Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sorry Gumby, time to go

Last meeting of the Vancouver Island Branch of the CIMarE I finally met Mr. Darren Williams and was re-introduce to the universal fit survival suit. He was there to introduce us to a problem that I thought was... oh hum - at first. I didn't really think about it, as I imagine most really don't, until it is too late. It was not long before Darren quickly illustrated the issues and solutions to problems I did not realize the importance of. I have definitely experienced them, in the many drills where I have donned the "gumby" type survival suit and gone for a swim with them.

The problem is that the universal fit survival suit, found on most vessels, meet regulations set by Transport Canada, but those test do not reflect real world conditions. Real world conditions have shown that a significant amount of water can enter the suit by way of the face and wrist seal areas, and more importantly that a very little amount of water can dramatically reduce the effectiveness of the suit. Darren Williams, in May 2004, wrote a excellent piece on this, which can be found on his website. About four years later, in 2008, he was still raising awareness of this issue and was showing us in person the design flaws of the current suits. Today, in the news, Transport Canada is reported to have recognized the shortfall of the "gumby" suits and has issued a certificate of compliance for a new design of survival suits that addresses the issues raised, and championed by Mr. Williams.

The new survival suit that was shown to us by Darren, as an example of prototypes to addresses the issues raised, was from Victoria based Frank White. The suit is much akin to a dry suit, scuba divers use for cold weather dives, with latex rubber seals around the neck and wrist and a water tight zipper across the chest. The head is protected by a combination face shield, hood and flotation pillow (see picture - more pictures). It is designed to address the water ingress flaws.

I want to congratulate Darren for persisting with this issue for four long years, and will invite him to champion the Canadian Seafarer Tax issue, ehehehee, ok well maybe not just yet. Turns out Darren is an admirer of the site, and along with being a successful maritime lawyer, has written many articles on seafarers and their legal exposures, in various local maritime magazines. He has graciously agreed to share his knowledge and offer us his professional opinions in a soon to come legal area of the Ship's Library. Some might say he's a lawyer and talks "goobledigoop" talk, but you would be surprise how easy to read, and most importantly, how his legal insight is applicable to marine engineers.

Yes, that is me in the picture, in a survival suit during a drill off Triangle Island at the north end of Vancouver Island. I know first hand the leakage problems and with the new Transport Canada findings, I am realizing the severity of the problem.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Easter Bunny visits Transport Canada

Over the long Easter weekend, March 21-24, enterprising thieves rummaged through the federal government building at 1230 Government Street in Victoria, BC. Sources for Martin's Marine Engineering Page - say the thieves had a "all access" electronic pass card, allowing them full access, which they used, as they repeatedly came and carted off stolen goods over the duration of the long weekend. It appears the theft was general in nature, stealing mostly "quick cash" items: flat screen monitors, personal effects, government checks from one cracked safe, and attempting to crack another. One of the office raided in the thieves' revelry, was the fifth floor office of Transport Canada Marine Safety. My sources state that laptops and other electronics were taken from this office at which point, my interest was peaked.

We all know full well the position Transport Canada holds in our daily professional lives as marine engineers, and certainly the impact they potentially have on the general public. Detailed security plans for ships and licensing of seafarers are just a couple of topics that in my view, could be disastrous in the wrong hands. I certainly hope the staff practiced very good security protocol since the laptops in skilled hands, I imagine could be used to access databases like the "no fly list" or "emergency response" documentation, just to name a few items of concern. Transport Canada's mandate is broad and affect the security of Canadian society at its roots.

Victoria Police Department is investigating the theft and did not wish to elaborate on many details, other than to confirm the occurrence of theft from the building, of which Transport Canada is a tenant. Sgt. Grant Hamilton, spokesperson for the VPD, stated that the investigation is in full swing and that some property has been recovered, but decline to say what was originally taken or what was recovered. From the VPD perspective, it appears that Transport Canada was not specifically targeted. He further stated that Transport Canada, along with all government agencies affected by the break in, were fully cooperative.

Transport Canada spokesperson, Jillian Glover from Regional Headquarters in Vancouver, stated that indeed, an un-authorize access to their offices in Victoria did occur, but that a secure zone within the office was not compromised. She further stated that the Victoria Police Department was the sole investigative agency at this time, and that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP - federal police force) or Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) were not involved. M. Glover declined to comment on the specifics of what was taken, but believed that Transport Canada was not targeted specifically. She further stated that services provided by that office, are believe to not have been affected.

Our sources say that the fifth floor offices of Transport Canada were under video surveillance at the time, and one must assume that the VPD have a pretty clear picture of the culprits, and will be able to recover the stolen materials, hopefully un-compromised.

Martin Leduc

Monday, April 14, 2008

Whats red and white, and glows in the dark

Answer - A Russian Arktika Class Icebreaker working in the Arctic.

Mike Hood, of Lloyds List writes the interesting article, below, on the latest nuclear powered Arktika Class Russian icebreaker, operated by experienced Arctic ice navigators, Murmansk Shipping Company. Check out the videos of sea trials, (on the right) from YouTube, of this impressive ship.

Specifications of 50 Let Pobedy (English - 50th anniversary of Victory)
Builder: Baltic Works, Leningrad, USSR/Saint Petersburg, Russia
Laid down: October 4, 1989
Commissioned: 2007
Homeport: Murmansk, Russia
Class and type: Ice breaker, Arktika class
Displacement: 25,000 metric tons
Length: 159.6 m (522 feet)
Beam: 30 m (28 m at the waterline)
Propulsion: 75,000 h.p.
Power plant: 2 nuclear reactors, Model OK-900A capable of producing 171 MW each
Steam output: 240 tons per hour x 2
Speed: up to 21.4 knots
Complement: 138 crew members
Cost of "bunkering": $14 million USD
Life expectancy: 30 - 35 years
Check out this page for the power plant specs.

Russian nuclear icebreaker to make North Pole cruise debut

US cruise operator Quark Expeditions has chartered the world’s largest icebreaker, the 2007-delivered Russian nuclear-powered 50 Let Pobedy, for three cruises from Murmansk to the North Pole this summer, writes Sandra Speares.

The Murmansk Shipping Co-owned icebreaker, the largest of the Arktika-class and the most powerful and modern of its type in the world, has just been refitted to carry passengers and now features an aft passenger saloon, forward lounge, bar, library, gym, shop and indoor swimming pool. A total of 128 passengers can be carried in 64 cabins in five different classes.

The maiden North Pole cruise of 50 Let Pobedy is a 16-day fly-cruise from June 23-July 8. Passengers will be flown from Helsinki to Murmansk and back via aircraft. The two remaining cruises include another 16-day trip from July 6-July 21 and a 17-day trip from July 19-August 4.

The main role for 50 Let Pobedy is to keep free the vital Northern Sea routes in Russia, which are critical for the economic future of Russia’s Far North and the Arctic regions of Siberia. One of the principal routes to be maintained is the key link between Murmansk and Dudenka used by Norilsk Nickel’s fleet.

Propulsion for 50 Let Pobedy comes from two nuclear power plants which generate steam, giving a power output of 75,000 hp and providing a speed of 18 knots. She can maintain a speed of three knots in ice 2.8 m thick. Although an ‘old’ design (it took 20 years to build) the vessel features the latest in nuclear safety equipment and is the first icebreaker to feature a ‘spoon-type’ bow.

Quark Expeditions is a leader in polar cruises and charters in a fleet of specialised vessels. It includes the diesel-powered Russian icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov, which operates Arctic cruises; three Russian owned adventure ships Akademik Ioffe, Akademik Shokalskiy and Akademik Sergey Vavilov, which undertake Canadian Arctic voyages; and three expedition-type vessels, Ocean Nova, Lyubov Orlova and Clipper Adventurer.

An additional write up can be found here, and more pictures here.
Pictured right - is the reactor operating training facility in St Petersburg.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Turkey in Wonder of the Sky

Ex P&O's Pacific Sky, now Sky Wonder and owed by Royal Caribbean International`s Spanish cruise unit, Pullmantur, has run aground in Turkey. Seems they were buffeted by strong winds on March 26, 2008 were hard aground; later re-floated on the 29th. You can read more about this incident on Ship Happenz blog. In the mean time here is a brief news story on it.

Passengers of cruise liner "Sky Wonder" evacuated in Turkey 2008-03-26 21:48:48

ANKARA, March 26 (Xinhua) -- Passengers of cruise liner "Sky Wonder" which ran aground at Setur Marina while docking Kusadasi port in western Turkey were evacuated on Wednesday, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported. A total of 1,029 passengers were evacuated and brought to Kusadasi safely, according to the report.It said that "Sky Wonder" ran aground due to storm on Tuesday while approaching the Kusadasi port.

Local sources were quoted as saying that condition of the passengers, most of whom are Spanish citizens, is good, and 27passengers as well as 567 crew members rejected to leave the ship. Celal Oral, chairman of Kusadasi port, was quoted as saying that there is not any mechanical failure in the ship, and efforts to rescue the ship will start after required procedures are completed.

Pullmantur has been around for a while, but recently acquired by Royal Caribbean International, which appears to be chasing after Mickey Arison`s ideals (of Carnival fame) in growing their cruise empire. Below is a informative write up on the various brands of Royal Caribbean by Cruise Industry News.

In a related topic, Mickey Arison has mentioned that Carnival is putting a hold on all new builds due to the weak US dollar, and I would imagine, the soon to be weak US cruise market. Which is why I theorize RCI and Carnival are both running fast to set up income stream outside of US borders, with Carnival ahead of the game in that dept.

Anyways, Mr. Arison goes on to cast doubt on Royal Caribbean`s ability to generate enough revenue for their new build (read - genesis will not break even so why should we try) based on his take of the information contained in their securities filing. He mentioned that Carnival will concentrate on refurbishing their fleet - perhaps they will come out the ever popular trailer park themed cruise! Click here to read more of the financial stuff about Carnival here. You can read the story from Lloyd`s List that I am paraphrasing.

Royal Caribbean Cruises : Global Business Model

While there are many new and exciting developments at Royal Caribbean Cruises these days, Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said the most important aspect of the business is the strength of the market positions of its cruise brands. “It is tempting to talk about what's new, but the bottom line is to continue to operate strongly and successfully – that remains our bread and butter,” he said in a one-on-one interview with Cruise Industry News.

In the process, Royal Caribbean Cruises has grown to six brands and 36 ships. In addition are seven ships under construction for deliveries from spring 2008 through 2011.

Royal Caribbean ranks as the second largest cruise company in the world with an estimated worldwide market share of nearly 25 percent.

The future Royal Caribbean will focus less on the U.S., according to Fain, and follow a more global sourcing and destination model.

Nineteen percent of the company’s revenues came from outside North America in 2007 and this is expected to increase to 20 percent for 2008.

Royal Caribbean is presently focusing its growth strategy on both sides of the Atlantic and has recently launched new brands in Germany, France, North America and Spain.

At press time, TUI and Royal Caribbean announced that they will launch a new joint venture serving the German cruise market. The new company, TUI Cruises, will begin service with one ship, in early 2009, and grow with two newbuildings planned for 2011 and 2012. Both partners will hold a 50 percent interest in joint venture.

CDF Croisieres de France was announced last fall with one ship starting service this spring. Designed for the French market, Fain said the product will help make cruising more appealing to the French, which, he said, have historically not done much cruising. “When we look at the vacation preferences of the French people, we are confident our product will appeal to the market.”

Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean has also been building up its Spanish brand, Pullmantur, quite aggressively. Pullmantur was acquired in late 2006.

“Spain is an underserved market,” Fain said, adding that he sees great potential for growth. Pullmantur will have five ships in 2008 and add one more in 2009, becoming the single largest brand in the Spanish market.

In addition, Azamara Cruises was launched for the North American market with one ship in spring of 2007 and added a second ship last fall. The product is described as deluxe – between premium and luxury.

Fain described the rationale behind the brand as an opportunity to meet market demand. “As the market becomes more sophisticated, it is able to better differentiate between brands,” he said, “and this was an opportunity to develop a different market. The key is to provide a product there is demand for.

"We will not add new brands for the sake of adding brands," Fain added. However, if there is a need or a gap in the market, he will consider launching another new cruise line.

Excerpted from the Cruise Industry News Quarterly: Winter 2007/2008

Another Majestic morning

Below are a couple of press releases from Majestic America Line, which operates numerous paddle wheeler on United States rivers and other waterways. Seems they had an early morning fire in the engine room of the Queen of the West, which forced the evacuation of the passengers. One other notable incident of late with Majestic, was the grounding of the Empress of the North in Alaska, its fourth grounding since coming into service in 2002. Rumor was that an inexperienced officer was at the helm without proper supervision or training.

Pictures - promotional shots from company: top - Queen of the West; middle Empress of the North, and bottom picture shows both of them together.

On April 7, 2008, at 11:40 p.m. Majestic America Line Statement - a small fire broke out in the engine room of Queen of the West while the vessel was cruising between The Dalles and John Day Locks in Oregon. The fire was quickly extinguished with no injuries to guests. Three crew members were seen by paramedics for smoke inhalation and released. Queen of the West was towed to Maryhill and guests were transferred to local accommodations. Queen of the West is currently being inspected to assess the extent of the damage to the engine room.

April 9, 2008, Majestic America Line Statement - The Columbia Queen is being brought into service early to accommodate guests on the Columbia River cruise departing on Sunday, April 13 who were originally booked on Queen of the West. The Empress of the North will also be available to guests booked on Queen of the West, as needed. The damages from the small fire in the engine room of Queen of the West on April 8 are currently being assessed.

Here is another news story about it...

Small Fire Forces Cruise Ship Evacuation
By Associated Press
Updated April 10, 2008

MARYHILL, Wash. (AP) - A cruise ship on the Columbia River with 177 people aboard was evacuated early Tuesday after a fire broke out in the engine room, Coast Guard officials said. Three crew members were treated for smoke inhalation.

The fire was quickly extinguished on the 230-foot Queen of the West. No one was injured except for the three crew members, who were treated at the scene, Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Dave Smith said.

The cause of the fire was not immediately clear.

The ship, carrying 124 passengers and 53 crew members, was towed to Maryhill State Park and nudged into the river bank for the evacuation shortly after 5 a.m.

The passengers and about half of the crew members were taken by bus to a hotel, and the other crew members remained aboard. The ship was to be towed 17 miles downriver to a pier near Klickitat.

The Queen of the West was built in 1995, features a three-story paddlewheel and has a maximum capacity of 142 passengers, according to the Web site of Majestic Cruise, which operates the ship.

The company offers cruises from Astoria and Portland to Clarkston, Wash., on the Columbia and Snake rivers, as well as on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers between New Orleans and Pittsburgh and between Seattle and the Alaska Panhandle.