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The 17th International Tug and Salvage Convention 

The President of the International Salvage Union, speaking at this event discussed the now difficult subject of ports of refuge and substandard ships. This is not quite an offshore subject but no seafarer can really allow to pass an opportunity to support anyone protesting at the illogical approach being taken by some states and some ports  in relation to ports of refuge.

The Erica for instance was refused entry into a French port on the basis that it was a substandard ship. Of course the result was a much greater disaster than the potential limited hydrocarbon release into some medium sized harbour. And other nations with vulnerable coastlines have demanded the departure of damaged ships from their seas. In fact in the last few days Lloyds List reported that the salvage payment to the salvors of the Castor, who had towed the stricken tanker round the Mediterranean for several weeks, had been drastically reduced. 

All this seems to  neglect the possible loss of life, not to the bird population of the ocean, but to the crews of the ships, who are now mostly from third world countries and have no voice of their own. Lets all have a little less hypocrisy and a little more honesty. Substandard and poorly managed ships are carrying their cargoes for some-one. And the cost of the carriage contributes to the eventual value of the product - mostly at the pumps for we motorists.

Since it is necessary for these ships to dock in European ports to discharge their cargoes there would seem to be a fairly obvious solution, a few more flag state inspections, and even if this means appointing more inspectors the cost should be less than the cost of clearing up the mess. And the aforementioned seafarers might stay alive.

On a Lighter Note

We reported last month that the the Stirling Clyde had been rebadged in the Harrisons Clyde livery. No one told me that the red electric eels passing through the H for Harrison were actually blue ones. 

Almost in response the owners of the Stirling Spey pulled it in and rebadged it with the Seacor insignia. But did not repaint the ship in Seacor colours. Apparently this will only be done when the former Stirling fleet goes to foreign parts. 

There are now three of the Vik-Sandvik designs  with blue hulls each with a different badge on the funnel, because the Stirling Forth still has the old Stirling sign in place.

BP Cuts its Crew Again

Apparently in response to the government's increase in tax BP has announced that it will cut its contractor staff by 800. This is according to the news reports to streamline the business.

It is very difficult to write about the reductions in numbers by the oil companies and consequently all the contracting companies without getting a bit cynical. It seems to be a sort of Peter Principle, and some of you may remember that the Peter Principle is that "Everyone will be promoted to their level of incompetence," and that as a result the management of almost all companies, according to L. Peter who coined the principle, is essentially incompetent. This is a sort of testing routine which cannot be reversed.

It is according to some related the the "Red Queen Principle," who said famously in Alice through the Looking Glass - "Here you have to run very hard to stay in the same place."

One might therefore coin a new principle relating to the number of employees working for a company which keeps downsizing. Logically either the amount of business being done by the Company must be reduced or the amount of business may stay the same, the work being carried out by a fewer number of people.  The third possibility that the amount of business being carried out will increase while at the same time the workforce is reduced seems so unlikely that it might as well be discounted.

The problem is that it will not be until there are insufficient people employed that it will become apparent that the job is not being done any more. Worse, everybody will be running very hard to stay in the same place, and therefore will be unable to detect the change.


News from SBS

I always think of SBS as being the Royal Navy Special Boat Service, the naval equivalent of the SAS, but in Aberdeen it is Shetland Base Services which last year took over the old Amoco base on the North side of Aberdeen harbour and purchased a UT705 which the renamed the SBS Cirrus. Our webcam incidentally points straight at this base across the harbour. 

The objective of the expansion which as one would expect, was based on the company's successful business in Shetland, was to create a complete service from door to rig, all provided by the same company, and at the time it seemed like quite a good idea. For a while the SBS Cirrus lay alongside their quay, and the smart SBS trucks dashed around the town picking up cargo.

We never actually found out whether the cargo was actually going on the ship, and then any possibility that this might be so was dispelled when the SBS Cirrus was hired into Denmark on a long term charter. Later SBS ordered a platform ship from Norway, and more recently  it has been mooted in a number of places that they have ordered another. 

Now for the news, SBS Base services have detached from SBS shipping, the two parts of the company going in their separate ways. Who knows what this will do for logistics services, particularly since there are currently only two players in Aberdeen, Asco and Seaforth, but at the least there is another player. And for those of us who would like to see British supply boats sailing the seas, here is another contender for the crown.

Viking and BUE Connect
Just before the turn of the month these two companies announced that they were joining forces. It is possibly a defensive move to prevent either of them being taken over by some-one else.

Both of these companies have developed over the last few years, Viking by collecting the vessels run by Cam Shipping and BUE by buying the Tidewater fleet, which itself was previously Hornbeck, and possibly something else before that.

It is sometimes difficult to see what these amalgamations achieve, but in this case, both fleets employ British personnel and therefore their additional strength is welcome - of course as long as they do not use it to be nasty to their chaps. The flagship of the new fleet may the Viking Provider - our Photo of the Month.


The recent collision between the Marr trawler Marbella and the Rough platform has heightened the interest in this hazard, particularly in the offshore industry. In the marine industry there is a weary acceptance that ships will continue to run into each other and into fixed objects, and it appears that risk assessment as promoted by the ISM Code has done little to improve this situation.

When it comes to collisions between ships and platforms or drilling rigs, there is little or nothing that the thing being hit can do, and this is what creates the interest. In general the offshore industry relies on the standby vessel to firstly identify vessels on collision courses, secondly to warn the platform or rig, and thirdly to get out there and by some means get the approaching ship to change course.

The investigation into this collision will focus on the activities of the standby vessel. As part of our work MMASS is involved in the assessment of major hazards and when it comes to the prevention or at least mitigation of collisions members of the team doing the assessment, who are usually rig staff,  propose the most amazing solutions.

One technique frequently suggested is that the standby vessel should get out there and sort on nudge the errant vessel out of the way. Our advice to ship masters would be not to try this, and to the staff on rigs and platforms not to rely on this as a prevention technique. Another is that everyone should get into the boats and motor away before the impact - NOT!

We think Exorcet missiles or depth charges might offer realistic solutions.  

Renewable Energy

We were the only marine consultancy exhibiting at the All Energy Conference held at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre at the end of May, and we thought that we might have something to offer to the people with those current and tidal devices. We still think so but our possible clients did not really seem to be convinced.

It seems to be one of those things that everyone thinks they can deal with the marine part of any project, and they don't find out until too late that they can't. Surely some-one might have got a hint when 8000 tonnes of articulated wave generator sank off the Orkneys a couple of years ago.

However we did get some interest from people who are about to erect windmills off the coast, since some of their problems relating to the marine environment have already been identified, and we are thinking about them!



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