Thursday, September 29, 2011

Earning Heaven, one major appliance at a time !

This is a letter to my technical superintendent, that I wrote the other day. He did not ask for it, but I assumed he would have, after seeing the bill for three laundry dryers. It exemplifies how the simple things ashore, like doing laundry, are just so much more complicated on a ship.

Graphic from Kenmore (internet)
" Like all things on board this vessel, a seemingly simple, straightforward task, turned out to be a very labour intensive, costly, painful and thoroughly unsatisfying experience. The task was to replace a very noisy and worn out dryer in the officer bathroom, the only one on board.

The day started at about 8 am, with the complete dismantling of the old dryer and removal of it, from the space; no easy feat considering the maximum door and bulkhead clearance of only 22 inches wide by 22 inches long. By the time the space was cleared, Dave, our friendly ship chandler showed up with the dryer the previous crew had ordered. I proceeded to unpack it, and take it apart completely.

Once the components were all apart, they were hauled up to the officer deck, where the welded construction of the basic frame proved problematic. So, chisel in hand, the welds were broken, and the base finally squeezed into the officer bathroom. As I was putting it together, it occurred to me that the dryer appeared bigger than the one that came out. With measuring tape in hand, and many colourful expletive, the awful truth was plain to see, the dryer width was 2 inches too wide, to fit into the tight space available.

So, everything was then taken back down the main deck, the frame was refastened with rivets, the dryer rebuild to its original shape, and a call to our chandler, requesting a smaller 27 inch wide max dryer, was made.

In the mean time, the smaller "high efficiency" washer, ordered for the crew bathroom to replace the broken one there, was also on deck; so we started on that project.. Like the upper deck, the door sizes are maximum 22 inches wide (with the door removed), so the old unit was dismantled in the bathroom, and cart off through the engine room piece by piece and out onto the deck. The new washer was, thankfully, slightly "thinner" and gave us about one inch of play, with only taking the front off and several assemblies; a very fortunate state because these machine are very complicated inside.

Once inside the bathroom, we felt somewhat prideful, "eh! something going our way", relatively easy... for once. Well, that feeling was short lived. After putting the unit back together, and placing it in its proper spot, we spent over one hours trouble shooting why the machine would not work. It would appear that the water temperature sensor would be buggered, and giving an out of range reading, the controls does not allow the machine to work without it.

So with another, "failure to launch" under our belt, we started tackling the second dryer that had, by that time, arrived on the dock. With tape measure in hand, double checking the sizes of the new unit, we felt pretty good that this might actually work.

The new dryer was almost identical in the construction and shape of the one that had come out. So we proceeded to take that dryer apart on the back deck, this dryer was obviously very cheaply built, and after quite a few cuts from the paper thin sheet metal, and many colourful descriptions of Chinese craftsman skills, we finally got the base of the dryer into the officer bathroom upstairs, and rebuilding was underway.

The largest component of the dryer is the drum, and as it turns out, this drum, although being nearly identical to the previous one, was slightly bigger, by about one inch in diameter, and about one inch in length. Try as we might, that piece would not fit through the main door, so the bearing assembly was taken out, then the door, but alas once we got it in the accommodations, it would not fit through the bathroom door. So once again, all the piece were taken back down, and the machine reassembled on the back deck, with the ship chandler already called to pick up to return it. At this point, 8 pm, I am pretty exhausted and thoroughly defeated by this dryer and washer, and much worst off then when we started the day.

I cannot see any way to order a new dryer via normal purchasing channels, all the factors to gauge are, obviously, difficult to communicate - no welded construction, max widths (I thought that was standard at 26-27 inches) and a max drum size, depending on its appendages.

My hope, is to go in person, tape measure in hand, looking for one at our next port, and try to find something that will fit. In the mean time, the ship chandler has two new dryers which look good, and have never been used, but unfortunately have had every piece inside taken apart and moved around, and a bit of blood left on them. How to deal with the monetary aspect, I think is best left to your judgment.

The new washer, I kept on board, because I was burnt out and did not want to take it apart to move again, since we have another washer. I followed up with the Whirlpool people the next day, on their 1 800 customer service phone number, and the chap on the other end vehemently told me that machine does not have a Water Temperature Sensor. The machine though, tells me otherwise, and I can plainly see the sensor, and its failed Ohm reading. I have followed up with another parts supplier, and he assures me a new part is available, actually, 13 in all of North America. I have placed a rush requisition for one of these in our purchasing system.

When this saga ends with a properly working dryer on board, the cost will have probably rivalled a NASA dryer, but be that as it may, it is very difficult to deal with the ship's welded structures. However, with 11 men working aboard and one working washing machine, I doubt NASA will be able to match our ship's interesting interior decor. "


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Danger, what danger

The beauty of working in the maritime field is that there is always something new to learn about. The other day I heard about the German Rescue Tug Nordic; so, nothing new here, its another tug, big deal, you might say. Well this one is pretty technologically advance, because of what it can do, in what situation.

By now, we've learn to built some pretty powerful tugs that can operate in some pretty nasty weather conditions. We've also learned to make sure crews are safe and secure while performing their tasks; and some have even learned that a comfortable crew is also good. - so your saying to yourself, what's the big deal with the Nordic. With a bollard pull of just over 200 tons, and a massive size to handle any seas, the Nordic would be impressive enough if it wasn't for the fact that it can work within an explosive or even toxic atmosphere.

Ever since I heard of the Deepwater Horizon and the engines cutting out, due to the gas rich environment around them, I've been wondering about how they could have prevented that power failure. Why was the rig so vulnerable, even though it is far likely for this condition to occur on a rig, how can it be that engineers had not designed something better.
"Brown, for instance, says he heard a hissing noise, and gas alarms, before the explosion. The rig’s engines, which supplied power for all its operations, had begun to rev out of control."
Comments by Second Engineer, on board the drill rig Deepwater Horizon, from congressional testimony. CSmonitor.com 
Having had a steady power supply throughout the the ordeal on board Deepwater Horizon may not have save the disaster from happening, but when you have a steady power supply, you certainly increase your options for response.

The two MTU 8000 propulsion engines, and the two MTU 2000 engines providing electrical power for the Nordic are designed, and tested, to operate in a toxic and explosive environment. The technical specification and systems to make this happen are, in my mind, astounding. I wont repeat what's already written in MTU promotional material, but you can judge for yourself by reading it here, and here. One part of the problem, you have to make sure all your intake, exhaust, surface, etc, etc, temperatures are cooled below 135 degree Celsius - easy to do, eh!


The technology involved in this ship is mind boggling, and not just in the engine room either. The whole accommodation is a safe area, with its own fresh air supply, designed to last 8 hours in a toxic / hostile environment, using a Citadel concept.

When I read the promotional material from the companies involved in this project, you also get  a sense of a different attitude towards the crew. You might call it "progressive". For instance have a look at the pictures, not too many gray hairs in there, the master must be all of 35 years old. Have a look at the accommodations stats...
" Accommodation is provided for a crew of 12 and a ‘boarding’ team of four in 16 single cabins and 12 apprentices in six double berth cabins. The cabins for the Captain and Chief Engineer include a lounge and office and are located along with the other officers’ cabins on ‘C’ deck, just below the bridge.
Provision is made for four supernumeraries that may include owner’s representatives, instructors or similar personnel. Separate dayrooms are provided for the officers and crew, and other facilities include mess and dinning areas, a large galley and pantry, a treatment room, hospital, a conference/recreation/classroom, changing rooms and extensive dry and frozen storage arrangements. A dedicated garbage area enables refuse to be stored for disposal ashore. "
This paragraph is just part of an excellent article detailing the many features of Nordic, which can be found here.
Notice anything that seem a bit unusual for a modern shipping company, never mind a tug outfit. Cadet berths, training room, accommodations for instructors, who are these people? and what are they thinking! Granted its a government contract... but still. The managing company, Bugsier based out of Hamburg, Germany (yes, that country with social medicine and other civil measure that treat workers like humans, that are apparently too expensive an too generous to succeed in other jurisdictions) even proclaim that workers are valuable, on their home page! ...and more importantly, go on to back up that statement.
" Easily getting qualified personnel for a towing company can not be taken for granted. Working routines on tugs differ significantly from those on merchant vessels. Towing operations ask for a combination of expertise and experience. Therefore all important functions on our vessels are staffed with in-house trained and educated ratings.
The company’s training department and the training quality is second to none in Germany thus safeguarding Bugsier’s ultimate professional quality for the long term. " 
How can this be, a tug company training people, thinking about the future and providing their people with the best tools possible, and in today's "financial world". Heresy, they will crash and burn, the accountants and MBAs will not allow this blasphemy to continue. Oh wait, they've been doing it for the last 145 years.

I digressed a little there, sorry about that. But I get worked up when I see "crap", and we are asked to put up with it because other things are not "possible". Everything is possible, you just have to see more that the next quarter in advance, or your own personal limits. Possible is not always easy. Those committed to strong ideals of personal gain, well, you'll have to go now, your system does not work, and those committed to strong ideals of quality and progression must retake their rightful place in leadership.

You can read more details about this amazing vessel, and its work, here

MV Nordic

IMO : 9525962
Vessel type : Salvage / Rescue Vessel
Owner : Bugsier, Fairplay Towage and Unterweser – joined by Wiking Helikopter
Under contract to German Government for 10 years
Manager : Bugsier
Flag : Germany
Class : Germanischer Lloyd, 100 A5 IW TUG MC AUT
Build year : 2010
Builder : Ps Werften Wolgast, Wolgast, Germany
Breadth : 16,40 m
Draft : 6,00 m
Gross Tonnage : 3374 t
DWT : 2115
Length overall : 78,00 m
Bollard Pull : 201 t
Speed : 19,90 kn
Bunker Capacity : 1050 m³
Propulsion : 2x MTU 20V8000 M71L GSB (8600kW Normal Operation, 4000kW in gas protected operation)
Propulsion Type : Reduction Gear with 2 Berg CPP
Electrical : 2x shaft generator (2000kVa), 2x MTU 2000 (1350kVa) 1x Harbour Generator (350kVa), 1x Emergency Generator (125kVa)
Thrusters : 2 bow, 1 stern (800kW each)
Plus, plus, plus...

Pictures from various internet sources. More.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Two killed in engine room fire


The MV Nordly drama continues to unfold in Alesund, Norway. The ship was reported rocked by an explosion, which occurred shortly after 9 am on September 15th, 2011, in the engine room of the 11,204 GT cruise ferry ship. The ship is operated by Norway based Hurtigruten (aka Norwegian Coastal Express), but is owned by Bergen based Kirberg Shipping, a company backed by the Odfjell ship-owning family.

The fire, described by the local fire chief as "big and intense" has killed 2 persons, presumably engine room crew members, and sent another 12 to hospital, two of them with serious injuries. The ship's 207 passengers, and 55 crew members, were evacuated "in an organized and orderly" manner, shortly after the start of the emergency, 100 by lifeboat, the rest when the ship reached the dock in Alesund.

The fire, contained to the engine room, was brought under control, after 12 hrs, by local fire brigade, and specialized firefighting / salvage teams from SMIT in Holland.

A "mysterious hole" was found in behind the stabilizer, apparently unrelated to the fire, flooding two of the ship's hold, causing a severe list to port. News report say the flooding has been brought under control, and the vessel has regained most of its even keel. Police have been aboard and are investigating, and news report state the police are unconvinced that an explosion occurred.

The 12,000 hp, DNV classed Nordlys was built in Germany in 1994, and is powered by twin MaK 6M552 engines on variable pitched propellers. It operates on the Bergen - Kirkenes route, covering nearly the entire western coast of Norway in seven days. It has a capacity for 691 passengers, 55 crew members and 50 cars. The ship is expected to be towed to nearby Fiskerstrand shipyard, for repairs. The ship has two sister ship in operation for the same company.

Video and pictures from various internet sources. The company has posted contact information for those affected by this event here. Here, here and here are more articles on the event. You can see more pics here.

Update - Sept 18, 2011

Dead, are 18-year-old Marine Engineer Apprentice, Steffen Ulvatne, ten days into his apprenticeship, and came from Honningsvag in Finnmark, and 57-year-old Geir Terje Isaksen of Tverlandet outside Bodø, who was Chief Engineer of the MV Nordlys, he leaves three children behind. More.

My sincerest condolences to their family.

Two other men, aged 54 and 28 years old, remain in Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen, with severe fire and smoke damage. The ship has been stabilized, recovered from 22 degree list it precariously laid, alongside, in Alesund harbour. Salvage of the contents of the vessel has now begun.

More Pictures on scene.

Fall is here, now get to work !

Whoooaaa what a long time between posts! A whole month.

Yes, the later part of the summer in BC was absolutely gorgeous, which went very well with all the family activities that occurred during my last time off - weddings, BBQs, birthday parties, road trip, etc. These websites are of course my hobby, so unfortunately for my regular visitors, that meant a lack of new stuff, here especially.

Well, the kids are back in schools now, and I caught the "red eye" flight to Quebec City a few days ago, joining the ship, for a load of Jet Fuel to Montreal. The weather is certainly allot cooler here, then when I left in mid august, which is welcomed and refreshing. I did not neglect the entire site during my last month home. I got a chance to upload a new update on the main site just last week, do have a look, especially if you are a fan a of Detroit Diesel; I uploaded an article of their history in the Historical area.

You might noticed some unusual formatting this time, I recently purchase a new web authoring software and I just learned enough to get the update "out the door". I hope to learn more, soon, and rebuild the site to a modern standard - frames just don't cut it! My old software was just getting too buggy and causing me lots of headaches; unfortunately that means an extra tax on my time to learn the new program, so don't be surprise by the lack of new stuff aboard.

Enjoy the fall season.