A FUTURE OF UNMANNED
Every now and again
some-one comes up with the idea of unmanned ships, however in the past it
has never seemed like a really good idea because the oceans are not empty.
There are many thousands of ships plying the oceans as they carry most of
the worlds trade from one place to another. But maybe what has changed is
the ability of people to be in one place and seem to be in another.
There are now aircraft flying about in the skies above Afghanistan and
Yemen, having taken off from somewhere handy and being controlled by pilots
in America. But even so we should ground ourselves and remember that the
planes are not in the air for long, and they are maintained on the ground
between flights. So even if we can visualize people driving ships with video
camera screens, and radar displays in the control room in Huddersfield,
ships can be at sea for weeks and lacking engineers, they would be in
trouble if they broke down. This because ships on international voyages
spend most of their time outside helicopter range. So, I’m not saying it
won’t happen, but it won’t happen just yet, because ships are not yet
WORDS FROM THE GULF
doing some research to improve my information about Gulf of Mexico companies
when I discovered this interesting exchange on a marine forum. Some-one had
had asked a question about a Golden Meadow company.
Respondent 1. I saw the job ad on the net too but they have no website. That
tells me the bubba runnin’ the show is ol’ school. I may apply to this job
but will have to do it over the phone. The phone interview is where you
either stop or pass go. That is also where you muster your experience and
pass the phone test or not. That is if they will even talk to you without
you bein’ there "in person" to apply. That is code for stay away yankees.
Some jobs are not what they appear or there is ‘coonass navy’ code and tests
to pass unless they are in a real bind. The lack of website has ‘coonass
navy’ written all over it.
Respondent 2. I gotta ask why would you want to waste your time with the "coonass
navy"? Kinda seems as if you have something against the people down the
bayou. One would assume that everybody from out of state would understand
that local companies want to provide jobs for locals first. Nothing against
the out of state guys, a lot of you come to Louisiana and make great
captains, deckhands, etc...but as a Louisiana native working in the marine
transportation industry, I do get tired of hearing out of state guys do
nothing but talk trash about Louisiana and coonasses. I would think that it
would be the opposite. If you are from out of state, unless they give you
reason to dislike them, try to appreciate the fact that you have a high
paying job that is provided for you by the ‘coonass navy’.
Just realize that the ‘coonass navy’ a lot of you out of state guys complain
about, are the ones who put food on your family's table. Keep in mind that a
guy with just a GED (General Education Development) can't make anywhere near
the money that we make offshore in most other places. I like working with
people from different parts of the country, but when they start talking
about how ignorant coonasses are, or just general trash talking about
Louisiana it really upsets me.
The exchange took place in 2010 and the company in question now has a
NAVIGATING THE CHANNEL
The Remaining Capstan
in Aberdeen Harbour.
years ago I contributed an article to a book about Aberdeen. Of course I was
not a native and so could not reminisce about living in a one room tenement
or similar, but I was familiar with the harbour and could see a lone capstan
from our office - and actually another lying on the beach close by, so I did
some investigating, and this is the result.
On the south side of the entrance to Aberdeen harbour, marking the inner end
of the channel, there is a small breakwater projecting northwards, and like
a thumb on a right hand, a small mole sprouts from the shoreward end of this
breakwater. This curious extremity is topped by a capstan, now rusty and
leaning but once a essential part of the harbour navigation system. A visit
to the capstan reveals nothing about it, other than the fact that,
amazingly, it still turns. So those who are curious about its use have to
delve into the history of the port, starting with the old maps of the
Probably the most famous of the maps is that drawn by Peter May in 1756. He
was a surveyor employed by the magistrates of Aberdeen to produce an
accurate map of the port, because they mistrusted the previous work. This
map shows a large river estuary with islands in the stream, and a cluster of
houses on the north shore which was the city. On the south side of the
approach to the port there are a number of sticks which might be positioned
to guide vessels, and alarmingly the sea outside the port is known on the
plan as the German Ocean. There is no sign of any moles or breakwaters, let
Hence one can assume that back in 1756 the sailing vessels wishing to enter
the harbour either waited for the best wind to allow them to sail up the
channel, or else were towed up the estuary by rowing boats.
In order to ease this passage and to protect the harbour, breakwaters were
constructed over the next fifty years. The harbour as we know it today began
to be developed and the river Dee was re-routed to the south into the
channel in which it now flows. But the single most important event for those
who were challenged at every arrival by the difficulties of negotiating the
entrance to the Dee, was the launching of the Paul Jones, at Halls shipyard
on 22nd August 1827. The Paul Jones was Aberdeen's first steam tug.
A local history states that the tug "replaced the labourers on the piers who
had previously hauled vessels into the port entrance using capstans", and
there seems to be no other evidence of the purpose of the capstans, or
that they were ever used. But even this scant reference allows us to assume
that during the construction of the port prior to the beginning of the
nineteenth century, some-one realised that it might be more efficient to
haul the ships in, rather than to row them in.
Probably the same rowing boats were used to take long lines from the ships
and ferry them to the north side and the south side of the harbour where
waiting labourers would take several turns round the barrels of the
capstans, and they would then push them round with long staves located in
the slots on the top. Once in the harbour the ships could then sail on
across what is now the tidal basin into the Victoria Dock area.
If one compares the stonework of the short mole supporting the capstan with
the stonework on the north side of the harbour, it can be seen that it is
similar to that making up the first section of the North Pier which was
constructed in 1800. One assumes that this construction was to improve the
channel, and that it incorporated a capstan matching that on the South side.
A further 900 feet was added to the pier in 1812, and a final 500 foot
section was added in 1870. Both are of noticeably different construction
from the original. On the south side breakwaters pointing north were added
at approximately in the same easterly longitude as the end of the pier, the
final "new" south breakwater giving a certain majesty to the entrance.
These additions to the length of the pier may have been due in part to the
continuing failure of merchant ships to successfully navigate the channel.
In 1804, when the pier was very short, the sailing coaster the Hawk, was
driven onto the beach just to the north of it. Subsequent to the
construction of the 1812 extension, spectators would gather at the seaward
end when easterly gales were blowing just to watch the fun. In the early
part of the nineteenth century sailing ships would gamely make for the
entrance knowing that, what-ever the risk, they faced the possibility of
being blown ashore in any case. Even if they managed to get into the channel
they could be picked up on the swell and dashed into the south breakwater,
or onto the ledge which still protrudes beneath the water inside the North
There were many wrecks, and often the spectators on the pier were able to
assist with the rescue of the passengers and crew of the stricken vessels.
Even though the tug was available after 1827 ship-owners were as
conservative as they are now, and were reluctant to arrange for a tow when
it seemed likely that their vessels could get in on their own. Since it took
several hours to get up steam the Paul Jones was virtually useless as a
lifeboat and the crew could only watch helplessly as the wrecks took place.
In 1839 the paddle steamer Brilliant was caught by a swell and piled up on
the end of the North Pier, which sloped into the sea rather than having the
vertical termination to be seen at the end of the 1870 addition. The
spectators helped the passengers and crew ashore in the usual manner, but
no-one remembered to put the fires out. As a result when the water in the
boiler dried up the vessel blew up in a spectacular fashion.
This was the first steam ship to be wrecked in the port and it may not be
chance that the leading lights were completed in 1843. Two further tugs, the
Dorothy and the Samson entered service in the same year doubtless allowing
larger ships to enter the port, and they would need to keep to the deepest
part of the channel, and hence have a greater the need for direction.
The same leading lights are still in service today although now powered by
electricity rather than oil, and the port has continued to develop. The
Tidal Basin continues to be exposed to easterly winds, and the small mole
with its derelict capstan remains as the sole reminder of the difficulties
the old sailing ship masters had when they were entering the port of
THE STAR TAURUS
The Navigator in Senegal - Photo by Archie Walker
Some time ago I received this photo of an offshore vessel being fixed up in
Senegal. The photographer suggested that because he could see the first two
letters of the name which were ST, it could be Stad something.
But the ship looked sort of familiar so I read the IMO number and on
googling it I found that it had been the Star Taurus. Now I try to avoid too
much reminiscing on the website and in this newsletter, but I really can’t
help it in this case.
The Star Taurus and its sister ship the Star Aquarius were Star Offshore’s
first anchor-handlers and were beasts in their day, much envied by the crews
of other British anchor handlers of the time. The two ships entered service
in 1974 or so and their first job was trying to protect British fishing
vessels during the cod war.
I joined the Taurus in 1982 as an extra hand, and later was master of the
Star Aquarius working for Total in 1983. In that year they both departed to
work in the Far East, almost never to be seen again. I say almost, because
one of them did reappear some years later as a standby boat.
The Aquarius was replaced on the Total charter by the Star Polaris, and
despite the fact that the latter was the latest thing in supply boating, and
better in every respect the charterers were still angry. So I was going to
say ‘gone but not forgotten’ – but actually not even gone.
THE MORNING GLORY
A Photo of the Morning Glory
outlets featured a story, very briefly the other day, of the tanker Morning
Glory which had left a port in Libya with a full cargo of crude oil, during
which gunfire was being exchanged between people on the ship and people on
The ship was apparently registered in North Korea, which as far as I can
tell might be a first, and according to some reports was deregistered when
it left port with the crude oil which was apparently a pirate activity.
Did this mean that the ship had been taken over by rebels in the port, the
crew disembarked and then it had sailed? Maybe not since according to nsnbc
on the return of the ship to Tripoli the crew had been arrested and were due
to be referred to the relevant authorities.
So how did it happen to return to Libya? American special forces boarded the
ship somewhere close to Cyprus and took it over. There were no injuries to
the crew but it is said that the tanker was slightly damaged.
This is pretty outlandish stuff and can only raise a series of questions.
The first one might be – where the hell was the Morning Glory going with its
cargo of crude? That would answer a lot of other questions as well.
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 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! I have had one or two requests, but have
not always been successful in sending the newsletter. Maybe their systems
There have been no company updates this month, although my long term
ambition to have all the companies on the site recently updated, and then to
be able to update them using the snippets of information I receive all the
time is undiminished. But sometimes I have other things to do.
Recent Pictures of the Day include:
SHIPS 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
If you would prefer not to receive further news letters please email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Vic Gibson. March 2014.
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