ANOTHER HELICOPTER CRASH
When I wrote last month
about the helicopter crashes which had recently occurred, one in Canada and
one in UK, I never expected to be writing about another in this month's
This latest crash on 2nd
April took place as the aircraft with 14 passengers on board was returning
to Aberdeen from the Miller Platform. It crashed into the sea about 35 miles
form Peterhead. There were no survivors. The aircraft
was a Super Puma operated by Bond who provide helicopter services to BP. The
news was received with shock by those closest to the incident, the workers
on the platform, and obviously with considerable distress by the friends and
relatives of those who were lost. They of course have our sympathy.
The event resulted in
considerable media interest in the offshore survival course where, for those
who do not know much about this, requires the participants to carry out
simulated evacuations from a helicopter under different circumstances.
Because helicopters are top heavy, and therefore have a tendency to invert
immediately after impact on the sea there is a requirement for those on the
course to strap into a helicopter body and sit there while it turns upside
down and fills up with water. They can then release their seat belt and exit
through a window before swimming up to the surface. Those who have
experienced the naval underwater escape training unit at HMS Heron, "the
dunker", have the
added distress of having to sit there while the helicopter upturns and then
descends to a depth of five metres in total darkness, before being able to
release their seat belts and swim to the surface.
However, none of this
training would have been of any help to the passengers on the Miller flight.
According to the latest reports, the AAIB have suggested that the aircraft
suffered from a catastrophic gearbox failure, which apparently might have
resulted in the rotor detaching. The helicopter would have just
fallen out of the sky, actually within the view of the watchkeepers on the Normand
Aurora, which launched its FRC within minutes of the crash.
Those of us who regularly
travel offshore will find themselves attempting to rationalise these recent
events. We all know there is a risk to helicopter travel. The very fact that
we have to put on ever more complex protective gear emphasises it. In the
North Sea this includes not only a survival suit with additional layers of
clothing, but a breathing device and often some sort of locator beacon. The
reality is of course, that helicopter travel is less risky than travelling
by car, but it will take many months of safe operations before we are
ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS DIE
IN THE MEDITERRANEAN
A whole different scale of
marine disaster occurred in the Mediterranean at the end of March.
Apparently people from all over North Africa who want to get to Europe
congregate in Libya, and pay money to embark on small craft which will then
strike out for the Italian island of Lampedusa. There are alarming pictures
on the internet of one of these craft, which apparently was rescued by an
anchor-handler, looking very like Asso Ventidue. The scale of the disaster
is difficult to encompass. Between 250 and 300 immigrants died not far from
the coast of North Africa, and the few survivors were taken back to Tripoli
What are they thinking.
Anyone who has sailed in the Med, and here I mean sailed in a yacht, as
opposed to in a ship, will know that you can be weathered off for days in
the Southern Mediterranean, even in mid summer. I have been stuck in the
Cyclades so long that we ran out of water, but that could be another story.
This particular tale of
distress did not even make it into the Uk press but it turns out that this
route is used constantly by illegal immigrants, and in some years up to
10,000 people might make it across. Apparently in many cases the Italians
move them on to the mainland and eventually just let them wander away. After
all where are they going to send them back to? As I write this the guys who
died in the helicopter crash are being commemorated at a memorial service in
Aberdeen, attended by the Prime Minister and Prince Charles. We do not even
know how many died in the Libyan accident.
ACTIVITY OFF THE HORN
I was unaware that Maersk
had any ships registered in the USA until the Maersk Alabama incident,
resulting in the death of three pirates when Captain Phillips was rescued by
the US Navy. This seems to have been the first US registered ship to have
been captured otherwise surely there would have been more media coverage
before. Of course this does not mean that none of the ships captured were
American owned. Anyway, President Obama has now given his support to the
efforts of the American Navy, and presumably the Navies of the other nations
having a presence there, in their efforts to protect the ships in the area.
Meanwhile the French, who seem to be taking the most positive approach have
captured 11 pirates and a little earlier in the month recaptured a yacht
with the loss of life on one of the hostages.
Apparently there are about
500 pirates operating out of their base of Eyl, and the only qualification
required is ownership of a gun. For every pirate captured or killed there
are ten young men ready to take his place. And why not? The possibility of
capture remains remote and the rewards are considerable. Historically the
way the maritime nations of the world have dealt with piracy has been to
capture the pirate base. This is the way the Romans, the Spanish and the
British did it. However, this option may not be open to today's maritime
nations because at present over 200 seafarers of many nations are being held
hostage on their vessels.
Recently an American
submarine and an American warship collided in the Gulf of Hornung, and back
in February a British and a French submarine collided somewhere in the
Atlantic. Additionally when carrying out offshore risk assessments we always
discuss the possibility of collision between oil rigs and ships.
Surprisingly - well for me it is surprising - one of the few collisions
which have occurred between rigs and ships was between a submarine and an
oil rig in the Norwegian Sea. And, if one researches collisions we find that
submarines seem to be colliding all the time.
This may be something to
do with the guesswork involved in dead reckoning navigation. My father was a
submariner in the Second World was and I had occasion to ask him how they
had managed to navigate in blackout conditions. After all, the missions
undertaken by these vessels often required them to approach close to
land in total darkness with a complete lack of navigation marks or lights
and often without the opportunity of getting good fixes because of the
presence of the enemy. Oh he said, we just guessed it.
SUPPLY SHIP OPERATIONS
I am pleased to say that
my book "Supply Ship Operations" has finally been published, and I am
selling it at the same price that Butterworth Heinemann sold it for in 1992,
which is £27.50. This is at least in part because of the number of emails I
received from mariners complaining about the cost when it was published by
OPL for £95. I used to tell them that it was because not enough of them
purchased the original edition, but possibly the reality was that the
internet was not as it is now, and the publishers were very poor at selling
I have managed to keep the
price down by taking the advice of my printers in terms of size, and
apparently the cheapest size for a soft back book is 17cm x 24 cm. I
have managed to keep the number of pages precisely in groups of 32 so it
comes out at 288 pages, and all this has been possible because I have
designed the book myself using an Apple Mac and Adobe Photoshop Essentials.
There are over 100 colour photos, nearly all of them adding something to the
text, which like the previous editions is intended to help people do the
job. There are more details on our "Publications" page.