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NEWS AND VIEWS DECEMBER 2006 

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INTRODUCTION

Despite good intentions this comment is a little late. Maybe it is one of the problems of a web based publication that no-one actually needs to distribute it.

OTHER SORTS OF SUPPLY SHIP

That quite well known publication the Offshore Support Journal recently published a long article about yet another new sort of supply vessel. The article was about two sulphur ships which were being converted by Hornbeck in the USA into very large offshore cargo carriers. Curiously the article rings a bell, and I may be wrong but I seem to recollect that a number of years ago such a project had been punted before. Perhaps memory plays tricks, or perhaps it is a project which was shelved due to the previous downturn.

Anyway, here it is again, and apparently Hornbeck are assessing the best options for the vessels. The concept of the all aft supply vessel is not new. Possibly the first all aft supply vessel was the Oil Challenger which arrived in the North Sea in 1976 to act a a pipe pipe carrier for the Viking Piper. Unfortunately when it arrived with its first load of pipe it was found that the accommodation and parts of the upper works of the barge contacted every time a wave passed. The ship was retired to the Tay where it lay for a couple of years before being bought by Heerema to become a general heavy lift carrier. Then of course we have the Viking Avant, also suggested to be new. In fact possibly the only reason the Oil Challenger failed was because no-one had grasped the concept of working cargo without tying up.

AUTOMATION

Probably I need say no more, but what a strange world we live in. If one pores through the electronic and paper records available to us, it is amazing how many very old supply vessels are still at work. I was surprised to find that the Wimbrown 1, a vessel so slow that I once overtook in in a survey ship towing two miles of seismic cable, is still at work out in Egypt. And if one looks closely it is even possible to find ships built in the late 1950s in the American Gulf, still doing things somewhere.

Meanwhile the Norwegians in their quest for progress are designing fully automated anchor-handlers. When they are at work it will only be necessary for the ship to be moved close to a rig and be put in DP and then for the deck crew to operate all sorts of mechanical arms, levers, bridge cranes, hooks and hoists to achieve any necessary objective.

It may be a bit cynical, but one wonders whether the increase in automation will make the job safer or more dangerous. One of the systems on offer will apparently do everything to connect two pennants together, except actually insert the shackle pin. This means that a human has to approach the shackle, being held by the two cranes and insert the pin. Will the height and attitude of the proffered shackle be correct, or will the human end up giving the operators hand signals, to move the assemblage of mechanica without actually knowing anything about the forces being held in check by the system, and what the results of any change might be.

THE JIGSAW PROJECT 2006

It has been ages since I last commented on Jigsaw, which for those who are only just getting up to speed on what is happening offshore in the North Sea, is a system of vessels and helicopter which are to replace a number of standby vessels. The ships, of which there are intended to be four, have been built in China and the last one is on its way here. These extremely large and imposing vessels are to be fitted with ARRCs (Autonomous Rescue Craft - don't know what the second R stands for), which are very large daughter craft which, it is intended, will be able to leave the mother ship and if necessary rescue people from the sea and go to the shore with them. In addition there will be number of helicopters with all sorts of wonder features which will allow them to rescue people from the sea in the most difficult circumstances.

Three of these vessels are currently occupying a lot of quay space in Aberdeen, as well as making occasional voyages offshore with cargo, their ARRC davits empty. However, from the MMASS office it is currently possible to see one of them across the other side of the dock, with an ARRC in the davits on the starboard side. So, some years after the intended start date for the project is it finally getting under way?

RIG SHIFTING FOR FUN AND PROFIT

The increase in the price of oil is doing other things besides making the school run more expensive. Many supply ships and anchor-handlers are being built, all over the world, and it seems that every yard that can built them is in on the act. Apparently in China European suppliers of marine equipment are taking order for bits of ships to be built at yards which themselves do not yet exist.

Meanwhile the prices for anchor-handlers in the North Sea have reached unheard-of heights. The economy model that is the Havila Force recently commanded a price of 130,000 per day, indicating that it does not really matter what you build, or what its limitations it can command a good price on the day. Actually we think that there is a bit of scope for economy models, if they have a large deck area, and plenty of underdeck tankage they could be hired long term to avoid some of these enormous day rates, and no-one is going to take on a ship long term whose best task is installing 5" chain moorings for FPSOs.

A FESTIVE SEASON PICTURE

This is the Stirling Aquarius (now the Dina Aquarius) in January 2006. It was a cold day, and there is pancake ice in the river. There are also a few Eider ducks, and the new harbour control is conspicuous by its absence. Best wishes to all our visitors from us at shipsandoil, and our sponsors.

 

Vic Gibson

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