RECENT PIRATE ACTIVITY
Sadly, although pirate
activity continues off West Africa and at a lower level off east Africa,
reporting in the national presses seems to have declined. It has ceased to
be news that ships are attacked and the crews taken hostage, and in some
cases their release negotiated resulting in an exchange of money. These
events are still occurring, and mostly the personnel involved are from
India, Pakistan, the Philippines or Indonesia. Indeed if it was not for the
value of the ships and the cargoes one wonders whether anyone would bother
to do anything. An an example of this is the saga of the Iceberg 1 which was
taken hostage off Puntland in March 2010.
The ship and the crew were finally released on Christmas eve this year after
a military action by the Puntland Maritime Police Force. This action was
reputedly paid for by the owners of the cargo, and a figure of $1.5 million
has been mentioned. Indeed it is suggested in the maritime press that the
shipowner, Azal Shipping of Dubai had abandoned their ship and its crew, and
on one blog it was alleged that they had stopped the crew’s pay after they
had been taken hostage.
A slightly more cheerful story is that the three Italians and one Ukranian
taken hostage from the Augusta PSV Asso Ventuno before Christmas have been
released. One news report suggested that a large ransom had been paid.
Here-in appears to be the difference between the Nigerian events and the
Somali ones. Those taking ships hostage have no idea before they carry out
the attack, of the nationalities of the crew, while the Nigerians are
selective. They pick out Europeans, usually employed by Western companies,
and therefore there is both the incentive and the finance which will result
in a quick resolution.
THE CORMORANT ALPHA OIL LEAK
This just in! Taqa, the
Abu Dhabi based oil company announced this morning, 16th January, that there
has been, or is, a leak on the Cormorant Alpha platform. The platform has a
concrete base, and concrete legs and apparently the leak is within one of
the legs. The platform has been partially downmanned and production shut
down. But possibly more importantly the platform is a hub for a number of
other fields, and the export pipeline from it eventually surfaces at Sullom
Voe. French company Total, which suffered loss of gas production from the
Elgin Platform in early 2012 due to a leak, is one of the companies to
suffer, since production from Dunbar and Alwyn North is routed to Cormorant
Photo from the Microperi
We are at the anniversary
of the loss of the Costa Concordia, which has resulted in some new pictures
and a bit of news.
The salvage companies are struggling on with their preparations to roll the
ship upright and tow it away, and instead of this happening in a few weeks
it is now scheduled to take place in the autumn. Without for a moment
denigrating their efforts, are we surprised? It is a desperately difficult
job. Usually when I am talking to non marine people about offshore
activities, I sometimes say “you might be able to do this in the bath but
you can’t do it out there.” When you see what they are doing, you would
think twice about trying it even in the bath
Meanwhile discussions continue about the reasons for the accident itself,
and apparently the Italian investigation is stalled by the fact that the
courts have the black box. The captain has not been indicted, and a couple
of days ago gave an interview to an Italian newspaper. He claims that the
helmsman had made two errors in his response to helm instructions, and that
the officer manning the radar had failed to provide him with correct
Of course there are two sides to everything, but one cannot get away from
the fact that the master is responsible for his ship, and he deserves the
support of his management. And the ship was very close to the beach.
THE KULLUK INCIDENT
The Kulluk at work in the Beaufort Sea in the 1980s
During the last days of the Christmas holidays, for those of us lucky enough
to be able to take them, we have been following the saga of the Kulluk. And
as a commentator on marine events I wonder what the various parties involved
are going to take away from the event.
The Kulluk is a floating drilling unit built in the 1980s by the Canadian
company Beaudril, and operated in the Arctic together with a submersible
caisson, the Molikpaq, which is now part of a platform complex offshore
Sakhalin. They were serviced by four icebreaking supply vessels, the Ikaluk,
the Miscaroo, the Kalvk and the Terry Fox. The latter vessels were for many
years the most powerful supply vessels in the world. The Kulluk drilled five
wells in the Beaufort Sea between 1983 and 1985, out of a total of about 100
wells drilled in the area between 1972 and 1989. However none of the wells
resulted in the discovery of commercially viable quantities of hydrocarbons.
As a result interest in the area waned and the Kulluk was laid up until
revived and restored by Shell.
So, it appears that the Kulluk manned by 18 crew, probably the employees of
the Noble Drilling company, was being towed south towards Seattle where it
was due for maintenance work, from the Alaskan port of Dutch Harbour, by the
brand new Edison Chouest anchor-handler Aiviq. Some people suggested that
carrying out the tow at this time of year was unwise, but had been prompted
by the possibility of an Alaskan asset tax being levied on the rig if it
remained in state controlled waters.
If you Google Aiviq you can find lots of information about the ship, and in
one report about it a Shell manager Pete Slaiby says “You only have one
chance to do it right in Alaska and I feel this is proof that everybody
takes our commitment to doing things in Alaska in an environmentally sound
manner very, very seriously.” The ship is claimed to have cost $200 million
so you can see what he means, but spending money is not the answer to
But on with the saga. On 27th December the tow parted, in one report at a
shackle, but who actually knows, but the ship re-established the tow, using
the “emergency towing system”. They were probably breathing a sigh of relief
when, according to the Coastguard timeline, the Aiviq lost power, but
“generators were activated to help avoid significant drift”.
On 29th the crew were evacuated by helicopter, but it seems that the Aiviq
has almost as much power available to its thrusters as it has to the main
engines, about 20,000 bhp so the thrusters were used in an attempt to
maintain station, and a second ship the Nanuq was connected. However, on
30th the tow wires failed and on 31st the rig grounded on Sitkalidak island.
The Aiviq retired to Dutch Harbour, having had spares to be flown in by
helicopter during the attempts to prevent the grounding. These were reputed
to have been new main engine fuel injectors, and all hell broke loose in the
The reports focused on the amount of diesel on the rig which was reported as
155,000 gallons, which is 155 cubic metres. Shell rightly pointed out that
the fuel tanks are well protected, and emphasized that this was a marine
problem not a drilling one. Even so this distinction may have been lost on
many readers who think that oil rigs are connected by some sort of pipe to
the source of the oil at all times which unless properly controlled will
result in complete environmental devastation, or else that all marine craft
are the same as the Exxon Valdez. When it became apparent that there was not
going to be any leak of the 155 cubic metres, of diesel there was a focus on
the fuel tanks of the lifeboats which were pictures on the beach near the
rig. Well come on!!
On 6th January the rig was refloated and towed by the Aiviq to what was
considered to be a safe location for a thorough assessment of its status. I
think it is still there.
From this point I wonder if those of us who have an interest in the whole
business of moving oil rigs will ever find out what went wrong. Since the
bollard pull of the Aiviq could be slightly less than that of the Terry Fox
or the Kalvik it is likely that the rig’s towing system was suitable for the
task, so was it just old? Or were new components substandard? And how on
earth did an almost new ship suffer from an complete main engine failure
while leaving the secondary power systems still operational?
But in the end, while the environmentalists will claim that the incident
provides evidence that drilling should not take place in the Arctic, the oil
industry can also claim that even though they had lost control of the event,
nothing bad happened!
THE LIFE OF PI
“The Life of Pi” I hear you exclaim,
surely that’s a film. It is, and I went to see it the other day. I’m sure
I’m not spoiling anyone’s enjoyment by telling you that it involves a large
number of animals being carried as cargo on a Japanese owned ship in the
1970s. I am still unable to get over the number of nautical errors.
Like all ship based films it tends to be rough on the outside and calm on
the inside, but what else could you do? The alternative would be to watch
the actors being thrown about, as boring on the screen as in real life. But
the animal’s cages were not secured in any way, and a ship with cranes had a
lifeboat with rope falls, oh and the cranes were not even stowed in a
The lifeboat in which our hero spends many many days is riveted on the
outside and fibreglass on the inside and is equipped with a Very pistol. And
even when the sinking ship is under water the lights are still on. It must
have looked good in 3D.
INFORMATION ABOUT THIS NEWLETTER 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 include:
International Tug and OSV Magazine
Maritime Bulletin (Now apparently no more)
The Tugs, Towing and Offshore Newsletter.
The Nautilus Telegraph
The Nautical institute Magazine Seaways
The BBC Home Page
The MAIB Website
The Alaska Daily News
The Ships and Oil website contains comprehensive information about many
offshore vessels and approaching 10,000 images.
My latest excuse for not updating the company information is that I have
been at work as opposed to working on the website. The website is not
financially rewarding but I am semi-retired, and so I keep at it, if for no
other reason than to share with ship enthusiasts the great photos I am sent
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 Seven Oceans
The Siem AHTSs
The CBO Chiara
Shipping Company Information updated:
Deep Sea Supply
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Vic Gibson. December 2012.
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