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New Newsletter Arrangements

Our friends at Seabrokers have been good enough to give us permission to use their monthly report on the website which will provide lots of news about things happening to supply ships, principally in the North Sea.

This should ensure a flow of news even when the Editor is under pressure. However, this month there are a few things which deserve comment, and while Seabrokers and indeed the other brokers in Aberdeen provide news, they seldom provide any comment, probably on the basis that they might offend someone.

We have also taken the view over the years that it is not a good idea to offend people, but one eventually realises that the oil industry is full of people trying to avoid offending someone, and that as a result hardly anyone ever says anything and those managing the oil and offshore support companies actually think they are always right.

Anyone who can remember the TV series "I Claudius" will know how it goes. Claudius survived where others were killed by anticipating what Caligula would want to hear and telling him. This was serious brown-nosing but was absolutely necessary to ensure Claudius' survival. Honestly would have done no good at all. But surely such attitudes would only be applicable in the barbaric context of ancient Rome.

Today we hold out the hope that a bit of honesty does everybody some good, but we won't be doing it every month. And by the way for those who have not seen "I Claudius," despite the fact that it is probably 30 years old it is still stunning stuff.  


More About Collisions

Since we last reported, the collision between the Oil Trader and an Agip platform off  the West African coast has made it to the press and photographs wing their way constantly over the internet without identifying the source.

The short report in Lloyds List and the comments on the web make depressing reading, really making one wonder where the hell we are after all this time. And why we do not seem to be moving on. 

There is no doubt that the ship ran into the platform at full speed causing severe damage to the Master's cabin and the bridge. It was reported that the master was in his cabin, in fact in his bed, and that he suffered from minor injuries although he might not have thought them all that minor. It is difficult to imagine how awful the noise of the collision was, except to those who have been through such an event, and the shock which would be felt by everyone on board, particularly the Mate who was on watch at the time.

According to a spokesman from Tidewater there should have been two people on the bridge and one of them was not present, specifically against Company instructions. At the time of writing the investigation into the disaster is still going on, and this investigation is hampered because the principal witness, the Mate, left the bridge and hanged himself in the engine room. It seems likely that he thought  his error had cost the Captain his life and he died without knowing that his assumption was incorrect.

We have all laughed in the past at photographs of supply vessels buried up to the bridge-front in offshore installations but now, I suggest, the joke is over, and I have been wondering what we, the "we" being this small consultancy in Aberdeen, might do to help. Here is an idea. Collisions between support vessels and offshore installations would probably be avoided if the support vessels never at any time headed straight for the installation at which they are going to work. A couple of degrees down wind or down current is neither here nor there, but if you forget where you are the worst thing which can happen is that you are embarrassed when you find that the rig is behind you not in front of you. So bearing this in mind we would suggest that all watch-keepers in the offshore industry make an affirmation that they will not at any time set course directly towards an offshore installation. It may sound strange but it is surprising what good a few words will do. So guys, make the affirmation and don't hit anything. You may use our guest book if you want it to really mean something. 

I am hoping never to be out there again driving a ship, but just in case, here is my affirmation.

I, Victor Gibson, promise that as a watch-keeper of an offshore support vessel I will never set or maintain a heading which would result in a collision with an offshore installation.

This is something we can do as individuals and there is no doubt that the result will be a safer environment, because this requires no skill, just an intent to be safer. 

And Another Thing

You may have heard of the sinking of a survey ship off Oman. It was a nice day and there were other ships around so everybody was rescued. And once more the bare facts have been augmented by rumour on the internet.

Apparently these survey vessels have a sensor head which is lowered through the hull when survey work is taking place and raised when the ship is under way between two locations. I had never thought about it very seriously, but I had a feeling that the tube within which the sensor head moved up and down ended above the waterline, like a very small moonpool. This would have stopped water coming in.

No such thing I'm told. These sensor heads run up and down through glands which are extremely effective and so the tube in which the sensor runs does not have to end up above the waterline. Well surely - I thought - the whole thing must be encased in a watertight compartment with a proper watertight door, so that if there is a leak the watertight integrity of the ship is not compromised. And anyway these sensor heads must have a proper mechanical lifting and lowering system with braking devices and fail safes, to make sure nothing can go wrong. And finally one cannot imagine that such a device, if it slid rapidly downwards because the lifting system had failed, could possibly fall through the bottom of the hull, leaving a hole.

Well surely no-one would operate a ship without at least some of these barriers in place, would they?

Latest Jigsaw News

The latest Jigsaw news is that so much is happening that it would be difficult to present all the new information in a news item like this. But basically the Bristow's helicopter which is to be used for the trials will be delivered in a couple of months, probably in November, and this trial period is likely to take about 6 months.

However, in addition to the helicopters, no matter how successful, BP intend to provide a number of large standby vessels to be known as RSVs (Regional Support Vessels). These vessels will be 90 meters long and BP is ordering five of them. Should the Jigsaw trials fail then the five ships will be used a conventional PSVs, but to start with the first to be delivered in 2004 will be equipped for standby work. This means that they will be equipped with two ARRCs (Autonomous Rescue and Recovery Craft) and two FRCs.

The ARRCs are in themselves fairly breathtaking. They are to be 18.6 metres long, which is larger than an RNLI lifeboat and they are self righting and are to be capable of 40 knots. The BP document from which we gleaned this information says that "The RSVs and associated rescue craft will provide additional rescue resources in case of an incident at a host platform which disables the SAR helicopter" and "The RSVs will have the flexibility of being able to move independently throughout the region as required, providing defence in depth against a reasonably foreseeable event."

In terms of small craft capability these ARRCs are simply awesome. It is claimed that in addition to their 40 knots top speed they can be launched in seven metre seas and if necessary can get back to the beach since they have a range of 800 nautical miles.

In the light of this enormous marine investment the question of whether the helicopters are suitable and what their limitations might be, is beginning to seem almost irrelevant. We seem to recollect that the original plan was to replace 17 ERRVs with the helicopters. Now the 17 ERRVs are to be replaced with with a number of helicopters and five RSVs, each carrying 25 crew, which is about twice the crew of a conventional standby vessel. Since these new ships are to be crewed by a company already operating in the sector the loss to the standby vessel owners will be seven crews if it all happens. We would suggest that this limited reduction in manpower and management will be sufficient to keep both the unions and the ERRV Association quiet.

In fact the whole project is beginning to develop a sort of feel-good factor which is difficult to resist, despite some nagging doubts about the actual launch capabilities of a craft weighing more than 10 tonnes, and the actual tasks which might be undertaken by a vessel "able to move independently throughout the region."  And then there is the small doubt created by the disclaimer on page 2 of the Project Jigsaw Newsletter. "Jigsaw update is published in Aberdeen for all its onshore and offshore staff and contractors in the UK. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views of the company.

" Well then. Whose views does it reflect?   


The Seabrokers August report suggests that there are now six rigs In the Cromarty Firth, of which two are not being marketed at all. Actually there are seven, but one the Kan Tan IV is due out very soon. The Tin Can as it used to be known has had a chequered career since it ceased to be the Western Pacesetter IV. It has been managed on behalf of its Chinese owners by Wilrig, Transocean Drilling, Tor Drilling and Maersk Contractors, the last two solely during its stay in Invergordon which started in 1999. The Kan Tan is off the Mexico for several years.

Other reported departures from the support vessel fleet are a number purchased by the new BUE/Viking group for work in the Caspian Sea. We are hoping to report further on this migration in the next issue of the Marex Offshore Review.