Category Archives: Oceans

Arctic: The Final Frontier

By Tim Dodoson, Executive vice president, Exploration, Statoil ONS201

LOST: Law of the Sea Hearings Point to Lame Duck Passage Strategy

Brian Darling
June 14, 2012 at 10:49 am

Today, the Senate has two hearings scheduled on the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST). The Senate will have had three hearings on the LOST after today—yet, not for the purposes of educating Senators on the flaws versus the benefits of the treaty. These hearings are a pretext for a lame duck strategy to railroad the treaty through the Senate after the November election.

The first hearing today is titled “Perspectives from the U.S. Military.” Witnesses include Admiral James A. Winnefeld, Jr, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and representatives from other government stakeholders in navigation on the high seas. The question that these witnesses can’t sufficiently answer is, “What can’t you do today, because of the LOST, that you could do if the treaty were to be ratified?” The answer is nothing.

Heritage’s Kim Holmes, former Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, wrote for The Washington Times last year that the navigational provisions in the treaty are not necessary.

The treaty’s navigational provisions offer nothing new. Yes, the U.S. Navy says (LOST) might improve the “predictability” of these rights, but does the Navy’s access to international waters really depend upon a treaty to which we are not even a member? The last time I checked, the U.S. Navy could go anywhere it wanted in international waters. Though redundant, the navigational provisions of (LOST) are actually pretty good. That’s why President Ronald Reagan supported them. But Reagan and others objected to the unaccountable international bureaucracy created by the treaty.

The second hearing today will include former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Heritage Foundation expert Steve Groves, former Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, and former Legal Advisor at State John B. Bellinger, III. This hearing will be an excellent opportunity for the opponents of LOST to make the case that this treaty is flawed.

The bottom line is that Senator John Kerry (D–MA) has been stacking hearings in favor of proponents of LOST. The first hearing this year included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

As I wrote in an op-ed at Townhall, opponents of the treaty made a strong case against ratification.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) professed to be starting from a neutral position vis a vis ratification. Directing a query to Ms. Clinton, he said, “A lot of people believe that the administration…wants to use this treaty as a way to get America into a regime relating to carbon, since it has been unsuccessful doing so domestically. And I wonder if you might respond to that.” Ms. Clinton’s response? She said she has a legal analysis that knocks down that argument. But not all Americans are willing to rely on a politically driven legal memo from the Obama Administration as a guarantee that this treaty will not empower the International Sea Bed Authority to force regulations on American business. Those seeking certainty on this vital issue would rather take a pass on the treaty than take a chance on Ms. Clinton’s promises.

Senators Mike Lee (R–UT) and Jim Risch (R–ID) expressed dissatisfaction with the Administration’s alleging that opponents of the treaty were engaging in “misinformation” and “mythology.” Risch argued that “you addressed the people who oppose ratification of the treaty, and…I hope you weren’t scoffing at us.” Proponents have engaged in name calling to avoid the central issues to be considered before ratification.

These hearings are intended to show that Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Kerry allowed conservatives to have their say before the lame duck strategy is implemented. The deck has been stacked, with two hearings in favor and one with a 50–50 split between proponents and opponents. Kerry used a similar strategy the last time the Senate considered the LOST.

Make no mistake; these hearings are part of the strategy of the treaty’s proponents to wait until after the election to push through LOST—in November or December of this year when the American people have no recourse against this offense against American sovereignty.

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Two Pre-Season Storms Eyed in Atlantic, Pacific oceans, Could Cause Damages to Gas, Oil Projects in Gulf of Mexico

(Photo: NOAA/NHC)
The new NASA satellite is meant to assist weather analysts to predict typhoons and provide experts with an enhanced outlook of climate change

By Esther Tanquintic-Misa:
May 15, 2012 5:39 AM GMT

Natural gas and oil development projects near the Atlantic Ocean, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico, could be facing potential damages in the coming months with the onset of the rainy season.

This early, two pre-season storms have been spotted in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by the National Hurricane Center, Bloomberg News reported.

Storms that enter the Gulf of Mexico could damage and halt both operations and production of natural gas and oil development projects in the area. Just this March, according to a one-year progress report on the Obama administration’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Policy, it said that the Gulf of Mexico is safely back to strong production after the much celebrated 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, otherwise known as the BP oil disaster or the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Of the two pre-season storms spotted by the National Hurricane Center, the stronger one was found in the Pacific about 550 miles or 885 kilometers south-southwest of Acapulco, Mexico. In a weather bulletin, the center said it has a 50 per cent chance of becoming a tropical depression in the next day or two.

The one in the Atlantic, meanwhile, was 460 miles west-southwest of the Azores, with a 20 per cent probability of becoming a sub-tropical storm in the next two days.

The eastern Pacific and Atlantic hurricane seasons officially start on May 15 and June 1, respectively.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico flowed for three months in 2010. It is recorded as the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. The spill, which stemmed from a sea-floor oil that resulted from the explosion of Deepwater Horizon, killed 11 men and injured 17 others, including massive damage to marine and wildlife habitats and to the Gulf’s fishing and tourism industries.

Two Pre-Season Storms Eyed in Atlantic, Pacific oceans, Could Cause Damages to Gas, Oil Projects in Gulf of Mexico – International Business Times.

China top military paper warns of armed confrontation over seas

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By Chris Buckley
BEIJING | Sat Apr 21, 2012 2:21am EDT

(Reuters) – China‘s top military newspaper warned the United States on Saturday that U.S.-Philippine military exercises have fanned risks of armed confrontation over the disputed South China Sea.

The commentary in China’s Liberation Army Daily falls short of a formal government statement, but marks the harshest high-level warning yet from Beijing about tensions with the Philippines over disputed seas where both countries have recently sent ships to assert their claims.

This week American and Filipino troops launched a fortnight of annual naval drills amid the stand-off between Beijing and Manila, who have accused each other of encroaching on sovereign seas near the Scarborough Shoal, west of a former U.S. navy base at Subic Bay.

The joint exercises are held in different seas around the Philippines; the leg that takes place in the South China Sea area starts on Monday.

“Anyone with clear eyes saw long ago that behind these drills is reflected a mentality that will lead the South China Sea issue down a fork in the road towards military confrontation and resolution through armed force,” said the commentary in the Chinese paper, which is the chief mouthpiece of the People’s Liberation Army.

“Through this kind of meddling and intervention, the United States will only stir up the entire South China Sea situation towards increasing chaos, and this will inevitably have a massive impact on regional peace and stability.”

Up to now, China has chided the Philippines over the dispute about the uninhabited shoal known in the Philippines as the Panatag Shoal and which China calls Huangyan, about 124 nautical miles off the main Philippine island of Luzon.

China has territorial disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan in the South China Sea, which could be rich in oil and gas and is spanned by busy shipping lanes.

REGIONAL TENSIONS

Beijing has sought to resolve the disputes one-on-one but there is worry among its neighbors over what some see as growing Chinese assertiveness in staking claims over the seas and various islands, reefs and shoals.

In past patches of regional tension over disputed seas, hawkish Chinese military voices have also emerged, only to be later reined in by the government, and the same could be true this time.

Since late 2010, China has sought to cool tensions with the United States over regional disputes, trade and currency policies, human rights and other contentious issues. Especially with the ruling Chinese Party preoccupied with a leadership succession late in 2012, Beijing has stressed its hopes for steady relations throughout this year.

Nonetheless, experts have said that China remains wary of U.S. military intentions across the Asia-Pacific, especially in the wake of the Obama administration’s vows to “pivot” to the region, reinvigorating diplomatic and security ties with allies.

The Liberation Army Daily commentary echoed that wariness.

“The U.S. strategy of returning to the Asia-Pacific carries the implication of a shift in military focus, and there is no better strategic opening than China’s sovereignty disputes with the Philippines and other countries in the South China Sea,” said the newspaper.

“The United States’ intention of trying to draw more countries into stirring up the situation in the South China Sea is being brandished to the full,” it said.

(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

Rosatomflot to Construct World’s Largest Nuclear Icebreaker

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Rosatomflot has revealed its plans to construct an LK60, the largest and most powerful nuclear icebreaker ever built, that will be deployed in the Northern Sea Route. Vyacheslav Ruksha, General Director of Rosatomflot, says to BarentsObserver.com that the estimated cost for a new icebreaker is € 1.1 billion (approx $ 1.4 billion) and is already included in Rosatomflots’s 2012 budget.

The tender for a new icebreaker will be announced this summer and the construction contract will probably be signed in September. If everything goes according to plan, the construction will commence by the end of 2012 and the newbuild might be ready for traffic by 2018.

Russia is the major player in deploying nuclear icebreakers for shipping in the Arctic and other freezing seas. The company wants to develop its fleet that would be a key element of the Northern Sea Route infrastructure thus the new generation nuclear icebreaker is being designed.

The LK60 icebreaker is designed to maneuver through three meters of ice with its supreme power of 60 MW. This is exactly what Rosatomflot needs to open the Northern Sea Route for commercial traffic all year around. Her draught varies ranging from 8.5 m to 10.8 m. The new design features maximum width of 34 meters, compared to the maximum of 30 meters width at the Arktika class vessels. Such a design will be capable of providing support to larger tankers through the northern sea route.

The LK60 icebreaker will replace one icebreaker of the Arktika class and one icebreaker of Taimyr class.

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