Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Titans: Google Maps versus ECDIS

From Pulse by Melvin Mathews

Google Maps turned 15 years old this month, & it may be an appropriate time to compare it with similar systems in other industries, like the ECDIS

Humans have been using maps for thousands of years.
It is therefore not surprising that ‘Cartography’ as a subject exists, which is the art and science of making maps.
The oldest known maps are preserved on Babylonian tablets from 2300 BC.
They were later depicted on scrolls and paper.
But it’s not until the electronic age that maps have come alive.

Google Maps and ECDIS (Electronic Chart Display and Information System) can be considered to essentially serve the same purpose.
While Google Maps is used for finding our way on land, the ECDIS facilitates navigation at sea.
At a basic level both show us maps in an electronic form, indicate where we are and can provide a route if we can specify a destination.

Google Maps turned 15 years old this month and it may be an appropriate time to compare it with similar systems in other industries, hence the comparison with ECDIS.


While the ECDIS was in voluntary use for many years, it was never free to use.
It became mandatory for HSC (High Speed Craft) on the 1st of July 2008.
Subsequently, the mandatory carriage of ECDIS for other ships depending on the ship type, size and construction date, (as required by SOLAS regulation V/19.2.10) commenced in a phased manner from 1 July 2012 onwards.
ECDIS is regulated because it is considered a complex, safety-relevant, software-based system with multiple options for display and integration.
The ongoing safe and effective use of ECDIS involves many stakeholders including seafarers, equipment manufacturers, chart producers, hardware and software maintenance providers, shipowners and operators, and training providers.
Over the years, IMO (International Maritime Organisation) Member States, hydrographic offices, equipment manufacturers and other organizations have contributed to the development of guidance on a variety of ECDIS-related matters and was accepted as meeting the chart carriage requirements of SOLAS regulation V/19 in 2002.


Google Maps was launched as a super easy and useful way for people to get around.
However, it is the pace at which features, and capabilities have evolved that makes it an unbelievable experience.
It is not only a website or application that gets us from A to B, using the fastest or shortest route, it allows web developers easy access APIs to put google maps on their own sites.
With over 1 billion users per month the adoption and use rate is very high because one can virtually never get lost.
For 200 million businesses worldwide, it provides, opening hours, ratings, prices etc, which provides relevance to data and makes life easier.
Google maps has made it easier for business to manage their presence, update their business info, put up pictures, respond to reviews, etc.
The local guides program which is 120 million strong, share reviews, photos and knowledge about places around the world.
For those with mobility needs Google maps offers wheel-chair accessible routes for over 50 million places.
Augmented reality helps you to understand which way to walk, with arrows and directions overlaid.

Google Maps gets new updates for 15th birthday

Things to ponder over

Google Maps achieved all this innovation by providing it for free, but for how long?
Does regulation in ECDIS stifle its innovation?
If it were not mandatory would the ECDIS survive in the market?
How much reliance & trust do we have on things we receive for free?
Besides showing us the shortest and fastest route, would the greenest route be of interest?

Birth of the GeoGarage platform 10 years ago with the creation of
a kml network link displaying 1018 NOAA raster maps seamless in Google Earth

New Antarctic island spotted as mammoth glacier retreats

Researchers first spotted this rocky outcrop in Pine Island Bay, West Antarctica, in early February.
A mate on the bridge spotted some rocky coastline. This island is on no charts : we call it Sif.
Credit: Gui Bortolotto

From Nature

An uncharted island off Antarctica’s western coast could reveal how climate change is altering the continent.

A scientific expedition off the coast of Antarctica earlier this month spotted an island that appears on no maps — a finding that demonstrates how quickly the continent is changing as a result of climate change.

“I think I see rocks,” shouted an officer aboard the RV Nathaniel B. Palmer as the ship passed through Pine Island Bay, Antarctica.
After consulting their charts, the crew realized they were looking at a brand-new island.
There was a commotion as everyone onboard rushed to see the rocky, ice-covered outcrop and suggest potential names.
But the hubbub quickly gave way to excitement about the scientific implications of the find, says Julia Wellner, a marine geologist at the University of Houston in Texas.

The island was sighted from Nathaniel B. Palmer, currently in the Antarctic for
@GlacierThwaites THOR, project leads Julia Wellner (UH) and Rob Larter (BAS).
Photo_CD Hillenbrand (BAS)

Wellner is one of the principal investigators of the Thwaites Glacier Offshore Research project, part of an international collaboration to study the stability of a massive glacier in West Antarctica.
An expedition to collect samples from the exposed shoreline has thus far been hampered by bad weather, but Wellner says that surveying the island is one of the science team’s top priorities.

Although the island is big enough to be visible by satellite, its icy cap helped it escape previous detection.
And because very few ships travel that far south, Wellner’s team is probably the first to set eyes on it.
Researchers don’t yet know how long it has been above sea level, but it is likely that the land was exposed thanks to climate change.

 Pine Island Bay with the GeoGarage platform (NGA nautical raster chart)

On the rebound

As glaciers have retreated in West Antarctica, they have released pressure on Earth’s crust, allowing it to rebound and rise, explains Lindsay Prothro, a glacial geologist at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi.
Collecting samples from the new island could help researchers determine how fast the continent is lifting, which should improve how they model the behaviour of nearby glaciers.

Rapid rebound could increase stress on the remaining ice sheet, causing it to break apart more quickly, says Lauren Simkins, a glacial geologist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
But a rising continental shelf could also anchor glaciers, increasing their stability and slowing their march to the sea.
The island, Simkins says, could provide a nice real-world case study.

New islands emerging as ice sheets retreat is not particularly surprising, says Paul Cutler, a programme director in glaciology at the US National Science Foundation in Alexandria, Virginia.
New islands have appeared over the past few years in the Canadian Arctic and Greenland.
But it is, he says, an exciting opportunity to piece together the geological history of a vastly under-studied region of Earth.

It will be more than a month before even preliminary results emerge: the Palmer is not due back in port until 25 March.
But glacier scientists are excited about the possibilities that the discovery raises for their field.
“This one island could hold a lot of clues,” Simkins says

Links :

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

California city shows how to retreat from rising seas level

Looking south along the Marina Dunes, one of the last stretches of natural sand beach in California. TNS

From GT by Rosanna Xia, Los Angeles Times

Not much of the California coast feels like this anymore, with no pavement or harbors or parking lots right up to high tide.
Home to sharks and coyotes, shorebirds and butterflies, this little town not far from Silicon Valley is a reminder that the beach itself used to be wild.

Ten miles north of Monterey and a world away from Santa Cruz, Bruce Delgado gazed up a towering sand dune.
Careful not to step on the beach buckwheat that protects rare butterflies or the sea lettuce that survives only in stable habitats, he wound his way toward the ocean.

At the top, slightly out of breath, he marveled at the sandy beach that stretched for miles along the bay.
Big surf broke into rhythmic cusps by the shore.
A red-tailed hawk soared over his town of Marina, where despite its name, no dock or pier exists to interrupt this view.

Not much of the California coast feels like this anymore, with no pavement or harbors or parking lots right up to high tide.
Home to sharks and coyotes, shorebirds and butterflies, this little town not far from Silicon Valley is a reminder that the beach itself used to be wild.

"It's the best-kept secret. Living in Marina is a choice," said Delgado, a botanist turned mayor who has managed to pull off what many towns have not.
"Sometimes when you go jogging on the beach, you see vultures eating dead sea lions… There's a lot of nature happening in these dunes."

At a time when Del Mar, Pacifica and other coastal cities are fighting to defend their homes and roads from the rising sea, Marina has embarked on a path less traveled.
Here in this Army turned university town, residents are learning how to adjust with the ocean as the water moves inland.

How is sea level rise impacting California's public beaches?
How will California respond to this threat and adapt in the future?

Sea walls are forbidden, and sand replenishment projects seem unnatural in a city so proud of its native environment.
Officials instead are embracing ideas that have been political suicide elsewhere: Require real estate disclosures for sea level rise, move infrastructure away from the water, work with the private resort in town to relocate its oceanfront .
Scienroperty — a policy known as managed retreat.

This small but lively town of 23,000 says it's fought enough coastal issues over the decades to know that bad ideas must be stopped sooner than later.
A controversial sand mine on the beach is finally shutting down after a century of dredging away the coast.
Residents are still fighting a large water company trying to build a desalination plant.

With sea level rise, the mere suggestion of making room for the ocean and turning prime real estate into open space has upended other cities up and down the coast — at least one mayor has been ousted.
But Marina is different, a city report declared, and instead will show the state and country how to adapt to a changing planet.

"Marina is such a good test case," said David Revell, a coastal geomorphologist who has advised numerous cities, including Marina, on sea level rise.
"Here we have the precedent of a community who understands that … there has to be enough lead time to get things out of the way — before it's in the way.
"That is a really powerful message to the rest of California."

Accepting the strength of the ocean has long been part of Marina's history.
For decades, the region was defined by Ft.
Ord, a sprawling Army base that once was home to as many as 50,000 troops.
Soldiers coveted assignments here, but large waves, rip currents and unstable cliffs made the beach too dangerous to enjoy.

By 1994, the Army had packed up and left — the largest military base closure in the United States at the time.
A sign today, where a building once stood, describes "a coastal attack the Army couldn't stop."

"Soldiers once guarded this shoreline against sea-borne attack, but one force proved too powerful to stop.
Coastal erosion, the wearing away of these bluffs and beaches by ocean waves, has been steadily moving the coastline inland," according to the sign, which said that the bluffs at Ft.
Ord erode landward 5 to 8 feet a year.

Part of the land was turned into a new university, Cal State Monterey Bay; another swath was transformed into Ft. Ord National Monument.
California State Parks cleaned up the coastal stretch — about four miles of beach — and plans to construct new campgrounds for the public.

The city of Seaside owns a portion, and Marina is still figuring out how to develop more than 1,000 acres on the inland side of Highway 1 (the site contamination and labor costs have not been the easiest sell to developers).

Delgado, a botanist for the Bureau of Land Management, moved here in 1996 to work on the restoration.
He got swept into local politics in 1999, when he heard that city leaders wanted to turn open space into 3,500 large homes, positioning Marina as a bedroom community for a new corporate business park over the hill.

He went door to door with neighbors and got Marina to create an "urban growth boundary" north of town for at least 20 years.

Much of the shoreline remains undeveloped — making decisions today a lot less complicated when it comes to planning for sea level rise.
The city points developers instead to parcels downtown and farther inland.
A new planned community, Sea Haven, is now advertising the benefits of "homes near the sea."

Delgado grew up in Southern California going to Laguna Beach and Dana Point and has watched those sleepy beach towns greenlight multimillion-dollar homes and transform their shorelines into tourist destinations.

Marina could certainly use some of that tax revenue (it just got enough money for a new firetruck), but Delgado doesn't envy other mayors who now have to grapple with the politics of telling their wealthiest residents what to do with their oceanfront properties.

"With sea level rise, as with development, cities like Marina are taking it seriously and logically," he said.
"We're not going to lament that our predecessors didn't take this seriously.
We're not going to wait until emergencies happen to take action."

Marina's coast has one of the highest rates of erosion in California — exacerbated by a Mexico-based company, Cemex, that for decades had been trucking away sand unchecked.
Scientists estimate the mine alone has eroded an average of 4 feet of coast each year.

High silica content in this region makes the sand valuable for sandblasting, filtration and surface finishing.
Other operations along Monterey Bay have shut down over the years, but Marina continues to watch in horror the massive hole in its beach, where machines roar all day as they suck away sand.

Stopping this mine would dramatically slow down the impacts of sea level rise — giving everyone more time to adapt, said Layne Long, the city manager.
Marina's dunes, even at 100 feet tall, are noticeably shrinking from a net loss of sand each year.

After years of controversy, Cemex will phase out operations by the end of this year.
The company has three years to move out and sell the land to a nonprofit or government agency that would preserve the property in perpetuity and provide public access.

Residents are now fighting California American Water's proposal to use part of this site for a desalination project.
The water wouldn't even serve Marina, they said, and building new infrastructure on an eroding coast just doesn't sound like smart planning.

Long, on a recent walk to the mine, shook his head at the smell of machinery on the beach and the smokestacks in the distance.
He envisions a restored coastline with nature trails and overlooks, perhaps even signs teaching visitors about sea level rise.

Marina has long understood the consequences of coastal erosion, unlike other towns that are just starting to debate the trade-offs.
As more than 35 coastal cities and counties in California agonize over the difficult costs and choices, Marina stands out as a community enthusiastic about choosing managed retreat.

Years of fighting corporate interests, Long said, has unified the town on how to plan for sea level rise.

"We have a shot to do it right.… Because of the way we developed, and didn't develop, we have the ability to have a very good managed retreat process," he said.
"Adopting this plan will ensure for our future generations that our coast is going to remain this way."

The city's sea level rise plan, now in its final stages, has received little resistance.
In a town where one-third of the community is low income and more than 60% are not white, maintaining a coastline that can be enjoyed by all is top priority.
In meetings and surveys, residents urged city leaders to protect their beaches if pressure from private property owners or business interests takes hold.

At a recent public workshop, officials reaffirmed their commitment to banning sea walls and were wary of any suggestions that sounded unnatural.
They talked about their vision to protect the city from "the negative impacts of urban sprawl" while still growing economically as "a desirable residential and business community in a natural setting."

The plan lays out a framework over the next few decades for when office buildings, a sewer pump and an aging water treatment facility should consider moving away from the sea.
Beach amenities, such as a parking lot and public restrooms, might also need to relocate.

Triggers will be identified on when these decisions should be made, based on how much time it takes to permit new construction.
When the sea rises to a certain threshold or erosion gets within a certain distance, for example, park officials should begin plans to move the parking lot — rather than just cornering off sections when they collapse.

As for private property, city planners broached the Sanctuary Beach Resort about checking in every renovation cycle, about five to seven years, to consider when might be a good time to move nine oceanfront buildings without sacrificing the total number of rooms — perhaps by turning some of the resort's single-story cottages into two-story accommodations farther inland.

Jeroen Gerrese, the resort's general manager and chair of the Monterey County Hospitality Assn., said he is open to further discussions on how to accommodate the environment and preserve what makes the resort special.

Unlike other resorts along the peninsula, which are closer to attractions such as the Pebble Beach golf course and the Monterey wharf, his is the only one that can offer beach walks and sunset bonfires and direct access to the sand.
"Everyone else can look at the ocean," Gerrese said, "but they can't get there from their resort."

Walking along an unpaved path, he pointed to the bocce ball court made from recycled oyster shells, the pastel-colored bikes offered to guests, the limited use of plastic.
Born in the Netherlands below sea level, Gerrese says he respects the water a great deal.
Now a resident of Marina, he jumps at opportunities to recruit from the local university and plants trees around town.

Taking care of the environment is part of the business plan and a shared duty, he said, stooping down to pick up a rogue candy wrapper.
"If you don't think about working with nature, you're not true to yourself as a business owner and not true to your community that you reside in."

He looks up and admires the surf crashing onto shore.
There's no point fighting, he said, a force as powerful as the ocean.

Links :

Monday, February 24, 2020

Collision: Master “fixated” on Electronic Chart

Isle of Wight Red Funnel ferry ran over a yacht when the master got stressed during fog, investigation concludes

From Maritime Executive

The U.K. Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has released its accident investigation report into the ro-ro passenger ferry Red Falcon colliding with a moored yacht on October 21, 2018.

At 0811, when navigating in severely reduced visibility in Cowes Harbour, the master of the Red Falcon lost orientation when his vessel swung out of control, departed the navigable channel and was spun around through 220°.
In his confusion the master drove the ferry in the wrong direction resulting in a collision with the moored yacht Greylag which was sunk on its mooring as a result.

Cowes ferry yacht-crash captain 'lost control in fog'

Visibility varied between 0.2 and 0.5 nautical miles, but dropped to about 50 meters at the time of the collision.

 view toward Cowes end of ferry

view toward Southampton end of the ferry
MAIB ferry collision report highlights overreliance on displays

The MAIB report states that the master became fixated upon the information displayed on his electronic chart and operating engine controls, ignored information displayed on other electronic equipment and became cognitively overloaded due to high stress.
The bridge team became disengaged from the operation due to a lack of clear communications and emergency scenario training.

 RedFalcon passage track from Southampton to Cowes

 Red Falcon passage track into Cowes Harbour

 Red Flacon starting to swing out of the Channel

 Red Falcon perpendicular to the inner fairway
Red Falcon turned around before proceeding through moorings
(taken from Red Falcon's Transas ECS -see inset-)

The MAIB Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents Andrew Moll said: “Our investigation highlighted how quickly restricted visibility can negatively affect individuals’ awareness and orientation, which increases their stress and impacts on decision making.
Crews on vessels of any size can be affected, but the consequences can be mitigated by prior preparation and training, effective teamwork and a full understanding of the capabilities and limitations of the available instrumentation.”

 Current flow in Cowes harbour

Nobody was on board yacht Greylag when it was struck and overrun by Red Falcon.
In this respect, the family on a yacht on a nearby swinging mooring had a lucky escape, said Moll.
“When Red Falcon swung around it narrowly missed Cowes Yacht Haven marina wall, and had yachts been rafted there the consequences of this accident could also have been much more severe.”

onboard ECS

Red Funnel’s operating procedures for navigation stated that: “All Masters and Officers must practice blind pilotage in clear weather as a Bridge team in order to establish confidence and familiarity with the Radar pictures of the district and the techniques required to maneuver the vessels without visual references.
Such blind pilotage exercises must be carried out and recorded at intervals not exceeding one month.”

Any blind pilotage training carried out was recorded within the company’s computer-based training record system.
The records showed that the crew of Red Falcon had last undertaken blind pilotage training departing Cowes on the day before the accident.
The training records did not show who undertook the role of helmsman, and therefore who had practiced steering by compass or steering within Cowes Harbour.
Further investigation of the records revealed that the helmsman on the day of the accident had not steered a Raptor class ferry into Cowes for over 10 months.

The report is available here.  (

Links :

Sunday, February 23, 2020

NASA slowly drains the oceans in an incredible animation, revealing hidden underwater mountain ranges and ancient land bridges

Draining Earth's oceans, revealing the two-thirds of Earth's surface we don't get to see
A NASA animation drains the oceans to reveal the majority of Earth's surface that lies beneath.
A planetary scientist remade the video to highlight its most fascinating features: the world's longest mountain range and the ice-age land bridges that ancient humans crossed. 

From BusinessInsider by Morgan McFall-Johnsen 

Oceans cover most of the Earth, including its longest mountain range and the ancient bridges that humans crossed to reach other continents.

In a recent remake of a 2008 NASA video, planetary scientist James O'Donoghue shows what it would look like if all that water drained away, revealing the hidden three-fifths of Earth's surface.

O'Donoghue works at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and was formerly at NASA. For the video, he took an animation that NASA physicist and animator Horace Mitchell created in 2008 and gave it a few additions.
He edited the timing and added a tracker to show how much water drains throughout the animation.

As the oceans slowly lose water, the first bits of hidden land that emerge are the continental shelves – the undersea edges of each continent.
"I slowed down the start since, rather surprisingly, there's a lot of undersea landscape instantly revealed in the first tens of meters," O'Donoghue told Business Insider in an email.

The continental shelves include some of the land bridges that early humans crossed as they migrated from continent to continent.
Tens of thousands of years ago, our ancestors could walk from continental Europe to the UK, from Siberia to Alaska, and from Australia to the islands surrounding it.

"When the last ice age occurred, a lot of ocean water was locked up as ice at the poles of the planet. That's why land bridges used to exist," O'Donoghue said. "Each of these links enabled humans to migrate, and when the ice age ended, the water sort of sealed them in."

By removing that water, the animation offers a glimpse at the world of our ancient ancestors.

It also shows Earth's longest chain of mountains, which appears once the sea levels have dropped 2,000 to 3,000 meters (6,500 to 9,800 feet).
That's the mid-ocean ridge, which stretches over 37,000 miles (60,000 kilometers) across the globe.
Over 90 percent of it is underwater.

The volcanic mountains spring up at the seams where Earth's tectonic plates inch away from each other, creating new ocean floor as molten rock rises from beneath the plant's crust.

Once the animated oceans drain by 6,000 meters (20,000 feet), most of the water is gone. But it takes nearly another 5,000 meters (16,000 feet) to empty the deepest reaches of the Marianas Trench.
"I like how this animation reveals that the ocean floor is just as variable and interesting in its geology as the continents," O'Donoghue said.
He added that emptying the seas unearths not only "not only the ocean bottom, but also the ancient story of humanity."

Links :

Saturday, February 22, 2020

I am vital and also fragile

Water is necessary for the survival of all living things on the Earth's surface.
Around our planet, it appears in many forms, liquid, gas or solid.
Almost 70% of the freshwater on our planet is held within glaciers and ice-sheets.
We take water for granted, even though it is something we all depend on.
Our future, amongst other challenges, depends on the capability of preserving the ice.
Simply as we cannot live without the air, many species cannot live without ice.
This short documentary was filmed in Greenland, Antarctica, Nunavut, Svalbard, Iceland, over 3 years.

From West Greenland, I have sailed 6 000km over the course of eight weeks to Nunavut to explore and document the Arctic Wildlife on Devon Island, Bylot Island, Baffin Island, Somerset Island, and the large Lancaster Sound, with a purpose to witness, document and protect.
In the same time I was there, On the 14th of August 2017, the Government of Canada and Nunavut agreed to establish the National Marine Conservation Area, the largest protected area in Canada called Tallurutiup Imanga.
But the target of protecting 10 percent by 2020 still remains far.
This was a great achievement but in 2016 only 4.7% of the Arctic’s marine areas were protected.
The pinnacle of my reportage expedition was undoubtedly my close encounters with these majestic yet gentle animals.
For me, there is no better feeling than being close to those magnificent mammals, sharing a space with them.
I will always remember that moment I saw my first polar bear, I cried during the three hours we stayed close to them.
I discovered it swimming and by the time I left my binoculars to announce it to our captain, I was already crying.
When I find myself in the remote Arctic, co-existing in harmony with the wildlife that calls it home, I know that this is where everything makes total sense.
I know it because I feel it deep within myself. It is a deep vibe that consumes my body and soul in its entirety.
At this moment, the urge to create an image that I would remember for the rest of my life with a strong message to protect it comes naturally to me.
Those moments are invaluable to me, something is happening within me.
It’s what I live for.
When I photograph, I’m somewhere else.
This is, I guess, what constitutes as passion, my passion to serve the conservation of the Arctic Wildlife.

Friday, February 21, 2020

The rise of the wind ships

Econonwind’s ventifoil system installed on the deck of the DFDS cargo vessel Lysbris Seaways

From The Engineer by Jon Excell

Could a new generation of innovative propulsion technologies that harness the power of the wind help the shipping industry clean up its act ?

Commercial shipping – for many years resistant to the low carbon revolution sweeping other areas of transportation – is changing fast.

Faced with a combination of rising fuel prices and an industry-wide strategy to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 per cent over the next 30 years, the sector (thought to be responsible for around 2.5 per cent of global GHG emissions) is innovating as never before in an effort to boost fuel efficiency and reduce its environmental impact.

From the development of novel hybrid electric propulsion systems to AI driven improvements in operational efficiency, no stone is being left unturned in the quest to slash emissions.
But arguably some of the most intriguing advances are being made in a field that harks back to the earliest days of seafaring: wind propulsion.

Whilst no-one’s quite proposing a return to the great age of sail – where world trade was utterly reliant on the power of the wind – many believe that a new generation of wind propulsion systems – an eclectic mix of innovative sails, strange deck mounted wings, kites and weird hull designs – could play a key role in the sector’s future.

Gavin Allwright, who heads up the trade body representing companies in this field – the International Windships Association (IWSA) – has witnessed this growing interest first-hand.
The association has grown from 12 to just over 100 members and partners since 2014: a clear reflection, says Allwright, of the growing seriousness with which wind propulsion is being treated.
“We don’t see how we can make the speed and depth of the change without wind propulsion taking a significant load,” he told The Engineer.

Many of the technologies at the heart of this burgeoning field have actually been around for some time.
Flettner rotors, for instance (discussed later in this article) were invented over a century ago.
What’s changed, said Allwright, is that there are now tangible examples of these systems in action and, in many cases, verified figures to back up the developers’ claims.

At the most recognisable end of the wind-assist spectrum are innovations in soft sail systems.
The increasing sophistication of automation and route optimisation systems have revived interest in seafaring’s original power source, and there are now a growing number of examples of larger vessels using smart soft sails alongside auxiliary propulsion systems.
In one notable development, French naval architect VPLP recently unveiled a design for a 121 metre long roll-on/roll-off (RORO) vessel that will be used to transport components of the Ariane 6 rocket from Europe to Guiana.
The ship’s main propulsion system (a dual fuel LNG MDO engine) will be assisted by four Oceanwings; fully automated wing-sails which are each supported by a 30m high mast and measuring a total of 363 square meters.

VPLP’s design for a RORO vessel that will be used to transport components of the Ariane 6 uses four fully automated Oceanwings

There is also growing interest in the use of rigid hard sails, which are sometimes preferred over soft sails because of the potential for incorporating different aerodynamic structures or even photovoltaic coatings.

As with soft sail innovations, there are numerous ongoing initiatives in this area exploring the application of the technology to vessels of various different sizes.
In one recent development, Japanese firms Mitsui OSK lines and Oshima shipbuilding received Approval In Principle from marine classification body ClassNK to build a 100,000 DWT bulk carrier equipped with a telescopic hard sail system that the group claims could reduce fuel usage by as much as 8 per cent.

Whilst the ability to automate, deploy new materials, and use data to optimise performance is breathing fresh life into the use of traditional sails, they do come with some significant challenges as they are scaled up in size.
Not only do they take up large amounts of deck space (valuable real-estate in the commercial shipping sector) but they can also induce a significant amount of heeling (or tipping from side to side) in the vessel.

One concept that potentially gets around this problem is an innovative device known as a suction wing, a deck mounted vertical foil claimed to provide considerably more power per square metre than a normal sail at a fraction of the height.

Based on technology originally pioneered by marine explorer and conservationist Jacques Cousteau, these systems use a powered suction device mounted within the wing to suck in the boundary layer around the foil and increase its propulsive efficiency.

One of the key players here is Netherlands firm Econowind, whose so-called Ventifoil technology – a non-rotating wing with vents and a powered internal fan – can either be retrofitted to the deck of a vessel, or deployed within containers that are added and removed as and when required.

Econowind’s technology can be deployed in containers that are added to and removed from the deck as and when required

The company’s CEO Frank Nieuwenhuis explained that during operation and when the wind conditions are favourable, the system increases the speed of a vessel enabling the captain to throttle back the propulsion system without reducing the voyage time.

Late last year (2019) the firm installed a prototype system, consisting of two 10 metre foils that automatically fold out of a 12 metre container, on the deck of DFDS Cargo vessel, Lysbris Seaways.
According to Paul Woodall, director, Environment & Sustainability at DFDS, although a mechanical fault has brought this trial to a premature end, preliminary results show that a positive effect was achieved.

At the time of writing, Econowind was also poised to install a larger permanent system aboard MV Ankie, a 3,600 DWT cargo vessel operated by Van Dam Shipping.
Commenting on the potential fuel savings resulting from this application Niewnhuis said: “we expect that on a really good day we will save 20 per cent and over the year we would expect the unit to do between 8 – 10 per cent.”

Whilst Econowind’s unit takes up a fraction of the deck space occupied by conventional sails, other innovators are looking beyond the deck, and eyeing up the use of giant kites to tap into the potential of the considerably greater wind resource in the skies above a vessel.

One of the most exciting technologies in this area is Seawing, an autonomous system developed by French company Airseas.
The firm was spun out of Airbus in 2016 with the express purpose of finding marine applications for modelling and flight control expertise gained in the aerospace sector.

Concept image of Airseas’ Seawing technology in action

The technology consists of a giant kite that is deployed and refurled at the push of a button, and which, the company claims, can deliver average fuel savings of 20 per cent.

Luc Reinhard, who heads up the firm’s business development activities, explained that whilst other kite-based systems have been trialed, Seawing’s autonomous operation, and the software tools and flight control systems that underpin its operation set it apart from other technologies.
“What is really innovative about our solution is this notion of automation software, digitalisation of the product so it’s really simple to use by the crew members onboard ships”

The key components of the system are a mast that allows the wing to be deployed, a winch to roll the 500m long cable, storage for the wing when it’s not being operated, and the wing itself.

During operation the wing flies at an altitude of around 150m metres at a 30 degree angle from the ship.
A flight control pod positioned directly beneath the wing dynamically adjusts the flight path, moving it through a series of positions and repeatedly dragging it out of what Reinhard describes as “its comfort zone”.
It’s the wing’s efforts to return to this position that generate most of the device’s traction.

The company has already conducted a number of ground tests and sea trials using scaled down versions of the technology, and is now poised to begin its first commercial installation, which will see a 500 square metre wing installed on an Airbus RORO vessel used to transport aircraft parts.
The firm also recently signed a contract with Japanese Ship owner Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd (aka K Line) to install an even larger 1000 m2 wing on one its vessels, with an option to install upto 50 further systems if this application is successful.

Ship design changes slowly – which is why many of these technologies currently being deployed are retrofittable solutions.

The Vindskip concept turns the ship’s hull itself into a giant wing

However, Vindskip, a radical concept developed by Norwegian engineer Serje Lade, offers a glimpse of how future vessels might be designed from the ground up to tap into the wind resource.
Lade’s aerospace inspired design turns the hull of the boat itself into a wing, a symmetrical airfoil that generates lift that can be used to generate pull.

Lade told The Engineer that the hull works in tandem with the propulsion system and meteorological data to keep the ship at a constant speed.
He has also been working with engineers from the Fraunhofer Center for Maritime Logistics and Services on the development of algorithms to calculate the optimum wind angle for the design of the vessel.

Tank testing and wind tunnel tests of scale models and CFD simulations indicate that the design could enable fuel and emissions savings of as much as 60 and 80 per cent respectively, he said.

Whilst concepts like Vindskip are probably many years away from commercialisation, other technologies are already having an impact.
And the most widely deployed of the emerging systems is the Flettner rotor, an intriguing concept originally developed almost a century ago, which is now under serious consideration by some of the shipping industry’s biggest players.

Similar in appearance to suction wings, Flettners operate on a very different principle, exploiting a curious aerodynamic phenomenon known as the magnus effect, the same force that causes a spinning tennis ball to swerve.

Looking rather like vertical cylinders mounted on the deck of a ship, these powered devices rotate around their own axis.
This rotational speed can be adjusted depending on the wind speed and direction, and the interaction between the surface of the rotor and the wind creates a lift force that generates additional thrust.

Whilst a number of firms are actively working on the development of the technology, the leader in terms of the number of installations is Finnish company Norsepower systems, which makes the bold claim that its Rotor Sail technology – if applied to the entire global tanker fleet – would reduce annual CO2 emissions by more than 30 million metric tonnes.

Back in 2018, the company was behind the first ever application of the technology to a passenger vessel when a Rotor Sail technology was installed on Viking Grace, an LNG-fueled passenger ferry.
Last year, it announced plans to install a 30 metre high system aboard the M/V Copenhagen, a hybrid passenger ferry operated by Scandlines.

Flettner rotors installed on the Maersk Pelican , a 109,000 DWT tanker.

The firm also recently announced results of a year-long installation of two 30 x 5m Rotor Sails on the Maersk Pelican , a 109,000 DWT tanker.
The results of this trial were analysed by Chris Craddock, Technical Advisory & Ship Performance Manager at Llloyds Register, who told The Engineer, “We have independently verified the performance of Norsepower’s Flettner rotor system through a 12 month in-service trial – the aggregated total fuel saved for propulsion was 8.2 per cent.
This was closely in-line with the expectation of Norsepower.”

Craddock added that the lessons learnt from this project have been incorporated into a Flettner rotor savings calculator which can be freely used to estimate the fuel savings for many types of ship types sailing on any trading route across the globe

Having demonstratable figures like this has, said Allwright, created real momentum in the sector.
“Two or three years ago we had very few demonstration vessels out there and there weren’t enough reference points for the industry to say ‘right now we understand’ and get an understanding of what the savings might be.”

Lloyds Register’s Craddock, though broadly positive about the role that could be played by wind assist systems, warned that there is still a long way to go.
“ Wind technologies are generally acknowledged as a credible energy saving technology that could be applied to merchant shipping and reduce carbon emissions for certain ship types and sailing routes,” he said.
“However, since wind technologies are generally at a low level of technology readiness, there is a cautious interest by most of the market, with some of the larger charterers directly investing in technology development programs and pilot projects.
As more technology demonstration pilot projects are successfully completed raising confidence in the technology, and new build contracts are placed specifying these technologies, payback periods will drop and there will be a steady increase in the uptake of the technology.”

Flettner rotors exploit the same aerodynamic phenomenon that causes a spinning tennis ball to swerve: the Magnus effect

DFDS’s Paul Woodall took a similarly balanced view.
“We can leave no stone unturned in pursuit of continued efficiency improvements.
This must include being available for testing any new technology, including various types of wind assistance.
There is no single silver bullet that will bring shipping’s GHG emissions down to the required levels, it is a long tough road.
Shipping is a multifaceted industry that will require a number of different solutions models.”

The technology’s current momentum will no doubt lead to a greater number of applications in the years ahead.
But it’s clear that while wind-assist has an important role to play, it’s not going to single-handedly address the shipping sector’s ambitious targets.

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Thursday, February 20, 2020

What four years at sea taught me about our relationship to the ocean

Elle Hunt with her sister on the family boat.
Photograph: Elle Hunt

From The Guardian by Elle Hunt

Oceans are central to the story of civilisation – so why do so many of us feel disconnected from them?

It was on day 11, I think, that I stopped getting out of bed at all.
I had already let my hygiene standards slip to the point that a large knot was starting to form in my hair.
Later my mother would have to cut it out with scissors.
She didn’t mind.
We were all in the same boat.

I was nine years old, and nearly two weeks into sailing across the Atlantic with my family.
My father had sailed all his life, and introduced my mother to it; and they spent years preparing to sail around the world.
Including my little sister, that made four of us aboard a 52ft yacht – our home for four years from 2000, in which time we got from Dorset to New Zealand.

The longest period we spent entirely at sea was 21 days, and we did so twice: from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Barbados, and then from the Galápagos Islands to Nuku Hiva, in French Polynesia.
The first trip I remember spending mostly in bed, below deck in the dark, listening to Wings on cassette, forging a new relationship to time.

I grew used to observing the ebb and flow of my thoughts with a languor that today would probably be praised as meditative.
The days slid by, mostly unbroken except for meals – you came to really anticipate meals – and milestones: quarter-way, halfway, crossing the equator, which we marked with little parties.

Not long after the sun had gone down, you’d go to sleep – partly because artificial light drained the boat’s battery, and partly because the sooner you went to sleep, the sooner another day would pass, and the sooner you would arrive.
(I was lucky – being nine, I was spared night watch.
My parents slept in alternating shifts of two hours for the whole journey.)

  ‘Not long after the sun had gone down, you’d go to sleep’
Photograph: Drew Buckley/Alamy

When we finally reached Bridgetown in Barbados, and set foot on land for the first time in three weeks, my knees wobbled, bracing for the next wave that didn’t come.

That transatlantic crossing is a well-trodden path, from 15th-century navigators from Italy and Spain to Greta Thunberg’s voyage to New York last year.
All of history, in fact, can be charted from the world’s oceans, as David Abulafia attempts in The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans, a 1,000-page doorstopper that he nonetheless makes no pretence is either “complete or comprehensive”.

Connections made by sea “have brought together peoples, religions and civilisations” through conquest and colonisation, migration and trade, writes Abulafia, an emeritus professor of Mediterranean history at Cambridge – and in the process changed the world.
Much of it has been driven simply by curiosity, and the desire to accumulate knowledge, he says.

“Even if you go back to the time before Christopher Columbus, when the open Atlantic was very little known, the myths and assumptions that developed about it – the ‘sea of darkness’ and then, on the other hand, ‘the isles of the blessed’ – the fascination with what lies beyond the horizon was certainly an important part.”

I see elements of that in my father, whose 50-year passion for sailing goes well beyond what you might call a hobby.
“He’s only happy at sea,” says Mum, who is happy at sea, but also in her garden, or at a concert hall, or with her children.

My parents remain “liveaboards”, sailing international waters from New Zealand.
For them, it is a lifestyle that they have opted into, a way to see the world from a relatively unique vantage point.

Portuguese explorers arriving in Kolkata in 1498, painted by Alfredo Gameiro.
Shipping spices from India was a lucrative industry for Portugal.

Yet for most of history there has also been “a mercenary dimension” to ocean exploration, says Abulafia, “the wish to exploit”: “You know you’re taking risks, but these are risks that can bring you the most fantastic returns.”
Maritime trade has been more productive and enduring than the Silk Road; in the 16th century, shipping spices from India proved so lucrative for Portugal that the Portuguese king made disclosing the route punishable by death.

The movement of not just goods, but people has been another constant – whether their migration was forced, such as by invasion or the slave trade; or voluntary, in search of a new life and opportunities.
Passages have been guided by the trade winds and currents that drive climate and weather all over the world.
More than 70% of the globe is covered by ocean; it produces around half the oxygen we breathe, and absorbs half of all man-made carbon dioxide.

At many levels, the story of civilisation is a story of the seas – but it is easy to overlook that from land.
Most people, even those who live by the coast, have no more personal connection to the sea than the limited or conditional view afforded by a passion for water sports, say, or the odd trip to the seaside.
A more intimate relationship can be incompatible with conventional ways of life and maybe – the knot in my hair might attest – its quality.

At the same time it changes you, in what can feel like a very profound way.
It was only relatively recently, I’m embarrassed to say, that I realised that my experience was not universally shared – that not everyone had known the open ocean, with no land in sight in any direction for many miles.
No other boats, either – just endless sea, sometimes even indistinguishable from sky; an expanse of grey or blue, entirely uninterrupted, except by you.

It is hard to convey what that feels like, the effect that it can have.
You feel dwarfed and insignificant, of course – but the mind cannot hold on to reverence for long.
I remember it more often playing tricks on me, registering patterns and shapes in the movements of the wave – my brain determinedly generating interest, overlaying meaning, as though it could not make sense of there being only water everywhere.

 Elle Hunt aged about nine in the bosun’s chair, with her father Anthony.

Even as a child, though, there was something about being at sea that made me feel well: more vital, clear-headed.
In fact the benefits of “blue space”, for body and mind, have been established by decades of research, from environmental factors such as more vitamin D and less polluted air and the increased activity that tends to go with being in nature.

More significant is the psychologically restorative effect, where the movement of water – its literal immersiveness – can force attention outwards, beyond the self.
But these effects on mood tend to be most acute at coastal margins, where the sea meets the land.
“The optimal environment has both,” says Dr Mathew White, an environmental psychologist with BlueHealth.
“If you’ve ever been on a cruise, or crossed to France, it’s pretty boring out there when you can’t see the coast.”

As a crew member on the inaugural voyage from New York to Macau in 1784 grumbled of their smooth passage: “It has been one dreary waste of sky & water, without a pleasing sight to cheer us.” Abulafia paraphrased: “One went to sea for excitement, and all that happened was that the captain fell against a railing and bruised his head and arm.”
He suspects that some ships’ diarists exaggerated the risk of storms and shipwreck so as to enliven accounts “of a flat sea and neutral sky for days and days”.

Yet, in imagining a life at sea, most people seem less inclined to think of tedium than terror.
Many have told me that the thought of being stranded in the open ocean is one of their greatest fears; I’m not sure that they would single out being lost in a forest, for example, or on a snowy mountain in the same way, though all three landscapes are alien and potentially dangerous.

In fact the first question I am most often asked about my childhood is “Were there any storms?” or, more to the point: “Were you scared?”
The answers are yes, only one, a freak occurrence overnight; and no – I slept through it.
My parents were highly risk-averse, setting out for sea only when the weather forecast was favourable and they had supplies – food, medical, electrical – to account for every possible eventuality.

HMS Erebus in the Ice, 1846, by François Etienne Musin.
The vessel had to be abandoned in the Arctic ice on a later journey.
Photograph: National Maritime Museum

The exhaustive (and expensive) logistics tend to be glossed over in the other image people have of being at sea – the romantic one, of chucking it all in and sailing off into the sunset.
Whether or not this idea appeals to you was found by data scientists at the dating app OkCupid to be one of the strongest predictors of romantic compatibility; I know enough to answer no.

Both scenarios, the worst-case and the rose-tinted, are telling of the disconnect most people feel from the ocean.
A sense of trepidation has figured in seafaring through history, except among those whose knowledge and mastery of the ocean was evolved over several millennia to seem almost innate – the early Polynesian navigators of the Pacific, the ancestors of the New Zealand Māori and Hawaiians.

There could be a genetic predisposition towards how we feel about travelling the seas: DRD 4-7R, the so-called “wanderlust” gene, is thought to be present in about 20% of the population.
In his book On the Ocean, the archaeologist Sir Barry Cunliffe pointed to scientific findings that this impulse to travel, “to satisfy an innate curiosity”, could be one explanation for why “the unknown engages the human imagination, and draws the curious out of the familiar place they inhabit into the threatening, but ever exciting space beyond”.

Even if my parents have wanderlust in their DNA, I’m not sure it was handed down to me.
Though I spent the first half of my life sailing, I acquired none of the skills – I couldn’t even manage a bowline knot.
I have blamed it on my being a child, but the truth is I have never had any interest in boats beyond as a means of accessing the open ocean.

I still feel a strong connection to the sea – but it has been challenging to maintain in my adult life, from the tower block in south London where I now live.
When I am struggling to get to sleep I play ocean sounds through my phone, a crude attempt to simulate the limitlessness, even transcendence, I remember feeling out in open water.

The ocean presents a potential passage through history, like handling an ancient piece of pottery; only more so, because it “is alive, like a person”, to paraphrase an Indigenous Australian saying.
You can be claimed by the sea without drowning.
I feel its absence on a bodily level like a mineral deficiency, and make regular visits to the coast to “top up”, as the geographer Catherine Kelly evocatively put it.
Now, although long-distance passenger travel by sea has become almost unheard of, Thunberg’s voyage across the Atlantic, and the growing “no-fly” movement to cut down on carbon emissions, could suggest turning tides.

The oceans face considerable challenges themselves, from plastic pollution and deep-sea oil drilling, to unsustainable shipping and fishing.
The rising acidity of the Pacific Ocean is causing crabs’ shells to dissolve.
Warming temperatures have already opened up new trade routes over the top of Russia and Canada.
We face the beginning of a new chapter in the history of oceans – for us along with them.

Abulafia notes that rising sea levels have been suggested as a precipitating factor in past migration, forcing people to go in search of new land.
A study last year predicted that warming temperatures will raise sea levels by 30cm by the end of the century, on top of the contribution from melting ice and glaciers.

These are uncharted waters that humanity is navigating – but not, there is some comfort in acknowledging, for the first time.

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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Norway clarifies Svalbard treaty after Russian complaint

Nordsyssel, the ship of the Sysselmann on Svalbard, towed to the pier of Ny Alesund, Spitzbergen.
© Photo : Hannes Grobe

From Maritime Executive

Norway's Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide and Minister of Justice and Public Security Monica Mæland have clarified the nation's stance on the Svalbard Treaty as it enters its 100th year.

The move apparently comes as Russia voices its concern over limits being put on its operations there, including coal mining and fishing.

 Svalbard with the GeoGarage platform (NHS nautical chart)

The Treaty

On February 9, 1920, Norway and eight other countries signed the Svalbard Treaty (originally the Spitsbergen Treaty) in Paris.
The Treaty entered into force in 1925, and Svalbard became part of the Kingdom of Norway.
The treaty, now with nearly 50 signatories, sets out that:
  • Spitsbergen is under Norwegian administration and legislation.
  • Citizens of all signatory nations have free access and the right of economic activities.
  • Spitsbergen remains demilitarized.
  • No nation, including Norway, is allowed to permanently station military personnel or equipment on Spitsbergen.
The situation in the archipelago before 1920 has been likened to the Wild West, full of adventurers, coal miners, gold diggers and fortune hunters taking the law into their own hands.
But once Norway’s sovereignty was formally recognized, it was possible to resolve property ownership issues and bring unregulated activities under control.

Many countries wanted to ensure that the Svalbard Treaty did not put an end to all foreign activity in Svalbard, so the principle of equal treatment was enshrined in the Treaty.
This means that, in certain areas, Norway is obliged to treat nationals and companies from states that are party to the Treaty in the same way as Norwegian nationals and companies.
They have, for example, an equal right of access and entry to the archipelago and equal rights to engage in fishing and hunting and other commercial activities.

Svalbard Treaty Signatories

Russia's Complaint

Earlier this month, Russia's Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov sent a message to Søreide calling on Norway to ensure "equal free access" to the archipelago and the possibility of conducting economic and economic activity there "on conditions of complete equality."

Lavrov notes Russia's concern about restrictions imposed on the use of the Russian helicopter [associated with Russia's coal mining activities on Svalbard], the establishment of a fish protection zone by Norway and “the artificial expansion of nature protection zones to limit economic activity in the archipelago.”
“On Svalbard, Russia - the only one except Norway - has been carrying out economic activities for many decades and does not intend to curtail its presence.
On the contrary, there are long-term plans for its strengthening, diversification and modernization.”
Lavrov has requested bilateral consultations to remove the restrictions.

Svalbard archipelago is one of the northernmost inhabited places of our planet, which is has settlements of two countries - the Kingdom of Norway and the Russian Federation.
The Russian part of region once-prosperous is now in the doldrums since for more than 20 years most of the settlements have been left and forgotten.
Today we are taking a 6-day hike and will hit the still living Russian village of Svalbard and abandoned villages of Pyramiden, Grumant, and Kolsbey.

Norway's Stance

“Norway has given high priority to fulfilling these obligations under international law ever since the Treaty was signed,” said the Ministers.
“It is worth mentioning that the provisions on equal treatment in the Svalbard Treaty are far less extensive than the corresponding provisions of the European Economic Area Agreement.”

According to Norway, the waters outside the 12 mile zone, but within the exclusive economic zone (200 miles) are waters where Norway can limit the rights of any third party.
This has been disputed by countries with interests in fisheries and oil and gas including Latvia and Russia.

The Ministers state that provisions on equal treatment apply only to nationals and companies from states that are parties to the Treaty.
Traditionally, however, Norwegian law in Svalbard has not made a distinction between nationals from contracting parties and nationals of other states.
This means that people from a country like Thailand, for example, have enjoyed many of the same opportunities as citizens from states that are parties to the Treaty.

“The right to equal treatment is not the same as the right to resources.
The Norwegian authorities can both regulate and prohibit activities, as long as there is no discrimination on the basis of nationality.
This is particularly important when we take action to safeguard Svalbard’s vulnerable environment or share limited resources.

 Magdalenefjorden (photo Lise Dreistel)

“At the same time, the Treaty does not preclude differential treatment on grounds other than nationality.
For example, it is only people resident in Svalbard who are entitled to hunt reindeer in the archipelago.
And only permanent residents of Svalbard are allowed to own cabins there.
Likewise, only vessels from countries that have traditionally harvested prawns in the area are entitled to catch prawns in the territorial waters of Svalbard.”

Certain states have challenged Norway’s interpretation of the Treaty’s provision on equal rights to engage in fishing and hunting.
Under the Treaty, ships and nationals from states that are parties to the Treaty have equal rights to engage in fishing and hunting on land in Svalbard and in the territorial waters around the archipelago, i.e. up to 12 nautical miles from land.

Nevertheless, the E.U. has cited the Treaty’s principle of equal treatment when, for example, the E.U.
member states Latvia and Lithuania have expressed an interest in harvesting snow crabs on the Norwegian continental shelf far beyond the territorial waters of Svalbard.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a secure seed bank
on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergenin the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago.

“But the wording of the Treaty is clear,” said the Ministers.
“The provisions on equal treatment apply only in Svalbard’s land areas and territorial waters.
We see that certain other states could have a clear interest in advocating a more expansive interpretation to include areas beyond the territorial waters.
However, any such interpretation would mean an expansion of their rights at Norway’s expense.

“States that claim that the reference to territorial waters in the Treaty also includes sea areas outside the 12-nautical-mile limit are interpreting this provision in a way that is contrary to international law.
This is clear not only from the Svalbard Treaty, but also from the Law of the Sea and the Vienna Convention on the law of treaties.

“The fact that there can be differing interpretations of the same provision of a treaty is a more general problem, and the Svalbard Treaty is a case in point.
Misunderstandings or a lack of knowledge about the actual substance of the Treaty can also in some cases lead to unrealistic expectations or opinions about the Treaty’s significance for the interests of specific stakeholders.
“Svalbard is part of Norway. Norway does not routinely consult with other countries about how it exercises authority over its own territory.”

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