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US eyes first BP criminal charges over Gulf spill

Charges for providing false information in federal document US prosecutors are readying criminal charges against British oil giant BP employees over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident that led to the catastrophic Gulf oil spill, The Wall Street Journal reported online.The charges if brought and prosecuted by the US Justice Department would be the first criminal charges over the disaster.Citing sources close to the matter, the Journal said the prosecutors are focusing on US-based BP engineers and at least one supervisor who they say may have provided false information to regulators on the risks of deep water drilling in the Gulf.Felony charges for providing false information in federal documents may be made public early next year, said the Journal.A conviction on that charge would carry a fine and up to five years in prison, the newspaper said.The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) has already issued a second list of violations regarding BP's operation of the Macondo well that blew out in April 2010, causing the worst maritime environmental disaster in history.The US drilling safety agency has said it determined BP had failed to conduct an accurate pressure integrity test in one area of the well.And in four different sections ...

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US Navy Stops Somali Pirate Attack

Pirates attacked on tanker Nordic Apollo A U.S. destroyer broke up an attack by Somali pirates on Monday in the lawless waters of the Gulf of Aden, but the American Sailors let the would-be hijackers go, the Navy announced.The incident highlights the difficulty for the U.S. and international navies that patrol the pirate-infested waters off the Horn of Africa, where warships can help disrupt attacks when they happen or sometimes rescue ships after the fact -- but only treat the symptoms of the piracy problem, not its root causes.According to the Navy, the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker Nordic Apollo radioed for help at about 8:40 a.m. local time on Monday -- its crew reported being fired upon by pirates in a small skiff. At 11:00 a.m., another vessel reported "suspicious activity by a skiff," and the destroyer USS Pinckney responded to investigate.The San Diego-based Pinckney radioed a warning to all the ships in the area and launched its helicopter, an MH-60R Seahawk, to try to track the pirates. Meanwhile, the destroyer hurried to where the skiff had been spotted.According to the Navy's announcement, the Pinckney's Seahawk crew sighted the skiff and confirmed it was carrying the telltale equipment of modern pirates:"The ...

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U.S. Navy may station ships in Singapore, Philippines

It is likely to pressure n the South China Sea dispute The U.S. Navy said it would station several new coastal combat ships in Singapore and perhaps in the Philippines in coming years, moves likely to fuel China's fears of being encircled and pressured in the South China Sea dispute.Regional defense analysts said the ships were small, but agreed the symbolism of the moves, which come after Washington announced it was increasing its engagement in Asia, would upset Beijing.Last month the United States and Australia announced plans to deepen the U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, with 2,500 U.S. Marines operating out of a de facto base in Darwin in northern Australia.In coming years, the U.S. Navy will increasingly focus on the strategic "maritime crossroads" of the Asia-Pacific region, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert wrote in the December issue of Proceedings, published by the U.S. Naval Institute.He said the navy planned to "station several of our newest littoral combat ships at Singapore's naval facility," in addition to the plans announced by President Barack Obama for marines to be based in Darwin from next year."This will help the navy sustain its global forward posture with what may be ...

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Occupied ports, unoccupied seas

US ports were affected this week by protesters Ports have joined the targets of the "occupy" movement in its diffuse protests against what it sees as corporate greed or, as the slogan says, "Wall Street on the Waterfront".Some US ports were affected this week by the protesters' bid to throw "a wrench into the gears of the 1%", in a reference to the widely-used statistic on the division of wealth. Some of the 99%, however, who depend on the ports for their livelihoods are unsympathetic as such disruption can affect their income. The ports themselves also point up the benefits they bring in employment to local communities.American ports are publicly owned, but they host private terminals that the protesters criticise as exploiters of both local and international labour and as polluters of the environment. The main American dockers' union, whose members on the West Coast in particular, are among the highest-paid blue-collar workers in the US, after earlier expressing solidarity with the campaign against corporate greed, has distanced itself from the protesters' targeting of ports as well as banks.The "occupy the ports" actions came as some commentators were drawing attention to a series of disruptions to the global logistic supply ...

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Strategy for Reversing Deterioration of Gulf Ecosystem

USDA $50 million financial assistance for restoration projects The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force today released its final strategy for long term ecosystem restoration for the Gulf Coast, following extensive feedback from citizens throughout the region. EPA Administrator and Task Force Chair Lisa P. Jackson, partnering with Task Force Co-Chair Garret Graves, made the announcement today during keynote remarks at the 2011 State of the Gulf of Mexico Summit in Houston. Administrator Jackson was joined by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Jane Lubchenco, Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Harris Sherman and several other Task Force members.The Task Force delivered the final strategy on Friday, Dec. 2 to President Barack Obama, who established the Task Force by executive order, to continue the Administration's ongoing commitment to the Gulf region. The group is made up of representatives from the five Gulf States and 11 federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, White House Council on Environmental Quality, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of the Interior, Department of Justice, Department of Transportation, Office of Management and Budget, Office of Science and Technology Policy and White House ...

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Seasonal speed restrictions for vessels on the East Coast of the US Ships

New voluntary right whale speed restriction zone The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service has announced a voluntary vessel speed restriction zone dynamic management area (DMA) in the vicinity of Jeffreys Ledge to protect an aggregation of 15 right whales.The whales were sighted in this area on 16 November and this DMA is in effect immediately through to 1 December. Mariners are requested to route around this area or transit through it at 10 knots or less.Jeffreys Ledge DMA - active until 1 December 43 25N42 37N070 44W069 39WJordan Basin DMA - active through to 24 November 43 52N43 04N068 51W067 50WCashes Ledge DMA - active through to 23 November 43 34N42 40N069 46W068 33WActive Seasonal Management Areas (SMAs)Mandatory speed restrictions of 10 knots or less (50 CFR 224.105) are in effect in the following areas:Mid-Atlantic SMAs - active through to 30 April 2012Southeast SMA - active through to 15 April 2012For details and graphics of all ship strike management zones currently in effect, visit www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/shipstrikeApproaching a right whale closer than 500 yards (457m) is a violation of Federal and State law. Please report all right whale sightings to +1 978-585-8473. For more information on right whale aerial ...

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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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