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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.


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.

Meanwhile anchor-handler 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.


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 here 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 2008.



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