Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Bulk carrier fleet growth

The Antipodean Mariner has been doing some fleet analysis work, to paint a picture of the current supply situation for a management slide pack. This slide shows the bulk carrier fleet in service at the opening of 2012 and on order by DWT and year of delivery from 70,000 DWT Panamax to 208,000 DWT NewcastleMax Capesize.

Shipbuilding has a normal lead time of about 3 years from contracting to delivery. Up to the 2000's, the global bulk carrier fleet grew incrementally with trade but with no spectacular changes. China's industrial demand increased at the beginning of 2000 and the freight boom started. Between 2004 and 2008, Ship Owners made super-profits with the 'constrained' world fleet while Shipyards booked new contracts at double what they had achieved a few years earlier. In this same freight bubble, container ships, LNG and oil tankers were in demand, leading some Shipyard to spurn simple bulk carriers in favour of higher margin ships. Oil tankers were being converted in to bulk carriers.

Had China's shipbuilding industry not ramped up, the AM believes that Korea and Japan could not have satisfied this spike in demand for new tonnage. But ramp up it has, and the massive increase shown here - in 82,000 DWT KamsarMax and 180,000 DWT Capesize - is testament. This chart doesn't include ore carriers larger than 208,000 DWT. These ships are the workhorses of the coal and iron ore trades

The only way this massive oversupply situation is going to correct is though the voluntary scrapping of young ships - 15 year old ships with another 10 years trading ahead of them in better market conditions. Oil tanker owners have started the painful, but necessary process of scrapping double-hulled ships to reduce supply. Plunging asset values and slow steaming are the other side effects of an over-supplied market. The ship you sold yesterday becomes your competitor tomorrow.

News since drafting this post is that China has officially closed the door to any VLOC larger than 300,000 DWT on 'port safety grounds', effectively bowing to internal pressure from it's own ship-owning community. Will the balance of Vale's 400,000 DWT ore carrier fleet ever see service?

The Antipodean Mariner

VLOC's, China and Vale Beijing

The article below is re-posted from Tradewinds (31st January 2012) as China closes the door to any ore carrier larger than 300,000 DWT

China has officially nailed up a no entry sign at its ports closing them off to Vale’s VLOCs.

Beijing claims the move comes amid safety concerns linked to the giant vessels, but there is widespread belief the government is protecting its own shipowners and charterers.

“We are not optimistic about the safety situation of port operations for large ships, particularly the berthing operations of super large ships whose sizes are larger than design standards permit,” said the Ministry of Transport.

“Considering the sizeable hidden dangers, we have decided to adjust the port management system for the berthing of large ships.”

Its fresh stance comes only a few weeks after a VLOC owned by STX Pan Ocean sprang a leak while loading in Brazil.

Jeffrey Landsberg of Commadore Research said: "While today's announcement was issued by China's Ministry of Transport on the pretense of adhering to safety concerns, in reality the move is being made to aid Chinese shipowners and maintain leverage over Vale.

“Going forward, we continue to view the use of iron ore transshipment hubs as a positive factor as it will result in a larger amount of vessels being used to ship the same cargoes of iron ore.”

China has been under pressure from domestic owners who feared they were excluded from the VLOC project and were suffering as the vessels were stifling earnings in the sector.

George Lazardis of Intermodal told Reuters: "At the end of the day, they (China) want to support their own.

“They are not interested in whether Vale will be able to provide cheap imports in comparison to Australian imports.

"They are interested in giving support to their shipowners, which are starting to become a significant force over the past couple of years, and to help that part of the industry grow."

Macquarie commodity analyst Graeme Train told the newswire: "China is so dependent on imported raw materials that it has a structural incentive to destroy freight prices as much as possible.

"And Vale's strategy with the VLOCs was a direct threat to that because Vale would ... take the lower freight cost themselves, when really what China wants to do is to ensure that there's oversupply in the freight market and to take advantage of that for itself."

Vale will now turn its attention to a transshipment hub in the Philippines to make sure it has work for the bulkers, many of which are still under construction.

Photo below is Vale Beijing (from the website Maritime Bulletin) at anchor off Sao Luis, transferring cargo using a crawler crane from No.7 Hold forward to No.3 and No.5 Holds. She is already looking lighter aft after be-bunkering. Information on her intended repair location remains tightly held, though for what end now?


B Whale, White Elephant

The Antipodean Mariner was flipping through this week's 'Tradewinds' newspaper and found the advert below for the VLOO 'B Whale'.

'B Whale' is one of 8 combination ore/oil carriers built speculatively by Nobu So, a wealthy Taiwanese shipping entrepreneur (his company slogan, Tomorrow Makes Today) and self-proclaimed shipping visionary. Named (imaginatively) 'A Whale' through to 'H Whale', these vessel were built to trade in either the 'wet (oil) or 'dry' (ore) markets depending on where they would make the best money. Most importantly, they were not built against any long-term charter or cargo contract - effectively trading in the dynamic spot market.

'A Whale' was unsuccessfully converted into an oil skimming ship during the BP Macondo disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Unsuccessful in that she didn't manage to skim off any oil.

With time-charter earnings for both markets at record lows, the Owners of 'B Whale' have taken direct marketing to a new level by advertising their ship in the trade media.

The Antipodean Mariner invites blog readers to suggest new and imaginative ideas for the potential employment of a 318,000 DWT ore tanker cum ore carrier. No prizes, just the chance to have some fun at the expense of TMT's $1Billion investment in these white elephants of the sea.

Antipodean Mariner

Monday, 30 January 2012


Indentures were the binding agreement whereby a young man (in this case, the Antipodean Mariner) was apprenticed for four years to a shipping company to "be taught navigation, seamanship and other such maritime subjects" to pass the examination for Second Mate of a Foreign Going Steamship.

Other gems include the promise that the Apprentice Cadet "will not visit hotels, drinking saloons or gaming houses when on shore." The first year's wage was $2,448.73

The Antipodean Mariner was credited with twelve months sea service for completing high school and another twelve months for completing the pre-exam study course at the local Nautical School. The Indentures were cancelled on the 19th of September 1980 after the completion of 24 months and 17 days seas service and the passing of the Second Mate F.G. written and oral (Q&A) examination.

In October 1980, the AM celebrated his 20th birthday and the official awarding of his 2nd Mates Certificate at sea with a pair of super-sized epaulets and cake.


Friday, 27 January 2012

Pilot Training

The Antipodean Mariner heard an astounding assertion from a harbour pilot. The pilot was expressing his disdain at the helicopter pilot who flew him out to his ships. This was expressed by telling the helicopter pilot “that he could qualify to fly a helicopter in a couple of years, but it would take the helicopter pilot fifteen years to get his Masters Certificate to pilot a ship!”

And so the conversation turned on to what applicable ship handling skills the harbour pilot had gained correcting charts, tying up ships and keeping a bridge watch in those fifteen years?

Master and Pilot: Bloomburg/Tim Rue

The traditional path for a harbour pilot is to go to sea as a Cadet, rise through the ranks to Second Mate, obtain a Master’s ticket and then jump into a Port Authority as a trainee Pilot at about 30. The model is surprisingly robust – perhaps not so surprising given that port pilots recruit and train port pilots.

One area where maritime pilotage is woefully behind the technology curve is simulator training. Before a port pilot jumps to the Comments Page, simulators are being used extensively for in-service skills development and emergency training. But simulator training is not being used to fast-track savvy Gen Y’s and so bypassing a cadetship largely spent painting ships and making coffee (for pilots).

The aviation industry recognised and has developed accredited simulator training programmes to put high aptitude individuals in aircraft cockpits. This was in recognition that the growth in global aviation was outstripping military and private aviation’s ability to train flight crews.

The maritime industry is facing a similar crisis with changing crew demographics and the breakdown of the traditional career path. It is entirely feasible to simulator-train an individual in ship handling and deliver a productive employee is 2-3 years. There will no doubt be some stigma and aspersions cast by the old guard. But with an ageing pool of senior officers capable of, or willing to, fulfil pilotage roles something new has to be put into the mix.

Pilotage is a transferable skill - it is not a religious calling or an ancient, secret order.

The Antipodean Mariner

Vale Beijing and Subic Bay

A brief wrap of news from Vale’s ChinaMax ‘Vale Beijing’ and their ore trans-shipment hub in Subic Bay.

Reliable sources have told the Antipodean Mariner that Vale Beijing’s structural failure is pointing towards a ‘mis-communication’ in the design phase by STX. The parallel body deign of the ships was the role of one team and the bow/stern area another. The modular construction of the hull blocks at the Yard lead to the longitudinal strength members in the parallel body not aligning with the corresponding strength members in the stern part. STX are apparently modifying the remaining ships under construction.

‘Vale China’ is en route to Subic Bay, Vale’s trans-shipment zone in the Philippines reporting an ETA of 222nd February.

Ore Fabrica (ex VLCC Front Duchess) has been converted into a floating ore terminal with offset cranes, conveyors and ship loader, and has sailed from China for Subic Bay, ETA 30th January. The Antipodean Mariner is heading to Subic Bay next week and will try to get some good oil and photos of the Ore Fabrica.


Thursday, 26 January 2012


Over the course of the next week, a colleague of the Antipodean Mariner will be sitting in a darkened bridge as a group of Pilots ground, collide and generally wreck a new 88,000 DWT bulk carrier in a virtual world.

The AM's company are building two Post-Panamax bulk carriers for a short-haul trade between a mine and refinery. The trade moves about 20 million tonnes of ore a year using a mix of dedictated and standard Panamax bulk carriers. Port rules require any ship larger than Panamax dimensions (225 metre length x 32 metres beam) to have a dispensation, and hence simulation of how the new ships will handle.

Ship simulators are used to train Masters and Pilots in ship handling and emergency procedures. Simulators mow also incorporate 'multi-player missions', where the tug masters have a separate set of controls and can integrate their manoeuvres with the bridge team The bathymetry of the port, tidal currents and topography are used to create an interactive 3D model of the port. The simulators are provided with a library of standard ships -tankers, container ships and bulk carriers. The new Post-Panamax bulkers have been modelled from a library ship and tweaked with the known characteristics of sister ships. Sea trials data, turning circle radius and crash stop distances are entered and validated to make the simulator ship handles as closely as possible to the real ship.

Next week, the Port Pilots will put the ship through a programme of pre-planned manoeuvres in flood and ebb tide, laden and ballast condition and with different tug configurations to establish the operating 'envelope' within the new Post-Panamax can safely arrive and depart. The port is busy, tidal and with high berth occupancy and is always scheduling to move as many ships as possible in the high-water window.

Accurate and realistic ship simulation is a cornerstone of the asset-intensive supply chain infrastructure of ports and shipping. Maybe another post in the offing on fast-track simulator training of port pilots as an alternative to recruiting seafarers.

The Antipodean Mariner

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Bulk Zambesi

Bulk Zambesi is the new kid on the block in Beira, Mozambique - purpose built to trans-ship high grade coking coal produced from Vale's Moatise coal field. Mozambique is infrastructure poor and the coal deposits being developed by international miners are constrained by limited rail and port capacity.

China's steel industry will be one of the markets for Mozambican coking coal and freight will be a major component of the landed cost. To minimise freight costs, Vale plan to load Panamax and Capes at anchor off Beira using Bulk Zambesi and her sister Bulk Limpopo to shuttle from the port of Beira, where the draft is restricted.

Bulk Zambesi and Bulk Limpopo are owned and operated by Coeclerici Logistics of Italy and are on long-term charter to Vale. The vessels have cranes which discharge the coal into deck-mounted hoppers on the starboard side, which in turn feed a conveyor and long-travelling ship loader boom on the port side.

Bulk Zambesi

Outward bound from the Yard in China

Cranes load hoppers from the conventional cargo holds

At sea, coal is transferred using a travelling ship loader

Twin bow thrusters for port and ship-to-ship berthing

High-lift Becker Rudder and Controllable Pitch Prop

The Antipodean Mariner

What does a Cape cost to run?

At the moment, charter rates for bulk carriers are in the toilet. Chinese New Year is always a quiet time, daily hire rates for a Pacific round voyage (China-Australia-China) are $4,709 a day and Ship Owners are choosing to anchor ships rather than trade at loss-making freight rates.

Charterers (shippers of cargo) and Owners (carriers of cargo) think in US dollars per day. Ships are essentially 'day labourers' and for comparative purposes this is how the market self-evaluates who has the upper hand and where rates are trending.

So what does it cost to operate a Capesize bulk carrier for a day? The three major cost groups are the mortgage, operating costs and insurance. Ships are typically financed on 80% of their purchase price for periods of up to 15 years. For the purposes of this posting, a modern Cape will be paying the bank about US$13,000 a day in cost of capital.

Operating costs are all the all the cost to keep the ship crewed, maintained and available to trade. Crew wages, food and stores, maintenance, spares and management fee are about US$5,500 per day.

The ship has to be insured for total loss, damage and liability - another US$1,000 a day. The Owner also has to accrue for 5-yearly drydocking - another US$500 a day to be squirrelled away for the two weeks in dock. Generators consume about 2.5 tonnes per day of bunkers of essential services, US$1,750.

So far, $21,750 a day required just to cover the idle cost and with less than $5,000 a day on offer for a coal or iron ore cargo. Before readers get too misty-eyed for the plight of the Shipowner, these same vessel saw peaks of $300,000 a day before the 2008 global recession. More an illustration of the high stakes and deep pockets needed to stake a seat at the table.

The Antipodean Mariner

Monday, 23 January 2012

RTM Cook launched

PN65, now ready for launch as ‘RTM Cook’, has had her second taste of the sea and has moved to the fitting out dock. The launch was delayed by a few days due to last-minute work to one of the other vessels in the dry dock. PN66 moved to the front of the dock and the keels for PN67 and PN68 were laid.

'RTM Cook' with fenders rigged and ready for float out

'RTM Cook' with PN66 ready for float forward

Flooding the dock

Yard and Owner's Representatives witnessing the safe launch

‘RTM Cook’ is about four months away from sea trials and work will now focus on commissioning the systems installed during the dock construction. Launchings are no longer the grand affairs of ships sliding down greased slipways with flags streaming and whistles blaring. A little less than two years have elapsed from first visit to the Yard to launching of the first ship.

The Antipodean Mariner

Another Tui billboard


Sunday, 22 January 2012

Omega Navigation System

The Antipodean Mariner was riding through Gippsland this weekend and passed the defunct Omega navigation station still towering over the Victorian rural landscape. Omega was a Cold War inspired long range navigation system which expanded the principles of Decca and Loran. It used synchronised, ultra-low frequency radio to create a globally intersecting grid of Lines of Position (LOP's) which could penetrate underwater. US nuclear submarines streamed an antenna and could refix their inertial navigation systems without surfacing and potentially revealing their position to an orbiting satellite.

Omega tower at Woodside, Victoria: photo credit Far_Tracer

New Zealand was the preferred site to give the best global LOP intersection, but Kiwi's were staunchly against nuclear proliferation and scuttled the station in Aotearoa.

Merchant ships were permitted to use Omega, but the system was only marginally better than a sunsight, with an accuracy of about four miles. Corrections had to be applied to compensate for the height of the ionosphere for the time of day, signal strength was patchy in the Southern Hemisphere and the LOP's distorted close (200 Nm) to any of the seven base stations. Later Omega receivers integrated the LOP's and corrections to give latitude and longitude.

Omega hardware at Port Albert Maritime Museum

Omega begat the Transit satellite navigation, which in turn begat GPS which is on your smart phone. The Omega navigation system was turned off in 1997, technically redundant after 26 years in operation. In Victoria, the Port Albert Maritime Museum inherited the hardware and have an audio-visual display of the system's operation.

The Antiodean Mariner

Friday, 20 January 2012

The fine art of COW'ing

COW'ing - Crude Oil Washing - is something of a dying art with the phase-out of single hull tankers. It was introduced in parallel with inert gas systems to reduce the volume of unpumpable residues, or ROBs, in crude oil tankers. Crude oil is not an homogeneous liquid, containing wax and sediments which drop out of suspension at sea. Research into reducing ROB's concluded that the best solvent was the crude oil itself and that washing out the tanks during discharge was the most effective way of reducing clingage and sedimentation.

COWing can only be done in an inert tank atmosphere due the high pressures and static charge generated. Tanks are discharged in bulk until about one metre remains in each tank. If the slop tanks have carried cargo, these are discharged and then recharged with 'fresh' crude. Fixed tank washing guns and eductors are driven from a cargo pump at 10 bar or 150 psi. The washing guns spray the tanks with crude oil, the eductor strips the washings back to the slop tank in a closed cycle.

Working progressively back from forward to aft, each tank is hosed down from top to bottom for about 90 to 120 minutes per tank. On large tanks, it's sometimes necessary to reprogramme the washing guns to wash the tanktop in a final sweep. COW reduces the amount of residual wax and sediment lost if a ship has to clean (with sea water) to load the next cargo. The downside of COW is that volatile fractions, valuable in the refining process, are released into the inert gas and purged into the atmosphere.

COW'ing is a technically demanding operation to plan and execute. It has become less frequently practiced with the development of full double hull tankers and the use of pour point depressant additives, which keep the solids in suspension. Charterers of tankers trading continuously in crude oil prefer to 'load on top' of previous cargoes, accepting swings and roundabouts gains and losses rather than losing the volatiles from COW. Deck Officers have to maintain a logbook of COW discharges and tankers are required to undertake a number of COW operations each year to maintain their certification.

The Antipodean Mariner would like to hear from any serving tankermen on how often they COW, or alternatively how often Charterers instruct "No COW" during discharge.


Bridge resource management

Tradewinds is reporting that Carnival has ordered an urgent audit of its safety and emergency response procedures following the loss of Costa Concordia. While the media crucifixion of the Captain continues, the Antipodean Mariner is certain that Costa's Marine Superintendent is grilling the other members of the bridge team as to their role in, and reason for their collective 'brain fart' that put the ship on her side.

All deck officers receive training in bridge resource management, which is modelled on the aviation model of cockpit resource management. Under BRM, every member of the bridge team has a voice and is expected to actively raise their concerns as to the safety of any deviation from the berth-to-berth passage plan. Assuming that Costa Concordia had two navigating officers on the bridge as well as the Master, it seems inconceivable that they would assent by their silence to the deviation towards the island and is completely contrary to the principles of BRM. Carnival Cruises would spent millions of dollars every year putting their officers through simulator training and BRM.

The hierachical command structure naturally puts junior officers at a disadvantage when the Master issues an instruction but the officers had the 'advantage' of at least being the same nationality and having the same first language. 'Kennebec Captain' is a working Master and has posted some excellent bloggings on BRM - his blog is linked to the AM's.

An interesting observation that the port stabiliser fin can be seen deployed and apparently undamaged, forward of the hull penetrated by the grounding. For this to be undamaged indicates Costa Concordia was turning to starboard away from the island, which would move the stern to port and closer to the rocks.

Carnival and Costa must be questioning the culture of their bridge teams and why no-one was effective in challenged the apparent practice of 'tourism navigation'.


Anchor handling

Smit Borneo, while a complex and sophisticated salvage asset, is a dumb barge and needs an attendant fleet of towage and anchor handling tugs to position her at Astrolabe Reef. The anchor spread enables the barge to winch herself to the work site and hold position in the prevailing sea and swell. Each anchor has a tail, enabling the anchor handling tug to dislodge and relay.

This sequence of GO Canopus deploying one of Smit Borneo's anchors and buoy.


Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Digital confetti

The Antipodean Mariner has been following the general and specialist maritime media coverage of Costa Concordia. Black boxes, AIS, smartphones and even Facebook have been used to reconstruct the last hours of the vessel with incredible accuracy and insight into the minds of the main protagonists.

The digital confetti trail which follows ships, both formal and informal, is an indellible record immune to tampering but still highly transparent. The loss of Costa Concordia dwarfes that of the Rena but shows that with enough effort, information in the public domain can be reconstructed and disseminated ahead of any formal inquiry. AM believes that informed analysis will fill any information void left by officialdom, and hopes that TAIC will issue something substantive on Rena earlier than the promised mid-year statement.


Monday, 16 January 2012

Fuel consumption

Change of topic off the maritime catastrophe of the day. The Antipodean Mariner has been studying devices to reduce the fuel consumption on the Capesize vessels under construction. With heavy fuel oil north of $700 a tonne, bunker consumption on a Capesize bulk carrier is around $50,000 a day while steaming, compared with break-even operating costs of about $25,000 a day.

Capesize charter rates are much lower than this opex breakeven, presenting a 'perfect storm' scenario of low hire rates and high fuel costs. The economies of scale of large ships are astounding. A slow speed, turbocharged 2-stroke diesel main engine will move one tonne of iron ore one nautical mile on one gramme of heavy fuel. However, in the tonnages moved and quantities of bunkers consumed savings are investigated in every part of the process of turning bunkers into forward motion. It is a sad fact that the new IMO Tier 2 emissions standards requires engines to consume more fuel, and emit more CO2, than the Tier 1 standard in order to meet nitrogen and sulphur limits. The California-inspired obsession with smog controls has lead to this anomaly.

There are two main areas of focus for naval architects and engineers when aproaching bluff, high block co-efficient bulk carriers and tankers. The first is the bow area, and the reduction of the wave form. Bulbous bows are falling out of fashion - great for fine-lined container and passenger ships but not for hulls experiencing up to 13 metres difference in draft between laden and ballast condition. The straight stem bow with the hint of a bulb is returning to a shipyard near you.

The second area is flow around the propellor. A number of proprietary systems make claims of 5-9% reduction in power requirements through harnessing the forward motion of the ship to improve flow into or behind the propellor. Even 5% translates to 3.5 tonnes, or $2,500 a day in operating costs.

Unfortunately, many of the Capesize ordered and built as a consequence of the 2007 freight rates orgy have little or no thought put into fuel economy.  The Japanese Yards, with Government R&D assistance, have achieved some spectacular success in recovering energy and reapplying to power the ship on daily consumptions of ships half their deadweight.

Some pictures of hot technology in the market - an Oshima Seaworthy Bow on a forest products carrier, MOL's finned propeller boss and Becker's Mewis Duct.

The Antipodean Mariner

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Passenger ships and the SOLAS Convention

The Antipodean Mariner is shocked at the loss of the Costa Concordia on a voyage that the vessel has completed safely on a weekly schedule.

One of the readers comments asks how she could capsize to starboard after grounding in her port side?

Passenger ships are regulated by a more stringent chapter of the SOLAS Convention, the safety code regulating shipping. Passenger ships are designed to survive damage that would sink a cargo ship by having more watertight bulkheads.

There are two naval architectural principles applied to passenger ships under SOLAS.

The first is that of the margin line, an imaginary line up to which the watertight bulkheads must extend, so that if the prescribed number of watertight compartments are flooded, water will not flow over the top of the bulkhead into the adjacent dry compartment. The margin line the margin of safety.

The second principle is that passenger ships, if they are going to sink, do so on an even keel. To achieve this, they are fitted with cross-flooding valves to equalise list.

Costa Concordia suffered huge damage as a consequence of the grounding - the rock embedded in the ship's port side is evidence of this. To have sunk means that more than the 'survivable' number of compartments were breached and the margin line was submerged. To have listed to starboard means she became unstable as she sank, which is not what she was designed to do.

No passenger ship the size of Costa Concordia has ever sunk.  The Antipodean Mariner speculates that the investigation will focus on why she rolled over and what the impact of an open water sinking could have on the fleet of super-cruise ships in service. The loss of life is tragic, but thousands may have died if Costa Concordia had not rolled on to an island outcrop.

This high visibility of this casualty will result in a very public inquiry into the adequacy of the passenger ship stability provisions of SOLAS.

The Antipodean Mariner

Costa Concordia sinks after grounding

From Lloyd's List today. Tradewinds reports that there was a problem with the vessel's diesel-electric propulsion system immediately before she grounded.

This will be expensive. AM

Italy cruise casualty latest: 80 still missing, 3 dead

Saturday 14 January 2012

CLOSE to 80 people are still missing and three are confirmed dead after the Italian cruiseship Costa Concordia ran aground overnight off the Italian coast.

Italian coastguard officials have told Lloyd's List that while the search and rescue operation is still underway at least 77 people are currently unaccounted for.

A total of 4231 people, including 1,023 crewmembers, were on board the 2006-built, 114,147gt Costa Cruises owned vessel when it is thought to have hit a sandbar near the island of Giglio at around 21:30 hours local time on Saturday. The six year old, Rina-classed vessel, built by Costa Crociere at a cost of €450m ($526m), is reportedly taking on water and is currently lying with an 80 degree list. Coast guard officials have confirmed that there is a 40m hole in the hull of the vessel.

"At the moment we cannot make any declaration about the causes of the accident," a coastguard official told Lloyd's List earlier this afternoon. "The prosecutor is already leading the criminal investigation and a technical inquiry, carried out by the Italian coast guard, now on the scene, is on-going". The coast guard of Livorno is leading the rescue operation.

A statement issued by Costa Cruises said it could not yet say what had caused the accident, however newswire reports citing rescued passengers suggest that the vessel hit an obstacle.

"The gradual listing of the ship made the evacuation extremely difficult," the statement said. "The position of the ship, which is worsening, is making more difficult the last part of the evacuation.

"We'd like to express our deepest gratitude to the coastguard and other emergency services, including the authorities and citizens of the island of Giglio, who did their best in saving and helping the passengers and crew."

Classification society Rina issued a statement Saturday afternoon confirming that the "Costa Concordia is certified to the highest safety standards by the Italian Administration and Rina in accordance with all applicable international conventions and regulations. All periodic surveys due during 2011 were carried out in accordance with the rule deadlines and with a positive outcome."

Rina confirmed that it was providing "full assistance to the owner and administration as they work to resolve the situation".

Costa Cruises has confirmed about 1,000 Italian passengers were onboard the vessel, as well as more than 500 Germans, about 160 French and about 1,000 crew members.

According to the vessel's statutory safety passenger certificate, Costa Concordia was built with a maximum passenger capacity of 4890 people.

The Costa Concordia was sailing across the Mediterranean Sea, starting from Civitavecchia with scheduled calls to Savona, Marseille, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Cagliari and Palermo.

Costa Crociere is owned by Miami-based Carnival Corp.

Last word from Astrolabe Reef

The AM's travelling for a week and using the Android Blogger app on the Samsung Galaxy tablet. In what may be the final communique from Astrolabe Reef, a close friend of the Antipodean Mariner eloquently described his feelings as they put their stern to the Rena for the last time;

The Rena is just a hulk now, whose carcase will be picked over by salvors, divers, insurers, politicians and lawyers for years to come. She no longer has any grace, life, mystique or majesty - the love affair is over.

The AM will keep a weather eye on Astrolabe Reef but the prize of salvaging the Rena has been lost.


Friday, 13 January 2012

Vale Beijing has a crane

News on the Vale Beijing, the VLOC which suffered structural failure loading her first cargo in Brazil, has been very hard to come by. This article from a Brazilian newspaper on 12th January paraphrased by AM and with the help of Google Translator;

The Port of Maranhão (CPMA) said it has completed the installation of the crane on the deck of Vale Beijing, at anchor in San Marcos Bay, 60 miles off the coast of Sao Luis.

The vessel is cracked in the ballast tank located in way Hold 6 after an incident during the loading of iron ore in December 2011 at Ponta da Madeira Port Terminal (TPPM). The crane will be used to redistribute of cargo in Hold 7 forward to Holds 3 and 5 to stabilize the ship.

The Port captaincy also reported that the tanker Sea Emperor, who successfully conducted the removal of 4,500 tons of fuel oil bunkers from Vale Beijing last week, should return to the vessel again today to take off another 2,000 tonnes, leaving the damaged vessel with enough bunkers to keep running her generators running and to maintain essential services. Cargo transfer will only start after the removal of bunkers has been completed. It is planned to complete emergency repairs to the hull in San Marcos Bay.

A bad day at the Terminal - 'Trade Daring', Ponta da Madeira, 1994


Astrolabe Reef and 'no go' zones

A quiet day yesterday at Astrolabe Reef with GO Canopus 'standing by' and Koraki towing around an oil absorbent boom. New Zealand is copping another low pressure system with a gale warning for sea area Plenty.

Koraki and GO Canopus on opposite sides of Rena

Friday's isobar chart

A maritime expert has opined that New Zealand should introduce compulsory 'no go' zones to stop ship's taking short-cuts around the coast but the AM's smells a bit of self-promotion of a commercial product. Every ship's Safety Management System contains instructions to the Master and Navigating Officer on passage planning. While ships have schedules to maintain, 'no go' zones will be just another useless layer of unenforceable regulation.


Thursday, 12 January 2012

Wreck removal

With Rena now parked (badly) on Astrolabe Reef, how do you remove 11,000 tonnes of steel, engines and containers from 30 metres under the sea? Some very cool technology been developed just for this problem which, if the NZ Government plays hard ball, may be brought to bear on the problem.

The English Channel is of the world's highest collision risk areas, as ships transit to and from the major European and British ports. When the Norwegian-owned car carrier Tricolor sank off Ramsgate in 2002, after a collision with the container ship Kariba, the wreck had to be removed from the busy shipping channel. A third ship even ran over the submerged Tricolor despite navigation warnings, a standby ship and marker buoys.

Salvors Smit International developed an industrial-sized equivalent of the cheese cutter - essentially an abrasive wire (or chain) rigged to saw the large carcase of the hull into smaller, more manageable pieces. The technique was also used on the wreck of the Vinca Gorthon when she sank in the Baltic on top of a gas pipeline and to remove the explosives-laden bow of the Russian submarine Kursk when it sank off Murmansk.

Tricolor was cut into sections and lifted out - with many of the 2,871 Volvo, Saab and BMW cars still lashed down inside the vehicle decks - before being scrapped in Zeebrugge.

Tricolor cutting rig

If Rena's wreck is to be removed from Astrolabe Reef, barges could be set up either side and the cutting wire strung underneath the hull. The winches saw the wire though the hull reducing the single structure into bite-sized chunks. A sheer-legs derrick barge would then lift the sections on to flat -top barges for transport to port and eventual scrapping.

Tricolor's engineroom and propeller being lifted out of the sea

Tricolor hull section on a barge to Zeebrugge

An expensive proposition and one which Rena's P&I Club will be fighting hard to avoid. The Swedish Club carries the financial liability for wreck removal and will be looking for the lowest cost solution - maybe removal of the accommodation block and leaving the bow high and dry on Astrolabe Reef.

When salvage gets to this point, any remaining cargo is 'collateral damage'. Here's what a Volvo looks like after the cutting wire has been through it. So, an interesting challenge with the outcome dependent on the conditions Maritime NZ puts the wreck removal in what is a remote and non-navigable location. It can be done, but at what cost.

The Antipodean Mariner

Rena wrap

In the absence of any real news, the Antipodean Mariner has put together a posting of bits and pieces. The mood at Astrolabe Reef is reported as being sombre on which one source commented:-

"An apt time for introspection and reflection, like the day after a funeral, when all family and friends have departed and one is left alone with very private thoughts. A sense of relief also, both that the suffering is now over and the unwanted relatives did not hang around too long."

Flattie, your Tui billboard has been found!

Just liked this cartoon from the NZ Herald

Anonymous, the tank container forward of the accommodation was a placed there by the salvors to refuel the generators and compressors (which went down with the ship)

Transport Accident Investigation Commission has said a preliminary report of the timeline and information about the vessel will be released in February, with no recommendations until July. Surprising that it's going to take 10 months to determine the root cause of the grounding. AM believes that the Owners, Insurers and P&I Club will have worked this out before July.

It has been reported that GO Canopus has disconnected her tow line and buoyed the pennant connected to Rena's submerged stern. Some of the small craft are mopping up residual diesel with towed booms and retrieving flotsam still emanating from the wreck.

Some photos from Astrolabe Reef

Tug Koraki towing an oil recovery boom around the wreck

View from astern

The Antipodean Mariner

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

PN65 progress report

A short progress report on PN65 and PN66, seen here in dry-dock together. Launching date is fast approaching for PN65, and she will float out on 20th January. On the 23rd January the keels will be laid for PN67 and PN68.

The photo shows PN65 on the far side of the dock with PN66 in the foreground. PN66’s complete transom and poop deck are being lifted over PN65 by the dock gantry crane. PN65’s accommodation block, completely fitted out with cabins, public spaces and wheelhouse equipment, will be lifted on before launch.

Sea trials and delivery of PN65 is scheduled for May. Four of the eight NewcastleMax series will deliver into service in 2012 and four in 2013.