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According to Greek mythology Arcadia is a land of milk and honey where all your wishes would be likely to be granted, but according to the UK newspaper the Guardian, for 150 Indian crew members of the P&O cruise ship Arcadia this has been anything but the case. In oil industry parlance they have been NRB’d. The letters stand for the words “Not Required Back”, and are applied to contractors who maybe raise their heads above the parapet to complain about something or in some other way disrupt the smooth running of an offshore installation.

In the case of the Arcadia there was a problem with tipping a while ago, and I must say that despite my investigation into the way cruise ship tipping is conducted I still don’t understand it. The closest I can get to an explanation is that in most cases, although not explicitly stated as an option, a percentage is added to the cruise ship passenger’s bill for service – gratuity. And, one assumes, this is passed on to the waiters and cabin stewards, whose wages otherwise are likely to be insufficient to ensure survival even in India.

Because the system did not seem to be working on the Arcadia back in mid 2011 150 Indian crew members protested and held a demonstration on the quayside in Seattle for a period of about an hour and a half. The Captain and the P&O UK office undertook some negotiations with the protesters and agreed to look into the problem, and also agreed that there would be no recriminations or sanctions against the protesters. But sadly in this day and age even a ship captain’s word is not good enough, and before Christmas Carnival Cruises, the owners of the Arcadia sent every one of the crew members who had protested an NRB letter, and also stated that they would not be employed again on any of the company ships.

It’s full steam ahead for the salvors of the Costa Concordia, who only the other day were pictured removing the rock from the hole in the hull, essentially the cause of the trouble. It is reported that it may find its way onto the island of Giglio, where it could become a monument. But a monument to what?

Under the best circumstances it might become a memorial to those who lost their lives in the disaster, which occurred six months ago last week, and as a result relatives of those who had lost their lives have journeyed to the island for a memorial service. It is still difficult to believe what happened, and the initial report from the Italian investigators said nothing we did not know already.


There follows a quotation from the MAIB report, published in June 2012 into a accident involving the Clipper Point and the port of Heysham in May 2011

“While the master’s responsibility for the safety of the vessel, his passengers and crew is absolute, he can not operate alone. Vessel operators and port authorities have similar, if less clearly defined, responsibilities for equipping the master with the tools, rules and infrastructure that are needed for him to be able to operate safely.”

I think this is a statement, which should be understood by employers and port operators, as well as shipmasters, who believe that they have to take risks to fulfill the commercial requirements imposed on their vessels.

It came about due to an accident to the Clipper Point in May 2011 when the vessel entered the port of Heysham in high winds and while attempting a turn to port to back up to the linkspan hit a ship and the quayside, and holed its steering gear compartment. There were no injuries. The fact that the accident occurred in Heysham, a British port, resulted in the investigation despite the fact that the ship is register in Limassol.

The Clipper Point is a large modern cargo ferry running between Heysham on the west coast of UK and Warrenpoint on the east coast of Northern Ireland. The port of Heysham is a small facility with an extremely large tidal range, and just room in the main part of the harbour for a ferry to turn through 180 degrees and back up to the linkspan in the easterly end.

The report describes in detail the control stations on the ship, one positioned in the centre of the pilot house, and another on each of the bridge wings, although they are not outside of course. The central control station is provided with pitch controls for both propellers, controls for the high lift rudders and also for the bow thrusters, however the readouts on the bridge wings were more limited than those on the centre console. Additionally to change from one control station to another all the controls had to be in the same position, otherwise the transfer could not take place.

I have written at length about the activities of offshore vessels and the making or not of a close approach, and of course if they choose not to make the approach they are still on location, but ferries are different. At the end of each voyage they must enter harbour and manoeuvre into a position where they can unload and load again, and at that time the master has to make a decision as to whether the task can be accomplished without damage to their vessel or injury to the personnel.

Under ideal conditions there is room in Heysham harbour for a ferry to enter, to make the turn and then to back up to the linkspan, but there have been a number of minor incidents, and complaints had been made by May of 2011 about the practice of berthing general cargo ships on the south quay, thereby restricting the space left in the harbour for the ferries to swing. After one such complaint when a master had said that the stern of his vessel had passed within three metres of one of the ships berthed on the south quay, the harbour master had viewed a related video and pronounced that in fact the distance was at least 9 metres.

There was also much concern over wind speeds and constant disagreements between the harbour and the owners of the Clipper Point, Seatruck, as to the windspeed in the harbour. This led to the shipowners installing their own anemometer at the entrance. The company had also provided guidance to its masters which suggested that entry into the harbour should be delayed if the wind speed exceeding 29 knots, but routinely masters failed to follow this advice. Even though they were aware the company did nothing. At this windspeed the force on the hull of the Clipper Point exceeded 34 tonnes. The harbour had carried out a risk assessment and their risk register cited two sets of guidance neither of which had been written, and the availability of a tug, the Sea Trojan, built in 1964 with a bollard pull of 14 tonnes, and for sale at the time.

On the morning of the accident the master of the Clipper Point decided to enter, despite the fact that the windspeed was between 27 and 34 knots, there were two ships berthed on the south quay and one of the ship’s bowthrusters was out of service – as it had been for seven months. Yes, it was a poor decision, but as the MAIB point out, he was not getting any help.


Yet another sad piracy story is that concerning the Malaysian owned Albedo with a crew of 23 from Bangladesh, Iran, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The ship was captured in November 2010, but the company have been unable to raise the necessary ransom which has varied between $8 million and $2.85 millon.

According to the on line “Somalia Report” the crew have now been taken ashore and are being guarded by many armed men. Meanwhile some of the cargo from the ship, which apparently consists of building materials has been taken ashore and is being sold.

According to the same report there are now disagreements between the pirates as to the size of the payment that would be acceptable, and after a campaign in Pakistan a businessman has agreed to top up the ransom. But so far nothing has happened. Things are not getting any better.


The Seabrokers monthly newsletter Seabreeze, reports that the Leiv Eiriksson is due back from the Falkland Islands at the beginning of next year, and is to undertake 15 well, plus 18 optional wells.

It is to be supported by the two Eidesvik vessels, the Viking Athene and the VS 493 Avant the Viking Lady – pictured right by Jan Plug. I could be wrong, but is this the first time that an all aft supply vessel has been hired to support a semi-submersible? It had to happen. As soon as it became unnecessary for ships to be discharged tied up stern too offshore installations, the all aft ship became a possibility. Of course there was a forerunner. The Oil Challenger was an all aft support vessel, built to haul pipe to the Viking Piper, back in the 1970s. It was not a success in the role.


You may remember that I mentioned the ITS Conference which took place in Barcelona at the end of May.

There was some interesting stuff, and although I admit to being a bit of a petrolhead, I found myself taking in a paper by a Canadian, Claude Messiaen, and a Dutchman, Martijn Berkhoff about hybrid battery propulsion systems.

One of their points was that some ships have a range of power requirements, typically in the offshore industry anchor-handlers. So why not have batteries which can be used to supplement the basic power requirement at times which a lot of bollard pull is required, or where power is required to drive cargo pumps. They also pointed out that modern Lithium-Ion battery storage systems are extremely efficient with only a limited weight penalty.

Of course such systems also require efficient use of power on board ship. I still get told off for leaving the lights on in my home due to a habit formed over 20 years of seafaring when the energy seemed to be unlimited.

But finally they described a ferry which is being built to operate somewhere in Norway will be a genuine zero emission ship. It will be powered only by electric motors, using electricity stored in the battery system, and – here’s the killer – it will be recharged from a wind powered generator overnight.

One assumes that on nights when there is no wind they will just plug it into the mains.


This newsletter expresses the views of the author Victor Gibson about marine events which are considered to be worthy of interest. It is meant to be a five minute read. Sources of information include:

International Tug and OSV Magazine
Maritime Bulletin
The Tugs, Towing and Offshore Newsletter.
The Nautilus Telegraph
The Nautical institute Magazine Seaways
The BBC Home Page
The Somalia Report
The MAIB Website

The website contains comprehensive information about many offshore vessels and approaching 10,000 images. Since June 2012 the following company information has been updated as follows:

Adams Offshore
AET Offshore
Alam Maritim
Allied Marine
Alpha Logistics

Picture of the Day included photographs of the following:

Polarcus Amani by Paul Moar
Leiv Eiriksson
North Rankin B by Nic Reid
Magne Viking Alistair Morton
Maersk Frontier by Scott Vardy
Castoro 7 by Nigel Sly
Geoholm by Tony Broadie
Greatship Asmi by Mike Prendergast
Normand Atlantic by Phil Tweddle


THE HISTORY OF THE SUPPLY SHIP £37.50 inc P&P anywhere
SUPPLY SHIP OPERATIONS £27.50 inc P&P anywhere
RIGMOVES £5.75 inc P&P anywhere


Buy all three books for the bargain price of £52.50

This newsletter has been compiled using one of the Word Templates – it has not been easy I can tell you. However if you would prefer not to receive further editions please email me vic@shipsandoil.com .

And just as a footnote, could Brazilian seafarers stop sending me their CVs!

Vic Gibson. June 2012.

If you would like to receive News and Views as a PDF - with photos - email me.




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