Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mmmm. From the soapbox !

I don't normally deviate from maritime themed blog entries, but if I feel that a certain topic is very important to us all, especially Canadians, then it is well worth it. One such topic is copyright and intellectual property issues. As a web publisher - creator of unique media, and also of an avid consumer of various forms of media, this is a very relevant topic for me and one which I have followed for quite some time.

The reason I mentioned it here, is that on my last flight across the country, to catch my ship, I watched a really informative documentary called "RIP: A remix manifesto", which highlights the many aspects of the modern dilemma that is "copyrights" and "intellectual property", and how these topics have been hijacked, putting our collective culture in peril.

In light of the current Canadian federal government about to propose new laws, addressing this topics, I believe it is crucial for you to educate yourself on the issues. These proposed laws are expected to be draconian and mirroring the United States' copyright laws, favoring mega corporations' interests, rather that the effects of these laws on their people and culture.

One way to educate yourself, is to watch this entertaining documentary film by local Vancouver Island boy, Brett Gaylor, partly produced by the National Film Board. Although it use music as its protagonist, the film illustrates the far reaching impacts of these decisions, into every aspect of our lives. You can view it online for free, or check your library / video store for a copy. Another way to inform yourself, is to follow Michael Geist's website, where you will find much information on the subject, and links to other sites, where you can take action, or just take it all in.

If you are really hardcore, you can read the Wikileaks page on ACTA, and download the secretive treaty "talks" on the subject. You can also download various leaked version online.

Did you know that every time you sing the traditional "happy birthday to you" song, you are committing a crime in the United States. The rights to that song belongs to Warner Chappell a division Warner Music, which, by the way, makes about 3.5 billion dollars a year, and they would like their $700 from you, before you sing it to your kid. Or perhaps we should hide our home movies of last year back yard birthday party, in fear of getting sued for unlawfully using it, such as they have done to countless people in the US.

Anyways, I think you get the point... educate yourself, take action where you see injustice.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fame, perhaps fortune

The article below, recently published in Canadian Sailings Magazine, caught my eye, because it involves a good news story, about a burgeoning Canadian ship operator, who has given me some "great" memories. Great Lakes Feeder Line has recently taken possession of the a 1991 built vessel, destined for their Canadian market. Turns out their new ship has a bit of a storied past, which I am sure almost all of you will recall.

Great Lakes Feeder Lines adds second ship

Arctic Sea can carry bulk, breakbulk, project and containerized cargoes, May 10, 2010

Great Lakes Feeder Lines has added a second ship. The Burlington, Ont.-based company took delivery of the MV Arctic Sea in Malta in mid-April. It joins the Dutch Runner in the GLFL fleet. The Arctic Sea, built in 1992, is an Ice Class 1A vessel that can operate in some of the most stringent ice conditions. The 97.8-metre-long ship has a carrying capacity of 4,705 tons and can transport bulk, breakbulk, project and containerized cargoes.

The ship has two box-type holds covered by hydraulically operated hatch covers. It can carry 270 containers, and has 21 reefer sockets. Its gear includes two cranes located on the port side, each with a lifting capacity of 25 tonnes and a combined capacity of 45 tonnes.

Given the uncertainty of the future of the 25-per-cent duty levied on vessels imported into Canada, GLFL said it has decided to sail the ship under the Barbados flag with a mix of Canadian and Filipino crew. The vessel will serve international markets throughout Canada and the U.S.

GLFL’s business model calls for European feeder-style multipurpose ships. The Arctic Sea is well suited to carry coils, aluminum ingots, steel products, lumber, heavy or over-sized project cargo, grain and other bulk commodities, and containers.

The Arctic Sea is no stranger to media attention. In summer 2009, it was the subject of a hijacking alert off the Swedish coast. The ship disappeared for two weeks and became a daily news item in Europe as conspiracy-like theories abounded. Although the vessel finally reappeared, the mystery has yet to be officially solved.

The story can still be traced on numerous websites including: and newwars.

After GLFL took delivery of the Arctic Sea, the vessel proceeded to load a cargo of bulk material in Greece destined for discharge in the province of Quebec in mid-May.

MV Arctic Sea

IMO number: 8912792
Call Sign : 8PWS
MMSI : 314320000
Type of ship : General Cargo Ship
Year of build : 1991
Flag : Barbados
Class : Germanischer Lloyd
Owner / Operator : Great Lakes Feeder Lines
Builder : Sedef Shipyard, Istanbul, Turkey
Completed : 1992[2]
Tonnage : 1,618 tons (NT), 4988 (GT)
Displacement : 7167 tons
Length : 97.80 m
Beam : 17.33 m
Draught : 5.62 m
Depth : 7.01 m
Propulsion : 1 diesel engine
Speed : 12.50 knots
Crew : 15
Prior Names:
1991 : Okhotskoye
1996 : Zim Venezuela
1998 : Alrai
1998 : Torm Senegal
2000 : Jogaila
2005 : Arctic Sea

You can read more about the Arctic Sea here, and visit GLFL's website here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In celebration of the besieged element of shipping

As you may, or may not know, this year has been dedicated to the human element of shipping - The Seafarer.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has dedicated this year to The Seafarer. The theme refers the to the general direction of the World Maritime Day. World Maritime Day 2010 will be observed during the week of 20 to 24 September 2010 and will be celebrated at the Organization's Headquarters, in London, on Thursday, 23 September 2010, with a parallel event being celebrated in Argentina.

Here is a blurb about it from the IMO press release.

" The theme - to be celebrated throughout the year and also at a World Maritime Day parallel event in Argentina - was selected to give IMO and the international maritime community the opportunity to pay tribute to the world's seafarers for their unique contribution to society and in recognition of the risks they shoulder in the execution of their duties in an often hostile environment.

In proposing it, Secretary-General Mitropoulos said that "the unique hazards confronting the 1.5 million seafarers of the world - including pirate attacks, unwarranted detention and abandonment - coupled with the predicted looming shortage of ships' officers, make it ever more incumbent to take immediate and effective action to forestall a situation from developing in which ships are not manned with sufficient skilled personnel".

The theme complements IMO's ongoing "Go to Sea!" campaign to attract new entrants to the shipping industry, which was launched in November 2008 in association with the International Labour Organization, the "Round Table" of shipping industry organizations and the International Transport Workers' Federation.

It is also in line with the comprehensive review, initiated in 2006, of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) 1978 and
its associated Code, updated texts of which are due to be considered by a Diplomatic Conference scheduled to be held in Manila, Philippines, in mid-2010. Once adopted, the proposed amendments to the STCW Convention and Code will provide the necessary global standards for the training and certification of seafarers to man technologically advanced ships, today and for some time to come. "

Past themes have included "Sea's the Future" (2007), "IMO: 60 years in the service of shipping" (2008), "Climate Change" (2009). World Maritime Day celebrations is documented here. Please see the IMO website for more information on GO TO SEA! campaign. Here is the Secretary General of the IMO, announcing the theme.

The trade publication, Lloyd's List, is also celebrating Seafarers by requesting sea stories from active seafarers, to be published in 'The List'. Click here for more information. Bimco is a strong supporter of the events and has some more information in line with the theme.

Picture of the The Seafarer's Memorial, Wakefield Quay, Nelson, South Island, New Zealand by David Wall.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A brat in my backyard

Well its been a couple of weeks since my last tweet, sort of speak. In that time, I, and the domestic compensation unit, aka "the wife", have been very busy in the back yard, turning it into a safe and cozy refuge from the "stormy seas" outside. This entailed building about 200 feet of wood fencing, and about a dozen pick truck loads of whatever, but always damn heavy. With the rainy weather upon us this week, I hope to catch up on my blog, as a few items has been catching my eye of late.

One of which is practically in my own back yard, as it turns out. This year the International Tug and Salvage (ITS 2010) convention is in Vancouver, first time in a very long time. At the conference, Vancouver based Naval Architecture firm Robert Allan Ltd (RAL) is announcing, along with partners Corvus Energy and Western Maritime Institute (WMI), a world first. Western Maritime Institute, practically my neighbor, located in Ladysmith, BC, will begin offering a DNV certified commercial advanced tug and pilot ship-handling courses, the first of its kind in the world.

The program is schedule to begin in 2011 with the delivery of two new "z drive" tugs. The tugs are the brainchild of Ladysmith based ship uber-modeler Ron Burchett and Robert Allan Ltd. and carry the BRAtt moniker.

The first one built by Adrenalin Marine, of Delta, BC, is a direct diesel-powered, which is on display at ITS 2010. It is a 7.8 metre long vessel, and features a 450 horsepower diesel along with most of the features of a full size, and much more expensive, z drive tug, in extensive use today. Although it is primarily designed as a training vessel, the tug is also designed to work as well; yarding, boom deployment, line handling and what have you.

The second and third tugs will be super green, meaning that WMI will not only be a world leader in "z drive tug" training, but also one of the first to operate an all electric tug, and a hydride diesel electric tug. The RAL press release reads... "Corvus has developed the electrical propulsion power systems for both these vessels in close collaboration with Robert Allan Ltd. These design options offer the best of both worlds, one fully emission free, electric-powered vessel and one fuel-efficient, diesel-electric hybrid vessel."

I think this is another fantastic showcase of West Coast Canadian technology and innovation from some well known "can do" Canadian entities. And to think, its practically in my back yard, which by the way is now fully fence in a beautiful cedar fence.

You can read the press release from Robert Allan Ltd here, Western Maritime Institute`s website is lacking, which is completely understandable, as Capt Kitching and his cohorts at WMI, a very busy coming up with new and innovative training products; but you can find out more about the institute on my main website. Corvus Energy, based in Richmond, BC, has more information on their batteries and management system, at their website.

Pictures are from RAL of the BRAtt, and Ron Burchett is also pictured, from internet sources.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Rick Mercer Does Lobstering

Not marine in the big ship sense, but it is Rick Mercer at his best, probably out of it on Gravol!!
I can't believe he managed to do the bait without being sick!

Monday, May 03, 2010

How to screw a pooch

Unless you have been hiding under a rock these last two weeks, you are no doubt aware of the terrible accident on the oil drilling rig Deepwater Horizon. The rig was owned by Transocean, and under contract to BP (British Petroleum) drilling a well, about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana. On April 20th, 2010, there was an explosion around 10pm, and the rig burned violently for two days before sinking. The riser was found damaged and leaking crude at numerous places; the blow out preventer is non functioning and therefore oil continues to flow from the well, 5000 feet below the surface at an estimate rate of about 4,000 cubic meters a day.

Obviously there is little insight I can offer from my distant home, but I would like to comment on how I see this will do some serious damage to the reputation of the offshore biz, in particular the darlings of the fleet, the ultra deep, modern drilling rigs and ships.

Transocean was no small player, BP not a small player, the Gulf of Mexico not a remote outpost, but a central hop and skip away from the offshore meca that is the Gulf Coast. So what went wrong, I haven't got a clue, and no one seems to be sharing that piece of news in the daily and lengthy media broadcasts. One thing is for sure, the blow out preventer, the heart of every well since the beginning of drilling, failed in a major way.

With it, went the apparently untouchable image that technology was solving all the variables of offshore drilling. The well crafted, fancy, flashy picture of rugged men wearing all sort of PPE, while handling all sort of deepwater challenges without effort or mishaps due to the state of modern, well maintained equipment, has been forever tarnished, that is for sure.

It is apparent that the well, currently gushing sweet crude, will not be getting under control anytime soon. I think this will become a major incident, definitely a turning point in the industry. The realization of the impacts will becomes so much more palpable by a greater populace because of accessibility, and because of information technology.

The fact that a much wider swath of population will be affected, vis a vis the last great American oil tragedy, the Exxon Valdez which occurred in a remote Alaskan sound, will ensure a greater impact on the offshore oil industry. The full commercial effects of the Exxon Valdez are just now coming in to full force. People on the Gulf Coast, often the leaders of the "drill, baby drill" chants, will become grossly affected and the state of the industry will be sent into a significant introspect. It has to.

Ultimately, 11 people died; 115 evacuated safely. The oil that is gushing form the well, is ultimately very old vegetation, dinosaur bones, etc. It is sweet light crude, rather than heavy bitumen, or sour crude. The gulf coast does have ample assets at the disposal. BP is well capitalize, still a "super major". The environmentalist will have a field day; lots of dead turtles and sea life damage for the evening news.

I am very anxious to get past the hype, and get to what actually happen. Many have said that the rush to drill, the lackluster approach to maintenance, and even perhaps cavalier attitude towards safety is to blame. I believe these will have some impact on the report, but ultimately this is an accident the industry could of done without.

I also think BP must be reassessing its odds after a third major accident in that area, the others being Thunderhorse and the Texas City refinery.

BP and Transocean both have dedicated significant space of their respective websites to inform the public of what is happening, and there is also a response website, from the unified response command. Transocean has also a web site for the men killed. You will find the stats on the Transocean Deepwater Horizon here, and here is the Wikipedia page. The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article that puts the accident in context, in particular, what appears to be a systemic failure in their safety and maintenance systems. There is of course a plethora of news articles surrounding the accident.

You can also see some shots of the accident on the Marine Picture Archive area of the main site.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Another Life Lost in the Maritimes

Everyday during the fishing season, these men go to sea in their 50 foot vessels, trying to make a living.

When the boats are lost, there is a one pager in the local rag that may only be seen in the area and the rest of the world is not aware of how many lives are being lost.

These men are incredibly brave to carry on, because there is no doubt in my mind that if they haven't lost a member of their own family, then they know of someone who has been lost at sea.

In small communities all over Atlantic Canada, there are Fishermen Memorials, with the names of the lost engraved on them. My heartfelt sympathy to the family of Yvon Boudreau

Boat sinks, fisherman drowns
By LAURA FRASER Cape Breton Bureau,

Three rescued on lobster season’s 1st day

Tragedy struck the first day of the lobster fishing season in northwestern Cape Breton Saturday when a 59-year-old man died after a boat sank beneath him and three other men.

Local residents identified the deceased as Yvon Boudreau of Cheticamp, father-in-law of Marcel Aucoin, the owner of the Craig & Justin.

Aucoin and the two other crew members, Roger Camus and Willie Deveau, were taken to Sacred Heart Hospital in Cheticamp. Two of the men were treated and released. One remained i
n hospital in stable condition Saturday afternoon.

The 13-metre boat began sinking about three kilometres from the shore of Margaree Harbour around 7 a.m., RCMP spokeswoman Brigdit Legere said Saturday. It was submerged 20 minutes after it started taking on water.

When nearby fishermen realized the crew of the Craig & Justin was in trouble, they changed course to help their comrades, she said.

The 4,000 people in the Cheticamp area rely on the ocean as one of the main providers of industry.

The first day of the season is considered one of the most dangerous for fishermen, as th
eir boats are loaded down with traps and heavy cables.

Leger would not say whether the boat had too many traps aboard, or what caused the sinking.

"We will look at all angles to determine the cause of this tragic accident," she said. "But right now we’re still in the preliminary stages of the investigation."

The news of Boudreau’s death rocked this tight-knit fishing community, said Daniel Boudreau, an Inverness County councillor.

"The community’s quite in shock," he said. "The fishermen are going to take it hard. They’re going to be a nervous lot."

He said he knows the four fishermen well but is not related to the deceased.

About 10 years ago, a man in his 30s became tangled in a cable while setting traps on the first day of the season, the municipal councillor recalled, speaking slowly and with obvious emotion about both accidents.

"It’s dreadful," he said. "Every time it happens, it’s just tragic."

The president of the North of Smokey-Inverness South Fishermen’s Association said all the fishermen in Cape Breton are thinking of the four men and their families.

"Everybody that makes their living from the ocean really feels it when something like this happens," Robert Courtney said.

"We do have our differences from time to time out on the water and everywhere else but at a time like this everyone feels bad for it, and condolences go out to the family."

Courtney said he could not comment on whether he thought that any new regulations might make the first day of the season safer.

He said all of the men on board the Craig & Justin spent their lives on the water and proved themselves to be experienced fishermen.

"(Boudreau) fished all his life and managed to get through all that, and (was) always very cautious from what I could see," Courtney said.

The provincial fisheries minister also extended his sympathy to the men and their community.

"There are a lot of opportunities to have training and I encourage people to have that (and) to be familiar with their boats and equipment," Sterling Belliveau said.

"It is a sad day, and we have to endure these things, and then slowly try to move forward."
pictures from various internet resources

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Oil biz is risky, duh !

I came across this insightful article from my Offshore Engineer magazine, and thought it would be well worth sharing, in light of what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico, with Transocean's Horizon semisub rig. You can read a short bio on Matt Simmons here, and his website is here, where he has the actual presentation, a sobering look at the oil n gas biz, written about below, available for download. I particularly find his comment on water, striking a chord for me.

Risky business
Jennifer Pallanich, Offshore Engineer, February 2010

Investment banker and industry thought leader Matt Simmons pondered the sustainability of the oil & gas business at January’s Aon-sponsored Energy Risk Symposium in Houston. Jennifer Pallanich listened in.

Noting how risky the oil & gas industry is and has been, Simmons & Co International chairman Matt Simmons described wildcatting as ‘a game that wouldn’t attract anybody in Las Vegas’.

‘There’s no aspect of this business that’s low risk,’ he said, adding the industry has only grown riskier over the years. Additionally, the industry’s 20-year depression, from 1982-2002, had created a generation of risk-averse leaders. ‘I suspect the risk factor today in this industry is about four times what it was when I entered the industry 40 years ago,’ he said.

'“Houston, we have a problem” is beyond question.’A leading contributor to risk is the lack of transparency in numbers, according to Simmons. ‘We live in a world of obtuse data.’ For instance, he said, there are no third-party audits for over 90% of the world’s proven hydrocarbon reserves and no data on the same percentage of the most important oil and gas fields. For countries that refuse to make their field data transparent, he suggested adding a tax per barrel of exported oil. At a $50/bbl surcharge – a number he said he made up on the spot – for lack of transparency on each exported barrel, he said, every country would post their details ‘within a week’.

Placing additional strain on the world’s supply is the International Energy Agency’s estimate, from its World Energy Outlook 2008, that the current production base of 85 million b/d will dwindle to 25 million b/d by 2030. Simply to continue supplying 85 million b/d through 2030 would require finding the equivalent of four new Saudi Arabias, he said, and the equivalent of six just to grow to 90 million b/d.

‘None of this is remotely possible,’ Simmons declared. ‘“Houston, we have a problem” is beyond question,’ he said, adding that a large-scale energy crisis could morph into social chaos or war.

Another risk ‘remains hidden’, he said: rust. That is, he clarified, the industry’s aging infrastructure, especially because many companies ended ‘robust’ maintenance routines years ago.

Finally, the unconventional reserves may not be the blessing they were once believed to be, for several reasons. Some have considered these reserves to be an energy bridge into the next century, he said. This notion, he added, is based on belief in a number of figures that aren’t verified.

Where are the facts?

Simmons cited the US Geological Survey’s figures for reserves in the Bakken Shale in North America. In 2008, the USGS reported the play held 3-4.3 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil assessed, which is 25 times more than its 1995 estimate. Also, many seem to think the Canadian oil sands and tar sands will ‘last forever’ and that the industry will soon figure out ways to extract kerogen from another shale play in the US. ‘These “facts” lack any data to verify these beliefs. They’re just beliefs,’ he said.

An additional reason for concern is water – and not just in the realm of unconventional reserves. In three and a half years, Simmons said, the industry damaged 70 billion barrels of potable water to create the slurry necessary to frac over 10,000 wellbores in the Fort Worth Basin. Water scarcity will become a bigger issue, he believes, especially given that a 300,000b/d refinery uses nearly twice that in water. ‘Energy’s water use has traditionally been free, and soon this wasteful practice has to stop,’ he said. ‘Oil is precious, water is priceless.’

If water is a resource to be saved, it also may be a savior. ‘Ocean energy is our last energy frontier,’ he said, noting most renewables are more sustainable offshore than on land. ‘Offshore wind is infinitely more powerful and sustainable than onshore wind.’

Right now, only 1% of the world’s wind power is generated offshore. But he’s keen enough on offshore wind that he founded the Ocean Energy Institute in 2007 as a think-tank and venture capital fund to address the challenges of US offshore renewable energy. That group has put together a project in the Gulf of Maine – sometimes referred to as the ‘Pickens Plan Plus’ – that will turn kilowatts and ocean water into hydrogen and liquid ammonia, a transport fuel.

‘We’re the only one we know of that has figured out all these steps,’ Simmons later told OE. He expects to have three small turbines in the water for testing by year-end. The state of Maine is also expected to award offshore wind tracts by the end of the year, he said.