Sunday, July 30, 2006

Fresh hot promotions, get yours here !

I was surfing through the United Filipino seafarers website when I came across an interesting article on licenses and promotions aboard commercial ships sailing under the Panamanian Flag. This made me think of the long uphill battle I face “with” Transport Canada to get my second-class license. I would rather have a root canal done instead of tackling a multitude of “math” exams (commonly referred to as Part A's), that I will / have rarely use in the real world of my day to day operations onboard, and the worst part, that I have proven in school to have done already.

Of course going through the process myself, I long for a quick painless ascension through the ranks, after all I do have formal marine engineering schooling at PMTI in Vancouver. Its not like the old days, where people could walk off the street, challenge the exams and get a license, we now have STCW95, stipulating standards across the board - right? So why is it the more international seafarers I run across seem to have less restrictions in the progression through the ranks than Canadians. Seems like in Canada, it takes 10-15 yrs of sea time and exams to get to the 1st class level, while I sail with many Norwegian and Italian (among others) Chief engineers in their mid to late 20’s. Now I read that Panamanian flag sailors can just get their license upgrades through their company, sort to speak.

The only seafarers that I have run across, that seem to have a similar licensing program than Canada was the Venezuelans, but then again I only know of two. With such apparent extremes in licensing standards (that’s what I though STCW95 was suppose to address), makes me think that maybe its time for Canada to review our standards and evaluate it against other nations' realities and adjust accordingly. It’s not to say that we should hand out licenses to anyone, but lets be realistic and maybe have a modernization plan in place at Transport Canada because apparently we are out of touch.

I know in the last ten years, TC has been working hard to modernize the process, which is nice, because at least now, what is expected is written down, and not left to individual’s interpretation or preferences. In using an analogy, the polishing of a classic 1950’s car makes it look nice, but maybe we need a modern fuel-efficient car instead.

In the big picture, this article might highlight the relevance and bite of the regulatory bodies of the world. It seems like there is more and more regulations and overseer than ever. Yet to me, this “inhouse” promotion scheme by a Flag of Convenience nation might not be in the best interest of too many. Relaxing standards is a convenient way of addressing lack of investment in crew, and the general erosion of pay for seafarers.

Sure it’s a great opportunity for Filipino seafarers to advance, and some do really deserve it. I think watering down license standards may be akin to shooting one’s own foot. In the end it just seems to allows a company to use a cheap scapegoats should an accident happen. “Its not the company’s fault, we had licensed engineer on watch! He’s since been fired, and the blame goes with them”.

Here's a quote from the article, read more and let me know what you think.

"One Korean shipowner, who was asked to comment on the issue, was very candid in saying: “Who can prevent us from adopting the crew promotions system onboard our Panama-flagged vessels? As owners, we are the ones taking the risk. If and when an accident happens, no Philippine maritime agencies would be answerable to it, that’s for sure.”

- Martin

Friday, July 28, 2006

Mansbridge in the Arctic

It is a week for the CG in the news apparently.

Peter Mansbridge is enroute to Resolute to the CCGS Louis S St Laurent. He will be broadcasting from the vessel as she transits to Coppermine. Keep an eye out for the National.

If you have never been to the Arctic or on an icebreaker, it will be worth watching. The Louis is currently the largest ship in the CG fleet as she has been for the last 40 years. She was originally designed as a steam turbine ship, construction started in 1965 and she was launched in 1969.
In the late 80's the vessel was extensively modernized with a diesel electric plant installed and a new design icebreaking bow. In 2000 new, more efficient propellers were installed.
I checked the CG website and was disappointed to see they have absolutely no details on the ship's general constuction and propulsion posted.

Interesting insight

The main CBC website has a running account of life aboard the Sir Wilfrid Laurier, a type 1100 medium duty icebreaker, currently on it's way to the annual Western Artic patrol. The Laurier is based out of Victoria, in British Columbia.

The Laurier is a bit dated but remains the workhorse of the fleet, and as JK mentioned below, has just been slated for electrical upgrades. The ship is twin fixed screw, diesel electric ship. Three Alco 251 V16 produce 6600kW of power.

Check out the progress at the CBC's website.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A step in the right direction, now put on some shoes

I just caught a small newsbit of environmental regulation updating by the Canadian Government. Of course what are regulations if no one is there to enforce, but at least its a step in the right direction. With Alaska and Washington stricker standards, I believe the BC coast became the dumping ground for vessels in transit. I am not harden environmentalist, but I believe a sustainable approach with an even playing field is neccessary here. So I think its good news that we will be strenghtening regulations.

- Martin

VANCOUVER/CKNW(AM980) - The Conservative Government has announced new regulations aimed at protecting the marine environment from sewage and pollution from ships.The new regulations will come into effect September 15th and will mean an absolute ban on the dumping of untreated sewage from small boats within three miles of shore and from large ships within 12 miles.

Port Moody Westwood Port Coquitlam MP James Moore says current Canadian rules are below International standards. ".......and we're elevating Canada to International standards that are already in place with the three nautical miles and 12 nautical miles and this is a huge step in the right direction"

Also included are rules around air emissions and bilge water discharge, However the Government has no current plans to boost resources towards enforcement of these new regulations.

Cougar Ace barely hanging on

The Cougar Ace is listing badly, the crew has been evacuated reports from Alaska say. The Mitsui OSK owned ship was enroute from Japan to Vancouver.

Heres the CBC report, and one from the Alaska Report has a picture of the ship - a scary sight. And below is the press release from Mitsui OSK Line.

TOKYO - Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. (MOL, President: Akimitsu Ashida) reports that the MOL-operated car carrier Cougar Ace was heavily listed at sea south of the Aleutian Islands on Monday, July 24, outlined as follows:I.

At about 5:00p.m., July 24 (JST), MOL received a report from Cougar Ace laden with completed cars, which was on the voyage from Japan to the west coast of North America. According to the report, the vessel was listing heavily to port and became not under command.

The position was approx. latitude 48 degrees 14 minutes north and longitude 174 degrees 26 minutes west.All 23 crewmembers are confirmed safe, and they have put on immersion suits and are waiting at a safe location onboard for rescue by the US Coast Guard (USCG). Apart from one crewmember who injured a leg, all are in good condition. According to the USCG, the vessel is stable though listed, and besides a small quantity of sheen, no loss of cargo or other items have been observed.2.

The vessel immediately requested USCG to rescue her crew. USCG helicopter is on its way to the scene, and is scheduled to arrive afternoon, July 25 (JST) to rescue those seafarers. At 6:30 p.m., July 24, MOL formed a task force headed by President Ashida for an emergency response.3.

Cause of the Incident
The cause of the incident is currently under investigation.4.

Profile of Cougar Ace
Gross tons: 55,328 tons
Type of vessel: Car carrier
Built: October 1993
Flag : Singapore
Seafarers: 23 in total: 2 Singaporeans, 8 Myanmars, 13 Filipinos

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Oceanex ship spills in Halifax

Oceanex's Ro/ro container ship ASL SANDERLING, at the Halterm Container terminal of the Halifax Port, has reportedly spilled about 500 liters of heavy fuel oil into the harbour. Not much else is know at this time, but brief news story report that conainment booms have been deployed and recovery underway, with minimal damage expected. A report commented that the spill may have originated from a "corroded internal tank" (?) -, CTV. The 1,125 TEU SANDERLING usually sails from Halifax to St. John's and Corner Brook.

Ship Details

Port of Registry - St.John's, Newfoundland
Flag - Canada
Registry/Licence Number - 809070
Type - Ro/Ro Container Ship
Gross Tons -22,777
Length - 178 m between perpendiculars (BP)
Draught - Forward 7.2 m, Aft 8.1 m
Built -1977, Sasebo, Japan
Propulsion - MAN 13,976 kW controllable-pitch propeller (CPP)
Number of Crew - 22, plus one supernumerary
Registered Owners - Oceanex Inc., Montreal, Quebec

Friday, July 21, 2006

Sir Wilfrid Laurier Upgrades

Canadian Coast Guard begins modernization of 1100 fleet.

A Burlington, Ont., firm has been awarded a $3-million contract to provide electrical system upgrade services for the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

Converteam will design, manufacture, supply and warrant the upgrade to the existing propulsion system, supply a new bow thruster system and supply new drive systems and motors for the existing cranes.

The company will also provide operator training program for each system. Most of the work for the contract will be performed by Converteam's Pittsburgh office.

The CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier is a 7,040-horsepower light icebreaker that operates in the western Arctic Ocean, with a mission of keeping shipping lanes open for cargo transport ships.

Its home port is Victoria, B.C., but it is frequently in Halifax Harbour. ( Actually the Newspaper has it wrong-the 1100's frequently seen here are the Sir William Alexander and Edward Cornwallis)

It was launched in 1986 and carries a crew of 26.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

ROPOS Dives on Queen of the North

TSB # M08/2006

From the TSB Website:

(Vancouver, British Columbia, July 18, 2006) - The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) today released images taken during its second dive operation on the Queen of the North (occurrence M06W0052). The completion of the dive operation marks the end of the field phase of the investigation.

At approximately 0020 Pacific standard time on March 22, 2006, the British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. (BCFS) vessel Queen of the North, while in transit between Prince Rupert and Port Hardy, British Columbia, struck Gil Island, sustaining damage that resulted in the vessel's sinking shortly over an hour later. Passengers and crew were evacuated to the nearby village of Hartley Bay. Of the 101 passengers and crew, 99 were accounted for. Two passengers are missing and are presumed to have been on the vessel when it sank.

Within a week of the accident, the TSB directed a two-day dive operation on the Queen of the North. This operation provided important visual information about the vessel's condition and allowed the TSB to accurately establish its location.

The information obtained on the first dive was vital to the planning of the subsequent dive. On June 15, 2006, the Canadian Scientific Submersible Facility (CSSF) of Sidney, British Columbia, operated its ROPOS (remotely operated platform for ocean science) for a dive at a depth of 426 metres.

The purpose of the two-day dive was to retrieve information that could assist the TSB in understanding the events that led to the sinking of the Queen of the North. One aim of the dive was to document the vessel's wheelhouse. This was successfully done and images taken of the Queen of the North are being released today. These images show the ROPOS at work clearing the area of debris, breaking a bridge window to gain access, and taking images of the bridge.

The second aim of the dive was to retrieve bridge systems that could help the TSB analyze and validate the circumstances surrounding this accident. The dive operation resulted in the successful retrieval of the hard drive from the electronic chart system (ECS), the automated identification system (AIS) unit, the global positioning system (GPS) receiver, and the digital selective calling (DSC) radio. Analysis of the data retrieved from these components is ongoing.

While the retrieval of these systems will assist the TSB in piecing together the vessel's movements, voyage data recorders (VDRs) are a superior tool that will substantially benefit safety investigations.

These devices are designed to perform a similar function to aircraft "black boxes," which have been in use on board aircraft for a considerable time, recording vital information from the ship's sensors and voice recorders in a hardened data capsule for analysis by safety investigators following an incident. Recognizing the value of these devices in safety investigations, the Board has identified the absence of VDRs as one of its key safety issues in 1997 and 1999.

BCFS has informed the TSB that all new vessels will be fitted with VDRs and that existing vessels will be retrofitted with simplified voyage data recorders (SVDRs).

The investigation will now focus on the analysis of all the information that has been gathered. This includes analysis of the electronic navigation equipment, documentation, together with information obtained from interviews with crew and passengers on board the ferry at the time of the accident, as well as with BCFS management, in order to reconstruct events and identify safety deficiencies. The third and final phase of the investigation will be the production of the final report, which includes the review of a draft report by Board-designated confidential draft reviewers.

If the TSB identifies a safety deficiency at any time during the investigation, it will issue a safety communication so that the deficiency can be addressed as quickly as possible.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

- 30 -

To view video with captions [15,002 KB]

To view video without captions [19,437 KB]

Monday, July 17, 2006

Intermediate ferry newbuild for VSY

New ferry contract buoys spirits at B.C.'s shipyards
By Amy Dove, Victoria News, Jul 12 2006

Construction of $45.5-million vessel slated to begin in 2008 Advocates of local shipyards have something to smile about with the recent confirmation that Vancouver Shipyards will be responsible for building B.C.'s newest ferry.

The shipyard is contracted to build a new 125-car ferry, classed as an intermediate size vessel. Construction is slated to begin later this year with completion scheduled for 2008 on the $45.5 million project. The 100-metre vessel will replace the 46-year-old Queen of Tsawwassen. The new vessel will initially sail on the Earls Cove-Saltery Bay route on the Sunshine Coast.

"(The Queen of Tsawwassen) served us well but it's going to get past its useful life," said Deborah Marshall, BC Ferries director of communications. The vessel was one of the fleet's original ships, along with the Queen of Sidney, when the service began in 1960. The new ship, which will include a passenger lounge and snack bar, can carry up to 600 people.

The ship will also have a new state-of-the-art lifesaving system. Similar to a new system on the Queen of Nanaimo, the Australian life-raft system uses huge slides to efficiently move people off the boats and onto rafts below, Marshall explained. Fourteen shipyards competed for the contract last year with two Canadian and one international company being short-listed. Washington Marine Group - which operates both the Victoria and Vancouver shipyards - was the successful bidder.

"We are very proud to build this ship here in British Columbia," Marshall said. In its efforts to keep costs down, the company isn't always able to build ships in B.C., she noted. "If the cost or our ships are lower then in turn we don't have to pass on higher costs to our customers," Marshall said.

Over the next five years, BC Ferries will add eight new vessels, costing $1 billion in total. The contracts to build three of those vessels were awarded to a German company in 2004. The Vancouver Shipyards vessel will mark the fourth, while BC Ferries is still looking to replace the Queen of the North, which sank March 22, and to build two additional ships for the northern routes.

The latest contract is welcome news for the Shipyard General Worker's Federation, said president George MacPherson. "It is definitely a step in the right direction and there is no question it is welcome news, but it is a small piece of what has gone out there," he said, adding it makes no economic sense to send that amount of money out of province when the work can be done locally. If the industry is not supported now, there will be no one able to repair or build B.C. Ferries five or 10 years down the road, he said.

"It is a disservice to the country and the industry the way they are going about it," he said of international contracts. Building the B.C. vessels on home soil is important, said Maurine Karagianis, Esquimalt-Metchosin MLA. "I believe that it should be part of their terms of reference, at all times, that B.C. companies get an opportunity to bid on that business," Karagianis said. "It's no surprise that they would be going to the (local) industry for that kind of vessel," she said, adding that local shipbuilders are highly skilled.

This is an industry that helped build this country and the long-standing tradition of Canadian shipbuilding should be honoured, MacPherson said. The Victoria and Vancouver shipyards employ more than 1,000 trades people from around the province, with 15,000 sub-contractors brought in for different projects. The new ferry will be one of the larger vessels to be built at the shipyard, said Rollie Webb, Washington Marine Group Shipyards president. "We are very glad to have the contract - it has been quite a long time coming," Webb said of the two-year process to win the bid.

The last time BC Ferries contracted the local shipyard to build a ship was in the early 1990s.

For the official press release with a picture of the new boat, click here. To me, the boat looks very similar to the Queen of Capilano, but slightly bigger. Good to hear the company went local this time, but I think the shipyard will quickly be operating at capacity very shortly.

- Martin

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Columbia "narrowly" escapes Campbell River

Alaska ferry catches fire in the narrows
By Grant Warkentin, Mirror Staff, Jul 05 2006

Emergency services were prepared for the worst after an engine fire crippled an American ferry near Campbell River July 1.

The MV Columbia, a 418-foot American ferry capable of carrying 625 passengers and 134 vehicles, was on its way from Bellingham, Wash., to Anchorage, Alaska, when there was an electrical fire in the engine room early in the morning on Canada Day. The fire began just before 5 a.m. and as it was passing through the Seymour Narrows near Separation Head the ship made a distress call to the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria.

Campbell River assistant fire chief Tim Paul said the ferry crew was able to get the fire under control and no one was hurt. “They contained the fire and put it out themselves,” he said. “There were no injuries from fire or smoke inhalation for the passengers and crew.”

However, the ferry’s captain brought the ship into Duncan Bay where the Coast Guard and Transport Canada gave it a thorough investigation to make sure it was seaworthy. While the ship was being investigated, local firefighters were ready at Catalyst’s Elk Falls paper mill, which has a dock big enough to receive the ferry. “We just stood by at the pulp mill dock,” Paul said.

Paul said emergency services were prepared for the worst. The fire department activated the city’s emergency preparedness plan, which is designed to streamline and hasten emergency services in the event of a disaster. Buses were ready to take ferry passengers to relief stations at the community centre. Canada customs was prepared to deal with the 352 American passengers and crew aboard the ferry, if they needed to disembark.

Security was beefed up at Catalyst’s dock to deal with the American vessel. The paper mill also activated its own emergency response team. However, said Paul, their services were not needed. No passengers or crew needed to get off the ferry and the ship was pronounced seaworthy. “The captain was satisfied he could make it back up to Anchorage, Alaska safely,” he said.

Paul said the incident was a good test of the city’s emergency preparedness plan. “Our plan works,” he said. “We got a really good exercise out of it and nobody got hurt.” Paul said the ferry’s captain was impressed with Campbell River’s response to the fire and offered compliments when the ship was finally back underway to Alaska.

From the company website...

The M/V Columbia is the largest vessel of the Marine Highway fleet. Launched by Lockheed Shipbuilding in Seattle in 1974, the Columbia is 418 feet long, with capacity for 625 passengers and 134 vehicles (20' lengths). Its 104 total cabins include 45 four-berth units, and 59 two-berth units, 3 of which are wheelchair accessible. The Columbia boasts both a fine dining room and a cafeteria. The gift shop, cocktail lounge, solarium, and forward observation lounge round out the passenger amenities.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Coast Guard Gets Cash Infusion

Coast guard gets $45m in extra funding
Money will fund vessel refits
By ROB ANTLE St. John’s Telegram

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The federal government has approved an additional $45 million for the Canadian Coast Guard this year after it was told a cash injection was needed to keep many of its existing vessels ship shape.

But the government has yet to make a decision on the next phase of a possible replacement program for aging vessels experiencing "rust-out."

The $45 million covers just the annual shortfall in coast guard funding for core operations.

The coast guard became a special operating agency in 2005, giving it more autonomy within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

But briefing notes prepared for Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn earlier this year suggested the coast guard’s future as an independent agency was threatened by the funding gap.

Shore-based infrastructure — such as bases, lighthouses and towers — are "aging and in poor condition," the documents warned.

"The continued maintenance of this infrastructure will require a significant investment in the form of new funding," advise the briefing papers prepared for Hearn and obtained by the St. John’s Telegram under federal access to information laws.

"Otherwise, program funds will have to be used and could place program integrity in jeopardy."

In 2005, the coast guard received $26 million in one-year interim funding to help bridge the annual gap. But the Fisheries Department had to cover any remaining deficit, the documents note.

Hearn confirmed that the additional $45 million in funding for 2006 has been approved.

The briefing papers advised that $12 million in capital spending was required per year by 2009-10 for fleet vessels and equipment restoration. The other $33 million was necessary to "stabilize" coast guard operations.

The funding infusion will enable the coast guard to carry out a series of refits to vessels, such as deck replacement and upgrading on the Cygnus and a major engine overhaul on the Pearkes.

The Conservatives are also following through with plans previously announced by the Liberals to spend $276 million on six new coast guard vessels.

There are also another four ships under construction for a joint coast guard-RCMP security enforcement program on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system.

Hearn acknowledged that no decisions have been made on the second phase of the fleet replacement program, but he said the government will soon turn its attention towards the issue.

"Every indication we have is everything is moving ahead according to a long-range plan, simply because the need is there," Hearn told the Telegram in a recent interview.

That next phase would include the replacement of ships such as lifeboats, marine service vessels, mid-shore and offshore patrol vessels, hydrographic survey and science and research vessels.

Replacement of the icebreaking fleet won’t be considered until later — something that could change according to government priorities, according to the briefing notes.

The former Liberal government had planned to station a coast guard ship, the J.E. Bernier, in Happy Valley-Goose Bay as part of a $96-million Northern Access Initiative to enhance the coast guard’s presence in Labrador.

The Tories pulled the plug on the plan, and sent the Bernier for disposal.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Shipbuilding Boom in Future

Coast Guard has put out tenders for designs of midshore patrol boats and offshore science vessels, with plans to begin building soon.
The Navy has announced 3 supply type ships to be built.
Now it is announced that the Deep Panuke natural gas reserve, off of the NS coast, will be started with up to 5 rigs to be built.

While this all is certainly good news for the shipbuilding industry, I can't help but wonder where all of the work force is going to come from and what implications it will have on ship repair of the existing Canadian fleets.
It is a fact that a lot of Maritime workers are heading west to the milk and honey land of Alberta oil. There are only so many docks for ships on the East Coast, and with Quebec, Newfoundland and Maritimes CG fleets, Navy and Commercial fleets all requiring to be docked, as the new builds go on, it will require a lot of forward planning by all concerned.

Instead of these splurges of building, the Government should consider a program of rolling out new ships every few years. It is more sustainable, ensures that fleets are replaced in timely manner instead of maintaining aging hulls and keeps an experienced ship building force in the yards and new young people coming in to the industry. This can only be good for the Maritimes who are definitely losing the best and brightest west.

At the recent Canadian Institute of Marine Engineers Maritech in Halifax, this very topic raised a lot of debate between Coast Guard, Navy and the Shipbuilding Association of Canada ( with excellent points being raised by all.