The UT 722 Far Fosna - Victor Gibson
The UT 722 Far Fosna - Victor Gibson

I have started populating the new Ships and Oil website with information. Some of it is from the old site which sadly has now become history, and some is new, or at least a new way of presenting old information. I have made considerable effort to rescue the old site by downloading the on line folders to a computer, but it has not worked well. I have even purchased an exact copy of the old Sony desktop which I used to used to upload the stuff, and although I can recover some information, much of the underlying structure is missing, so rather than destroy it I have decided to continue to maintain it as far as I can – and pay for the server space, and to initiate a new site based on a CMS – Content Management System. It is coming on, and one of the headings is OSV Designs. Today I added the magic UT722 Far Fosna, which was for many years one of the two Shell contracted anchor-handlers. It entered service in 1993 and worked for Shell until its work drums proved to be too small for deep water work. But it and its sister ship the Far Grip are still out there somewhere doing their stuff. The address of the new site . 


In January 2015 the diving ship Red7 Alliance ran into one of the lock gates in the Kiel Canal without anyone being injured or any pollution, but the ship was jammed into the damaged gate and had to be pulled out by a tug. Since then Red7 has put up the shutters, an early casualty in the oil price collapse, and the other day the German Federal Bureau of Maritime Casualty Investigation published its report. Within it there is a full description of the steering and propulsion system of the ship which was by two aziprops at the stern. And as you read this you will be thinking “here we go again” and sure enough we do. The propulsion was provided by Rolls-Royce azipods, which consisted of CP propellers set within Kort nozzles. It was therefore possible for the astern power to be provided by altering the pitch of the propellers, or rotating the pod. Crucially because altering the pitch to provide stern power was less effective than rotating the pod, it appears that the latter technique was used, the downside being that it always takes time for the pod to turn round. The ship entered the lock with the pilot operating the steering and the captain operating the azipod controls, and the report determined that one of them was set in manual and the other in “auto”, the auto setting providing the steering. Speed was about one knot when the lines were put ashore forward and aft, and thereafter the pilot asked for power astern. The captain rotated the controls to turn the propulsion units and then moved the throttles towards him, which he thought would rotate the pods and then provide astern power. But one of the azipods was still in auto, so as we well know, the unit would not respond in terms of direction when the control was rotated – it was still connected to the tiller - so it would still propel the ship forward - increasingly rapidly, while the other azipod was still rotating. Oh dear! 


Prestige - Public Domain
The Prestige Sinking

On 26th of this month the unfortunate Captain Mangouras was found guilty of gross negligence by a Spanish court, overturning a previous judgement which had found him not guilty of anything. The London P&I Club and the owners of the ship Mare Shipping were also found liable, and the sums being discussed in terms of compensation are in billions.

Spain also took ABS to court in the USA but the case was thrown out by the American court.

This event occurred so long ago that some of us will have forgotten what it was all about. So – the Prestige was a 26 year old tanker which was on its way down the Spanish coast with 63,000 tons of boiler fuel when it broke down in rough seas. The captain asked for it to be towed into a safe haven but the Spanish government – said to be in the person of Mr Rajoy, the current prime minister – refused and so it was held out in deep water for six days, until it broke up and sank.

The captain is now 82, so he probably won’t go to prison. But he must by now have suffered enough having been held in Spain for years. This for asking for the right thing, in conformance with an existing Spanish emergency plan, which the PP (Popular Party) government chose to ignore.

In a way the case is a reflection of that contained in the newsletter in November, the Marine Electric, in which ABS was also involved. If they are unable to determine if a ship is seaworthy how are they doing their job on behalf of the insurers?   


Bombay High burning

There is a lot of information about at the moment concerning accidents in the marine environment and the formal investigations of them. For instance this month’s Nautilus Telegraph has an article about a report published by the European Maritime Safety Agency. The report presents all sorts of statistics in a variety of ways, but the Telegraph has chosen to present the information relating to the types of ship and the reasons for the accidents. So the report states the following - that 67% of the accidents were attributed to human erroneous action – or as we might put it “human error”.

In the same month The Nautical Institute publication “Alert” the International Maritime Human Element Bulletin, has come to an end, one assumes, because it has used up all its funding which had been provided by Lloyd’s Register (I think), but contributors assure us that the information compiled will be available via the internet.

Also this month Dr Nippin Anand has written wise words in Seaways, the Nautical Institute magazine about what it means to be a ship captain. He suggests that investigators focus on aspects of accidents closest to the event, and do not take into account less immediate features. Typically he says that a major contributing factor might be substandard design in a ship built thirty years before, or fatigue due to inappropriate travel arrangements being made for the crew member involved.  He also says that major accidents offer tremendous potential for learning from failures, but the opportunity is easily lost if human fallibility is viewed as the cause.

I am minded to quote from my own book “A Catalogue of Disasters” (You’ll have to put up with a bit of advertising dear reader!) about the Samudra Suraksha accident in 2005, when the helideck of the ship contacted a gas riser on the Mumbai North Platform and the resulting conflagration caused the loss of the platform, the loss of the ship and the deaths of 22 people.

The captain was at the controls and he was there because the cook had cut of the ends of two of his fingers, and the platform had agreed to take him on board for medical attention. Pretty straightforward then we might think – just a case of bad driving.

But now I’m going to list what might be considered to be contributing factors. Firstly the weather was not very good, so should he have been attempting the job at all. Due to the wind the helicopter kept in the field was shut down, preventing the use of the ship’s helideck. Also contributing to the accident was the fact that the ship’s thrusters were not working properly which had resulted in the captain having to do the job manually, rather than having the DP do it, which would have allowed him to gradually step in to the correct position. This was particularly important because the only available crane was on the windward side, and actually other installations which might have had a crane on the lee side had refused his requests for help.

So up to now it seems that mostly it was the captain’s job to assess the situation and decide whether the poor cook should be taken up on the platform, although it would seem to be doubtful that they could have sown his finger ends back on. Should he have take some medical advice and sorted the problem out himself? But no, he chose to go to it and get help for the cook, so in the very least the man would no longer be whingeing in his ear.

The transfer took place but before the ship could move away the helideck contacted one of a  number of gas risers running up the side of the platform. And bang - both the platform and the ship were alight. And within a couple of hours the platform was a smoking stub sticking put of the water.

So let’s rewind a bit. None of this would have happened if the gas rises had been located inside the platform structure. And for those who work outside the oil industry, the risers are pipes transporting the hydrocarbon product from the well, or wells, to the processing area on the platform. And you people from outside the industry will be asking why anyone ever thought about putting these very important pipes in such an exposed position. Good question, and the answer is - because it is easier.

So I think we have pretty well muddied the waters when it comes to who was responsible for the devastating loss of the MHN platform. And if anything it appears to have been the designers of the platform or the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation of India, rather than the captain of the ship, who was at fault. There have been suggestions that the OIM of the platform should have refused the ship access, and there is some validity to this approach. It is virtually certain that the captain had no idea that the pipes running down the side of the platform jacket were full of gas, and that there was a good chance that if he touched them with the helideck the platform would burn down. And finally we might ask what training the captain had received in the manual manoeuvring of his ship. Doubtless he was the proud holder of a DP Certificate enabling him to operate all the buttons and switches on the ship’s DP console, but people who are not in the business might be surprised to learn that you don’t even have to be a seafarer to gain such a certificate, and it does not involve any sort of ship handling training. So in all probability he had received no training.

After the disaster various people made presentations including the then Operations Manager of the HSE Offshore Safety Division to the members of the Marine Safety Forum. The theme of his presentation was that he hoped that there was no possibility of such a thing happening in the North Sea. This will be the subject of next month’s main article.


Pusher Tug in the Mississippi
A Pusher tug in the Mississippi

In recent weeks there have been severe floods in the rivers of the southern states of the USA, particularly the Missouri and the Mississippi, and these have resulted in the deaths of 29 people and damage to thousands of buildings. Further down river the pushers tugs have been struggling to keep control of their rafts of barges, and the Vicksburg railway bridge has been hit a number of time, once by a raft of coal barged nine of which broke free and six of which sank.

Later a group of 22 barges collided with a merchant ship, and many of them broke free and continued to make their way down river independently, colliding with other ships on the way.

 After this accident the Coast Guard closed the river and as a result a surprising 40 odd vessels were prevented from continuing on their voyages.

The Coast Guard also issued some limiting instructions Including the limitation on vessel to vessel transfers, and the prohibition of vessels entering South Pass with a maximum speed of less than 10 mph, and a requirement that ships in the river should have two anchors available and engines on standby unless they were tied up.

We ordinary folk might think that it would be a good ideas to limit the number of barges which could be pushed by a single tug.

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