TRANSOCEAN AND CHEVRON IN
BRAZIL - OR NOT
Back in November 2011 there was an oil spill of
3600 barrels on the Frade Field North East of Rio de Janeiro. The exact
source of the spill remains obscure to those of us in the public domain, but
Youtube videos indicate that it was a small formation blowout which was
quickly killed. It’s not too technical, there’s a crack in the seabed from
which droplets of oil can be seen drifting up. Then there are pictures after
the kill which show occasional droplets emerging.
As a result of this spill both Chevron and Transocean have been banned from
operating in Brazilian waters, and despite numerous legal appeals by both
companies and, unusually, the Brazilian oil regulator the ban seems to still
stand as of 15th October. They have also been fined collectively $11 billion
and seventeen of their employees in the country have been threatened with up
to 31 years in jail. ANP, the Brazilian oil regulator has stated that there
were problems with the Chevron well plan but that Transocean had no
responsibility for the accident. They also stated that there was no
discernable environmental damage as a result of the accident, nor was any
wildlife harmed. ANP are concerned that the banning of the ten Transocean
rigs will have an adverse effect on the country’s oil output. And doubtless
Transocean must be a bit concerned at the possibility that 7% of its fleet
may shortly become unemployed. They would have the choice of finding work
elsewhere for them or else selling them to another rig operator.
To put this sanction in perspective when two guys unfortunately died in 2003
after being overcome by gas on Brent Bravo, Shell, the operators of the
platform were fined GBP 1,000,000. But on the other hand, of the five major
registries of offshore oil rigs, only one, the US flag, required that
accidents resulting in the deaths of five or more workers needed to be
reported, although all required that even the most minor oil spill be
I suppose if you are a
major oil company you are often going to be in the news pretty often,
particularly now that the paparazzi are keeping an eye open for any birds
smeared with crude oil, when they aren’t looking for the ones smeared with
suntan oil. And so it is for Shell. The Guardian has published an article
about Shell’s security costs, which were apparently nearly $1 billion
between 2007 and 2009. Much of this was apparently spent in Nigeria.
Campaigners in the area suggest that much of Shell’s spend in the country is
directed towards the military and the local police, and that these bodies
may not always act in the most ethical manner, But what are Shell to do? In
2008 62 employees or contractors were kidnapped and three were killed. It
just happens that much of the oil under the earth's crust is located in
ONE FROM THE ARCHIVE
I am currently dragging
some interesting stuff out or my archive, for the perusal of my readers. It
can be found on the website somewhere, but there is getting to be so much
there that it might take days to find it. This is a short history of the
departure of a survey ship, in the Arabian Gulf, which was passed around the
safety departments of a number of companies in Aberdeen a few years ago. The
name of the ship and its chase boat had been removed, but it is still a fair
illustration of the progress of an accident, to a distressing conclusion,
from small beginnings. I have no idea what the actual ship looked like, but
have used the 30 year old Kommandor Jack as an illustration. The Kommandor
Jack is still afloat and working in Nigeria, so it was not her, or anything
to do with her or her owners:-
“It was the Xxxx Xxxxxr Survey Vessel. All got off ok and no injuries. This
past Wednesday, the ship sank about 300 miles offshore of Iran.
Around 6AM in about 1 meter seas, the navigator went down to the engine room
to lower the UBSL pole, so that we could begin surveying. The chain used to
lower the pole suddenly snapped. There was no safety chain attached and the
flange at the top of the pole, which would have prevented the pole from
dropping all the way through the hole flew off. Therefore, the USBL pole
fell 3000 meters down to the bottom of the ocean, leaving a 12 inch hole in
the ships hull. As you can expect, water started flooding the engine room.
Crew members tried to fit a metal plate over the hole, however this proved
to be impossible due to the pressure of the water. Non-essential personnel,
were immediately transferred by FRC to the chase boat. Meanwhile, the crew
continued to try to contain the flooding.
The engines and ship power were quickly shut down, and emergency power was
turned on. The pumps proved too small to be effective, so the engine room's
watertight door was closed & dogged down. Unfortunately, this door was not
exactly watertight, and water proceeded to flood compartment next to the
Meanwhile, MAYDAY calls were issued from both the OV and the MS. The first
to respond was a Coalition Warship, which later turned out to be the USS
SEATTLE (AOE 3), a fast combat support ship. Since it would take a while for
the SEATTLE to arrive, a Canadian C-130, and a Japanese helicopter were
dispatched to the location. These aircraft remained until the end. Soon, a
US helicopter also arrived carrying with it 2 large pumps and a damage
control (DC) crew to operate the pumps. When the equipment and personnel
were safely lowered onto the OV, the helo returned to pick up and deliver a
Unfortunately, two of these pumps became clogged with debris, and the DC
crew were never able to get them to operate. The Commanding Officer (CO) on
board the SEATTLE was informed by the DC crew the only chance that the ship
had to stay afloat was if divers were dispatched to try and repair the hole.
This solution was rejected by the CO. As a last ditch effort, a tarp was
unfurled over the side and under the keel to try and cover the hole and slow
the flooding. However, this effort proved futile. Eventually, the SEATTLE
arrived on site. The CO assessed the situation and decided that despite all
efforts, the OV was going to be a "long-term loss." He instructed all crew
and instruments to be removed and the ship was then abandoned.
When all crew member were onboard the MS, the Captain and Party Chief made
one last trip back by FRC to try and release the second towfish (the first
was released earlier by FSSI marine techs) and try retrieve whatever
personal effects that they could. Things retrieved included some
undergarments, camera, 3 bottles of alcohol, one flip flop (right foot)and
one Teva (left foot), various souvenirs. However, things such as wallets,
house keys, cell phone, address book, and CD's now reside on the bottom of
the Arabian Sea .
It took a few hours before the OV finally sank, but when it happened, she
went down by the port bow. Afterwards, MS then began a rather rough 16 hour
transit to Muscat, Oman. While the MS was steaming, the crew of the former-OV
spent the night consuming the salvaged alcohol, and trying to sleep on spare
mattresses, which were placed on the deck for us.
Once we arrived in Oman , it took many hours for officials to take
statements and issue visas. Crew members, who were able to save their money
and credit cards, supported those of us who lost everything. We left Oman
very late Thursday night and spent the next 24 hours on airplanes.
I cannot even venture a guess on what will be the repercussions of this
event. Besides our personal losses, my company lost about US$2 million worth
of uninsured gear, including 20 km of fiber optic cable (10 km of which was
flaked on the deck in two 5 km pieces due to a previous incident).
Additionally, it is unknown how much of the data, from the survey, was
recovered. I do know that there are already gaggles of lawyers hovering
around and I am relatively certain that there will be many lawsuits between
my company, our clients and their clients.
THE STAR PRINCESS
Back in May in this
newsletter I wrote about the Star Princess, apparently failing to respond to
distress signs, (not really signals) from a small boat, which was
photographed by some birdwatchers who had been on the ship.
The birdwatchers informed one of the crew that they thought the guys in the
boat were in distress, and were told that the message would be passed on.
Nothing happened. Subsequently the surviving crew member of a small boat was
picked up by a larger fishing vessel, his two fellow crew having died, and
claimed that he had seen a cruise ship, and that it must have been the Star
Princess Cruises have recently published some evidence that the small boat
which had contained the three unfortunate seafarers was not the one
photographed by the birdwatcher. They have produced evidence showing that
the boat adrift was called 50 Cent and the name was writ large on the bow.
Since there is nothing written on the bow of the craft photographed it can’t
have been it.
This is a photograph which
appeared in the Tugs and Towing News a couple of weeks ago. They are two
cargo ships which dragged their anchors and found themselves on the beach
just outside the Spanish port of Valencia. The accidents were the result of
The photo reminded me of my visit to Las Palmas – on holiday – a couple of
years ago. There were quite a few ships at anchor, some of them only a few
hundred metres from the shore. They looked pretty close to me standing on
the beach, so from their bridges they must have been able to see all the
girls in their bikinis with consummate ease. I have also sailed on ships in
my youth which took about six hours to fire up the main engines from cold,
because first a boiler had to be lit and produce stream and then the steam
had to be directed to a steam driven compressor, which finally would provide
the compressed air to start the engine.
Surely ship masters are better off today, and can start their main engines
in fairly short order, and on receipt of an adverse weather forecast they
can up anchor and move off into deeper water. Or, as I write this it occurs
to me that maybe they think they would lose their place, if there is a
This is not just a one or two off problem. It seems that nearly all
groundings are due to dragging anchors, so either those currently in command
lack anchoring ability, or weather forecasting ability.
THE UK ETVs
I suppose we might all
have been hoping that the government would change its mind and continue with
the ETV service around British coasts, but the sight of two of the former
JPKnight vessels in Smit colours the other day may have put paid to all
that. However the former Anglian Prince, now the Swedish owned and Maltese
registered Herakles has returned to the western isles, until, if I read it
The vessels were put in place as a result of the Braer accident in 1993,
when the tanker piled up at the southern tip of the Shetland Island Islands.
So for the benefit of our legislators, how often is often for major
accidents such as this. The answer – once in a thousand years. So only 999
years to go.
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 Nautica Resolute
The Atlantic Kestrel
The Putford Saviour
The Maersk Dispatcher
The Normand Draupne (Model)
The Olympic Triton
The Northern Wave
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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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