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NEWS AND VIEWS MARCH 2012 

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THE COSTA ALLEGRE ACCIDENT

The cruise ship Costa Allegra suffered from an engine room fire on 27th February in the Indian Ocean, not far away from one of the smaller islands in the Seychelles. There were about 600 passengers and 400 crew on board.

The ship was once a container vessel. It is one of the oldest in the Costa fleet and is likely to be sold for scrap since Costa do not intend to continue to operate it. In fact it was already up for sale. Probably because of the Costa Concordia it became an instant news item and its progress towards the nearest island of Desroches, being towed by a French fishing boat was followed live. But apparently Desroches is very small and the air strip can only accommodate planes with the ability to carry 20 people. It obviously did not take anyone too long to calculate that it would take 50 flights to get people back to Mahe, and the resources on the island would be pushed to the limit, so the tow was rerouted to Mahe.

The passengers were met by reporters and we all quickly found out how inadequate the arrangements, are on yet another ship, for dealing with loss of power. In fact when I think about it, although I schooled my guys offshore how to start the emergency generator, I was not quite sure what it operated. It’s got to be the lights one thinks, but what else? Even as a risk assessor on oil rigs I found that not may people knew what the emergency generator operated, and in some cases we had to make recommendations for additional services to be connected.

This is all leading up to the fact that the vacuum toilet systems do not seem to be seen as essential equipment on passenger ships, and as a result after a main power failure, the underdeck areas become smelly quite quickly. I won’t go on, in case you are having your tea, but the Costa Allegra passengers said they were happier sleeping on deck.

THE KOOSHA 1

Back in late 2011 the diving ship Koosha 1 sank offshore Iran with several divers in sat. The ship had been working in the South Pars gas field and was on its way back to port. The latest report said that of the 73 people on board 60 were rescued. What! I hear you say, 73 people on that. How did they manage? I can only say that then a Saudi company bought a couple of old anchor-handlers in 1994 they ripped out the cement tanks and put 60 bunks in the space.

OFF MOMBASA

The Russian managed website Maritime Bulletin often contains interesting information, since Russian shipmasters provide it with reports.

Elsewhere we have included a short update about the Koosha I which was reported on this site.

Recently a shipmaster sent in some information about conditions outside the port of Mombasa. There is effectively no anchorage, according to him, and as a result the twenty-five or so ships waiting to enter the port have to drift about outside waiting for something nice to happen to them.

Unfortunately quite the opposite appears to be likely. The ships jockey for position, attempting to remain in the middle of the group because the alternative is to be isolated on the outside, and therefore be prey to pirates, who after all live just up the road.

This activity is very similar to the
tactics used by the stronger members of herds of Zebra. The weaker animals find themselves on the outside of the herd, and are therefore easy prey for the prowling lions.

Only a few days after I had read this report the BBC reported that a ship had dropped its anchor in a restricted are and had severed the main telephone cable connecting most of East Africa with the outside world.

I searched in vain for the ship’s name and I suppose if I had taken out a subscription to Lloyd’s List I would have found out. But it is claimed by a site called “Zeta Talk”, that really the cause was some sort of geological activity.

WAITING FOR THE RESULTS OF INVESTIGATIONS

Back in February the Nautical Institute took a stand on commenting on marine accidents, and this prompted a letter from me, which was published in the March edition. Here it is.

Dear Sir,

I read, with some distress, the Nautical Institute press release about “speculation’ in relation to marine accidents, and the Chief Executive’s column headed “The Need for Investigation not Comments”.

Surely it is time the Nautical Institute caught up with the rest of the world, and acknowledged that much has changed since it was instituted 40 years ago. While it would appear to be righteous to refuse to make comments on marine accidents, until formal investigation have been completed, the reality is that such a stance will mostly result in no comments being made at all.

After all, considering the Costa Concordia, surely we all privately have a view. There are eye-witness accounts in the media, including interviews on the BBC with survivors. For instance, one of those interviewed in The Report, a Radio 4 programme was a 19 year old female dancer, who had been put in charge of a liferaft embarkation station, apparently without any real training. There is more, as we all know, and regardless of any honourable intent to protect those accused of a maritime crime, comment about aspects of incidents such as the above could still be made.

But if the Nautical Institute is going to wait for investigations to be completed, could they comment on the Costa Europa accident at Sharm-el-Sheikh in 2010, in which three seafarers died. The answer would be no, because the only entity to carry out an investigation was Costa itself, who submitted their report to the Italian authorities. No-one else has seen it. Could they comment on the loss of the Danny FII which sank in December 2009 in the eastern Mediterranean with the loss of more than 40 lives including the master, or on the loss of the Demas Victory in July 2009, off the coast of Doha with thirty fatalities. I could go on. In fact, according to the IMO, investigations should be carried out by the country in which the ship is registered, unless it is carried out by the flag state in which the ship was situated at the time of the accident.
Nautilus, an organization who I would have though would have had a bit of clout, have failed utterly to encourage Panama, the flag of the Danny FII, to carry out an investigation into the loss. And as for the Demas Victory which sank only ten miles offshore in adverse weather, having been refused entry into the port of Doha, when a local reporter questioned the marine authority there, the only response was a shrug of the shoulders, and a view that these things happen. As for the flag state, St Vincent and the Grenadines, they do not have a government marine department even though large numbers of ships registered in the country. I have written several letters to the registry, incidentally in Geneva, but have had no response. There are now many registries who would not have the ability to carry out an investigation, nor I suspect any enthusiasm for doing do. The IMO should be doing something to encourage them to act responsibly or else should find some means of preventing them from existing as registries. And the Nautical Institute should be doing something to support this view.
So it is unrealistic for the Nautical Institute, one of whose objectives is, I think, to support the improvement of health and safety at sea, to hide behind the results of formal investigations which may or may not take place, before expressing a view. They should be prepared, on our behalf to take on board available information, and to make comment using expertise within the organization. It would then be possible for them to put before the international media those things that we all believe should be changed, such as the enthusiasm of many states for putting shipmasters in prison for errors of judgment. If they don’t feel they can do this then they should send some-one on a media course.

OIL RIG NEWS

People who have had a look at the February newsletter have enjoyed the addition of photographs and really this is just an excuse to include here a photograph of one of the new Rowan rigs, two of which have for a time been jacked up at the quayside in Dundee.
 
The one in the picture (You need to have the emailed pdf version to see the pictures) is the Rowan Viking taken a little more than a year ago. But to bring us up to date, the last of the trio has just left Dundee being towed by the UT 722 Highland Valour, and seems to have arrived at the Bentley Field where it is going to be engaged in an extended well test.

A DEAD ZONE

I was surprised to find that in the aftermath of the Macondo blowout, during which BP is compensating many thousands of business to the tune of seven billion dollars or so, the Gulf of Mexico already had serious pollution problems.

Apparently there are dead zones in many bodies of water, including the Baltic, the Black Sea and Chesapeake Bay, and they are all due to a lack of oxygen in the water.

The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico extends to 6000 to 7000 square miles. The problem is caused by all the stuff flowing down the Mississippi.

The Mississippi flows through many major farming states in America. It’s a big river. During its passage across the states it is polluted by fertilizers animal waste and sewage. All of which cause a change to the marine environment and makes it impossible for fish and crustaceans to live in the water.

American academics were already concerned about the gulf before Macondo. So what now? I’m not sure that oil depletes oxygen in water.

KS ENDEAVOUR

Without wanting to be solely involved reporting disasters one can’t help it in this business. Lots of bad stuff happens, and to be honest not enough people do much about it. Apparently the KS Endeavour was drilling off Nigeria when it caught fire. An uncontrolled well control problem again. But a ship was also lost. The Mako was apparently tied up at the rig, providing extra storage. It was also burnt out. Two people unfortunately lost their lives.

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:

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

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

Portosalvo
Remolques Maritimos
Rem Offshore
Remoy management
Rimorchiatori
Rovde Shipping

Picture of the Day included photographs of the following:

Mermaid Endurer, North Rankin B, Dockwise Swan, Transocean Honor, Apache II, Nor Star, Victoria Kent, Invincible Tide, North Sea Giant, Ocean West (And thanks to those who sent me information about its history).

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Vic Gibson. February 2012.

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