Despite only having been
in action again for a few days, we have had a gratifying response to the
re-activation of the site, and already have a number of pictures of
the day ready for display. Thanks very much for your interest.
We have a little more on
the Emma Maersk. Some have said that there are actually going to be
apprentices, or cadets on the ship, and others have said that there are
going to be squads of people fixing things anyway, so the idea of only
having a thirteen man crew is absolutely fatuous.
Following on from last
month's thinking on the Emma Maersk, I had an idea when I was buying some
eggs in Asda the other night. I was attracted by the green packaging which I
knew made them important, and sure enough when I read the words on the side
they said "Free Range Eggs", and "fresh eggs from hens that have the freedom
to enjoy fresh air and to roam outdoors by day". Despite the fact that these
eggs were about 30% more expensive than those contained in the ordinary
cardboard box coloured cardboard boxes, I still purchased them, imagining
the chickens who laid them wandering about breast high grass, enjoying the
summer sunshine and scratching up lots of luscious grubs and insects. When I
got home and put them in the fridge I found that I already had a box of
"barn eggs", which had apparently been "laid by hens free to nest, perch and
roam in spacious barns". Lucky hens I thought.
Could we possibly achieve
something similar for seafarers, whose lives seem to be more and more
restricted as the years pass, until it will finally be likely that they will
never see the light of day except from the windows of the bridge during
their watches. Could packaging be emblazened with the following slogan
"Carried in ships manned by free range seafarers". The small print would
explain that the ship which had carried the container which had contained
the objects being purchased, had stayed long enough in port for the crew to
go ashore for a couple of hours, and have a couple of beers. Of course such
an arrangement would require the co-operation of the port operators and the
state within which the port was situated, which might be on the verge of
There could be lesser
categories, analogous to "barn reared", where the ship had stayed in port
long enough, and the port operators and the port state had given the crew
permission to go ashore for a phone call!
THE LOSS OF THE MERIDIAN
News of the loss of the
fishing vessel Meridian, only a week or so after it disappeared in the
Norwegian sector of the North Sea, has more or less disappeared from the
public gaze, but no doubt the Marine Accident Investigation Branch is
limbering up to find out what happened. All we know today is that this small
vessel had been hired by Talisman to patrol a section of pipeline newly laid
on the seabed, apparently together with two other vessels. and overnight on
27th October the boat disappeared. Later the body of a single crewmember was
found. His funeral took place on 3rd November.
Of course it was an
extremely sad event and one can only sympathise with the families of the men
who were lost. It is however just a little bit difficult to accept the
claims that it was only due to the imposition of fishing quotas which
prevented the Meridian fishing full time, and so had forced it to take up
this apparently more hazardous work.
This implies that the oil
industry is more dangerous to work in than the fishing industry, an
implication which I am sure they would dispute. The news reports did not go
further than to say that various people had said that if only the Meridian
had been out fishing everything would have been OK. Did they think that the
vessel would have been safely tucked up in harbour during the extremely high
winds on that night, if it had not been required to guard the pipeline, or
was whatever it had bee required to do out there on the location in some way
more difficult or risky than fishing. We don't know.
What we do know is that
one of the reasons that pipelines need to be guarded is because fishing
vessels really like to fish close to them. The fish like the warmth created
by the oil, and usually the skippers know the pipelines are there because
they have very efficient navigation systems which are often updated with new
information about construction and subsea stuff.
We also know that when
vessels are engaged in fishing they are inspected by the MCA for
seaworthiness every four years, and when they are engaged in other
activities they are inspected by the MCA every 12 months.
I feel that it is just a
little inappropriate to use the distress of such a disaster to prod the
government over fishing quotas, when in all probability the actual activity
in which the vessel was engaged would have made absolutely no difference, to
the outcome. We must hope that when the facts are known, the knowledge
gained will help to keep fishermen safe in the future.
I have never done a book
review on the website, but perhaps I might start, because I was particularly
stirred by the David Howarth's "Brief History of British Seapower". The
author, who died in 1991 was an ex naval officer, who ran a spy ring in
Norway in the Second World War and wrote a book about it, "The Shetland
He was an expert on the
battle of Trafalgar which shows in this book. He describes the battle
wonderfully, and I am sure that neither he or his publishers would mind if I
reproduced a short passage:
"The formal lines of the
battle disappeared. In one square mile of sea, some sixty ships were moving
independently, each of them, all the time, was in range of several enemies.
For the captains it was, like a deadly game, a mixture of luck and skill.
The luck was in the clouds of smoke that often hid everything, so that the
ships, friend or foe, loomed through it at the range of a pistol ship. Yet
the game was played, as it were, in slow motion: probably, once battle was
joined, no ship moved at more than one knot and to turn them took many
He goes on to describe
how in the latter stages of the conflict many ships were dismasted and while
the French and Spanish were minded to surrender, the British ships which
could still sail took those which had no masts left in tow, and so were able
to continue to fight.
We see ourselves as being
seamen, getting the best out of a motor ship with multiple engines,
propellers, thrusters and rudders. These feats of seamanship were carried
out by captains who commanded teams of seamen who climbed the rigging
furling and unfurling canvas and trimming the sails to change direction and
get the best from the wind. Even managing to fight these ships took
incredible skill, but managing to take others in tow, all of them still in
action is amazing. David Howarth brings this battle and many others to life.
AT THE EDGE OF THE SEA
During the past couple of
weeks we have had the opportunity of watching a company drilling holes in
the seabed in Aberdeen harbour from a tiny jack-up. We have been concerned.
Firstly the rig was situated right on the edge of the channel, so ships
seemed to be passing it at quite close range, and secondly during adverse
weather, when they were trying to move it from one place to another there
seemed to be a lack of a seamanlike approach. Of course we might have been
quite wrong. Perhaps the ships going in and out were responding to
instructions from the new harbour Control - we don't listen to their radio,
and perhaps everything was very well organised despite the perilously low
freeboard, and the fact that for some of the time a deck hatch was open
while the thing was afloat.
It was crewed by three
guys who did the work, jacking it up and down, and operating the drilling
system when it was in position, and serviced by another guy who operated a
small boat powered by an outboard motor.
Over the days we watched
fascinated as it moved about at the edge of the channel, sometimes braving
what were really quite unpleasant conditions, and finally it ended up close
to the south shore, engaged in unknown activities, but which involved
jacking up at least one of the legs as high as it would go. We were not
watching when this leg fell off - fortunately for the crew, in the direction
of the shore, where it rested for some time, before sliding into the sea and
drifting down the channel.
Finally the leg, now
bent, was recovered and taken away, and the rig, now with only two legs was
towed away into the dock. We have seen neither since, but we suspect that
there was a lack of marine input into the operation, and that the conditions
in the Tidal Basin had proved to be more unpleasant that expected.