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that many of the brokers reported April as a 'blooming' month with fixtures
strengthening and rates blossoming accordingly although - as one broker put
it - the 'weather forecast' was for sunny spells with possible showers. Bit
like Michael Fish that - nothing like covering all angles! One issue widely
reported by most of the gatherers I tend to look at is that the new building
forecast, set to almost flood the market, will have a significant effect on
the whole shebang - both term and spot. Exactly what this will mean is still
speculation although - as most charterers like the new stuff, given their
bells and whistles mentality - there may well be a hard time ahead for the
older owner-operators of aged tonnage. Whatever, it remains to be seen
whether the effect will be unemployment of many vessels or charters being
offered at highly uncompetitive rates.
I would not like to take a social stand in this column, there should perhaps
be a reminder that lay ups and the like will also affect the human element
of the market - a factor seemingly missed by those who perhaps conveniently
forget that it is a critical part of the whole ball game.
bits and pieces
North Sea - the new owner of Forties Production - took on BUEViking's BUE
Canna as ERRV on the Forties Alpha in late April. It is worth noting
that this was Apache's first offshore fixture.
was on for the Talisman tender together with SBS's SBS Cirrus. The
latter may well be replaced by SBS's new build, SBS Nimbus, a VS
470MKII, which is about due to be delivered around now.
GulfMark Offshore's UT745 PSV, was secured by ExxonMobil Norway from ASCO on
a 2 month sublet with 4 monthly options. She was replaced on her original
charter by the Stirling Tay. Staying with Stirling, , the Stirling
Esk ended its charter to Petersens on the 30th April. She was then
almost immediately taken up by GlobalSantaFe to support their jack-up GlobalSantaFe
Monitor. The jack up is working the Rose Field for Centrica and the
ship's charter is reported to be around the 100 day mark.
UT745 North Mariner was taken by Statoil for pipe haul duties, again
on a sublet from ASCO. She is to work a 7 week firm charter with daily
options 'as required' to complete the charter. With her on this charter were
Olympic Orion, Highland Star and North Vanguard. GulfMark also
found work for their UT755 Monarch Bay with Seaforth. Period is one
well, which is expected to be between 30 and 50 days and she is working with
the semi sub Ocean Princess. Staying with GulfMark, the company
brought their two UT705's Highland Warrior and Highland Champion
out of warm lay up in Leith. Highland Warrior took up a 14 day (+10
day options) with Team Marine after 3 months away. Highland Champion
was bound for the spot market. Bareboat chartered to GulfMark, Tidewater's
UT 755 Mercury Bay will have left for
Australia by the time this goes to print, starting a one year charter
to Conoco Philips.
took on a term charter from BP in April, when the Esvagt Gamma was
taken on for a thirty day charter with 4 weekly options at the Scheihallion
FPSO as tanker heading control boat.
sent their MRSV Maersk Dee to Gib for modifications prior to her
sailing for Equatorial Guinea on tanker assist for Triton Energy. This is
likely to be a 1 year charter with options. Maersk Dee had been
providing standby and assist at the FPSO Maersk Curlew, and
conversion / mods will include a daughter craft and ROV support. The Maersk
Dee's place will be taken up by Esvagt's Esvagt Connector
which will remain until approximately the end of June. Maersk's AHT Maersk
Trinity will be going to Trinidad, apparently in support of the jack up Nabors
657 via BHP Billiton. Maersk' Maersk Beater left
the North Sea this month headed to the Far East to support a Sedco 700 rig
which is drilling for Total. She will join Maersk Supporter. The
rumour engine also says that Maersk's massive 'A' Class AHTS Maersk
Assister is also heading out of the North Sea for places hotter and
sunnier although Maersk are keeping schtum about exactly what is happening!
One source told me that it is likely to be Brazil, for Subsea 7, as it
carries out installation of the FPSO Fluminese
as we were earlier, of what appears to be 'old' technology. Trico's Northern
Seeker - built 1975 - took up a 7 week charter with 45 daily options for
Swiss based Allseas Group SA. The ship will work with the barge Solitaire
out of Bergen on the Kvitebjorn project. Trico's UT745 Northern Wave
also took up pipe haul work with Stolt Offshore on a 10 day plus 14 daily
options basis. She will be working with the LB200 supplying pipe from
Holland. Meanwhile, their UT706 Northern Viking was rumoured to have
been offered to Venture Production working with Stena Dee for a well,
with length of charter being between 85 to 95 days.
Toisa Independent - a Global 1000 PSV - completed a number of cargo
runs out of Aberdeen before gaining a term charter with Petro Canada. The
charter is likely to last until September of this year.
Solstad's AHTS A101 Normand
Mariner will be working in the Med in connection with an FPSO whilst Normand
Ivan's contract to Heerema in the US Gulf has been extended.
Waveney Shipping's PSV UT755L Waveney
Citadel arrived in Aberdeen from builders Aukra during April, getting
some spot charter work but, at the time of writing, nothing longer.
Also returning to the North Sea
spot was District Offshore's UT708 Skandi Beta which almost straight
off took up a fixture with Shell for the rig move of the jack up Seafox 4.
It is thought likely that on completion she will return to the spot. Skandi
Mogster returned from Mexico for Spain, under charter to Hoegh and
towing a tanker across the pond.
Havila Surf, Island Offshore II's UT 722 LX, was due to leave
the North Sea after ending her work with the Jack Bates rig move. She
is destined for Brazil for charter to Subsea 7 and the FPSO Fluminese.
buildings this month are Hornbeck's HOS Bluewater, one of a
four series OSV class for them. The vessel was delivered two weeks
ahead of schedule by builders Leevac Industries LLC.
Offshore have stated that they have ordered an UT 755 L from Brazilian
Builders Estaliero Promar I. To be named Seabulk Brasil, she is
scheduled for delivery in the third quarter of 2004. Maersk (Brasil) are
also having a series of vessels built in Brazil for work in the area. They
have ordered four PSV's from Fels Setal, with delivery of the first set for
July of 2005. These are likely to be big brutes - as is the Maersk trend -
weighing in at a hefty 4,500DWT and will be the largest ever built in
Meanwhile Simek delivered the UT
712 AHTS Lady Caroline to IOS. The vessel then sailed for Australia
although reports suggest she is uncommitted in terms of charters. News also
just in is that the original partnership of IOS - which was 50% P&O
(Australia) and 50% Farstad - has now passed over completely to Farstad.
Tidewater took delivery of their
fourth in series PSV's from Bender Shipbuilding. Named Frontier Tide,
the vessel is one of 24 that Tidwater have either had delivered or on order
most significant new building this month has to be Eidvik's VS 4403 Viking
Energy. Delivered from Kleven the vessel represents almost three years
of development before being brought into service as the world's first gas
driven ship. She is to be joined by a sister vessel being built for Simon
Mokster. Both vessels will be chartered to Statoil for ten years and are
felt to be forerunners of hydrogen powered vessels.
As I said last month, how long before we have a fully automatic,
radio controlled supply ship?
Vic's piece on DataTrac and his comments on the 'old days' of tank cleaning
brought back a couple of good memories of when these things often fell to
the crew on the grounds of time of year, location or - more likely - cost.
As any seafarer who has been in
the game a few years will testify, a contract part of your job involved
'tank work' - a coverall term that meant you went into various dusty / damp
/ dark / dangerous places aboard ship - and for a pitiful bonus to boot.
Apart from stowing anchor chain (rig and ship - this was in the days when
ships dropped the hook on location to back up to discharge! ) the other
places you could find yourself in was any of the bulk tanks aboard. Cement
washing of fresh water tanks was a duty you hoped had been done by the
previous watch when you joined as it was messy, and bitumastic hand painting
of other tanks was also a job that was not relished. Cement tanks were a
constant as you were in on the passage home to sweep them down before having
to tramp out on deck to rig the blow lines. Again, this was in the far off
days when you rigged a discharge hose to the manifold on completion of
sweeping down and the tanks were then blown out by the duty engineer. You
could rate the engineers by this little job as the good ones could empty a
tank almost perfectly whilst those who didn't quite have the knack gave you
a work up that meant a lot of sweeping and digging had to take place before
you could blow the tanks clean. The engineers who were not on your Christmas
card list were those who had you in for a second time as the first blow out
wasn't at a high enough pressure. They existed - they probably still do!
I often wondered about the
blowing out of tanks at sea. Without knowing the exact legalities, it meant
that the ship would steam head to wind while leaving a few miles of cement
cloud astern of her until the tanks were clean. After stowing all the pipes,
the duty watch were then able to shower. Having said that, bits of cement
stayed with you in all sorts of odd bodily places for days afterwards. God
knows what it did to your complexion.....
back to mud tanks. This was a job that usually fell to a grimy bunch of
individuals - a group of men whose job I didn't envy -
who would turn up with a road tanker on the quayside complete with
shovels, pressure washers, wellies and many many sacks of disposable
overalls. We'd open the lids, and they'd stream in with hoses and wandering
lead lights amidst great noise, hissing sounds and lots of foul language.
Watching them come out for a break was like seeing what life must have been
like once we stopped crawling and stood up on two legs. Filthy, covered by
the oily stuff we'd pumped to the rig a couple of days previously, they'd be
literally enveloped in the slimy brown mess. I remember on one ship, whose
mud tanks were deep cavernous places accessed by a ladder that seemed to
stretch down to infinity, that the mess these guys left behind was probably
worse than the mess they'd been in the tanks to clear. It was everywhere -
meaning that AB's had to turn to as soon as they'd gone to clear up after
- as AB's traditionally do about pay differentials, bonus schemes
only ever did a mud tank clean once in my 14 years offshore. This happened
in Aberdeen on a Christmas Eve when - aboard a brand new ship that had done
its first cargo run out to a rig on the spot market - the news filtered down
that the cost of the job was prohibitive and the company expected us, the
crew, to do it. Back in those days we were unionised, led by the colourful
shoreside figure of Harry Bygates whose name, I am certain, is still spoken
of in whispers by some shipmasters. A quick telephone call to Harry soon
confirmed that mud tank cleaning was not part of our role and was definitely
in the remit of the shore side squads as well as being something the company
should have had organised on arrival. Now, as we were on the spot market,
the Master was faced with a dilemma. If the tanks weren't clean, we would
definitely not get another charter should one arise which meant a loss of
money and - for a brand new company in the game - a loss of face. Head
Office however, were not budging, saying that the tank cleaning company had
quoted them twice the normal rate as it was Christmas and the job would go
on until at least midday Christmas Day. Their answer to this scandalous and
exhortive fee was that they expected the crew to do it. The Union,
meanwhile, made it quite clear that liquid bulk tanks were not a part of the
job and if the company insisted then a 'local' and 'one off' agreement could
be brokered - but it had to be to the advantage of the crew. It started to
look like a stand off was forming as neither party was going to back down -
which was good news for the crew as it was also looking like we'd be
alongside for Christmas!
that mysterious and much aligned figure, the Shipboard Union Convenor. This
was a man who knew his way around most things and he suggested to the Master
that - if the company would pay the normal rate paid to the mud tank
cleaners to the lads, we would clean the tanks ourselves.
The deal, however, had to be cash in hand and payable to each man
involved. By the time the telephones had stopped ringing between the ship
and head office a deal was brokered. The company, realising their position
and possible loss of a potential charter, agreed providing the job was
complete within the same time scale as the shoreside outfit had quoted and
provided it passed the Surveyor. The Chief Engineer - never one to lose out
- argued that as he had to operate the pumps to drain the water and would
need to pump the stuff ashore as well, he wanted in - as did the Second. A
quick conflab, an agreement - and the six man squad set out to do the job.
worked like Trojans, hosing down the tanks, cleaning the bulkheads with rag
wipes and generally making sure they were spotless for cargo inspection by
the surveyor. However, by 2am, we'd broken the back of the beast and spent a
few more hours cleaning decks and fittings, washing down and bagging the
many rags we'd used. By 6am, it was done. We slept Christmas Day away. The
day after Boxing Day the Surveyor arrived, donned his white boiler suit and
hard hat, took his torch and clipboard and entered the tanks. They passed,
no problem. Two days later we were handed £300 smackers each. The company
were delighted - they'd saved money. Their outlay was £1800 which was a lot
less than what the tank squad would have got. The Old Man was delighted as
we could now tout for charters as the Surveyor had passed us. The crew?
Well, there's a moral in this.
ship was new. Less than a month out of the yard and on her first run. The
tanks and spaces, therefore, were still brand new and consequently much
easier to tackle. The company was new - this was the third in their initial
four ship fleet although they are now a large and worldwide concern. The
Officers were new - their total experience aboard supply ships was the last
run out and a fortnight's familiarisation tour which had been undertaken
with another shipping company with that type of ship. It had occurred to the
Convenor that this could be to the financial advantage of the crew as the
outfit was brand new and still stepping cautiously into the game. The Union
was fairly strong in those days, having negotiated not just the 1:1 leave /
duty system but also the above average salary enjoyed by supply ship crews.
Aberdeen was considered to be a 'solid' port in terms of industrial action
and if push came to shove, the last thing a fledgling company needed was
crossing swords with the union - something the oil companies would
definitely not look too kindly on.
Of course, such actions were rare - a harder nosed outfit would have
found somewhere to have the tank job done cheaper even if it meant delaying
the crew's pay off (Christmas? What's Christmas?) or would have simply had
the ship go out to anchor off. Whatever,
despite the handy bonus, I looked at those mud tank cleaning squads in a
different light after that. I wonder whether crews today appreciate their
tank cleaning systems?
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