Thursday, October 29, 2009

Check, please...

The 28th of October, 2009, was a special day. Not only was it my brother's birthday, Happy Birthday Bros ! But it was also the day that STX Europe got a very big check from Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. That's right, the line's newest ship, the Oasis of the Seas, also the world's biggest passenger ship, ever, has been officially delivered to its new owners by the Turku Yard of STX Europe.

Dwarfing all other ships but the biggest tankers and bulkers, the new ship is schedule to enter service on the Caribbean run based out of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. STX Europe's Turku yard is no stranger to impressive ships and NB 1363 certainly is a crowning achievement for the Finish Yard and its workers. Not only has the ship being delivered, but the yard was building a second ship alongside, the Allure of the Seas, due out this time next year.

Although the "engine room" side of things doesn't to hold any new, major technological developments (that I know of), the Naval Architecture feats of this ships, on the other hand, are astounding. I would love to have a year to go over her.

Its hard to fathom the complexity of this ships. The sheer logistics of building two ships like this at once, and in the time frame that they did it in, is just breathtaking. Congratulations Turku, you guys will always live in the maritime history books.

Owner : Royal Caribbean International
IMO number : 9383936
Call Sign : C6XS7
Laid down : 12 November 2007
Launched : 22 November 2008
Delivered : October 28, 2009
Maiden voyage : 1 December 2009 (planned)
Length : 361 m
Breadth : 47 m, max 66 m
Air Draft : 72 m
Passenger cabins : 2704
Max passengers : 6,360
Crew : 2,100
Decks : 16
Power : 97,000kW
- 3 × Wärtsilä 12V engines (13,860 kW/18,590 hp each)
- 3 × Wärtsilä 16V engines (18,480 kW/24,780 hp each)
Propulsion: 3 × 20 MW Asea Brown Boveri Azipod, all azimuthing
Speed : 22.6 knots
Gross tonnage : 225,000
Classification : Det Norske Veritas
Flag : Bahamas
Cost : US$1.4 billion (2006)

You can read here, Wartsila's press release concerning the power systems of the vessel, which includes common rail technology for the engines, a first for RCI. Pictures above, from STX Europe's website, below is one of the Oasis's engine room featuring three 16V46 engines from Wartsila's website.

Here, you can read about the tight fit under a bridge, and a little more about the vessel.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Latest BCFC Fun?

Well, BCFC is always good for interesting headlines: sinking ships, ships going through marinas, cars falling off of ramps, generators burning up and now the latest: dropping their anchor while steaming.

I'll refrain on commenting on it because we all know that the newspaper never gets marine matters correct, usually because it is so technical. But still, having their anchor drop while steaming? But, their timing was impeccable, because it sure could have been worse in a different spot in their route!

I have to wonder what the dust was that the article refers to... rust from the chain locker perhaps? And it is even more interesting that an earlier article said the ship slewed around, so did the anchor hook or not? Not that is really matters. It is always good when no one is hurt.

From the only source of News in BC - Canwest

The Spirit of British Columbia came to an unscheduled stop this
morning on its 7 a.m. sailing from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay when its anchor inadvertently released.

Gur Treet, a Richmond truck drive, was sleeping in his vehicle on the car deck when he
was woken by a loud banging sound. “It was a horrible bang,” Treet said in a cellphone interview from the ship. “It went on for more than 10 minutes. The ship was shuddering.”

Passengers reported a large plume of dust billowing out from the rear of the ferry. The banging noise continued and the ship swayed side to side, but passengers said the motion was not that noticeable. Deborah Marsahll, spokeswoman for B.C. Ferries, confirmed that the vessel's anchor had inadvertently released after the ferry cleared Georgina Point on Mayne Island.

"The crew did not deploy the anchor," Marshall said. The ship had already gone through Active Pass and was in open water. The anchor did not hook, said Marshall. Crew members brought the ship to a stop when they realized the malfunction.

She was unable to identify the plume of dust at the rear of the ship, but she noted that the anchor was at the bow, and the engines are underwater, so it would be unlikely that any mechanical activity would have caused the dust.

At 9:20 a.m., after an 80-minute stop, the ship was underway again. Passengers were told no one was injured in the stop. Initially, no plans were made to bring another vessel in to service. Marshall said that while the Coastal Celebration was docked and ready at Swartz Bay, there was no crew on standby, so it would not be introduced into the schedule this morning.

However, just before 10 a.m., B.C. Ferries decided to switch the ferries over at the 3 p.m. sailing, with the Celebration replacing the Spirit of B.C. so as to return the ferry schedule to normal. "There is nothing mechanically wrong with the Spirit of B.C.," Marshall said, 'however, we are already seeing a one-sailing wait at Tsawwassen as a result of the delay."

She said that ferry traffic was normal for a Tuesday, but the anchor malfunction had created the back-up. She said the crew from the Spirit of B.C. would transfer over to the Coastal Celebration. The Spirit of B.C. will continue to run late until the Celebration takes over.
People planning to ride the ferries today on the Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route are advised to check the B.C. Ferries website for sailing updates at

Pictures from's collection, showing the Spirit of British Columbia, east bound (towards Tsawassen) in Active Pass. The mooring deck of the Spirit of Vancouver Island is pictured as well, showing the layout of the anchor arrangement.

Here's another version of the story, from the CBC

Approaching ferry in Active Pass

Just past the same ferry in Active Pass

Exiting Active Pass on passage to mainland.

Pictures by JK

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Another Fishing Vessel Lost

Another accident off of Newfoundland. One man dead, three survivors.

One man is dead and three have been rescued after a shrimp boat sank north of Fogo Island, N.L., early Saturday.

The boat, out of LaScie, N.L., was heading to Twillingate to offload when it ran into trouble and sent out a distress call.

Cmdr. Mike Considine of the Search and Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax said a Cormorant helicopter out of Gander as well as a fixed wing aircraft and coast guard vessels responded.

"The Cormorant was first on scene and the fishing vessel seemed to have sunk. It was nowhere there," said Considine.

"There were life rafts in the water and the chopper crew proceeded to recover all four persons who had been on board."

He said the survivors appeared to be in good shape.

The Canadian Press

Saturday, October 24, 2009

40th Anniversary of the HMCS Kootenay Explosion

In Halifax today, the Navy is commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Canadian destroyer HMCS Kootenay engineroom explosion, killing 9 men and injuring 53.

The subsequent fire was hot enough to melt the aluminum stairs and railings. Smoke and flames blocked access to the firefighting equipment and equipment sent from the HMCS Bonaventure was used to fight the fire.

The cause of the explosion was a bearing installed backwards in the gearbox, which stopped the lubrication and caused overheating and eventual ignition of the lubricating oil vapors.

Nowadays, I can look out of my office window and see the black smoke across the harbor as the Navy teaches their sailors at their firefighting school. On the East coast, this school is legendary on how tough and frightening it can be on new recruits. The Navy takes their firefighting and damage control training very seriously.

I remember an older engineer telling me about this when I first started, to impress on me the need to do some job, long-forgotten now, correctly. He was pointing at the gearbox of the ship we were sailing on and telling me that they were the same model as the Kootenay. I thought then, what the heck have I gotten myself into, because my instructors were always careful to point out the consequences of incorrect work and how many lives could be impacted.

You can read further on the Kootenay's crew response to the accident from, and from the CBC. Here, you can further on today ceremony, and here is an article on the actions taken following the accident.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Venture goes belly up

Vancouver based North Arm Transportation is no stranger to the hazards and intricacies of the BC coast. They have been moving cargo up and down the province's coast for countless years and have amassed a lot of experience doing so. Some say experience comes from situations that did not work the way they planned out, such is the case with this summer's incident involving a loaded equipment barge and the tug North Arm Venture.

The 42', 440hp tug, was towing the barge North Arm Express, loaded with freight trucks, and proceeding through the Skookumchuck Narrows, north of Vancouver, near the town of Sechelt. Even though the tug proceeded through the narrows at slack tides, they were overcome by current and the vessel capsized, sending three crew members into the waters, and trapping another below decks. The trapped crew member got out on his own after several minutes, and joined his coworkers who took refuge on the barge, helped along by a kayaker.

Kayakers nearby, filmed the whole sequence of events. This may be old news to some since it happened several months ago, but the videos remains and amazing piece of video, worth watching.

You can read more about this story in the local paper. Picture by Alandra.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Heros, ghost ship and Asbestos

When I started Martin's Marine Engineering Page - in what will be ten year ago next month, there wasn't any real sources of information online - real maritime content. I use to laugh at myself when "the best marine website" where nothing more than a series of links to other website which just listed more links to the same marine websites. That's why I was never a really big fan of the "link page" concept, although this was always considered a staple of every website. Instead I preferred to focus on real accessible resource not just links.

Things improved with the arrival of search engines and catalogs, and took a leap forward when Google came online. I am not sure what the future holds, but one can certainly say that Wikipedia is a pretty darn big step in the evolution towards a more accessible way of learning. In its perfect form, I can see that over time, website like will be obsolete, since the information about marine industry and its processes is so vast and ever changing, it is very difficult for one organization to keep tabs on it. I am a big fan of the project and laud the idea and how it has changed the way I seek information on a daily basis. Granted, it is not perfect, but being a living document makes it a formidable and democratic "super learning" tool.

The real purpose of this post today is actually to bring up a few interesting pages I found at Wikipedia. As a fan of history, as we all become as we get older and gain perspective, I get fascinated easily - but then, it could also be my ADD acting up. Below are three interesting bookmarks I came across recently, which may provide you with insight, amusing to read, perhaps even provide timely information. Such is the wonderful world of Wikipedia. Enjoy.

The first bookmark is regarding the Sea Devil, Felix von Luckner, most famously, a German ship Captain during the first world war. In today's world I find that the word "hero" is often misused, but I tend to agree with the Wikipedia comment; "It was his habit of successfully waging war without any casualties that made him a hero and a legend on both sides." His life story is fascinating one. His, is a story that illustrates what can be done when you have enough courage to fully follow your convictions. One can only imagine the charismatic presence he introduced to a roomful of people.

Next item is the ship Mary Celeste. A riveting yarn of mystery surround this fateful ship, which I enjoyed reading about. This "Canadian" built ships seem to have nothing but bad luck. I was surprised to read how long it traded considering the ages in which it traded, and the various superstitions mariners often held. Read about the various mishaps and demise, not to mention a mysterious disappearance in the Atlantic and the subsequent economic and political wranglings.

And finally, but certainly not the least of interesting web pages at Wikipedia, is about Asbestos. This link has been in my Bookmarks folder for quite some time. I was unsure how to incorporate the information into and interesting marine article, but still fascinated by the "plague" of ships. If you have been working on a ship in North America, you have certainly been made aware at some point in your career about Asbestos. This substance was widely used in ship building for its heat resistance properties. Little did we know, its usage has contributed to the deaths of about 100,000 people - that we know of.

Happy exploring...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dredging cabotage issues in Quebec

The 1180 gt MV Port Mechins dredge (pictured right), operated by Dragage Verrault of Quebec, dredging the St Lawrence under contract to the federal government for the last 30 years, has had its seaworthiness questioned by Transport Canada (TC). According to a recent article appearing on the Seafarer's International Union (SIU) Canadian newsletter, TC refusal to extend the Seaworthiness certificate to the aging vessel, built in 1949 (yes, 1949), has led to a protest being filed by the SIU.

The government has chosen to award the dredging contract for a portion of the St Lawrence river in Quebec, to a competing firm, McNally Construction, who, apparently, intends to import and use the Danish registered suction hopper dredge, MV Freja R, built in 1982 (pictured bottom). Rightly so, the SIU is questioning the fact that a Danish register vessel, with foreign crew who pay no Canadian taxes, should be operating in Canadian waters, much less working a government funded project.

Dragage Verrault, in cooperation with Group Ocean subsidiary Dragage Saint Maurice, have proposed to use a smaller suction hopper dredge, the MV Atchafalaya (pictured right), instead of the Port Mechins. Atchafalaya is a Chigago based, US flagged, 850 ton suction hopper dredge built in 1980 currently laid up in Nova Scotia. I am not sure of what the crewing arrangements would be, but unless Canadians crew and officers are fully operating the dredge, wouldn't that be just the same condition that they are criticizing.

Regardless of the situation, I take note of a few items of interest in this story.

1 - Glad to see that TC is growing some balls and cracking down on old junk.

2 - Dredging is / has been a ongoing issue in Canada for quite some time. Although it is not my area of expertise, I suspect, like many other maritime sector in Canada, the dredging file at government level is woefully in need of a vision and direction, not to mention funding. With so many rivers in the country, and them being vital to shipping, dredging must be considered important to the national infrastructure.

3 - Especially in the marine business; if you are not continually upgrading, or planning to upgrade your equipment or expertise during the life cycle (realizing that everything has a limited useful lifespan), especially when you have a long term contract, then you should not be surprise if your offerings don't live up to the contractor's changing expectations and needs. During the course of my career, I have observed one constant factor at all levels of shipboard operations; if you are feeling comfortable and don't think you need to improve a situation, you are headed for obsolescence. Read - Canadian companies, modernize your equipment and your skills !

I am sure the local experts in this situation would highlight many other lessons from this story. Judging by the state of the equipment operating in Canadian waters and the bigger maritime industry situation in Canada, we are bound to see allot more of these stories.

You may be aware of another that I have mentioned in the past, the Neptune science project off the coast of BC, engaging non Canadian seafarers and equipment, but working on federally funded programs. I am sure cabotage infringement is even worst in non publicly funded projects, offshore oil, alternative energy and such, which, as a Canadian, seafaring professionals or not, is quite disheartening. It highlights our failing capabilities to feed ourselves - and if you cant feed yourself...

You can read the brief story from the SIU here. The pictures are from various internet sources.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Playing in the H2O

Send help - need more diapers !

I hope my Second Class exams include proper procedure for changing full diapers on very squirmy kids, I am sure I would ace it. Yes I have been very busy at home on my time off from the ship, maybe a little too busy since I have not posted any new blog entries in a while. Sorry, but dootie calls.

This morning, I received a quick email from a friend if mine piloting bulkers on the St Lawrence, seems he ran across a neat article in the McGill Tribune. The St Lawrence River is, even outside maritime circles, associated with ships, ports and the Seaway - some kind of maritime cargo "freeway". So it was with pleasant surprise I read the following article on river surfing, which of course, for old folks like, me, is all too new. Those gosh darn kids, what will they tink of next ! I will be sure to have my camera ready next time we

River surfing on the St. Lawrence becoming more popular
The McGill Tribune, 10/2, Montreal, Que.

Montreal's St. Lawrence River is actually home to quite a thriving surfer culture. The Habitat 67 standing wave in the Lachine Rapids in Montreal, named for the Habitat 67 housing complex across the street, has become the destination for Montreal's newest, and most surprising, sport.

Not to be confused with ocean surfing, river surfing is an increasingly popular form of surfing that is being practiced in places like Germany, New Zealand and the Midwest United States.
While paddling out and floating in the St. Lawrence river waiting to catch the perfect wave sounds like a recipe for hypothermia, river surfing actually involves a standing wave - a wave caused by a large amount of water constricted by flowing over underwater boulders.

A river surfer can catch this wave and have the feeling of traveling fast over water, without even moving. It's a great way to practice standing up on a board, or doing tricks for whenever you do go on that tropical vacation.

As the first official river-surfing school in the world, 2Imagine - founded by Olympic whitewater kayaker Corran Addison - offers a surfing opportunity to any courageous soul willing to fall and make mistakes. 2Imagine teaches you both the techniques and the safety knowledge of how to swim the current and control the specially designed river surfboard.

Lessons are about $200 for two days, but you can do it with a group and board, life jacket, and helmet rentals are all included. The only prerequisites are being a competent swimmer and the having the courage to fall into the choppy waves - hence the helmet.

And while autumn does not seem like the ideal time for surfing - particularly in a city that expects snow in October - the water is actually warmest in fall and waves are at their peak.