Saturday, May 4, 2024

Nautical chart of Boston harbor (1775)

Made circa 1775, this nautical chart of Boston Harbor shows coastlines in detail, navigational hazards like sandbanks, & depths by soundings, but almost no place names. 
Can you find your way around?
see LOC
The finest 18th-century chart of Boston Harbor, from “The Atlantic Neptune” 
1867 U. S. Coast Survey Nautical Chart or Maritime Map of Boston Harbor 
siource : Geographicus
NOAA 1932
Visualization of NOAA nautical raster chart with the GeoGarage platform


Proud seafarers have strong doubts about the safety of autonomy

Bridge crew on Coast Guard buoy tender
A survey of Norwegian bridge officers found considerable skepticism about the safety benefits of autonomy
USCG file image
 From Maritime Executive by Sølvi Normannsen
Despite their great trust in on-board autopilots, bridge officers do not believe that autonomous ships will make shipping safer.
Moreover, the greater the professional commitment and pride of the bridge officers, the less confidence they have in automation increasing safety at sea. 
The maritime profession is among the world’s oldest professions, and today’s shipping is based on long and proud traditions.
Professional pride and commitment are often deeply ingrained in seafarers, and for many, the job is more of a way of life.
New technologies will bring about major changes in the work of bridge officers, who have the ultimate responsibility on board Norwegian vessels.
Strong doubts about safety
“Bridge officers rely on automated systems that are already found on board, such as advanced autopilot systems.
However, there is strong skepticism, almost mistrust, that increased automation and autonomous (meaning self-driving) ships will contribute positively to safety,” says Asbjørn Lein Aalberg, a PhD candidate at NTNU’s Department of Industrial Economics and Technology Management and SINTEF Digital.
Aalberg has studied the relationship between maritime officers’ professional commitment and the attitudes they have towards automation and autonomous ships as part of his PhD research.
 The study ‘Pride and mistrust? The association between maritime bridge crew officers’ professional commitment and trust in autonomy’ was recently published in the WMU Journal of Maritime Affairs.
The research was conducted in collaboration with the Norwegian Maritime Authority and Safetec.
More than 8,000 Norwegian bridge officers participated in the 2023 survey (in Norwegian).
This is probably the largest survey in this field to date, both nationally and internationally.
Looking for the reasons behind the skepticism
Sooner or later, society must accept using modes of transport such as passenger ferries that have little or no crew on board.
Aalberg believes that in order for operations to be as safe as possible, employees are needed who know how to control and monitor this automation.
“If we are to get there, it is important to understand what is behind the seafarers’ skepticism.
We need their engagement, willingness and interest to ensure that the technology and systems being developed are fit for purpose,” says the researcher.
The reason why bridge officers trust autopilots and similar systems is that they themselves are still in control and can choose to turn the systems on and off as and when they see fit.

Few women in the sample 

Aalberg has taken a closer look at the answers given by captains and navigators on board.
Collectively, this group consists of 1789 Norwegian and 227 international bridge officers of all ages, with everything from 0 to more than 26 years of experience.
Women constitute only 11 percent of Norwegian seafarers, and only 2.4 per cent of the participants in this survey. 

“This probably reflects the fact that there are even fewer women among the people working on the ship’s bridge,” says Aalberg. Among other things, the bridge officers were asked about:

  • Their thoughts and feelings about the automation of work tasks
  • Their confidence in autonomous technology
  • Their professional commitment and pride
  • Their own management work related to safety

Seafarers with an extreme sense of duty 

Aalberg says that bridge officers are very proud of their work and exhibit what he would call a rather extreme sense of duty to their own profession. 

“This pride may lead to additional mistrust when faced with radical changes.
In fact, we found that those who take the greatest pride in their profession are most sceptical about technological developments,” says the researcher.

 Another finding that he finds quite alarming is this: among the bridge officers who take the greatest pride in their profession, it is the younger ones who have the least faith in autonomy. 

“When envisioning their future career, maybe they feel like they have more to lose,” says Aalberg.  

One of the oldest professions in the world 

 This area has seen little research, and Aalberg says we don’t currently know enough about why seafarers exhibit such strong mistrust.
One reason for this is that there are currently not many autonomous ships, and they are a hot topic of speculation and debate.
It is therefore important to emphasize that different points of view may be based on rumors, vague impressions and unfounded notions of what the changes will entail.

It is also often the case that autonomous vessels are spoken positively about by individuals who are relative newcomers to the maritime industry.
The survey indicates that this could spark uncertainty among seafarers, both in terms of the motives and intentions behind autonomy. 

“Despite the fact that there seems to be a great need for seafarers in the future, some people may be afraid of losing their jobs.
But I think the skepticism is more about the changes being made to the nature of their work.
For example, there would be a great deal of uncertainty among captains if the position were to lose its independence.
We must not forget that the maritime profession has a very long tradition, where a captain’s authority and control have always been strong,” Aalberg says. Researcher Asbjørn Lein Aalberg hopes authorities can use the research results in dialogue with shipping companies and technology providers.
He says that these different groups should include seafarers when developing new concepts and technological solutions.

Professional discretion 

The PhD candidate has also interviewed 31 Norwegian seafarers on board highly automated Norwegian passenger ferries about their confidence in the advanced automated systems that have been installed.
 This study gives some hints about what it takes for bridge officers to trust advanced technology.
Among other things, it relates to their lack of trust in the machines’ ability to demonstrate true ‘seamanship’ and exercise professional discretion in traffic.
In addition, the interviewees did not believe that the machines will manage emergency situations well enough.
All in all, they believe that people are best suited to making decisions in complicated situations. 

 “The reason they still trust autopilots and similar systems is that they themselves have control and the option to turn them on or off as and when they see fit,”  Aalberg says. 

 The shipping company and technology developers have also had a very long and ultimately successful development process that he believes is needed to satisfy proud seafarers. 

However, all the informants were skeptical about the impending changes and expressed concern that increased automation would compromise safety at sea.  

Autopilot is ok, autonomy is not 

The studies show that bridge officers make a clear distinction between automation and autonomy.
Automation involves machines taking over some of their tasks, while autonomy, taken to its ultimate conclusion, means unmanned ships. 

 Aalberg provides a nuanced perspective on the development. 

“Many researchers argue that humans will play a crucial role in human-automation collaboration, even on autonomous ships.
Previously, there was more talk about removing people altogether, to put it bluntly,” says the researcher. 

 Seafarers must be consulted 

He hopes the authorities can use the results of the research in dialogue with shipping companies and technology providers.
He says they should include seafarers when developing new concepts and technological solutions. “They have to make, and talk about, innovations in such a way that it sparks interest instead of skepticism,” he says. 

 He also believes that projects involving technological development should openly share real results from testing in order to provide a nuanced perspective of what seafarers may see as as being overly idealized. 

“We also know that seafarers gain trust in advanced technology by trying the technology themselves.
Keynote speakers or even colleagues talking about the systems is simply not enough.
They want to try them themselves and see if the automation makes the same choices that they would have made, so perhaps the development process should be structured accordingly,”  Aalberg says.  

Links :

Thursday, May 2, 2024

There’s something very fishy about the global seafood supply

In August 2019, The Outlaw Ocean Project team inspects a Chinese fishing vessel off the coast of West Africa.
Fábio Nascimento for The Outlaw Ocean Project

From Time by  Ian Urbina

The past half year has seen a steady stream of disturbing reports about serious human rights abuses tied to industrial fishing.
First came a long expose about forced labor at sea tied to hundreds of Chinese fishing ships that supply many of the biggest restaurant and grocery store chains in the U.S. and Europe.
Then the investigations moved on land, exposing the widespread use by Chinese processing plants of state-sponsored forced labor—specifically North Korean and Uyghur workers, both of which are strictly banned from being tied to any products imported into the U.S.

The Whistleblower
This epic investigation that we just published about an unusually brave whistleblower in India & what we found in the massive trove of documents he provided us.
Then recently this spotlight shifted to India.
A whistleblower, named Joshua Farinella, leaked thousands of pages of internal documents, invoices, emails, recorded zoom calls, security footage, whats app exchanges tied to a shrimp processing plant where he was the manager.
The story, which was published by Outlaw Ocean Project which I founded, was important for Americans since a third of the shrimp they eat comes from India.
The documents seem to back up the whistleblower’s statements and raise a variety of serious concerns about human rights abuses tied to workers at the Indian plant as well as food safety issues relating to shrimp possibly having been shipped to the US that tested positive for antibiotics.

The whistleblower is an American and a longtime seafood industry executive, and he showed unusual bravery in leaking the documents since he likely just threw his entire career away in doing so.
Aside from talking to reporters, he followed other proper channels, by filing federal whistleblower complaints to law enforcement officials at the State Department, Customs and Border Patrol, the Labor Department and the FDA, who have already spoken with him and begun investigating.

Congress formally wrote the whistleblower to request the documents as they too intend to investigate the plant.
That is often a precursor to hearings.
For the risks taken and bravery shown in leaking the documents, podcasters have dubbed the whistleblower, the “Snowden of Seafood”, and he has also been hailed publicly as a “superhero” by a variety of advocates and others, including the Hulk.
(The actor Mark Ruffalo posted a message saying the whistleblower was a real-life superhero for his actions).
The company at the center of the disclosures takes a different view and has categorically denied that it did anything illegal or unethical.

The story about conditions at the shrimp plant in India come against a broader backdrop.
The same week that the whistleblower documents were published, the Corporate Accountability Lab, which is an advocacy group of lawyers and researchers, released a report detailing severe cases of captive and forced labor as well as environmental concerns often tied to wastewater at a variety of other shrimp plants in India.

Behind the Story: A Whistleblower Investigation From Antarctica to India | The Outlaw Ocean Project

It’s worth remembering the history here.
Labor abuses tied to seafood is not a new problem.
The New York Times and the Associated Press covered the issue extensively a decade ago, especially tied to Thailand.
Even before that, a human rights NGO called the Environmental Justice Foundation revealed in 2013 widespread problems with forced and child labor in Thai shrimp.
The EJF report and subsequent news coverage spurred a series of sweeping reforms by the Thai government to better protect workers from such abuses.
But these reforms came with a price, leading to escalating labor costs in Thailand right when nearly half of the country’s shrimp production was wiped out by a disease.
India emerged to fill the void, with help from its government which bolstered subsidies and loosened laws restricting foreign investment.
By 2021, India was exporting more than $5 billion of shrimp globally, and was responsible for nearly a quarter of the world’s shrimp exports.
And yet, here we are again: the seafood problems previously highlighted in Thailand are now being widely revealed in China and India.

Part of the problem with global seafood is that companies and governments barely know where these ships are working, much less how they are behaving.
A new study published in the journal Nature in January 2024 revealed that 75 percent of the world’s industrial fishing fleet are not publicly tracked.
The study, using machine learning and satellite imagery, detected vessel activity at sea that was previously “dark” in marine protected areas and in countries' waters that previously showed significantly less of a fishing footprint.
If we dont know where the ships are, we surely dont know if the workers on them are trafficked.

Even on land, companies and governments are minimally informed about what is happening at the fish farms and processing plants partly because the audits that are meant to verify ethical and legal conditions tied to worker treatment, food safety, and ocean sustainability are deeply flawed.

An exploration of the motivations and methods behind China’s growth and control over fishing across most of the high seas.
Labor researchers, unions, academics and industry consultants have warned that these concerns will keep popping up until major buyers—in particular the restaurant and supermarket companies—decide to fix their supply chains so that they know what is happening at every step along the way, from bait to plate.
These experts also say companies need to stop relying on auditing firms that claim to be checking for things in places (like India and China) where they actually have limited capacity to do so effectively.

Until then, the rotten smell inside this industry is likely going to get worse.

Links :

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

‘Cold tongue’: what the Pacific Ocean cool patch mystery says about climate change

Over three decades the area off Ecuador has cooled by half a degree
(Image credit: Planet Observer/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

From The Week by Arion McNicholl
One part of the Pacific Ocean is baffling scientists, but the broad trajectory of oceanic temperatures remains clear

A thin stretch of the eastern Pacific Ocean has been getting colder for the past 30 years, defying the broad global trend and baffling scientists.

The anomaly, known as the “equatorial cold tongue”, is affecting an area that extends west from the coast of Ecuador for thousands of miles.

Over at least three decades the region has cooled by roughly half a degree and it “has scientists wondering how long that will hold”, said The Atlantic.
A temperature map of the Pacific Ocean for December 1993 showing a cold (blue) tongue of surface water stretching westward along the equator from the coast of South America.
The temperature and extent of the cold tongue changes with the seasons, but new climate simulations show that the annual change in Earth’s distance from the sun also affects the cold tongue seasonal cycle.
This influences El Niño conditions that impact weather in North America and globally.
source : Eureka

What is causing the ‘cold tongue’?

Scientists are not entirely certain what is keeping the “cold tongue” cool.
But Richard Seager, from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, said one factor appears to be trade winds in the region, which carry warm water away from the surface stimulating cooler water to rise.

“The trade winds blow from east to west across the tropical Pacific Ocean,” Seager told Newsweek. “Because of the rotation of the Earth, the winds drive waters northward to the north of the Equator and southward to the south of the Equator. As the waters are driven away from the Equator, water is pumped up from below and since the waters below the surface are cold this creates the equatorial Pacific cold tongue.”

Yet despite the effect of these winds, the cold tongue has “puzzled scientists”, Newsweek said, “because advanced climate computer models suggest that the waters should have been warming for decades at a faster rate than the rest of the Pacific due to rising greenhouse gas emissions”.

Other hypotheses suggest that the answer may be found in the cold seas of the Southern Ocean around Antarctica, which have also seen sea surface temperatures decline in recent decades.

Suspected drivers include the melting of Antarctic glaciers as global temperatures rise, and ozone depletion in conjunction with rising greenhouse gas emissions, which are intensifying the movement of cold air from Antarctica.

Why does it matter?

This isn’t just an “academic puzzle”, New Scientist said. 
In fact, according to Pedro DiNezio, at the University of Colorado Boulder, it is “the most important unanswered question in climate science”.

Not knowing what is causing it “means we also don’t know when it will stop, or whether it will suddenly flip over into warming”, New Scientist added. 
This has huge worldwide implications and “could determine whether California is gripped by permanent drought or Australia by ever-deadlier wildfires” as well as “the intensity of monsoon season in India and the chances of famine in the Horn of Africa”.

More profoundly still, “it could even alter the extent of climate change globally”, the site said, “by tweaking how sensitive Earth’s atmosphere is to rising greenhouse gas emissions”.

What are its effects on wildlife?

As well as the climate-related questions it presents, the cold tongue is also of interest to biologists, particularly in relation to the Galápagos Islands, which lie about 600 miles off Ecuador.

This is because the “cold, nutrient-rich water” of the cold tongue has become a “prosperous patch [that] feeds phytoplankton and breathes life into the archipelago”, said The Atlantic.

According to Judith Denkinger, a marine ecologist at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador, the ecological impacts of the cold tongue are profound.

“The cool water sustains populations of penguins, marine iguanas, sea lions, fur seals, and cetaceans that would not be able to stay on the equator year-round,” Denkinger told The Atlantic.

Colder temperatures can also “inhibit coral growth rates” and “fish may experience shifts in their distribution due to changes in water temperature, which can also affect their metabolism and reproduction”, said Brilliantio in its explainer on temperature in the Pacific Ocean.
High-resolution simulation of Pacific equatorial Cold Tongue in 1985
regional ocean model (ROMS) on 0.05 degree grid, nested inside global ocean model (POP) 0.1 degree, both forced by JRA55do atmospheric reanalysis, SST from 1985
Do cooler waters challenge existing climate models?

As well as the cold tongue, other pockets of cool oceanic water sporadically present themselves, such as an area of the Pacific Ocean near San Francisco that has recently been the coldest it’s been in more than a decade.

Despite this, the overall direction of ocean temperatures is going up, said Ryan Walter, associate professor at California Polytechnic State University. 
“We know that long term there’s climate change and warming,” Walter told the San Francisco Chronicle. “In the meantime, you have all these ups and downs.”

Solving the puzzle of the cold tongue “isn’t about proving climate models wrong”, said New Scientist.
“On the big issues… they have been remarkably accurate.

“Rather, the cold tongue is the last big piece of the puzzle. Fit that in and we can build a more accurate picture of how life will change in a warming world – and how best to prepare for that future.”

Links :

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

AI quickly and accurately predicts major storms’ path and intensity, University of Reading finds

Storm Ciaran batters Folkestone and the large waves form a Lions face in the waves.

From Meteo Tech Int by Elisabeth Baker

The University of Reading has released a study that highlights the rapid progress and transformative potential of artificial intelligence (AI) in weather prediction through an analysis of November 2023’s Storm Ciaran.
Machine learning in weather prediction

According to the researchers, AI can quickly and accurately predict the path and intensity of major storms.
The research suggests weather forecasts that use machine learning (ML) can produce predictions of similar accuracy to traditional forecasts faster, cheaper and using less computational power.

Surface land and ship station SYNOP observations of Storm Ciarán at 06 UTC 2 November 2023 extracted from the MetDB database, which holds data including surface and upper air observations and some satellite data. 
Credit: npj Climate and Atmospheric Science (2024). 
DOI: 10.1038/s41612-024-00638-w © Provided by
The University of Reading  study has now been published in npj Climate and Atmospheric Science.

Professor Andrew Charlton-Perez, who led the study, said, “AI is transforming weather forecasting before our eyes.
Two years ago, modern machine learning techniques were rarely being applied to make weather forecasts.
Now we have multiple models that can produce 10-day global forecasts in minutes.
“There is a great deal we can learn about AI weather forecasts by stress-testing them on extreme events like Storm Ciarán. We can identify their strengths and weaknesses and guide the development of even better AI forecasting technology to help protect people and property. This is an exciting and important time for weather forecasting.” 
Promise and pitfalls

To understand the effectiveness of AI-based weather models, scientists from the University of Reading compared AI and physics-based forecasts of Storm Ciarán – a windstorm that hit northern and central Europe in November 2023 which claimed 16 lives in northern Europe and left more than a million homes without power in France.

The researchers used four AI models and compared their results with traditional physics-based models. The AI models, developed by companies like Google, Nvidia and Huawei, were able to predict the storm’s rapid intensification and track 48 hours in advance.
To a large extent, the forecasts were “indistinguishable” from the performance of conventional forecasting models, the researchers said.
The AI models also accurately captured the large-scale atmospheric conditions that fueled Ciarán’s explosive development, such as its position relative to the jet stream – a narrow corridor of strong high-level winds.

The ML technology underestimated the storm’s damaging winds, however.
All four AI systems underestimated Ciarán’s maximum wind speeds, which in reality gusted at speeds of up to 111 knots at Pointe du Raz, Brittany.
The authors were able to show that this underestimation was linked to some of the features of the storm, including the temperature contrasts near its center, that were not well predicted by the AI systems.

To better protect people from extreme weather like Storm Ciaran, the researchers say further investigation of the use of AI in weather prediction is urgently needed to save forecasters time and money.

Links :

Monday, April 29, 2024

Asia’s next war could be triggered by a rusting warship on a disputed reef

The Sierra Madre, a U.S.-built Philippine navy landing craft, was run aground on Second Thomas Shoal and is overseen by the Philippine navy. 
(source Video: Sky News/Film Image Partner via Getty Images)

From WashingtonPost by Rebecca Tan, Regine Cabato and Laris Karklis

Asia’s next war could be triggered by a rusting warship on a disputed reef

In the most hotly contested waterway in the world, the risk of Asia’s next war hinges increasingly on a ramshackle ship past her time, pockmarked with holes, streaked with rust and beached on a reef.

To buttress its claims in the South China Sea, the Philippines in 1999 deliberately ran aground a World War II-era landing ship on a half-submerged shoal, establishing the vessel as an outpost of the Philippine navy.
An aerial view shows the BRP Sierra Madre on the contested Second Thomas Shoal, locally known as Ayungin, in the South China Sea, March 9, 2023
Localization with the GeoGarage platform (UKHO nautical raster chart)
The BRP Sierra Madre, which has remained on Second Thomas Shoal ever since, has now become the epicenter of escalating tensions between the Philippines and China — and a singular trip wire that could draw the United States into an armed conflict in the Pacific, say officials and security analysts

A Philippine supply vessel was hit with water cannons by the China Coast Guard on March 23 on its way to bring provisions to the Sierra Madre.
(Video: Armed Forces of the Philippines)

China claims the vast majority of the South China Sea and, in recent months, has ramped up efforts to prevent the Philippines from providing supplies to personnel aboard the Sierra Madre.
Analysis of ship-tracking data and videos over the past year shows that Chinese coast guard and militia ships have repeatedly swarmed and collided with Philippine resupply vessels.
The Chinese vessels have also increasingly deployed water cannons at close-range, at times disabling Philippine ships and injuring sailors.

China’s coastguard fired water cannons at Philippine ships on March 5 as the vessels attempted to resupply the Sierra Madre.
(Video: Armed Forces of the Philippines)

Any further escalation, warn Western and Philippine officials, could lead to open conflict.

Biden administration officials have stressed that an armed attack on a Philippine military vessel, such as the Sierra Madre, would trigger a U.S. military response under a 1951 mutual defense treaty.
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said after meeting with President Bidenin Washington earlier this month that the killing of Philippine service members by a foreign power would also be grounds to invoke the treaty.

China has spent the past three decades expanding its presence in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which a third of global shipping passes, according to the United Nations.
Beijing may not intend to start a war here, analysts say, but repeated confrontations at sea between vessels have raised the potential for fateful accidents, also potentially provoking a U.S. response.

Adding to the uncertainty is the question of what to do with the 328-foot Sierra Madre, which is no longer seaworthy and badly degraded after decades of exposure to the elements.
The Chinese say replacing the ship with a more permanent structure is unacceptable.
But in interviews, top Philippine officials said emphatically they will not give up control of Second Thomas Shoal.

At no time in recent decades have geopolitical tensions in the South China Sea reached such a prolonged and precarious state as they have recently at Second Thomas Shoal, said Harrison Prétat, deputy director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) at the D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Members of the Philippine coast guard aboard the BRP Sindangan watch as a Chinese ship sails nearby during a mission last month to resupply Philippine troops on the Sierra Madre at Second Thomas Shoal.
(Ezra Acayan/Getty Images)

The dispute over that shoal — one of dozens of contested islands, reefs and other features — is part of an increasingly perilous competition among the countries that border the South China Sea for sovereignty over these strategic waters and control of the energy and other resources that lie below.

Trouble in the South China Sea

Tensions in the South China Sea have grown more intense than at any time in recent years.
Under President Xi Jinping, China has become more aggressive in asserting sovereignty over the sea’s contested islands, rocks, reefs and other features and the strategic waters that surround them.
A half dozen other countries that border the sea have also been pursuing their own claims and economic interests.
About one-third of the world’s trade passes through the South China sea, according to the U.N., including crucial energy supplies for U.S.
allies Japan and South Korea.
The sea also includes oil and natural gas reserves as well as valuable fishing grounds, coral and minerals.
The U.S.
has not formally endorsed any of these claims, urging that disputes be settled on the basis of international law.
The U.S.
insists on freedom of navigation through these contested waters and has repeatedly sailed warships through them to assert that right.

As China under leader Xi Jinping has grown ever more aggressive in pursuing its claims, Southeast Asian countries such as the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia have been taking steps — some in public, some largely below the radar — to assert their own claims and pursue their own economic interests, potentially bringing the region closer to war than at any time in years.

Before every mission to resupply the Sierra Madre, Marcos is briefed, said Philippine officials, as is the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, according to U.S. officials.
The United States has significantly increased its deployment of Navy personnel in the Philippines in direct response to the situation at the Sierra Madre, said a U.S. State Department official.
Not since the siege of Marawi in 2017, when Islamic State-affiliated rebels seized a town in the Philippine south, has the United States provided such extensive support for a Philippine military operation, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he had not been authorized to speak publicly on the issue.

To many in the Philippines, Chinese behavior at Second Thomas Shoal, which they call Ayungin Shoal, has become a symbol of Beijing’s increasingly brazen projection of power.
Orlando Mercado, a former Philippine secretary of defense, called it “the biggest, most graphic illustration of bullying.” 
Commodore Roy Trinidad, a spokesman for the Philippine navy, said it is a display of China’s “expansionist” ambitions.

Video footage shows another angle of the Philippine supply vessel hit by water cannons on March 23 on its way to bring provisions to the Sierra Madre.
(Video: Armed Forces of the Philippines)

“What’s happening in the West Philippine Sea is only a microcosm of what China wants to do to the world,” Trinidad added, using the Philippine name for the waters that it claims.

The Chinese Embassy in the Philippines declined requests for interviews and responded to questions by pointing to a previous statement saying that the Philippines has been violating China’s sovereignty.
“We demand that the Philippines tow away the warship,” the statement said.
Until it is removed, the statement added, China will “allow” resupply missions only if “the Philippines informs China in advance and after on-site verification is conducted.”

Research groups say China has hundreds of vessels deployed across the South China Sea at any time — a mix of coast guard and maritime militia, which are government-funded ships registered for commercial fishing but used to establish China’s presence in disputed waters.
These vessels have loitered around the Sierra Madre for years but began to surge in number in 2023, according to ship location data tracked by AMTI.
In 2021, China on average deployed only a single ship each time the Philippines conducted one of its resupply missions, which are carried out by civilian boats staffed with navy personnel.
By 2023, the average had jumped to 14.
During one mission last December, researchers found at least 46 Chinese ships patrolling Second Thomas Shoal.

*There have been two incidents in 2024 where China has used water cannons on Philippine vessels: March 5 and 23.
The analysis on ships involved for those incidents has not been completed at this time.

Source: CSIS/AMTI, Starboard Maritime Intelligence

During the Dec. 10 resupply mission, Chinese ships largely based at nearby Mischief Reef tried to form a “blockade” at a greater distance from Second Thomas Shoal than before, said Ray Powell, director of SeaLight at Stanford University’s Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation.
“They made the approach as tense and as difficult as possible.”

Videos from that day show that as one of the four Philippine ships, M/L Kalayaan, began to near Second Thomas, two significantly larger Chinese vessels pulled up on either side of it, and one blasted it with a water cannon.
The M/L Kalayaan’s engine was damaged and had to be towed back to shore, according to Philippine officials.
The vessel could not reach Second Thomas, though another Philippine ship, the Unaizah May 4, made it through.

Video shows a confrontation between Chinese and Philippine vessels and the use of water cannons in the South China Sea on Dec.
10, 2023. 
(Video: Armed Forces of the Philippines)

Once rare, the use of water cannons has become routine since December.
During a resupply mission on March 5, two Chinese vessels deployed water cannons within several feet of the Philippine ship, shattering its windscreen and injuring four sailors on board.

The Unaizah May 4 returned to shore without delivering its cargo.
When it tried again three weeks later, it was again targeted by water cannons.
This time, the Chinese ships “didn’t stop until the vessel was entirely disabled,” said a Philippine military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share undisclosed details of the incident.
The water cannons caused the ship to lose propulsion and wrecked its wooden hull, forcing the crew to transport the supplies to the Sierra Madre on inflatable dinghies.
When the Chinese boats came close, the official added, Chinese personnel on board also yelled at the Philippine crew.
“They were shouting at us, saying, ‘Construction? Construction?’” said the official.

Members of the Philippine coast guard sail a rubber boat past a Chinese coast guard vessel during a mission to resupply Philippine troops aboard the Sierra Madre on March 5.
(Ezra Acayan/Getty Images)
China has for months accused the Philippines of secretly transporting construction material to the Sierra Madre in an attempt to “permanently occupy” Second Thomas.
Philippine officials deny this.
Since last October, the Philippines has been conducting “superficial repairs” to the Sierra Madre to ensure habitability for soldiers, but it has not been constructing a new outpost, say officials.

With several Philippine resupply ships damaged and concerns growing over the escalating violence, Philippine officials said they have been rethinking how best to conduct the missions.
“We will not be deterred,” said Trinidad, the navy spokesman.
But neither, say security analysts, will the Chinese.

About this story:
To map the behavior of Chinese and Philippine vessels, The Washington Post drew upon data collected by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation at Stanford University
Both organizations track vessels based on location information transmitted by their Automated Identification System (AIS).
Researchers say the data paints a representative picture of ship behavior but is incomplete because not all ships turn on their AIS.
Chinese vessels, in particular, are known to turn off the AIS, or “go dark,” in the South China Sea.
Links :

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Remote sensing of plastic marine litter

The millions of tonnes of plastic ending up in the oceans every year are a global challenge.
ESA is responding by looking at the detection of marine plastic litter from space, potentially charting its highest concentrations and understanding the gigantic scale of the problem.
ESA funded 25 innovative projects to improve detection of plastic marine litter from space, through the Discovery Campaign 'Remote Sensing of Plastic Marine Litter', launched on the ESA’s Open Space Innovation Platform (OSIP).
"The projects address different problems, solutions and approaches, from using existing remote sensing technology in novel applications, to exploring new technologies to monitor marine litter, through developing new data processing, modelling and experimental techniques including approaches based on artificial intelligence," says Paolo Corradi, ESA systems engineer.