Nicaragua Approves $40b Ocean-Linking Canal, Marex

No. 13 Nicargua Canal

A Nicaraguan committee approved a proposed route on Monday for a $40 billion shipping channel across the Central American country that would compete with the Panama Canal.

The committee of government officials, businessmen and academics approved a 172 mile (278 km) route from the mouth of the Brito river on the Pacific side to the Punto Gorda river on the Caribbean that was proposed by executives from the HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co Ltd (HKND Group).

The Hong Kong-based HKND group, which is leading the project, is headed by Chinese lawyer Wang Jing, who also heads Chinese company Xinwei Telecom Enterprise Group.

The proposed canal would pass through Lake Nicaragua, Central America’s largest lake, and will be between 230 meters and 520 meters (755 feet to 1,706 feet) wide and 27.6 meters (90 feet) deep, said HKND engineer Dong Yunsong.

The proposed route still faces environmental and social impact studies that could recommend some changes to the plan, but those studies should be finished later this year to allow work to begin by December, said committee member Telemaco Talavera.

Opponents of the plan are concerned about the canal’s effect on Lake Nicaragua, an important fresh water source for the country, as well as the impact on poor communities.

The plan is to finish the canal in 2019 and begin operations in 2020, Talavera said. 

The proposed channel would be more than three times longer than the 48-mile (77-km) Panama Canal, which took the United States a decade to build at the narrowest part of the Central American isthmus. It was completed in 1914.

Copyright Reuters 2014.

Sewol Children Were Steps From Safety, Marex

12 Sewol

Many of the 250 children who drowned when a South Korean ferry sank in April would have survived if the crew had issued a simple order to evacuate to emergency decks just outside their cabins, a prosecutor said on Tuesday. 

Fifteen surviving crew of the ferry Sewol, including the ship’s captain, are on trial on charges ranging from negligence to homicide after they told passengers to stay put in their cabins before abandoning the sharply listing vessel.

The court in Gwangju, the city closest to the scene of the April 16 disaster, was shown video for the first time of the crew abandoning ship, prompting an outpouring of anger and grief. 

Family members rose in rage when one by one the crew were seen escaping the vessel. Many broke down in sobs and shouted at the defendants who watched the video as if mesmerized. 

A woman tried to throw a shoe but was restrained by a court guard. Another rose to ask yet again what has been asked repeatedly during the trial – whether the crew would have done the same if it had been their children obeying orders and waiting in their cabins.

“You may have sneaked out and may live a little longer, but you will all die one day,” a sign held by a father said.

“Do not end up forever lost in the nether world after being torn to pieces by the children who wait for you having died with their eyes wide open. Try your best to tell the truth about what happened.”

 The prosecution used a replica model of the Sewol to argue that many of the students were in cabins located near emergency decks on the third and fourth levels.

 “Had there been swift rescue measures, the young students would have been able to leave the vessel through the emergency exits,” prosecutor Kim Hyun-woo told the court, adding the decks were just outside the cabin doors. “Then there would been minimum or no casualties.”

Of the 476 passengers and crew on board, 339 were children and teachers from the same school on the outskirts of Seoul. Only 172 people were rescued and the remainder, including children and their teachers, are all presumed to have drowned. 

The court also viewed video footage taken by one of the children’s mobile phone that showed them in turn joking, pleading for help, and leaving messages for their family saying that they loved them. 

“Captain, what are you doing? … Hey, are we sinking?” one student was heard saying in his cabin.

Lawyers for the defense have argued that it was up to the coastguard to rescue the passengers because its rescuers would have had better equipment and training. 

The coastguard has been publicly criticized for its slow and ineffective response. President Park Geun-hye has said it will be disbanded and the rescue role transferred to an agency yet to be created.

Authorities are still searching for Yoo Byung-un, 73, head of the family that owned the operator of the ferry, on charges of embezzlement, seen as a key factor compromising safety management. 

Rescuers have called off the search for 11 people still missing with the approach of a powerful typhoon churning towards Japan. 

Temporary shelters that house family members of the missing passengers at a port on the island of Jindo were also shut. By Ju-min Park (C) Reuters 2014.

New Protected Areas for Loggerhead Turtles, marex

No. 10 Turtles

NOAA Fisheries and the Department of Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have announced two final rules to designate critical habitat for the threatened loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) in the Atlantic Ocean and on coastal beach habitat along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.

No. 11

The NOAA-designated marine critical habitat includes some near shore reproductive areas directly off of nesting beaches from North Carolina through Mississippi, winter habitat in North Carolina, breeding habitat in Florida, constricted migratory corridors in North Carolina and Florida, and Sargassum habitat, which is home to the majority of juvenile turtles, in the western Gulf of Mexico and in U.S. waters within the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean. 

The USFWS-designated terrestrial critical habitat areas include 88 nesting beaches in coastal counties located in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. These beaches account for 48 percent of an estimated 1,531 miles of coastal beach shoreline used by loggerheads, and about 84 percent of the documented numbers of nests, within these six states.

“Protecting endangered and threatened species, including loggerhead sea turtles, is at the core of NOAA’s mission,” said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries.  “Given the vital role loggerhead sea turtles play in maintaining the health of our oceans, rebuilding their populations is key as we work to ensure healthy and resilient oceans for generations to come.”

“The fate of more than just the loggerhead sea turtle rests on the health of Atlantic coastal environments,” said USFWS Director Dan Ashe. “Coastal communities from North Carolina to Mississippi are also intrinsically tied to these shorelines and waters. By conserving the turtle and protecting its habitat, we are helping preserve not only this emblematic species, but also the way of life for millions of Americans.” 

The loggerhead is the most common sea turtle in southeastern United States, nesting along the Atlantic Coast of Florida, South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina and along the Gulf Coast. It is a long-lived, slow-growing species, vulnerable to various threats including alterations to beaches, vessel strikes and bycatch in fishing nets.

SEACOR Ship Rescues Three From Plane Crash , MAREX

No. 9 Sea Express 3

SEACOR Island Lines’ Sea Express II cargo ship rescued three plane crash survivors on Monday morning.  

A few minutes after takeoff, it appeared fuel had stopped flowing to both of the aircraft’s engines about 25 miles off the coast of Bimini. The Cessna 337’s pilot spotted the Sea Express II, and made a soft landing a few miles from the vessel hoping that they had also been spotted.

All three passengers exited the aircraft safely with only minor injuries, just before it sank to the ocean floor. The crew of the Sea Express II did spot the plane flying low and acted immediately, arriving on scene 20 minutes after the crash to pluck the survivors f from the ocean.

The rescued three were openly appreciative of the ship’s crew and their hospitality; they were fed and hydrated aboard the vessel. After their arrival in Port Everglades, the survivors were medically evaluated and were taken to the Port Everglades Fire Station.  Mike LaFleur, SEACOR Island Lines’ CEO, said: “We are proud of our crew and grateful that the vessel was in the right place at the right time.” 

Confirmed: Concordia Spends Final Days in Water, Marex

No. 8 Concordia

The appointed salvage team has confirmed that the Concordia refloating operation is set to go ahead starting on Monday, July 14. As was the case for parbuckling, commencement of the operation is subject to authorization from the Observatory and also depends on the weather forecast over the next few days. Therefore, final confirmation of the start of the refloating operation will not be announced until the day before it actually begins. Officials are expressing the importance of maintaining minimal impact on the life and economy of Isola del Giglio with this massive undertaking.

It is not expected that there will be any restrictions on swimming and no beaches will be closed. Conversely, there is in force a no-fly zone. Restrictions also remain in force for shipping in the area around the Concordia. 

Details of the logistics for the towing of the ship away from the island will be announced shortly.