Swissco posts profit of $21.87m in 1Q15

Singapore-listed offshore marine services provider Swissco Holdings has posted a profit of USD21.87 million in the first quarter ended 31 March 2015.
The profit after income tax of USD21.87 million marked a fivefold increase compared with the profit of USD4.14 million in the first quarter of 2014.

Caution urged on tanker orders

Despite the recovery in oil tanker freight rates, a ship broker has cautioned shipowners against rushing to build new ships.
After ending 2014 at a positive note, the oil tanker market has continued its strong performance in the first quarter of 2015, noted Banchero Costa.
IHS Maritime’s

Sainty Marine loses order for four ships

Shenzhen-listed Sainty Marine lost an order from Universal Marine for four 2,350 teu container ships due to the shipowner’s failure to secure financing for the order.
The shipbuilder and the Dutch owner had reached agreement to cancel the order, with no losses incurred for both parties, a stock

Grounding Highlights Bridge Design, Training Problems

By MarEx 2015-05-12 23:19:38

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has released its investigation report into the April 2014 grounding of the chemical tanker Halit Bey off Quebec citing problems with the vessel’s bridge equipment and crew training.

The investigation found that steering control from the steering wheel was likely disabled when an unprotected joystick was inadvertently moved, which activated the autopilot override and alarm. The bridge crew was not adequately familiarized with the characteristics of the Halit Bey‘s steering control system and did not know how to regain control after the autopilot override alarm activated. Once steering control was lost, the vessel veered towards the shore and the crew’s attempts to reduce speed and anchor the vessel were unsuccessful to prevent the vessel from running aground.

The vessel was sailing up the St. Lawrence River under the conduct of a pilot when steering control was lost. The vessel veered to port and exited the navigational channel, running aground on the south side of the river off Grondines, Quebec. No damage, pollution, or injuries were reported, and the vessel was later refloated with the assistance of two tugs.

Report Findings

The Halit Bey was proceeding in follow-up mode in restricted waters when steering control was lost, likely when the unprotected non follow-up (NFU) joystick located on the centre steering control panel was inadvertently moved. The design of the Halit Bey‘s steering gear system was such that touching the NFU joystick activated the autopilot override alarm, even though the vessel was not in autopilot mode. As such, all steering controls on the bridge were disabled, except for the NFU joystick. Without steering control, the vessel veered towards the shore.

The bridge crew, having never encountered a situation of this kind before and not knowing why the autopilot alarm had sounded, were unaware of the available options to regain steering control (the NFU joystick could still be used to steer the vessel or the override reset button on the steering gear alarm panel could be pressed to reset the steering control system).

In the limited time prior to the grounding, the crew attempted an emergency anchorage; however, the vessel exited the navigational channel and ran aground.

Bridge design and arrangement of equipment

TSB says it is essential that critical bridge systems, such as steering gear control systems, be designed to be straightforward and intuitive for the operator. Good system design will also take into account concepts such as error tolerance, whereby a system is designed to minimize potential errors (by including locking features or protective coverings) or limit the consequences of accidental activation by leaving the vessel in a safe condition should this occur.

On the Halit Bey, the steering gear control system incorporated two different steering gear control panels from two different manufacturers and, as such, had an incompatibility between the panels with respect to the autopilot override. The center control panel was essentially redundant, so the practice on board was to leave it on position 3 (autopilot), which transferred steering control to the right-hand panel.

However, unbeknownst to the crew, the autopilot override and associated alarm could still be activated by the NFU joystick on the center control panel, even when the vessel was not in autopilot mode. Activation of the autopilot override had the effect of disabling all steering controls on the bridge, with the exception of the NFU joystick itself.

In addition, the steering gear control system did not incorporate protective coverings or locking features on the steering controls, nor was there any information provided to the operator during an autopilot override alarm to indicate which steering controls remained functional or how steering control could be regained. The redundant center control panel was still marked with its original labels, introducing the possibility of confusion for operators unfamiliar with the particularities of the system.

Finally, the design of the steering control system meant that the wing consoles both had two NFU steering controls, each one wired to a different steering control panel, which unnecessarily complicated the wings mode and had the potential to confuse its operator, given that the steering controls did not have labels to indicate which steering control was connected to which control panel.

In this incident, the autopilot override alarm activated while the vessel was operating in follow-up mode, providing a conflicting message to the crew members that delayed their taking action because it was not clear to them how steering control could be regained in this unusual situation. If critical bridge systems, such as steering gear control systems, are not designed and arranged to be straightforward and intuitive with safeguards to minimize human error, there is a risk that an operator will not be able to respond quickly and effectively in the event of an emergency.

Familiarization with safety critical equipment

In order to effectively use shipboard equipment, crews must know how it operates during routine and emergency situations, as well as how to regain control should it be lost, says TSB. That knowledge may come from technical manuals, familiarization, drills and/or posted procedures.

In this instance, given the characteristics of the vessel’s steering control system, it was especially important that crew members be familiarized with all of the various steering modes and controls, as well as what to do in case of an autopilot override alarm. However, the Halit Bey‘s onboard familiarization did not specifically require crew members to be familiarized with methods to regain steering control following an autopilot override alarm, and the two possible methods were not mentioned on the onboard familiarization checklist. There was no specific information about how to regain steering control posted near the steering stand, and the vessel did not carry an operational manual for the steering control system.

The vessel’s emergency steering drills, while complying with Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) requirements, were based on a single scenario that did not include testing the steering controls and use of NFU mode, switching between steering modes, or recovering the helm after the activation of the autopilot override. As such, there were limited opportunities for the bridge crew to become familiar with the back-up steering arrangements and the characteristics of the Halit Bey‘s steering system.

The bridge officers, none of whom had more than four months’ experience on the vessel, were therefore not familiar with all of the various steering arrangements, nor had they previously encountered a situation where the autopilot override had activated while the vessel was not on autopilot. As such, they were unable to respond effectively and regain steering control.

Following the grounding, complete emergency change-over procedures were posted on the bridge of the Halit Bey, taking into account the particularity of the steering control that could be disabled if someone activated the autopilot override mode.

The full TSB report is available here.

Picture credit: Transportation Safety Board of Canada


Anchor Safety Alert after Hull Punctured

By MarEx 2015-05-12 19:43:14

The U.S. Coast Guard has issued a safety alert after an incident where an anchor slipped and punctured a ship’s hull.

The cargo ship was underway in 15 foot seas when the forepeak flood alarms activated. The crew investigated and discovered the starboard anchor had slipped 10-15 links, causing it to strike and puncture the hull. As a result, seawater flooded the bow thruster and emergency fire pump compartment.

The casualty resulted in excess of $1 million in vessel damage and a month’s lost revenues while the vessel was out of service affecting repairs. During the repair period, it was discovered that the anchor windlass brake pad had worn down to 2-3mm thickness. With only this amount of pad the fully applied brake could not achieve its designed holding power. The crew should have recognized the excessive wear to the brake pads and required replacement, says the safety alert.

It was also discovered that the involved anchor had dissimilar specifications to the original anchor it had replaced. As a result, the replacement anchor’s relative position in the hawse pipe was not the same because of its different shank length and connecting linkages. The size difference prevented the riding pawl from properly engaging the anchor chain.

As an added safety device, a wire sling had been used to secure the anchor. The wire sling was threaded through a chain link and secured to the vessel with a pelican hook. When the sling broke and the brake failed, the anchor’s weight and ship’s movement then caused it to drop before the riding pawl could properly engaged. The sling failure was likely caused by the corrosion of the inner wire strands. The inner wire strands were exposed to the elements because of the sharp bend in the wire created by being fed through the chain link and secured by a pelican hook.

The wire sling was inspected regularly. However, those performing the inspections were not instructed on how to examine and determine its serviceability.

The safety alert reminds vessel operators and company technical managers of the importance of proper ship’s anchor use, stowage and maintenance. Anchor windlass brakes, riding pawls, and devil’s claws must be used as designed and periodically maintained to ensure effectiveness and safety.

It’s critical that proper supervision and inspection be conducted during and after anchoring, retrieving and storage evolutions, and maintenance activities. When installing a replacement anchor, it must meet the vessel’s technical specifications and fit correctly when housed.

The full safety alert is available here.


Total Denies Offshore Exploration Deal with Cuba

By Reuters 2015-05-12 19:19:57

French oil company Total on Tuesday denied it had signed an offshore exploration deal with Cuba during President Francois Hollande’s visit there.

Cuba’s state-run television reported that Total had inked a deal to explore for oil with Cuban state oil monopoly CubaPetroleo (Cupet), without providing further detail.

“Total categorically denies it has signed an offshore exploration agreement with Cuba,” a spokesman said.

A source with knowledge of the matter said Total’s marketing and services branch, which handles oil products distribution such as lubricants and jet fuel, had signed an extension to an existing letter of intent for a bitumen joint venture with Cuba.

Total has no existing exploration activity in Cuba, and in 2014 only had limited marketing activities for the sale of specialty products there, according to its annual report.

A dozen foreign firms have explored in Cuba’s deep waters over the years, sinking four wells but finding no oil.

Total has explored close to shore, drilling two wells in the early 1990s. They came up dry and Total left in 1995.

For over a decade, Cuba has asserted its Exclusive Economic Zone off the northwest coast holds more than 20 billion barrels of undiscovered crude.

Last week Cuba unveiled new data it said confirmed there were billions of barrels of oil beneath its Gulf of Mexico waters.

The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated the region holds 5 billion to 7 billion barrels.

Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA and Russia’s state-run Zarubezhneft still retain exploration rights, according to Roberto Suarez Sotolongo, Cupet’s co-director.

Cuba hopes the discovery of oil offshore will free it from dependence on other countries, such as socialist ally Venezuela.

French President Hollande, who was traveling with French business executives, this week became the first serving Western European leader to visit Cuba since Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez in 1986.


Activism Begins over Shell’s Arctic Drilling

By MarEx 2015-05-12 17:09:46

In a harbinger of expected protests over Royal Dutch Shell’s plan to store Arctic drilling rigs in Seattle, an activist perched herself on a 15-foot tripod on Tuesday to try to block the entrance gates of a company fuel-transfer station.

The incident came a day after the U.S. Department of the Interior conditionally approved Shell’s plan to explore for oil in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska, where it has not drilled since a mishap-filled 2012 season.

Environmental activists are also preparing for three days of demonstrations starting on May 16 against Shell’s plans to store two drilling rigs in Seattle. Among other plans, activists say they will meet one of the drilling rigs in kayaks as it arrives in the port later this week.

Early on Tuesday, backed by other anti-Shell activists, Seattle resident Annie Lukins erected the tripod on Harbor Island, according to a news release and image. It was unclear if she was arrested.

“I want the next generation to be able to eat fish from the ocean whose flesh doesn’t carry the killing toxins of crude oil,” Lukins said in a statement. “We need to ban Arctic drilling now.”

The Puget Sound region has a decades-long history as a hub for equipment used in energy drilling in Alaska even as some environmental groups and politicians have pushed for the region’s economy to move beyond oil, gas and coal and into clean energy.

Seattle’s planning department ruled the city’s port must apply for a permit for the company to use it to store drilling rigs, a decision shipping company Foss Maritime has appealed.

The Port of Seattle was to vote on Tuesday whether to appeal the city’s interpretation of the permit requirements, a spokesman said.

Seattle’s City Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Monday urging the Port of Seattle to reconsider its lease at Terminal 5 to host Shell Oil’s Arctic drilling rigs.

Shell said in a statement it respected the rights of protesters engaging in safe, lawful demonstrations against its Arctic plans.

While the price of oil has fallen over the past year, the Arctic is coveted by energy companies for its long-term potential. The Arctic is estimated to contain about 20 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and natural gas, with some 34 billion barrels of oil in U.S. waters alone.

Court Ruling

Late last week a federal judge ordered protesters from Greenpeace to stay away from Royal Dutch Shell PLC ships heading to the Arctic.

The injunction bans protesters from the organization from entering inside buffer zones as well as flying unmanned aerial vehicles over proposed drilling areas until October 31. Shell brought the court case against the protestors in the wake of a highly-publicized incident where Greenpeace activists scaled the Polar Pioneer, a Shell-operated rig, as it passed through the Northern Pacific Ocean. Protestors from the organization stayed aboard the rig for six days.

In a statement issued last week Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard stated, “Instead of saying Greenpeace can’t go near Shell, our government should be saying Shell can’t go near the Arctic. That’s the best way to safeguard the public.”


Vessels Diverted from Popular Port

By Kathryn Stone 2015-05-12 16:34:17

Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Disney Cruises have all diverted vessels away from the popular tourist city of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico amid escalating reports of gang violence.

The 2,501 passenger Jewel of the Seas and 1,754-passenger Disney wonder both cancelled calls in Puerto Vallarta Tuesday and on Sunday Celebrity Infinity’s stop in the city was cancelled. Royal Caribbean released a statement today saying, “The call to Puerto Vallarta was canceled due to the recently experienced episodes of violent civil unrest, stemming from criminal gangs that have engaged in armed conflict with local authorities.”

Around 50% of Puerto Vallerta’s economic activity revolves around tourism. Today’s announcement to further cancel stops to the port city coincide with a May 5 U.S. State Department alert warning U.S. citizens of ‘threats to safety and security posed by criminal groups in the country’.

Mexican gang violence has increased recently after law enforcement agencies have launched an aggressive campaign against know drug cartels in the region. Gunfire and arson was reported in areas around Puerto Vallarta earlier this months as police and gang clashed.

Royal Caribbean further added in their statement today that criminal violence in Mexico is a main reason why it and some of its competitors have not offered more cruises on the west coast of the United States.

In March of this year an attack against in the popular tourist destination of Tunis left 23 cruise passengers dead and dozens wounded in one of the worst tourist attacks in recent memory. Today’s decision by the cruise line is meant to circumvent any possible threats to cruise passengers visting the region.