MarEx Mailbag

By MarEx 2012-12-18 15:52:00

This week’s Mailbag contains but three letters, two of which address last week’s lead editorial. The third provides some feedback from a letter published online last week in response to the previous week’s editorial.

Last week our lead piece referenced the Wrecks of the World Conference held in Linthicum, MD during the week of 7 September. In our lead editorial, entitled, “WOW: What Are We Waiting For,” we talked about the hidden, environmental threat represented by some 8,500 sunken vessels that contain as much as 4 billion gallons of oil. A global movement to address this threat is gathering steam, although the lack of adequate funding or a concerted International cooperative effort is hampering the effort. You can read our September 10th editorial by clicking HERE. Or, simply read on to see what our readers thought about the matter:

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Is this another "Global Warming" type scam? For millions of years, oil has seeped from the ocean floor. Lots of it!!! Nature has provided a mechanism to handle this oil. There is a class of oceanic microbes that eat the oil droplets and are then consumed by larger predators in the food chair. Do you know about the "Torry Canyon" wreck about 40 years ago? All the stories about fishing being permanently destroyed in the area? Do you know if any of the claims of fishermen came true? Or did the fishing recover to a higher level than before?


Pearl Harbor has oil leaking from the USS ARIZONA since 1941, but the harbor is still clean. Hawaii's biggest pollution problem is from jet fuel leaking from the fuel tanks in the Honolulu Airport area, not from the ARIZONA.

Fred Hoppe

MarEx Editor’s Remarks: Mr. Hoppe brings up some valid points and questions. In answer, I turn to Dagmar Schmidt Etkin, PhD, who presented at the WOW conference. Her presentation highlighted the ARIZONA as a chronic leaker; but yielding just 2 gallons daily. That fuel, though, is diesel and is thought to mostly evaporate before it can do any harm. That and the fact that the ARIZONA is considered a sacred war grave prompts the government to leave it alone. On the other hand, the “natural” seepage that Mr. Hoppe refers to has been estimated to as much as 176 million gallons per year. The “high” estimate of wreck oil is thought to seep out at 25 times that rate. There are 8,500 documented sunken wrecks out there. Food for thought. No, Fred, the problem appears to be a real one. Read on for one more letter:

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Very interesting……

My ship took the first load of oil out of Valdez after the Exxon Valdez incident.

Returning home shortly thereafter I was inundated with questions (opinions) about the polluting tankers and “intoxicated” Captains.

The pollution was very disturbing to everyone, myself included.


I remember one friend of mine who was a History Professor at the University of Maine and taught Maritime and Naval History actually telling a group of local press that the “Largest” spill in the United States was certainly NOT the Exxon Valdez but rather it is the huge number of tankers that are sunk off the East and Gulf coasts of the United States. This was nearly 20 years ago. HELLO….time to wake up!

(Dr. John (Jack) Battick now retired and living in Dover Foxcroft, Maine and the tallest ex-Submariner I ever met. Jack sailed with me as an observer/lecturer on the Glacier Bay back in the 80’s. So he is a Valdez veteran. He is also a noted expert on Women at Sea, having researched the wives and daughters of Maine Sailing Ship skippers trading to the Far East. Most early Maritime History was recorded by them, NOT the husbands.)

All the best LARRY

Captain Larry Wade
Maine Maritime Academy

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Our lead piece (two weeks ago) referenced the U.S. Coast Guard’s long awaited (proposed ballast water treatment (BWT) standard. In our editorial, entitled, “Long-Awaited Ballast Water Standards Proposed by Coast Guard,” we said that the Coast Guard proposal represents progress and provides clear guidance to ship owners who were previously reluctant to do much of anything in the absence of any standard on this side of the pond. That’s a good thing, and we said why. You can read our September 3rd editorial by clicking HERE. Not everybody agreed with all aspects of the article, however. Frederick Stonehouse wrote and told MarEx,:

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Mr. Keefe,

Your editorial on the Coast Guard finally addressing the ballast issue is wide of the mark.

I live in Michigan, the old "Great Lakes State" and our waters have been devastated by invasive species. The last number I read was 165 so far and gaining a new one every three months! Most were and are introduced by ballast water discharge.

Michigan finally introduced its own ballast water treatment requirements as have other states in a belated although laudable effort to take some action against the destruction of the Great Lakes by saltwater shippers coming up via the Seaway system.

IF the Coast Guard and done their job 20 years ago, or even 15 or 10, instead of toddying to the saltwater shippers destroying the Great Lakes, none of the "Balkan-like" regulations would be in place.

The recently introduced Coast Guard standard is a classic case of too little, too late.

Instead of actually providing national leadership on a vital issue, the Coast Guard admirals just rolled over to the shipping industry, again!

I am no "environmentalist wacko" but rather a simple citizen of the Great Lakes.

Frederick Stonehouse

This week, and in response to Mr. Stonehouse, we received the following letter:

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I always appreciate your articles and editorials and the forum you have created. So I wanted to add a small bit in response to the comments Frederick Stonehouse made. The Coast Guard like all other agencies of the Federal government is restricted in the scope of its activities by the laws passed in congress. The constitution forbids the Federal government from doing anything that is not provided in statute. That said, NANPCA and NISA, the two laws directing the Coast Guard with regard to aquatic nuisance species were very explicit in how Congress wanted us to go about protection of US waters from invasives. Especially in light of the hard right turn we were directed to make in Sept. 2001, the Coast Guards performance in completion of all the tasks authorized by law was quite good. No citizen of this country wants a government that can act as "it" sees fit. History has shown far too many times that the rule of law must be first priority in everyone's mind when contemplating government action. So my brief civics refresher for Mr. Stonehouse and others is that any complaints about the pace and scope of the Federal Governments activities needs to be directed to Congress where the heading and throttle controls are.

Very respectfully,

Name withheld Upon Request