Showing posts with label Dieselduck. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dieselduck. Show all posts

Friday, July 11, 2014

Don’t mention P.M.S.

Funny things happen when I leave home.  For one, the Domestic Operations Control Unit (my spouse) is probably happier, to a certain extent anyways. It’s really tough being married with children and going to sea. It is not realistic to have her work outside the home, as the costs outweigh the benefits. So she ends up being, by necessity, the Alpha in the home. 

Of course being a Chief Engineer, you end up being a bit of an Alpha at work, so coming home does then to create some interesting dynamics; two Alpha personalities in one small house.
Being an engineer, I am not the keenest to those “feelings” things either. So it takes me a while to realize the subtle or even not too subtle events that occur around this career we’ve chosen. Whenever I leave home now, certain upsetting things occur that I have learnt to expect when I leave for the ship.

The first thing is usually my wife’s aggression about a week before I sail. This one is always upsetting, but I am learning that there is a certain way people deal with this job. I am not sure why it happens, maybe it’s the realization that she will be stuck “home alone” for six weeks and is more edgy. Maybe it’s a way to hide the fear of being alone. I am not sure, but there is certainly something there.

The kids well, there is no difference there. There is usually a pattern of unusual occurrences when I leave. The eldest, although not as much lately, will of course become defiant. Dad’s not around so he gives mom a tough time for the second week I am away. First week usually seems ok; I always leave, giving him the “you’re the big man around the house” responsibility speech, so maybe that helps defer the angst a bit.

The middle one is more worrisome, because he generally is a happy go lucky little guy. But he’s not able to articulate his feelings. This is not good, as they end up coming out as anger and tears over the smallest things. Funny how that is. After quite some time going to sea, I could see a subtle pattern emerge, however it was really tough to nail down what the cause of it. We’ve been practicing expressing the root cause of his outburst s when I am home, and finally, this last time leaving, I believe we have some kind of breakthrough. He finally admitted that he misses me when I leave.

The youngest one, like his eldest brother also has a predictable reaction to my leaving for sea. However, he has more of a physiological response to my leaving. Usually the first week I leave, or the first week I am back, he will pee the bed at night; probably twice, most likely once. It is unlike him typically to do this, whatever that typical life of a sailor is, but… yeah, it is strange to see such a physical response. The usual response you would expect is more moods and feelings.

Leaving for sea as a professional sailor is not for the faint of heart and it doesn’t just affect the individual. There is a pretty dramatic roller coaster of emotions and physiological responses one can expect during these times from those around them.  This challenge, yet another we deal with every day at sea, is another aspect of the job few think about.

Whatever you do, don’t ever, ever, mention anything relating to PMS, when dealing with these challenging situations. That was an easier lesson to learn, one I learned quickly… for once.  

Pictures from the interwebs

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Stop the madness

Does technology ever frustrate you? It seems like we going backwards now when it comes to technology. I was over at the seafarer mission just hours ago, downloaded my email, to read later, then left to sleep before watch. Well, lo and behold, I turn on the computer and, poof, all my emails are gone. Just gone.  WTF!

Over the winter I was on a shitty boat and a leak from the deckhead dripped on my computer, frying the keyboard. I guess the computer got confused with so much whacked keyboard input, and corrupted the hard drive. So I had to buy a new computer. I went with a trusty brand, a Toshiba, and of course there was no choice about operating system, so Windows 8, it was.

What a piece of shit ! Both the hardware and software. I have never had to pay so much attention to ‘mickey mousing’ the operating system since Windows 95. This hardware is not user friendly and unnecessarily gimmicky. The keyboard looks cool but is hard to type on resulting in many missed letters.

The operating system is made for the benefit of Microsoft, trying to insert itself into every facet of your life, to try to scam a few more bucks out of you. I get it, they want more profits, they are jealous of how Apple’s been able to swindle so much more money from their users.  But it’s just not those basic tools that we need; it seems everything is designed to suck you into a void of unproductive, time consuming, wasteland.

Last year, I create a few websites using different content management systems (CMS); it’s been the trendy thing for some time. Most website now use a form of Wordpress, which is a CMS based system. My intentions were to find a system that would allow me to join the “crowd” and move my website, created in the early days of the internet as we know it, and modernize it.  

I am realizing that CMS is like my laptop, its looks really great for the first few minutes, then, you realize what a pain in the ass it is. It is constantly under spam attack, always needs tweaking, because the endless security updates are not compatible with the skin or “apps” you’ve installed. Its non stop !

I was thinking of moving my website to a CMS system, but I am sooooo happy I did not fall down that shithole. No, I like my little old simple HTML website, sure I’ve added a few things here and there, but the time I spend on it now, is actually time producing content.  …and time, like many people, is my most precious commodity.

I believe I have a pretty good record of adapting technology and making my day more productive. But these days it seems I am wasting so much time fixing, tweaking, updating, dodging bloatware and scams; and let’s not forget all these gadgets track and spy on you to boot.

I am fuming because I’ve lost my whole email program, luckily I just backed it up a few days ago, so I probably just lost a few emails. But still, technology should not be this painful. It seems now that technology has become an enslaver; I guess it always was, but at least five years ago the benefits outweighed the negatives, to me at least.

Can anyone stop the madness!

Pics from the interwebs

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What's keeping you?

What a hectic few weeks. Got home to BC, from a blizzardy Newfoundland, looks like that it still pretty blizzardy over there. Needless to say I more than happy having to decide whether I should mow my lawn today, or tomorrow. Been busy with quite a few projects; taxes, failed computers / Windows 8, construction project, so on and so forth...

One of the project taking allot of my time these days is Marine Engineering : The New Wave. My duty as a volunteer organizer, is to spread the word about this great project, mainly through the website

Actually things are really picking up. Since the 1990's, I've been involve in quite a few conference by the CIMarE, and, I am always worried about the pace of development - so fellow organizers tell me. But apparently this conference, and it's planning is well on schedule.

VicShip's GM Malcom Barker
will be MC
We've been fortunate to have a great group of sponsors sign on quite early - Seaspan and ShipConstructor maker SSI being Gold Sponsors, with Point Hope, DSA, UVic and the Canada Welding Bureau taking Bronze Level sponsorships stakes, with Tecsol and SNC Lavallin also providing Sponsorship. BC Shipping News, Western Mariner and of course Martin's Marine Engineering Page have been great Media Sponsors.

The exhibitors are also coming in now, DSA, AXYS, and Belzona being the very early birds! I think any exhibitor will really get a great benefits package by participating, especially their online presence will be superb, if I do say so myself! The site is already ranking high on Google, and having your firm exposed on it, is nearly worth the cost of the exhibition space by itself.

We also had a great deal of really interesting papers submitted, and I am hoping we will be able to release news on the presentations shortly. The conference topic is broad in ocean technology but what's amazing, is how the "new fields" like ocean renewable energy dovetails with "traditional" entities of the marine industry.

We also nailed down the evening social, to be held at the BC Maritime Museum in Victoria BC. We've got a nice socializing opportunity, with scrumptious foods, in a great maritime setting, all lined up.

The project is taking allot of my time, but its always gratifying to be involved. The submission deadline for presentation abstracts is today. I am anxious to release the presentation lineup as it will be of interest to many in the industry, and I hope to see you there as a delegate.

Find out more, Marine Engineering - The New Wave; a technical conference and exhibition for marine professionals, Victoria, BC, Canada, June 2014.

Victoria's Delta Resort will be the Conference and Exhibition venue

Friday, September 20, 2013

A little tweet of this and little tweet of that

Like most of you, summer is my busy time, just not online. Between work, the kids out of school, and various projects, like home renovations, there is little time else to dedicate to the website(s).

However, I'm tweeting fairly regularly, this allows me to keep my "nose in the biz" without consuming vast amounts of precious time. So feel free to follow me on Twitter @dieselduckster, below is my "feed"...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Big iron lands in BC

BCIT's new training centerpiece, a MAN 7L48/60 Medium Speed Diesel engine
Fantastic news the other week. After nearly two years of behind the scenes interaction, one big announcement was made by BCIT and MAN Diesel & Turbo Canada; as matter of fact, its 119 tons of announcement.

BCIT has received a large medium speed Diesel engine; an inline 7 cylinder 48/60 series with common rail fuel injection, the second largest series of the MAN medium speed portfolio. It just does not get any shinier than this!

MAN V1448/60 on the cruise ship Aurora, credit click to view more
This is a fully operational, ready to run engine, complete with turbo charger, and a full set of servicing tools. It arrived in Vancouver from the factory, about a month ago aboard a heavy lift ship. The engine is now in storage, awaiting confirmation of its final destination. As an added bonus, a very timely one, MAN has also supplied a dual fuel cylinder head for the engine, an excellent training tool for engineers in an industry on the cusp of a bunker fuel revolution.

The value of this gift to BCIT is pegs at 1.3 million dollars, and weighing 119 tons, it is by no means "small potatoes". In an environment where industry and academia are finally waking up from long skills training investment slumber, this engine has the potential to become a great training centerpiece for some of the most sought after, and highly skilled professionals in the world.

BCIT has been "building a good head of steam" when it comes to producing high quality Marine Engineers. It is the fact that they have been teaching real world, "value added" skills that have made their Engineering Officers sought after, all around the world. Teaching the IMO, or Transport Canada curriculum is the bare minimum, which is what some people want, but not what is needed by skill starved ship operators. To stand out, you need more than minimum, you need a superior engineering base knkowledge. With this engine, BCIT has the opportunity to really bring together the extensive resources it already has and make a tremendous program where engineers are "work ready" having been familiarized on on modern, large engines.

The 48/60 series of engine is also a mainstay of power plants as well, having access to this engine is therefore very relevant and beneficial to the power engineer program as well. The 18V48/60CR variant of this series is rated at an astounding 21,600kW, while BCIT's 7L48/60CR engine is rated at a handsome 8,400kW. Although its not the biggest output medium speed engine in Canada, it is probably the biggest, west of the Rockies. These engines are perfectly sized for the cruise ship market, which dovetails nicely with BCIT's Marine Engineers, which tend to gravitate towards this specialized market. 

The donation process started in late 2011 when Kamen Stoykov, Project Manager at MAN, and friend of the site, got a hold of Russell Oye, Shop Instructor at the Marine Campus, among many other titles, and the project rose off the ground from there. The future is full of potential now for BCIT and the "hands on" portion of the Marine Engineering program. The engine is just too big to be accommodated at the current Marine Campus in North Vancouver. So we will see how and where the engine ends up, but the future is pretty bright so I am hopefull it will be used for training in short order.

BCIT was contacted numerous times to provided further information on the future of the engine and the Marine Engineering program at BCIT. Spokesperson for BCIT only mentioned that it would be about one year before an official announcement would be made by BCIT as to where the engine would ultimately reside. 

Here are some additional statistics for the BCIT engine.

MAN 7L48/60CR
Name : (Send me a idea)
Manufacturer : MAN Diesel & Turbo, Germany
Model : 7L48/60CR
Type : Four stroke turbo charged, trunk type single acting, common rail Diesel engine
Fuel Type : HFO
Emission : IMO Tier II compliant
Bore : 480mm
Stroke : 600 mm
Speed : 514 rpm
MEP : 25.8 bar
Turbocharger : 
Lenght : 9.4 meters
Width : 3.2 meters
Height : 5.4 meters
Weight 119 tons (dry)
Output : 8,400 kW (11,265hp)
Fuel consumption : 179 g/kWh (100% MCR)

You can read the official press release from BCIT with more information.Visit MAN Canada's website for more information.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The journey is afoot...

The Maple Leaf goes
up for the first time
Off we go, we should be leaving the port of Ajman, in the UAE shortly, bound for the Mediterranean Sea where I understand we might have our first job. The tug Sharon M1 has been in the shipyard for about 6 weeks now, lots of work has been done, and most of it is now completed. We've had hot days, been amazed, disappointed; there's been some blood, some tears, certainly elevated blood pressure. Eventually this tug will make it to Canada, where it will certainly earn its keep without issues - it is hoped.

We have oil, grub, crew, parts, tools, paint, security details, razor wire, now all we need is some fuel, which comes tomorrow. I will be off the grid sort to speak, don't know when I will be back. I'll post when I have internet again, probably in a month or so, hopefully sooner - not looking to seeing my "inbox" after I get back to internet from this online absence.

Everybody pitches in to paint, quality may vary...

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Highs and lows

May Edition now
on news stands
Toot tooot. There's my own horn.

BC Shipping News has picked an article of mine featured here, a few months ago, about the realities of the marine engineering training efficiency in Western Canada over the past twenty years. The piece, Reap what you sow, was the first part of my larger exercise, exploring the marine engineer workforce situation in Canada. The article is in the May issue of the magazine, coming out shortly; you can read the other articles I penned, over at the website, or on the main website, on the Ship's Library page.

I believe there is bound to be, if not already afoot, some major changes in the marine work force. For one instance, I was recently advised to keep an eye out on the Canada Gazette (a federal government document listing the changes to government laws and regulations). In particular, Transport Canada's changes to Marine Personnel Regulation, and the forthcoming recognition of foreign Certificate of Competency in Canada - CoR.

I am told this will entail a drop of traditional marine engineering assessment, per se, by TC Marine Safety. Additionally, I understand the Marine Emergency Duties "D" course, and the Propulsion Plant Simulator (PPS) course will not be required to get the CoR. Personally, I am not surprised at all, and see it as inevitable, after all, there has been no effective training program or support for Marine Engineers in Canada, to meet the nation's needs. That was the point of my article(s).

However, if you took those courses on your own, like most do, you will surely understand the ramification of such a move by Transport Canada. With the push for Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) visa and their ease of issue, and its great success for Canadian companies, our Canadian shipboard workplace is set for a major shift. The obvious result will be a further drop in wages, or at least a freeze for an indeterminate time frame. For those of us who have trudge in this very tough career path, laid out by TC and lacked support form Canadian operators and unions, for the last 15 years, it is a double kick in the gut really.

Never mind the taxpayer angle as well, a triple kick to the gut, since those temporary worker don't contribute to our communities or its tax base, and companies have low tax rates, guess who gets to pick up the tab. Great Economic Action Plan ! I don't like to be dire, but for some reason this seems so obvious to me, as it is sad. 

Jeez ! This entry started out so positive, arggggh.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hot Hot Hot

The Middle East - AKA hot unlivable zone
Well, I am busy again, this time I find myself in Ajman, in the smallest Emirate of the United Arab Emirates, about 30 km away from Dubai - but driving there takes about 6 hours, due to traffic.

I am in the busy Arab Heavy Industries shipyard, in, what feels like the middle of nowhere, assisting with some modifications and upgrades to a 20 year old Japanese built tug (read - sore head and tight spaces, and generally over engineered), destined for it's new owners in Canada. After the major work is completed here, we are sailing it the vessel to Canada for final fit out.

Our route is suppose to take us out of the Arabian Gulf, to the Gulf of Aden and its friendly pirates, past the wonderful sounding, Djibouti, up the peaceful Red Sea, past Sudan and Mecca, into Egypt's Suez Canal, to the Mediterranean Sea; Gibraltar, and across the "pond". Well, at least that's the plan so far.

The business end of the tug,
in drydock - Kawasaki Z drives

After a couple months of not knowing where work was going to be, I was happy to be heading on to the ship, although, I was a little apprehensive about the whole idea of the Persian Gulf, its culture, weather and different social values. Maybe a bit much potential adventure in my "wiser" years. But hey, professional sailors do this all the time, for millenniums; so off you go I said!

So let me tell you about Ajman.... its sunny, dusty, hazy, lots of sand, and its %*$(&*ing hot. Like burst into flames hot. Like you turn on the hot water tap in the shower, to get water cooler than the "cold" water tap and its uninsulated pipes - that's hot. Often the mercury reads 44, 38 in the shade is normal. Its so frickin hot you can even lean up on the bulwarks. ...and the worst part, its only spring! Just in case I have not made my point yet, its really warm here.

Ajman, stays busy well late at night,
when the temp is down to 33C
I come from BC, so the four months of 6c Celsius and the perpetual gray drizzly days are quite fine with me - I quite like it actually. I do enjoy the sunny days, especially when the sun comes out and the mercury reaches 21; 28 C, and my wife and I start snipping at each other. But really, who the heck decided to build a major, major metropolitan area in the dessert with temperature reaching in the fifties.

I will try to post more of my adventures here, well see how it goes, shipyard work can be taxing enough in cool weather... catch you later.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Back on dry land

Sailor's Xmas
Had all the intentions of doing a quick follow up blog entry, but internet was incredibly spotty on our way to Duluth and going back to Nanticoke; must have been all the iron ore in the cargo holds. Well, I am back home in BC now, getting re-acquainted with the family. Taking down Christmas lights and decoration; I put them up a day or two before I left at the beginning of December, and just took them down yesterday. Probably the longest time I've ever had them up, yet only saw them about a total of five days. Ahhhhh, life at sea. Barely stepped ashore during the full six weeks aboard, felt a bit isolated. On the plus side, missed most of the flu.

I did manage to update the main website, and uploaded it a few days ago, which I hope you will enjoy. Many new reports and articles. Including an original and lengthy one on upgrading a certificate of competency in Canada, and why its so very challenging. I will make another blog post on this later.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Where you gone?

I've been dealing with career issues this last year, and in particular these last few months, requiring my full brain "horsepower", which is limited to start with, and I have to take a little hiatus from blogging, to recoup my proper mindframe. Some of you have come to expect my musing (thank you for your loyalty), I am sorry to dissapoint. I hope to be back in the saddle shortly.

In the mean time, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Friday, October 26, 2012

New look for main website

Online since 1999, MMEP
gets an updated look in 2012
Its been along time coming, and it's finally here. I spent a couple of years of working around a defective web authoring program that I used for many years, which caused me many headaches. Then of course the frames style of the website, in use for many years, became a major problem in website structure vis a vis navigation and search. Then the new defacto standard of CMS - Content Management System, such as Wordpress, with many new website adopting it, was a worrying factor for me. What to do??? I already have a ton of popular and relevant content. So I approached a web guru friend of mine for some guidance, he suggested a CMS as well.

Last year, I started experimenting with various CMS, Joomla, Wordpress, etc, B2Evo and such, which meant learning a new programs and their functions. All in all, a neat and fun experience, but a very time consuming endeavor. I saw the benefits of using CMS like the majority of the other website - mainly, a major commercialization step, but having so much content already online, and not interested in making money in itself, I saw that CMS was going to be a major laborious project, to import all my current content into that framework.

So after much discussion with my web guru friend, we went back and started looking at good old' HTML, but getting rid of frames using PHP and CSS. This gives us a uniform look and feel, and be more user, and search engine friendly. So I finally decided to maintain the current structure, a simple structure that has served us so well for many years. However, it cost me quite a bit to get a proper coding done, as do not have this expertise. So I waited many months, until I had enough money from the meager advertising earnings to go ahead with the project.

The result, I think, is exactly what I was after. Not reinventing the wheel, or alienating you, my visitors, yet making major strides towards being a more accessible resource website. Being an eternal optimistic, I should have known it was going to be far more laborious than anticipated, but in the end, the main areas of the website, the content laden pages were all gone through, text verified for accuracy and flow. New information put in. All links cleaned up. Basically a major refit!

Not going to CMS has allowed me to not be overwhelmed by the entire project - which was a very serious threat, by not being forced to convert all my content right away to the new format. This is why you will sometimes see some webpages in a "simple" format, however not in frames. Over time I will convert the popular pages to the new format. I hope to also carry out some other structural changes once funding allows it, these however should not affect your visit in general.

Thanks for you patience, continued loyalty, and participation in the project.

Monday, October 15, 2012

"Ship porn" finds new home

Last week, I officially launched Seafarer Media (, a stand-alone website, with numerous picture galleries featuring ships; all sorts, in all types of predicaments. The galleries are easy to navigate and feature rating and comment features. They can be viewed by visitor using multiple metrics - such as most recent, most popular, tags, and so on - overall very neat.

Spinning off this large part of the newly refitted main website of Martin's Marine Engineering Page will allow an easier management of the content, both the main website and the galleries themselves. It was a sizable project to undertake, but ultimately will make it easier to manage and upload more content.

Maritime pictures on
On this new website you will find my own work, and collections on weather, people, engine room, and various ships. There is also a "Submitted by Peers" gallery which is separated into additional galleries. Over 2500 pictures in all, are hosted there now - with more ready to go in.

I am still maintaining the "Picture Area" on the main website, but this area will feature photo essays and articles based on maritime pictures, as opposed to just straight picture galleries.

Please accept my invitation to drop by and visit.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Summer time blues

Too much summer sun!
Its been a super nice summer here in BC, I am 3/4 of the way into my time off the ship, so its time to start thinking about going back. Time to wrap up my home projects, start putting on "my ship" head but play a little more with the kids. The website, like a good portion of the visitors, takes a hiatus during the summer.

I am happy to report that, although slow in coming, I am working on a complete redesign of the main website. I've been working on it for quite a long time, the hard part was developing a working strategy. This has been decided and I have been busy doing a major updating of the various areas of the main site. Of course I am way behind, having overestimated my productivity; I had forgotten how much reference and information that went in it in the first place, that has to be updated, not just the look and feel.

I won't put any timeline on the table, my hobby unfortunately takes a back seat to my other responsibilities... I am pretty excited about it, it's been invigorating to rediscover the project, originally started nearly 13 years ago.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Survey says...

Apparently there is a shortage of experienced ship staff and operators. Specialized head hunting firms seemed to be popping up everywhere, while established, but non marine specialized ones, focus on to the high bounty paid as a result of a successful placement. However, I field inquiries suggesting that these established "land firms" have trouble understanding the challenges of "headhunting" in the seafaring world.

This has resulted in some benefits to us seafarers, one is that instead of begging and grovelling for good work, we get to be a bit more choosy than before. Another improvement, is that the various firms are fighting for exposure and as a result share more information with the community.

This year, I have come across a rash of "pay and benefits" surveys which are giving us a glimpse of what's happening in the market. Most deal with shipping professionals in general, but many of these positions are extension of the seafaring marine engineer's capabilities, so should be interesting reading for seafarers as well.
  • The first one is from start-up Flagship Management of the USA. This past June they issued a Salary Review. I had problems opening this document, if you do as well, just send them an email and they will send you a copy.
  • Next, professional development firm Coracle's and recruiter's, Halcyon, Employee Survey which briefly quizzed marine industry employees about 'feelings and such", rather than cash numbers - you can view the survey results for 2011 here, and see past surveys (2009, 2010) here.
  • On the scene and in the stream for some time now, Fast Stream, has also put out results of their comprehensive survey for 2012 salary. One of the highlights is that Chief Engineers, clearly lead in terms of percentage in rise of wages, in year over year pay increases.
  • Over at Elite Crew, they publish a Salary Guide for yacht crews, and Dovaston's is here.
  • The government in the USA publishes these salary statistics, although they do not fit exactly into the categories we, as seagoing engineers, are used to. Here is another representation of payscales.
Overall, from my industry experience, I am finding that job offers for engineers here in Canada are moving up. Pay is definitely on the way up, unfortunately the rest of the terms and conditions aboard vessels - living arrangements, old boats, benefits, food, crew levels, leave rotation, etc, remain stagnate or going down. I am also seeing that the pay for an engineer has gone up, the crewing of the engine room is done by far fewer people than in the past. Many ship operators have cut ratings altogether in the engine room, if not to the bare minimums, or even having dual duties rating, "deckhands and oiler".

This is having an interesting impact on the quality of life on board. For most of us that have gone through the "Canadian" training system, this is no surprise, but for many new engineer in Canada, which I believe is becoming the principle way for Canadian operators to obtain licensed crew for the vessels, this situation is a bit shocking to them, once on board. 

Monday, July 16, 2012


Hey, this is post number 501 !

Yup, what a ride its been. The blog has always been an easy way for me to speak my mind, spread the news or just muse about marine engineering in the commercial world, no matter where I was in the world.

I enjoy keeping it up, never thought we would have 500 post under our belt, I guess time does go by quick when you're having fun. Judging by the traffic I get, some people do actually read them, but not many comment.

Thanks for visiting, please let me know how I am doing with this space.

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 !

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mr. Duck goes to Ottawa

CIMarE National Chair and Co Host of the MariTech 2012 introducing the Safety Panel discussion
I am at the airport now, about to leave Ottawa after five days here, heading back home for a few days before going back to sea. I arrived in Ottawa on Sunday, and enjoyed our nation's capital by visiting the parliament building, the war museum, and extensively walking around the downtown core, taking in the sights and experiences.

On Tuesday, the true purpose of my visit, attending Mari Tech 2012, began in earnest. This year's annual technical conference from the Canadian Institute of Marine Engineering (CIMarE) was co sponsored by the Society of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering (SNAME).

The conference had a much different flair than the previous year's conference held in Victoria. For one, the physical size of the conference space and the number of attendees was much greater; reported to be over 500 attendees. For those having attended the previous conferences, they would have found the format varied considerably, with numerous papers sessions occurring simultaneously. The conference also featured several panel discussions.

Khanh Tran, Chief Engineer with Canadian Coast Guard deliver a technical paper
One common comment I observed, was that there was too much to see and hear, and that it was difficult to fit it all in - I guess you could say too much of a good thing. The look and feel of the event was also a more polished one, aided by what seemed to be a well equipped facility and staff.

My purpose for attending Mari Tech 2012 was to give a presentation on Blue Riband, which my time slot happened to be the last of the conference. Being an active mariner not accustomed to large crowds, this gave me ample time to let my nervousness fester. Baring a rushed end to my presentation, due to closing comments from Public Works deputy minister, I think the ideas were well received from the thin crowd.

The bulk of the attendees from the Ottawa area (government), were of course centred on the still developing NSPS program and its management. The Canadian Coast Guard and Public Works Canada had a decidedly prominent presence, overshadowed only by the Navy's presence. Conspicuously missing, sadly for my conference objectives, was Transport Canada representation. As a matter of fact, I did not even hear of one single person, currently working for Transport Canada, attending the conference, even though the conference was held on a weekday in Ottawa, less than fifteen minutes away from the main TC offices. Also absent, were Canadian ship operators and major west coast organization, the exception being PMC and BC Shipping News magazine.

The CIMARE National council AGM occured during the Mari Tech
The opening day's morning highlight was M. Peter Noble, the president elect of SNAME, and Chief Naval Architect with Conono Phillips. His extensive knowledge and experienced in the commercial shipping world, offered a stark contrast in approach to shipbuilding management then that from the Canadian government's position, as discussed in the featured panel.

BC Ferries might have been missing from the attendance rolls, but probably played a prominent role in the conference's focus on safety, on the afternoon of the first day. M. Wendy Tadros, Chair of the Transportation Safety Board (TSB), presented a keynote speech, introducing the core values of the TSB, by extensively using the Queen of the North investigation as a working example. Her comments that the TSB actively dismisses "easy blame answers", and openly strives to keep "digging deeper", to find the ultimate conditions for an accident to occur, I found it to be encouraging. Her presentation was followed up by several discussions and papers, on safety and its culture, within the industry. The general consensus seemed that a greater amount of personal ownership and an increase enforcement of existing regulations is required.

On the evening of the first day, we were bused to the lavish and historic Fairmont Chateau Laurier, where the large and enthusiastic crowd enjoyed mingling together to the Navy's string band. After the gala dinner honouring the late J. Douglas Hearnshaw, Rear Admiral Mark Norman, of the Royal Canadian Navy, gave an insightful speech in which he praised the engineering community for its endeavours to keep them sailing.

MariTech 2012 gala dinner at Chateau Laurier in OttawaThe second day's morning, feature more of a navy shipbuilding focus, with some interesting concepts offered from our friends south of the border. The afternoon featured numerous papers in various spaces. My "free beer" comment interestingly failed to draw a huge crowd to my presentation, owing to the fact that they're were so many other things going on.

Obviously these events present technical papers and discussion, allow service and equipment manufacturers to display their wares, all to improve our wisdom, but ultimately best part is to connect face to face with our peers, and meet new one. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to meet so many people that were new to me, and took the time to seek me out.

Next June, the Atlantic Branch of CIMarE will host Mari Tech, June 25 - 27, 2013 at the Westin Nova Scotian Hotel, Halifax. From what I understand there is already a good deal of interest expressed by exhibitors, so that is good to hear.