Monday, May 30, 2011

Seaspan might benefit from "Miracle"

Now, there is something you don't see everyday. I can't remember the last time there was any form of agreement between the two major political parties in British Columbia - or credit given to the opposition in a high profile speech. But it did happen today in Victoria.

Newly elected Premier of BC, Christy Clark, used her inaugural speech to lend her's, and the Liberal Party of BC's support of a New Democrat Party of BC's motion supporting BC's shipbuilding industry bid for a share of the National Ship Procurement Strategy. The "up to now" silent provincial government has shown a significant spotlight on the issue, which I am sure will help Team Seaspan in their bid for part of the CDN$35 billion dollar worth of work.

Following BC Politics, this generally should come as a shock for most, as two political parties working together is usually kept to the dark corners, well away from media spotlight. Bottom line, good on her and the party for working with people for something that will have a net benefit for BC and all of Canada.

The story below is from CFax, and Yahoo News also has this one, and here is another article on the NSPS from a navy perspective.

Christy Clark supports opposition bill on shipbuilding in first legislature speech since becoming Premier
May 30, 2011

Premier Christy Clark used her first speech after being sworn in as a Member of the Legislature to voice support for a BC shipbuilding contract bid.
That support came in an odd form -- backing a private member's bill from the opposition New Democrats, which in turn called for provincial backing of the local shipbuilding bid. There is only one west coast contender among five companies competing for a piece of the three decade long, $35-billion federal shipbuilding plan.

Within the west coast bid is the owner of Victoria Shipyards.
Only two of the five will get contracts. "This national ship procurement strategy... represents the single greatest opportunity to create a long term, sustainable ship repair environment in this province's history," NDP member Mike Farnworth said in the house Monday morning during debate on his party's bill, "yet what we've seen, I think, has been virtual silence on this issue."

Premier Clark supported the motion, "So I stand today in my first speech in this Legislature as Premier, to say to you, if you are looking for commitment you have it here.... to the members of this house, I say, I am delighted that we have a chance to work together on something where we do truly have common cause."

The bill passed a vote following her Clark's comments. Private member's often fail to gain support from the governing party.

--Ryan Price

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Draggin' up an expensive cod end

A little over four month into full operation, a fisherman took a chunk out of Neptune. Neptune is the $100 millions dollar, publicly funded, scientific underwater observatory, off the coast of Vancouver Island BC, in the Pacific Ocean. The high tech underwater observatory was primarily installed by Alcatel, of France, to study the deep sea environment.

According to news reports, the highly sensitive, and expensive, scientific equipment logged seismic data, to accurately determined that a fishing trawl damaged the equipment. Unfortunately, the said, highly precise and expensive equipment was promptly ripped off the array.

Fishermen were advise to steer clear of the area, and the cable is buried, with the scientific nodes designed to withstand this kind of abuse. But unfortunately the trawl carried off nearly 2 millions dollars worth of scientific equipment. This damage according to Neptune Canada, represents about a 10% capacity of the observatory - the rest of the observatory is running normally.

There is no mention if Neptune Canada has a "no question asked return policy", but perhaps they should. Having worked on trawlers in that area, there is no question that some fishermen has got some nifty piece of expensive looking hardware sitting on his living room table, next to the empty beer bottles. Might be good for stories and discussions, as was the garbage we trawled up when I was fishing, which according to the senior guys aboard, was routine garbage from US submarines, but in this case, UVic might disagree on the garbage comment.

In the mean time, UVic mentioned hiring a ship, with a day rate of $60k, to search for the missing equipment, which they figure is nearby, on the sea floor. I wonder if they will again resolve to using public money to hire foreign ship to do this work as well. More on the story here and here.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

You tubes finds...

Here's a neat little video on some rescues of seafarers from their predicaments.

The same user also posted this short clip on various cool shots of ships and sailors at work on the seas.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Shaky oversight...

If you follow this blog for any length of time, you'll probably agree that I watch a fair bit of movies. The wife and I watch the other day, Inside Job, in hindsight, not the best movie to watch before leaving to work, all those other pressure are enough strain on the whole affair as it is.

The Inside Job is a documentary on the economic meltdown. The authors meticulously details the players and their reckless action which caused, and continue to cause, so much hardship for the larger majority. While these reckless gamblers got bailed out, and still collected obscene amounts of money, the rest of the world continues to suffer, with skyrocketing food and fuel prices and no jobs to pay for these.

Of course one could dwell, at length, on the sheer stupidity of these arrogant assholes, but that's not the point of this post. One of the things that really stuck in my head was the complicity of the industry oversight agencies, into this great train wreck that is the economy.

The credit rating agencies is what I am talking about, who although not directly related to the financial companies, and the products they rate, as a measure of "safety" as an investment product, obviously failed miserably. Even on the days Bears and Sterns and Lehman Brothers failed, the credit rating companies were listing these companies with the best possible credit scores.

The shipping industry, in my humble opinion, might also mirror the financial industry, albeit it is unlikely that it poses such a threat to nations - then again, tell that to a coastal nation where a super sized tanker has run aground. "Arms length" agencies, on their good name alone, are now responsible for the bulk of safety evaluation of a ship, and therefore, also for the most part, the enforcer. I am of course referring to classification societies.

I am, and always have been puzzled by the strange relationship between "Class", the ship, the shipowner and the regulators. To me, it would seem logical that an entity who competes for business from a shipowner, yet may obligate that shipowner to stop cutting corners, is in a direct conflict of interest. Eventually the shipowner will just change class, and after a while that class will be forced to bring down standards, or be withered to oblivion.

I am sure this is not news to anyone, but I think it is a very serious predicament deserving of second look. This "meltdown" has truly exposed some major gaps in reality, and our views of things; perhaps the marine industry ought to see if we are as exposed to serious consequences, as the business models appears to be near carbon copies.

With government regulators unable, or unwilling, to tackle these issues, how are we to make sure ships and shipping is safe. To what point do we continue to repeat the capitalist mantra, "let the market sort it out". It certainly did in the US, rippling around the world like a financial tsunami, unfortunately the third class passengers on the SS Greed are left paying a heavy price.

With a similar industry structure, is it inevitable that this behaviour lead to a calamities to call our own. Or perhaps it already has, but with only a handful of sailors dying, or the environment contaminated for years, there are few people getting worked up.

Family can be "drowned" by lawyers; environmentalist are just nut jobs anyways. The rest, well, the insurance paid out because the ship was classed, and therefore "safe". The shipping company's bottom line probably even looked better for the quarter resulting from the insurance proceeds.... Can you say BONUS time!!! After all, the investors love to hear that "earnings beat expectations"!

I actually wrote this entry quite a while back, but got so busy with work, family and Maritech that I did not get around to posting it until today. During Maritech, a couple of weeks ago, Jeff Smith, National Council Chair of the CIMarE, gave a presentation of Classification societies and their future roles. The paper is excellent in laying out the history and future of class. You can download the paper here.

In the mean time, the documentary trailer for Inside Job is below, the official website is here.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Pictures from Mari Tech 2011

Additional pictures of Mari Tech 2011 can be found here.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Successful Maritech

By all indications, Mari Tech 2011 in Victoria, this past Friday and Thursday, was a definite success, if not an overwhelming success. The papers were enlightening, the exhibitors were making good leads, from the several I approached, and the whole conference was a gold mine for interaction with peers, and networking was excellent, with all levels of the industry being represented.

Picture above - Audience member asks a question of BC Ferries' Greg Peterson.

The overarching backdrop of the conference was of course, the National Ship Procurement Strategy, the Canadian federal government plan to invest about $30 billion dollars in new ships to refurbish the dilapidated ranks of the naval, and civilian government fleet. The technical papers also touch on real uses of LNG at sea, and hybrid designs for ship propulsion, among others.

The weather was mostly cooperating, the venues was perfect, the food good and plenty. I believe the organizing committee is still a bit stunned how well things went, although we have not had our wrap up meetings yet. No scheduling hiccups or other malfunctions and disasters occurred.

Picture right - Techsol's display in the lobby of the conference area.

I was probably most impressed by Day Two’s Lunch Time speaker, Assistant Commissioner Vija Poruks, who gave a well thought out overview of the challenges that the Coast Guard is dealing with and its proposed solutions. I don’t often give Coast Guard credit, but I believe that it certainly merits it as they appear to have a good grasp of their apparent challenges, but more importantly a willingness to change their processes and adopt a different attitude to surmount these. I was expecting the usual bureaucratic dry and evasive “blurbage”, but she was frank and passionate, so I was pleasantly surprise, and wish her the best in representing the Coast Guards goals to the politicians.

Pictured right - A good turnout at the Church and State winery tour and dinner, with a special presentation by Babcock Canada, on the HMCS Chicoutimi transit to Victoria.

Another obviously passionate and knowledgeable individual was Ron Burchett from Corvus Energy. He gave a good presentation on some very dramatic changes in battery technology, and the possibilities this now presents. The potential is illustrated in a later technical presentation by Paul Jammer’s, of AKA, on the Dorothy Foss, the “green tug” in the Port of Los Angeles.

Over in the exhibition area, the best swag prize, was a three way tie, between MAN, Wartsila and Thordon Bearings. But definitely, the most interesting, in our house, with the boys playing with it constantly, was a bouncing widget given out by Babcock Canada.

I actually also found some solutions that I will be following up for my own ship, there as well, so I am looking forward to getting that underway when I get back to work next week. I also met up with one of our supplier’s top dog, Claude of Techsol, in Quebec City. I am pleased to learn that this relatively recent and “local” upstart, and its constant performance, is making great inroads in various markets, on our shores, but also significantly abroad too.

Picture right - At the end of the technical paper presentation on day one, a reception was held, and a great opportunity to mingle with peers.

Jane McIvor was presenting her new magazine, BC Shipping News, filling in the void left by the retirement of BC’s Harbour & Shipping magazine. She has published two editions so far and they look great, full of relevant content. Over at Thordon, Axel was the maestro; and Peter from Belgium was presenting their rugged ABC Diesel engines. Thank you Paul at Viega for the wine, and the numerous colourful stories. And those guys at Young and Cunningham, some of the first participants at Mari Tech 2011, were certainly colourful – good on you.

Personally I was pretty involved in the “delivery” of the event, so I did not get a big chance to interact at will, but certainly appreciated meeting long time visitors and contributors to, like "JK". After almost 7 years of chatting online, we finally met. Good seeing you!

Picture right - George Coman, a fourth year BCIT engineering program student give an overview of his experiences.

I must also give a big “shout out” to Kamen of MAN, Daryl of Memorial Institute, Byron and Glenn at ABB, Andrew at DMSI, Riseley at Wartsila, and Paul at AKA to name a few. Thanks for seeking me out, much appreciated your comments and input. I must also give a shout out to the “usual suspects” I seek out and interact with on routine a basis - always good to see you. Matthias, Russel, etc.

I am also encouraged by CIMarE National Council Chairman Jeffrey Smith (pictured right), who appears to have a good grasp of the challenges the Institute and the industry faces. I feel that he will do a good job advancing some of the issues Marine Engineers face, here in Canada. I am sure the same could also be said of Glenn Walters of Babcock, who is also quite involved with SNAME, especially with their Young Professional mentoring program. I was also excited to hear of MAN’s expanding presence in Canada, thanks Katharina.

All in all, it was a very hectic time leading up to the conference, so I do apologize to my family, for being a bit of a bear during that time. I personally enjoyed this professional experience very much, and gained much from it. I encourage you to attend the next one, to be held next year, in Ottawa, by the Ottawa Branch. Check the main CIMarE website for updates.

From an organizer’s perspective, I encourage those wishing to present a technical papers, or have a booth in the exhibition area, to plan early and express your interest ASAP to the organizing committee. Many companies and presenters felt left out because the event sold out / booked up, so fast.

By the way, if you are interested, the power point presentation utilized in the technical papers presentations, are available online for download, from the main Mari Tech 2011 website. The previous year’s papers are also available, from the main CIMarE website. I will be uploading some pictures as well, shortly.

Thanks also to John, the organizing committee chairman, and the other dedicated volunteer who put in allot of time and energy, putting this event together; Bert, Alicja, Phil, Mike, Tony, David, Roger and Chris. I ended up working alongside Mark Collins quite a bit as well; he did a great job as Master of Ceremonies - Pictured right, thanking Ron Burchett, of Corvus Energy, after his technical presentation.

Thanks all for putting up with me. Hope to see you next time, but of course you're always welcome to send me an email.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

A Mari Twog

So I am not big on the latest gadgets the kids use these days, but since I don't have a Tweet Account, but I do have a Blog, so we call this a Twog.

The day has finally come, and Mari Tech 2011 is now underway. Three speakers have just wrapped up and we are taking a coffee break. The exhibition is looking good with a good interaction from all attendees. I guess the long planning is paying off.

I will be uploading the papers after they are presented, and pictures, on the official Mari Tech 2011 website.