Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sharing wisdom

If you are a Marine Engineer looking for a little advice, there are options for you. Of course the whole idea behind the main site of Martin's Marine Engineering Page - - or The Common Rail (our forum area) is to educate and assist budding professionals excel.

Sometimes though, its nice to connect with a peer who can offer personal guidance from their experiences and offer insight to improve one's perspective. This is what mentoring is all about.

If you are interested in this concept, there is a new avenue to explore. Murray from Marine  Learning Systems, has built a community website called Maritime Mentoring Community, and it serves as a hub to facilitate Mentors and Protege to connect. You will find many Mentors already registered, working in a variety of maritime related disciplines, ready to offer their time and wisdom primarily for your benefit. Why not try it out.

On the site you can find additional help and resources on what Mentoring is, and how you may benefit from it. You can find the project at

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Its ok to breath now...

Long time visitor and contributor to the site, Bilge Rat, sent me this video a few weeks back. It's a riveting drama of a tug in a dire spot on the fast moving waters of the Mississippi, and another tug comes to the rescue. Also a good lesson for all sailors, whether sailing on green, blue or brown waters, always keep your watertight doors and hatches closed and dogged!

He expands on the video with these comments...
" it was shot from the pilot's room and he was off watch, one of the boat's owners (Osage Marine Service) even chimed in in the comments and it appeared that she had not even known this incident had happened. (!!??!!) A good number of people (maybe 8 to 10) have died in St. Louis over the years in high water downstreaming on fleets like that, but the message of closing watertight doors seems to have made it into the collective consciousness down there, to the benefit of these guys. Even when I was on the big boat, whenever we were doing this my helper knew those doors were to be closed when downstreaming was done on his watch... Just too dangerous. "

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Costa Concordia preliminary report (no joke this time)

Point your browser here, to find the preliminary findings presentation, from the Italian government's investigation into the grounding, and partial sinking of the Costa Concordia, earlier this year. This brief was given at the IMO's Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) meeting which occurred in late May 2012. You can find a press release of the meeting here, where they highlight several safety recommendations for passenger ships.

Overall the presentation by Italy's MIT, is a rudimentary presentation of known facts about the accident. There is scant information about the exact happenings in the engine room(s), but then again it was not super relevant, its clear the ship had suffered a fatal blow no matter what the series of event was.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cutting steel in BC

MV Galena 1997
Last week, without much fanfare, the BC provincial government announced the awarding of a 26.5 million dollar ship building contract to Water Bridge Steel of Prince George to build a new ship.  The 250 passenger, 80 car, roll on roll off ferry will be built in the tiny hamlet of Nakusp, BC, on the shore of Upper Arrow Lake, in the "interior" of the province. The new vessel will then move slightly north, to replace the DEV Galena, and the MV Shelter Bay, currently in service on the run between Galena Bay and Shelter Bay, about 50 kilometres south of Revelstoke, in the Canadian Rockies.

The provincial government owns and use to operate several "licensed" vessels, and a multitude of smaller crafts, throughout the province as ferries, supporting the road transportation network.

MV Omineca Princess1999
The major vessels are located near Nelson, on Kootenay lake - the MV Osprey 2000; another near Burns Lake on Francois Lake, the MV Francois Forester (previously serviced by the MV Omineca Princess); and the two mentioned above on Upper Arrow Lake. The government has been divesting itself of the operation of these vessels since 2000, mostly to a private company called Western Pacific Marine, however, they remain primarily funded by the province.

From my sources, the award of this particular contract has been a "done deal" for some time, but only announced last week. I am interested in this development because I served on most of these vessels during my Marine Engineering apprenticeship. I have fond memories of the vessels, their runs, and crew, and always kept an ear out for them.

The builder, I believe is no stranger to building and operating ferries on the lakes of British Columbia. The person behind Water Bridge Steel, is veteran inland ferry builder and operator, John Harding.

MV Omineca Princess
John Harding is reportedly behind the construction of the largest ice breaking lake ferry, the MV Williston Transporter, an ice breaking logging truck ferry on Williston Lake, in northern BC, originally operated by Finlay Navigation. Finlay Navigation also operated the MV Babine Charger, on Babine Lake, near Burns Lake; which is near another ferry he's built for forest industry, on Francois Lake, the MV Francois Forester.

Most people are not aware of the extensive use of commercial vessel operation in BC, coastal and inland, sometimes I forget the scope of it myself. But it is obviously still very much alive and being recapitalized. I am happy to see those crews will get newer vessels, that they will certainly make them last a long time, if history is any indication.

DEV Galena's VSP
A note of interest, both the Shelter Bay, and the bigger Galena, are powered with Voith Schneider propeller (VSP). It was my first introduction to these amazing feats of engineering, and they're precise handling came in handy, with the wildly fluctuating water levels and currents of the lake. The Galena is powered by four Detroit Diesel 8V92 driving alternators, they in turn produced electricity for the two 300 hp electric motors driving the VSPs - thus its DEV (Diesel Electric Vessel) designation.

Additionally, the Marine Branch, the entity within the BC Ministry of Transport that use to operate the "Inland Fleet" or "BC Fresh Water Fleet" - BC Ferries operates the "BC Salt Water Fleet", had many other innovative application to their operations. For instance, the two Albion ferries were some of the first ferries, to my knowledge, that ran on natural gas. The Caterpillar engines (2x 3406 if I remember correctly) were modified to use gas as the primary engine fuel, using a small diesel injection to provide ignition source within the combustion chamber, greatly extending their overhaul periods and such.

You can read the official press release here. Here's local story on it, and some background on the vessels mentioned above. Here is the schedule and a bit of background. All pictures from my own collection, can you believe it !

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Yet one more...

General Walter Natynczyk from CBC
Yet another news story of note, to me anyways, again from the Globe and Mail, one of Canada's national papers, is about the Canadian military's top dog, General Walter Natynczyk lamenting the lack of steel cutting for new ships. I know the military is used to getting whatever it wants, but hey, welcome to the party General; just imagine how the Coast Guard guys feel - have felt for the last 30 years.

For those of you keeping record, the National Ship Procurement Strategy's website had previously anticipated the signing of a firm order - ready to cut steel - in late November 2011, shortly after the decision of the shipyard selection in October 2011. The first contract was expected to be officially signed for the fisheries research vessels to replace the like of the WE Ricker, to be built by the Washington Group's yards in BC. It is now June 2012, and still no firm order on the books for the fisheries vessel or the Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships for the Navy. Public Works and Government Services has removed any mention of time frames for actual steel cutting from their website.

from Ferriesbc
The "latest" fisheries research vessel replacement project is more or less fully drawn up, from my understanding. Unfortunately, the drawings keep getting "revised" on a routine basis, to accommodate the falling budgets, pretty soon there will only be enough money left for an ex-BC Ferries lifeboat to be converted to fisheries research - that is of course if Transport Canada can get their act together.

Mind you, the way the ruling Federal Conservative party is going, the significant cuts to all thing "Science" - who need that superstitious bunch anyways - they may just skip this project altogether, and save themselves the hassle of budgeting for this, in these "tight economic times".

The NSPS is looking more and more, like a traditional Canadian ship building program, yet one more time, with yet one more voice expressing concern. Read the news story here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Now, it's official

From Maritime Propulsion
As if we didn't already know, or at least expected, the Globe and Mail reports on an international body recognition that Diesel exhaust does cause cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization, held a meeting this week, in which they conclude that Diesel exhaust cause Cancer.
I wonder how that's going to impact us engineers working on ships, especially those working under Worker's Compensation / insurance boards schemes, or the likes. One more hazard to add to the list for Marine Engineering job description.

Read the full story here... and the details right from the "horse's mouth".

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Seafaring jobs for Canadians

Perhaps you've noticed, I've been running an advertisement for a new website called Although not related to we've chosen to highlight this new job website in hopes it will help those on a job search in Canada.

The project was the brain child of Maxime, based out of Montreal. He is "one of us"; having ascended through the deck cadet program, he currently sails as a mate on great lakes bulkers. Please accept my invitation to visit the website, maybe you will find a Canadian based position that fits your professional aspirations.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Costa Concordia accident report released

Peter Ramsauer from internet
Ahahaha, made you look. Sorry, I used the old' bait and switch trick in my title.... like you really expected that such a thing would make the light of day.

Lloyd's List had an article a few weeks about the Costa Concordia disaster, and how Germany's Minister of Transport, Peter Ramsauer, is publicly pressuring the Italian government to release the results of their investigation, fully, and in a timely manner. I think this highlight the concerns over the ever widening secrecy over maritime accident, and the resulting investigation, or lack thereof.

With the 'Costa Fascinosa' and 'Carnival Breeze' having just been launched from Fincantieri shipyards, two more of many, for the same owner, it is plain to see that Italy has a sizable national interest in keeping one of its biggest consumers of industrial capacity and seafaring services happy, namely Mickey Arison's Carnival Corporation.

Carnival, like all corporations, have much to gain in the successful suppression of their name(s) from the public arena, outside of their "spin". The "security" operational shroud, which seems to be at the forefront of governments, and corporations alike, especially after September 2001, has probably been so widely misused that the attitudes have spilled over into the public safety sector.

"You don't need to know that", "trust us", "we fixed everything perfectly", so "there is nothing to fear", we are government and corporation watching each other and protecting you. I don't know about you, but there is plenty of evidence with an abysmal track record, that this is not a beneficial model for human kind in general. 

In the last year, there has been couple of reprimands by the European Commission of various nations (Austria, Greece, Poland, Belgium, Cyprus and Portugal) for failing to address proper maritime accident investigation. After all, history shows us that most regulations that exist, especially in the maritime world exist as a result of tragic consequences.

 Hey, if we left it to oil companies, they would probably tell us that Benzene smell like roses and that its good for our health. So by deduction, you supress accident investigative findings, put quick, simple blame on a "bad apple" and voila; problems go away. No need for governments, companies, and corporations to come under scrutiny or change their ways of placing profits above everything else.

I think its a great and timely comments by the German Minister, and certainly is required. For a guy like me, putting my life on the line on these ships, I think its pretty important to know where to look for, where the errors are made, so as to prevent that from re-occuring.

Costa Concordia evening footwear
Costa Concordia, I think most seafaring professionals have a pretty good idea of what happened. Personally I am more interested in the Carnival Splendor, and its engine room fire and black out in late 2010. To me this represents an obviously major failure in design, construction, and, or operation of the engineering spaces. Well past a year, yet no formal inquiry report has been released, not a peep on what happened. I suspect it will be like usual, some rabid "ambulance chaser" will be the only one successful in getting some minor details of the accident released, albeit for completely different objectives than marine safety.

Then again, I must say I hold a high degree of skepticism when it comes to government statements, since most nowadays are "loaded", influence by business or what have you- which is the point of the whole debacle - so who's to say that a pop shot at one of the very few rival shipbuilding nation is not the true objective of the statement by the German minister. Either way, transparency is the only solution to proper governance, but one that is welcomed by governments and corporations probably as much a syphilitic alien zombie OWS protest mob.

With 32 confirmed dead or unaccounted for, and a massive hulk hanging on a rocky ledge off the picturesque island of Giglio, the Italians authorities, who had no formal maritime accident investigatory body at the time of the foundering, have 12 months to issue an accident report under IMO rules.