First some apologies for the absence of this
page for the last two months, firstly I was away in South America on holiday
and secondly I was in Africa on an oil rig.
As a result of this absence I have quite lost
track of what is happening in the North Sea - or really anywhere else in the
world, and I am gradually picking it all up again. periodicals land on my
desk and stuff arrives by email and ships steam in and out of the port and
gradually I am once more absorbed by the marine atmosphere of Aberdeen.
However it is quite impossible to forget South America, and despite its lack
of relevance to the oil industry I am unable to prevent myself from writing
a few words about it.
One of the essential destinations on our tour
was Puno, a small town on the Western shore of Lake Titicaca at least partly
because that is where the Yavari is berthed.
The Yavari and its sister ship the Yapura were
ordered by the Peruvian government from a company in Birmingham in about
1864. They needed two gunboats because they were at war with the Bolivians.
The Birmingham company subcontracted the job and a Thames shipbuilder
completed the job.
The ships were transported in small pieces by
ship and then by train and mule to the lake, a task which took seven
years. By the time the ships got there the war was over, so the two vessels
were constructed as cargo ships. There was a downside to this plan. The 60
hp steam engines which powered them were fuelled by llama dung, and the fuel
took up all the cargo space. This problem was solved by jumbo-izing the
ships (Was this the first time this job was done), and they operated
successfully until 1914 when then engines were changed for hot bulb diesels.
The Yapura is still in service as a hospital
ship, visiting the indigenous people who live on the side of the lake and
the Yavari is being restored by a group of enthusiasts. It is afloat and it
has been out on a jolly recently. This is a ship which was launched on
Christmas day 1870. There are still things to do to it. There are for
instance no masts which makes it look just a bit odd but it worth visiting
because it is a monument to the ability of the Victorian engineers to
overcome apparently impossible odds.
I was amazed by the quality of the hull. It
looked like it could float for another 100 years. It was really a contrast
to the Great Britain which I visited recently with another seafaring friend.
We both decided that the best thing they could do with the former coal hulk
was scrap it.
There are some pictures of the Yavari on my
wife's website. To visit it click the link below.
Flags of Convenience
I noticed a while ago that one of the flags of
convenience which was considered to be below par was that of Bolivia, a
suggestion which was emphasised by the fact that the first ship to be
restrained (if that's the word) by the American authorities after July 1st
for failing to fulfil the requirements of the ISPS code was a Bolivian
registered vessel .
One might consider that this would not be a
surprise since that the country does not have a coastline, and the Bolivian
grasp of anything relating to safety would appear to be rather rudimentary.
This is not really a criticism of the country, there are other priorities,
and if you visit this strange landlocked state you will appreciate what they
Large numbers of Bolivians live below the
poverty line. Areas of the country have no water, no electricity and no real
health support. The police force is underfunded and there is always a degree
of political unrest. When we were there there were a number of days when the
main roads were blocked by a group attempting to settle a political
grievance. Only 4% of the roads in Bolivia are graced with tarmac the rest
are made up of dust, mud and rocks, so it is fairly easy to create serious
traffic jams, or it would be if there was any serious traffic.
There is a Bolivian navy. The headquarters is
on Lake Titicaca where two small grey vessels can be seen tied up. On a wall
at the naval base there is a picture of a serious looking sailor in uniform
at the wheel, and rather alarmingly Jesus can be seen behind him with a hand
on the helmsman's shoulder - perhaps keeping a lookout.
More about ISPS
Its difficult to read anything in the marine press without finding
references to the ISPS code, and we in Aberdeen particularly lament the loss
of the freedom we used to have to walk round the port and look at the ships
at close range, though we accept that this privilege was already unusual
even before July 1st.
We do talk to people and it seems to everyone
so far that the code was a knee-jerk reaction, and the reason for the code
may have been no more than the fact that it was easy. It is much more
difficult for instance to make a railway train secure, or even an office
building. Meanwhile the poor old seafarer gets the stick. They can't go
ashore in America and they have more work to do. Many of the schemes from
what we understand are more or less impenetrable, and some do not apply to
the type of vessel for which they were supplied.
Merchant Navy Uniforms
I have recently been reading
the biography of Samuel Pepes, who as well as being the
writer of the most famous diary in the world was also
the Secretary to the Navy in the 17th century. It was he
who first thought that nautical training should be
undertaken by all those who were going to be navigating
and watchkeeping on ships! Revolutionary thinking. This
would prevent some of the shipwrecks which took place at
This approach may have been successful for the Navy, but
apparently not for the Merchant Service since according
to a correspondent in the Telegraph, a House of Commons
Select Committee was formed in 1836 because of the
concerns at the increase of shipwrecks. This committee
thought that Merchant Navy officers should wear
uniforms, which might have been a good idea, but it was
not until 1918 that King George V approved the standards
While considering the difficulties suffered by ship
masters today in dealing with the various port officials
at the ends of the earth, it occurred to me that perhaps
everyone should go back to wearing the full uniform,
even if they are not one the Queen Mary 2. I was first
Third Mate on a little bulk carrier which ran to the
West Indies for sugar. We all wore the full kit, which
would probably seem silly today.
There is no doubt that officials of all sorts are
impressed by uniform. Give it a try!
Star Offshore Services
A little bit of a personal advert. I am
acquainted with many people in Aberdeen who used to work for Star Offshore,
and now and again when there are half a dozen of us in the same room we
think we should have some sort of a re-union. As a step towards this I have
registered "Star Offshore Services - Seagoing staff" on Friends Reunited.
If you worked for Star Offshore visit the site
and register, and we'll see where we go from there.
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