Nautical News: For the week of February 19th, 2012

NOAA CLAIMS BOAT WAS USED FOR UNDERCOVER WORK

Using the Freedom of Information Act, Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown learned that NOAA bought a $300,000 luxury boat outfitted with a flat screen TV, leather couch, hardwood cabin floors, and special countertops. NOAA said they purchased the boat to spy on whale watch boats, but the agency didn’t go through the appropriate bidding process. They used the fines collected from fishermen to buy the boat and paid cash for it. If that wasn’t bad enough, NOAA agents used the boat to go to restaurants with family and friends, drank beer on the boat while barbecuing hot dogs, and used the boat for what one passenger called “a pleasure cruise.” The boat was so badly misused that one of its $15,000 engines had to be replaced because of operator error. When questioned about its purchase and use, one law enforcement agent lied to inspectors, and another agent interfered with the federal investigators. All of the above was actually determined from an internal investigation done by the U.S. Commerce Department. They ordered the boat to be put in surplus, and currently, the government is paying $4800 a year for its storage. The results of the U.S Commerce Department’s investigation were just released to Senator Brown, who once again, is calling for President Obama to fire Dr. Jane Lubchenco,


MASSACHUSETTS EXCISE TAXES COULD INCREASE 150%

The Massachusetts legislature will soon be voting on a bill that will increase boat excise taxes 150%. Opponents of the bill say if it should pass, the state will collect less revenue instead of more as boaters leave the state to keep their boats in neighboring states that have no sales or excise tax. In addition income taxes from workers at the boat yards and marinas will be lost as will the mooring fees and sales taxes from the boats leaving the state.


FCC NIXES LIGHTSQUARED NETWORK

Boatowners who rely upon GPS and GPS chartplotters for navigation can relax. The Federal Communications Commission has revoked conditional approval of a proposal by a company called LightSquared to build a nationwide, land based, mobile wifi network because its signals interfered with GPS signals. A statement released by a LightSquared official called the FCC decision a political one driven by special interest groups. He said the GPS makers knowingly made their receivers vulnerable to interference.


TSUNAMI DEBRIS ON COLLISION COURSE WITH CALIFORNIA

Up to 25 million tons of debris from the last year’s tsunami that hit Japan has been floating across the Pacific and is now reaching the west coast of the United States. Boats, ships, furniture, cars, sections of houses, and even human legs wearing rubber sneakers are a part of the debris. The Environmental Protection Agency has begun coordinating with the Coast Guard on an extensive clean up effort, but they admit they do not know if they can handle it. One oceanographer said the debris field is as large as the state of California.


NEW LUXURY CRUISE BOAT ADDED TO FLEET IN BOSTON

The owner of the Spirit of Boston and Odyssey Boats has purchased a new luxury, 149 passenger vessel to add to its fleet. It was purchased from a Baltimore company where it was known as the M/V Duchess of Pintail. Its new name is the Seaport Elite II and it will be docked near the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston.


MOVIE BEING MADE ABOUT MAERSK ALABAMA HIJACKING

And last on today’s nautical news, Hollywood will soon be making a movie about the 2009 hijacking of the Maersk Alabama by Somalian pirates, in which four of the Somalians were killed by U.S. Navy Seals. Columbia Pictures gave the role of Captain Rich Phillips to actor Tom Hanks. Rumor is the location scouts are looking for potential homes in the Framingham area to double as Captain Phillip’s home in Vermont. Phillips’ wife Andrea, will be played by Catherine Keener of “40-Year-Old Virgin” fame. This past week, movie producers held a casting call at Phillips’ alma mater, the Mass Maritime Academy. Forty salty looking men turned up to audition for four speaking roles as crew members of the Maersk. Of course they all were given a test.

About John Shea