Headlines: piracy hearings and updates; influenza updates; Chinese vessels approach USNS ship; prior notice of imported food; Proceedings of the USCG Marine Safety & Security Council; maritime bills introduced in Congress; aircraft jettisons fuel in emergency
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Senate Commerce Committee – hearing on piracy
The Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation conducted a hearing regarding Piracy on the High Seas: Protecting Our Ships, Crew, and Passengers. Mr. Philip Shapiro, President, Liberty Maritime Corporation, testified that federal law (as well as international arrangements) must be changed in order for US-flag commercial ships to carry weapons for use in defense against pirates. Captain Richard Phillips, Master, M/V Maersk Alabama, repeated his testimony from the piracy hearing last week. Mr. Michael Perry, Chief Engineer, M/V Maersk Alabama, testified concerning the professionalism of merchant mariners when attacked by pirates. The Honorable Roy Kienitz, Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy, testified regarding best management practices that commercial ships may adopt to reduce the risk that a piratical attack will be successful and noted that many nations will not allow armed merchant vessels into their ports. Rear Admiral Brian Salerno, US Coast Guard, testified about the importance of ships engaging in pre-planning in order to effectively respond to piratical attacks. In this regard, the Coast Guard will soon issue a directive requiring security plans for certain US vessels to include counter-piracy measures. Ms. Theresa Whelan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs, testified concerning ongoing international efforts to thwart piracy in waters off the coast of Somalia. (5/5/09).
Senate Armed Services Committee – hearing on piracy
The Senate Committee on Armed Services conducted a hearing to receive testimony regarding ongoing efforts to combat piracy on the high seas. The Honorable Michele A. Flournoy, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, testified that piracy in waters off northeast Africa remains a problem because: (1) there is no effective government in Somalia; (2) the geographic area affected is vast; (3) there are serious gaps the ability to prosecute suspected pirates; and (4) the maritime industry has not taken sufficient steps with regard to on-ship security measures. Ambassador Stephen Mull, Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, testified that the United States is working with the Contact Group for Piracy off the Coast of Somalia to persuade victim states to prosecute pirates, while also working to expand regional capacity to prosecute and incarcerate pirates. Mr. James Caponiti, Acting Deputy Administrator, Maritime Administration, testified about MARAD’s efforts to disseminate best counter-piracy practices to the maritime industry. (5/5/09).
DOD – global coordination can stop pirates
The US Department of Defense issued a news release advocating global coordination in the ongoing efforts to stop piracy, particularly in waters off the northeastern coast of Africa. (5/4/09).
EU – bulk carrier hijacked in Gulf of Aden
The European Union Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa [EU MSC(HOA)] issued a news release stating that a bulk carrier was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden. The ship was in the transit corridor and involved in a group transit. A helicopter from the closest warship was too late to prevent the hijacking. The crew of eleven is believed to be unhurt. (5/5/09).
WHO & CDC – Influenza A(H1N1) updates – 1,516 cases
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued an update stating that, as of 0600 GMT, 6 May, 22 countries have reported 1,516 confirmed cases of influenza A(H1N1) infection. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an update stating that 38 states have reported a total of 403 confirmed cases of H1N1 flu infection. (5/6/09).
DOD – Chinese vessels approach USNS ship in international waters
The US Department of Defense (DOD) issued a news release stating that Chinese fishing vessels closed in on and maneuvered near the USNS Victorious in international waters of the Yellow Sea on May 1. The Victorious is an ocean surveillance ship operated under authority of the Military Sealift Command (MSC). This is the second such incident off the coast of China this year. (5/5/09).
FDA – prior notice of imported food – compliance guide
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a notice stating that it has released an updated version of its Compliance Policy Guide (CPG) entitled “Sec. 110.310 Prior Notice of Imported Food under the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002”. For the most part, the obligation to provide prior notice is on the importer of the food items. When the food item is being transshipped through the United States (rather than imported into the United States), though, the obligation to provide prior notice is on the carrier. 74 Fed. Reg. 20955 (May 6, 2009).
USCG – Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council
The US Coast Guard released the Spring 2009 edition of the Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council. This issue focuses on interagency success stories – at the international, federal, and state/local levels.
Bill introduced to improve port and intermodal supply chain security
Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey Port Security Task Force Implementation Act of 2009 (S. 915) to improve port and intermodal supply chain security. Senator Lautenberg also issued a news release summarizing the aims of the legislation. Among other things, it would, if enacted into law, require cargo to be monitored from the moment it is packed into containers abroad until it reaches its destination in the United States. Containers that do not meet the standards would be refused entry. The bill would also set minimum security standards for essential port services, such as supply and launch vessels and bunker and fuel deliveries. (4/28/09).
Bills introduced to promote secure ferry transportation
Senator Murray (D-WA) and Representative Larsen (D-WA) introduced the United States Ferry Systems Investment Act of 2009 (S. 930 and H.R. 2172 respectively) to promote secure ferry transportation and for other purposes. (4/29/09).
Washington – aircraft jettisons fuel in emergency
The Washington State Department of Ecology issued a news release stating that a commercial airliner jettisoned approximately 5,000 gallons of jet fuel over Puget Sound after experiencing an in-flight emergency. The airliner landed safely at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport following the jettisoning. Note: I include this report to highlight the difference in the reaction of enforcement agencies with regard to the aviation and maritime transportation modes. Experience has shown, numerous times, that if a vessel discharges oil into the water in an emergency, civil penalties will surely follow and criminal penalties may also be imposed. With the aviation industry, those same agencies merely say, as they did here: “While all oil is poisonous to the environment, Ecology does not expect the jettisoned fuel from the April 29 incident caused serious environmental harm. Any person or property hit directly with liquid fuel should wash it off with soap and water.” I am certainly not advocating that the airline or the pilot in this incident be penalized, nor am I suggesting that this state agency is responding to this incident in a manner different than other agencies have responded to other similar incidents. I am, though, strongly advocating that federal and state enforcement agencies should be no less solicitous of the maritime industry as they are of the aviation industry in such cases. (5/4/09).
If you have questions regarding the above items, please contact the editor:
Dennis L. Bryant
Bryant’s Maritime Consulting
4845 SW 91st Way
Gainesville, FL 32608-8135
© Dennis L. Bryant – May 2009