Saturday, September 27, 2008

Lungfull of Asbestos, brainfull of ...?

I was just walking around Vancouver the other day, when something caught my eye in one of the storefronts. Being an avid enthusiast of all things ships, I was interested in the poster of an older ship. As it turns out, the storefront was the Church of Scientologist, and the ship was the Freewinds. The Freewinds is an older ship, formerly operated by Commodore Cruise line, but currently sits idle pier side due to major health concerns from "blue asbestos" commonly used on ships of this vintage, especially in engine rooms.

They use this ship as a training ship for high level preacher training or something like that. Anyways you can learn more about Scientology and the ship at Wikipedia. Makes for interesting reading.

Mr Hubbard, creator of the Church, is reportedly an avid fan of the sea, and as called himself Commodore of the fleet. Apparently the Church has operated several vessels since 1968, under the auspice of Sea Org, check out the related Wiki entries for more entertaining reading.

...and in other news

In a sort of similar story, in so far as organizations using "retired" cruise ships for their mission, I read that the Pacific Clipper was arrested, and subsequently released after a bond was paid, in Alaska for suspicious OWS activities and other SOLAS improprieties just this past September. The is the second time this year that the ship has been under scrutiny by American officials. The last time, was in New York following some hull damage and Solas improprieties. Perhaps "Peaceboat" painted on the side has drawn the ire of the US.

The Pacific Clipper is the former RCCL Song of Norway, the cruise line's first ship as a matter of fact. It was purchased by Florida based ISP, after a series of mishaps in the Eastern Mediterranean, and place under charter to Peaceboat, a Japan based, non governmental organization with the aims of abolishing war.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fire and Ice

As mentioned here, in an earlier post, the US Coast Guard has sent an non ice-reinforced patrol vessel into the Arctic. The 378 foot USCGC Hamilton, Hamilton Class ship commissioned in March 1967 - yes that is almost 42 years old - is based in San Diego and shines in the USCG as a serious drug interceptor. The article below discusses the beginnings of the "Hambones" voyage north of the Arctic circle, which includes a "small fire" in the engine room. I wonder what kind of risk assessment was done by the brass for this voyage.

You can read the commander's journal entries of this voyage by clicking on the link. They are traveling north with a Canadian Commander on board.

Cutter Hamilton begins historic Arctic patrol
By Amy McCullough, Aug 31, 2008 Army Times Publishing Company

This isn’t a typical summer for the crew of the California-based cutter Hamilton, but these Coasties aren’t complaining as they sail into history.

After weeks of studying ice patterns and preparing for the arctic weather, the crew of the Hamilton is putting its training to use in its attempt to be the first non-ice-breaking vessel to conduct safety and security patrols in the Arctic.

Coast Guard Division 17 Commander Rear Adm. Arthur “Gene” Brooks said the Hamilton’s 4,000-nautical mile journey through the Arctic is the “final piece of the puzzle” the Coast Guard needs to put together for a comprehensive report outlining not only what its new responsibilities in that area include, but also what equipment will be necessary to complete the mission. Brooks said the report is due out “sometime this fall.”

The continued melting of the Arctic ice caps, an increase in oil exploration and additional shipping and cruise routes in the polar region are taxing the fleet, which now is responsible for patrolling areas that used to be ice, Commandant Adm. Thad Allen has said.

The 378-foot cutter left Alaska’s Dutch Harbor on Aug. 21. As it sailed through mostly fog and rain for Nome, where a helicopter brought Brooks and a commander from the Canadian navy aboard, its crew donned Mustang exposure suits to wash down the ship and brace themselves for the arctic weather.

“We are charting new territory for the Coast Guard’s homeland security mission, and we fully realize that as we cross into the Arctic Ocean,” Machinery Technician 1st Class Keith Madle wrote Aug. 25 in the Hamilton’s online crew journal.

With swells from 3 to 8 feet and temperatures hovering around 37 degrees, it was mostly smooth sailing early in the trip, according to the entries. But that changed Aug. 25 when Machinery Technician 3rd Class Judson Goodwin discovered flames shooting out of the exhaust of the No. 1 main diesel engine. The crew was able to put out the fire quickly, he wrote.

“The Main Propulsion personnel then commenced rebuilding the No. 1 MDE exhaust systems to get the Hamilton ready to dodge icebergs as we enter the Arctic Circle this evening,” Madle wrote Aug. 25.

Capt. Vincent Delaurentis, commanding officer of the Hamilton, said the fire was relatively minor and did not delay the trip.

“We do training to respond to those types of casualties, and the fire was put out in a matter of seconds due to that response,” Delaurentis said by telephone from aboard the Hamilton. “It was a small area, but anytime there is a fire in the engine room, we have a concern. It did not delay the operation and we are looking to get a part, although being up here, that takes a bit of effort.”

Delaurentis said the fire burnt off fuel that had collected in the exhaust.

But there are still many more challenges that await the aging cutter as it makes its 14-day journey through the Arctic, Brooks said. For one, the 41-year-old cutter will have to cover a vast distance in surroundings it was not built to encounter.

To ensure the cutter steers clear of looming icebergs, helicopters regularly fly ahead of the ship to scout for ice. When visibility conditions are poor, the cutter slows its pace and sends boats ahead, Brooks said.

“For the first time, we have now put eyes on our nemesis,” wrote Lt. B.J. Miles, senior aviator for Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, in his Aug. 27 journal entry, referring to the icebergs. “They look harmless enough just sitting there, but most of us know their history as a force to be reckoned with.”

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Canada Marine Day

MP champions Canada Marine Day
Alex Binkley, Canadian Sailings, July 14, 2008

A Conservative MP is trying to make Canada Marine Day a nationally recognized annual event every May 26. Mike Wallace, from Burlington, Ont. (pictured), has introduced a private member's bill in Parliament to recognize the importance of marine transportation to the prosperity of Canada. The marine industry has played a vital role in the development and growth of Canada, said Mr. Wallace, who chairs the Conservative Marine lndustry Caucus. "Whether moving goods or people across the sea or
through the Great Lakes, we have grown and prospered along our waterways and the marine industry was and continues to be the lifeblood of many communities, he said.

Canada Marine Day would "celebrate our glorious marine history but more importantly recognize the industry's future in our great country," he said in the Commons. "Whether it is getting our agricultural products from the west to their markets in Asia, shipping raw materials across the Atlantic, or moving manufactured goods through the Great Lakes, the marine sector continuesto be a leading industry in Canada".

"The marine industry will continue to be an efficient, effective and environmentally safe mode of transportation for many generations to come."

A private member's bill faces a daunting political path. First, it has to get selected for second reading and then avoid being talked out by government or opposition MPs that don't agree with its intent. But Mr. Wallace's bill wouldn't lead to an actual day off work and does recognize an important industry so it's not likely to
stir up any great political animus.

With Parliament in summer recess, the best Mr. Wallace can hope for is the bill coming up for debate in the fall and being adopted or referred to a committee. However, with a federal election a real possibility this fall, the initiative may die on the order paper. Then, Mr.Wallace would have to get re-elected and start the process all over again.

But that didn't inhibit his brief speech to the Commons about his bill. "In many respects, the marine industry is the gateway to trade and the future of Canadian prosperity. Marine waterways form the primary line of trade with corridors that are linked to massive networks of rail, road and other transportation networks."

Stephen Brooks, vice-president of the Chamber of Marine Commerce, said that since the first National Marine Day a few years ago the industry has received active
interest from the government. The government moved on changes to the Canada Marine Act that the ports wanted and announced projects related to the development of trade gateways and corridors. Having a nationally recognized day would be "a small but symbolic gesture for the industry."

Since its formation last year, the first Marine Industry Caucus has been across the country for a firsthand look at ports and terminals, Mr. Brooks said it started with a visit to the Port of Halifax, followed by visits to Quebec City, the Welland Canal, Port Metro Vancouver, and Prince Rupert for the official opening of its new intermodal terminal. It plans to visit the Port of Hamilton and Port Colborne this year.

There is also a possible trip to Washington to meet Congressional representatives from Great Lakes states. CMC representative spend a lot of time on Parliament Hill, Mr. Brooks said. "MPs and senators are talking about the industry; we are in regular communication with them." While the Marine Industry Caucus is a Tory-only affair, the shipping industry doesn't ignore the opposition parties, Mr. Brooks aid. 'All the parties know about us. We're open to whatever evolution in the caucus the MPs want. Anything that encourages them to talk about the industry."