THE PRESTIGE COURT CASE
Ten years after the sinking of the tanker Prestige out in the Atlantic the
trial of the captain and three other men has commenced in Coruña. The other
day images from the court room were briefly featured on the Spanish news at
the time of the first appearance of the former captain, Apostolos Mangouras
who is now 78, so even when he was on the ship he was 68. There’s a lesson
straight away. Don’t keep working when you should be retired. The
prosecution is asking that he be jailed for 10 years. Also in court is the
Chief Engineer and Jose Luis Lopez-Sors, said by news reports in English to
be “head of the Spanish merchant navy”, and also accused is the Mate, a
Filipino who had disappeared.
For once I am in agreement with Greenpeace who say that there are others who
should be in court, including members of the current government who were in
power at the time. According to Greenpeace it was the deputy Prime Minister
Mariano Rajoy (pronounced Rahoy), now the PM, who ignored an existing
emergency plan which suggested that the ship should be brought into port,
and ordered it to be taken out to sea, one assumes under the misguided
impression that it would be far enough away to prevent any oil reaching the
coast. And given that accusation, if it is correct and it was a government
error which resulted in the pollution, surely the captain should not be in
court at all. Indeed it is generally accepted that he acted in a commendable
manner, which resulted in all the crew being rescued. It would appear that
his only error was to accept command of a ship which, despite any assurances
from ABS the classification society, must obviously have been past its best
years, carrying a cargo with the potential to destroy large areas of the
environment. The cargo, by the way, was heavy fuel oil, the bottom ends of
the refining process, which must be heated to get it moving. No wonder it
made a mess.
TRANSOCEAN AND CHEVRON IN BRAZIL
This is an update on last
month’s cliff hanger which reported on the possible expulsion of all 10
Transocean rigs currently working in Brazil, and the shutting down of all
Chevron operations in its offshore fields. Today it turns out that the
Brazilian government has been convinced by its own department which looks
after the oil industry, that to expel Transocean would cost the country more
than it would cost Transocean, since seven of the 10 rigs are working for
Petrobras and some of them are a selection of the few units available world
wide which are capable of working in very deep water, ie more than about
2000 metres. Chevron is also being allowed to continue to work in a limited
way after being fined $17,000,000 (I think).
On 23rd of last month a
CHC EC 225 helicopter ditched in the North Sea, with 19 passengers and two
crew on board.
It was a nice day and the crew inflated the buoyancy aids prior to the
ditching and as a result the aircraft floated like a little duck on a mill
pond. A bit unusual for the seas close to Fair Isle.
Despite the large number of offshore vessels in the area, so much so that
when some thing goes wrong in the North Sea, ships have to be discouraged
from attending, the rescue of the crew was undertaken by a Danish product
tanker, the Nord Nightingale.
Apparently everything went well. The helicopter’s liferafts were inflated
and everyone got into them, with their gloves and hoods on. (For those who
don’t know, the hoods are stowed in a pocket on the leg of the survival
suits and you have to get out the hood and put it on, and then put on the
gloves which are contained in another pocket).
This is the forth ditching of this helicopter type in recent years, in this
case due to a low oil pressure warning, but in one case there was a
catastrophic gearbox failure which resulted in the aircraft plummeting into
the sea and all on board losing their lives.
The helicopter was recovered onto the deck of the Olympic Zeus and
repatriated to Peterhead the following day.
NORTH SEA OIL SPILLS
A few days ago BP came to
an agreement with the US government about the payment of a fine for their
part in the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The sum which they agreed to pay was
$4.5 bn, and they hope that this, the largest corporate fine ever, will
limit its liabilities elsewhere. However, it appears that they have put
aside $40 bn to cover future related costs.
While all this has been going on there has been much enthusiasm in the press
to give the oil companies a bit more of a bashing than usual, and the
Guardian has published a story about oil spills in the North Sea since the
year 2000. Apparently there have been 4123 oil spills but only seven fines.
On this occasion a Greenpeace spokesman said “Ministers and oil companies
can spout their carefully crafted quotes; they like, to tell us how safe
drilling at seas is. But while they’re spouting these words, their rigs are
all too often spouting oil into our oceans.
Most of the spills have been of diesel which actually evaporates into the
environment without much of a problem. Other spills have been of crude oil
which, in small quantities, has a limited effect on the environment. When
the Braer ran aground on Shetland full of Norwegian crude, all of it
dispersed into the atmosphere. It was smelly but the anti-oil brigade was
hard pushed to find a cormorant covered in the black stuff. It was nothing
like the boiler fuel being carried by the Prestige.
The Guardian’s research found that the total amount of oil spilt excluding
the larger amounts was about 1150 tonnes which indicates that the 4116
events for which oil companies were not fined averaged 260 litres each. This
is probably the same amount that the average truck fills up with at one
CONFINED SPACE ENTRY
TThere has just been a
confined space entry conference in Aberdeen, so now might be an opportunity
to have a look at one of the most tragic accidents of this type, which took
place on the Viking Islay in 2007. We know all about it because the MAIB
investigated it and published their report. In addition in 2009 the master
was prosecuted but was found innocent by the jury, and the company, Vroon
was found guilty of not having an oxygen meter on board and were fined
The captain had allowed the men to enter a chain locker to secure a noisy
anchor chain. And if you have been master of an offshore vessel tell me that
you have never done exactly that. There is usually some-one’s bunk against
the collision bulkhead, and a banging anchor chain can be a serious
impediment to sleep. Maybe the difference here is that they had sealed the
spurling pipes with expanding foam, (a product which was not available in my
day, and just as well) and the spaces were not ventilated in any other way.
Possibly in order to avoid the need to provide an oxygen meter or to train
personnel in the proper way to enter confined spaces, the company had issued
a blanket instruction that confined spaces were not to be entered at sea, a
policy which would be difficult to follow.
The ship had in place a risk assessment process which was seen by the crew
as little more than an administrative problem and was usually filled in
after the work had been carried out.
According to something I read about oxygen depletion, you take the first
breath – you are still alive – it is the second breath that kills you.
THE ECDIS PROBLEM
Apparently the world’s
merchant fleet is now formerly moving from paper charts to using the
electronic chart display and information system, a move which has not been
universally welcomed by the industry.
At first sight it seems to be a wonderful idea to have a presentation which
not only shows you where the dangerous bits are, but also shows the position
of the ship on the chart, and if you have all the right interfaces
installed, all the other ships in you vicinity as well.
Being old and out of date I have little experience of these systems, but I
was once a rig mover on an accommodation unit which had to go to sea from
Norway. The pilot arrived with his laptop which when set up showed us, the
rig, our towing vessel and the rocks and shoals in our near vicinity. And it
also showed all the vessel around which had their AIS system on. It was
However I noticed a couple of things. One was that the rocks in the real
world looked a lot closed when I eyeballed then out of the bridge windows,
and the other was that we were overtaken by a bulk carrier which did not
have its AIS on, and we were taken completely by surprise when it sneaked up
close to our starboard side.
So my point is that maybe over time people will no longer bother to look out
of the windows. I come across this problem when I am discussing collision
risk management with rig crews. They look at me blankly when I suggest they
go outside and have a look round.
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 HOS Iron Horse
The Borgsten Dolphin
The EDT Nafeli
The Topaz Challenge
The Melton Tide
The Pool Express
The Apache II
The Well Enhancer
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SUPPLY SHIP OPERATIONS £27.50 inc P&P anywhere
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SEE THE WEBSITE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Buy all three books for the bargain price of £52.5
Vic Gibson. November 2012.
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