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NEWS AND VIEWS MARCH 2011

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THE BOURBON LIBERTY CLASS

The video of the SBS Typhoon was sent to me by a a number of correspondents, some living as far away as Australia. There is no escaping the pitiless spotlight of publicity these days. And I have also received correspondence from South America about the much publicised Bourbon Liberty Class. These ships, both the anchor-handlers and the platform ships are apparently diesel electric and and have three propellers. The engines can therefore be placed a main deck level giving more room underdeck for tankage of one sort or another.

The downside of this arrangement is that everybody up to the second mate are housed in four berth cabins - and these ships are still rolling off the stocks, they are so new. So here's the question, would we rather be housed in better accommodation but without portholes - as per the Seacor ships in Brazil, or have a porthole and be bunking with another three guys. What are these people thinking? If you have a choice between sailing on a ship where you have a cabin to yourself at least most of the time, or  a cabin shared with a number of others which are you going to choose? Surely the ships are big enough now for everyone of a ten man crew to have a cabin of their own, even the Liberty 101s, and surely any humanitarian organisation with an interest in the welfare of their employees would be doing better. So we can conclude from Bourbon's approach that actually they don't care, what-ever their publicity material may say.

VIDEOS

No doubt everybody who may be reading this is familiar with Youtube, and the increasing number of marine events and activities which are portrayed there. The latest and for some most distressing is the video of the SBS Typhoon event. Some-one must have been taking a photograph from the office building at then end of the upper dock when the SBS Typhoon, which had been lying quietly there at Regent Quay, suddenly dashed forward breaking its moorings, and then running into the standby vessel VOS Scout. It made me realise how big offshore vessels have become. Apparently the SBS ship was engaged in testing its DP system when it took over. Well, these things happen. Here is the link to the film.:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZprXq_osq0

I have also uploaded a couple of videos of my own. One of them shows three PSVs at work at a semi-submersible, the Northern Gambler, the Maersk Feeder and the Skandi Waveney. I cobbled this short film together to provide something for those attending a risk assessment course to watch, and to take a view on. In addition to this I have in the past converted an eight millimetre film of some ships and tugs working in the Baltic ice into a video, and then into a dvd. Ships on the film include the Baltic Trader, the Baltic Jet, the tug Jaarkotka and the Finnish icebreaker Voima, which was apparently the first one to be fitted with propellers at the bow.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzU9J-dtHMM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ML496sq8UE

NUCLEAR MATTERS

This very day things don't look too good in Japan where technicians continue to battle with fires and radiation leaks at the Fukushima Dalichi power plant, in the aftermath of the earthquake and the Tsunami. Even at our great distance from the disaster it is distressing, so it must be pretty awful out there.

On the radio in Uk over the last couple of days, people have been arguing about whether it was a good idea to build nuclear power stations, or whether we should be using less electricity altogether, or relying on windmills, or on solar cells in the Sahara desert. The European governments are deciding to make sure their power stations are all safe, and actually the experts are saying that despite the problems the Japanese stations have done what they were supposed to do. What about terrorists some-one asked. Bring them on replied the experts. Some-one fired a missile at a French nuclear power station and it just bounced off. Well we hope its all going to work out.

Meanwhile I was remembering that some time ago one of the environmental groups managed to bring into the public gaze the fact that the Russians have yet to successfully dismantle any of the nuclear submarines taken out of service. Of the 88,yes 88,nuclear submarines taken out of service the locations of 70 of them are known. In addition to the submarines there are an unknown number of merchant vessel lying in Northern Russian ports with their holds full of nuclear waste and their hatches welded down. And no possibility now of taking them anywhere and doing anything with them. There have also been eleven serious accidents to nuclear submarines. So that's something else to worry about then.

MORE BAD NEWS

I sometimes wish I could write some good news in this column, but there is seldom the opportunity. I seem to spend my time whingeing or muttering about something - so here's another whinge.

In the weekly Towline Newsletter to which one or two of our photographers contribute, there is lots of tug news of various sorts. They get news releases from supply boat owners announcing charters which raise the tone a bit, as well as the reports on tug accidents particularly in American waters where tugs pushing lines of barges, unsurprisingly, have a job to see where they are going.

However, my attention was particularly caught by an item on the detention  of  a tug, the Comarco Osprey, on the Tyne recently. This was as a result of a flag state inspection which found the following defects:

No rescue boat, the engine room deckhead and bulkhead rusted through in several places, an open cable penetration in the engine room. No fire extinguishing system in the engine room, three lifejackets missing, four immersion suits missing, three fire hoses missing, no medical equipment, and seven crew members without medical certificates.

This tug, which was built in 1981 and was registered in...would anyone like to guess which country this vessel was registered in? TANZANIA!! I was reading the other day that flag states should have the resources to administer their marine organisations. One wonders whether this country in Africa which probably has a job to look after its population, is capable of looking after a marine register.

FAKE EEBD (EMERGENCY ESCAPE BREATHING DEVICES)

The UK Marine Safety Forum, which is a loose association of organisations involved in the operation of offshore vessels issued a safety flash the other day, which I judge as being worth passing on.

Alarmingly, some-one has been producing fake emergency breathing sets, which can't actually be used. The original sets, used of course to assist people to escape from smoke filled environments, were manufactured by Unitor and are stamped UNITOR UNISCAPE 15H. The fakes are similarly stamped, and cannot actually be passed over a normal sized head, because the neck seal is not sufficiently flexible.

Up to now all sets have had a tag attached addressed as follows: UNIscan Marine Products & Services, Dubai.

It makes one wonder what else is out there.

Victor Gibson. March 2011.

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