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NEWS AND VIEWS MARCH 2007  

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ACTIVITY IN INVERGORDON

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 employed.

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.

VOITH SCHNEIDER PROPULSION

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 propulsion.

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 be disadvantages.

A ROUGH DAY IN THE NORTH SEA

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.

 

Vic Gibson

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