ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – Newfoundland’s spectacular iceberg-viewing season continues to mean major hazards in North Atlantic shipping lanes.About 673 icebergs have drifted into North Atlantic shipping lanes off the island’s east coast so far this year, said Gabrielle McGrath, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard International Ice Patrol.That’s almost as many as the 687 counted during the whole ice season last year, ending in late September.“There’s definitely quite a lot of icebergs still up to the north,” McGrath said Friday from her home base in New London, Conn., after surveillance flights this week over the stretch known as Iceberg Alley.McGrath said it could still be a record season, but numbers are starting to come down and many bergs have melted.She says a big question is whether winds will bring several more of the floating sculptures farther south from where they were seen earlier this week off northeastern Newfoundland.Thick sea ice in the region and in the Strait of Belle Isle is affecting ferry travel and nearby fisheries.One thing is certain: the mammoth slabs that originate from glaciers in Greenland still pose a serious danger for mariners, McGrath said.“Even the smallest iceberg can do great damage to a vessel. I would recommend that the captains still heed our warnings as they transit across the Atlantic to ensure their safety from iceberg collision.”McGrath said she knows of no incidents involving vessels that have followed the patrol’s advice.“We’ve still maintained our perfect safety record through the season.”Regularly updated reports show how ships can detour farther south to avoid icebergs, often adding hundreds of kilometres to a trip.The International Ice Patrol was formed after the Titanic sank off southeastern Newfoundland in 1912. It works with Canadian partners to track icebergs and warn captains at sea.McGrath said the height of the icy season is typically around late May to early June.The last year the number of icebergs in shipping lanes approached previous records was 2014, with a total of 1,546 — the sixth most severe season since records began in 1900.Weather conditions can quickly move them.There were just 37 icebergs observed in shipping lanes on March 27, but the number soared to 272 a few days later as a low-pressure system of strong counter-clockwise winds dramatically shifted hundreds of them farther south.
10 September 2007Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in New York today following an intensive, week-long visit to Sudan, Chad and Libya, vowed to maintain his focus on ending the conflict in Darfur and said the region’s leaders agree that next month’s peace talks to try to resolve the crisis there must serve as “a final phase for a final settlement.” Mr. Ban told reporters at United Nations Headquarters that he had been encouraged by the results of his many meetings during his trip, including those with Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir, Chadian President Idriss Déby and Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.“My visit… was very useful and constructive in generating a momentum to bring an early resolution of the situation in Darfur,” he said, referring to the conflict between rebels, Government forces and allied Janjaweed militia that has engulfed the impoverished region of western Sudan since 2003, causing the deaths of more than 200,000 people and forcing at least 2.2 million others to flee their homes.During the trip, Mr. Ban announced that the UN and African Union (AU) Special Envoys to Darfur, Jan Eliasson and Salim Ahmed Salim, will lead full political negotiations between the Sudanese Government and Darfur’s rebel groups on 27 October in Tripoli.Mr. Ban and AU Chairman Alpha Oumar Konaré will also jointly chair a high-level meeting on the issue in New York on 21 September, while Chad is going to hold a preparatory meeting with Darfur’s rebel movements later this month.“I am encouraged. We must build upon this progress to bring peace and security and prosperity to these people,” Mr. Ban said today.The Secretary-General stressed that the region’s leaders, especially those of Sudan, “should make their utmost efforts to make this political process move smoothly, keeping the cessation of hostilities and helping the humanitarian assistance flow smoothly, without any hindrance.”He also said that troop-contributing countries have given their full cooperation to the world body on plans for deploying a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force in Darfur (to be known as UNAMID), and in some cases have exceeded what is needed.“But we are still lacking in the specialized areas, like air transportation, experts in finance and some other areas,” Mr. Ban cautioned.UNAMID, which is set to take over from the existing AU mission in Sudan (AMIS) by the start of next year, is authorized to have some 26,000 troops and civilian police officers.In an interview with UN Radio, Mr. Ban said that his visit to the future headquarters of UNAMID in El-Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state, indicated that the preparations are “on the right track” for a smooth transition from AMIS.He added that he was optimistic about the deployment of a separate multidimensional presence – comprising the European Union’s military component, Chadian police and gendarmes and the UN’s civilian elements – in neighbouring eastern Chad, where there has also been unrest and large-scale displacement.
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