Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Exxon charged

Federal prosecutors have filed criminal charges against ExxonMobil for a diesel spill in Boston Harbour.

Under a plea agreement, the US oil company will pay $6.1m in fines and community service payments.

The US Department of Justice said Monday that the oil company is accused of violating the Clean Water Act in connection with a January 2006 spill of 47.8 tonnes of diesel oil.

The incident occurred at ExxonMobil's oil products terminal in Everett, Massachusetts.

"ExxonMobil takes its environmental responsibility very seriously," the company said in a statement. "We very much regret that in January of 2006, we had a release of a petroleum product into the Island End River in the Boston area which resulted in a misdemeanor violation of the Clean Water Act."

According to an information filed by prosecutors, the 47,200-dwt products tanker Nara (built 2006) was unloading low-sulphur diesel fuel at the terminal's Berth 3. But a seal valve suffering from wear and tear leaked oil into the product receipt line from Berth 1.

The leak built pressure in the Berth 1 line until it burst, spilling fuel into the river.

Prosecutors say ExxonMobil had been aware of the faulty valve since September 2005.

"ExxonMobil's negligent failure to provide adequate resources and oversight to the maintenance and operation of the Everett terminal was a direct cause of the spill," the Justice Department said.

ExxonMobil Pipeline Co, which operates the terminal, has agreed in the plea deal to have court-appointed observer monitor the facility.

The company's $5.64m community service payment will go to a fund of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act.

A federal judge must sign off on the plea agreement.

Irving, Texas-based ExxonMobil did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas and New Year Greetings

December 21, 2008

Hello SMS people!

Take a break ..... have a .....holiday greeting.

Merry Christmas and may your New Year

be happy and filled with prosperity.

Yours truly.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Filipino fears

As many as one in five Filipinos working in shipping could lose their jobs in the fallout from the global economic crisis, a government official has warned.

Yet at the same time the country faces the dilemma of how to increase its output of officers to meet the forecast shortage of skilled and qualified personnel.

Marianito Roque.

The main threat to seagoing employment comes, the Philippines labour secretary Marianito Roque believes, from a slump in tourism hitting the cruiseship sector.

A fifth of all Filipinos working at sea are employed on cruiseships, although many will work in the hotel and catering departments.

Roque said out of 226,900 Filipinos “deployed” (recorded as leaving the country for overseas employment) last year in seagoing jobs, 47,782 were on passenger or cruiseships.

“Our primary consideration is the continued employment of our seafarers in the face of the real possibility of an employment crunch that the financial crisis is expected to bring about,” he added.

But he noted of the total deployed in 2007 only 23% were officers, of which around a quarter were third engineers or third mates.

Forecasts of the global officer shortage, heavily influenced by expectations of the number of new ships built, range from one made in 2005 of 27,000 by 2015 to a more recent and much higher figure of 90,000 by 2012.

While the Philippines government has introduced a range of initiatives to increase the number of qualified officers, foreign owners either in national groupings or individually have also invested heavily in their own cadet training or retraining schemes.

Last year the London-based International Maritime Employers Committee, whose members employ around 65,000 Filipinos including 20,000 officers, estimated only a fifth of the annual intake qualify and get jobs four years later.

Monday, December 15, 2008

23 Dead in Cagayan Sinking

APARRI, Cagayan — At least 23 persons drowned while 33 others were reported missing when an overcrowded wooden- hulled passenger vessel capsized half a kilometer from its destination late Sunday, authorities said yesterday.

Forty-six of the 102 passengers and crew of the motorized banca May John survived, most of them managing to swim to shore, police said.

The 28-ton May John, a wooden hulled outrigger passenger vessel, travelling from the Calayan islands was near the port of Aparri when it met strong waves and current brought about by the northwest monsoon or Hanging Amihan, authorities said.
The vessel capsized after strong waves broke its bamboo outrigger forcing the passenger to leap into the rough waters.

Melchito Castro, regional director of the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) in Cagayan Valley, said the sinking killed 23 passengers, including the operator of the vessel, Amy Tan Arellano, and deputy coordinator of OCD Cagayan Valley region Bella Llopiz.

He identified the other fatalities as Abena Tan Arellano, Eva Llopiz, Leonardo Llopiz, Winifredo Agarpao, Angel Suarez, Cristin Cangas, Ofelia Balmes, Paz Escalante, Asela Tamboa, Ralaine Allado, Marilou Menor, and Rolly dela Cruz. Calayan Vice Mayor Jun de Guzman said one of the dead victims was Councilor Wilfredo Agarpao. Castro said that among those still unidentified was the body of a one-year-old boy.

Source: http://www.mb.com.ph/MAIN20081216143619.html

Christmas at Sea

Touch the hearts and lives of lonely seafarers at Christmastime!

The annual Christmas at Sea project provides Christmas gift boxes to the seafarers that visit the Wando-Welch and Columbus Street Terminals. The gifts are delivered during Advent.

Last year we delivered 1,682 Christmas gift boxes. What a blessing it was to the men and women who received this simple act of kindness. One seafarer said his ship did have a Christmas tree, but nothing underneath it. Christmas at Sea not only changed that, but sent a message to lonely seafarers at Christmastime that they are not forgotten.

Gift boxes might include: gloves, toiletry items, playing cards, hand-knitted scarves or caps, hard candy and puzzles.

If you would like to participate in Christmas at Sea or if your group would like to sponsor a ship, please call the ChaPSS office at 843-856-4969 or e-mail: info@chapss.org

DryShips cancels purchase of 4 carriers

DryShips cancels purchase of 4 carriers from companies controlled by its own CEO
ATHENS (AP) -- DryShips Inc. said Wednesday it had canceled the purchase of four dry bulk carriers from companies controlled by its own CEO, saying it failed to get bank financing for the $400 million deal.

DryShips said Chairman and Chief Executive George Economou's companies would keep $55 million in deposits.

And DryShips said it paid the companies controlled by Economou an additional $105 million for cancellation of the sale and an exclusive option to buy the ships in a block deal for $160 million. The option expires Dec. 31.
Without financing, the original $400 million purchase would have been a major outflow of cash, and DryShips said the audit committee of its board decided it would be unwise given the significant deterioration in the dry bulk shipping market since the deal was announced.

The Greek company had announced in July that it would buy four Panamax carriers that were new or under construction in China.

DryShips also announced the collapse of the previously announced sale of a 1994 Panamax carrier for $55.5 million, saying the buyer decided not to complete the purchase under agreed terms. DryShips said it plans to pursue legal remedies.
DryShips operates 38 drybulk carriers.

The company's U.S.-traded shares rose $1.68, or 17.8 percent, to $11.13 in morning trading.

Source: http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/081210/dryships_cancels_carriers.html?.v=1

2008 IMO Award For Exceptional Bravery At Sea Presented To Brazilian Seafarer

The 2008 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea has been presented to a Brazilian seafarer who saved fellow crew members from a dangerous fire on a ship. Rodolpho Fonseca da Silva Rigueira, of the drill ship Noble Roger Eason was nominated by the Government of Brazil, for his selfless action to rescue six fellow crew members from a catastrophic fire.

The fire originated from an explosion, causing imminent risk to the lives of other crew members near the explosion. Instead of evacuating the area, he repeatedly faced the fire to save his colleagues.

Rigueira was presented with the award by IMO. Secretary-general Efthimios E Mitropoulos, present the award during the 85th session of the Organization’s Maritime Safety Committee, at the IMO Headquarters on December 1, 2008.

Accepting the award, Rigueira was very proud, and honored in accepting the award.

Source: http://www.shipping-news.net/user/outstanding_performances/op_2008_IMO_award_for_exceptional_bravery.asp


PANAMA'S president Martín Torrijos and Panama Canal Authority (ACP) Administrator/CEO Alberto Alemán Zubieta have signed a US$2.3bn agreement with leaders from five multilateral and development agencies to finance the waterway’s expansion.
In an official ceremony held at Panama’s Ascanio Arosemena Auditorium this week, Mr Zubieta and top executives from the five agencies signed the agreement on the financing package, which will cover a portion of the $5.25 billion Canal Expansion Program.

The expansion involves building a new lane of traffic along the Panama Canal through the construction of a new set of locks, which will double capacity and allow more traffic and longer, wider ships.

Source: http://www.mgn.com/news/dailystorydetails.cfm?storyid=9457&type=2

Crowley Presents USMMA Scholarships

In an effort to ensure the next generation of career mariners is the best in their fields, Crowley presented four exemplary United States Merchant Marine Academy students with Thomas B. Crowley, Sr., scholarships Monday at the Containerization & Intermodal Institute's (CII) annual Connie Awards luncheon in Newark, N.J. The event, attended by approximately 300 guests.

The grants further highlight Crowley's commitment to education, particularly for those studying in maritime related fields and business disciplines such as accounting, finance, and human resources. Over the years, Crowley has provided more than half a million dollars in scholarships to students in the United States, Central America and the Caribbean. Crowley Chairman, President and CEO, Tom Crowley Jr., continued and renamed the scholarship program in 1994 for his father, Thomas B. Crowley Sr., who guided the company to extraordinary heights before passing away.

Crowley has provided scholarship aid to USMMA students since 1993. To qualify, students must demonstrate scholastic achievement, leadership skills, initiative, teamwork, a history of community involvement and a desire to make a career in the maritime industry. The recipients are chosen each year in the spring and fall by the academy but aren't formally recognized until December. Crowley also extends formal internships when possible as an additional benefit to the scholarship recipients.

Source: http://www.maritimetoday.com/ShowStory.aspx?StoryID=213853

Kongsberg Launches New Underwater Camera

Kongsberg Maritime Ltd. launched its new generation low-light underwater camera, the OE13 124 BIT. The new camera delivers unprecedented light sensitivity, image quality and range performance, enabling users to undertake more accurate, longer range underwater vehicle navigation in low-light and in turbid water conditions.

Building on previously successful enhanced SIT (Silicon Intensifier Target) and 1st Generation EMCCD based low-light camera products, the new OE13-124 BIT features an advanced back illuminated and thinned (BIT) CCD light sensor, thermo-electric cooling and integral image-processing algorithms, which delivers up to six-times the light efficiency in water of 1st Generation EMCCD sensors.

The enhanced viewing capability is designed to enable users to undertake more accurate, longer range underwater vehicle navigation and surveillance in harsh environments, low light and turbid water conditions down to 4500m depth and beyond. The OE13-124 is designed to significantly reduce image lag, immunity to image-burn and offers improved reliability, maintainability and through-life savings.

Source: http://www.seadiscovery.com/mt/mtStories.aspx?ShowStrory=1027262089

Deep Down Wins $11.1m Deal

Deep Down, Inc. said it received an executed $11.1 million contract from Delba Drilling International Cooperatie U.A. to supply and install the deepwater marine drilling riser flotation system for the new-build Delba III semisubmersible drilling rig.

The original letter of intent, initially estimated at $9 million, was received May 23, 2008. The increase in the value of the contract is reflective of engineering changes to satisfy additional lift requirements. The Delba III semisubmersible drilling rig is rated to drill in 2,400 m of water and is readily upgradeable to 2,700 m. The Delba III has long-term contracts to drill in Brazilian waters. The rig set of flotation for the Delba III is scheduled to be delivered by early 2010.

The manufacturing requirements under the Delba III contract will be managed by Flotation Technologies, a Deep Down subsidiary. The installation of the drilling riser flotation system will be managed by Deep Down (Delaware), also a Deep Down subsidiary.

Delba International has secured financing for the construction of the Delba III semisubmersible drilling rig. Deep Down is now focused on achieving a successful contract execution on the Letter of Intent for the Delba IV semisubmersible drilling rig, which was announced on June 6, 2008.

Source: http://www.seadiscovery.com/mt/mtStories.aspx?ShowStrory=1027252083

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. to Open Two New China Offices - in Beijing and Guangzhou

SHANGHAI, China, Dec. 15 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. today announced it is opening two new offices in China, in the cities of Beijing and Guangzhou.

The new offices, which will open in the coming weeks, will be the second and third the company operates in China, joining its Shanghai facility, which opened in July 2007. The new offices will highlight the growing importance of the China marketplace and its role in the company's international growth strategy.

The new offices will widen the company's reach into more regions of China. This will allow the company to better serve a broader spectrum of local customers and the local travel agent communities, with faster, more seamless and more customized services.

The new offices will support three of the company's brands, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Cruises. Royal Caribbean International's Legend of the Seas will sail out of Shanghai, beginning in February 2009, departing from the new Shanghai cruise terminal. Similarly, Azamara Cruises' Azamara Quest will call in Chinese cities such as Canton and Shanghai, beginning in January 2009, during its first season of sailings in Asia.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. is a global cruise vacation company that operates Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Pullmantur, Azamara Cruises and CDF Croisieres de France. The company has a combined total of 38 ships in service and six under construction. It also offers unique land-tour vacations in Alaska, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Europe and South America.

Source: http://sev.prnewswire.com/leisure-travel-hotels/20081215/CLM04915122008-1.html

ILA rejects Maersk bid at Port of Charleston

International Longshoremen's Association locals at Charleston have rejected a proposal to allow the port's biggest customer, Maersk Line, to switch from ILA labor to non-union terminal workers.

Maersk, which accounts for one-fourth of Charleston's container volume, has threatened to pull out of the port if it can't reduce its costs. With cargo volumes down, the company has been hit with shortfall fees for failing to meet volume commitments under its contract with the South Carolina State Ports Authority, which runs through 2010.

The ports authority proposed one of two alternatives: Reducing Maersk's space at the Wando Welch terminal and taking back some of the equipment that the port authority is providing the carrier, or shifting Maersk operations at the terminal to a common-use section operated by non-union state employees. Maersk has supported the second option.

Saying the change would cost dozens of union jobs, the ILA's three Charleston locals rejected the proposal at a meeting Dec. 11. John Alvanos, president of the ILA clerks' local, said costs of union labor at the port are competitive with those of non-union terminal workers. He said a shift by Maersk to a non-union terminal operation would violate the ILA's coastwide master contract.

Maersk had no immediate reaction to the ILA locals' vote.
At Charleston, private stevedores hire ILA labor to load and discharge ships' cargo, but terminal work is a mixture of ILA and non-union workers.

Source: http://www.joc.com/articles/news.asp?section=ocean&sid=47274

Port of Seattle, China port form EcoPartnership

The Port of Seattle on Monday announced an “Eco-Partnership” with the Dalian Port Corp., in China.

The pact, slated to last at least three years, will include joint examination of marine terminal and railway planning, oil spill response technologies, and construction management. The Port of Dalian is in north China, in Liaoning Province.

The Eco Partnership is an outgrowth of a larger agreement signed in June, for a 10-year energy and environment cooperation between the U.S. and China. This agreement was between the and China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection. Other local entities involved in the partnership include the city of Tacoma, Tacoma Public Utilities, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the Puyallup Indian Tribe and SSA Marine.

The partnership was announced at a press conference featuring U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma, and Charlie Sheldon, managing director of the Port of Seattle Seaport Division.

In opening remarks, Port of Seattle Commission President John Creighton said he believes the collaboration will support the Port of Seattle’s efforts to be green.

“It’s my hope that we’ll learn things that will move us closer to the creation of a green supply chain, not just because it’s environmentally beneficial, but because it will give us a competitive edge in bringing more cargo and more economic benefit to the Pacific Northwest and Dalian,” he said.

Source: http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/stories/2008/12/15/daily5.html?surround=lfn

Shipping industry urges Govt action on piracy

The attempted hijacking of a cruise ship off the coast of Yemen has alarmed leaders of the international cruise industry. They have called for the world's governments to send more troops to the area to defeat the pirates.

Fifty Australians were among the 600 passengers on board the Oceania Nautica when it was fired upon. No one was injured but it is just the latest attack in a region that is becomingly increasingly unsafe.

It is one of the most important shipping channels around the world, through the Suez Canal and past the horn of Africa, but the number of pirate attacks is making it one of the most dangerous.
Llew Russell from the peak industry body Shipping Australia explains what ships' captains are up against: "These are very, very heavily armed, well-trained [people]. They estimate there's at least 2,000 of them," he said. "They have rocket propelled grenade launchers, they have automatic weapons, they're usually ex-army which means they're well-trained and they have GPS satellite phones and a high intelligence network about movements of vessels in the region. "It is becoming a really serious threat to world trade."

The pirates are operating further out to sea and are becoming more powerful by using mother ships.

Source: http://au.biz.yahoo.com/081202/31/22ing.html

Burning Bunker Fuel: The Shipping Industry's Dirty, Not-So-Secret Shame

Friends of the Earth is extremely concerned about the greenhouse gases and other pollutants ships spew into the atmosphere.

SocialFunds.com -- As the world grows ever more interconnected, many of those connections are made by huge, environmentally damaging cargo ships. Large ocean going ships, including cruise ships, release more sulfur dioxide than all land transportation combined, a recent report from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). ICCT further reports that ships produced 27% of the world's total nitrogen-oxide emissions, which contribute to smog and global warming.

The shipping industry's primary culprit is the bunker fuel used to propel the ships. Bunker fuel, also known as residual fuel, is literally a thick sludge that is left at the bottom of the barrel after refining petroleum. When bunker fuel is burned, it releases many air-born pollutants, including SO2. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) in US has an action plan to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from ships, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2), which are not covered in the current Annex VI of MARPOL. MARPOL is a maritime environmental protection..

IMO is cooperating closely with international shipping and other relevant UN bodies, in particular the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat, to ensure that the issue of shipping pollution is tackled on an international level, thereby avoiding unhelpful unilateral action on a regional or national level.

Source: http://www.socialfunds.com/news/article.cgi/2438.html

Good News for Happy People: It's Contagious

/* */

Dec. 5, 2008 -- When you're smiling, the whole world really does smile with you.
A paper being published Friday in a British medical journal concludes that happiness is contagious -- and that people pass on their good cheer even to total strangers.
American researchers who tracked more than 4,700 people in Framingham, Mass., as part of a 20-year heart study also found the transferred happiness is good for up to a year.
"Happiness is like a stampede," said Nicholas Christakis, a professor in Harvard University's sociology department and co-author of the study. "Whether you're happy depends not just on your own actions and behaviors and thoughts, but on those of people you don't even know."
While the study is another sign of the power of social networks, it ran through 2003, just before the rise of social networking Web sites like Friendster, MySpace and Facebook. Christakis couldn't say for sure whether the effect works online.
"This type of technology enhances your contact with friends, so it should support the kind of emotional contagion we observed," he said.

Antarctic Cruise Ship Runs Aground; Oil Leak Spreading?

A cruise ship stranded itself on Antarctica's western peninsula on Thursday, and may be leaking unknown amounts of oil into the fragile oceans, one expert said.
All 122 passengers and crew were rescued from the leaking ship, Ushuaia, on Friday by the Chilean Navy. The ship did not appear to be in danger of sinking.

The Chilean vessel Aquiles transported 89 passengers and 33 crew members to the Presidente Frei Naval Base in Antarctica.
Jon Bowermaster, a National Geographic Expeditions Council grantee and writer, was on the National Geographic Explorer about 30 miles (48.2 kilometers) from the cruise ship when it ran aground after hitting a rock. (National Geographic News is owned by the National Geographic Society.)
"We were in the same area on Wednesday, when hurricane force winds blew for much of the day, gusting over 100 miles [161 kilometers] per hour," Bowermaster told National Geographic News in an email from the Explorer.
"The Ushuaia reported having been in heavy weather; whether or not this contributed to its [grounding] is speculation, but would make sense."
Bowermaster witnessed the sinking of another Antarctic tourist vessel in November 2007. All 154 passengers of the Canadian M.S. Explorer escaped safely. (Watch a video aboard the sinking ship.)
The Panamanian-flagged Ushuaia sent out alarms midday Thursday after it started leaking fuel and taking on water.
A rock damaged the hull as the vessel passed through the Gerlache Strait, Chilean Captain Pedro Ojeda told Argentina's Telam news agency. The crash left the boat adrift in Guillermina Bay.
The Chilean Navy said the cruise ship was carrying 14 Danish passengers, 12 Americans, 11 Australians, 9 Germans, 7 Argentines, 7 British, 6 Chinese, 6 Spaniards, 5 Swiss, 3 Italians, 2 French, 2 Canadians, 2 Irish, a Belgian and a New Zealander. All were in good condition.
The cruise ship, built in 1970, operates from the Port of Ushuaia in southern Argentina, transporting passengers to Antarctica and islands in the icy waters of the South Atlantic.

White Killer Whale Spotted Off Alaska

The white killer whale spotted in Alaska's Aleutian Islands sent researchers and the ship's crew scrambling for their cameras.
The nearly mythic creature was real after all.
"I had heard about this whale, but we had never been able to find it," said Holly Fearnbach, a research biologist with the National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle who photographed the rarity. "It was quite neat to find it."
The whale was spotted last month while scientists aboard the Oscar Dyson, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research ship, were conducting an acoustic survey of pollock near sea lion haulout sites.
It had been spotted once in the Aleutians years ago but had eluded researchers since, even though they had seen many of the more classic black and white whales over the years.
Fearnbach said the white whale stood out.
"When you first looked at it, it was very white," she said.
Further observation showed that while the whale's saddle area was white, other parts of its body had a subtle yellowish or brownish color.

Govt may give interest subsidy to keep shipping cost afloat

NEW DELHI: The government may bail out the shipping sector from rising cost of borrowings by providing 2-3% interest subsidy. The sector, which

needs about Rs 100,000 crore by 2012 to expand capacity and replace ageing fleets, pays about 11% interest for dollar loans and approximately 14% for rupee loans.

The domestic shipping industry prefers borrowing from European banks. “These banks have larger appetite for lending and a much longer repayment tenure than Indian banks. In addition, the interest rate charged is relatively low. But due to the global meltdown, foreign banks have almost frozen their lending activities.

The industry has been lobbying in the government to ease its cash-flow situation. Top executives of state-owned Shipping Corporation of India have also met officials in the shipping ministry over this issue.

The interest subsidy scheme is part of a proposal to boost the shipping industry. The proposed package will have other fiscal and monetary measures, the ministry official said, without giving details of the package.

“It is being worked out by the ministry,” he said. It is likely that the government would increase public spending in the sector and grant it infrastructure status. With the status, shipping industry will be eligible for tax holidays.

Shipping firms, however, say mere interest subsidy will not help the industry. “There is a need to boost the demand for various commodities to check freight rates from falling.

Source: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/Economy/Govt_may_bail_out_shipping_sector_/articleshow/3837641.cms

Land Attack Fears

The commander of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet expressed doubt Friday (12 Dec) about the wisdom of launching attacks against Somali pirates on land — a proposal the U.S. is circulating to the U.N. Security Council.

U.S. Vice Adm. Bill Gortney told reporters that striking pirate camps presents problems because it is difficult to identify them and the potential for killing innocent civilians "cannot be overestimated."

In a wide-ranging interview at his 5th Fleet headquarters, Gortney said such strikes are an effort to go for an easy military solution to a problem. He says the better solutions are to improve the security, stability and government in Somalia, and to clear up legal hurdles so that militaries that capture pirates can detain them and bring them to trial.

Currently, most foreign navies patrolling the Somali coast have been reluctant to detain suspects because of uncertainties over where they would face trial, since Somalia has no effective central government or legal system.

The draft U.N. Security Council resolution proposes that all nations and regional groups cooperating with Somalia's U.N.-backed government in the fight against piracy and armed robbery "may take all necessary measures ashore in Somalia."

Bush administration officials in Washington say that while the proposal would give the U.S. military more options in confronting the pirates, it does not mean the U.S. is planning a ground assault.

Gortney said progress is being made in the international effort to stem the recent spike in pirate attacks on commercial vessels off the Somali coast.

Source: http://www.shiptalk.com/index.asp?ItemID=4113&rcid=240&pcid=178&cid=240'#anch

Christmas Asylum

The Australian Navy is escorting a boat carrying 44 suspected asylum seekers and three crew to Australian territory of Christmas Island, after it was intercepted off the coast of Broome.

The boat is the sixth to be detected in Australian waters in the past few months. The federal government says it will be sending an extra patrol boat and another plane to increase surveillance of the northern waters.

The home affairs minister, Bob Debus, denies people smuggling is on the rise due to a perceived softening of immigration rules.

The government says people smugglers are simply taking advantage of seasonal conditions.

Those on board this latest vessel are believed Afghans. They will be processed once they arrive at Christmas island. Immigration officials say the existing detention centre will cope with the intake, and they would not need to use the new facility on the island.

Source: http://www.blogger.com/post-create.g?blogID=2805391916371721538

Getting Tough On Safety

European Union governments and lawmakers have agreed on a series of proposals to strengthen shipping safety, prevent oil spills and compensate victims of maritime accidents, the French E.U. presidency said on Tuesday (09 Dec).

The package, expected to be approved in a final vote by the European Parliament, clearly defines tougher duties for states under whose flags ships operate and clarifies vessel owners' liability and insurance obligations.

"We managed to reach an agreement with parliament on the maritime package," Dominique Bussereau, the French minister of state for transport, told a news conference. France holds the E.U.'s rotating presidency in the second half of 2008.

The rules toughen the ship inspection regime and create "places of refuge" at some ports or bays for ships in distress.

They offer maritime passengers compensation in case of accidents similar to that available to air travelers.

The compensation is up to €287,500 ($370,100) in case of death, or up to €460,000 if the carrier is directly responsible, €15,000 for a lost vehicle and up to €2,585 for lost or damaged luggage.

The measures are dubbed the "Erika III" package after a tanker that sank off the French coast in 1999, spilling its cargo of oil.

The package also makes insurance compulsory—some 5% of E.U. shipping is uninsured.

Source: http://www.shiptalk.com/index.asp?ItemID=4102&rcid=240&pcid=178&cid=240'#anch

Dramatic Rescue

A sailor was recovering in hospital last night (10 Dec) after a dramatic air rescue hundreds of miles off Ireland. Four aircraft were dispatched to save the stricken seaman, who fell 40 feet (12m) into the hold of a cargo ship and received head and spinal injuries, the RAF said.

Two planes and two helicopters flew to the ship – positioned 600 miles (965km) south-west of Ireland in the Atlantic Ocean – to rescue Koko Kline, a Burmese sailor.

Nimrod plane was launched from RAF Kinloss in Scotland and the US Air Force launched a Hercules plane and two helicopters from RAF Lakenheath air base in East Anglia. The sailor was winched into a helicopter off the ship, called the Anna Rickmers, and was flown to Shannon in Ireland, where he arrived about 10.30pm.

He was taken by ambulance to hospital in Limerick. An RAF spokesman said he had suffered multiple injuries but was not believed to be in a serious condition.

Source: http://www.shiptalk.com/index.asp?ItemID=4104&rcid=240&pcid=178&cid=240'#anch

Ocean Shipping Strategies: Lower rates in 2009? Don’t count on it

Anemic demand and overcapacity may suggest otherwise

Many ocean shippers feel that rates should be dropping in 2009 because ocean carriers have ordered so many new vessels. Furthermore, many of the same shippers feel that because carriers have had a couple of good years they’ll be willing to negotiate more forgiving contracts in the near-term for “time-volume” deals. Add to this the fact that conference systems are under attack for anti-competitive pricing, and one might assume that a softening rate structure will ensue.

All wrong, say industry analysts.

It all looked so easy to predict just a year ago. Because more vessels were being placed in the Asia-EU trade, U.S. shippers began booking fewer direct West Coast calls, opting instead for all-water service to the East Coast. Landbridge and warehousing costs notwithstanding, it appeared that this would provide for sustainable savings and more reliable service.

Encouraging news was coming from trading partners in the EU as well, principally over the dismantling of carrier conference systems. Given that rates could not be collectively set, shippers were banking on a free market pricing environment that would “even the playing field.”

Finally, there was the promise that smaller U.S. West Coast ports in Mexico and Canada would help shippers hedge their bets on Pacific Rim distribution, thereby saving still more money in the transpacific trade.

Source: http://www.logisticsmgmt.com/article/CA6610434.html

Deaths as Philippines ferry sinks

A wooden ferry carrying about 100 passengers has sunk in the Philippines, with at least 22 people drowned and about another 30 missing.

The ferry Maejan was approaching Aparri in Cagayan province in the north of the country when its bamboo outrigger broke in heavy seas off Ballesteros. Passengers panicked and some leapt into the sea, creating instability on the vessel, which then capsized. Police said many survivors swam ashore and were found shivering on land. "They panicked and grabbed anything like water container that will keep them afloat then jumped off the boat," Senior Inspector Alex de los Santos told the Associated Press news agency. Among the bodies recovered late on Sunday was that of an unidentified one-year-old boy. "There were no relatives. Most probably his parents perished with him," said Mr de los Santos.

Maritime accidents are common in the Philippine archipelago due to tropical weather, badly maintained passenger boats and weak enforcement of safety regulations.

Hundreds of people were killed in June, when a 23,000-tonne ferry - Princess of the Stars - capsized during a typhoon off the central island of Sibuyan.

Only 57 passengers and crew of the 850 people aboard survived the accident, making it the worst maritime disaster in the Philippines for 20 years.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7782934.stm

Maritime Industry Statistics

Is this a living industry?

According to the Maritime Industry Foundation’s Maritime Industry Knowledge Center, there are approximately 1.2 million people currently employed at sea in the maritime industry!

This doesn’t take into account all of the employees working in related maritime jobs on shore, such as those in the Navy or those working at docks. The maritime industry is booming, and it is still much less expensive that travel or transport by plane. The MIKC also reports that 90% of the world’s trade is done by ship.

Some more statistics, from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration:

  • The United States increased container trade by 52% from 2000-2006. The average size of containers increased by 25%.
  • Cruises are beginning to leave from more varied ports. In the United States, the top 5 ports for departing cruises are Miami, Port Canaveral, Fort Lauderdale, Galveston, and Los Angeles. In 2003, 62% of all cruises left from these posts, but this was down to 56% in 2006, meaning that there are more cruise ship jobs available in other parts of the country.
  • Over the last five years, the largest growth in the United States maritime industry has been for offshore supply vessels.
  • As of the December 2006, there were approximately 40,000 privately-owned ships operating out of the United States
  • Next to rail transportation, water transportation is the most energy efficient way to travel or ship items. Air travel is the least energy efficient.

Source: http://www.jobmonkey.com/maritimejobs/maritime_industry.html

Seven Oil Tanker Stocks That May Get Beaten Up by OPEC

OPEC’s call for a reduction in oil output and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s eager willingness to cooperate might be bullish for oil prices. Whether OPEC can successfully stave off the decline in oil prices is being debated here. The real concern is for the ultimate loser being the oil transportation tanker ships as the combination of demand destruction and reduced oil output means less oil to export.

Some may say the group has been badly beaten by sellers year-to-date and while this may be true, so has just about everything else in this deleveraged market. On a short-term basis, the Transportation-Shipping Industry index, which comprises oil tankers, dry shipping, and miscellaneous other cargo transporters, is overbought. The group rallied +20.47% between December 4th and 10th and sold off -5.57% Thursday. During this same period, i.e. December 4th-10th, a basket of oil tanker transportation stocks (Arlington Tankers (ATB); General Maritime (GMR); Nordic American Tanker (NAT); Shipping Finance Int’l Ltd. (SFL); Teekay Corp (TK); Teekay Offshore (TOO); and Knightbridge Tankers (VLCCF)) returned an average +15.52% and declined an average -4.86% Thursday.

While Thursday’s weakness may have been taken for granted due to the stock market’s negative performance, these stocks should be monitored, especially during market rallies. How long the oil production cuts will last cannot be determined yet, but this fundamental may not be fully factored in their stock prices and these stocks may be ideal short candidates on strong.

Source: http://seekingalpha.com/article/110460-seven-oil-tanker-stocks-that-may-get-beaten-up-by-opec

Rates for shipping charters rebound

By Robert Wright, Transport Correspondent

One of the world's main shipping markets has shown signs of recovery, with a revival in Chinese demand for iron ore and coal pushing some average charter prices up almost threefold in the past week.

The revival in prices, after a disastrous six months for the industry in which charter rates fell nearly 99 per cent for the largest vessels, could encourage ship owners to bring mothballed vessels back into service.

One participant said yesterday some owners were able to charge enough to cover the costs of operating Capesize ships, the largest dry bulk carriers. Average rates for these ships, which move coal and iron ore, have nearly tripled over the past week. Smaller ships have yet to show the same recovery as Capesize vessels.

Average spot rates, the cost of carrying a single cargo immediately, finished the week at $8,261 a day for Capesizes, according to figures from Pareto Dry Cargo, an Oslo shipbroker.

The previous week's average was $2,763, one of the lowest yet seen. Pareto reported a long-term charter of a Capesize ship at $17,500 a day for a year, more than the daily basic operating costs of such a ship. Long-term charter rates are, unusually, higher than those in the spot market because of expectations that the spot market will recover.

Source: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b1bf3298-ca47-11dd-93e5-000077b07658.html

Sustainable Shipping re-launched to empower maritime companies

Sustainable Shipping has launched a subscription-based online news service to extend its in-depth coverage of global developments pertaining to the environment and the marine transportation industry.

“As the pioneer in providing online news and information resources dedicated to marine transportation and the environment, we are excited that Sustainable Shipping has grown, receiving tremendous customer support to further expand into a more sophisticated portal,” said Matt Cape, chief executive officer of Petromedia, owners of Sustainable Shipping.

The leading online information platform offers additional capabilities which include extensive news archives for research, access to video speeches from the Sustainable Shipping conferences, and privileged access to analysis and reports to provide insights that are pivotal to decision-making.

The launch was driven by an increasing demand for specialist, independent and timely information covering an ever-increasing number of environmental and commercial issues affecting today's shipping industry.

Shipping has come under increasing environmental scrutiny with current issues such as sulphur emissions legislation, pressure to reduce CO2 emissions and the continued threat of oil spills.

“With shipping forming the backbone of global trade and logistics, these issues also impact on a wide range of markets including finance and technology. Subsequently, we are also seeing increased curiosity from these ‘non-traditional’ sectors,” he added.

“It is Sustainable Shipping’s aim to equip all relevant parties with the knowledge that they need in order to help solve some of the biggest challenges the shipping industry faces,” Cape added.

Source: http://www.portworld.com/news/2008/12/74403

Global financial crisis setting in for shipping

The turbulence from the global financial meltdown is finally crashing down on the shipping industry, which appears to be increasingly headed for the docks because fewer companies are ordering goods to transport. That is bad news for the Philippines, the world's ship-staffing capital by supplying about 30 percent of the world's 1.2 million mariners.

A shortfall of officers in the global fleet, currently at 34,000, is projected to more than double by 2012. Still, the numbers aren't encouraging. Figures from the Philippine government's Overseas Employment Administration already show a 2.3 percent drop in deployment of seamen for January to October, compared with the same period last year.

Philippine Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said layoffs may happen by the first quarter, with cruise and cargo ship workers likely targets. He hopes for a recovery by the third quarter. "Up to 2011, we can foresee a deficit of about 34,000 marine officers so, we just need to keep on training people," he added.

Capt. Teodoro Quijano, vice president of the Filipino Association for Mariners Employment that groups 110 recruitment agencies, said his association had projected that a shortage of ship officers would last another five years. He said that looks unlikely now. “Instead, freight trade has slumped, and some of the 12,000 new ships ordered for delivery in 2010-13 are being canceled”, he said. "The first ones who will lose their jobs are those who are highly paid," Quijano said.

Source: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gNWZjyexzXLoLWB_ckcfTJF-EDqAD94VKISO0

Push to Retrain Shipyard Workers

Aim is to prevent layoffs while getting firms ready for economic upturn

SINGAPORE'S shipping industry is making a big push to take advantage of the downturn by planning ambitious training programs for workers. The aim is to encourage maritime firms, which until recently had been battling a staff shortage, to retain their employees and get them ready for when the economy turns around. The Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) plans to train more than 1,100 workers next year under its Skills Program for Upgrading and Resilience (Spur). This recently launched $600 million government program was developed by the Workforce Development Agency and aims to encourage companies to upgrade the capabilities of their workers during the economic slump.

Hong Lam Marine, 'K' Line Singapore, Ocean Tankers, Neptune Orient Lines, Pacific International Lines, Regional Container Lines and Winstonnage Agencies - have committed to the plan. They will send 375 staff for retraining under the scheme. Besides training, it will help to facilitate career and job search services for people interested in joining the maritime industry.

Early this year, the shortage of qualified professionals in the specialized maritime field was one of the biggest growth constraints of the booming industry. The talent shortage prompted the launch of the Maritime Outreach Network last year to raise awareness of the industry and attract quality personnel. But a slump in global trade over recent months has sent shipping rates plummeting by as much as 90 per cent, leaving many firms with excess capacity.

Source: http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/Money/Story/STIStory_313504.html

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Questionable Deals?

DryShips Inc. said Wednesday it had canceled the purchase of four dry bulk carriers from companies controlled by its own CEO, saying it failed to get bank financing for the $400 million deal. DryShips said Chairman and Chief Executive George Economou's companies would keep $55 million in deposits.

And DryShips said it paid the companies controlled by Economou an additional $105 million for cancellation of the sale and an exclusive option to buy the ships in a block deal for $160 million. The option expires Dec. 31.

Now maybe these transactions have all been properly performed in the best interests of DRYS shareholders, but they appear, at best, to leave room for conflicts of interest. Transactions of this kind surely don't help in the current environment for dry bulk shipping, given that DRYS just lost $160m due to a canceled transaction, and considering its current market cap of just $470m. I realize that taking the ships might have meant operating losses on them since markets were weak, and they would have been paying prices well above market. But perhaps the original purchase decision was at fault, when they were buying ships at extremely high prices historically - and from the company's own CEO. Again, while the checks might be in place, even the appearance of potential conflicts of interest can undermine investor trust.

Obama factor?

A surge in dry-bulk shipping stocks this week could be “extra-fundamental” with little connection to how the market is currently performing, a top analyst claims.

The sheer volumes of trades in bulker stocks are, nonetheless, impressive as core US-listed dry-bulk stocks pile on large percentage gains on a daily basis, Urs Dur of Lazard Capital Markets told TradeWinds on Wednesday.

At the time of writing bulker companies held a monopoly over the ‘Best Performers’ list of the TradeWinds Shipping Index with most posting gains of over 20%

So what is driving investors towards dry stocks at a time when rates are still relatively floored and mining giants are slashing iron ore production and announcing wholesale layoffs?

“There are a lot of reasons that this movement doesn’t make sense,” Dur said.

“There’s obviously a fervour. Everyone’s got hot and heavy with these [large listed dry-bulk owners].”

The New York-based analyst contended, however, that the rush to stocks “appears extra-fundamental to dry-bulk shipping”.

He said one of the main reasons behind the gain in stock values and volumes traded could be an announcement from US president elect Barack Obama that he intends to spend a substantial amount on infrastructure during his tenure.

Although Dur conceded such a move is “not a reason to buy stocks” in and of itself as it does not directly impact the dry-bulk owners, it is reasonable to expect some positive kick-back from such mooted investment plans.

“Once you talk about building large-scale infrastructure everyone does well. Even [tractor manufacturer] John Deere in the last few days has seen a heck of a pick up.”

Other possible reasons behind the drive in bulker stocks this week posited by Dur are a “slight improvement in [Baltic Dry Index] levels”, an improvement in volumes of trade being led by the forward freight agreement (FFA) market, and the possibility of investors seeing a correlation between the very recent weakening of the US dollar and a rise in commodity movements.

Whatever the reasons, undeniably volumes of dry-bulk stocks being shifted have been on the up.

“What is most fascinating today is that volumes are intense. These volumes in shipping are unheard of,” Dur contended.

The analyst picked out George Economou’s DryShips as a prime example of the positive swing in bulker stocks this week.

“DryShips is trading more than its float; that is substantial. It’s one of the hottest stocks on the market now,” Dur said, adding that its trading volume is below much larger companies such as Brazilian miner Vale and IT giant Cisco Systems.

And the feverish trading may not be simply a flash in the pan.

“‘Unprecedented volume’: This could be the catchword for 2008 and the start of 2009,” Dur added.

But it is not all roses for the market as, despite being “still optimistic on dry-bulk”, Dur warned the increased volumes and stock-price hikes may represent more of a trading opportunity that a fundamental opportunity.

“There is certainly some [more negative] news on the dry-bulk market right now. Ships are still operating well below cash flow breakeven levels and still face real issues like vessel valuations.”

If only volumes on the water were anywhere near as high as those at the bourse.

Japan holds 19

Japanese port state control checks ended in detention for 19 ships during November, all general cargo vessels except for one reefer.

The 27,700–dwt multipurpose PAC Antares (built 2002), owned by Pacific Carriers, was held over its lifeboat engine for four days at Ishinomaki.

The 10,700–dwt Pioneer First (built 2004), owned by Toyo Kaiun, was detained due to its oily water separator. It spent two days at Chiba

And the 1,900-gt aggregates carrier Honour (built 1998), owned by Widex Shipping of China, had faults relating to its chain locker, the forecastle store and fire integrity. It was also leaking oil from the main engine.

What Is It Like To Work Offshore (oil rig platform) ?

Oil drilling jobs which are based on oil platforms usually in the Gulf of Mexico for US workers are known as working offshore. To begin with, the jobs, particularly the entry level jobs in the oil drilling field are physically demanding work. The Roustabouts and Roughnecks are responsible for all the duties that go along with making sure equipment is clean and in proper operating condition. They must deal with constant scraping rust and painting exposed surfaces. If you were to ask a roughneck or roustabout ?what is it like to work offshore?? he might tell you that it is his responsibility to thread together the drill bits and to link the metal tubing used in the drilling process. . In order to know what it is like to work offshore, you would have to work 12 hour shifts as part of a drilling team.

During the time you were working on the platform, the drilling would be going on 24 hours each day and 7 days each week. You would be paid for your travel back and forth to the platform, either by ship or by helicopter. During your time offshore, you would have plenty of comfort in your accommodations and food. One of the things you can count on when you find out what it is like to work offshore is that your food and accommodations will be four or five star hotel quality.You will want to know about your pay when learning what it is like to work offshore.The pay is very good; particularly since the entry level jobs are mostly unskilled labor with no previous training or experience required. A roughneck can expect to earn about $300 per day. One other factor which should enter into your thinking when you decide what it is like to work offshore is the danger. The job is unrelenting physical labor with a high level of noise constantly. The weather can be North Atlantic ice storms or Gulf of Mexico hurricanes and the work goes on. Occasionally there is danger from explosions and fire, carefully before making your final decision.

World’s Biggest Aircraft Carriers

The USS Enterprise, which takes the title of being the largest naval vessel on Earth (or water!), with a massive length of 342.3 metres.
Like the other seven of the Nimitz class carriers, these naval vessel are 342m long.
The Naval Station at Norfolk, Virginia, where USS ENTERPRISES ships reside when not on active duty, is actually the largest naval base in the World, with 75 ships calling it home . This aircraft carrier costing a whopping $4.5 billion, . She is seen here in construction at the Northrop Grumman shipyard, also in Norfolk.

Richest Man in the World

Warren Buffett has become the world's richest man with a net worth estimated at $62 billion. The investment guru surpassed Bill Gates who was the previous world's richest man for 13 consecutive years.
Gates and Buffett are friends who are reported to enjoy playing the board game bridge. Buffett recently pledged the bulk of his Birkshire shares to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. Bill Gates is now the world's third richest man with a fortune of $58 billion. Carlos Slim Helu of Mexico is the second richest man with a personal haul of $60 billion according to Forbes magazi

Top Ten richest in the Philippines for 2008

Rank No. 1 - Henry Sy & family. One of the Taipans in Philippine Business. He formed the Philippines’ second largest bank after the merger of Equitable PCI and Banco de Oro. He is married with 6 children and has a newtworth of $1.7 Billion at the age of 85. He owns the Philippines’ shopping mall developer SM Prime Holdings.

Rank No. 2- Jaime Zobel De Ayala. The 73 year old patriach of Ayala Corporation with a networth or $2 billion. Maried with 7 children and his children now hold his wealth with his eldest son Jaime II as chief executive.

Rank No 3. Lucio Tan & family. As a kid he mops floors to pay for school tution. Eventually he became a chemical engineer who now owns the nation’s largest cigette manufacturing company, Fortune Tobacco as well as Philippine Airlines. Tan is believed to be a former ally of the late president Marcos. He has a networth of $1.6 billion at the age of 73 with 6 children. He also called LT and used as an example in many network marketing meetings in topics showing the difference between an employee and an employer.

Rank No. 4 - Andrew Tan. Andrew was a son of a factory worker. He even walks miles on his way to school since cannot afford the fare. Now he is the president of Megaworld Corporation. He is now included in the list of Filipino billionaires with a networth of $1.1 billion.

Rank N0. 5 - Manny Villar. Manuel “Manny” Bamba Villar, Jr. currently the nation’s Senate President. In early childhood, he grew up in slum areas as a hardworking son of a shrimp vendor. He is the founder of Camella Homes and now he is the largest shareholder of Vista Land & Lifescapes Inc. Manny is married with 3 children and currently $940 Million in networth.

Rank No. 6 George Ty. He is the founder of Metropolitan Bank and Trust popularly known as Metrobank. He also has stakes in the BPI and Philippine Savings Bank. Now, he develops luxury condominiums in Mandaluyong teaming up with John Gokongwei. His Toyota Motor Philippines is the country’s No. 1 vehicle in all of vehicle sales categories supplying almost half of the Philippines’ cars and trucks. He is now 74 years of ag, married with child children and has a networth of $870 Million.

Rank No. 7 Andrew Gotianun. Andrew controls Filinvest Development Corp which holds 70% of Filinvest Land, and East West Bank. he started early in life salvaging World War II ships and later on branched into car financing. He is married and has $860 Million in Networth and has 2 children.

Rank No. 8 Enrique Razon Jr. He is the president and chairman of International Container Terminal Holdings, Inc., International Container Terminal Services Inc. and Sureste Realty Corp. Still young at 47. He has a networth of $820 Million and married with 2 children.

Rank No. 9 Tony Tan Caktiong & family. Founder of Jollibee Foods Corporation who later aquired Greenwich, Chowking, Red Ribbon and the latest, Hongzhuangyuan a 33-branched food chain in China. He is 57 yearls old, married with 3 children and has a networth of $790 Million.

Rank No. 10 Oscar Lopez & family. He has a networth of $775 Million at the age of 77, married with 8 children and He is the chairman of Lopez Group Foundation, Inc. He also controls a stake in ABS-CBN Foundation.

Disadvantages Of Geothermal Energy

Many companies who order surveys are often disappointed, as quite often, the land they were interested in, cannot support a geothermal energy plant. To extract the heat we have to find certain hot spots within the earths crust, these are very common around volcanoes and fault lines, but who wants to build their power geothermal energy plant next to a volcano?

The questions that are usually asked during a survey are; is the rock soft enough to drill through, do the rocks deep down contain sufficient heat, will this heat be sustainable for a significant amount of time, is the environment fit for a power plant. If the answer to these basic questions is yes, a more in depth survey should go ahead.

Another big disadvantage of geothermal energy extraction, is that in many cases, a site that has happily been extracting steam and turning it into power for many years, may suddenly stop producing steam. This can happen and last for around 10 years in some cases

Developers of such sites must be careful and aware that in some cases, harmful gases can escape from deep within the earth, through the holes drilled by the constructors

Oil Pollution Act of 1990, United States

The Oil Pollution Act (OPA) was signed by George H. Bush in 1990, primarily in response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska that discharged more than 10 million gallons of crude oil into the Prince William Sound. The Act was designed to expand oil spill prevention measures and to establish new requirements for oil transportation, cleanups, and response capabilities of the federal government and industry.
Amendments included: changes to federal response authority; penalty increases for oil spills; establishment of U.S. Coast Guard response organizations; mandated tank vessel and facility response plans; and the formulation of area contingency plans for selected areas. Under the OPA, the owner or operator of a facility from which oil is discharged (the responsible party) is liable for the costs associated with containment or cleanup of the spill and any damages resulting from the spill. If a responsible party is unknown or refuses to pay, an Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund will provide up to one billion dollars for any one oil pollution incident or oil spill. The trust fund receives primary revenue from a five-cent tax on every barrel of imported or domestic oil. However, the primary revenues ceased in 1994 due to a ‘sunset’ provision law.
Under the Act, the Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) was established. The office is responsible for implementing the Oil Pollution Act for onshore pipelines. Their objective is to decrease the potential for pipeline spills, diminish environmental consequences of spills, and ensure quick response and well-planned spill cleanup.

Today in History - Sun Dec 14, 2008

Today in History - Dec. 14

By The Associated Press The Associated Press – Sun Dec 14, 12:01 am ET
Today is Sunday, Dec. 14, the 349th day of 2008. There are 17 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Dec. 14, 1799, the first president of the United States, George Washington, died at his Mount Vernon, Va., home at age 67.
On this date:
In 1819, Alabama joined the Union as the 22nd state.
In 1861, Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, died in London.
In 1911, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his group became the first men to reach the South Pole, beating out an expedition led by Robert F. Scott.
In 1939, the Soviet Union was dropped from the League of Nations.
In 1946, the United Nations General Assembly voted to establish U.N. headquarters in New York.
In 1962, the U.S. space probe Mariner 2 approached Venus, transmitting information about the planet.
In 1975, six South Moluccan extremists surrendered after holding 23 hostages for 12 days on a train near the Dutch town of Beilen.
In 1981, Israel annexed the Golan Heights, which it had seized from Syria in 1967.
In 1995, Presidents Alija Izetbegovic of Bosnia, Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia and Franjo Tudjman of Croatia signed the Bosnian peace treaty in Paris.
In 2006, South Korea's Ban Ki-moon was sworn in as the eighth secretary-general of the United Nations.
Ten years ago: President Bill Clinton stood witness as hundreds of Palestinian leaders renounced a call for the destruction of Israel.
Five years ago: A weary, disheveled Saddam Hussein was displayed on television screens worldwide, a day after his capture by American troops. A car bombing outside an Iraqi police station near Baghdad killed at least 17 people. Actress Jeanne Crain died in Santa Barbara, Calif., at age 78.
One year ago: A man accused of being the Phoenix Baseline Killer was sentenced to 438 years in prison for the sexual assaults of two sisters. (Mark Goudeau still faces trial for the slayings of eight women and a man in 2005-2006; he has pleaded not guilty.)
Today's Birthdays: Jazz musician Clark Terry is 88. Former "60 Minutes" executive producer Don Hewitt is 86. Actor Hal Williams is 70. Actress Patty Duke is 62. Pop singer Joyce Vincent-Wilson (Tony Orlando and Dawn) is 62. Entertainment executive Michael Ovitz is 62. Actress Dee Wallace is 60. Rhythm-and-blues singer Ronnie McNeir (The Four Tops) is 59. Rock musician Cliff Williams (AC/DC) is 59. Rock singer-musician Mike Scott (The Waterboys) is 50. Singer-musician Peter "Spider" Stacy (The Pogues) is 50. Actress Cynthia Gibb is 45. Actress Natascha McElhone is 39. Rhythm-and-blues singer Brian Dalyrimple (Soul For Real) is 33. Actress KaDee Strickland is 33. Actress Tammy Blanchard is 32. Actress Sophie Monk is 29. Actress Vanessa Hudgens is 20.
Thought for Today: "You can close your eyes to reality but not to memories." — Stanislaw J. Lec, Polish author (1909-1966).

Global woes pose risks, also openings for US

Global woes pose risks, also openings for US
WASHINGTON – The economic slump roaring across the world's geopolitical map poses weighty challenges, as well as some unexpected opportunities, for President-elect Barack Obama.
Japan and major European countries have joined the United States in falling into recession. China has seen its remarkable three-decades long export-fueled rise slowed. Oil-based economies on Washington's worry list such as Iran, Russia and Venezuela, are reeling, too.
The U.S. led the rest of the world into the economic crisis, and many global players hope Washington can lead the world out. International investments pouring into low-interest U.S. Treasury securities in recent weeks show that, even if the U.S. has lost prestige internationally in recent years, it's still deemed one of the safest places to park money.
The financial crisis drives home to other nations that "without an America that is successful financially, economically and therefore also politically, they're not going to be successful," said Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter. "If we don't function well, no one functions well."
China had been on track to surpass Germany as the world's largest economy after the U.S. and Japan. But last week Beijing said its November exports took their biggest plunge in seven years in the face of weakening demand from the U.S. and other wealthy countries.
While China does not yet appear to be in recession, many factories have closed, raising the threat of heavy job losses that could fuel political unrest.
The effect of the dive in world oil prices — to under $50 a barrel from a high of $147 a barrel in early July — can work to the advantage and disadvantage of the U.S., analysts suggest. The economic slowdown may cut into the ability of militant groups based in the Middle East of financing terrorism operations elsewhere. But plunging oil prices will make it harder for Iraq to finance needed renovations to their oil fields and could affect the ability of states friendly to the U.S. to bankroll anti-terrorism programs.

China to increase supply of money to boost economy

China to increase supply of money to boost economy
Sunday December 14, 1:38 am ET

China to increase supply of money to boost economy amid signs of sharper slowdown
BEIJING (AP) -- China said it plans to increase the amount of money circulating in its economy next year in a new effort to spur consumer spending and shield the country from a global downturn.
Saturday's announcement by the country's State Council, or Cabinet, comes on the heels of a multibillion-dollar economic stimulus package announced last month that calls for injecting more government money into the economy through spending on construction and other projects.
There are mounting signs that China's economic slowdown is sharper and deeper than expected. Exports fell in November for the first time in seven years and the industry minister warned Friday that worse was to come.
China will increase its money supply by 17 percent next year, the Cabinet said in a statement on its Web site. It said that would be 3 to 4 percentage points above the total growth of economic output and consumer prices.
Increasing the supply of money is aimed at stimulating domestic economic activity and spending by making more credit available to encourage consumers and companies to borrow.
"We must strengthen the role of the financial sector in supporting economic growth by better implementing an active fiscal policy and moderately easing monetary policy," the Cabinet statement said.
The growth rate of China's money supply slipped this year as business activity and bank lending slowed.
The growth in China's broadest measure of money supply shrank from 16 percent in August to 15 percent in November, according to the central bank. That measure, known as M2, includes cash and bank deposits.
The Cabinet also decided to increase by 100 billion yuan ($14.6 billion) the amount of loans for the country's policy banks this year and suspend and reduce the sale of some central bank securities, the statement said.
The central bank has been draining billions of dollars from the economy every month to reduce pressure for prices to rise as revenues from China's booming export industries flood through the economy.
The government said it would stop sales of three-year central bank notes and reduce sales of one-year and three-month bank notes, but gave no other details.
With economic growth forecast at 9 percent and inflation at about 6 percent this year, China's money supply growth has just kept pace with growth in commercial activity. With both growth and inflation forecast to be lower in 2009, the planned expansion in money supply should be much larger than is needed to maintain commercial activity.
China's industry minister Li Yizhong said Friday that the government will spend 15 billion yuan ($2.2 billion) to subsidize loans to companies to improve technology and cut energy use. Li said Beijing might buy surplus steel to help producers as demand plummets, as well as cut taxes to spur auto and real estate sales.

Best Stock Market Performance*

Best Stock Market Performance*
Not every stock market tanked in 2008. As of Dec. 8 tiny Tunisia was the lone market in the black, rising 13% since the beginning of the year. But even it hasn't been safe from the fourth-quarter woes. Since September the Tunindex has fallen from nearly 3,400 to its current level of 2,931.
Worst Stock Market Performance*

While the U.S. stock market has certainly suffered in 2008 -- the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index had lost 38% of its value through Dec. 8 -- plenty of other markets were hammered even worse. The OMX Iceland 15 Index fell 77% on a single day in October and is down 90% for the year.
*According to most recent data as of Dec. 8 from Bloomberg

The Origin of "The Twelve Days of Christmas"

The Origin of "The Twelve Days of Christmas"

There is one Christmas Carol that has always baffled me.

What in the world do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans and especially the partridge who won't come out of the pear tree have to do with Christmas?

Today, I found out, thanks to the Internet.

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics.

It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.

One true love refers to God.

Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.

Three French hens stood for Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues

The four calling birds were the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.

The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch" , which gives the history of man's fall from grace.

The six geese a-laying stood for the the six days of creation.

Seven swans a-swimming represented the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments: Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership and Mercy.

The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.

Nine ladies dancing were the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control.

The ten lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments.

The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful apostles.

The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed.

So, there is your history for today. This knowledge was shared with me and I found it interesting and enlightening. Now, I know how that strange song became a Christmas Carol...so pass it on, if you wish.