Category Archives: Clipping

COSTA CONCORDIA: Who else was on the bridge?

Captain Terry Hughes, a Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) and Management (VTM) expert, comments on the Costa Concordia tragedy and how little has been heard of the other officers onboard the stricken cruise liner.

Nearly a hundred years ago the Titanic suffered a fatal accident in the North Atlantic Ocean. However, from this accident the Safety Of Life At Sea (SOLAS) Convention was born.

Very little has been heard of the other Officers on the Costa Concordia, including the Engineers who work on the vast engines in the bowels of the vessel. Every ship has a chain of command. On the Bridge, the Master is head of a team whose job it is to support him and challenge if necessary. The challenge should arise if a decision is made to alter the navigation plan, for example, which is not agreeable to the whole team.

The Costa Concordia would have had to comply with specific standards of safety as specified by the International Safety Management (ISM) Code. The Master, Officers and Crew would have been trained according to the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW Convention). The safety and navigational equipment on the Bridge would have complied with the regulations laid down by the SOLAS Convention. In fact there are a mass of rules and regulations covering every aspect of safety from stability to lifejackets that a vessel such as this would have had to comply with.

From the above it can be seen that this, like other cruise vessels, was a very safe vessel. All vessels require human input to operate the equipment otherwise they would not function. However, modern technology has made operating vessels and their equipment easier, traditional skills relied on personal knowledge, experience and sound judgement.

Does this mean that the proliferation of electronic equipment aboard today’s super liners is creating a loss of traditional skills and an over reliance on magic black boxes? No amount of training ashore or afloat can account for the way a human mind works or reacts, the human element. There are many distractions on vessels, particularly cruise liners which in themselves can lead to a chain or errors.

The vessel was required by maritime law to carry a Voyage Data Recorder (VDR) or black box as it is sometimes known. The VDR records all radio and vocal audio on the Bridge as well as receive data from navigational equipment, echo sounder and other sensors. Had the vessel sunk in very deep water the VDR may never have been found. Should it be positioned such that a flotation device could bring it to the surface?

The VDR is now in the hands of the authorities so trust must be placed in those authorities and the ones carrying out the investigation to find the true cause of this accident so that we can all learn from it. Eye catching headlines, leaked audio tapes, finger pointing, accusations, conjecture, argument and counter argument do not solve anything.

Thanks should go to the Italian Coast Guard and the various rescue authorities who are doing a magnificent job under difficult circumstances.


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LIFE AT SEA: Phillipines ratifies ILO Convention 185

MANILA, Philippines — Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz announced the ratification by President Benigno S. Aquino III of the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 185 or the Seafarers’ Identity Convention (Revised) 2003 which provides a uniform Seafarers’ Identity Document (SID) that ILO member-countries are required to issue to their seafarers.

“With the ratification of ILO Convention 185, the security of our seafarers and their continued employment is assured,” Baldoz said.

Baldoz said ILO C185 also spells out the requirements for ILO member-countries on how to establish processes and procedures for the issuance of SIDs.

All countries ratifying ILO Convention No. 185 will be required to issue new SIDs that conform to the requirements specified in ILO SID-0002, the standard which puts in place a comprehensive security system that enables the first global implementation of biometric identification technology on a mandatory basis, thus enabling positive identification of the seafarer that holds the document.

“The Philippines has done extensive work for the implementation of the ILO Convention 185 as preparation for its ratification. Because of this, Filipino seafarers will be able to move more easily around the world with this international document,” said Baldoz.

ILO Convention 185 revised the earlier Seafarers’ Identity Documents Convention, 1958 (No. 108). The much needed changes in the new Convention relates to the identification of seafarers.

Under ILO C185, the new SID carries a fingerprint-based biometric template, aside from the normal physical features for a modern machine-readable identity document, which was adopted with the agreement of the world’s ship owners and seafarer organizations. This new SID must conform to an international standard enabling the biometric templates on a SID issued by one country to be correctly read by devices used in other countries.

In addition, border authorities around the world will be able to check the authenticity of a SID produced by a seafarer, as the new Convention enables them to verify information in the SID either by reference to the national electronic database in which each issued SID must be stored, or through the national focal point of the country of issuance, which must be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In addition, the SID country-issuing must arrange for an independent evaluation of the administration of its issuance system to be carried out at least once every five years. The evaluation report is reviewed within the framework of the ILO with a view to the maintenance of a list of the countries that fully meet the minimum requirements laid down by the Convention.


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Three missing in South Korean boat fire in the Ross Sea

Three crew members from a South Korean fishing boat are missing after their vessel caught fire in Antarctica, officials say.

The Jeong Woo 2 is still burning and appears to be sinking, the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand says.

Another 37 fishermen were rescued, but at least two of them are said to have serious burns.

The ship got into trouble in the Ross Sea, about 600km (375 miles) north of the US McMurdo Antarctic base.

Two other South Korean fishing vessels rushed to evacuate the crew members, after the 51-metre (167ft) Jeong Woo 2 issued a distress call early on Wednesday.

However, the three missing fishermen are believed to have died in the fire, the RCCNZ says.

It adds that a US research vessel – which has onboard medical facilities – is “steaming north” to help the injured, as the two rescue boats remain stuck due to ice and fog conditions.

The incident happened about 3,700km (2,000 [nautical] miles) south-east of New Zealand.

The Jeong Woo 2 was built in Japan and is registered in Busan, South Korea, according to the Associated Press News Agency.


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OIL SPILLS: Brazil’s federal police seek to indict Chevron, Transocean officials

By Bruno Marfinati and Reese Ewing

SAO PAULO, Dec 21 (Reuters) – Federal police in Brazil on Wednesday recommended the indictment of several Chevron and Transocean officials involved in an oil spill in early November for environmental crimes and withholding information in an investigation.

The indictment is unrelated to a civil suit brought against the companies by a public prosecutor on Dec. 14, seeking fines of $11 billion for their alleged roles in the spill at Chevron’s Frade field off the coast of Rio de Janeiro.

This latest legal action against Chevron, the No. 2 U.S. oil company, and Transocean, one of the world’s biggest drillers, for a 3,000-barrel spill that never reached Brazilian beaches highlights the major political risks of operating in Brazil.

Head of the investigation for the federal police in Rio de Janeiro Fabio Scliar said on Wednesday he submitted his report to the Federal Public Ministry recommending that it bring charges against the two companies and its employees.

“I affirmed my conviction … of environmental crimes and withholding information,” Scliar told Reuters by phone.

Employees of the two companies, including Chevron’s Brazil Chief Executive George Buck, could face charges if the federal prosecutor’s office, which is in recess until 2012, accepts Scliar’s recommendations and pursues them in the courts.

Scliar said the companies were increasing the risks of an environmental accident in drilling.

“They were betting on luck and lost, which caused this whole problem that led to environmental losses of grand proportions,” Scliar said.

Chevron said it was advised the police were seeking indictments against its employees in Brazil, but that it believes these “are without merit,” a company spokesman said.

“We will vigorously defend the company and its employees,” spokesman Kurt Glaubitz said in an email. “The facts … will demonstrate that Chevron responded appropriately and responsibly.”

Representatives from Transocean also said the indictments were groundless and that the facts would exonerate the company and employees when fully examined.

Although such alleged crimes could carry sentences of over 10 years, according to some experts, it is unlikely any of the employees of Chevron or Transocean would spend time in jail.

Soon after announcing a series of stunning discoveries in 2006 and 2007 that would become known worldwide, Chief Executive Jose Sergio Gabrielli at the state-controlled oil company Petrobras said exploration of the massive offshore subsalt deposits was virtually without risk.

The storm that Chevron’s relatively small spill last month has caused in the local courts will cast a pall over one of the most promising new oil frontiers in decades and gives investors reason for pause before they pay top dollar for offshore blocks that concession holders are looking to farm out.


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INCIDENTS: MAIB releases report on Queen Mary 2 explosion

The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has released the result of its investigations into a failure of a capacitor, part of the diesel-electric propulsion system of the cruise ship ‘Queen Mary 2’.

The MAIB feels that there are lessons that the industry should learn from this incident, which resulted in an explosion onboard,so has asked for our help in promulgating the information.

At 0425 on 23 September 2010, as the passenger liner Queen Mary 2 (QM2) was approaching Barcelona, a loud explosion was heard from the direction of the aft main switchboard (MSB) room. Within a few seconds, all four of the podded propulsion motors shut down. A few seconds later, the vessel suffered an electrical blackout. Thick black smoke was seen to be coming from the aft MSB room. Fortunately, the vessel was clear of navigational hazards and no one was injured.

By 0439, the crew had confirmed that the explosion had taken place in the aft harmonic filter (HF) which was situated in a compartment next to the aft MSB room. After establishing with thermal imaging cameras that there were no hot spots, they ventilated the area and isolated the aft HF and MSB from the rest of the 11000 volt electrical network. The crew were able to restore some electrical power supplies and, by 0523,QM2 was underway using two propulsion motors powered from the forward MSB. Subsequent inspection of the aft HF revealed that one of its capacitors had failed catastrophically due to internal over-pressure and another had developed a severe bulge.

The vessel had a history of HF capacitor failures, at an average rate of one per year. Although the exact cause of the capacitor failures could not be determined, it was concluded that capacitor degradation was probably caused by a combination of transient high voltage spikes due to frequent switching operations and occasional network over-voltage fluctuations. The capacitor deterioration had not been detected, and because there were no internal fuses or pressure relief devices, it had continued until the capacitor casing failed catastrophically.

Although the aft HF circuit breaker disconnected the HF from the rest of the electrical network to isolate the electrical fault, the disruption was likely to have caused electrical instability in the electrical network which led to the loss of propulsion and blackout. The vessel’s alarm logs were found to contain early warnings about the impending failure approximately 36 minutes before the accident. However, as the vessel’s alarm systems regularly logged more than one alarm every minute, this information was not seen and could not be acted upon.

The only protection against catastrophic failure of the capacitors was a current imbalance detection system. It consisted of a current transformer which was connected to the capacitor circuit. Under normal conditions, little or no current should have flowed through the transformer. When a capacitor degraded, the current flow across the circuit became unbalanced and induced a current in the transformer’s secondary winding. The system was set to give an alarm when the imbalance reached 400mA and to trip at 800mA.After the accident, the transformer’s windings were found to have failed. There had not been any alarms on this part of the system for several years and it was likely that the imbalance detection system had not worked for some time.

This caused the alarm display to read 0mA giving a false indication that the capacitors were in good condition. Although detection of an unbalanced current was the only protection system for the harmonic filters, it had no backup and did not fail safe. Routine tests of the system were by the secondary current injection method, and by-passed the transformer.


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SHIPPING: Container freight rates further down

David Badger | 29 Nov 2011

Freight rates continued their downward spiral on benchmark containership routes last week, as lines failed to react to growing overcapacity and competition for cargo.

The Shanghai Containerised Freight Index (SCFI) reported declines on services from Asia to Europe and the US west coast, as well as on other trade lanes.

The SCFI reported a US$25 drop over the week for China-US west coast freight rates to $1,435 per feu, below analyst Drewry’s Hong Kong-Los Angeles benchmark price of $1,457 per feu this week.

Asia-Europe trades were down to $511 per teu on the SCFI.

In its monthly Container Intelligence report, London-based Clarkson Research Services said: “Recent withdrawals of capacity from the suffering transpacific and Far East-Europe trades have been undermined by seasonally weak volumes and further economic deterioration in Europe and the US.

“Although volumes on the main trades may well pick up seasonally in the spring, in the medium-term, redeployment of capacity is likely to maintain its impact on the markets.”

The research team also said that it had revised down its container trade projections from the previous monthly report, on account of worsening economic conditions in Europe and the US, which could hit imports into these economies.

Overall, Clarksons estimated that global container trade would increase 8.1% this year and another 8.2% in 2012. However, the containership fleet was also projected to grow by 8.3% this year.


Some questions crossed my mind after reading this:


  1. Will the laid-up tonnage exceed that of 2009? 
  2. Will this crisis finally lead to a consolidation of the container shipping industry?
  3. What will be the outcome for shippers and ports?
  4. What will be the impact on training and safety?
I do not have the answers yet. Does anybody want to give a try?






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SURVIVAL: Two Kiribas rescued after 33 days adrift in the Pacific

Two men lost at sea for over a month have been found on a remote island 300 miles away from where they set off.

The pair set sail from Kiribati, one of the Gilbert Islands in Micronesia, on October 22 2011.

The men, aged 53 and 26, were left drifting helplessly in the Pacific Ocean for 33 days before washing up on Namorik Atoll in the Marshall Islands last week.

Medical checks found the pair were weak from a lack of food, but in a ‘reasonable condition’, according to ABC Australia.

Giff Johnson, the editor of the Marshall Islands Journal, told Radio Australia that the islands often shelter Kiribas drifters who become lost during long voyages.

“It’s not that it happens all time time,” he said. “Let’s just say people from Kiribati are very hardy individuals. They get lost in a little tiny boat and somehow manage to persevere. It is an amazing thing.”

The two men were picked up by U.S Coastguards after a three-day air and sea search and are due to be taken to the island’s capital Majuro before returning home to Kiribati.

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