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market, as expected, is in a state of flux - nothing new there. The standby
sector remains, according to the Stewart Group, 'tight', with the only owner
having vessel availability in both short and medium term being BUE Viking.
Other sectors were up and down; the AHTS sector saw an 18 month high, with
day rates up to £17k - a significant change from this time last year when
rates were averaging a 'high' of £11k. The PSV sector was, by comparison,
slower - 'stagnant' according to one broker. Longcast is for a similar state
of affairs, with crystal balls a distinct advantage for future trend
phenomenal success story of Rolls Royce Ulstein, however, continues. They
recently announced that they had won orders totaling some £55 million since
the start of 2003 to supply marine design and equipment packages for the
offshore industry. Thirteen vessels of the world renowned UT design will be
providing much of the equipment aboard them. With the current order book for
45 vessels through 2003 - 2004 standing at more than £200 million, Rolls
Royce Ulstein have reason to celebrate the success of their designs. Current
customers include Astromaritima and Companhia Brasileira de Offshore (CBO)
who have ordered the UT722L design with CBO also having ordered a PSV to the
UT715L design. Maersk has two UT745L's on order and Groupe Bourbon have
four, of UT755 and UT755L design, two to be built at Aker Brattvaag one at
Aker Aukra and one at Promar in Brazil. One of the big UT believers is Swire
Pacific, who have no less than 24 of the UT series in its fleet complemented
by four new UT780 AHTS constructed in
news is just hitting the market of Vik-Sandvik's new design - the VS493
Avant PSV - shown recently at
Nor Shipping Exhibition. This is an all aft, traditional looking vessel
which is currently under construction at Aker Langsten for an 'unspecified'
customer. It is certainly radical looking - or is it? Are there any others
out there who recall the aft accommodation pipe carrier owned by Ocean
Inchcape Limited (OIL) which undertook, I am led to believe, a number of
less than successful cargo runs to installations offshore?
Call me traditional, but
looking at the layout of the Vik Sandvik design, the raised forecastle will
present its own share of problems especially under installations where the
transfer of cargo by crane almost always results in the odd bang and scrape
- including bent bulwarks, railings and shipboard kit parting company with
the hull! Whilst VS are to be congratulated on their 'innovative' concept,
there are some of us who recall that the arrangement - whilst having its own
definite benefits - was not wholly suited to the rigours of life under
installations especially in the sort of weather experienced Northsea. If I
recall correctly, the 'OIL Challenger' - a brute of a ship to look at
- ended her time working for the Dutch company Heerema in her designed role
as a pipe carrier from yard to port. I could be wrong but I do feel
confident that the clear after deck design concept, tried, tested and well
proven, is going to be with us for a long time to come.
have received an offer for their fleet of 11 standby vessels. Seabrokers
suggest that the move will then 'pave the way' for Bourbon (Surf) to bid
fully for the remaining supply vessels within the group. Surf currently have
a 39.6% share in Havila. The deal would include the new vessel under
construction at Hayvard Leirvik. The offer is reported to be NOK 550
a recent commentary, I wrote about the reliance on computers aboard ship and
my 'mistrust' of this form of operations, bemoaning, as I did, the
subsequent loss of more 'traditional' ways seafarers once took great pride
in. A recent report by the International Marine Contractors Association
(IMCA) entitled 'Station Keeping Incidents' appears to back up what
many of us within the industry agree on. During 2001, 97 incidents took
place including 21 position loss 1 (serious nature), 34 position loss 2
(less serious) and 42 lost time incidents. All were within areas
Gulf of Mexico
The DP operator error may have been responsible for up to 86% of the
incidents - which is worrying in itself. Without looking back and saying 'I
told you so', it appears that heavy reliance on marine electronics is not
going to go away which begs the question - does anyone practice seamanship
anymore in these techie dependant, labour saving device days?
bits and pieces
A-101 Normand Mariner completed an FPSO installation off
and returned to the Northsea whilst their UT737 PSV Normand Flower took
on a charter to Pemex for one year, with four yearly options. Normand
Rover's Pemex charter was extended by 9 months.
UT745 PSV Far Swan ended her two year charter to BP, heading for dry
dock and will then return to the market to seek work in a variety of markets
both spot and term. The PSV UT755L Far Swift and AHTS UT712 Lady
Astrid should be available ex yard in July with PSV UT755 Lady
Melinda available in September. Both UT722 AHTS
Far Scout and UT722L AHTS Far Grip were still on
current term with Norsk Hydro but their contract for term
AHTS was due to be reviewed, with successful bidders looking to take
up charter in mid August. Petersons also took PSV Far Grimshader for
3 months. Farstad recently completed the buy out of IOS, as reported last
Highland Drummer, an UT755 PSV was chartered to Maersk Oil and Gas
for 28 days for Stena Dee. Meanwhile, return of their PSV UT705 Highland
Pride to the market, after 2.5 years with ASCO, was expected to leave
her uncommitted - although reports suggest she may well have an as yet
undetermined charter. The UT755 Safe Truck returned from her
charter to TFE and was then subsequently extended, becoming free in mid May.
UT705 Highland Star, UT745 North Mariner and UT705 MkII
North Vanguard were fixed for work with Allsea's Solitaire - 20
days firm with 50 days daily thereafter. Meanwhile, UT755 Highland Bugler
had her charter by Indian state oil company ONGC extended by a further three
well as GulfMark's three on the Solitaire pipe run, Ostensjo's Edda
Fjord, Olympic's Olympic Orion and the Skandi Marstein are
Star's IMT975 PSV Grampian Surveyor has been confirmed by Sonsub for
Marine's AHTS ME303 MkII Northern Crusader has been confirmed on for
Statoil, fixed to mid June with options for a 2 x 1 month period. Meanwhile,
was extended by Wintershall for 3 months with 4 x 1 week options supporting
operations in the Dutch Sector. Peterson already has the ME202 Northern
Queen until at least October of next year. AHTS Northern Admiral
was fixed for 2 years to Norsk Hydro with Northern Viking on for 2
wells with Venture.
Pacific Offshore's UT720 AHTS's Pacific Banner and Pacific Blade
should now be available on the spot after completing on Goldeneye - but only
for three weeks. They were on with Pacific Warlock working the Castro
Sei. The Warlock remains on charter.
PSV UT745 Havila Lista leaves the Northsea for sunnier climes,
departing June for a 4 year charter to B J Hughes in
from sunnier climes is Tidewater's KMAR404 McNee Tide after
completing charters in the Med.
Eastern Shipping's PSV UT755L Malaviya Sixteen left the area in May
to take up a six month contract with Indian state oil company ONGC.
AHTS Troms Supporter left
the spot after being fixed for the rig move of Transocean's John Shaw
for TFE. The vessel had arrived in
on the 8th May from Aker Brevik's yard.
newest 'A' class vessel Maersk Winner has had its 200 tonne crane
fitted and will be delivered at the end of June, with Maersk also announcing
that two more of the 'A' class AHTS will be built at Volkswerft Stralsund
for delivery in June of 2004. Two large PSV's to be built in
- of some 4500 tons DWT - is now confirmed with options for a further two
similar vessels. The contract with Brasmar, a subsidiary of Maersk, was
signed to the value of US$ 30 million.
tugs UT719-T Anglian Sovereign was delivered to her owners from
Yantai Raffles and, after a stop off at
is due to arrive in
in mid July. She then takes up a seven year MCA charter, initially based off
I once made the mistake of
writing an article, subsequently published in a magazine, where I said that
someone had to write a book about life in the Northsea from a supply ship
perspective. It was one of those throwaway comments you make when you’re
writing and don’t quite appreciate the size of the audience you’re
reaching. Then, that was 10 years ago.
Since then, the idea of
actually doing it has got stronger, aided by the knowledge that the supply
boat side of the industry has been, in the main, ignored. For those with
long memories, there was a BBC series called ‘Oil Strike North’
which glorified life in the hostile environment that was the Northsea and
then there was ‘Roughnecks’ - but both were about the roughie
toughie world that is, apparently, quite common on rigs and platforms.
Supply ships got a brief and passing mention in one and the good old ERRV
got almost half an episode in the other - but they were background material.
The focus was never on the supply ship or ERRV - without whom the rigs and
platforms would not be able to function.
Without detracting from the
macho self-image beloved by the rig crowd, life board the ships then was far
tougher, less comfortable - and far less paid. Whilst a semi might be shut
down for bad weather, moving about a teeny weeny little bit, the ERRV and
supply boat on location were performing maritime gymnastics the like of
which thrills photographers but is bloody uncomfortable for the crew aboard.
I have no doubt that many a hardened rig worker thanked their lucky stars
they hadn’t decided to become a seaman at times like that. Life aboard the
supply ships was hard, certainly in the early days of the industry
when ships were, by comparison with the brutes that work offshore nowadays
at least, tiny. Power wise, 4000 BHP was middle of the range and 8000 BHP
‘super ship’ status. There were no bow thrusters, anchor winches were
often bolted on and taken off again and ‘A’ frames were used to work
anchors. Stern rollers were water lubricated, jamming with a monotonous
regularity, and mooring to a rig or platform was the ultimate work up. You
dropped the hook, went astern, tied up and then pulled yourself forward on
the anchor windlass to tension the ship. There were no capstans aft to
assist in mooring - it was all hand hauled. Even when there were capstans,
you could often pull the moorings in faster by hand.
You had to work on steel
after decks that just needed a spray of water on them, making standing up -
never mind working cargo - an art in itself. You handled bulk lines to
discharge points that were often in the most inaccessible of places -
providing you had on-board tanks of course. Many was the time I sailed with
temporary tanks and pumps on deck which, added to a deck load, made for some
interesting cargo work to put it mildly. Innovations were rudimentary and
crude, like for example, a hydraulic moving deck that was supposed to
facilitate cargo work but which was more trouble than it was worth - and
when it jammed half way down….
Then there was the weather.
Ships with funnels aft have an awful habit of taking a sea down them,
involving anxious periods whilst the engineers battle to start at least one
of the main engines leaving the rest of the crew to ponder soberly on their
chances if it failed. Heavy weather was more than just a bind; it meant a
lack of sleep for the ship’s crew, jamming themselves into a bunk space
with a life jacket to minimise rolling - but still finding that you could be
thrown out of bed to the deck at any time. Cooks performed miracles in the
postage stamp sized galley turning out at least one hot meal for the crew
and often in conditions that were absolutely appalling. Watches were spent
jammed into a safe corner of the wheelhouse. Then there was the always
present danger of structural damage to the ship herself. Bent bulwarks,
stove in plates, crushed railings, wheelhouse windows put in by a rough sea.
The list is not an exhaustive one, it goes on and on.
But, back to the book. So, as
I said earlier, I made a comment and that comment grew to become an idea and
then the idea fermented a while - and now people are starting to talk to me.
I am glad about this as it gives me the raw material for the book, their
memories being exactly what I want. It is my belief that a book about this
industry, certainly about how it came to be, is a part of
’s maritime industrial
history and its importance cannot be stressed enough. No matter what the
logistic gurus and other visionaries might like to think, there would be no
oil and gas industry without the supply ship. As Michael Caine often says
‘not a lot of people know that’.
Can I therefore make an
appeal? If you’re reading this and you were / are involved with supply
ships - from company level to crew, it doesn’t matter - and you believe
you have something to pass on, then please get in touch. I am after
opinions, memories, and recollections. Good and bad stories. The captive
audience is not just the locals, the Brits - but the Dutch, Norwegians,
Germans, Americans. Anyone who worked the ships out of the
is welcome to put their bit
in. The time scale is from the late '60's to the mid '80's.
If you believe, as many
appear to do, that it is time this story was told then it is up to you to
make it happen. I am prepared to write it - but I need you to inform it.
After all, it’s your story.
(For heaven's sake chaps, help John out, other wise
we're going to feel seasick ever time we read his column!! Ed)
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