Tuesday, July 24, 2007

UK's MCA offers free Health Guides

19 July 2007

Are you easily irritated? Do you have limited concentration and feel tired all the time? The Maritime & Coastguard Agency recognises these as some of the signs associated with seafarers suffering from fatigue, and has today published two guides highlighting fatigue in seafarers and how to manage it.

Your Health at Sea 4 - Fatigue in Seafarers Safety management at Sea 6 - Managing Fatigue in Seafarers. Copies are available free of charge from the Agency's distributors EC Group
Tel.0845 603 2431.

The guides are intended to raise both awareness of fatigue, and to assist Seafarers and managers in the Maritime Industry to improve their fatigue management skills, in order to ensure safe operations. The guides explain what fatigue is, and contain some useful tips and best practice guidance for both recognising and reducing the problem.

Sharon Judge, Deputy Manager from the Seafarer Health and Safety Branch at the Agency said:
"MCA appreciates the problems with fatigue at sea and the potential negative impact on both operational safety and the individual well being of the seafarer".

Our aim is that these guides will assist seafarers and managers to recognise the signs and symptoms of fatigue, and educate them about taking steps to avoid and reduce fatigue.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Last Grand Bank Schooner

This news made it to the East Coast's Chronicle Herald.
Most people would be unaware that there is still one of these ships still in service.
I sincerely hope that they manage to refloat her and being her back to working shape complete with sails.

Former Cape Bretoners are racing to rescue a Shelburne-built tall ship that wrecked off the British Columbia coast on July 1.

The 67-year-old Robertson II hit a reef in the Gulf Islands. The 29-metre, 100-tonne vessel is lying on her side.

At low tide, most of her keel and the port side of her 40-centimetre-thick hull are completely exposed.

"She’s got a bunch of stubborn Cape Bretoners on her," said William Strickland, a transplanted North Sydney fisherman who sometimes works aboard "the Robbie."

It could be a cruel final chapter to the boat that spent its first 34 years fishing the Grand Banks out of Lockeport.

"She’s always brought everyone home safely," said Mr. Strickland, who hopes to return that favour to the old girl.

"There’s lots of life left to her," he said.

Her owner, Roy Boudreau, an Arichat native, has been on the boat nearly every waking hour since the accident, Mr. Strickland said.

So far, he has cooked up a plan to stuff her hull with inflated tire tubes to keep the schooner afloat once she’s pulled off the reef.

Mr. Boudreau was at the Robertson II’s helm on July 1, taking a number of guests to a lamb roast on Saturn Island when she struck the reef.

"It’s a narrow channel with extremely treacherous, fast-moving tides," Mr. Strickland said.

Initially, the ship remained afloat and Mr. Strickland had several hours to get the hatches sealed and a boom put in place to contain the diesel fuel.

The Robertson II is said to be the only surviving Grand Banks fishing schooner.

According to information found on the Sail and Life Training Society’s website, the Robertson II was built by W.G. MacKay and Sons Ltd. in Shelburne.

Her first captain was Gordon MacKenzie of Lockeport. She was still sailing out of that South Shore harbour when the ship was purchased for use as a sailing school adventure program for young people on the West Coast.

In 1995, the society retired the Robertson II from active use and for a time it was used as a floating museum in Victoria Harbour.

In 2001, with restoration costs estimated to be over $1 million, the society decided to sell.

Mr. Boudreau’s Atlantic Pacific Fisheries bought the schooner for $15,000 in 2003.

Since that time, Mr. Boudreau has rented the vessel out to groups and has also used it for personal cruises.

The wreck occurred at about 2 a.m. on Canada Day, said Rod Nelson, a Transport Canada spokesman.

"Ultimately, the vessel is (Mr. Boudreau’s) responsibility," Mr. Nelson said.

Transport Canada is monitoring the ship to make sure that it does not become a navigational or environmental hazard.

"Our concern would be that later on it would break up," Mr. Nelson said.

He has heard there is a plan in place to move the ship, but lately Transport Canada has not been able to reach Mr. Boudreau, Mr. Nelson said.

The hope is that within the next couple of days, Mr. Boudreau will be able to rescue the boat, Mr. Strickland said.

On Monday, a West Coast tire company offered the use of several hundred large tire tubes. As well, Mr. Boudreau has a tugboat lined up and plans to bring in a large tuna boat, which he owns, to be part of the rescue attempt.

Once freed, there are several options available to Mr. Boudreau, including beaching the Robertson II to allow for temporary repairs to be made to her hull.

Beaching boats for repair work is commonly done on Nova Scotia Cape Islanders and the Robertson’s hull is very similar to a Cape Islander, Mr. Strickland said.

Ultimately, Mr. Boudreau’s plan for one of the few surviving schooners that worked on the Grand Banks would be to restore her sails, Mr. Strickland said.

The Robertson II was sold without the sails, but Mr. Strickland believes his friend has some on order.

After hearing media accounts of the Robbie’s plight, Mark Gumley of MG Shipyard & Dive Service in Washington state arrived with large inflatable bags that helped support about 80 tonnes of the vessel’s 100-tonne frame. He also brought divers and other equipment to help right the schooner and raise spirits.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Bear Facts

I was having a coffee with a friend yesterday and he pulled out the Algoma newsletter "Bear Facts" to show me a picture and ask me if I knew the engineer.

That got my interest up and I flipped through the 16 page publication.
From it, I learned that a friend who I haven't seen in years, daughter won a scholorship and is heading off to University. Other then the fact that it instantly made me feel my age, I thought it was great that recognition was given to the daughters accomplishment.

There were pictures of crew receiving service awards, new hires, promotions, certificate upgrades and so on. This may seem like a small thing, but I would think that a little publication like this would be a great tool for crew morale, a bit of recognition for people who rarely have any such as the cook featured on Page 11.

So, kudos to Algoma spending the time and money to produce this publication (what is more amazing it is on glossy paper) and I wish my organization would take note of it.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Summer in Canada

CCGS Louis S St Laurent leaves Dartmouth CG Base for the Arctic on July 4th

Here in Halifax, one of the signs of Summer is the sight of the Canadian Coast Guard heavy icebreakers sailing out of the harbour for the high Arctic. In 2007, the CG heavy icebreaking fleet consists of the CCGS Terry Fox and the workhorse Louis S St Laurent, which is reaching 40 years of service.

Over the years their missions have changed dramatically, but they are still the sign of Canadian sovereignity in the Arctic.
At one time the main mission was escorting tankers and ore carriers in to the mining towns of Nanisivik, Little Cornwallis Island and Resolute. The icebreakers spent long summers in the Arctic waiting for the ships to travel to Europe or Montreal, discharge and return.

Today they are more likely to be found doing Science programs and Arctic resupply. The closing of the mines in the Arctic means fewer ships to escort.

In the '70s and '80s crew changes were infrequent and it was not uncommon for a crew member to make the full trip which could be 120 days or more. In the '90s crew changes were every 6-8 weeks and a crew member had to accumulate enough leave to be able to leave the ship and go South, nowadays the ships are working a layday schedule that ensures that crews are rotated out regularly. 30 years ago woman on these ships were virtually unheard of, today each carries woman officers and crew along with scientists.

2007 marks the last year that the CCGS Terry Fox will leave Halifax for the Arctic. The ship will be transfered to St John's, Nfld in April of 2008. The Louis S St Laurent follows in 2009, her home port will be Argentia, Nfld.

This is an economic windfall for Nfld, that over the life of the vessels will be well into tens of millions of dollars and 130 jobs as the Maritime crew is replaced. (There is no word on the implication to the Maritime shore support staff.)

After decades of the Coast Guard icebreakers sailing past Maugers Beach on their way to the Arctic, there will be no more. A very sad day indeed.

Coast Guard helps out teen

Icebreaker will toss bottles for school project

By STEVE BRUCE Staff Reporter (Chronicle Heald, Halifax)

The crew of Canada’s largest icebreaker will drop 240 beer bottles into the ocean during the ship’s annual expedition to the Arctic, and they’ll do it with the captain’s blessing.

The coast guard vessel will just be helping a 14-year-old Cole Harbour girl complete a school project on ocean currents.

Bonita LeBlanc waved from shore at the Dartmouth coast guard base Wednesday as the Louis S. St-Laurent set sail for the Far North, where it will assert Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic, conduct scientific research in conjunction with International Polar Year and clear commercial shipping lanes.

The 20 dozen corked bottles, each with a numbered note inside, will be dropped at predetermined points along the ship’s northern voyage.

Bonita hopes anyone who finds one of the bottles will follow the instructions on the note and record the time and location of the discovery on a Department of Fisheries and Oceans website.

If past experiments with drift bottles are any indication, Bonita’s bottles could wash ashore as far away as the Caribbean, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Spain, she told reporters Wednesday on the bridge of the Louis S. St-Laurent.

But Bonita, who is going into Grade 9 at Ecole du Carrefour in Dartmouth, doesn’t expect to hear back about any of the bottles before she has to present her science project next year.

"The average time is about two years for a bottle to be found," said Tony Potts, a coast guard employee who helped Bonita set up the project.

Bonita said she was inspired to conduct her experiment after reading a Canadian Geographic article last summer about Eddie Carmack, a federal scientist who uses drift bottles to track ocean currents.

Her e-mail to Mr. Carmack made its way to Mr. Potts, a former captain of the Louis S. St-Laurent, who said he was impressed with her enthusiasm.

"It’s very simple science," Mr. Potts said. "We just foster it along."

Bonita said only one of every 25 bottles set adrift in these kinds of experiments is usually reported found.

She said the bottles, donated by Sleeman’s, are biodegradable, "so anyone who thinks I’m littering, I’m not."

But she still feels compelled to do something extra to help the environment.

"My idea is because I’m throwing something into the ocean, I’m going to take something out," she said. "I’m going to go around to some beaches and I’m going to clean them up."

Capt. Andrew McNeill said the vessel is scheduled to return to Dartmouth on Nov. 20, but it could be later if there’s a delay in the commercial shipping season up north.

"We can’t leave until the last tanker is out," Capt. McNeill said.

Ottawa announced in April that the Louis S. St-Laurent and another icebreaker stationed in Dartmouth, the Terry Fox, will be moved to Newfoundland and Labrador over the next two years to allow them to be closer to the Arctic.

There have been reports that Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to go on an Arctic sovereignty patrol this year.

"I haven’t heard anything yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me if something was announced," Capt. McNeill said

The ship had 74 people on board when it sailed Wednesday, including 22 scientists who will carry out more than 40 experiments covering wildlife, human health and climate change.

"We’re embarking today on the start of a project called Canada’s Three Oceans, where we’re looking at the physical and biological oceanography of the oceans that encircle Canada," said John Nelson, a research scientist from the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney, B.C.

"One of our main goals is to establish a baseline snapshot of what’s happening in the Arctic’s physical and biological oceanography that we can use to assess future change. If we go next year or the year after that, we can do the same sorts of measurements and see how things have changed over that time frame."