Monday, December 26, 2011

Season's Greetings

Just a quick note to wishes you all the very best of the Season. I hope your Christmas was pleasant, safe and fulfilling as it was for us. We spent a quiet Christmas at our home in BC, where the boys enjoyed opening some presents and relaxed with visits to family. The local weather was a typical rainy day with 7 degree celsius - perhaps not a white Christmas, but just fine for us.

I am thoughtful of many of our peers who are out working, away from their families and wish them a safe time at sea. I further send out my well wishes to those seafarers currently imprisoned by pirates and other thieves. These are terribly anxious times for them, and their family, and we can only hope that the situation improves for all involved.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Below is a picture of the USCGC Alder arriving in Chicago, earlier this month, with a cargo of Christmas trees.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Alder, homeported in Duluth, Minn., is escorted by a boat from the Chicago Fire Department as they prepare to moor at Chicago’s Navy Pier, Dec. 2, 2011. Alder’s crew is acting as Chicago’s “Christmas Ship,” bringing more than 1,000 trees from northern Michigan to be distributed by charity groups to Chicago-area families. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class George Degener.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Office party, not for seafarers

In the last post, I talked about how misleading the stats were on a recent study of Post Secondary Education, and their earning potentials... this week I was sent this video which exemplifies this even more. The video is not of typical weather condition while working at sea, but this is the reality of the job. Having to put up with that, even before spending one once of your energy, praticing your craft - I don't think too many accountants have this kind of workplace.

Of course there is always the ice cold water to deal with as well, with two glaring examples served up this week, involving those hardy cold weather surviving Russians. One in the Pacific Ocean off Sakhalin, where an oil rig under tow, capsized after encountering heavy seas. And the other story in the Antarctic, where the Sparta, a large fishing boat with predominately Russian crew, is teetering on sinking after suffering a gash in its hull, and taking on water.  

The rig Kolskaya with a crew of 69 capsized and has taken the lives of 14 men, with another 39 still missing. The Sparta appears to be stabilizing, but the story is nowhere near complete, with 32 crew members fighting to save their ship, in the most desolate area of the world.

Makes me very thankful to be home, warm and safe, and sad to think of the loss and stress borne by the families of those affected.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Marine Engineers = Good earners

Earlier this year, Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce published a study called “What’s it worth? The economic value of college majors”.  It’s a US based study, but probably relates fairly well across to Canada, and some other countries.

The thing that caught my engineering eye in this study, was that Marine Engineering / Naval Architecture was listed in the top ten for earnings. Listed below, are the "majors", and their resulting median income in USD. 
  1. Petroleum Engineering  - 120,000
  2. Pharmacy Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration - 105,000
  3. Mathematics and Computer Science - 98,000
  4. Aerospace Engineering - 87,000
  5. Chemical Engineering - 86,000
  6. Electrical Engineering - 85,000
  7. Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering - 82,000
  8. Mechanical Engineering - 80,000
  9. Metallurgical Engineering - 80,000
  10. Mining and Mineral Engineering - 80,000
The top ten least earning degrees were…
  1. Counseling Psychology - 29,000
  2. Early Childhood Education - 36,000
  3. Theology and Religious Vocations - 38,000
  4. Human Services and Community Organization - 38,000
  5. Social Work - 39,000
  6. Drama and Theater Arts - 40,000
  7. Studio Arts - 40,000
  8. Communication Disorders Sciences and Service - 40,000
  9. Visual and Performing Arts - 40,000
  10. Health and Medical Preparatory Programs - 40,000
The median income refers to the average income of the highest 75 percentile income and lowest 25 percentile. In regards to Marine Engineering, there is a much wider margin between “25%” stated as 44,000, and “75%” level income stated as 120,000, as oppose to the other in the top ten list.

The report fails to highlight the fact that although the 75th percentile make an average 120k per year, it takes a long time to get there, due to the licensing system. This would explain the lower 25th percentile earnings of 40k a year. Typically (my rough average from the numbers in the study) most graduates of other programs jump right into a 55k per year job, whereas Marine Engineers start at 40k or below.

Another words, yes, the potential to earn a good wage from the Marine Engineering / Naval Architecture schooling program is good, but getting out of school, is just the beginning of the training. Therefore, caution is in order, to hype these wages. Just looking at the topical earning potential does not give a complete story of the training path and its demands. 

This unexplained career training load would probably explain why this major is ranked #4 in the least popular despite these fancy earnings potentials. 

The study also reveals some other facts about a major in Marine Engineering / Naval Architecture. It is at the top of the list for concentration of men - 97% of the program participants were men. It also ranks #3 as the top earning major for Caucasians, and  ranks #8 as percentage of working full time, with 95% of graduates holding full time jobs.

The study also list Marine Engineers and Naval Architect’s occupation, although once again, I believe these numbers are not quite accurate, due to titles and perceptions of the job. They list as us as working - engineers (?) 31%, management 22%, working on installations 12% - these three could be interpreted as working on ships or offshore structures – typically what Marine Engineers do. An additional 9% are listed working in offices, and 7% working in sales.

Some interesting statistic, but like I believe they don’t paint a clear picture of the full career. Marine Engineers already know, this is a pretty solid job when it comes to returns on your learning investment. You can find the full report here; an interesting read.

Submitted by a visitor - thanks!
On a side note...

Time Magazine did a "Top Ten" list presentation on this topic, and they had a picture associated with each of the top, and bottom earning majors.

8 of the pictures for the “top majors” were generally positive in nature, and depicted men at work - another picture was of machinery. The only woman featured in the associated “positive” pictures, although hard to tell, is standing in lab attire, next to a man.

Meanwhile, eight of the bottom ten occupations predominately featured women in somewhat uninteresting work circumstances. Gotta love that entrenched societal sexism; bit of a sad social commentary.

Time Magazine – been around forever, and still has the attitudes to prove it. The picture is from that website.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Desgagnes Officers on strike... sort of

MV Sarah Desgagnes in Montreal
Desgagnes Tanker division is under strike action by it's shipboard officers, engineers and navigators.

Desgagnes is a well known Canadian shipping company, based out of Quebec City. They operate a mix fleet of bulkers, roros, general cargo, heavy lift and tankers in the Eastern Arctic trade, down into the Great Lakes, and all point in between.

The tankers division, known as Petronav, and based out of Montreal, operates primarily in the central Canadian market - St Lawrence, the Great Lakes, and Atlantic Canada - although they have one tanker in international trade.

I believe the strike started last week, but you will find very few people aware of the situation, strangely enough.  Sources say that the officers represented by the Canadian Merchant Service Guild (aka The Guild) are looking for significant wage increases, while the company is only offering wages increases matching inflation rates. Word on the street, as long been that Desgagnes' wages for engineers are considered low, compared to other operators, so this blogger is not surprise at the demand.

Engineers aboard Desgagnes tankers were, until early 2011, represented by the Canadian Marine Officers Union (CMOU), but they have now moved representations to the Guild. 

 The tankers in the fleet, and how they are affected...
  • Vega Desgagnes - Out on scheduled maintenance and not currently affected by strike
  • Maria Desgagnes - Out on scheduled maintenance and not currently affected by strike
  • Thalassa Desgagnes - Sailing, using Senior Officers from other vessels to crew
  • Jana Desgagnes - Still under Rigel management and not affected by strike
  • Dara Desgagnes - Still under Rigel management and not affected by strike
  • Esta Desgagnes - Still under Rigel management and not affected by strike
  • Sarah Desgagnes - Crewed by non Canadians and not affected by strike
  • McClearys Spirit is under charter from a separate owner and operator, and is not affected
Desgagnes and CMSG's websites are lacking any formal announcements and notices. Emails to the Guilds for clarifications have gone unanswered.

Pictures by M. Leduc,
MV Vega Desgagnes in Montreal

Sunday, December 04, 2011

George Bush is full of shi$%

Some days, I have to do allot of mental exercise, coming up with a catchy title to my posts. But hey, this one was probably the easiest I've ever had to come up with.

Anyways, I came across an interesting article the other day; quite comical really. In my experience working on cruise ships, I estimate we had well over 2000 toilets, and very few problems. But only as long as you had a few good engineers in the engine room, looking after the main components, and a few good Filipino plumbers who knew the layout well, we hardly ever had ran into any major problems, not quickly addressed.

The US Navy guys on the other hand, seem to have their pants... huh, hands, full. All that, some neat gizmos, and a $6.2 billion USD, yes, billion, price tag.

Armed with this story, and these problems, someone clever might be able to make some really good jokes from their nickname, "Avenger" or their motto, "Freedom at work".

The George H. Bush, a US Navy Nimitz class aircraft carier, has recently entered active service, having been built by Northrop Grumman Newport News. Powered by two nuclear reactors, the four propulsion turbines put out, officially, 194 MW of power to the shafts. She's got a 20 year range, at 30 knots; shes also armed to the teeth... and has a slight yellowish navy Gray paint job.

Geez, I can only imagine the plumbers on my old ship "salivating" at that kind of power available, you could really get a fancy vacuum pump for that ! Anyways, below is the story, from The Register, the original story in the Navy Time is here. Here's the Bush's official DOD website.

US nuclear aircraft carrier George Bush crippled by toilet outages
Sailors drenched as bottles of piss emptied into wind
By Lewis Page, 17th November 2011

The US Navy's newest and mightiest nuclear aircraft carrier, the USS George H W Bush*, has been plagued by continual failures in its lavatories, according to reports. Sailors have been forced into increasingly desperate measures to relieve themselves.

Nov 11, 2011: USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) transits the Arabian Gulf in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn.

The Navy Times, following up initial stories of the problems appearing on blogs, quotes members of the 5,000-strong ship's complement as stating that at times there hasn't been a single working head – as lavs are known at sea – anywhere aboard the entire mighty hundred-thousand-ton warship. Reportedly the Bush is fitted with no less than 423 thrones, but it appears that problems with the suction flushing system can easily knock out large numbers of these at once – or even all of them.

According to the NT's unnamed sources, crewpersons aboard the carrier have struggled to cope with the situation. It seems that desperate sailors must often hunt for long periods to find a functioning head, and if they do discover one there may be a lengthy queue. Some of the unfortunate matelots have apparently resorted to urinating in sinks or showers, or in some cases off the towering sides of the ship (parts of it are as high above the waves as a 20-story building). The latter is a risky practice, however, as it is against regulations: at least one sailor has been put under punishment for doing so.

Other Bush crewmen have reportedly taken to the use of bottles in some private location, following which the containers are smuggled to a suitable point for surreptitious tipping overboard. Unfortunately this "can soil the side of the ship or the hangar deck, aircraft or fellow sailors, depending on how it catches the wind", the NT reports.

According to a statement supplied to the naval newspaper, there are breakdowns in the Bush's heads three or four times a day, though many of these only involve a few units and can be fixed relatively swiftly. Nonetheless the ship's engineering personnel have expended no less than 10,000 man-hours on fixing busted bogs during the carrier's current overseas deployment. It was admitted that one ship-wide breakdown required a 35-hour effort to fix, with the relevant technicians working flat out throughout with no rest.

Naval commanders blamed the problems on inappropriate objects such as clothes or feminine hygiene products being flushed down the heads.

The $6.2bn George Bush, when functioning on top line, is perhaps the most powerful warship in the world. Its air group of more than 90 planes and choppers could defeat many national air forces or navies on its own, and it can steam at a speedboat-like 30+ knots for 20 years without refuelling.

However it must be suspected that the mighty vessel's efficiency is somewhat degraded at the moment.

*41, not 43... Named not after the recent US president but his father, also president back in the early '90s, who saw combat as a carrier aviator in World War II.

Pictures from various websites.