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Again, cautious portents filter through from those who know the market with the medium term forecast being much of the same as the past year. However, as the winter creeps in, demand is liable to decrease due to the seasonal dip in activity and this will obviously push down on an already delicate level of rates.

The term market appears to be subject to the crystal ball school of long casting, using the Orman Lange Project as the basis for one such future trend. 1200 km of pipe will be laid between Northern Norway to Easington, needing approximately 8 to 10 large pipe carriers and thus allow a small breathing space to develop in the market for the vessel type. However, as this is not due to be happening until at least the 2005/ 2006 season, pipe carrier owners need to hold onto their champagne for now.

The ERRV sector was also slow with no new requirements and a handful of term extensions reported. Again, as exploration activity slows down it may well bring with it uncertainty to the ERRV market. Stewart Offshore's monthly report also states that of 12 rigs due to be re delivered to the UK sector by year end 2003, only 2 will have openings for ERRV's. This means that the long-cast is for an erosion of ERRV rates due to the number of vessels on the market increasing.

Vessel bits and pieces

Farstad kick off this months round up with news that UT722 Far Grip ended her 5 year charter to Norsk Hydro during August. She is now trading the spot. AHTS ME303 Mk2 Far Sky was extended another month supporting Stena Spey which is acting as accommodation support in the Irish Sea.  Newbuild UT712 Lady Astrid is now en route to Singapore from the Northsea. Previously part of IOS she has now fallen in with Farstad Indian Pacific Proprietary Ltd. The vessel is uncommitted. Far Superior the company's UT705L began a pipe support charter supporting the lay barge Solitaire which is expected to complete mid September.

Trico's PSV Northern Princess was re-delivered from Statoil after a five year term. The vessel went to dry-dock for the usual brush up and paint but her future on leaving is uncertain. It is believed that consideration is being given to lay up or trading the spot - but market conditions will be the ultimate diktat. Staying with Trico, it is now known that their UT741 AHTS Northern Admiral has been purchased for NOK 266 mn by District Offshore A/S. The purchase was made with the approval of the charterer, Norsk Hydro. UT705 North Vanguard is currently on with support for the lay barge Solitaire.

Gulfmark's AHTS KMAR404 Torm Heron and PSV UT705 Highland Pride have both been fixed in support of the semi-sub Transocean John Shaw. Both vessels will operate out of Falmouth. UT705 Highland Warrior is supporting the lay barge Solitaire.

Havila ASA - acquired by Groupe Bourbon - has now been renamed Bourbon Offshore Norway. Havila's name will remain for those vessels under the control of Per Saevik - being the ten vessels purchased from Havila's standby fleet. Meanwhile, Havila's UT705 Havila Trader is on the Solitaire job.

Stolt Offshore have marketed for sale seven of their vessels. Up for grabs are the Seaway Kestrel / Invincible / Rover / Legend / Explorer /Kingfisher / Annette. If you're interested, I believe that Seabrokers Marine Solutions in Norway are fronting the sale although by the time the column gets to bed the vessels may well have gone.

Rovde Shippings Ocean Flower has recently been equipped and modified to act as a 'sound source' for installed seismic cables on top of her role as standby / rescue vessel. She is currently on for BP Norge.

Tidewater's PSV VS480 Robert H. Boh has been fixed by Woodside Mauritania supporting the West Navigator. She is fixed for two wells firm with options for a further four months to follow. Tidewater have also fixed PSV UT755L McKenny Tide as a second vessel on the same job. AHTS KMAR404 McNee Tide is, however, leaving the Northsea. She is due to tow the S-44 for Saipem from Cadiz to the Mexican Gulf, returning with the barge to Livorno. She is not expected to return to the Northsea for a few months.

John Fredriksen is reported as the purchaser of Crystal Sea and Crystal Ocean. Fredriksen is owner of Frontline Tankers and both vessels were reported to have gone for $25m en bloc.

Waveney Shipping have taken delivery of their UT755L PSV Waveney Castle from Aker Akura. She is a sister to Waveney Citadel, delivered earlier this year. She is uncommitted and expected to trade the spot. The old Waveney Castle was sold on to BUE Viking and is presently renamed Castle and trading the Caspian.


Last month I relate a tale fairly much representative of life on supply boats in the 'bad old days' - as shipowners would have described them. The idea behind it was to jog someone's memory for something similar and thus feed in to my ambition to write a book about seafarers and supply ships. When I mentioned that I was intending to write a book, Vic Gibson wished me good luck; I can see why now!


Not many individuals have come forward with stories, anecdotes or personal remenicences which I suppose I should not be surprised about. Seafaring has always been a 'closed' community and the world of the seaman is often something that is kept exclusively within that community, though for the life of me I cannot understand why. What happened to the messroom story tellers who had the capacity to talk a glass eye to sleep? They must still be out there.....


Anyway, I have since been contacted by an American who is researching a similar thread and have some delight in adding a plea from her within this column.


" The Shipboard Experience--from the Seafarer's Perspective"---I am a researcher from a US academic institution seeking to understand the shipboard experience from the seafarer's perspective. How the seafarer feels and thinks about that life and some common features of life at sea and working conditions on board. The good, bad and everything in between. The social life, the family life, at home vs at sea. I am particularly interested in understanding the impact of FOC changes in the 80's, and how shiplife has been affected. As a sub-set of this research, I am also seeking to understand the Norwegian seafarer experience, for example the shift from a more national "kinship" shipboard culture to a more global one, what kind of work seafarers found post-1987, with the loss of so many well-paying jobs. You do not have to be Norwegian to respond. No companies nor organisations are represented by me. You do not need to tell me your company affiliation. As a typical American, I only speak English and make no judgements about anyone's use of it. Thanks, I'm really looking forward to hearing your stories. There is room for many voices. Email:kathymack03@aol.com"


I would hope that some of the readers of this column may respond to this plea out of interest,  particularly the Norwegian seafarers angle. Might I also add that this form of research is akin to what I am also attempting -which goes to show that there is a place for the history of seafaring.


Having said that, if the voices she mentions are not heard for a lack of interest now then the part played by the Northsea supply ship in the history of the Merchant Navy is going to be lost. It was a different game, with different rules, played in a different environment - and thus deserves its place as a document for the future. It's your call.