Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Rena cargo owners could be hit with massive bill

Schadenfreude is defined as pleasure derived from the misfortune of others. The Antipodean Mariner derives no pleasure from the misfortune that the owners of the cargo aboard the Rena now find themselves, but it is satisfying to have correctly predicted the General Average claim in this Blog ( Rena General Average, 15th November 2011).

In the span of a single TV story, the Salvors have been toppled from their pedestal as the saviours of little penguins to the pariah status of tow truck drivers of the sea. It's always a problem when the media creates and then destroys heroes, but the Salvors always knew what they were on the Rena to do even if the Press didn't.

The Salvors are there working day in, day out on the stinking, maggot infested, oil-soaked listing deck of the Rena to make money. Their livelihood depends on maritime casualties occuring and the Salvors being ready, willing and able to salvage property for just reward.

Tha Antipodean Mariner
30th November 2011

TVNZ - Rena cargo owners could be hit with massive bill

The owners of cargo on board the Rena may have to pay huge sums of money just to get it back.

ONE News has learned they could be charged as much as 80% of the value of their possessions on the ship, which would be the highest charge in history to return shipwrecked goods.
The Rena ran aground on Astrolabe Reef off the Tauranga coast on October 5 and it has been understood the vessel's owners would foot the bill for the salvage operation.

Rena cargo owners could be hit with massive bill

The owners of cargo on board the Rena may have to pay huge sums of money just to get it back.

ONE News has learned they could be charged as much as 80% of the value of their possessions on the ship, which would be the highest charge in history to return shipwrecked goods.
The Rena ran aground on Astrolabe Reef off the Tauranga coast on October 5 and it has been understood the vessel's owners would foot the bill for the salvage operation.

But ONE News can now reveal that anyone with cargo in containers on board is likely to have to stump up.

Craig Fellows' household contents are stuck on the Rena and he may have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to get it back.

"You've paid a lot of money to get your goods from one point to another and then you get charged with almost the same again...that's just criminal," Fellows said.

Salvage crews working for Svitzer have retrieved 165 of the nearly 1300 containers stuck on the shipwreck and under maritime law the company has a right to claim whatever it salvages. It can then return the property to the original owners if they guarantee to pay a percentage of its value.

ONE News has learned from a number of sources that Svitzer plans to charge property owners 80 per cent which is said to be the highest rate ever charged on goods salvaged from a vessel. So far, the highest charge is 60% for cargo retrieved from the infamous Napoli shipwreck off the UK coast five years ago.

Svitzer would not directly answer questions about the 80% rate.

Mediterranean Shipping Company, which chartered the Rena, will also have to pay to retrieve its empty containers and while it declined to comment on camera it told ONE News "the rate is too high".

Maritime lawyer Philip Rzepecky said the rate is high. "It's almost the total value of the cargo, but it means that these salvors think that the degree of difficulty was extreme," he said.

Seagulls circle food products removed from Rena at the Truman Lane container processing site: Maritime NZ

If the claim goes to arbitration in London, Svitzer could end up charging less but an insurance insider told ONE News it may only drop by around 5%.

Svitzer is understood to be talking with the ship's owners and the negotiations are expected to wrap up this week.

REUTERS: China ports not ready to receive Vale's mega ships

Another piece in the complex puzzle that is China. Reuters has reported that China’s ports are not ready for Vale’s (now) 380,000 DWT ore carriers. Debunking this myth is the fact that the ore carrier ‘Berge Stahl’ (364,000 DWT) has called at the Chinese ore ports of Dalian, Majishan and Qingdao seven times since 2006 (from Lloyds Intelligence Network). No-one in China appears to be giving a definitive ‘No’. However, to Vale’s detriment, no one is saying ’Yes’ either.

The Antipodean Mariner

REUTERS 28th November 2011

China’s National Development and Reform Commission says China ports not ready to receive Vale's mega ships

SHANGHAI Nov 28 (Reuters) - Chinese ports are not yet ready to receive Vale's mega iron ore carriers due to a few "small issues" in handling the world's largest dry bulk vessels, an official with the National Development and Reform Commission said on Monday.

Vale, the world's largest iron ore producer, is spending billions of dollars to build an unprecedented fleet of very large ore carriers (VLOCs) to transport the steel-making ingredient to China and other major consumers.

The Brazilian mining firm has received at least three of the huge ships this year, sending them to Italy and Oman as it awaits the lifting of travel restrictions to its biggest market, China.
"Chinese ports are not entirely ready for accepting Vale's carriers due to some facilities and technical issues," said Luo Ping, head of the transportation planning division at the NDRC's Institution of Comprehensive Transportation.

Among the issues still unresolved is how the VLOCs will be safely guided into the ports.
Vale can also submit applications for each mega ship to local maritime authorities, who will then decide on whether the ports can receive them or not, Luo said on the sidelines of an industry conference.

Vale plans to operate as many as 35 VLOCs before the end of 2013, as it ramps up iron ore production to 469 million tonnes by 2015 from 308 million last year.

China, which buys around two thirds of seaborne iron ore cargoes to feed the world's largest steel industry, will add 390 million tonnes of large-scale iron ore port capacity and build an extra 440 deepwater berths by 2015, the NDRC official said.

Reporting by Ruby Lian, Writing by Randy Fabi; Editing by Miral Fahmy

Monday, 28 November 2011

Vale goes on a (Dead)weight Loss programme

Vale's 400,00 DWT ChinaMax ore carriers remain a fertile area for shipping journo's. The first Chinese-built vessel 'Vale China' was delivered from Rhongsheng on Friday 25th November, less 20,000 DWT from her Tonnage Certificate. Maybe the 'Made in China' label will open the door for her. Two stories reported today in Lloyds List;

The Antipodean Mariner

Lloyds List, Monday 28 November 2011

Vale VLOCs cut down to size (Tom Leander)

Vale China slims down by 20,000 dwt along with remaining VLOCs on order at Rongsheng Heavy Industries

NOW you see it, now you don’t.

China Rongsheng Heavy Industries announced on Friday that it had delivered the 380,000 dwt Vale China , the third very large ore carrier to be handed over to Brazil’s iron ore giant Vale, and the first to be built in a Chinese yard.

Originally, the vessel was said to have a capacity of 400,000 dwt.

What has happened to the missing 20,000 dwt? It turns out that it is still there. China Rongsheng said in a release: “The 380,000 dwt VLOC is the largest bulk carrier built by the Chinese shipbuilding industry in terms of dwt as well as the world’s largest bulk carrier with a capacity up to 400,000 dwt.”

A spokesperson for China Rongsheng’s public relations representative in Hong Kong said that the firm received instructions to change all references for the Rongsheng-built VLOCs to 380,000 dwt from 400,000 dwt. The November 25 press release on Vale China downgrades all 12 of the VLOCs to be built at Rongsheng for Vale, in a deal worth $1.6bn and inked in 2008, to 380,000 dwt from 400,000 dwt.

Underlying this juggling of deadweight tonnage is the controversy that has wracked Vale’s massive China order: will the ships be allowed to enter China’s ports? A source close to Rongsheng said that the figure of 380,000 dwt was a concession to government officials who objected to the massive 400,000 dwt number.

The change signals that Vale is willing to ship its iron ore into China’s ports in ships that are not filled to capacity.

This, of course, will cost Vale. In October, China customs data showed the country imported 12.1m tonnes of ore from Brazil at an average price of $193.10 per tonne. As a benchmark, that would suggest a 20,000-tonne drop in cargo would translate to Vale losing out on about $3.9m per shipment.

The entire order has been caught up in a political fracas that has imperilled Vale’s plan to reduce its transport costs by launching a fleet of the world’s largest dry bulk ships.

In July, the China Shipowners’ Association spoke out in protest against global miners attempting to dominate the maritime transport market for iron ore, a reference plainly aimed at Vale.
Vale has yet to receive approval to transport iron in ships of full 400,000 dwt capacity into Chinese ports. Earlier this year, the 402,347 dwt Vale Brasil was the first Vale VLOC to be delivered from South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering , and vessel positioning data of its maiden voyage from Brazil to China tracked the ship making a U-turn in the southern Indian Ocean and being diverted to Italy, reportedly due to the ban.

The order for Vale China has undergone delays. The vessel was first named in July, with delivery slated for September.

One broker, reacting to the deadweight downgrade-in-name, said: “I can’t see that either the shipyard or class society would have objection to such a re-measuring if it was requested by the owner, since the only additional cost would be paperwork and presumably putting the Plimsoll line a bit further down the hull.”

He added: “Whether this will do the trick in allowing these vessels to call there is open to question.”

Vale China is the fourth VLOC to be delivered to Vale. The other three, Vale Brasil, Vale Rio de Janeiro and Vale Italia were built at DSME. Vale Brasil is about to complete its second voyage to Oman this year, Vale Rio De Janeiro has discharged its first cargo in Taranto, Italy last week and Vale Italia is expected to be received for its first loading at Ponta da Madeira on December 3, according to vessel tracking data.

Third backtrack for Brazilian miner (Liz McCarthy)

Shapeshifting is not Vale’s first U-turn

EVEN though the description of Vale’s very large ore carriers delivered from Rongsheng Heavy Industries has changed to 380,000 dwt, from 400,000 dwt, to tempt China into accepting the ships into its ports, will this marketing U-turn really work?

The Brazilian mining giant has already had to backtrack once or twice earlier this year.
In May, its former chief executive Roger Agnelli changed the name of these huge bulkers from chinamaxes to valemaxes.

In May 2011 Mr Agnelli was booted out and Murilo Ferreira took over the company; since then he has been quiet about the valemax gamble.

Ordered in July 2008, following a record peak in capesize freight rates the month before of $109 per tonne of iron ore on a Brazil to China voyage, the investment in building its own fleet was to control transport costs.It now only costs $27 per tonne to ship iron ore on capesizes on this route.

Then in June 2011, the maiden voyage of the first delivered VLOC, Vale Brasil , was rerouted when on course for China and instead discharged in Italy, a move which Vale said was “purely based on commercial demand”.

The two VLOCs in service that have completed commercial voyages have only discharged in Taranto, Italy, and Sohar, Oman.

However, Vale’s third-quarter results show that Europe only accounted for 20% of iron ore and pellet sales, the Middle East 1.4% and China a much more significant 45%.
With these huge ships hitting the water and its sales to other destinations not able to absorb them, there are plenty of theories bouncing around the marketplace about the fate of these Vale ships.

We wait with anticipation to see what happens next.

The Gallery of Transport Loss - 'Rena' feature

The blog of US customs brokers Countryman and McDaniel (The Gallery of Transport Loss) has also been following the Rena salvage and have some nice shots from the Salvors and Maritime NZ.

Worth a look for this incident and some great features from the aviation, shipping and transport industry.

The Antipodean Mariner
28th November 2011

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Vale’s CHINAMAX strategy founders

Another article reproduced courtesy of Bloomberg News. By way of a background briefing, shipping rates peaked in 2008 as China’s demand for resources outstripped the capacity of the world’s fleet to carry them. At the market peak for iron ore, Brazil’s Vale was paying over $80 per tonne in freight and ship owners were earning $300,000 a day on ships that cost about $25,000 a day to operate.

The freight market was a legalised casino and Vale was losing its shirt on every hand.

Their response was to create a fleet of 35 ultra-large ore carriers capable of carrying almost 400,000 tonnes of iron ore from Brazil to China. The economies of scale of these ships would reduce Brazil’s geographic disadvantage compared with the Australian iron ore miners.

Vale Brasil

Technically, these ships break all the records. However, Vale’s play was dependent on China building the port infrastructure necessary to unload these leviathans. China is playing its ace card now – the ships are not permitted to enter Chinese ports. Vale’s ultra-large ships are a technical masterpiece but politically represent an unacceptable shift of strategic control in China’s raw material supply chain.

Vale is endeavouring to mitigate the situation with hub terminals in Malaysia and the Philippines, where the iron ore will be transferred into smaller (180,000 DWT) ships. However the cost of rehandling and shipping 400,000 tonnes of iron ore eats into the fundamental economics of the strategy.

With the exception of the Chinese shipbuilders (Rhongsheng and Bohai), Vale has attempted to executed this freight strategy without a long term Chinese partner. With nothing to lose, China can block these ships indefinitely and with no discernable impact on its 500 million tonne iron ore supply chain.

The Antipodean Mariner hopes readers enjoy this well researched and insightful article from Bloomberg.

Bloomberg: China Shunning Biggest Ore Ships Shows $2.3 Billion Vale Mistake: Freight

The Vale (VALE) Brasil, the biggest commodity ship ever built, was designed to carry iron ore to China from South America. After six months in operation, it hasn’t done that once.
China’s refusal to accept the Brasil has derailed Vale SA (VALE3)’s push to control shipments to its biggest customer by building up a fleet of 35 ships, each almost as large as the Bank of America Tower in New York. Rio de Janeiro-based Vale, the world’s biggest iron ore miner, ships about 45 percent of sales to China, the largest consumer of the steelmaking ingredient.

Vale’s plan, which includes buying 19 vessels for $2.3 billion, has spurred opposition from Chinese shipowners who say it will worsen overcapacity, slumping cargo rates and industry-wide losses. Steelmakers are also likely against it as the ships would give Vale more control over pricing and delivery, said Chang Tao, a China Merchants Securities Co. analyst.

“Nobody in China wants Vale’s fleet to come,” he said. “Not shipping lines, not shipowners, not steelmakers.”

The miner may struggle to find alternative uses for all ships as no other markets are as big, he said. Vale also likely can’t cancel vessel orders or quit leasing contracts without paying “very heavy penalties,” said Ralph Leszczynski, the Beijing-based head of research at shipbroker Banchero Costa & Co.

“I’m pretty sure that Vale themselves have by now realized that they made a big mistake,” he said. “I find it really incredible that they committed so much money in this project without first getting written assurances from the Chinese side that they would be able to use the ships.”

Daewoo, Rongsheng

Vale’s press-relations office in Rio de Janeiro declined to comment. The miner is buying vessels from China Rongsheng Heavy Industries Group Holdings Ltd. and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. (042660). It will also lease eight from STX Pan Ocean Co. under a $5.8 billion 25-year deal, according to 2009 statements from the Seoul-based shipping line.
Vale’s then-chief executive officer Roger Agnelli oversaw agreements for the 400,000 deadweight-ton vessels to reduce a reliance on outside shipping lines and risks from changes in freight costs. The Baltic Dry Index, a benchmark for global commodity-shipping rates, fluctuated more than 40 percent on an annual basis every year except one from 2001 to 2010.

130 Million Tons

The Vale vessels are about twice as big as the Capesize ships that are now generally used to ferry commodities from Brazil to China. The miner plans to send about 130 million tons of iron ore on the route both this year and next.

The company is also investing $1.37 billion to set up a distribution centre in Malaysia that will be able to handle the very large ore carriers. Transferring cargo there to smaller vessels for shipment to China would likely increase freight costs, eroding at least some of the gains from the larger vessels’ size and fuel efficiency, said China Merchants’ Chang.

Vale has held talks with Chinese shipping lines about selling or leasing the about 360-meter-long vessels, Teddy Tang, the chief financial officer of its China operations, said in September. No deals had been reached.

The China Shipowners Association, whose members hold about 80 percent of the nation’s shipping capacity, has advised lines not to take the vessels, said Executive Vice Chairman Zhang Shouguo.

“The most important thing for Vale is to stop building,” said Zhang, a former deputy director in the transport ministry’s shipping division. “The additional capacity will exacerbate the already bad freight market.”

The China Iron & Steel Association has no position on suppliers’ shipping operations as long as they aren’t used to manipulate iron-ore prices, said General Secretary Zhang Changfu.

Rongsheng Heavy

The ‘Vale Brasil’ was this week in the Arabian Sea headed for Oman, according to data on the Bloomberg terminal. The ship was handed over to Vale by Daewoo Shipbuilding in May. The Seoul-based shipyard has also delivered two other similar-sized vessels, as it works through orders for seven worth a total of $748 million. More deliveries will follow next year and work is progressing as planned, the shipbuilder said by e-mail.

Vale also ordered 12 of the very large ore carriers from Rongsheng Heavy for $1.6 billion in 2008. The Shanghai-based shipbuilder expects to deliver the first this month, said Chief Executive Officer Chen Qiang. The handover is about two months late because of certification issues, he said. The company has begun building the other 11 on-order ships, with Vale paying in installments as work progresses, he said.

“I am not worried about any possibility of Vale cancelling orders,” Chen said. “They need the ships to carry iron ore, and the vessels are greener and more advanced.”

Management Shakeup

Vale CEO Murilo Ferreira, who took on the job in May, this week named a new logistics head, Humberto Freitas, as part of a management reshuffle. The previous operations head, Eduardo Bartolomeo, will run the company’s fertilizers and coal unit.

Ferreira’s new regime may also herald a change in the approach to shipping, which could be announced at an investor day next week, said Rafael Weber, a Porto Alegre, Brazil-based Geracao Futuro Corretora analyst.

“They can’t fight with their main customer,” he said. “The company may decide against going ahead with it to avoid discord with the Chinese government.”

China’s Transport Minister Li Shenglin said earlier this month that the government will strengthen control of vessel deliveries and “guide the orderly arrival” of new ships amid tumbling rates and losses for shipping lines. China Cosco Holdings Co., the nation’s largest sea-cargo carrier, lost 4.8 billion yuan ($755 million) in the first nine months.

China Ports

The 'Vale Brasil' was diverted on its maiden voyage in June from its original destination of Dalian, China to Italy after a request from a European customer and because “draft services” at the Chinese port weren’t ready, Ferreira said in July. The ships will “undoubtedly” go to China when needed, he said.

The ports of Dalian, Qingdao and Majishan near Shanghai are able to handle Brasil-sized vessels, Vale said in June. Qingdao, northeast China, hasn’t opened its facility because of “restrictions,” Li Yuzhai, a spokesman for Qingdao Port (Group) Co., said yesterday.

Calls to Majishan port yesterday went unanswered. Dalian Port PDA Co. (2880)’s press office referred enquiries to the company’s iron-ore handling unit. Calls there weren’t answered. A call to the ministry of transport wasn’t answered.

STX Pan Ocean has begun operating one of its eight VLOCs for Vale. The vessel is awaiting loading in Brazil, the shipping line said by e-mail yesterday. No changes to its agreement with Vale are expected, it said. The shipping line’s vessels are being built by affiliate STX Offshore & Shipbuilding Co. (067250)

BW Group, Oman

BW Group will also operate four vessels for Vale, the miner said in 2007. One, the Berge Everest, was due to be delivered in September by Bohai Shipbuilding Heavy Industry Co., according to a statement on the website of BW affiliate Berge Bulk.

Rongsheng Heavy is also building four VLOCs for Oman Shipping Co., which will be leased to Vale and used to haul commodities to the sultanate. The vessels are all due to be delivered in the second half of 2012, the shipping line said by e-mail yesterday.

Still, Vale needs to use ships on China routes to fully utilize the fleet, and the country’s opposition to the vessels is unlikely to weaken, said Huang Wenlong, a Hong Kong-based analyst with BOC International Holdings Ltd.

“Once Vale moves its own iron ore, its control on the supply of iron ore extends into shipping, further diminishing Chinese steelmakers’ bargaining power,” he said. “That is a situation China doesn’t want to see.”

Jasmine Wang and Helen Yuan with assistance from Juan Pablo Spinetto in Rio De Janeiro, Kyunghee Park in Singapore, Michelle Wiese Bockmann in London and Tamara Walid in Dubai.

Editors: Neil Denslow, Vipin V. Nair.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jasmine Wang in Hong Kong at; Helen Yuan in Shanghai at

Saturday, 26 November 2011

PN65 takes to the sea

The Antipodean Mariner's Company is building a series of eight 205,000 DWT Capesize bulk carriers in a South East Asian shipyard, the first of which will be enter service in May 2012. They are called Capesize because they can only sail around Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope and are too large to use the Suez and Panama Canals.

Construction of the first Capesize bulk carrier, Hull PN65, has continued steadily and in late October she took to the sea for the first time. The construction technique is for the workshop pre-fabricated hull blocks to be assembled in a large dry dock. The dock has capacity for two complete ships and two partial ships. As one pair of ships is completed, they are floated out of the dry dock and the two partially completed ships are floated forward into their place. The keel blocks are laid for the next two ships, and the process repeats.

PN65’s turn came on the 25th of October. The hull was made watertight with temporary bulkheads and the dock flooded for the tandem float out. Changes to the lifting blocks in the dock floor require the dock to be pumped out, and so PN65 was moved out to the fitting out quay for a couple of days until being returned to the dry dock. After pumping out, construction recommences on the forward section of the hull. The Main Engine, a MAN B&W 6S 70ME-C slow speed 2-stroke diesel will be shipped from the Manufacturers in Korea in November and installed before the accommodation block is lifted on fully fitted out with bridge, cabins, offices and public rooms.

The Antipodean Mariner
26th November 2011

Friday, 25 November 2011

Rena's media machine - reply

The Antipodean Mariner always enjoys getting comments about the blog. After the posting on Rena’s media machine, Joe’s Mate commented;

Have to take time out of the day to mention that I believe Maritime NZ has been a fabulous resource to those of us that want to know what’s really happening down under.This is a textbook example of "transparency" if you ask me and from the "bottom of the world" no less.’

The Antipodean Mariner’s observation was that Maritime NZ has a media strategy and selectively reports the good news to the punters in New Zealand (and around the world). MNZ didn’t report that the ‘Awanuia’ collided with the Rena, forcing her back in to port for two days to repair damage to the bow, nor did MNZ report the fire that broke out on the after deck of the Rena from cutting through the container lashings.

The Antipodean Mariner’s man at Astrolabe Reef was an uncontrolled source of information. Enforcement of the non-disclosure clause in his contract ensured MNZ’s media strategy was not contradicted or challenged.

The Antipodean Mariner
25th November 2011

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Following the Rena dollar

The Bay of Plenty is experiencing a ‘blow’, Sea Tow 60 has returned to the shelter of the port of Tauranga and ‘GO Canopus’ is back in position with her towing bridle hooked up to Rena’s stern standing by for the worst eventuality.

Toady posting ‘follows the dollar’ as Rena slowly disintegrates on Astrolabe Reef. For followers unfamiliar with the area, I have reproduced this graphic of the reef (circled in red) in relation to Motiti Island from the Though the reef is unmarked by a beacon or buoy, it is accurately charted in the approaches to the port of Tauranga.

So who’s hanging in the wind and for how much? Rena is beneficially owned by Costamare Shipping, a Greek family-controlled business who own and operate container ships. Rena was time-chartered to Mediterranean Shipping Co (MSC), which means that the ship was hired with crew to be deployed where MSC required her. MSC, with Denmark’s Maersk Line, are the two largest container lines in the world. MSC own and operate their own ships, but hire in other container ships to cope with growth or new routes in their trade network.

MSC will have paid hire in advance to Costamare for Rena and provided the fuel in her bunker tanks – just over $1 million worth when she ran aground. MSC markets and sells container shipping services globally, using their own and chartered container ships like Rena. MSC sells the service and collects money (freight) form the companies sending or receiving cargo carried on their network.

Costamare have declared ‘General Average’ on the ship and cargo – a concept explained in an earlier posting. MSC will have some, but not all, of the freight collected on the containers shipped aboard Rena. For the containers (full and empty) removed by the Salvors and taken to Tauranga, MSC will have to quarantine them until the General Average claim progresses. Practically, the owners of the cargo have to post a bond or bank guarantee as security if the General Average is successful.

So who owes who?

Costamare have declared Rena to be a ‘Constructive Total Loss’, maritime speak for a write off, and will be claiming on the vessel’s Insurers for the value of the ship and the cost of the salvage. They will have to repay any mortgage on the ship with the proceeds of the insurance claim. Costamare will also owe MSC pre-paid hire and for the fuel.

MSC have some of the freight but are also liable for the loss of the cargo in their care. Another maritime convention limits their liability as a carrier to a nominal (low) amount, and the owners of the cargo will be claiming on their own insurance policies. They may also have to contribute to the General Average claim – hence the bond put up by the individual cargo owners.

Maritime NZ has about 1,300 tonnes of emulsified fuel oil, diesel, hydraulic oil and lubricants all mixed together in Tauranga and aboard the bunker barge Awanuia. The Antipodean Mariner has no idea how this, or the rotting contents of the refrigerated containers, will be divided up!

To wrap this posting up, there are going to be hundreds of individual claims, from the owners of the cargo to the Rena’s crew for the loss of their personal possession in cabins on the ship. No one is likely to come out ahead of the game with the possible exception of the Rena’s owners, Costamare. Ships are insured for an indemnity value, or agreed value and if Rena’s insurers pay out, it will be for the insured and not market value. Like they say, every cloud has a silver lining.

The Antipodean Mariner
24th November 2011

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

ABS warns against green ship design

A switch away from the Rena today while the Antipodean Mariner compiles some new information worthy of posting. This article has been reproduced in full from Lloyds List, as it touches on some rare tension between the usually harmonious IACS Class relationships.

While Class Societies are promoted as ‘not for profit’ societies, they are in fact competing for the Ship Owners’ dollar for fees. Globally, shipbuilding is in as poor a financial state as ship owning and Class has filled the research and development void with conceptual designs to reduce operating costs (fuel consumption,structure, ballasting methods).

The principle raised by the American Bureau of Shipping is that R&D creates a conflict of interest with Class's core service of industry self-regulation. Can a Class Society develop a new design and critically assess its in-service safety and performance?

One for the serious 'propeller-head' followers of the blog.

US class society says trend creates conflict of interest in area of ‘ethical quicksand’

Craig Eason, Lloyds List Tuesday 22 November 2011

THE head of US-based class society ABS Christopher Wiernicki has strongly criticised other societies that have begun to offer environmental ship design services, saying the trend creates a fundamental conflict of interest with their role as independent providers of safety approval and certification.

He said the move was deeply troubling and went to the heart of the underlying principle for classification, and added he was surprised to have heard no other voices questioning the growing intrusion of class into an area of ethical quicksand.

A number of classification societies, including Oslo-based Det Norske Veritas and Hamburg-based Germanischer Lloyd, offer a distinct environmental consultancy service. Both organisations have revealed vessel ideas that they think are the way forward for the industry.

“The bottom line is that, since the objectives of the designer and the class society are so fundamentally different, having class societies promote themselves as designers is dangerous,” said Wiernicki. “It undermines the basic fabric of the industry, it destroys the credibility of class as an independent third party, it has the potential to lead to poor designs that could impact the credibility of the whole industry and it upsets the essential checks and balances between commercial pressures and effective safety and environmental risk management.”

DNV president and deputy chief executive Tor Svensen told Lloyd’s List that the concepts that DNV have revealed in recent years are just that, and not designs. Earlier in the year the Norwegian class society revealed at a big press launch its Triality concept — a gas-powered ballast-free large oil tanker. Last year it revealed the Quantum, a dual-fuelled container vessel.

DNV's ECORE Very Large Ore Carrier, fueled by LNG and with no seawater ballast.

Germanischer Lloyd also revealed the ‘Best’ aframax tanker design, the result of work with a Greek university, when it put forward its thoughts on how tankers in the future could be compliant with the mandatory energy efficiency design index.

Mr Svensen insisted the DNV Quantum and Triality concepts would never be built in the form in which they were revealed to the industry. Owners would have to have the ideas within the concepts designed into their future vessels, he said. He also added that DNV knew where to draw the line between this kind of work and its role in safety classification.

When GL was approached for a response regarding Mr Wiernicki’s comments, the German class society also said the work it has pushed out to the industry for appraisal were design concepts which had no relevance for the approval process of drawings.

In an email to Lloyd’s List GL spokesman Olaf Mager wrote: “Design concepts are basically studies to evaluate what could be done in order to offer a better solution to our clients. The maintenance of such a research and development department is required by European legislation in order to be recognised by European flag states.”

GL has its own separate legal entity, Futureship, that offers the consultancy service, with its own management, staff, and systems. Dr Mager said there are walls in place towards all other entities of the GL Group. Futureship does not design vessels or create designs, nor does it produce any class drawings or similar documents.

“The fact that GL is investing in such a business is fully consistent with our long standing commitment to preventing pollution of the environment,” wrote Dr Mager. “We regard the increasing number of clients in shipping and shipbuilding working with Futureship as another good indicator that the maritime industry appreciates GL’s proactive stance towards key issues of an environmental-conscious shipping community.”

Mr Wiernicki said he was acutely aware of the differences between the design and certification disciplines and the dangers of crossing the line between them.

“When classification societies begin developing and promoting their own designs, the essential independence of class is compromised. If ABS were to promote an in-house design for an energy-efficient tanker, how could we retain our integrity if we were then to approve that same design for construction?”

With the EEDI adopted for new vessel construction earlier this year, he acknowledged that the industry was moving into a period of innovative thinking with respect to basic ship design.
But this change should not have the unintended consequence of allowing class societies to become ship designers in an attempt to increase their market share. Classification’s independent reputation with underwriters, bankers, flag and port states would be fatally compromised if it designed the ships it also classed, he said.

“The EEDI will be the design scorecard of the future. Yet the current focus on energy-efficient designs and the prospect of tough market conditions is pushing class societies to move into the design space to either gain a commercial advantage or protect their existing position.”
Wiernicki said discussions internally at ABS as well as with clients and shipyards left him unable to reconcile the concept of class acting as a ship designer which then reviews and approves the same design. He went on to state that class societies needed to choose between being class societies and designers — they cannot be both.

“I will go even further and say that they should not and cannot be allowed to, because wearing both these critical hats undermines the basic safety integrity of our entire industry. This is not a class issue; this is an industry issue,” he said.

Mr Svensen agreed that class should not be involved in ship design, and said whenever it had been offering advice, in its consultancy role, it would never approve the vessel’s designs afterwards.

He cited cases in the past where a class society worked on the designs, drawings and analysis during the conversion of a very large crude carrier to a very large ore carrier. Such conversions require complete class approval as if the vessel is a newbuilding. The same class society then approved the conversion plans, he said. He said DNV would never do that. He also pointed to onboard technology. Class should never get involved in technology development, he said.
DNV sits with a lot of competence within the staff, according to Mr Svensen, and he believed there was a role that class societies should be playing in the industry.

“I understand the concern of the future role of class,” he said. “But gone are the days of class being just a governing body saying yes or no. The expectations of us are different.”
But he insisted the consultancy work would never take a front seat, and that it was beneficial to do both.

ABS, GL and DNV are members of the International Association of Class Societies. Mr Svensen said it had no rules on how class societies should keep their consultancy work and class role separate.

The Antipodean Mariner
23rd November 2011

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Rena's media machine

A copy of Mike Wackett's editorial in shipping e-zine Containerisation International Online (15th November 2011) has been passed to the Antipodean Mariner, which praises Maritime New Zealand for its handling of the media during the salvage operation (

Quotations in part from the online article state;

"Moreover, it has been so refreshing to experience the open and frankness of MNZ; regardless of issues with liability for the clean-up cost, they have pushed on with their job of protecting their beautiful coastline"

"Indeed, those responsible for MNZ's PR machine deserve congratulations; its 100 or so status updates should be a lesson to other media-shy companies how to communicate, and why it is in everybody's interests to do so: the problem won't go away it is always better to be transparent."

I'll leave readers who followed this blog's first person account of the salvage up until its untimely silencing to draw their own conclusions.

The Antipodean Mariner
22nd November 2011

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Rena salvage pictures

The Antipodean Mariner has been in South East Asia this past week and postings have been a big sparse despite news and photos received. Quick posting tonight of some of the best photos. Rena's trademark collapsed container stack has now been removed, and the salvors are starting to remove some of the full reefer (refrigerated) containers with their putrifying contents.

It has been reported that the site looks like Scapa Flow with the English fleet in port. Vessel count includes the tugs Katea, Koraki, Maui 1, Pacific Pearl and Petra G , Wainui (towing the barge Pohonui which is the the designated rotten food barge. The Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIB's) Sea 3, Genesis and Black Pearl with the Canopus, Seatow 60 and Rena totaled 13 vessels at the wreck site.

Riggers attached with lifelines prepare the toppled container stack for discharge

Rena's port side showing the extent of the damage to her hull at No.2 Hatch

Looking along the port side, the mis-alignment between the forward and after sections of the hull are more apparent

Hive of activity around the hulk of the Rena.

The Antipodean Mariner
20th November 2011

Friday, 18 November 2011

Rena Salvage - No Cure, No Pay

In the public’s mind, Salvors are probably thought of some sort of poor cousin to pirates. You know what I mean, families of opportunistic farmers, peasants and fishermen steeling through the Cornish night to wreck and plunder the bounty of castaway sailing ships. No, actually there were called Wreckers.

Salvors operate in a world of high stakes, ”all or nothing” bets of successfully reclaiming some tangible value from maritime catastrophes. Prominent on the first page of the Lloyds Open Form agreement are the words “No Cure, No Pay”. If nothing of value is salvaged, the Salvor gets nothing - irrespective of how much outlaid in time and money.

When the images of penguins and seals covered in heavy fuel oil galvanised world opinion against oil pollution (there, mentioned a penguin), regulators were faced with a vexing problem. How could Salvors be sufficiently incentivised to apply their significant resources to preventing oil pollution when faced with ‘No cure, No pay’? The significant evolution of salvage ‘custom as practice’ has been that the Salvors can make a claim on the pollution compensation funds for ‘salvaging’ the environment (see the Convention Liability posting) as separate from the salvaging property (the vessel and cargo).

Environment now always takes first preference to ship and cargo – often frustrating the Salvor’s first instinct to try to get the ship ‘off the beach’ quickly and intact. Rena’s salvors will have been contracted with these two prioritised objectives – to minimise oil pollution by removing as much fuel, lubricating and hydraulic oil as possible and to salvage the ship and cargo.

The first task, now successfully completed, has been evident by the actions of the Salvors, the bunker barge ‘Awanuia’ and ‘GO Canopus’. The systematic pumping out of the heavy fuel oil in the Rena’s bunker tanks, fuel and lubricating oil from the Engine Room and hydraulics from the mooring equipment and steering gear have significantly reduced the future impact in the Bay of Plenty’s coastline when Rena inevitable breaks in two (or three) in the next good northerly blow. While the media loves being able to tell the public that all oil has been removed, the laws of physics means there are unpumpable or urecoverable residues for nature to bio-degrade later. The Salvors now have the basis for a claim on the oil pollution compensation funds, and will have an army of accountants documenting what they believe is a fair and reasonable amount for their skill, risk and expertise (including the appalling conditions in which they had to work.

The salvage award will be submitted for settlement from the compensation fund. These claims tend to be settled pretty quickly – no one wants to get offside with the Salvors if the prize has been the preservation of wildlife, pristine beaches and coastline.

Back to the high stakes table, and the focus now on salvaging all or part of Rena and her cargo. As reported in the media, work has started on unloading containers while the weather is benign.

A great photo has been received of the salvors removing empties two at a time to the deck of ST-60 and then to GO Canopus. Container ships like carry the 'empties' - containers being returned or repositioned in the trade to be filled with cargo - behind the bridge and accommodation because they are light and and be stacked high without affecting foward visibility. The salvors are cutting the twist locks, which lock the container stack with an oxy-acetylene cutter and landing the containers for the short final voyage to Tauranga.

There is the real possibility that the part of the Rena still afloat could break free – either at visible fracture at the No.2 hatch or forward of the accommodation. If Rena breaks at No.2 hatch, the Antipodean Mariner speculates that there may be sufficient residual stability for Rena to remain afloat and (near) upright. However, if Rena breaks forward to the accommodation the hull shape in this part of the ship is what is called ‘fine’ – narrow and shaped to permit water to flow cleanly into her large, single propeller.

Again speculation, but the inherently stable flat side and flat bottom of the hull will no longer be attached to the fine and heavy (that’s where the main engine is) accommodation and engine room.

The salvors will have naval architects working on this problem and estimating their chances of success under ‘No cure, No pay’.

The Antipodean Mariner
18th November 2011

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Rena salvage - ST-60 incident

With the increase in activity at the site, as the salvage operation moves from oil recovery to discharge of the Rena’s containers, the Antipodean Mariner has cultivated new sources. Blogging will continue of the activities at Astrolabe Reef from the decks of the various craft now clustered around the inert hulk.

There was an incident on the barge ST-60 yesterday which made the media through more traditional sources. A personnel transfer basket (known on the salvage industry as a Billy Pugh) with three salvors aboard had to be dumped into the ocean after it developed an uncontrollable swing in the low swell.

The tops of the crane jibs are estimated to be moving in an arc of up to three metres in the gentle swells off Astrolabe Reef. The cranes temporarily fitted to the ST-60 are designed for a direct vertical static lift from a stable land-based platform and not the dynamic motion experienced on the barge.

Although their load rating may have been reduced, one observed fears that they will not cope with the task. The crane’s hook (or a forty foot container) developing an uncontrollable pendulum swing and striking the fragile latticework of the crane jib will have catastrophic consequences.

The crane barge ‘Smit Borneo’, which is on the way to Tauranga from Singapore, is purpose built for heavy lifting in a seaway and looks infinitely better equipped to handle the conditions. Hopefully, ST-60 can continue to support the salvage operation by receiving and shuttling the containers in to the Port of Tauranga.

This posting is not to taken as a criticism of the salvage operation but a reminder of the dangers faced every day by the Salvors using the resources they have in a dynamic environment.

The Antipodean Mariner
16th November 2011

Rena General Average

When Rena grounded on Astrolabe Reef in the early hours of 5th October, a complex legal process was set into motion which will likely last a decade or more. All around the world, lawyers, insurers, salvors and surveyors will have reached for an A4 lever arch file and written ‘Rena File No.1” on the spine. Many hundreds more A4 files will be filled in the months and years to come.

One of the truly ancient principles which will likely be applied to the Rena’s salvage is General Average. General Average is another maritime peculiarity dating back to early Greek times. Even now, every voyage by a cargo ship is termed a ‘maritime adventure’ to which the ship’s Owner, Cargo owners, Master and Crew are deemed participants.

When heavily laden sailing craft were plying the Mediterranean, storms and running aground were an accepted peril of the maritime adventure. In the teeth of a storm, it was common practice for the Captains to jettison part of the cargo thereby lightening the vessel so as to make it safely to port (less a few amphora of wine). When choosing which cargo to jettison, Captains and crews were often not too picky - self-preservation ruled.

Provided the vessel made it to port, the hapless cargo’s owner would be informed of the loss of their precious goods. One party had borne the loss of their goods in order to ensure the successful delivery of the other cargo and the preservation of the ship. The Greeks put their mind to this inequity of one party suffering loss for the collective benefit of the other participants to the maritime adventure.

The principle debated, and now enshrined in maritime commerce, was that the losses of one should be compensated by the collective beneficiaries of the successful voyage. There are a few rules though to maintain fair play in the unscrupulous, rough-and-tumble of shipping.

A General Average claim must, among other things, be voluntary, timely, reasonable and successful. When the Owners of the Rena were alerted to the vessel’s grounding, one of the first thoughts would have been ‘Can we declare General Average?’

After all, if their actions successfully save the majority of the containers but result in the loss of their ship on Astrolabe Reef, then aren’t they entitled to be compensated under the principles of General Average? A powerful incentive when you consider the combined value of the ship and 1,300 containers at the time of the grounding.

Crane Barge Smit Borneo under tow to the Rena salvage site from Singapore:
Kees Drent, Shipping News Clippings 13/11/11

If General Average is declared, every container successfully unloaded to the barge ST-60 will strengthen the Rena’s Owners case that their actions met the test of being voluntary, timely, reasonable and successful. Just imagine you are passenger in a taxi which T-bones another car and the taxi driver demands you contribute to the repair bill! General Average in a nutshell.

Interesting if the ‘cut and thrust’ of maritime commerce, law and salvage lights your fire. No mention yet of a dolphin, penguin or cormorant in this Blog, which I will leave to my reader from the Ministry of the Environment (you know who you are).

The Antipodean Mariner
15th November 2011

Sunday, 13 November 2011

RENA salvage and Convention Liability

Thanks again to the readers who have commented since the 'NZ Herald' picked up on the story;

Time now to 'heave to and weather the storm'. One of the burning questions being debated in New Zealand is why is the nation going to have to pick up a large proportion the cost of the clean up? The ship is owned by a substantive Shipowner, Costamare, who have issued a statement apologising for the accident and the Authorities are not having to trawl through a web of Liberian and Panamanian shelf companies to identify the beneficial Owner. The answer lies in commercial principles on which merchant shipping has operated since the Greek and Roman times.

The two basic principles in play are the mutual insurance of maritime catastrophes and limitation of liability. Starting with mutual insurance, the 'Rena' is insured with the Swedish Club. How, you may ask, can a Club be an insurance company? The name Club indicates that the insurer is a Protection and Indemnity Club - or P&I Club for short. P&I Clubs are not-for-profits and have existed for centuries because of the inherently risky nature of shipping. Members of the Club collectively self-insure the 'uninsurable' risks of their combined fleets. Every Shipowner who is a member of the Swedish Club will be contributing to, and has collective liability for, the cost of the Rena's salvage and oil spill clean-up.

So with this open-ended liability now resting with the Swedish P&I Club, how do they avoid the hypothetical catastrophe of one of their mutually insured ships colliding with the 'Queen Mary' and then both vessels sinking in the middle of New York Harbour? Every member of the Club would face financial ruin. This is where the second principle kicks in - liability is limited in proportion to the size and earnings capability of the ship.

It's a bit like Finland's legal system where your speeding fine is a calculated by how much you earn - an expensive exercise for the CEO of Nokia who was fined 116,000 Euro for riding his Harley Davidson 25km over the speed limit in 2002.

Rena's liability is limited, based on her Gross Tonnage. The term has been 'metricated' as the original term was a Tun, or a wine barrel. A ships tunnage was a measurement of how many
barrels could be fitted in the cargo holds and as a proxy for how much money the Owner could earn from her on a voyage. Gross Tonnage is used in all aspects of commercial shipping to calculate fees, charges, levies and taxes. 'Rena' will have paid a tonnage-based oil pollution levy to Maritime NZ (also known as conservancy dues) on arriving in New Zealand on her final, fateful voyage. This is ratified by the Governments of maritime nations through the concisely named 'International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage', or CLC Convention for short.

Put together, 'Rena' carries insurance which is capped by her ability to earn money (freight) for her Owner. The Swedish Club will pay for the clean-up up to the limits of the CLC Convention.

This summary is simplified to explain the principles on which maritime commerce operates. The Swedish Club has confirmed that up to US$1.4 Billion is available for oil pollution clean-up. There is still the legal bun-fight ahead about salvage, wreck removal and cargo (so eloquently described by our man on Astrolabe Reef).

Next positing, I'll try to explain the principle of General Average.

The Antipodean Mariner
13th November 2011

Friday, 11 November 2011

Make Rena wreck a reef

Courtesy of Tradewinds' (11/11/2011):-

With an end to the oil pollution threat from the wrecked Costamare containership Rena in sight the question of what to do with what remains of the ship is becoming an issue in New Zealand.
The authorities have issued a wreck removal notice requiring the shipowner to dispose of the 3,032-teu Rena (built 1990) which will potentially produce a very costly claim for the Swedish Club which has both the hull and the protection and indemnity cover on the vessel.
The bunker removal operation underway at the Astrolabe Reef.But a full scale wreck removal may not be required. The idea of moving the wreck off the Bay of Plenty’s Astrolabe Reef and sinking all or part of the ship in deeper water is being mooted in New Zealand.

A divers' association believes the sunken wreck could become an underwater attraction with other voices suggesting an artificial reef would boost the maritime environment and sea life.
If the Rena became a reef it would be good news for the Swedish Club and for the claims record of Costamare.

But the owner and the club are also facing a threat from a campaign so far backed by 5,000 New Zealanders to make Costamare and its insurer pick up the entire bill for the Rena casualty, clean-up and salvage – a bill that might run to as much as $100m.

New Zealanders are also learning about maritime limitation and the 1976 Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims (LLMC) which appears relevant to the Rena loss.
For the Rena, a ship of 38,000 gross tons, the LLMC limitation amount is about SDR 6m ($9.5m) or NZD 12m with lawyers suggesting that it would be hard under New Zealand law to break limitation.

It looks as if the limitation issue may become a political hot potato with Costamare and the Swedish Club under pressure to go a good way beyond payment of the minimum amount.
There is also discussion of the possibility of a criminal prosecution over the grounding of Rena.
So there is both good and bad news for Costamare and the Swedish Club, but maybe also an environment where there could be room for deals over the LLMC limit, wreck removal and a prosecution.

Meanwhile Maritime New Zealand says good progress is being made in removing the bunkers of the Rena although there are hundreds of tonnes of oil to remove. The flow rate of the pump over to a tank barge is only three or four tones an hour with weather and sea conditions having the potential to delay operations.

Source: Jim Mulrenan, Tradewinds Singapore

Rena salvage - gagged!

The Antipodean Mariner's man on the spot has unfortunately been 'gagged', though at this point still with his job on 'GO Canopus'. This will be his final report from Astrolabe Reef, though I will continue to post updates of progress on the salvage gleaned from the public domain.

Hello all,
As per my last report, I have given an undertaking to transmit no further live updates of the salvage operation at Astrolabe Reef. My literary days have been curtailed, although for posterity, I will continue to keep an electronic log of my daily observations.

Thank you all for your kind comments and supportive emails.

I may use them in an endeavour to show appropriate personnel that mariners and New Zealanders from all walks of life, anywhere in the world, are genuinely interested in the salvage operation and want it to succeed without further incident. And that they appreciate on the spot, "real life" updates, rather than minimalist, sanitised sound bite versions put forward by the mainstream media.

Of course, I will have to curtail my opinions and stick purely to descriptive observations.
Au revoir and safe sailing everyone.

Signing off from Astrolabe reef for the last time.

If you enjoyed the last week's posts, feel free to comment as he's able to read the blog from 'GO Canopus'.

K - thanks from me for an entertaining three weeks of daily updates from this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

RENA salvage - Storm threatens!

A storm is brewing off Astrolabe Reef despite ongoing good weather for the Salvors. The Antipodean Mariner's man on the scene has fallen afoul of the non-disclosure clause in his employment contract, and the objections of the one of the Regulatory Agencies to his "call it as I see it" gonzo journalism style. The latest update has been editied to avoid offence (real or perceived) to those in the un-named Agency.

Hello all,
Welcome to my new readers in Russia, the Channel Islands and the [deleted regulatory agency] .

It was another lovely day out here at Astrolabe reef. The WSW wind continued to blow the sheen well out to sea. The weather gods certainly have been good to the salvors as of late. Long may it continue.

I think I witnessed Darwinism first hand today. As per earlier reports, there are multiple schools of fish shoaling around the reef. Sea birds are now also returning to the scene, making the most of the rich pickings. Proof that nature abhors a vacuum of course, but more notable was that both fish and birds were upwind and up weather of the Rena and the sheen.

Could it be that the smart birds know to keep away from the oil and the dumb ones die?
There was sheen in the water in the vicinty of where the maggots wash overboard, yet neither fish nor bird were there. Of course it could it be something much simpler, like current & weather, or noise from our thrusters? Whatever the reason, it was certainly very noticeable.

I have this evening been reminded of a non disclosure clause in my employment contract, which will preclude me from sending any further updates from the salvage site. I will endeavour to reach a compromise which will allow me to continue, as I know for many of you, this is the only news you get on the subject. However, if not, this may well be my 2nd last report.

Signing off from Astrolabe reef.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

RENA Salvage - 8th November log

It was another beautiful morning here at Astrolabe reef. The waxing, near full moon, set over the bow of the Rena, followed by a lovely sunrise just south of White Island; which we can see on a clear morning, still smouldering in the distance. What small oil sheen there was visible, continued to be blown to the East, well out to sea.

For the previous 24 hours, we have remained in close quarters on the port side of the Rena, with our oil transfer hose still connected to her bunkering manifold. Our DP system is operating very well, although we do lose DGPS diff signals occassionally, as the satellites disappear behind the accomodation block of the Rena. Our Cyscan laser range finder works very well at this close range and shows our reflector target mounted on the stern of the Rena, to be 44 metres away.

We now have a total of 22,000 litres of lubricating oil on board, stored in 2 of our ISO tank containers. It is slightly emulsified, due to contamination with both sea water and diesel, so is not reusable in its current state. It may be able to be rerefined or somehow recycled, but that is beyond my scope of knowledge. It is not continuous pumping to us, rather small parcel discharges, as the salvors drain all of the smaller lube & hydraulic oil storage tanks from within the engine room. There are occassions here when we feel like mushrooms, but generally we are kept pretty well in the operational loop.

Discharge of HFO & lube oil to the Awanuia has remained at a trickle. It will probably remain so, until completion of the hot tapping arrangements to the remaining fuel tank on the starboard side. Spare a thought for the personnel on the Awanuia. They are moored 30 metres down wind of the stern of the Rena. Every moment on deck they would be exposed to the stench emanating from the rotting contents of the freezer containers. I would assume that their air condition system is set to recycle.

There has been a slight but significant change, in the status of the major crack on the port side of the hull of the Rena, in the vicinity of number 2 hold. It is probably not noticeable to the casual observer, but there is further compression buckling of the hull apparent at the water line at low tide, coupled with a visual, transverse and vertical sheer misalignment of the forward and aft sections of the hull. Likewise the compression buckling in the hull, apparent in the vicinity of number 1 hold is also becoming greater. To clarify, when the Rena settled in her present position, her heading was 278 degrees. Her forward section remains on that heading, whereas her aft section might now be heading 279 degrees. Close observation of an aerial photo might reveal the aft section to be slightly offset to the South. To the non mariners, think of her as slightly bent to the left, like a banana. It appears that the incessant harmonic motions of wind, tide, tidal stream (tide induced current), waves and swell, appear to have finally severed the spine of the Rena. The Dutch salvage rep on board (the proud owner of my $20), confirmed that there is now a 60 cm movement in all directions, between the forward and aft sections.

The weather is due to turn to the South East at 25 knots on Thursday evening. It is the first time it has come from that direction in the 2 1/2 weeks we have been here on location. It will be interesting to observe the outcome. The Southeasterly weather would be just off our starboard bow, and put us on the "weather side" of the Rena, in a "blow on" position. Meaning, if we had an engine failure, we would be blown on to the Rena. She is more benign than a live gas riser, but it would still ruin our day. I expect that the call will be made within the next 24 hours, whether we remain connected to the discharge hose, or suspend operations and stand off. It is the Captain's ultimate decision, whether to stay in position, or stand off at a safe distance. I suspect that we will disconnect the hose by Thursday afternoon.

There was a new player in field today, in the form of a Sea-Tow tug and barge.

ST-60 (courtesy of 'Gladstone Observer')

The barge had two, long jib crawler cranes on board. They stooged around for a couple of hours, raising and lowering their fragile looking latticework jibs, looking all the while like long necked herons going through a mating ritual before proceeding back into port.

That is all from Astrolabe Reef today

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

RENA salvage - 7th November log

It was a lovely fine day at Astrolabe reef today, with gentle to moderate WSW winds sending the oil sheen well out to sea. The sheen is becoming thinner and much less noticeable now. Either because the ruptured fuel tank on the starboard side is now empty, or there is minimal wave action to cause turbulence in that ruptured tank. Whatever the reason, it is good news.

We were called in this morning to the port side of the Rena, adjacent to her bunker manifold (The pipework where she usually loads fuel) just forward of the accommodation. We came in close, stern first, to receive a messenger rope from them, which we connected to our 4" floating hose. This hose was then hauled up the side of the Rena using a small hand winch, then connected to the bunker manifold. We have remained in this location throughout the day and into the night and have received a grand total of 8.7 cubic metres of lube oil into one of our deck tanks. At this rate we will have to go back into port to refuel and take provisions, long before our cargo tanks are full.

The Awanuia is still connected at the stern of the Rena, so she is about 40 metres off our port bow. It would make one very impressive aerial photo, with 4 vessels and numerous rigid inflatable work boats, all in such close proximity. Divers were also again in operation today, on both the port and starboard sides, continuing their hull survey and hot tapping preparations.
Following on from my report yeserday, I googled "hot tapping" and came up with the following sites:

In addition to the dive operations and routine chopper flights, there was a chopper and water taxi full of "non salvage" junketeers, weilding numerous cameras. Not sure if they were press or Maritime NZ, but you can be sure that they did not spend too much time in the vicinity of the rotting freezer containers. Poor Mrs Mac deserves better than this.

It was very choppy when the water taxi was alongside the Rena, attempting to disembark his 4 passengers. Watching from the bridge, we were sure that at least one of them would end up in the drink. It was easy to see that they were not mariners and totally unused to boarding by pilot ladder. It didn't help that it was low tide also, which meant quite a reach to get to the bottom rung on the ladder. After lots of stuffing around, they eventually all boarded safely.

We have been advised that the container salvage reps were also on board and that they quoted a rate of removal of three containers per day and estimated that it would take a year to unload.

WTF! - that rate makes even the Brisbane wharfies look good.

Mother Nature will have it emptied for them long before a year is out. A summer cyclone will have it unloaded in less than 24 hours. I would be appalled if Maritime NZ signed up for that deal, as the crane barge due down to undertake the removal operation will be astronomically expensive. Think of them as tow truck drivers, then you will understand. The issue with unloading containers from within the holds, is that they are held in place by vertical, slotted cell guides, which enables an efficient and secure method of stowing the containers for transit by sea.
However, any containership mate will tell you, that the vessel has to be within 2 degrees of vertical, while loading or unloading the containers. Otherwise the containers jam in the cell guides, as the tolerances are so fine. So combine a 22 degree list, with the carnage in the holds caused by 17 knots of inertial impact with terra firma and you have a right royal clusterf@#k to try to unload.

It will certainly be a challenge, as is everything about this project so far. Consulting "Thomas Stowage" might not help in this instance.

That is all from Astrolabe Reef today.

Monday, 7 November 2011

m/v RENA salvage - First Person Log

In the early hours of October 5th, the container ship 'Rena' went aground at full sea speed on Astrolabe Reef, north-east of the port of Tauranga, New Zealand. AIS data suggests that the Officer of the Watch altered the vessel's course to make directly for the Pilot Station. Unfortunately for him (and the ship) there was a well charted reef between him and the Pilot!

A shipmate of the Antipodean Mariner has been 'picked up off the beach' for the salvage operation, and has kindly agreed for his first person log to be posted here. The log starts with the mobilisation of the dynamically-positioned AHTS 'Go Canopus' to support the salvage...


I am due to join the vessel ‘GO Canopus’ on Saturday [22nd October] as part of the salvage operation for the containership RENA. I am intending to put out an informal brief daily update so that you can understand firsthand what is going on.

22nd October
Hi all.
It is the end of a very busy day.
The NZ crew joined the GO Canopus in Tauranga today (22nd) after a few hours of safety inductions. We are due to sail tonight, after loading 16 empty 20 foot ISO tank containers on the back deck.
We will replace the small fuel barge that is currently moored at the stern of the RENA as she has to return to her normal role of delivering fuel to ships in port.
The RENA is aground on a Westerly heading. We will set up using dynamic positioning, 10 metres off her port 1/4 (at her stern on the port side) and the salvors will pump the fuel from the RENA to the ISO containers on our deck.
When all 16 tanks are full, then we will return to port and swap out the full tank containers for some empty ones, then repeat the operation until no more fuel can be pumped from her.
When you see it all on the evening news, then it become clear to you.
It should be a quicker operation than utilising the small tanker, as the transfer hose will be much shorter, therefore less friction from the cold oil, hopefully giving a better transfer rate. Not allowed to take or transmit photos sorry - one of the contractual clauses.

23rd October
We eventually left Tauranga about 22:00 last night after a very long day.
We spent today undertaking DP (Dynamic Positioning) trials, emergency muster and preparing the deck equipment for receiving first oil from the Rena. The salvors meanwhile are rigging some bigger discharge hoses on board the Rena, to allow a faster discharge rate to us, than to the Awanuia.

The ‘GO Canopus’ is a 64 meters long supply boat, 10,700 shaft horse power, utilising 2 bow thrusters, one stern thruster and 2 main engines for position keeping. The DP operating system is CONVERTEAM, which is new to me. A bit like using a Mac for the first time after using Windows.
We will be setting up towards the stern of the Rena, as that is the only area where there is clear deep water to enable us to manoeuvre.
A news helicopter buzzed us this morning, filming as it went. It seemed very odd looking down at helicopter from the bridge wing.
Weather is lovely and calm and ideal for our first day out. Ideally it will be the same when we commence fuel transfer operations.
The 16 tank containers on board each have capacity of 24,000 litres when 100% full, so theoretically we could take 360 tonnes of fuel off her each time out here. It would thus take 4 return trips out here to drain her fuel, although there will be a considerable quantity of un-pumpable oil remaining on board thereafter. Hopefully she will hold together long enough to enable us to complete the task. The weather gods have been very kind so far. They are not always so.
As a mariner, it is not a nice feeling looking at a fully laden ship listing heavily and aground. Like looking at dead whale I guess.
While getting the oil off the Rena before she breaks in two is the priority, removal of the containers is also being planned, however that is a separate operation to ours. It will be a serious challenge for them to remove some of the containers at the stern which now appear to be almost horizontal. The twist locks holding them together were never designed for that type of force and will be impossible to unlock in that position.

A crane barge has been sourced to commence unloading them, but because of the limited amount of clear water depth around the Rena, it is unlikely that unloading of fuel and containers can be undertaken simultaneously.
We managed to get good enough TV signal to watch the Rugby World Cup final. Everyone was happy about that.

24th October
It has been a beautiful day out here in the sunny Bay of Plenty, so I don't have much news to add.
The salvors have decided to make the most of the good weather, so are continuing their fuel transfer operations to the Awanuia, rather than risk any delay or interruption in transferring the operation to us. It also allows them extra time to set up additional transfer hoses, to allow a better rate of transfer to us, when we get alongside.
There is also a possibility that we may shoot back into port on Tuesday to load some fresh water for the Rena salvage personnel, to use as cooling water for their oil transfer pumps, compressors and generators.
Once the weather deteriorates in a day or so, then the Awanuia will depart the scene and we will assume the receiving role from the Rena.
There were three helicopters in the air and a total of nine vessels out here today, so it was a busy little patch of water.
There must be many businesses in Tauranga doing very well out of this incident, but obviously not all.
The day was spend familiarising ourselves with the planned operation, checking equipment and documenting the risk assessment for the planned operation. Must get the paperwork completed correctly.

25th October
Hello everyone from sunny Tauranga.
It was another lovely sunny & clear day in the Bay of Plenty today. So clear in fact that we could quite clearly see the active volcanic activity of white island, over 30 miles away. I was very surprised as to how much smoke was belching out from there.
This afternoon we went alongside the port 1/4 of the Rena, 10 metres from her and discharged some fresh water to the salvors. I think that they are using it as cooling water for their hydraulic systems and they have used all that was available on the Rena.
Our stern was level with the aft (rear) end of her accommodation. I was on the stern of the GO Canopus calling the distances to go as we approached stern first. The shallow water around her was easily discernable by the opaque blue colour change. She is certainly well and truly aground and will not be coming off the reef of her own accord.
I can't visualise how a crane barge will be able to gain access to remove any containers forward of the Rena's accommodation. Perhaps Mother Nature will solve the problem in the next big blow and remove them all.
The small tanker Awanuia was close alongside us. Her stint out here at the Rena might be coming to an end soon, but she has done very well. She has tug boat at her stern, providing static tow, to keep tension on the mooring lines and so prevent her bow from hitting the stern of the Rena.
There was an obvious oil slick emanating from her today and two smaller vessels had deployed a floating oil boom to try and contain it. Farting against thunder I suspect, however they have to try. I guess they have some type of skimmer or surface vacuum to recover the contained oil, but they were not close enough to us for me to see that in operation.
After discharging water we then proceeded back to Tauranga to load some more and get some more hoses and equipment for the salvage operation.
We will probably be departing back to the Rena, either tonight or tomorrow morning.

26th October
We spend the night in the port of Tauranga, berthed at the old Union Company Roll on Roll off berth. We loaded more fresh water for the Rena, along with more transfer hose (with floatation collars attached) and some more tow rope for the harbour tug that is doing the static tow on the Awanuia. Obviously their towing bridle is becoming a little chafed after providing a constant towing force for two weeks. Harbour tugs and their equipment are not designed for such continual use.
There were also three of the smaller oil spill support vessels back in port to load the surface skimmers and other oil recovery equipment. These aluminium hulled boats were designed and built for the mussel farming industry from Coromandel. They are very practical and good looking work boats which have a big clear deck area, a small Hiab crane and small overside gantry davits. At first glance their dimensions do seem out of proportion, but they are perfect work platforms to store and deploy floating oil booms, oil skimmers and to store 1000 litre bulk drums of recovered oil sludge. It will be a long and arduous process for them though and no doubt not the most pleasant at times.
We showed some of their personnel around the GO Canopus and they were most appreciative of seeing another side to the project. We are all on the same team after all and a little good will goes along way. Who knows, they may sling a meal of fresh fish over our rail one morning. That would be nice.
We left Tauranga this afternoon and are now back on location at the Rena and will be delivering the rope to the tug and water to the Rena. We have a two tonne crane on our port side amidships, that has a 15 metre boom. It is ideal for transferring small cargo parcels to other vessels.
The water we are delivering to Rena is to be used for water injection into the oil discharge line, to reduce the viscosity and improve the flow rate through the discharge hose. Much the same principle as the gas lift injection we utilised to enhance flow rates and well performance, while I as on the Crystal Ocean.
Of course this water injection also increases the volume of emulsified oil that needs to be stored on board.
We have also been advised that some of the salvors will soon be living aboard us overnight. I guess a hot meal, shower and tv on here would now seem a luxury to those that have been staying overnight on the dead ship Rena. They will be transferred daily between us and the Rena, via a rigid inflatable work boat that is operating in field.
I would hate to guess what the daily cost is for all of this. Personnel, hotel bills, helicopters, support boats and shipping charter costs are not cheap, so the NZ taxpayer will end up footing a phenomenal bill for it all, possibly in the vicinity of half a million dollars per day. No doubt that will all come out during the upcoming electioneering and grandstanding.
That is all from the sunny Bay of Plenty

27th October
It was a lovely start to the day this morning. A pod of three Orca whales were seen close by, just cruising around, obviously content, well fed and unaffected by the drama unfolding around them. We could tell by the size of their fins that there was one mature one, one baby and the third a juvenile. There seems to be an abundance of fish in the water as well, so don't believe everything that you read in the press about an environmental disaster. The aquatic locals seem to be thriving, although bird life is rather sparse. Shows that fish are smarter than birds. We were scheduled to be alongside the Rena at 09:00 to discharge more fresh water to them. However this was cancelled for reasons unknown to us.
So we transferred no water, nor loaded any oil. Our oil transfer hose and pump is all rigged up on deck ready to go. Just waiting for the word.
There appeared to be some issues with pumping of oil from the Rena to the Awanuia today, as the hourly transfer rate was reduced to a mere trickle. So far the Awanuia has received 822 cubic metres of HFO (heavy fuel oil), so they are over half way through the operation. However the remaining HFO and diesel will take longer to remove, as it is in smaller tanks in the engine room, with more difficult access and a longer more torturous route for it to be pumped. I suspect that the rate of transfer will thus decline, meaning there will still be several weeks more of transferring oil, before a start is made on removing any containers.
All on the bridge have now become familiar and confident with operating the "Converteam" DP system. After 12 years of using a Kongsberg SDP 21 system, even I have come to terms with the vagaries of this one.
An electrician, 2nd cook and a steward joined today, in anticipation of the eight extra salvors joining us over the next couple of days. While our accommodation is not flash, it has to be better than sleeping on the open deck on the Rena.
Contrary to press reports, Rena has not yet broken up. However the major crack on her port side in the vicinity of Number 2 hatch has become noticeably bigger with more shiny buckled steel being exposed. This crack now extends to below the waterline. Like a piece of fencing wire that is constantly bent back and forwards, it will eventually break.
Whether the stern sinks immediately or remains afloat depends on both the Engine-room and aft container hatch retaining their watertight integrity. At the moment she is buoyant aft, as both spaces are still intact and are over deep water. That she is still buoyant aft, is exacerbating the cracking in the hull at the forward end, as the stern rises and falls imperceptibly with each passing swell, weakening the steel structure with every movement.
Electronic sensors have been placed on board to monitor this movement, but I am not privy to the results.
The weather is deteriorating slightly from the previous few days, with the swell become more noticeable; hence it is but a matter of time until she breaks in two. No doubt it will be a most dramatic occurrence. Hopefully it will occur in daylight on my watch, so that I can be a first hand witness. A once in a lifetime occurrence.
It will no doubt make a mess though, with containers and oil strewn asunder. Watch this space.

28th October
It was Groundhog Day today, with more "standby to standby" stuff from the Rena.
We moved in to 100 metres from her port quarter and sat there until 09:30 when they told us that we were not required for the moment.
There was some drama off the port of Tauranga though, as another containership "Schelde Trader" hit the bricks. Not sure of the circumstances, however there is no major damage that I am aware of.
It has certainly not been a good month for containership operators running into the port of Tauranga.
Contrary to what has been promulgated in the press and from the politicians, we have yet to receive a single drop of oil from the Rena. They are continuing the pumping operations to the Awanuia, which currently has just over 1,000 cubic metres of HFO on board. Her charter has been extended through until at least Monday. They are still pumping from the settling and daily service tanks in the engine room and should be finished them by tomorrow. It must be diesel they are pumping from those tanks, as the transfer rate jumped to 18 cubic metres per hour. A vast improvement on the 4 cubic metres per hour they had been achieving with the HFO transfer.
Once the engine room tanks have been drained, then the salvors will move on to the starboard side tanks. That will be very challenging, as although the tanks are intact, they are underwater. My understanding is that they will attempt to form a watertight cofferdam in the under deck trunking, which runs the length of the ship. The cofferdam will probably be sealed with an inflatable bladder, prior to the water being pumped out, to allow personnel to access the lids to the remaining fuel tanks.
It would be a real bugger of a risk assessment and JSA, prior to undertaking that job wouldn't it!?
The tug "Waka Kume" which is providing the static tow on the Awanuia, is running very low on fresh water. She is a harbour tug, which has been out here since before we arrived on the scene. She is not designed for significant periods at sea. She will come alongside us tomorrow so that we can top up her fresh water tanks. We will no doubt throw them some fresh fruit and other stores to keep them content, as this period at sea on constant towing duties must be very tedious and mind sapping. They certainly would not be used to it for such a long period.
Until now the weather gods have been extraordinarily benign to the salvors, environment and people of the Bay of Plenty. However we are keeping a close eye on a low that appears to be developing off the Queensland coast, near Lord Howe Island. Worst case scenario is that it could throw some nasty North Easterlies into the Bay of Plenty in 3 or 4 days time. That could be the final straw that breaks the Rena camel’s back.....literally.
We are currently experiencing steady north easterlies 15 - 18 knots, with the forecast, more of the same. These conditions exacerbate the movement of the stern of the Rena and makes it too rough for the small oil recovery vessels to operate. So I expect significant oil to be washed up on the beaches of Papamoa and Mt Maunganui over the next 72 hours, albeit lighter than the initial heavy spill.

30th October
Well after the groundhog days of recent times, today was anything but.
After many days of "stand down we don't require you", today was "stop what you're doing, get your arse into town, unload those tank containers and get yourself ready for towing".
Those of you with experience in the offshore industry will no doubt understand exactly what kind of a day it has been. Thank goodness for the neuron zinging caffeine injection from my industrial strength black coffee. Yep, nothing has changed there.
We started the day in close to the Rena, on her starboard 1/4, in preparation to transfer one end of the 6" hose to her and the other end to the Awanuia. The salvage personnel were not quite ready for us, so we relocated to the port side of the Awanuia, to transfer some fresh water to them. We had been pumping fresh water to them for about 20 minutes, when we got the call to stop everything and proceed into port, to clear our deck in preparation for towing.
Finally somebody on the beach had connected the dots to realise that the weakened Rena would not survive the forecast weather and it might just be prudent to rig and connect a towing bridle from the stern of the Rena. Jim the weatherman could have told them that.
48 hours behind the 8 ball, but better late than never I guess.
After our turbo port visit, we arrived back on location at 20:00 and had our tow wire connected to the stern of the Rena at 23:00.
The troops did very, very well and put in a huge amount of OT without a grizzle. Had a good initial toolbox meeting, followed by several stop, step back 5 x 5 chats. Very professional and the salvage master on board was most impressed, particularly in light of us having had just 10 hours notice and no one having used our towing gear before.
Of course it would have been nice to do it all on a nice sunny day in calm weather.
Not so of course, as those of you in the offshore industry know only too well.
Weather had started to deteriorate by the evening. 20+ knot winds on the port beam, rain and salt spray across the aft deck and the noisy thrashing of the stern thruster, screaming its protest at being asked to perform above 80% for a prolonged period. All this being overseen by the omnipresent foreboding spectre of the dark stern of a dying queen, crowned with that gravity defying cantilever of suspended containers; barely 10 metres from our stern roller. Most surreal.
I had thought that my days of getting covered in grease and shit and dragging wires, ropes and tools around the deck of a supply boat, were long past me.
Alas not so.
I must be a sadistic bugger though, as I have to confess to a certain sense of enjoyment and satisfaction in getting stuck into a job like this. It sure beats the hell out of being welded to a computer for 12 hours.
We are now the proud owner of 40,000 tonnes of scrap steel, rotting meat patties and cow hides. Any takers?
She is currently 400 metres astern of us, and faintly illuminated by our search light. The tow is made up of chain links, 2 wire pennants and 292 metres of 76 mm diameter wire, paid off our main tow winch.
She is still on a Westerly heading, while we are off her starboard 1/4, with our nose pointed into a 20 knot North-easterly.
We are not intending to pull her off the reef, just maintain a static tow, trying to hold her stern where it is. If the stern sinks immediately she breaks up, we will still remain connected to her, but be quite safe, as our tow wire is much longer than the water is deep. If an emergency arises, we can always gas axe the towing wire.
The sixty four million dollar question (2 actually), is when will she break in two and will the stern remain afloat.
That would be a good sweepstake at work, instead of the Melbourne cup.
My guess is 03:00 Wednesday morning when the weather peaks. I would prefer it to be in daylight of course, to be able to witness this once in a lifetime spectacle and to describe it to you.
The stern section will capsize almost immediately, but possibly float for several hours thereafter, before sinking. We will endeavour to tow her to a nearby shoal patch, should the opportunity arise.
By this time tomorrow, we will all be the wiser. Unfortunately however, the magnificent picturesque environment of the Bay of Plenty, will most likely be the poorer.
Until tomorrow then.

1st November
As I start to write this at 21:00, Rena is still in 1 piece. I have $20 on with one of the salvage team that she will be broken up by morning.
The old man knocked me off at 10:00 this morning. It had been a while since I had seen my bunk.
I slept all day and had a can of coke and a chocolate biscuit for breakfast, when I awoke at 20:00. The breakfast food of champions ;-) Desperately needed the sugar hit after the efforts of yesterday. I'll save the super-strong caffeine infusion for when I go on watch at midnight.
Then back to the mundane, had to do my laundry, as I was down to my last pair of socks and undies. Time for a linen change too.
We are still punching in to the North easter. Dancing around a fair bit, but it is not too uncomfortable. Just a gentle zephyr really, compared with some of the storms we weathered in Bass Strait on the Crystal Ocean. Mind you, we didn't have 40,000 tonnes of scrap steel hanging off our stern then.
The salvage master has given instructions that we steadily bring up the power, so that by midnight we are exerting 50 tonnes of bollard pull on the tow wire.
The GO Canopus is a twin screw 11,000 horse power anchor handling tug, rated at 110 tonnes of bollard pull, so we will be operating at about 50% power. The tow winch is on a brake, so we don't measure the force from that, but from 2 sources of data output on the DP console on the bridge.
The main engines are configured into the DP system and their thrust force output is displayed in tonnes on the computer screen. When each propeller is pushing out 25 tonnes of force, viola, 50 tonnes bollard pull.
In addition, the Converteam DP system, displays current as a tonnes force measurement, rather than in knots like the Kongsberg system.
The reading is not true current, but a summation of all of the unknown forces acting on the vessel. The system does not know that we have 40,000 tonnes of steel on our arse, that is firmly welded to New Zealand. It has engine input data, showing that we are exerting an awful lot of force and should be moving over the ground at a commensurate speed.
It calculates that if we are not doing that speed, then we must be stemming a current of a force equal to the engine output (minus the wind speed force input).
So for the 50 tonnes thrust force the main engine output shows, the Converteam "Kongsberg current" should display a similar figure.
I hope that is not too technical for some of you. If so, just think of it as "white man’s magic" – that’s easier. We were buzzed by a chopper at about 09:30 this morning as I was down aft checking the tow wire. It zoomed in very low and loud. Not sure if it was Maritime NZ checking up on us, the salvors or news hounds, but it did appear to have a decent camera mounted on it.
The salvage master advised us this morning, that yesterday prior to them abandoning the Rena, another large crack had appeared on the starboard side of the hull, immediately forward of the accommodation. This is in the vicinity of the starboard side fuel tank, where the remaining 350 cubic metres of HFO is stored. Sunrise could reveal one hell of a mess, even if she has remained relatively intact. No doubt the morning air will be abuzz with choppers observing the overnight carnage. He also said that she was very noisy on board, with the incessant screeching of protesting steel and grinding containers.
I had always thought that a wreck would be ghostly quiet somehow. I know that the dying screeches of any animal are never the most pleasant and I guess that Rena is no different. Protesting that she is still alive, while trying to ignore the mortal wounds she has suffered.
I must be getting soft, as I seem to have a sad affinity for her. It's never nice to watch anything die and a once proud ship is no different. The photograph of the Wahine lying on her side in Wellington harbour springs to mind.
Enough of the melancholy. I'll send you an update come first light.
You'll get the news from me before you get it from Petra, Rachel or Lee [on TVNZ News].

Good morning all,
In the dim nautical twilight, 500 metres away, the silhouette of the Rena is becoming apparent, as the weather eases to a 20 knot northerly.
The gyroscopic indicator sensors on board her and relayed to us, are indicating that she is still resting at 22 degrees, albeit the stern is bouncing around a bit, both in pitch and roll.
So I am $20 out of pocket, as she is still afloat and still in one piece. Ces't la vie.
Obviously full daylight will reveal the true extent of loss, in both containers and heavy fuel oil.
No doubt the air will then abuzz with choppers, like blowflies around a week old sheep carcass.
Will update you later in the morning

The morning fog finally cleared at 09:30, revealing no obvious significant addition damage, nor much container loss. There was a faint oil trail leading south towards Motiti Island however.
The 3 metre swells are rolling down her starboard deck, up to the hatch coamings and high tide is due at 13:12.
Only time will tell.

2nd November
After the drama and effort of the previous two days (& nights), today was rather an anti climax.
The Rena rose majestically defiant out of the dense morning fog at about 0930. The sea will inevitably claim its prize, but not today.
Prior to that, there were times we completely lost sight of her at 500 metres range. As suspected, the air soon filled with choppers and fixed wing, like rubber-neckers at a motorway pile up.

We also had two helo personnel winch transfers from our aft deck, as the salvage team members, returned to the Rena to reassess her condition. They will only resume oil transfer operations, when they are reassured that it is safe for their personnel to enter the spaces with difficult access.
I am not sure where the 5 metre overnight swell prediction originated from though, as the met-ocean forecasts we received always promulgated 30 knot winds and 2.5 metre swells. Perhaps officialdom was trying to pad out the figures to prime the NZ public for the morning disaster. Very lapse of the press to not latch onto such a blatant porky.
The Dutch salvage rep gleefully accepted my $20 when he came to the bridge, although he magnanimously give me until 18:00, just in case the heavy North-eastery swell managed to complete, what the 35 knot winds couldn't. It was most impressive to watch the grey 3 metre swells, rolling forward down the main deck, smashing themselves against the coamings of the ships hatches. At high tide, the entire starboard side sheer strake appeared to be well underwater; however appearances were deceiving, as the sensors on board the Rena showed her list unchanged at 22 degrees.

The ‘GO Canopus’ has performed very well as a tow vessel, with main engines, thrusters and DP system all coping. However we are wallowing around something awful, due to the swell coming from the North east and the wind now from the North-west. We are splitting the forces and are on a northerly heading to make the most efficient use of the thrusters to balance the tow forces, currently set at about 15 tonnes. I don't think anyone is sleeping very well, if at all and shaving is certainly out of the question.
There is another small blow forecast for Friday, however, being a Westerly, it is offshore, hence will not affect us as much. Thereafter it is light Westerlies, so it should give the salvors ample opportunity to resume their operations, should the Rena still be structurally sound enough to do so.
They have said that she really stinks out on deck now, with rotting blood and meat juice oozing from the dozens of fridge and freezer containers, hat once held prime export beef, mutton, fish and dairy products. A true cross section of NZ's export products now represented by nothing more than an offensive smell, a health hazard with a high probability of enhancing an injury by slipping. They have had to rig tarpaulins over some of their work sites, to keep the rotting ooze from dripping on them.
Not the most pleasant work site one could imagine and a labour department health inspector would have a field day. I suspect that the salvors would make them as welcome as Yasser Arafat in downtown Tel Aviv.
That’s all from Astrolabe reef today.

3rd November
Well I can't say the day was boring.
I started my day at midnight, continuing with the static tow on the Rena. The wind eased throughout the morning and continued to back round to the WNW.
Just before 10:00 we received instructions from the salvage master to cease the static tow, recover our tow wire, then proceed into Tauranga and reload the 16 ISO tank containers and oil transfer hoses.
We recovered the wire and were disconnected by noon.
While close in to the stern of the Rena for disconnection, we noticed a significant trail of oil streaming away to the South East. The North West wind had saved the Mt Maunganui and Papamoa beaches this time, however it will most likely end up in the vicinity of Whakatane.
The oil was not the same thick glutinous HFO that had washed up several weeks ago, but significantly lighter in consistency, more like a thin light fuel oil (LFO) or marine diesel.
The good news is that this lighter oil should evaporate and break up naturally in the prevailing weather conditions, so should not cause the same level of environmental damage to either beaches or shite hawks.
The prevailing weather is forecast to come from the west for the next week or so, so hopefully the pristine white beaches of the bay will survive relatively unscathed.
On the short voyage into town I had to ballast the after peaks, to bring the stern lower in the water. I had forgotten what it is like to grovel around in the engine room and steering flat of a supply boat. They are designed for hobbits and dwarves. Thank goodness for hard hats and grade 7 peltor ear muffs.
Perhaps if the idiot who designed it, was forced to work in the engine-room for a year, he would have a greater appreciation of the ergonomic requirements of the engine-room spaces. I empathise with those who work below.
The port visit was great. I managed a shave and some quality sleep. Such are the simple pleasures of life on a supply boat.
We are now back on location, fully loaded with tanks and transfer hoses, waiting for the morning and further instructions from the salvage master. The Awanuia and tug Waka Kume are also in field, after a 2 day respite in port. I am not sure who will have priority in the morning, but no doubt there is a plan.
Spare a thought for the salvage team. Apparently the stench of rotting flesh is now all pervasive on board the Rena, with many of them retching continually in certain work areas. The blowflies have also now found this sensory paradise, so on top of the smell and the slip hazard, the poor buggers on board now have to put up with these hairy bombers landing on them and the incessant drone of their gorging and breeding in an orgy of unrestrained gluttony.
Not a very nice place to work at all and certainly not for the squeamish. Apparently a case of fly spray was amongst the salvage gear recently choppered out.
That’s all from Astrolabe reef today

4th November
It was yet another hectic day at Astrolabe reef.
We stood off the Rena overnight to await the weather to ease. Took the opportunity to do some DP checks to determine additional DGPS signal blind spots.. It is a real bugger losing a diff signal when one is undertaking a critical operation on a certain heading. Always best to be aware of what ships heading to not be on, prior to undertaking the close quarters task.
We waited until the tanker Awanuia was reconnected at the stern of the Rena, then moved in very close to the starboard 1/4 of the Rena, to await the arrival on board of the salvage master. It was too rough for him to transfer by boat, so he was winched down from the squirrel helicopter, arriving like James Bond, to save the world. After a thorough tool box talk with all involved, we moved in closer, to begin to transfer the 6" hose to the stern of the Rena. I was on the aft deck, calling the closing distances to the bridge. We stopped at 6 metres from the corner roller on her poop deck.
From there I had a great view of the destruction wrought on her deck cargo and caught several whiffs of the smell that the salvors had been referring to. One of the split containers closest to me and immediately above to poop deck, had once been an operational 40 foot freezer container, in which frozen "Mrs Macs" meat pies had been dutifully stowed for export. The salvors will forever and a day refer to them as "Mrs Macs maggot packs", as the entire 40 footer is now alive with crawlies.
Prior to working on the poop, the salvors had to run a fire pump, to hose the deck down and wash the mass of maggots overboard.
The fish are getting very fat and thriving out here. I have never seen so many schools of fish shoaling. Obviously they have benefitted from the glut of food, lack of aerial predators and the exclusion zone preventing fishing.. Other than the large lump of scrap steel atop, acting as a very efficient radar reflector, the marine life around the reef appears to be showing no adverse symptoms, rather, it is thriving.
After successfully transferring one end of the hose to the Rena, we then moved out thirty metres and transferred the other end to the Awanuia, with the assistance of a small Naiad work boat and a thirty metre poly prop messenger.
The entire operation went very smoothly, without incident.
We were then dismissed from her starboard 1/4 and proceeded to her port side, level with the front of her accommodation, where her fuel bunkering point is located. This is the point where the 4" oil transfer line to the GO Canopus is to be connected.
The plan went south soon after, when one of the salvors on the Rena, allocated for this task, slipped and was injured. No points for guessing what he slipped on.
Our oil tanks thus remain empty.
There was a notable trail of caramel coloured oil originating from the forward end of the starboard side of the Rena today. The westerly wind continues to blow it out to sea, well away from the beaches and islands. It is currently bowing 30 knots from the West, so Mother Nature is doing her best to assist in this clean up. The wind and wave action are doing a marvellous job in breaking it all up. These conditions are forecast to continue for another few days.
That is all from Astrolabe reef today.

5th November
The wind was our friend today. It blew continually between 20 & 30 knots from the West to South West, pushing the ongoing caramel trail of oil to the East and well out to sea. The oil is still seeping from the crack in her hull on the starboard side, in the vicinity of number 2 hold.
A white squirrel chopper buzzed us soon after day break, then headed East, following the trail into the distance.
This crack in the hull on the Rena’s starboard side has now reached across the deck and has sheared the hatch coaming at no 2 hold, so it will only be a section of the double bottoms and the lattice work of containers within the hold, that are holding her together.
Several of the non marine salvage crew on board here, said that the grinding noise at number 2 hold has become significantly louder and that they could feel the rocking motion of the Rena, more so than before. So the blow of last week certainly took its toll. They have an mpeg video of their inspection, which I have yet to see.
A must see viewing for tomorrow.
Other than sending the oil trail eastwards, the wind hampered the salvage operation, by causing postponement of both helicopter & small boat operations this morning.
All but one small boat operations that is. We noticed a grey inflatable, belting its way flat out into the Westerly chop, often disappearing amidst a plume of self generated spray. Commented "what kind of fool is out here doing that?"
Scrutiny with binoculars revealed black masked men wearing grey helmets.
It was the grey funnel line, practising to save the Rena from unscrupulous treasure hunters and over eager fishermen. They rendezvoused with the HMNZS Hawea soon thereafter.
It certainly was not the ideal weather to be playing "cut lunch commando" and I am sure that they were all most relieved to get back on board to have a hot bowl of soup. There would have been hell to pay if that little exercise had gone bad. Starting with "what the hell were you thinking, launching the boat in those conditions?"
Rest easy NZ, the grey funnel line have our backs covered, come rain or shine ;-) The conditions put paid to us closing up to the Rena to transfer our hose to receive oil. Hopefully tomorrow.
The Awanuia is currently receiving lube oil from the Rena. The transfer rate is far from impressive, but every drop counts and lube oil does not dissipate in the wind and waves in the same manner that fuel oil does.
The Rena has recently become lit up at night, with the accommodation and deck lights now turned on, to assist the night shift salvors. They have hot wired one of their generators into the ships main distribution board, allowing them to utilise some of the Rena’s electrical equipment. The most important of these are the small fuel oil and lube oil transfer pumps in the engine-room, which allow them to transfer and consolidate oil from the settling and daily service tanks in the engine-room, as the pipe work there is still intact.
It is one of these (probably the sludge, or fuel oil transfer pump) that will be used to pump oil to us, via the ships manifold on the port side.
My apologies if the above explanation is a bit technical for my non maritime readers.
The fire pump is another pump that they have brought into service. Not so much as a precaution for fire, but to keep the aft deck awash from the open fire hydrants, to flush the maggots overboard. The salvors affectionately refer to this fire pump as "the maggot pump"!
Fuel for the salvors generator is choppered out almost daily, in 200 litre drums slung in a cage beneath one of the bigger machines. While some businesses in Tauranga may be suffering, the helicopter operators are not one of them.
That is all from Astrolabe reef today.

6th November
I am totally unaware of to how many people this blog is eventually forwarded on to, nor how many read it, but hope that you are all finding the saga of the Rena salvage interesting, regardless of your walk of life.
My challenge is to make it technically accurate, without getting bogged down in technical marine details, so that it is both interesting and entertaining.
Hopefully I have the right balance, as it is going out to experienced mariners throughout NZ, Australia, SE Asia & Scotland, as well as to auto technicians, Fonterra shift workers at Kauri, the legal and teaching fraternities, as well as the wider farming community. So I have a broad range of backgrounds to cater to.
It must be going to someone in Russia too, as I was spammed by three Russian ladies last night, all wanting to marry me.
Such is the life of a seafarer!
Thanks for the offer Yuliya, but no thanks.
It was a beautiful morning this morning, with a light westerly blowing. The oil sheen drifting eastward was much lighter than that observed the previous two days.
There was some light drama on the tanker Awanuia this morning, as one of the three mooring lines connecting her to the Rena, experienced some chafing overnight, where it went through the roller leads at the stern of the Rena. Her mooring lines are the "Dyneema" type (or similar) which are very light, strong and easy to handle, with good stretching characteristics, but poor chafe resistance. They had to shorten the mooring to adjust the length of the rope, so that the worn section was wrapped on the bits of the Rena, hence under less tension, with less potential to snap.
In an ideal world, a wire pennant should be utilised between the bits and the roller fairleads (like at port Taranaki), so that the rope mooring is connected outboard of the roller and will not chafe. No doubt there will be an insurance claim from the Awanuia for replacement ropes when this is all over. She has done very well there though, ably assisted by the tug Waka Kume.
Pumping of lube oil to her continued after this, however the transfer rate was hardly impressive.
There were two lots of dive operations undertaken on the hull of the Rena today.
On the starboard side, the divers were investigating and planning a "hot tapping" arrangement, whereby they would drill two holes in number 5 starboard oil tank, to recover the remaining HFO. One hole at the top of the tank and the other towards the bottom.
Contrary to what one might expect, "Hot tapping" does not involve flame cutting. It is a term used in the oil and dive industry, to drill through a pipe or tank wall, when there is pressurised hydrocarbons on the other side, without allowing any hydrocarbons to escape when the drill is removed.
Best to Google it if you want more details on how it’s done.
Once the pipe work is connected to the hot tap, then oil is drawn from the top hole and water is let in from the bottom. The static head of the water outside, continues to displace the oil, forcing it to the top of the tank where it is sucked out. A simple and effective method, making use of basic physics by taking advantage of the different properties of both fluids.
The 2nd dive was on the port side, to inspect some crumpling damage on her hull, immediately forward of her accommodation, in the vicinity of the bilge keel.
There is always a significant sheer force at the bulkhead between a vessels engine room and the next forward hatch. In simple terms, this is caused by an imbalance of forces, of buoyancy on one side and weight on the other.
In the recent north easterly blow, the buoyant engine room and aft hatch were rising and falling with the swell, at a different rate to the section of the hull wedded to the reef. The focal point for the structural flexing caused by that difference of motion, is at that bulkhead forward of the engine room, already under sheer force stress. As the trough of the heavy swell has caused the aft end of the Rena to drop, the bottom of the hull has buckled under compression forces, while at the deck, expansion forces have caused cracking.
Here ends the physics lessons.
This compression buckling and cracking is not visible to us on board the GO Canopus and is not as visually impressive as the gaping wound in her hull at number 2 hold, where she is firmly aground. However in the next big North East blow, it is here that she will now most likely break in two, with us connected to her by a tow wire. It will make a good fishing story - the big one that didn't get away ;-) Needless to say, this 2nd dive operation was in the same location as where we were required to be to load oil. The dive survey took precedence over us and we were requested to depart the scene to allow safe diving operations.
Divers become very nervous when propellers and thrusters are whirring above their heads.
So we departed the port side and spent the rest of the afternoon waiting and watching, with oil tanks still empty.
I have prepared both a stability plan and a deck cargo loading layout plan, but as yet, neither have been called upon.
That is all from Astrolabe reef today