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NEWS AND VIEWS MAY 2007  

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THE BOURBON DOLPHIN TRAGEDY

As usual when there is a marine tragedy the media report it as best they can usually without fully understanding what has happened, what was going on or what marine objects were involved. However, some sort of an enquiry has bee  started in Norway, and a report on the full  investigation will probably be published in February 2008 we hear.

See the Bourbon Dolphin page for more.

PIECES IN THE JIGSAW

Regular readers of this short column, or those who have been interested enough to click back through the reports from yesteryear will know that we have often commented on the success or not of the BP Jigsaw project. One assumes it was called Jigsaw, because those who initiated it saw it as a collection of pieces which together would serve to replace the conventional standby vessel. Some of the pieces were helicopters, some very large vessels and the final pieces were large daughter craft type boats which could be launched from the ships in the event that rescue of some-one from the water was required.

If this sounds complex it is, and despite the best efforts of those involved the system is not fully operational, although one of the standby/cargo vessels has been seen with two of the "daughter craft" ARRCs - autonomous rescue and recovery craft, on board. Others are being used as PSVs by the BP cargo operation and this week one is visible lying at anchor with other off hire support vessels outside Aberdeen Harbour.

I was surprised to look back and find that the first mention of Jigsaw was within the text of the first newsletter I wrote. At that time it was a helicopter based operation and the backers were considering providing each aircraft with a diver who would leap into the water with a small motorised surfboard so that he or she could motor under platforms to pick people up who had fallen under the rig. These ideas were not very sensible, and now......

THE LOSS OF A TURTLE

Years ago when I was second mate on a deep sea vessel, I was leaning against the end of the bridge wing while we drifted off the coast close to an African port, waiting for the pilot or some such. Of course, being a traditional ship, built shortly after the second world war, if the ship was stopped the engine was silent. The sea was completely clear and I could just see the bottom deep below us. Then out of the gloom a large turtle appeared swimming in our direction I was fascinated to see it heading directly towards the hull close below where I was standing, and without even slowing down it swam straight into us. What bad luck I thought, the poor thing was used to having the whole ocean to itself, and even I could see that the chances of it hitting anything as it swam along were pretty low.

Similarly the possibility of a semi-submersible under tow grounding on the coast of Tristan de Cunha is also pretty remote, and when I read in "Tug and Salvage" that a semi had broken free of its towing vessel and grounded in Trypot Bay on one of the most remote islands in the South Atlantic, and therefore on the surface of the globe, I was reminded of the event in my past - particularly since the semi in question was called "A Turtle".

The rig was apparently on its way from Brazil to Singapore, and you have to look at the  chart of the southern ocean to see that this misfortune was either extremely bad luck or extreme foolishness on the part of the towing vessel. The salvage team who were employed to remove it spent 50 days refloating it, towed it away and sank it in deep water. So now "A Turtle" is no more.

ACCOMMODATION SHIPS

The new trend in accommodation ships continues. We reported recently on the Ice Maiden and its intended use as an accommodation unit in the North Sea. Apparently the gangway is on the bow, and it is going to maintain station using its multiple thrusters powered by the engines in its four engine rooms. It is more than DP III (and if you only have a sketchy understanding of what the DP numbers mean I believe we have some articles about the subject in "Features").

Hot on its heals, in nautical terms, comes the news that Edda are to build a vessel to follow the Edda Fjord, after the success of the latter in support of the Bonga project in Nigeria. This is a purpose built ship with accommodation for 600 workers. The owners have suggested that it will work mainly in tropical waters. This is a really new sector which has been virtually untapped in the past, the industry relying on moored semi-submersibles in the main.

There again, perhaps the operators in the Arabian Gulf thought of it first. Out there it used to be fairly common for small ships to be equipped with a few portacabins on the stern which could be filled with unfortunates from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh, and notably on one occasion, an old Italian anchor handler had its cement tanks ripped out, to be replaced with bunks for 60 workers.  Of course, they were just tied up to the boat landing which was very much simpler that having multiple engines churning away all the time.

ONE FOR THE BOOK

The Telegraph - monthly magazine of Nautilus the UK marine officers union - recently published the news that subsequent to appeal the sentence on a ship master of 53,000 was lifted on appeal. Why - the substances which were discharged from his vessel were allowed by the Marpol convention.

While the master was relieved, is he going to get compensation  for the six years of misery resulting from his incorrect conviction? We suspect not.

 

Vic Gibson

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