Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Port of Jeddah gets new cranes

Good for them! The city of Jeddah has come a long way since being opened as a port by Uthman Ibn Affan in 647 A.D.

Giant cranes lift Jeddah port stature
Roger Harrison | Arab News

JEDDAH: Jeddah’s port skyline changed drastically on Monday with the arrival, 19 months after the beginning of the construction of the Red Sea Gate Terminal (RSGT), of four giant quayside cranes. The huge machines, the biggest type of ship-to-shore crane in the world, berthed at the new Red Sea Gate terminal quay at precisely 10 a.m. after arriving in Jeddah late on Sunday to wait for pilotage.

Mazen Matar, the project director of the RSGT who was on the quayside to see the arrival, looked at the massive machines and commented that high efficiency of the cranes and the huge load capabilities were necessary to deal with the new generation of container super-carriers and would have a tremendous economic impact on the Kingdom. “We have the tools; now we can finish the job,” he observed.

The journey from Shanghai was not without some challenges as the specially designed carrier had to wait out rough seas caused by typhoons for several days. The size and configuration of the cranes carried, already assembled, on deck required that the ship, the Zhen Hua 25, be sailed with great skill and with a constant eye on sea and weather conditions.

The first hint of the arrival was two and a half hours before docking when they were still 15 or so kilometers off shore. Their massive superstructures eased over the horizon, followed a full half hour later by the hull of the ship.

Each crane will require two days to unload from the ship. Each will be rolled on train-type steel wheels onto the quayside where it will be jacked up, the wheel bogeys turned through 90 degrees and the crane lowered onto the rails embedded in the quay.

“It is a very tricky operation,” Peter Reynolds, RSGT project manager commented. “These are massive pieces of equipment and it requires considerable skill to offload them.”

When all 10 of the new cranes have been delivered they will put RSGT in the front rank of the world’s container terminals. The cranes manufactured by ZPMC, China, are specially designed to serve next generation container-ships that can carry over 12,000 full size containers. They are capable of handling two 40-foot or four 20-foot containers in one lift. Their ability to lift 85 tons under their spreader beams and move the load over a distance of up to 24 rows and at 65m above the water level is unique in Jeddah. Only a handful of container terminals around the world have equipment with similar specifications.

An additional two ship-to-shore cranes of the same type will be delivered next month.

Obamacare, another industury give-away

This effort will do nothing for those in need, it's a disgrace.

Obama's $80 Billion Deal with Pharma Is a Very Bad Deal for Us

By William Greider, The Nation. Posted August 8, 2009.

So now we know why the president wants everyone to make nice in the healthcare debate. His White House has cut a deal with Big Pharma that smells like the same old rotten politics that candidate Obama regularly denounced and promised to end. The drug industry agrees to deliver $80 billion in future savings and the president promises the government will not use its awesome purchasing power to negotiate lower drug prices.

Wow. This is roughly the same deal that George W. Bush cut with the drug makers when he was legislating Medicare's new coverage of drug purchases. It is the same bargain that Democrats in Congress universally condemned as wasteful and corrupt. The deal does not smell any better now that a Democratic president is embracing it.

In effect, Obama wants to give away one of the principal objectives of strong reform. The details were spelled out in today's New York Times and revealed by Big Pharma's top-dog lobbyist, Billy Tauzin, a former Republican congressman who leads the industry association. Tauzin called it a "rock-solid deal," and the White House did not dispute as much. But that is not the last word.

People who believe in real healthcare reform should not be nice about this. They must rise up and rebel against our popular new president's outrageous concession. They must demand that Congress declare the private deal-making null and void. If Congress lacks the nerve to do this, then this exercise in reform begins to look more and more like previous attempts that were eviscerated by the clout of the corporate interests.

The fate of healthcare reform may depend not on the Senate or the White House but on Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. What prompted Billy Tauzin to spill the beans on his deal-making with White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was the House measure that specifies government's right to bargain for lower prices. No, no, no! Tauzin said. We've got a deal with the president, who says that won't be allowed.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi simply responds that the House is not bound by any deals made with the Senate or the White House. Her caucus must back up her words. They should pass the House bill, which will allow the government to do what any major customer would do in the same circumstances -- use its leverage to demand lower prices.

If House Democrats stand their ground, then they will force a debate they can win with the American public. President Obama will have to choose between standing with the drug manufacturers or defending the original purpose of healthcare reform.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

matt is at marx cafe tonight!

Hey all,

I am going to be spinning records at Marx Cafe starting at 10pm tonight. Hope to see you there!

3203 Mount Pleasant St NW

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

MV fanina update

Looks like the Sundanese arms race will continue unabated!

War is Boring: Kenya Allegedly Funneling Arms to Volatile South Sudan
David Axe | Bio | 15 Jul 2009
World Politics Review

The ceremony last Feb. 12 at the commercial seaport in Mombasa, Kenya, was a surprising one. When the Ukrainian-owned merchant ship Faina sailed into port, five months after its capture by Somali pirates and a week after its release, the Kenyan government rolled out the red carpet. Civilian officials and military officers lined the pier, and armed guards patrolled, as Faina's weary seafarers debarked. There were speeches and reluctant testimonies by Faina's senior crew before the strange gathering came to a halting end. Hundreds of vessels had been seized by Somali pirates over the previous decade, and their releases had rarely prompted an official celebration such as this.

The ceremony might have been inspired by the intensive media coverage that had surrounded the Faina's capture and the subsequent stand-off, pitting U.S. Navy warships against the merchant ship's ragtag captors. Faina's captain died of natural causes in the early days of the crisis. Ultimately, the vessel's owners paid a $3.2 million ransom, which itself is not unusual. Faina had stood out, among captured vessels, owing to her cargo: 33 Soviet-designed T-72 main battle tanks, plus other arms and ammunition -- all of murky provenance and ownership. To cynical observers, the June ceremony was seen as an opportunity for Nairobi to voice its official position regarding the weapons' origins and destination.

The pirates, reached by radio, had said the vessel's manifest showed the tanks were bound for the breakaway region of South Sudan, via Mombasa -- this according to U.S. Navy spokesman Lt. Nate Christensen. The allegation, if true, would finger the Kenyan government in a sanctions-skirting arms race that some worry could result in another round of bloody civil warfare in Sudan. The country is already entangled in bitter fighting in its Darfur province, and in civil conflicts in neighboring Chad and Central African Republic. Kenyan military support for South Sudan, if confirmed, would also put Nairobi at odds with the U.S., one of its closest allies.

Nairobi waged a clumsy campaign to first cover up, then deny, its alleged South Sudan connection. In October, Kenyan authorities briefly arrested Andrew Mwangura, a prominent Mombasa seafarers' advocate who had corroborated the U.S. Navy's claim regarding the weapons' destination. Faina's welcoming party was the capstone event in this apparent disinformation strategy.

"We are very happy that our military equipment, purchased by the government from the Ukrainian government, has arrived safely -- and we cannot wait to take possession," spokesman Alfred Mutua said. In the following days, the tanks rolled from Faina's holds and apparently headed to Kahawa Barracks, outside Nairobi. Commercial satellite imagery confirmed the presence of 33 tanks at Kahawa in March, according to Jane's Defence Weekly, a British trade publication.

But subsequent investigation by Jane's appeared to show the tanks migrating elsewhere. The magazine's probe, combining satellite imagery with other photographic evidence and eyewitness reports, showed "a pattern of tanks making their way north" to neighboring South Sudan. The semi-autonomous, predominantly Christian region has in the past waged a bloody separatist campaign against Khartoum and the North's majority Muslim population.

The Faina shipment apparently represented the third and final installment of a large batch of heavy weaponry for South Sudan, sourced from Ukraine and brokered by Nairobi. In November, the German magazine Der Spiegel claimed it had records proving an earlier shipment of 42 tanks that had largely escaped international scrutiny. Khartoum has more than equaled South Sudan's apparent arms program, with large-scale purchases of fighter jets, helicopters and other weapons, sourced mostly from Russia and China.

The mutual re-armament, in violation of a U.N. arms embargo, bodes poorly for reconciliation efforts aimed at forestalling a continuation of the 20-year, North-South civil war. The fighting ended in 2005, and in 2007 former Kenyan President Daniel Moi traveled to Sudan to smooth out the implementation of a formal peace deal. According to the so-called "Comprehensive Peace Agreement," in 2011, South Sudan will vote whether to remain a part of Sudan, or formally secede.

But "the implementation of the CPA has been hampered by the lack of good faith and the absence of political will," according to the Brussels-based International Crisis Group. Ongoing tension might tilt the referendum toward sovereignty, resulting in a fresh round of fighting -- a contingency both the North and South seem to be preparing for, and one to which Kenya seems resigned. Since the CPA's implementation, Kenya has aligned itself closely with South Sudan. Kenya gets discounts on South Sudanese oil. In return, Kenyan banks have financed massive construction projects in South Sudan. Nairobi's apparent military assistance to South Sudan underscores Kenya's investment in the region's eventual, full independence.

The U.S. military's "outing" of the Kenya-South Sudan relationship reflects Washington's delicate stance on regional security. Washington works closely with the Kenyan government to prevent pirate attacks and prosecute captured pirates. But the U.S. seems willing to somewhat jeopardize that relationship in order to prevent arms flowing to South Sudan.

Still, the U.S. State Department is arguably South Sudan's second-most-important supporter. Last year, the State Department awarded a contract to Virginia-based consultancy USIS, to help train up the South Sudanese army -- a deal that does not include arms transfers. The goal, an unnamed State Department source told Wired magazine's Danger Room blog , is to take the South's army "out of the bush, basically, within the construct of the CPA -- as a force that can come together in a unity government. Or if in 2011, the South secedes, that force could become the element of a South Sudan that's sovereign."

Despite the clear risk of massive bloodshed, sovereignty for South Sudan is a prospect both Kenya and the U.S. seem to be preparing for. The difference is in the tactics used. Washington's support for South Sudan is subtle and non-material. Nairobi's alleged support, by contrast, is the stuff of pirate tales and techno-thrillers -- and apparently too obvious to escape major scrutiny.

David Axe is an independent correspondent, a World Politics Review contributing editor, and the author of "War Bots." He blogs at War is Boring. His WPR column, War is Boring, appears every Wednesday.

Photo: Soviet-designed T-72 military tank, part of the cargo carried by the Faina (photo by flickr user cell105, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License).

Sunday, May 10, 2009

New discovery for display technology

Wow, this sounds really cool!
New nanocrystals show potential for cheap lasers, new lighting
Posted On: May 10, 2009 - 6:40pm

For more than a decade, scientists have been frustrated in their attempts to create continuously emitting light sources from individual molecules because of an optical quirk called "blinking," but now scientists at the University of Rochester have uncovered the basic physics behind the phenomenon, and along with researchers at the Eastman Kodak Company, created a nanocrystal that constantly emits light.

The findings, detailed online in today's issue of Nature, may open the door to dramatically less expensive and more versatile lasers, brighter LED lighting, and biological markers that track how a drug interact with a cell at a level never before possible.

Many molecules, as well as crystals just a billionth of a meter in size, can absorb or radiate photons. But they also experience random periods when they absorb a photon, but instead of the photon radiating away, its energy is transformed into heat. These "dark" periods alternate with periods when the molecule can radiate normally, leading to the appearance of them turning on and off, or blinking.

"A nanocrystal that has just absorbed the energy from a photon has two choices to rid itself of the excess energy—emission of light or of heat," says Todd Krauss, professor of chemistry at the University of Rochester and lead author on the study. "If the nanocrystal emits that energy as heat, you've essentially lost that energy."

Krauss worked with engineers at Kodak and researchers at the Naval Research Laboratory and Cornell University to discover the new, non-blinking nanocrystals.

Krauss, an expert in nanocrystals, and Keith Kahen, senior principal scientist of Kodak and an expert in optoelectronic materials and devices, were exploring new types of low-cost lighting similar to organic light-emitting diodes, but which might not suffer from the short lifespans and manufacturing challenges inherent in these diodes. Kahen, with help from Megan Hahn, a postdoctoral fellow in Krauss' laboratory, synthesized nanocrystals of various compositions.

Xiaoyong Wang, another postdoctoral fellow in Krauss laboratory, inspected one of these new nanocrystals and saw no evidence of the expected blinking phenomenon. Remarkably, even after four hours of monitoring, the new nanocrystal showed no sign of a single blink—unheard of when blinks usually happen on a scale of miliseconds to minutes.

After a lengthy investigation, Krauss and Alexander Efros from the Naval Research Laboratory concluded that the reason the blinking didn't occur was due to the unusual structure of the nanocrystal. Normally, nanocrystals have a core of one semiconductor material wrapped in a protective shell of another, with a sharp boundary dividing the two. The new nanocrystal, however, has a continuous gradient from a core of cadmium and selenium to a shell of zinc and selenium. That gradient squelches the processes that prevent photons from radiating, and the result is a stream of emitted photons as steady as the stream of absorbed photons.

With blink-free nanocrystals, Krauss believes lasers and lighting could be incredibly cheap and easy to fabricate. Currently, different color laser light is created using different materials and processes, but with the new nanocrystals a single fabrication process can create any color laser. To alter the light color, an engineer needs only to alter the size of the nanocrystal, which Krauss says is a relatively simple task.

The same is true of what could one day be OLED's successor, says Krauss. Essentially, "painting" a grid of differently sized nanocrystals onto a flat surface could create computer displays as thin as paper, or a wall that lights a room in any desired color.

Source: University of Rochester

Friday, April 10, 2009

Economic Rescue to exceed GDP, WTF!?!?

This is absurd!!

Financial Rescue Nears GDP as Pledges Top $12.8 Trillion (Update1)

By Mark Pittman and Bob Ivry

March 31 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. government and the Federal Reserve have spent, lent or committed $12.8 trillion, an amount that approaches the value of everything produced in the country last year, to stem the longest recession since the 1930s.

New pledges from the Fed, the Treasury Department and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. include $1 trillion for the Public-Private Investment Program, designed to help investors buy distressed loans and other assets from U.S. banks. The money works out to $42,105 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. and 14 times the $899.8 billion of currency in circulation. The nation’s gross domestic product was $14.2 trillion in 2008.

President Barack Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner met with the chief executives of the nation’s 12 biggest banks on March 27 at the White House to enlist their support to thaw a 20-month freeze in bank lending.

“The president and Treasury Secretary Geithner have said they will do what it takes,” Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein said after the meeting. “If it is enough, that will be great. If it is not enough, they will have to do more.”

Commitments include a $500 billion line of credit to the FDIC from the government’s coffers that will enable the agency to guarantee as much as $2 trillion worth of debt for participants in the Term Asset-Backed Lending Facility and the Public-Private Investment Program. FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair warned that the insurance fund to protect customer deposits at U.S. banks could dry up because of bank failures.

‘Within an Eyelash’

The combined commitment has increased by 73 percent since November, when Bloomberg first estimated the funding, loans and guarantees at $7.4 trillion.

“The comparison to GDP serves the useful purpose of underscoring how extraordinary the efforts have been to stabilize the credit markets,” said Dana Johnson, chief economist for Comerica Bank in Dallas.

“Everything the Fed, the FDIC and the Treasury do doesn’t always work out right but back in October we came within an eyelash of having a truly horrible collapse of our financial system, said Johnson, a former Fed senior economist. “They used their creativity to help the worst-case scenario from unfolding and I’m awfully glad they did it.”

Federal Reserve officials project the economy will keep shrinking until at least mid-year, which would mark the longest U.S. recession since the Great Depression.

The following table details how the Fed and the government have committed the money on behalf of American taxpayers over the past 20 months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

--- Amounts (Billions)---
Limit Current
Total $12,798.14 $4,169.71
Federal Reserve Total $7,765.64 $1,678.71
Primary Credit Discount $110.74 $61.31
Secondary Credit $0.19 $1.00
Primary dealer and others $147.00 $20.18
ABCP Liquidity $152.11 $6.85
AIG Credit $60.00 $43.19
Net Portfolio CP Funding $1,800.00 $241.31
Maiden Lane (Bear Stearns) $29.50 $28.82
Maiden Lane II (AIG) $22.50 $18.54
Maiden Lane III (AIG) $30.00 $24.04
Term Securities Lending $250.00 $88.55
Term Auction Facility $900.00 $468.59
Securities lending overnight $10.00 $4.41
Term Asset-Backed Loan Facility $900.00 $4.71
Currency Swaps/Other Assets $606.00 $377.87
MMIFF $540.00 $0.00
GSE Debt Purchases $600.00 $50.39
GSE Mortgage-Backed Securities $1,000.00 $236.16
Citigroup Bailout Fed Portion $220.40 $0.00
Bank of America Bailout $87.20 $0.00
Commitment to Buy Treasuries $300.00 $7.50
FDIC Total $2,038.50 $357.50
Public-Private Investment* $500.00 0.00
FDIC Liquidity Guarantees $1,400.00 $316.50
GE $126.00 $41.00
Citigroup Bailout FDIC $10.00 $0.00
Bank of America Bailout FDIC $2.50 $0.00
Treasury Total $2,694.00 $1,833.50
TARP $700.00 $599.50
Tax Break for Banks $29.00 $29.00
Stimulus Package (Bush) $168.00 $168.00
Stimulus II (Obama) $787.00 $787.00
Treasury Exchange Stabilization $50.00 $50.00
Student Loan Purchases $60.00 $0.00
Support for Fannie/Freddie $400.00 $200.00
Line of Credit for FDIC* $500.00 $0.00
HUD Total $300.00 $300.00
Hope for Homeowners FHA $300.00 $300.00
he FDIC’s commitment to guarantee lending under the
Legacy Loan Program and the Legacy Asset Program includes a $500
billion line of credit from the U.S. Treasury.

To contact the reporters on this story:
Mark Pittman in New York at
Bob Ivry in New York at

Last Updated: March 31, 2009 14:20 EDT

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Pirates update

Drama on the high seas!
DAY 72 - FAINA crisis:
Saturday, December 06, 2008 04:25:44 PM

DAY 72 - 1708 hours into the FAINA crisis - UPDATE SUMMARY.

Efforts for a peaceful release continued, but the now over two months long stand-off concerning Ukrainian MV FAINA is not yet solved finally, though intensive negotiations have continued and local reports state that the financial agreement part has been concluded.

Kiev is concerned about an alleged intervention of a US based group, which tried to mediate independently with the captors of MV FAINA and seem to to have the interfered with the critical finalization of the delicate deal concerning the release of the vessel.

Mikhail Boytenko, editor of the Sovfracht maritime bulletin, said that according to various sources, including one in Kenya, "A vessel is approaching the Faina to pay the ransom." "The U.S. military has moved away from the Faina, to create a corridor for the ransom to be delivered, and to guarantee the pirates safe exit from the ship," he said.

"I cannot confirm or deny this information," he added. "Late yesterday evening I spoke to the ship's owner, and he said that talks had been concluded, but that certain details on the delivery of the ransom payment had to be cleared up." No details on who was paying the ransom, or the sum involved, were given, according the Russian agency RIA. Direct contacts could also not confirm this information.

Russian Navy spokesman Capt. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo said on Friday, the Northern Fleet's Neustrashimy (Fearless) frigate is currently escorting the Malbec, flying a Marshall Islands flag, with 21 Russians among the crew, along with the Dutch Kent Locomotion, the Singaporean Maersk, and the Liberian-flagged ELB Jarmani. The warship therefore seems to not stand in the way of a safe release of the Faina.

ECOTERRA Intl. renewed it's call to solve the FAINA and the SIRIUS STAR cases with first priority and peaceful in order to avert a human and environmental disasters at the Somali coast. Anybody encouraging hot-headed and concerning such difficult situations inexperienced and untrained gunmen to try an attempt of a military solution must be held responsible for the surely resulting disaster.


The captors of FV TIAN YU 8 don't find the right court. Those who captured the Kiribati flagged but Chinese operated fishing vessel first, which had been seized for illegally fishing in Somali waters and allegedly carrying illegal ivory had vowed to present the case, vessel and crew to a court of law in Somalia.

But it is reported that they themselves find it difficult to approach a local governance and jurisdiction in Somalia. Since the Islamic Court in Kismaayo would most likely also put the captors on trial for piracy, they have anchored the ship and according to the owner started negotiations for a release-sum directly. It has not been revealed yet to which fishing fleet the longliner belongs, but a Japanese link is presumed, since a Japanese fishing overseer is held among the otherwise Chinese, Taiwanese and Vietnamese crew members.

Negotiations for the safe release of crew and cargo of the vessel, MT BISCAGLIA, have begun a week after it was hijacked in Gulf of Aden. The manager of the vessel, Singapore-based Ishima, a ship management company, has appointed a professional negotiator to talk with the Somali captors, the National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI) General Secretary Abdulgani Y Serang stated. The Liberian registered cargo ship was sea-jacked on November 28 and has 31 crew including 25 Indians. Its last port of call was Dumai in Indonesia.

The ship was on its way to Europe via Suez Canal. An Indian naval vessel in Gulf of Aden was refuelling as scheduled at the time of hijacking of this cargo vessel. The ship has now been anchored in Eyl, a town in Somalia, he said. This is the third ship with Indian crew that has been seized in the Gulf of Aden in recent weeks. Apart from 25 Indians, the ship had three Bangladeshis and three security guards as crew.

The two British and one Irish security men abandoned ship upon attack by jumping over board and were taken by helicopter to a naval vessel. Another ship Delight with seven Indian crew has been sea-jacked recently, while the Stolt Valor with 25 Indians on board has been released.

Katharine Houreld reported for AP from Mombasa: For more than two months, Somali pirates and their hostages aboard a Greek cargo ship, the MV CENTAURI. "And when they found out we were Filipino, they said, 'Filipino and Somali — friends!'" said crew member Alvin Genonangan with a laugh.

Together we played cards, caught fish under the blazing sun, and swapped tales of home. By the time all 25 hostages were released unharmed last week, the pirates even made one of the captives a startling offer: Would he like to join them? "Of course I said no. I was praying every day to be free," said crewman Edmundo Capatar, 32, the day after the ship docked in the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

"But I learned a little Somali. I talked a little to some of them. One said his whole family died in the war, that is why he became a pirate," Capatar said. The pirates did not let the crew telephone their families but treated them well, the sailors said, arranging deliveries of live goats to the ship for food, sharing their meals with the hostages, and encouraging them to work, fish and bake bread as a way of keeping busy. The pirates provided the flour, a luxury in impoverished Somalia, where nearly half the population is dependent on aid. Most of the pirates were young, averaging around 25, Tanada said.

They guarded the ship in shifts, with never fewer than 14 armed men on board, to be rotated every four or five days. The pirates slept on mats on the bridge and the deck, and the crew was not allowed above deck after dark. But as the hostages got to know their guards, the crew discovered that the Somalis played a card game similar to a Filipino game. They established the rules with hand signals. Genonangan said he beat the pirates sometimes — but not too often.

With the latest captures and releases still at least 16 foreign vessels with a total of around 354 crew members (of which 108 are Filipinos) are held and are monitored on our actual case-list, while several other cases of ships, which are observed off the coast of Somalia, have been reported or reportedly disappeared without trace or information, are still being followed. Over 115 incidences (including attempted attacks, averted attacks and successful sea-jackings) have been recorded to far for 2008 with until today 51 factual sea-jacking cases (incl. the presently held 16).

Several other vessels with unclear fate, who were reported missing over the last ten years in this area, are still kept on the watch-list, though in some cases it is presumed that they sunk due to bad weather or being unfit to sail.


Smells fishy: A Danish warship rescued a group of suspected pirates in the Gulf of Aden on Thursday after receiving a distress signal from the ship, which was floundering in heavy seas, the Danish Navy said. The Naval Operational Command said the Absalon was bound by international law to help the men and that Danish sailors had uncovered a number of weapons onboard the vessel similar to those often used in pirate attacks on merchant ships. "Due to the weather, it was not possible to take the troubled ship in tow and it was destroyed in the interest of shipping safety," the Navy said in a statement. The men were later handed over to authorities in Yemen.

Immediately serious questions sprung up, like: Will the Danish now destroy every fishermen's vessel in distress or because they carry weapons for self-defence with the same right the Danish do? Who oversees the Danish Navy action, who counter-checks? To balance the reporting it must be said that every Somali fisherman carries at least an AK47 rifle for self-defence to do his legitimate artisanal fishing in the waters of Somalia, because there is no government who could guarantee his safety by other means and the waters near Yemen are even more dangerous.

The Danish Ministry of Defence first didn't like to comment on the incident in the Gulf of Aden, we were told, but a contact to the Her Danish Majesty's Ship ABSALON was established. The Operations Officer on Absalon reveiled that the sunken vessel was a 7m small, white fibreglass boat with a single 60HP outboard engine, one of the typical Somali fishing boats, which were even produced as development aid by Sweden in Mogadishu. The vessel was observed by the naval ship as from 14h26 UTC on 04th December 2008 at position 13:20.1 N / 048:12.9 E.

It is very clear that the 7 men in the boat - all of presumed Somali origin - were not observed in any act or even attempted approach or attack against any other vessel, which would make them suspicious to or which would have constituted an act of piracy. They actually - and that was established by the Somali interpreter on board the Absalon - had been floating since 8 days on the waters because their outboard engine had failed and couldn't be repaired.

The Lt. Commander further explained that after the 7 Somalis were taken on board some first aid had to be provided and the whole case is seen as "sailors in distress" to whom help had to be extended. The Somalis however were found in the possession of not only 5 Kalashnikov rifles incl.

104 rounds but also were holding 4 RPGs (rocket propelled granades) incl. two launchers. The RPGs actually really made them suspicious of being up to no good, though for some Somalis today to carry an RPG launcher is just like one carries any other weapon in the struggle for survival. While the RPGs were destroyed together with the vessel, the 5 AKs were confiscated by the Danish, was stated by the naval officer. Critics might want to state, however, that it was not necessary to destroy the vessel in a filmed shooting exercise, which then was aired on Danish and international TV.

The comparatively tiny boat would certainly not have affected shipping safety and even in the most troubled waters it could have been an interesting exercise for the mariners to also rescue and lift the vessel on board of the Absalon with all its manpower and technical equipment available. The seven Somalis were in the meantime handed over to the Yemen coastguard near Mukallah. Their further fate could not yet be established.

"We had a situation where these guys were shipwrecked persons," Lieutenant Commander Jesper Lynge, a Danish Navy spokesman, told the Tribune. "But we haven't caught them in an act of piracy, and what their main purpose was — your guess is as good as mine." The commander of the HDMS ABSALON has reported the incident to his national command as well to the Combined Task Force overseer with the 5th US fleet in Bahrain, but the official post-incident report is not yet available.

All we are repeatedly asking for is that there must be an independent centre established, where these incident reports have to be filed and its full accountability, responsibility and transparency must be guaranteed and held superior, if the international navies want to maintain any credibility that they do this on behalf of the international community and the Somali governance. If nobody oversees such action room for intentional or unintentional atrocities is provided and such certainly will not contribute to any pacification of the Gulf of Aden.

Arbitrary findings of self-styled kangaroo-courts on the bridges of war-vessels who decide to extradite people from the waters of one nation into the jurisdiction of another state make a mockery of international human rights and international law. In this respect the actual rescue operation, for which the Danish must be applauded, could easily backfire, if the rescued Somalis didn't want to be extradited to Yemen, a country with an awful human rights record, since then handing-over turns into abduction and rendition.

The Danish certainly didn't have the right to hand them to Yemen against their will, but it could, however, not yet be established what the seven Somalis' will was and what happened to them today.

Investigations are ongoing if they are held in cells or if they will be repatriated to Somalia, where certainly an angry boat-owner will think next time twice before lending a boat to such youngsters - the oldest member of the group is 27.

The Danish Navy must be held fully responsible, if it commits atrocities in the once rich tuna-fishing grounds of Somalia. Danmark, whose breakaway Islands of the Faroe commit every year the most bloody slaughter of pilot whales in the world, itself is infamous for its trawlers illegally fishing in the Artic as well as in the Southern Ocean.

Denmark also is involved in the illegal trade in fish e.g. in the Southern Ocean, Greepeace established and implicates Denmark - among others - as home to pirate fishers. Denmark is known also for raiding other nations fishing grounds directly. Danish fishing vessels even dared to illegally fish in British waters, but there at least the Danish got arrested.

The German Navy allegedly warded off a suspected piracy attack on a German cruise ship in the Gulf of Aden, according to a report on Spiegel online Thursday. Two "suspect" speedboats travelling towards the German ocean liner MS Astor in the Gulf of Oman were fired on by machine guns on the frigate Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, according to the report presented to the German parliament this week. The Navy's Mecklenburg-Vorpommern frigate chased off two suspicious speed boats with warning shots last Friday, a spokesman for the mission commando in Postsdam confirmed.

A spokesman for Transocean Tours in Bremen, which is operating the cruise ship, said the 492 guests and crew on board the MS Astor had not noticed the incident. The cruise ship also had not asked for help. The suspicious boats disappeared quickly into Yemen's territorial waters, the report said. Transocean said the speed boats had approached about 3 sea miles distant, and the frigate intercepted them before they got to the cruise ship. The cruise ship was bound for Dubai, where it arrived on Tuesday. Hope remains that the Somali fishermen do not become now free-for-all shooting practice targets for bored and frustrated navies, who can do little once swift real pirate attacks have taken over a ship.


Seychelles police launched an investigation on Friday into the deaths of five men killed in an ammonia leak on a French fishing vessel. France has the second largest tuna fleet in the region after Spain. The fishermen risk heavily-armed Somali pirates to trawl some of the world's best tuna stocks in the Gulf of Aden. "The deaths occurred at 3.30 pm (1130 GMT) on Wednesday on board Le Titan at Victoria port and were the result of an ammonia leakage," police spokesman Jean Toussaint told Reuters. "Post mortems will be carried out today."

Frenchman Jacques Sellin, 55, the vessel's chief mechanic, was among the dead. The other victims were a Seychellois and three Indians. Officials said the ship was owned by a Reunion-based company, SAPMER. Ammonia is used on fishing vessels to freeze the tuna out at sea. Tuna is a key source of foreign exchange for the Seychelles' heavily indebted economy. Canned tuna accounts for 46 percent of total exports, with more than 30,000 tonnes sold last year.


There have been a total 84 reported pirate incidents in just the last three months, according to their account UNOSAT says. Half of them occurred in or around the shipping "corridor" sent up by the international community to protect commercial vessels. And that corridor didn't seem to do much to deter the pirates; their rate of successful attacks dipped only slightly (37 percent, versus 42 percent) inside the protected area. What the corridor did do was concentrate the pirate strikes. "The mean distance between reported attacks has fallen from 30.5km... to 24.6km after," UNOSAT says.

Using images taken from the Quickbird commercial imaging satellite, the group is plotting out exactly where ships are being captured, and where they are being held.(ECOTERRA Intl. - www.ecoterra-international.org)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Islamic militias gear up to take down pirates

Go get 'em boys, yeehhaa!! Sounds like operation "hijack oil tanker" has resulted in some blowback and there is now going to be a brutal showdown.

Sheikh Ahmed, a spokesman for the Shebab group in the coastal region of Harardhere, told the AFP news agency: "If the pirates want peace, they had better release the tanker."

The Sirius Star, a tanker carrying around $100m worth of crude oil and owned by Saudi Aramco, was hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean on November 15.

Pirates have since anchored it off their base in Harardhere and have demanded a ransom of $25m be paid by November 30.

The Shebab (meaning "youth") armed group controls much of southern and central Somalia, and has positioned fighters in and around Harardhere in recent days.

Islamist leaders have stressed that piracy is a capital offence in Islam and officially condemned the surge in acts of piracy in Somalia's waters.

Sirius Star

Pirates on board the Sirius Star

A member of the pirate group holding the Sirius Star retorted that his own men were not afraid of the Shebab's threats.

Mohamed Said said: "We are the Shebab of the sea and we can't be scared by the Shebab of the land. If anybody attempts to attack, that would be suicide."

Mr Said reiterated that his group is demanding $25m to release the vessel, which is carrying the equivalent of almost a quarter of top producer Saudi Arabia's daily output.

Speaking to AFP by telephone he said: "I am not on the tanker at the moment because I am co-ordinating what is happening on the ground.

"There is a small Shebab vanguard on the ground but we also have a strong presence."

The pirate added: "Every Somali has great respect for the holy kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We have nothing against them but unfortunately what happened was just business for us and I hope the Saudis will understand."

Some residents in Harardhere have argued that the Shebab are divided over the issue of piracy and that some of the Islamist fighters have moved into the region only to claim a share of the ransom.

Authorities have played down the idea of attacking the ship on the grounds that it would be too dangerous and would probably result in the deaths of some or all of the hostage crew.