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NEWS AND VIEWS AUGUST 2010 

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PASSING PORTSMOUTH

Travelling back to Spain from where I write this column we caught the ferry from Portsmouth, and on the way out passed what must be most of the British navy. Perhaps they can't afford the diesel any more. We also passed the Victory and the Warrior. The Victory is of course in drydock, but the Warrior, the first steam powered warship in the British Navy is afloat. I was reminded of my voyage on the P&O Canton during the final year of my apprenticeship. In one of the lounges there was a painting of an earlier Canton, back in the 19th Century towing a British sail powered warship to enable it to take on a pirate vessel in the Far East.

I was impressed by the Victory, even at a distance, having read quite a  bit about how naval warfare used to be conducted since I saw it last. I was amazed to read that when a British warship was dismasted it would often be taken in tow by another ship so that as they passed the enemy they could subject it to two broadsides instead of one. Remember that this was all done solely with wind power.

I was also able to see the Isle of Wight ferries coming and going. I was mate of one for a summer back in the 1980s, and they are still doing the  same thing as they did then, backing into their linkspan on a curve. And I imagined the guys on the bridge spinning the wheels of the Voith Schneider gear to achieve the required result.

ALL OVER BAR THE SHOUTING

I've been away on my holidays, but have tried to keep up with what has been going on in the Gulf of Mexico in the meantime. Remember the Deepwater Horizon? Yes, it sank back in April with the loss of 11 lives, but after a successful intervention by BP the well is now under control and apparently most of the oil has dispersed in a number of ways. The US government moratorium on deep water drilling remains in place, and so while the citizens of the Gulf coast are probably breathing a sigh of relief, the oil industry support services are in pain. No-one seems to have thought about what might have happened if the well had been in shallow water. For a start it would probably have been being drilled by a jack-up, a type of rig even more vulnerable to blow-outs than semi-submersibles, and once the oil and gas was being released there would be no sort of unit which could get anywhere near it. Hence the only means of cutting off the flow would be to drill the relief wells. Would it not be better sense therefore to stop offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico altogether? No, sorry I wasn't thinking, this would mean getting even more oil from Saudi Arabia.

I imagine there there will be those who are thinking that this in nonsense. You could put the Discoverer Enterprise over the spot and let it do just what it has been doing. Not at all. It would be likely that due to the amount of gas in the water the specific gravity would be reduced the point that any mono-hull would sink. And of course there are minimum depths in which semis can work.

Meanwhile the investigators out there in Houston have also been on holiday but reconvened this week. A few weeks ago there were headlines - on the inside pages by now - that the alarms on the Deepwater Horizon were bypassed "so that the sleep of the crew would not be disturbed". This was something from a witness, who suggested that such arrangements were common in the Transocean fleet. Of course if this was so it was probably common throughout the offshore fleet in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere. I bet they're all switched on now. Oh, and we can expect the shouting to go on for years.

DANNY F II

I read in the Telegraph, the monthly paper distributed by Nautilus, the Marine officer's union, that they have retained lawyers to investigate into the loss of the Danny F II, back in December 2009. Two of the forty four people lost were union members. Of the 83 people on board the ship 44 were lost, as were all of the 10,224 sheep and 17,932 cattle on board. The ship was registered in Panama and was on its way to Syria when it capsized in the Mediterranean. Just in case some-one who has anything to do with this disaster reads this, the lawyers are looking for help. Their man is Jonathan Doughty who can be contacted at jcd@bmcf.co.uk . According to the article the lawyers are "liaising with the IMO and the flag state authorities".

More about the Danny F II can be found in earlier editions of News and Views, but this time as I trawled through the internet I found some stuff which had been posted in Australia. Animal protectionists had unearthed defects found with cattle carriers and this is what was found on one occasion in 1997 concerning the Danny F II  in Australia "Summary : Bulkhead between fuel oil tank and water ballast tank holed, Bulkhead between stern tank and steering gear space corroded and holed, Navigation lights and shapes unserviceable, VHF radio equipment defective, Weathertight door and deck air pipe closing arrangement defective” .

For for the outsiders like me there are some unanswered questions here, the most important of which is "Why is the flag state, Panama, not carrying out the investigation?"

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY

The requirements of the alternative energy sector are beginning to take up pages in the hard copy and on line periodicals available to us. It is almost decision time for Ships and Oil. Will be embrace this alternative technology and pretend that the name of the site does not in fact matter a jot, or will I gradually shed ships as they are taken up by the windfarms and the underwater stuff.

I learnt this week that there will be a shortfall of divers required for this business in the next few years. Apparently they will need thousands, and it is only shallow water stuff. But if there is something I have learnt about shallow water divers, ie the ones who doe not have to go into sat, is that they hate diving. Probably the ones who have to go into sat hate diving as well, but they get paid all the money for being  in sat, which means being locked in a high pressure cylinder for weeks at a time, whether they dive or not.

Victor Gibson. August 2010.

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