Saturday, February 10, 2018

Haunting words from one of the most daring Antarctic adventures of all time

In 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew embarked on an ambitious expedition:
completing the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent.
"Life, to me, is the greatest of all games. The danger lies in treating it as a trivial game."
What words or phrases were most haunting for you?

Links :

Friday, February 9, 2018

Image of the week : signs of ships in the clouds

NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response

From NASA by Adam Voiland

Ships churning through the Atlantic Ocean produced this patchwork of bright, criss-crossing cloud trails off the coast of Portugal and Spain.
The narrow clouds, known as ship tracks, form when water vapor condenses around tiny particles of pollution that ships emit as exhaust or that form from gases in the exhaust.
Ship tracks typically form in areas where low-lying stratus and cumulus clouds are present.

Some of the pollution particles generated by ships (especially sulfates) are soluble in water and serve as the seeds around which cloud droplets form.
Clouds infused with ship exhaust have more and smaller droplets than unpolluted clouds.
As a result, the light hitting the polluted clouds scatters in many directions, making them appear brighter and thicker than unpolluted marine clouds, which are typically seeded by larger, naturally occurring particles such as sea salt.

Several shipping lanes intersect in the waters off the coast of Portugal.
Visualizations of ship traffic show large numbers of ships entering and exiting the Mediterranean Sea in this region.
Many of them hug the coast of the Iberian Peninsula as they travel toward ports in northern Europe. In this case, the large volume of ships along the coast appear to have brightened the clouds so much that it is difficult to distinguish individual ship tracks.
The more visible tracks are several hundred kilometers offshore, and many of these appear to be created by ships heading out of the Mediterranean Sea toward North America.
Others are probably the result of ships from South America and Africa charting courses toward northern Europe.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite captured this natural-color image on January 16, 2018. Some of the criss-crossing clouds stretch hundreds of kilometers from end to end.
The narrow ends of the clouds are youngest, while the broader, wavier ends are older.

Age is not the only factor that affects the appearance of ship tracks. NASA scientists have identified specific atmospheric conditions that affect their brightness, or albedo.
One key factor is the structure of clouds already in the area. Ship tracks clouds that form near open-cell clouds—many of which are present in this image—tend to be brighter than those that form near close-celled clouds.
(Open-cell clouds look like empty compartments, whereas closed-cell clouds look like compartments stuffed with clouds.)

The high reflectivity of ship track clouds means they shade Earth’s surface from incoming sunlight, which produces a local cooling effect.
However, determining whether ship tracks have a global cooling effect is challenging because the way particles affect clouds remains one of the least understood and most uncertain aspects of climate science.

Links :

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Mega-rocket test succeeds, but not landing at sea

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Demonstration Mission launched from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A), Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on 6 February 2018, at 20:45 UTC (15:45 ET).
For its maiden flight, Falcon Heavy’s second stage will attempt to place the payload, Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster, into a precessing Earth-Mars elliptical orbit around the Sun.
For this first flight test, Falcon Heavy’s two side cores launched the Thaicom 8 satellite (May 2016) and the CRS-9 mission (July 2016).
Following booster separation, Falcon Heavy’s two side cores landed at SpaceX’s Landing Zones 1 and 2 (LZ-1 and LZ-2) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
Falcon Heavy’s center core attempted to land on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

From Maritime Executive

On Tuesday, aerospace firm SpaceX conducted the first test of its Falcon Heavy rocket, the heaviest capacity launch vehicle in operation today.
The launch was a success, the rocket's dummy payload is in orbit, and two of three booster sections have returned to Earth for reuse.

  Falcon Heavy animation :
When Falcon Heavy lifts off, it will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two. With the ability to lift into orbit nearly 64 metric tons (141,000 lb)---a mass greater than a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel--Falcon Heavy can lift more than twice the payload of the next closest operational vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy, at one-third the cost.
Falcon Heavy's first stage is composed of three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores whose 27 Merlin engines together generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft.
Following liftoff, the two side boosters separate from the center core and return to landing sites for future reuse.
The center core, traveling further and faster than the side boosters, also returns for reuse, but lands on a drone ship located in the Atlantic Ocean.
At max velocity the Roadster will travel 11 km/s (7mi/s) and travel 400 million km (250 million mi) from Earth.

The Falcon Heavy is comprised of three of the company's Falcon 9 first stage boosters, which are designed to return to ground (or to a seagoing landing pad) for recovery.

 Synchronized landing of the two side booster cores.
Photo : Jared Haworth / We Report Space

In earlier launches of the Falcon 9 - a single-booster variant that is designed to put commercial satellites into orbit - SpaceX has managed to recover the rocket's valuable first stage on a specially-equipped, DP-enabled landing barge.
It has also successfully experimented with the recovery of its rocket nose cones at sea, using a modified crewboat with a grabbing device to catch each half of the cone.
By bringing its equipment back to shore intact for refurbishment, SpaceX hopes achieve "full and rapid reusability" and greatly reduce the cost per launch.

During the second Falcon 9 rocket launch (GovSat, January 31st, 2018), the company chose not to land the booster after takeoff and instead dispensed it in the ocean.
In a weird twist, the Falcon 9 still managed to survive its fall into the deep sea waters and is bobbing intact in the Atlantic.
see @elonmusk_tweet

The Falcon Heavy test required a highly complex, choreographed sequence of events.
After takeoff, the two side boosters separated from the main body of the rocket and fell away.
They reduced speed, rotated and flew back for a successful landing on shore.
The center stage separated successfully and reentered the atmosphere, but the video feed aboard the landing barge cut off before touchdown.

To stop the polemic :
SpaceX has historically shown every failure, some epic explosions and missed landings...
So no doubt SpaceX hided anything.
Core crashed beside platform and that was it.
Nothing happened in frame anyhow other than smoke and one piece of debris.
Overall mission was an awesomely impressive success
see Elon Musk describing Core failure

In a news conference later on Tuesday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that the center stage was only able to relight one out of its three engines during landing, and it missed the barge and hit the water at 300 miles an hour.

Nose cone fairing recovery at sea was also listed as part of Tuesday's launch evolution, but it appears that it was not successful either.
"Fairing recovery has proven surprisingly difficult. It turns out if you pop a parachute on the fairing you've got this giant awkward thing - it tends to interfere with the airflow on the parachute, and it gets all twisty," Musk said.
"We've got a boat to catch the fairing - it's like a giant catcher's mitt in boat form."

 The modified crewboat "Mr. Stevens," likely designed to catch Falcon 9 nose cone fairings
(file image via social media)

While the reusable components headed back to the surface, the second stage and its payload achieved orbital trajectory around Earth.
If all is successful, SpaceX says, the payload will head for a slingshot orbit around the sun, then out into space.

In a whimsical twist, the dummy payload is an actual dummy, seated behind the steering wheel of Musk's Tesla Roadster.
(Elon Musk is the charismatic entrepreneur behind both Tesla and SpaceX.)

Links :

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

France set to become a European Offshore Wind powerhouse by 2022 ?

There was a big 19% increase in wind generation in Europe last year.

From Bloomberg by Jeremy Hodges and Jess Shankleman
  • WindEurope sees French turbine orders passing U.K., Germany
  • Offshore wind investments to recover after contracting in 2017
Europe’s wind-power industry expects new French offshore turbine installations to overtake the U.K. and Germany by 2022, boosting President Emmanuel Macron’s pledge to increase renewable energy.

Such has been the slow progress with early projects that floating offshore wind is likely to leapfrog them
France has made a significant commitment to offshore windfarms but still hasn’t built any, however that situation is changing as floating offshore wind projects come to the fore

Construction off the French coast is expected to ramp up from 2020 and turn the country in the fourth-biggest offshore wind generator with about 4.3 gigawatts capacity by 2030, according to the Brussels-based WindEurope industry group.

Macron has repeatedly promised to turn France into a green energy leader and reduce the country’s reliance on nuclear power.
He’s trying to cut through bureaucratic red tape that has delayed offshore wind projects tendered in 2012.
His government said in November that it aims to trim offshore project development to less than seven years from more than a decade.

The U.K. and Germany currently lead in offshore wind installations with 1,753 and 1,168 installed turbines respectively, according to a WindEurope report on Tuesday.

98% of offshore wind capacity comes from the UK, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Investment in new offshore wind farms is expected to recover marginally in 2018 after a sharp drop last year, according to the industry group, which estimates more than 9 billion euros ($11.2 billion) of projects could reach financial close this year.

Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy currently accounts for 51% of new installed capacity.

Last year investment in new European offshore wind projects dropped almost three-fifths, to 7.5 billion euros, after countries cut subsidies and technology costs fell.
Conversely, the refinancing of existing projects jumped 80 percent to 4.6 billion euros.
“Project sponsors have used the favorable market conditions and increased liquidity to restructure their project debt,” WindEurope reported.

By 2020 WindEurope expects European offshore wind capacity of 25 gigawatts.
The market will continue to concentrate around the North Sea, where the U.K. will connect 3.3 gigawatts of new offshore capacity by 2020.

Fifteen miles off Scotland's North Sea coast is a new wind farm,
with the world's first floating turbines.

During the period, Germany is expected to install 2.3 gigawatts while Belgium and the Netherlands will install 1.3 gigawatts and Denmark will add 1 gigawatt of offshore power.

Links :

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

How blockchain is strengthening tuna traceability to combat illegal fishing

For the global tuna industry, which has historically struggled with illegal and environmentally dubious fishing practices, the use of blockchain could be a turning point.
photo : WWF

From The Conversation by Candice Visser & Quentin Hanish

In a significant development for global fisheries, blockchain technology is now being used to improve tuna traceability to help stop illegal and unsustainable fishing practices in the Pacific Islands tuna industry.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Australia, Fiji and New Zealand, in partnership with US-based tech innovator ConsenSys, tech implementer TraSeable and tuna fishing and processing company Sea Quest Fiji Ltd, has just launched a pilot project in the Pacific Islands tuna industry that will use blockchain technology to track the journey of tuna from “bait to plate”.

The aim is to help stop illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and human rights abuses in the tuna industry.
These have included reports of corruption, illegal trafficking and human slavery on tuna fishing boats.

It is hoped the use of blockchain technology will strengthen transparency and enable full traceability, thereby countering significant threats to licensing revenue and crew working conditions and safety, and broader impacts on the environment.

Tracking tuna from catch to customer : 
The provenance of tuna, backed by blockchain technology,
and accessible to actors all along the supply chain.

Blockchain is evolving beyond Bitcoin

Blockchain technology is rapidly evolving beyond Bitcoin.
Emerging applications are geared to improve business in many ways – including supply-chain transparency for all kinds of products.

A blockchain is a digital ledger that is distributed, decentralised, verifiable and irreversible.
It can be used to record transactions of almost anything of value.

Essentially, it is a shared (not copied) database that everyone in the network can see and update.
This system provides multiple benefits for supply chains, including high levels of transparency.
This is because everyone in the network can see and verify the ledger, and no individual can alter or delete the history of transactions.

For consumers, this means you will be able to scan a code on an item you want to buy and find out exactly where it has been before landing in your hands.
It will be easy to answer those tricky questions about whether or not an item – such as a fish – is sustainable, ethical or legal.

As seen here, once the tuna is caught, a reusable tag is attached, from which information is then automatically uploaded to blockchain.
photo : WWF

Using blockchain to trace tuna

The WWF pilot project will use a combination of radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, quick response (QR) code tags and scanning devices to collect information about the journey of a tuna at various points along the supply chain.
While this use of technology is not new for supply-chain tracking, the exciting part is that the collected information will then be recorded using blockchain technology.

Tracking will start as soon as the tuna is caught.
Once a fish is landed, it will be attached with a reusable RFID tag on the vessel.
Devices fitted on the vessel, at the dock and in the processing factory will then detect the tags and automatically upload information to the blockchain.

Once the fish has been processed, the reusable RFID tag will be switched for a cheaper QR code tag, which will be attached to the product packaging.
The unique QR code will be linked to the blockchain record associated with the particular fish and its original RFID tag.
The QR code tag will be used to trace the rest of the journey of the fish to the consumer.

At the moment, linking tags is not difficult because the project is focusing on whole round exports – that is, the whole fresh fish minus head, gills and guts.
It gets a little more complicated when the fish is cut up into loins, steaks, cubes and cans, but the project team is now able to link the QR code tags on the packages of the processed fish with the record of the original fish on the blockchain.

While it may be possible to use RFID tags throughout the whole process, the expense of these tags could prohibit smaller operators in the fishing industry from participating in the scheme if it expands.
There is also potential to use near field communicator (NFC) devices to track the fish all the way to the consumer in the future.

Marine Stewardship Council-certified yellowfin tuna processed at SeaQuest processing plant at Walu Bay, Suva, Fiji, December 2017.
photo : WWF
Bringing much-needed transparency to the industry

While this use of the blockchain is the first of its kind for the Pacific Islands region, it is not a world first.
A company called Provenence and the International Pole and Line Association (IPLA) has already completed a successful pilot project tracing products from Indonesian tuna fisheries to consumers in the UK.

Blockchain technology to boost food transparency

Provenance is also working on using blockchain to track a range of other physical things – including cotton, fashion, coffee and organically farmed food products.
However, the potential of blockchain goes further.
For example, Kodak recently launched its own cryptocurrency to help photographers track and protect their digital intellectual property.

Blockchain technology is just starting to change the way business is done.
If it delivers on its promise of supply-chain transparency, it will be a great tool to help ensure that industries – including the tuna industry – are doing the right thing.

This will give consumers more information on which to base their purchasing decisions.
For the global tuna industry, which has historically struggled with illegal and environmentally dubious fishing practices, this could be a turning point as visionary fishing companies demonstrate true stewardship and begin to open up the industry to full transparency.

Links :

Monday, February 5, 2018

Hacked at Sea: Concerns grow over lax cybersecurity for ships, ports

From NewsDeeply by Jessica Leber

As hacking risks grow and maritime operations become more digitally connected, experts in industry and government have long said no one is prepared.
This summer was a wake-up call.

The port of New York and New Jersey is the largest port on the east coast of the United States, touted by officials as the “gateway to one of the most concentrated and affluent consumer markets in the world.”
But for a few weeks last summer, the goods moving through one of its terminals slowed to a crawl because of a global cyberattack that originated 4,500 miles away.

“The delays were six to eight hours to pick up a container,” said Jeffrey Bader, chief executive of the trucking company Golden Carriers, recalling when a terminal in Elizabeth, New Jersey, switched to manual operations while its systems were down.
“The line was many, many miles long. Trucks, trucks, trucks.”

The terminal’s operator, APM Terminals, is a subsidiary of the world’s largest container shipping company, A.P. Moller-Maersk Group.
The company, which transports roughly 20 percent of the world’s cargo containers, was among the hardest hit by the NotPetya ransomware.
NotPetya sprouted in hacked accounting software in Ukraine in late June, and by exploiting a weakness in Microsoft Windows operating systems, quickly went global as it infected corporate networks and locked down the data of contaminated computers.
Hackers would usually restore access after a ransom payment is made, but NotPetya was engineered to cause chaos more than extort funds, cybersecurity experts say.

Maersk and many other global firms affected, such as FedEx and pharmaceutical giant Merck, were not specific targets of the attack, but that didn’t matter.
In a “heroic effort” over 10 days, Maersk reinstalled 4,000 servers, 45,000 personal computers and 2,500 applications, chairman Jim Hagemann Snabe said at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos last month.

Snabe called the episode a “very significant wake-up call” that cost Maersk, which has been applauded for being unusually public about the whole episode, as much as $300 million.

The entire shipping and maritime sector, a crucial part of the global economy that impacts ocean health, heard that alarm bell.
It is, according to many experts, an industry that is lagging in its preparedness to face modern cybersecurity threats.
As ships become more connected to online systems and controlled by software, the risks will only grow.

“This summer is when everybody woke up,” then U.S. Federal Maritime Commissioner William Doyle said at the Shipping 2030 North America conference in New York City in November.

Companies, governments and experts have, in fact, been gathering at meetings and conferences for the last several years to talk about cybersecurity risks both at sea and at port.
These extend beyond the usual I.T.
and business concerns common to any corporation to the industrial, navigational and information systems that, if breached, could pose national security, environment and worker safety risks.
Both the International Maritime Organization and the global shipping industry group BIMCO have issued cybersecurity guidelines in the last two years, as have national governments and the U.S.

But the shipping sector as a whole has been playing catch-up, and it still has a long way to go.
“We are about 20 years behind the ball compared to many industries worldwide,” Kate Belmont, a lawyer specialized in maritime cybersecurity issues at the firm Blank Rome in New York City, said at the November conference.

The long lifetime of ships and the relatively slow pace at which vessel systems at sea have been connected to the internet, along with the particularly global and interconnected nature of the business, all help to explain why the industry has been slow to grapple with cybersecurity threats.

But cyber attacks and everyday malware infections are increasingly common.
The Port of Los Angeles’ executive director recently testified before a congressional homeland security committee that the port’s three-year-old Cybersecurity Operations Center is handling an unprecedented 20 million-plus cyber intrusion attempts.
A survey conducted by maritime consulting firm Futurenautics found that 40 percent of 5,000 shipboard officers surveyed said they’ve sailed on a ship they know has been infected with malware, its chief executive KD Adamson said.

Unlike Maersk, most shipping companies are tight-lipped about data breaches.
“Attacks have been occurring, but nobody wants to talk about, so a lot of people don’t believe they are happening,” Belmont said.

Ken Munro, who works with the firm Pen Test Partners and conducts what is called “penetration testing” to find cybersecurity vulnerabilities for clients, contrasted the shipping industry with the aviation sector, which he says has deployed anonymous reporting systems for all kinds of situations.
In that industry, he said, “an incident is viewed as something you can learn from, not something you should hide.”

Although many worst-case scenarios at sea – ranging from a hacker taking control of a vessel’s navigation systems or causing a ship to spill its oil, explode or sink – have been shown to be theoretically possible, the list of major publicly known cybersecurity incidents is relatively short and not as dramatic.

Over the last few years, cybersecurity specialists have uncovered or demonstrated software vulnerabilities and, just as worrying, human oversights that could allow a cyber intruder to gain access to or control of a variety of ship systems.
Among them: the navigational Electronic Chart Display and Information System; a load planning system that balances weight on a containerized ship; or even the voyage data recorder.

One researcher demonstrated at a conference in 2017 how he could quickly take control of a billionaire’s super yacht, according to the Guardian.
Another showed that a ship’s satellite communications system was not only connected to the public internet but used default login credentials (for example, a username like “admin”) that could allow anyone relatively easy access.

USB sticks that seafarers still carry and can connect to ship systems are one way malware can make its way to ships and cause trouble, according to Andy Davis, transport assurance practice director at the cybersecurity consulting firm NCC Group.
But while ships used to be isolated and off the grid while at sea, now-common “satcom” boxes can also provide entry for hackers looking for access to a vessel’s systems.

“Hackers who have a modicum of sense, who can discover these devices on the internet, they can find security flaws in them and compromise ships,” said Munro.

It is also still uncommon, he said, for ship technology manufacturers to offer a straightforward way for outside researchers to flag software vulnerabilities or bugs they find.
“The manufacturers – they really haven’t woken up to security yet,” said Munro.
“It’s going to take them several years to get onboard vessel control systems to a point of security where everyone else is already at.”

 Shodan now live tracking ships via VSAT antennas exposing web services

For now, major publicly known targeted attacks have largely involved stealing critical information, not compromising a ship’s physical systems.
In a 2017 report about an unnamed company, Verizon’s cybersecurity team described how pirates hacked into a ship’s cargo management system to target valuable crates.
In another example, the Port of Antwerp in 2013 reported that smugglers had gained access to data system to make it easier bring drugs through the port.

But it can also be hard to tell whether a cyber incident has even occurred.
After the separate collisions of two U.S. Navy destroyers in 2017, speculation that hackers were involved prompted the Navy to include a cyber attack assessment in one of the cases as part of a larger investigation, according to Foreign Policy.
Two experts following the Navy’s cyber assessment wrote about why these kinds of forensic investigations are new and difficult.
“It is clear that we do not yet have the basic tools to definitively answer the question, ‘Were we hacked or did we break it?’ ” they said.

Another widely discussed episode on the Black Sea this past summer left unanswered questions.
The U.S. Maritime Administration issued an advisory that about 20 vessels in the area were reporting interference with their GPS systems that could affect navigation.
Outside researchers found patterns of GPS “spoofing,” in which a false signal confuses a GPS receiver and could potentially misdirect the ship.
While it’s well known that it’s possible to spoof GPS signals – and the U.S. government is working to develop a more secure alternative to GPS – there’s no definitive answer yet for what happened.

Vessel at Sochi Harbor reporting itself at Sochi Airport.
By running its algorithms on data from vessels' Automatic Identification System (AIS), Windward experts identified two additional instances of mass GPS interference in 2017, lasting for months each. 

As ships become more controlled by software or, in some cases, even autonomously operated, questions about cybersecurity will become even more important – or may slow down adoption of these kinds of technologies.
“Right now, cybersecurity risks haven’t been solved at all,” said Lars Jensen, founder of the Danish maritime cybersecurity firm CyberKeel, referring to autonomous technologies.
At a far more basic level, he says, companies need to do more to train workers and develop more sophisticated strategies to protect critical systems.

As a legal matter, it’s now even possible that ship owners could potentially be held accountable if a real disaster strikes because of a cyberattack they could have easily prevented, attorney Belmont said.
“The definition of seaworthiness now has changed,” she said.

Links :

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Galileo : Reaching you faster – when every minute matters

Search and Rescue (SAR) operations involve locating and helping people in distress.
They can be carried out in a variety of locations including at sea, in mountains or deserts, and in urban areas.
With the launch of Initial Services, Galileo will help SAR operators respond to distress signals faster and more effectively while also lowering their own exposure to risk…
Search and Rescue service is Galileo’s contribution to the international Cospas-Sarsat network.
Galileo is a EU programme, carried out in cooperation with the European Space Agency.
see also on YouTube