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NEWS AND VIEWS OCTOBER 2003 
by
VIC GIBSON

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What's Happenin' Dude

John is taking a short rest from the column because he is currently overwhelmed by the day job, so those who have opened the page hoping to be able to view his excellent summary of what has been happening this month will be disappointed. This is more a view of what I can see from my window.

It is curious to report that amongst all this gloom and doom there was only one vessel available yesterday in Aberdeen, and when I returned from the shops this afternoon there was nothing visible in the dock except for a single standby boat.

Does this mean anything? Good question. It is curious that at a time of minimal rig and ship utilisation and a consequent low level of day rates, the oil price remains high. Those of us working in this business always used to be happy when petrol prices went through the roof because it meant that we were going to stay in work, but now the norms seem to have been discarded.

Perhaps the answer to this conundrum lies with the possible oil production of Iraq - this is not my idea, but seems to be one which is gathering momentum amongst financial commentators in America. And if we go back to the spring of this year, it seemed that there would be a short sharp conflict followed by a lengthy and productive peace. The oil companies must have imagined that the tap would be turned on in the Iraqi oilfields resulting in an unlimited supply under the direct control of the US majors. Why bother with exploration in more legislatively difficult and environmentally adverse areas of the world.

Of course things have not turned out quite as expected, and it appears that it will be years before Iraqi oilfields and pipelines cease to be vulnerable to attack by factions opposed to the Americans, or if it comes to that any government of that country which has a close relationship with them. At the same time things seem to be just a little less stable in Saudi Arabia, and it is not getting any easier to work in several other parts of the world. And - just when it seemed that things were getting better in the former Soviet Union the government has taken on the largest Russian oil company resulting in at the very least a loss of confidence.

Well - taking all this into account perhaps it is not such a bad idea after all to look for oil in countries where there is social stability.

So lets be a bit more optimistic about 2004.

The Harrods Invergordon Branch

On the inner pages of some of the papers last month it was reported that Mohamed al Fayed was considering the possibility of purchasing an oil rig and opening it to the public. His idea is that this would increase the likelihood that the British public would visit his estate in the highlands.

Those who work in the offshore oil industry may be a bit bemused by the idea that anyone would want to visit an oil rig except for money, but who knows. There are now coal mines open to the public, steel works have been turned into activity centres and railway stations have been turned into shopping centres. 

So, rig owners may be polishing their paintwork and preparing to unweld the doors of a number of units currently lying unloved in the upper reaches of the Cromarty Firth. Such a plan would at least remove a rig from the market without it having to be taken away and cut up into pieces. How much could he charge. Would people be willing to pay extra to visit the crown, or to participate in the excitement of a basket transfer. The possibilities seem to be endless.

Loss of a Support Ship

A few days ago the Stevns Power turned over and sank with all hands off the coast of Nigeria. It is probably thirty years since such a misfortune occurred in the offshore industry.

 

 The Stevns Power was originally one of the Maersk B Class built around 1975 and much envied by most supply vessel crews for their compact design, engine power and winch capabilities. For those not familiar with the design they were built as anchor-handlers and so had a short deck and carried little cargo underdeck, or on deck.

 

They and other like them soon lost popularity because of their limited  carrying capacity and became tugs and barge support vessels. The Stevns Power had been supporting a barge called to Castoro Otto, originally, we think the ETPM 1601, and at the time of the disaster was laying its anchors.

 

It turned over in sight of a number of other vessels, and it seems almost impossible to believe that no-one survived.

 

Everyone working out there will, I have no doubt, suffer some distress when they learn of this event. Its sad that such things still happen, on a fine day, doing a job that the ship had done many times before.

 

We would like to know how the event occurred and how similar misfortunes can be avoided in the future., and it would be good to know who is going to carry out the investigation. It was registered in Denmark so one assumes that the Danish Maritime Authorities will be interested, but will the Nigerian Government claim jurisdiction, and in any case will the results of any investigation eventually be published anywhere?

Marex News

I had been away for a few days last week and was only alerted to the StevnsPower misfortune by Oddgeir Refvik who has contributed many photographs to the site, and who was distressed that newspapers in both Norway and Denmark had used his picture of the Stevns Power without permission. When we get a line to the photo editors of these papers we will be having a word with them. People take all sorts of steps to prevent unlicensed use of their pictures - none of which we have employed so far, because making them impossible to reproduce also reduced the pleasure of looking at them. How-ever, in an effort to discourage unauthorised use of people's photos we have put more warning messages on the site.

 

I try to keep sight of the fact that we originally set up this website with the intention of promoting our tank cleaning systems. And I am pleased to say that we have made some sales, and been offered opportunities to quote due to the site. Even so it probably takes up a disproportionate amount of our time, and sometimes I think we might do a little less. It has therefore been very heartening to receive emails and phone calls complaining about the non operation of the webcam. It makes us realise that we are approeciated.

 

The webcam seems to have become stuck on 14th October, and even though I start it up every morning and try to upload something, nothing happens. We are trying to fix it, and considering upgrading to something better, but that would use a phone line at least part of the time. It might have to wait until I have got over the pain of paying BT large amounts of money to increase our phone lines capacity.

 

As an interim measure I am trying to put a new picture of the day up every morning. Our former General Manager, George Craigen, who used to manage this part of the site has returned to seafaring and those who have been looking will see that we are now doing something different. George only took pics of new ships or vessel which had not been to Aberdeen before, or items of special interest, and a picture he took of the Waverley is included in a book about its refurbishment and return to work. George also saved all the pictures and files them so you could, and still can, see every picture he took.

 

My approach is slightly different. We now take any ship lucky enough to pass the window in the morning and the pic only remains accessible until the next one replaces it. If you want to see what is happening you have to look every day.

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