Monday, December 29, 2008

Fire Onboard MV Atlantic Vision

MV Atlantic Vision is a fast ro-pax ferry owned by the Estonian ferry company Tallink, under charter to Marine Atlantic. She was delivered to Marine Atlantic in November 2008, but will begin her route in March 2009. The ship was built in 2002 as MS Superfast IX by HDW, Kiel, Germany for Attica Group's subsidiary Superfast Ferries.(From Wikpedia)

--------------------------------------------

Marine Atlantic is investigating the cause of a fire that broke out aboard its new ferry over the weekend.
CBC News
The MV Atlantic Vision, which is not yet in service, is the Crown corporation's newest vessel.

Tara Laing, spokeswoman for Marine Atlantic, said the fire broke out in one of the two thermal heating units of the MV Atlantic Vision at about 11:50 p.m. Saturday. Staff immediately called for help, she said.

Firefighters from the North Sydney volunteer fire department, who battled the blaze for about an hour, helped contain the fire to the boiler room.

The fire was completely out by 1 a.m. Sunday. No one was hurt in the blaze. The ferry was docked in North Sydney at the time.

"The cause and how long it will take for repairs to be effected are still under investigation" Laing told CBC News on Monday.

"We should know that information once that investigation is complete," she said.

The MV Atlantic Vision was expected to go into service in March but that could be delayed. Marine Atlantic engineers were assessing the damage to the new vessel.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

SAR Report on the L'Acadien ll Sinking

A very damming report on where the Coast Guard has found itself 13 years after DFO merger.

Communications, equipment problems beset rescue operation in capsizing — report
By ALISON AULD The Canadian Press, 2008-12-21

Search and rescue operations during the fatal capsizing of a sealing boat last March were beset by communications problems and equipment failures, says a report into the incident off Nova Scotia.

The Search and Rescue Operation Report highlighted several challenges the different branches of the departments of Fisheries and Defence faced when the 12-metre L'Acadien II struck a chunk of ice and went down off Cape Breton while under tow by the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Sir William Alexander.

But it also pointed to systemic deficiencies that have long hampered the work of search and rescue, or SAR, crews and the coast guard on the Atlantic coast.

In particular, the 44-page document cites the difficulty of having enough coast guard vessels available to patrol the coastal area because they are overtasked or unserviceable due to maintenance issues.

" placed on the CCGS Sir William Alexander ... are indicative of a systemic problem with offshore SAR coverage that regularly result in the ... use of less capable vessels for primary SAR coverage or restrictions placed on vessels due to the requirements of other programs,'' the document states in reference to the icebreaker that was hauling the sealing boat through the ice.

"Often a single vessel secured in Dartmouth (Nova Scotia) is used to cover both SAR zones, in effect providing poor coverage to all offshore areas.''

The report, prepared by members of the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax, said that vessels are increasingly being called on to handle a multitude of programs at the same time, leaving them stretched and at times unable to respond promptly.

In the case of L'Acadien II, the small fishing boat that capsized and claimed the lives of four of its six crew, the Alexander icebreaker was tasked to deliver three services. It was supposed to be on 30-minute search and rescue standby, help the RCMP in patrolling an anti-sealing vessel and provide icebreaking assistance.

The report states that a 1993 SAR Needs Analysis says two patrol vessels are always needed to cover the area off Nova Scotia.

"With limited resources, multiple high profile program demands and unscheduled maintenance issues it is apparently becoming more difficult,'' the report states, warning that the two vessels are urgently required at all times.

"Otherwise, at some point a major SAR will occur ... with no capable coast guard vessel available.''

L'Acadien II lost rudder control last March 28 after going through thick ice at the start of the annual seal hunt and radioed for assistance.

The report states that another icebreaker, the Des Groseilliers, responded to the sealing boat but failed to tell the rescue centre that the vessel was disabled. Nor did it inform anyone that it did not provide an escort to L'Acadien II, instead leaving it in the ice to assist another boat — a decision the document says infuriated the sealing boat's ill-fated skipper.

Communications between Ice Operations — a branch of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans — and the rescue centre were also flawed. The report says that the two offices were working "independently,'' with the rescue centre unaware that Ice Ops had said icebreakers should not be tasked to escort sealing vessels.

Also, information coming into the rescue centre was not being shared appropriately.

"There was a breakdown of communication between the centres for this seal fishery resulting in a loss of information and situational awareness about the movements of the sealing fleet and the CCGS Des Groseilliers,'' the document says.

Maj. Dennis Maguire of the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre said communications were a factor in the incident and that officials have already started trying to improve the situation between the different groups.

"We're getting more co-operation among the various entities so that the rescue co-ordination centre is liaising with various other entities so everyone's aware of what each other's jobs are,'' he said. "We've learned some lessons.''

The report also outlines a range of equipment problem that affected everything from the aircraft called on to help, to the gear used by divers to try and rescue sealers trapped in the sinking vessel.

The standby Cormorant helicopter was delayed because of a technical problem, a Hercules airplane was deemed unserviceable and rescue centre crew couldn't fax information to both icebreakers likely because of deficiencies with the high frequency radio system.

Crew also couldn't get through to the Cormorant because it has HF radio, something Maguire said will be changed by next May when the fleet is geared up with satellite capability. A kit used for overturned vessels was not equipped to be dropped from a plane, so SAR technicians on the Cormorant had to jury-rig it to be deployed by parachute.

The authors state that none of the problems cited in the report could have changed the tragic outcome, but make it clear that a lot of glitches could have been avoided.

Reports by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada and Transport Canada concluded that the coast guard followed proper procedure, but that it needs to develop a policy on towing vessels through ice.

This latest report found that there "are no national coast guard guidelines or procedures for rescuing survivors from capsized vessels'' and recommended it develop policies, while acquiring proper gear for such operations.

A team has been created in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to look at all the recommendations from the series of federal reports into the accident. The department says a plan is expected early in 2009 on how it should move forward.

It's Another Year.

It is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, the first day of winter. It is my favorite day of the year as each day now will be longer until we hit summer again.
On the West Coast I am sure that can't be too soon for the residents, with the unusual weather they are experiencing.


To all in the Marine Industry, whether on the ships or the shore support, I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year in 2009. May your seas be small and your trips fast.

Cheers and a tip of a pint to you all.

J Kane

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Black out - on purpose

Martin's Marine Engineering Page - www.dieselduck.net has suspended access to the main website, and The Common Rail forum area, from December 10th to December 13th, 2008, to show support for the two merchant marine officers of the VLCC Hebei Spirit.

On December 10th, 2008, the Captain and Chief Officer of the tanker Hebei Spirit, were ordered jailed by the government of Korea.

A large crane barge, operated by Samsung (Korea's largest corporation), was out of control, collided, and holed the fully laden Hebei Spirit, which was at anchor at the time, causing the largest oil spill in Korean History.

I urge you to read more about the events and this extreme, and unjust criminalization of seafarers by the Korean government.

Please support the two officers and learn more about this unjust action by visiting http://justiceforhebeispirit.blogspot.com/ or the ITF campaign at http://www.itfglobal.org/campaigns/hebeitwo.cfm

Kindest regards,

Martin Leduc
Webmaster and Licensed Marine Engineer
You can send me your comments at martin@dieselduck.net


Hebei Spirit officers face prison sentence

10 December 2008, ITF

Officers from the Hebei Spirit have been sentenced to prison by a South Korean court for alleged criminal negligence. Captain Jasprit Chawla and Chief Officer Syam Chetan were sentenced to 1.5 years and 8 months imprisonment respectively, despite being previously being cleared of all charges.

ITF Maritime Coordinator Stephen Cotton commented: “This is not justice. It’s not even something close. What we have seen today is scapegoating, criminalisation and a refusal to consider the wider body of evidence that calls into question the propriety of the court. This decision is incomprehensibly vindictive and will impact on all professional mariners.”

In December 2007, the (anchored) Hebei Spirit was hit by a Samsung Heavy Industries-owned barge, causing an oil spill. Since then, the officers have been unfairly detained in South Korea.

ITF affiliates campaigned for the release of the Hebei Two in the run-up to the decision, lobbying the Korean authorities.

The ITF continues to work on behalf of the officers: “The one thing we can promise today is that this isn’t over,” said Stephen Cotton. “The campaign to free these men will go on growing until the justice that was so glaringly absent in this court today is done.”

The Federation is calling upon union members and supporters to send letters to the Korean authorities expressing concern at the case – act now to join the protest.

For more information and background on the case see: www.itfglobal.org/campaigns/hebeitwo.cfm

Monday, December 08, 2008

Shrimp trawler nets two, with cold feet

I glanced the news the other day; "plane makes mayday call, over water, near Baffin Island on Canada's arctic coast, search under way". My first reaction was that this was not going to be a happy ending, if even luck proved that there was indeed an ending to be found.

Well I am very happy to be wrong! The two managed to land the plane they were flying, on an ice flow, which gave them just enough time to clamor out, before the plane broke through the thin ice and sank. The two survivors, both from Sweden, but originally from Denmark and Australia, were delivering the small airplane from the US, to new owners in Sweden. The pair managed to survive in polar bear country, relatively unscathed, in minus 20 degrees Celsius weather. They were rescued 18 hrs after the crash landing, by the Atlantic Enterprise, a shrimp trawler operated by Bedford, Nova Scotia based Clearwater Seafoods.

The Atlantic Enterprises received the mayday call the evening before, pulled up their fishing gear, and headed towards the last known location at full speed. The next day they arrived on scene, and spotted the shivering pair on the ice flows, and promptly took them on board. They were subsequently airlifted to Iqaluit, Nunavut, several hours later, for medical attention.

You can read more about this incredible story from the survivor's point of view here; and a general news story from the Canadian Press here. I think those two should buying some lottery tickets very soon, and Clearwater ought to be quite proud of the Atlantic Enterprise and its crew.

Atlantic Enterprise
Division: FAS (Frozen at Sea) Shrimp
Landing Port: St. Anthony
Sail Date: 2008-10-15
GT: 3454
Length: 72 Meters
Beam: 16 Meters
Capacity: 730 Metric Tonnes
Crew: 35
Power: Wartsila W12V32, 4990KW

More details on the ship can be found here.
You can track their whereabouts here.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Cap Blanc sinks

The french registered general cargo ship, Cap Blanc, has sunk while off the coast of Newfoundland, near Marystown, on its way to deliver road salt to the French islands of Saint-Pierre & Miquelon. Four mariners from the vessel remain missing, and a search and rescue operation led by the CCGS George R Pearkes is underway.

You can read about the developments here from CTV and here from the CBC.

IMO number : 8328147
Name of ship : CAP BLANC
Call Sign : FOXZ
Gross tonnage : 324
Type of ship : General Cargo Ship
Year of build : 1982
Flag : France

Update: more insight is coming now regarding the sinking yesterday of the Cap Blanc. Interesting that the SART, or EPIRB never went off. Here is a good story from the Canadian Press.

Air search for French cargo ship began 10 hours after attempted radio contact

HALIFAX, N.S. — Search and rescue officials waited about 10 hours before starting a full-scale air search for a capsized French cargo ship after the coast guard repeatedly tried to make radio contact with the vessel.

The 37-metre Cap Blanc, a vessel from the French islands of St-Pierre-Miquelon, sank about 16 kilometres south of Marystown on Tuesday afternoon. None of the four crew had been located by Wednesday evening.

The disappearance of the vessel remained an unsolved mystery for search and rescue officials, who say they never received any distress signal before the ship capsized in the mouth of Placentia Bay.

The roll-on, roll-off ship left Argentia, N.L., with a load of road salt bags at around noon on Monday for the journey home.

Chris Fitzgerald, a director of the rescue co-ordination sub-centre in St. John's, said the coast guard communications centre for Placentia Bay attempted to reach the vessel at 8:30 p.m. on Monday to confirm where it was after the vessel failed to give a scheduled report on its location.

"They tried communications to raise her ... the area where she was in is sort of a flat area for VHS (radio) coverage, and there was no big immediate concern. They just figured she wasn't in communications range," he said.

Maj. Denis McGuire, a spokesman for the joint rescue co-ordination centre in Halifax, said the centre continued to attempt to reach the ship by radio, and then telephoned the owners, Alliance SA, in St-Pierre-Miquelon.

"They (the agent) felt this was a fairly common occurrence for loss of communications due to the nature of their travels and there was no concern at that time," said McGuire.

About an hour later, the coast guard ship George R. Pearkes also attempted to reach the cargo vessel by radio, without success.

McGuire said the coast guard ship was assigned to follow the expected route of the missing vessel.

"The ship proceeded from roughly the area of Marystown, heading out to St-Pierre-Miquelon ... and then returned," he said.

The coast guard centre also requested harbour searches to check if the vessel had pulled into port to avoid winds of 50 to 70 km/h, but that proved fruitless.

McGuire and Fitzgerald said a request for aircraft was made at about 8 a.m. on Tuesday, about 10 hours after the first attempt to make radio contact.

McGuire said there was a time lapse because search and rescue officials believed a surface search was sufficient.

"Given that it was night time, an air search would have been less effective," he said.

The capsized bow of the vessel was located by the Hercules aircraft by 11 a.m. on Tuesday, and the vessel sank early in the afternoon.

An empty life-raft was located by an RCMP boat, along with a few other pieces of debris.

Fitzgerald said it also appears that the vessel's emergency beacon didn't emerge from the vessel when it overturned, possibly because it got caught up in the ship's rigging.

"It she rolled very quickly it's quite possible they didn't float free," he said.

An RCMP patrol vessel, the Murray, reported hearing some sounds from the bow of the vessel prior to its sinking, but it was unclear on Wednesday what the noises were.

McGuire said that search-and-rescue divers were preparing to attempt a dive to investigate the sounds, but the ship sank as they were evaluating the safety of the effort.

There were five survival suits on board, but none were found. The only debris located was an empty life-raft.

The ship's owner, Alliance SA, operates small general cargo vessels that make regular runs between the small islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Newfoundland.

The ship loaded salt in Argentia, but as spokesperson for the firm involved, A. Harvey and Co., said he had no comment on how much of the material was loaded on the French ship, or how it was loaded.

A spokesperson for Alliance SA wasn't available for comment.


Update - Jan 02, 2009

French authorities recover three bodies from Cap Blanc
Updated Tue. Dec. 23 2008 5:14 PM ET, The Canadian Press

ST-PIERRE, France -- French officials say they have recovered the bodies of three crewmen who were aboard a freighter that sank off Newfoundland earlier this month.

Jean Pierre Bercot, the prefect of French islands of St-Pierre-Miquelon, says divers searched the wreck of the Cap Blanc and found three of the four men who were thought to be aboard when the ship sank.

The French freighter, loaded with road salt from Argentia, N.L., capsized en route to its home port in the French territory, which is about 20 kilometres from Newfoundland's south coast.

Bercot wouldn't say when the recovery took place, saying only that funerals were being held for the men on Thursday.

Bercot says the vessel was 134 metres from the surface and that divers searched all of it, but didn't find the fourth man.

Jean Guy Urdanabia, Thierry Duruty and Robert Marcil were recovered, while Robert Bechet remains missing.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Solidarity needed

The tanker Hebei Spirit was holed while at anchor in South Korean, by a wayward crane barge in strong winds. The accident resulted in the tanker spilling crude oil, a third the size of the Exxon Valdez, which contaminated the Korean coastline.

The two senior deck officers on the VLCC at the time, Capt and Chief Mate, remain in Korea unable to go free, despite several inquiries clearing them of any wrongdoing. It seems the Korean government is determined (or coerced - as some believe) to pin the blame of the incident on them, the nearest milestone in this case is December 10th when the results of the latest appeal will be released.

Most seafarers should be aware of this incident by now, and the continued escalation of seafarer criminalization incidents across the globe. I recently came across a blog which gives further details on the incident, and even a video of the incident. I encourage you to visit the site, learn more, and support their cause, as I feel they are being unjustly treated. Below is an article that sums up the current situation.

The Hebei Spirit blog is here. Another story from Lloyds List is here. Capt Chawla and his family are pictured right.

Indian unions call for Korean boycott
Proposed action in support of ‘Hebei Two’
Keith Wallis, 19 November 2008 Lloyds List

INDIAN seafarer unions are stepping up pressure on South Korea over the ‘Hebei Two’, the master and chief officer of the very large crude carrier Hebei Spirit, with a proposed boycott of South Korean companies and products.

The National Union of Seafarers of India and the Maritime Union of India said they were seeking feedback on the proposed boycott by today.

Calling for the boycott against Samsung and other Korean companies National Union of Seafarers general secretary Abdulgani Serang and NUI general secretary SS Khan said: “Now it is time for the Indian shipping fraternity to take this giant company head on and to show who the Indian shipping fraternity really is. We need to express and show solidarity with Capt Jasprit Chawla and chief officer Syam Chetan.”

Capt Chalwa and Mr Chetan were initially cleared last June of all charges related to the Hebei Spirit, which was holed in a collision with a drifting crane barge operated by Samsung Heavy Industries during severe weather in December. The barge broke free from one its its two tows and smashed into the anchored tanker holing tanks on the port side, which led to more than 10,500 tonnes of oil spilling into the sea.

But the two men, who have been refused permission to leave South Korea, faced a retrial over the past two months after prosecutors appealed against their acquittal. Seoul’s high court will give its verdict on the retrial on December 10.

Outlining details of the boycott, the unions suggested India’s 200,000 seafarers, shipowners, crewing agents, ship crewing staff, ship chandlers, maritime administration and general public should stop buying all types of Samsung products.

The two unions added: “Indian shipping companies, which have placed orders in Korea for newbuildings, should cancel their orders under protest.”

The unions also planned to contact “celebrities who are endorsing Samsung products to provide their support to this cause”.

They said it had been alleged that Samsung had tried to influence the case and implicate Capt Chawla and Mr Chetan “in some manner or another to find a scapegoat”. They added the two men could be jailed for three years “as demanded by the prosecution”.

The call for the boycott coincided with the launch of a new Hebei Spirit blog calling for fair treatment for the two men.

Posts on the blog said a report by the Incheon Maritime Safety Tribunal, produced at the retrial, was not meant to apportion blame but to report on the cause of the collision and suggest preventive measures.

“Despite this, 70% of the report seems to be focused on finding fault with actions of the crew of the Hebei Spirit, which had been anchored since the previous evening,” one blog said.

It added that the report glossed over other questions, including why the masters of the tugs towing the crane barge passed “so dangerously close across the bows of the anchored Hebei Spirit”.

V.Ships, which managed the Hebei Spirit and the vessel owner, denied direct involvement in the blog (http://justiceforhebeispirit.blogspot.com) but agreed with the accuracy of the contents.