BACK IN THE GROOVE
When I used to work in
Aberdeen I would return from my holidays and have a look round the port to
see if anything had changed. Usually nothing had, but the line up of
ships at the end of the dock gave me something to write about. I could also
have a look out of my office window and see if there were any new ships
passing. Now I live 500 kilometres from the sea, and a lot further from
Aberdeen and so I have to rely on other people's news to find out what is
going on, and if I am patient enough I can access the webcam which is on the
front of what used to be my office.
Today I am having a look
through the webcam, and I can see that it is a pretty low tide, and although
I can no longer see them I'm sure there are a number of species of wading
birds pecking about at the waterline. Looking at the River Dee I see that
BP have sold or rebadged the small tank farm at Point Law where the support
I also notice that Vroon
seem to have a new UT something moving about the harbour, and it is not
raining. Aberdeen harbour continues to be a really interesting place for
supply vessel enthusiasts. And despite the negative verbage which resulted
from the Conservative plan to increase revenue from the oil industry there
is lots going on. Over the week-end BP announced plans to spend billions on
the oilfields West of the Shetland Islands, and elsewhere newer companies
(To UK) are doing all sorts of stuff. I use the number of rigs laid up in Uk
as an indicator of how the business is going, and at the moment there are
four rigs laid up. Two of them are, I think, being readied to go to work and
the two remaining ones may possibly never go to work again.
WHO SHOULD BE IN CHARGE?
You may have noticed that
after a year and a quarter things have gone pretty quiet in relation to the
Deepwater Horizon, although I'm sure that somewhere in the legal world BP
and Transocean are fighting it out, serving writs on each other and
blaming each other for what went wrong. Skimming through the information
currently available on the internet I see that Transocean issued their
report on the event in June and and have blamed BP for what went wrong. But
meanwhile in the rest of the world everyone is drifting back into the
comfortable place where they were before. Or so it seems to me.
So it was welcome that in
the studious pages of Seaways, the monthly magazine of the Nautical
Institute, Captain Dr Valerio De Rossi, who has a lot of letters after his
name, raised the topic again in the "Captain's Column" of who should be in
charge on offshore installations of all sorts. And generally figured that
mariners would be the ideal people for the job. Since 90% of marine training
has always related to keeping people alive he could be right.
His article was of course
prompted by the position taken by some rig owners of DP rigs and drill ships
that when drilling a "Drilling" OIM is in charge, and when under way the
"Master" will be in charge, and this of course was the case on the Deepwater
Horizon. Captain Rossi quotes a number of documents apparently supporting
his proposal, particularly that the master should be in charge when a vessel
is underway, and that the word "underway" means that a vessel is not at
anchor, or made fast to the shore or aground.
All this seems quite
straightforward, but the reason that some rig owners have been able to
suggest that their DP units are not "underway" when drilling, is that they
are connected to the seabed by the riser, and to a limited extent by the
drill string. There is a good chance that if the engines of a DP unit
stopped working, the riser and its associated tensioning system would hold
the rig in place. Could this then be considered to be "at anchor"? Well, it
is possible that changes are afoot, and we'll see how it all works out.
I know I keep going on
about this, but as usual, after more months have passed there does not seem
to have been any progress in any of the investigations which we have
discussed over the last year or two. We have had to give up entirely on any
progress with investigations into accidents to ships registered with the St
Vincent and the Grenadines and the Singapore registries. However surely the
Panamanian registry is a bit more respectable. After all it has been around
Nautilus, the UK seafarer's
union, has been onto this registry for over a year now to carry out an
investigation into the loss of the Danny FII, an Egyptian owned cattle
carrier which sank in the Med with the loss of forty lives in December 2009.
They have now resorted to writing to the Panamanian ambassador in London in
an effort to progress the case. This is reported, as have been their
previous communications in their paper "The Telegraph". There were two crew
members on this ship who were members of Nautilus, but one of the
distressing aspects of this accident was the fact that there was virtually
no communication between the owners and the families of the crew members.
No-one seemed to care.
UK EMERGENCY TOWING
Every week I receive a Tug
and Towing newsletter, which is diverse collection of press releases from
all over the world, which is interesting enough. One of the press releases
was provided by some-one called KIMO UK telling us that all but the western
isles ETV were to be removed from service in September.
Firstly I was motivated to
find out who KIMO were, and it turns out that they are an international
association of local authorities which have a bit of coastline, and they
have meetings and make resolutions and are generally hoping to do some good
in the marine environment, although I don't agree with everything they say.
And to be honest they are more concerned with the saving of seabirds than
the saving of human life. Their website is worth a look, and I may return to
it at a later date.
But back to the ETVs. The
failure of the government to take any notice of all the advice they have
been receiving is just a case of battening down the hatches, or pulling the
ladder up, or keeping their fingers crossed. They have said in support of
the move that shipping has become safer (lol), apparently failing to look at
their own records to see that these ships have been out there on multiple
occasions carrying out support activities, even if they were not actually
carrying out emergency towing. And, what really needs to be faced is that we
would hope that they will never be needed again, but that they should be
there just in case there is another Braer, which is where we came in.
THE GANNET OIL SPILL
It is an almost seamless
link from the Braer to the Gannet platform which was reported to have been
involved in a leak towards the end of last week, resulting in much distress
in the media who seemed intent on creating visions of another Macondo
disaster. It may have been Shell's fault that everyone seemed to have relied
on Alex Salmond's assessment of the quantity of oil involved, which he said
was about 100 tonnes, or in oil industry measures about 630 barrels.
This seemed like a lot for
a single flowline, which was apparently what was leaking, and it is probably
necessary to acknowledge that the Macondo disaster has fostered the idea
that under the surface of the earth are all these cauldrons of high pressure
oil just boiling to get out, and the merest puncture of the seabed causes a
flood of the black stuff. "If only" most of the oil companies would respond.
The reality is that most
wells flow at moderate rates, and between 2000 and 3000 barrels a day is
probably average. This is only a bit faster than the rate a which you fill
up your car's petrol tank at the pumps. And the wells flowing to Gannet are
probably in this range. The leak was from a flowline, the small diameter
pipe between the well head and the platform, and when it was discovered
doubtless they shut in the well using the down hole safety valve. This would
leave the contents of the line itself as the source, which Shell now say was
between 10 and 120 bbls. Not too bad then!
But breaking news as I am
going to press with this document. Alex Salmond was right.
Victor Gibson. August 2011.