Friday, June 6, 2008

Coast Guard cleans up spill after freighter sinks docked boat on Cuyahoga River

Coast Guard cleans up spill after freighter sinks docked boat on Cuyahoga River

CLEVELAND - A Great Lakes freighter carrying a load of gravel sliced and sunk a 36-foot boat docked along the west bank of the Flats Sunday night.

Elvin Jones, of Shaker Heights, had just tied up his boat, the Beverly II, along the Cuyahoga River. He and a friend were eating dinner at Shooters on the Water when the collision happened.

"We saw the crowd running and we decided to come out and see what was happening," Jones said. "Then I found out we were part of the action, the main course."

No one was injured. A second boat at the dock belonging to the owner of Shooter's Restaurant was also damaged. Jones' boat was no match for the freighter, The Cuyahoga. The fiberglass powerboat sank in just a few minutes.

According to Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Linda Sturgis, the freighter regularly travels the Cuyahoga River.

"Standard protocol would require a drug test (of freighter pilot)," Lt. Commander Sturgis said. "We'll get witness statements, check charts, recheck the track line and the weather, interview the master and interview who was on watch."

John Granzier saw the collision slowly unfold. "(The Cuyahoga) just barreled into the middle of the boat and crushed it," Granzier said. "Before that we saw a guy running back and forth (on the freighter). We didn't realize something was going on. So they must have noticed that they were getting real close."

Jones looked at his boat submerged in the water Sunday night and shrugged his shoulders.

"No one was hurt. That's the most important thing," Jones said. "And the boat is insured. Hey, things can be replaced."

Meanwhile, many boaters wonder if lake freighters should be required to use tugboat when they enter the Cuyahoga River. Most of the big lakers use bow and stern thrusters to navigate the many turns of the river.

From the patio deck of Shooter's Restaurant, you can quickly see that the Cuyahoga is a working river. There is a delicate balance between the passing lake freighters and the dozens of pleasure boats. READ>


Forecaster expects busy Atlantic hurricane season
7:40 a.m. June 3, 2008

MIAMI – The 2008 Atlantic hurricane season will likely be a busy one with 15 tropical storms, of which eight will turn into hurricanes, the noted Colorado State University forecasting team said Tuesday.

The prediction from the research team founded by hurricane forecasting pioneer William Gray was unchanged from the one CSU issued in April, which called for four of the eight hurricanes to become “major” storms, the most destructive type, with sustained winds of more than 110 miles per hour.

The average hurricane season produces roughly 10 tropical storms and six hurricanes.

The CSU forecast said warm Atlantic sea temperatures, along with low pressure at the ocean's surface and low levels of vertical wind shear, would contribute to an above-average season.

Hurricanes draw energy from warm water, while vertical wind shear, a difference in wind speeds at different altitudes, can disrupt nascent storms.

“Conditions in the tropical Atlantic look quite favorable for an active hurricane season,” lead forecaster Phil Klotzbach said in a statement.

The official six-month Atlantic hurricane season began on Sunday. The first cyclone of the year, Tropical Storm Arthur, formed a day earlier off the coast of Belize and moved quickly inland.

The storm lasted less than a day before weakening to a tropical depression, but it still forced Mexico to shut two of its three main crude oil ports because of rough seas.

Arthur drenched southern Mexico, Belize and Guatemala, threatening deadly flash floods and mudslides.

Klotzbach said forecasters were closely monitoring sea temperatures in the eastern Pacific for the development of El Niño, a warming of ocean water that can dampen hurricane activity in the Atlantic.

“At this point, we do not believe that an El Niño will develop by late this summer,” he said. READ>

U.S. tornadoes far above average this year

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — There have been more Oklahoma reports of tornadoes so far in 2008 than typically occur in an entire year, according to preliminary data from the National Weather Service.

"The atmosphere is sort of switched on to tornadoes or switched off," said Harold Brooks, a research meteorologist at the National Severe Storms Lab in Norman. "This year, we're on."

Less than halfway through the year, Oklahoma has had 54 tornado reports. A total of 53 tornadoes hit the state in the average calendar year. There have been six tornado deaths in the state this year, which is more than in any year since 1999.

The USA as a whole also has seen far more tornadoes and tornado deaths than usual, with 1,258 tornadoes and at least 110 deaths reported so far in 2008. That's more deaths than in any year in a decade, and a "huge number" of tornado deaths for modern times, Brooks said.

The national death toll this year already is more than twice the 20-year average, said Greg Carbin, warning coordination meteorologist at the NOAA Storm Prediction Center, also in Norman. In the last three years of full data, the average number of tornadoes has been 1,159.

The meteorologists said the high numbers could be linked to long-term trends in weather and climate, such as climate change or La Nina, which is a weather pattern associated with ocean temperatures.

But overall, active tornado years are just hit or miss, the meteorologists said, in part because their formation is dependent both on regional weather systems and local conditions, which actually spark the twisters.

Climate change could increase the frequency of severe storms, Carbin said, but it may also reduce wind shear, which occurs when winds of different speeds or temperatures pass each other. Wind shear is a key ingredient in tornado formation, he said, so how those two factors balance is unclear.

Storm Report


(Robin's Note: The following article is one of the reason why failure investigations of Coast Guard Certified and Inepected Life Safety Equipment such as, EPIRB's is hampered.)

Coast Guard maritime casualty investigations hindered by poor management, IG finds

For more than six decades, the Coast Guard has been charged with investigating maritime accidents that result in death, injury or substantial property or environmental damage. The primary objective of a maritime casualty investigation, which can range in scope from preliminary information gathering to a formal inquiry depending on the severity of the accident, is to identify safety issues (other agencies are responsible for determining civil or criminal liability). But a new report raises serious questions about the Coast Guard's ability to adequately carry out this mission.

While the investigations are considered an essential element of the service's safety program, investigators more often than not fail to meet the agency's own qualification standards. A new report by the Homeland Security Department's inspector general suggested the Coast Guard was missing opportunities to issue safety al9999erts or recommendations that could prevent or minimize similar casualties.

During site visits to Coast Guard stations, auditors found that 68 percent of investigators did not meet the agency's qualification standards. In addition, the Hampton Roads sector in Virginia had established its own criteria for qualifying investigators based on knowledge of local industry, waterways and jurisdictions, as well as interviewing techniques and chemical testing. The New York sector had adopted a similar training and qualifications program modeled after the Hampton Roads criteria, but neither sector had received headquarters' approval to use the revised standards, which contributed to inconsistency across the service.

In September 2007, the Coast Guard issued a plan to improve the maritime safety program, including revised qualification standards for investigators, "which both added to and detracted from the qualifications for marine casualty investigators," the auditors found. The new standards updated tasks investigators must perform, but they removed a pre-qualification for working with hulls or machinery and small vessels. Knowledge of these areas is essential to correctly identify the causes of accidents and to issue appropriate alerts and recommendations, the report said.

Auditors also reported that investigations were conducted improperly and a substantial backlog of cases was closed by headquarters without proper review. "As a result, the Coast Guard may not be able to determine the causal factors of accidents and, therefore, prevent or minimize the effects of similar casualties," the IG reported.

The Coast Guard concurred with the IG's findings and generally accepted the auditors' recommendations. Central to the plan is a 2009 budget request to hire 276 additional maritime safety employees, which represents a 40 percent increase in inspectors and investigators.

n Thursday, the Coast Guard released its five-year Marine Safety Performance Plan outlining the service's goals. The document details links between the mission, strategic goals, objectives and performance. Tellingly, it identifies the "need to increase the competency of inspectors and investigators as well as their knowledge of actual industry practices beyond that taught through normal training opportunities." The Coast Guard will accept public comments on the document during the next 60 days.

"The most significant threat to the Coast Guard's Marine Safety professionalism is insufficient human resource capacity to be responsive to the regulated marine industry," the plan noted, adding that "capability in the Marine Safety mission area has declined while the complexity, novelty and technological advancements used in the design, construction, and operation of ships and offshore systems have grown rapidly."

According to the IG report, between Jan. 1, 2003, and Oct. 31, 2006, the Coast Guard conducted 15,327 investigations, but the majority -- 93 percent -- never progressed beyond the data collection stage. There are four levels of investigation: preliminary information gathering, data collection, informal investigation, and formal investigation. The highest level is required when accidents result in two or more deaths, property damage exceeds $1 million, or there is a major oil spill, defined as 10,000 gallons in inland waterways and 100,000 gallons in coastal waters.

The Coast Guard commandant could convene a Marine Board of Investigation if a marine accident is of such significance that a detailed formal investigation is in the public interest. While the service has conducted 282 Marine Boards since 1947, only two have been convened since 2001. After the Alaska Ranger fish processing vessel sank on March 23, resulting in four deaths and one missing sailor, Commandant Adm. Thad Allen convened a Marine Board. Prior to that, the most recent board was convened in April 2001 after the Arctic Rose sank in the Bering Sea. The decline in convening Marine Boards is due primarily to the extensive resources needed to support them, the IG found.

Newcastle Port to Reassess Coal Ship Restrictions (Update2)

By Gemma Daley and Angela Macdonald-Smith

June 5 (Bloomberg) -- Australia's Newcastle port, the world's biggest coal-export harbor, will assess today whether to lift restrictions on ship movements as high seas and strong winds ease.

One coal ship left the port this morning and conditions will be reassessed at 1 p.m. local time to decide whether to relax curbs further, said Keith Powell, a spokesman at Newcastle Port Corp., in a phone interview today. No ships have entered the port today, with 17 anchored and waiting to gain access, he said.

A severe weather warning for parts of coastal New South Wales state, including the Newcastle area, was canceled at 8:15 a.m. Sydney time by the Bureau of Meteorology. The port yesterday stopped ships entering and halted almost all departures because of high seas and gale-force winds.

The price of coal has surged to a record this year as bottlenecks at ports constrained shipments and supplies in China and India dwindle.

The weekly price index for power-station coal shipped from Newcastle surged $13.35, or 9.6 percent, to $151.70 a metric ton in the week ended May 30, according to the globalCOAL NEWC Index. The running week-to-date index was at $157.29 a ton yesterday, up $3.60 from the previous day, globalCOAL said in an e-mail.

The price has almost tripled from $56.35 a ton a year ago.

Rio Tinto Group, Xstrata Plc and BHP Billiton Ltd. are among mining companies that ship coal through Newcastle.

Maritime emergency communications center established

Maritime emergency communications center established

SEATTLE - Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 41, which provides volunteer civilian support to the Coast Guard in the Port Ludlow area, has established a new maritime Emergency Communications Center (ECC) co-located with Port Ludlow Fire & Rescue and Jefferson County Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES).

The new facility contains radio equipment to provide communication services for the Coast Guard and the Jefferson County Emergency Operations Center, in collaboration with the Port Ludlow Preparedness Council. It is used in routine and emergency Coast Guard operations and in overall disaster preparedness for the citizens of Port Ludlow and Jefferson County.

Since operations began at the new communication center earlier this year, the Coast Guard Auxiliary has used the facility for normal and emergency operations, including monitoring of Coast Guard marine radio channels, weekly emergency radio network drills, Auxiliary boat crew and communication training, man overboard drills, and supporting the Coast Guard in search and rescue.

Don Millbauer, Communications Officer for Division 4 of the Auxiliary said, “This creative partnership increases Auxiliary support to the Coast Guard and enhances coordination among all local responders by facilitating communication on land and water throughout Jefferson County.”

The new facility replaces a previous arrangement in which the Auxiliary’s communications were operated from a trailer. Millbauer approached Port Ludlow’s Fire Chief, Ed Wilkenson, with the idea of establishing a more accessible communication center at the local fire station. Chief Wilkenson enthusiastically endorsed the concept. He added the idea of including ARES in the center, to provide local interface with the Jefferson County Emergency Operating Center (EOC) in Port Hadlock. The fire department assisted with construction of the radio room within the fire station and moving the Auxiliary’s equipment.

Captain Stephen Metruck, Commander of Coast Guard Sector Seattle, said, “This initiative in Port Ludlow is a step forward in more effectively employing the Auxiliary in disaster response. The Sector is exploring similar ways to collaborate with local public safety response centers throughout our area of responsibility.”

Messing About In Ships Podcast

Have a great and enjoyable weekend!