Monday, September 21, 2009

Owen Sound grabs some kW

This last year has seen a dramatic downturn in shipping, especially on the Great Lakes, silencing the many "calls to action" regarding the elephant in the room, a looming shortage of trained and capable seafarers. This shortage has not gone away, although the temporary - critical shortage has.

Perhaps shipping will not rebound to levels that they were last year, anytime in the near future, but one can be sure that it will rebound, to a large extent, and that the need for new blood has certainly not gone away. From my perspective, I don't see any Canadian companies taking advantage of this "breather" in the economy, to get ahead on their looming problems, quite the contrary.

So it was with pleasure that I read a recent email regarding the Great Lakes International Marine Training Centre's new engine platform, that was loaned to them by Seaway Marine Transport (Algoma & Upper Lakes) and Toromont Caterpillar. The new MaK 6M25C medium speed, four stroke engine, will be available for students to get a grasp of a major engine room piece of equipment. This is sure to provide a deeper level of understanding by the engineering cadets attending the facility. Kudos to Cat/MaK and SMT for having the presence of mind and willingness to invest in infrastructure facilitating a more thorough knowledge building exercise by Owen Sounds' Georgian College.

The MaK 6M25C is a 21 ton engine used in propulsion and generators applications, delivering around 1900kW of power. MaK engines are common sight in numerous large ships operating throughout Canada, in particular, they have been making inroads in re powering of "Lakers", large bulk carriers operating on the Great lakes.

The campus in Owen Sound has been gathering allot of media attention due to its expansion of its maritime training facilities, including a major new simulation training facility. You can read more about their new engine below from a press release by the college. As well, Great Lakes International Marine Training Centre has recently upgraded its full mission simulator for engine room and bridge operations, a reportedly 7.6 million dollars investment. They offers various courses and programs for new and seasoned seafarers.

Seaway Marine Transport loans state-of-the-art MAK engine to Georgian College

Seaway Marine Transport (SMT) and its parent companies, Algoma Central Corporation and Upper Lakes Shipping, are working closely with Georgian College’s Great Lakes International Marine Training Centre to address the impending shortage of qualified marine engineers in Ontario and the Great Lakes marine industry.

SMT has loaned a MaK 6M25C diesel marine engine to the College, making Georgian the only school in North America to have this equipment located on site. Having the engine available for training purposes positions the College as a highly-capable MaK training centre. Mariners previously had to travel to Germany for this quality of training.

The partnership between Georgian, SMT and Toromont/Caterpillar (the makers of the MaK engine) creates a “win-win-win” situation for all involved, says Capt. John Greenway, Vice President – Operations for SMT. Toromont and Caterpillar reinforced the partnership by donating four $1,000 scholarships to Georgian for students studying in marine programs. These include: MaK Award for Advance Skills Training, Toromont Cat Entrance Award, Toromont Cat Leadership Award and Toromont Cat Award of Merit.

“This partnership will help us to develop an interactive, state-of-the-art engine familiarization, maintenance and plant management course to address the needs of marine companies in North America,” he says. “Offering this type of hands-on education locally with Toromont instructors will allow us to provide a cost-efficient MaK training course with significant value to the end user.”

Georgian and Toromont/Caterpillar are working closely with input and involvement from the marine industry to develop an engine training course on new MaK diesel main engines and generators.

Course development is currently underway to address both junior and senior engineering officer levels, utilization of simulation models and scenarios, and plant efficiency and environmental management related to the MaK engine. The multi-million-dollar investment will propel post-secondary students enrolled in marine programs at Georgian to the front of the class in terms of access to technological innovations in marine engines, says Capt. Peter Buell, Director, Great Lakes International Marine Training Centre.

Having the MaK engine on campus will allow both post-secondary marine cadets and professional mariners to train on the most up-to-date relevant equipment available in the marine industry today,” he says. “The addition of the MaK engine to our marine simulation and training centre will put us on the forefront of marine training in North America and beyond.”

For more information on professional development opportunities and marine cadet programs at Georgian College, please visit

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Another Fishing Boat Lost

On the East Coast another FV has suddenly sank, only two lives were lost this time. Two too many.

In this day and age of safety and regulations that all professional mariners live by, it amazes me that this segment of the marine industry seems to slide below the radar.

It is the same old story:

Fatal sinking probe looks at load rules
By MICHAEL TUTTON The Canadian Press

The probe into the sinking of a fishing boat off the coast of Newfoundland might look at whether legal definitions are needed to determine when a fishing vessel is overloaded, the lead investigator examining the tragedy said Wednesday.

Pierre Murray of the Transportation Safety Board said survivors he interviewed gave conflicting statements on how low the Sea Gypsy’s stern sat in the water before it sank Saturday.

The sinking claimed at least one life.

"I heard all kinds of things when I was there (in Newfoundland)," Murray said.

He noted that the distance between the deck of the vessel and the ocean surface remain a question of dispute among the crew members.

"I heard a half a foot, I heard a foot, I heard three feet."

Murray said there’s no legal definition to determine when a fishing boat is overloaded.

However, there is such a measurement for virtually every other commercial boat.

"As it stands today there is no such thing as overloading a fishing vessel. There is no maximum load mark on a fishing vessel," he said.

"It is a controversial issue, and it’s not a very easy issue to resolve. However, this thing (the sinking) will force us to have a second look at it again."

Murray said Transport Canada attempted to bring in rules on maximum loads for fishing vessels.

But the department had encountered resistance from the fishing industry because of the various sizes and structures of fishing vessels.

Officials with Transport Canada were unavailable for comment.

The captain and two other men were rescued in Saturday’s sinking.

A deckhand died and another has not been found since the incident.

One survivor, deckhand Jimmy Kavanagh of Calvert, N.L., told CBC on Tuesday that the vessel was overloaded with shrimp.

But vessel owner Laurie Sullivan, who was not on board, said Monday there was "a regular load."

He declined further comment Wednesday.

The wife of the captain, Larry Roche, of Witless Bay, N.L., said he wasn’t feeling well enough to discuss the issue.

Murray cautioned that it is early in the investigation, and it remains to be seen if loading actually played a role in the fatal sinking.

Loading rules are the norm with other oceangoing vessels.

A marking known as the Plimsoll line shows the level that the water should reach if the ship is properly loaded.

It was named after 19th century English politician Samuel Plimsoll, who advocated its adoption in hopes of decreasing the number of sinkings due to overloading.

Murray said the Transportation Safety Board supports such a system.

The Sea Gypsy, a shrimp fishing boat, was returning with its catch on Saturday morning when its stern holds filled with water and sank about 120 kilometres east of St. John’s.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

GOM out of bounds for Aliens

Here's an interesting article that is highlighting a proposed change in the US, that is sure to impact the offshore oil industry considerably. I am not sure the source of this article, but I suspect its an advertorial for Faststream. Anyways, interesting read. I wonder what the backlash from this will be, not that the US cares, but perhaps there will be a strenghtening of cabotage rules in other offshore jusrisdiction in retaliation, kinda of like the "security" initiatives in 2001.

Proposed Jones Act Changes Impacting Seafarers

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The impact of proposed changes to the Jones Act and the use of foreign flagged vessels in the US offshore sector is already being felt by seafarers according to international shipping recruitment agency Faststream, with companies rushing to replace their non-US crews.

Should the proposals by the US Customs and Borders Protection (CBP) first issued in July 2009 be implemented, they would radically change the interpretations of rules for vessels transporting specialised equipment used by the offshore oil and gas industry and revoke foreign flag exemptions to the Jones Act including pipe and cable-laying, diving support work.

“Some of our offshore service companies that we work with are already making moves to man their vessels with US crews in anticipation of the proposed changes,” said Fort Lauderdale based Craig Johnson, President of Faststream’s US operations.

“Foreign crews are being shifted away from the US and replaced with American citizens. We think that around 70 vessels could be affected by these proposals, but there still remains a good deal of uncertainty as to how far these proposals will go. We haven’t as yet seen a jump in salary expectations from crews with salaries remaining relatively stable thus far.”

“There are more than enough qualified US seafarers available to man these vessels should the proposals become a reality. Whilst there is a limited pool of qualified personnel for this sort of specialist work, we have around 4000 US mariners on our books and can crew up these ships with ease.”

The deadline for submissions to the CBP proposals passed on 17 August and a decision is expected soon.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Shipyards get into shape

From today's Halifax Chronicle Herald.
There is nothing added that is new, but does talk about the proposed new way of building government ships in Canada. For all of the men and woman that are babying the senior citizens of the government fleet along, this is all good news that there will be new ships.

Federal funding will see workers through to 2017
By TOM PETERS, Business Reporter, Halifax Chronicle Herald

Is there a glimmer of hope that Canada’s shipbuilding industry is getting the federal government attention it has been demanding for the past several years? Or is the government of the day making announcements in response to constant industry pressure or the possibility of a fall election?

On Sept. 2, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea announced that Irving Shipbuilding Inc. had been awarded a $194-million contract to build nine new mid-shore coastal patrol boats at Halifax Shipyard for the Canadian Coast Guard.

In her remarks, Ms. Shea said the funding for the program was announced in the 2007 federal budget.

However, politics being what they are, a spokesman for Geoff Regan, the MP for Halifax West, said Mr. Regan announced the money for coast guard ships in March 2005 when he was minister of fisheries and oceans.

"I am very pleased that the Canadian Coast Guard will be receiving $276 million over the next five years to acquire six new vessels," Mr. Regan said in a news release at the time.

"This will involve the acquisition of two fisheries research vessels and four mid-shore fisheries patrol boats."

He also said that in addition to the $276 million for six boats, the coast guard is also receiving funding for the acquisition and operation of four new mid-shore patrol vessels that will be used for security on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River in a joint operation with the RCMP.

We’ll let the politicians argue over the potential political gains but from an industry perspective it appears the job is finally going to get done.

Coupled with the work already assigned to the Halifax Shipyard, a lot of shipyard workers are going to have steady employment until 2017 on federal projects. The mid-shore boats will be a four-year deal and the frigate life-extension program, a $549-million program, will last until 2017.

There is also a third major project in the yard, construction of an offshore support vessel for Encana’s Deep Panuke project.

The announcement of the mid-shore patrol boats for Halifax may be an indication the federal government is listening to an idea for project allocation.

Andrew McArthur, former vice-chairman of Irving Shipbuilding Inc., and now an industry consultant, has for the past few years been promoting the idea of allocating federal contracts to shipyards that are suited to certain projects. It is a program that has been done in other countries.

Halifax, for instance, is suited to the construction of small- to mid-sized vessels and the Davie shipyard in Quebec may be better suited for a large ship like a joint supply vessel.

Peter Stoffer, federal NDP shipbuilding critic, likes the allocation idea but says the "fly in the ointment would be, would the taxpayer be protected?"

He thinks they would be "as long as there is proper audit control by government on these yards and they agree the work is done in accordance to the contract and we get the best ship for the money."

And the allocation process would bring some stability to the industry, and as Mr. McArthur has pointed out in the past, it would eliminate the peaks and valleys in the flow of work.

Now looking at what ships need to be built on the federal agenda, about $40-billion worth, the allocation process could keep yards busy.

The need-to-do list includes Arctic patrol boats, joint support ships for the navy, a new big icebreaker for the coast guard, government ferry boats (renewal of the Marine Atlantic fleet), plus others.

The federal government also says it needs about 60 smaller boats and barges, work that could be shared with smaller boat yards. Then, of course, there will be ongoing maintenance and refit work.

On the private commercial side there is also a great need for many new vessels of various shapes and sizes. If the federal government implements some financing suggestions from industry to make Canada a competitive place to build a boat, shipyards could bid on private contracts and intersperse that work with federal procurement.

The potential for a long-term, viable industry appears to be there, but it does require that government and industry co-operate on a business plan.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Freedom is an ugly thing

I have had these pictures of the United States Navy new Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), Freedom, kicking around my "project" box for quite some time. I just had a quick comment, well actually quite few when I think about it, on the design of the vessel. Aside for the "America, Fu&^%$ Yeah" type of name, which I must say is quite "been there, done that", its has to be one of the most ugly warship I have ever seen.

For starters, just who in their right mind designs exhaust outlets on the side of a large ship. Obviously, a major role of a warship is to be awesome and intimidating enough in its own right, so as to make the other side think twice. But lets be real, these exhaust stains on both sides of the ship just look silly. They could have at least tried to camouflage it with paint, or the state of Montana, something, anything would have been better. Over time the engines will get more use and wear and the stain will get bigger and bigger, you'll need at least 4 of the 40 man crew, dedicated at all times to clean this black carbon streak. Or worst they will be painting it so often that the ship will look like it has develop a cyst on it's hull.

Freedom is one of the most powerful jet propelled vessel in the world, displacing 3000 tonnes. The semi planning hull is capable of reaching speeds well in excess of 45 knots, powered by a sophisticated CODAG (Combined Diesel and Gas Turbine) engine set up. The main power comes from two Rolls Royce MT30 gas turbines, delivering up to a massive 40 megawatts each, and two Fairbanks Morse Colt Pielstick 16PA6B diesel engines at 6480 kW each, driving four Kamewa 153 water jets.

The overall designs reminds me of the eighties, when GM decided to make more money by putting some "bling" on a Pontiac and calling it a Cadillac, and we all know what great business success they have reaped, from those types of decisions. Maybe its just me, but I am sure this one should make it into's database.

These pictures are from the Duluth shipping news website and the Wiki.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

VicShip moves ahead, 47 feet at a time

Victoria Shipyards got the nod to build more "47 footers" for the Canadian Coast Guard. Below is the article from the local paper.

Vic Ship has already built the majority of the 47 MLB (Motor Life Boat) in use now, the initial set of seven, were built by Metal Craft, in Ontario. The design was heavily borrowed from the USCG, the biggest difference is Caterpillar engine for the CCG while the USCG use Detroit Diesels. Aside from the few teething bugs at the onset of the program, the boats have been largely successful.

I "sailed" on the Cape Ann for a few weeks, while doing some relief work at the Tofino Motor Lifeboat Station, and I found them to be well built, sturdy and capable little boats.

Victoria Shipyards gets $19.6 million contract
By Times Colonist, August 31, 2009

The federal government announced this morning a $19.6-million contract with Victoria Shipyards Co. Ltd to build five 14-metre motor lifeboats for the Canadian Coast Guard.

The lifeboats will be used for search-and-rescue operations across the country, and two of them are planned to be based in B.C. The vessels are expected to be delivered by March 2011.

The announcement was made at the Victoria Shipyards by Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade, on behalf of Fisheries Minister Gail Shea.

“Sometimes we forget that there are men and women out there patrolling those coast lines, so we need to make sure they’re properly equipped to do that job,” Day said.

He added that when he was younger, he used to work as a deckhand for his father who operated a salmon trawler. When there was a gale warn

ing and all the other boats were headed back for safety, Day said, “it was quite a sight to see the coast guard were heading the other way into danger.”

Aside from the two vessels planned for B.C., one lifeboat each is planned for Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. The vessels will add to an existing fleet of 31, 14-metre motor lifeboats in the Canadian Coast Guard.

The high-speed, self-righting vessels will give the coast guard “that extra reach,” Duke Snider, assistant commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard Pacific Region, said.

Malcolm Barker, vice-president of Victoria Shipyard Co. Ltd., added that the vessels have a long cruising radius and are specially designed to withstand severe conditions.

“They can go out when no one else would even think about going out,” he said.

Barker said that the company has been the main provider of these motor lifeboats to the Coast Guard thus far. The company was awarded the contract after a competitive process held by the federal governent across the country.