Saturday, March 5, 2011

IceDream: the Iceberg project

Turning icebergs into drinking water?

From DassaultSystems

Water is a vital resource in danger.
As the world starts to question the future of our blue gold, some sharp minds have come up with a slightly crazy idea: what if icebergs, gigantic freshwater reservoirs that they are, became the solution to the drinking-water shortage problem?
Using its advanced technology,
Dassault Systèmes leads the investigation and simulates the feasibility of this unconventional project.

Freshwater Mountains

Potable water is a rare resource in many countries.
In the 21st century, nearly a billion people in the world still do not have access to clean water, while more than 2.5 billion have no water treatment system.
In light of these facts, researchers right across world are searching for solutions to produce potable water.
However, there are gigantic reservoirs of fresh water that have not been exploited:

Unlike floe ice, which consists of frozen sea-water and is populated by wild animals, icebergs are drifting mountains of fresh water.
Calved from polar glaciers and continental icecaps, icebergs drift naturally in the ocean until they melt.
Each year, tens of thousands of icebergs are produced this way from glaciers, all destined to melt and be lost in the oceans’ salt waters.
And each year, the equivalent of a year’s consumption of potable water melts and disappears!

A Lifetime’s Dream

The idea of exploiting icebergs to produce fresh water is not new, and goes back to the 1950s with research projects by the US Army.
It gained momentum in the 1970s, notably under the influence of the famous French polar explorer
Paul-Emile Victor, his friend and Arts et Métiers Engineer, Georges Mougin, and their meeting with the Saudi prince, Mohamed al-Faisal.
The first
international convention on the use of icebergs was organized in Iowa in 1977, attended by 200 renowned participants, including engineers, scientists, military personnel, officials and journalists (see proceedings).

But the technical obstacles are complex; experimentation required astronomical budgets and the technology did not yet exist.
In the following years, the excitement died down and the scientists turned towards other, more realistic, less controversial and less costly projects.

A New Breath of Life

At the time, the idea of towing an iceberg seemed unrealistic.
But in the last 40 years, there has been considerable technical progress and our knowledge of icebergs has greatly improved.
Could Georges Mougin’s project be reborn?

His whole life, Georges Mougin has honed his theory of towing icebergs and has thought about capturing a tabular iceberg.
He then studied the best way to slow its melting and he imagined an unheard-of invention, a skirt made from non-woven geotextile strips.
Finally, he had to come up with the best solution for towing the iceberg with a single, high-powered tugboat, while using as little energy as possible: using following currents.

In 2009, he decided to knock at the door of Dassault Systèmes.
Indeed, he had just watched a showing of the 3D interactive documentary “Khufu Revealed(a VirTools project) at the Geode.
Then, Georges Mougin thought of all this technology for his project: virtual worlds and 3D simulations would allow his various theories on iceberg-towing to be tested virtually to see whether his idea would be feasible.

Born in St Malo,
Georges Mougin grew up in cod-fishing world of Newfoundland.
His father ran a local workshop that maintained the fishing boats.
In 1947, a few years after leaving Arts et Métiers, with the help of a Danish naval architect, he coordinated the work of transforming a US surplus ship into a polar vessel that became the “Commandant Charcot”.
This was when he met Paul-Emile Victor, and was the start of a 50-year friendship and of his fascination with the Antarctic.
Together with the Saudi prince Mohammed al-Faisal, he founded the ITI Company (Iceberg Transport International), which from 1975 to 1981 established the conditions of feasibility of transferring and exploiting tabular icebergs from the Antarctic, but had to give up the project in the face of numerous obstacles.
Since 2003, taking account of the creation of oceanic forecasting services, and the availability of maritime resources developed for off-shore oil drilling, Georges Mougin endeavored to reactivate this project to exploit icebergs.

Links :

Friday, March 4, 2011

FAA approves iPads for pilots' electronic charts

The Federal Aviation Administration is allowing a private-jet company
to use iPads as an approved alternative to paper charts

From Wired

From the earliest days of aviation, pilots have relied upon paper maps to help find their way.
Even in an era of GPS and advanced avionics, you still see pilots lugging around 20 pounds or more of charts.
But those days are numbered, because maps are giving way to iPads.

Federal Aviation Administration is allowing charter company Executive Jet Management to use Apple's tablet as an approved alternative to paper charts.
The authorization follows three months of rigorous testing and evaluation of the iPad and
Mobile TC, a map app developed by aviation chartmaker Jeppesen (a Boeing company).

The latest decision applies only to Executive Jet Management, but it has implications for all of aviation.
By allowing the company's pilots to use the Apple iPad as a primary source of information, the
FAA is acknowledging the potential for consumer tablets to become avionics instruments.

iPad has been popular with pilots of all types since its introduction last year.
But until now, it could not be used in place of traditional paper charts or FAA-approved devices such as more expensive, purpose-built
electronic flight bags.
The iPad was OK for reference, but not as a pilot's sole source of information.
The new FAA authorization changes all that.

To receive FAA authorization, Jeppesen and Executive Jet Management went through a rigorous approval process.
It included rapid-decompression testing from a simulated altitude of 51,000 feet and ensuring the tablet will not interfere with critical navigation or electronic equipment.
Executive Jet tested the iPad and Mobile TC in 10 aircraft flown by 55 pilots during 250 flights.
The first thought many pilots, not to mention passengers, may have is: What happens if the iPad or the app crashes?

Jeff Buhl, Jeppesen's product manager for the Mobile TC app, says the Apple iOS operating system and the app proved "extremely stable" during testing.
In the "unlikely" event of a software crash, he says, it takes but a moment to get them running again.
"The recovery time for an application crashing or the OS crashing is extremely rapid," Buhl says.
During the evaluation period with the FAA, the production app did not crash.
But even if it did, Buhl says it's ready to go again "in 4-6 seconds from re-launch to previous state."

The FAA says each individual operator -- in this case Executive Jet Management -- must develop specific procedures for dealing with system or software crashes and other issues.
Under the authorization, Executive Jet Management will require a second approved electronic device, which most likely will be another iPad, in the cockpit.

Although this authorization applies to just one company, it is a milestone for all operators, including major airlines, because it opens the door for them to embrace the iPad.
Though any company wishing to follow Executive Jet's lead will have to endure equally rigorous scrutiny by the FAA.

Agency spokesman Les Dorr says the process is no different from what is required for
any other electronic device used to display navigation information.
"As far as the iPad is concerned, we do that on a case-by-case basis when an airline applies to be able to use it," Dorr says.

The FAA is already seeing more requests to use the iPad in the cockpit.
Alaska Airlines began testing the iPad back in November and there are about 100 pilots currently evaluating the device according to spokeswoman Marianne Lindsey.
She says in addition to the convenience, there is a practical weight-saving aspect to using the iPad as well, "it's replaced about 25 pounds of manuals and charts."

Jeppesen's director of portfolio management, Tim Huegel, says several carriers are looking into using the iPad and TC Mobile, and with the FAA granting one approval, it should become increasingly easy for others to follow Executive Jet's lead.
"We'll be able to reuse a lot of the documentation and the lessons learned working with Executive Jet Management to help our commercial customers as they now begin to pursue FAA authorization," he says.

The charts available with Mobile TC include charts for
visual flight rules and for instrument flight rules, which are more commonly used by commercial operators.
The app only shows an electronic version of the paper charts Jeppesen has been producing for years, but Huegel says future versions could incorporate the iPad's GPS capability.

He sees a day when tablets provide "door-to-door management" of a pilot's information, from crew scheduling to weather information to navigation charts.

Links :
  • Flightglobal : FAA approval of iPad EFB for Executive Jet paves way for industry
  • AOPA : How will the iPad change the GA cockpit?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Scripps mapping subsea mountains taller than Mt. Whitney

Seafloor in the South Atlantic Ocean.
The low resolution map is derived from satellite altimetry while the high resolution swath was collected by Melville
during their transit across the South Atlantic from Cape Town, South Africa to Punta Arenas, Chile.

From SignonSanDiego

Mount Whitney rises 14,494 feet high in California’s majestic Sierra Nevada, making it the highest summit in the lower 48 states.
It also means Whitney is shorter than some of the undersea mountains — or
seamounts — that are now being charted by the Melville, a research vessel out of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

SIO officials say scientists aboard the Melville are finding seamounts as tall as 14,700 feet on a mapping mission underway in the South Atlantic.
One of the seamounts has a diameter of 87 miles, roughly the distance between San Diego and Long Beach.

“Only about seven percent of the seafloor has been mapped by ship, so there are a lot of uncharted seamounts around the world,” said
David Sandwell, an SIO geophysicist who is helping guide scientists aboard the Melville from his office in La Jolla.

“It’s important to study them. We need to understand the geology of the ocean floor.”

Sandwell says some of the seamounts are inactive volcanoes that can affect the path of ocean currents which, in turn, can affect weather and climate.
The seamounts also are gathering spots for a diverse collection of marine species, including some types of commercially harvested fish.

Locating and charting the seamounts is tricky business.
Scientists use satellite radar to study the ocean’s surface.
Those images reveal the rough location of subsea volcanoes and seamounts.
But then scientists have to go to sea and use sophisticated sonar to map the upper reaches of the mountains -- which is what researchers on Melville have been doing as they’ve explored a region 1,200 miles southwest of Cape Town, South Africa.

Sandwell said that the captain of the Melville,
Chris Curl, has to approach the seamounts carefully because the peaks can rise close to the surface, posing a hazard to navigation.
In 2005, the nuclear-powered submarine
USS San Francisco struck an uncharted seamount while operating 500 feet deep off Guam (see article).
The collision killed one crew member and injured 23 others.

J.J. Becker, a geophysicst aboard Melville, said in a statement, “These particular seamounts are so steep that it was nerve-wracking to go from 9,840 feet of water to less than 1,640 feet in 15 or 20 minutes!”

Scientists said charting the seamonts won’t be completed any time soon.

“There are many areas the size of New Jersey for which we have no information,” Sandwell said.
“That’s worse than the coverage we have for Venus and the far side of our own moon.”

The public can follow the movement and work activity on
R/V Melville online.

Links :

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cargill to start flying kites across the ocean: SkySails will reduce carbon emissions of shipping vessels

Food and agriculture giant Cargill will soon start using giant kites on its shipping vessels to generate propulsion—and reduce fuel consumption by up to 35 percent.

The kites, a product of Germany-based
SkySails GmbH & Co., are 320 square meters in size, fly ahead of the vessels at a height of 100 to 420 meters, and are computer-controlled by an automatic pod to maximize wind benefits.
The kites will save up to ten tons of fuel a day.

Not that the kites themselves are new: we already knew they outperform regular sailboats and that they've been successful on trans-Atlantic freight trips.
And of course, the one positive move doesn't undo some of the more questionable, if not downright evil, practices we've known Cargill for in the past.

But it's worth recognizing nonetheless.
Cargill doesn't own or operate ships, but has identified a company that will test the technology, which will be installed in December.
Cargill and SkySails are planning to have it fully operational in early 2012.

According to Cargill, its ocean transportation business ships more than 185 million tons of agricultural, energy, and industrial commodities annually.
Cargill's G.J. van den Akker said, "As one of the world's largest charterers of dry bulk freight, we take this commitment extremely seriously. In addition to lowering greenhouse gas emissions, the SkySails technology aims to significantly reduce fuel consumption and costs."

"We are delighted that Cargill is the first company to embrace our technology on a vessel this large as part of its commitment to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the shipping industry," said Stephan Wrage, managing director of SkySails.
"We are excited that our technology will shortly be used on a handysize vessel for the first time and see great potential to incorporate it on larger ships in the future."

According to a UN study, up to 100 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions could be eliminated every year if the SkySails technology were adopted by the world merchant fleet on a large scale.

Links :

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fish discards could end under EU proposals

From BBCNews

The European Commission is to set out its ideas for ending fish discards.

Currently, EU boats in the North Sea have to throw away up to half of what they catch to stay within their quotas.

Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki proposes instead to regulate fleets through limits on fishing time and greater use of measures such as CCTV.

She will discuss the ideas with delegates from EU member states in Brussels on Tuesday, with the aim of finalizing plans later in the year.

She hopes to introduce a discard ban as part of a reformed
Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in 2013.

With attendance at the Brussels meeting limited to one representative per country, the Scottish government will not be sending anyone, which Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead described as "disappointing".

"Even though Scotland is home to the EU's largest whitefish fleet, the UK government is not willing to allow Scotland the opportunity to attend on behalf of the UK," he said.
"Incredibly, landlocked countries such as Austria and the Czech Republic have been invited to take part - despite their lack of a coastline, never mind a fishing fleet."

UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon, who will be there, is backing the broad thrust of Ms Damanaki's proposals.

"Everybody wants to see an end to the disgraceful waste of huge amounts of fish having to be dumped back overboard, and the UK is leading the way in efforts to tackle the problem," he said.
"I'm determined to keep pushing for reforms in Europe that prevent this waste, while fighting to protect our fishermen's livelihoods."

A petition started by UK "celebrity chef"
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall asking EU leaders to "stop this unacceptable and shameful practice" claims to have gathered more than 650,000 signatures.

Controlling effort

The commission's ideas are sketched out in a four-page document - obtained by BBC News - that explores ways of constraining fishing if discards are banned.

UK fishermen have been trialling schemes aimed at curbing catches of cod
"The reasons for discarding are EU and national legislation, which are not well suited for EU waters, where the majority of catches are from mixed fisheries, as well as financial interests of the fishing industry to keep only more valuable fish on board," it says.

Currently, fishermen have to discard fish when they exceed their quota for that species, or when they net fish that are too young or too small.

However, simply allowing them to land and sell everything they catch could open up a free-for-all.

Ms Damanaki suggests:
  • controlling "fishing effort", by limiting the amount of time boats can spend at sea and the places where they can fish
  • counting all fish landed against quotas
  • closing "mixed fisheries" when the maximum quota of one species in it has been caught
  • expanding the use of CCTV, observers, electronic logbooks and monitoring of ports
Even though discarding is acknowledged almost universally to be a wasteful practice, there are concerns that stopping it without enough thought could either harm sea life or the livelihoods of fishermen.

"Banning discarding would be a very good step forward in the quest to stop overfishing in EU waters and by the EU fleet," said Uta Bellion, director of the
Pew Environment Group's European Marine Programme.

Ms Damanaki aims to finalise plans in a few months
"However, this needs to be coupled with catch limits that follow scientific advice based on the precautionary principle, and effective monitoring and control," she told BBC News.

And Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the
Scottish Fishermen's Federation, said a blanket ban was not merited.
"The proposal from Maria Damanaki for a discards ban amounts to a draconian step too far," he said.
"It is a knee-jerk response to populist TV coverage which has accurately described the problem, but which offers no solutions."

Both the UK and Scottish governments want the commission to look at projects in British waters that have succeeded in reducing the volume of discards.

Scotland's Conservation Credits Scheme restricts fishing gear and obliges skippers to call a closure if they find they are catching juveniles or spawning fish.
In return, they gain additional fishing days.

The two governments have also been trialling a
Catch Quota Scheme for cod, under which all fish landed count towards a quota.
Boats have to use
Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM) equipment.

Mr Benyon's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (
Defra) wants the revamped CFP to be less prescriptive, encouraging each government to adopt measures appropriate to its own fleet and fishery.

Links :

Monday, February 28, 2011

Maersk claims new 'mega containers' could cut shipping emissions

Danish firm signs a deal for 10 of the world's biggest ships
that it says will save fuel and lower emissions

Think of a 400m-long row of 20-storey high office blocks cruising the ocean at the speed of Usain Bolt.
Or a container ship as long as the Empire State building and as wide as an eight-lane motorway that is able to carry more than 860m bananas or 18m flat-screen televisions in 18,000 containers.

The sheer scale and capacity of what will be the largest vessels afloat – the first 10 of which were
ordered on Monday by Danish shipping firm Maersk – is likely to change international shipping in the same way that the super-jumbo is revolutionizing air transport or high-speed rail has changed the way people travel across continents.

While at 400m long and 73m tall the new "Triple-E" container ships will be only marginally longer and taller than the current biggest class of vessel, the 160,000-tonne ships will be able to carry nearly 20% more containers than previously because of their width.
Maersk has signed a $1.9bn (£1.17bn) contract with Korean shipbuilders Daewoo for the first 10, with an option for 20 more.
The first order will be completed in two to four years.

The company hopes to be able to cut the cost of transporting a container from China to Europe by 26%.
"These are probably the largest ships you will see built for some years. We could have made them longer but ports would have had to be enlarged. We could not make them wider because port cranes can only reach across 23 or 24 containers," said Maersk chief executive officer Eivind Kolding in London.

But the ships, which are nearly twice as large as the majority of the world's 9,000 container ships, were designed solely for the China-Europe route.
Only Felixstowe in Britain, and Rotterdam and Bremerhaven in mainland Europe will have the facilities to handle them, along with Port Said in Egypt and just four ports in the east, including Shanghai and Hong Kong.

"They will definitely stimulate further trade between China and Europe, but they are too big for any ports in north or south America.
Eventually we would like to be able to take them to the US but for the moment they would take four or five days to be unloaded there," said Kolding.

Maersk admitted it had been stung by criticisms in the past few years that the global shipping industry, which it dominates, had failed to reduce its carbon emissions.
Shipping is responsible for 3-4% of global emissions, largely because it traditionally burns cheap but heavily polluting "bunker" fuel.

Yesterday Maersk sought to position itself as environmentally responsible, saying that $30m (£18.45m), or one-sixth of the total cost of each vessel, would go towards fuel-saving and emissions reduction.
The vessels' twin engines have been designed to run slower, waste heat will be recovered and instead of using nearly 200 tonnes of fuel a day, the new ships should be able to run on around 100 tonnes.

"We have rethought the whole ship. We are setting a new bar, or standard.
These ships will operate at fuel consumption of 50% less than the industry average and 20% better than the existing best.
They will travel at 19 knots (21.8mph) rather than 23 knots (26.5mph) and the emissions will be 50% less [per container]. The ships could travel even slower but you reach a point when transit time becomes an issue," said Kolding.

The improvement was cautiously welcomed by environment and development groups.
"Shipping is the lifeblood of international trade, but it is also a source of carbon emissions bigger than many industrialized countries, and set to treble by 2050.
Efficiency improvements to engines are part of the solution, but only by setting a cap can governments really get a grip," said Tim Gore,
Oxfam's climate change policy adviser.

But the company could not say how much less air pollution the ships would emit.
In international waters, sulphur and nitrogen emissions are barely regulated and the largest container ships have been found to emit as much sulphur and nitrogen pollutants as 50m cars.
New laws will force reduction in some areas but the technology has not been developed yet to fully "scrub" the diesel emissions of mega ships like those planned by Maersk.
In addition, European air quality standards are far more lax for shopping than those of the US.

"We are working hard on the technology but we do not know yet how it will have developed by the time these ships are delivered," said a Maersk spokesman.

Links :
  • YouTube : Maersk Line Triple-E, the largest, most efficient ship in the world (photos)
  • Maersk : Tripe-E vessels
  • FT : Maersk Line orders world’s biggest ships

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Science investigates freak waves

BBC documentary first aired on November 14, 2002 called “Freak Waves
YouTube : I / II / III / IV /V

From BBC

Freak waves up to 30 metres high (100 feet) that rise up from calm seas to destroy ships do exist, researchers argue (list).
For centuries sailors have blamed mysterious surges of water for unexplainable sinkings but the claims have always attracted plenty of scepticism.

However, there is now growing evidence, including satellite imagery, which suggests the massive waves may be more than just maritime myth.

New data on the phenomenon, featured by the
BBC Science programme Horizon, have led to calls for improved ship designs that will withstand huge water surges.

Walls of water

Every week, a ship sinks to the bottom of the sea, and often there seems no obvious explanation.

These disappearances are usually blamed on human error or the poor maintenance of a vessel.

But in many cases, sailors have their own theory: a single massive wave that appears out of the blue and sinks the ship with one blow.

Evidence presented by Horizon suggests a 43,000-tonne cargo ship, the Munchen - which sank with all hands in 1978 - was struck with huge force.

Several researchers who have studied the event now think a giant wave was responsible.

Although the official inquiry found that "something extraordinary" had destroyed the vessel, it concluded only that the Munchen's loss was a highly unusual event that had no implications for other forms of shipping.

Wave instability

Freak waves are not the same as tidal waves, or tsunamis, and they are not caused by earthquakes or landslides.

They are single, massive walls of water that rise up from apparently calm seas. Several theories compete to explain them.

Some scientists think that waves and winds heading straight into powerful ocean currents may cause a surge of water to rise up out of the deep.

Others believe that some waves can become unstable and start to suck in energy from nearby waves, growing quickly and to huge heights.

Commons question

Jim Gunson, the UK Met Office's expert on ocean waves, said: "Rogue waves in the past have been ignored and regarded as rare events.

"Now we are finally getting a handle on them and finding out how common they are."

Eddie O'Hara, MP, the chairman of the parliamentary committee on maritime safety, is to table a Commons motion into ship safety in freak weather.

He told the BBC: "Ships are going down all the time. If you read the maritime press, there is a boat going down at least once a month, with the loss of crew usually measured in dozens of lives."

Remodelling ships to include, for example, new hatch designs to withstand extraordinary waves could cost merchant fleet owners billions of dollars.

Links :