This is a big month for
the UK drilling industry as the traditional barometer of offshore activity,
the number of rigs in lay-up in the Cromarty Firth is reduced to nil. As the
last downturn bit in 1998 the Transocean Explorer made its way up to the
head of the firth to be anchored in water so shallow that one of the
anchor-handlers holed itself on the anchor it had just laid, backing up the
mooring. It was followed shortly after by the Transocean Wildcat, and then
by numerous other rigs, until every possible anchorage was full, and one of
then had to be relocated to the Firth of Forth.
Time has passed and
gradually as the enthusiasm for drilling holes in the earth's crust has
increased, so the rigs have been re-activated and towed away onto
locations, mainly in the North Sea. Even the Petrolia, the venerable
Pentagone which seems to have spent most of its life close to the
construction facility at Nigg, went to work last year and it still gainfully
Then Transocean sold the
Transocean Explorer, and off it went, so now the Wildcat is lying alongside
in the Queens Doc, and is being prepared for departure to India, and then
the firth will be empty, for the first time for years. In past times the
time taken to re-activate all the stacked units has been such that by the
time the last ones were on the way out, the first casualties of the
next downturn were on their way back. This time the industry seems to be set
on a course for continued activity and the next rig into Invergordon will
probably only be coming in for a quick wash and brush up before going off
again to the oil fields.
THE ICE MAIDEN
We wondered what the Ice
Maiden was, when its name came up in conversation the other day, that is,
apart from a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale. It turns out that the Ice
Maiden is a former Russian Icebreaker which is being converted in the USA
into an accommodation vessel for 400 people.
To we simple people the
idea of a monohull being used in the North Sea, which is apparently its
destination, raises a few questions. Are they going to park it alongside a
platform and put a bridge across - surely not! Apart from anything else it
would need a safety case. And if they are not going to park it alongside
then are they going to move the 400 man workforce by helicopter at the
beginning and end of their shifts. Of course if it is the latter then it
won't need a safety case because it will not be connected in any way with an
offshore installation, and its activities will be solely that of a vessel -
a passenger ship.
The new Edda ship - which
we think will be called the Edda Fram, since the existing Edda Fram seems to
have been renamed the Edda Sprite, is to be provided with Voith Schneider
For those who are not
familiar with this particularly ingenious means of getting ships from one
place to another, and manoeuvring them, this equipment consists of a number
of vertical blades which extend from the bottom of the ship. When under way
they are constantly rotating, but the angles of them can be changed by the
person at the controls so the thrust can be set in any direction and
with variable force. Vessels fitted with several units are extremely
versatile they can be steered like conventional craft, they can be moved
sideways or held in position and can be made to travel diagonally or
turn on the spot.
All this makes one wonder
why no-one has used these systems before on offshore vessels, so there must
A ROUGH DAY IN THE
If this is your first
visit to Ships & Oil, News and Views, you will not know that last month I
described some photographs which had been circulating round the mariners in
Aberdeen purporting have been taken a few days earlier from a
bulk carrier in the North Sea. Of course, when one typed the name of the
ship into Google, a site showing marine photos came up, and it turned out
that the pictures had been taken in the middle of the Atlantic in 1987.
You would think that
every-one would have worked out that it was unlikely, even in this day and
age, that a middle aged bulk carrier would be provided with a satellite
internet connection, and that therefore they would have investigated
further. It seems that this did not occur to the editor of the MARS
reporting system which is published monthly in Seaways, and we believe
elsewhere. The caption stated that "the dramatic pictures show the fury of
the storm that hit the English Channel and the North Sea in January 2007.
Amazingly the ship rode out the storm at anchor...."
Of course they could be
an entirely different set of pictures, co-incidentally looking just like the
ones taken in the Atlantic in the 1980s.
A TOPICAL PICTURE
At a time
when Viking Standby is apparently up for sale, the first of the current set
of newbuildings, the Viking Discovery arrives in Aberdeen.