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US backs armed guards on ships

USA has passed legislation enabling ships to carry armed guards The USA has passed legislation enabling ships transporting cargo for US agencies - including aid - to carry armed guards through high-risk waters to prevent piracy.The move comes as part of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act, passed by the House of Representatives. The law also includes provision to improve training for seafarers on the acceptable use of force against pirates, as well as defence tactics and procedures if taken hostage. It also authorises a general accounting office to report on ways to track ransom payments to pirates and options to improve their prosecution.The legislation comes as a major trial of an alleged Somali pirate leader is due to open in the USA. The charges relate to the hijacking of the US yacht Quest off Somalia in February 2011 in which four Americans died - six pirates have already been given life sentences for this crime and a further eight are awaiting sentence or trial.The defendant Mohammad Saaili Shibin, captured in Somalia in April, is alleged to have been the hostage negotiator, and reported to be the highest profile pirate to have been captured and put on trial. 

Meanwhile, ...

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Sen. Nelson targeting Cuban oil exploration near Florida

Oil companies directly accountable for oil spills that pollute U.S. territory on hold Bill Nelson, Florida's senior senator, and a Senate colleague from New Jersey have introduced a bill that would hold foreign oil companies directly accountable for oil spills that pollute U.S. territory.The bill was written in anticipation of a massive foreign offshore drilling operation that could begin in Cuban waters - as close as 50 miles from Key West - by late next month.Nelson, a Democrat, and Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., introduced the bill on Nov. 9. It ensures that in the event of an oil spill, claimants can directly sue companies responsible for the disaster. The bill also removes the $75 million liability cap.Nelson and Menendez said in a statement that the legislation is meant to be a "big stick" to discourage foreign oil companies from drilling offshore near Florida."Hopefully, companies seeking to drill in Cuban waters will think twice once they know they would be fully liable for any damages to the Florida Keys, South Florida beaches, or if the spill reached the Gulf Stream, anywhere up the East Coast," Menendez said in a statement.A statement from Nelson's office said current law contains "ambiguities" that might ...

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N.Y. rules could halt St. Lawrence traffic

N.Y. standards for ballast water to take effect in 2013 Grain and other freight hauled on the St. Lawrence Seaway could be forced to a halt starting in 2013 under New York state's planned standards for treatment of ships' ballast water, the federal government says.Ballast water is pumped onboard vessels to increase draught, change trim, regulate stability or maintain stress loads within acceptable limits.An international convention -- which Canada, among other nations, ratified last year -- would require seagoing vessels to install treatment systems for their ballast, in order to prevent foreign microorganisms from hitching rides into U.S. or Canadian waters in ships' ballast tanks.However, in the U.S., New York's state government plans to impose ballast treatment requirements well beyond those in the International Maritime Organization convention.New York's rules, the Canadian government said Friday, would be so strict that the technology and testing capabilities to comply with them don't yet exist.What's more, the federal government said, New York's plan would apply not only to vessels entering New York harbours, but to any vessel traveling in New York waters on the St. Lawrence Seaway -- whether the vessel plans to discharge ballast water there or not.Two St. Lawrence Seaway locks near ...

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US House OKs creating new ballast water standard

The law would adopt the IMO's proposed rule- install technology to limit live organisms in ballast The U.S. House passed a bill that would create a national standard for cleaning ballast water in ships. Ballast water has been the main pathway for invasive species like zebra mussels into the Great Lakes.The law would adopt the International Maritime Organization's proposed rule, which would require ocean-going ships to install technology to limit the number of live organisms in their ballast water.Steve Fisher, executive director of the American Great Lakes Ports Association, said a national standard is needed to replace the current regulatory patchwork."We've got two federal agencies, more than 26 different state rules on governing the ballast water discharges from vessels, and two Indian tribes, all regulating the same thing," he said. "That was creating regulatory chaos."The new standard wouldn't go far enough if were to pass into law, said National Wildlife Federation senior policy manager Marc Smith."Most troubling is that it prevents states and the Environmental Protection Agency from setting protective and effective standards, basically it preempts the states from going more stringent than what this standard is," Smith said.New York has passed a law that sets live organism limits 100 ...

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US Paving Way for Offshore Surveys That Reveal Oil &Gas Potential

Surveys on the Atlantic Ocean The Obama administration is paving the way for seismic surveys of the Atlantic Ocean that will reveal the amount of oil and natural gas that exist off the East Coast, a top Interior Department official said Tuesday.Speaking at the Platts Energy Podium, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Tommy Beaudreau said the department is conducting an environmental review of the surveys and should release a draft of that review by next summer.The seismic surveys "will play a tremendous part in informing future decisions about whether or not the resource potential in that area is such that leasing activity should go forward," Beaudreau said.The existing data on oil and gas resources in the Atlantic is "decades old," he said.Earlier this month, the Interior Department released a five-year blueprint for oil-drilling leases and said it would not open up any federal waters in the Atlantic until at least 2017. The department cited the lack of information about oil and gas in the region, as well as concerns about oil-spill response capabilities.There are no active drilling leases in the Atlantic currently.The administration's decision to block access to the Atlantic drew criticism from the oil and gas industry, as ...

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Armed guards will protect US cargo vessels against pirates

Congress passes bill to safeguard ships in high-risk areas The US House of Representatives has passed the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act, which covers the safety and efficiency of maritime transport.The bill, also called the Coast Guard Reauthorisation Bill, includes a section called the Piracy Suppression Act, which aims to protect cargo vessels against pirates, especially in the coastal area near Somalia.Coast Guard Subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondo said: "Somali pirates have vastly expanded the range of their attacks on merchant vessels."But, even more alarmingly, the pirates have dramatically increased the number and viciousness of their attacks in recent months."The bill strengthens existing action against piracy, as well as improving training programmes to instruct seafarers on the acceptable use of force against pirates.They will also include information on high-risk waters, current threats and patterns of pirate attacks, defence tactics and procedures to improve crew survivability if taken hostage.The bill authorises armed security on vessels carrying cargo for US agencies through high-risk waters. This includes vessels carrying US aid.In addition, the bill authorises a General Accounting Office report on ways to track ransom payments paid to pirates and options to improve their prosecution.Source: ifw net

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Obama’s Oil Abdication

Cuba, Mexico, the Bahamas, Canada and Russia are all moving ahead on projects adjacent to our border Last week the Obama administration proposed a modest expansion of offshore oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico in its first concessions on offshore production since last year's Deepwater Horizon spill. The five-year plan would, however, keep Atlantic and Pacific sites off-limits in order to avoid a controversial decision before the 2012 election.As we continue our endless debate on whether we should have more Outer Continental Shelf development and where, all our neighbors have chosen to proceed. Cuba, Mexico, the Bahamas, Canada and Russia are all moving ahead on offshore development adjacent to our borders.Each of those nations has weighed the economic benefits of offshore production against the potential environmental risks. All five have decided it is in their best interest to proceed. This means two things for our nation.First, we fail to boost our offshore production at our own expense. America's neighbors are not drilling for fun or for sport; they've chosen to proceed to create new jobs, generate new revenues, and increase the energy supply and prosperity of their citizens.If America pursues greater offshore development-with appropriate safeguards-the ...

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U.S. Goes Public with Support for Hired Guns Against Piracy

Former Anti-Mercenary Sec. State Clinton is Now the Industrys Biggest Booster Somalia Report was the first to leak the internal memo from Hillary Clinton directing all regional embassies to pitch the use of armed contractors on board ships. This is in line with and expands upon the UK's approval of private security companies on just their ships. This is akin to legalizing band aids without actually curing the wounds that require them.What also makes the U.S. stance unusual is that Clinton has reversed her aggressive election-era stance against the use of private security and become a behind-the-scenes supporter.A November news conference in DC confirms that the United States is now officially supporting the use of private security companies aboard commercial vessels. Andrew J. Shapiro, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs was assigned the task of communicating this reversal while addressing the Defense Trade Advisory Group (DTAG).The simple approval of the use of deadly force and non-state actors has a number of implications. Foremost would be how do deal with the general agreement and public statements by large shipping companies that they view the responsibility of maritime security to be rooted in the flag carrier, navies and legitimate purveyors of deadly ...

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US east coast ports not ready for bigger ships

Congress must accelerate funding for improvements as Panama Canal expansion nears completion The expansion of the Panama Canal is expected to significantly increase vessel numbers and sizes calling at US east coast ports, but Paul Anderson, CEO of Florida's Jacksonville Port Authority (Jaxport), has warned that ports are not ready.US ports will not be able to accommodate all the ships wanting to call on the east coast - small, medium and post-panamax, Anderson told the US Maritime Administration.He believes the primary issue is gridlock in Congress, which is delaying investments to improve US seaport infrastructure.If the necessary port upgrades don't happen, Anderson said, transhipment from off-shore locations such as the Bahamas will threaten US port business, add costs to US imports and slow down transit times.Anderson told IFW that Jaxport was waiting on federal funding of up to $600 million to continue a dredging project, and the delay was limiting productivity of the port's new TraPac Container Terminal, its first to win a direct service to Asia.Nancy Rubin, Director of Communications for Jaxport, said: "TraPac is operating just under 100,000 containers a year. After the Panama Canal expansion, we should be seeing at least triple that by 2015.""And operating at ...

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US eyes India- China ties on anti-piracy

Anti-piracy efforts could spur three-way cooperation The United States said that anti-piracy efforts could spur three-way cooperation with India and China, insisting that it seeks stronger relations with both rising Asian powers. In a speech on US regional strategy, a senior official hailed democratic India as a positive force in Asia but insisted that Washington also sought to work with China, whose ties with the United States are often uneasy.Robert Blake, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, noted that naval power by Britain in the 19th century and the United States in the 20th century had helped ensure global commerce. "Perhaps it will be the cooperation of the American, Indian and Chinese navies that ensure global commercial routes are protected and enhanced in the 21st century," Blake said. "It is for this very reason that eliminating the scourge of piracy could be a natural way for the United States, India and China to begin to cooperate at sea," Blake said at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.India and China -- along with developed nations such as Japan -- have been stepping up their response to piracy emanating from lawless Somalia which in recent years ...

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