Improved with slick, anti-fouling paints and more powerful batteries, a new undersea probe was launched this past Monday by Rutgers University scientists in a second attempt to make the first trans-Atlantic crossing by an autonomous underwater vehicle.
The canary-yellow robot RU-27 went into the water off the New Jersey coast this past Monday. Once in launched mission controllers, preparing to map out a course to insert the undersea glider into the fast-moving Gulf Stream current far offshore.
In eight months, the Rutgers team is hoping their probe, dubbed the Scarlet Knight after the university mascot, will be in Spanish waters and ready for pickup before the onset of winter storms. The machine will dive and glide forward in eight-hour sessions, gathering oceanographic data and surfacing three times a day to beam it back to the Mission Control center via a satellite link.
“We’ll get one hour of ocean data each day for the next eight months as it makes its way across,” said Josh Kohut, an assistant professor at the university’s Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences. In dives beyond 600 feet, RU-27 will collect temperature and salinity levels and measure the speed and direction of ocean currents — the undersea equivalent of measuring temperature and wind in the atmosphere, Kohut said. And like weather observations, the glider data will play a role in plotting the course of climate change, he added: “They are the measurements that go into the global climate models.”
An earlier vehicle, RU-17, was lost in late October 2008 about 220 miles short of the Azores, a mid-Atlantic island group where the Rutgers team asked local oceanographers to help with a rescue effort after the probe reported an onboard leak. They now think the glider sank after colliding with an animal or submerged object, said Scott Glenn, an oceanography professor, who sums up the dangers as “storms and biology.” Improvements to RU-27 include a rubbery Teflon coating on the hull and new anti-fouling paint to keep hydroids and other growth from attaching to the slow-moving craft, Glenn said. Builders beefed up its battery power too, adding more lithium cells to provide at least 300 days of power, up from 230 days in the previous model.
“We take about the same energy as six Christmas tree light bulbs,” Glenn said. The new energy budget makes it more feasible for the craft to lay-to during bad weather, if pickup is delayed this fall, he said. To save power in survival mode, controllers could turn off pumps, reduce the times that the probe phones home by satellite, or shut down sensors, he said. On this mission, the first gauntlet is the edge of the continental shelf 70 to 80 miles offshore. “A lot of fishing goes on at the shelf because it’s so rich in nutrients, so we dive deep to avoid the nets and gear.”
The glider gets its forward motion by submerging, and riding on stubby wings, then surfacing and repeating the process. Unmanned and without a motor, the glider can rise and dive, seeking out currents that will carry it along without worrying about re-fuelling.
Gliders move through the ocean by using battery-powered motors and mechanical pumps to move ballast water or oil from inside the vehicle to a bladder on the vehicle’s exterior. This changes its volume and buoyancy without changing its mass, causing it to sink or rise while at the same time pushing it forward. Whenever the glider comes to the surface, it sends a radio signal back to the scientists.
“The launching is tremendously exciting because there is just so much that we don’t really know about what happens in the oceans,” said Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “The ocean plays such a critical role in the dynamics of the climate system, having a better understanding of what’s happening in real time is invaluable information,” said Lubchenco. “We’re beginning to be able to infer much about the kinds of plants and animals and microbes that may be present from some of the kinds of data that the glider will be taking,” she added.
The glider is part of the Integrated Ocean Observing System, a project to collect and use ocean information continuously covering oceans, coastal waters and Great Lakes.
“Oceans are vital to all of life on earth. A billion people a day depend on seafood for their primary or sole source of protein, oceans drive the climate system, oceans provide most of the oxygen that we breathe,” Lubchenco said. “They provide wonderful places for recreation, they are an important source of jobs, livelihoods. Just within the U.S., half of Americans live in coastal areas and 60 per cent of gross domestic product comes from coastal areas, so clearly they are an integral part of our very fabric. Yet we know precious little about them,” she said.
“We’re constructing a vast, three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle,” Lubchenco said. “We have bits and pieces of the puzzle and we’re building out from that. So every track that this glider makes, every new sensor that we have in the oceans” provides data to construct a more meaningful and dynamic picture of the world, she said.
“We have only just begun to tap the potential that is here on planet ocean.”
Founded in 1969, the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) is the world’s foremost event for the development of offshore resources in the fields of drilling, exploration, production, and environmental protection. OTC is the premier event for meeting key executives of the oil and gas industry. Conference attendees can expect more than 300 presentations covering the latest and most important topics, technologies, and innovations in today’s oil and gas industry. Over 75,000 people attended the OTC 2008 conference and this year’s exhibition is sold out. The 2009 conference will be held from May 4 – 7 at the Reliant Center in Houston, Texas.
Marport will be exhibiting in Booth # 1633 in the Government of Newfoundland & Labrador pavilion. Requests for meetings can be emailed to Michael Harvey. Mike’s email is: firstname.lastname@example.org and he can be reached via mobile at 713.855.9363.
The Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition is the largest maritime exposition in the world, featuring more than 150 defense industry exhibits and professional seminars with top civilian and military leaders from the U.S. Department of Defense, Homeland Security, Maritime Administration and the defense industry who provide up-to-the-minute developments on policy and programs of the maritime services. This signature maritime exposition showcases national and international exhibits of the latest in sea power technology. The Navy League has been presenting Sea-Air-Space Exposition in Washington, DC for more than forty years. It provides an outstanding forum for the exchange of technical and professional information between civilian and military leaders of the maritime industry. The 2009 exhibition will be held from May 4 – 6 at the Gaylord National Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.
Marport will be exhibiting in Booth # 2106 in the Canada: Partners in Defense & Security pavilion. Requests for meetings can be co-ordinated with Glenda Leyte. Glenda’s email is: email@example.com
The aim of the conference is to explore methods that can enhance innovation and competitiveness of the Nordic marine industry. The seminar will both address the sea as a huge resource and how to support innovation in order to exploit its potential. Several Nordic and international speakers will share their views on how to enhance innovation capability and competitiveness of the Nordic marine sector in global markets. Mr. Kenny’s speech will address requirements for innovation in commercial fishing gear technology.
The Nordic countries have much know-how and competence in different disciplines and sectors. Combined cooperation can create new solutions on how to utilize the sea in a sustainable manner. This requires a common platform as point of departure for the Nordic research and innovation agencies. The importance of the marine sector differs between the Nordic countries, but all countries have a coast line and fresh waters. Therefore, interests on how to utilize sea and fresh waters in a sustainable way are common.
The focus will be on sustainable use of the sea as a resource. The themes that will be discussed are:
- Innovation systems and Nordic synergies
- Fishing gear
- Marine bio-chemicals and algae
- Technical innovations
The sessions should provide an informative and educational conference for policy makers, innovation agencies, researchers and the marine industries about innovation and the potential of the marine sector. This should be especially interesting for enterprises in fisheries, fish processing, aquaculture, marine bio-prospecting and suppliers of goods and services.
The conference is an initiative of Nordic Innovation Centre, Nordic Atlantic Cooperation, Nordic Fisheries Cooperation, Icelandic Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers and Matis.
The Associated Press and ANSA news agency are reporting that an Israeli security team on board an Italian cruise ship with 1,500 people on board fended off a pirate attack far off the coast of Somalia by opening fire on the pirates.
The dramatic confrontation was sparked when six men in a small skiff sped up to the MSC Melody late on Saturday, firing automatic weapons and trying to fix a ladder to the side of the ship.
A team of Israeli guards hired by the vessel’s owners immediately began firing back with pistols and spraying the attackers with fire hoses. It is believed to be one of the first times that a non-military ship with private security aboard has used firearms to deter a pirate attack.
“It felt like we were in a war,” said Commander Ciro Pinto, the Melody’s captain.
“They tried to put up a ladder with hooks. They were climbing up, so we reacted. We started firing. When they saw us firing they gave up and went off.”
The pirates chased the 670 ft-long ship for another 20 minutes, firing at it constantly. Part of the vessel was slightly damaged during the raid, in the Indian Ocean 200 miles north of the Seychelles and about 500 miles east of the Somali coast. The 36,500 ton Melody was carrying 991 passengers and 536 crew on a three-week cruise from Durban in South Africa to Genoa, Italy.
“The passengers meanwhile were inside their cabins,” Cdr Pinto added. “There are no injuries. Only two people with scrapes. Someone slipped, fell. Just a few light scrapes.”
The ANSA news agency reported that Domenico Pellegrino, head of the Italian cruise line, said the company hired the private Israeli security team because they were the tops in their field. Pellegrino told the news agency that all 1,500 passengers and crew aboard the Melody were safe, and credited Pinto for his “cool-headed” handling of the incident.
Since yesterday, the Melody was being escorted by a Spanish warship, the SPS Marques de Ensenada, as it sailed towards the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden.
Pirates have attacked more than 100 ships off the Somali coast over the last year, reaping an estimated $1 million in ransom for each successful hijacking, according to analysts. A Greek ship was released on Saturday after a £1.3 million ransom was paid.
Dozens of warships from the EU, US and a handful of other countries are patrolling the waters of Somalia in a bid to deter the attacks. But the pirates are moving the focus of their operations further south, into the Indian Ocean.
Meanwhile, two Somali pirates were shot dead by coast guards when they seized a Yemeni oil tanker off the Arabian peninsula on Sunday.
Increasing CO2And Decreasing Oxygen Make It Harder For Deep Sea Animals To Survive
New calculations made by marine chemists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) suggest that low-oxygen “dead zones” in the ocean could expand significantly over the next century. These predictions are based on the fact that, as more and more carbon dioxide dissolves from the atmosphere into the ocean, marine animals will need more oxygen to survive.
Concentrations of carbon dioxide are increasing rapidly in the Earth’s atmosphere, primarily because of human activities. About one third of the carbon dioxide that humans produce by burning fossil fuels is being absorbed by the world’s oceans, gradually causing seawater to become more acidic.
However, such “ocean acidification” is not the only way that carbon dioxide can harm marine animals. In a “Perspective” published in a recent edition of Science, Peter Brewer and Edward Peltzer combine published data on rising levels of carbon dioxide and declining levels of oxygen in the ocean in a set of new and thermodynamically rigorous calculations. They show that increases in carbon dioxide can make marine animals more susceptible to low concentrations of oxygen, and thus exacerbate the effects of low-oxygen “dead zones” in the ocean.
For over a decade, Brewer and Peltzer have been working with marine biologists to study the effects of carbon dioxide on marine organisms. High concentrations of carbon dioxide make it harder for marine animals to respire (to extract oxygen from seawater). This, in turn, makes it harder for these animals to find food, avoid predators, and reproduce. Low concentrations of oxygen can have similar effects.
Currently, deep-sea life is threatened by a combination of increasing carbon dioxide and decreasing oxygen concentrations. The amount of dissolved carbon dioxide is increasing because the oceans are taking up more and more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. At the same time, ocean surface waters are warming and becoming more stable, which allows less oxygen to be carried from the surface down into the depths.
In trying to quantify the impacts of this “double whammy” on marine organisms, Brewer and Peltzer came up with the concept of a “respiration index.” This index is based on the ratio of oxygen and carbon dioxide gas in a given sample of seawater. The lower the respiration index, the harder it is for marine animals to respire.
Brewer provides the following analogy, “Animals facing declining oxygen levels and rising CO2 levels will suffer in much the same way that humans in a damaged submarine would suffer, once the concentrations of these gasses reach critical levels. Our work helps define those critical levels for marine animals, and will enable the emerging risk to be quantified and mapped.”
In the past, marine biologists have defined “dead zones” based solely on low concentrations of dissolved oxygen. Brewer and Peltzer hope that their respiration index will provide a more precise and quantitative way for oceanographers to identify such areas. Tracking changes in the respiration index could also help marine biologists understand and predict which ocean waters are at risk of becoming dead zones in the future.
To estimate such effects in the open ocean, the MBARI researchers calculated the respiration index at various ocean depths, for several different forecasted concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide. They found that the most severe effects would take place in what are known as “oxygen minimum zones.” These are depths, typically 300 to 1,000 meters below the surface, where oxygen concentrations are already quite low in many parts of the world’s oceans.
Previous studies have indicated that such oxygen minimum zones may expand over the next century. Brewer and Peltzer’s research suggests that the effects of this expansion will be even more severe than previously forecast.
According to coauthor Peltzer, “The bottom line is that we think it’s important to look at both oxygen and carbon dioxide in the oceans, rather than just one or the other.” The impact of these chemical changes may be minimal in well-oxygenated ocean areas, but as the authors point out in their paper, “We may anticipate a very large expansion of the oceanic dead zones.”
The combined global land and ocean surface temperature for the year to date (January-March 2009) was 55.04°F, 0.94°F above the 20th century average of 54.1°F and ranking eighth warmest since records began in 1880, according to analysis by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.
The analyses in NCDC’s global reports are based on preliminary data, which are subject to revision. Additional quality control is applied to the data when late reports are received several weeks after the end of the month and as increased scientific methods improve NCDC’s processing algorithms.
- Combined global land and ocean surface temperature for March was 55.87°F, which is 0.97°F above the 20th century average of 54.9°F and ranks as the 10th warmest March on record.
- Separately, the March global land surface temperature was 42.47°F, which was 1.67°F above the 20th century average of 40.8°F, ranking it as 10th warmest March on record.
- The March global ocean surface temperature of 61.42°F was eighth warmest on record, reaching 0.72°F above the 20th century average of 60.7°F.
- The Northern Hemisphere experienced its 12th warmest March on record, while the March 2009 Northern Hemisphere average ocean surface temperature tied with 2001 and 2006 for seventh warmest.
- For the Southern Hemisphere, March 2009 land surface temperature was the fourth warmest March on record, while the March 2009 ocean surface temperature was sixth warmest.
March Snow & Ice Cover
- Based on NOAA satellite observations, March snow cover extent was near the 1967-2009 average for North America, and below average over Europe and Asia. Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent also was below average for March.
- March 2009 snow cover extent over Europe and Asia was 9.26 million square miles (23.98 million sq. km), which is 0.43 million square miles (1.11 million sq. km) below the 1967-2009 average of 9.69 million square miles (25.09 million sq. km). This represents the ninth smallest snow cover extent for Eurasia in the 43-year data set.
- Satellite-based snow cover extent for the Northern Hemisphere was 15.38 million square miles (39.83 million sq. km) in March, which is 0.40 million square miles (1.05 million sq. km) below the 1967-2009 average of 15.78 million square miles (40.88 million sq. km).
- Arctic sea ice coverage was at its sixth lowest March extent since satellite records began in 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Average ice extent during March was 5.85 million square miles (15.16 million sq. km), 3.7 percent below the 1979-2000 average. Arctic sea ice usually reaches its maximum extent in March, and retreats to its annual minimum extent during September. March Arctic sea ice extent has decreased at an average rate of 2.7 percent per decade since 1979.
- Antarctic sea ice extent in March was at its fourth-greatest level of the 31-year observational record. Antarctic sea ice extent reached 15.8 percent above its 1979-2000 average. Since 1979, Antarctic sea ice extent for March has increased at an average rate of 4.7 percent per decade.
Total value increased by 40.3% between years.
The data published in the tables abive are based on weight and processing reports, collected from fish buyers and reported to the Icelandic Directorate of Fisheries. Figures for the year 2009 are preliminary, but final for 2008. Final figures have through the years been seen to become somewhere between 1-2% higher in total than preliminary figures.
As part of the French Government’s economic recovery plan, STX France and DCNS have been awarded the contract to build the French Navy’s third Projection and Command Vessel for the French Navy.
Work on the third vessel was started last week in Saint-Nazaire by Hervé Morin, the Defence Minister and Patrick Devedjian, Minister in charge of implementing the recovery plan.
In line with the recovery plan initiated by the Government in order to face up to the challenges of the world economic crisis, the order for the third vessel called for the creation of a tailor-made industrial organizational structure in order to achieve the budgetary objective fixed by the state. It therefore not only meets the operational objectives of every new ship ordered by the government but also the specific economic objectives of the recovery plan.
Due to the extremely tight economic constraints that characterize this project, the ship will be built solely on the Saint-Nazaire site.
STX France, in charge of the overall coordination of the project for the industrial part, will build the whole of the propelled platform including the fitting out of equipment onboard. This represents 75% of the vessel value. Once trials are completed, the vessel will move to Toulon under its own power.
DCNS will manufacture and integrate the combat system, which includes communications, navigation and combat management systems. The tasks involved in its production demand high value added skill levels, in order to enable the vessel to conduct its operational missions, and represent a quarter of the overall cost of the ship.
199 metres in length, with a displacement of 21,000 tons and a speed of 19 knots, the vessels are distinguished by their large carrying capacity: 450 troops, 16 heavy-lift helicopters, 2 hovercraft, 4 LCMs (landing craft) or a third of a mechanized regiment (1,000 tons), which they are able to deploy worldwide. They are equipped with electric pod propulsion and their high level of automation enables the size of their crew to be reduced to 160. They also boast an on-board hospital for large-scale humanitarian missions. Their particularly advanced communications system, 3D surveillance radar and combat management system make them ideal platforms for commanding a naval task force.
The first two vessels, Mistral and Tonnere, built by DCNS and Chantiers de l’Atlantique, were delivered in 2006 and 2007.
According to the latest edition of the ‘World Offshore Drilling Spend Forecast 2009-2013’ - published last week by Douglas-Westwood and Energyfiles – $278bn was spent between 2004 and 2008 on offshore drilling. The report forecasts lower spends in 2009 and 2010 followed by a return to previous levels of growth, to total $367bn over the five year period. By 2013 the global drilling market will be worth an estimated $89 billion, more than doubling since 2004.
The data, derived from the ‘Energyfiles Global Database’, predict total global wells to rise 7% over the period 2009- 2013, despite a sharp decline in 2009. Approximately 18,310 offshore wells were drilled over the last five years. The forecast is of a decline in 2009, followed by consistently rising numbers including a sharp jump in 2011, to total 19,570 by 2013.
“Asia is still seeing the highest activity, followed by North America and then Western Europe,” said report author Dr. Michael R. Smith of Energyfiles.
Due to a lack of opportunity, shallow water exploratory drilling has been on a declining trend albeit with a modest price-led resurgence in 2006 and 2007. Shallow water exploratory drilling levels are not expected to ever return to their most recent 2007 peak but growth in deepwater drilling has supported exploratory drilling over the last five years – to reach 40% of all exploratory wells by 2013.
The steady growth is a result of new ultra deepwater targets becoming increasingly viable, as the capability of deepwater production systems is improved, giving additional encouragement to explorers to take these expensive risks.
With surging oil prices shallow water development drilling grew rapidly up to 2006, before flattening off. A decline is now forecast followed by returning growth as many of the delayed projects of 2009 are restarted. Growth would be even more marked if not for better, more productive, well bores allowing fewer wells per field. And total development drilling levels will be supported by continued rapid growth in deepwater drilling from 2010.
From 2010 a return to increases in spending are forecast, especially directed at deepwater development projects. The big expansion in the number of rigs available for these projects will just about meet market demand. Even though total well drilling numbers are forecast to flatten off after 2012 this will not prevent overall spends continuing to rise as wells become ever more costly and oil prices surge again.
The global recession has had its effect. As economic growth began to slow there was an inevitable effect into energy demand. Global oil demand, standing at around 85,000 barrels per day in 2007, declined in 2008 and will decline even further in 2009 – the first time this has happened for two years running since 1983. In early 2008 high oil prices and a global shortage of drilling opportunities ensured that even the most expensive offshore drilling projects went ahead. Now in 2009 there is across-the-board deflation in prices and delays in both shallow and deepwater projects.
Although global economic recessions have always led to declining energy demand, the resultant lower prices soon engineer a recovery in demand and then prices, especially as OPEC acts to rein in output. Thus in early 2009 the supply/demand balance for oil had already stabilised, despite the worsening recession. The numbers in this report point to a return to stability in 2010 and, by 2011, a strong growth in the offshore drilling industry is forecast, especially in high technology areas,” says Dr Smith.
Extending the wait for new ships will create a problem called “rust-out,” said Canadian navy Commodore Kelly Williams in a 2009-2010 Maritime Staff Capability Plan, copies of which were obtained by CBC News. A $2.9-billion program to replace the two supply ships was put on hold in August, because bids came in over budget.
The navy decided to refit the two ships for the time being. But that is an expensive alternative, according to Williams, who prepared the report when he was assistant chief of Maritime staff.
“Maintaining the obsolescent tankers is costly and will put further pressure on the already constrained [repair budget] and further delays in the mid-life refit for Halifax class [frigates] which will lead to rust-out,” he wrote in the 2009-2010 report.
“Rust-out” is caused by repeatedly sanding warships, which leads to hulls becoming “progressively thinner and more fragile,” said Eric Lerhe, a retired commodore living in Dartmouth.
Lerhe likens it to patching up an aging car. “How many times can you take a car to the autobody shop and smack on the Bondo?”
In the capability plan, Williams said efforts to preserve the two supply ships will put more pressure on the navy’s repair budget, which will cause further delays in upgrading the Halifax-class frigates.
A spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay said the federal government still wants to buy new ships, through a project known as joint support ship, or JSS.
Navy officials were not available for comment.