Saturday, August 8, 2020

Australia (AHS) layer update in the GeoGarage platform

7 nautical raster charts updated

The beautiful story of a man and a legendary boat (in French)

The beautiful story of a man and a legendary boat
"Fleur Bleue", the most titled lake of Lake Geneva.
Through him, it is the story of a man who tells himself, Marcel Henri Schmid, who for 15 years was a sail trimmer aboard this legendary boat.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Beirut harbour after the blast

 Site of the explosion that happened on August 4, 2020 in Beirut, Lebanon.

 Maxar © imagery
 Beyrouth harbor in the GeoGarage platform (SHOM nautical raster chart)

 Before / After
Airbus © imagery

Maxar © imagery

Large bulk carrier grounds in Mauritius

Authorities have confirmed that fuel is leaking from a crack in the hull.

From The Guardian by AFP

MV Wakashio breaking up after running aground at Pointe d’Esny near marine park

The Indian Ocean island of Mauritius is facing an environmental crisis after oil began leaking from a bulk carrier that ran aground in July and started to break up in rough seas.

The MV Wakashio bulk carrier ran aground near Blue bay Marine Park in southeast Mauritius Photograph: Dev Ramkhelawon/L'Express Maurice/AFP/Getty Images

“We are in an environmental crisis situation,” said the environment minister, Kavy Ramano, while the fishing minister, Sudheer Maudhoo, said: “This is the first time that we are faced with a catastrophe of this kind and we are insufficiently equipped to handle this problem.”

The ministers said all attempts to stabilise the ship had failed because of rough seas and efforts to pump out the oil had also failed. Ecologists fear the ship could break up, which would cause an even greater leak and inflict potentially catastrophic damage on the island’s coastline.
“The ministry has been informed … that there is a breach in the vessel MV Wakashio and there is a leakage of oil,” said an environment ministry statement.
“The public in general, including boat operators and fishers, are requested not to venture on the beach and in the lagoons of Blue Bay, Pointe d’Esny and Mahebourg.”

Images from social media showed a slick of black oil spreading out from the stricken carrier.

The carrier, belonging to a Japanese company but Panamanian-flagged, ran aground on 25 July and its crew was evacuated safely.
The ship had no payload at the time but was carrying 200 tonnes of diesel and 3,800 tonnes of bunker fuel, according to the local press.
Shipping websites say the Wakashio was built in 2007 with gross weight of 101,000 tonnes and able to carry 203,000 tonnes, and a length of 299.95 metres (984 feet).

 Localization of the grounding (ENC)

Pointe d'Esny with the GeoGarage platform (SHOM nautical raster chart)
The "Dalblair" shipwreck off Pointe d’Esny holds an important piece of the island’s history.

The Dalblair was a Scottish cargo ship built in 1895, weighing 1474 tons.
Caught in a cyclone on 04 February 1902, she ran aground on the reef of Pointe D'Esny in the morning of 05 February, after a merciless struggle by the crew.

The grounding happened at Pointe d’Esny, which is listed under the Ramsar convention on wetlands of international importance and near the marine park of Blue Bay.

Anti-pollution systems had been sent to the two sites, the ministry said, adding that the government was asking the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion for assistance.

The country depends on its seas for food and for tourism, boasting some of the finest coral reefs in the world.

Links :

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Uncovering operation Neptun, the Cold War’s most daring disinformation campaign

Members of a Czechoslovak TV crew prepare to record an underwater hunt for Nazi treasure in the spring of 1964—unaware that they’ve become part of a disinformation campaign called Operation NEPTUN.
Courtesy of Archiv bezpečnostních složek
(Czech Security Services Archive)

From Wired by Thomas Rid

Uncovering Operation NEPTUN, the Cold War’s Most Daring Disinformation Campaign
Rumored Nazi treasure, a dark Bohemian lake, an unsuspecting TV crew—and a brilliant spy to put it all together.

Just over three years ago, on a bitingly cold spring day, I drove out to Rockport, Massachusetts, a small town on the tip of Cape Ann, to meet with a defector from the old Soviet bloc.
I had been on my way to Washington, DC, to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, but this detour seemed too good to pass up: The defector, Ladislav Bittman, knew more about the dark arts of Cold War disinformation than anyone alive.
In fact, a former head of the KGB’s mighty disinformation unit had once praised Bittman’s memoir as one of the two best books on the subject.
Bittman greeted me at his front door, a bald man with a wizened face and youthful eyes, and ushered me into a peaceful wood-paneled room.
It adjoined his studio, where he made modernist paintings.

Prior to his defection in 1968, Bittman was a major in the StB, Czechoslovakia’s famously aggressive state security agency.
He served at a time when the Soviet Union and its satellite republics were entering what he called “a new era of secret games and intrigues against the non-Communist world.” Eastern intelligence agencies, like their Western counterparts, had long believed that their primary role was to gather information; now, in the endless ideological tug-of-war with liberal democracy, they began to see real value in spreading disinformation, in undermining Western societies with what they called “active measures.”
Bittman was the deputy chief of Department 8, which specialized in these “dirty tricks,” as he once described them to a congressional committee.

It took a certain kind of person to work in disinformation, on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
Spotting weakness in adversarial societies, seeing cracks and fissures and political tensions, recognizing exploitable historical traumas, and then writing a forged pamphlet or letter or book—all of this required officers with unusual minds.
Bittman was one of them; he was sharp, methodical, and had a strong appetite for risk.
The trick, he said, was to mix accurate details with forged ones, because for disinformation to be successful it must “at least partially correspond to reality, or generally accepted views.”

Sitting with him in Rockport, I could tell he’d been well suited to the work: He listened carefully, paused often to think, and spoke with deliberation.
His memory and attention to detail were astonishing—particularly as concerned one of his proudest accomplishments, an active measure called Operation NEPTUN.

For years after the end of the Second World War, the public was entranced by rumors that the Nazis had concealed some of their stolen treasures, including gold bullion, at the bottom of Lake Toplitz in the Austrian Alps.
A six-week government-funded expedition in 1963 uncovered no gold, but a different sort of treasure did emerge—12 chests of Nazi-counterfeited British currency, two chests of counterfeit printing plates, and various fake stamps.
The myth was just true enough to keep people wondering: Where else might Hitler have hidden his loot?

In April 1964, several months after Austria called off its search, the producers of Czechoslovak TV’s Curious Camera decided to mount a similar expedition in their own country.
They dispatched a team of divers and a documentary film crew deep into the Bohemian Forest—halfway between Munich and Prague and almost directly on the border between East and West—to a pair of adjacent lakes, Devil’s Lake and Black Lake.
During the war, Wehrmacht and SS units had occupied a now burned-out cottage overlooking Black Lake, and local lore had it that the bodies of water were hiding a dark secret.

Fog wreathes the steep shores of Black Lake in the Bohemian Forest.
Courtesy of Archiv bezpečnostních složek (Czech Security Services Archive)

The TV producers required government approval to search the lakes, which meant that Czechoslovakia’s Ministry of the Interior was in on the adventure from the beginning—and so, by extension, was Department 8.
Bittman, who happened to be a certified sports diver, joined the TV crew, posing as a friendly ministry official.
He took part in the initial survey of the thick, loose layer of mud on the floor of Black Lake.
Three days later, he sent a memo to his superiors spelling out what would become Operation NEPTUN.

In the memo, Bittman explained that the initial dive had turned up an “important finding”—a soldered metal box stuck in the mud nearly 40 feet down.
Department 8, he suggested, could exploit the coming publicity by planting more boxes on the lake floor.
They could be filled with authentic Nazi documents, including lists of wartime informants, which could be supplemented with a few clever forgeries later on.
Given “the romanticism associated with the Black Lake and Devil’s Lake, and the way these materials will be discovered,” he wrote in the main proposal for NEPTUN, the story “will be attractive to a wide range of readers, especially in the West.”

Bittman, with fellow Department 8 officers, smoking before a test dive.
The officer in the trench coat would later lose one of his fins during the nighttime document dump.
Courtesy of Archiv bezpečnostních složek (Czech Security Services Archive)

As Bittman imagined it, the operation would achieve several political goals.
The 20th anniversary of the Third Reich’s surrender was a year away, and according to the West German criminal code, liability for murder committed during the war would expire on that day.
Some aging former Nazis still held positions of influence, and Department 8 was concerned that accusations against them of wartime misdeeds—both genuine and fake—would soon lose their edge.
(Blackmail, after all, is a powerful tool for recruiting spies.) NEPTUN would keep those accusations in the public eye, Bittman wrote, embarrassing top West German officials and encouraging “anti-German tendencies in the West.” The operation might also wreak havoc inside the BND, West Germany’s spy agency.
If, as the StB assumed, many informants who had worked with the Nazis were still informing for the BND, the leak would incapacitate the agency’s assets.

Czechoslovakia’s interior minister swiftly approved Bittman’s proposal, and Department 8 began its own diving survey of Black Lake—this one geared not to finding a treasure but to hiding one.
Within six weeks, the StB had carefully planned out most aspects of the operation.
It had taken water samples; purchased new diving gear, including depth meters and decompression tables; outlined safety procedures; marked the right spot on the lake bed; and laid out a timeline for the entire procedure.
Yet one aspect of Bittman’s plan had hit a snag: The Nazi documents were surprisingly hard to find.

Bittman’s hand-drawn access map of Black Lake.
Courtesy of Archiv bezpečnostních složek
(Czech Security Services Archive)

Any old files wouldn’t do.
They needed to be valuable to the press—sensational, ideally—and their contents had to be unknown to historians and the wider public.
A group of Department 8 officers had frantically searched the Czechoslovak archives, taking care not to tip off the actual archivists, but to little avail.
Eventually, Bittman asked his KGB advisers for help.
Moscow came back with an offer to send a shipment of genuine Nazi documents to Prague.
The delivery, however, would take some time.

Department 8 decided to forge ahead in the interim.
The Czech officers filled four wooden boxes with blank sheets of paper, finished the boxes’ gray-green surface to make them look two decades old, sealed them, coated them with asphalt, attached 160 pounds of weights, and loaded them into a Soviet GAZ truck.
Late on the night of June 19, 1964, the GAZ set off from Prague, trailed by a civilian car with four passengers: Josef Houska, the chief of Czechoslovak Foreign Intelligence; Jiří Stejskal, the head of Department 8; Bittman, Stejskal’s deputy; and a KGB adviser.
At some point during the long night drive, Bittman recalled, he glanced over to his boss’s boss, Houska, who looked worried; Bittman knew that if the operation failed, Houska’s career would end.

The group arrived at Black Lake at two in the morning.
They laid a rubber raft on the water’s surface and loaded it with the four boxes.
Bittman and another diver checked their gear; put on their wet suits, masks, fins, and Aqua-Lungs; and tugged the raft out to the drop point.
Visibility was about 65 feet.
On his way down, Bittman’s partner lost one of his brand-new Bonito Super Fins.
Nervous about the floating forensic evidence left behind, they carried on, pointing a lamp toward the lake bottom and quickly identifying the preselected spot, where the mud was shallow.
Bittman placed the boxes there and covered them lightly with mud.
On the way up, he spotted the lost fin and grabbed it.
By 5 o’clock, the team had packed up and left.

A sequence of images recording the nighttime document dump in Black Lake.Courtesy of Archiv bezpečnostních složek
(Czech Security Services Archive)

Next came the mock discovery of the documents.
The Curious Camera crew started its search at Devil’s Lake, just over a mile to the south.
To the StB’s surprise, the team actually found sunken explosives there, which were later detonated in a nearby meadow, creating a plume of black smoke and a three-man-deep crater.
Department 8 was delighted: The unexpected drama would, it assumed, add credibility to the Black Lake ruse.

Nearly a week later, the TV crew finally found the sunken boxes.
Black Lake was closed off to the public.
Photographers took pictures of the recovered items, which were soon transported by motorcade to Prague.
A team of government engineers, who were not in on the deception, dutifully X-rayed the boxes and placed them in a trench, designed to offer protection from a blast should the boxes contain explosives.
Then, using a pulley system, the engineers gingerly opened the boxes, leaving the innermost envelopes intact.

In a detailed memo, the engineers concluded that the way the documents were stored pointed to “quick, improvised work” done by somebody without serious technical means—exactly as would be expected of “a retreating army in disarray.” According to a government press release dated July 16, they forwarded the boxes to “a group of experts” for further analysis.
The next day, the Associated Press and several large European newspapers reported the story, and the myth of Black Lake was born.

Department 8’s fake Nazi boxes, filled with blank files, on the floor of Black Lake.

 The boxes planted by Bittman’s team are recovered and loaded on a truck.

A government motorcade transports the still sealed boxes back to Prague. 
Engineers from the Interior Ministry, fearing explosives, carefully opened the Black Lake boxes by placing them in a protective trench and applying a pulley.

Inside the crates were envelopes full of blank papers. 
The engineers apparently did not open them.

The explosives were detonated in a field nearby, adding drama to the staged treasure hunt.

An actual, non-fake Nazi helmet recovered from Devil’s Lake.

All photos courtesy of Archiv bezpečnostních složek (Czech Security Services Archive)

Nearly two months passed, and Moscow still hadn’t mailed the promised files to Prague.
The Interior Ministry had to act.
In late August, it announced that an eagerly anticipated international press conference would be held on September 15.
Bittman and his colleagues became increasingly nervous.
Finally, five days before the press conference, a Russian envoy arrived at StB headquarters with several sacks full of Nazi documents—nearly 30,000 pages in total.
(I obtained these records from the Czech Security Services Archive during the research for my forthcoming book, Active Measures, and am disclosing them on the Internet Archive.)

Carefully selected intelligence analysts pored over the documents, attempting to find material they could use.
The Soviets claimed they were all genuine, but Department 8 suspected that some might be forged.
A number of the documents had handwritten Cyrillic annotations in the margins, which made them impossible to use in the operation; but that did help persuade the Czech analysts that the files were authentic, because no KGB forger would add real Cyrillic notes to a fake SS memo.

Some of the Nazi files sent to Prague by the KGB bore notes in Cyrillic.
This rendered them unusable but also proved they were not KGB forgeries.Courtesy of Archiv bezpečnostních složek (Czech Security Services Archive)

Bittman’s team selected about 160 pages.
The most sensational of the documents revealed details on assorted Nazi misdeeds.
There was new material about a failed putsch in Austria in 1934, and about SS agents spying on their Italian Fascist allies.
One secret file, called the “S-Plan,” spelled out “the world’s biggest act of sabotage”: A Nazi geologist proposed to bore a very deep hole near Calais, drop an explosive charge into it, and thereby trigger a major earthquake in the English Channel.
The aspiration was to plunge London beneath the sea, along with parts of southern England, where Allied forces were massed for attack—and then not tell anybody about it.
(The “S” in “S-Plan” stood for “sinking.”)
The Czechs contributed a few Nazi documents of their own, most notably on the forced expulsion and killing of vast numbers of Jews from German-occupied Bohemia and Moravia.
Department 8’s initial plan was for NEPTUN to disgorge only authentic documents, to enable credible follow-on forgeries in later operations targeted against top West German officials.

On September 15, the Interior Ministry held its long-awaited press conference in Prague.
The minister spoke for an hour in numbing detail.
Czechoslovak diplomats and intelligence officers, trying to malign West Germany, confidentially shared documents with the US, British, French, and Dutch embassies, along with Simon Wiesenthal’s Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna, helping generate international publicity.

The StB soon concluded that the fake in the lake had been a spectacular success.
By March 1965, Houska reported in a self-congratulatory memo to the interior minister, there had been 25 stories published in the Italian press, 18 in West Germany, and seven in Austria; the coverage also extended to Britain, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Latin America, Africa, and the United States.
The West German Parliament, Houska boasted, was buckling “under the general public pressure that we caused,” and would soon extend the statute of limitations on war crimes.
What’s more, he wrote, “we succeeded in provoking and supporting tendencies and moods against the Federal Republic of Germany.” And finally, he added, “it can be assumed” that the StB “somewhat disrupted” West German intelligence.
The KGB seemed to agree.
A few months later, the head of the First Chief Directorate himself wrote a letter to Houska saying NEPTUN had had “a significant political effect.”

Yet there was little actual evidence for these breathtaking claims.
Parliament did indeed extend the statute of limitations for war crimes, but NEPTUN likely played a minor role, if any: Germany’s coming to terms with its dark past was a gargantuan, decades-long, identity-defining process that was then well under way.
Likewise, proving any causal effect on Germany’s image in the West remains difficult.

It is far easier, in hindsight, to see NEPTUN’s shortcomings.
Very few in the Interior Ministry were aware of the deception.
Much of the government, the official press agency, and the public, as well as the wider Soviet bloc, was more thoroughly disinformed than was the adversary.
Worse, the StB could not even exclude the notion that it had been played by the KGB.

When I visited Bittman in Rockport, I asked him how one went about measuring the ripple effects of a disinformation operation.
“I don’t think it’s possible to measure exactly, realistically, the impact,” he told me.
In the case of NEPTUN, he admitted, “the theoretical possibility exists that some of the material had been falsified by Soviet experts.”
He recalled sitting in Department 8’s offices overlooking the majestic Vltava River sometime after the Black Lake dive concluded.
Ivan Agayants, a colonel in the KGB, was there, leafing through a large pile of newspaper clippings.
“Sometimes I am amazed how easy it is to play these games,” Bittman recalled Agayants saying.
“If they did not have press freedom, we would have to invent it for them.”

Excerpted from Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare, by Thomas Rid. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, April 21, 2020. Copyright © 2020 by Thomas Rid. All rights reserved.

Links :

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

'I think I will commit suicide': Cargo ship workers have been trapped at sea for months because of COVID-19, banned from ports, and predict 'anarchy' if things don't change

Bulk carriers line up as they wait to dock and be loaded with cargo, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, near Santos Port in Santos, Brazil June 1, 2020.
Picture taken June 1, 2020Amanda Perobello/Reuters

Business Insider by Mia Jankowicz

Shipping unions say there is a "humanitarian crisis" as an estimated 300,000 cargo ship workers remain trapped on board during the pandemic.

  • An estimated 300,000 cargo ship workers are currently trapped at sea by the coronavirus pandemic, and many are speaking out about the grinding monotony and possible accidents.
  • Goods continue to be shipped from port to port, but many seafarers themselves haven't been on land for months due to border closures and regulations.
  • Seafarers have reported having to shave their heads when their ship ran out of shampoo, while one captain had to pull teeth from two crew members despite having no dental training.
  • Even as countries begin to open up their borders, there are immense logistical difficulties in organizing a crew change, shipping giant Maersk told Business Insider.
Cargo ship workers are warning of a looming disaster as some 300,000 people are effectively trapped at sea in the coronavirus pandemic.
Multiple sources told Business Insider about conditions onboard, where some workers have not been on land for more than a year.

Seafarers spoke of mounting suicidal thoughts, and described a "ticking time bomb" for potential accidents, in a report published in June by the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF).
The federation is a group of trade unions, whose members represent around 30% of the global seafaring workforce.

As countries closed their borders during the pandemic, thousands of workers — who transport 90% of the world's goods — were forced to work or remain on board long beyond their contracts, which usually run for four to six months.
Even as many countries reopen, shipping firms are struggling to arrange for new crew, which means everybody has to stay on board.

The situation means some of the industry is breaching the international Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), according to the ITF.
The agreement says that seafarers cannot be made to work without shore leave for longer than eleven months.

In June more than a dozen countries recognized seafarers as essential workers, which was meant to ease the bureaucratic hurdles to getting them home, or at least on shore.
But in a statement on July 16, the ITF said many governments were still not doing "nearly enough."

Workers were reluctant to speak to Business Insider even anonymously for fear of reprisal from their employers.

However, two organizations — the ITF and The Mission to Seafarers, a Christian charity — are in direct contact with seafarers and have produced reports based on their experiences.
The seafarers were anonymized by the organizations.

The container ship 'Thalassa Patris' from Singapore leaves the Xiamen Port on July 24, 2020 in Xiamen, Fujian Province of ChinaZhou Daoxian/VCG via Getty Images

The workers keeping the world turning

On land, it seemed like the world ground to a halt during lockdown.

But the oil for energy, the food on supermarket shelves, the goods for Amazon orders, and medical supplies for hospitals all kept coming — because of cargo ship workers who mostly had no choice but to go on.

"Crews are reading of empty supermarket shelves and panic buying and are proud that they are doing everything they can to help keep society supplied with essential goods," read the introduction to the Seafarers' Happiness Index for Q1 2020, produced by the Mission to Seafarers.
That was at the end of March.

But as the pandemic continues, that is taking an immense human toll, in what the ITF described in its report as a "humanitarian crisis."

A cargo ship sits in the fog off the shore of the Long Beach port during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease in Long Beach, California, U.S., April 23, 2020
Mike Blake/Reuters

"Sometimes I feel I won't survive"

The ITF surveyed 867 seafarers at the end of May, 70% of whom had been forced to extend their contracts.
A small proportion — around 5% — said they were not being paid.

Many spoke of mental health struggles, missing their families, and compared their situation to imprisonment or slavery.

One Swedish seafarer, stuck at sea for four months, asked: "Would you lock the door to, for example, a factory to isolate people from COVID-19? Unless you are a ruthless dictator, you would most likely not even consider it."

A lack of access to medical care has also been an issue.
A captain for the Emma Maersk has had to treat arthritis and — despite not being a dentist — pulled the teeth of two of his crewmembers.

Captain Jens Boysen disembarked one of the world's largest container ships on Thursday after 167 days at sea when he has acted not only as captain but also as a doctor, a dentist, a mental coach and entertainment director for his stressed-out crew members.
The coronavirus pandemic left almost 200,000 sailors like Boysen stuck onboard merchant ships, some for more than a year, because health travel restrictions make it almost impossible to rotate crews, according to the U.N.'s International Maritime Organization (IMO).
"I got medical advice, and then I pulled the teeth out," Boysen said, standing on the dock in Hamburg after bidding his crew farewell. "It felt almost like a war situation," he added.
To keep up the crews' spirits, Boysen organized karaoke tournaments, bingo and piggy-back races. The captain, who has accrued a vast amount of holiday along with some paternity leave, has no intention of taking a brief vacation - he's taking the rest of the year off.

A spokesperson for Maersk told Business Insider that in serious cases workers are airlifted to safety, and that captains do have basic medical training.

Two seafarers said they had not been able to see family members who have since died onshore.
"Words are not enough to explain the hardships I've faced," an Indonesian seafarer said, after being at sea nine months.
"Sometimes I feel I won't survive this period."

Another, from Egypt and at sea for a full year, said: "I think I will commit suicide because of the stress of the long contract.
I feel that there is no meaning to life."

Aerial view of oil tanker Madison Orca unloading oil at a port on July 2, 2020 in Zhoushan, Zhejiang Province of China.
Yao Fung/VCG via Getty Images

Life at sea, pushed to the limit

Reduced crews, social distancing and stringent hygiene measures have made day-to-day life awkward on board, according to the Mission to Seafarers's Q2 happiness survey.

"There is a pressure to keep hygiene standards at almost hospital levels," said the report.
Yet crews reported not always having appropriate PPE or being able to maintain effective social distancing.

"Reports of additional safety measures, such as separating tables and limiting the capacity of mess rooms at meal times, has made even the most habitual social interactions difficult," said Louise Hall, director of loss prevention at the Shipowners' Club, a maritime insurance agency, in the report.

By June, the strain on crews was beginning to show in their friendships, according to sailors in the ITF report.
An Indian seafarer who had been at sea longer than 12 months said: "We are starting to fight over little things for stupid reasons."

And basic comforts are in short supply.
One crew ran out of shampoo and, unable to wash their hair, had to shave their heads instead, according to a South African sailor in the ITF report.

Warnings of a disaster waiting to happen

"We are extremely burnt out and we don't care about anything on the vessel anymore.
Just going each day like robots," said an Indian sailor at sea more than a year.

"You guys are waiting for a ticking time bomb to explode.
You will not get your cargo and you will have a huge environmental disaster."
The sailor predicted that we "will soon see anarchy at sea."

'No easy solution'

Even though many countries are reopening their borders, there are still barriers to getting sailors home and getting new workers on board.

Many commercial flight routes hardly exist any more, meaning companies often need to charter their own planes to move crews to and from ports.

Additionally, many countries do not offer simple processes to secure transit visas and permits to come onshore.

It's not only those at sea who are struggling, the ITF said.
Another estimated 300,000 seafarers who expected to be working at sea at this time are currently onshore and unemployed.

Workers wearing face masks unload imported paper pulp from a cargo ship at a port in Qingdao, Shandong province, China February 11, 2020.
Picture taken February 11, 2020 China Daily

Many consider striking

Early on in the pandemic, the ITF agreed to up to one month of contract extensions from shipping companies — with seafarers' agreement — in acknowledgement that border closures had made it practically impossible to do otherwise.

But on June 15, as more and more countries opened up, the union's patience ran out.
The ITF's position is now that it will support strike action on ships, if the crews chose to take it.
On July 9, several governments committed to speeding up the process of crew changes.

But, more than three weeks later, they still "aren't doing near what is needed and some governments have even gone backwards," according to Dave Heindel, chair of the ITF seafarers section.

Comparing the poor treatment of commerical sailors to military personnel, one South African seafarer in the ITF report said: "You let your soldiers repatriate, but you want the men and women who maintain your economic life blood to suffer in depressing, dangerous isolation."
"Who are you going to call on when you need your trade goods delivered, who will be your seafarers?"

Links :

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Nasa SpaceX crew return: Dragon capsule splashes down

"Thank you for flying SpaceX" - Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken return to Earth
see video

From BBC by Jonathan Amos

Two American astronauts have splashed down, as the first commercial crewed mission to the International Space Station returned to Earth.

The SpaceX Dragon Capsule carrying Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken came down in the Gulf of Mexico just south of Pensacola on Florida's Gulf coast.

A recovery vessel moved in to pick up the vehicle and extricate the men.

The touchdown marks the first crewed US water landing since the final outing of an Apollo command module 45 years ago.

Hurley's and Behnken's capsule hit the water at about 14:48 EDT (19:48 BST; 18:48 GMT).

Private boats which came close to the Dragon were asked to leave amid concern over hazardous chemicals venting from the capsule's propulsion system.

The private boats were damn close to Dragon in the water

Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine said the presence of the boats "was not what we were anticipating".

"What is not common is having passersby approach the vehicle close range with nitrogen tetroxide in the atmosphere; that's not something that is good," he said.
"And we need to make sure that we're warning people not to get close to the spacecraft in the future."

Photos of the boats were shared on social media.

"It's truly our honour and privilege," said Hurley as the astronauts arrived home.
"On behalf of the SpaceX and Nasa teams, welcome back to Planet Earth. Thanks for flying SpaceX," SpaceX mission control responded.

President Donald Trump - who attended the capsule's launch on 30 May - hailed its safe return.
"Thank you to all!" he tweeted.
"Great to have NASA Astronauts return to Earth after very successful two month mission."

Saving the government billions

The successful end to the crew's mission initiates a new era for the American space agency.

All its human transport needs just above the Earth will in future be purchased from private companies, such as SpaceX.

The government agency says contracting out to service providers in this way will save it billions of dollars that can be diverted to getting astronauts to the Moon, as part of its Artemis programme, and afterwards to Mars.

The Dragon capsule launched to the space station at the end of May on a Falcon 9 rocket, also supplied by SpaceX.

Hurley's and Behnken's mission served as an end-to-end demonstration of the astronaut "taxi service" the company, owned by tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, will be selling to Nasa from now on.

The Boeing corporation is also developing a crew capsule solution but has had to delay its introduction after encountering software problems on its Starliner vehicle.

The sight of the vehicle's four main parachutes floating down over the Gulf of Mexico was confirmation the spacecraft had survived its fiery descent through the atmosphere.

The parachutes then slowed the capsule from about 350mph (560km/h) to just roughly 15mph (7m/s) at splashdown.

Rigging was used to hoist the capsule out of the water and on to the recovery vessel.
Technicians monitored "remnant vapours" around the spacecraft before the hatch was opened.

The men were checked over by medical staff before being flown to shore by helicopter.

The astronauts' Dragon capsule launched to the space station at the end of May on a Falcon 9 rocket, also supplied by SpaceX.

It will now be refurbished to fly again next year.

Mr Bridenstine lauded the efforts of everyone involved in Hurley's and Behnken's mission, and then spoke of his agency's shift in philosophy.
"We don't want to purchase, own and operate the hardware the way we used to," he said.
"We want to be one customer of many customers in a very robust commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit. But we also want to have numerous providers that are competing against each other on cost and innovation and safety, and really create this virtuous cycle of economic development and capability."

Gwynne Shotwell, the president of SpaceX, added: "Today is a great day. We should celebrate what we all accomplished here, bringing Bob and Doug back, but we should also think about this as a springboard to doing even harder things with the Artemis programme. And then, of course, moving on to Mars."

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Monday, August 3, 2020

Sinking of the Italian yacht. Yves Le Cornec: "The Corsican carto is no less good than elsewhere! »

After hitting a rock off Cavallo Island, the 22-metre Italian yacht immediately sank.
Its 11 passengers were unharmed, but only had time to evacuate the ship.

From V&V by Nicolas Fichot (translated from French)

Régis, the 22-metre Italian yacht, which had hit a rock on Saturday afternoon in the south of Corsica before sinking, was probably the victim of a piloting error, no doubt linked to a misuse of Mediterranean cartography.

Its 11 passengers had been rescued, but the wreck has since caused controversy over the supposed inaccuracy of the cartography of certain areas in the Mediterranean.
An argument that Yves Le Cornec sweeps aside with an energetic backhand.

"The cartography off Corsica is not 'worse' or 'better' than elsewhere in the Mediterranean, or even in my opinion, than in the Atlantic. I don't have an opinion on the sinking of this Italian yacht and even less on the causes of this accident, but in my opinion, the problem is not in the accuracy of the nautical charts here and there," Yves Le Cornec explains in no uncertain terms.

After making a name for himself in ocean racing, Yves Le Cornec
is now the Nautor Swan agent on our Mediterranean shores

You have to believe Yves Le Cornec: after having criss-crossed the oceans during races and gleaned numerous podiums, he "retired from business" in ocean racing and became the representative for the South of France of the prestigious Nautor Swan shipyards. Based in Villefranche-sur-Mer (Alpes-Maritimes), Yves Le Cornec speaks about sailing in the Mediterranean as an irrefutable connoisseur.

"Whether sailing or motoring, the problems of cartography remain the same: far too many skippers are sailing with sectorial maps which are not sufficiently up to date".

The 72-foot Italian yacht Régis hit a rock in the south of Corsica on Saturday afternoon and sank.

"You shouldn't take your plotter or plotter at face value if the information it possesses is ten years old, if not more. Don't laugh, I saw that! And if the vector charts are not up to date, then it's better to use Raster charts, which are actually paper charts that have been scanned but were originally produced by the SHOM or the Admiralty. These too are regularly updated, by the way".

And in the benefit of the doubt, when you are sailing in areas full of rocks, you are even more wary, you progress slowly and you reinforce the visual watch," Yves Le Cornec advises again. And don't tell me that there are more pebbles in the Mediterranean than in the Atlantic, that's a legend. The Atlantic tides tend to complicate situations up there, as far as I know! ».

Between the south of Corsica and the north of Sardinia, the area where the shipwreck occurred, there are a lot of rocks.
Bouches de Bonifacio in the GeoGarage platform (SHOM chart)

Between the south of Corsica and the north of Sardinia, the area of the shipwreck, the rocks are swarming
The Italian yacht hit a rock in the vicinity of Cavallo Island, an area where nautical charts can be useful, before sinking.
Largest scale map from SHOM in the GeoGarage platform 
chart 7024, scale 1:51,600, edition 5 2012 / correction 49

Same scale with Imray chart in the GeoGarage platform
Please note the diffrence with SHOM with additional 3 buoys in the channel

only one available offical ENC in the area (FR470240 SHOM)

ENC SHOM FR470240, original scale 1:45,000 edition 4
displayed at scale 1:33,000

displayed in mode Overzoom

 C-Map chart (Overzoom mode)

 Navionics chart (Overzoom mode)

 NVCharts (Overzoom mode)

 Aquamap (Overzoom mode)

 i-Boating Gps Nautical charts based on ENC (Overzoom mode)

And to conclude, Yves Le Cornec sweeps this legend aside in a different way on the Mediterranean charts, which are reputed to be less precise than in the Atlantic: "I've always heard that, and its opposite a few pontoons further on. In both cases, the same services worked with the same means and in my opinion with identical precision results. Perhaps more simply that in some navigation areas, there is less 'religion' in the charts than elsewhere".

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