Followers

New York Times - Ships and Shipping

Booking.com

Friday, 30 November 2012


I think we need a new Sat Nav, captain: Ship squeezes through 

Corinth Canal, just a few metres from jagged rock face


  • The Corinth Canal is a man-made waterway that cuts through 
  • Greece, between the Aegean sea to the east and the Ionian to 
  • the west
  • It saves a 430-mile journey all the way around the Peloponnese - 
  • more than a day's sailing - and operates a one-way only system
  • It was conceived in 620 BC by the Tyrant of Corinth before various 
  • rulers through the ages continued digging until its completion in 1869

The captain of this cruise ship may well be wondering if his clever short-cut 
was a good idea after all.
His vessel had to be dragged creaking and scraping through the Corinth 
Canal, a man-made waterway that cuts through Greece between the Aegean 
sea to the east and the Ionian to the west.
At 154-feet wide, the jagged passageway is barely the width of a football pitch 
and is so narrow that most modern ocean freighters are unable to pass 
through without either getting wedged or severely damaging their paintwork.



Tight fit: At 154-feet wide, the jagged passageway is barely the width of a football pitch
Tight fit: At 154-feet wide, the jagged passageway is barely the width of a football pitch 
and is so narrow that most modern ocean freighters are unable to pass through without either 
getting wedged or severely damaging their paintwork


But for those that can, it saves the 430-mile journey all the way around the 
Peloponnese - more than a day's sailing.
Unsurprisingly, ships can only pass through the canal one at a time on a 
one-way system, while larger ships have to be towed by tugs.

Easy does it: Unsurprisingly, ships can only pass through the canal one at a time on a one-way system, while larger ships have to be towed by tugs
Easy does it: Unsurprisingly, ships can only pass through the canal one at a time 
on a one-way system, while larger ships have to be towed by tugs

Difficult task: The man-made canal is nowadays mostly used by tourist ships. But it was conceived in 620 BC by the Tyrant of Corinth before various rulers through the ages continued the work until it was finished in 1869
Difficult task: The man-made canal is nowadays mostly used by tourist ships. 
But it was conceived in 620 BC by the Tyrant of Corinth before various rulers 
through the ages continued the work until it was finished in 1869

The canal is nowadays mostly used by tourist ships as cargo vessels 
have grown too big over the ages.
It was conceived in 620 BC by the Tyrant of Corinth. But he was over-ruled 
by the Oracle of Delphi who feared upsetting Poseidon, the sea god, and 
so built a roadway instead.
Around 300 years later, Demetrios, the Macedonian king, began building the 
canal, but it was the Roman emperor Nero who, in 66 AD, moved the work 
into top gear by importing 6,000 prisoners from Galilee to do the digging. 
He was sentenced to death two years later, bringing work to a halt.


Short cut: The Corinth Canal is a man-made waterway that cuts through Greece between the Aegean sea to the east and the Ionian to the west

Short cut: The Corinth Canal is a man-made waterway that cuts through Greece 
between the Aegean sea to the east and the Ionian to the west

Some 1,600 years after that, the Venetians, who then controlled the 
Peloponnisos, took up the baton. 
But it was not until 1869 that Ferdinand de Lesseps, the French architect 
of the Suez Canal, came along and finished it off in 11 years.
Part of the problem was that builders had to cut a 250ft-deep channel 
through rock. Now the canal, 24.6 metres wide and 7.5 metres deep, 
is used by 12,000 vessels a year.

Source: Daily Mail, UK.





134º ANIVERSARIO DE SU CREACIÓN
El nacimiento de la Flota de Mar
30-11-2012 | Una expedición al mando del comodoro Py se alistó en tiempo récord, se trasladó desde Buenos Aires y fondeó en el río Santa Cruz, el 1º de diciembre de 1878, alejando con su sola presencia una concreta amenaza de usurpación territorial. La fecha se adoptó como el día de creación de la Flota de Mar argentina.
C
orre el 1º de diciembre de 1878, cuando la expedición del comodoro de marina Luis Py, compuesta por el monitor “Los Andes”, la cañonera “Uruguay” y la bombardera “Constitución”, con un destacamento de Artillería de Plaza integrado por 50 efectivos al mando del mayor del Ejército Félix Adalid; iza el pabellón nacional en el cañadón de los Misioneros, sobre la ribera del río Santa Cruz.

De esta manera, la soberanía nacional quedó clara y definitivamente establecida en aquel territorio y se instituyó el 1º de diciembre como el Día del Comando Naval y de la Flota de Mar.

Aunque su historia se remonta a las primeras luchas por la Independencia argentina, ya que las continuas batallas a partir de 1810 hicieron necesaria la creación de una fuerza marítima que comandó el almirante Guillermo Brown, que se batió gloriosamente en varios combates donde especialmente se destacan el de Arroyo de la China, el Buceo y el del Sitio de Montevideo, provocando este último la rendición incondicional de Montevideo por lo que la fecha en que ocurriera esta acción (17 de mayo de 1814) se la conmemora como el día de la Armada Argentina. 

Años más adelante ocurre aquel hecho determinante para la consolidación de la Armada Argentina en el contexto histórico nacional, ante el peligro que acechaba la soberanía en el sur patagónico: una división naval Argentina al mando del entonces comodoro Py conformada por la casi totalidad de la llamada escuadra de Sarmiento, se alista en tiempo récord trasladándose desde Buenos Aires y fondeando en el cañadón de los Misioneros en el Río Santa Cruz el 1º de diciembre de 1878, alejando con esta presencia una concreta amenaza de usurpación territorial.

Esta acción, marca el punto de inflexión entre la vieja Armada de la Independencia y de las luchas por la organización nacional, libradas en un ámbito casi exclusivamente fluvial, para proyectarse a partir de ese momento hacia el teatro natural de operaciones que corresponde a un país marítimo: “El Mar”, razón por la cual se adopto esta fecha como el día de la Flota de Mar.
Rumbo hacia el presente
D
esde entonces, la Armada Argentina pasó por la época de los acorazados y de los portaaviones, habiendo vivido acciones de guerra en épocas recientes a través de las cuales se perdió al crucero ARA “General Belgrano” y resultó seriamente averiado el aviso “Sobral”, durante el conflicto de 1982 con Gran Bretaña por las Islas Malvinas.

En años posteriores, la Flota de Mar se renovó incorporando nuevos medios. Asimismo, interviene activamente en operaciones combinadas internacionales con las Armadas de diferentes países.

La Armada Argentina se hace presente en los episodios relevantes de un mundo con nuevas amenazas, participando activamente bajo el mandato de las Naciones Unidas destacando buques al golfo de Fonseca en Honduras (1990), la operación Tormenta del Desierto en el golfo Pérsico (1991) y el bloqueo de Haití (1994), entre otros.

Poseen dependencia operativa la Agrupación de Buzos Tácticos compuesta por hombres de mar que son estrictamente seleccionados, y posteriormente capacitados como buceadores de combate, paracaidistas, manejo de explosivos, montañistas y supervivencia en condiciones extremas. Esta agrupación tuvo el bautismo de fuego en la madrugada del 2 de abril de 1982, al ser los primeros en desembarcar en las Islas Malvinas.

De igual manera la Fuerza Infantería de Marina de la Flota de Mar, cuerpo que nació como una necesidad de la defensa de la incipiente Base Naval Puerto Belgrano. Tiene sus raíces en la defensa de Buenos Aires durante las invasiones Inglesas del año 1807 donde tuvo una destacada actuación el Batallón de Marina Español, muriendo el primer héroe de la Infantería de Marina, el teniente de navío Cándido de La Sala. Esta fuerza fue el núcleo del desembarco del 2 de abril de 1982 y parte de la misma permaneció en la defensa de Puerto Argentino, hasta su rendición.

Queda por ultimo señalar al Grupo Aeronaval de la Flota compuesto por helicópteros Sea King y Fennec; y aviones Super Etendard y Turbo Tracker, los cuales realizan una estupenda labor incrementando su capacidad de manera invalorable. Muchos de estos medios también fueron veteranos de múltiples misiones llevadas a cabo durante el conflicto del Atlántico Sur.

La Flota de Mar es la organización compuesta por los buques de combate y apoyo que constituyen el cuerpo medular del Poder Naval de la República Argentina.

Su alistamiento operativo y adiestramiento en el mar le permiten llevar a cabo las misiones de protección y control del Mar Argentino, asegurando la preservación de sus recursos naturales, teniendo como asiento natural la Base Naval Puerto Belgrano, en la Provincia de Buenos Aires.

La comanda un Comandante de la Flota de Mar y para el cumplimiento de sus tareas está organizada en cuatro Comandos de División, asignándoles funciones específicas para la conducción de cada ambiente de la guerra naval: siendo ellos guerra anfibia, antisupeficie, antiaérea y antisubmarina.
Fuente: Gaceta Marinera, Armada Argentina.



There she grows ...


The lawn is used for golf and bocce.
The lawn is used for golf and bocce.

Dominic Rolfe navigates soothing spas, stylish eateries and a genuine lawn as the Celebrity Solstice shows off its sleek lines.
There are a few things I never expected on a cruise – the daily Greek-philosopher-meets-Dorothy Parker aphorisms from the bridge ("Always remember you are unique, just like everyone else," the captain pronounced over the loudspeaker one evening, to general bemusement); passengers under 50 years of age; bath towels artfully (and, after one martini too many, frighteningly) twisted into frogs, monkeys and scorpions by the room attendants; a half-hectare of grass with golf holes and bocce tournaments; and my encrusted inner bloke giving in as feebly as he did when face-to-face with an array of spa treatments.
The Celebrity Solstice is part of the premium "Celebrity" fleet run by Royal Caribbean cruises. According to the Berlitz Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships 2012, the 2850-berth, 315-metre Solstice will be the highest-rated liner in the region this season, its first time in Australian waters. The ship arrives in Sydney next Sunday, four years after it was commissioned, and will make trips to Tahiti, New Zealand and around Australia. There's also a bite-size one-nighter out through Sydney Heads and back again at dawn.

The ship's library.
The ship's library.

True to its premium billing, the Solstice's fitout is sleek, sophisticated and, after an hour or so of wandering around, simple to navigate. It's also smart – 85 per cent of the rooms have balconies – and with no blaring megascreens, waterslides or beer-swilling bars, it's blessedly free of the usual garish party-cruise adornments. This is the country-club eye for the floating guy. And with a live glass-blowing show, 10 impressive restaurants, a chesterfield-filled whisky room and an ice-topped martini bar, it's the sort of thing you can easily choose ahead of the Hamptons.

If you're not willing to shell out for the penthouse suites (or perhaps you don't think you will have time to tickle the ivories on the baby grand that comes with those rooms), the 130 top-floor Aqua Class rooms are your wormhole to real relaxation afloat. Aqua Class also offers unlimited access to the adults-only, soul-soothing Persian Garden aromatherapy steam room and Blu, the healthy-option Mediterranean-style restaurant for breakfast and dinner. The "clean-cuisine" at Blu ranges from bocconcini with egg tomatoes to quail with couscous. And there's an excellent selection of new- and old-world wines from a novella-length wine list.
The cabins have a half-teardrop design that gives them comfortable roominess. The sedately coloured interior works without being dull, and the bed is dreamily tucked in with 100 per cent Egyptian cotton. There's a pillow menu, and a mattress so restful you'll want to note down the label to upgrade your own bedroom. Showers are set with five body-soothing jets, and there are Bulgari toiletries. For the aura of added restfulness, cabins in this class are limited to two occupants so the corridors are free of the madding hordes and I rarely see queues at the lifts from this floor – a true cruising chokepoint.

A spa treatment.
A spa treatment.

But on a boat such as this, it's about getting beyond the confines. If you're not out on a shore excursion, the three-storey entertainment theatre features everything from singers and comedians to scientists and hypnotists. Sun-loving lounge lizards can snaffle a deckchair on one of two outdoor levels that surround the main outer deck pools. Nearby, there's a calming indoor pool area tagged with whirlpools and huge comfy chairs that quickly convert into private pods. At mealtimes, pick up a healthy snack at the cafe, from Bircher muesli to self-serve salads.
Just beyond the pool area is the AquaSpa by Elemis treatment lounge, a haven of primping and preening. The spa offers the usual wraps and facials to more interventionist "medi-spa" treatments such as Botox (should that be "Boat"ox?) and teeth whitening. Check the daily deals, which often offer a package of treatments.
Having anticipated a long day pounding the streets of Pompeii and meandering around the vertiginous Amalfi coast on a shore visit, I book for a pep-up. Boarding the ship, I slip into my bathrobe and drag myself to the spa.
Ninety minutes later, after a full-body massage with hot stones, mini facial, scalp massage and a dash of reflexology, the day's fatigue is completely purged and I drift dreamily down to dinner at Blu. By the time I flop into the leather lounge at the Grand Foyer after dinner for some live jazz, body and soul are ready for the evening. As are a gaggle of fellow passengers – an ebullient gay couple from California and a funky mother and daughter from London – who more than provide the rest of the night's entertainment. Still, as lovely as the spa treatment is, it isn't the absolute highlight of the Solstice. That is the beautiful, natural simplicity of the lawn. An expanse of the real deal without a square metre of gimmicky artificial turf.
And in the late afternoon, barefoot on the soft grass, tossing a bocce ball while holding a slug of sangria as a stunning Adriatic coast drifts by, I have another of those unexpected realisations: I enjoyed cruising far more than I ever thought I would.

Treat yourself: five of the best

You might be floating around but there's no need to let your body feel all at sea, with a range of spa treatments available on the Celebrity Solstice. Here are five of our picks.
Seaweed massage
Could there be a more appropriate massage on a cruise liner than the seaweed massage? Relax with a heated seaweed body mask and then get wrapped in warm essential oils. Swedish, deep tissue, Thai herbal poultice and bamboo massages are also available.
Teeth whitening
If you're not happy with your choppers, this 30-minute teeth-whitening treatment, called GO SMiLE, should help.
Pain management acupuncture
As you cross the oceanic meridians, get your body's "qi" meridians sorted out with a therapeutic acupuncture session.
Elemis aroma stone therapy
Hot rocks on the high seas? Soothe those landlubber blues with heated basalt stones placed on "key energy points" that help with the soothing massage that follows.
Fire and Ice manicure
A combination of cooling gels and heated stones is used during the Fire and Ice manicure to leave your nails nourished.
Dominic Rolfe was a guest on Celebrity Solstice. A 13-night cruise from Sydney to Auckland from December 10 starts at $2245 for an inside cabin. An Aqua Class room starts at $3735.

Source: The Age, Australia.



Asean chief Surin Pitsuwan warns on China's ship patrol plan

The head of Asean has said China's plan to board ships in disputed areas of the South China Sea could escalate tensions.
Map
Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan told Reuters news agency that Beijing's plan was "a very serious turn of events".
On Thursday China said that it granted its border patrol police the power to board and search ships in the area.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claim parts of the region.
State media said patrols in the southern island province of Hainan would be able to board foreign ships that stopped in its waters or violated other regulations.
The regulation allows police "to board, seize and expel foreign ships illegally entering the province's sea areas," the Global Times newspaper said on Wednesday.
These activities include "illegal landing" and "carrying out publicity campaigns that endanger China's national security", it added.
Analysts say patrols have so far been restricted to chasing off intruding foreign vessels.
"My reaction is [this is] certainly an escalation of the tension that has already been building. And it is a very serious turn of events," Mr Pitsuwan, head of the Association of South East Asian Nations' (Asean), told Reuters.
"The problem is that you can stake the claim, you can initiate measures and policies but there is that potential of misunderstanding, miscalculation that could lead to major tension and major incidents," he added.
China's announcement comes amid an ongoing row over a map on new Chinese passports show disputed areas in the South China Sea as Chinese territory.
Vietnam, the Philippines, and Taiwan have already complained to China, saying the map on the new passport is an infringement of their sovereignty.
Vietnam and the Philippines have also refused to stamp the new Chinese passports and are instead issuing visas on separate sheets of paper.
Source: BBC, UK.

Royal Navy crew trains on aircraft carrier simulator

Four years before the Royal Navy's new aircraft carriers arrive in Portsmouth, sailors are being trained to operate the ships.
A simulator and operations room has been created at HMS Collingwood in Fareham to train crew to steer the 65,000 tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth and test the computer equipment that will be on board.
Part of the ship has also been recreated at BAE Systems on the Isle of Wight to test the radar and radio systems.
Source: BBC, UK.

Somali piracy: A broken business model?


Ships off the coast of the Somali capital, Mogadishu (30 Oct 2012)
Just five ships have been captured by Somali pirates so far in 2012, a significant decline


The business model that has underpinned maritime piracy off the coast of Somalia for the past few years has effectively been broken, according to the Operation Commander of the European Union Naval Force (EU Navfor) in the region, Rear Admiral Duncan Potts.
He told the BBC that a number of factors had led to Somali pirates being "contained and restrained", and that a combined naval forces raid on one of their land bases back in May had had a profound effect in discouraging pirates from putting to sea.
But he warned that progress against piracy was fragile and still reversible.
The statistics show a dramatic reduction in pirate attacks off Somalia.
In 2011, according to EU Navfor Somalia, there were 151 verified attacks on sizable ships, with 25 vessels being successfully pirated.
So far this year, the number of attacks has shrunk to 31, with just five ships captured, the last one in May.
"October and November would normally be two of the busiest months for maritime piracy as they come between the two monsoon seasons," said Admiral Potts, "but this year they have been surprisingly quiet."
'Psychological effect'
He puts the drop in piracy down to four factors:
  • The deployment of armed private security guards on board ships who have been 100% successful in deterring or defeating attacks;
  • Better management practice by shipping companies, such as hardening their vessels or taking evasive action;
  • Pre-emptive action by combined navies in the region, helping to ensure that pirates do not get out of their anchorages;
  • A change in Somalia at national and local level, with Somalis far less tolerant of pirates.
On 15 May, EU Navfor conducted their first and only raid on a Somali pirates' land base.
It lasted just a few minutes, with a helicopter crew launching from a ship just offshore and raking beached and unmanned pirate speedboats - known as "skiffs" - with machine-gun fire.
Fuel stores and other equipment were also fired on, but EU Navfor says there were no casualties on either side and there were no European "boots on the ground".
"Surveillance by our reconnaissance aircraft shows this had a significant psychological effect," said Admiral Potts.
Somali pirates are probably now under more pressure than at any time in the last five years and the risk-reward ratio for putting to sea and raiding commercial shipping is now far less favourable than it used to be.
But Admiral Potts is under no illusion that the problem is already solved and knows it could still return.
In fact, there have been signs of renewed activity this week.
As ever, the source of the problem is on land, and until Somalia can reach a certain level of stability and prosperity, the spectre of piracy is likely to hover over its coast for years to come.
Source: BBC, UK.

Thursday, 29 November 2012


Fragata Libertad: el Tribunal del Mar decidirá el caso el 15 de diciembre

Esta mañana, Argentina acusó al gobierno de Ghana de "violar el derecho internacional" y "generar una crisis"

La decisión del Tribunal del Mar en el caso de la Argentina contra Ghana por la fragata Libertad tendrá lugar el sábado 15 de diciembre, informó hoy un juez de ese organismo.
El magistrado que confirmó la fecha es el alemán Rüdiger Wolfrum quien, en una pausa de las audiencias realizadas hoy en Hamburgo, indicó a la prensa: "No hay casos fáciles, este tampoco lo es. Y ambas partes vienen asesoradas con abogados de primera línea".
Esta mañana, en la primera jornada de los alegatos por la retención desde el 2 de octubre en el puerto de Tema del buque insignia de la Armada, la Casa Rosada acusó hoy al gobierno de Ghana de "violar el derecho internacional" y "generar una crisis". Luego será el turno de Ghana para contestar la postura de la Casa Rosada
Con duras acusaciones, la Argentina realizó su presentación en el juicio contra Ghana por la Fragata Libertad, que se inició hoy ante el Tribunal del Mar en Hamburgo. La delegación de nuestro país dijo que hizo "todo lo posible para resolver pacíficamente este diferendo", aunque denunció que las autoridades locales intentaron "tomar la bandera y los documentos del barco".
"La Argentina hizo todo lo que estaba en su poder antes de traer el caso al tribunal. Hicimos todo lo posible para resolver pacíficamente este diferendo", dijo la embajadora Susana Ruiz Cerutti, consejera legal de la Cancillería argentina, en la parte introductoria de la defensa presentada esta mañana en Hamburgo. "Lo que es grave, es que dos meses después (de que se retuviera a la fragata en el puerto ghanés de Tema) Ghana no regresó al camino del derecho internacional", indicó, añadiendo que esta "violación del derecho internacional genera una situación de crisis".
La embajadora argentina dijo que la actitud de las autoridades de Accra generan una "situación de crisis" que obligó a las autoridades argentinas a evacuar a 281 personas, tripulantes del buque, tanto argentinos como de otras nacionalidades, por los riesgos a su seguridad y la falta de medios para vivir dignamente luego de que las autoridades portuarias de Tema cortaran la energía del buque.
"Tuvimos que resistir a las autoridades de Ghana de tomar la bandera y los documentos del barco", lo que le valió al capitán del buque una acusación por "desacato", dijo Ruiz Cerutti. Durante su exposición la embajadora añadió que "incluso tuvimos que resistir por la fuerza los intentos de abordaje". "Desde entonces la tripulación vive con la amenaza de un nuevo abordaje", insistió la embajadora.
Ghana envió el miércoles un documento de unas diez páginas con los argumentos de su defensa que, según la delegación argentina, no responde por qué Accra "viola" el derecho internacional, aunque sí reconoció, según citó la embajadora ante el tribunal, que "utilizó la fuerza para subir al barco".
En medio de un clima de fuerte expectativa por parte del Gobierno, el Tribunal Internacional del Mar, con sede en Hamburgo, empezó esta mañana a definir el futuro de la Fragata Libertad. La embarcación está amarrada en Ghana desde el 2 de octubre pasado, por una decisión judicial del país africano que hizo lugar a una petición de embargo presentada por el fondo de inversión NML.
La Argentina sustenta su petición en el artículo 290, párrafo 5, de la Convención de la ONU sobre el Derecho del Mar y argumenta que la Fragata, buque de guerra de su Armada, no es embargable.
El Tribunal del Mar prevé para la exposición argentina la sesión de la mañana de hoy, a lo que seguirá tras la pausa del mediodía la correspondiente a Ghana, hasta aproximadamente las 18.30 de ese país. A las sesiones de hoy seguirán mañana otros dos turnos de intervención, una para cada parte, tras lo cual se iniciará el proceso de deliberación por los jueces.
Si bien el Gobierno pretende resolver rápidamente el conflicto con Ghana para liberar la Fragata cuanto antes, los tiempos del tribunal internacional son otros: se estima que la decisión podría demorar por lo menos un mes.
La petición de embargo ante el reclamo de los "fondos buitre" se amparó en una demanda para el pago de bonos soberanos que se instruye en Nueva York, pendiente desde fines de 2001, que derivó en la retención de la Fragata cuando realizaba un viaje de instrucción con 300 marinos a bordo. El caso de la Fragata es el número 20 en la historia del Tribunal del Mar y a pesar de tratarse de la máxima instancia sobre Derecho del Mar no puede asegurarse que la decisión que adopte sea la definitiva, ya que se puede apelar.
Fuente: La Nación, Argentina.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Another Cruise Line Alters Course to Avoid Mideast Violence




Another cruise line has altered an itinerary because of ongoing violence affecting parts of Israel and the Gaza Strip. 

Celebrity Cruises has made the decision to change Celebrity Silhouette's itinerary. The ship will no longer call at Ashdod (the port for Jerusalem), on Thursday, 22 November or Haifa, on Saturday 24 November. Instead, the line said, the ship will now call in Istanbul, Turkey, at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, 23 November, and stay overnight until 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, 24 November. Silhouette is on a 14-night sailing out of Rome.

Costa Cruises earlier changed Costa Pacifica's scheduled calls in Israel -- Ashdod on 21 November and Haifa on 22 November -- and substituted stops in Santorini and Rhodes in Greece, and Istanbul and Izmir in Turkey. Pacifica is on an 11-night sailing out of Rome.

Oceania Cruises also canceled Nautica's calls on Ashdod and Haifa, Israel -- both overnights -- set for 19-20 and 20-21 November, respectively. Instead, the ship will now call on Athens, Mykonos, and Rhodes in Greece and Limassol, Cyprus. Nautica is on its way to Dubai via the Suez Canal, Egypt, and the Red Sea.

Last week, Norwegian Cruise Line made a change to Norwegian Jade's sailing last week, pulling the scheduled stop in Ashdod, and instead keeping the ship in port in Haifa on Friday (16 November) for an extra day. 

The British Foreign Commonwealth Office issued a warning advising travelers to avoid going within 40 km (25 miles) of the Gaza Strip because of cross-border "military exchanges." The area within the 40 km perimeter includes Ashdod, the port for Jerusalem. 

The FCO statement explained: “On 14 November the Israel Defence Force announced a military Operation against Gazan militants.

“A significant number of rockets have been fired from Gaza landing in cities in Southern Israel, including Ashdod and Be'er Sheva. Due to a continued risk of indiscriminate rocket fire from armed groups within Gaza, we advise against all but essential travel to areas within 40km of the Gaza perimeter ... There is a high risk of continued military exchanges in and around Gaza.”

The U.S. State Department has not updated its international travel warnings on Israel, the West Bank and Gaza since August 10, though they do advise against all travel to the Gaza Strip.

Other lines with calls in the region, including Cunard, have said they are closely monitoring events, but have yet to make itinerary changes.

--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor and Jamey Bergman, U.K. Production Editor 

Source: Cruise Critics.

Gas tanker Ob River attempts first winter Arctic crossing

Matt McGrath
Environment correspondent, BBC News



Russian IcebreakersIcebreakers are required to escort the tanker
A large tanker carrying liquified natural gas (LNG) is set to become 
the first ship of its type to sail across the Arctic.
The carrier, Ob River, left Norway in November and has sailed north of 
Russia on its way to Japan.
The specially equipped tanker is due to arrive in early December and 
will shave 20 days off the regular journey.
The owners say that changing climate conditions and a volatile gas market 
make the Arctic transit profitable.
Long-term preparation
Built in 2007 with a strengthened hull, the Ob River can carry up to 150,000 
cubic metres of gas. The tanker was loaded with LNG at Hammerfest in the 
north of Norway on 7 November and set sail across the Barents Sea. It has 
been accompanied by a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker for much of its 
voyage.
The ship, with an international crew of 40, has been chartered from its 
Greek owners Dynagas by the Russian Gazprom energy giant. It says 
it has been preparing for the trip for over a year.
"It's an extraordinarily interesting adventure," Tony Lauritzen, commercial 
director at Dynagas, told BBC News.
"The people on board have been seeing polar bears on the route. We've 
had the plans for a long time and everything has gone well."
Mr Lauritzen says that a key factor in the decision to use the northern 
route was the recent scientific record on melting in the Arctic.
"We have studied lots of observation data - there is an observable trend 
that the ice conditions are becoming more and more favourable for transiting 
this route. You are able to reach a highly profitable market by saving 40% of
 the distance, that's 40% less fuel used as well."
Arctic ice
Despite the ice, the Arctic is navigable through November
But melting ice is not the only factor. A major element is the emergence 
of shale gas in the US.
The Norwegian LNG plant at Hammerfest was developed with exports 
to the US in mind. But the rapid uptake of shale in America has 
curbed the demand for imported gas.
Meanwhile in Japan, in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, 
there has been a growing interest in alternative power sources, 
especially gas.

"The major point about gas is that it now goes east and not west," 
says Gunnar Sander, senior adviser at the Norwegian Polar Institute and 
an expert on how climate change impacts economic activity in the Arctic.
"The shale gas revolution has turned the market upside down; that plus 
the rapid melting of the polar ice."
He stresses that the changes in climate are less important than the growing 
demand for oil and gas.
"The major driver is the export of resources from the Arctic region, not the fact 
that you can transit across the Arctic sea."
There is an expectation that because of changing climactic conditions, 
sea traffic across the northern sea route will increase rapidly. 2012 has 
been a record year both for the length of the sailing season and also for the 
amount of cargo that has been shipped.
But Gunnar Sander says there are limits to the growth and some perspective 
is required.
"Nineteen thousand ships went through the Suez canal last year; around 40 
went through the northern sea route. There's a huge difference."
Arctic sea routes
The retreating ice is opening up new sea routes from the Atlantic to the Pacific
Source: BBC, UK.