Friday, March 30, 2012

First introduction successful

Last night was a cool wet night in Victoria, but it was a warm welcome at the Canadian navy base where I gave a presentation on Blue Riband, which seems to have gone really well. I was a bit jittery about the whole thing, but the larger than normal crowd was quite receptive of these new concepts in Marine Engineering.

Thank you to those who made the evening quite interesting with a lively discussion.

For those of you not aware of what Blue Riband is, I will be doing another presentation, this time on April 11, 2012, at Maritech 2012 to be held at the Hampton Inn in Ottawa. I will make a presentation of this fictional entity that groups numerous new ideas into a functional business model. The presentation is called "Blue Riband – Revolutionizing Marine Engineering in Canada" and I will be on at 15:30 in the afternoon, Room 201.

I look forward to seeing you there, in the mean time you can learn more about this project from the website www.blueriband.ca

Thursday, March 22, 2012

First day of the 2012 navigational season

Welland Canal
It was a bright sunny day, unseasonably warm in Port Weller today. Port Weller is ten minutes outside downtown St Catherines, in southern Ontario. It is home to Lock One of the Welland Canal, part of the St Lawrence Seaway System, connecting the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean using the various lakes and the St Lawrence River.

Today marked the official opening of the 2012 navigational season on the seaway. Typically the seaway closed down from late December to late March, as the cold and icy condition make lock operations impossible. You would not be able to tell with the current weather here, hovering near 23 degree Celsius, but usually, even at this time of year, the locks are still struggling to work properly through the ice. But no such misery today, as the locals celebrated the return of the "lakers", well at least celebrate waiting in their cars for the lift bridges to come back down; maybe celebrate is a strong word.

Algoma's MV John Baird
We are still in the dry-dock near Lock One, where we got to see a half dozen vessels sailing up and down the system starting in the late morning. Our barge will come out of the shallow dock tomorrow morning, where the MV John Baird will takes its place. It is in for steel repairs after those strong winds a couple of weeks ago, broke her wintering moorings and she played bumper boat with other vessels in Port Colburn, on the shore of Lake Erie, at the other end of the Welland Canal. Our tug will come out once our dock-mate, the cement carrier, English River, has its mechanical work completed later next week.

Although a sunny day today, it was a sad day for us at the yard. One of our peers, an engineer from Newfoundland on board the English River, was severely injured today, in a workplace accident. It would appear he fell from the fidley deck, down to the engine room deck, about 30-40 feet below. He had to be airlifted to nearby Hamilton. Once again a timely reminder that our job is fraught with danger at every turn - do take care of yourself. I understand his life is in grave danger, and wish him, and his family the best for some positive turns in his conditions.

On the bright side, the fire department was somewhat familiar with the shipyard and ship structures from rescue exercise I  blogged about last week, so hopefully it was beneficial.

Another day working on ships...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Running to sea

Greece's finance minister
The Eurozone debt crisis continues to rage on with no real end in sight. Wholesale disposal of a raft of people's way of life, by god know's what, but it sure does not seem to be for the greater good of the general population, that's for sure. I see it as wholesale theft of a country by some "good with numbers" predatory leeches, who have no moral decency, but that's for a different blog.

Lloyd's List recently had an article about one of the many consequences of the dire situation in Greece. As you may be aware the work market in Greece is in very serious state of shock; the youth unemployment is reported at a staggering 51.5%.

One way the youth are dealing with impossible odds, is by running to sea. Lloyd's List is reporting that 6500 persons applied for the 1350 seat available at the government run maritime academies last year. This development was referred to by the Union of Greek Shipowners at a recent meeting...
"...that a campaign to attract young people to the marine education system produced stunning results last year."
No kidding!

But with no private maritime institutions operating in Greece, and drastic austerity measures imposed on every corner of Greek society, one must wonder what kind of quality education can be expected from the government run maritime institutions. There is only so much one can do without a budget. For example hospital budget were cut 25%, yet the demand was up 40%. No matter what kind of genius might be able to maintain this level of service with this kind of funding, is not sustainable.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Firemen on the barge

St Catherines FD rope rescue exercise from McClearys Spirit - M. Leduc
Well, I just made it back to the shipyard a couple of days ago. A brief time at home this time, had to come back and make sure we are on track to complete all of our projects, while our time in the shipyard draws to a close, and the beginning of the trading season starts on the St Lawrence Seaway.

Safely rescued - G. Miele, SLSMC
It is kind of neat to see the Welland Canal, part of the St Lawrence Seaway system, between Port Weller on Lake Ontario, Port Colburn on Lake Erie, completely drained of water - the bottom of the waterway is clearly visible. This allows all the water flowing through the two lakes to be diverted through the hydro electric dams to generate power - I assume. It also allows the seaway to perform maintenance on the various locks systems. They will be re-flooding this part of the system on the 15th, and it is hope that we will slide out of our graving dock, and make way for the Canadian Navy destroyer Athabaskan, due in for a major refit in early April.

This morning I had a few work items planned, when I started to check the office computer and looked over to the barge... WTF I said to myself, dozens of firemen were crawling all over it. So the Tankerman and I headed over, and found half a dozen firetrucks. It was pretty clear there wasn't an emergency but it was strange to see the buzz around the ol' spirit.

Tank Barge 101 class pic - G. Miele, SLSMC
Turns out the local fire department with the Seaway Authority were doing some training on rescues from ships, and were practising rope rescues from the tank barge McCleary's Spirit. Following the exercise I volunteered to introduce the group to the tank barge and its hazards and systems. Which as unprepared as I was, worked out pretty good. Here's some pics.

Always something different, when you work on a ship!

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Seaspan swallows another west coast player

Seaspan has once again opened up it's wallet to beat the competition. This time, Van Isle Barge Service was acquired by Seaspan and rolled into it's Seaspan Ferries Corporation portfolio. Van Isles Barge Service was operated by Peter Brown's Sea Link Marine Services, and by all account was Seaspan Ferries main competition in the "drop trailer" freight ferry service to Vancouver Island.

Seaspan spokesperson, Kelly Francis, stated that all the services of Van Isle Barge Service, including its terminals and sailings, will remain as is, for the time being. The staff have been offered positions within the Seaspan Ferries umbrella.

Seaspan Greg, by Seaspan
The "low key" deal, completed December 9th, 2011, "...includes the acquisition of 3 barges and the operating rights to two terminals in Surrey and Duke Point, as well as a charter party agreement with Sea-Link Marine Services Ltd. to provide pusher tug service."

M. Francis goes on to state;
This purchase signals Seaspan’s commitment to the BC marine transportation industry - The drop trailer business is core to Seaspan and this transaction provides an opportunity for SFC to reinvest in its fleet and operations - We are passionate about continuing the legacy of providing first class drop trailer ferry services between the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.
Seaspan Ferry Corp, previously known as Seaspan Coastal Intermodal, is composed of the former assets of CP Rail's coastal operations, acquired in 1998, by Montana (USA) based industrialist billionaire, Dennis Washington.

In 1999, the fleet is comprised of the truck ferries Seaspan Greg and Seaspan Doris, operating (generally) between Tilbury Island (Vancouver) and Downtown Nanaimo; and the truck / rail car ferries, Carrier Princess and Princess Superior operating between Tilbury Island and Swartz Bay (Victoria). Seaspan added the articulated tug and barge unit, Seaspan Challenger and barge Coastal Spirit a few years later, to the Nanaimo run.

Seaspan Challenger and barge Coastal Spirit, M. Leduc
With all the above vessels still operating, and the addition of the three ATB's from Van Isle Barge Service, Seaspan is now the dominate choice for moving freight, by sea, to Vancouver Island's 750,000 residents. BC ferries had tried to utilized its unused capacity to challenge the trade, but was rebuffed when they were deemed to be excessively subsidize by taxpayers, and therefore had an unfair competitive advantage

Ocean Wrestler, M. Leduc
With this deal, Sea Link shrinks further its presence on the BC waterfront. Sea Link for a while operated a good deal of older vessels on the coast under various shell companies.  The group was mired in numerous deadly workplace incidents over its history. They are / were involved in deep sea towing, log / log barge towing, drop trailer barge service and general tug towing.