Kamis, 31 Desember 2020

US and its allies must be wary of provoking South China Sea conflict - South China Morning Post

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[unable to retrieve full-text content]US and its allies must be wary of provoking South China Sea conflict  South China Morning Post The Link Lonk


January 01, 2021 at 02:15AM
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US and its allies must be wary of provoking South China Sea conflict - South China Morning Post

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First Deck Log of 2021 Plays Up One Crew's High Sea Saga of Piracy, Drug Patrols and COVID-19 - USNI News

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The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114) sails towards the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) while conducting routine underway operations. McCain is assigned to Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, the Navy’s largest forward-deployed DESRON and the U.S. 7th Fleet’s principal surface force. U.S. Navy Photo

The Navy’s annual tradition of writing its first deck log of the New Year in verse homed in on the global pandemic and how it affected the crew of one Pacific-based guided-missile destroyer.

USS Ralph Johnson (DDG-114) was the service’s first vessel to enter 2021 and carried on the more than century-old tradition of making a short poem out of the standard report, according to a news release from U.S. 7th Fleet.

Electronics Technician 2nd Class Hailey Coop penned the poem for the entry log, which describes the crew’s ongoing handling of coronavirus, a drug seizure and piracy.

“Our time on deployment was supposed to be fun./ But then case Ms. Rona, and oh how she’s won./ She took all our ports and made us a bubble./ From what we can tell she has given us nothing but trouble,” Coop wrote. “She made us wear masks and clean all around./ You would not believe all the dirt that we found.”

The poem also mentions a seizure, likely a drug interdiction in the Arabian Sea reported earlier this month by The Maritime Executive.

“Getting to write the poem for the New Year’s deck log entry on our maiden deployment, especially since I’m a plank owner and have been a part of everything since the ship was commissioned, is pretty great,” Coop said in a statement. “It’s even better knowing that it’ll be the first deck log poem of 2021.”

Ralph Johnson is deployed as part of Destroyer Squadron 9, which is operating with the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group. The bulk of the strike group were operating off the Horn of Africa earlier this week, according to the Dec. 28 USNI News Fleet Tracker.

The following is the full USS Ralph Johnson (DDG-114) deck log composed by Electronics Technician 2nd Class Hailey Coop, for Jan. 1, 2021. 

“The ball may be dropping in time square.
Onboard Ralph Johnson we’re still in the middle of the ocean somewhere.
Our time on deployment was supposed to be fun.
But then came Ms. Rona, and oh how she’s won.

She took all our ports and made us a bubble.
From what we can tell she has given us nothing but trouble.
She made us wear masks and clean all around.
You would not believe all the dirt that we found.

Everyone is hiding and in quarantine.
Why is it so hard to find a vaccine?
Our crew is still working because we’re essential.
The trips that we take are quite confidential.

We boarded a small boat and gave them a fright
Searched top to bottom all day and night.
We seized everything the law deems illegal.
There was so much you could fill a cathedral.

We allowed scary pirates to come aboard our ship.
They said they would have us all cleansed in a zip.
Opened their mouths and ate our wogs like little snacks.
After they spit them out they called them all shellbacks.

No mission or Pirates can stop our team.
We are closer and stronger than we all may seem.
A family of warriors is hard to bring down.
We will keep fighting until the next year rolls around.

Our mission out here is to following all orders.
We could not carry on without our supporters.
To our supporters at home and our families who need us.
We are coming home soon and that you can trust.

Continue the watch. U/W as before.
It doesn’t matter if you are tired to the core.
Independent steaming in the Pacific Ocean.
Only Ralph Johnson can cause such commotion.

No other ships are out here showing their presence.
The only ones out here are just us peasants.
Engineering plant status is as follows: 1 & 2 GTG’s online, 2B GTM’s online, 2 and 3
A/C units online, No. 5 fire pumps online, 1, 3, 4 5 SWS pumps online.
Engineers claim that everything’s fine.

Condition 3 readiness is what we achieve.
The crew is so ready to take leave.
Modified zebra set.
That you can bet.

EMCON Delta set.
All objectives were met.
All Nav lights are bright.
So anyone out there will see us alright.
The OOD is LTJG Miller. The Captain is tired and off the bridge for the night.

We traveled 421.05 NM throughout this day.
Everyone’s excited to be home, it’s not far away.
The work and the struggles have made us both happy and sad
Thank you 2020 for all the memories you had.”

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January 01, 2021 at 01:33AM
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First Deck Log of 2021 Plays Up One Crew's High Sea Saga of Piracy, Drug Patrols and COVID-19 - USNI News

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Adult fish sizes have shrunk over 50 years of sea temperature rises - New Scientist

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Cod in the North Sea are getting smaller

Alex Mustard / naturepl.com

Fish are growing smaller as sea temperatures rise, with adults now reaching a smaller maximum size than in 1970.

Idongesit Ikpewe at the University of Aberdeen in the UK and his colleagues have found that warmer seas are linked to changes in fish size. Their analysis looked at trends in four commercially fished species – of cod, haddock, whiting and saithe – in the North Sea and in waters west of Scotland.

The researchers examined existing data for the fish between 1970 and 2017, looking specifically at the average length-at-age …

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December 31, 2020 at 05:04PM
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BP's Caspian Sea project emerges as Russia's rival for European gas market - WorldOil

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By Zulfugar Agayev on 12/31/2020

BP Shah Deniz

BP Shah Deniz

(Bloomberg) --Azerbaijan started commercial natural gas exports to Europe via the U.S.-backed Southern Gas Corridor, helping the region to diversify supplies away from Russia.

Gas pumped from the BP Plc-led Shah Deniz deposit in the Caspian Sea began flowing into Italy, Greece and Bulgaria on Thursday, BP and Azerbaijan’s state energy company Socar said in a joint statement. The European Union has worked for years to ease its dependence on Russia, which accounts for about a third of the region’s gas supplies.

The Southern Gas Corridor, which took $33 billion and seven years to build, includes the Shah Deniz field and more than 2,000 miles of pipelines connecting the Caspian Sea with Europe via Georgia and Turkey. Azerbaijan will ship 10 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe every year over the next quarter-century, with 8 billion of that going to Italy and 1 billion each to Greece and Bulgaria.

“Some people were skeptical about the project” at the outset, Socar President Rovnaq Abdullayev said. “Now the mission is accomplished. Azerbaijan’s natural gas has arrived in Europe.”

Shah Deniz, which means King of the Sea in Azeri, is the nation’s largest gas deposit, containing about 1 trillion cubic meters of the fuel and 2 billion barrels of condensate, according to BP estimates. Azerbaijan plans to ship gas to more countries in Europe in the future as additional Caspian Sea fields start production.

BP leads Shah Deniz with a 28.8% interest. Other partners in the project include Socar, Turkiye Petrolleri AO, Petroliam Nasional Bhd, Lukoil PJSC and a unit of Iran’s national oil company.

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December 31, 2020 at 06:35PM
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Rabu, 30 Desember 2020

Partying dolphins and rare sea slug among 2020 highlights in UK seas - The Guardian

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Sir David Attenborough has called for a halt to activities that damage the UK’s seas, as the Wildlife Trusts revealed the highs and lows of marine life around the British Isles during 2020.

Highlights included thousands of Atlantic bluefin tuna in a rare run up the Channel from Cornwall to Kent, at some points accompanied by porpoises, minke whale and dolphins in a feeding frenzy, the trusts’ living seas marine review reported.

Abby Crosby, of Cornwall Wildlife Trust, said: “No one who saw this intense display of the power, aggression and athletic prowess of bluefin tuna says they will ever forget it. People were utterly spellbound in anticipation of the next startling leap of these huge, metallic-silver creatures from beneath the ocean waves, and many simply couldn’t believe this was happening just off the English coastline.”

Placida cremoniana
A tiny sea slug, Placida cremoniana. Photograph: Matt Slater/The Wildlife Trusts/PA

An extremely rare sighting of a spectacular sea slug, Placida cremoniana, which measures just millimetres in length and resembles an orange glowing lump of coal covered in spikes, was spotted by a sharp-eyed volunteer in Cornish waters. It is more usually found in the Pacific or Mediterranean.

In Northern Ireland, two orcas were seen on Strangford Lough, the first sightings since 1962.

A rise in tern numbers was recorded at Cemlyn in north Wales, with Arctic tern pairs up 2,900% and sandwich tern pairs up 65%. Guillemot numbers were at their highest since 2004 on Handa island off Sutherland, Scotland.

A pair of orcas in Strangford Lough, County Down
A pair of orcas in Strangford Lough, County Down. Photograph: Ronald Surgenor/The Wildlife Trusts/PA

More than 30 bottlenose dolphins were seen “partying” off Saltburn pier on the Teesside coast for weeks during the summer. “This partying pod of dolphins were highly visible, playing, breaching vertically, racing along at top speed, with fin after fin arcing through the waves,” said Jacky Watson, of Tees Valley Wildlife Trust. There was rare evidence captured of a baby Risso’s dolphin born in Welsh waters off Anglesey.

There was bad news, however, with disposable personal protective equipment, plastic, nurdles (plastic pellets roughly the size of lentils), litter and discarded fishing gear putting marine wildlife in greater peril.

A grey seal pup in South Walney, Cumbria
A grey seal pup in South Walney, Cumbria. Photograph: Emily Baxter/The Wildlife Trusts/PA

Attenborough, the president emeritus of the Wildlife Trusts, said the UK seas were marine protected areas, “but sadly this does not prevent damaging activities still occurring in these special places. Bottom-towed dredging and trawling destroys fragile sea fans and soft corals on the seabed, while dredging to install cables to offshore windfarms changes the seabed and its wildlife forever.”

He said: “For too long we have taken from the sea with little regard for the consequences. We are all aware of the problems presented by plastic litter, but some pollutants and impacts are hidden from view beneath the surface of the waves. Our government needs to tackle these problems but we can all do our bit too.”

Many people visited the UK coast after lockdown restrictions were lifted. “People delighted in seeing marine life and it lifted the hearts of millions in this difficult year,” said Joan Edwards, the Wildlife Trusts’ director of living seas. “However, we have taken these wonders for granted for too long and it’s vital we recognise that the future of life on earth is inseparable from the health of the sea.”

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December 31, 2020 at 07:01AM
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Australian yachtsman rescued after spending hours clinging to a beacon in the ocean - CNN

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(CNN) — An Australian sailor has been rescued after being found clinging to a beacon in the Pacific Ocean.

David Simpson, 64, was thrown from his boat when a strong wave hit the vessel near Caloundra, on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, CNN affiliate 9News reported.

He watched as his boat -- with his dog on board -- floated away, and then managed to swim around half a mile to a water beacon, where he waited to be pushed up by a wave in order to cling to to the beacon's ladder.

The man was discovered on a beacon at sea.

The man was discovered on a beacon at sea.

From Caloundra Volunteer Coast Guard - QF4/Facebook

"The wave hit the side of the boat and I was trying to secure the dinghy which had come a little bit adrift and a rope broke holding the dinghy," Simpson told 9News. "The dinghy hit me... and I fell about 2.5, 3 meters on my ribs and off the boat."

Another sailor later discovered the unmanned vessel with the motor still running and dog on board, and alerted authorities.

Simpson said he tried to attract attention in any way he could, and even took his shorts off to wave them around. "Maybe that's why nobody stopped, because I was naked," he said.

Three hours after the alarm was raised, Simpson was found by a helicopter, which spotted him in the dark 1.6 miles away from his vessel.

"He's a very lucky man to be able to get to that beacon," Ian Hunt, commander of the Mooloolaba coastguard, told 9News.

Mitch the dog was rescued by Surf Lifesaving Queensland.

Mitch the dog was rescued by Surf Lifesaving Queensland.

From Surf Life Saving Queensland/Twitter

Simpson's dog, a Staffordshire bull terrier called Mitch, was rescued by a crew of surf lifesavers, Surf Lifesaving Queensland said.

The Mooloolaba coastguard said Wednesday that attempts to retrieve the now-grounded vessel are ongoing.

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December 30, 2020 at 07:27PM
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Bering Sea storm could set low pressure record - Alaska Public Media News

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A satelite image with the red outline of Alaska.
Satellite imagery of the Bering Sea on Tuesday, Dec 29, 2020. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

The collision of a warm, wet weather front with a mass of cold air from Siberia could set a new record: the lowest barometric pressure recorded in the North Pacific. 

That could mean hurricane-force winds and high seas in the southwest Bering Sea. 

“This storm is generating a lot of interest from weather watchers around the world,” said climate specialist Rick Thoman of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

He said the storm — which is expected to reach Unalaska by Thursday night — will be comparable to Typhoon Nuri in 2014, and to another record storm that touched down near Adak in 2015, causing wind damage in Unalaska and the Pribilof Islands.

Anchorage-based National Weather Service Climatologist Brian Brettschneider said current models show the barometric pressure plummeting to as low as 920 millibars on Thursday. The current North Pacific record low is 925. 

That’s the kind of reading you would expect in a pretty strong hurricane in the tropics, said Brettschneider. 

“You have the ingredients that could come together to have the storm kind of explosively develop,” he said. 

The places that could be hit hardest are Western Aleutian islands like Shemya and Attu. But the heart of the storm could also center on the community on Adak, which has a population of about 100, and Atka, a community of about 50 people located 100 miles further east. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association forecasts show winds up to 75 mph in Adak. 

Thoman said it won’t be as severe in the more-populated fishing port of Unalaska. 

“Because this storm is going to be very far west, like the 2014 ex-typhoon Nuri, we’re not expecting those kind of damaging winds to move into the eastern Aleutians or the Pribilofs. But you certainly will notice the weather front,” he said. 

Low pressure will likely create more of a typical storm for Unalaska — short-lived 50 to 70 mph winds. 

Another effect could be waves as high as 40 feet in the Western Bering Sea, said Brettschneider.

“That’s going to be a major issue for commercial fishing, for ocean transport. Those are some serious waves,” he said. 

The system is caused by the convergence of a deep high-pressure cold front from Siberia with the warm, tropical low pressure from the South Pacific. Parts of Siberia have been recording temperatures in the minus-70s Fahrenheit, said Brettschneider. 

“When you have cold air and warm air meeting together, it provides a lot of energy for the storms, for the low pressure to really deepen,” he said 

Mainland Alaska likely won’t see any of the winds from the storm, but Brettschneider said there will be indirect effects. A low-pressure system in the Bering Sea will push a high-pressure system over the Yukon. 

“It means we’re going to have an easterly flow which is going to bring colder temperatures. And so paradoxically, we may cool down, over the next week, in part because of that low pressure,” he said. 

If the pressure does set a record, Brettschneider said, there won’t be any fanfare in the weather world, other than the recording in the charts. But he said keeping track is still important. 

“We’re monitoring the state of the climate regionally and globally and how these things are changing. And the intensity of storms is going to be a marker of the changing climate,” he said. 

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December 30, 2020 at 08:00AM
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ATLAS project finds 12 new species of sea creatures - Phys.org

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ATLAS project finds 12 new species of sea creatures
Cold-water corals and seastars. Credit: IFREMER / ATLAS project

Researchers working with the ATLAS project have reported to the press that they have found 12 new species of sea creatures new to science. The EU funded undersea project has been ongoing for five years and has carried out 45 research expeditions that involved the work of over 80 scientists and student volunteers.

The ATLAS project was begun five years ago and grew into the largest oceanic enterprise ever undertaken. Its mission was to study the North Atlantic—the water, the seafloor, currents and most particularly the creatures that live there. Researchers from 13 countries took part in the project, spanning a wide range of interests from physics to ocean chemistry to biology. As the project carried on, researchers began to take a hard look at changes that are taking place in the ocean as part of global warning.

The team's original goal was to map the off the coasts of Europe, the U.S. and Canada and as often as possible, areas farther out in —it was to be what the team described as "maritime spatial planning." As it turned out, the researchers wound up focusing most of their effort on 12 specific locations in a deep part of the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the research was conducted using underwater robots. In addition to the 12 new species the team found, they also discovered 35 species living in areas where they were not previously known to reside. To date, the effort has resulted in 113 papers published in peer-reviewed journals; more are expected in the near future. At the project's conclusion, members of the team reported to the press that despite their long effort, more is still known about the surface of the Moon and Mars than is known about the deep oceans here on Earth.

Among the findings by the team was a new kind of coral, a sedentary animal that resembled moss, and another that also resembled moss. They also learned more about the impact greenhouse gas emissions are having on the world's oceans. Prior research has shown that in addition to rising temperatures due to global warming, the gasses also increase acidity. The researchers with ATLAS found that such acidification was attacking the foundations of coral reefs and predict many deep-sea habitats will collapse over the next century. They also found that the Atlantic Ocean's currents have been slowing, resulting in changing and further disruptions to sensitive ecosystems.


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December 30, 2020 at 10:29PM
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I chose fun over drudgery – and ran off to live at sea - The Guardian

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I don’t make resolutions. But one year I made an exception. It was 1 January 2015. It was the only nod to self-improvement I have ever made – and it changed the course of my life. Very seriously, I resolved to have more fun. I had been inspired by the American folk legend Woody Guthrie, whose 1943 resolutions had come to light, a list full of such gems as “dream good” and “dance better”. Yes, I thought. Focus on what brings you joy – if that isn’t improvement, I don’t know what is. (I would humbly suggest this is even more pertinent as the cruel joke that is 2020 comes to a close.)

I had had a tough year, having taken on a difficult project on top of a demanding full-time job and spent the months leading up to Christmas working so hard I barely slept. When I did sleep, I dreamed of the ocean (unsurprisingly, given I was writing a book about sea nomads in my spare time).

The stupid thing, though, was that I hadn’t been in the sea – where I am happiest – once that summer. I had my beloved little boat, Isean, in Brighton; my job was in London. I would usually spend whatever free time I had there, swimming, fishing, floating around. This year I hadn’t been to see her once. Sunny weekends were spent indoors working; the summer passed without me really noticing it. And I had been miserable.

Having more fun was, for me, always going to mean having more fun with Isean – but that required effort. I sailed, but I wasn’t a confident sailor. I would go out on calm days in Brighton, where there are few hazards and not much need for knowledge of navigation or tides. I dreamed of sailing Isean properly – maybe crossing the Channel to France, an exciting but distant goal. In the meantime, I dreamed of being confident enough to leave the marina overnight, to make passage plans, to go out to anchor in beautiful quiet bays – to really have fun with my boat.

Over the remainder of that winter, I kept to my resolution. In January, as it froze outside, I sat in the warmth, having geeky fun with charts, practising navigation, measuring distances and tidal ranges, dreaming of where it could take me.

It took me west. I remember so clearly the day my friend and I set off from Brighton. It was mid-March 2015, cold, drizzly, misty. I made the classic mistake of underestimating how long it would take, setting off late, sailing too slow. By the time we reached Littlehampton, we were fighting against strong tides, wondering whether we would clear the sandbar to get into the harbour. We did – just.

I will never forget my excitement and pride. At a restaurant later, I wanted to tell everyone that I had sailed there, as if it had been an epic journey (it was a mere 15 nautical miles). I carried on after that, couldn’t turn back, took Isean to the hardest place I could think of to learn: the Solent, with its mighty tides, strong winds, shifting sandbanks, ships, ferries, hovercrafts. “So you want to go somewhere stressful to sail?” my friend asked. It will be fun, I reasoned.

I didn’t turn back. I kept going west, to Land’s End, Cornwall, then south. I am writing from a desolate anchorage in Greece. I quit my job and ran off to live at sea. This morning, I was underwater, scraping barnacles from my hull, a school of curious sea bream following me. It is not everyone’s idea of fun, but it is more than I ever thought possible.

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December 30, 2020 at 02:00PM
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Sea pickles are washing up on SLO County beaches. Why are we seeing them here? - San Luis Obispo Tribune

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[unable to retrieve full-text content]Sea pickles are washing up on SLO County beaches. Why are we seeing them here?  San Luis Obispo Tribune The Link Lonk


December 30, 2020 at 06:24AM
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Selasa, 29 Desember 2020

Migrants Continue To Die In Attempts To Cross Mediterranean Sea To Europe - NPR

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The pandemic and its many travel restrictions haven't stopped thousands of migrants from attempting the dangerous trip across the Mediterranean Sea this year. More than 1,000 have died at sea.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

One group of people continues to take on dangerous travel despite all the restrictions of the global pandemic. I'm talking about migrants from Africa and the Middle East. They still made thousands of journeys into the Mediterranean Sea in 2020, attempting to get to Europe. At least a thousand of them died this year as their routes to welcoming ports diminished. NPR's Ruth Sherlock has looked into the numbers and talked to some of them who have attempted this journey. She joins us now from Beirut.

Hi, Ruth.

RUTH SHERLOCK, BYLINE: Hi.

CHANG: So we're talking about trips in, like, really small ships or leaky boats arranged by smugglers, right?

SHERLOCK: Yes, that's right. And migration experts tell me that despite the pandemic, thousands of migrants have kept trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, a route they say is now the most dangerous in the world. And just last month, to give you an example, 72 migrants drowned off the coast of Libya. And these kinds of deaths are tragically common.

What has changed, though, is that there aren't as many European rescue ships. And some countries, like Malta and Italy, have closed their ports to migrants. They say it's because of safety concerns in the pandemic. But migrant advocates have criticized them for saying they're using the pandemic as a cover to stop this kind of unpopular arrival of migrants on their shores.

I spoke with Safa Msehli, a spokesperson for the U.N.'s International Organization for Migration. Here she is.

SAFA MSEHLI: The very unfortunate, dangerous crossings continued this year and also continued amid hardening policy and closed ports, decrees that limited the work of lifesaving NGOs, who are the only actors operating in the central Mediterranean attempting to save lives. This is absolutely tragic that people continue to die on Europe's doorstep, in European waters, and their calls for distress and their calls for assistance unheeded.

SHERLOCK: So she gives me several examples of rescue ships that were left stranded in European waters for weeks, unable to find a port where migrants could land.

CHANG: Well, can you just put all of this in perspective for us? Like, why are people still willing to make such a harrowing journey like this?

SHERLOCK: Well, you know, they do this for many different reasons. In places like Libya and some other African countries, they're dealing with wars or famine or poverty. But the common factor here is desperation. Many just don't see another way. This year, I interviewed migrants and their families of a migrant boat that was stranded off the coast of Lebanon. That boat was rescued, but only after eight days, by which time several people, including two children under the age of 3, had died.

One of the survivors, 22-year-old Ibrahim Lisheen (ph), told me that he decided to get on the boat after he hadn't been able to find work in Lebanon, which is going through its own economic crisis, for over three years. He says his family was surviving on charity handouts.

IBRAHIM LISHEEN: (Non-English language spoken).

SHERLOCK: He tells me that despite everything he suffered at sea, he would actually try again if he got the opportunity. He says, "living here with my family - we're already dead, so we may as well die at sea."

CHANG: Well, what are advocates calling for countries to do now about this really dangerous situation?

SHERLOCK: You know, they keep reminding states that there's an obligation under international law, first of all, to rescue people and to respond to distress calls at sea, but also to provide a port of safety. So they're calling for the redeployment of search and rescue ships. And they also want an end of the EU's support to the Libyan Coast Guard, who tend to intercept migrants but then return them to migrant centers where they're being held in the most awful of conditions.

But the problem with all of these policies is that migration is an intensely political topic in Europe. And these kind of policies that advocates are calling for can be unpopular with governments. So it's hard to see for the moment how things will improve.

CHANG: That is NPR's Ruth Sherlock in Beirut.

Thank you, Ruth.

SHERLOCK: Thank you.

Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

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December 30, 2020 at 03:51AM
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Young sea lion returns to ocean in NorCal after recovering from shark bite, poisoning - KTLA

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A feisty young sea lion is back in the Northern California wild after five weeks of rehabilitation to treat a severe shark bite, domoic acid poisoning and malnutrition.

The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito said Monday that it had successfully released Jenya last week at Rodeo Beach in the Marin Headlands.

The male sea lion was rescued from San Francisco’s Aquatic Park by Fisherman’s Wharf in November after the center received reports of a lethargic sea lion with a large left shoulder wound.

Jenya gained back 25 pounds and was released once he had regained full motion and weight distribution on his left front flipper, the center said.

“Jenya’s road to recovery was one of the most inspiring patient cases I’ve seen this year,” said Emily Trumbull, veterinarian at The Marine Mammal Center.

The center is the largest marine mammal hospital in the world and has cared for more than 440 seals and sea lions this year.

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Scientists Recreate 1890s Fishing Surveys to Show How the Sea Has Changed - Smithsonian Magazine

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This article is from Hakai Magazine, an online publication about science and society in coastal ecosystems. Read more stories like this at hakaimagazine.com.

From 1897 to 1906, J. D. F. Gilchrist, a marine biologist for the former British Cape Colony in what is now South Africa, repeatedly set out aboard the SS Pieter Faure to document the sea life of the Agulhas Bank, off Africa’s southern tip. In a series of surveys, he used trawl nets to snag fish from the bank with the aim of determining whether it could support industrial fishing.

Gilchrist’s research was meticulous. He made thorough notes of currents, the seafloor, and where each kind of fish was found. His records show a sea teeming with kabeljou, with several hauls bringing in thousands of these fish from the deep. The surveys ushered in a booming fishing industry. Soon, trawl nets overflowed with cob, panga, and east coast sole, scraped from the brimming belly of the Agulhas Bank.

One hundred and eleven years later, Gilchrist’s data is an oddity—and an opportunity. It offers a detailed glimpse into the state of long-exploited fishing grounds before industrial fishers began picking them clean.

On the lookout for a topic for his doctoral thesis, marine scientist Jock Currie, who is now a postdoctoral researcher at the South African National Biodiversity Institute, wanted to replicate Gilchrist’s detailed surveys to see how much things had changed. But to make the comparison as accurate as possible, he needed to conduct the repeat surveys with the same fishing gear that was used from 1897 to 1906.

The key to doing that lay in the trawl net. A near-exact replica was integral. Even if Currie could repeat the surveys under similar conditions, using different gear would mean that he wouldn’t be able to tease apart which changes were due to the equipment and which reflected actual changes in fish populations.

Currie hit a stumbling block straight away. Trawl nets have changed a lot over time, and Currie and his colleagues assumed Gilchrist would have recorded the specifics of his. Yet none of Gilchrist’s meticulous reports included such details.

The search took Currie to England, where he located detailed plans from 1903 of a net similar to one that Gilchrist would have used. Piecing together these details with hints captured in pictures from the SS Pieter Faure, Currie settled on an early Granton otter trawl net made of tarred Manila hemp, materials that have been phased out in the production of fishing nets in favor of synthetic rope. To keep the mouth of the net open, he also had to construct otter doors: two flat wooden boards in a steel frame that connect to the net headline and groundrope.

Fishing Net From the 1890s
J. D. F. Gilchrist and his team surveyed the Agulhas Bank off South Africa more than 100 years ago. (Courtesy of Jock Currie)

With the help of a local trawl gear expert, the net was handwoven at a Cape Town, South Africa–based netting manufacturer, and then slathered with tar. For the otter boards, an engineering firm was called in. Currie sourced a suitably strong pine as an alternative to hardwood, though the latter would have been used in Gilchrist’s time.

The ship Currie attached his net to was as close as could be, too. While the steam-powered SS Pieter Faure was a different shape and had different proportions than the diesel engine-powered vessel Currie used, both were side trawlers, on which the net swings around to the side of the boat. Side trawlers operate more slowly than the stern trawlers commonly in operation today, he says. “I was glad we had a vessel that used a similar, less-efficient approach to that employed historically.”

“At times it seemed like I bit off more than I could chew,” Currie says. But almost a year after he started, with ample support from colleagues and industry experts, Currie pulled it off. In 2015, more than a century after Gilchrist trawled the Agulhas Bank, one of the last remaining side trawlers in the local industry swept through to see what fish the bank would offer.

Trawl Net Recreation
Jock Currie and his colleagues surveyed the Agulhas Bank off South Africa using the same type of net used in the 1890s. (Courtesy of Jock Currie)

The key results, published in a recent study, are surprising. Though they were pulled from the same water with almost the same gear, the fish caught by Currie and those caught by Gilchrist scarcely align. While Gilchrist’s catch was full of kabeljou, not one was found in the 2015 survey. Instead, Currie’s nets caught mostly gurnards, Cape horse mackerel, spiny dogfish, and shallow-water hake, and white sea catfish, which together made up 85 percent of Currie’s catch, compared with a historical three percent. Many of the findings do not line up with common theories on which species should do better or worse under intense commercial fishing.

To explain the difference, Currie says, you need to consider how the Agulhas Bank itself has been changed. The main species of the historical catches are associated with reef habitats, whereas a far greater proportion of the modern catches prefer sand or mud habitats. This indicates that trawling probably changed the seafloor, which in turn led to changes in fish communities. “It seems obvious in retrospect,” says Currie.

If not for the historical data and meticulous repeat survey, this insight would be obscured forever. “We know so little of how our oceans were a couple of hundred years before,” says Currie. “But to know where we want to go in the future, we need to understand our history.”

Ruth Thurstan, cochair for the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea’s working group on the history of fish and fisheries, who was not involved in the research, agrees that historical perspectives are crucial. “Without this long-term perspective we tend to underestimate the scale of changes that have occurred,” says Thurstan, something that is especially true for the marine environment. “Because we cannot see underneath its surface, we underestimate our impact on this vast space.”

This article is from Hakai Magazine, an online publication about science and society in coastal ecosystems. Read more stories like this at hakaimagazine.com.

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Chinese Navy Expanding Bases Near South China Sea - USNI News - USNI News

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The lead Chinese Type-075 preparing for sea trials. Photo via Weibo

The Chinese Navy, formally known as the PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy), conducted a live-fire exercise several days ago over the South China Sea utilizing a newly expanded naval base.

Harbin Z-9 helicopters took off from a base at Sanya on the southern tip of Hainan and fired anti-ship missiles at simulated targets. The Z-9, a license-built variant of the Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin, is a standard shipboard helicopter the PLAN flies. The exercise itself sends a signal, but the base from which the helicopters took off is crucial. The base has been massively improved over the past year.

The South China Sea is a strategically important and hotly contested region. China claims virtually all of it and has been strengthening its navy’s bases in the region. The airbase is not the only facility that could make a difference in the balance of power in the region. China is also working to strengthen the aircraft carrier base a few miles along the coast.

H I Sutton Image

New satellite images show steady progress building a new dry dock at the base, which will be large enough for China’s new Type-003 supercarrier. Construction of the dock started in 2016 and now appears close to completion. As with any new structure only observed in satellite imagery, there is a degree of uncertainty in assessing its purpose. But at this stage, it appears to be a massive dry dock under construction.

Having a dry dock on Hainan will greatly strengthen the naval presence in the region. It indicates that aircraft carriers will be permanently based on the island. A pier nearby that has already been used by carriers currently has a brand new Type-075 assault carrier parked alongside. This pier can accommodate two full-size carriers.

China is building a fleet of aircraft carriers and the largest to date, the Type-003, is currently under construction in Shanghai. The Type-003 will be significantly larger than the first two carriers, which were based on the Russian Kuznetsov-class design. The Chinese used a ski-jump like the Kuznetsov, but the third ship is expected to have an electromagnetic catapult similar to the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) on the U.S. Navy’s Ford-class aircraft carriers.

EMALs will enable the launch of heavier aircraft, such as the Xi’an KJ-600 carrier-based early warning aircraft. This is similar to the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye. China is also expected to use new classes of fighter and uncrewed combat air vehicles (UCAVs).

As for the airbase, its new facilities may be directly related to basing aircraft carriers in Sanya. Long-range uncrewed air vehicles (UAVs) have also been observed at the base.

The new facilities must be viewed in the context of the existing naval bases on Hainan. Assets include nuclear submarines, conventional submarines and a large surface fleet, meaning the new facilities are part of a shift toward the South China Sea. The PLAN’s Southern Fleet increasingly seems to get the best vessels. With an aircraft carrier, or two, permanently stationed there, China’s military grip ion the South China Sea will only get stronger.

A version of this post originally appeared on Naval News. It’s been republished here with permission.

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Miami Beach Considers Homeowner Grants to Prepare Property for Sea Rise - Insurance Journal

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Miami Beach is exploring a way to help residents cover the cost of floodproofing their properties from heavy rains and high tides made even higher by sea level rise – at least a little.

The city is considering offering residents matching grants of up to $20,000 for projects like installing flood panels, swapping out a driveway for permeable pavement or planting absorbent landscaping – all simple ways to cut down on flooding.

Other cities and states offer help for residents trying to adapt to climate change in the form of loans or federal cash, but Miami Beach’s proposal would stand alone in offering city money to homeowners as a grant.

“I believe this is a major step forward for our overall resilience program,” said Miami Beach Commissioner Mark Samuelian, who sponsored the resolution. “We want to see this happen in our community. It’s right for our residents and it’s also in the long-term interest of the city.”

The program won’t be up and running until late 2021 or early 2022, after the city sets up a dedicated funding source and a process for applying for and awarding the grants.

The initial funding, up to $666,666.66 a year, comes from an old agreement with Miami-Dade County to pool cash for sea level rise projects. The city renamed it the Miami Beach Resilience Fund at a November meeting. The final grant rules would still require city commission approval.

Long term, the city plans to explore using rent payments from the new Convention Center Hotel, once it’s in business. When Miami Beach voters approved the hotel in 2018, they also voted to set aside $2 million of the hotel’s annual rent payments for several issues, including stormwater projects like more flood pumps. It’s unclear when the hotel will open and begin making rent payments to the city, and voters would have to approve using those funds for private property adaptation grants.

The grants are meant to help pay to elevate air conditioning units or install landscaping, not large-scale projects like raising sea walls or elevating houses, which experts say coastal residents will need to start doing soon to meet the rising tides. South Florida is predicting more than two feet of sea level rise by 2060.

Adapting to those higher waters is going to cost Florida, the most vulnerable state in the nation, billions. And most estimates – like the one that suggests Florida will need to spend $75 billion on seawalls by 2040 – only address the government’s cut of the bill. There’s no good guess for how much of that adaptation will be borne by property owners.

Amy Knowles, the city’s chief resilience officer, told the commission that a small survey of about 400 residents found that half experienced lawn flooding, 27% experienced garage flooding and about 13% had their homes flood. The majority of respondents said they’d apply for matching grants if the city offered them.

Knowles said the program will be designed to “help those that need it most, including from a flood risk and income perspective.”

Another group that could potentially benefit from the grants is homeowners on newly raised roads. The city’s campaign to elevate low-lying streets has seen pushback from residents upset that floodwater from the previously low-lying roads is now shifted onto their front yards, including some complaints about the cost of matching the higher roads to their properties.

“I do think this is an element of what this is about,” Samuelian said. “As the city is rightfully trying to protect the city’s public right of way, we need to make sure that nothing we’re doing is adversely affecting property owners.”

Knowles, however, cautioned that this grant program is not meant to completely cover those costs, known as harmonization.

“The new program could complement harmonization for low lying properties that have specific flooding mitigation needs, but is not intended to pay for private property responsibilities associated with utility improvements,” she wrote in an email.

At the expected rate of $20,000 per home, the fund could help out a little more than 30 homes a year. That drew criticism from former Miami Beach Commissioner John Aleman, who pointed out that it would take 150 years to reach all 5,000 single-family homes in the city.

At the November meeting, Aleman said the proposal was “really not moving the needle on climate change.”

“If you really want to help residents, then instead of pilfering infrastructure capital funding and handing it out to residents in small chunks, keep that money and use it for our core capital infrastructure. Use it for bigger pipes, use it for pumps,” she said. “That is the best way you can help us residents.”

Miami Beach Breaks New Ground

Government programs to help homeowners adapt to climate change are relatively rare outside of federal funding after disasters. Few, if any, cities offer the kinds of grants Miami Beach is considering.

Connecticut’s ShoreUp CT program provides low-interest financing for property owners in flood zones to elevate their homes and retrofit for flood and wind protection.

The closest parallel in Florida is the Property Assessed Clean Energy program, where homeowners can get financing to install solar panels or impact windows, although the controversial program has a reputation for putting elderly and low-income customers in financial peril.

New Orleans may have the most similar program to Miami Beach in its Community Adaptation Program, which covers the costs of green infrastructure installations for low-to-moderate-income residents in one of the most flood-prone parts of the city. The city is using part of a $141 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban and Development to offer grants to around 3,900 homeowners.

So far, the city has helped 82 residents, with another 100-plus projects in the pipeline. The average cost is around $25,000, said Seth Knudsen, director of real estate development and planning with the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority.

“We’ve been very upfront with the homeowners that these improvements are not going to solve the flooding in the whole neighborhood, but it is going to lessen the damage and help the water soak up faster,” he said.

New Orleans Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Brenda Breaux said the difference before and after the improvements “is like daylight and dark” for residents.

“These homeowners that are doing the work now have been the ambassadors and the mouthpieces in the community talking about the impact from their individual properties,” she said.

Knudson said the improvements have made a measurable difference in how much flooding the city sees after a heavy rainstorm.

“There’s a strong case to be made that these private properties are the best opportunities we have as a city to expand our stormwater capacity,” he said. “It’s really the future for us as a city.”

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The 11 days of drama at sea that changed cruising forever - CNN

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(CNN) — As the calendar turned over to January 1, 2020, out on the world's oceans, it looked set to be another glorious year for cruising.

Thousands of passengers were seeing in the New Year at sea, perhaps toasting the stroke of midnight -- ship's time -- with a glass of champagne.

Many hundreds of thousands more, still ashore, were looking ahead to cruise adventures they'd spent years saving for.

Crew members readied for a year of working at sea, and those at the helm of the cruise industry anticipated another successful year, with profits sure to continue on an upward trajectory and bigger and better ships ready for launch.

Then, in the space of a few disastrous weeks, everything changed.

A travel pastime that sold itself on the gentle pace of its voyages began unraveling at breakneck pace.

February 4, 2020: Outbreak onboard

The Diamond Princess cruise ship quickly became a byword for the severity of Covid-19.

The Diamond Princess cruise ship quickly became a byword for the severity of Covid-19.

Carl Court/Getty Images

In early February, the coronavirus was making headlines around the world, but many viewed the infection as a regional problem mostly afflicting China, with a few other isolated cases.

One of those cases had been aboard the Diamond Princess -- a 16-year-old British-registered cruise ship operated by Princess Cruises, a division of the Carnival Corporation.

When a passenger with suspected coronavirus disembarked the Diamond Princess, Covid-19 remained. By the time health authorities boarded in Japanese waters on February 4, 10 people on board were confirmed positive for coronavirus.

Amid fears many more among the 2,666 mostly Japanese passengers were exposed, the ship was quarantined in the Port of Yokohama. Guests were forbidden to disembark, told to wear masks and confined to their cabins.

As the world looked on in horror, the disease began to do its worst.

The ship quickly became a byword for the severity of Covid-19, a severity much of the planet was only just started to take in. When cases per nation flashed up on TV screens, the Diamond Princess had the highest number outside mainland China.

The besieged vessel also offered the first inkling of just how badly cruise ships were susceptible to the virility of Covid-19 -- and how cruise companies would struggle to offload people from their vast floating palaces into panicked ports.

But it was only February, and this was just one ship.

As the Diamond Princess remained in lockdown, other cruise ships continued their routes largely as planned. Many had already been in service for months, were the midst of months-long world cruises crisscrossing the Earth's oceans.

Some itineraries were adjusted to avoid Asian ports, but even if passengers had concerns, they were often locked into concrete plans made months or years previously.

"We had hesitations," said passenger Jay Martinez, who boarded the Norwegian Jewel along with his newlywed wife Carmen on February 28.

Changing plans, he told CNN, wasn't an option offered by the cruise company.

"With us having so much money invested into our honeymoon, we had no other choice but to board the ship."

Meanwhile, cruise experts offered reassurances. Everything, they said, was probably going to be OK.

But that's not how it turned out.

March 13, 2020: The virus ships

As March rolled in, it was increasingly clear that the Diamond Princess disaster was no isolated incident.

Cruise ships carry thousands of passengers and workers in close proximity and stop in ports across the world. Their internal ventilation systems were already seen as possible propagators of infection. The vessels seemed to be unwitting Covid catalysts.

As parts of the world began to batten down the hatches against coronavirus, introducing region-wide and then nation-wide lockdowns and travel bans, cruise ships were pinpointed as accelerating the spread.

A report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that between February 3 and March 13, about 200 Covid cases in the US were linked to cruise passengers, including cruisers from the Diamond Princess and the Grand Princess, where 21 people had tested positive while the ship was docked in California.

At the time of the CDC's March report, cruise passengers accounted for about 17% of the reported US Covid cases.

Cruise ships such as Holland America's Zaandam, pictured, struggled to disembark guests.

Cruise ships such as Holland America's Zaandam, pictured, struggled to disembark guests.

LUIS ACOSTA/AFP via Getty Images

On March 13, influential industry body Cruise Lines International Association, which represents 95% of the global cruise fleet, made the decision to suspend operations from US ports of call for 30-day period.

A day later, the CDC issued a No Sail Order for cruise ships in the United States.

So began a global scramble for safe harbor, ships dotted across the world's oceans had to make quick decisions on how best to get passengers and crew safely to land.

March 27, 2020: The scramble for safety

With the No Sail Order in place, some on board wanted to disembark right away.

CJ Hayden, a passenger on the Pacific Princess at the time, told CNN she feared being stuck at sea after the US closed its borders.

"The ship can't go any faster," she said.

But with cruise ships being viewed with increasing suspicion by many of the ports that once welcomed them, many vessels were locked into an increasingly desperate hunt for somewhere to berth.

The Norwegian Jewel -- the 92,000-tonne pride of the Norwegian Cruise Line capable of carrying more than 2,300 passengers -- was among those stranded at sea. Turned away by French Polynesia, Fiji and New Zealand, the vessel eventually opted for a long journey back to Hawaii.

On board, 20-something Jay Martinez became an envoy for less tech-savvy passengers who struggled to get hold of loved ones on land.

He tried to stay positive, bonding with passengers from across the world, sharing updates from their various home countries.

He was proud, he told CNN, of the "mini community" they had created on board the Jewel. He felt it showed how nations could come together in the face of the pandemic.

Still, he also felt keenly the "unknown and ambiguity of what our fate is going to be."

Jay-Martinez-cruise 3

Passenger Jay Martinez took this photo on board the Norwegian Jewel in March.

Courtesy Jay Martinez

Christine Beehler, 72, from New Hampshire, was on board the Coral Princess, a 2,000-passenger ship that was denied a port of call in Brazil, even for guests who had onward flight tickets home.

With no other option available, the ship headed to Miami.

"The four walls get a little tiring," Beehler, isolated in her cabin, told CNN at the time. She said she was in regular communication with other passengers and they kept each other's spirits, and she also praised the captain for being "very forthcoming with his transparency" and called the crew "phenomenal."

There were 12 reported positive cases and three passenger deaths from Covid-19 on board the Coral Princess. Owner Princess Cruises said it could not confirm how many contracted the virus on the ship or died after they left it

The Zaandam cruise ship was assisted by fellow Holland America vessel Rotterdam as it entered the Panama City bay to be assisted by the Rotterdam.

The Zaandam cruise ship was assisted by fellow Holland America vessel Rotterdam as it entered the Panama City bay to be assisted by the Rotterdam.

LUIS ACOSTA/AFP via Getty Images

Meanwhile, Holland America's Zaandam was sailing a South American voyage originally supposed to conclude in San Antonio, Chile, on March 21.

It was still at sea six days later, with four passengers dead and fears growing for the safety of the others, unable to find a safe port.

Meantime, another Holland America ship, Rotterdam, had rendezvoused with the stricken ship to offer supplies, support and Covid tests.

Healthy guests and crew were transferred from the Zaandam, but when passengers from both ships disembarked in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on April 2, there were people with influenza-like symptoms on both vessels.

Australian dancer Ashleigh Perrie was on board Zaandam. She later told CNN it had been a "real test of mental resilience."

"We had a lot of faith in each other, on board. Obviously, you had to stick with your fellow crew and get each other through the crisis. It was tough, but it was a very, very character strengthening experience, I think."

While passengers were able to disembark Rotterdam and Zaandam in Florida, crew were forbidden to leave the ships. Instead, Holland America sailed workers across the Atlantic to disembark in the Netherlands.

April 22, 2020: The final journeys

Captain-Alba-Deliziosa-1

Captain Nicolò Alba, on board the Costa Deliziosa.

Courtesy Costa Cruises

By early April, most major cruise ships had managed to make landfall. But a handful of vessels were still out on the oceans, determinedly steaming toward their final ports of call.

It wasn't until the week of April 20 that the last three major cruise ships still carrying guests docked at port.

In Marseille, France, the MSC Magnifica disembarked its 1,769 passengers, ending a world voyage that began back in January and had, since March 10, only involved stops to take on fuel and provisions.

That same day, April 20, the Pacific Princess cruise ship arrived in Los Angeles. While most of its passengers had returned home after disembarking in Australia in March, 119 travelers had remained on board for medical reasons until the ship reached the United States.

Amid the slew of bad cruise news, the fact there were no reported cases of Covid-19 on the Deliziosa, Magnifica or the Pacific Princess was hailed as remarkable.

The Costa Deliziosa cruise ship finally docked at the Italian port of Genoa. Passenger Dana Lindberg tells CNN what it was like on the last cruise ship at sea.

“Since we left, on 5 January in Venice, the world has completely changed.”

Nicolò Alba, captain of the Costa Deliziosa

As Deliziosa's captain, Nicolò Alba, revealed to CNN, his ship had faced tough choices as ports began to close while it was navigating Australian waters -- on the other side of the world from its final destination.

Alba and his team decided the ship wouldn't attempt to disembark passengers at any further ports, instead they'd sail back to Europe, following their original itinerary, but without stopping for any reason other than to stock up on supplies.

"It was a right choice," Alba told CNN. "Because in the end the ship proved to be the safest place to be for them."

Luca Melone, the Deliziosa's hotel director, pledged to keep the voyage as enjoyable as possible, continuing entertainment offerings for those on board.

No one had been off the ship since early March, so the team felt confident they were Covid safe. Melone says he was "more worried about what was happening outside the ship than what was happening on board."

"Since we left, on 5 January in Venice, the world has completely changed," said Alba.

When the Deliziosa arrived in Genoa, dancer Conny Seidler was one of the first crew members to leave the ship.

She was sad to see her livelihood end, she told CNN, but, conscious of the controversy surrounding many cruise lines keeping employees grounded on ships, grateful to be returning to loved ones.

May 5, 2020: The forgotten victims

Cruise ships may not be carrying passengers, but they've got lots of staff still on board and they're having a hard time getting home.

By May, with most cruise passengers home, the focus shifted.

For much of the crisis, cruise ship crew had been largely silent, prohibited from speaking out by their contracts.

But months into the pandemic, even though passengers had been safely repatriated, many workers were still trapped on board, often without pay.

On May 5, there were more than 57,000 crew members aboard 74 ships in and around US ports and the Bahamas and the Caribbean, according to the US Coast Guard. Many more hundreds were stuck on vessels elsewhere across the world's oceans.

“We are being treated as cargo”

Caio Saldanha, cruise ship crew member

"I feel that the cruise ship industry, we're being vilified," MaShawn Morton, a Princess Cruise employee on board the Sky Princess, told CNN in May, having been moored at the Port of Miami since March 14 after passengers were offloaded but crew told to self-isolate.

"I feel like we're being scapegoated. In reality, it's more certain that I'm healthy and have been under stricter conditions on board a ship than anybody in the States has been."

At first, he recalled, the mood was positive, and crew were happy to still be paid. But after a month or so, crew questioned why they hadn't been allowed to leave.

As the situation worsened, there were reports on other ships of crew suicides and protests, confirmed by cruise lines. One crew member from the Regal Princess cruise ship died on May 9 after going overboard in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. Rotterdam police confirmed to CNN that the death was ruled a suicide.

On the Majesty of the Seas, docked outside of Miami, photos surfaced on social media showed protesting crew, and a sign hanging on the pool deck reading "How many more suicides you need?"

The situation on Majesty was resolved after a meeting with the captain and executive team, said Royal Caribbean spokesperson Jonathon Fishman.

Caio-Saldanha-crew-room

Caio Saldanha and his fiancée Jessica Furlan shared this windowless cabin on board the Celebrity Equinox while waiting to be repatriated.

Courtesy Caio Saldanha

"We are being treated as cargo," said Caio Saldanha, a DJ from Brazil who worked for Celebrity Cruises, owned by Royal Caribbean. Saldanha spoke to CNN in May, from the Celebrity Equinox ship in the Bahamas.

"We need help," he said.

Many cruise lines provided free therapy for crew and assured CNN they were doing their best to get people home amid a complicated global situation, but campaigner Krista Thomas called the situation a "humanitarian crisis."

June 8, 2020: The last ship at sea

The MV Artania was the last ship still at sea, carrying just 8 passengers.

The MV Artania was the last ship still at sea, carrying just 8 passengers.

Paul Kane/Getty Images

While the Deliziosa was the last ship to disembark scores of guests, there was one more passenger-carrying vessel still at sea.

On June 8, the MV Artania cruise ship ended its oceanic odyssey, delivering eight guests to a world vastly changed from the one it had left on December 21, 2019.

Coronavirus had caught up with the Artania back in March -- 36 passengers tested positive for the virus following a check from health officials when the ship arrived in in Fremantle, Western Australia.

Local residents sent messages of positivity to crew and passengers on board the Artania when it was quarantined in Fremantle, Western Australia.

Local residents sent messages of positivity to crew and passengers on board the Artania when it was quarantined in Fremantle, Western Australia.

Paul Kane/Getty Images

Three who were on the ship died. Artania's healthy guests were quarantined on board and the majority of the passengers disembarked and then flown home at the end of March.

But eight passengers decided to travel back to Germany via the ocean. These travelers were subsequently granted the surreal status of becoming the last cruise ship passengers at sea.

It was a remarkable story, characterized by kindness as well as struggle. Before the MV Artania left Australia, its crew received postcards from Australian school children. The idea was to forge a connection between the quarantined workers -- marred by the cruise industry's declining reputation -- and a panicked city feeling increasingly threatened by cruise ships and the Covid threat.

And right before the ship left Perth, two crew members brought together by these extraordinary circumstances decided to tie the knot and were married in a ceremony officiated by the Germany's honorary consul in Western Australia.

En route from Australia to Europe, the Artania took a detour around Southeast Asia in order to repatriate its remaining crew. A small number of workers accompanied the remaining passengers back to Germany.

June 23, 2020: The rise of the ghost ships

Cruise ships parked off the coast of southwest England.

Cruise ships parked off the coast of southwest England.

Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images

By the end of June, cruising had ground to a halt and the world's cruise fleet was largely out of action, laid up in ports across the world.

In the UK, vessels dotted along England's southwest coast haunted the horizon, with only a skeletal crew on board, becoming an unlikely tourist attraction.

Entrepreneurial Brit, Paul Derham, who'd worked on cruise ships for 27 years, started running 2.5 hour "ghost ship" tours that sailed within 50 meters of some of the vessels. Derham used his intimate knowledge of the cruise industry to entertain vast numbers of tour-goers unable to vacation outside the UK due to ongoing travel restrictions.

Passenger Kate Dingley took the video below while on the tour.

Over the uncharacteristically hot British summer, ships spotted off the coast of Derham's home town of Mudeford included Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas and Allure of the Seas -- gigantic floating cities that normal carry thousands of people.

The tours have halted for now due to wintery weather, but with the cruise industry still in flux, and vessels still parked in ports across the world, Derham plans to reinstate his now world-famous tours in Spring 2021.

August 16, 2020: The return

MSC Grandiosa August (5)

The MSC Grandiosa is one of the first cruise ships to return to the sea.

MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images

As European travel restrictions loosened and lockdowns lifted in light of fewer Covid cases, some European cruise companies tentatively recommenced cruising.

On August 16, the MSC Grandiosa departed the port of Genoa, Italy for a seven-day Mediterranean cruise characterized by Covid testing, social distancing, hand sanitizing and temperature checks. There were some 3,000 Italian cruisers on board, with the Grandiosa operating at about 60% of its 6,300 passenger capacity.

The ship, which remained virus-free, was held up as proof regulations could help protect cruisers.

“For every 1% drop in cruising that occurs worldwide, up to 9,100 jobs can be lost”

Bari Golin-Blaugrund, Cruise Lines International Association

Preboarding tests weeded out one embarking passenger who was diagnosed with Covid. Meanwhile, during the voyage, one family which broke the rules regarding the tightly controlled port sojourns was denied reboarding.

MSC Grandiosa August (2)

The MSC Grandiosa set off from the Italian port of Genoa in August for a seven-day cruise voyage, following strict protocol and regulations.

MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images

"I think cruises could be the safest holiday, right now," passenger Valeria Belardi, a travel agent, told CNN.

But some smaller cruise lines that also restarted operations in Europe failed to remain Covid-free. Some 41 crew and 21 guests tested positive for Covid-19 after sailing on small Norwegian cruise ship MS Roald Amundsen.

But the drive to reignite the industry remained high.

"We know that for every 1% drop in cruising that occurs worldwide, up to 9,100 jobs can be lost," Bari Golin-Blaugrund, a spokeswoman for industry body Cruise Lines International Association, told CNN in the summer.

Meanwhile, many cruise fans didn't seem put off by the pandemic and its consequences. Christine Beehler, who'd tested positive for Covid-19 after disembarking the Coral Princess cruise ship in April 2020, told CNN in the summer that she was ready to cruise again, even without access to a vaccine.

October 2, 2020: The end of the line

Although a handful of Europe-based cruise ships cautiously returned to the seas, most big vessels remained out of action. Laid up in ports across the world, some, such as Richard Branson's Scarlet Lady Virgin Voyages vessel, had yet to even have their inaugural voyage.

Meanwhile, cruise ships were still being built, the soaring growth of the industry over the past 10 years resulting in a backlog of requests for vessels.

So ships started to be offloaded. Holland America had already announced plans to sell four of its 14 ships, including virus-hit Rotterdam.

UK company Fred Olsen Cruise Lines bought Rotterdam, alongside another Holland American ship, Amsterdam. Managing Director Peter Deer told CNN he saw the decision as a mark of confidence in the cruise industry.

Nevertheless, the market for buying cruise ships wasn't what it once was.

"I don't know that many cruise lines in the world are looking to buy ships right now," said Bill Miller, a prolific cruise ship historian. "I would say that would be very unlikely. The next best buyer would be the scrappers."

Other sold cruise ships were earmarked for demolition, ending up in breaking yards such as Gadani, near the Pakistan port of Karachi, or Alang, India, where they were systematically torn apart.

Striking images taken on October 2 by Getty photographer Chris McGrath revealed once-gleaming vessels lying dilapidated at Aliaga shipyard in Turkey, barely recognizable from their seafaring glory days.

Drone photographs of the shipyard depicted zombie cruise liners -- half impressive vessel, and half skeleton and debris.

Still-intact swimming pools and a bright green onboard golf course formed an eerie contrast with the growing wreckage. On one ship, a Carnival Cruise Line red funnel was almost all that remained.

Freelance cruise journalist Peter Knego has visited the shipyard of Alang nine times and has also traveled to another shipbreaking yard in Aliaga, Turkey.

"On the 10-mile stretch of beach, up to 200 ships can be demolished at one time, making it look like Armageddon or something out of a science fiction movie," said Knego of the experience. "Tankers share the sands with cruise ships, ferries, container ships and even outmoded oil derricks."

"To see such large objects on a beach being demolished in an otherwise natural setting is both fascinating and heartbreaking," he said.

November 17, 2020: The Caribbean Covid return

The first cruise ship to return to the Caribbean, SeaDream 1, was hit with a Covid outbreak.

The first cruise ship to return to the Caribbean, SeaDream 1, was hit with a Covid outbreak.

Gene Sloan/The Points Guy

While cruises had carefully recommenced in Europe, the seas around the United States remained empty of cruise goers.

But in the fall, new regulations were announced for cruising's return to US waters, right as the CDC's ban on cruising was lifted at the end of October.

Cruise companies were also told they must run "simulated voyages" designed "to replicate real world onboard conditions of cruising" if they wanted to get permission to restart operations.

The lengthy guidelines meant big cruise lines, many of which had already canceled voyages throughout 2020 and beyond, were even less likely to recommence regularly scheduled US voyages.

The idea was that testing passengers in advance of travel and before boarding would shut out any risk of Covid on board and passengers were initially not required to wear masks, passenger Gene Sloan, a reporter for The Points Guy, told CNN from his locked down cabin.

December 9, 2020: The cruise to nowhere

The Royal Caribbean cruise ship Quantum of the Seas pictured docked at Marina Bay Cruise Centre in Singapore on December 9, 2020, after a passenger onboard tested positive for Covid-19.

The Royal Caribbean cruise ship Quantum of the Seas pictured docked at Marina Bay Cruise Centre in Singapore on December 9, 2020, after a passenger onboard tested positive for Covid-19.

ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images

By the end of 2020, any hope for restarting cruising in the near future had been dashed. The CDC's ban might have lifted, but the SeaDream 1 crisis had reverberated through the industry.

And in Europe, Covid cases were on the rise, impacting the Mediterranean cruises that seemed so promising months earlier.

Countries returned to strict lockdowns, borders closed. Costa and MSC's upcoming Mediterranean voyages were canceled in light of the new Italian lockdown set to last until early 2021.

In Singapore, the city-state's tourism board partnered with Genting Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean to organize a series pleasure cruises to nowhere.

The cruises were only for Singaporeans, who have been unable to leave the city-state for months. Travelers needed to show a negative Covid-19 test prior to boarding. Masks were enforced, as was social distancing and the ships operated at 50% capacity.

Although he later tested negative, with the first test result characterized as a false positive, the ship had been forced to return to port and its passengers disembarked.

While the passenger's negative result allowed the Quantum to avoid the fate of the Diamond Princess or its Covid-hit counterparts, it marked a downbeat end of an already devastating year for cruising.

Looking ahead to 2021, the promise of vaccines seems to be the only key that could safely unlock the industry. It remains to be seen whether a tourism sector that was once so buoyant will ever reclaim the seas with confidence it once had.

CNN's Marnie Hunter, Lilit Marcus and Patrick Oppman contributed to this report.

The Link Lonk


December 29, 2020 at 04:56PM
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