Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sexy coveralls

I use them almost everyday, I have a truckload of them, in many different styles, but I don't always show them the respect they deserve. But this advertisement, I came across a couple of weeks ago, just made me laugh out loud.

Ahhhhhh the seventies, was there a better decade, well ok, the eighties, but this little gem illustrates the height of marine engineering, a time when even "high fashion" and the new sex symbol, if you will, looked to the humble engineer's attire.

I could laugh this ad, and this post, off pretty easily if it wasn't for the fact that I actually know a few engineers still today, who thinks they are the sexy beast of the seventies, except in their oil stained overalls. Ok, granted, my wife does have a strange infatuation with me and diesel soaked coveralls, but if you follow this blog, this is probably not surprising. I certainly do fill the coveralls out, unfortunately, not in the sexy department, but that is for another blog.

There is actually a Wikipedia page on coveralls, the garment was certainly well entrenched in the boiler world of the sea and rail, which was probably the source of its genesis. The term first made it into the Oxford Dictionary in 1792, and has been getting sexier since, as documented in the ad above. Read more about the history of the coverall, overall, or boiler suit, "...if you are man enough" to click it.

I also found another interesting ad, this one is for costume to look like Halloween's Michael Myers. I don't recall why he wore coveralls though. I imagine he was working on a tug, and went crazy at some point - that would certainly be understandable.

PS. I am trying to figure out a "category" to link this blog entry to... but I am stumped !

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Delegation of duties

I am back at work, in full swing. After a quiet winter, on the "work front", I rejoined the ship a couple of weeks ago, and have been up to my ears in work. Partly because the massive mess left by the crews, and their lack of professionalism, working over the winter months on various projects - main engine rebuild, 2 new generators, pipework, etc etc. We are almost all set to sail. The boat is in fine shape for the upcoming season and I don't expect any major issues to creep up on the horizon - finally.

Currently we are going through a process that some of you may be familiar with, it is called "delegation" or as it is officially know, "Delegated Statutory Inspection Program". It is a process where Transport Canada (TC) delegates its responsibility of the oversight of a vessel, to an approved class, Lloyd's Register in this case. I believe this is relatively common for "flags of convenience" nations, but it is a somewhat new approach for Transport Canada. Pretty much all inspections and issuance of certificate, once delegations is approved, will be handle by class. TC reserves the right to drop in, from time to time, to check up on the system. They will still make annual inspections, but the scope of these will be limited and or akin to a Port State Control inspection.

Obviously this simplifies life for many. On a convention ship operating in Canada, the amount of duplicity of the processes were enormous, and sometimes trying, so ultimately the owner / operators will gain from a simplified process. I will only have to deal with one organization during rebuilds and modifications, which will certainly make my life easier.

I believe this style of oversight is well inline with the Government - Transport Canada's objectives, which I believe is to shed as much responsibility for errors as possible, so as to prevent any embarrassing criticism of the government later on - at least that's my take on it.

I don't think deregulation is an appropriate words to use for this situation, but it is a strange thing to be responsible for safety, yet not manage the risk yourself. It is not without precedent, but I do see some issues arising from two business entities, class and the owners, self regulating to some degree. Undeniably, there will always be some form of economical pressure exerted by the parties involved. At some point someone in an office will say, these guys are our clients, or these guys are costing us too much, shop around for a better deal, a more lenient class.

The process of delegation involves a major inspection by TC. Documents and certificates are gone over, historical deficiencies are looked over again, plus the usual walk around inspections for safety and operational condition of the vessel. In our case, three TC were scattered throughout the vessel for two days, while being followed by an additional two inspectors from class. Once completed, TC draws up a list of observations / deficiencies, and then class is tasked to rectify them over a given period. Once class accepts the findings, and agrees to take on the responsibility of the vessel, then TC "withdraws from the picture", occasionally appearing for the above mentioned inspections, and to follow up on the deficiency list generated at the delegation inspection.

In our case, the inspections revealed fewer than anticipated deficiencies, so that was a relief. But on the other hand, we are not done. I expect we will be "delegated" early next week. All in all, an interesting exercise. I am unsure at this time, due to my perspective, how my number one objective, while working aboard - "make home safely, in one piece", will be affected by this transition, only time will tell.

You can read more about the program on the Transport Canada website. Here you will find a list of currently delegated vessels, 129 of them (fully and partially delegated), which includes vessels from most major Canadian ship operators, including the Canadian Coast Guard. In the mean time, I attach the definition of delegation below, from Wikipedia.

" Delegation (or deputation) is the assignment of authority and responsibility to another person (normally from a manager to a subordinate) to carry out specific activities. However the person who delegated the work remains accountable for the outcome of the delegated work.

Delegation empowers a subordinate to make decisions, i.e. it is a shift of decision-making authority from one organizational level to a lower one. Delegation, if properly done, is not
abdication. The opposite of effective delegation is micromanagement, where a manager provides too much input, direction, and review of delegated work.

In general, delegation is good and can save money and time, help in building skills, and motivate people. Poor delegation, on the other hand, might cause frustration, and confusion to all the involved parties. "

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Criminal Negligence charges set sail

The RCMP has finally waffled into the Queen of the North accident, they say the mounties always get their man, but it puzzles me why it took so long to lay charges. BC Ferries' Queen of the North sank on BC's north coast over four years ago, taking two passengers down with it. Four years later, they decide to charge the officer of the watch, at the time of the grounding, with criminal negligence.

I guess the bright side of this story, is that Canada does not rush to jail seafarers, like many countries. Of course, even after four years, and several investigation, I wonder how the "root causes" will be prosecuted. I believe criminal negligence charges and convictions are rather rare in Canada as far as I know, so this as the potential to set a trend. There was an interesting comment on the national paper's website, about how the police officers at the Vancouver airport should be held to the same legal standards.

Now, we know that the story will continue for at least another year. The media interest in this case as been overwhelming, and is sure to sell lots of papers, with the questions bound to be asked on the stand. Perhaps we will hear the "confirmation" of salacious rumors of the going on the bridge, that fateful night. But then again, maybe the layout of the bridge, poor training, improper certification, economic pressure, fatigue, an old ship, or a litany of other contributing factors may ultimately be found the culprit. Regardless I believe it is easier to swallow the more topical explanations, and therefore I suspect the case will proceed like the TSB file, with unanswered questions, perhaps because there is no easy answers, much like the police officers at the airport.

Marine Log's story gets right to the point...

Navigating officer charged in Queen of the North deaths

Four years after the sinking of BC Ferries Queen of the North, Karl Lilgert, the navigating officer responsible for steering the vessel at the time, was charged on Tuesday morning in British Columbia Provincial Court in Vancouver with criminal negligence causing death.

The Queen of the North veered off course on its run to Port Hardy from Prince Rupert and hit the northeast side of Gil Island in Wright Sound at 12:22 a.m on March 22, 2006. Fifty-seven passengers and 42 crew members abandoned ship before it sank, but two people -- Shirley Rosette and Gerald Foisy -- were never found and were declared dead.

This is the first time in Canada someone has been charged criminally for a marine collision involving a passenger ferry, according to spokesman for the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch.

"Mr. Lilgert has been charged on the basis that he was the navigating officer responsible for steering of the vessel at the time of the incident," the spokesman is quoted as saying. He added that the evidence presented after an exhaustive RCMP investigation does not support charges against anyone other than Lilgert.

Defense lawyer Glenn Orris said Lilgert will plead not guilty when he appears in court in Vancouver April 14.

He was released on $5,000 bail on the conditions that he does not come in contact with 17 listed crew members, abstains from operating a vessel in a professional capacity and attends the Grand Forks RCMP detachment within a week for fingerprinting and photographing.

The sinking of the Queen of the North was the subject of investigations by both Canada's Transportation Safety Board and BC Ferries.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rough seas for cruise ships

Two passengers, a German man and an Italian man, are dead, after a so called "freak wave" hit Louis Cruise's MV Louis Majesty. News reports are unclear about the exact location - but off the southern coast of France / North East coast of Spain. The two passengers were killed on March 6th, 2010, by shards of glass and debris, resulting from the ship being hit by three large waves, described as 8 meter tall, hitting the vessel in the north western Mediterranean Sea. The waves broke the ships forward windows, causing flooding on the vessel. Another 6 to 14 passengers were also reported injured. The ship proceeded under its own power back to Barcelona, were the bodies were removed.

The MV Louis Majesty is the ex Norwegian Majesty previously sailing under the Norwegian Cruise Line banner. The DNV registered passenger ship was built in 1992, and now flies the flag of Malta. The 18 year old vessel has just been acquired by Piraeus based Louis Cruise Lines, in October of 2009, and went through two Port State inspections in recent months.

One of those PSC inspection, occurred in December, 2009, at Genoa, Italy, where 15 deficiencies were recorded. The other inspection occurred in Cadiz, Spain on the 20th of January, 2010, they where 7 deficiencies recorded. Although no detention orders were issued, the findings in these two PSC inspections were quite different from the 40 + previous PSC inspections, carried out in the United States, by the US Coast Guard.

The Louis Majesty has a GT of 40,876 tons, is 207 meters long, 28 meter wide and features 10 passenger decks with 732 staterooms. There were reportedly 1,350 passengers, and 580 crew members on board at the time of the accident. The ship was on a 12-day cruise from the ports of Genoa and Marseilles in the western Mediterranean, calling at Tangiers, Casablanca, Tenerife, Lanzarote, Cadiz, Cartagena, and Barcelona. Below, is a you tube video of the accident from on board the vessel.

In other cruise news, "my old alma mater", Royal Caribbean's MV Vision of the Seas, was ordered quarantined just off Buzios, on Brazil's southeast coast, by Brazilian health authorities. This came on March 3rd, due to an outbreak of gastro intestinal issues, principally with the passengers. 1,987 passengers and 765 crew members were ordered to remain on the ship, while anchored near Rio de Janeiro, due to "at least 310 people" coming down with what Royal Caribbean calls "gastrointestinal disorder." The ship later left the port a day later.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Classics, but hardly any diesels

After a successful first showing last year, the Montreal Classic Boat Festival is set to return to the picturesque old port area of Montreal. This year, over 50 classic boats will make an appearance for all to enjoy the fine care of a bygone era's craftsmanship. The founder, and president of the festival is Simon Lebrun, a Master Mariner and Marine Pilot on the St Lawrence River, in Quebec. If you are planning to visit Montreal in late August 2010, why not plan a visit to the show.

Although the majority of the Canadian merchant fleet falls firmly under the "Classic" banner, most will be out earning their keep during this show, but hopefully, the future events will include a vintage laker. Wouldn't that be something.