Danger, what danger

The beauty of working in the maritime field is that there is always something new to learn about. The other day I heard about the German Rescue Tug Nordic; so, nothing new here, its another tug, big deal, you might say. Well this one is pretty technologically advance, because of what it can do, in what situation.

By now, we’ve learn to built some pretty powerful tugs that can operate in some pretty nasty weather conditions. We’ve also learned to make sure crews are safe and secure while performing their tasks; and some have even learned that a comfortable crew is also good. – so your saying to yourself, what’s the big deal with the Nordic. With a bollard pull of just over 200 tons, and a massive size to handle any seas, the Nordic would be impressive enough if it wasn’t for the fact that it can work within an explosive or even toxic atmosphere.

Ever since I heard of the Deepwater Horizon and the engines cutting out, due to the gas rich environment around them, I’ve been wondering about how they could have prevented that power failure. Why was the rig so vulnerable, even though it is far likely for this condition to occur on a rig, how can it be that engineers had not designed something better.

“Brown, for instance, says he heard a hissing noise, and gas alarms,
before the explosion. The rig’s engines, which supplied power for all
its operations, had begun to rev out of control.”

Comments by Second Engineer, on board the drill rig Deepwater Horizon, from congressional testimony. CSmonitor.com 

Having had a steady power supply throughout the the ordeal on board Deepwater Horizon may not have save the disaster from happening, but when you have a steady power supply, you certainly increase your options for response.

The two MTU 8000 propulsion engines, and the two MTU 2000 engines providing electrical power for the Nordic are designed, and tested, to operate in a toxic and explosive environment. The technical specification and systems to make this happen are, in my mind, astounding. I wont repeat what’s already written in MTU promotional material, but you can judge for yourself by reading it here, and here. One part of the problem, you have to make sure all your intake, exhaust, surface, etc, etc, temperatures are cooled below 135 degree Celsius – easy to do, eh!

The technology involved in this ship is mind boggling, and not just in the engine room either. The whole accommodation is a safe area, with its own fresh air supply, designed to last 8 hours in a toxic / hostile environment, using a Citadel concept.

When I read the promotional material from the companies involved in this project, you also get  a sense of a different attitude towards the crew. You might call it “progressive”. For instance have a look at the pictures, not too many gray hairs in there, the master must be all of 35 years old. Have a look at the accommodations stats…

” Accommodation is provided for a crew of 12 and a ‘boarding’ team of four
in 16 single cabins and 12 apprentices in six double berth cabins. The
cabins for the Captain and Chief Engineer include a lounge and office
and are located along with the other officers’ cabins on ‘C’ deck, just
below the bridge.

Provision is made for four supernumeraries that may
include owner’s representatives, instructors or similar personnel.
Separate dayrooms are provided for the officers and crew, and other
facilities include mess and dinning areas, a large galley and pantry, a
treatment room, hospital, a conference/recreation/classroom, changing
rooms and extensive dry and frozen storage arrangements. A dedicated
garbage area enables refuse to be stored for disposal ashore. ”

This paragraph is just part of an excellent article detailing the many features of Nordic, which can be found here.

Notice anything that seem a bit unusual for a modern shipping company, never mind a tug outfit. Cadet berths, training room, accommodations for instructors, who are these people? and what are they thinking! Granted its a government contract… but still. The managing company, Bugsier based out of Hamburg, Germany (yes, that country with social medicine and other civil measure that treat workers like humans, that are apparently too expensive an too generous to succeed in other jurisdictions) even proclaim that workers are valuable, on their home page! …and more importantly, go on to back up that statement.

” Easily getting qualified personnel for a
towing company can not be taken for granted. Working routines on tugs
differ significantly from those on merchant vessels. Towing operations
ask for a combination of expertise and experience. Therefore all
important functions on our vessels are staffed with in-house trained and
educated ratings.

The company’s training department and the training quality is second
to none in Germany thus safeguarding Bugsier’s ultimate professional
quality for the long term. ” 

How can this be, a tug company training people, thinking about the future and providing their people with the best tools possible, and in today’s “financial world”. Heresy, they will crash and burn, the accountants and MBAs will not allow this blasphemy to continue. Oh wait, they’ve been doing it for the last 145 years.

I digressed a little there, sorry about that. But I get worked up when I see “crap”, and we are asked to put up with it because other things are not “possible”. Everything is possible, you just have to see more that the next quarter in advance, or your own personal limits. Possible is not always easy. Those committed to strong ideals of personal gain, well, you’ll have to go now, your system does not work, and those committed to strong ideals of quality and progression must retake their rightful place in leadership.

You can read more details about this amazing vessel, and its work, here

MV Nordic

IMO : 9525962
Vessel type : Salvage / Rescue Vessel
Owner : Bugsier, Fairplay Towage and Unterweser – joined by Wiking Helikopter
Under contract to German Government for 10 years
Manager : Bugsier
Flag : Germany
Class : Germanischer Lloyd, 100 A5 IW TUG MC AUT
Build year : 2010
Builder : Ps Werften Wolgast, Wolgast, Germany
Breadth : 16,40 m
Draft : 6,00 m
Gross Tonnage : 3374 t
DWT : 2115
Length overall : 78,00 m
Bollard Pull : 201 t
Speed : 19,90 kn
Bunker Capacity : 1050 m³
Propulsion : 2x MTU 20V8000 M71L GSB (8600kW Normal Operation, 4000kW in gas protected operation)
Propulsion Type : Reduction Gear with 2 Berg CPP
Electrical : 2x shaft generator (2000kVa), 2x MTU 2000 (1350kVa) 1x Harbour Generator (350kVa), 1x Emergency Generator (125kVa)
Thrusters : 2 bow, 1 stern (800kW each)
Plus, plus, plus…

Pictures from various internet sources. More.

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