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NEWS AND VIEWS AUGUST 2004
by
VIC GIBSON

NEXT

The Rogue Wave

The rogue wave keeps surfacing in the marine news. The latest view is that satellites have identified a pattern of rogue waves in storms on the surface of the earth. Perhaps this scientific discovery validates the numerous reports of rogue waves which have been filed by shipmasters over the years. On the other hand it is surely to be expected that some waves in storms will be larger than others, and it is not unreasonable that there might be some sort of pattern.

Of course it is usually after ships have been seriously damaged that the reports are filed. "We could hardly believe it, the wave towered over us etc". In addition there have been ships lost in extremely rough weather and some people claim that these losses have been due to very large waves. Indeed the latest was the report by those guys in a rowing boat. A giant wave swamped their boat - surely it would not take much of a wave to swamp a rowing boat. The surprise is that they got as far as they did.

Some of the other ship damage might just have been due enthusiasm to press on despite the adverse conditions and some of the losses might really have been due to lack of maintenance, poor design and failure to carry out proper inspections on the part of the people who are supposed to do that sort of work.

Or else maybe it really is true. There are rogue waves, but no matter what they only happen when its already really awful weather.

The Tidewater Retirements

Some time during the month Tidewater announced that they were retiring 83 ships. Well, its probably about time. We are constantly amazed by the life of some of these craft and the oil rigs which they service, and much of this is probably due to the way steel is protected now. Many of us could probably visit a 20 year old ship and find it in wonderful condition, and if you suggested to the crew that it might be at the end of its life they would be amazed. But, in the 1970s ships were still being built with a ten year life. There were even programmes which suggested that they would not be maintained at all - just thrown away at the end of their expected life.

The Tidewater announcement probably heralds the eventual demise of the the well known American 180 ft supply boat, a ship type which has successfully serviced the offshore industry for 25 years. I commanded one for a brief period in Saudi Arabia in 1994 and developed great admiration for the design, which was built on the principal that if it couldn't be fixed with a big hammer then you had a major problem. We worked without any major problems for 3 months in a place where support was very limited, and developed a reputation for being the ideal ship for rig moving. I for one will be sorry to see them go, particularly since the American replacements seem to take the 1980s ME202 as their template. Photo below by Ken Polson     

KennyPolson3.jpg (110387 bytes)

The 10,000 Year Storm

Storms in general have made the news in UK recently because there have been quite a lot of them. So how do these relate to the 10,000 year storm you may ask. People not familiar with the designs of mobile offshore drilling units may wonder what this is all about. Well, the average MODU is designed to withstand the 100 year storm being suitably closed up and secured. What the will happen when you have the 10,000 year storm ask the UK safety regulators. If your rig is only designed to withstand the 100 year storm how is it going to manage in the 10,000 year storm. The uninitiated might say what the hell does it matter, and the answer is that it matters because of the numbers. It is part of the required standards for the safety of people offshore that their individual risk should be less than 1 x 10-3 . That is that you would have to work on a rig for 1000 years before you were accidentally killed. If you put 100 people on the rig and they all have the same chance of dying in the 10,000 year storm then the risks, in theory become unacceptable.

By now you have probably dropped off, or if you have not you may be wondering what the hell the point of this is. The point is that in such a storm everyone, including people on oil rigs, are going to have to rely on either themselves or else the emergency services. In the recent UK storm at Boscastle, where most of the village was washed away seven helicopters were used to rescue the population. If every town on the North East coast of the UK was a Boscastle how many helicopters would be left over to rescue people from oil rigs? 

Safety Case Training

Occasionally I remember why we started this website. It was intended to assist us in our efforts to sell our products and services, but it has taken on a life of its own, and mostly I forget to adverise our products when I should be doing so.

So - an advert. Over the last couple of years we have been discussing the possibility of providing a course to familiarise people with the UK Safety Case. Our possible collaborator thought we would  be ideal people to provide such a service because of our years of experience, not to mention our ability to make presentations. The whole plan fell by the wayside but we have kept on thinking about it and gradually getting a programme together, and now we are ready.

MMASS will be holding a series of 1 day courses starting in November of this year. Their purpose is just to familiarise people with the whole process, so that when they look at a Safety Case they will know what it is about . We intend to cover the reasons for the case, what has to be included, how to do risk assessments, what QRA is all about, the supporting legislation and how the HSE assess the documents. Many people remain completely in the dark about Verification, we demistify the process.

Anyone interested should give us a call on 00 44 1224 894498.

Full Employment

Interestingly the Stewarts daily ship report on 24th August showed that every spot market vessel in Aberdeen, the Southern North Sea and Norway were employed. Even the majority of the small stuff which is based in the Dutch ports was also working some of them for very good money moving jackups.

The Operators have had it all their own way for a number of years now, and have been able to hire well found and in many cases almost new ships for moderate prices for what-ever tasks they have in mind. But once the availability of good ships is reduced and the prices for hiring them start to rise there is usually a change in approach. In the past anchor-handlers which had spent some time on the spot market might be hired longer term, so that operators had a guarantees availability of vessels and in the mean time they would be used for the carriage of cargo.

However, the AHTS specifications have been rising constantly and a large number of the vessel operating from Aberdeen have the capability to lay moorings in very deep water. This inevitably uses deck space and it is likely that fuel consumption even in "economy" mode may be quite high. So if one looks at this logically and operators do decide to add anchor-handlers to their contract fleets then they should start with the least powerful first. If true then we should see UT722s being added to the operator's fleets.

The Stevns Power

It is now 8 months since the Stevns Power capsized during anchor-handling operations off Nigeria with the loss of all hands, and I was going to suggest that it is about time we saw the report, but just to be certain I did a search on the internet, and found that the Danish Maritime Authorities have in fact published their report.

Once more it makes sobering reading, and it is likely that what most of us suspected turned out to be true. The report can be accessed at http://soefart.inforce.dk . I leave it to you to you to go and look, and those of you out there driving anchor-handlers to learn the lessons.

Star Offshore Services

A little bit of a personal advert. I am acquainted with many people in Aberdeen who used to work for Star Offshore, and now and again when there are half a dozen of us in the same room we think we should have some sort of a re-union. As a step towards this I have registered "Star Offshore Services - Seagoing staff" on Friends Reunited.

If you worked for Star Offshore visit the site and register, and we'll see where we go from there.

Vic Gibson

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