Thursday, 28 June 2012

Three fat ladies

Columbus, the AM's new source in Subic Bay, has sent the photos below of BW Bulk's 388,00 DWT 'Berge Aconcagua' (red hull), 'Ore Fabrica' (black hull) and the 203,000 DWT 'China Steel Team' grey hull rafted together in the inner harbour.

Th tug 'Perseverance' is standing by the trio as they swing around Ore Fabrica's anchor.

Berge Aconcagua must have part discharged in Japan (Oita) and over-carried at least a Cape's worth for this trans-shipment.


Vale's letter to Lloyd List on ValeMax

In response to a comment on yesterday's post about Vale's charm offensive in China, here's the letter to Lloyd's List.

388,000 DWT 'Berge Aconcagua', Oita Japan

Lloyd's List: Valemax issues clouded by misinformation

Monday 25 June 2012, 10:28

From João Mendes Faria

SIR, I refer to your article “Vale urges China to lift valemax ban” (Lloyd’s List, June 21) and would like to make the following clarifications.

First, Vale has never challenged the Chinese government ban on valemaxes berthing at its ports. We have observed that there has been a great deal of misinformation and speculation in both Chinese and international media. We have recently made efforts to provide factual information to interested parties and different government departments to address the mistaken information and claims widely circulated.

Second, the iron ore carried to Asia via valemax can be transhipped to Chinese or other Asian ports via our transhipment stations. A second floating transhipment station in Asia in early 2013 will double the transhipment capacity from the existing FTS in the Philippines up to 30m tons per year. At the end of 2013 our Malaysian transhipment centre brings the total annual transhipment capacity to 60m tons. Besides those locations the valemax fleet of 35 vessels can regular berth in Rotterdam, Taranto, Sohar in Oman and Oita in Japan. The whole fleet of 35 valemaxes, when ready by the end of 2013, will be able to transport around 55m tons per year.

Third, it is true that we have been in discussions with some Chinese shipowners for each to buy some of the 19 valemaxes which are currently to be owned by Vale. Due to mutual confidentially, we have never named any of the companies we have been in discussions with. It is also true that these discussions have slowed since the issuance of the Ministry of Transport Circular 13 in January. This is completely understandable. Chinese shipowners hope to understand the implications of the barring of the vessels, as we do.

Fourth, Vale and Cosco have had a long-term co-operative relationship for years and Cosco-operated vessels have regularly been carrying cargoes from our Brazilian ports. In the past we proposed to Cosco that they build and operate valemax vessels under long-term charter with Vale. Cosco chose not to, for their own reasons. We fully respect their decision.

Fifth, Vale is not in a hurry for the Chinese government to reopen access to its ports for the valemax ships. We understand that much misinformation must still be clarified.

Although we are not in a rush for Chinese berthing restrictions on valemax to be lifted, we do hope that it can be sooner rather than later. This is simply because the valemax can bring benefits to different Chinese players. Steel mills and iron ore traders will benefit by a more competitive iron ore market. Iron ore ports can double their throughput. This does not even mention the environmental benefits of 35% CO2 reduction per ton of iron ore compared to capesize.

Valemaxes are part of a long-term strategy to enhance market competitiveness in Asia and will be chartered for 25 years.

We are patiently engaging different Chinese stakeholders and agencies and have a high level of confidence that the eventual decisions that will be made will consider all aspects around the issues and the overall benefits to China and Chinese markets.

João Mendes Faria

Global Business Development Director


Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Vale's Chinese charm offensive

Ore giant Vale are currently running a 'charm offensive' - a book in English and Chinese on the technical excellence of the Valemax vessels, Letters to the Editor, media commentary...

Dance of the giants, Subic Bay AIS

Despite of (or maybe because of) China's stonewalling, the Subic Bay operation seems to be back in business. Today's screenshot from AIS shows 'Berge Aconcagua'  and 'China Steel Team' being manouevred around 'Ore Fabrica'. Not sure what 'Aconcagua is doing is Subic as she has just broken records for discharging in Oita, Japan. Maybe she has over-carried some cargo to test Fabrica's transfer system?

Today's Op-Ed from Lloyd's List

The lowdown on Valemaxes

Brazilian iron ore giant’s book makes the case for 400,000 dwt ships

Tom Leander

Wednesday 27 June 2012

VALEMAX vessels are banned from China — this everyone knows.
But the facts underlying the ban, a straightforward account of what happened, how it came to pass and its status now have been a matter of detective work and speculation in the press.
All parties involved — the government, stakeholders in China and the government departments with the final say on approving Vale’s big ships — have offered only limited information regarding their strategy and decisions.
Vale has now changed that with a remarkable document describing its valemax strategy, as much as you would ever want to know about the 400,000 dwt ships, why Vale invested in them and how it believes the ships will benefit the Chinese economy.
If this were Washington rather than Beijing, the brochure — really a small book running to 75 pages — would be regarded as a lobbying document.
Its aim is to persuade, but unlike some position pieces it is also a mine of information and deploys a fair and open style, making a best case while weighing up the arguments against its cause without rancour.
The booklet is published in English and Chinese and seems more aimed to readers in the transport, iron ore trading and steelmaking constituencies in China than at an English-language audience.
It also offers clarity for those trying to understand the point of view of the Chinese government, publishing translations of the various circulars by the Ministry of Transport concerning the valemax ships.
One of the interesting approaches of the booklet is to add nuance to English readers’ understanding of the Chinese scene. So often seen as a monolith in the west, China’s authorities have often very strong differences in point of view and must respond to the constituencies they govern.
The wording of the valemax ban — in the view of this newspaper, though not the view of the valemax book — was ambiguous enough to reflect a certain reluctance to impose an absolute ban.
Our interpretation is that this is because China’s Ministry of Transport represents more than the shipowners that took exception to the valemax ships, arguing against their safety and also that they would create a monopoly that would hurt the businesses of China’s shipowners.
In fact, the ministry represents diverse national interests and there are other constituencies in China — steel mill operators, port operators and iron ore traders — that see the ships not as a threat but as a potential boon.
The real business of the Ministry of Transport’s Circular 13 was to remove the “one-case-one” basis, in Vale’s translation, at local ports.
Ports were allowed to let valemax ships on a case-by-case assessment, with the ports later required to submit the reasoning behind the approval to the MoT.
Having had the case-by-case allowance withdrawn, ports must now wait for a blanket approval from the MoT — or a possible return to case-by-case status — before allowing the ships to enter.
The reason that the MoT offered was concern for safety. “Given that the safety of the operation of the super large vessels at ports is not optimistic …” the circular reads in part. But the “given” is never explained.
It is clear where Vale stands, but it is refreshing to see it spelled out so plainly. “Vale was surprised at the MoT Circular 13 because it ended its policy, which allowed ports to decide the safety of berthing larger vessel types,” Vale writes. “Vale was surprised that safety was the main concern of Circular 13 …”
“It surprises us too,” Vale goes on to say, “that the valemax ships designed in China, in consultation with Chinese iron ore ports, built and launched from three Chinese shipyards, Rongsheng, Bohai and STX Dalian, are now restricted”.
The Brazilian iron ore giant makes its case that the ships have safety advantages over conventional bulkers. They require “60% fewer port manoeuvrings for the same amount of ore delivered”.
This cuts back on port congestion and reduces the risk of an accident. The hold design, Vale says, minimises the movement of iron ore, which makes the ships more stable. Fully loaded, valemaxes have a draft of 23 m, which Vale says is similar to other dry bulk ships berthing in China.
Vale also notes that “if required, by some ports, lightering in transhipment stations can reduce the draft of valemaxes”.
The Brazilian company then says: “China’s main ports are world leaders in design and are regularly receiving container and oil tanker ships larger than valemax ships.”
It goes on to say that: “Chinese ports were consulted during the design of the valemax ships, signed co-operation memoranda of understanding as early as 2009 and are among the first in the world well prepared for valemax ships. Soon ports in other countries such as Korea and Japan will catch up, [as] the European ports already did.”
Vale takes a dim view of the consequences of persisting with the ban at a time when China’s economy has slowed to its lowest rate of growth in many years. The ban, it concludes, will hurt China’s ports and could compromise China’s steel industry.


Tuesday, 26 June 2012

GO Canopus sea log 22nd to 25th June

22rd to 24th June

These two days in the Arafura Sea have been as non-descript as I remember the place to be. Other than the occasional fine period, and meeting a containership or two, it is dull and gray. Certainly nothing to get excited about nor even much to write about. Although the temperature has dropped a few degrees and the humidity with it, I can see people starting to deteriorate both physically and psychologically because of the lack of air conditioning.

I had to relieve the 2nd Mate on the bridge today, as he was so weak with exhaustion and lack of sleep that he was shaking and looked like he was about to collapse. I sat him down with a damp towel draped around him and almost had to force him to drink 750 mls of mineral water, followed by a bottle of ginger beer. He came right in less than an hour, so it was all that he needed.

Amokura, or Bosun Bird

We had a visitor on board today for an hour or so, a very tired Red tailed Tropic bird or Amokura. It is the very first one I have ever seen in all my 35 years at sea, distinctive because of its red beak and 2 long red tail feathers. I knew what it was, as I had sailed on a tanker called ‘Amokura’ [AM - the tanker on the header of the 'Antipodean Mariner' blog] as an apprentice in 1979 and there was a painting of the namesake bird in the officers lounge. Despite its magnificence it looked rather disheveled as it rested and regained its strength, before crapping on the chief mates new paint work on the focsle, then flying off. And people wonder why I call them shite hawks. They always leave their calling card.

I repaired the 2nd fishing lure today and ran it over the stern in a positive frame of mind. To no avail, the fish basket is still empty. Ces’t la vie. I rebooted the faulty DP screen again today and it worked fine. Will leave it on for the remainder of the voyage to monitor it. I received an email today from IMcL on the sister ship GO Capella. Apparently the air conditioning has packed up there as well. That says something for the quality of the air conditioning systems that were installed on board doesn’t it.. We should make landfall off East Timor about 16:00 tomorrow (Sunday 24th), which will break up the monotony of this leg of the passage.

Thereafter it is a coastal passage, with some good scenery and several significant volcanoes. Hopefully we will pass those in daylight as well, but I have not yet checked that. Signing off from the Arafura Sea

24th June

It was still dark when I went out on deck soon after 06:00 to set our fishing lures over the side. Venus and Jupiter were both shining brightly low in the Eastern sky, as the dawn brightened the horizon. In spite of the air conditioning failure, I seem to be sleeping OK, or maybe it is just survival instinct cutting in.

Whichever the answer, I am faring better than most on board. In fact, the only ones faring better than me are the weevils in the galley store, which appeared out of nowhere 2 days ago. The warm humid conditions must have been perfect to hatch long dormant eggs, as there had been no sign of weevils all of the time the ship had been in New Zealand. The cook was pretty switched on about it and separated the different dry stores before throwing out the infested products, which was mainly flour and other dry ingredients. A good spray out, followed by a thorough cleaning of the store and a mop out with disinfectant should have it in hand. Least wise for the remaining few days until we get off. I don’t think there will be too many muesli eaters on board as weevils seem to like muesli type products. Best to stick to sausages and eggs for breakfast. That way, if you get a weevil it has been well cooked beforehand, rather than still swimming in the milk of the cereal bowl.

Most on board, including myself, have taken to eating our meals out on deck, to escape the heat of the mess room, which is directly adjacent to the galley. Although there is full sun outside, at least there is a decent cooling breeze cascading across the deck. All very pleasant really and a world away from the “summer” weather I experienced in Aberdeen this time last year. We made landfall off the Eastern tip of East Timor at 16:00 as anticipated, although we had some of the smaller outlying islands to the north, on the radar for most of the day.

Although it is a quite steep and majestic looking piece of land, the details are lost in the omnipresent haze of the atmosphere. We take for granted in New Zealand, the clarity of the air which allows us to see twenty miles from Trevor’s airstrip to the Opua inlet. Not so up here however, as charcoal cooking fires smoulder 24 hours a day, reducing visibility considerably and dulling the clarity of that which can be seen. It does however make for the most magnificent display of deep orange sunrises and sunsets.

There was a little bit more shipping traffic apparent today, mainly containerships, as Wetar Strait, through which we are passing, is one of the common east / west shipping routes between Australia and Asia. At over 3000 metres, it is very deep water here, considering how close we are to land. We are also encountering over a knot of current on the nose at the moment, probably from the equatorial counter current. However, we remain on schedule to arrive off Benoa on Wednesday morning.

The results of our attempt at fishing remain the same. Still nothing to show for our efforts! I don’t anticipate catching anything off the Indonesian, as this area is extremely heavily fished by the locals. I have started my handover notes and have been preparing a dry dock list of jobs to do and equipment that needs repairing. We have been told that the Canopus may soon have a tow job to undertake from Benoa to Fremantle, then will be returning to Singapore for a dry docking after that, possibly in August. The three month window to complete all of our statutory surveys will end in September, so the docking should not be postponed beyond then.

I have also used these past few days to complete the format of my diary and to wade through some of the more than 10,000 photographs, totaling 18 Gb, that I have taken since October last year when I started this project. I have selected the best 500+ which best illustrate the time line of my log, then will burn both the photos and diary to a disc to save. A select few to receive it, tucked into a sleeve of a collector’s edition of “Black Tide”. There is over 900 Mb of data selected, so I will have to slightly drop the resolution of some of the photos, to ensure that they all fit on one disc. I will also have to start thinking about packing and cleaning my cabin soon, as the last few days will disappear very quickly, with all of the last minute things that need to be done. Signing off from North of East Timor

25th – caught a fish!
Mahimahi form the GO Canopus' lure
Captain K

First Coal

The Moatize coal field, Sena railway line and Port of Beira has produced the first shipment of coal for Rio Tinto Coal (Mozambique). Genco Loire sailed from Beira with 34,062 tonnes of coking coal on June 25th.

Genco Loire outbound from Beira.
Photo courtesy of Ricky P.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

PN65 Blues

PN65 remains undelivered as the wrangling continues as to what constitutes a completed ship. During the UMS test, a four hour period when the Engineroom is in lockdown, this ship has to run at normal sea speed with no alarms and no engineers.

During this test, the standby generator kicked in when a main compressor started, lighting up the alarm panel and calling into question the design of the power management system.

No ship is ever perfect, and the objective is to ensure the list of defects is as small as is operationally conscionable for the operating crew. PN65 sets the standard for the following sister-ships.

Delivery is now scheduled for 2nd July, over a month past the contract date - not an auspicious start. First cargo will be iron ore for China, after a quick stop in Singapore to bunker. The AM is planning to join her in Australia for the first loading and see how she and the crew performs. Sea trial data has proven speed, deadweight and the performance of the main engine. With the valve and fuel pumps on the engine  hydraulically actuated, there is no rhythmic clatter of camshafts. The engine and turbocharger just roar.

Now that the AM has learned how to insert clips, a short sequence as PN65 returns to the Yard in June after trials.


Friday, 22 June 2012

GO Canopus sea log 21st June

I woke to my alarm at 23:30 as intended, although I don’t really think that I had been to sleep. After a quick shower I was on the bridge for the handover of the 8 – 12 watch to the 12 – 4. As expected we had arrived at the entrance to the Torres Strait channel at 22:00 and by midnight were heading WSW. The duty mate had called up the Reef traffic reporting system and advised them of our planned transit through the passage. All was going well. I explained to the 2nd mate that it was his watch and that I was there to observe. He was happy with that. By 01:00 I could tell that he had regained his confidence and had everything in hand, so I left him to it and tried to get some sleep. I awoke at 06:00 to a most peculiar and unusual motion, of a short jerky roll and waves banging on the hull. It was caused by the short sharp waves inside the barrier reef, induced by the steady trade winds. They were striking the hull just forward of the beam, hence slapping against the curve of the hull. There is no swell inside the reef. There had been minimal traffic encountered overnight, but at dawn we overtook the “Natuna” an accommodation barge being towed at 3.5 knots by the “Lewek Eagle”.

Nantuna and Lerwick Eagle
The Natuna appeared to be similar in dimension to the Smit Borneo, although with significantly more accommodation, a smaller crane and less deck space. The Lewek Eagle is a supply boat, slightly smaller than the GO Canopus. I certainly did not fancy being on either of them. I am guessing that they would be returning to Singapore for a refit or awaiting their next project. They were the only vessels we encountered throughout the 14 hour reef passage, which struck me as odd, as we had been expecting more. When the Islands and channels were first surveyed and charted up here, the surveyors must have quickly run out of imagination when it came to naming them. They are sequentially called Tuesday Island, Wednesday Island, Thursday Island and Friday Island. At least when Captain Cook named Piercy Island (Hole in the Rock) in the Bay of Islands, he did so with a wicked sense of humour. He named it after the First Lord of the Admiralty at the time, Lord Piercy, who felt most honoured, when advised of this. What he didn’t know was that Cook did not much like him and thought Lord Piercy had a hole in the head, hence named the hole in rock after him. End of the history lesson.

Booby Island, Torres Strait

Booby Island was the last Island in the group that we passed and I snapped a shot of it as we passed close by. It will be the last bit of land we see for several days as we head across the top of the Gulf of Carpentaria, through the Arafura sea to the North eastern tip of East Timor. The seaman who had been pooped on the previous day became quite ill last night and I had to consider the possibility of a medivac for him as we passed Thursday Island. It was not needed however, as he had just become dehydrated and came right overnight with water and electrolytes. Everyone is now upping the water intake to avoid the same fate. 

People are now getting a bit cranky and tired after being 4 days and nights without air conditioning. By keeping some doors and port holes open and others closed, we have managed to get a cooling draft flowing through the accommodation. It cools somewhat, but comes a very poor second to air conditioning. Enjoying a beer in the cool comfort of an air conditioned hotel room in Bali is sounding very attractive right now. 

The fishing has not improved at all, in spite of us passing some schools of shoaling fish soon after exiting the reef passage. Most disappointing. We met several ships over the afternoon, two containerships and one bulk carrier. Nothing overly impressive. They probably thought the same about us. We slowed down briefly to allow the engineers to clean the lenses in the oil mist detectors in each engine. They detect any signs of vaporized oil within the crank case of the engine, a precursor to a crank case explosion. Very important that they are clean and work properly.

I refitted the repaired DP console screen this afternoon, with the help of the 2nd mate. It worked for an hour or so, but then reverted to the same rainbow screen fault that had necessitated its replacement many months ago. Not too much more need be said about that is there. We continue to make a voyage average speed of 11.3 knots, however this evening I received instructions from the Perth office to increase speed to arrive at the pilot station at 07:00 27th June. I nudged the pitch up to 80%, which will increase our speed to the necessary 11.7 knots, increasing our fuel consumption commensurately.

Signing off ninety miles West of Booby Island

Captain K.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

GO Canopus sea log 20th June

The tropical days without air conditioning are starting to tell on everyone. No one is sleeping that well in the warm muggy accommodation. We still have a week of it to go.
The weather is still directly from astern. So the 20 knot South Easterly wind is offering minimal cooling properties at all. At times the sea and sky are both a brilliant blue, but as we make steady progress North, the gloomy grey sky of the inter tropical convergence zone (ITCZ) has become predominant. Heavy tropical rain squalls come and go, heralded by the occasional bright rainbow. Nothing special enough to write home about though.
Our fishing skills have not improved one iota, with neither lure appearing to be attractive to fish. The home-made lure was showing signs of decay when we hauled it on board for the night, so I will give it a spruce up over the next day or so.
The gannets that have accompanied us for the past few days have now departed. They are not a tropical bird, so we are probably now beyond their temperate foraging range.
A very funny story from last night, which occurred about 20:00 hours, at the change of the watch.
A rain squall had appeared on the radar and was tracking to pass over us. This information was passed over from the existing lookout to the oncoming one.
Soon after the new lookout felt the rain. It was not until he looked down at his wet arms, that he noticed the wet spots were very white. It transpired that a passing flock of migrating birds had found sanctuary for the evening on the horizontal spreaders of our main mast. Prior to settling in for the night they all needed to dump.
The 8 – 12 lookout just happened to be standing downwind and in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I didn’t see him, but apparently he was absolutely covered in it, as were the entire bridge deck, monkey island and foc’s’le decks the next morning. All needed and received a good soogee.
Our noon position today was latitude 10° 19.9’ South, Longitude 145° 18.3 East.
We continue to make a steady average speed of 11.3 knots and we are expecting to enter the Northern Torres Strait channel at 22:00 tonight. We have seen very few ships on this route, but are expecting the shipping to increase as we approach the entrance to the Strait.
So it is an early night for me, in an endeavour to get some sleep in these sticky conditions. The day time temperature barely exceeds 33°, so the accommodation is not stiflingly hot, just still and sticky.
Signing off twenty miles South East of Torres Strait.

Captain K

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Go Canopus sea log 17-19 June

Sea Log 17th, 18th 19th June

We are well and truly in the tropics now, and the days are significantly warmer and noticeably more humid. We have maintained a steady speed of 11.3 knots and expect to be at the entrance to Torres Strait at 22:00 hours on Wednesday 20th.

Noon on the 17th had us at latitude 19° 45.8’ South, Longitude 155° 35.4’ East.
Noon on the 18th had us at latitude 16° 34.0’ South, Longitude 151° 53.9’ East.
Noon on the 19th had us at latitude 13° 26.5’ South, Longitude 148° 34.2’ East.

After working in the equatorial tropic regions for over 10 years, the heat and humidity do not bother me too much. Although I sweat freely, I seem to thrive where most other white men wilt. I do keep up my fluid intake though, well over 2 litres per day.

Everyone is feeling better now that the bad weather is but a distant memory. The only spanner in the works is that our air conditioning system packed up totally on the 18th.

The chief engineer recharged it with gas twice in two days, but there is obviously a significant leak in the system that he has not been able to locate. The result being, we are without cooling on board, other than the two small independent units on the bridge and in the engine control room. It is more than a wee bit warm inside the accommodation, and there will be no respite next week. It will get even hotter then, as we pass North of Flores, getting up to latitude 8 degrees South.

Sitting here at my computer writing this, I have sweat running down my face and neck. No one is getting a restful sleep at all I surmise.

As anticipated, the weather has continued from the ESE at 20 knots throughout the passage. This is almost from directly astern, so is no doubt assisting our speed in some small way, however is doing nothing to pass a cooling breeze through the open accommodation.

We undertook some routine safety drills on Sunday. Abandon ship, Fire fighting and a talk about ship board security. Although there is a recognized piracy problem in Indonesia, it should not be an issue on the route we are taking. There is a greater risk of piracy closer to Singapore, centred around Batam & Bintan Islands. However it is prudent to take overnight lock down precautions regardless, as we have a very low freeboard and would be seen as an easy and soft target to board.
We also undertook a statutory emergency steering drill this morning. It was operationally functional, however as is similar on most ships, virtually impossible to maintain a prescribed course. Regardless of the practicalities of the system, the log book will dutifully recall that the emergency steering system was tested and found to be operationally functional. All satisfactory.
One would not really want to have to steer the vessel for any length of time from the steering flat.
Other than for one unfortunate flying fish being washed up on to our stern roller in the heavy weather and another smaller one today, the results of the fishing have been abysmal. Not a single strike so far on our lure, in spite of them being trolled from dawn to dusk. Due to us being in the open sea in very deep water, there are possibly not many fish around here.

At 11½ knots we are also possibly going too fast to really have much hope of getting a strike, other than from a passing Wahu.

The 2nd mate completed constructing a multi coloured lure yesterday, so I put it over the stern today (19th). The only creatures showing a keen interest in them are a pair of mature yellow headed Gannets swooping low astern of us as they complete great arching loops around the vessel.  There was four pair of them circling the lures this evening.

They are certainly a long way from their home at the Muriwai cliffs rookery.

I received an email from IM today. He is flying out to join the GO Capella today, sister ship to the GO Canopus. A very small world. The last time we sailed simultaneously on sister ships would possibly have been the Ngapara and Ngahere, over three decades ago.

Signing off from the Coral Sea, 300 miles South East of Torres Strait.

GO Canopus sea log

'GO Canopus' is sending in a daily report on life at sea on an AHTS as she heads to Bali for demobilisation and redeployment. Here's a few days in a digest.


GO Canopus

12th June
It was still quite dark when I came to the bridge soon after 06:00. The flashing light from Mokohinau Islands was just forward of the port beam. It had been well over a decade since I had last seen that light, when I had been working on the NZ coastal tankers.
It was a grey dull dawn and remained that way throughout the day, although not unpleasant.
The wind had continued from the West overnight, but backed through to the South East over the course of the day.
Noon saw us past Cape Brett, at the Southern entrance to the Bay of Islands. As the day progressed we later observed Cape Karikari, then North Cape, both as low grey shapes on the Western horizon.
Everyone spent the day securing for bad weather. Additionally, the seamen gave the ship a good wash down, to get rid of the build of grime, mud and dust from our anchor handling and port visit. They also made up two incinerators, from 200 litre drums purloined off the wharf in Tauranga. We will need these for burning the paper and cardboard rubbish build up throughout our voyage; so rubbish segregation is very important.
Our voyage trip will take us from the eastern side of Great Barrier Island on a direct course of 312° to the Coral Sea. We will pass 40 miles to the South West of Norfolk Island and 280 miles to the South West of New Caledonia, all the while heading towards Torres Strait, the narrow gap of water between the northern tip of Australia and Papua New Guinea. We should transit these straits on the 20th or 21st June.
From there we will head across the Arafura Sea, to pass North of East Timor, then through the Flores sea on the Northern side of the Indonesian archipelago. These are familiar waters to me, as I was on a regular run to Singapore through these waters in 1983, on the small tanker “Pacific Trader”.
This route will have us passing north of the islands of Flores, Komodo, Sumbawa and Lombok, before heading down towards Bali, in Lombok Strait. It is a most picturesque passage, passing by some very large and magnificent looking active volcanoes.
That is something to look forward to, but well over a week away.
Meanwhile, the depression that had formed off Brisbane has been steadily tracking to the ESE, so we are expecting 2 days of shit weather from tomorrow. Thereafter we should have pleasant following conditions until we reach Torres Strait.
Signing off from 30 miles North East of North Cape, New Zealand.
Captain K

13th and 14th June
As expected the weather deteriorated rapidly overnight. It blew a steady forty knots from the ESE for 36 hours, before easing to 30 knots as it veered through to the SSW on Thursday evening.
The massive swell rolling in from our starboard quarter caused a 'figure of eight' corkscrew, rolling and pitching motion. It was most uncomfortable.
I managed to keep a bowl of fruit down for breakfast and a small yogurt for lunch, but spewed my roast lamb dinner up, after about 30 seconds. Bulimia – twice the taste – zero calories.
Everyone was most surprised when I came back to the dinner table to resume my meal soon after. I felt much better.
Productivity for both days was limited to sending off the daily report and not much else. I tried many time to do some computer work in preparation for our arrival in Bali, but 2 minutes of looking at a screen made me feel very queasy.
Other than doing a meal relief for the mates on watch, my bunk was the best place to be.
On the morning of the 14th we picked up Norfolk Island on the radar at 36 miles off our starboard beam. The 2nd Mate heard on the radio that a racing yacht “Beau Geste” was sheltering in what lee it could find off the island. It had been participating in the Auckland to Noumea yacht race when it suffered serious damage in this heavy weather. Such yachts are built light for speed and are not designed for these heavy weather conditions.
We heard that they had subsequently lost their anchor, so they had to keep motoring. Would not have been pleasant for them.
There was also a mayday call for some yachties missing off Tonga. Poor buggers if they are experiencing similar conditions to these.
As is my usual habit, I felt better on the second day of bad weather, so although we experienced similar weather on Thursday 14th, I managed to eat more, keep it all down and do some work.
By sunset on the 14th, the weather was very obviously easing, although the large South Easterly swell was not abating quite so readily and the corkscrew motion continued well into the night. It was bearable, but only just.
Signing off from Northwest of Norfolk Island.
Captain K

Saturday, 16 June 2012


With 'GO Canopus' off-charter from the salvage of Rena, Captain K penned the following final message before departing Tauranga for de-mobilisation of the boat in Bali. Like a gift that keeps on giving, my heartfelt thanks to Captain K, Captain MP and everyone who has contributed to the Antipodean Mariner blog over the last 9 months.

I was up at 03:30 this morning, after having quite a good sleep. The walk around the mountain last night had had the desired effect. The mates were due to change from 12 hour watches to traditional 4 on 8 off sea watches this morning.
There was a stiff Westerly blowing all morning, gusting to 40 knots at times. At least it was blowing us directly on to the berth, so there was no danger of mooring lines breaking or the ship ranging along the wharf at all. Hopefully it would ease prior to sailing. I don’t fancy going out in the dark while it is blowing forty knots.
Other than for a couple of phone calls about loading enough fuel for the ship to get to Bali, I have not received any formal notification that the project is over and our charter terminated. Most odd.  On Saturday I had ordered some additional charts to get us through Torres strait and to Bali. They are due at noon today, which is cutting it a bit fine. We can’t sail without them.
I have opted to go through the northern passage of Torres strait, which is but an 18 hour transit, rather than the 5 day inner reef passage. The pilot book indicated that the south east trades were the predominant wind pattern through the Coral sea at this time of year, so this route would give us following weather once clear of the northern Tasman sea.
The weather map was not looking good further north. A deep low has formed off the Queensland coast, which will impact us in a couple of days time. All going well, the weather should be on the starboard quarter, which although uncomfortable, should not adversely affect our speed.. In fact, once on the northern side of it, we should benefit from following seas.
It was still dark when the first fuel trucks rolled on to the wharf soon after 06:00. They were very well organised and commenced bunkering us at 06:15.
About the same time, a minivan showed up at the gangway of the Smit Borneo, obviously ordered to take demobilized personnel to the airport. Like any other project, once notice of termination has been given, personnel are demobed very quickly, as there is no economic sense in paying people when they are not needed.
By mid morning, I had confirmed the sailing time for 20:00 hours tonight, to allow time to complete the loaded bunker survey and get things secure for sea. It would also give personnel (including myself) enough time to catch a nap, prior to sailing. Bad form if an incident occurred while departing the port and I had been up without a break since 03:30.
There were lots of little jobs to complete today, but nothing too difficult. We topped up our fresh water this morning, even though our tanks were almost full. No one knows when we will next have the opportunity to fill them.
The chief mate went up the road for some last minute shopping, so I had him post my entire memoirs to Captain MP in Wellington, just as an insurance policy, should something befall me or my hard drives, between now and  when I am due to return home.
 Once the office opened in Perth, I phoned the ops manager and asked him to send me some official notification of termination of charter. He promised to do that, along with issuing voyage orders for Bali. It never hurts to get these things in writing.
The food and dry stores arrived at 13:00 as scheduled and were quickly loaded aboard.
I went with the Agent to rent some DVD’s for the voyage and buy some heavy duty fishing gear. I bought some heavy long line monofilament with a breaking strain of probably in excess of 400 kgs, swivels and large double hooks,– nothing sporting here.
Reminiscent of my days with Dilmun tankers. When travelling at 11 knots, one needs heavy gear to absorb the strike impact of a 40 kg Wahu, Mahi-mahi or Yellow fin Tuna. We can’t slow down or stop to play it or reel it in sportingly.  The crew were quite astounded at the size of the gear I bought, even the experience fisherman 2nd mate. I recall on the delivery voyage of the Searanger, we pulled in several Mahi-mahi jaws, without the rest of the fish, such is the force of water rushing into a fishes open mouth. Not very nice to think about.
The customs clearance officer arrived at 14:15 and granted us outward clearance 20 minutes later. The advantage of having all of the paperwork prepared in order for him.
All throughout this time, the fuel trucks kept rolling in and out of the wharf, delivering us the planned 550 cubic metres (550,000 litres) of gas oil. The discharge to us was completed soon after 1600. I went on the wharf and took a few photos of us refueling, along with shots of the Smit Borneo demobing her gear. There was nothing special about the photos though, nowhere as impressive or dramatic as many of those I have shot out at Astrolabe reef in the preceding 8 months.
I turned in soon after that, as planned. Didn’t sleep at all, but a two hour lie down is certainly better than nothing.
When I arose, things were well in hand for sailing. The wind was still a brisk WSW’ly, but had eased under thirty knots during the afternoon. An hour before sailing then technician returned our repaired Converteam DP computer screen. I had been chasing it up for a few days, as I needed the external frame from it, should GO decide to replace the wide screen with an original size one. Nothing like leaving it to the last minute is there.
We departed the wharf at 20:01, using a lot more horse power than I have had to use in the past, due to the strong wind. The departure went without a hitch and we were clear of the port half an hour later, passed “A” beacon, heading due North. I thanked the port radio operator for all of their assistance over the months and asked him to pass on my thanks to the pilots and the rest of marine team. It was sad to say my final farewells to Tauranga.
In spite of the obvious tragedy of the grounding, pollution and sinking, this project has afforded me an incredible experience and a once in a life time opportunity. The emotional journey, memories, friendships and photographs will last me a life time. That I had the foresight to record my observations from day one and the courage to continue doing so throughout, is something that I am eternally thankful for.
Hopefully the select few, who I have trusted to share these with, along with my sometimes most intimate thoughts, will feel the same way.
Details fade from the memory with the passage of time, whereas my written word and photographs will remain as an accurate account of events as they occurred. One day perhaps, when the Orwellian nature of the agreement between MNZ and Svitzer has been exposed for the Stalinesque abomination that it is, they will be in the public domain.
Until then though, they remain the Rena blogger's secret diaries.
Signing off from the Bay of Plenty for the very last time.
Captain K.


Friday, 15 June 2012

Ship models

When the AM's company signed up for eight brand spanking new ships, each contract included a 1:200 scale ship model. We decided to take a credit for four of the models for a paltry $2,000 a ship - a decision the AM now regrets.

The model maker has sent photos of the completed models ready for shipment to the corporate offices in Melbourne, London, Singapore and Montreal.

Faithful to the design, they are a work of art.


Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Rena salvage demobilisation

The Antipodean Mariner's man at Astrolabe Reef reports that they have received orders to demobilise from the site.  The last of the containers have been removed from the forward section, Smit Borneo is under tow by Smit Singapore and Rena is (temporarily) left to the forces of nature while the wreck removal is being put to tender.

No more boxes

Longitudinal girders gone

With the salvage ended this is probably the last post until the TAIC report is released. It's been an interesting ride, with big thanks to a my mates who 'flipped the bird' to MNZ's media relations team and the draconian 'non disclosure'. Everyone's a reporter now...

The closing post wouldn't be complete without a plug for 'Black Tide' by John Julian. The book explores the 'what could have been' with expert opinion from salvors and mariners who incidentally weren't part of the good news spin cycle. A good read with no agenda and plenty of informed dialogue.

Antipodean Mariner

Monday, 11 June 2012

Sea trials diary Friday 8th/Saturday 9th June

Friday's schedule went out the window as speed trials, which were to be completed by Thursday afternoon, were still going on in the small hours of Friday. The team in charge of this test has been at their station for 24 hours and everyone was getting grumpy as the expected results were not materializing at the end of each speed run.

Steaming out past Grande Island
The trial schedule called for the ship to make two runs (one North then one South) over a measured 2 nautical mile distance after making a run up of 5 miles. What the test team was doing was running a 30 mile leg, then the taking the speed by GPS over the last 2 miles. The speed trials were consequently 28 miles apart in waters with different weather, tide and current influences. As much as the AM tried to argue that they had were making an 'error in principle', including getting the Korean Dock-Master/Captain to explain, they refused to change the test procedure. If the ship doesn't meet her contractual speed, the Builders are required to compensate the Owners through a 'liquidated damages' formula. Data will be presented next week for scrutiny.

The Anchoring trial went OK but the Blackout test, when the Emergency Generator has to start and carry the essential safety and navigation load, was a Fail. The offending component was cannibalized from her sister-ship PN66 and brought out on a tug on Saturday morning. With several critical items still a 'Fail', the majority of the Filipino workers were disembarked on to a tug back to Subic and spares and more food were loaded for another day at sea.

A tropical squall came in over the ship as we were doing the Anchoring Test. Nice cloud formation

Approaching the Yard, with sisters PN67, 68, 69 and 70 in Dock 6 (left)
With 13 days to go until Delivery there is still a lot to do, and the AM harbors doubts that she will make the scheduled date. Some of the unfortunate Koreans were going out again the next day (Sunday) for another sea trial. After 4 days of long hours,crowded cabins and snatched sleep, morale among the Koreans was low and we were happy to get back to dock, off the ship and into a hotel for a night's sleep.

Back alongside, the run for the gangway

AM and Ms AM, Subic Bay
The Antipodean Mariner

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Ore Fabrica

When the Antipodean Mariner returned to Subic yesterday, a familiar sight was missing from the lineup of ships in the bay.

Vale's Ore Fabrica has moved from anchor to alongside Keppel's ship repair facility. The Pilot advised that she has gone into the Yard for 'modifications'. The cranes on 'Fabrica are controlled by a single computer system which according to sources mean all the cranes stop if an individual crane has a fault.

So far, 7 weeks since Ore Fabrica moved a tonne of ore...

Antipodean Mariner

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Sea trials diary Thursday 7th June

We are too far offshore for full connectivity so this will be a digest posting.

Good and bad news. Good news is that nothing has broken and the ship's systems are working normally. Bad news is that the monsoon weather has not played ball and we've lost about half a day grinding up and down the coast of western Luzon. The speed trials are supposed to take place in near-calm conditions, not a 20 knot Southerly, and the Yard seems to have stretched out the runs into the evening when the winds ease.
Upshot for the Owner's team is all day waiting for the speed runs to be called and now an all-nighter to finish them and the manouevring tests. After the speed runs, we turn the vessel to port and starboard on full rudder, zig zag and finally crash stop (Full Ahead to Full Astern) at 14.75 knots. Better done in daylight but we have to try and pick up time on the programme.

Once the high drama is over, the pace returns to the more sedate pace of checking that the automation will run the Main Engine and services for 4 hours with no alarms.

Yesterday, the AM had to board a very ropey old tug to read the draft and verify RTM Cook's displacement. Hairy moments jumping off the Pilot Ladder as the tug rose and fell in the monsoon chop. At a sea trial displacement of 109,526 tonnes of ship, ballast, fuel stores and crew RTM Cook is ready to enter her
Friday 8th June 01:50LT
AM is waiting in the Officers' Mess for the 02:30 call and the second leg of the full power speed run. The vessel is running with 15 knots of wind astern and has picked up her skirts to 16.2 knots. However, the work programme is in tatters just 6 hours after having been revised by the Yard's Trial Director. We should have been into the manouevring tests by now but the performance is not meeting expectations and another 90% power run is being discussed. As she is not our ship yet, we cannot decline...

Despite everything, it's a beautiful moonlit night off Manila, Bataan and Subic. Lots if ships and fishing boats to negotiate while maintaining minimum course changes which impact on speed. Had another ship call up and grumble for passing him at 4 cables.

Photos of draft check for sea trials displacement, NACOS ECDIS electronic chart and radar, turning for the next speed run. More to post when AM is back in InternetLand.

Antipodean Mariner

Draft check to verify her displacement for sea trials

Turning to port at 15 knots for the next speed run

NACOS Platinum Radar and ECDIS Electronic Chart display

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Sea trials diary Wednesday 6th June

The AM is back in Subic Bay and will attempt a daily text posting off the Galaxy S2 phone.

We are at anchor ballasting No.6 Hold to achieve heavy sea draft condition. The main engine looked OK at inspection after the short run out to Grande Island. We will start progressively building up revolutions this afternoon for the official speed trial tomorrow morning.

No.5 cylinder cross-head and bottom end bearing

What a difference two weeks makes with the decks and hatches painted. The ship looks much cleaner and less like 'work in progress'.

Full berths at the Yard - 4 Capesize bulk carriers, 2 Suezmax tankers
Monsoon rains have arrived. Raining but still light winds which shouldn't impede the speed and manoevring tests. The Yard is full - six ships ready for trials or delivery.

AM - at sea

Saturday, 2 June 2012

RTM Cook Naming Ceremony

The Naming Ceremony for 'RTM Cook' was held in Subic on Thursday 31st May.
Unveiling of her name
Dignitaries smiled, horns were sounded and lunch was enjoyed in the Yard's VIP Wing before the Guests were returned to Manila by helicopter.

Ice sculpture of RTM Cook
AM will be getting on a plane, returning to the Yard on Monday for second sea trials starting on Wednesday 6th June. There will be no delivery ceremony in June though still lots to do to crew, store, commission and register the ship for her first voyage.

Antipodean Mariner

Friday, 1 June 2012

Changing of the guard at Taharoa

For the non-Kiwi's reading the Blog, Taharoa is an commercial iron sands deposit west of Hamilton (south of Auckland). Iron sands are made into flat steel products at Bluescope's Glenbrook Mill and exported as a slurry to Japan. Iron sands suspended in water are pumped out to the Taharoa SBM and loaded into the ship tanker-style. De-watering channels in the ship's structure allow the water to settle out and it's pumped back ashore into a reservoir to be reused. Taharoa Express and Destiny are fitted with a bow crane to lift the pipeline up to the ship's loading manifold.

Taharoa Express- final departure

Taharoa Express, having spent a decade and a bit carrying iron sands loaded at the Taharoa Single Point Mooring Buoy, has finally been retired and loaded her last cargo on 8th May 2012. Originally built as a Capesize, she was converted for the NZ-Japan slurry trade in 1999. After this discharge, she will be scrapped in China.

Taharoa Destiny, her replacement, is purpose-built and has loaded her first cargo for discharge at Port Kembla. She'll then will come back to Taharoa for a full iron sand cargo for Japan.
Taharoa Destiny

Taharoa Destiny departing for Port  Kembla
 Photos courtesy of the M.H.Pryce Collection

Antipodean Mariner