I have recently made a
couple of visits to London and on two occasions made the trip from Victoria
station and Gatwick by train, it would have been more but the inbound
EasyJet from Madrid arrived at one in the morning, three hours late. The
fact that the airline claimed that public transport was still running from
the airport was more than irritating. But enought of that.
The train line passes
close to Battersea power station, now little more than a shell with an
iconic chimney in each corner, and also close to the wharf and the cranes
which are still there. There must be those who wonder how the coal actually
got to the power station. For those who do not know it was transported in
specially constructed vessels known to the industry as "flatirons". And the
name says all! These little ships seems to have virtually no upperworks, and
the bridge only judst gave the watchkeeper a view over the bow. I never went
on one, but I imagine that the horizon must have been about five miles away.
I do not imagine that any still exist.
Another trip during the
month was via London City Airport, a really good way of getting in or out of
London if you can afford it. The runway is built alongside King George V
dock so that as the aircraft take off you can look across and see the berths
where the P&O cargo ships used to tie up. Transport to the centre of the
city is excellent and I can't help wished that it had been as good for us
when we were tied up there.
PIRATES OF THE GULF OF
During the last few days
the tables were turned on the Somali pirates who have been predating
commercial shipping in the Gulf of Aden more or less without let or
hindrance for a couple of years. A group of pirates in a stolen dhow had
attemted to board a Danish cargo ship but had been unsuccessful. However HMS
Cumberland, a Type 22 frigate which was part of the NATO force operating in
the area identified the dhow as being the one which had caused the trouble
earlier and dispatched small craft manned by marines to board the vessel.
The pirates opened fire on
the marines who fired back fire in self defence. Two pirates were killed and
a third injured and died later. There-after the marines boarded the dhow
without any problems, and it is assumed that the remaining pirates will face
the full force of the law some-where, at some time.
One might think that this
action would result in a change of attitude, or at least caution on the part
of the rest of the pirates, but sadly this does not appear to be so. Over
the week-end a chemical tanker with its full crew has been released on
payment of a ransom of more than $1,000,000 and another chemical tanker has
been hijacked. The fleet of warships seems to be increasing in numbers as
nations identify risks to their crews, and the latest countries to send
ships are the Indians and the South Koreans. Surely things have to get
sorted soon, even though the approach of the various military vessels may be
a bit more cautious than in years gone by.
Meanwhile we should not
forget that there is still lots of pirate activity off the coast of Nigeria
and Bourbon have apparently suspended operations after one of their vessels
has been hijacked and the crew of another robbed.
A couple of Maersk ships
recently achieved a world record for an anchor-handler day rate at £225,000
per day. It was a figure quoted recently at the IBC Offshore Support Vessel
Conference where David Bichard of ODS-Petrodata gave some estimates of the
possible fall out from the current financial crisis. He said that there
would be cancellations mostly due to mutual agreements between shipyards and
ship-owners and although it was difficult to make an estimate the total
reduction in deliveries could be as much as 30%.
In general this could be a
good thing, particularly since many brokers are predicting that there would
be an oversupply of ships in the fairly near future, and cynics have been
suggesting that if the whole order book was delivered in the next couple of
years there would be no chance of these craft actually being crewed. Even
with a 30% reduction it is likely that it would still be a mammoth task to
find skilled people to operate these vessels.
rates remain high in Europe as the available fleet shrinks, and ships are
hired longer term but are not replaced by new-buildings. The many vessels
being put together in China are not really being delivered on time, and this
of course will give owners another opportunity to cancel. This has not
happened recently because owners have been pleased to receive their ships
late or not, but think back to the 1980s when the ME303 Edda Sun languished
in Korea for a couple of years, because it did not, in the view of the
prospective owners, come up to spec.
DONALD TRUMP AND
I note from the BBC news
that Donald Trump has finally been successful in his attempt to get planning
permission for the development of a huge golf complex at Balmedie a
short distance to the North of Aberdeen. Amongst the various news items
about it there was nothing about the proposed location of the windmills,
which were apparently to be ranged along the coast from some-where to the
North of Balmedie to a point just to the north of the harbour.
Then magically it seemed
that all the windmills were to be collected outside the harbour, leaving the
possible golfers further to the north with a clear view of the North Sea,
unsullied by very large rotating propellers. I am not sure what the status
is now, because the harbourmaster, rightly in my view, was campaigning
against this change since the windmills were to be grouped in the only
anchorage anywhere on the coast. And for non-seafarers who might find
themselves reading this column (I live in hope) not only do you need fairly
shallow water for anchoring of which there is much, you also need a suitable
seabed so that the anchor can dig in, of which there is very little between
Stonehaven and Fraserburgh.
And once more, I have to
say, golfers must be mad to think about leaving Florida to cross the ocean
to walk about in the wind and rain which is - wait for it - par for the
course, in the North East of Scotland.
I was going to write here
about distressed seafarers of which there are many, and it is really a
matter of making a chjoice of which distressed seafarers to write about, but
instead here are a few words about the distress currently being experienced
by many British seafarers on certain types of offshore vessel.
In the constant quest for
the removal of more and more of our hard-earned cash from our pockets
the British tax man has decided that DP vessels are not actually ships, and
that there-fore all the guys who are working on them will have to pay UK
tax, regardless of whether they spend half the year outside the UK or not.
This apparently applied no matter in the world where the ship is if the
seafarer returns to the UK at all.
Oh Dear! There may be no
way out of this, but at least the Nautilus union is lobbying the government
and getting everyone to sign a Downing Street petition. I attach the link
http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/MerchantSED/ . Also they are recommending
that you write to your MP. Do what-ever sort of ship you are on because one
day you might want to serve on one of these vessels.
Victor Gibson. November