Showing posts with label environment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label environment. Show all posts

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Back to life, after a great big wave

Seaspan's Brian Carter received a
token of appreciation for his update
on NSPS from MC Malcolm Barker
As I type this, we are sailing across the Gulf of St Lawrence, having discharged a load of aggregate in Summerside, where I joined the ship.  We are proceeding to Sept Iles to load Aluminum, bound for Oswego, via the St Lawrence Seaway. What a treat it is to continue to explore the numerous aspects of Canada marine scape from coast, to coast, to coast.

I am actually glad to be back onboard, the predictable pace of onboard life is quite the change from my last time at home. This past time home was a bit longer than usual, as I had booked off time to attend The New Wave, a marine engineering conference, I volunteered to assist in delivering.

It was not first conference that I’ve assisted with, the local chapter of the CIMarE has hosted several of these types of conference since 1999, but for some reason this one was particularly tedious. It was very taxing on my relationships with my spouse and kids. The numerous meetings, seeing me at the computer working out bugs on the website, on the phone answering questions, or designing signage and such were encroaching on our family time. To be honest, the Domestic Operations Control Unit (DOCU) errrr, my spouse, was probably more relieved that the conference was over, than I was.

My web “properties” suffered as I spent a considerable amount of time on the project, but there is only so much time in one day. After such a long hiatus of looking after the Dieselduck domain, I am kind of missing it, and I am looking forward to nurturing my baby” again. I enjoy total control of my websites which is incredibly satisfying; after working in committee for the last year, this is quite evident to me now.

Great to meet some exhibitors
The New Wave was well received, and I think went very well, if I do say so myself. As a “ship” guy, the general feel of the conference was more cerebral than the topics I am usually involved in. Delving into the renewable energy sector and those many facets were a bit of a new area for us as a group. The majority of the projects presented may have been in their infancy, but it certainly highlighted the need and opportunity for the ship guys and the theoretical guys to get together and actually do some really neat things.

We had very strong support from our traditional sponsors and exhibitors, I must say, which was really good to see. As for numbers - we had about 115 attendees, 21 sponsors, 22 exhibitors, 24 papers, 2 guest speakers, 1 social event.  All made for a very packed two days!

For me, this represents a commitment of more than one year, 20 organizational meetings (in Victoria, a 300km round trip), 1600 emails received – not counting the replies. A huge semi-custom Wordpress website built, including online registration and payment; 22 blog posts. Not to mention 150 tweets and a newfound addiction to micro blogging – there goes more of my time!

Gold Sponsor, SSI's Denis Morais
listens attentively during
technical presentations
Why I did it? Well, to be honest, I doubted the benefits at some points. After some time to reflect, you tally up the knowledge base absorbed, meeting current peers, and future peers, getting out in the community, and at the end of the day it’s an overall benefit professionally. Plus, it benefits our local branch of the Canadian Institute of Marine Engineering – a non profit organization.
It’s been a time consuming affair to say the least, so I apologize publically to my spouse for the intrusion into our daily lives, and appreciate her patience in this, another one of my “projects”.

Unfortunately, I have another project on the go, which will bring more stress into our lives – sorry honey.

I am hoping to start building the new Dieselduck empire world headquarters. Yup, that’s right. The plans have been drawn up, and the subcontractors lined up; when I get home from sea, we start building the headquarters – a one car garage in the backyard.

Hey, gotta start small right; mmmmm, didn’t Apple start that way.You can view all the pictures i took of the event on See you all in a couple of years, when we again play host to Maritech, the national Marine Engineering conference.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Regular Sex

NYC: March 2003
As it turns out, my latest hitch aboard another old tug, has taken me clear across the country, to Newfoundland. Unfortunately, as many in Eastern North America have experienced, the weather is brutal, and not conducive to many maritime operations. 

With no civilization nearby, and with no other entertainment options, we’ve been passing the time watching quite a few movies, now well into my “second choice” library, which seem to include a large number of “prison” movies; such as the one mentioned in my previous post.

All these prison movies have got us talking about prison life. Just the other day we were talking about isolation and comparing the size of our cells, huh, cabins, onboard this 1948 built tug. As it turns out, my cabin measures 6 feet by 5, while the deck guy’s is 5 feet by 4 and half feet. 

I understand a prison cell is 6 feet by 9 feet, with its own sink and toilet – can you imagine, what a dream! And those are in the US, think of the prison cells in Norway, or Sweden, wow, those would be so awesome to have.

We have a small bathroom for all of us, with the floor space probably around 6 square feet. Throw in additional challenges like no internet, working tv signal, or cell phone signal, limited food, a Detroit Diesel generator about 6 feet from my pillow. And all of it, in a Transport Canada approved secured port facility, meaning no easy access off the vessel.

NFLD: February 2014
Oh, did I mention that my computer crapped out due to the numerous leaks from the poorly insulated boat, raining on my laptop keyboard, shorting it out. Ultimately one has to have a good sense of humour to be a seafarer these days.

I once worked on a dive support vessel doing a gas pipeline in New York City, at the time the condition aboard were similar to those I am experiencing  these days. Of course the topic of conversation was also similar.
Once, we were off Rikers Island, New York City’s infamous prison, where we could observe inside the prison, the inmates watching TV. Soon, one diver started making comparison to life aboard a ship and that in prison – better sleep… cable TV… hot food… little chance of drowning… warmth. 

Someone in the back of the galley piped up… and regular sex.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Out of sight

Found this online, illustrates the common attitudes pretty well. There's probably a couple of seafarers under there too...

Monday, October 08, 2012

Watchful eye, guiding voice

The US Coast Guard celebrates forty years of Vessel Traffic Services. Natham Bradshaw of the USCG writes the article below, giving us a glimpse of their work. All professional mariners are well aware of the guiding hand of vessel traffic services, in the US and in Canada, this offers us a rare glimpse of this world, especially as it pertains to southern BC waters.

USCG Vessel Traffic Service celebrates 40 years of safe navigation in America's major waterways
Nathan Bradshaw, USCG, Sep 25, 2012

Romona Mason, guides mariners
at VTS Puget Sound. Source
The collision occurred in a dense fog bank several hundred yards west of the Golden Gate Bridge. The fully laden Arizona Standard was inbound en route to Richmond, Calif., and the Oregon Standard, carrying a full load of bunker fuel, was outbound steaming toward British Columbia. Both were T-2 tankships, 504 feet in length and 10,553 gross tons.

Before the Arizona Standard made its pass under the bridge, a red navigation light was sighted on the starboard bow of the Oregon standard, which was approximately 200 yards away. The master ordered a hard-left rudder and to stop all engines, but it was too late. The bow of the Arizona Standard penetrated the port side of the Oregon Standard at a 45-degree angle. The two vessels became locked together and 800,000 gallons of fuel spilled into the Bay Area waters.

The incident received national attention and resulted in two significant maritime safety initiatives: The Bridge to Bridge Radiotelephone Act and The Ports and Waterways Safety Act of 1972. The later allowed the Coast Guard the authority to construct, maintain and operate Vessel Traffic Service, which is now celebrating its 40-year anniversary.

The VTS is a Coast Guard unit that provides active monitoring and navigational advice for vessels in confined and busy waterways. The mission is to reduce vessel collisions and groundings in order to protect the environment from the release of petroleum and other hazardous cargos.

“We’re the eyes and ears for the Captain of the Port,” said Victor Zboralski, VTS Training Coordinator at VTS Puget Sound, located at Pier 36 on the Seattle waterfront. “We accomplish our mission by providing a measure of order and predictability on the water through active monitoring and advisory, traffic organization and navigational assistance services.”

VTS watchstanders use an array of sophisticated equipment that allows them a clear picture of the maritime traffic within their area of responsibility.
“We use a program called Coast Guard Vessel Traffic System which displays our area of responsibility as a chart with track icons for the different vessels we are tracking,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Gavin Shepherd, an operations specialist and watchstander at VTS Puget Sound. "These tracks are fed by radar, Automatic Identification System or both. The track icons are accurate to the vessel's location and display name and type of vessel, type of cargo on board, direction of movement and speed and any other pertinent information.

“In higher traffic areas we use closed-circuit TV cameras which are fed to large screen monitors at our workstation,” said Shepherd.  “All vessels participating with the VTS use a standard VHF-FM radio channel on which the operator can inform vessels of other vessel movement, navigational hazards, weather, marine events and fishing openings and can provide navigational assistance or any other information related to marine safety.”

Each watchstander has this technology at his or her fingertips, giving them a detailed look into the region’s maritime traffic.

“At our modal level, our comprehensive small scale view provides a complete snapshot of maritime activity, and we use this perspective to provide the mariner with timely information that allows for ample time to make their own sound navigational decisions,” said Zboralski.
Pacific Northwest / BC Coast vessel
traffic service map - source

To implement these services, the Coast Guard began establishing VTSs in critical, congested ports with the first two established in San Francisco and Seattle on Sept. 25, 1972.

The Coast Guard now operates 12 Vessel Traffic Centers throughout the United States including VTS Puget Sound. VTS Puget Sound monitors the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Rosario Strait, Admiralty Inlet and Puget Sound, maintaining an area of responsibility of more than 3,500 sq. miles, making it the largest in the United States.

VTS Puget Sound is also the nations’ only Vessel Traffic Center working cooperatively with the Canadian Coast Guard. Since 1979, VTS Puget Sound has worked directly with Tofino Marine Communications and Traffic Services, based in Ucluelet, B.C., and Victoria MCTS, located in Sidney, B.C., to monitor the waters of the Salish Sea, which includes the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia, and all their connecting channels and adjoining waterways. The three units cooperate via computer and dedicated telephone lines to advise each other of vessels passing between their areas of responsibility, allowing traffic to travel seamlessly in these multifaceted waterways.  

"The cooperative vessel traffic service between the United States and Canada in managing vessel traffic plying the waters of the Pacific Northwest represents a hallmark of international cooperation,” said Capt. Scott Ferguson, Coast Guard Commander of Sector Puget Sound.  “Fostering a robust safety, security, and environmental protection network has quietly provided extraordinary benefits for our joint citizenry."

In a typical year VTS Puget Sound monitors more than 220,000 vessel transits. They assist 150 search-and-rescue cases, 200 law enforcement cases and 30 pollution cases. They’re also able to affirm that their actions resulted in 55 marine accidents averted annually. Many of which involve large commercial tankers or freighters that could have devastating effects on the pristine environment of the Pacific Northwest.

“Imagine the convenience of steering your vessel, eyes on water, and having someone to assist as you navigate possibly unfamiliar waters,” said Zboralski. The VTS provides this type of security to commercial mariners. It’s similar to air traffic control in that regard; an eye in the sky if you will.

Technologically, a VTS can get by with radio communications only, which is known as “caveman style” in the watchstander lexicon; however, the addition of radar, AIS, and CCTV all enhance the effectiveness of a VTS service, which allows for safer marine transits and reduction in pollution to the environment that results from maritime mishaps.

“The Salish Sea is a pristine ecosystem and an important commercial port that deserves the best protection we can collectively muster,” said Zboralski. "Since the VTS has the best overall situational awareness of the real time maritime picture in the Northwest, it is hard to imagine who would have the bubble at their fingertips in our absence.”

Since the establishment of the VTS 40 years ago, commercial maritime transit has become safer and more predictable. The percentage of major maritime casualties has decreased significantly in areas monitored by Coast Guard VTS units and many accidents such as the Arizona Standard and Oregon Standard collision have been avoided. As we look forward, Coast Guard VTSs throughout the country will continue to keep an invariable eye on the nation’s congested ports and waterways with a mission of profound importance.

USCG VTS workstation in Seattle - Source / more info

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Arctic jostling

Arctic ice cap 2012, source
Scientist are announcing a record low level of ice coverage in the arctic during this past summer. Words like "staggering", "collapse" "record minimum" are being used to explain the extensive loss of sea ice in the arctic region. The arctic polar ice cap is important to regulate the planet's temperature, significant ice loss delivers proof that the planet is indeed much warmer than it used to be.

The impacts of the record loss are severe and far reaching. One of those is of course the reduction of challenges while traversing the waters of the Arctic Ocean. This is predicted to have a major impact on world trade due to new shipping routes opening up. The development and foraging of arctic resources, in the mining and petroleum sectors, are also high on the corporate agenda.

On the oil and gas front, Shell has just announced it is suspending it's drilling plan somewhat. They are still drilling, but not for oil at this stage, due to damage to equipment required in their agreement with the US government. However, preparatory drilling continues in the Chukchi Sea, expected to go on for another week, before moving to the Beaufort Sea, to drill for another month.

Drill rig Kulluk in Seattle, by AP
Shell is reported to have spent $4.5 billion on the project, and has had some scary moments already, proving the North might be more ice free than before, but still no picnic either. British Petroleum (BP) in it's arctic quest for oil, has shelved plans to drill in the Beaufort Sea, citing challenges in meeting requirements.

Meanwhile on the Northern Sea Route, state owned shipping fleet operator Sovcomflot is salivating at the thought of increased traffic from Asia to Europe, using the Arctic. In this article, the benefits - and there are many - of the Northern Sea Route, versus the Suez Canal, is heralded.

All has to be taken into context; Sovcomflot is about to go to an Initial Public Offering (IPO), meaning those wonderful Wall Street types are getting ready to steal yet another Russian public asset, probably for pennies on the dollar. Just what the world needs more of, tankers operating in harsh Arctic conditions, run by thieves and liars whose only priority is quarterly reports. Sounds promising.

Although there might be less ice, there still is ice, and the passage of commercial traffic, including those of future "public owned" Sovcomflot, is heavily dependent on the ability to keep the sea lanes open, which of course, will fall on the Russian public, and its fleet of icebreakers, primarily at Atomflot. However, 12 of the 15 powerful ice breaking ships in Russia's fleet need to be retired by 2020. The replacement cost will be borne by the Russian public, as announced by Lord, uh I mean, President Putin, back in June 2012, at a predicted cost of 143.5 billion Rubles (about USD4.5 Billion).

China's Snow Dragon
Meanwhile, the Chinese are celebrating their first crossing of the Arctic Ocean, using the Northern Sea Route, arriving in Iceland, in mid August of this year. They observed very low ice on the voyage and intend of doing the return trip, using a even more northern route, on their way back to China.

The Xue Long, or Snow Dragon, is a government owned research icebreaker. Typically used in their Antarctic operations, it has made several trips into the Arctic, including a "surprise" visit to Tuktoyatuk in 1999... which kinda pulled down the pants on the Canadian government.

Originally built by the Russian in 1993, as a ice breaking cargo ship, the Chinese have extensively refitted her for scientific survey in 2007, with another refit expected in 2013. The 10,225 dwt Shanghai based ship, is powered by a singled B&W diesel engine delivering 13,200 kW to a single fixed pitch propeller. She features a helicopter and an Arctic class Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, and is crewed by a crew of 34. China is expected to take delivery of its second polar icebreaker in 2014 - pictured below.

New Chinese research icebreaker being designed by Aker, expected 2014

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

At least, its not the Grey List

Ocean Aventurer; maybe too much
Canada's flag is not on the Paris MoU's Black List or Grey List; but then again the flag is not on the White List either. The lists are issued by the Paris MoU, a group of 27 nations banding together to inspect 24,000 ships last year, in hopes of reducing substandard and dangerous ships.

Most of us seafarers know these inspections as Port State Control (PSC) inspections, and they are a tribute to various nations' faltering efforts to assure minimum standards of quality on the ship flying their nation's flag.

Despite 181 Canadian flagged ships, and another 225 ships owned by Canadian entities, Canada is not a resident on any coloured list, due to lack of representation in the participating PSC port's. A flag state needs 30 inspection in 3 years to make it into the ranking scheme.

North American media darling, Iran, has actually moved up to the White List, leaving Kazakhstan just above the USA on the Grey List. While India has also fallen into the Grey list form a previous White List standing.

What do these lists mean to us lowly seafarers? It means that if you are on a ship flying the flag of Germany, currently at the top of the White List, you can probably have a bit of shore leave on your next port call, since the PSC inspector will be less likely to target your ship.

The targeting of ships for inspection is based on experience; German ships have consistently had less defect findings than any other, so why waste precious inspection resources on these ships.  A high ranking would suggest a superior attitude towards safety and operational standards, by those shipowners and operators who fly the German flag. Kudos to them !

You can find the various year's lists here, from the Paris MoU website. The most recent list was issued last week, click here to view the press release, and here for a bit more backgrounds on the lists.  

MV Friendship is a good example of whats been "caught in the net". Transport Canada targeted this ship for Port State Control inspection, while on a port call in Halifax. The Maltese flagged, Greek owned vessel had a cargo of nickel aboard, and was classed by Germanischer Lloyd. Check out this beauty - from a white list flag, from a "high performance" RO (Class) - just imagine the Grey and Black Lists flags.

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, May 27, 2012

How to make money on hazardous waste

A fantastic story below from China, of all places, on a topic that affects us all seagoing engineers at one time or another, most of the time we don't realize until its too late. I thinks its the big dirty secret of the bunker industry, and well worth noting, especially for those dealing with fuel oil on a regular basis, as far as our health is concerned.

This reminds me of Trafigura's handiwork and Glencore, all part of Marc Rich's empire. Glencore is a majority shareholder of Chemoil, one of the world's largest supplier of bunker fuel.

THE HAGUE, May 18 (Xinhua) -- Dutch Marine Police organized a large-scale inspection for oil companies' illegal practices of blending heavy fuel oil with hazardous substances in the harbor of Rotterdam in May.

"During three days, we checked whether 30 vessels had the correct documentation. In 12 cases, documents were forged, or the environmental law was violated," Hans Tuinder, head of the Criminal Investigation department for the Marine Police, told Xinhua.

Over 22,000 vessels are bunkered in the Netherlands annually, taking in around 13 million tonnes of fuel in total. The port of Rotterdam is a major trading location, the source of around 88 percent of all bunker fuel.

A study conducted by the scientific institute CE Delft last year showed some ocean-going vessels were bunkered by fuel oil contaminated with hazardous waste materials.

Fuel oil "naturally" contains a variety of hazardous substances in high concentrations. These are substances present in the crude oil feedstock from which the fuel oil derives from and they end up in a concentrated form in the residue during the refining process.

But some oil companies' illegal practices make it worse. Instead of taking their waste material to a recognized waste processing company, they blend those materials in fuel oil, which substantially lowers their cost.

"There is strong evidence that many ships blend their waste material with heavy fuel oil. That is very lucrative for them because you not only don't need to pay for delivering your waste material, but also will even get paid for the blended oil," said Marine officer Tim Tichelaar.

The practices will not only cause serious damage to ship engines, but also will pose health risks to staff members and residents in surrounding areas, study showed.

But it is "extremely difficult to get hold of these illegal activities" due to the lack of relevant legislation, Tichelaar told Xinhua.

"The law doesn't prescribe which waste materials are allowed in the fuel oil. So the only thing that is clearly prohibited is to blend the waste materials without the interference of an approved waste treatment plant," Tichelaar said.

Eelco Leemans, director of the North Sea Foundation, found it peculiar that the Dutch government doesn't organize a large-scale sample check to detect the composition in the oil.

"I think this is partly because the interests are too big. The authority of the port of Rotterdam is probably too scared that bunker vessels will turn to other harbors in Europe," he said.

So when it comes to environmental care and fuel quality, most companies operate according to their own standards. According to Ab de Buck, co-writer of the CE Delft report, "the situation at independent oil traders is unclear; these companies are the least transparent of all."

Although some regulations do exist internationally, they are not satisfactory, he said.

"The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has laid down standards for bunker fuel. But these standards only set maximum limits on fuel sulphur content, which is just a small part of the emitted particles of waste material," he said.

Pictures from various internet sources

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Chemical Alley life

So we finally got some cargo orders and proceeded to Sarnia, Ontario, arriving early in the morning. We overshot the downtown part of Sarnia, and are waiting for the refinery to allow us to load. During my past visits to Sarnia, the people have always been nice, very friendly and accommodating. Sarnia, however has a nasty reputation as being Chemical Alley, having a richly polluted environment, from nearly a century of petrochemical processing in the area.

On our trip up from Hamilton across Lake Erie, past Detroit, to our current berth, up river from the bulk of the plants in Sarnia, we've encountered an abundance of natural life. Of course the time of year helps, but we've had a some opportunities to "connect" with nature.

For instance, yesterday I came down to the engine room and found a water bowl, and some barley on top of the generator. Seems the Third Engineer had a found himself a fine feathered engine room assistant. Probably drawn to the lights of the ship as we sailed at night, a bird was in the engine room, flying around, from the shaft tunnel to the generator; another bird was in the Cargo Control Room.

Of course we used to dealing with "nature" - the ER intake fan screens are always covered in a thick layer of flying insects lots of "life" there. Then, yearlong, there is a abundance of fatten spiders, enough so to make even non phobic people nervous. It is very strange how spiders like tankers. 

This morning, we are treated to a fine display of mothering skills, a mother duck with 8 or so duckling in tow, swimming around the stern of the ship, while tiny fish school nearby. Stepping off the gangway, we realize that the gangway is nearly on top of a Canadian goose nest. The eggs inside are intact and safe, albeit they're parents sit nearby, anxiously waiting our departure; in the mean time, we moved the gangway.

Then I asked myself, is this really Sarnia, we are upriver, but still... There is a blob of of toxic chemicals below the surface of the river; there are caverns underground, filled to capacity with decades of dangerous byproducts of the chemical process. A thick haze hangs low over Sarnia,  reminding its citizen of the dubious title worst air quality in Canada.

Yet, here we have, despite all our human efforts to the opposite, signs of nature's thriving spirit around us. Cool.

With that pleasant thought in mind, I wrap up this post, its time for lunch; yummy, omelette on the menu. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

New regs take effect

I was just thumbing through the new IMO news magazine, noticing some upcoming changes in taking affect after recent ratification, that may affect you at work.

One is the new North American Emission Control Area (ECA) coming into force, under amendments of Marpol. The new regulations affect...
"...emissions of sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter from ships will be subject to more stringent controls than the limits that apply globally, entered into force on 1 August 2011. The ECA will take effect 12 months after the amendments enter into force, thereby taking effect on 1 August 2012."
Yup, North America's ECA joins the currently established ECAs in the Baltic, and in the North Seas. An additional ECA zone in the Caribbean Sea, will take affect January 1, 2013. Better stay in compliance.

In other new regulation news, regulators keep tightening the noose around the wild wild west of seafaring, fishermen. A new set of regulation affecting training and certification of fishers will come into force Sept 29, 2012. The regulation known as STCW-F 1995 affects fishing vessel over 24 meters and stipulate for the first time, standards for crewing. Canada has ratified this convention, and for the most, I believe requirements are already established in our licensing system.

These new regulations, will try to stem the massive loss of life by fishermen, which IMO estimates at 24,000 lives annually; yes, 24,000 lives annually. That is a pretty major problem.

Having briefly worked on large fishing vessels, its no surprise this occurs to fishermen, they are a wild bunch in a very dangerous job. So quit, or redirect, your complaining when paying for that can of sockeye; the majority of the cost to the consumers, end up in the traders' and other middle mens' pocket, working comfortably in nice, air conditioned offices. 

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. 
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.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Users and dealers

Lately we've been seeing quite a few reports of incidents caused by improper switching of fuel when entering Emission Control Areas (ECA), which a new one seems to be popping up just about every week now. Mechanical issues are obviously a problem that will come up more frequently, when you are making these types of far reaching decisions. There is bound to be some equipment and people that are not all on the same page.

I read of the various scrubbers and technologies being developed to fit into the various types of ship. Introducing a wide swath of new technology, procedures, chemicals etc, will undoubdetly create even more interesting situations aboard ships, hopefully not too many at inopportune times. Its great to see inovation and progress, but it strikes me as being an awfully silly exercise.

I've thinking about this whole low sulphur fuel push, which I believe is a good step for our collective global health, but I think the whole issue might be a bit misguided, well at least the implementation of change.

As Chief Engineer, I now have to fill several more legal documents such as records of Low Sulphur Fuel received, Switching Over Record, Fuel Sample Tracking and on and on. If the Oil Record Book, and the criminalization of seafarers that followed the ongoing scrutiny authorities have paying to this record is any indication, we can expect one hell of a legal bonanza against seafarers. The sudden multiplication of these types of records, and as a consequence, the potential mistakes made in maintaining these records, and the drastic sanctions they expose us on board are a cause for concern in my mind.

All this points to a silly way to deal with a problem, akin to going after drug user, and not doing anything about the drug dealer. I don't understand why the shipping industry has to bear the brunt of this responsibility to clean up emission. It would seem to me to be more logical to modify the fuel before it makes it onboard. Why do we have to force the marine industry, and about 50,000 ships worldwide, to make major capital investment, creating vast new regulatory bureaucracy, and more opportunity for failure at the shipboard level? It's great that equipment suppliers, the office and enforcement types are getting a great deal out of this, but lets face it, its just so inefficient.

Why not instead treat the fuel at the refinery level; take out the sulphur (etc.) at this level. Seems to me that the research and technology dollar would go the furthest at this level, with a broader impact on the overall environmental goals. There is less than one thousand refineries, probably far less that produce fuel specific for shipping, it would therefore be much simpler step to implement and produce a more predictable result, and a smaller bureaucracy and enforcement overall. We see this philosophy happening with Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel (ULSD) for vehicle use, and how this is being implemented across the globe now; why not adopt this format for heavier fuel.

Pics from internet sources.