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NEWS AND VIEWS JANUARY 2011 

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A BIG SHIP

The KL Sandefjord recently entered service. It is the latest for K Line (The Norwegian branch of Japanese company Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha) from STX and is different for a variety of reasons. It has been billed as having the greatest bollard pull of any anchor-handler ever, at 390 tonnes, and this is achieved by the hybrid propulsion system. The ship is provided with two main engines developing about 15000 kW which can be used for driving the propellers and, here's the difference, there are also five generators which can be used via electric motors to enhance the power and therefore provide the driving force to produce the record bollard pull. It also has everything else you could possibly want in spades. It is 95 metres long. It has a wire rope capacity of 21000 metres of 76mm rope or a synthetic rope capacity of more than 2000 metres of 200mm rope. It is billed by the owners as being suitable for towing subsea ploughs, which might be the best thing it could be doing. It would be worrying for the OIMs of the average mobile unit to have a ship larger than it is, pulling up alongside.

WEIGHTY MATTERS 

It is rumoured that the offshore industry is in a state of distress because the HSE OSD (Health and Safety Executive - Offshore Safety Division) have suggested that the average weight of an offshore worker is 100 kg. For the British this is a weight of nearly 16 stone, for the Americans it is about 220 lb. Why does this matter? The SOLAS criteria suggest that the weight of the average seafarer is 75 kg (12 stone, 168 lb) and hence the sizing of lifeboats is generally based on this size. In the Uk sector of the North Sea the PFEER Regulations (Prevention of Fire and Explosion and Emergency Response Regulations) require that the there be lifeboat seats for 150% of the personnel on board, and of course in most cases the lifeboats were put in place in the early 1990s with seating numbers based on the SOLAS standard. Hence if there were 100 people on the rig all weighing 75 kg the total notional weight available would be 11250 kg. If the average weight was 100 Kg there would be 112.5 seats giving an available POB (personnel on board) of 75. You cannot run a rig today with 75 people.

Previously it had more or less been accepted that the average weight might be 96 Kg and people had begun to install bigger lifeboats, and use spare lifeboat space if it was available by adjusting the evacuation procedures. Even this weight seemed a little over the top. The food on rigs is good, and abundant so it is no wonder that people put on weight, but an average weight if 100 Kg suggests that lots of people weigh more than that. Surely if this was the case they would not all fit into the helicopters.

PIRACY UPDATE 

Now and again the media goes on a bit about piracy when something new happens. The something new this month is the fact that some Korean commandoes boarded a Korean chemical tanker and killed a number of pirates with no loss of life themselves, or of the crew of the ship. The ship was owned by the same company which had recently paid $6.5 million to recover a tanker. In this case apparently a Korean destroyer had followed the hijacked vessel for some days before the attack was launched. So what next one wonders. Some of the experts in this rather unusual field suggest that making a fight of it will endanger the lives of the seafarers already imprisoned, or that it will raise the bar in the levels of violence used. Apparently there are about 30 ships and 690 seafarers currently being held, and the range of the pirates has increased possibly as the policing actions by the navies of the world has improved. Receiving lesser coverage are piracy actions in other parts of the world. Frequently tugs and barges are taken pretty close to Singapore and individuals are still removed from ships for ransom off the Niger delta. The question has to be when will it come to an end? Like most other areas of seafaring we seem to be taking backward steps, leaving seafarers at risk for one reason or another. We must try to do something about it!

WORKING ON

As the western world gets to grips with the lack of money that is available for it to spend it seems that pensions are getting quite a bit of attention, and that it is expected that everyone should work past the old retiring age of 65, so as to reduce the weight of pensions on the government's coffers. Indeed it seems like a forgotten dream that people could retire with a handsome pension based on their final salaries when they were about fifty-five or sixty. Amazingly this was the case within living memory for those who had contributed to the MNOPF - the Merchant Navy Officer's Pension Fund. I was reminded of all this by the news that a technician had been airlifted off the FPSO "Skarv Idun" which  was under tow by two Fairmount tugs and had recently left the area of the Cape of Good Hope. The Skarv Idun appears to be owned by BP and is to be located on an oilfield in the Norwegian sector, and as far as we can tell the whole project is years behind time. It may be the delay that has caused the technician who was lifted off to work beyond his normal retiring age. He is 73 years old.

THE SEAWIND PROJECT

Offshore Ship Designers have unveiled a new concept, intended to facilitate the installation and maintenance of offshore windmills a considerable distance from centres of industry and communications. Apparently wind farms are likely to be installed miles away from anyone and anything, although this creates the question which seems to be being constantly raised these days - how will the electricity get to the national grid? Anyway, the Seawind is a very large vessel with the capability to increase its draught to flood an area at the stern. It can carry many windmills and can house 200 technicians. For the first time, except for the Jigsaw project, I have seen a mention of ARRCs, the large autonomous rescue craft which are carried by the Jigsaw PSVs. Apparently this vessel, if built will carry some of them. The graphics available for viewing remind one of the various projects which came off the drawing board in the 1970s as ship-owners and designers tried to second guess what the operators might need during the next decade. My favourite was, and still is, a commercial aircraft carrier which would be stationed in the Northern North Sea and would be serviced by short take-off and landing aircraft, and would then distribute the workforce by helicopter.

Victor Gibson. January 2010.

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