Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Good thing it was in Canada

Last week, BC Ferries proposed to settled a class action lawsuit, brought on by 40 survivors of the Queen of the North sinking.

In a recent blog entry on the Staten Island Ferry, I made a comment that about $54 million dollars was paid out in claims, by the owners, as a result of that terrible accident, which took 11 lives. Taking a very non scientific formula of 1500 people on board at the time, divide by the payment, you end up with about $36,000 per person.

Over in British Columbia, BC Ferries has reached a deal for $354,000, before lawyer and other fees, that works out to be $3575 per person using our formula above. Only 40 persons are eligible for the settlement, so that means $8,850 per person (the settlement varies by individuals - the Province has a good breakdown). That does not include the settlement reached by the families of the two passengers who perish on the Queen of the North, but still, it is pretty obvious that the Canadian court system is considerably different than their US counterparts.

If I would have survived the sinking, I would be very happy to have my life, but to me, it seems like $8850 before lawyers fees, would barely cover my losses. Between my laptop, phone, ipod, personal effects, not to mention my vehicle, the cost of replacing those articles, would be considerably more. Then there is the long lasting effects of nightmares and trauma, or even the real loss of income, during the several days dealing with this. I must admit that I'm not privy to the full information for this case, but damn, those BC Ferries lawyers are good - or the plaintiff's lawyers were not very well prepared.

This proposed settlement is yet another step towards the end of this affair. There is currently one last big thing to go through now, and that is the criminal trial of the Officer of the Watch, at the time of the sinking. The crown (government) laid charges based on the RCMP's investigation, and now we await the court proceedings. I don't suspect you will hear much news, big fireworks to come from this, or to explain what happened, but the affairs drags on, and it seems, only the lawyers are getting happy...

I believe the settlement is not official yet, and may be subject to revision. Regardless BC Ferries is not commenting publicly on the lawsuit in its press releases.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

From the Coach - A statue would have done just fine

Andrew J. Barberi was an American high school football coach; in 1981, New York City chose to name their newest passenger ferry between Manhattan and Long Island after him, to celebrate his long dedication to the community. Little did they know at the time, that the vessel would become quite well known in its own right.

In 2003 the Andrew J. Barberi, with 1500 passengers on board, plowed into a maintenance pier on the Long Island side of the 25 minute crossing. That accident cost the lives of 11 people and injured a further 70; and the city paid out $54 million dollars in compensation. That accident resulted in the heightened awareness by regulators, to the issue of medical fitness for professional seafarers. The scrutiny of our medical fitness seems to have dramatically increased since then, especially in the Untied States, and also in Canada.

On May 8, 2010, the vessel once again drew the attention of regulators, when it slammed into its Long Island berth at a high rate of speed. Although there were no deaths this time, 40 people suffered injuries, one person was listed as critical. The preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board cited a bad part in one of the propulsion's hydraulic control circuit.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time the Andrew J. Barberi has run into the St George Pier for mechanical reasons. The ferry first took offense with the pier, on April 12th 1995, when another mechanical failure happened. An alert terminal attendant at the time, was credited with averting severe casualties by operating the bridge so as to minimize the ferries impact.

A recently released US Coast Guard Lessons Learned bulletin sheds a bit more light on the most recent accident. Seems the Voith Schneider propulsion units, installed on the Andrew J. Barberi, suffered a lack of love by its engineers. The oil and its filtration system were rarely, if ever, maintained, and as a result the hydraulic system was contaminated. The spool valves were therefore sticking, resulting in sluggish and or unresponsive, eventually causing the propulsion unit to not respond to helm commands.

Bottom line, give the machines some love - or at least include them in your planned maintenance system. Also, note to New York City DOT, keep that Barberi ship away from the St George berth - it seems to have an aversion to it.

You can read the NTSB preliminary report here, you can see the USCG's lessons learned bulletin here. You can find a news story here, about the most recent incident. Pictures of the ship and St George Terminal from online sources.

Andrew J. Barberi
IMO number: 7702762
Owner: City of New York
Operator: Staten Island Ferry/City of New York
Flag : USA
Class : ABS
Builder: Equitable Equipment Company, Madisonville LA and New Orleans LA
Built: 1981
Class and type: Barberi Class passenger ferry
Tonnage: 3335
DWT : 592
Length: 310 ft 2 in (94.54 m)
Beam: 69 feet, 10 inches (21.3 m)
Draft: 13 feet, 6 inches (4.1 m)
Decks: 3
Installed power: 7,000 horsepower (5.2 MW)
Propulsion: Voith Schneider Propeller
Speed: 16 knots (30 km/h)
Capacity: 6 000 pax

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pistons seek Independence

You know you're having a interesting day, when a piston of your engine, winds up going through a nearby roof. Such was the case with Canadian National locomotive 2699, when it was going through the Louisiana town of Independence, earlier this year.

The Dash 9-44CW locomotive is built by GE Transportation Systems based in Erie, Pennsylvania, and features a 4,400 horsepower, V16 turbocharged diesel engine, known as the GE7FDL16. Seems one of those 16 power packs decided to fail, sending the cylinder head airborne into a yard, and the piston crashing through a roof and lodging into the wall of the nearby house. The series of pictures below illustrate the damage.

Right, is a picture of GE's 7FDL16 engine, removed from a locomotive.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

CSL makes SLSC's history book

I got a few emails yesterday, alerting me to a ship grounding in the St Lawrence Seaway. Having been home for some time, I haven't posted much apart from that big update on the main site. I guess they were justified, in drawing my attention to the grounding of CSL's Richelieu, from the warm weather and kids activities, that I have been engrossed in, these last few weeks off the ship.

But little did they know, I was already fully aware. Well, not that I am super on top of things but it was pretty hard to ignore the considerable media attention the incident garnered, clear across the country. Actually, I was kind of surprised by the extensive coverage. National news organizations, CBC, CTV, Globe & Mail, were all over it, the TV networks dedicating considerable live coverage. I guess it was a good thing the ship had, a few months ago, come out of the Turkish shipyard, freshly painted, and at least it look good from far on TV.

Like usual, the news did not satisfy my curiosity on how the accident happened, actually probably raised more questions than anything. But at the end of the day, the vessel had a "basketball size" hole in its hull, which was also tank side, and spilled about 75 tons of heavy fuel oil, just "up river", off the Cote St Catherine lock, near Montreal. Claude Dumais, vice-president of technical operations for Canada Steamship Line, told the CBC, regarding the cause of the accident, "it's under evaluation right now, but it is a mechanical failure at this point in time, more than human error."

The incident closed seaway traffic, and was repordedly the first in the Seaway's 51 year history, which I definitely find surprising. The location of the incident, and what appears to be good preparedness by the Seaway Corporation, seems to have ensure a quick containment to the spill. As I write this, I see on AIS, that the Richelieu is still moored near the Cote St Catherine Locks, and there appears to be no other traffic moving yet.

The 30 year old Richelieu, if I recall the story correctly, is part of four sister ship purchased in October 2009 - Richelieu, Saguenay, Oakglen, Mapleglen. They were previously owned by CSL's competitor, FedNav. All four were tied up, on and off, in Montreal over the last year, undergoing modifications for entry into the Canadian register. Fire broke out in the engine room (purifier room) of one of the vessel, the Oakglen, I believe, during welding activities, causing extensive damage. Except for the Saguenay, all other ships have entered into the Great Lakes trade.

I worked briefly on the Richelieu, just a few months ago while she was undergoing modifications. The ship overall looked a little tired, and in need of some TLC. In the engine room, things were not in bad shape, but certainly seem to suffer a "lack of love" from a steady crew. I suspect the ship, having recently entered in the Canadian register less than two months ago, operating with a new crew, perhaps something went amiss, causing a power failure.

This is also the second grounding for CSL in 8 months, in the seaway. The other occurred to the CSL Assiniboine, back in November 2009. That accident caused considerable damage to that vessel.

I am sure I will know more about the Richelieu's problem shortly, in the mean time, this gives me some anxieties about my responsibilities on our own vessel, also suffering from old age and operating in the tight confines of the seaway - but which probably does not look as pretty on TV. Gulp.

MV Richelieu
Owners : CSL Group Inc.
Managers : VShips Canada
Class : Lloyd's Register
IMO number : 7901150
Flag : Canada (since 01-06-2010)
Ordered : February 1979
Keel laid : April 1980
Launched : October 1980
Delivered : December 1980
Ship type : Bulk carrier
Gross tonnage : 22,734
Net tonnage : 13,049
Deadweight tonnage : 35,630
L.O.A. : 222.49 meters
L.B.P. : 216.75 meters
Width overall : 23.22 meters
Draught : 9.72 meters
Depth : 14.36 meters
Builder : N.V. Cockerill Yards Hoboken
Country : Hoboken, Belgium
Hull number : 893
Engine builder : A/B Gotaverken
Country : Goteborg, Sweden
Main Engine - 1x B&W 6K67GFC
Fuel : Heavy fuel oil & diesel oil
Horsepower : 11,600 bhp or 8,531 kW
Speed : 14 knots
Propeller : 1 variable pitch
Bow thruster : 1 (1,180 hp or 880 kW)
Steering gear : Cort steering nozzle
Ex : (a) Federal Ottawa - Belgium (1991)
(b) Federal Ottawa - Luxembourg (1995)
(c) Lake Erie (3) - Marshall Islands
(d) Richelieu - Marshall Islands

Here are the media stories on the Richelieu - CBC, CTV, Globe & Mail, Boatnerd, Radio Canada, Toronto Star, and Canwest as well as the newswire; the press release from the St Lawrence Seaway Corp. Picture above from CTV, all others from my own collection. Here you will find some interesting tidbits and pictures of the ships shortly after purchase by CSL, laid up in the port of Montreal.