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DECEMBER 2002 NEWSLETTER

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A Reverse Auction

The Offshore Shipbrokers Newsletter tells us that Petersens held a reverse auction for the supply of a UT755 during December. For those who are unaware of this particular approach to the provision of support vessels to operators, they starts with a price which is in fact the maximum that they will pay for the charter and any interested companies then bid lower figures. And one presumes that the lowest bid gets the job, though doubtless the charterers will reserve the right to refuse ships which are just not up to the job, or companies who do not have appropriate management systems in place.

In this age of quality management, or perhaps this should read Quality Management, one of the tenets of the philosophy seems to have been forgotten, which was that those who make contracts with suppliers should ensure that those providing the supplies receive sufficient return to be able to carry out the supply effectively. Neglecting this part of the process has resulted in a cutthroat approach to the chartering process on both sides. In times of oversupply the Operators will nail the ship-owners and in times of shortage the reverse will happen. The process is also used when it comes to the hire  or drilling rigs. The result is that there is still too much old stuff lying about waiting for shortages to occur, and the results of re-activating non-operational units is a topic all on its own.

However, the reason for the story is that Petersens set the opening (and highest price) for a UT755 at 6,800 and there was no response from the ship-owners. Of course part of the process had been disabled because there were no UT755s available before the mid 1990s. Hence the old stuff could not apply. After the failure of the auction Petersens have taken the Simt Lloyd Fortune! 

ERRV Departures

After the last bit of a rant about old ships we are pleased to report that some old stuff is finally leaving the North Sea to take up other occupations. North Star have sold a number of their former supply vessels to "Middle Eastern Buyers". These ships, the Grampian Sword, the Grampian Sabre and the Grampian Eagle were originally part of the Harrisons (Clyde) fleet.

We believe that the Grampian Eagle, as the Stirling Eagle, was one of the first four tiny platform ships built by Harrisons in the mid 1970s. All four were delivered to the company and lay in the Dundee inner dock, then as now the favourite place in the north-east for laying up ships, until they got their first job which was to perform in a Harp Hager advert. This is so long ago that probably almost none of our readers will remember Harp Lager.

These ships ran successfully for many years even though they incorporated almost all the worst possible features for supply vessels, particularly small size, low freeboard and Allen diesels. They were even replicated by the early TNT ships. 

Now this phase of their life is over after 27 years, in the case of the Grampian Eagle, and we saw the last of them scurrying out of the harbour the other day on the first leg of its journey to the Arabian Gulf. It looked different, its davits and FRCs had been removed, but the survivor accommodation was still present. Those who have done time on vessels offshore in the Gulf would guess that they are not going back into the supply role. No, the probability is that the survivor areas will have large numbers of bunks put in them and they will be tied up more or less permanently alongside offshore installations, providing the accommodation for large numbers of workers from the Indian subcontinent.      

The Prestige

The sinking of the Prestige off the coast of Spain has received massive coverage in all forms of media and has even stired seafarers, a notoriously reticent bunch, into writing letters to the newspapers.

Those of us who were in Spain over the Christmas holiday felt a degree of responsibility for the whole thing just because we are seafarers. The eyes were constantly assaulted by pictures of plucky volunteers wearing white paper boiler suits shovelling thick black stuff into large buckets, which were being passed along lines of people and emptied into skips. Where the skips were being taken was not revealed on television. And it all seemed to be the fault of the unfortunate Greek shipmaster, and for some time the British Government.

When we thought about it we did not, as mariners, feel quite so responsible. It might after all have been as a result of poor welding that the ship fell apart, or it might have been that the ship was just too old to be at sea. In the latter case the Classification Society might have noticed that things were not quite up to scratch. Most of all it seems completely the wrong thing to do, to tow the ship out to sea in the hope that it would get so far away that any oil would not get to the coast. Of course the Spanish government had managed to do this with the Caster the previous year and had got away with it, if that is the right way of putting it.

But of course the Mediterranean  is less often rough than the Atlantic. Indeed, as far as we know there there is no coastline  in the Mediterranean nicknamed "The Coast of Death".

The Departure of the Seabulk Eagle 2

Another announcement in sales and purchases is that Seabulk have sold their anchor-handling tug Seabulk Eagle 2.  This ship was originally the Maersk Blazer and was built in the late 1970s to fulfil the perceived requirement for dedicated anchor handling vessels. Those of us out there at the time envied those operating the Maersk Blazer and it sister ships because they were extremely powerful and were very manoeuvrable despite the fact that they only had 300 bhp at the bowthruster. 

But, their biggest advantage was the short afterdeck. The rest of us were dragging wires down 100 feet of deck using snatchbocks and tuggers , or sometimes our bare hands. The place on the deck were we did all the work was at the stern, miles away from the winch and the tuggers and most importantly the lights. Meanwhile the Maersk guys seemed to have everything in their favour.

Oddgier Refvik took a picture of yet another of this class working off the coast of Egypt last year. Here it is:

 

Spower7.jpg (193146 bytes)

A Bit about Tank Cleaning

We are pleased to report an increase in the interest in our mud tank cleaning philosophy. It is finally dawning on people that the way to reduce the amount of dirty water produced during tank cleaning activities is to do the job with an installed system which cleans the tanks with the product. This will ensure that the residues left in the tanks is limited and hence will reduce the need for tank cleaners, with their people, water jets and noisy sucking systems.

This may be good news for a number of our clients who have installed tank cleaning machines in their vessels over the last 15 years but have not used them much, or at all. Of course the newbuilding installations have taken place without reference to us and so sometimes the results are not quite up to the task. Ship-builders are notoriously frugal with their funds and would rather get it wrong than take advice as long as the client does not find out about it. This has meant that we are now offering advice and supplying equiment which should have been there in the first place.

In environmental terms the greater use of the Marex Tank Cleaning Systems may be one of the few success stories offshore at present. The environmentalists have discovered that most of the problems with oil exploration relate to the disposal of liquids in one way or another. The crude oil itself is seldom a problem. It is kept down there underground until it can be channelled through pipes to the shore or into the tanks of the shuttle tankers. The oils used to keep the  machinery going on rigs, and the chemicals of all sorts used during the drilling process can be more difficult to deal with. They can turn clean water into dirty water and the dirty water has to be transported back to the shore rather than being allowed to run into the sea. And disposing of the dirty water is proving to be something of a problem.

People wishing to know more about tank cleaning with the product should visit our tank cleaning pages.  

Another Collision

It is almost a duty on our part to report on yet another collision between an offshore vessel and a rig. In this case it was the Havila Sea and the Stena Dee. There has been no official statement from the owners and the news reporting has been limited, however rumour has it that the cause may possibly have been lack of attention on the part of the watch-keeper.

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Here is a repeat of some of what I wrote last July. Everybody should make this affirmation. It will prevent embarrassment and possibly injury or death. You can't keep being lucky out there.

"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." 

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