Friday, November 28, 2008

Sink or swim

Iain sent these pictures in of a LPG tanker launch in China. To me, it seems a bit of a rough launch and quite risky. Well you could certainly sustain allot of damage launching a ship that way, but I guess one must do what one must to get the job done. That's an interesting point to ponder, what if they do some damage, do they have a drydock or do they haul her up on the beach?

Here's a blurb on the ship from its owners Wideshine.

On 12:48, 15 March 2008, 3700 m³LPG Carrier “Hong Yue” was launched successfully at Jiangbei Shipyard.

“Hong Yue” was a new-typed vessel corporately designed and developed by Wideshine and Changjiang Ship Design Institute. The Vessel has a LOA of 99.80 m, a moulded Breadth of 14.80 m, and a total cargo capacity of 3700 m³. She was the largest LPG carrier as yet in domestic China which broke the capacity record among domestic LPG vessels. The Vessel was estimated to be delivered at the end of May and would be engaged in LPG transportation in China coastal sea area.

Thereafter this successful event, the second sister-ship “Hong Sui” would be launched on May and Wideshine’s total capacity for LPG transportation would reach to 17,000 m³ and rank next to Dalian Cosco.

Just the facts...

Chinese Name: 宏 粤
English Name: HONG YUE
Signal Letter: BMJE
IMO: 9519690
Flag State: China
Port of Register: Fangchenggang
Owners: Fangchenggang Southwest Maritime Ltd.
Operators: Fangchenggang Southwest Maritime Ltd.
Type of Ship and Purposes: Liquefied Gas Carrier
Gross Tonage: 2970
Net Tonage: 1003
Dead weight: 3083
Length Overall (LOA): 99.80
Length B. P. (LBP): 93.00
Moulded B (BM):14.80
Moulded D (DM): 7.20
Freeboard: 1,818.00
Draught: 5.40
Speed: 13
Hull Notation: Type 2PG ;Minimum Cargo Temperature -10℃ ;Max. Vapour Pressure 1.72MPa ;Ice Class B ;Type C Independent Tank
Ship Builder: Jiangbei Yuanhan Shipbuilding Co.,Ltd.
Place of Ship Build: China
Date of Ship Build: 2008-7-23
Engine Builder: Qingdao Zichai Boyang Diesel Engine Co., Ltd., China
Type of Number of Main Engine: 6N330-EN*1

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Deep dredging

Found this in the morning news, the article below is from CTV news. The company has no news releases posted online, but it seems that east coast conglomerate, JD Irving, has lost a dredge barge, spilling some diesel fuel.

Well its a good thing this did not happen in BC, because the environmentalist would have a brick. They are still worked up about the fuel truck on a barge, that tipped over last year, spilling something like 10,000 liters of diesel in Johnstone Straight. That case, currently in court in Campbell River, is drawing some keen interest from many in the maritime industry, as its possibly going to be the first of its kind, regarding the recent coming into force of the Canada Shipping Act, and the Administrative Monetary Penalty scheme used in this type of prosecution.

Official Ship Number: 369850 (Transport Canada)
Owner: Atlantic Towing Limited
Operator: Harbour Development, A Division of Atlantic Towing Ltd.
Port of Registry: SAINT JOHN
Date of Registry: 1980/12/31
Usage: Dredge (Primary) Barge
Area of Service: East Coast
Gross Tonnage: 592 t
Net Tonnage: 480 t
Length: 42.66 m
Breadth: 15.23 m
Depth: 2.74 m

Here is a more factual account of the events. Picture above released by the Canadian Forces. The barge was towed by the Atlantic Larch, pictures below from shipspotting.

Fishermen warned to steer clear of sunken barge in N.S.

Updated Mon. Nov. 24 2008 5:25 PM ET, The Canadian Press

HALIFAX -- On the first day of the fall season for Atlantic Canada's biggest and most lucrative lobster fishery, federal officials warned Nova Scotia fishermen to stay away from an area where a dredging barge carrying 70,000 litres of diesel sank in rough seas on the weekend.

An emergency response team confirmed Monday that surveillance flights spotted a long, narrow slick of some kind of oily substance, but team members stressed that the volume probably amounted to less than four litres of light fuel.

"The amount of oil is very minimal at the surface," said Roger Percy, a regional manager with Environment Canada. "The leakage rate is not very great."

He said the barge may have sprung a slow leak, but he couldn't say for sure.

Joe LeClair, a Canadian Coast Guard spokesman, said the slick was about 15 metres wide and about 1,600 metres long.

The federal Fisheries Department is warning lobster fishermen not to come within one kilometre of the site, about 80 kilometres southeast of Yarmouth, N.S.

There were no lobster boats nearby when the barge sank, but the site is at the edge of lobster fishing area 34, a zone where lobstermen usually head near the end of the season.

"The issue of concern was the opening of the lobster season -- there's a lot of fishermen in the area," said Percy. "And we are monitoring in terms of other wildlife."

The coast guard icebreaker Edward Cornwallis is also in the area and more surveillance flights are expected later this week.

The dredging barge, known as the Shovel Master, is resting on the ocean bottom, about 150 metres from the surface. At that depth, recovering the vessel or pumping out the oil would be a challenge, said LeClair.

However, the owners of the barge -- a subsidiary of J.D. Irving Ltd. of New Brunswick -- told officials that they haven't ruled out any options, LeClair said.

The barge was under tow from Saint John, N.B., to Halifax last Wednesday when it ran into trouble. As it pitched and rolled in large swells, it was cut loose from its tow vessels.

At the time, winds were gusting at 83 kilometres per hour and wave heights reached three metres. Photos from the coast guard show the vessel getting swamped by heavy swells.

The 42-metre-long barge capsized Wednesday, but crew aboard three Atlantic Towing Ltd. tugs managed to secure the flipped craft.

However, it was cut loose again when it started sinking Saturday.

Transport Canada is investigating the circumstances surrounding the ill-fated voyage.

If federal officials determine there has been a significant spill, the coast guard and a private-sector company will begin a cleanup. The costs would be covered by the barge owner, Harbour Developments.

LeClair said the 70,000 litres of diesel aboard the vessel is a concern, but the amount is far less than what larger, ocean-going ships carry.

As well, a diesel spill of this size would cause less damage to the environment than a comparable spill of a heavier type of fuel oil, such as Bunker C or crude.

Diesel, like gasoline, tends to evaporate quickly once it rises to the surface.

"The good news is the diesel will dissipate in the water . . . which is good news from the point of environmental impact," said LeClair, the coast guard's superintendent of environmental response.

"The heavier the product, the more the impact to the environment because it becomes what we call a persistent oil -- it stays around longer."

LeClair said it was possible the barge could remain intact for decades to come, with little threat to the environment.

Officials said it would be misleading to compare the incident with the sinking and recovery of the Irving Whale, a barge that sank off the coast of P.E.I. in 1970.

That barge -- also owned by the Irving group of companies -- was actually a tanker, twice as long as the Shovel Master and carried 40 times the amount of fuel. As well, the Irving Whale was hauling Bunker C heavy oil when it went down.

"The amount of produce was vastly greater," said LeClair.

The 80-metre long Irving Whale was lifted to the surface from 67 metres of water in 1996.

The Shovel Master, weighing in at 592 gross tonnes, also contains 1,100 litres of hydraulic oil and 750 litres of waste oil. Though these are heavier oils, the amounts are relatively small, LeClair added.

Response to the sinking is being handled by the Regional Environmental Emergencies Team, a federal-provincial body that includes representatives from Environment Canada, Transport Canada, the Canadian Wildlife Service, the federal Fisheries Department and Nova Scotia's Environment Department.

Meanwhile, Atlantic Towing Ltd. has hired Eastern Canada Response Corp. to handle cleanup operations.

Here's another story from CP

Friday, November 14, 2008

Lookin for a beatin'

I had to laugh when I read the article below from Lloyd’s List, a couple of days ago. Well, actually first I laugh, then I though to myself, “what an a@@&ole!”

Give me a break! There is allot of stupid things going on in the world, lending money to people who cannot afford to pay you back, so they can buy over valued houses, is probably one example, in a long list of stupid “things”, that has cause this worldwide failure of financial stability. Yes, probably overpaying for ships and splurging on ill timed capital investment is not a good idea either. Especially when logic dictates that economic growth of 10-15%, year over year, is not sustainable for any length of time.

He is just pissed that his firm invested in the “high flying, fast cars, and loose women” world of shipping a couple of years ago, when all was rosy looking, and now woke up with a worst hangover than they anticipated. I probably would feel the same, but as a seafarer, I don’t make enough to invest in much else but my family – which by the way, seems to pay far better dividends. His firm seems to advertise on their website, annual returns of 22.6% in 2005; yes, I guess compare to the other banksters, those are pretty paltry returns.

I can pretty much guarantee that if he was a “simple investor” looking for “respect and decent returns” in the shipbuilding industry over the same period that he is complaining about, he would be singing a different tune. Perhaps a tune like, check out my new Lamborghini, have you seen my 45 meter yacht, or wow, I didn’t know the printer could print that many zeroes on my bonus check.

I have no patience for this whining, if ship owners were really paying all that much for ship’s crew, I am sure there would not be so many indicators pointing to a world shortage of competent and qualified crew.

I am not all that smart when it comes to the financial wheeling and dealings, but one has to admit that perhaps an excessive amount of greed has blinded quite a few into believing they can do anything. Wunderkind investors blindly stomping around in all sorts of industries, without knowledge, common sense or consequences; well as long as the credit line was extended and the money flowed, they carried on.

I read with interest the recent article “Focus on a proper job” in Lloyd’s List, by columnist Michael Grey (3 November, 2008). In the closing paragraph, he writes “Some people say that ships, or at least the ownership of them, are best kept out of the capital markets, and history informs us that the relationship has not been a happy one.”

I understand the need for investors and high finance in this capital intensive industry, but from my perspective, I fully agree with Mr Grey’s assessment. Perhaps these “high priest of finance” and “captains” of industry, just looking for a little respect, and meager returns should work aboard “their own” vessels. I am certain he would probably have a different take on what is fair for decent people.

I will always remember going into a crew meeting on a ship I was on a few years back. The crew was generally always happy on any given day, enduring spirit of seafaring I guess, but this particular day I though was a good day. The company, a publicly traded company, had release the quarterly results a few days earlier, which happened to be the best the company had ever done in its history. Well, the meeting started out with a blurb on cost cutting and a couple of hours later ended on wage freeze, long after I had lost interest. The crew came out of the meeting feeling like they had just eaten a great big sandwich of “screw yous” because, although we had made record profits, we had not met expectations for the quarter.

This meeting, one in several, has undoubtedly shape my vision of these wheeler and dealers. I wholeheartedly agree with one of Mr. Doker’s statements in the article, “because of all the idiots in the market”, we are where we are; but I am pretty sure we will not agree on the identity of the idiots.

Pictured above are one of the ships they invest in, the MV Spaarnediep, picture from Pictured right is Mr. Geert Dokter.

Overpaying owners are ‘fuelling crisis’
Helen Hill Amsterdam, 4 November 2008 Lloyds List

OWNERS paying too much for ships and crews were partly responsible for the current shipping crisis, Hanzevast Shipping managing director Geert Dokter told the Mare ship finance forum, writes Helen Hill.

The industry stepped into this crisis in 2003 when it started buying ships at prices that were too high, he said.

“They were not building prices, but market prices,” the private equity firm added. It was “simply idiocy” to have paid $92m for a panamax bulk carrier that had been built five years earlier for $21m.

Owners had also started to pay seafarers too much, he said. A tug master who earned $6,000 per month a few years ago now earned $20,000 per month.

He said it was not fair that decent people, with long-term charters at decent prices, were going bust because operational costs had gone up so much “because of all the idiots in the market”.

There were more opportunities now than two years ago because prices had fallen again. Owners should never have been paid $70m-$80m for a panamax.

Private equity was a perfect way of financing ships, he said, as long as there was respect for investors and they could get a decent return. Most equity providers were interested in stability, he added. Hanzevast had recently raised equity for an offshore supply vessel, he said, for which €8m ($10m) was required but it was oversubscribed to the tune of €9.9m.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Gun's sholder strap stuck in lathe

With the media spotlight coming to grips that a seafaring pirates is more than just a Disney character, and much more sinister, it was only a matter of time until the cowboys also had their time in the spotlight.

Enter Blackwater; the US based private military corporation, which has taken some serious flack in Iraq for, shall we say, unscrupulous business practices, has offered up its services to the merchant fleet, plying the waters of the Horn of Africa. They have purchased and remodeled the recently retired survey vessel from NOAA, William Pope McArthur, and are planning to use it a floating base of operations for their merchant ship protection endeavors.

With the various navies of the world seemingly tripping over each other on strategies on avoiding the problem and its political pitfalls, I guess there is definitely room someone to step in in offer force protection to merchant ships.

I am not much of historian, but these piracy developments seem to tickle my "back to the future" funny bone. Its always amazing how we think we are so advance yet we have been dealing with the same problems centuries after centuries. I wonder if the engineer has to carry a "piece". Mmmmmm?

Below is an article that caught my eye on the press junket to launch the initiative. You can find the official Blackwater press release on the topic. Here is another story on this, from Forbes.

Blackbeard, meet Blackwater. Worldwide.

By Louis Hansen, The Virginian-Pilot, October 18, 2008

The Moyock, N.C., company has a ship in Hampton Roads ready to begin patrolling the Gulf of Aden to protect merchant vessels against pirates.

The company has spoken to about 10 shipping firms but as yet has no takers, said Bill Mathews, Blackwater Worldwide executive vice president.

"There's definitely a need and a desire," Mathews said during a tour of the 183-foot vessel, named McArthur, on Friday. It's moored at a commercial pier at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base.

Somali pirates in late September seized a Ukrainian ship loaded with military vehicles in the Gulf of Aden and still hold the ship while demanding a multimillion-dollar ransom. The standoff is being monitored by the U.S. Navy.

In the first half of this year, pirates launched two dozen attacks off the Somali coast, including 19 in the Gulf of Aden, Said the International Maritime Bureau. At least eight vessels reported attacks by grenade launchers and automatic weapons, the organization said.

The 830-ton McArthur was built about 40 years ago for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as a research vessel. The ship spent much of its government career in the Arctic and other far-flung seas, said Blackwater's Tom Ridenour, the ship's captain.

The ship is named for William Pope McArthur, a 19th-century naval officer and Coast Survey hydrographer.

Blackwater bought the vessel about two years ago and repaired and upgraded the craft in a Seattle shipyard. Mathews declined to reveal the purchase price but said the overhauled ship has a value of at least $15 million.

It went into commercial use last September, said spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell.

The company has contracts with the Coast Guard and Navy, among others, to train service members on maritime security operations, Mathews said. A typical training mission could have the McArthur acting as a target vessel that U.S. forces need to board in open waters.

The ship has several upgrades, including a helicopter pad and storage shed capable of keeping two small MD-530 aircraft. It can carry 44 passengers including crew.

For anti-piracy operations, the 14-sailor crew would be supplemented with Blackwater security guards, four rigid-hull inflatable boats and helicopters, Mathews said. Security teams could follow a merchant vessel by air and land.

Mathews said the crew and guards are qualified to provide maritime security, noting that the security teams would consist of former Navy SEALs. The force is highly trained in handling vehicle boardings and anti-terrorism missions.

The ship could be overseas within 40 days, pending approval from the State Department and roughly a month long transit across the Atlantic.

The use of private companies to protect merchant ships has a long history, said Claude Berube, a former congressional staffer and professor who has written on the topic. The East India Co. employed private convoys about a century ago along the coast of Africa, he said.

Even today, the area remains at risk.

As piracy threats have grown near the Horn of Africa, insurance premiums on ships have risen ten-fold, Berube said. The U.S. Navy and its allies cannot cover all the seas, and a private force could help fill the security gap, he said.

"It would be feasible," he said. "I think we have to be open to all options."

Louis Hansen, (757) 446-2322,

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Silence over ruled in Supreme Court

The queen of the north accident has now firmly entered into the legal brawl stage. One of the first shots from the court rooms, from the Supreme Court of BC no less, comes in the form of support for a labour relations ruling, on whether or not the crew had the right to remain silent, on the events surrounding the grounding on Gill Island, and subsequent sinking, of the passenger ferry Queen of the North, on March 22, 2006.

The official Transportation Safety Board of Canada report came out at the end of January 2008, and pretty much discarded all other causes, but loss of situational awareness - human error. A distraction which may revolved around heated moments at the time of impact, between the fourth officer and his helms person. Both of whom, also happen to be in a personal relationship that went sour, weeks before. The couple remained silent on the circumstances of the crash to the company, as did the second officer, who was not on the bridge at the time of the grounding, on advice of their legal counsel.

The two officers responsible for navigation at the time, Second Officer Karl Lilgert and Fourth Officer Kevin Hilton, were suspended and subsequently fired for doing so. The BC Ferries Maritime Worker Union launched a grievance to the suspension. The grievance was turned down at the Arbitration level, then the BC Labour Relations Board level, and finally at the BC Supreme Court level.

This recent ruling, reported on widely in the media, determined that the public interest in the case should have taken a priority, and all the juicy details of the going ons on the bridge should have been reported to the company so they take appropriate steps in preventing such an accident in the future.

I am sure our resident legal eagle and Advocate columnist, Darren Williams, will provide some insight on this topic, in the near future, and what that means for us all, working on ships that are involved in accidents. How far will the "public interest" reach into our ability to protect our legal rights and save our necks from a mob looking for a public lynching or salacious gossip?

The article here described the circumstance of the ruling further. The court room drama will continue, I am sure, as several lawsuits are pending, not to mention there is still an ongoing criminal investigation by the RCMP.

For more post on the sinking of BC Ferries' Queen of the North, click here.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Not your average comedy

This little story was sitting in my inbox for a while, but I couldn't delete because I though it was interesting what happen on the car carrier Figaro and wanted to share it. You can find the full MAIB report in the Ship's Library. Like usual, Michael Grey from Lloyds List writes a informative piece below on the events.

Everytime I see those CO2 alarms in protected space, I wonder what it would like if it went off accidently, how would you react, what would you do. Well, this report sheds some light on the possibilities and what Figaro's crew did. Not to mention the core of the problem, confusing procedures and such.

Extinguishers caused near-miss
MAIB report cites fire-fighting equipment shortcomings for car carrier incident in Channel

A LARGE car carrier was disabled by an inadvertent release of the ship’s fire-extinguishing equipment and was nearly wrecked on the Wolf Rock in the English Channel, a Marine Accident Investigation Branch report has concluded.

The incident took place last December, when Wallenius Wilhelmsen’s car carrier Figaro was preparing to round Land’s End in heavy weather that had reduced the speed of the ship to just 6 knots.

The vessel, with 30 people onboard, was labouring heavily and landed in a trough, the shock setting off the ship’s low-pressure CO2 fire-extinguishing system, which filled the engine room and several of the cargo spaces with 46,000 kg of the gas, stopping the main engine and the auxiliaries.

The engineers managed to escape from the suffocating gas, while a group of seamen in one of the cargo spaces successfully evacuated.

A group right forward, changing a pump on the mooring equipment, were, however, initially trapped, as their only escape led through the CO2-filled cargo spaces.

The vessel was just over five nautical miles of the Wolf Rock and drifting closer, and the master of Figaro requested a tug. Fortunately the tide turned and moved the vessel away, before the Emergency Towing Vessel Anglian Princess closed the casualty.

A lifeboat was on standby and helicopters were tasked to evacuate, if necessary.

There were further problems because of the disablement for maintenance of the car carrier’s forward mooring equipment, 10 men on the bow being unable to manually heave the ETV’s heavy towing wire onboard.

A connection with a lighter line was subsequently made and the tow to shelter began. However, the towline parted as the ship closed the coast, and fortunately the crew then managed to start the main engine. The ship was then escorted by the ETV to Falmouth.

The MAIB report discovered that the CO2 system had not been properly reset after it had been tested, being left in an unstable condition. Only one valve was then needed to release the full system to all the protected compartments. It was thought that the system was activated when the ship violently moved in the prevalent heavy weather.

The report also reveals that the crew was unfamiliar with the unusual low-pressure system, for which the maintenance instructions were “contradictory and vulnerable to misinterpretation”.

A range of measures to prevent recurrence have been put in train by the managers, while procedures for connecting up ETVs tows have also been amended by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency.

Coincidently, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics has just taken delivery of the largest car carrier in the world, the MV Aniara. The 71,673gt ship built by Daewoo of South Korea, can carry up to 8,000 cars. You can read the press release here, and download the spec sheet on this 24,540 hp behemoth here.