This is a copy of my wish list from
2013 – nothing has changed I don’t think.
It is surely time that the IMO got a grip of ship registries. If a country
wishes to host a registry they should be able to demonstrate the necessary
expertise and organization which would enable them to train seafarers,
examine them and award certificates of competency and not least carry out
investigations into accidents.
I know we keep talking about it, but could we possibly make some progress
towards treating shipmasters, who have had the misfortune to be involved in
groundings resulting in pollution, in a responsible manner, and stop
immediately accusing them of being criminals?
Could we review the relationship between the ship-owner and class? Is it
right that the insurers of ships rely on the inspection processes carried
out by the classification societies who are paid by the ship-owners? Hence
if the ship-owner does not like what class are doing they can find
Could we start to get real about risk assessments, and make them meaningful,
ie, a means of keeping people alive and uninjured, rather than a means of
I realize that I could go on. There are many lesser wishes, which might help
seafarers enjoy a relatively untroubled life, most of them to do with asking
ship-owners to act responsibly, and while many do, there are probably more
who do not, so we don’t have a level playing field.
STUCK IN THE FROZEN SOUTH
A Russian owned Antarctic exploration
vessel, the Akademik Shokalskiy, has found itself stuck in the Antarctic ice
since Christmas day so they have now been stuck in one place for the last
six days and are making international news. It made me think of many of the
expeditions into the ice in the 18th and 19th centuries. Some of the least
well known are those which attempted to locate the Northwest passage.
Consider the privately financed (Actually by Booth’s gin) John Ross
expedition in the Victory, a second hand steamer. They entered the ice north
of Baffin Island in 1829, overwintered and in the summer of 1830 travelled
only 3 miles. In 1831 they managed to travel only 4 miles. This lack of
progress determined that they should abandon the Victory, and in the summer
of 1832 set out in their small boats initially dragging them over the ice,
eventually being picked up by a commercial vessel in open water.
A lack of competence
– or is it competency - prevented this shipmaster from berthing his ship
successfully in the Middle East after a delivery voyage. He did not know how
to do it!! Photo KSSpedding.
us who tune into the BBC have recently been the recipients of news items
about Harrison Okene who was cook on the Jascon 4, because the video has
been published of how he was found alive in the upturned ship three days
after it had sunk, while it had been carrying heading control of a tanker in
the Gulf of Guinea. You can see the video in various forms on YouTube, and
it is compelling stuff. The dive ship carrying out what they expected to be
the recovery of bodies was the Lewek Toucan, and one has to say that the
Dive Supervisor who guided Mr Okene to safety did a wonderful job.
Meanwhile the Nautilus Telegraph has featured a long article by a DP ship’s
Chief Engineer on the subject of auditing. Discussing auditing causes most
people’s eyes to glaze over, but maybe the Chief Engineer has a point, which
is that as well as keeping auditing the ship it is time that those who are
in charge of offshore projects are also audited. And here I have to admit
that as an employer I have hired people with very high power marine related
but non-seafaring qualifications on occasions and they have been a complete
waste of space.
Although it is not explicitly stated, it seems that he is of the view that
ships are being asked to carry out tasks for which they may not be suited,
or that the projects in which they are engaged are beyond the capability of
any vessel. His argument seems to pivot on the difference between competence
and competency, and despite the fact that I believe I have an excellent
knowledge of the English language I had to get the dictionary out to
determine precisely what he is on about.
So the New Oxford English Dictionary considers that competent and competency
have the same meaning which is “having the necessary ability knowledge or
skill to do something successfully.” So not much help there. But of course
one is an adjective and the other a noun, so for competency remove “having”.
Maybe we are discussing formal qualifications against qualifications with
the addition of experience. For instance being a qualified master mariner
will not instantly make you capable of commanding an anchor-handler or a
variety of other specialized vessels. To do that you need guidance, training
and maybe experience.
Of course, as well as the constant auditing of ships, it is possible that
the project teams are also being audited.
We don’t actually know whether this is happening, but there is no doubt that
it is easier for organizations hiring ships to have a close look at them.
There are a number of standard processes, and anyone going onto a ship to
audit it, already has a many other reports available. Flag States and Class
will already have ticked stuff off, and some ships will have a planned
maintenance system which will offer a list of urgent or missed maintenance
activities as a print out. However only a very few of the standard processes
will tell the company hiring a ship whether or not it is suitable for the
task. And this is true even if the ship conforms with the requirements of
the ISM (International Ship Management) code.
Those of us who have experience of auditing ships on behalf of clients know
that many only get brief visits to port and sometimes they have a number of
people on board inspecting them in various ways, which must surely be
irritating in the extreme. Also when there is something wrong with the ship
it is identified and a opportunity for improvement recorded. The ship then
has to carry out the task. However, if possible improvements might be made
to the ship’s documentation, or management system getting something done is
more difficult. Of course such an opportunity for improvement may not have
been identified by the ISM auditor, and it would therefore probably be
It may be worth noting here that the latest regulations in the American Gulf
require that all offshore installations are provided with a Safety and
Environmental Management System and that the system has to have been audited
and the results of the audits submitted to BSEE (Bureau of Safety and
Environmental Enforcement) by some date in November. Stunningly five
companies failed to meet this requirement and have been shut down. At the
moment the regulations do not extend to ships. But if they did American
regulations already allow internal arrangements to be modified so that quite
large ships are less than 200 gross tons, or in some cases less than 100
gross tons. If this mangling of the regulations is carried out, a ship over
200 feet long can be commanded and crewed by personnel with no appropriate
marine qualifications, and here we’re not saying that qualifications are
everything, but they help and could be an indication of competency. If
audited they would be found to be in conformance with flag state
How are we going to keep people safe out there and will auditing help? The
Jascon 4 accident in which eleven crew members died, is only one of a number
of incidents where offshore vessels have been lost in recent times, mostly
with no investigation and therefore with no recommendations for improvement.
These include the Demas Victory which sank outside Doha in 2009 with the
loss 30 lives, and the Gudri which sank recently in the Bonny Channel,
fortunately with no loss of life. The Gudri used to be the Typhoon which
worked for years for Shell in the Brent Field, an area which frequently
reported 100 knot winds, but which seemed to be unable to deal with the
moderate sea states prevalent in West African waters.
So it may be that the ships most in need of an audit which determines their
suitability for the task, are those least likely to receive one.
Additionally it is likely that the guidance with which they are provided
does not adequately cover the tasks they may undertake, and lastly it is
possible that the captain and or his immediate support do not have
experience relevant to the operation of their ship, even if they are
appropriately qualified. So it seems to me that something needs to be done,
but in the meantime it would be a good idea for shipmasters in command of
offshore vessels (Because that’s what I know about) to ensure that their
margin of stability is adequate at all times, and that they conform with
load line requirements, and maybe most important of all, they should keep
the doors shut
The Harita Bauxite which sank
in 2013. Photo I.Mashkov
just been reading about the hazards of carrying nickel ore in an article by
John Poulsen, Principal Surveyor for Atlantic Marine Associates.
The article catalogues the loss of six bulk carriers since 2010 with the
loss of more than 80 seafarers.
Apparently this cargo, which is essential for the manufacture of stainless
steel has a very high moisture content, but as long as the moisture content
is below the TML, the transportable moisture limit, all should be well.
However the writer goes on to cite an example of a certificate issued prior
to a loading which indicate that the cargo could be carried safely, but an
analysis carried out after the vessel had arrived at the discharge port
indicated an entirely different number.
The cargo analyzed was loaded at the same port at a similar time to that
loaded into the Harita Bauxite pictured. This ship loaded a cargo of nickel
ore at Obu Island in the Phillipines, and four days out stopped for repairs
to the engine.
This change in status resulted in the ship capsizing and sinking within 30
minutes with the loss of the lives of 15 of the crew.
What’s to be done? Even cargoes which are rejected may just be loaded onto
other vessels. The writer says “Regulations are lagging far behind the
realities of the nickel ore trade” and “Political, economic and commercial
interests make progress difficult.” Oh dear!
THE SHIPPING FORECAST
The last ‘Picture of the Day’
for 2013 by Scott Boulter
apparently a bit of an undercurrent suggesting that the shipping forecast on
BBC Radio 4 should be discontinued. Seafarers can look on the internet say
those who are in favour of its removal from the airwaves.
However, there is quite a strong level of support for its continuance, not
from those at sea, which is what one might think, but from those who enjoy
the poetry of the reading of the names of the sea areas.
The poetic aspects of the process reached what one could say was a climax,
on 30th December, when Michael Palin was the guest editor of the Today
programme and requested that the legendary Alan Bennett should read a
representative forecast. The one chosen was from 28th October this year and
contained several ‘Force 11s’ and one ‘Force 12’. As an experienced user of
the shipping forecast, I can tell you that if the Beeb start talking about a
Force 12, they really mean it.
But I have to say that if I was ever in Fair Isle which is the fourth from
last of the of the thirty three sea areas I had quite often lost
concentration by the time the reader got to it, and missed it altogether.
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
The Tugs, Towing and Offshore Newsletter.
The Nautilus Telegraph
The Nautical institute Magazine Seaways
The BBC Home Page
The MAIB Website
World Maritime News
The Siberia Times
The Ships and Oil website contains comprehensive information about many
offshore vessels and approaching 10,000 images.
People have continued to send pictures of the day for which I am very
grateful. 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 the weekends. By the way I have been told that a number of
subscribers to the newsletter send it on to others – if you are one of the
others email me for your own copy!
Company pages updated this month are as follows:
World Wide Supply
Recent Pictures of the Day include:
AND OIL OFFERS THE FOLLOWING PUBLICATION FOR SALE ON ITS WEBSITE:
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 £52.5
Vic Gibson. December 2013.
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