January 2007 is upon us,
so happy new year to all of us who use this particular calendar, and happy
rest of the year for those using some other.
THE VIEW FROM MARKET STREET
When-ever I return from
foreign parts I enjoy a drive past the Trinity Quay in Aberdeen where I can
see what ships are tied up stern to the quay, and consequently how busy the
port is, or not. Today there are three or four platform ships and three
anchor handlers tied up, indicating that the cost of hiring is not to high,
and sure enough if one looks at the broker's info sheets we can see that we
could hire an anchor-handler for £20,000 or so a day. Not too long ago this
would have been seen as a high price. How things change.
One of the anchor
handlers is the Maersk Lifter, one of the revolutionary L class built in 1989.
These may have been the first ships to place the engines under the
accommodation, leaving the body of the craft available for tankage. What a
sensible arrangement, which was to be copied by every other designer in the
business. However the ship looked old and well worn, and not really up to
much against the side of a UT722L.
Also visible alongside on
Blakies Quay are a couple of the Swire's UT720s, originally built to
go anchor-handling in the Far East with their conservative !2,000 BHP, but
since 1997 used for many tasks in the North Sea. During the recent downturn
they have been away, but now they are back and it will be interesting to see
how they are used.
It is rumoured that some
supply vessels now only operate on DP of one sort or another. Apparently the
technique which is used is to enter the 500 metre zone of the offshore
installation to be supported and then to edge close to it in steps, using
the vessel's DP system and GPS as a reference. Once they get alongside they
will then hand up, or if already installed, align the fanbeam or other
direct reference system and go to work.
There is little doubt
that having a ship positioned alongside using an automatic system to
maintain station is probably better than trying to do it by eye and by hand,
but not to have the necessary skill to put the vessel in position using hand
and eye may be something else.
The whole business of
using DP to station vessels close to offshore installations is fraught with
difficulties and everyone you talk to about it has a different opinion. Some
operators absolutely ban use of DP systems on supply vessels, others allow
them to be used if the ship is at least DP2 and there are necessary number
of operators, with appropriate qualifications on the bridge, and others do
not have any opinion at all. Meanwhile every collision involving DP vessels
is picked apart and opinions offered and recommendations made, none of them,
it seems to me, getting to the heart of the problem.
Whatever sort of
positioning system is in place, it will be able to maintain station better
than a human who has to rely on range finding vision, and a variety of
markers to maintain station, not to mention the ability to transfer this
information into a number of forces through engine, thruster and rudder
controls . However it may be that the human is more reliable than some
systems. If the human does not have the intuitive skill which will be gained
after a hundred hours or so of maintaining station by hand, then there is no
means of recovery should the DP system fail. The answer may be therefore to
raise the levels of skill of the ship drivers, rather than attempting to
ensure a greater level of reliability of the DP equipment.
THE BUSIEST OIL PORT
IN THE WORLD
Our primary sponsor,
Marex Marine and Safety Services recently advertised for marine personnel in
the "Telegraph", the journal of the UK mariner's union. This caused them to
receive a number of claims from readers that other ports were the busiest
oil ports in the world.
According to a recent
press release by the port of Aberdeen there were 4300 ship visits during the
first 9 months of 2006.This implies that there were an average of 32
transits per day in and out of the port, not to mention all the internal
movements which take place as ships are on-hired, off-hired, and moved from
one place to another to receive and discharge cargo. We know that this is
not the port of Rotterdam, or a major ferry hub, but it is a busy oil port.
We would be interested to hear from anyone who thinks they know of somewhere
FATIGUE AT SEA
As the years pass I have
noticed that people seem to be more and more interested in my early life at
sea, which is quite a nice contrast to how things were at the time, when
being a seafarer seemed to be similar to being the carrier of an incurable
and easily transmitted disease. I was describing to some-one the other day,
the normal working life of the second mate, going to bed at nine at night,
getting up at midnight and then retiring again at four in the morning, only
to rise again in time for morning sights.
"How did you manage" they
said. "It must have been incredibly disruptive to your sleep patterns."
Honestly, I never thought
about it. That's what the Second Mate did.
Now apparently owners
expect watch-keepers to work six hours on six off for long periods of time,
with intermittent visits to port when the crew actually work longer and
harder, so on reflection I had a pretty easy time. There are now studies
being undertaken and conferences on the subject of "Fatigue at Sea". Is the
answer not simple? Provide the ship with enough crew to do their job without
stress and distress.
Could this whole topic be
connected with the loss of the jobs of a number of fish process workers. It
is now cheaper for their former employer to send frozen prawns to China to
be shelled and then to have them shipped back. If it is possible to do this
then the cost of shipping is too low.
A NEW YEAR
who have been following the fortunes of the drilling rig in Aberdeen
Harbour, here is a pic of the second rig in its most precarious position.
What would happen if one of the 32 ships per day lost control?