WHAT'S HAPPENED TO THE
Recently a news item in
the Aberdeen Press and Journal charted the departure of a couple of
directors from the C&M Group, who are the owners of the fabled vessel, the
Ice Maiden. This ship is being billed as an innovative approach to the
provision of accommodation for construction and maintenance in the offshore
industry, and will provide, when it enters service 400 beds.
However, the departure of
the directors is an indication that all is not going well in the Company,
and that it might have been prompted by the lack of enthusiasm for the
progress with the Ice Maiden project on the part of the backers of a
management buy out which took place in 2006. They, Lime Rocks Partners, had
apparently put up £45,000,000 to support the management buyout.
The Ice Maiden is a
14,000 tonne former ice breaker built in Russia in 1991. It was sold early
in its life to the South African Navy and operated for many years all over
the world before being sold again into private hands. C&M purchased it in
2006 on the back of some success they had had with a chartered offshore
support vessel fitted with multiple portacabins to house the offshore
workforce. Of course this was not in the North Sea.
In its final form it is
intended that the Ice Maiden should be DP2 and will remain alongside fixed
structures with its gangway out, allowing personnel to move back and forth.
We have been watching
things happen offshore for many years, and there are some common
denominators which have tended to cause problems with the delivery of
hardware. The first is Russia. While Russian ships look like a bargain, they
are often difficult to deal with, fitted with antiquated equipment which is
difficult or impossible to maintain, and therefore requiring much
retro-fitting of new systems. The second is having work done in America.
This is not intended to be a rant against American workers, but the reality
is that standards tend to be different, and we know people who have been
involved in newbuildings and up grades out there, and who have had endless
problems trying to explain to the contractors what is going to be required
in the North Sea.
All this is before the
thing gets here. It was supposed to alongside a Shell platform last summer.
We await an update.
THE WINDMILLS OF
Only the inhabitants of
the North East of Scotland have been following the progress of the Donald
Trump golf course development at Balmedie. If successful this will include a
couple of golf courses a few hotels and 500 holiday homes. The whole
development will be sited on the sand dunes close to the seashore, and will
apparently follow the original use of this area. "Golf Links" were so named
because they occupied the useless, salt impregnated, bits of land between
arable land and the sea.
But this history aside,
what has this got to do with windmills and seafaring. In addition to the
Trump project others have put up a project to install a series of wind
generators offshore along the coastline between Aberdeen and Balmedie. Don't
ask me why - there seems to be no advantage other than shortening the cables
joining the windmills to the centres of population, and the disadvantage is
that the population of Aberdeen are likely to be confronted with these
ungainly and unpleasant objects when-ever they look out to sea.
Recently the plan for the
windmills was changed, and now they are positioned in several rows to the
east of the Aberdeen prom, potentially completely changing the seaward view
for Sunday walkers. So what you may say. Well, the previous view used to be
of the ships at anchor when the harbour was full. This is because the area
immediately to the North of Aberdeen harbour entrance contains the only good
holding ground south of Frazerborough Bay and North of Montrose harbour.
Once this is filled with windmills there will be nowhere on the coast for
ships to drop the pick and relax.
OIL COMPANY PROFITS
Exxon Mobil and Shell
posted profits last week, which were respectively the largest profits ever
posted by an American Company, and the largest profits ever posted by a
British company. Meanwhile BP did not post such large profits, and probably
as a result have vowed to do better in future, a pledge which apparently
will result in 5,500 people losing their jobs. British trades unionist have
been up in arms, not apparently at the potential loss of jobs for British
workers but at the enormous profits made by Shell. There should be a
windfall tax they said - its not good enough they said - old people will not
be able to afford to heat their homes, increased transport costs will mean
that we will be unable to buy vegetables in the local supermarket, and so
I have always though that
if I was spending a great deal of money at the petrol pumps then the
probably I would remain in work. If BP's likely action is to be believed
this assumption on my part may not be always true. But one thing is certain,
when the oil price drops through the floor we all have to look to our jobs.
So good on you Shell and
Exxon Mobil great to see you made lots of money, but please consider the
future and put some of it to one side for investment, then if the oil price
falls you will be able to hire oil rigs and ships for very little money, and
hence discover new reserves for later recovery, and carry out improvements
and upgrades with platforms shut down, without it hurting too much because
its hardly worth extracting the oil anyway.
This may result in you
having to forget about the quarterly share price and plan for the longer
term, but what the hell, you known it makes sense!
Back in 1982 I had
recently returned to seafaring, after some time ashore due to a change in my
family circumstances. I had spent a little time on the BUE air diving ship
British Enterprise One, and had transferred to Star Offshore when they
returned the management of the the diving and ROV vessel to the owners. This
resulted in me joining the Star Taurus as an extra hand. I took up the extra
hand's berth which was the Hospital, a space which was so close to the bow
and so low in the vessel that there was only just room to put one's feet on
the deck next to the bunk, and it had recently been vacated by an AB who was
a chain smoker.
However, despite these
disadvantages, I remembered that when I had been master of another vessel I
had looked out at the Star Taurus and the Star Aquarius and though what
wonderful large and well found vessels they were.
I was also impressed by
the very professional approach to the job taken by the young officers,
although when the time came to sail from Peterhead I had yet to meet the
master. Don't worry - he's unwell, said the Mate, who proceeded to take the
ship to sea filling in for the man in command in a cool and considered
manner. The captain remained hors de combat for many hours and the Mate
remained in charge, and the Second Mate and I took on watch-keeping duties,
and to be honest it would not have mattered if the Captain had not chosen to
emerge from his cabin at all.
Now, twenty-six years
later I have received an email from the daughter of the former Mate of the
Star Taurus, passed on to me by the man who was Second Mate. His daughter
has decided to present her father with a book of recollections from his old
friends and shipmates on his 60th birthday. Well, we have all moved on, and
we have remained friends, and we borrowed nick name from Robert Maxwell. And
Bob has been a shipmaster for many years. He has now gone on to doing odd
jobs in retirement and is particularly keen on assisting East European crews
to communicate with West European platform personnel.
I never sailed with him
when he was a master, but I am absolutely sure that he commanded his ships
in the same professional, friendly and unassuming manner which I saw when he
took on the temporary command of the Star Taurus. Our industry has been
better for his involvement, and our lives have been better for his
friendship. The only really annoying thing about him is that in 2008 he
still looks exactly the same as he did in 1982.
Taurus in Peterhead taken by George Craigen.