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Its a strange world we live in. It seems that risk assessment may be the answer to everything, or maybe the answer to nothing. If in doubt do a risk assessment. In the rig business it appears that in UK the HSE think that if you do a risk assessment the job will be made safer, and the managements of most of the companies working out there seem to think that if you do a risk assessment you can go on doing exactly what you were doing before. These two approaches do not quite marry up. Superficially it appears that the HSE way is the right way. Surely you should assess the risks of doing a job before you go ahead with it. Possibly you should assess the risks of operating a ship before you go ahead and operate it. That at least is what the ISM Code appears to be trying to tell us.

But... and these are just a few of the buts.... if the people doing the risk assessment are not suitably trained, qualified and experienced how good can their assessment be. If the process used is not, in risk assessment terms, robust, then the results may not be worth a light. If people are just bored with all the paperwork and are doing nothing more than ticking all the boxes, the process will have no value. Finally, despite any guidance there is available, if the marine legislators require people to be qualified in a certain way, and have certain experience, and if the ships are to be built to a certain specification, perhaps the risk assessments have all been done already.

A colleague and I are presenting a risk assessment workshop at the IBC Supply Ship Conference in London on 14th Nov. Any views about marine risk assessments would be welcome.


For heaven's sake, I hear you say. He's been away for months, and virtually the first words he puts down are about driving again.

Well, the truth is that I keep hearing new stories. The latest involves ships working out of Aberdeen equipped with azipods. Azipods, for those who are unfamiliar with the term, are azimuthing thrusters with integral electric motors. Hence the ships are actually diesel electric, and being equipped with azipods, don't have any rudders. Because of this the drivers are either confused by the control systems, or else the controls are not effective, and so they go down the channel in auto-pilot. Can things have got this bad? If it is within the capabilities of modern marine technology to put an electric motor in an external casing and have it run reliably, surely a steering system can be designed which in most ways resembles that with which the average helmsman is familiar.

It is obvious that once on location these things work as they should, albeit surely with the assistance of a joystick. Looking down on one from an oil rig it is possible to see that one of the azipods is aligned athwartships for side thrust and the other for and aft for ahead or astern, seeming almost like the best of all worlds. But none of this is any good if you can't get there.


For quite a long time our webcam, stuck on the front of the Marex Marine building on the south side of Aberdeen harbour has been capable of operation by any visitor. It could be panned and tilted and zoomed by anyone at all. But one day I thought I would have a look at the picture, and found that the camera was randomly panning and tilting and zooming and an alarming rate. Obviously some-one somewhere had found a way to screw it up, and since the camera movement is not electronic, the thing actually moves, it was likely to fail. Hence the change.

That being said, I am thinking of making some of the controls available to visitors again so it may be work a look in a week or two.


In what now seems a age ago I decided to write "The History of the Supply Ship" hoping to publish it in the fiftieth year of the existence of the ship type, ie in 2005. Nothing remotely like this happened. I originally thought that all I had to do was string together the stuff I had written over the years add a few photos and that would be it. Nothing like that was the case. I ended up writing every word anew, and with the increase in the oil price and consequently the greater demands there have been on my day job, it has taken until now to get it finished. I have used many of the photographs sent to me over the years, and have received much help from friends and acquaintances, and I wish to reward the photographers with a copy of the book, which we expect to be published in December.

There are more details on the new "Publications" page so those who have entered our competitions and have been good enough to support us with pictures of the day should turn to this page.

I am hoping that this will be the first of a number of publications. My first book "Supply Ship Operations" was written as a sort of primer for those entering the industry and was published by Butterworth Heinemann for the princely sum of 27.50. They printed 1000 most of which were sold through the Kelvin Hughes shop on Regent Quay in Aberdeen. When the shop closed sales dropped off and the publishers decided not to reprint. The second edition was published by  Oilfield Publications for 95, the sales being restricted to them, and me, which prevented any trading in the book on the internet. As a result the few copies of the original book that are available can be purchased on Amazon for more than $500.

I recently came to an agreement with OPL that they would no longer publish the book, and hence I hope to publish the third edition early next year, updated with all the latest information, and enhanced by my experience over the last few years from the other side of the rig moving process, on board the mobile units.

Vic Gibson




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