THE COSTA CONCORDIA
The Costa Concordia has been in the news again
as parts or all of the current investigation report has been leaked to the
Italian press in advance of the next public hearing which is to take place
on 15th October. And at least some of what is contained in it features
evidence obtained from the ship’s black box.
At least some of what is reported in the UK press, and here we should be
just a bit cautious since reporters always feature the bits which most
interest them (me as well), concerns the differing nationalities of the
crew. On the bridge with Captain Schettino were a Bulgarian First Officer
and an Indonesian helmsman, not forgetting the young Moldovan lady who was a
guest there. We are also aware that some of the crew were British, and
according to the report the official language on the ship was Italian, which
was not spoken at all by some. To make matters worse the Captain sometimes
spoke in the Neapolitan dialect, confusing the helmsman. We know all this of
course, even if we were not aware of the details, but it comes as a surprise
that the official language was Italian rather than English.
There is more. The captain has admitted that he accidentally tripped and
fell into a lifeboat in which he was transported to the shore, at least some
of the crew members in charge of lifeboats were not appropriately trained,
or their certification had run out, and as well as the captain failing to
tell the passengers what was going on, and failing to tell the coastguard
what was going on, the company, Costa Cruises had also failed to take charge
of the emergency. The captain has been charged with manslaughter, and seems
to be taking the blame for nearly all of it, but once more one wonders if
the man on the ship has been suitably supported by his owners – or may be
“controlled by his owners” might be a better way of putting it.
CRUISE SHIPS IN VENICE
According to recent
reports in the press some people living or visiting the city of Venice do
not like the constant stream of cruise ships making their way up the canal
to the port, where they tie up and release a few thousand people into an
already overcrowded tourist venue. They change the cityscape for a start,
and they are generally unattractive. Let’s face it, no-one would give
planning permission for such large structures to be built there on land so
in a way they are right. There is no doubt that cruise ships are intrusive,
but apparently the city charges them $100,000 a day so it’s not going to
stop any time soon. What might alter people’s thinking is the possibility
that one of them might have a steering problem and start demolishing houses
on the canal side, making a permanent change to the city.
Vessels dealing with the
aftermath of the Macondo Blowout photo by Robert Behar
It was curiously
co-incidental that Robert Behar send me a couple of photos from the
aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster at roughly the same time as the
US judiciary had decided to take BP to court for gross negligence. The court
particularly raised questions about the pressure testing which had taken
place in the fateful hours before the accident. In my last article on the
event in February 2011, I ventured an opinion on some aspects of the
disaster including the pressure testing. A shortened version of that article
There is little doubt that the for many years the industry has seen
regulations as nothing more than an impediment to the potential success of
what-ever operation they happened to be carrying out, and therefore any
action or intervention to circumvent the intent of any regulatory
requirements was deemed to be acceptable. Probably a good example of this,
as far as the Deepwater Horizon is concerned, was the Environmental Spill
Plan lodged with the authorities by BP. It cited as their major source of
expertise a gentleman who had been dead for five years, and mentioned, as
did the plans for a number of other operators, that they intended to
safeguard varieties of wildlife completely unknown to the Gulf of Mexico.
Sometimes it appears that it is solely the boredom of the routines required
to ensure that the processes remains safe that cause people to neglect or
circumvent them. One cannot readily see why Halliburton should have doubted
their own tests on the nitrogen cement, and carried out a second one, or why
BP went ahead with the cement job before the second set of tests were
completed, other than the underlying view that such activities were not
The US industry view of safety is starkly illustrated by the fact that when
the Deepwater Horizon blew up there were a number of Transocean and BP
executives on board to celebrate the rig’s achievement of seven years
without a lost time accident. A lost time accident? This is the industry’s
traditional measurement of safety, and is an accident where the unfortunate
injured person cannot continue working due to the severity of the injury. In
the reception areas of the rig owners and operators all over the world there
used to be boards on the walls presenting the days since the last lost time
accident on every one of their installations. Imagine the situation where
there has been 1000 days since the last LTA and some-one trips over a door
sill and twists their ankle so that they can no longer carry on working. The
1000 days are wiped out and they start again. One day, two days, three days
and so on! It would be heartbreaking. The President’s commission found that
even though fatalities are twice as high in the Gulf of Mexico as they are
in Europe, there would appear to be far fewer injuries. This is because the
LTA structure discourages reporting, resulting in a distorted view of safety
in the offshore environment. European safety specialists would be amazed to
find that since 2001 there have been a stunning 948 fires and explosions in
the Gulf. Not far off 100 a year.
The failure to accept the evidence presented to them on board the Deepwater
Horizon was manifest most notably during the testing of the cement plug. At
that time, when there should have been no pressure above the cement, a
pressure gauge indicated otherwise, but rather than accepting the evidence,
the team on the rig decided that the gauge was faulty. There were also other
unaccountable differences in pressure, which caused them to carry out a
second test after they had accepted that the first might have failed. On the
evening of 20th April the second negative pressure test continued to show
differences in pressure between the kill line and the drill string, but this
was explained away by one of the team as a known anomaly.
And finally, and outwith any observations made by anyone in the
investigations into this disaster, it is possible that constant exposure to
difficulties and dangers causes one to develop a tolerance for situations
which, under normal circumstances, would be unacceptable. When drilling and
circulating was taking place at Macondo it seemed that the mud weight was
always on the cusp, if it was too heavy it would leak away into the
formation and there would be a tendency for the well to flow. As the
drilling progressed it became more and more difficult to maintain this
balance and over the duration of the well 3000 barrels of mud were lost to
the formation, creating constant problems for the guys on the drill floor.
But, they had overcome the difficulties, and it may have been the confidence
developed by these successes that made the crew continue to battle with the
blowout when they should actually have chosen “flight” rather than “fight”.
For the other 25000 words on this topic go to the articles in Features.
CONTAINER SHIP FIRES
According to the Maritime Bulletin it is
common in Russian ports for the stevedores to find containers either
exploded or on fire on the dockside, and it seems to be becoming more and
more common for container ships to catch fire out in the ocean, and for them
to be towed into somewhere after they have burnt out.
Apparently the reason for these fires is that the containers are not
declared as containing dangerous goods so that the shippers can save
themselves a part of the freight cost.
At this moment the MSC Flaminia is lying safely alongside, the central area
of the cargo completely burnt out, although fire teams have had to visit the
ship to spray water on hot containers, and another container ship the
Amsterdam Bridge lies at anchor outside Mumbai the recent fire on board
apparently extinguished. Yet a third container ship remains tied up in
lliychevsk in the Black Sea after stevedores discovered that two containers
in one of the holds had exploded, possibly contaminating the environment.
Of course as a percentage of all the ships and containers sailing round the
world this is small stuff and it may be for the ship-owners and the shippers
it is a risk worth taking. In the end, if the ship is lost or the cargo is
destroyed they will be paid out by the insurance companies. But if we were
assessing the safety of such vessels we would ask how often such fires
occurred – Once every 1000 years, once every 100 years, once every year,
more than once every year – Actually several times every year. It is not a
THE FLYING ANGEL
It is distressing that in
2012 the world’s seafarers are more in need of looking after than they have
been for the last hundred years or so. The Onedin Line had nothing on what
some ship-owners, charterers and port operators are capable of doling out to
the unfortunate mariner today.
One of those providing assistance is the Mission to Seafarers an
organization initiated in 1856 in the Bristol Channel, and now offering help
and support to mariners in 250 ports apparently.
The photo is of a 2007 built vessel called The Flying Angel, which operates
out of Fujairah where between 150 and 200 vessels are generally at anchor.
The ship offers library, internet and telephone facilities and costs about
$1000 a day to run.
It is sponsored by Smit Lamnalco at a cost of $50,000 per annum. In a way
this vessel echoes the organization’s earliest, the John Ashley.
It is worth noting, well
for supply ship anoraks anyway, that for the first time Edison Chouest has
had a ship built in Europe, rather than in one of their traditional yards in
the Southern states. Indeed it would appear from the images of Edison
Chouest ships available that their American designs were a few years behind
the times. Up to now most of them have looked a bit like versions of the
ME202s from the late 1980s. Really, have a look at one on our website,
probably the Northern Queen on the Trico page.
The ship is a UT755 LC built at Simek in Flekkfjord, and must be about the
150th UT755 to be built.
iNFORMATION ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER AND SHIPS AND OIL LTD
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 usually include:
International Tug and OSV Magazine
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 Ships and Oil website contains comprehensive information about many
offshore vessels and approaching 10,000 images.
I usually update company information on the site on a regular basis but it
has been the summer season, and where I live in Spain it has been hot, and
no-one including me does anything much except take advantage of the general
lack of activity to go on holiday and generally relax.
I read that there are more an more owners of offshore vessels appearing on
the scene. Where will they get their crews? Maybe they will get them from
the many Brazilian seafarers who send me their CVs in the hope of gaining
employment. I have emailed one or two asking why, but they either don’t know
or don’t choose to tell me.
People have continued to send pictures of the day for which I am very
grateful. I am getting into my stride again and regular updates are taking
place. The photos brighten the days of our hundreds of visitors as they sit
at their desks – I have noticed that our numbers are considerably reduced at
Recent Pictures of the Day include:
The Normand Oceanic
The Stephen Wallace Dick
The Volstad Viking
The Castor 7
The African Vision
The Siem Pearl
The Skandi Aukra
The Bourbon Front
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SEE THE WEBSITE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Buy all three books for the bargain price of £52.5
Vic Gibson. September 2012.
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