Monday, June 25, 2012

Naval Interests Updated 5/28/2015

Rear Admiral Yin Zhou of the PLAN spoke out of both sides of his mouth in the ongoing controversy between China and the Philippines over the Scarborough Shoal area. He tolds the Chinese News Service (CNS) that Chinese Troops should board even Philippine Government, as well as fishing vessels in the area of the 2012 stand off, but "maintain restraint, not force, not hurt people" when boarding vessels in the area.". He then tells the Communist Party's "People's daily that the PLAN "will not hesitate to use deadly force against its enemies'. 

Watch our first hyperlinked video in this posting to see how quick and deadly PLAN forces can be against unarmed Vietnamese sailors. What does this tell us about the dispute between the Philippines and China over Scarborough Shoal?

Philippine Presidential Decree No. 1599 established a 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone from base lines drawn on the larger main Philippine Islands such as Luzon. The disputed area is within 123 to 137 miles from this base line. It is nowhere near 200 miles from China. The Island was named for the tea ship SCARBOROUGH which sank on one of the rocks with a loss of all hands in 1784. The Philippines call the 150 square mile area of rocks and small islands "Panatag Shoal" or Bajo de Masinloc".  The Philippines built a light house on it in 1960s and refurbished it in the 1990s. Between the 1990s and 2003 the Philippine fisheries authorities arrested many Chinese vessels for illegal fishing in the area. The arrests, as are anticipated under present Exclusive Economic Zone law were not for simply fishing in the area but for using illegal methods and taking protected species. The Philippines before being pushed out of the area by the more heavily armed Chinese claimed only exclusive benthic (bottom dwelling) fishing rights and the right, duty, and obligation under international law to enforce migratory fishing treaty provisions against illegal methods and the taking of protected species. The Chinese gun boats now present in the area, treat it like the territorial sea of China. 

 The area has been shown on navigation charts compiled by English speaking and Spanish speaking maritime powers as Philippine waters since 1734 with up dates in 1808, 1820, and 1939. such Charts in any language did not show any Chinese name associated with the area as late as 1947. The Chinese base their claim on discovery of the area by Chinese Astronomer and Explorer Guo Shoujing in 1279. The Chinese did not exercise any administration over the area until their gun boats showed up recently. The Philippines ask that the "dispute" be settled by the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea. China insists on what it calls "bilateral discussions" which so far look a lot like the Chinese hold a gun to the head of the Philippines until they cave in and literally give the Dragon a foot hold on their beach front.  How far will the Dragon go with this strong armed robbery? We have witnessed this before when the Dragon opposed Vietnam over a similar area. Watch the video hyperlinked in this blog. The only fly in the ointment for the Dragon at the moment is that while the Dragon is far more powerful than the Philippines, the Philippines is not friendless being a long time and reliable alley of the United States. Watch the hyperlinked video comparison between Chinese and Philippine military strength.  We believe the time is long past for dealing with the Dragon's land grabs but that not only does the U.S. as leading advocate present issues of "face" to the Dragon, the Dragon's "First Island Policy" has parallels with our own "Monroe Doctrine, though their's is a sort of Monroe Doctrine on steroids. We never claimed any right to interfere with "innocent passage" or made any territorial claims. Too much pressure directly from the United States could worsen the situation. This is why American Admiralty Informational Services addresses India and Japan in the hopes that they will take the forceful lead in the region and speak up for their weaker neighbors.  Please read on and watch the hyperlinked videos for a fast background on the issues that could lead to peace or war in the South China sea.

 To India and Japan the Dragon is troublesome but so far it has proven a manageable threat. To its smaller neighbors who can not confront it from a position of naval power the image is quite different. To Vietnam and the Philippines the Dragon has been threatening and very deadly since at least 1988. Perhaps the best way to convey just how the Dragon is perceived by its smaller neighbors along the South China Sea is to provide you with videos on the subject created by Vietnamese and Philippines sources.  In our first hyper-linked presentation some of the video footage was actually shot by Chinese Navy photographers. We warn viewers that some of the images are difficult to watch, in 1988 Chinese warships opened the Spratly Islands dispute by literally slaughtering by machine gun fire unarmed Vietnamese sailors standing waist deep in water where they had planted their national flag in defiance of China.  China actually celebrates the incident as a victory and shamelessly photographed the slaughter of unarmed Vietnamese sailors and have shown the video of the "victory " enough that it has "escaped" to the Internet.  

 The closest point of land in China to the portion of the Spratly's depicted is roughly more than a thousand miles. The area where the massacre depicted occurred less than half that distance from Vietnam in a straight line from the coast. Historically the islands have long been considered part of Vietnam which occupies parts of the islands and has been continuously fishing the area since ancient times.

 Watch with us if you dare, the opening shots of the Spratly land grab by the Dragon, click on the hyperlink below, then come back to us for more views from the Spratly dispute.


 The Philippines have good reason to fear the Dragon. The Dragon has already claimed sovereign Philippine territory. They are locked in a dispute with the dragon over the Scarobough Shoal group of islands. This area is well within 200 miles of the Philippines. Disputes between the Philippines and Vietnam over certain sections of the Spratly Islands have so far prevented these two nations from forming an alliance to resist excessively expansive claims by China, claims that China has proven willing to exert by blood shed. Even if the two nations could cooperate against the Dragon's intrusions, together they are too weak to resist. 

 The next hyperlink will take you to a Philippine video comparison of the comparative strengths of the Philippine and Chinese military forces. The previous video gives you some idea of the kind of treatment that the Philippines expect from China but for being linked to the United States by a defense treaty that is a constant source of anger for the Dragon.

In contrast to the Dragon, the claims of the Philippines are mostly in conformance with the international conventions that govern territorial seas, contiguous zones, and exclusive economic zones.
In the short video hyper-linked below Philippine sources explain their domestic law on the relevant issues and state their argument that their claims are solidly based in international conventions and customary international law.

 Finally, in the video hyper-linked below the Brookings Institute explains the interests of the United States and the complicated position we are in as any sort of deal broker in the area.

 The "Old China Hands" of the retired Naval Intelligence community that  American Admiralty Information Services have consulted with, agree that America has a high level of interest in the area. However, our interest is most direct in terms of the right of innocent passage through the area. Due to our historical close ties with the Philippines, and our relatively recent conflict with Vietnam, and China's jealousy over the leading position in the region; the United States probably can not be effective as a deal broker in the territorial dispute. Adding to China's face saving worries is its recent stern warning to the United States to keep out of the conflict. 

 In the first video we saw exactly how the Dragon deals with anyone who disagrees with them in the region if they are viewed as weak or friendless.  We see the only hope for peaceful resolution in a greater leadership role, including the role of arbitrator of territorial claims, on the parts of India and Japan. While Japan has some territorial disputes with China they are not in the vicinity of the Spratlys or Scrobourgh Shoal. India's interest is similar to that of the United States, namely general freedom of the seas; much trade to and from India passes through the South China sea, but India doesn't have territorial claims in the area. Most importantly India and Japan are serious naval powers, together they could well be dominant, the Dragon respects power. 

 While Japan is closely tied to the United States, India has held the U.S. at arms length. China "loses face" if it appears to knuckle under U.S. pressure. However by contrast China can be seen as dealing fairly with its fellow regional powers, neither one of which alone is in a position to dictate terms, but together have the type of power that the Dragon respects.  China is a Confucian state in the mind of our experts, who see a Confucian state as being almost obsessed with central control. Those obsessed with control have a natural aversion for losing face or exposing the iron fist encased in the silk glove. The United States is the wrong party in our opinion to directly deal with the misbehavior of the Dragon. We have our interests and we need to state them, but then we should fall behind the leadership of  a united front of Japan and India, so far behind that we do not appear as puppet master but as concerned party willing to abide by a fairly negotiated settlement that adheres to international law. The Dragon is aware that we have a big stick in the form of our Pacific Fleet if the Dragon should try to maul our Japanese friends, or the more neutral but trusted Indians. But we must avoid waving that stick about for the Dragon would rather die fighting than appear to knuckle under to a rival power that it feels it rightfully "owns" given the amount of debt of ours that it holds. 

 In the end however, the Dragon, the master of soft power knows that the massive debt is also a powerful weapon it has handed the Eagle. If the Dragon was to actually attack the honest brokers of India and Japan the United States would appear very legitimate in the eyes of the world in canceling its debt to China. After all it would hardly be a moral position to be critical of China's actions as immoral, illegal, and harmful to our allies, friends, and neutrals and continue to prop up their economy which fuels their armed forces. We would be relieved of a tremendous debt burden without any real damage to our international credit standing and cripple the Chinese economy in one blow involving no kinetic energy. When it comes to debt, sometimes the debtor nation has the creditor over the barrel. The big unanswered question is; will India and Japan join hands and  step up to the plate as powerful regional leaders?    

We hope that you will take the time to study the issues of the South China Sea. These are issues that could spell peace or war. As illustrated by the first video these are issues that some have already died over. The longest video lasts a little less than eight minutes. Invest a little time in obtaining the several different view points and relevant information on this important issue from our blog and hyper-linked videos. Tell others about this resource and the issues. Obviously we have an opinion on the issue and that is that leadership by India and Japan is critical. But we don't have all the answers. As the first video illustrates the Spratly disputes are the first place since the fall of Tibet where the Dragon has truly shown its teeth and fiery breath.  We will leave this posting up longer than usual so that our visitors may find it easily. Once we publish a new post this one will still be there you just have to scroll down. Please read, view, discuss, and give us your comments.  

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Saturday, June 23, 2012



Watch This Space Next Week For Shocking Videos Of The Dragon In Action.

  China is boosting its "coastal forces" in the face of continuing disagreement over sovereignty in the "second island chain". It appears the Dragon's definition of "coastal forces" includes forces sufficient to dominate the ocean from their beach line to the high water mark on the beaches of their neighbors. The bad news is that the Dragon has a very bloody record in pushing its perceptions of its "rights" against neighboring states that are either weak or viewed as weaker than the Dragon and Friendless. Next week we will post a video that shows just how ruthless the Dragon can become in pursuing its claims that clearly run contrary to international law.  We urge all of you who have been following our series "HOW FAR WILL THE DRAGON SWIM" To view this and the related videos next week which allows at least Vietnam and the Philippines to give you their view of the Dragon in words and images. We will warn you now that the first video in the series will show the Dragon literally machine gunning unarmed sailors in waist deep water. Its not suitable for younger viewers.

The good news , if there is any, is that the latest in Dragon "Coastal Forces" seem to be a ratcheting down from the prior use of heavily armed naval forces. The bad news is that seems 
to be simply a more sophisticated form of enforcing an illegal "land grab" and the apparently "kinder gentler" forces are sufficiently deadly to repeat the machine gunning incident that we will show you next week. 

 China is expanding its "Maritime Surveillance Forces". These forces are a paramilitary maritime police force separate and distinct from the Chinese Navy, the agency responsible for the the incident of mass murder at sea that we will show you next week. This new force operates under the State Oceanic Administration. Its larger vessels look much like our own U.S. Coast Guard's medium and high endurance cutters and are by no means incapable of high seas operations. By 2015 this relatively new force is expected to reach a strength of 16 aircraft, 350 vessels of various sizes, and a force of 15,000 officers and sailors.

 China recently used a vessel of this fleet to meet and greet an Indian Navy vessel transiting from Japanese waters towards home waters. There was nothing threatening in the "meet and greet" except an announcement that the ship were providing an unsolicited "escort", through what was clearly international waters. This new force is being operated in a fashion meant to imply effective Chinese administration over all of the contested waters of the China Sea. While the vessels are less heavily armed than naval vessels they have far superior weaponry than the fishing, commercial transport, research, other non naval craft they routinely shadow. One of their often used tactics for international commercial vessels that they know are on innocent passage is to come within sight, raise the vessel on the voice radio, and "welcome" them to "Chinese waters" along with offers of routing assistance, aids to navigation information, etc.. The idea is that they are building their case for "effective administration" of the entire area of their excessive claim. Unfortunately we fear that these tactics are reserved for nations with strong navies. Watch our video of next week to see how the Dragon deals with the powerless.

 As the "Maritime Surveillance Force grows and expands operations, disputes continue and grow more bitter between China with Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam. China claims over 648,000 square miles of ocean including all of the Spratly and Parcel Islands. In the incident that we will show you next week the Chinese literally machine gunned unarmed Vietnamese sailors waist deep in waters over a shallow shoal barely 200 miles directly off the coast of Vietnam and nearly 1,000 miles from the nearest point of land in China. The "crime" of the Vietnamese sailors? They were planting Vietnamese flags on the shoal which has been considered part of Vietnamese coastal waters and islands for about two hundred years.  

 The Dragon's expansionist ambitions are not limited to the South China Sea. A week before this posting one of their survey ships was spotted entering Japanese waters without the required notice provided for in a bilateral agreement between Japan and China over certain disputed waters near Japan. Once contacted the Chinese vessel then gave the Japanese Coast Guard vessel an explanation of its presence, its intended course and maneuvers, and finally provided notice as it turned to leave Japanese Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) waters.   

The Dragon doesn't seem to comprehend the difference between the territorial sea and an ocean servitude. The world recognizes only a 12 mile "territorial sea" consisting of an ocean area off of a nation's coast in which the adjacent coastal state exercises sovereignty as if the "territorial sea" was a piece  of their own land mass. Beyond this 12 mile wide "territorial sea" adjacent coastal states exercise varying degrees of control over specific activities to the degree that these controls don't interfere with the international rights of "innocent passage". For example for a distance of about 12 miles beyond the "territorial sea" there is a recognized "contiguous zone" in which adjacent coastal states have enhanced customs law enforcement rights. However to exercise those rights patrol craft commanders must have some form of "probable cause" for suspecting a customs law violation. For a distance of about 200 miles out from shore many adjacent coastal states have exclusive benthic (bottom dwelling) fisheries rights, and exclusive oil and mineral exploration and development rights. This area is somewhat coincidental with the newly evolved legal construct known as the Exclusive Economic Zone where the adjacent coastal state may have other exclusive economic development rights, but again subject to the requirement that such activities do not unduly obstruct freedom of navigation.

 Here is another way of looking at it. The surface of the ocean is open to navigation by anyone to about 12 miles from shore. For a nation's naval or coastal forces to interfere with any vessel navigating outside of its 12 mile territorial waters it must have probable cause that the vessel it stops or delays has violated a specific exclusive state right within a well defined and recognized zone administered by the adjacent coastal state. The relevant international conventions contain specific guidelines for special cases such as overlapping coastlines of neighboring adjacent coastal states and island states. Rarely are any of these limited exclusive economic rights extended much beyond 200 miles from shore. In the case of the dispute between the Philippines and China over the Scarborough Shoal area it is not disproportional though a bit of an exaggeration to state that China is extending its EEZ claim across a wide swath of ocean to the virtual beach line of the Philippines.

 When you see how China treated Vietnam in our posting of next week you'll realize why the latest pronouncement from China appears so chilling to the Philippines. Last week when Vietnam suggested that foreign states including the United States could have a role in arbitrating the various disputes over EEZ rights in the South China Sea, China's State Department issued a stern warning that all foreigners should keep out of the dispute. We believe that the relations between China and Japan and India indicate that China follows a two pronged approach to her ocean territorial ambitions. They keep the iron fist in a silk glove when confronting real naval powers like Japan and India, and simply punch the weak "right between the running lights" at every opportunity. 

 Now that they have publicly warned the United States and Western powers to keep out of their obvious land grab from their neighbors the hope that western powers could possibly drive a peaceful settlement are dashed. The Dragon has set itself up for a loss of face if it ever appears to be backing down from its land grab in the face of U.S. pressure. We believe the Philippines has escaped the treatment that China administered to the Vietnamese so far because the Philippines is perceived as under the protection of the U.S. Navy. Watch our second video next in Next week's blog on the Dragon to see a Philippine comparison of their military strength to that of China. We believe that the last hope of relatively peaceful and equitable settlement between China, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and the Philippines is the exertion of strong leadership and naval presence by a united front of India and China.

  China loses no face settling with these two regional powers who in combination have more military might than China wants to face down. The Dragon becomes the "Middle Kingdom" when faced with power and reverts to the astute use of soft power to further its goals. China would probably revert to soft power means to further its oceanic ambitions and scale back its time table if really confronted by a Japanese/ Indian front.

 We've been here before its called containment. China is not going to become a long lasting superpower. It is a Confucian state strongly acculturated  with concepts of central control. The Chinese have worked near miracles in the recent past but their micro management required to run everything will eventually cause them to collapse on themselves. They have gained a lot of ground in economic competition with the United States by painting us as "busy bodies". They base this claim on the fact that there are certain moral lines we will not generally cross in business, and certain people that we will not do business with, and certain forms of government that we hold at arms length. China's appeal is that if you do business with them they  don't care how you govern. Indeed China can be quite accommodating to the most severe domestic repression by governments it trades with. By contrast while our own record is not great, such actions at least generate protest among some U.S. population segments and the media.

 Domestic protest of government foreign policies is not a factor in China and there is no free press or media to protest. The Dragon simply can't go the distance as the world discovers just how ruthless it can be, and as it expends its hard won treasure on "control" at home and a broad. Most of the world in fact does value some moral principals in business.  The rest of the world simply needs to cooperate in suppressing the Dragon's appetites until it finally burns its lungs on its own fiery breath. India and Japan wake up to the Dragon on your door step, stand up for your weaker neighbors before the his divide and conquer game envelopes you, or a big power confrontation explodes on your door step.  Watch this space for a close up and highly visual view of the Dragon at work next week. We'll leave that post up for a while in the hopes that those of you who have been following the story of the swimming dragon will alert your friends, fellow workers, and neighbors to the videos. We'll make next week the Week of the swimming dragon and then we'll get off this subject for while to see if other opinions and view points re offered. But next week let's look at the Dragon as seen by his weaker neighbors.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Merchant Marine Interest:


 Editorial Note: June 1, 2017  This really was the last attempt at reform of the TWIC system and while the process for an original or renewal has improved somewhat the system is still in our opinion a dismal failure. We think most of the observable "progress" to date in the way of reduction of wait and processing times is simply the result of  the "pig in the python effect" of the initial issue population passing through and an over all shrinkage in the relevant maritime work force reducing renewals. The protracted time involved in the program's roll out has also inadvertently staggered renewal demand. Over all we rate the system, which doesn't even require proof of citizenship for card issuance a colossal and expensive failure. 

The Transportation Worker Identification Card (TWIC) has been a major irritant for the maritime industries and most especially merchant mariners since its inception in the wake of the attack on the twin World Trade Towers in New York on September 11, 2001. Merchant mariners are required to undergo a background investigation that they are charged for in order to obtain the TWIC without which they may not go unescorted through a marine terminal. Lack of unescorted movement through marine terminals effectively curtails shore leave and renders crew changes extremely difficult. 

 Of course, everyone understands the necessity for port security in today's environment, but unlike the truck drivers and others required to under go and pay for the TWIC process U.S.Merchant Marine personnel already have Coast Guard issued "mariner credentials" for which they had to undergo background checks and pay for the process. Thus U.S.Merchant Mariners, so necessary to our commerce and national security that the law classes them as a "naval auxiliary" are made to pay for both an occupational license and a sort of redundant "work permit". In the case of merchant mariners there seems to be very little security value added by way of the TWIC program and a great deal of aggravation and expense added to the lives of this already shrinking labor force.

 Now some hope of reform appears. House Resolution 4251 has been favorably reported and may be on its way to becoming law. This bill addresses a number of important shortfalls in the TWIC system. The legislation is strongly supported by the maritime labor unions and many in maritime industry management. The full name of the bill is the "Securing Maritime Activities Through Risk-Based Targeting for Port Security Act". " We urge our maritime professional readers to monitor the progress of this bill carefully. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.), Chairperson of the Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee. The legislation calls for major reform of the TWIC system before the end of 2012 when the first of the TWIC applicants will be required to go through the renewal process.The most important reform from the point of view of most merchant mariners is that the legislation requires that the process be completed with only one in person visit to the card issuing center.

 The bill also requires the DHS to issue a final rule for the installation of mechanical readers for the cards at the places protected. The lack of mechanical readers was one of the primary arguments that the cards were redundant with the merchant mariners credential. After all, if security guards simply looked at the TWIC as a photo ID from an agency that required a back ground check for issuance it truly was redundant with the Coast Guard issued mariner's credentials. To us, the next reform after this legislation should be the evolution of merchant mariner credentials that are TWIC electronic reader readable and the elimination of the entire second application, background check, and fees for merchant mariners. Well, we can still dream can't we?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012



Update June 1, 2017:    This year it has been reported that 2016 was the worst year for recreational boating fatalities and injuries since records have been kept. The trend as we first reported here has been up for a number of years and we believe the principal reasons are still as described in this post. We also think that the advice given at the end of this post can still save your life.
 According to a recent report by the U.S. Coast Guard recreational boating fatalities rose last year to 758 reported nation wide , the highest number on record since 1998. From 2010 to 2011 total reported accidents actually decreased on an order of -1%, but deaths increased by 12.8% from 672 to 758. Recreational boating accident property damage in the same time frame totaled approximately $52 million. The fatality rate amounted to roughly 6.2 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels, a 14% increase from last years 5.4 deaths per registered recreational vessel.

 Interestingly the National Mariner's Association reports that commercial work boat accidents are grossly under reported to the U.S. Coast Guard and has provided background information to the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Audits to that effect.
We have to wonder if recreational boating accidents might also be under reported. Often state or county sheriffs offices or state marine patrols respond to such accidents. Not all concerned are aware of exactly where the "navigable waters of the United States" begin and end. It seems highly likely that a significant number of recreational boating accidents never are brought to the Coast Guard's attention. Many recreational boats such as kayaks and canoes, stand up paddle boards, small rowing and sailing vessels are not "registered" recreational boats. Yet, there are probably quite a few of these vessels involved in accidents involving "registered recreational boats" on the "navigable waters of the United States.. Consequently we suspect the recent explosion in the numbers of these sorts of craft taking to the water may have something to do with the rise in fatalities. These vessels don't offer the occupants much protection when hit by a typical outboard recreational motorboat. 

 We are often skeptical of Coast Guard regulatory efforts and their various attempts at keeping and analyzing statistics, but we have a high regard for the efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary in boating safety and what they call "preventative SAR" (Search and Rescue). The fatality rate had been dropping steadily for years as the Coast Guard Auxiliary's boating safety education efforts bore fruit. The U.S. Power Squadron, and some state boating law administrator's public courses added to the weight of training spreading through the recreational boating community. We don't think that traditional recreational boaters or "yachtsmen" are driving up the fatality rate. We think more "incidental boaters" who primarily see themselves as participants in "water sports" are now more prevalent in the traffic. While we view the Coast Guard's count of fatalities per registered recreational boat as possibly flawed by the failure to identify and deal with the registered on unregistered unplanned hull contacts; we find their list of causation factors and some other statistics offered this year as highly useful in addressing the practical problem of reducing on water recreational deaths.

 The Coast Guard lists as contributing factors in accident causation "operator inattention" "improper look-out", "operator inexperience", and  "excessive speed". However leading the pack of contributing factors in boating accident causation is "alcohol use". Alcohol was listed as a contributing factor in approximately 16% of the fatal accidents.  Of those who died in recreational boating accidents known to the Coast Guard 70% drowned. Of the drowning victims 84% were not wearing personal flotation devices (PFD often called "Life Jackets"). Most importantly, only 11% of the recreational boating accidents involved operators who had received boating safety instruction; and that does not mean that such boaters were "at fault" in the accidents they were involved in.

 So no matter how accurate the latest statistics, or what flaws may have occurred in their compilation and presentation, the fact of an increase in fatalities is clear. More importantly the causation factors are the usual suspects that the Coast Guard Auxiliary has been fighting for decades. We believe that the Auxiliary and its partners such as the Power Squadron, and state boating law administrators have reached in a powerful way the "traditional recreational boating population". We suspect that the rise in fatalities represents an increased presence of non traditional boaters who have not been sold yet on recreational boating instruction.

 In our various water sport pages such as diving, sailing, rowing and paddle sports we urge our book buying customers to seek out instruction and not to rely on just reading a book before engaging in these pursuits. The latest statistics from the Coast Guard underscore this advice. We would also like to add:





 Be careful out there this summer. Read! But by all means take lessons in your water sport, be careful, avoid alcohol while on the water, buy a really comfortable PFD and wear it!  Here at American Admiralty Books we desperately want you to be safe on the water. Remember only live customers can buy books or be counted in our advertising rate justification statistics.


 Boating safety Kit


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Naval Interest:


The Tiger and the Dragon are not best friends but the

prefers "soft power" at the moment, and the Tiger is not a 

war monger. So once in while they visit each other just to

confirm that neither is currently intending on devouring the 

other. It has been six years since Indian Warships ("The 

Tiger") have visited the Dragon's lair (Shanghai). On June 13, 

2012 the Indian warships SHIVALIK, KARMUK, and SHAKTI 

and their combined crews of about 1400 sailors started a

a goodwill tour on the Dragon's turf. 

 In the U.S. and British navies we call such activities "showing 

the Flag". Despite the casual sounding name such fleet 

activities are really very formal diplomatic missions. It takes a 

mature and well developed navy to conduct such operations, 

naval forces are the only armed forces that regularly engage 

in diplomacy.The Indian fleet at the time of this visit was

led by Vice Admiral Anil Chopra, Chief of the Eastern 

Command.The Vice Admiral met with the top officials of the 

Chinese People's Liberation Army's Navy who visited the 


 This was the first visit to China in six years by Indian naval 

vessels. Both nations have made serious efforts to

demonstrate emerging rapprochement, despite border 

disputes and misgivings about each other's rise in economic 

and naval power. The ships visit is considered a high point of 

defense exchanges this year. Both countries have designated 

this a year of "friendship and cooperation". Indian 

ambassador to China S. Jaishnakar was in Shanghai

and told Indian news services that the ships visit was 

planned to make maximum public impact. There was public 

visitation,and Chinese school children and naval band 


Our own take on the visit of the Tiger with the Dragon is 

simple. If India was as weak as Vietnam or the Philippines 

this wouldn't be happening. The Dragon only deals with the 

strong it simply eats the weak. Earlier in the week the Indian 

Navy demonstrated its friendship with the Dragon's other 

powerful neighbor, the Land of the Rising Sun. The question

that is yet to be answered is, will the combined naval power 

of India and Japan be used only to secure their own borders 

or will these two powers combine to apply pressure on the 

Dragon to also deal fairly and peacefully with its weaker 

neighbors on the South China Sea?  Its a matter of "face". If 

China is seen as dealing fairly with its neighbors as opposed 

to giving in to "American demands" it is more likely to settle 

the maritime boundary issues in accordance with international 

law. The Dragon is voracious with serious territorial 

ambitions, but not stupid or politically unaware. It prefers soft 

power, but the emphasis is always on power.

 India and Japan are regional powers. Are they willing to use 

that power in combination on behalf of the weaker nations of 

the region? The United States has been the World's 

policeman for too long. The image between Cop and Bully 

has become blurred. If India and Japan were to be insistent 

on good dragon behavior, the United States could fade into

the role of auxiliary policeman. The Dragon knows that it 

would have little chance against a combination of India and 

Japan and that a Japan facing China's guns would never be 

alone. With the U.S. Pacific fleet entering as back up the 

Dragon would be headed to the bottom of the sea. But with 

the United States not being a shrill voice at the table the 

Dragon can afford to be gracious with its neighbors, even if in 

truth it would cheerfully eat them all if it could. The Indian 

Navy is a force in the world, the world is waiting to see if it will 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Merchant Marine and Marine Environmental Safety:

The Coast Guard Safety Equipment Approval Process; Why Can't the Coast Guard Deal With "Best Available Technology"

 The Kevin Costner and Stephen Baldwin Law Suit is back from a New Orleans Jury. The Lessons for the Maritime Industry are Deeper than the Headlines

 Famed Hollywood actor Kevin Costner invested millions of dollars earned in the film industry in a little known corner of the maritime industry. He helped develop oil spill clean up technology  which offered the opportunity to actually recover and reuse oil lost at sea. The technology, we can assure you, works and it works better than the usual equipment deployed in the wake of major oil spills.

  For investors looking for something truly "green" to invest in, the Costner and friends company "Ocean Therapy Solutions" looked like a winner. Other possibly green minded Hollywood personalities also invested , among them actor Stephen Baldwin and his business associate Spyridon Contogouvis. 

 At one point Costner possibly lost as much as $20 million on his earliest attempts to develop and market the product. His major problem as we see it, was that he had a non Coast Guard approved product in what was basically a compliance market. While he had the best available technology the Coast Guard routinely operates its equipment approval processes on the basis of compliance with recognized codes and standards. 

 The Coast Guard seems to struggle and consume an inordinate amount of time and make incredible demands on those approaching it with major improvements in technologies seeking the all important "Coast Guard approved label. Oil spill clean up devices are just one example we are familiar with. The Navy and the Coast Guard itself buy "throw-able devices" for the rescue of crew and passengers lost overboard that are not Cost Guard approved simply because they know these products are superior, best available technology. Meanwhile commercial vessel owners continue to invest in the old style "ring buoys" because they are Coast Guard approved and they are obligated to have the prescribed number of these devices aboard. Such owners are loath to then go out and buy the "best available technology" just to have it. Safety equipment doesn't generate direct revenue for anyone but the sellers of safety equipment. So an antiquated approval process unable to deal efficiently with approval applications based on "best available technology" works to keep major improvements off the basically compliance based market.

 In the case of "Ocean Therapy Solutions" the 2010 British Petroleum Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico first pushed up the urgency of getting Coast Guard approval, then the desperation of British Petroleum led to a major purchase of the "best available technology" regardless of the status of the Coast Guard approval.

 Caught up in the uncertainty were Costner, Baldwin and Spyridon.
Costner apparently was willing to risk all. Baldwin and Spyridon sold out just before British Petroleum did the unthinkable and made a firm commitment to buy regardless of Coast Guard approvals. Baldwin and Spyridon sold their stock in Ocean Therapy Solutions for approximately $1.5 million. In doing so they missed out on a potential windfall that they estimated to be in excess of $17 million. Baldwin and Spyridon sued Costner.

 We can now report that the New Orleans jury found for Costner who maintained throughout the trial that he did not withhold any information from stockholders and that Baldwin and Spyridon were aware of the "tentative" commitment of British Petroleum to buy the technology. The sale of their stock, according to New Orleans press accounts, took place before the final actual signing of a contract for sale.

 Our purpose isn't to applaud or second guess the jury. We simply wish to point out that the root source of the struggle of Ocean Therapy Solutions began with an antiquated, inefficient and unresponsive Coast Guard safety equipment approval process and that this process keeps important lifesaving technological improvements off the market. In the Ocean Therapy Solutions case we don't know how many other stockholders like Baldwin and Spyridon became disillusioned and began to despair that their investment would ever make a profit. But we are dead certain that a maritime industry outsider or group of outsiders would be surprised by the inability and reluctance of the Coast Guard to approve best available technology. If the oil recovery equipment in question had obtained approval in a reasonable time the company would have followed a more normal growth pattern. It may have prospered or it might have even been knocked right out of the market by even better innovations. But the nearly impossible approval process bred investor frustration and deterred any better technology that might be out there. 

 Ours is a very complex and enclosed area of economic endeavor with lots of quirks, not always visible to even the most astute business man from outside this industry. Consider the barge surplus that began to manifest itself in the inland towing industry in the 1980s. The surplus was driven in large measure by medical doctors and other non maritime investors looking for a better return on their investments than what the stock market was producing at the relevant time. These outsiders invested heavily in new barges and at first prospered. Unfortunately, none of their investment counselors and brokers knew when to tell them to stop. Seemingly without warning, the barge market became flooded and cargo rates went down and resale value of even new barges plummeted for a while. Everybody lost. experienced barge lines lost revenues for a while, though their fleets were upgraded, some lost so much that there was some consolidation among the operators. As a result, a smaller number of barge companies operate today than before the doctors started to invest. Most of the doctors and other outside investors lost the lion's share of value in their investments.

 Costner, Baldwin  and Spyridon take away from the lawsuit an appreciation of how bitter things can become when investors who originally come aboard an enterprise for the long haul lose confidence. Those of us who are professionals in the maritime sector should take a few lessons away as well. First the primary regulator of our business, the U.S. Coast Guard needs attention across a broad spectrum of issues related to the regulation of our activities not just the equipment approval process. Second it is highly unlikely that the needed reform will come from either our hopelessly gridlocked Congress or some other logical outside source like the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Inspector General's Office. According to the National Mariner's association in the last four years the DHS Inspector General's Office of Audits has systematically eliminated or reassigned every real maritime expert they ever had and now appears incapable of performing any type of compliance or performance audit of Coast Guard activities. Of course, if one asks the DHS Inspector General about it you will be told that that they have "experts".  But check with the National Mariner's Association which tracks the operations of the office and you will learn that only one licensed merchant marine officer with a technical degree in maritime operations is still employed and he was removed from his lead position in the Coast Guard audit and reassigned non maritime duties. The "experts" the Inspector General speaks of are simply accounting trained general auditors that the Assistant Inspector General in Charge of Audits self designates "experts". They have no third party certification as such, and no occupational licenses related to marine operations, you would be hard pressed to even find a Navy or Coast Guard veteran in the group. Certainly no one in the maritime industry would recognize any of the DHS Inspector General's Coast Guard audit team members as a "maritime expert".The regulatory environment in our industry is a mess, but not the only mess affecting the investment outlook.

 At the time of the barge oversupply fiasco the WORKBOAT Magazine "Workboat Index" of related common stocks either wasn't being published or wasn't as well known as today. This first of its kind stock index is so far one of far too few investor's tools for learning about maritime sector investment opportunities. We never seemed to have evolved real investment counselors who know our industries. We "salty dogs" are not the only sources of innovation or investment in our industries. Sometimes great innovations come from unexpected , even inexperienced sources. We are by nature conservative, for ours is a dangerous calling and caution is a virtue. Innovations must be tested. But we must find a way to more efficiently test for best available technologies and better ways to guide new investors through the minefields of the group of businesses that admiralty law refers to as "marine adventure". The as yet unfinished experience of Ocean Therapy Solutions is far too common, and far too discouraging to the new comers to our "adventure". 

 As far as we know at the moment the oil recovery units still have not received final Coast Guard approval. If that is correct than the compliance market is still closed to this improved and proven technology and it will take another massive  environmental disaster to generate any more significant sales. Those of us who have been gainfully employed and invested in the maritime sector need to start examining our industry and demanding better service by the government regulators. We also need to encourage anything that generates more confidence in outside investment. We can not afford many more sad tales like the saga of Ocean Therapy Solutions. Hollywood wasn't a direction from which we were expecting investment cash and technological innovation but we sure prefer these American's to China as a source of capital and ideas. Who knows where the next great maritime idea will come from? What can we do as an industrial community to make the risks more transparent, make the predictions of reward more accurate, and the regulatory way more smooth? What is the price of continued inaction?   
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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sailing, Rowing,  Boat Building,  Pirates  Even!



The Long Boat Company is a bit like wilderness; you may not be able be aboard as often as you would like but it's good for the soul just to know its there. I first became aware of the existence of the Longboat company when I encountered former American Admiralty Bureau Examiner and retired Coast Guard Officer Bill Riley one night in Annapolis wearing a straw "boater" with horns.

  "Viking Summer Dress Hat" he nonchalantly explained. Then he explained how he belonged to this crew of viking boat replica builders and reinactors and general row and sail abouts who basically just like to row and sail about the Chesapeake in an authentic Viking long boat recreation, in or out of Viking costume.  They also generally like to consume prodigious quantities of "mead and ale" , or "whatever beer you got". The Longboat company generally, actually, usually, more or less sorta, avoids actual looting and pillaging, but they always like to look and sound the part in or out of costume, Can I hear an "ARRRRRRRRRRRR!".

 Really doesn't it do that part of your maritime heart that secretly admires the daylights out of the fictional "Capt. Jack" good to know that on any given day from March through November and at other unpredictable times, somewhere on the Chesapeake's quaint waterfronts there is a viking replica with a bedraggled boat keeper in it who upon seeing you, in your Sunday best with your best girl on your arm, will greet you with a warm and friendly "A goat and two pigs for the woman, mate!

 The hyperlink below takes you to a short video on the Longboat Company by early AAB commentator "SWORDWHALE". Apparently our own blog member "Teanna" is also a Longboater. . We can't all be Longboaters but ain't it good to know they are out there ? ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

Sailing, Rowing,  Boat Building,  Pirates  Even!



The Long Boat Company is a bit like wilderness; you may not be able be aboard as often as you would like but it's good for the soul just to know its there. I first became aware of the existence of the Longboat company when I encountered former American Admiralty Bureau Examiner and retired Coast Guard Officer Bill Riley one night in Annapolis wearing a straw "boater" with horns.

  "Viking Summer Dress Hat" he nonchalantly explained. Then he explained how he belonged to this crew of viking boat replica builders and reinactors and general row and sail abouts who basically just like to row and sail about the Chesapeake in an authentic Viking long boat recreation, in or out of Viking costume.  They also generally like to consume prodigious quantities of "mead and ale" , or "whatever beer you got". The Longboat company generally, actually, usually, more or less sorta, avoids actual looting and pillaging, but they always like to look and sound the part in or out of costume, Can I hear an "ARRRRRRRRRRRR!".

 Really doesn't it do that part of your maritime heart that secretly admires the daylights out of the fictional "Capt. Jack" good to know that on any given day from March through November and at other unpredictable times, somewhere on the Chesapeake's quaint waterfronts there is a viking replica with a bedraggled boat keeper in it who upon seeing you, in your Sunday best with your best girl on your arm, will greet you with a warm and friendly "A goat and two pigs for the woman, mate!

 The hyperlink below takes you to a short video on the Longboat Company by early AAB commentator "SWORDWHALE". Apparently our own blog member "Teanna" is also a Longboater. . We can't all be Longboaters but ain't it good to know they are out there ? ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


An Evacuation Bigger Than Dunkirk
Image result for Coast Guard images of 9/11
 Image USCG

  In our "Merchant Marine Interest" section one of the books that we recommend for every American to read is titled "THE WAY OF THE SHIP". We highly recommend this book because it is the first real attempt by maritime historians to effectively describe the importance and national security contributions of our domestic fleets that carry people, and goods and perform services on our inland and coastal waters. We have taken pains to explain the vital role that these commercial work vessels and their crews have played as a reserve for our traditional deep sea Merchant Marine which is often weakened in times of peace. We have lamented the number of times the Congress has failed to act to protect this domestic fleet from foreign competition. We have often used examples from World War II and Vietnam to illustrate our high regard for the vessels and crews of these domestic fleets. We had every intention to tell you as soon as we could about the latest example of how much this fleet and its crews can contribute to national security in the form of their activities in the evacuation of Lower Manhattan in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. A maritime evacuation, bigger than Dunkirk. But we really can't tell the story better than the professional cinematographers and narrator Tom Hanks in the video that we have hyper-linked to below.

Monday, June 11, 2012



Editorial note: 3/2/2015 Since publication Russia has formed an alliance with Argentina and announced that the Bear favors the Argentine claim. So the dispute continues with new fuel provided by Russia. Our analysis stands. Argentina has no claim under international law. 
Location of the Falkland Islands
Falkland Islands blank.svg by Hogweard  Creative Commons

 Argentina just doesn't get it. Both traditional and codified international law recognizes only one indisputable claim to sovereignty, effective settlement. Only the British have ever effectively settled the Falklands. There are no Argentine citizens on the islands so no one is ever likely to vote for a transfer of sovereignty. Illegally, in the 1980s Argentina attempted to perfect their claim through an illegal resort to armed conflict and were roundly defeated by the British. So no matter who may have been the first western sailor to spot or land on the Falklands, it was the Brits who stayed, defended against all challengers, built towns, and farms, and ports , and established the rule of law. The issue is decided both by effective settlement and force of arms. Yet Argentina is at it again.

 Argentina has publicly stated that it considers oil and gas exploration of the Falkland Islands illegal and threatens international drilling contractors with legal action if they do not obtain permits for exploration in Argentine waters when exploring anywhere in the Falklands. The Energy Secretariat of Argentina has said that Desire Petroleum , Rockhopper Exploration, Argos Resources, Borders and Southern Petroleum, and Falkland Oil and Gas Ltd. do not have valid permits to explore in Argentine waters. Argentina threatens legal action if exploration by these companies continues 

 In a disputed sea area like the waters surrounding the Falklands it is difficult to say with certainty where the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Falklands stops and the Exclusive Economic Zone of Argentina begins. But two things are certain; each is entitled to a clearly defined exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the Argentine claim can never extend to the passages between the islands. But the claim of Argentina in this matter is nothing more than another sour grapes attempt at a land grab without use of force of arms, but rather with the use of lawyers to make business dealing that should be straight forward; complex and annoying. 

 The world, the Falklands, and Argentina all need the oil. Marine drilling contractors need recognized permit processes and royalty arrangements to bring out the oil. Argentina does have legitimate claims to an EEZ that abuts the EEZ of the Falklands, but they are neighbors , not a break away territory of Argentina. Everybody has neighbors, claims of real estate ownership based on proximity can't be valid in the face of long standing effective settlement and defense by force of arms. Argentina would be better served negotiating proper EEZ boundary lines. It's over Argentina, stop acting like a bunch of spoiled Nazis the people of the Falklands are British by choice, language, affinity, and family ties. The people of the Falklands have a right to self determination and they have not chosen Argentina, and after you invaded their homes with guns , they are never likely to choose you. So settle the EEZ business realistically and let's get on with the oil exploration. 

 If you resort to the gun again by going after oil exploration vessels in the vicinity of the Falklands we foresee you being pushed back again by naval force. If the EEZs question has to be resolved by force of arms, the world will recognize a British right to carve a decent security zone out of what should be your otherwise rightful EEZ. 

 Grow up Argentina! Maybe if you could learn to be a good neighbor and a stable democracy in a hundred years or so your proximity might finally work for you. First, the Falklanders have to not fear you. A period where you allowed them to use your proximity to mutual economic advantage, a period of free travel between the Falklands and the mainland, could lead to some intermarriage.  Great Britain has never said that it would hold the Falklanders to the Crosses of St. George and St. Andrew by force against their wills. Britain has only come to the defense of a people who feel they are British, whose homes you invaded. Your Nazi like behavior has set back any possibility of unification of the Falklands with the mainland by at least one hundred years. Argentina, you will never be family with the Falklands if you can not be peaceful and cooperative neighbors. And you will never force those Brits off their islands.

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                       Lonely Planet ,The Falklands