Friday, December 11, 2009

Some Recent Articles In the Main Stream Media on the Subject of Piracy

Piracy-induced costs seen rising

Written by VG Cabuag / Reporter
Wednesday, 09 December 2009 22:18

The continuing rise of the dangers of piracy in the high seas is threatening the viability of the shipping trade and costing shipping companies huge chunks of funds that eventually would be added to the price of commercial goods.

This is the finding of a United Nations study published in the UN Conference on Trade and Development's (Unctad) Review of Maritime Transport 2009. (Click on article title to jump to it)

Tougher International Action Against Pirates Can Make The Seas Safe Again

HARGEISA, 9 December 2009 (Somalilandpress) – Piracy along the Somali coast has seen an unprecedented increase in the last year. According to the BBC So far ...(Click on article title to jump to it)

Roboship, the 'unsinkable' solution

Matt Kwong
Last Updated: December 09. 2009 12:22AM UAE / December 8. 2009 8:22PM GMT

The National
ABU DHABI // A Sharjah company is producing a robotic ship that it claims is “unsinkable” and could be a solution to piracy.

Increasing maritime piracy underscored the need for such ships, said Basel Shuhaiber, the director of the company. “It's for anti-piracy and for defending ...(Click on article title to jump to it)

Seychelles tries to defend territory against pirates
By Jean-Marc Mojon, in Victoria for AFP Published: 4:32PM GMT 08 Dec 2009

The Seychelles is engaged in an unprecedented military drive, enlisting foreign help to patrol its sprawling territory from the air and on the seas in a bid to keep marauding Somali pirates at bay.

With 115 islands scattered over an area three times the size of France, an armed force numbering about 500 and a population that would fit in Wembley stadium with room to spare, the Seychelles is often considered indefensible.

Glued to the perspex porthole of an aircraft loaned by Luxembourg, Captain Jean Attala of the Seychelles coastguard spots a small boat of the size used by the pirates that tend to elude radars....(Click on article title above to jump to it.)

Indian Navy Deters Attack, Hijacking Of US Owned Tanker Vessel

Ayinde O. Chase - AHN Editor
December 8, 2009 1:51 p.m. EST

New Delhi, India (AHN) - The Indian Navy was able to prevent pirates from attacking a tanker in the Gulf of Aden on Monday. The vessel belonging to a Norwegian-U.S. company had its distress call successfully answered.

The navy intercepted the distress call coming from the Nordic Spirit and dispatched a helicopter. Military personnel were able to deter the pirates from further attacking the tanker and seizing it and its contents.

Published reports say the pirates fled as they saw the helicopter and the warship closing in.
Currently the Indian Navy had been successful in foiling seven attacks since it began anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden...(Click on article title above to jump to it)

Somali Pirates Release Greek Freighter Held Since May

Ayinde O. Chase - AHN Editor
December 10, 2009 4:28 p.m. EST

Athens, Greece (AHN) - Somali pirates have released the Greek cargo ship seized on May 2. News of the release was confirmed by the ship's owner, All Oceans Shipping Co..
According to published reports, all of the "Ariana's" crew members are in good health. Company officials say all the pirates have left the ship and it is currently near Somalia's Hobyo port.
The company also confirmed that a ransom had been paid. Officials declined to say how much was paid, acknowledging it could put other ships and crew members at risk or hamper negotiations... (Click on article title above to jump to it)

Tankers trade group seeks action on Nigeria, Benin waters

Nigerian Compass Newspaper -
Wednesday, 09 December 2009 00:00

Oil tankers association, Intertanko has said that action must be taken to combat piracy off West Africa’s coast.

It said ship operators should report incidents to give a real picture of the problem of seaborne attacks in the region, The association explained that the West African waters constituted a high risk area as countries in the region develop more oil fields but the surveillance of their water ways by authorities was weak.

Intertanko, whose members own the majority of the world’s tanker fleet, noted that the situation in the Gulf of Guinea, particularly off Nigeria and Benin, must not continue unchecked.Oil tankers association, ...(Click on article title above to jump to it)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

This Article From Reuters Really Illustrates The Heart of the Somali Pirate Challenge...

Somali sea gangs lure investors at pirate lair
Tue Dec 1, 2009 6:22am EST

By Mohamed Ahmed
HARADHEERE, Somalia, Dec 1 (Reuters) - In Somalia's main pirate lair of Haradheere, the sea gangs have set up a cooperative to fund their hijackings offshore, a sort of stock exchange meets criminal syndicate.Heavily armed pirates from the lawless Horn of Africa nation have terrorised shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean and strategic Gulf of Aden, which links Europe to Asia through the Red Sea. The gangs have made tens of millions of dollars from ransoms and a deployment by foreign navies in the area has only appeared to drive the attackers to hunt further from shore.It is a lucrative business that has drawn financiers from the Somali diaspora and other nations -- and now the gangs in Haradheere have set up an exchange to manage their investments.

One wealthy former pirate named Mohammed took Reuters around the small facility and said it had proved to be an important way for the pirates to win support from the local community for their operations, despite the dangers involved."Four months ago, during the monsoon rains, we decided to set up this stock exchange. We started with 15 'maritime companies' and now we are hosting 72. Ten of them have so far been successful at hijacking," Mohammed said."The shares are open to all and everybody can take part, whether personally at sea or on land by providing cash, weapons or useful materials ... we've made piracy a community activity."Haradheere, 400 km (250 miles) northeast of Mogadishu, used to be a small fishing village. Now it is a bustling town where luxury 4x4 cars owned by the pirates and those who bankroll them create honking traffic jams along its pot-holed, dusty streets.Somalia's Western-backed government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed is pinned down battling hardline Islamist rebels, and controls little more than a few streets of the capital.The administration has no influence in Haradheere -- where a senior local official said piracy paid for almost everything.

"Piracy-related business has become the main profitable economic activity in our area and as locals we depend on their output," said Mohamed Adam, the town's deputy security officer."The district gets a percentage of every ransom from ships that have been released, and that goes on public infrastructure, including our hospital and our public schools."RISK VS REWARDSIn a drought-ravaged country that provides almost no employment opportunities for fit young men, many are been drawn to the allure of the riches they see being earned at sea.Abdirahman Ali was a secondary school student in Mogadishu until three months ago when his family fled the fighting there.Given the choice of moving with his parents to Lego, their ancestral home in Middle Shabelle where strict Islamist rebels have banned most entertainment including watching sport, or joining the pirates, he opted to head for Haradheere.Now he guards a Thai fishing boat held just offshore."First I decided to leave the country and migrate, but then I remembered my late colleagues who died at sea while trying to migrate to Italy," he told Reuters. "So I chose this option, instead of dying in the desert or from mortars in Mogadishu."Haradheere's "stock exchange" is open 24 hours a day and serves as a bustling focal point for the town.

As well as investors, sobbing wives and mothers often turn up there seeking news of male relatives missing in action.Every week, Mohammed said, gang members and equipment were lost to the sea. But he said the pirates were not deterred."Ransoms have even increased in recent months from between $2-3 million to $4 million because of the increased number of shareholders and the risks," he said."Let the anti-piracy navies continue their search for us. We have no worries because our motto for the job is 'do or die'."

Piracy investor Sahra Ibrahim, a 22-year-old divorcee, was lined up with others waiting for her cut of a ransom pay-out after one of the gangs freed a Spanish tuna fishing vessel."I am waiting for my share after I contributed a rocket-propelled grenade for the operation," she said, adding that she got the weapon from her ex-husband in alimony."I am really happy and lucky. I have made $75,000 in only 38 days since I joined the 'company'."

(Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Jon Boyle) ((Email:; tel: +254 20 222 4717))

Monday, November 30, 2009

Wow - Look At How Far Out in the Indian Ocean These Pirates are Operating Now

I just can't believe how far away from shore the latest vessel hijacking occured, and I can't believe with stuff like this going on, major news outlets continue to spend more bandwidth talking about Tiger Woods rather then this a true international problem.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Kings Point Club of Washington, D.C. September Luncheon Meeting, 9/9/2009

The Washington, DC USMMA Alumni Association Chapter - The Kings Point Club of Washington DC - will hold their next monthly meeting - a luncheon meeting, on Wednesday September 9th.

It will be held at The District ChopHouse at 507 7th Street NW in the District by the Chinatown/Gallery Place Metro Arena Exit. PLEASE NOTE THIS IS A NEW VENUE FOR KPWDC EVENTS.

We will be meting in the Chophouse's Vault Room. Space is limited to 50 Attendees so please RSVP. The Luncheon price is $30.00 for Members and $35.00 for Non-Members. Lunch is included, Cash Bar.

Times: 11:30 Sign in; Noon (12:00) Lunch and Program. The September Program will feature a presentation on the topic: Looking Ahead in The Maritime Market.given by James R. Brennan, Partner, Norbridge, Inc., USMMA Class of 1973.

About the Speaker and the Program:

James R. Brennan, a Partner at Norbridge, Inc., heads up the firm’s Washington, DC office, and specializes in consulting to maritime shipping companies and ports.

Mr. Brennan has over 26 years of transportation industry and consulting experience, conducting strategy, marketing, operational, organizational, and competitive assignments on behalf of container and bulk shipping companies, port authorities, terminal operators, railroads and industry trade and labor organizations.

Examples of his assignments include:

- Evaluating the feasibility of a new Asia-North America shipping service concept for one of the largest global container shipping lines.

- Providing due diligence support to several private equity investors interested in port terminal operators.

- Several assignments have led to successful acquisitions.Assisting a North American port authority to evaluate its financial performance by line-of-business and by individual customer.Assisting a consortia of bulk terminal operators evaluate the benefits of, and options for, combining their marine bulk terminal operations.

- Evaluating the commercial and financial feasibility of a multi-user intermodal and industrial hub.

In recent years, Mr. Brennan has been increasingly involved in assisting governments, port authorities, and private investors in privatizing port facilities throughout Latin America. Mr. Brennan has conducted privatization assignments in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Peru.

Prior to joining Norbridge, Mr. Brennan was a Principal at Mercer Management Consulting (now Oliver Wyman), where he was responsible for directing its port and intermodal rail practices. Prior to joining Mercer, he sailed as a licensed deck officer aboard tankers and tugs for Sun Transport Company.

Mr. Brennan holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration from the Pennsylvania State University and a Bachelors Degree in Marine Transportation (1973) from the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point.

The meeting is open to all Alumni and Friends of the US Merchant Marine Academy and the US Flagged Merchant Marine Fleet and Maritime Industry.

RSVPs should be directed to either or


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Cosco Busan Oil Spill - Pilot Sentenced to 10 Months

In an amazingly stupid move, the Federal Prosecutor for Northern California sought an indictment of Capt. John Joseph Cota, the pilot who was taking the container ship Cosco Busan out of San Francisco Harbor on November 7, 2007 when it collided with the San Francisco Bay Bridge and spilled approximately 53,000 gallons of oil (~964 barrels) and killing an estimated 2,400 migratory birds including members of the following endangered and threatened species: Brown Pelicans and the Marbled Murrelet. This incident and course of action has now resulted in a criminal conviction as a result of a plea bargin. The DOJ's press release (full text here) states:

"..."The court’s sentence of John Cota should serve as a deterrent to shipping companies and mariners who think violating the environmental laws that protect our nation’s waterways will go undetected or unpunished," said Joseph P. Russoniello, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California. "They will be vigorously prosecuted."

Prosecutors provided the court with a list of Cota’s errors that included the following:

- Captain Cota left in extreme fog that was so thick that the bow of the vessel was not visible from the bridge. Captain Cota made the decision to leave in the fog while the pilots of six other large commercial vessels decided not to depart in the heavy fog which was less than 0.5 nautical miles.

- Having made the decision to leave port in impenetrable fog, Captain Cota took no action to assure the fortification of the bridge or bow watch or review the passage plan with the master and crew of the Cosco Busan. In particular, Cota failed to have a master-pilot exchange to review the transit plan.

- Captain Cota has subsequently claimed that he found both radar unreliable, but he did not notify the master or the Coast Guard that a required piece of equipment needed to safely navigate the ship had failed. Meanwhile, the captured images of the radar retained on the ship’s computer show that the radar was fully operational.

- The tape recorded conversations from the ship’s bridge show that Captain Cota was confused regarding the operation of the electronic chart system upon which he chose to rely including the meaning of 2 red triangles that marked buoys marking the tower of the bridge that he eventually hit.

- At no time during the voyage after leaving the berth at 8:07 a.m. and prior to 8:30 a.m. did Captain Cota, or any of the ship’s crew, consult the ship’s official paper navigational chart or take a single positional fix. Captain Cota did not ask any crew member to take any fixes or verify the ship’s position despite the lack of visibility. After the incident, Cota told the Coast Guard he did not request fixes because it is like "driving your car out of a driveway."

Prosecutors also filed papers showing that Captain Cota had failed to disclose his medical conditions and prescription drug use on required annual forms submitted to the Coast Guard.

The discharge of heavy fuel oil from the Cosco Busan fouled 26 miles of shoreline, killed more than 2,400 birds of about 50 species, temporarily closed a fishery on the bay, and delayed the start of the crab-fishing season. Monetary damages to the bridge, ship and private parties were in the tens of millions of dollars. Clean-up costs have been estimated to exceed $70 million.

The birds killed include Brown Pelicans, Marbled Murrelets and Western Grebes. The Brown Pelican is a federally endangered species and the Marbled Murrelet is a federally threatened species and an endangered species under California law."

How this act and the DOJ's reaction helps anybody other then to be a sensationalistic, misapplication of the law is hard for anybody who thinks through how the ripples of these waves will play out is hard to imagine. Firstly while the press release wants to key on the lack of plotting a paper fix to note your position is pretty hard to understand - you do count on a pilot to take you through a harbor in a manner that is like "driving your car out of the driveway." Of course, one wonders about the judgement of Capt. Costa and his attorney, assuming he has one, for not being more formal and circumspect when answering questions and depositions, as well of course for deciding to enter a guilty plea to such a horrible set of charges.

I would have thought the Captain and his attorney would have wanted to ensure they had the right to appeal a verdict, etc. instead of pleading guilty. However given he has been a pilot in San Francisco since 1981, maybe he figured he'd plead guilty have his Licence Insurance pay a fine and retire? I don't know but now we have this result and here's what I think it means for everyday, normal middle-class Americans (please take note Congresswoman Pelosi, Senator Ried, President Obama and Vice President Biden).

Pilots in every port in the US will be very, very cautious about even consenting to think about moving a vessel in even moderate conditions of reduced visibility. They will no doubt have detailed checklists, particularly in Northwestern US Ports where the Northern CA DOJ and the Circuit of Appeals are the same as any that apply here. Those checklists will be completed prior to moving a ship, the result will be slower, more tedious passages into and out of those ports. In short SF Bay as well as Seattle/Tacoma just became less desirable places to bring a ship and her Cargo into. Expect cargoes to seek friendlier places to enter North America - can you say Vancouver? People will no doubt feel I'm being chicken little but bottom line will be a ripple that this starts that results in less commerce going though San Francisco in particular as well as ports near the border, particularly Sea-Tac given the proximity of Vancouver and things like NAFTA, etc.

For Mariners, we can expect licence insurance to increase markedly, and for shipping companies insurance and other costs will go up for voyages calling on US ports. Of course those costs will be passed down the line and in the end consumers will pay the costs. This will particularly occur on oil and petrochemicals.

Who cares about activist judges when you have "eco-terrorists" in the guise of Federal Prosecutors? It's easy to get folks riled up about careless mariners and insensitive money grubbing shipping companies, but the ease at which something can be emotionalized doesn't make it a smart or correct thing to do. Further, the sad truth it that a spill like this doesn't take foggy conditions to occur, sometimes accidents happen. When they do, prosecuting someone who is just trying to make a living and hasn't created the situation through acts of gross negligence, or with malice and forethought isn't in this blogger's opinion a smart thing to do. Interestingly, in the wake of the disaster, Senator Diane Feinstein has been trying to introduce legislation in response to this disaster that makes sense. Basically she wants to a) require, not give the option, the local USCG sector Commander to take control of shipping and control movements and speeds in a harbor during periods of adverse visibility; and b) require all ships - not just tankers, after a phase in period to be double hulled. Actions and responses like Senator Feinstein's are much more preferable to me to seeing a pilot looked up for 10 months for something like this accident.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

RIP - Frankie Toner, USMMA Class of 2006

As the father of a eighteen year old son, I have a hard time coming to terms with the potential loss of anyone's son. The article below from the Ventura County Star was published today on line about the death of LT Frankie Toner, USNR a 2006 graduate of the USMMA who was serving in Afghanistan. I noted from the article that LT Toner had requested he be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. It is clear from the facebook group in his memory that he was a living embodiment of the Academy's motto Acta Non Verba. I believe the rest can probably best be communicated without further comment by the article. His family and friends are in my prayers and thoughts today.

Westlake graduate killed in war zone
Navy officer reported shot in Afghanistan
By Scott Hadly (Contact) Sunday, March 29, 2009

He was set to come home Wednesday on leave, but Frankie Toner — a former homecoming king at Westlake High School serving as a Navy lieutenant in Afghanistan — never made it. An Afghan insurgent dressed as a soldier shot and killed Toner, 26, on Friday at a base in northern Afghanistan, the U.S. Department of Defense reported Saturday.

He was the fifth military person from Ventura County to be killed in Afghanistan and the 23rd overall to die there or in Iraq. In all, at least 599 U.S. service members have died in and around Afghanistan since the war began in 2001.

“We were all notified (Friday),” Toner’s aunt, Linda Moosekian of Newbury Park, said Saturday. “We weren’t given all the details, though. The saddest part is that he was coming home on leave Wednesday.”

The insurgent — posing as an Afghan National Army soldier — also killed Navy nurse Lt. Florence B. Choe, 35, of El Cajon and wounded another U.S. service member before taking his own life, according to U.S. military spokesman Col. Greg Julian. The military initially reported the killer as being an Afghan soldier. The incident prompted condolences from Afghan Minister of Defense Abdul Rahim Wardak. He said he was “saddened and deeply regretful this tragedy occurred” and that the incident was under full investigation.

Toner, a 2001 graduate of Westlake High and a star running back for its championship football team, had been in Afghanistan for five months. He was scheduled to return this week to see wife Brooke and the rest of his family, his aunt said. Although he attended the Merchant Marine Academy on Long Island and served in the Navy as a garrison engineer, he later became part of blended U.S. military units being used to train Afghan soldiers. “They called it the ‘Narvy,’” his aunt said. Toner, attached to the Combined Security Transition Command, liked the job. He was stationed at Camp Spann, a base in Mazar-e-Sharif and named after Johnny Spann, a CIA officer killed in 2001 during a prison uprising there. The base has a combat training detachment and tactical operations center and is used to coordinate some humanitarian assistance operations in the area. Toner enjoyed his interactions with the Afghan soldiers, even trying to teach them baseball, his aunt said. “He’d send us these videos and it was kind of funny, because they thought you were supposed to hit people with the ball,” she said. In one of his last e-mails to his family, Toner included some videos and pictures of him working with Afghan soldiers. He obscured one man’s identity, because he was worried about the Afghan’s safety. He finished up his note by saying, “There are still hundreds of recruits for both the police and army, almost on a weekly basis. This shows the insurgents are not having as much impact on the local communities.”

Toner and his wife had actually come home for a visit in the fall and stood on the sidelines for a football game, said his former Westlake football coach, Jim Benkert. “He was so proud of her; I think he wanted everyone to see her,” Benkert said. His decision to attend the Merchant Marine Academy had been partly about football. He got an opportunity to play for the academy’s team.
“He wanted to continue to play,” Benkert said. “He was really proud to be a Merchant Marine and proud to be a warrior.” The team has other alumni serving overseas, Benkert said, and former players remain fairly tight. In fact, he got the news about Toner from a former player.
“I heard a rumor, and I called his aunt, hoping it was just a rumor, but she confirmed it,” he said Saturday. Benkert remembered the letter of recommendation he sent to the Merchant Marine Academy and read the last paragraph. “He was one of the best our society has to offer,” Benkert said solemnly. “He is, he was, one of those special kids who come around once in a lifetime.”

Toner requested to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. In addition to his wife, his survivors include his father and stepmother, Frank and Sharon Toner; his mother, Becky Toner; a sister, Amanda; and brothers, John and Michael.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

And So it Begins...

I decided to start a new blog to address and blog about my second avocation - Kings Point - aka "The Zoo" , The United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, NY. The institution from which I graduated in 1982; the location of the Chapel I go married in on February 21, 1988 - 21 short years ago; the current institution where our only son resides and attends. My other blog - Mark's Musings has pretty much become entirely dedicated to my following of professional hockey in general and the Washington Capitals in particular. This one will attempt to explore topics I and hopefully other Kings Point Alumnus consider timely and improtant in working to elevate the state of Maritime Education and Training, in particular at our Alma Mater and in general throughout the United States. Each blogger who posts articles on this blog will be asked to provide a brief bio so their biases and experiential background can be understood when reading their posts. I hope to get a fair participation so that posts will be frequent enough to start lively debate, interchange and discussion.