My list of marine
casualties for which it seems essential that some form of investigation is
undertaken seems to be increasing, and these are just the casualties that I
know about. Top of my own list is the Demas Victory which sank off Doha last
June with the loss of 30 lives. The ship is registered in St Vincent
and the Grenadines, of whom I made an initial enquiry when their website was
up and running. However up to the other day the whole government site was
closed down and so nothing further has been possible, and my enquiries
elsewhere have produced no results.
In December last year the
Danny F II sank off the coast of Syria with the loss of 45 lives and also
the lives of a great many sheep and cattle. This cattle ship was a converted
car carrier and the sinking took place after engine failure, in only
moderately rough seas. The British marine union Nautilus is calling for an
investigation into the loss because the Captain and the ETO, both of whom
were lost, were both British, and were members of the union. The ships was
registered in Panama and was owned by an Egyptian company, and we await
further developments. One can only say that if Nautilus can't achieve
anything what hope is there of persuading anyone to do anything. On a
website which reported the incident and which was configured for comments
and responses there were many requests from relatives of crew members for
information. Is this another endemic failing of the modern ship-owning
community that after a loss the ship-owners do not have sufficient
information or do not care about contacting crew-members relatives.
And back in January the
Singapore registered AHTS Ocean Lark sank in the area of the Horsburgh Light
in the South China Sea. Only two of the thirteen man crew were recovered.
This ship was owned by "Drydocks World" apparently, and was registered in
Singapore. I emailed the media service of the Singapore government for
information about the investigation but have heard nothing.
Not to be added to the
non-investigation list, but of interest never-the-less is the loss of the
Neftegaz 67 which was sunk in 2008 in Hong-Kong harbour. I have recently
been updating the ship information section of the website and while
inserting the information from a Russian company, and one of the ships on
the list was the Neftegaz 67. It was a familiar name, but I included it and
thought no more about it. Only when the Telegraph reported on the recent
trial and conviction of the mariners involved in the sinking did I realise
that the Russians had not even bothered to remove the ship from their fleet
list. The ship was registered n Ukraine, who have apparently carried out an
investigation which is on their website - in Ukrainian.
THE OCEAN GUARDIAN
Drilling seems to be
proceeding apace in the North Falklands basin and apparently the rig has
also been commissioned to carry out further exploration to the south of the
islands, while Argentina is not quite rattling its sabre, but is making life
as difficult as it can for the oil company and the rig owners and even the
ship-owners. Obviously that country's principal offensive activity is
preventing any support activities from taking place from its ports.
Apparently they arrested a ship carrying oil field cargo and prevented it
from leaving with a cargo of pipes. However, the pipes were from an
Argentinean source and for an entirely different destination. The reality is
of course that drilling exploration well is stupendously expensive, and that
therefore the cost of getting stuff from a bit further away than
Argentina will not prove to be too much of a problem. Brazil is not too far
away and cargo ships are cheap top hire. If oilfield operators have an
Achilles heal it is a tendency to rely on hotshots when they have failed to
plan properly. But they over come this by the simple expedient of hiring
Many years ago when I was doing a job on a semi-submersible in Israeli
waters the oil company ran out of casing and so flew some in. For those who
don't know what casing is, this is large diameter heavyweight pipe for
keeping the walls of an oil well vertical.
Attached is a picture
of the largest size casing used for the top hole of a well being drilled
from a jack-up. This was taken by David Styles and is included in my book
"Supply Ship Operations". Click on the picture to enlarge it.
THE BRITISH AIRWAYS STRIKE
When the British Prime
Minister waded in on the side of British Airways today it seemed to me that
the country is developing into a fascist nation. Many people in Uk think
that the potential strikers should be sacked, have their pensions removed,
or possibly be put in prison for causing trouble. I can't help sympathising
them, even though I don't know the details of their problem, except what
appears in the press. However, it seems to be similar to one faced by the
Star Offshore officers in 1986.
At that time the oil
industry was in crisis due to the low oil price and the ships supporting
exploration and development were being laid up, returned to the spot market
and required to minimise fuel consumption. The Managing Director of Star
decided that the best way out of his problem was to change the leave
arrangements which had been agreed years earlier between the UK owners and
the Union. This was that everyone would get one day's leave for one day's
work, an arrangements more or less universal amongst Western offshore
workers. (This is not quite as good as it sounds, and of course does not
suit everybody). The MD decided that he would change the work leave ratio
from one day off for one day at work, to one day off for two days at work.
This would result in a saving for the company of more than 30% with a
similar loss of jobs.
Despite efforts to
negotiate something different he was resolute in his course of action, and
so, despite the crisis which the industry was in, the officers on the Star
Offshore vessels went on strike on 1st December 1986, and gradually the
ships collected outside waiting for something nice to happen. The union and
the company went back to the negotiating table and a reduction in wages of
15% was agreed. This saved the company from real distress while the existing
major agreements were kept intact. Is this more or less what the BA cabin
staff are suggesting?
HUMAN ERROR AND HEAVY WEATHER
I wrote something about
heavy weather in 2008 which was published in Safety at Sea International,
(See "Features" on this website), and my words came to mind when I read of
the misfortunes of the "Louis Majesty" a cruise ship which was recently on
its way from Barcelona to Genoa when a large wave smashed some windows in
the forward lounge killing two passengers.
Of course it was already
extremely rough, and probably the ship was steaming on to get to its next
destination. There is no time in passenger ship itineraries for lingering to
await improvements in the weather. In addition there is a large xpanse of
glass, unusually directly at the aft end of the forecastle. This is unusual,
before you ask, because the forward mooring position has been covered over
so forward of the windows is just an open space. So one can easily imagine
that the ship dived into the sea, scooped up the water, and instead of it
hitting the bulkhead which is usually at the aft end of the forecastle there
were windows, and alarmingly just inside the windows were all these people
looking out at the waves. The media reported that the two casualties were
killed by shards of glass. Really, really unfortunate, but illustrating that
no matter what sort of ship you are on you have to watch the weather.
I just recycle information
from elsewhere in the marine media, and here some more of that stuff, just
in case you missed it.
It is now possible to jam
GPS with quite moderately priced equipment. Not everybody wants to do this,
but you can rest assured that there is some-one somewhere who would enjoy
sitting on the seafront at Dover, pressing a button and seeing the ships go
all over the place. Can you imagine it?
We are now in a situation
where not only is the position of the ship provided by the GPS, in some
cases the position is fed directly into the navigation system and the ship
follows a course which depends in this input. One assumes of course that the
position is checked by some other means by a real person at frequent
intervals. But of course the position is always right, so in the end surely
the location of the ship on the planet is accepted. How would it be if it
all went wrong, and suddenly as far as the ship is concerned it is somewhere
in Kent. Because the navigation system would be unaware that it was
impossible for the ship to be in the middle of the Kent countryside it would
set course for the correct destination, and everything would go to hell.
You did not hear this here
first, but it is something to bear in mind.