journalists about the explosion to remove references to the submarine – “we are separating the two incidents” – and instructed staff to be in “reactive … posture” on the vessel sighting, meaning they only were to broach the issue if asked directly about it.
Yesterday, naval Lieutenant Jordan Holder, a spokesman for Joint Task Force North, said he could not divulge what soldiers found during their probe of the sub sighting. “I am not at liberty to discuss the investigation or results.” However, he said no link was found between the submarine sighting and the earlier explosion.
Rob Huebert, associate director of the University of Calgary’s Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, said it’s possible U.S., British, Russian or even French subs could have been operating in the area.
“Nobody wants to face up to the fact that in the Arctic we’re starting to see everybody resuming naval operations again,” he said.
Last summer, Russia announced plans to increase the “operational radius” of its northern sub fleet.
YOKOHAMA — Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force commissioned its largest helicopter-carrying destroyer, with a 195-meter full-length flight deck, on Wednesday amid concerns about its resemblance to a light aircraft carrier.
One of the largest vessels ever built for Japan’s MSDF, the 13,950-ton Hyuga can carry up to 11 helicopters aboard by using the deck and the hanger deck beneath it.
The Hyuga also enables up to four helicopters, such as SH-60K antisubmarine helicopters, to take off and land almost simultaneously.
The government has taken the position that Japan cannot possess an offensive aircraft carrier due to its war-renouncing Constitution. The MSDF denies that the Hyuga is an aircraft carrier, saying the vessel does not have offensive capabilities like attack aircraft.
At a ceremony at IHI Marine United Inc.’s shipyard in Yokohama, Parliamentary Defense Secretary Ryota Takeda handed the MSDF’s rising sun ensign to the skipper, Capt. Katsunori Yamada, to hoist on the destroyer.
”I recognize that people’s expectations for the Hyuga are high,” Yamada told reporters after the event, saying his crew would try to live up to them so that the ship can be up to fighting strength soon.
With its sophisticated command, control and communications system, the Hyuga will serve as the nerve center for operations ranging from antisubmarine warfare to anti-disaster efforts at home and abroad, and for rescuing Japanese nationals overseas, the MSDF said.
Among the Hyuga’s roughly 340 crew members are 17 women — two officers and 15 sailors — who have become the first servicewomen on board a destroyer since the Self-Defense Forces were established in 1954. Their presence on a destroyer reflects the MSDF’s effort to expand the role of women in the force to make up for the chronic personnel shortage.
The flattop replaces the old 4,950-ton destroyer Haruna. The second Hyuga-class destroyer is to be commissioned in March 2011 to replace a similar destroyer.
Despite its look and feel of a light aircraft carrier, MSDF Chief of Staff Adm. Keiji Akahoshi said Tuesday at a news conference, ”An aircraft carrier, I believe, has a fair degree of offensive functions. Based on that definition, this Hyuga falls a little bit outside of the frame.”
The acquisition of a destroyer that could project the force far beyond Japan’s coast, however, raises concerns in some quarters, with some experts fearing it could spur rivalry with countries like China, which is rumored to be building an aircraft carrier of its own.
Japan denies itself offensive capabilities under its pacifist Constitution, but the government interprets the supreme law to mean that it can possess the minimum level of armed force necessary for its self-defense.
‘The detergents may be the best way to treat spills in the long term because the dispersed oil is diluted and degraded,’ said Queen’s University Professor Peter Hodson. ‘But in the short term, they increase the bioavailability and toxicity of the fuel by 100 fold.’
The detergents are oil dispersants that decrease the surface tension between oil and water, allowing floating oil to mix with water as tiny droplets. Hodson said such hydrocarbons pass easily from water into tissues and are deadly to fish during the early stages of life.
‘This could seriously impair the health of fish populations, resulting in long-term reductions in economic returns to fisheries,’ he said.
The researchers said they also determined that although chemical dispersants aren’t typically used in freshwater, turbulent rivers can disperse spilled diesel and create similar negative effects.
“We are a seafaring people who have for centuries lived from the sea; people risking their lives every day to provide for their families and contribute to this province. And yet we will never, ever be able to accept the loss of precious lives to the sea.” — Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams, on Thursday’s tragic loss of 17 lives in an offshore helicopter crash.
The east coast of Newfoundland is arguably one of the most hazardous places on Earth to put in a day’s work. Considered the foggiest place on the planet (as much as 80% of the time in the summer) temperatures range from –8C in winter to +20C in the summer. Winds howl. If you fall into the water your core body temperature cools in moments. And there are icebergs to dodge. But that’s where the oil is, so that’s where the workers must go.
Helicopters have provided the quickest way to get them there, and until Thursday’s fatal accident they had performed flawlessly. The choppers take workers to the three main development fields off Newfoundland: Hibernia, Terra Nova and White Rose. A new field, Hebron, is under development.
The three existing fields have produced nearly one billion barrels of oil in about a dozen years.
The production platform Hibernia is the world’s largest oil platform (in terms of weight) and consists of a topsides facility mounted on a gravity base structure. Inside the gravity base structure there are storage tanks for 1.3 million barrels of crude oil. Hibernia can produce as many as 230,000 barrels of oil a day, making it the most productive well in Canada. A dedicated fleet of shuttle tankers continuously operates between the platform and an onshore storage terminal adjacent to an oil refinery at Come By Chance. There are about 1.2 billion barrels of oil in the field, and Hibernia is expected to remain in production for at least another 25 years.
Discovered in 1984 by Petro-Canada, the field is the second largest off Canada’s East Coast. Terra Nova is the first harsh environment development in North America to use a Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel, the Terra Nova FPSO. Production from the field began in January 2002 Petro-Canada believes there are about 440 million barrels of recoverable oil in the field and can output about 120,000 barrels a day.
Discovered in 1984, the White Rose offshore oil field consists of both oil and gas pool. The oil pool contains an estimated 440 million barrels of recoverable oil. White Rose is the second harsh environment development in North America to use a Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel, the SeaRose FPSO. FPSOs are an attractive technology for deep-water projects. Production from the field began in November 12, 2005.
Nearly seven million pounds of debris was collected from waterways and shorelines around the world during a single day last year, illustrating that careless people are discarding trash just about everywhere, with much of it eventually finding an aquatic home, according to a report released Tuesday.
Nearly 400,000 volunteers scoured about 17,000 miles of coastline, river bottoms and ocean floors during the Ocean Conservancy’s 23rd International Coastal Cleanup in September.
The group’s report said more than 3.2 million cigarette butts were picked up during last year’s efforts, making the items the most common found. That’s followed by about 1.4 million plastic bags, 942,000 food wrappers and containers, and 937,000 caps and lids. Volunteers also collected 26,585 tires, enough for 6,646 cars – and a spare.
Of the 104 participating countries, the U.S. supplied about half the volunteers.
Volunteers collected about 11.4 million items overall, which weighed a total of 6.8 million pounds. They snagged more than 1.3 million cigarette butts in the U.S. alone, about 19,500 fishing nets in the United Kingdom and more than 11,000 diapers in the Philippines. The majority of trash, the report said, comes from land-based activities, such as discarding of fast food wrappers during beach picnics.
‘Our ocean is sick, and our actions have made it so,’ said Vikki Spruill, the Ocean Conservancy’s president and CEO. ‘The evidence turns up every day in dead and injured marine life, littered beaches that discourage tourists, and choked ocean ecosystems.’ ‘Your trash may make it to the beach before you do this year,’ the report said, adding that a wrapper or cigarette butt discarded on an inland city street can quickly wash down storm drains into rivers and eventually flow out to the ocean.
The next cleanup is set for Sept. 19.