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Checking the Earth’s health through its coral reefs: a Reef Check workshop on Ishigaki Island [2008/06/16]

Photo: Reef inspection training on the clear seas of Ishigaki Island (Provided by Coral Network)

Coral Network is a nonprofit organization that promotes conservation activities related to the natural environment of the sea, especially coral reefs. It held its first workshop of the year from April 3rd to 6th in Ishigaki City, Okinawa Prefecture. The purpose of the workshop was to train coral reef monitoring leaders on “Reef Check,” part of a global survey of coral reef health. The workshop was attended by nine people from the Tokyo metropolitan area and Okinawa. (Photo: Detailed explanation before training at sea (Secretary-General Miyamoto is at the center))

More than 450 coral types have been identified in the world; coral reefs are formed by the accumulation of calcareous skeletons after these corals die. Coral reefs play an important role in the marine ecosystem and provide a secure living space for many forms of life, even human beings. They also serve as an indicator of environmental change on a global scale, including climate change. Unfortunately, it is feared that reefs in many seas are facing a serious crisis.

There are limits to the number of surveys researchers can conduct on coral reefs. To remedy this problem, a group of international coral reef researchers devised a method to conduct regular global surveys based on the cooperation of volunteer divers. This method is called “Reef Check,” which aims to conduct periodic and standardized surveys of coral reef health around the world for use by researchers. The Reef Check network, which was established in 30 countries in 1997, has expanded to 84 countries, and the number of monitoring locations in Japan has increased to more than 20. (Photo: Confirming the steady recovery of coral reefs from a bleaching event discovered last year)

Coral Network is a nonprofit organization that aims to promote reef check surveys in Japan. Its Secretary-General, Yasuaki Miyamoto, and other members are registered as coordinators by Reef Check headquarters in the United States. They are currently engaged in training monitoring leaders in Japan. Monitoring leaders are certified as “team scientists,” who have learned Reef Check’s globally standardized survey methods. These team scientists conduct reef checks in their local region and train volunteer divers.

In order to obtain certification, divers of a requisite experience level take courses on five academic subjects, including fish, invertebrate animals, corals, and coral reefs. They also take a two-day marine training workshop on identifying bottom sediment and must pass the examinations given on every subject. At the workshop held at the International Coral Reef Research and Monitoring Center of the Ministry of Environment on Ishigaki Island, experienced divers struggled to learn how to identify and classify corals and invertebrate animals. Then, after listening to lectures for two days, they undertook a two-day diving course in the waters off Yonehara Beach. (Photo: Courses at the Ministry of Environment Center, after which difficult examinations were administered)

This workshop for training monitoring leaders has been financially assisted by the Nippon Foundation for three years. So far, nearly 30 people have been certified as “team scientists” and are currently engaged in reef check surveys in their local region. Miyamoto says, “An increase in the number of leaders means an increase in the number of reef check points in Japan, which will lead to the expansion of our environmental conservation network.” Coral Network plans to hold two more training workshops this year. (Photo: Learning about the distribution of coral reefs and their role in the global ecosystem)
Posted by TNF at 11:18 | Sea & Ship | URL
Ocean Experience Cruise for Children [2008/06/04]

Lunchtime on the deck of the Fuji Maru

The children on this cruise may have been nervous at first, but by the end, they had a hard time saying goodbye to their new friends. The Blue Sea and Green Land Foundation hosts the B&G Cruise for Ocean Experience, with the aim of helping the next generation develop healthy minds and bodies through marine activities. I took part in the 30th annual cruise the Fuji Maru, a 23 thousand ton passenger ship that sailed between Tokyo, and Ogasawara from March 26th to 31st.

This year’s cruise consisted of two parts: the cruise itself, and activities in Ogasawara. On board, the 497 children lived together in extremely limited confines. Four children from different grades were assigned to each room, so junior high school students could take care of elementary school students in the same room. Since the students didn’t know each other beforehand, it took some time for them to develop a sense of camaraderie. Many children were not accustomed to group living and felt nervous aboard a rolling ship.(Photo: Girls enjoying canoeing)

Nonetheless, the children were highly enthused about the activities at Ogasawara. During the tour of the pilothouse, everyone listened attentively, though some were suffering from seasickness. They saw albatrosses from Torishima Island on the outward voyage, and were impressed on the homeward voyage by Sofu Iwa, a large pillar of rock protruding 100 meters out of the sea. Mai Nakamura, a former Olympic swimmer, and Michihiko Ueki, a former motorboat racer, participated in the cruise as special lecturers and talked about their experiences, encouraging children to have big dreams and objectives for their future.

       Whales in Ogasawara             Snorkeling with underwater creatures

The ship anchored at Ogasawara, where we stayed for two days. Children boarded fishing ships to take part in the whale-watching tour, and shouted with joy when they saw humpback whales swim gracefully by. At Kominato Beach, they struggled to paddle two-man canoes, went snorkeling, and learned lifesaving. Their shining eyes showed the joy with which they took part in these new experiences.

In a letter sent to the B&G Foundation, an elementary school student wrote, “When I went to the sea, I used to pick up shells and play on the beach. Even then, I felt that the sea was vast, but this experience made me realize that it was even bigger. On this cruise, I learned that the sea was fresh and beautiful and supported a lot of life. I think we should work to protect it.” A mother stated, “My daughter was deeply impressed by the experiences that she could not have at school or in her daily life and came home with new knowledge.” Another parent was pleased with the growth of his child, saying, “My child found how wonderful it was to meet other people.”(Photo: Exercises on the ship)
Posted by TNF at 10:57 | Sea & Ship | URL
Meeting with the President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands [2008/05/28]

Chairman Sasakawa and President Tomeing

On April 9, Chairman Yohei Sasakawa of the Nippon Foundation met with President Litokwa Tomeing of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. At the Tokyo meeting, Chairman Sasakawa informed President Tomeing that the Nippon Foundation was willing to assist his government in preserving the maritime environment and cultivating maritime resources in the Marshall Islands. The Nippon Foundation has already provided support for human resource development through the secretariat of the Sasakawa Pacific Island Nations Fund, a partner organization. Additional contributions will be handled primarily by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation.

President Tomeing was elected last fall as his country's leader, assuming office in January 2008. He arrived in Japan on April 7 on an official state visit, during which he met with the Emperor and Empress and exchanged views with various governmental officials on future ties between the two countries.

In his meeting with the president, Chairman Sasakawa explained Japan's Basic Act on Ocean Policy, enacted in Japan in 2007, and the human resources development project promoted by the secretariate of the Sasakawa Pacific Island Nations Fund. He also underscored two issues: 1) that Japan and the Republic of the Marshall Islands need to strengthen exchange as maritime nations with vast exclusive economic zones (EEZ); and 2) that the nations could work together in various projects, including environmental conservation and the development of fisheries and undersea resources.(Photo: They exchange each idea of the two countries' relationship)

For his part, President Tomeing expressed gratitude for the Nippon Foundation's contributions to the human resource development project. “We intend to strengthen our support system so that young people trained in Japan can take full advantage of the experience after returning home. Japan and The Nippon Foundation offer strong expertise in preserving the maritime environment. I hope our two nations can work together on projects based on this expertise.”

Located in Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands has a population of about 52,000. It entrusts its national defense and security to The United States. Japan is the second largest donor of Overseas Development Assistance after The United States.

*Click here for the movie(1:22)

Posted by TNF at 14:14 | Sea & Ship | URL
Korean Motorboat Racers Stage exhibition Race in Japan [2008/05/12]

Korean motorboat racers in the exhibition race

The Omura Motorboat Racing Course in Nagasaki Prefecture is the birthplace of motorboat racing. On April 6, the course invited six Korean star boat racers to hold an exhibition race--the first time that Korean motorboat racers have raced in Japan. The purpose of the event was to promote ties between Japan and Korea, and marked a new stage in the international sport.

Motorboat racing began at Omura on April 6, 1952, after which race courses were built all over the nation in response to its popularity. Decades later, South Korea also took up the sport, adopting the Japanese style of organization, including operating and racing procedures, and the establishment of the Cycling and Motorboat Racing Act of 1991. (Photo: Photos of Misari Motorboat Racing Course on display)

Motorboat racing in Korea began at the Misari Motorboat Racing Course in Hanam City, near Seoul, on June 18, 2002. Races are held every Wednesday and Thursday from March to December. Some 150 racers (including 21 women) are currently registered, and the greatest annual earnings by a single racer to date stands at around 13 million yen. Although Misari is Korea’s only racecourse, people can watch races on screen and bet at several off-site locations, including one in Seoul.

The six racers (four men and two women) who participated in the exhibition represent South Korea’s top motorboat racers. Although the race was held while tickets were being sold (meaning that punters could not bet on the Korean race), many spectators gathered to watch and cheer the racers. The winner of the race was a woman, Pak Jung Ah (29), who started from the first slot and demonstrated superb racing form.(Photo: An exhibition race at Omura Motorboat Racing Course)

A photo exhibition and a talk show were held in conjunction with the exhibition, in order to introduce Misari Motorboat Racing Course. People were encouraged to vote for the racer they thought was going to win. A free trip to South Korea was presented to one person drawn at random from among those correctly picking the winner. Motorboat racing has been in decline due to the stagnating economy and the recent increase in varieties of leisure sports. However, the strong support of fans led the industry to mark up total sales of 1 trillion yen in fiscal 2007. While other public sports continue to face difficulties, motorboat racing is on the road to recovery.
Posted by TNF at 09:54 | Sea & Ship | URL
Safety in the Malacca-Singapore Straits: Aids to Navigation Fund [2008/05/05]
On April 17th, in the Malacca-Singapore Straits, a new initiative known as the Aids to Navigation Fund was established to protect navigational safety in the straits. The fund, which was started with an initial contribution of 1.35 million US dollars from The Nippon Foundation, is the first of its kind in the area. It was finalized at the first Aids to Navigation Fund Committee meeting held between The Nippon Foundation and the three littoral countries (Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore).

This fund enables the littoral countries to maintain and replace 51 major buoys and navigational aids to ensure navigational safety in the straits. While actual work will begin around January 2009, the funds contributed by The Nippon Foundation will be used this summer to survey the current state of the region’s navigational aids. The survey will result in an estimate of the costs involved in maintaining and replacing navigation aids over the next ten years.

The Nippon Foundation also announced plans to contribute one-third of the cost of the fund for the first five years, while encouraging the shipping industry and nations using the straits to make voluntary contributions for the remainder. The foundation expects to establish a well-balanced burden-sharing system based on an international framework.

The foundation chose to contribute to this fund due to the recent increase in risk of maritime accidents in the Malacca-Singapore straits accompanying rising international shipping demand. Some 90,000 vessels passed through the waters in 2004, a figure expected to increase by 50 percent by 2020 to approximately 140,000 vessels. Moreover, the costs of installing and maintaining navigational aids and of building buoy tender vessels have continued to rise, weighing heavily on littoral nations.

The Nippon Foundation intends for the fund to be centered on a framework, whereby not just the littoral countries but nations and shipping firms using the straits shoulder the responsibility for managing them.
Posted by TNF at 10:15 | Sea & Ship | URL
Japan-U.S. Sea Power Dialogue [2008/04/14]

Japan-U.S. Sea Power Dialogue (1:57)

From March 5 to 7, the first Japan-U.S. Sea Power Dialogue was held in Washington, D.C. The meeting was hosted by the Ocean Policy Research Foundation and the Center for a New American Security with financial backing by provided by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA.

The meeting focused on building stronger maritime ties between Japan and the United States, and dealt with the role of maritime security in maintaining peace and development, both in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world.(Photo: The conference room in Washington D.C.)

In his opening address, Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation said that since the enactment of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, the global environment and conditions have undergone dramatic change. Further, he said that given today’s circumstances, no country can deal with maritime issues on its own. International organizations, nations, private sectors, and NGOs must work together to address various threats within the framework of international cooperation. Mr. Sasakawa went on to refer to new navigational safety measures in the Malacca-Singapore Straits and the establishment of a framework for the preservation of the maritime environment, arguing that the private sector must play an important role in maritime security. He also called for change in the way the private sector regards the oceans, a common resource for all people around the world. (Photo: Chairman Sasakawa)

In the keynote speech, Former Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso commented that following World War II, maritime order had collapsed, becoming a vast strategic game. He went on to frame the need for expanding cooperative ties between Japan and the United States with respect to global maritime issues. (Photo: Mr. Aso, former Japanese Foreign Minister)

In the dialogue that followed, participants discussed how Japan and the United States should approach their leadership roles to solve various issues faced by maritime society, including threats of violence from pirates and maritime terrorism, conflicts over resource acquisition and island sovereignty, over-exploitation of fishery resources, maritime environmental pollution, congestion in sea lanes, and the frequency of maritime accidents.
Posted by TNF at 11:17 | Sea & Ship | URL
Toward an “Aids to Navigation Fund” in the Malacca and Singapore Straits [2008/02/25]

(Photo:Representatives of three nations on the coast of the Malacca Strait)

On the 15th of January, a conference was held in Tokyo between The Nippon Foundation and representatives of Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia—the countries bordering the Malacca and Singapore straits—to address the establishment of a fund aimed at ensuring safe navigation through the straits. This conference resulted in the initiation of concrete steps toward the establishment of such a fund. The fund is the first of its kind and will seek voluntary contributions from the countries and companies that themselves use the straits. At the conference, The Nippon Foundation announced it would contribute one-third of the fund’s total for the first five years and would provide 150 million yen to cover research costs to determine the amount needed by the fund.

The Malacca and Singapore straits carry the world’s largest volume of sea traffic, with 94,000 vessels passing through their waters each year. In recent years, the growth of the Chinese economy has driven the volume of maritime traffic passing through the straits to record highs, with a corresponding increase in the risk of maritime accidents. In light of these circumstances, in March 2007 a symposium was held in Kuala Lumpur on improving navigational safety and protecting the environment of the straits. It was at this symposium that Yohei Sasakawa, chairman of the Nippon Foundation, proposed the establishment of the fund.

In December of last year, Mr. Sasakawa visited London to meet with representatives of four major maritime transportation organizations: the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO), the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Shipping Federation (ICS/ISF), the International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners (INTERCARGO), and the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO). Through these meetings, Mr. Sasakawa obtained the cooperation of these organizations in the establishment of this fund.

The January 15th conference in Tokyo built on these agreements, addressing more concrete topics, such as the framework for the fund and future schedules. At a press briefing held after the conference, chairman Sasakawa emphasized the need for new efforts in maritime safety, efforts that break free from the traditional concept that the seas may be used free of charge. He said, “We will seek contributions to this fund as part of the corporate social responsibility of companies, such as shipping firms, that use the Malacca and Singapore Straits.”

(Photo: Scene from the press conference)
Posted by TNF at 11:33 | Sea & Ship | URL
IAMU granted NGO status by International Maritime Organization [2008/01/09]

The International Maritime Organization in London

At the 25th assembly of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) held in London from November 19-30, the UN organization bestowed NGO status on the International Association of Maritime Universities (IAMU). With this move, IAMU achieved consultative status as the IMO's 66th NGO, permitting it to speak at official conferences, make proposals, and provide information to the IMO on maritime issues.

The IAMU was established in 1999 with strong support from The Nippon Foundation, and the participation of seven merchant-marine universities from Asia, the United States, and Northern Europe. Its offices are located in Tokyo. Since then, the Association has worked to strengthen international cooperation between maritime universities, in an effort to address the rapid globalization of logistics and the resultant intensification of training for crewmembers.

Today, IAMU has grown to include nearly all of the world’s merchant marine universities, encompassing 48 member institutions from 25 countries, and works in areas such as the development of next-generation maritime training, and safety management systems. In its role as an international network of merchant marine universities, IAMU produces large numbers of graduates who go on to lead the international maritime world.

The International Maritime Organization was established in 1958 as the United Nations’ maritime arm, facilitating the creation of international agreements in such areas as safe passage, ocean pollution, maritime disaster response, and the promotion of shipbuilding technologies. Since the agreements adopted at its biennial assembly become global maritime regulations, there are many international marine organizations that strongly desire consultative status.

The IAMU applied for NGO status in 2005, and this last November it joined the International Association of Ports and Harbors as the second Japan-based NGO to be so recognized by the IMO. According to Dr. Hisashi Yamamoto, secretary of the IAMU, the association plans to make proposals in areas such as the training curriculums for crews of LNG tankers, maritime communication on vessels with international crews, and the role of crewmembers in combating terrorism on the seas. Dr. Yamamoto adds, "We feel a great sense of responsibility now that our activities have been recognized by international society. We would like to contribute in the area of training, reducing the growing burden on the seas from factors such as global warming and the spread of terrorism." (Dr. Yamamoto, secretary of the IAMU)
Posted by TNF at 13:54 | Sea & Ship | URL
Training ASEAN’s maritime officials [2008/01/07]

On the training vessel

To prevent ocean pollution in the region of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Japan Association of Marine Safety (JAMS), with support from the Nippon Foundation, recently brought together twelve officials from Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam at the Maritime Disaster Prevention Center in the city of Yokosuka, Japan, for training in how to handle leaks of hazardous and noxious substances (HNS). In addition to these individuals (four from each country) another 11 individuals, invited from the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia by the Japanese government’s ODA program, also took part in the training session. After five days of training, one trainee said that it had been “…very meaningful training. I now feel confident in responding to an incident.”

The structures currently in place for responding to HNS leaks into the sea remain even more inadequate than those for oil spills. The training sessions were intended, both to train ASEAN officials in charge of ocean pollution, and to build a structure for cooperation between nations. For Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam, this was the second year that such training has been held. The ODA program, on the other hand has been conducted since 1996, but this year was its last.

Trainees in yellow protective suits            Trainees under instruction     

Conducted over the five-day period from November 5-9, the training featured a mix of classroom and hands-on learning. The classroom sessions focused chiefly on the nature and identification of highly-noxious substances (HNS) and how to handle and dispose of them. The hands-on training taught participants such skills as the use of chemical protective suits, detectors and other gear. On November 8-9 they then used the protective suits in drills on board the training vessel Whale, in a simulation of an actual HNS leak. Although it took time for some to put on their suits for the first time, the full course was completed by noon on November 9. When the session ended, the instructors issued the following reminder to the trainees: “The safety of human life is the most important thing. Keep in mind that you cannot respond to a leak unless you know what substance was leaked and in what volumes.”
Posted by TNF at 11:15 | Sea & Ship | URL
Asian engineers gather at Shipbuilding Forum [2007/12/19]

Asian Shipbuilding Experts’ Forum at the Museum of Maritime Science

On November 15 and 16, Tokyo’s Museum of Maritime Science, hosted the first Asian Shipbuilding Experts’ Forum, an event where regional shipbuilding engineers discussed international technical maritime regulations. The forum, which was supported by The Nippon Foundation, brought together 40 participants from South Korea, China, India, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia, as well as 90 from Japan. The purpose, in their words, was to “reflect the voice of Asian nations—which account for 90% of all newly-build ships worldwide—in international regulations.”

The international shipbuilding and shipping industries recently reviewed and revised maritime regulations, setting goal-based standards (GBS) for new ship construction and standards for ballast tank coatings. The new regulations and standards are having significant repercussions on shipbuilding design and construction, and have led to amendments to International Maritime Organization (IMO) treaties, generating considerable controversy. Asian nations have expressed deep frustration that such revisions do not reflect their views on technical issues, even though they compose the overwhelming majority of the worldwide shipbuilding industry.

Thus, the Japan Ship Technology Research Association (JSTRA), working in cooperation with representatives of the South Korean and Chinese shipbuilding industries, established the Asian Shipbuilding Experts’ Forum. This forum is intended to provide Asian shipbuilding engineers with a chance to create a common policy platform and speak with a unified voice. This first forum, which enabled participants to enhance mutual understanding through discussion, strengthened Asia’s community of engineers, thus increasing their standing in the international community. (Photo:A lively question-and-answer session)

Three themes were examined: GBS, ship recycling, and ballast tank coatings. Following presentations by delegates from Japan and South Korea, participants were invited to express their own views. A number of pressing issues were identified, such as differences in the understanding of international standards between the shipping and shipbuilding industries, and concerns about the dramatic rise in costs resulting from unilateral introduction of standards. (Photo:Participants exchanging views during a break)

Following two days’ discussion, the forum adopted the Asian Shipbuilding Experts’ Forum Framework to express their views to the international community, and to promote maritime safety and environmental protection through shared knowledge. A proposal to hold the forum annually was accepted; next year’s forum will be held in South Korea. Also approved was a proposal to explore establishing an NGO with consulting status at the IMO.
Posted by TNF at 10:38 | Sea & Ship | URL
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