Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Subic sitrep

Ore Pantanal (179,385 DWT) sailed for Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Vale Brasil and Ore Fabrica are rafted up at anchor off Subic Bay.

Ore Itagaui remains at anchor in the inner Bay and has not yet moved out to receive cargo.

Vale China has arrived at Subic Bay with the another 400,000 tonnes. Ocean Creation (207,000 DWT) is bound for Subic from Japan - possibly the next off-take vessel?

With some commissioning 'teething problems' of Ore Fabrica to be expected, still more ships arriving than leaving...

PS: Thanks for the comment posted anonymously, leading the AM to the website which has hi-res photos of Brasil, Fabrica and Pantanal rafted-up in Subic. The relative size of 'Brasil to 'Pantanal - no lightweight at 180,000 DWT - is amazing.

The Antipodean Mariner

Rena's Master and 2/O plead guilty

The Captain of the cargo ship which grounded on a reef off Tauranga last year has pleaded guilty to all charges against him.

The Rena hit the Astrolabe Reef in October last year causing an environmental disaster - spilling oil and containers into the water and killing masses of sea animals. The stricken ship broke in two early this year.

The captain pleaded guilty today in the Tauranga District Court to charges laid under the Maritime Transport Act, Crimes Act and Resource Management Act.

The ship's navigation officer, whose name is also suppressed, also appeared in court today and he pleaded guilty to a charge laid under the Maritime Transport Act and three Crimes Act charges.

Both men face the same charges; under the Maritime Transport Act 1994 for operating a vessel in a manner likely to cause danger, under the Resource Management Act 1991 for discharging a contaminant and on three charges under the Crimes Act for altering ship documents.

The captain faces one additional charge under the Crimes Act for altering ship documents.

The charges under the Crimes Act each carry a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment.

The RMA charge is under section 338 (1B) and (15B) relates to the 'discharge of harmful substances from ships or offshore installations'.

It carries a maximum penalty of a fine of $300,000, or two years imprisonment and $10,000 for every day the offending continues.

The Maritime Transport Act carries a maximum penalty of $10,000 or a maximum term of imprisonment of 12 months.

Sentencing for both men is scheduled for May 25 at the Tauranga District Court.

The navigation officer is scheduled to reappear in the Tauranga District Court on May 22 where more pleas are expected.


Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Ship-breaking site

For all the Followers (and Readers) who were ever at sea and wondered what happened to their old ships, there is a cool site run by Robin de Bois (Robin Hood) which issues quarterly summaries of all the ships that have been scrapped and their history.

You'll have to just 'grin and bear' the anti-scrapping, anti-FOC commentary but the information is really well researched and has photos of many of the ships in their former glory. If you'd like to see a shipping graveyard, go to the port of Nouadhibou, Mauritania in GoogleEarth.

Photo credit: Planetoddity

Local officials accepted "small cash facilitation payments" from to Owners of old fishing boats to abandon them in the harbour. - the result, hundred of dumped vessel rafted up, beached or partially sunk in the harbour. True environmental vandalism.

Antipodean Mariner

PS: Link to a startlingly beautiful photo portfolio of Chittagong by Jan Moller Hansen

Monday, 27 February 2012

Northern Sea Route

In the waters to the north of Russian, a quiet revolution is taking place. Tankers and now bulk carriers are carrying commercial cargoes from Europe to China through the Northern Sea Route.

Passage taken by Sanko Odyssey, 2011

The Northern Sea Route (not to be confused with the Northern Passage, crossing Canada) has become navigable due to the receding polar ice cap and, with the some help from the Russian Navy, has become commercially viable during the northern summer.

Sanko Odyssey

'Sanko Odyssey' is an unusual ship in that she is an ice-classed Panamax. She was built by Oshima Shipyard in southern Kyushu and is classed by DNV to operate in ice and extreme cold. While protecting the hull, rudder and propeller are significant design features, the ship's accommodation and equipment also need to be habitable an operable in sub-zero temperatures.

In August 2011, 'Sanko Odyssey' set out from Murmansk bound for Tangshan in the Bohai Sea with a cargo of 70,000 tonnes of iron ore concentrates. How do the numbers stack up? Dataloy marine distance tables calculate the northern route at 6,538 nautical miles. If 'Sanko Odyssey' had transited the Suez Canal, 12,726 nautical miles plus the canal fees and maybe a tangle with Somali pirates or via Cape of Good Hope at 16,146 nautical miles.

It's not all clear sailing - the route encounters ice year round and requires the escort of a Russian nuclear ice-breaker - payable in cash, please. But the shorter route saves a claimed 22 days steaming and 1,000 tonnes of bunkers, enabling a Panamax to be competitive against Capesize freight from the northernmost ports of Europe.

The Russian Navy have realised they are on a winner and, with their geographic advantage, are ready to capture economic and political benefit from China's demand for minerals and energy. As the Russian ice-breaker fleet ages, transit fees are planned to be plowed back into new vessels over the coming decade.

An interesting part of the world to keep a weather eye on as ever-larger vessels are required for the development and extraction of Russia's mineral, oil and gas resources.

The Antipodean Mariner

Sunday, 26 February 2012


The Antipodean Mariner's postings have been a bit sparse lately, for which apologies are offered. An investigation into a grounding has meant unplanned travel and a challenging task to unravel the why and the how. Certainly the basis for a future posting once the investigation has been closed.

This posting is to thank the 58 Followers of this Blog. When the AM started blogging, the motivation was to cut a tiny outpost of the 'Net to feed the 'anorak' in me - ships and bikes. Thomas's blog was the first Blog I followed and I think Thomas was the first Follower of Antipodean Mariner.

The Blog fell into abeyance for about a year as the AM struggled with motivation and the guilt of old, stale postings taunting and mocking. The Rena grounding, while an individual tragedy, rekindled the motivation through (with the invaluable feed from colleagues at the site) being able to fulfill the role of citizen journalist and present the unsanitised face of a major salvage operation.

This year, my target is to grow the Blog to 100 Followers and to keep up the discipline of regular postings and relevant content. Followers' feedback in the form of comments, and the occasional email are incredibly rewarding and so 'Thank you'. Thomas, if you're still reading the Blog how's the cadetship going?


Friday, 24 February 2012


The Vale fleet triple-banked at Subic Bay, from the AM's colleague, Magellan.

Left to right - Vale Brasil, Ore Fabrica and Ore Pantanal. Total deadweight 866,212 tonnes.

The Antipodean Mariner

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Subic Bay Trans-shipment

Subic Bay is a busy place right now with four Vale ships deployed for the trans-shipment operation.

Here's a quick head count of who's who...

Today's AIS plot shows Vale Brasil, Ore Fabrica and Ore Pantanal rafted up to tranship ore to 'Pantanal.

868,000 DWT of bulk carriers triple banked - a world first?

Ore Panatanal at anchor before berthing alongside Ore Fabrica

Ore Itagaui, another 'VLCC to VLOC' conversion awaiting her turn to berth and load.

AM's thanks Captain Paul and Magellan for their photos and updates from Subic Bay.

The Antipodean Mariner

Monday, 20 February 2012

Vale Beijing departs

Vale Beijing departed Sao Luis on Sunday 19th February, bound for Vale's Sohar pellet mill in Oman. No further ore was loaded after the structural failure alongside Ponta da Madeira and, after cargo was redistributed, she has been granted a voyage dispensation to make the one-way trip.

After discharge at Sohar, she will go to dry-dock in the Arabian Gulf for permanent repairs.

The Antipodean Mariner has been told that the structural failure was a design flaw by her Builders, STX Shipbuilding. Stiffeners on the webs were incorrectly oriented resulting in the frames with the structural integrity of corrugated cardboard. STX Pan Ocean will be wearing the off-hire and repair but Vale have suffered the greater commercial 'damage' of China's closure to the fleet.

In Subic Bay, Vale Brasil and Ore Fabrica are still rafted together after seven days. Ore Itagaui (280,000 DWT VLOC) and Ore Pantanal (180,000 DWT Cape, built 2010 Sundong) remain at anchor awaiting their opportunity to received cargo. Ore Fabrica doesn't have sufficient deadweight to receive 'Brasil's full cargo. AM's running a voyage model and will put a number on the cost of this first trans-shipment against the long run voyage cost of Brazil - China.

Sundong-built Capesize


Sunday, 19 February 2012


The title of this post is recovery, as opposed to salvage. Work at Astrolabe Reef is the grinding and unglamorous task of recovering waterlogged containers and their contents which for the most part have been submerged in sea water for almost five months.

A twenty foot shipping container when loaded has a tare weight of about 2.5 tonnes and cargo weight of 25 tonnes give or take. The combined effects of being waterlogged and damage to their structural strength has resulted in many of the boxes simply folding when they are pulled out of the Rena's holds by Smit Borneo.

The sequence below is the contents of a container carrying Mitavite Breeda as it is drawn out of the submerged cargo hold.

The Salvors were reduced to slitting open the bags of the waterlogged and decomposing horse feed, recovering the plastic wrappers and giving the fish a free lunch.

That's all the news today from Astrolabe Reef.

The Antipodean Mariner

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Vale Brasil and Ore Fabrica

Short posting of Vale Brasil and Ore Fabrica double-banked off Subic Bay. There is no off-taking ship triple-banked on the Ore Fabrica, so the Vale Brasil's cargo is going straight in to her holds.

Updated: Ore Itagaui is anchored in Subic Bay to receive ore from Ore Fabrica. Ore Itagaui is also a tanker-to-ore carrier conversion, but without cargo handling equipment. Trans-shipment operations are taking place in the outer bay, south of Grande Island.

Thanks to the AM's source Magellan at Subic Bay.


Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Squaring Away

Squaring away is an old sailing ship term to describe the crew's final task at the end of the voyage, squaring up the yard arms on the masts and making ready to pay off. Squaring away in the context of the Rena will be the final reckoning of costs.

A recent report in the NZ media put the Rena's salvage bill at $130 million, of which about $28 million was on the Government's tab. With the sole tangible assets of the salvage to date being the container discharged off the deck - many of these empties owned or leased by MSC - the Antipodean Mariner wonders when the Insurers will say enough is enough!

Let's recap the layers of insurance and who has their hand out, by way of insurable interest.

The ship was beneficially owned by Costamare, and now that she is resting on Astrolabe Reef in two parts it is incontrovertable that she has become a Constructive Total Loss. It is therefore probable that Costamare have been paid the insured value under the Hull and Machinery Policy. As nothing was salved from the hull, the Insurers have nothing of value and effectively own the hulk along with the responsibility for wreck removal if this is successfully enforced (under the Resource Management Act?)

MSC lost equipment, in the empty and full containers both lost overboard and salvaged and now held as security by the Salvors at several container parks in Tauranga. They also 'lost' the bunkers that they, as Time Charters, had provided to the Rena. These will form the basis of a claim by MSC on their own insurance, and if the bunkers, lubricants and hydraulic oils can be re-refined there may be a small financial clawback for MSC's insurers.

The Protection and Indemnity insurance cover for oil recovery, pollution prevention has a way to run at over $1 billion, but the Swedish Club is obliged to act reasonably and in the best interests of the self-insuring Members who are paying the bills.

What the AM questions is the effort being expended salvaging water-damaged bags of milk powder off the bow section of Rena, and flying it ashore by helicopter to its inevitable end in a landfill. If the cost of recovery exceeds the (nil) salved value, who is paying for the fleet of maritime and aviation assets to engaged in the ever diminishing exercise?

The point must be fast approaching when the Insurers tell the Salvors and NZ Government that they have satisfied their obligations and that Rena poses no risk that further salvage can mitigate. While the AM is sure that the well intentioned  agencies of Government will settle for nothing less than every trace of the ship and her cargo being removed from Astrolabe Reef, this is not practically achievable. The wreck poses no long term threat to Astrolabe Reef or navigation into the port of Tauranga, and is no doubt being populated by fish.

How the agencies of the NZ Government deal with 'expectations management', when the Smit Borneo is towed over the horizon, will make for an interesting space to watch.

The 'pot of gold' involved no digital alteration, just the photo-stitching of the fortuitous placement of Rena and the tug Singapore.


Monday, 13 February 2012

Ore Fabrica and Vale Brasil

Ore Fabrica and Vale Brasil, with the assistance of the tugs Intrepid and Defiance, have come together today (Monday 13th February) in the waters off Olongapo and Subic Bay. The Italian flag Panamax ‘Cape’ is anchored nearby and is in ballast – maybe the first vessel to off-take from Ore Fabrica?

Lloyd's List Intelligence AIS

More as information becomes to hand.


Friday, 10 February 2012


The Antipodean Mariner was standing on a hill, overlooking a bustling South East Asian shipyard. Despite the current gloom in the shipbuilding industry, the Yard is new, employs 25,000 workers and has a three year order book of ships.

In a reflective moment, AM wondered whether anyone stood on a hill overlooking Newcastle, Sunderland or Glasgow and foresaw the abandoned wastelands they have become?

Photo credit: thorburn/Flikr

In the First World - shorthand for Europe, USA and even parts of Japan - shipbuilding is a sunset industry. Low barriers to entry, exchange rate appreciations, wage expectations and the demise of heavy manufacturing has left just a handful of Yards, in specialist niches, capable of building competitively priced ships. At the risk of grossly generalising the issue, the post-WWII shipbuilding boom was driven by the recapitalisation of the global fleet using labour desperate for work after the privations of war.

The demand for shipping, driven by China's economic development, has resulted in an intra-Asian shift of dominance from Japan to China, Vietnam and the Philippines. Korea to a large degree has managed to retain its competitive position due to a shift into a higher value product and controlling wage expectations. Taiwan has been through the complete evolutionary cycle from emergent shipbuilder to oblivion in a space of thirty years. The survivors in Japan and Korea have in part succeeded through a relentless quality drive to measure and improve productivity per worker at a rate faster than their wage cost rises.

With China now positioned as the economic savior of the world, the AM wonder how long it will be before Yards reliant on low cost labour are drawn into the death spiral of increasing wage costs and flat-lining productivity. Despite the similarities with the aviation sector, shipbuilding will never see consolidation like the Boeing and Airbus duopoly. The barriers to entry are too low and, despite WTO rules, state intervention and protection remains prevalent.

The evolutionary cycle is shortening, despite the massive capital investment required to develop a productive shipyard. With the professionalisation of the Chinese workforce, the last remaining pool of low cost labour is the Indian subcontinent. The AM wonders whether in his lifetime he will see Asian shipyards closing down to make way for apartments, shopping malls and call centres.


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Ore Fabrica

The Antipodean Mariner is in Japan this week, where wi-fi access has been hard to find and postings have been a bit sparse.

Earlier this week, AM had the opportunity to have a look (from a respectable distance) at Vale's trans-shipment station Ore Fabrica in Subic Bay. She is awaiting the arrival of Vale Brasil on the 12th of February and commencement of ore distribution operations to China.

Sea Duchess as a VLCC before conversion

Ore Fabrica (fabrica means factory in Portuguese) began life as an oil tanker, Sea Duchess in 1993. Tankers make good candidates for conversion to ore carriers due to their centre tank hull construction and as a single hull VLCC her days of carrying crude oil were over. The conversion turns the centre tanks into ore holds and the wing tanks as ballast. Heavy stengthening is added to the under-deck structure to support the Liebherr cranes on the starboard side and travelling ship loader on the port side.

Ore Fabrica

The cranes are configured to be capable of plumbing the centre of Vale Brasil's holds and then back to the deck-mounted hopper. The conveyors are covered to control dust and the shiploader is mounted on rails to traverse the length of the deck. The conversion also incorporated upgrades to her accommodation and generating capacity.

Starboard side, five Liebherr cranes

Although she is anchored in the inner harbour, it is expected that the ship-to-ship mooring and unloading will take place in the outer bay. Ore Fabrica will be capable of three discharge modes - direct trans-shipment, discharge into her own ore holds and loading out of her holds to a receiving vessel. Vale Brasil will arrive with just under 400,000 tonnes of ore while Ore Fabrica has a corresponding deadweight of 280,000 tonnes. At least one, and up to three Capesize are going to be needed to take the full cargo if Vale is going to minimise the number of times the ore is handled.

Ship Loader with transfer conveyors

With the planned Malaysian land-backed trans-shipment terminal years away, Ore Fabrica is Vale's only Asian discharge port for the Chinamax VLOC's. With the remainder of the VLOC's entering service in the next two years, Ore Fabrica will working at capacity as the 35 ships haul ore eastward. Although a clever technical solution to the current political impasse, the AM doesn't believe that Ore Fabrica will be capable of keeping up with the relentless pace of Chinamax arrivals - one every three days? The AM still belives that a commercial solution, albeit with Chinese Owners snapping up some or all of Vale's ships at a discount, will see them discharging in Chinese ports as they were designed to do.

The Antipodean Mariner

Sunday, 5 February 2012


The contract has been signed, the celebratory dinner's tables cleared and the dignitaries have departed. With the commercial phase going into a short hiatus, the job of actually building the ship begins.

Few shipping companies have the resources to manage a ship building project from end to end, and rely on specialist supervision contracters to oversee the design, build and commissioning. The supervisor fulfils the roles of bush lawyer and technical expert to interpret the specification's transformation into the finished ship. It starts with plan approval, when the detailed drawings are submitted by the Builders for review and comment. This phase draws in practical experience of ship operation, identifying weak points or ergonomic problems which will make the ship difficult to maintain and operate in service.

The size and composition of the site supervision team depends on the number and complexity of the build programme. The team supervising PN65 and her sisters cover the disciplines of steel fabrication, paint coatings, machinery, electrical and site safety - 14 in all at the peak of the programme. Using the subtle arts of persuation and the occasional row, the Supervisors ensure that the quality promised in the contract is delivered to the Owners in the finished product.

The photo is of a hull block for PN67, RTM Cartier, for which the mark ups illustrate the detail of inspection and rectification works taking place before the block is taken off to the blasting shop for painting. The site team itself is a transitory band of itinerant multi-nationals who, after the final ship has been delivered, will dissipate to the four winds with an eye to the next job.


Saturday, 4 February 2012

Near miss

Ore Fabrica is at anchor in Subic Bay, awaiting the arrival of Vale's second China-bound cargo of iron ore. The Antipodean Mariner witnessed a close call for the new trans-shipment station.

The new Capesize, Rio Manaus, had just departed on her maiden voyage and was passing ahead of Ore Fabrica when her main engine failed. Tugs shepherded her past the bow and from where the AM watched it unfold it looked close. In the sequence shot from a ferry, Rio Manaus is in the foreground and Ore Fabrica's cranes and deck hoppers are in the background. The foremast of the Ore Fabrica is visible at deck level to the left of Rio Manaus's accommodation block and the sequence has been tidied up with some commentary.

Ore Fabrica lies at anchor awaiting her first cargo

Rio Manaus, dead in the water - tugs on the way back

Two tugs pushing as the stern closes on Ore Fabrica's bow

Rio Manaus' stern slides past the bow

The Antipodean Mariner

Thursday, 2 February 2012


No shipping content in this post but still a subject the AM likes to blog on.

Readers will know that the AM bought a Triumph Street Triple in 2010. Melbourne's Triumph dealership organised a ride day last month with all the current models. Originally booked was the new Tiger 800 adventure tourer and the 2.4 litre Rocket III, but this was unavailable on the day and subbed for an old school Bonneville T100.

Bonnie T100

First ride was the Bonnie, and a real surprise on how smooth the 865cc parallel twin engine is and how civilised a ride the was on the 16km city circuit. The twin doesn't have the fire breathing acceleration of the triples but was perfect as a commuter and weekend rides. With the lack of rider protection, it would probably be limited as a tourer but the ergonomics make it a worthy choice if you're not into Harleys or the metric cruiser scene. The AM was caught out by the fast idle on the dummy carb EFI blocks of the cold Bonnie, realising after about four sets of lights that it wasn't supposed to idle at 2,000 rpm.

The second ride was the new Tiger 800, released last year to complement the Tiger 1050. The 800's engine is derived from the Steer Triple's 675 and that's just what it felt like - a hotrod street bike engine in a trail bike frame. The acceleration is wicked, even with the detuned engine and it loves to rev. Best environment for this bike is windy, country roads at extreme lean angles. It's not as extreme as a motard, but tempts the rider to brake late and lean hard.

Thanks to Peter Stevens for organising the day and the logistics of getting the 20 or so riders signed up, breath tested and on bikes by 10:00 on a Saturday morning. On the basis of 3 years and about 30,000 km between bikes it will be end-2013 before the AM is back in the market again. Eldest is just about to get their full license and it looks like the Bank of Dad will be financing a used 600 Kawasaki ER-6n.



Depending on your 'green' credentials, demolition has been described as scrapping, recycling, beaching or environmental vandalism. Whatever the name, the MO is pretty universal in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Ships at the end of their economic life are driven ashore as fast as their tired engines can propel them before workers swarm aboard like ants to begin the deconstruction. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust...

The ship recycling business exists in a symbiotic relationship with the freight market. When the planets align, and the prospect of cash in hand outweighs the prospects of future hire, the ship will be circulated in the dark and murky world of the Cash Buyer. Demolition sales are notoriously fickle and fraught commercial deals. The value of the ship depends on a lot of factors - how much steel, how much bunkers remaining, how many spare parts on board, rising or falling scrap market? The Cash Buyers is like an Undertaker, stewarding the ship's passing from the living world of maritime commerce to her grave. The Cash Buyer provides financial certainty of a clean sale to the Owner and then starts hawking the ship around the demolition markets in the Indian sub-continent (and possibly China). The Cash Buyers risk and margin is finding a Shipbreaker who will pay more then the Cash Buyer's cost of the ship and the scrapping voyage.

Once beached, just about everything is recycled in some form. Steel is mostly re-rolled into reinforcing bar for the construction industry, machinery is refurbished or dismantled for spare parts, cabin furniture and galley equipment goes into homes and hotels. One of the biggest ethical issues is the poor safety record of deaths and injuries of workers and the dumping of hazardous wastes on the beaches and in the sea. China, Turkey and India have ISO-certified recycling yards with end to end custody of hazardous material, but these are still the exception rather then the rule.

The photo is Alang Beach on the west coast of India, probably the largest collection of demolition sites in the world. After a seagoing career of avoiding running aground, the Antipodean Mariner harbours a burning desire to beach a ship. Maybe an opportunity for adventure tourism?

The Antipodean Mariner