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If one types the words MSC Napoli into Google, it can be seen that there are 1,460,000 possible references. Just out of curiosity I found another marine disaster, the loss of the Leonida II in November 2006, and typed the name in to Google. No-one was lost from the MSC Napoli although  a number of seabirds were oiled, between 800 and 10,000 depending on the publication one reads. Sixteen people died as a result of the sinking of the Leonida II, yet its appearance over our media horizon was brief and limited.

In earlier edition of this page I have reported on a number of misfortunes which have occcured apparently without notice in the West. Ships have sunk without trace with the loss of all hands but there has been no report. In general conditions on the vessels sailing round the world carrying our freight are somewhere between poor and unacceptable, but there is little to be done. The master of the MSC Napoli was Bulgarian even though the vessel was registered in UK. Nothing against Bulgarians, only against people from other countries commanding British vessels.

The MSC Napoli has brought to our attention many aspects of the operation of ships, although it is difficult to see whether the information will have any effect. To get a real idea about what has been happening one would have to read Lloyds List, but we can't really afford a paper which costs such a lot to purchase. To get the stuff in the public domain one only has to watch a bit of TV, and see the crowds plundering the containers on the beach to understand where the excitement lies.

The MSC Napoli in a previous life has been aground, and has been extensively repaired in Vietnam. The Sunday Times reported that most of the bottom of the ship had been replaced in that country, and one assumes that the appropriate class surveys were carried out. 

Some of our readers may be unaware as to what Class surveys are, however, typing the name into Google produces the site "DNV Exchange". DNV or Det Norsk Veritas is the classification society for the ship. This means that surveyors from DNV have been present when the ship was built, have examined it periodically over its lifetime, and have ensured that the repairs to it have been adequate. This is not an altruistic activity. It is required to ensure that the ship is suitable to be insured, and being out of class means that it will be difficult or impossible to obtain insurance for the hull. However, it is not the insurers who pay for the class surveyor, it is the ship-owner and if the owner is not keen on the class society doing the work they can change to another. It is therefore in the interests of the classification society to keep the ship-owner happy. Some believe that this is an inappropriate situation, and one wonders why the insurers do not seem to have much interest in the situation. But I am going on and we will leave the subject for this month.


Those who might have been wondering what Tidewater were going to do with the many, many Halter Marine 185 footers in their fleet, now that larger and more sophisticated vessels are required more or less all over the world, can now be provided with some sort of an answer. In the latest edition of "Tug and Salvage" the company had advertised the Tidewater Ready Reserve, suggesting that these vessels can be used for all sorts of things. This is more or less true, and at 4000 bhp they are not so powerful that they will use more fuel than anyone can afford. If you were thinking of buying one consumption is about 5 tonnes a day at 14knots.

Jesting apart, during previous downturns many of these ships have found their way into the fishing industry in America, some have gone towing logs on the west coast of Canada and other have been used for carrying small numbers of containers between very small ports. I particularly liked the idea that they might be used as "Yacht Tenders". Years ago they themselves would have been turned into the yachts, but today the yachts are so big, and the people on them require so much gear, that small vessels are being used to carry the baggage, the jet skis, the inflatables and doubtless the cases of champagne which might be required to keep the 12 people the yacht can carry, happy.


There are now four very large supply ship shaped vessels sailing in and out of Aberdeen on a regular basis, although they uniquely have a complex framework of equipment at the forward end of the deck from which, in time, will be suspended two ARRCs - or autonomous rescue craft. These vessel are the fruition of a period of negotiation between BP and the HSE now many years ago, when BP proposed replacing large numbers of ERRVs with some helicopters and these very large ships, which were to be equipped with relatively small craft, to be launched in an emergency to pick people out of the water. The big change is that should the rescue craft be unable to be recovered they are large enough and fast enough to make it to the shore.

We have been waiting patiently for the service to start but have so far only seen one of the ARRCs on a davit, and now it is reported by Offshore Shipbrokers that it may be as late as mid summer before the service is fully operational. There have been one or two problems, most apparently concerned with the late delivery of the ships. Building in China seems like a bargain, but there is a lot of input required from the crews to sort out the bugs.     


Over the years we have seen a number of photographs being submitted to our photo competitions purporting to be the work of more than one person. We have also seen pictures stolen from our site win competitions elsewhere. But what to do. Probably not hold the competitions, because it becomes more and more difficult to establish the origins of electronic photos as the years pass, and indeed we have photos stored, and would like to use them, but sometimes cannot establish who sent them to us. However, sometimes it is easy, as it was about a week ago when a series of snaps showing waves breaking over the deck of a bulk carrier circulated round the marine community in Aberdeen, and for all I know round lots of other marine communities.

The group was titled, "A rough day in the North Sea yesterday", and one of those though whose computer had written "wow, can it get any worse".

A couple of things prompted some of us to type in the name of the ship. For me it was the fact that it was a bulk carrier which had supposedly emailed the snaps to some-one the day before. I and others found that the pictures had actually been taken in the North Atlantic in 1987. Not really a great joke, and actually in the North Atlantic it can get a great deal worse. 


And the drilling rig survives as can be seen from a recent picture.


Vic Gibson




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