THE BOURBON DOLPHIN
On the 12th April we
passed the third anniversary of the capsize of the Bourbon Dolphin with the
loss of eight of the fifteen crew members on board. A Norwegian Royal
Commission carried out an investigation and published a report and much
has been done with the hope of preventing a re-occurrence. Some of
the actions are particularly obscure, particularly the new rules which
relate to the angle of departure of the wire or chain from the stern of the
anchor-handling vessel, which stipulate that ships should be provided with a
chart showing the maximum tension which should be exerted at any angle of
"What's the problem?" I
hear the naval architects say, "it's all perfectly obvious". And this may be
true for them, but it is not naval architects who actually drive the ships,
it is mariners who do this job, and alarming as this may seem, they
are in the main not trained to do it.
That being said, there are
now a number of simulators which are designed to familiarise offshore
mariners with their working environment and the tasks which are routinely
undertaken. These are operated by Maersk in Denmark and Bourbon in
Marseilles - apparently - and there are also simulators in Lowestoft College
and in South Shields I think, and also one in Norway somewhere. But if we
are realistic only a very small proportion of offshore mariners will
actually pass through these establishments. The rest - in the rest of the
world - are just winging it, and accidents are continuing to happen, which I
am sure might be avoided if those in charge were specifically trained
in the operation of offshore vessels.
Just to remind you, recent
accidents include the Ocean Lark offshore Singapore while on passage in
January with the loss of 11 lives, and the Demas Victory which sank in June
2009 with the loss of 30 lives outside Doha, having been refused permission
to enter the port. We currently have no ideas why these accidents occurred.
A MARINE INVESTIGATION
Almost in continuation of
the last item, it seems worthwhile to highlight the excellent work being
carried out by the UK Marine Accident Investigation Bureau (MAIB), who
almost literally leave no stone unturned if a marine accident occurs in UK
waters or to UK registered vessels. Their investigations range from the
smallest to the largest ships, and they recently completed their
investigations into the loss of the tug Ijsselstroom which overturned
outside Peterhead harbour, fortunately with no loss of life.
The Ijsselstroom was the
stern tug when the barge Tak Boa 1 was being brought into Peterhead Harbour
with a cargo of 5000 tons of rock, to be used in the development of new
berths in the harbour. The event is described in the synopsis of the report
as follows: "Ijsselstroom's skipper chose to deploy her towline over her
stern and intended to maintain position and heading relative to the barge by
using differential ahead power on her two engines. A bridle wire was not
rigged. As the lead tug increased speed, the skipper found that he was
unable to control Ijsselstroom's yawing motion effectively, and five minutes
after connecting to the barge, the vessel took a large sheer to starboard,
girted and capsized."
Simply put, the tow wire
went round the side of the tug and pulled it over. For non tug people, this
is a classic problem for tugs, and is solved by control of the point of
departure of the wire, using what is described by the report as a "bridle
wire". Obviously the closer the point of departure to the stern, the
less chance there is of the tug being pulled over.
Amongst the various
factors that contributed to the accident the MAIB identified that "Van
Wijngaarden Marine Services relied too heavily on the individual knowledge
and experience of its skippers to carry out a safe operation and did not
have a formal staff training programme. However the skippers' knowledge and
experience were never assessed." The question is - of how many other
offshore marine companies could the same be said?
THE NEFTEGAZ 67
This month's "Seaways"
contains a long letter from the secretary of the Hong Kong branch of the
Nautical Institute concerning the sentences handed down by the Hong Kong
district court to the master of the Neftegaz 67, and the master of the bulk
carrier Yao Hai, as well as the senior pilot and the assisting pilot on the
bulker. They range from over three years for the supply ship master to two
years for the assisting pilot. The Yao Hai collided with the Neftegaz 67
sinking it, with the loss of 18 lives in a channel which according to the
court was a "narrow channel" and according to the marine authorities was
not. I have recently read that the sentences are being appealed and that
bail has been granted, so one hopes that the appeals are successful.
There does not seem much
doubt that the collision could have been avoided had either or both of the
ships taken positive and early action, but the question in the end must
be whether an unintentional error, however serious, should result in a
criminal conviction. Well, if you type into Google "Endangering life at sea"
you will find that it comes up pretty high on the UK home office list of
crime headings. It is just below "endangering life on the railways", and one
assumes that this was the starting point for the Hong Kong court.
We would have to wonder in
the end whether this type of legislation is appropriate for an environment
which could be said to be inherently unsafe. After all it is only the skill
of the ship-master and his team which will keep a ship afloat, right way up,
in all the circumstances under which ships operate. And life at sea is not
"endangered" solely when an accident occurs. To name but one event - did the
Doha marine authorities "endanger life at sea" when they refused permission
for the Demas Victory to enter port?
THE WINDMILLS OF ABERDEEN
I have reported
on this before, but now things seem to be coming to a head as the
installation of a large number of offshore wind turbines gets closer. The
intended position for these turbines is just to the North of Aberdeen
harbour, absolutely destroying the commonly used anchorage. Initially they
were going to be placed further up the coast but curiously when the
planning permission was granted for the Donald Trump golfing complex at Balmedie they were re-positioned further south.
Once more, the uninitiated
might wonder what the problem is. There is all that sea out there and all
that coastline. Surely you can just drop anchor anywhere. There is
apparently another proposed anchorage, but I don't know where that is, but I
can say that I spent ten years working to offshore installations from ports
in the North east of Scotland, and during that time I only found one
suitable anchorage close to Aberdeen, the next one to the North was
round the corner at Fraserburgh, some thirty miles away, and the next one to
the south was at Montrose. Of course there may be others which I did not
identify but there are a number of boxes that have to be ticked. Firstly you
need good holding ground, the anchorage should be at a safe distance
from any hazards and the anchorage should be outwith any regularly used port
approaches or channels.
We often see photographs
of ships up on the beach somewhere, due to the masters not following these
basic rules. They drop the anchor in fine weather and everything seems to be
lovely, but then a bit of a breeze springs up and before they know it, and
before they can get the engines going, they are ashore. If the licensing
authority for these windmills have suggested another anchorage, and if it is
unsuitable, are they endangering life at sea? It's a minefield isn't it!
FAST SUPPLY VESSELS
I suppose it was likely to
happen, and in "The History of the Supply Ship" I did predict the
possibility that the crew boat concept would be extended, but I did not say
to what. Apart from the more basic modifications to the crew boat - a bit
bigger, a bit faster, a bit more unusual, not much more has happened up till
now. But now GulfMark iin America have announced that they have ordered four
platform ships 220 ft long, powered by four Cats collectively developing
12,000 bhp, and capable of thirty knots.
This is the first step
taken by a marine support company to reduce transit times, and at least in
part results from the ease with which engine builders seem to be able
to coax extra power from their machinery. One assumes in addition, that the
underdeck carrying capacity has been reduced a bit to allow for finer lines.
The old style platform ships were shaped like barges and no matter how
powerful they were they could only go as fast as the hull form allowed.
Anchor-handlers of course have a different purpose for their power and even
though some can go quite fast this tends to be at the expense of phenomenal
fuel consumption. These new ships are due in service some time in 2012.
Victor Gibson. April 2010.