Category Archives: Marshall islands

Spinning Through the Pandemic: Global Problems with Pacific Solutions | Instant News

Asia Pacific, Climate change, Living environment, Humanitarian Emergency

Credit: SPC’s technical and geodetic survey team at the Majuro tide gauge station in the Marshall Islands (RMI)

29 Sep 2020 – As the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO) reported earlier this year, COVID-19 has caused massive disruption to ocean observation systems around the world, as research cruises, maintenance visits, and sensor deployments have been delayed or canceled.

According to the IOC-UNESCO, “COVID-19 creates marine data blind spots that can disrupt weather forecasts and hinder our understanding of climate change. “

When borders closed around the Pacific in March as part of COVID-19 curbs, it provided an opportunity to test the agility of an infrastructure maintenance program supporting 13 permanent sea level observation stations across the Pacific.

These stations form the backbone of one of the most important marine monitoring networks in the world. They provide indispensable records and near real-time data for meteorological agencies, emergency services, shipping operators, and all coastal communities concerned with rates of sea level rise and climate change.

Pacific sea level monitoring

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) manages tide gauges in partnership with the Pacific Community (SPC) and Geoscience Australia (GA) through the Pacific Ocean Level and Geodetic Monitoring (PSLGM) project. As one of the oldest sustainable aid investments in the region, the project has provided sustainable and high-quality data on climate, sea level and land movement since 1991, and is currently operating under the Climate and Ocean Support Program in the Pacific (COSPPac).

Prior to COVID-19, technicians from BOM, SPC, or GA would make monthly trips across the region to carry out maintenance, calibration or leveling of any sea level monitoring sites and address any emergency problems that may arise.

But COVID-19 has accelerated the ongoing process of building domestic capacity to maintain and troubleshoot these sites. Here are some of the success stories that have emerged from this project over the past six months.

6 monthly infrastructure maintenance

SPC team members have trained in-country technicians to carry out routine maintenance of sea level monitoring stations for the past two years.

“The maintenance of this critical measurement equipment is an essential component for the continuity of quality data collection,” said Adrien Laurenceau-Moineau, Chair of the Technical Team in the SPC’s Geosciences, Energy and Maritime Division.

Once trained, technical staff from the Meteorological Office and the Department of Land and Surveying perform this basic maintenance every six months, following a specially designed checklist. Sea level observation stations and sensors are cleaned and any damage or deterioration is recorded and reported to the SPC and BoM.

Fiji Meet Service Technician, Amori Nabanivalu, at the tide gauge station Lautoka, Fiji.

Since March, maintenance has been completed at ten locations in the Cook Islands, Fiji, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

In August 2020, the Fiji Meteorological Services (FMS) technical team worked with the SPC to carry out 6-monthly maintenance checks at the sea level observation station at Ratu’s jetty in Lautoka.

FMS engineer Amori Nabanivalu said, “The tide gauge station provides valuable data for the work we do at FMS and it is a great opportunity to work with the SPC team to better understand the maintenance of the equipment and processes involved.”

Back to Services

When Tropical Cyclone Harold hit Tonga in April 2020, the old tide gauge at the Queen Salote pier in Nuku’alofa was damaged by the waves. At the new station at Vuna Pier, the waves wash away the gravel that protects the station’s lines and the station goes out due to electricity and communication problems.

The technical team in Tonga repaired the tide gauge station channel at Vuna Pier, Nuku’alofa, which was damaged during TC Harold in April

The domestic team takes the lead to implement the Return to Service procedure set out under the project.

Viliami Folau from the Ministry of Land and Survey of Tonga conducted a field visit and provided pictures to BoM, updating the status of the two tide stations in Nuku’alofa.

“Post-disaster assessments of tide gauges are very important. It documents damage, if any, to infrastructure and ensures a quick return to service from this critical source of real-time data collection, “he said.

Tonga Meteorological Services Technician Enisi Maea was assisted remotely by BoM to investigate and identify faults that caused the system to go offline. In collaboration with Tonga Power and the Ports Authority, Enisi was able to solve the problem and bring the station back online.

Likewise, Solomon Islands Met Services technical officer Barnabas Tahoo is taking the lead in getting the Honiara tide gauge station back online. The contractor had shifted mains electricity to the station for the jetty extension project in March when the contractor suddenly asked to return to Australia due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

Barnabas worked with BoM to troubleshoot a solution and was able to install a temporary power extension from a nearby warehouse until permanent electricity was restored.

Station upgrade

Checking the upgrade work being carried out at the tidal station in Port Vila, Vanuatu

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, a planned upgrade to a number of stations has been able to go as planned with remote support and surveillance.

In Port Vila and Rarotonga, dual radar sensor platforms were installed by local contractors with assistance from the Vanuatu Meteorological Service and the Cook Islands Meteorological service with remote surveillance from BoM. The new platform will provide stations with additional sensors for monitoring sea level as well as GNSS receiving antennas.

Likewise, the Suva and Lautoka stations in Fiji have been updated and dual sea level radar sensor mounts were installed by the local contractor and the SPC surveillance.

Remote capacity development

Although the situation presents many challenges, Jeff Aquilina, PSLGM Team Leader at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has turned to remote support for the project whenever possible. He noted, “This infrastructure maintenance work builds stronger relationships between us and the technical staff of Pacific Island countries, building equipment knowledge, technical capacity, and a sense of ownership of tidal stations in each country.”

“This is a positive result of investing in training, mentoring, country visits, and building a strong network in the Pacific,” added Jeff. “Ultimately, the goal is to make sure the station is fully operational, recording important data sets.”

“This really underscores the importance of investing in local capacity building,” said Molly Powers-Tora, COSPPac Coordinator and Team Leader for Ocean Intelligence at SPC. “And the fact that overworked national staff are committed to maintaining these stations is a reflection of how valuable this data is to the Pacific.”

Source: Pacific Community (SPC)

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US airports received $ 335 million in safety and infrastructure guarantees | Instant News

The fund, which is dedicated to improving the safety and efficient operation of airports, will be distributed among 80 airports in 25 US states.

The US Secretary of Transportation, Elaine L. Chao, has announced that the Trump Administration will provide $ 335 million in airport safety and infrastructure assistance through the Federal Aviation Administration (SOME) to 80 airports in 25 states.

“This airport infrastructure project funded by $ 335 million in federal funding will improve safety, improve travel, create jobs and provide other economic benefits for local communities,” said Chao. A complete list of grants and an interactive map of US airports receiving funding is available on the FAA website.

The total includes $ 300 million from the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) and $ 35 million in Coronavirus Assistance, Economic Assistance and Security (CARES) Take action provides the equivalent of 100 percent of the federal share. FAA administrator, Stephen M. Dickson, said: “These 61 AIP grants will enable airports across the country to initiate and complete projects that are essential to the safe and efficient operation of our nation’s airports.”

The grants will be used for a variety of important infrastructure and safety projects at airports across the US. These include: Purchase of rescue and fire fighting equipment (ARFF) aircraft; constructing runways and taxiways; improve runways and taxiways; installing aircraft lighting and signage; conduct an airport master plan study; and installing airport perimeter fencing.

This follows announcement in early September 2020 that the Trump Administration will provide more than $ 1.2 billion in airport security and infrastructure grants to 405 airports in 50 states and the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, Palau, and the US Virgin Islands.

Since January 2017, the Trump Administration has delivered $ 14.5 billion to American airports to improve infrastructure and safety. Additionally, by 2020, the Administration has delivered $ 10 billion in economic aid to US airports under the CARES Act to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

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Marshall Islands Achieve Highest Ranking with MoU Paris | Instant News

EPorts and waters in Europe remain important to global infrastructure and offices of the Roosendaal International Registries, Inc. (IRI) remains focused on safeguarding the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) flagged vessels traveling and trading in Europe even during the most stringent of COVID-19. limitation. RMI received its best ranking on the white list of the latest Paris Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which shows the reputation of the RMI flag is strong and rising.

“The COVID-19 restrictions have a significant impact on the ability of the Port State Control Authority (PSC) to carry out physical inspections and the risk profile of these vessels is important in prioritizing which vessels will be inspected. Knowing that our flag is recognized for its quality helps this risk profile, ”said Chris van Tiel, Deputy Fleet Operations Manager, IRI Roosendaal.

Chris reports that avoiding deprivation and containment in the COVID-19 era looks different than ever. In fact, some of the Paris MoU member states are increasing their focus on the issue of crew contracts with less waivers for COVID-19 reasons, which could lead to shortages and possibly containment.

“We strongly encourage all owners and operators to see RMI’s Marine Safety Advisory on crew contracts and seek support and advice from the Registry prior to arriving at European ports if they are unable to facilitate crew changes,” said Chris. “Crew change remains a challenge, and in situations where it is not possible, it is imperative to have appropriate documentation for the PSC authorities to prove that it is not possible. Flag representatives can provide advice and support documentation collection. “

To further facilitate inspections, Roosendaal’s office has also spearheaded the development of a mobile inspection application for inspectors to use on board ships. The inspection app works on mobile and tablet devices as an Operational Safety Check Electronic Report (MSD 252), which enables inspectors to collect and transmit data without swapping USB sticks, thereby reducing the risk of cyber security breaches. As inspections begin to move remotely to live, clients will see this application in use all over the world.
Source: International Registries, Inc.

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Marianas Varieties – Domestic officials discuss the relationship with the NMI | Instant News

Previously serving as Secretary of Natural Resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia, Domenech was nominated for his current role by President Donald Trump and was unanimously confirmed by the US Senate in 2017.

He also served during the George W. Bush administration as White House liaison and deputy chief of staff to Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton and Dirk Kempthorne.

Domenech also currently serves on the Conservation Advisory Board of the Trust of Puerto Rico.

Additionally, he is a co-chair of the US Coral Reef Task Force and serves on the White House Marine Policy Committee.

The Assistant Secretary and Office of Insular Affairs carry out Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt’s responsibilities to US territories: American Samoa, Guam, CNMI, and the US Virgin Islands.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Insular and International Affairs Douglas Domenech poses for a “selfie” with Governor Ralph DLG Torres. Contributed photo

They are also responsible for administering and overseeing federal assistance provided under the Free Association Agreement for the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau.

Even in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, OIA remains fully operational and uses teleworking from home as it is gradually reopening its offices under the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Domenech’s Assistant Secretary expressed condolences for the two deaths from Covid-19 on CNMI, the first was a 70-year-old man in March and the second a 77-year-old woman in April.

He said he and his team are monitoring Covid-19 cases and deaths in seven island regions, noting that American Samoa, FSM, the Marshall Islands and Palau are the only remote areas with no reported cases or deaths.

As of Friday, there were around 3,600 cases of Covid-19 reported and 59 deaths in Guam, CNMI and the US Virgin Islands.


“We are trying very hard to get funding…. President activated [over] 40 institutions and the Congress authorized funding, so those institutions provide funds to different islands, “he said.

OIA received about $ 55 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act funding, he said, noting that these funds had been allocated to remote areas, including CNMI.

Regarding the projects that are being worked on, the assistant secretary said that OIA had just given away its grant money as it was approaching the end of the fiscal year.

In about two months, he said, the office will start soliciting applications for the next round of funding.

“We are trying to divide quite a lot of that money among the islands. It’s not always the same, but it depends on the needs, ”he said, noting that there is funding currently being worked on, such as funding for things related to invasive species.

As for the emergency assistance funds given to the islands, according to him, these funds were specifically allocated for preparation and handling of the Covid-19 crisis.

He explained that when OIA received the CARES Law funding, they asked each region to make a spending plan for the pandemic fund.

Then CNMI is given its share of funding and withdraws funds based on how they want to spend it, he added.

“From the start, we gave a grant to CNMI for the purchase [personal protective equipment], masks, gloves, ventilators for hospitals and frontline workers, so we provide funds for that, “he said.

“In general, that’s what we have been doing. We gave CNMI a little over $ 4 million in that funding for CARES Act funding, and we actually have a lot more available if that’s needed. “

Governor Ralph DLG Torres, for his part, stressed that the government wants to spend the remainder of this fund “the right way.”

He said the CNMI government had just submitted a request to OIA for funding for germ-free laboratories.

The assistant secretary noted that for FY 2019, OIA received $ 638 million for all the island territories.

For the upcoming fiscal year, the US Congress has yet to endorse the budget, given that the US House of Representatives has endorsed its version while the US Senate has yet to issue their version.

“We’re hoping here next week for a sustainable resolution that basically takes funds from last year and gives them to us in chunks, so we’re waiting to see how much we’ll get,” he said.

“That [FY 2021] the actual budget is a little lower at $ 619 million than we sent you, but again, we have to wait and see what Congress will do. “

Since 2017, OIA has funded $ 81.4 million in grants to CNMI, including $ 26.7 million this year alone.


“We are working very closely with the government – in particular, the governor – CNMI in looking at your priorities, the best way to spend the money, and I know nobody wants to talk about money, but we like to think that the most valuable thing we have is a relationship with the people, “he said.

Domenech’s Assistant Secretary said that he had visited CNMI before, including Pagan Island, and he really liked Rota Island.

He said OIA had many staff members originating from the island – including CNMI’s Harry Blanco and Francisco Taitano – and were “the best advocates for [the OIA] about what should be the priority. “

“The relationship we build when we used to travel there, that is the most meaningful part of this job and trying to help each other as a family is very important… It’s a two-way street,” he added.

Governor Torres, for his part, also stressed the importance of the relationship between OIA and CNMI, and thanked the assistant secretary for funding approval and commitment to the Commonwealth.

“That’s where trust comes in. That’s where it’s easier to address problems, worries, and still understand the priorities we have here in the Commonwealth and [the] fiduciary obligation [of the Assistant Secretary], and we saw him on the other side [the board], especially with this administration, ”he said, noting the effective response CNMI received from the federal government in relation to the disaster.

Regarding the most challenging aspect of the relationship between OIA and remote areas such as CNMI, the assistant secretary said, “We feel we never have enough funds for these needs, and are finding out how best to take the small amount of funding we have and bring it to the field to help. most people. “

“Our staff works really hard to find out what’s best. We are more focused on health and education, ”he said while giving an example of solar panels for schools.

Living environment

Domenech’s Assistant Secretary also touched on environmental issues, including energy, the National Park Service’s Special Resource Study, climate change, and the environmental impact of an increasing destructive military presence.

He said energy investment, such as solar panels on top of schools, was primarily to lower utility costs.

The assistant secretary said OIA is working with the NPS, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the US Geological Survey on all islands.

In a recent OIA press release, he praised the research for considering a site in Rota for possible inclusion in the US NPS System.

However, during the press conference, he said that even though the NPS looked after everything very well, the NPS did not always manage American Memorial Park well.

“I appreciate the fact that they acknowledge how historic and special Rota is. That’s really what I’m trying to support, ”he said, adding that he would speak to the NPS about the strong resistance from Rota residents to Rota’s part being included in the US NPS System.

The rejection occurred because of problems with land ownership, deer hunting, and the acquisition of local medicinal plants.

Governor Torres, for his part, requested that in this discussion about the national monument with the NPS, the assistant secretary should ask whether it is possible to have certain exceptions to deal with this Rota population problem.

Regarding climate change, he said, “The climate is a very serious problem and the US government is taking it very seriously,” noting that in the last year, the US cut its CO2 emissions the most of any other country.

Regarding the destructive increase in military presence, Assistant Secretary Domenech said, “I, of course, commend the military members for volunteering to keep us safe and free, and I fully support them.”

“They have training needs and I think they are trying quite hard,” he said, noting that one of his last trips to CNMI was with the deputy assistant chief secretary in charge of military environmental programs.

Regarding historic preservation training in the military, the assistant secretary said he thought the military was “trying hard to be sensitive to those things”.

“They really have to be able to practice…. I’ve been to Pagan, and again, it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, so I realized that this was a very difficult decision, “he said.


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The corona virus has now killed more than 1,000,000 people worldwide | Instant News

WHO warns the death toll could eventually reach 2 million (Image: AFP / Getty Images / Reuters)

More than 1,000,000 people have now died after contracting the coronavirus, less than a year after the disease started spreading around the world.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been a total of 33,353,615 cases, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

Last week the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that it is “definitely inconceivable” but “not impossible” that the global death toll could reach 2 million, even with a vaccine, unless countries work together to stop the spread of the disease.

Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the bodily health emergencies program said: ‘If we look at losing 1 million people in nine months and then we just look at the fact that getting a vaccine out there in the next nine months is a huge task for everyone. involved.

‘The real question is: Are we collectively prepared to do what is necessary to avoid that figure?’

The death rate has slowly decreased during outbreaks due to the use of oxygen and better steroid treatments for seriously ill patients.

But suggesting that the world is not moving out of the forest at all, Dr Ryan urged countries to “develop the nature and scale and intensity of our cooperation,” before a vaccine becomes widely available.

Workers in protective suits bury their coffins in a Muslim burial area in Jakarta, Indonesia (Image: Reuters)

He added: ‘The time to act is now in every aspect of this strategic approach. Not just test and trace, not just clinical care, not just social distancing, not just hygiene, not just masks, not just vaccines. Do everything.

‘And unless we do it all, [2 million deaths] is not only conceivable but unfortunately and unfortunately very possible. ‘

Late last year a mysterious pneumonia-like illness began to emerge in the city of Wuhan, in China’s Hubei province, leading to the closure of a seafood market in which some workers were infected.

On January 7, Chinese authorities said they had identified new viruses in the coronavirus family – which include the common cold and the SARS virus.

Around mid-January cases were confirmed in the US, France, Nepal, Malaysia, South Korea, Vietnam Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand.

Towards the end of the month, a disease expert confirmed human-to-human transmission on Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, around the same time millions of people were traveling to celebrate Chinese New Year.

On January 30 the WHO declared the coronavirus a global emergency and within days, the disease had spread to India, the Philippines, Russia, Spain, Britain, Sweden, Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan and the UAE.

The 12 countries where no coronavirus cases have been officially reported are Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru and Palau – in Micronesia – North Korea, the Polynesian island of Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu and islands in the South Pacific Ocean. Vanuatu.

Medical staff working in the Covid-19 isolation ward at Israel’s Barzilai Medical Center in the southern city of Ashkelon (Image: AFP / Getty Images)

These countries all closed their borders from the start, although in some cases, such as in Turkmenistan, medics have accused the authorities of harboring infections.

So far the US, Brazil and India have confirmed the highest number of cases, with more than 15 million of them.

But countries across Europe are facing a second wave after easing their initial lockdown measures, incl UK, where infections are estimated to increase by between 4% and 8% per day.

Speaking at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Dr Ryan urged European countries to ask if they had taken sufficient steps to avoid lockdown measures, such as effective testing and tracking systems, quarantine measures and social distancing measures.

He added: ‘A lockdown is almost a last resort – and to think that we are returning to the last resort area in September is quite serious thought.’

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