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It only seems like the other day that I was out in the streets of Aberdeen celebrating the start of the New Millenium. It was a very pleasant evening - for Aberdeen. That is to say, it was not raining and not so cold that we could not remove our gloves to imbibe from our hip flasks.

Now we are eight years into the new century and much has changed since that day. To start with our website is ten years old this year, although the precise date of its initiation is now lost. I can't quite remember why I had started it, but I think it was to do with a marketing project for the use of supply ship owners. I think it was to be a means by which owners could be put in touch with clients. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and actually it still seems like a good idea today. At the time of its start there were very few ship-owners with websites and so if one put in a ship's name into any search engine we usually came up. Now of course every-one has websites, and so there is no particular reason why this site should be selected, but sometimes it is.

The intervening eight years have also been very busy one for me. Instead of embarking on a service for ship-owners I developed a service for mobile rig owners, and so Marex Marine Services have ended up by being a major compiler of safety cases for UK based rigs and writers of other safety and operating document and also a provider of mariners for marine operations. But time passes and I have relinquished the reins of that organisation and started something new. Hence the reason for the change of name of the site. Ships and Oil Ltd will continue to support the website and I am going to try to keep up to date with what is happening out there, and catalogue the arrival of at least some of the wonderful new buildings which are programmed to enter service over the next couple of years.

The question for the industry is whether this massive influx of craft will end up creating an oversupply, and therefore whether we can expect the usual shuffle of ship-owners during such times. Meanwhile I will continue with my new task which is, in addition to developing the website, free to all, the publication of books relating to marine support to the offshore oil industry. The first is on the shelves now, and the second, the latest edition of "Supply Ship Operations" is currently in production.

So from Ships and Oil, our good wishes for 2008 to our visitors.


We, together with some other deserving enthusiasts, receive frequent pictures taken by the Chief Mate of the Acergy Falcon, which is a ROV and construction support vessel, employed all over the world. At the moment the ship is on its way North, having demobilised in West Africa, and we are receiving pictures from a variety of points on the route.

One of the latest was of the Normand Mariner the well known Solstad operated Ulstein A101, which was apparently on its way to Point Noire. The picture prompted me to have a look to see where the other A101s were, and the only one still available on the spot market is the Olympic Hercules. This is sad news for those in the rig move business in the North Sea, since these vessels have proved to be very suitable for the job, particularly where there are fibre ropes, wire inserts or chain extensions involved.

How will it be when the Olympic Hercules also departs the UK to take up long term well paid work in some other area of the world? It will be possible of course to use some other ships, which may gradually develop the skills needed to deal with those aspects of rig moving which are leas than straightforward. But while the skills are being developed, and more basically, while the new crews of new ships are becoming teams, the time taken to recover and deploy the moorings of mobile units will be extended by days.


As I write this there are two people from a "Save the Whale" organisation on board a Japanese whale hunting vessel. They leapt aboard from their own ship operated by Sea Shepherd, apparently to "deliver a letter of protest". From a purely legal point of view surely boarding a ship at sea without permission is piracy, and since the this was a Japanese ship it is possible that Japanese law should apply. There are some legislatures that still employ the death penalty for pirates.

It seems that the Sea Shepherd organisation is fairly extreme in their approach to the Japanese whaling fleet, and will try to disable the ships if they can. Also down in the Antarctic is the Esperanza the Greenpeace ship which according to the press is attempting the prevent the whaling fleet from operating by less confrontational means.

While we will all probably agree that the intent of these activities, to reduce the predation on the whale population, is a laudable one, never-the-less this hardly allows those in the marine environment to break the law. After all if a cargo ship was boarded by a bunch of disreputable looking characters in the Malacca Strait, would we believe that they had in fact boarded to give a letter to the Captain.

People should not take the law into their own hands, and as usual professional mariners - no matter what their business - are getting the rough end of the pipe-apple.

Here is the Esperanza, one of the environmentalists ships down there, on a visit to Aberdeen in 2004.


At the weekend a British amateur sailor called his local pub and asked for help. This would not be unusual if he had been rowing a dingy on the village duckpond, but in fact he was sailing a yacht single handed off the coast of Florida. He had purchased the yacht in America and was sailing it home. This does not sound too bad if you say it quickly, but single handed, in January, without any detailed information about how to alert the emergency services in the event of a misfortune.

At this time of year, out in the Atlantic large ships have vanished without trace, and although this sailor had apparently been part of the crew of a yacht which had undertaken a transatlantic voyage surely it must have been at the right time of year. I only say this because having experienced Atlantic storms on a 10,000 ton ship, I cannot imagine how frightening they would be if one was looking up at the wave-tops from the deck of a thirty foot yacht.

This chap had not got very far before he fell and broke his pelvis, and this was the reason for the call. The landlord of the pub alerted the coastguard who in turn alerted the US coastguard. They arranged for a tanker to divert by some means, the injured man was transferred to the large vessel, and the yacht abandoned.

If it was not so tragic the whole affair would be laughable, and professional mariners continue to wonder why there is nothing in anyone's legislation which prevents people without experience or training from going to sea, often hazarding themselves and occasionally others.

A BAD 2007

At the last  Marine Safety Forum meeting it was said that there had been 20 fatalities on the UKCS during the year. Obviously this figure included the Bourbon Dolphin disaster which accounted for eight of casualties, but even so this is a distressing figure.

Some of the deaths could easily have been avoided one would think. This is particularly true of the deaths of the two seamen on the forecastle of the FR8 Venture immediately after its departure from Scapa Flow into the Pentland Firth. The ship had left sheltered waters while the crew were still securing the forecastle. Two large waves climbed aboard and swept the deck crew away, killing two of them. There is little doubt that the departure should have been delayed until after the ship was fully prepared for sea, and it is probably that no-one who was on the ship will ever let it happen again, and the owners have modified their procedures to take the possibility into account.

A number of seafarers have also died due to entering a chain locker without first testing for oxygen. What has become a depressingly familiar pattern was followed. First one man entered and collapsed. A second man went in to rescue him and also collapsed. This is quite easy to understand. We can't really visualise a space which is more or less open to the air lacking oxygen but of course they do.

I suppose I should go back to what I constantly keep going on about. Do your risk assessments properly. Write procedures which are based on them, and take notice of the procedures.

Victor Gibson