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UNDERWATER DEFENCE: OVER 1200 LEADERS, EXPERTS TO BRAINSTORM IN NETHERLANDS

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Over 1200 military personnel, industry leaders, researchers and academics attend Undersea Defence Technology (UDT), which annually provides a world-class platform to discuss technology developments, understand the latest requirements and resent innovative solutions that can be exploited in the underwater domain. UDT 2015 will take place at the Ahoy Convention Centre in Rotterdam, Netherlands, from 3 – 5 June 2015.

Rotterdam, a key maritime city and a crucial port for global trade and naval power projection, still serves as an important international calling: this was evident in late January, when warships from the People’s Liberation Army Navy paid a port call en route from the Gulf of Aden.

UDT 2015 developments

The Netherlands Industries for Defence & Security (NIDV) have become a key partner for the 2015 show. This is a significant endorsement for UDT as NIDV is a key player in the underwater defence community. A non profit organisation, NIDV represents the interests of Dutch defence and security industries, acting as a mediator between government, politicians, institutes and industry. Its responsibilities include working with Dutch and overseas companies on issues such as offset commitments.

Research and development remains a key pillar for UDT 2015 as it gets the international
tech community together again. Ton Van Koersel, Senior Business Developer, Underwater
Warfare at TNO Defence, Safety and Security will be the Conference Committee Chair.
The UDT 2015 conference will address both the technological and doctrinal solutions
to various issues currently in the underwater space. Ton has a profound understanding
of the current uncertain strategic context and the need for cost effective, technology
based, less manpower intensive solutions. He also recognises the growing need for
countries to partner in order to counter major threats. In common with many other
countries, the Netherlands cannot resource a large underwater programme but sees
asymmetric advantage in investing in one that is made in cooperation and collaboration
with others.

Conference themes reflect direction industry and tactics are moving

The themes of the UDT conference are in concert with the direction that undersea
tactics and the undersea industry are moving. ‘Underwater Capability for an Uncertain
Future’ is the overall theme of the UDT 2015 conference. The conference is renowned
for its responsiveness to significant developments in the subsea environment, not
least in countering the evolving threat portfolio. This fact is reflected in the
2015 agenda which encompasses submarine warfare, anti-submarine warfare, mine warfare,
hydrography/environmental assessment and maritime security.

Prominence is given to autonomous vehicles in a conference stream that includes 
mine counter measures; multiple vehicle operations; countering UAVs; and operational,
legal and ethical issues. Alongside established themes such as operating in the  hostile underwater environment, sensor technology and platform design. UDT’s platform design content is widely recognised as an authoritative source of learning and this year’s agenda will look at energy, power and propulsion, signature management, performance modelling and safety.

Autonomous growth

Subsea developments have steadily increased in recent years. The principle driver
for subsea growth is an increasing trend towards deepwater oil and gas and the emerging
deep sea mining developments brought about by continued demand for oil, and the 
need to replace maturing shallow water basins as well as, the increasing demand 
for precious metals and marine renewable energy. Unmanned system activity in this
market is growing fast. The importance of unmanned systems is reflected in the UDT
exhibitor base, French company ECA are one to look out for. ECA design and manufacture
a wide range of unmanned systems. Their subsea applications range from survey to
inspections to mining to tracking of telecommunications and power cables. Among
the solutions proposed by ECA Group, are autonomous and specifically designed systems
that carry out a variety of inspection tasks from ultra-deep offshore oilfields 
to inspection of pipelines, risers and mooring lines.

Comment – Technology playing important part assisting in underwater searches

Note: Technology played an important part in trying to locate debris from the Malaysia
Airlines Flight 370 that went missing in March 2014. While the underwater drone 
did not locate the plane, it showcased the potential of a growing technology that
some experts believe could one day take a greater role in undersea warfare, recovery
missions, logistic operations and environmental study. Autonomous technology will
be at the forefront of UDT 2015.

Technology played important part in trying to locate debris from the Malaysia Airlines
Flight 370 that went missing in March, and will be essential in trying to recover
any wreckage from its likely resting place in the southern Indian Ocean. The search
for the Boeing 777 aircraft – which carried 239 people onboard – has been unsuccessful,
with few clues emerging about the fate of the passengers and crew. A myriad of technologies have been employed to locate the lost plane, but it is perhaps a Bluefin Robotics’ unmanned underwater vehicle that has made some of the biggest waves. It is of note that Seebyte, a confirmed exhibitor at UDT, are part of Bluefin.

While the underwater drone did not locate the plane, it showcased the potential  of a growing technology that some experts believe could one day take a greater role in undersea warfare, recovery missions, logistic operations and environmental study.
While scouring the bottom of the ocean, the Bluefin-21 dove to crushing depths of
5,000 meters. The AUV measures a little more than 16 feet in length and 21 inches
in diameter. It weighs 1,650 pounds and can reach maximum speeds of 4.5 knots, depending on attached payloads. It can operate for 25 straight hours.

The Bluefin-21 was deployed within days of the plane’s disappearance to collect  critical side-scan sonar data along the bottom of the ocean floor. In total, it  was used for 25 missions over 21 operational days. The vehicle clocked in 370 hours of search time while covering 250 square miles. Following the search, the Bluefin-21 received an enormous amount of international attention and overall, the domestic and international AUV market is a burgeoning one. While unmanned underwater vehicle technology is advancing rapidly, it is not maturing as quickly as UAVs. Part of  the reason is because AUV engineers face a technological barrier that aerial drone developers do not, namely that AUVs have to be almost completely autonomous because oceans are opaque to radio signals.

Acoustic signals are one solution, but because they travel at the speed of sound, they can be slower than using radio signals. The US Office of Naval research (ONR) is working on projects that tackle the autonomy issue, including the large displacement unmanned underwater vehicle (LDAUV). It is designed to survive and operate in littoral environments for 60 days or more. It should also be able to transit the open ocean and conduct over-the-horizon missions in littoral waters.

It could potentially complete missions such as mine countermeasures, deploying sensors
or transporting items from different parts of the ocean to another. A prototype  is slated for completion by 2017. Key areas in the development of the LDAUV include greater autonomy and the creation of efficient fuel cells that will facilitate long-term submersion. Better reliability is another goal of the program. On a submarine or a ship, a sailor can fix a small problem – such as a broken pump – relatively quickly.

One of the biggest focus areas of unmanned underwater vehicle development is decreasing
risk for sailors deployed in mine-heavy areas. The Knifefish program, led by General
Dynamics, is one of the leading AUV technologies is this area. The underwater drone
will be used for mine countermeasures aboard the littoral combat ship. With the 
ability to reliably detect and identify volume, bottom and buried mines in high-clutter
environments, Knifefish acts as an off-board sensor while the host ship stays safely
outside the minefield boundaries; and in addition to enhancing intelligence reporting
and situational awareness for commanders and the fleet, Knifefish also significantly
reduces risk to Navy personnel.

The AUV completed its critical design review and risk reduction program last year.
It was slated for in-water testing trials this past summer. While mine countermeasures
are one of the most high profiles uses of AUV technology, the potential applications
are limitless. Uses include environmental research and monitoring marine life. They
could even one day be used for cargo transport if travel on the sea’s surface is
treacherous.

For the most part, the military has been the biggest investors and buyers of AUVs.
In the future, more commercial and civil entities will likely begin to use underwater
drones to do dull, dangerous, difficult and dirty tasks. The commercial sector will
further embrace AUVs as prices drop, in turn creating more innovation. At the Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency, scientists and engineers are working on a number
of AUV-related projects intended to increase their speed and utility.

DARPA is allocating nearly $14 million in fiscal year 2015 for the Blue Wolf AUV
program, according to a Department of Defense fiscal year 2015 budget estimate 
document. The program – which is under the agency’s tactical technology office –
aims to develop ways to reduce drag on the AUV. Another high profile DARPA project
is the Hydra program. Scientists working on Hydra are developing an underwater drone
that can lay idle on the ocean floor and deploy various payloads to the surface 
when commanded.

The system will include communication platforms, command-and-control packages, energy storage units and various payloads, the document said. Payloads could include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms and mine countermeasures.  DARPA allocated nearly $30 million for the program in fiscal year 2015, according to the document.
That is in addition to the nearly $15 million it received in funding in fiscal year
2014.  The agency plans to create concept designs and work on the development of
prototypes for the payloads and enclosures over the upcoming fiscal year.

Equipment from UDT exhibitors such Kongsberg Defence Systems and Atlas Elektronic
Gmbh have played an important role in the search for MH370. According to the Royal
Malaysian Navy’s National Hydrographic Centre, the survey vessel Mutiara’s suite
of sensors included an Atlas Elektronik Hydrosweep MD-2 multibeam sonar, and an
Atlas Elektronik Deso 25 single-beam echo sounder. Another survey vessel The Equator,
had on board a Kongsberg 302 multibeam system with a range of 7,000m to 10,000m.
Moreover, in the first phase of the search for the vanished MH370, three autonomous
underwater vehicles (AUVs) from Kongsberg Maritime were used. UDT exhibitor ECA 
also has range of solutions for underwater searches such as the H800 Observation
Class ROV and light duty work system designed for inspecting wrecks.

EXHIBITOR NEWS

UDT is welcoming first time exhibitors, Copper Alloys Limited, Ortega Submersibles,
ECA RSM, NOVEK, Avon Protection, Image Soft, STL Systemtechnik Ludwig and STS Safe
Tensioning Systems. Returning exhibitors include ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems GMBH,
MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH who are exhibiting for the first time outside Germany since
2010, and Abeking and Rasmussen. Teledyne RD Instruments are increasing their presence by nearly 20 sq metres, while other primes confirmed include Babcock International Group, Saab and Atlas Elektronik GmbH as well.

Ortega Submersibles, from the Netherlands, are very interesting. Ortega manufacture
‘The Ortega Explorer’ which is a high end, fast, single-person submersible designed
for treasure hunting, archaeological research and other submersed adventures. As
touched upon earlier, the importance of autonomous systems is reflected strongly
in the UDT exhibitor base. French company ECA, a first time exhibitor, design and
manufacture a wide range of unmanned systems.
Returning DSIT Solutions has developed a Harbour Surveillance System that reliably
detects, intercepts, and physically blocks intruders, including divers, swimmers,
SDVs (swimmer delivery vehicles), submersibles and mines. Other exhibitors include
EvoLogics GmbH who specialise in underwater communication and positioning systems
such as the EvoLogics Sonobot – an autonomous unmanned surface vehicle for hydrographic
surveys. It was developed to provide surveyors, service providers and researchers
with a smart lightweight solution for hydrographic surveys and other applications
in harbours and inland waters. Also of note, Kongsberg Defence Systems, leaders 
in submarine and surface ship combat systems, and mine counter-measures systems 
have developed C Inspector; a multipurpose ROV which combines the autonomous features
from an AUV with the interactive capabilities of a ROV. It can be used for inspection,
interactive threat identification and intercept.

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WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners

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…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live

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The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: www.maritimefirstnewspaper.com and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured

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…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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