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A Tale of an Azimuthing Thruster

We have often wondered whether it was really worthwhile to install drop down thrusters in offshore support vessels. When  they were first developed it seems to us that at some stage some-one would leave one in the extended position when coming into port and that it would get knocked off or at least bent horizontal. It would then be necessary to put the ship into drydock to put it back. There would be no way, we thought, that the Master or his team could absolutely guarantee to have the thing safely housed when the ship entered shallow water and sure enough this has turned out to be true. 

We would still question the value of these things, or more correctly, whether their advantage as omni-directional thrusters over tunnel thrusters, or indeed the vane thrusters which do not stick out from the bottom, exceeds the disadvantage of extreme vulnerability. Are they no more than a sexy accessory?

Well, you've probably guessed by now that yet another ship-master deserves our sympathy. It is rumoured that the Gulf Offshore UT755 Highland Drummer lost its azimuthing thruster in the entrance to Aberdeen harbour at the beginning of the month, and temporarily caused a depth restriction until it had been recovered. We are told that it had been housed on departure from the field, but that on the way in it had eased itself down into the operational position without anyone noticing.

It is probable that the Master went though his checks before entering port and asked his team whether the thing was housed. Who-ever had pressed the button on departure from the offshore location would obviously answer yes, without actually checking the thing. Those of us who are involved in risk assessment techniques would probably ask what the barriers in place might be to prevent this misfortune. If we were told that there was only a single barrier which consisted of a mental check list used before entering port, we would give the barrier a very low level of credibility, and would require further barriers to be put in place.  It is not too difficult to think what these barriers might be. 


BVand Clare.jpg (90844 bytes)

More Ferry News

We reported last month that the ferry service to the Faeroes was not be filled by the St Clair, but by the Clare,  quite a different vessel. 

During the early part of November the North East of Scotland was beset by storms of great severity which flooded the Moray coast towns and prevented the island ferries from sailing out of Aberdeen. Large numbers of anchor-handlers were available on the spot market but unsurprisingly were not hired, since they could not get out of the port.

Meanwhile the said "Clare" broke down somewhere to the North of the Scottish mainland, briefly causing alarm on every platform in the Shetland Basin since for some reason they feel more threatened by drifting vessels than by those under power. This despite that fact that no drifting vessels have actually run into oil rigs. Fortunately for their peace of mind the Balder Viking was on its way back from the Hutton TLP tow job (see competition entries for more of this), and was hired by the owners to tow the Clare to a port of refuge, which was Invergordon. The Clare was finally tied up at the Invergordon aluminium berth. Below is a newsworthy photograph of the final moments of the tow, as the Balder Viking and the Clare approached the berth.        

The Stena Dee to Depart Invergordon

The Seabrokers monthly newsletter which goes from strength to strength in terms of both presentation and content announced this month that The Repsol charter is to be filled by the semi-submersible Stena Dee, and that it is to be towed from the Cromarty Firth to the location off Cadiz by the venerable UT708 Aldoma.

We will be watching this transit with interest since a towmaster of our acquaintance took a semi on the same route a couple of years ago at this time of year, although the towing vessel was almost new and was over 18,000 BHP. For several days the rig and tow made no progress against heavy seas in the Bay of Biscay, and they finally began to move ahead when the windspeed fell to around 45 knots. "Weather improving" he emailed "its down to a force nine which is a relief."  

We can only wish the crews on the Stena Dee and on the Aldoma the best of luck and suggest that no-one whistles.

The Asco Take-over

Further to our previous report that Asco were to operate for BP out of Aberdeen, it has been announced that they have also ousted Seaforth as logistics provider for the Shell base at Torry Dock. However in both cases it seems that the Operators are to source their own vessels, which are in the case of the BP operation, a fleet of Maersk platform ships.

Seaforth are to retreat to their original area of operations at Waterloo Quay from where they will provide services to a number of clients. But by now it must be becoming obvious that we are not following this too closely, probably because the whole process seems to have been more or less kept under wraps.

Anchor-handlers and A-Frames

These stories seem to be self perpetuating. Having reported last month that the heavy duty fleet was being fitted with A frames to facilitate the installation of subsea completions we are able to report this month that several of them are having their A-frames removed so that they will be better able to carry out anchor jobs.

This must mean that we were quite wrong to suggest that A-frames do not get in the way of anchor work.

The Drillships and the Deeps

There are rumours in Aberdeen that Agip have chartered the Dolphin drill ship to drill a well in 1000 metres of water west of the Uk some time in 2003. This vessel which we thought was called the Navis Explorer is now apparently called "Belford Dolphin, which we though was  Navis Explorer. The Fred Olsen rigs are very confusingly named, all beginning with the letter B and ending with the word Dolphin. Hence the Borgny, Bulford, Byford and Borgsten all sound pretty much the same, and now Belford has joined them. Come to think of it last time we came across this particular name your scribe was the mate of an anchor handler towing the Aker H3 Belford Dolphin out of the construction yard at Oslo towards the Thistle Field, where the rig was to be used as an accommodation unit.

And the West Navion is shortly to be hired by BP for some lesser work west of Shetland. Has the day of the drill ship arrived for the UK sector? 



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