Thursday, December 31, 2009

Roll on out 2009

So here it is, the end of another year and decade.

Roll on out 2009 and let in a New Year and a new beginning.
My Dad always has said that every 5 years your life changes completely. When you think about it, it is true. I don’t think he meant it would happen all at once like mine has. All those changes led to me working on the West Coast, temporarily, for the last several months. It has been quite the experience seeing how things work on the Pacific coast as opposed to the right coast.
The great thing about the marine industry is people tend to move in and out of your life through the years. You pick up the friendships right where you left off. Or in some cases put them away ‘til next time. Working in the West has let me catch up on the doings of old friends I haven't seen in too many years.

As part of this new position on the Pacific Coast, I also get to fly a lot, really a lot. My old knees are protesting it, in fact. It has been an education to see how auditing a company’s SMS system leads to a better industry. It gives me hope for the marine industry in Canada. Uh-Huh.

Like the flight from Toronto to Calgary, when the plane suddenly started to turn and drop altitude. After a bit, the pilots came on the ICS and told us they had a cracked windshield and were dropping down to relieve the strain on the remaining windshield. And, we were going back to Winnipeg because they couldn’t land in Calgary due to their thunderstorms. Must admit that it was an educational trip back across the prairies as we were almost at crop dusting levels. (Well, OK, maybe not quite that low).

Then there was the flight that we landed in Toronto during a thunderstorm and got to sit on the tarmac for a couple of hours while they waited for the tornado warnings to stop. When we did get the OK to move, the plane had lost the steering to the nose wheel. That lifted a few eyebrows, considering we had just landed on it.

Then there was the flight out of Ottawa, where we all trooped on, locked ourselves in, waited 20 minutes, then all trooped off. A radio had failed. Or the flight out of Victoria, when they came on 5 minutes before the flight was to board and told us it would be delayed because of a tire change, only there was no one to change the tire, they had to come from Vancouver. I wonder if he had to bring his own tools?

Or the flight from Victoria to Vancouver or was it the other way around, when they had a dashboard problem. Or witnessing the near riot in Toronto airport when the passengers protested the third cancellation of their flight in 12 hours. Air Canada handled that nicely by calling in the Peel Region PD bad boys. Great entertainment, if you didn’t happen to be on that flight.

Let's raise a glass to 2010. It is like a field immediately after a snowstorm. Still untouched, the promise and hopes still there.

May the next decade bring much joy, happiness and unusual prosperity to all. (Actually I am hoping for the unusual prosperity as part of my early retirement dreams.)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A bolt offers lesson

On September 8th 1989, Norwegian airline Partnair, lost flight 394 with 55 souls on board, off the coast of Denmark. You may ask how exactly does an "old" air accident affect us in the marine industry. As it turns out, this particular accident had profound affect on the Wilhelmsen Lines, the prominent Norwegian shipping company.

That fateful flight, had been chartered by the shipping company to attend the launching of a new RoRo carrier, in Hamburg, Germany. The fifty employees who perished where from the Oslo based head office, and represented half of the company's office staff, a devastating blow to the operations for sure.

The purpose of this post though, is to highlight an increasingly large problem that we face today in the maritime world, and which was determined to be the source of the ultimate demise of Partnair 394. The end of flight 394 was determined to be a result of inferior quality parts. Bolts which held the tail of the plane on, were actually counterfeit parts, and were only 60% the strength of the ones specified by the plane's manufacturer. They failed, the plane tail fell off, and the flight was doomed.

As a result, a massive focus by government regulators was placed on the airline industry and its widespread problems of counterfeit and non spec parts . They initially thought is was an isolated incidents, but soon discovered that fake parts were used everywhere in the system - even on the US president's famed Air Force One.

I have been noticing over the last few years quite an increase in stories about counterfeit equipment on board as well. So when I saw the documentary about the plane crash, you may start appreciating the implications of the problem. Ironically, Unitor (now a Wilh Willemsen company) Emergency Escape Breathing Device, (EEBD) was subject of counterfeit attack on their products. Some locks used in securing shipping containers were also found to be counterfeit, even the US Navy has been in the news, they found counterfeit computer chips in their equipment.

I always had it in the back of my mind, to be on the look out for counterfeit parts, but a couple of months ago I really started thinking about it. I was ordering some replacement filter elements for our Separ fuel filters, as in turn out, those could potentially be counterfeit. They were not that expensive (the OEM ones), not that big, yet they were subject of counterfeiter's attention. It drove home the point that if a seemingly mundane filters could possibly be fake, what else could be as well.

All this, to highlight a serious problems that we should all be wary about. Check your parts to make sure they are not counterfeit before installing them of your equipment, and possibly jeopardizing your safety.

I read an estimate online, that the cost of global counterfeiting is around 680 billions dollars per year, that's probably because it is not always easy to spot a fake part.

Some simple tips that I have seen online, which probably wont help, but may be good to keep in mind...
  • If its too good to be true, then it probably is. Often times on ships, you just get the part, the cost is not advertise. Most times you don't even know where in the world it was sourced or how it even got on the ship, so this will make it hard to determine if the price was too good to be true.
  • Look for spelling mistakes, packaging errors, or flimsy packaging. Probably the opportunity for actually spotting a fake on board.
  • Know your suppliers and the Original Equipment Manufacturer, they will have information on what to look for in their products and those passing off as theirs. Check their website's "news" area, looking for informational bulletins.
  • Take time to get to know your suppliers, and their sources.
  • Always be skeptical - this sounds depressing and hard to implement, but your safety and that of your ship may depend on it.
I have not been able to find a good source of information on this topic, but I think that we should all be reminded of this problem and keep vigilant. Here are some other web site offering some tips. Wikihow, AC Delco, consumer goods overview.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays

For all of you at sea, or taking time off from the ship or the office, I "ship you" my sincerest wishes for a great holiday season.

I am currently on the ship, we will be entering the St Lawrence Seaway tonight, bound for Hamilton. I sure wish I was at home to be with my wife, and three young sons, but it is the job we have chosen to do. So if you are at sea as well, you're not alone. Merry Christmas !

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Good and Bad Marine News in NS

Some very exciting news for a small Nova Scotia yard in Methegan, NS. Earlier in decade, they worked very hard at developing their workforce and exploring composite core construction of smaller vessels. They really do great work there and they are an excellent company to deal with. I am delighted for them that they are in the running for this work.

Shipyard could get busy

Military training firm likes Theriault’s work and wants yard to build more boats, but wants cash from government

A COMPANY that makes small remote-controlled targets for the navy wants to build large training ships in Meteghan River that could deploy the fast-attack simulators like a swarm of bees.

Meggitt Training Systems Canada of Medicine Hat, Alta., has built 50 of its unmanned Hammerhead targets at A.F. Theriault & Son. Now the Alberta company is talking about building ships more than 30 metres long at the Meteghan River yard.

"Now that we’ve been working with A.F. Theriault for five years, I’m very interested in giving them this work," Spencer Fraser, Meggitt’s general manager, said Monday.

The deal could be worth a lot to the western part of the province, he said.

"We’re talking in the tens of millions of dollars, so it’s not inconsequential," Mr. Fraser said.

A.F. Theriault plans to make hundreds of the fibreglass composite targets. But that work employs only about 15 people, so the company is keen to get the contract to build support ships for Meggitt.

"That’s what we’re hoping," said Arthur Theriault, president of the Digby County shipyard. "It was a pipe dream six months ago."

The yard now employs about 130 people but the workforce could grow if the company gets the ship contract.

"It would either add to it or it would prevent you from laying off," Mr. Theriault said.

Meggitt now has proper drawings for the support vessels, he said, and it would take 50 to 80 people to build the ships.

"We’d have to put an expansion on one of our buildings to accommodate that" project, Mr. Theriault said.

"We’re hoping that there is more than one."

Meggitt’s Hammerhead targets retail for $50,000 to $70,000 each. Navies around the world use them to mimic small vessels attacking a warship.

"It’s like the Lilliputians holding down the giant, (or) teenagers swarming an adult in a park," Meggitt’s general manager said. "And that’s what we’re replicating — the swarm threat.

"Literally, it’s like bees attacking a human. You’ve got to swat them at very close range."

Mr. Fraser said Meggitt is looking at building some larger vessels that would carry, for example, 16 Hammerheads.

"When it comes to these bigger projects, it’s absolutely required that (the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency) and the province play a role, because the international market’s fickle," Mr. Fraser said. "If we get out ahead of the game and you get down a learning curve, they’ll say, ‘We’ll just buy one from Nova Scotia.’ But if you dither and you wait two or three years, they’ll say, ‘Well, why don’t we just do it at home?’ "

The ships would be similar to the Riverton, a 60-metre vessel used as a support ship during the trials of Canada’s 12 Halifax-class frigates, Mr. Fraser said.

"This would not just be for targets. This would be a training support ship. And yes, there are multiple customers internationally," he said.

"It would provide long-term employment for a lot of people."

Meggitt has taken the idea to the Dexter government and would be looking for incentives to make the project work here.

"We’ve made approaches to the government of Nova Scotia saying, ‘Listen, folks, we think we’ve got a hot item here. You guys have got to get engaged in a big way here.’ Otherwise, Meggitt’s got 8,000 people with $2 billion in revenue. We’re in 40 countries. We could do this anywhere."

Mr. Fraser is a former naval officer who spent 15 years in Halifax.

"I’d like to see the work in Canada, just as my American boss would like to see the work done in the States, and his boss, who’s a Brit, would like to see the work done in the U.K. So, at the end of the day, it’s the guy who comes to the table on these big, big projects with all your ducks in a row and can make the compelling case."

Meggitt has talked to Russell Metals Inc. of Halifax about cutting parts for the shipbuilding project.

"We were quite pleased with what we learned," Mr. Fraser said.

"There’s world-class stuff there."

But in the same day, word is that the Cat is done in Nova Scotia. The ferry has run from Nova Scotia to Maine during the warmer months for the last 10 years and the provincial government has sunk 20 million into the operation. So 180 people will be losing their jobs there.

Must say the timing could have been better for this announcement. Merry Christmas, Bay Ferry.

Monday, December 21, 2009

8 year old boy dies after accident with USCG

A United States Coast Guard stretch defender class boat, commonly known as a 33 footer with five guardsmen on board, slammed into a 24 foot pleasure craft yesterday, Dec 20, just before 18:00hrs. The resulting collision sent five people to hospital; two adults with serious injuries, two children with minor injuries and a third child, an eight year old boy, Anthony Cole DeWeese, died at the hospital, shortly after arriving.

The 13 people aboard the Sea Ray pleasure boat had just finished watching the fireworks in San Diegos harbour, a floating holiday parade was to follow. Media reports say that the father noticed the fast coming USCG at the last minute, and had little time to react, as he estimated the boat doing 30-40 knots. Parade watcher onshore, said the coast guard boat was traveling fast and rapidly changed course, shortly before running into the pleasure craft. The USCG press release state the 33 footer was responding to a vessel grounding at the time.

The NTSB and USCG are investigating the accident. Nobody was thrown in the water as a result and near by 87 footer cutter, Haddock, assisted in the rescue as did private vessels. Both vessels made it back to the dock under their own power, where fire and police aided in the rescue.

You can read more about the accident here and here.

Friday, December 18, 2009

David Trask went down with fishing boat

Not about the big ships, but this is a tragedy for a small town. It reminds you how fleeting life is and how quickly things happen on a small vessel. My sympathies to this man's family.

Captain ensured crew’s safety
By BRIAN MEDEL Yarmouth Bureau, 2009-12-18

YARMOUTH — CAPT. DAVID Allison Trask is a hero.

The 60-year-old fisherman saved his crew of three Wednesday in what can only be described as a harrowing few moments when a foundering boat was abandoned as it listed under the strain of 18,000 kilograms of fish in the hold and an inward rush of sea water.

"He was a great captain. He saved his crew," said Julie Boudreau, his ex-wife.

The 18-metre fishing dragger Pubnico Explorer rolled over and sank in stormy seas off Yarmouth after it had taken on water.

Three crewmen were plucked from a life-raft by the Canadian Coast Guard cutter Westport shortly before noon Wednesday, but their captain, David Trask, was not with them.

Canadian and American aircraft searched an area totalling more than 685 square kilometres Wednesday and Thursday while the coast guard ship Edward Cornwallis patrolled the area where the fishing boat went down, some 30 kilometres northwest of Yarmouth.

The search ended Thursday at 1 p.m., said Maj. James Simiana, a public affairs officer with Joint Task Force Atlantic.

The missing fisherman was not found.

On Thursday, Ms. Boudreau said her ex-husband and father of their two adult children will never be replaced.

"He did what he had to do as a captain," she said, recalling descriptions of the harrowing experience that the surviving crewmen gave.

"He got them suited up . . . and got them off the boat."

She was referring to full immersion survival suits he made his crew put on.

Capt. Trask also pulled on a survival suit, but the boat went down too fast for him to leave, the crewmen all reckoned.

"They had to clamber up . . . the side to get off," Ms. Boudreau said from her home Thursday.

"They had to pull each other up there to get off. They had to climb up because the boat was listing so bad."

Capt. Trask told them to jump and they swam about 15 metres to the raft.

They waited for their captain, but he didn’t follow.

"They were young and David wasn’t," said Ms. Boudreau.

"David was 60 years old and he was probably tired. He’d been up and down (in the hold) working on the pump. He’d been steering manually in the wind with big seas . . . because the power steering had gone and he was tired."

The Pubnico Explorer had been at sea since Monday and was trying to make it back to its home port of Meteghan.

The boat was taking on water from somewhere and Capt. Trask had been talking to the coast guard, said Ms. Boudreau.

The main pump is said to have failed and a secondary electrical pump that was still working was unable to keep the boat afloat, Maj. Simiana has said.

"David had full confidence that the coast guard would get there with . . . pumps," Ms. Boudreau said.

"Anyway, he got them off and they expected he was coming, but another wave hit and I think it just took him inside or something," said Ms. Boudreau.

"It might have just took him right in the wheelhouse. I don’t know.

"The wave was huge."

It was the third of three big waves in succession.

"The third one filled the hold and she went down," said Ms. Boudreau.

The boat was badly listing and the last wave sealed its fate.

The men in the life-raft saw the wave coming.

"They were only off the boat one minute and she was down," said Ms. Boudreau. "She was gone. And Dave was on it."

In the life-raft, the men waited for what seemed like an eternity, strobe lights on their red immersion suits flashing steadily.

At 11:31 a.m., the Westport spotted the raft and bore down on it.

Four minutes later, the survivors were being pulled aboard the cutter.

The men were returned to shore at 5 p.m. Thursday.

On Wednesday evening, a U.S. Coast Guard jet fitted with forward-looking, infrared, heat-seeking gear arrived and flew the search area, said Maj. Simiana.

After the search was called off Thursday afternoon, Capt. Trask was listed as a missing person by the RCMP.

The Pubnico Explorer is owned by Comeauville Seafood Products Ltd. in Digby County, according to Transport Canada.

Capt. Trask’s two sons, Aaron and John, have been serving prison terms for the past six months for their roles in a 2007 Digby County homicide.

The fact that their father is missing has been hard on them, said their mother.


’They were young and David wasn’t. David was 60 years old and he was probably tired. He’d been up and down (in the hold) working on the pump. He’d been steering manually in the wind with big seas.’ - JULIE BOUDREAU

Picture above of the Pubnico Explorer by "Weymouthns", is found at his Flicker page; he has lots of other east coast fishing boats pictured as well. Check it out.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A new Legacy continues

I saw this little bit of "news" the other day. Chevron Canada is replacing its venerable fuel dock in Coal Harbour with a new one. There isn't too many towboaters on the coast who have not the had to stop, and pick up some half million liters (or so), of diesel, from Ron Graham's Chevron Fuel Dock, sitting, lonely, between Stanley Park and the tall buildings of the downtown core. Then again, that could be partly because there are just so very few fuel docks left on the coast.

I have stopped there on numerous occasion while working on the Capt Bob. Being the biggest tug boat boat on the coast, she also had a voracious appetite as well, so we always had to call ahead, to make sure the rather small dock had enough fuel and oil for us.

Chevron Canada awarded the contract in September 2008 to Ketchikan based Alaska Ship & Drydock, located in southern Alaska. Work started in March 2009, and the barge was officially delivered to the owners, December 1st, 2009, with the state's governor in attendance.

The design is not "avant garde" by any stretch of the imagination, but I am sure it will be a welcome relief to the crew, who have been babying along the old barge for some time. Customers like the Capt Bob will surely appreciate the larger capacity of the barge, now at 1,250,000 liters capacity, double that of its predecessor. Chevron Legacy is going to take up a long standing tradition, dating back to 1935, providing fuel in Vancouver's busy harbour. The Chevron Legacy measures 35 meters long, by 18 meters wide, by 4.5 deep - and I see they kept that massive bright blue Chevron sign on top.

Pictured above is the new Chevron Legacy, from internet sources. The other two above, are from my collection. Taken in 2008, is Island Tug and Barge's Arctic Tugger, ex Canmar Tugger, having just completed fueling up at the "old" Chevron fuel dock in Coal Harbour, (Vancouver) BC.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

"Economic conditions"

West Coast Canada remains under a great deal of influence cause by the recession, south of the border. With forest products being a major component of the maritime trade on BC's coast, its been a heck of a few years, felt well before the official recognition of trouble. As such, I was surprised to see that Seaspan's recent announcement took so long in coming.

Last month Washington Marine Group (WMG), which controls a myriad of businesses in BC, including Seaspan, Victoria and Vancouver Shipyards, were force to react to "economic conditions" and lay off 20% of their shore side workforce. New Seaspan CEO, Jonathan Whitworth (pictured below), himself a USCG licensed officer, seems to have wasted no time in doing some downsizing. The Texas formed seafarer, cum shipping executive, joined the company in late August of this year. From what I understand, over 50 people lost their job in the decision.

On the ship side of things, personnel matters remain business as usual, that is, in a constant state of flux, which is normal for the BC coast. But the company has reached a new contract with its officers. Engineering and deck officers on the companies' vessels, are represented by the CMSG (Canadian Merchant Services Guild, aka as "The Guild"). The company reports that they have reached a new collective agreement for five years, after the current one ends in September 2010. The agreement features a yearly pay increase of 3%.

In other WMG news, Victoria Shipyards has bought all of the assets of Victoria's Canadian Marine Engineering Western Division, which was located next door to Victoria Shipyards, at the Esquimalt Drydock. The parent company of the division, CME, is headquartered in Dartmouth NS. The western division of CME had been in operation since the beginning of the decade.

VicShip, as it is commonly known, will use the added space and assets in the carrying out the FELEX contract, which will see the Canadian Navy's frigate go through a "vessel life extension" work period. One part, worth $351 million, of the $2 billion dollar Navy contract was awarded to VicShip in March 2008. Halifax Shipyards was awarded a $549 million contract, and Lockheed Martin scooped up the rest.

A shipbuilding competitor to Seaspan, also on the North Vancouver shoreline, Allied Shipyards, is benefiting from a Canadian Coast Guard contract, issued under the "government stimulus plan". Allied outbid WMG for work on the buoy tender CCGS Bartlett, built in 1969.

The Bartlett is scheduled for some major machinery upgrades, to the tune of $10 million dollars. Sadly, the aging vessel will remain a bit of a lemon, despite having received several "mid-life refit". With the amount of money poured into "upgrading" the aging fleet over the years, we probably would have several new ships by now for the same price.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Santa's coastie elves

Wow, what a busy time for us ducksters these last few months. I am back at work again and so far, knock on wood, no computer virus like last contract. Hopefully I will be getting back on top of the websites that have been neglected for some time.

I have been so busy lately, that I almost forgot that Christmas was coming up. Yup there is... ah hell, whatever shopping days left, if your are into that kinda of stuff. I actually got reminded about Christmas by a US Coast Guard press release, of all things.

The coasties have drawn up a wish list, a "12 nautical days of Christmas list" for the boaters, and perhaps seafarers out there who might have love ones feeling an urge to show them appreciation. This list is not only great for the "great consumer fest" that is today's Christmas, but also very practical list of purchases any time of year, for your seafaring friends.

Here's the full text of the press release...

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Coast Guard, as a public service to holiday gift shoppers, announced Friday its recommended gift ideas for 12 nautical days of Christmas.

The singularly most important gift for mariners this year is a marine GPS navigation system. With the intended termination of Loran-C signals set for as early as Jan. 4, 2010, marine GPS units will be a necessity to any boater who currently relies on the Loran-C system for navigation.

"Nothing says 'I love you' to a mariner like the gift of a marine GPS navigation, a Coast Guard approved life jacket, boating safety course or 406 MHz electronic position indicating radio beacon," said Lt. Cmdr. Chris O'Neil, the Coast Guard's chief of media relations. "Regardless of the occasion or holiday, the gifts we recommend this year can save a loved one's life, making them the perfect gift this season, or throughout the year. Diamonds are pretty, and big-screen, high-definition televisions are great for watching the big game, but they won't help you prevent a boating accident, or survive after you've been in one."

Among the Coast Guard's recommended nautical gifts are:

- Marine GPS navigation system
- 406 MHz EPIRB (make sure you register it after purchase, or rescuers may be delayed in reaching you!)
- Coast Guard-approved life jacket (because they float, you don't...)
- handheld VHF-FM radio
- Boating Safety Course (boater education saves lives -- it's a fact)
- Vessel Safety Check (VSC) from the Coast Guard Auxiliary (it's free!)
- Coast Guard approved fire extinguisher
- first aid kit in a watertight container
- seamanship book
- Nautical charts for the areas your favorite mariner frequents
- signaling kit
- life raft with a survival kit

Some of the most valuable gifts don't cost anything but time, such as scheduling a free vessel safety check with your local Coast Guard Auxiliary. For more information on scheduling a free vessel safety check visit To find a boating safety course in your area visit

From the Coast Guard family to yours, Happy Holidays!

In a separate news release, the USCG announces a new service for professional mariners seeking their credentials, a sort of Christmas gift in itself. At various steps of the application process, a seafarer who has provided the coast guard with an email address, will receive numerous, automatically generated status updates of their paperwork. Excellent idea! Geez, I wish Transport Canada would follow suit, especially with their incredibly long delays in regards to the Seafarer Medicals issuance, but I think the boss over there at TC has the initials E.S. if you know what I mean.