The Effect of Watertightness
During a recent risk assessment which we were
carrying out on behalf of a client we ended up discussing buoyancy and water
tightness. Logically it appears to be foolhardy to wear lifejackets or
workvests when carrying out tasks which expose one to the possibility of
falling into the sea, but not to keep the maximum buoyancy available in the
marine object on which one is working.
Typically those operating semi-submersibles
routinely leave hatches, doors and manholes open, thereby reducing the
buoyancy available in the event of an accident. Check out the P36 where
apparently internal divisions between compartments were left open, so no
matter what those with the marine expertise did there was no way they could
stop it sinking. Lack of buoyancy was also a factor in two of the worst
disasters involving semi-submersibles, the Alexander Keilland and the Ocean
Ranger. In both cases it is probable that they would not have been finally
prevented from sinking both apparently the time they would have remained
afloat would have been greatly extended, thereby providing more opportunity
for people to be rescued.
These words have been prompted by the front
cover of the March/April edition of International Tug and Salvage which
shows a picture of a small platform supply ship, the Lee III, hanging upside
down under a large twin sheerleg owned by Bisso Marine. The story inside
tells us that this ship was holed in a collision in the Mississippi and
within moments turned over and sank. The main thrust of the article in the
magazine was the manner in which the salvage was carried out, but more
importantly for those of us concerned with marine safety, the lives of all
five of the crew were lost.
Regular readers of this column may also
remember that towards the end of last year the anchor handling tug Stevns
Power turned over and sank with all hands off the African coast.
The lesson to be learned is that no-one should
be complaisant. If there is the remotest risk that the deck edge will be
immersed the buoyancy of the craft should be maximised. There is also a
short snatch of video doing the rounds of a pusher tug being thrust against a
bridge in a swollen river. The tug disappears under the water, and one would
think that that was it. But no! It bobs up on the other side.
THE CAPTAIN HAD THE DOORS SHUT!
News of Northlink
Those living in Aberdeen or Orkney or Shetland
find that their lives are inexorably linked to the activities of the
Northern Isles ferries, now majestically sailing in and out of Aberdeen
Kirkwall and Lerwick on a daily basis. The new ferries are very modern and a
quantum leap away from the old P&O stuff which they replaced, although a
trip on either of the old ferries was a very nostalgic experience and we
were sorry to see them go.
Now Northlink is saying that despite having
received £30,000,000 in subsidies they can no longer maintain the service,
and of course they have faced unexpected competition in a number of areas.
Other cargo ferries emerged and for a while trundled in and out of the
ports, although most of them have now disappeared and up in the Pentland
Firth an enterpreneur started up his own small scale service with some
success. We have not had word of him lately but he may be still operating.
So the job is to go up for tender again next
June - and Northlink are hoping to tender for the work. Is it just me or is
there an echo somewhere here!
The Mayflower Resolution
We have been agog since 2002 awaiting the
arrival in the North Sea of the Mayflower Resolution the new wonder windmill
installer. For those not familiar with this vessel, it is a cross between a
jack-up and a DP vessel, and is supposed to load up with wind turbines,
sally forth to the installation area, DP until jacked up and then
install the objects. When we spoke to a representative of Mayflower in
2002 they told us that the ship was gong to install several turbines in a
day, but we think that this ambitious standard has bee reduced to one a day.
We did not realise it but Mayflower is, or
rather was, a bus manufacturer and earlier this year the company went
bankrupt, but the Mayflower resolution survives. It was built for
£40,000,000 but has apparently been purchased for £10,000,000. Looks like
bad luck for the creditors of the parent company.
We were surprised to see what was almost a
full page article on crew wages on British ships, mainly talking about the
low wages paid to East European seafarers on ships flying the red ensign.
This is not a new situation, but it is
possibly one which is not evident to everyone. Throughout the 20th century
the majority of British ships were crewed by Indians, Pakistanis or Chinese
all of them on wages which did not match in any way the wages paid to
British crews. Of course more Indians were needed to do the same job, but it
did not seem to matter. Latterly ships of many flags have been crewed by
Filipinos, who are mostly good natured stoic and competent although not all
carry real certificates of competency.
One of the advantages these crews have when
they are on British ships is that it is likely that they will be on a well
found vessel. It is probable that they will be properly fed and housed and
at they end of their trip it is likely that they will get paid.
It remains a debatable point whether crews
should get paid a rate which is commensurate with the wages which would be
paid to natives of the flag state, or whether they should get paid at a rate
which will allow them to live well in their countries of origin. There is no
doubt that raising the wages would make them less likely to be employed, or
would it result in the reflagging of ships to less responsible states with a
corresponding reduction in responsibility.
In 1994 I was master of a ship operating out
of Saudi Arabia. At that time the Filipino crew were paid $100 per month,
and they stayed on the ship for a year. However the leading hand was not
only supporting his family in some comfort, he was also paying for his
younger sister to undergo teacher's training.
He and his fellow ABs were, on the other hand,
concerned that they would lose their jobs to Russians who would work for
much less than the $100.
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