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NEWS AND VIEWS FEBRUARY 2012 

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THE COSTA CONCORDIA

The Costa Concordia ran aground on the island of Giglio on the very day last month that I was writing this newsletter, and it has now more or less faded from view except for those living on the island. But it is now accepted that thirty two people, who were either passengers or crew members on the ship, died in the accident. It was a painful and distressing event for everybody who witnesses it, even in the media, and it must have been traumatic for those who were attempting to evacuate from the vessel, and the relatives of those lost have our sympathy. In the aftermath much has been said and written about the event, and the actions of the master, who seems to have failed in a number of ways.

In the professional marine media the Nautical Institute, through its magazine “Seaways” has pledged that it does not comment on marine accidents until the findings of the investigation have been revealed, and the marine union paper the Telegraph has protested at the “scapegoating” of the master.

However, while the Nautical institute has said nothing – because the investigation has not been concluded – the Telegraph has also called for “a radical safety review”. For myself, I have read what was in the papers, and heard what the marine experts have had to say on the Beeb, and listened to a thirty minute programme on Radio 4 called “The report”.

I have written to the Nautical Institute, pointing out to them that if they wait for the results of investigations, they will probably not be commenting on anything – and for them to get on with it, and make their point, which primarily is the prevention of the criminalization of the seafarer. We all agree with that, but on the face of it Captain Schettino seems to have been a bit … what could the word be? Incautious!

THE IRON LADY

Now showing at a cinema near you. The Iron Lady starring Meryl Streep. I had not realized what a strange name that was until I typed it for the first time. However, it was Mrs Thatcher who totally deregulated the British merchant navy, and I wonder whether it was she, who had therefore changed the way ships are operated all over the world. Did she identify the means by which even Mongolia can have a ship registry?

TEENAGE YACHT PERSONS

It was reported in the press the other day that a teenage girl, Laura Dekker, now sixteen years and four months has completed her objective of sailing round the world. She made it in a 38 foot boat, and it took her one year and a day, and arrived on 21st January in St Maarten in the Carribean.

She had won a court battle in the Dutch courts before leaving, because the Dutch social services had argued that the voyage could harm her emotional and social develop. Of course this was not out of the blue. The press had reported that she had been born on a yacht off New Zealand during a seven year round the world voyage. The Guinness Book of Records has now withdrawn the category to prevent children in nappies from competing for the award.

Of course she is not the first, which could be even more worrying. Those of us who spent years learning the trade before being let loose with a sextant, might now wonder what the point of our study was, but we assume that they are relying on GPS systems. And it appears that Jessica Watson, the Australian round the worlder was condemned by the Queensland government before she left.

American teenager Abby Sunderland had her yacht dismasted but was lucky to be rescued

It seems pretty strange to me that a fifteen year old with no formal marine qualification can leave school and take off by herself across the world. Today in UK, parents cannot take time off with their children to go on hols during the term time!

TUGS IN THE GULF

In the third week of January the weather was a bit rough in the gulf and it was reported in the Tugs, Towing and Offshore Newsletter that in one week two ships had sunk one of them only 500 metres from the beach. The beached vessel in the photo is the tug Fadak 2, or maybe the Iranian tug Fadak 200. At least one crew member has been lost.

In general the conditions in the Arabian Gulf are pretty fine, but the weather can get up. Sometimes moderate gales can last for two or three days, and on occasions there are storms with very high winds, driving rain, lightning and thunder. It is likely to be the latter that catches out these little ships, and would probably catch out bigger ships if they were about.

We go back to the loss of the Demas Victory with the deaths’ of nearly everyone on board back in 2009 and the sinking of the Koosha 1 with a number of divers still in sat in October 2011. It seems likely that they were all lost. They were Indians, Iranians and Ukranians. According to an article in the Hindustan Times the ship was on its way to port when it sank 15 miles offshore. This was due, according to the newspaper to “an overload of cargo”.

Probably if asked, the marine regulators in the Gulf would bristle with indignation at the possibility that they were not doing a good job, but one wonders how many port state inspections take place in its ports. When I was master of a supply vessel out there it had an approved stability book, even though there was no deadweight scale on the vessel. When I asked for one, the managers said they were not prepared to spend to money on getting one – because after I left “no-one else would ask for one”.
 

STUFT IN THE FALKLAND ISLANDS

We continue watch things going on in the Falklands, or as the Argentinians have it, the Malvinas, now we are at the 30 year anniversary of the Falklands War. Elsewhere on the Ships and Oil site there is an article about the Oil Mariner, and when the actual war took place 30 merchant ships were taken up from trade or STUFT. The most famous was the Atlantic Conveyor which took out aircraft and a single Chinook helicopter. The ship was hit by two Exocet missiles and was burnt out. The master Captain Ian North died in the attack.

Now apparently Sean Penn, possibly having been less than totally successful as an actor, has become a spokesman on behalf of the Argentinians, and has accused the British of being inappropriately colonial. The current situation is being hyped up by the impending Argentinian elections, and of course by the successful drilling campaign by Rockhopper using the Ocean Guardian.

Next month the Guardian is due to terminate in the South Atlantic and return to the North Sea, but the DP deep water rig Leiv Eiriksson spudded in for Borders and Southern at the beginning of this month. This unit is due to drill another well for this company and then go to work for Falklands Oil and Gas, and at the moment there is no other action in view. This is despite the fact that according to a pundit on the BBC there is more oil offshore of the Falkland Islands that there was in the Uk sector of the North Sea.

PASSENGER SHIP BREAKDOWNS

Back in December 2010 the Carnival Splendor suffered from a fire in one of its engine rooms which resulted in the ship being disabled and as a result had to be towed into port, still full of distressed passengers. And there is more.

The other day the UK MAIB released a report into an explosion and fire in an electrical switchboard room on the Queen Mary II which disabled the ship for a little less than an hour. The report said that the fire resulted in all four propulsion motors shutting down and leaving the ship drifting off the coast of Spain.

The report described the manner in which the explosion took place, which is frankly beyond me, but it is important to say that the systems which had monitored the switchboards had not worked for several years. The report also said that the watch-keeping engineer officer had cancelled two fire alarms without taking any action, and that he was cancelling at least one alarm every minute.

The ship of course owned by Carnival Cruises – the owner of the Carnival Splendor and the Costa Concordia!

THE THAMES ESTUARY AIRPORT

Just at the moment there are people lobbying for the development of an airport in the Thames Estuary, and apparently an equal number of people working against this proposal. The proposed site seems to be just off the Isle of Sheppey where I recollect there is still a Liberty Ship full of ammunition sunk by enemy bombing in the Second world war. This vessel has not been moved so far because it was considered too dangerous to do it. Even if it is not moved it would end up in the flight path of the aircraft. Does this matter? Maybe not since it has been said in the past that if the ship blew up it would devastate Sheerness.

INFORMATION ABOUT THIS NEWLETTER AND SHIPS AND OIL LTD

This newsletter expresses the views of the author Victor Gibson about marine events which are considered to be worthy of interest sources of information include:

The Tugs, Towing and Offshore Newsletter.
The Nautilus Telegraph
The Nautical institute Magazine Seaways
The BBC Home Page

Articles already on the Ships and Oil Website including:

The Costa Concordia Accident
News and Views November 2011.

The website contains comprehensive information about many offshore vessels and approaching 10,000 images. Since the beginning of 2012 the following company information has been updated:

Neches Gulf Marine
North Star Otto Candies
NJSC Chornomornaftogaz
Oceanografia
Nomis
Odyssea Marine
Noordhoek
O.H.Melling
Nor Offshore OIL
Nordane Shipping
Olympic Shipping
Norskan
OOC Offshore
OSA
Ostenjo Rederie

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Vic Gibson. February 2012.

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