home   Picture of the Day     ship information   articles and features     news and views   publications   webcam 

Locations of visitors to this page








The Pasvik , a sister ship of the Neftegaz 67 which operated out of Aberdeen back in 2002.



The Nautical institute magazine Seaways contains a long letter from the chairman of the Hong Kong Pilot’s Association effectively rebutting the report in the same magazine about the collision between the Neftegaz 67 and the bulk carrier Yao Hai. This because the Court of Final Appeal had determined that the Castle Peak Channel was a narrow channel, within the meaning of Rule 9, and that therefore the blame for the collision rested with the captain of the Neftegaz 67. His defense relied on the view that it was not a narrow channel as far as the Yao Hai was concerned (I’m afraid you would have to look back at the October 2013 newsletter for more information).

The Court of Final Appeal took the view that the steps taken by the Yeo Hai to draw attention to the fact that it was the stand on vessel were appropriate, and that the captain of the Neftegaz 67 had failed to respond, and that therefore the collision was his fault.

It looks like a convincing case, but then the original case looked convincing as well, so where are we? It is probable that the old Board of Trade system of dealing with marine accidents was more appropriate than the presentation of a case before a non marine judge, the results of which surely depend on the wonderfulness of the barristers involved. The Board of Trade always used to apportion blame as a percentage, and even when a ship under way ran into a ship at anchor it was quite likely that they would apportion some blame to the latter. Despite their awareness of the collision situation those in charge of the Yeo Hai did not even slow down! But I seem to be taking sides don’t I.


You just can’t keep the marine environment out of films at the moment. After the monumental marine event that was ‘Captain Phillips’ we have ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ and ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’. In ‘Walter’ directed by and starring Ben Stiller there is a really arresting sequence of a fishing boat and helicopter in a storm off Iceland which had me on the edge of my seat, it seemed so realistic. On the other hand in ’The Wolf of Wall Street’, which is becoming known for its profligate featuring of sex, drugs and even a bit of rock and roll, there is a sequence of the loss of the main protagonist’s yacht in rough seas. The yacht appeared to be manned solely by the captain, who could be seen grappling with the wheel in the middle of the night with the wheelhouse lights on. I know that directors have a problem with lighting when it comes to ship in the night, but surely they could have worked it out by now.


  The Herald of Free Enterprise - Photo from the Web.

The other day I was glancing at a BBC page on the internet which concerned a meeting between a rescuer, and a lady who was rescued from the wreck of the Herald of Free Enterprise. Also a charity called “Public Concern at Work’ has published a report which highlights the disconnect between those doing the work and those managing, particularly on the Herald of Free Enterprise. As a result I had a look at the Department of Transport investigation in to the disaster.

It is now twenty-six years since the Herald of Free Enterprise sank just outside Zeebrugge. 150 passengers and 38 crew members lost their lives, hence the Secretary of State for Transport ordered an investigation into the disaster.

The Herald was a ro-ro ferry carrying passengers and their cars, and freight vehicles and their drivers between Zeebrugge and Dover, a voyage of about four and a half hours. On the evening of 6th March it left Zeebrugge, passing the outer mole at 18:24, and sinking about four minutes later. The ship rolled over to port and came to rest with the starboard side above water about seven cables from the harbour entrance.

How had this happened? In short, the assistant boatswain, whose job it had been to close the bow and stern doors had been resting on his bunk, and had not heard the call to stations on the tannoy, and so had not gone and done his job. So the ship had sailed with the bow doors open, water had entered over the sill and caused the ship to become unstable due to free surface.

The investigation found that this class of ferry was designed for loading and unloading at a higher and lower level, using two ramps – usually known as ‘linkspans’, but in Zeebrugge there was a single linkspan, and particularly at certain states of tide the ship had to trim bow down for the linkspan to be able to access the upper loading/unloading point. To achieve this the ship had to ballast down during the latter stages of the approach to Zeebrugge and had to spend time ballasting up during the return voyage towards UK. Hence, with the bow doors open and the ship trimmed by the head, it was easy enough for the cargo deck to fill with water.

The investigation pulled no punches, and almost everyone involved was censured in some way, with some of the mariners losing their certificates of competency.

These ferries had a restriction in that at draughts of more than 5.5 metres the passenger capacity was reduced. But it was not possible to read the draughts and as a result an entirely fictitious draught was always entered in the official log book. Apart from being illegal this obviously prevented the ship’s staff from knowing exactly how the ship was trimmed. And in any case it was determined that on many occasions the fleet in general was carrying passengers in excess of their regulated capacity. Complaints by the senior masters resulted in memos from management which did nothing to improve the situation, and actually might have been intended to remove the captain’s ability to determine how many passengers they were carrying.
The company did not employ ‘Marine Superintendents’ in the traditional sense. The superintendents were usually engineers and the directly involved senior managers were naval architects. Hence there were no mariners in the management. The roles of the directors were not defined, and actually nor were the roles of the ship’s officers who were supposed to follow standing orders written by the heads of departments. The investigation made much of this, and one hopes that maybe this particular problem might have been solved by the ISM code and safety management systems in general.

There were specific instructions one of which was that the Chief Officer should be at his station for departure, which happened to be on the bridge, fifteen minutes before sailing. How could this be achieved, memos from the senior masters asked, if the Chief Officer had to follow another instruction which was to make sure that the bow door operator was in position before he left the cargo deck.

And in all of this one should not forget that the investigators had determined that there seemed to be an imperative within the company that turn-rounds in port had to be as quick as possible, and that specifically the manager ashore in Zeebrugge had issued a memo to the ship encouraging the crew to make everything ready for sea and to leave the port fifteen minutes before the official departure time, this apparently to give more discharge and loading time in Dover.

In addition, over the years, sailings had taken place with bow doors open on a number of the class, since it was not possible to see from the bridge whether the doors were open or not. As a result there had been a number of requests for from masters for indicator lights to be fitted on the bridge to show the door status.
Possibly the most important of these was written by one of the senior masters in 1985 saying:
There is no indication on the bridge as to whether the most important watertight doors are closed or not. That is the bow and stern doors. With the very short distance between the berth and the open sea on both sides of the channel this can be a problem if the operator is delayed or having problems in closing the doors. Indicator lights on the very excellent mimic panel could enable the bridge team to monitor the situation is such circumstances.

One of the responses was from a deputy chief superintendent saying “Do they need indicator lights to tell them whether the deck storekeeper is a wake and sober? My goodness!!”
The investigation report says, “It is hardly necessary for the Court to comment that these replies display an absence of any proper sense of responsibility”.

It is impossible to do the report justice in a few words, but it is contained complete on the MAIB website. Everyone whose involvement the Court found wanting is named, so so much for a no blame culture. Even today, in many organizations, middle managers seem to think that it is part of their job to control the budget for the company, and to put a red pen through anything that costs money. A message from the Herald report might be, that in order to operate efficiently, successfully and safely you have take notice of your staff, and spend money occasionally.


Here is the hull of the Stril Luna launched at Astilleros Gondan in Spain in 2013, and due for delivery in July 2014

The shipyard building the Stril Luna for Simon Mokster has recently distributed a press release where they announce that this fine vessel is the first one in the world to be fitted with a ‘Unified Bridge solution’.

Well this does take me back. Thirty-one years ago my employers asked if I could design a bridge layout for the newbuildings which were to enter service in 1985.

Lacking the possibility of a complete bridge system, similar to that fitted to aircraft, which would have solved the whole problem the Chief Engineer and I measured the dimensions of all the panels and switches fitted to the ship on which I was serving and which was a sort of forerunner, and then drew diagrams to provide layouts for all the required systems, but minimizing the amount of space used, and ensuring that we could reach everything if necessary.

I also redesigned the joystick control to make it easier to use and to determine what the settings were and also drew a design for a triangular bridge front which has particular advantages when keeping a lookout.

How we wished for a unified bridge system to get rid of the variety of different types of equipment scattered randomly about the consoles, apparently without much thought.

The joystick control made it into service on our next ship in 1985 but it has taken a further 30 years for the bridge system to make it.


A picture of the Pieter Schelte at work from the Alllseas website

Allseas, who up to now have put a number of innovative pipelayers into the field have come up with a pretty unusual vessel for removing old platforms from the offshore environment. This is the Pieter Schelte a twin hulled ship of vast size.

The ship will be 382 metres (1253 ft) long and will be 117 metres (384 ft) wide. Incidentally this will be wider than the latest Ramform ship claimed by PGS to be the widest ship in the world. It will have eight large engines in four engine rooms and 13 enormous thrusters.

This is a pretty long term project, some of the equipment being ordered in 2007, but it is hoped that it will enter service some time this year, and has already been contracted for some decommissioning work by Shell. There are a number of videos showing it at work on the Allseas website, and it looks pretty straightforward. But – and you know there must be a ‘but’ – many of these early platforms were but together in very small pieces because of the limitations of the heavy lift cranes. Thistle, for instance, was constructed using a 300 tonne crane. Can the Pieter Schelte lift off the topsides in one piece?


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:

Abeille                                           ABS Marine
Acergy                                           Acomarit
Active                                            Adams Offshore
AET Offshore                                  Aker Solutions
Alam Maritime                                Allied Marine
Allseas                                           Alpha Logistics
Arctia Shipping                               Arendal Offshore
Aries Offshore                                Arktikmor
Arsvom                                          Assodivers
Astromaritima                                Atlantic Offshore
Augusta                                         Augustea
Axis Offshore                                  Barry Towage
Bergen Offshore                              Bibby Offshoire
Bisso Marine                                    Blue Star Line

Recent Pictures of the Day include:

Stena Forth               Pacific Osprey              Ships at Elgin
North Ocean 102        Asso Trenuno               Ensco 5004


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. January 2014.

To view earlier News and Views Click Here.

If you would like to receive News and Views as a PDF - with photos - email me.




December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
 April 2009
 March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
Feb 2008
Jan 2008
Dec 2007
Nov 2007
Oct 2007
 June 2007
 May 2007
 April 2007
 March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
June 2005
April 2005
Feb 2005
Jan 2005
Nov 2004
Oct 2004
Sept 2004
August 2004

July 2004

May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002 
July/Aug 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
July 2001
May 2001
March 2001
February 2001
January 2001
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000