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NEWS AND VIEWS SEPTEMBER 2010 

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THE LOSS OF THE OSV VOORTREKKER

Some time ago I received an email from a visitor in South Africa suggesting that on these pages we should commemorate the loss of the OSV Voortrekker which was a South African anchor-handler built in 1983 in Durban. I had not heard of the ship or the fact that it was lost in September 1993 in adverse weather off Mossell Bay while, according to the related webpage, it was "attending to the oil rig". The oil rig was the Actinia. Of course there are a multitude of possibilities in the words "attending to he oil rig", and in the light of more recent disasters I wish we knew more.

All that can be said about it, is that back in the early days of the offshore support in the North Sea ships occasionally sank for no apparent reason, actually causing the Department of Transport to send out questionnaires, and if one thinks about it carefully offshore vessels are still sinking for no apparent reason. So sadly it is certain that the Voortrekker sank due to either a structural/mechanical problem or because some-one made a mistake. But what other reasons could there be? Well, the other reason is lack of knowledge, and it only became apparent as time passed that offshore vessels tended to dip an after corner under the water, drastically reducing the area under the curve, the traditional manner in which stability is measured. But I think we knew all about that by 1993.

The ship floated upside down for two days before it sank, and amazingly during that time the guys who had been in the engine room, the Chief Engineer, the Second Engineer and the Motorman managed to escape, although unfortunately the motorman was later to die of his injuries. The rest of the crew, and the ship's cat lost their lives. It is sad that it has not been possible to carry out any sort of investigation to find out what went wrong.

BP HAVE REPORTED

On to another sad topic. Back last Wednesday, the 8th September BP released its report into the loss of the Deepwater Horizon. It extended to 257 paqes and had additionally 27 appendices. Then on the 15th September Tony Hayward appeared before a house of Commons select committee who were considering whether things needed to change offshore in order to make things safer.

Tony Hayward was "devastated" by what had happened, he said. However, the report on the incident was considered by one of the other players Transocean, as being self serving. It is difficult at this point to comment in advance of the publication of what, it is to be hoped, will have been a totally independent investigation by the US Coastguard and the Bureau for Offshore Exploration Management etc, or else at least have been reading all the transcripts of all the witness statements recorded so far.

And finally it is expected that the relief well will  be completed this coming weekend and that the cement will be pumped into the problem penetration rendering it harmless. Should you not have had the opportunity of reading my stuff about the Deepwater Horizon I still recommend that you read the latest, which features the senior toolpusher's testimony. It really brings it home to you how awful it was out there.

ANCHOR-HANDLING

A friend of mine telephoned me the other day to ask me if I had read the article in Ships and Boat International about anchor-handling, written by some Norwegian marine equipment manufacturer. I had to admit that I did not know that Ship and Boat was still being published, thinking that it would have been unable continue when I had ceased to be a freelance contributor. But the thrust of my friend's call was that there are a number of companies making complicated stuff for anchor-handling, replacing the men on the deck with their big hammers and crowbars, most of which, believe me, would not be any good if the ships were not DP2 as well. In the same vein my friend had been out on an anchor job recently where the ship involved had been making good use of a crane on a rail ( could this be the first ever use of a new name for this accessory) until the weather got up a bit, at which time the crane ground to a halt and the guys had to go back the hand tools.

All this is happening while the industry continues to be plagued by incidents involving overside deluges which reduce visibility of the attending ship and soak the guys on the deck, and continues to have problems with containers and other lifts being snagged on bits of the ship's structure. In addition, it still seems to me to be inappropriate to move the risks from quite moderate ones to the guys on the deck, to pretty major ones in relation to ship/rig contact. There have been manuals written about managing collision risks. I know because I have written one.

A BIT OF FREE ADVERTISINGI

I suppose that actually if anyone can afford to go the the event which I am about to advertise for nothing, probably they will be too busy to be reading this but here we go anyway. IBC are holding an Offshore Support Vessel conference on Wednesday 24th and Thursday 25th November at the Paddington Hilton Hotel in London. I have some affection for the event having been invited to be Chairman of it last year, and having met a lot of really interesting and entertaining people.

Interestingly I note that they are featuring an event which is new to me which might be called speed business dating "Maximise your time at the event in this fun and effective networking setting. Bring your business cards!" They say.

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY

In my last "News and Views" I pondered whether I would continue to feature vessels involved in alternative energy work. Having received some excellent pictures of the Resolution doing some windmill installation I have decided that I will include them, but I'm not going to change the name "Ships and Oil, and Windmills" just doesn't have the same ring about it.

Victor Gibson. September 2010.

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