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NEWS AND VIEWS OCTOBER 2009   

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Putford Aries at Gt Yarmouth Peter Taylor

 

UPDATING MARINE INFORMATION

I am currently carrying out a major project of updating the information on the site about shipping companies. I have started at A and might eventually get to Z, which I assume will be Zapata. I'm trying not to exclude anyone, although I have already come across one company on which I have no information at all, and can't find out any. I assume there are lots of these.

I am also trying to include all offshore marine companies rather than just supply ship owners. Typically I have included Acergy, which has both owned and managed vessels, many of which are almost new, and some of which are quite spectacular designs. Quite near the other end of the scale I have also started to include the standby boat (ERRV) owners and have just done Boston Putford. And particular thanks here to our Great Yarmouth photographers without whom the page would not be very meaningful.

It just shows how things have changed. Back in the 1970s I was master of a ship working for BP out of shed 16 in Dundee, running mainly to the Forties Field which was still being constructed and I remember looking at the brand new Star Aries which used to sail into all sorts of weather with no problem while we, on our very small ships could do nothing. Later I was master of the Star Aries, as one of the older ships in the Star Offshore fleet, and was promoted to be master of a brand new platform ship the Star Capella, which was really the business in 1983. It became the number one ship running out of Peterhead to the Thistle platform, I think for Britoil.

Now these former state of the art vessels are the Putford Aries and Putford Protector, and I must say that even in their modified role they still look pretty good. Visitors to the Boston Putford page may also note that many of these ships are pictured carrying cargo, so this means that their masters are actually driving these old ships in the traditional way. They don't have DP. They don't have multiple thrusters. They are mostly doing the job the way everyone did twenty years ago.

GOOGLE ADS

Regular visitors to the various areas of this site may have noticed that the Google ads have disappeared. They have been a feature for nine months, but on balance I felt that they did not make a sufficient contribution to the upkeep to be worth retaining.

In some cases I found that the advertisments had no relationship what-so-ever to the content, and therefore could not possibly make a financial contribution. For instance if my name was included anywhere, Google would register it and would include links to sites selling guitars. And worse really, there seem to be a multitude of sites directed at personnel serving in the American armed forces, and as soon as one mentions ship anywhere there is stuff appearing about the navy, or more likely THE NAVY. Shades of the Village People come to mind. In addition as soon as you write the word "offshore" you attract lots of stuff about investing in a way that will avoid tax - what-ever country you are living in.

On the other hand there were occasional links to sites which provide a means of recruitment into the offshore industry, and having removed these from the site I am almost motivated to try to sell some advertising space directly. Time will tell. (At the 2013 update it c an be seen that the ads are back - it's because they are better.)

THE SIEM PEARL

Visitors to the "Picture of the Day" may notice that the today's offering (Wednesday 14th October) is a poor picture of the Siem Pearl which I took with the webcam. It was right at the other side of the dock, and so was on the limit of the possible telephoto capabilities of the camera.

This is a ship with everything you could want for anchor-handling. It is extremely large at 91 metres in length it has a bollard pull which is advertised as being 300 tonnes, it has wire and chain capacity for what-ever one could possibly need. It has a sort of  bridge crane on the after deck which is provided with a couple of very futuristic manipulators which are apparently intended to make and break the connections in the mooring system. This is billed in the spec as "safe deck arrangements for cargo and anchor-handling operations".

I noticed that it is not visible in Aberdeen today, so it may be out there doing something for some-one, although commendably Siem have an availability list on their website which says it is still available. Anyway, the point of this item is that regardless of the specification of a new ship, it has to get out there and prove itself. And the more stuff its got, actually the more reluctant people are to hire it, because they know that new equipment has to have its bugs ironed out. The more hydraulics there are involved, the more bugs there will be.

So best of luck to the Siem Pearl, and to those who are going to work with it on its first job. I've been on both ends of this and I know how difficult it can be.

PIRATES

The Spanish government has taken a new step in the fight against pirates in the seas around the Horn of Africa. Recently another Spanish tuna fishing vessel Alakrana was overcome by pirates, and in a rapid action by a Spanish warship two of the pirates were captured. The Spanish tuna ship is a modern large vessel with a Spanish master and is registered in Spain. The pirates were captured by a Spanish warship, so this in that slightly irritating American expression is "having one's ducks in a row".

Hence the Spanish have flown the pirates to Madrid. They were on the TV last night, and one assumes that they are going to be prosecuted and maybe jailed in Spain for their crime. The pirates who have the ship under their control say that unless their colleagues are returned there can be no negotiation over the return of the ship. This is an unusual situation, made quite a bit more difficult by the fact that the last time a tuna fishing boat was captured the Spanish, and here I don't know exactly who, paid a ransom of 1,000,000 euros.

Despite the fact that this piracy as been going on for some time, it is the pirates who seem to be making progress rather than the combined navies of the world, and we are almost at the point again that we were before the high profile capture of the super tanker and the capture and escape of the American registered Maersk ship. We have to be diligent to find out what is going on.

THE ANGLIAN PRINCE

When the Anglian Prince was approaching the dock at Ullerpool the other day it broke down. The master thinking quickly managed to anchor and his engineers went to work to solve the problem which, according to the media, involved compressors. This leads one to believe that the problem related to control air, so that even though the engines were running whey could not be controlled.

This is a really minor difficulty which must happen to ships all the time. There were no injuries and there was no damage. Never-the-less, because of the ship's position as the chartered MCA west coast safey/salvage vessel the event made the BBC news, and was subsequently reported all over the world. It was originally the Salvageman, one of United Towing's super salvage ships.

This is hard luck for Klyne Tugs who own the ship, unless they take the view that no publicity is bad publicity.

 Victor Gibson. October 2009.

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