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NEWS AND VIEWS APRIL 2004 

by

VIC GIBSON

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The Effect of the Oil Price

As I write this it is being announced on the radio that the oil price has now increased to more than $40 per barrel. This is a lot, considering that most of the oil fields even in the North Sea were developed with the intention of extracting the oil for a cost per barrel which was in single figures.

This improvement in the fortunes of the oil companies appears to be being mildly reflected in the offshore activities world wide, and semi-submersibles are emerging from bays and estuaries like crustaceans from cracks in the rocks, and going to work again. There are those who think that this is a seasonal state, and that when autumn comes they will retreat again, but we can only hope for the best. Even so the day rates for the wonderful modern anchor-handlers - I was going to say "Rolls Royces" but then many of them actually are - have remained low.

They are saying that one of the reasons for the rise has been the attack on an oil installation in Saudi, which must be something no-one expected.

There have also been propositions in the industry press that the high oil price is actually bad for business because the operators do not have to work hard for their money. Why bother to do anything risky - the argument goes - and so they just pull in their horns and pull in the money.   

Beyond Obscurity

What the hell does "Beyond Obscurity" mean? Exactly! You have it in a nutshell. Those of us who are dedicated to the presentation of information in plain English are becoming more and more concerned by the amount of what appears to us to be gibberish which is being written and circulated as if it was good sense.

Out there in the North Sea the ordinary man on the rig is being assailed by the complex language of the safety professional, and in some cases the complex language of the dedicated amateur. One can almost forgive the safety professionals. They have been brought up in a world where they understand the meaning of the words "residual accidents". The rest of us can only guess. What is more difficult to forgive is the enthusiasm with which some non-professionals will get in there and write excruciatingly length paragraphs on obscure topics, the meaning of which one might if one was lucky just be able to guess.

One reads this stuff again and again trying to make sense of it, but no matter how much one tries it does not work out. This is because it does not make sense. The ordinary man on the rig does not know this. He thinks he aught to understand it so he says nothing. Another ordinary man of the rig thinks the first has understood it and thinks he must be a bit thick because he doesn't. So he keeps quiet.

It takes a brave man to ask what the words mean.

Some words about Charters

Since John Griffiths moved on to other things - and if you are reading this John thanks very much for your help - I have not been able to keep with with the shipping news despite the fact that it is wonderfully presented by the Seabrokers monthly report, but I'll have a go this month. Just for once things seem to be happening out there.

Apparently Gulf Offshore have hired five ships to Saipem in the Mediterranean. They are the Highland Warrior, the North Vanguard, the Highland Pride the Highland Champion and the Sentinal. The last is a venerable UT705 which has spend 5 years dredging for diamonds off South Africa. The Highland Warrior is to go on the Brazil on completion of its current work for a four year contract with Petrobras.

However the departure of these vessels from the North Sea was offset by the return of three from Argentina, the Normand Vester, the Olympic Orion and the Skandi Hav which were alll empoyed out there supporting a pipe laying operation.

Gulf have also chartered the Highland Bugler to Peterson Supplylink, so in the words of the Seabrokers Report Gulf Offshore will have a much reduced presence on the spot market.

 The Boa Deep C

Almost without notice the world's largest anchor hander has arrived from the builders in Spain and has apparently been chartered by Statoil at a day rate of around $75,000 per day. 29,000 BHP is available, so what are they using it for. Perhaps it will pass our window one of these days.

It is a VS4201. Does this mean that it is two hundred and one metres long.

The Nautical Institute Retires for the Summer

I went to the Nautical Institute Annual General Meeting this evening. It was a sad affair because we were all so old. Surely there are more marine professionals out there who might want to join, or members who are not bothering to come out. The port of Aberdeen is full of ships with British officers, some of whom might be able to walk up the town and join in.

Its not often I do any advertising in this part of the website - even for ourselves - but for the Nautical Institute I will make an exception, and appeal to mariners who live around Aberdeen, or who work here to join up. Elsewhere in the world professional mariners are joining branches and influencing the organisation but here in Britain one gets the impression that it is beginning to be an old man's club.

The NI is an organisation with some influence, so it is important to support it and to ensure that its voice reflects your views. They understand this elsewhere. The inaugural meeting in Athens was attended by 400 people. If you would like to know more email me .

Vic Gibson

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