Category Archives: Oceans
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.
- Law of the Sea Treaty: A Tool to Combat Iran, China, and Russia? or Redistribution of wealth (mb50.wordpress.com)
- The Republicans’ secret weapon on LOST: information (humanevents.com)
- Colin Hanna: Congress needs to tell Law of the Sea Treaty to get lost (junkscience.com)
- Obama Seeks Ratification Of Power-Grabbing Law Of The Sea Treaty (mb50.wordpress.com)
Two Pre-Season Storms Eyed in Atlantic, Pacific oceans, Could Cause Damages to Gas, Oil Projects in Gulf of Mexico
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.
- Pacific Santa Ana Drillship Arrives in U.S. Gulf of Mexico to Work for Chevron (mb50.wordpress.com)
- 1st tropical depression of Pacific season forms (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- First tropical depression forms off the coast of Mexico ahead of official start of hurricane season (mega949.com)
- First tropical depression forms off the coast of Mexico ahead of official start of hurricane season (640whlo.com)
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.
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)
- China top military paper warns of armed confrontation over seas (thehimalayantimes.com)
- South China Sea Standoff Ratchets Up A Notch (chinabystander.wordpress.com)
- China accused of escalating South China Sea standoff (ctv.ca)
- Philippines says new China ship aggravates sea row (staradvertiser.com)
- Russian ships arriving in China for naval war game (worldnews.msnbc.msn.com)
- US and Philippines begin South China Sea drills (1oneday.wordpress.com)
- It’s Getting Ugly Between China And The Philippines In The South China Sea (businessinsider.com)
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.
- Reconditioning of Nuclear-Powered Icebreaker Sovetsky Soyuz to Start Next Year (Russia)
- China Plans to Build Polar Research Icebreaker
- Russia: USC Inks USD 640 Million Contract to Build Four Diesel Icebreakers
- AURORA BOREALIS to Become The World’s Most Advanced Polar Research Vessel
- Italy: Rossita Completes RS Survey for Transporting Radioactive Material
- Fatal Fire Aboard Russian Nuclear Icebreaker (gcaptain.com)
- How nuclear icebreakers work and the reversible ships that will replace them (InnovationToronto.com)
- The Lone Icebreaker: U.S. Sovereignty in the Arctic (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Canada well behind Russia in race to claim Arctic seaways and territory. (thestar.com)
- Shortage of icebreaker ships could lose us the race to explore the Antarctic (io9.com)
- Reversing U.S. Retreat from the Arctic (mb50.wordpress.com)
The Norwegian Government has decided that the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate will map the geology in the northeastern part of Norway’s new sea area in the Barents Sea. According to the plan, the seismic surveys will start this summer and continue into 2013. This will provide important knowledge regarding possible oil and gas resources in this area.
“We have very little knowledge concerning the geology in the northeastern Barents Sea. In order to know more about the resource potential, we need more data,” says Sissel Eriksen, exploration director in the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate.
On the Norwegian side, the Government has started an opening process with the aim of awarding production licenses in the southeastern sector of the Barents Sea. The geological mapping started last summer and will continue until this summer.
Earlier this year, the NPD entered into contracts regarding two vessels that will acquire seismic data both in the southeastern sector of the Barents Sea, in the sea area around Jan Mayen and in Nordland IV and V this summer.
“The plans to also map the northeastern sector of the Barents Sea mean that we need more capacity to acquire seismic. This assignment has been submitted for tender,” says Eriksen.
- Norway to start seismic surveys in the Barents Sea; “High North” strategy (greencarcongress.com)
- Norway Eyes Barents Sea Oil With Great Interest, Geoseismic Survey Planned (gcaptain.com)
- Major Oil And Gas Finds In northern Europe (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Rosneft ‘door closed’ in Barents (mb50.wordpress.com)
- “arctic oil” Norway mobilises for oil push into Arctic (mb50.wordpress.com)
BEIJING // China is considering an offer from the Seychelles to set up a supply base for its naval ships, in a move to be closely watched by India.
Details of Beijing‘s tie with the Indian Ocean archipelago come as the Chinese navy holds sea trials for its first aircraft carrier and continues making double-digit defence spending increases that are strengthening the country’s naval power.
China’s naval ambitions are a concern for many of its neighbours, especially given the assertiveness Beijing has shown in recent maritime disputes with Japan in the East China Sea, and Vietnam and the Philippines over the South China Sea.
State media quoted the defence ministry as saying that the port in the Seychelles was still under consideration, while the Chinese authorities reaffirmed the country’s policy of not stationing troops overseas.
“China’s position is clear. China has never set up military bases in other countries,” said the foreign ministry spokesman, Liu Weimin.
China’s ministry of defence said the Seychelles would allow naval vessels to take on supplies, while Chinese ships were assigned to anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden.
The Chinese navy has previously taken on supplies in Oman, Yemen and Djibouti when carrying out missions against pirates from Somalia, Reuters reported yesterday.
“According to escort needs and the needs of other long-distance missions, China will consider taking supplies or recuperating at appropriate ports in the Seychelles and other countries,” said a defence ministry statement. But Joseph Cheng, a regional political analyst at the City University of Hong Kong, said it was “to be expected” that China would develop more advanced centres to support its growing navy.
He added that initially these would simply be supply bases of the kind proposed in the Seychelles but repair facilities would likely be developed later.
The issue of Chinese naval activity in the Indian Ocean is of particular interest to India, which has long-standing border disputes with China and is deeply suspicious of the country’s close ties with its archrival, Pakistan.
There was no official reaction from India’s government yesterday, but The Times of India said China’s initiative “was bound to create a degree of unease in New Delhi”.
Retired Brigadier Rumel Dahiya, the deputy director general of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi, said the move would go beyond a piracy-related issue.
“This is clearly a case of China trying to establish a greater base in the Indian Ocean. They are expanding their reach,” he said.
Christian Le Mière, a research fellow for naval forces and maritime security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said India may view any agreement with the Seychelles as “indicative of Chinese naval expansionism into India’s back yard”.
“It is not necessarily a direct threat to India, in much the same way that Diego Garcia [a US navy base] is not a direct threat to India currently. Arguably Chinese counter-piracy efforts are beneficial for global trade and hence for Indian interests as well,” he added.
The China Daily newspaper said the invitation from the Seychelles was issued during a visit by Liang Guanglie, the defence minister, earlier this month. It was the first time a Chinese defence minister has visited in 35 years. The Chinese navy has grown in recent years from a coastal protection force to one spanning the globe, sending ships as far as the Caribbean on goodwill missions and into the Mediterranean to escort vessels evacuating Chinese citizens from the fighting in Libya.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka said yesterday it was “true friends” with China because of the military assistance Beijing provided during the island’s bloody civil war.
China’s influence in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal and other surrounding countries is also a sensitive subject with India.
Also yesterday, US officials were investigating an American military drone that crashed at an airport on the Seychelles. It is used to target Al Qaeda-linked militants in Somalia.
- China to Set Up Military Base in Indian Ocean (ktrmurali.wordpress.com)
- China says mulling Seychelles naval hosting offer (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- China considers Seychelles military base plan (telegraph.co.uk)
- Breakout: China to establish its first military base abroad in the Indian Ocean (theextinctionprotocol.wordpress.com)
- China says mulling Seychelles naval hosting offer (nation.com.pk)
- Ships may dock but no Indian Ocean military base, says China (thehindu.com)
The United States Coast Guard is being left behind in the Arctic. While countries such as Russia are building up their icebreaker fleet and actively increasing their presence in the Arctic, the United States is losing its only form of sovereignty in the region.
On December 1, Rear Admiral Jeffrey M. Garrett, U.S. Coast Guard, testified before Congress on protecting U.S. sovereignty in the Arctic. He stated in Second Line of Defense that “the Icebreaker fleet represents the main surface presence that the U.S. can exert in what is essentially a maritime domain in the Arctic Ocean.” Yet today, the Coast Guard has an icebreaker fleet of only three ships. Worse yet, two of these ships are out of commission due to maintenance work and will not be available for at least seven more years.
The lone icebreaker in commission is the USCGC Healy, which conducts all types of missions from search and rescue to navigational aid to scientific research. Though the ship has been effective at its job in the Arctic, it is designed to break through ice of only medium thickness; for ice of heavy thickness, the Healy is absolutely useless. And like the other two icebreakers, it is quickly aging.
Without efforts to modernize the fleet, the future of the U.S. national maritime interest and security in the Arctic is looking pretty bleak. Icebreakers are a necessity in the region, and without them the U.S. might as well throw in the towel. These ships are key to year-round access to the Arctic and are the only U.S. insurance policy for future hazardous events. If something happens to the Healy, then the United States would not only lose access to the region but would not be able to react to potential oil spills and would become less effective in search-and-rescue missions.
Complicating matters even further, ice in the Arctic is melting, producing more ocean area for the transportation of goods and services in the region. Essentially, whoever best utilizes this route will control trade and transportation of goods and materials in the upper hemisphere. With all other nations around the Arctic building their icebreaker fleets and exploiting the key transportation route that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the United States is falling behind.
In order to create an icebreaking fleet to maintain U.S. presence in the region, the Administration should look toward privatizing the fleet. Allowing private companies to own and operate the U.S. icebreaking fleet and perform national security functions would not only allow for crucial modernization but also save federal dollars and expand U.S. capabilities in the Arctic. This is particularly important at a time when the government is looking to cut corners in federal spending.
Ultimately, something must be done. If the U.S. does not act fast, it will come in last in the race for the Arctic.
Tyler Davis is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm
Posted in American Leadership
- The Coast Guard needs new icebreakers to protect U.S. interests in the Arctic (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- U.S. Subcommittee: USCG Needs Icebreakers (gcaptain.com)
- AP Interview: lt. gov. calls for US icebreakers (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Congress and White House differ over icebreakers (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Polar icebreaker dispute ties up Coast Guard appropriations (cnn.com)
- AP Interview: Lt. Gov. calls for US icebreakers (seattletimes.nwsource.com)