Tag Archives: Australia

SHIPPING: Cargo ships fail to report their position, risk disaster on Great Barrier Reef

HUNDREDS of ships have been caught breaking laws intended to prevent an environmental disaster in the Great Barrier Reef.

About one ship every two days is failing to report its position before entering the Reef, raising fears foreign crews with limited knowledge of Australian maritime law are ignoring basic rules to safeguard against an oil spill in the marine park.

Ships of 50m or more and all oil tankers must report their positions before entering the reef so their journey through its waters can be automatically tracked and a computer-generated warning issued should they stray off course.

Most of the 250 cases of ships breaching reporting laws in the past 18 months were in a section of reef where new rules were introduced following the 2010 grounding of bulk carrier Shen Neng 1.

The Chinese carrier was loaded with 65,000 tonnes of coal when it ran aground on Douglas Shoal 80km north of Rockhampton, gouging a 3km-long scar in the reef and spilling tonnes of oil.

Mandatory reporting and vessel tracking was extended to the southern border of the reef after the incident.

Australian Reef Pilots chief executive Simon Meyjes said it was another reason for mandatory pilotage of ships through the whole of the marine park.

“About two-thirds the length of the marine park does not require a pilot onboard the ship,” he said.

“A lot of ships arrive in Australia with a foreign crew with no local knowledge.

“If they are failing to do that (report) it makes the job of alerting them to a potential risk that much more difficult.”

Failing to report a position does not mean a ship has strayed from designated shipping lanes or rat run through the reef.

But it makes it harder for officials to program a ship’s intended route so a warning can be generated should it steam into danger.

Townsville-based Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait Vessel Traffic Service manager Mick Bishop said vessels were still closely monitored by staff using satellite-tracking.

Two staff a shift monitor 40-50 ships in the reef at any one time.

“The most important thing is that they report the route they intend to follow,” Mr Bishop said of the reporting rules.

“Once they do that we can then electronically program that into the VTS (vessel tracking service) and we would then get alerted if there was any deviation from that route that they hadn’t given us prior notification of.

“The reason (for failing to notify staff) would be they were unaware of the requirement to report. I don’t think we have people trying to sneak in.”

Source: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/national/cargo-ships-risk-disaster-on-great-barrier-reef-by-failing-to-report-their-position/story-fndo45r1-1226419835047


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SHEN NENG 1 | Report praises response, considers future oil spills ‘inevitable’

Originally published in Tradewinds, 2010/10/06

“Significant environmental damage” from the grounding of a Chinese bulk carrier on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef earlier this year was prevented by an “immediate, extensive and effective” response.

Oil spills are, however, “inevitable” off the country’s coast, an independent report into the April grounding of the 70,200-dwt Shen Neng 1 (built 1993) found.

The China-flagged panamax was fully laden with coal when it grounded on Douglas Shoal off Queensland on 3 April. Between three and four tons of heavy fuel oil were spilled before the ship was refloated nine days later.

However, the situation could have been far worse were it not for the fact that “Queensland was well prepared” for the situation following an incident involving the 3,700-dwt Pacific Adventurer (now-Pacific Mariner, built 1991) off the state a year earlier.

The Shen Neng 1 grounding “could have caused significant environmental damage” resulting in 975 tons of heavy fuel oil and some 65,000 tons of coal being spilled, the report written by Graham Miller read.

“Although the vessel’s crew were in shock and initial reports from the vessel were unclear, early situational awareness was developed by the responding agencies,” it read.

However, “the operations achieved a positive outcome as a direct result of the immediate, extensive and effective incident response” which Miller also termed “well-resourced and well executed”.

The report pointed to the reasonably favourable location of the casualty site close to the port of Gladstone while weather conditions during the casualty were “generally favourable”.

The report was not designed to study the causes of the grounding but issued a warning to agencies that it was unlikely to be the last such incident in the state’s waters.

The incident, it wrote, “highlights the vulnerability of Queensland’s coastline to a significant oil spill incident. Increased shipping movements and the continued likelihood of severe climactic events suggests that the threat of marine oil spills will remain and that future oil spills are inevitable.”

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OFFSHORE | Death reveals Oz safety gap

Originally published in Safety at Sea International, 2010/09/28

AN INQUIRY into the 2008 death of a seafarer has uncovered gaps in regulations covering offshore vessels in Australian waters.

The 45-year-old crewman was killed while severing a mooring line during disconnection of Teekay-operated FSO Karratha Spirit from its CALM buoy off northwest Western Australia, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said. The accident happened on Christmas Eve as the FSO sought to avoid the approaching Cyclone Billy.

The ATSB found the proper procedures for connecting and disconnecting from the mooring buoy had not always been followed on Karratha Spirit. The difference between the procedures and shipboard practice had not been identified during any shipboard review and the risks associated with this amended practice had not been assessed, it added.

The bureau also discovered that some points of routine operation of FSOs and similar offshore units were not regulated by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority or the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

The ATSB said Teekay has addressed the minor safety issues arising, while AMSA and NOPSA are both “actively engaged” in resolving the jurisdictional issues together with the federal government.

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MARITIME | History is a thing of the past

AUSTRALIA underwent a successful transformation of its lighthouse system in the 1980s, leading to a massive reduction in lighthouse dues and improved service quality. How was all of this achieved?

First, it was recognised the single major cost driver was the flotilla of ships needed to maintain steel buoys and light vessels, the legacy floating aids to navigation. Where possible these floating aids to navigation were replaced with land-based structures or with modern, low-maintenance buoys and spar buoys.

Instead of spending millions replacing ships, we invested less than half the amount in modernising and replacing obsolete equipment and replacing power systems with modern solar lights. Floating aids have been minimised.

Attractive as it was to maintain the elegant and wonderful historic lighthouses, we replaced most of these classical lighthouse power systems with modern solar technology. Only where land-based lighthouses were well served with reliable mains power were the classical lenses retained — these lighthouses are also the ones that are visited easily and preserve historical value at the lowest cost.

It was recognised very early that with modern satellite navigation systems mariners’ reliance on conventional lights had been significantly reduced. The need to mark channels with buoys all along the roadstead has long gone.

All of this means a responsible marine safety authority has to consider very carefully the full array of safety measures at its disposal to ensure ships navigate safely and expeditiously in its coastal waters. Vessel traffic management, pilotage and other similar tools are now more than ever an integral part of the marine safety system.

Simply increasing the numbers of aids to navigation is no safeguard.

Secondly, the idea that maintenance and construction of aids to navigation could only be safely done by government workers was questioned openly. Offshore oil platforms and similar deepwater commercial activities showed plainly the private sector was capable of providing a service to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

Accordingly, maintenance and construction activity was put to public tender, and in 2000 a contract was entered into for the ongoing function. The initial cost savings had to meet a hurdle rate of at least 15% less than prevailing costs and this was easily achieved in the first round. Subsequent contracts have been let that reflect a saving when compared with the in-house costs of 1999 of over 50%.

The contract sets very stringent performance and reliability hurdles and has a significant performance reward component. The most pleasing — and in some ways surprising — feature of the outsourcing has been a measurable performance and reliability improvement.

AMSA was very proud of its extremely high standards and at great pains to ensure the act of contracting out to a commercial service provider would not diminish system reliability and quality.

The outcome has been that the system is now more reliable and quality has improved measurably. Private sector providers are equally (if not better) placed to find improvements than a government body which is often more intent on preservation than improvement.

During the discussions leading to the decision to outsource an alternative approach was examined, that the AMSA operation should be allowed to compete in the commercial market, in order to raise funds to offset high internal costs. This was not pursued, as the commercial providers already working in the sector were rightly concerned that marginal cost pricing would be used in an anti-competitive way. In addition, as AMSA was not subjected to full commercial taxes and charges it was operating from a distinctly anti-competitive advantage.

It was decided the best course was to simply market test the function and see if a better result could be achieved. The result has been an outstanding success. All AMSA staff were either transferred to the company or accepted retirement. There were no grievances from staff and the service provider company has grown its business successfully.

In the UK, the general Lighthouse authorities rightly have a long and immensely proud history. However, history is not a reason to continue to do something; history is where we come from, not where we are going.

With this in mind, I would strongly suggest the new joint strategic board and the UK government look to the Australian template as many other Commonwealth countries are doing.

I believe the board needs to question why the GLAs are maintaining buoys that are now over 40 years old by completely refurbishing them in purpose-built, state-of-the-art buoy yards and keeping specially built ships to handle obsolete buoys, when modern low maintenance buoys are available and do not require large ships to handle them.

The cost of modernising many of these floating aids would be less than the cost of replacing just one ship. Investing in a simple programme of modernisation would cost less than the ship replacement plan under way at the GLAs designed to preserve in place the existing archaic — but undoubtedly proven — array of marine navigation aids.

The current cost base of some £75m ($116.5) per annum should be more like £45m or less. Based on my experience in Australia, the entire UK and Irish system could be safely, efficiently and reliably serviced with the equivalent of one vessel and a single maintenance depot.

Presented with a 50% fall in light dues rate, I am sure the shipping industry would not be clamouring for reform of the light dues system to spread the burden.

Clive Davidson was chief executive of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority from 1998 to 2007, Australia’s representative to the International Maritime Organization for nine years and president of the International Association for Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities from 2002 to 2006


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YEAR OF THE SEAFARER | Another day in the kangaroo courts

Michael Grey | LLOYD’S LIST

IT WAS my first voyage to Australia and we were alongside in Sydney, preparing to sail northwards to complete the discharge in Brisbane, thence to load in the ports of north Queensland.

“You’ll have a great time in Queensland, mate,” a Sydneyside wharfie assured us. Life, he suggested, was slower and more relaxed on the Tropic of Capricorn. The beer was colder, the girls more beautiful, the Queenslanders hospitality itself.

I suppose he could have been a Queenslander himself, but this parochial view of the state was not to be confirmed by the forthcoming visit, or any other subsequent voyages to this curious place.

It is probably true to say that although we were regular traders into Australian waters, we invariably had more trouble in the north than in any other parts of the Commonwealth. The waterfront unions were more militant, and employed an official called a “vigilante”, whose job it was to come aboard our beautifully turned-out ships and condemn our cargo gear as “unsafe”.

This gave the wharfies an excellent excuse to go ashore and play cards in the shed for a couple of hours, while the chief officer, shaking with rage at this slight, would give orders for all the derrick guys to be renewed or the gangway net doubled up.

They also gave the impression, particularly in the ports of north Queensland, that they didn’t like the Poms very much. It wasn’t that we had thin skins — being a “Pommie bastard” was par for the course around the Australian coast — but you felt they really meant it in this part of “the land of sand and prickly heat”, when it was a bit of a joke in the south.

That was long ago and far away, and most of the coastal centres of Queensland today are large and prosperous, besieged by tourists from Asia, who rush to city resorts such as Cairns to play golf and view 20 ft saltwater crocodiles in aquaria.

Cairns in my day was one street, a wharf and about 15 pubs, full of sweat-soaked, drunken stockmen in enormous hats who had driven cattle across from Arnhem Land and had to be disarmed of their rifles by the local constabulary before they entered the town.

But I was thinking back over the years, and reflecting that Queensland’s attitude to visiting foreign seafarers maybe hadn’t changed that much when reading about the ludicrous committal proceedings in Brisbane, where Bernardino Gonzales Santos and his employer Swire Shipping are to be tried on a series of ridiculous charges resulting from the accident to the Pacific Adventurer in March 2009.

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YEAR OF THE SEAFARER | Looking forward to a golden age in pilotage

Helen Kelly | LLOYD’S LIST

STEVE Pelecanos jokes that he only became a pilot to enjoy the ‘retirement-like’ lifestyle.

In 1970s Australia, with a young family to support, the shore-based vocation must have seemed halcyon compared with its more capricious ocean-going alternative. But a quiet life was not to be for this outspoken Queenslander with a fire in his belly in an industry in need dire of modernisation. “Our obligation as a pilot is to look forward,” he says. “Unfortunately, there are many people in shipping that gaze in the rear view mirror and look backwards to a ‘golden age’ that is past.”

His most recent campaign is to fix the broken system of pilotage on the Great Barrier Reef. It is a system inherited from a previous federal government, which believed greater competition between pilots would drive costs down at some of Australia’s biggest trading ports. Continue reading


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SAFETY | Dock death sparks Oz strike

DOCKWORKERS employed by Australia’s POAGS have walked off the job for 24 hours in reaction to a fatal accident this morning.

Worksafe Victoria said it appeared that a docker, 41, at Melbourne’s Appleton Dock was struck by a steel beam when a “lifting device similar to a gantry crane” collapsed, dropping its load on the victim. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Maritime Union of Australia members stopped work at all P&O Automotive and General Stevedoring wharves in 15 ports nationwide to mark the third fatal accident this year; it was the second at POAGS operations and the third fatality at Appleton Dock in seven years.

National secretary Paddy Crumlin said stevedoring is in crisis: “It’s the third fatality on the wharves in five months – and we said last time we lost a worker in March we needed urgent action to overcome the lack of safety on the job.”

Crumlin said there was a yawning gap in state and federal safety legislation covering wharves, especially in bulk and general operations, after years of neglect and deregulation under previous governments.

“The industry’s safety record is appalling,” he added. “We need national legislation. We need regulation, not guidelines. We need the federal government to intervene.

“The industry has failed to regulated itself and urgent intervention is now required,” Crumlin said.

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