Friday, January 30, 2009

The Arctic; 5 Recommendations

On January 29 NOAA announced the release of a new report on the Arctic and responding to disasters. The University of New Hampshire/NOAA authored study, titled Opening of the Arctic Seas, Envisioning Disaster and Framing Solutions (opens as .pdf), covers a series of important topics related to shipping in the Arctic. Of great importance to Amver, however, are the common recommendations issued (opens as .pdf).

While there are 12 recommendations, 5 of them relate specifically to Amver. Let's look at the 5 that Amver can most significantly impact:

  1. Multi lateral Arctic agreements/plans for search and rescue and environmental response, designated routes, international Arctic fund. Search and rescue agreements between Arctic nations, coupled with standardized response procedures for search and rescue authorities, will greatly increase each nations ability to respond to an incident in the Arctic. As previously posted, Amver data can be quickly requested by international rescue coordination centers and should become standard operating procedures for rescue coordinators bordering the Arctic. History has proven, in the case of the Cruise Ship Prinsendam sinking, the value of having Amver participating vessels on scene. It was the crew of the tanker Williamsburgh who, along with other United States Coast Guard resources, successfully rescued 175 Prinsendam passengers.

  2. Increase emergency response assets/supplies/equipment/planning in Arctic regions, especially active regions. The likelihood of increasing the number of dedicated ice capable search and rescue assets in the Arctic is an economic and ship building issue. The Canadian Coast Guard ice breaking program includes a fleet of 18 ice breakers while the United States Coast Guard has three. While efforts are underway to increase ice breaker fleets, new vessels may be years away. How can response assets be increased quickly and cost effectively? By relying on the merchant vessels already transiting the Arctic. Encouraging merchant vessels already transiting Arctic waters to participate in Amver gives search and rescue authorities a greater number of resources to turn to when faced with disaster.

  3. Expand Arctic communications and vessel transit networks. While it may sound redundant, the Amver system is a premier vessel tracking system. Couple Amver data with other vessel monitoring systems such as Long Range Identification and Tracking or AIS and search professionals can "layer" Amver data on top existing vessel transit data to provide a more complete picture of available resources. The advantage of Amver, as opposed to LRIT or AIS, is that the infrastructure already exists. There is no beta testing, no implementation period, no need to launch satellites, and no need for new antennas.

  4. Real time data in Arctic regions such as weather, currents, ice, etc. The United States Coast Guard and NOAA created software to assist mariners in submitting voluntary weather reports and Amver messages. The Amver/SEAS Met Software program was created to reduce the number of reports sent from the bridge and allows for both weather observation data and Amver position information to be transmitted in one message. Vessels transiting the Arctic region should be encouraged to utilize the Amver/SEAS software to transmit their Amver messages and real time weather data.

  5. Engagement of the Arctic states with cruise ships, merchant vessels, in framing solutions to the urgency of search and rescue issue in the Arctic. The United States Coast Guard has a robust Mass Rescue Operations Program focusing on many scenarios including cruise ship rescue. In addition to the Mass Rescue program the United States Coast Guard has an active Passenger Vessel Safety Program which has reached out to the cruise community to increase the frequency of exercises and is in the planning stages of full scale mass rescue exercise in Alaska this April. The current engagement by Passenger Vessel Safety/Mass Rescue Operations personnel, coupled with increased Amver participation, stands to make Arctic shipping safer.
Our ability to respond to the growing number of people working and vacationing in the Arctic dictates we adopt unconventional response postures. While many sailors may feel alone in the Arctic, Amver is here to ensure no call for help goes unanswered.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

International Amver Search Saves American Sailor


An international search effort led by Rescue Coordination Center La Reunion, including South African search aircraft, United States Air Force aircraft and pararescuemen, and an Amver participating merchant ship, led to the rescue of an American sailor aboard the sail boat Queequeg II 180 miles south of Madagascar on January 22.

The Queequeg II was on a two year voyage around the world when, according to survivor reports, the crew was caught in a severe storm with 50 knot winds and 40 foot seas for about a day and a half. The boat was flipped stern over bow and one crew member was reportedly lost overboard and another trapped in the cabin as the vessel remained overturned.

Rescue Coordination Center La Reunion immediately launched rescue efforts after receiving a 406 Mhz EPIRB alert for the sailing vessel. La Reunion also requested Amver data from the United States Coast Guard's Atlantic Area Command Center in Norfolk, Virginia. A South African search aircraft, a United States Air Force search aircraft equipped with sophisticated rescue equipment and pararescuemen, and a French Navy ship were also sent to the scene.

The South Korean flagged car carrier Auto Banner rescued the lone survivor, a 56 year old Illinois native found clinging to a piece of wreckage. The Auto Banner is reportedly taking him to its next port of call in Angola where he will be assisted by State Department personnel.

This case truly demonstrates how the international search and rescue system works. The QueeQueg II had a 406 Mhz EPIRB on board. The responsible rescue coordinators quickly requested Amver data from the United States Coast Guard. Additional air and surface assets were diverted to the scene. No case more clearly demonstrates the value of EPIRBs.

Because of this well coordinated international effort one sailor is alive.

Photo credit: French Navy

Monday, January 26, 2009

EPIRBS Go Digital

Just because the United States Senate passed a bill to delay the transition to digital TV don't think search and rescue authorities are going to continue monitoring and responding to 121.5 and 243 analog ELTs and EPIRBS.

The switch to an all digital distress notification system is spearheaded by the Cospas-Sarsat system, not the United States Government. The February 1, 2009 deadline is fast approaching and mariners have been instructed on what to do in order to ensure their distress calls are received by search and rescue authorities. For those of you who still have questions you can read more about the transition here and here.

The bottom line is mariners should ensure they have properly registered (United States or Internationally ) digital 406 EPIRB equipment aboard their vessels.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Amver Awards In Thailand

On Tuesday January 20 Commander William Miller, Assistant Naval Attache with the Defense Attache Office U.S. Embassy Bangkok, hosted an Amver awards luncheon for the Precious Shipping/Great Circle Ship Management Company in Bangkok, Thailand.

Commander Miller presented company representatives with several pennants and certificates for the 38 vessels receiving Amver awards. Those vessels represent 116 years of Amver participation.

Congratulations Thailand!
Photo courtesy: CDR William Miller

Thursday, January 22, 2009

10 Top Amver Award Recipients

We finally have the 2008 final Amver awards results. Amver is pleased to announce the top ten Amver award recipients by country:

  1. Greece- 862 awards
  2. Japan- 615 awards
  3. Germany- 583 awards
  4. Singapore- 502 awards
  5. USA- 438 awards
  6. Norway- 407 awards
  7. Hong Kong- 325 awards
  8. Great Britain- 320 awards
  9. Netherlands- 145 awards
  10. Cyprus- 125 awards
The Amver awards are calculated each calendar year. Awards are given to participating vessels available on plot at least 128 days per year. There were 5,542 vessels earning Amver awards in 2008 which is true testimony to the mariners that participate in the program.

Amver salutes the top 10 award recipients and looks forward to a successful awards season. Information will be forthcoming regarding Amver awards guidance for 2009.

In the meantime I hope the world will join Amver in congratulating all Amver award participants. Well done!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

2 Ways Amver Can Help In The Arctic

There has been plenty of coverage of the new Presidential Arctic Region Policy released by the White House this week.

In 2008 the New York Times reported a growing number of military leaders and other Arctic experts were concerned the United States was losing its ability to patrol and safeguard Arctic waters. Lawson Bringham, of the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment, stated there were 5,400 vessels of 100 tons or greater operating in the Arctic in the summer of 2004. If each of those vessels were enrolled in, and reporting to, the Amver system the search and rescue capabilities of the region would be increased exponentially.

Do we really need new ice breaking capabilities? Yes. Can we afford to wait for them? If we maximize all the available resources, such as Amver participants, perhaps.

So how can Amver help in Arctic shipping?
  1. Amver participants act as a force multiplier to existing search and rescue services. Companies with ice (or polar) class vessels can enroll and participate in Amver. Many shipping companies have already realized the power of Amver and the need for increased participation by their ice class vessels. FedNav and Tsakos are two companies that have enrolled their entire ice class fleet.
  2. Amver data can be used by other countries. Search and Rescue authorities surrounding the Arctic can request Amver surface picture information using our online request form. Requesting Amver data increase the likelihood a resource will be found near a reported distress location. Here is a recent example of Amver data being used by an international rescue coordination center to assist a yacht in distress.
Sovcomflot claims, on their website, they are the number one ice class LNG operator and the number one Arctic shuttle tanker operator. Think of the increase rescue capability if all of these vessels were actively participating in Amver. Is this a gentle push to recruit more ships from Sovcomflot? You bet it is.

So what do you think? Can increased participation by ice class vessels make Arctic shipping safer? Are you willing to enroll and actively participate in the Amver program? Let us know how you feel.

New Piracy Update Website

The Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa, manged by the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR), in partnership with Lloyd's Register Fairplay, announce a new service which provides piracy information and news.

According to an email from Lloyd's Register Fairplay, this brand new service provides the latest Gulf of Aden Transit Guidance, Maritime Intellegince, and advice to masters from the EU NAVFOR in addition to piracy news updates from Fairplay, BBC, and CNN.

Ship owners, operator, managers, and charterers can register to receive free alerts and report incidents as well as submit their own vessel movements to EU NAVFOR.

This new service will provide additional awareness and information on pirate activities around the Gulf of Aden.

Monday, January 12, 2009

162 Somali Refugees Rescued By Amver Tanker

The maritime weekly newspaper Tradewinds reported this morning that the Overseas Shipholding Group (OSG) tanker Overseas Primar, a 39,000 dwt Handysize tanker, rescued 162 Somali migrants including an eight month pregnant woman and a 12 year old child.
Tradedwinds reported Malta's Rescue Coordination Center received a distress call from the wooden boat Sunday morning. Other vessels, including the bulker SLH Venus, joined the search for the distress vessel.
The crew of the Overseas Primar originally thought they would be encountering 18 refugees but those numbers climbed as the tanker approached the ship. Once all the survivors were aboard the OSG tanker the crew provided medical attention, clothing, and food.
The Overseas Primar remains anchored off Malta waiting for rough weather to pass to Maltese officials can board the ship and accept the refugees.
The Overseas Primar has been an Amver participant since January, 1988 and has earned over 14 awards for participation.
We will provide updates as they arrive.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Congratulations COSCO!

A recent press release from the Connecticut Maritime Association (disclaimer: Amver is a member) announced Capt. Wei Jiafu, president and CEO of China Ocean Shipping (Group) Company (COSCO) has been named as the Connecticut Maritime Association (CMA) Commodore for the year 2009.

The Award will be presented to Capt. Wei on March 25, 2009 at the Gala Dinner marking the conclusion of the annual Connecticut Maritime Association conference and trade exposition where Amver will be exhibiting at booth G104.

COSCO is no stranger to Amver. In April of 1996, the Chinese container ship GAO HE rescued a retired U.S. Navy captain from his stricken sailing vessel in the Pacific. In fact, The People's Republic of China has 368 flagged vessels enrolled in Amver although not all are active participants. COSCO is one of the largest shipping companies in the world. Imagine if every COSCO ship actively participated in the Amver system. Think of how many more lives might be saved because of COSCO's commitment to safety.
Capt. Wei is an experienced mariner and probably familiar with the value of Amver. I encourage him to have the entire COSCO fleet actively participating in Amver in 2009 and invite Capt. Wei to visit the Amver stand while attending the conference.

Final Vendee Globe Update

Our friends at Tradewinds posted this great video coverage of the rescue of Jean Le Cam yesterday on webTV.

Watch and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

French Yachtsman Update

Vende Globe organizers announced late Tuesday that French yachtsman Jean Le Cam was able to get out from under his capsized sailboat and was hoisted rescued by fellow racer Vincent Riou.

A rescue update can be found here and a related article on keeping your cool in extreme situations can be found here.

Chilean rescue forces, along with the Amver vessel Sonagol Kassenje, were released as Riou and Cam sail to Ushuaia.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Amver Tanker Dispatched To Rescue French Yachtsman

Vendee Globe organizers lost all communications with French yachtsman Jean Le Cam after his sailboat capsized 200 miles off the coast of Cape Horn early Tuesday morning. An international effort, including a tanker dispatched by the Amver system, was underway to rescue the sailor.

Search and rescue authorities from Chile, France, and the United States Coast Guard Amver system are working together to coordinate the rescue. Chilean authorities dispatched a rescue aircraft and, using data from the United States Coast Guard Amver program, requested the Bahamian flagged oil tanker Sonagol Kassenje to Cam's last known position.

Winds greater than 25 knots prevented the tanker crew from lowering their rescue boat. The Sonagol Kassenje, managed by Sonagol, remains on scene waiting for safer weather conditions. Cam remains trapped in the overturned hull of his sailboat but has been able to communicate with fellow racer Vincent Riou.

Photo credit: MRCC Chile

Sunday, January 4, 2009

How Do You Enroll A Ship In Amver?

We are often asked how to enroll a ship in the Amver system. The entire process is simple and easy and can be completed by the crew or operations department of the shipping company.

Amver enrollment is completed using the search and rescue questionnaire found on the Amver website.

Once a vessel is enrolled, the crew can immediately begin reporting following the instructions in the Amver Ship Reporting Manual.

Because Amver awards are calculated each calendar year now is the perfect time to enroll and begin reporting.

Stop procrastinating and sign up your ship today! We look forward to welcoming you.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Happy New Year

The Amver staff is eager to wish everyone a happy and prosperous 2009!
While not one for resolutions we still believe goals should be set for the coming year. Chris Brogan, social media guru, wrote an interesting post where he described choosing three keywords that "... tie to goals and work from that."
Taking Mr. Brogan's lead Amver's three words for 2009 are:
What are your three words for 2009?