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WATCHKEEPING failure

Posted: Tue May 20, 2008 8:24 pm
by The Dieselduck
20 May 2008 Lloyds List

A WATCHKEEPING failure was blamed for the grounding of a Gibraltar-flagged cargoship off the northern French coast at the weekend, less than 48 hours after a near-miss involving another vessel in the Dover Strait on which the watch officer was reported to have been asleep, writes Andrew Spurrier in Paris.

The 1997-built, 2,280 gt Baltic Carrier exited the Dover Strait traffic separation system at 0230 hrs on Saturday and, like the 1978-built, 1,589 gt Polish-flagged Ina two days previously, failed to respond to calls from the surveillance and rescue centre at Cap Gris Nez.

Unlike the Ina, however, which responded in time to efforts to attract its attention by helicopters and a patrol vessel, Baltic Carrier, ran aground 40 minutes later about 12 km north of Boulogne-sur-Mer.

Several vessels and a helicopter were sent to the scene but the master indicated that the vessel, which was on its way to Antwerp from the Welsh port of Mostyn, had suffered little damage and presented no risk of pollution.

It was refloated at 0940 hrs and made its way under its own power, slowly and with a 5° list, to the port of Dunkirk, where it was due to be inspected by divers.

A spokesman at the maritime prefecture in Cherbourg told the Frenchnews agency AFP that the cause ofthe grounding had been “a bridgewatchkeeping failure” in calm sea conditions.

In the case of the Ina, which was halted six nautical miles off the French coast, the master told the French authorities that the watch officer had been drunk and asleep.

Two are too few

Posted: Tue May 20, 2008 8:25 pm
by The Dieselduck
Two are too few
19 May 2008 Lloyds List

IT WAS good to see in the annual report of the Nautical Institute that it is spearheading a campaign against the practice of operating small ships with the master and mate being the only two watchkeepers.

A long list of casualties in which the exhaustion of one of the watchkeepers has led to the ship going aground is cumulative evidence that supports the ending of this dangerous practice.

Operators of these small ships might suggest that this is a traditional way of running them, and that their economics will be shot to bits by the compulsory addition of another mate. And are there not regulations which prescribe hours of rest?

These questions are easily answered. For a start, there never has been a time when ship operations were so intensive as they are today. The leisurely pace of the past has gone forever, and as ports and terminals become more efficient, shipping operations become more frenetic to keep ships on schedule.

And as for the hours of rest prescriptions, these are widely abused and, of course, give no indication of the quality of rest, with ships in and out of port, with containers crashing in and out of their cells, with all sorts of people marching on board and demanding the attention of the master. The opportunities for uninterrupted sleep are very limited.

No wonder there are so many instances of tired people simply falling asleep on watch.

There is also disturbing evidence of the effects of sleep deprivation on long-term health, and employers need to be aware that they could be letting themselves in for serious litigation as has happened with the effects of asbestos.

And it is very significant that the oil companies, who charter large numbers of small, hard-working tankers in their distributive trades, are now insisting on looking closely at the manning arrangements. Which leaves the container feeder trades, and the shortsea dry bulk operators, rather out on a limb.

India’s shipping regulator has temporarily relaxed the staff

Posted: Tue May 20, 2008 8:55 pm
by The Dieselduck
Unsafe Manning

India’s shipping regulator has temporarily relaxed the staffing, or so-called manning requirements, for bulk carriers from four officers to three in an attempt to help the industry tackle a shortage of officers.

The relaxation in manning requirements will apply to the so-called deck-side of Indian registered bulk carriers and not to the engineering side.

The country has around 1,000 officers less than it needs, according to industry estimates.

The new rules will be tried out for six months. The move by the Directorate General of Shipping, or DGS, will apply to the so-called deck-side (or management function) of Indian registered bulk carriers, with a cargo carrying capacity of less than 30,000 tonnes. Under the new manning requirements, such ships will now have one master, one chief officer and a second officer. The requirement for a third officer has been dispensed with. On the engineering side, the existing manning requirements of four will continue.

Bulk carriers are ships that carry commodities such as iron ore, coal, steel and grains. Apart from helping them tackle a shortage of officers, the move will also help shipping companies save around $5,000 (Rs2.1 lakh) a month in terms of the salary paid to an officer. And because shipping firms that operate more than one ship need to keep a certain number of reserve officers on their rolls (this number, too, comes down proportionately), they can look forward to more savings.

For instance, the staterun Shipping Corp. of India Ltd, or SCI, which owns 20 bulk carriers, will now save on 34 positions, including those of reserve officers.

“More than the savings, this will lead to reduction in demand for officers. People were just not available in the market,” said Kailash Gupta, director in charge of personnel and administration at SCI.

India has more than 70 dry bulk carriers owned by SCI, Great Eastern Shipping Co. Ltd, Essar Shipping Ltd, Mercator Lines Ltd, Apeejay Surrendra Group, Poompuhar Shipping Corp. Ltd, West Asia Maritime Ltd and Five Stars Shipping Co. Pvt. Ltd. DGS has said the reduction is applicable for both the domestic and international movements of dry bulk carriers.

“The rate of accidents and general efficiency of adherence to nautical and safety certification requirements will be studied during this period to decide if the dispensation should be extended or made into a national regulation and revised safe manning documents should be issued, or should be withdrawn,” DGS said in its order.

SCI’s Gupta claimed there had been several instances of ships being held up because they were not able to meet the manning requirements prescribed by the maritime regulator, resulting in significant losses to shipping lines.

Local shipowners had asked the regulator to reduce the manning requirements for bulk carriers.

“We are happy that the longstanding demand put forth by the Indian shipowners to DGS have been finally accepted.

In times when Indian ship owners are already facing a tremendous shortage of manpower, this is a welcome step,” said Great Eastern Shipping’s official spokesperson. The country’s largest private shipping company, Great Eastern Shipping, has eight bulk carriers, with a cargo carrying capacity below 30,000 tonnes .

According to a study by Baltic and International Maritime Council and the International Shipping Federation, globally, the shortage of ship officers is likely to touch 27,000 by 2015, up from the current number of 10,000. Source : ShipTalk

Re: Shell recruits US officers for LNGs

Posted: Thu May 22, 2008 12:08 pm
by TxMarEng
The Dieselduck wrote:Shell recruits US officers for LNGs
Fairplay 01 May 2008

SHELL Ship Management is to hire US licensed officers for its 25 new internationally-flagged LNG tankers, with a pact signed yesterday with the American Maritime Officers (AMO) union. Both groups credited US Maritime Administrator Sean Connaughton with helping to forge the deal, which AMO President Tom Bethel told Fairplay had been under consideration for three years. “We already have a cadre of officers with LNG endorsements,” Bethel said.

Connaughton then told Fairplay that efforts will be made to expand the number of graduates from US maritime academies – which now stands at about 700 a year – to meet demand. “There are a lot of young Americans showing increasing interest in working at sea,” he said, contrasting the trend with Europe and Asia where fewer candidates are seeking seagoing billets.

Each LNG tanker has a complement of 12-14 officers with 22 crew aboard. “This crewing MOU represents sound public policy – increased safety, security and improved transportation efficiencies – and opens up vital employment opportunities for US officers in the LNG industry,” said Connaughton.


I wonder if the crew hired will be making AMO wages or some sort of modify sliding wage scale that the brits like so much.

- martin


AMO wages? They have the one price pays all system on most contracts, if you get a good ship with good captain and chief it is OK however if you get some of ones like at Maritrans (OSG) you have to punch the 12 hour clock everyday. AMO is capitalizing on a few years of LNG experience when they took over the former MEBA manned ships. MEBA is by far the most experienced pool of LNG mariners in the US. They at least have hands on training at their school while AMO is all simulation. That may change now that the corrupt leadership is out at AMO. They don't even offer welding, electronics, reefer or hydraulics hands on classes as yet. Apparently they now have an electronics course.

Posted: Thu May 22, 2008 12:15 pm
by TxMarEng
The Dieselduck wrote:Cash ‘not answer to crewing crisis’
23 March 2007 Lloyds List

PAYING “top dollar” seafarer salaries does not guarantee loyalty and is not the answer to the industry’s crewing crisis, according to a panel of experts, writes Rajesh Joshi. The way to redress the problem is to foster lifelong “contracts” with seafarer recruits that build on career development, the panel at the Connecticut Maritime Association conference concluded.

Bob Bishop, chief executive of V.Ships Shipmanagement, told the Manning Strategies panel that the intractable challenges of attracting and retaining crews needed a radically creative approach that recognised the importance of email and communication links with mariners’ families. The days of putting out to sea with no contact with the outside world for weeks or months on end were over, Mr Bishop said. Today’s new generation expected to be “connected” with its family and friends every day, and this reality needed to be addressed.

Mr Bishop cited many reasons why the “romanticism” of going to sea had faded.These included higher regulation, visa issues, criminalisation, cultural issues involving multinational crews and higher retirement levels, enveloped in the bigger challenge posed by more lucrative land-based employment opportunities.

Simply paying more in seafarer salaries was not the answer, he stressed. Instead, V.Ships sought to address reality by offering recruits a guarantee of a lifelong job if they so desired, wrapped into a clearly defined career development path. The assurance of emails and internet use was an integral component of the company’s approach. V.Ships had a goal of increasing its world-leading pool of 23,500 seafarers to 60,000 by 2010, Mr Bishop declared.

To this end, the company was placing greater emphasis on having cadets on board its managed ships, a number expected to rise from the present 765 to 1,500-2,000. He identified the US and Canada as crew supply markets “worth revisiting” as the wage gap with the developing world narrowed.

In a strictly US con text, Overseas Shipholding Group’s vice-president for marine labour relations, Norm Gauslow, echoed the substance of Mr Bishop’s comments. OSG’s 16 product tanker newbuilding programme in Philadelphia and six articulated tug barge newbuilding programme in Alabama had thrown up the need for 1,000 new seafarers ranging from entry-level unlicensed crew to middle and senior-level officers, Mr Gauslow said.

OSG was prepared for this challenge with a recruitment strategy that would promise entrants more than just the cash. The company’s focus would be on defining clear career paths for seafarers, he said.


OSG is amongst the worst for providing opportunities for advancement, Chief and Captains are mostly throwback from Sun and Chevron

Working together is key to solving seafarer shortages

Posted: Wed Jun 25, 2008 5:41 pm
by The Dieselduck
Working together is key to solving seafarer shortages
23 June 2008 Lloyds List

SEAFARERS need the protection of the IMO to preserve their lives and to protect their working and living conditions, and their health, safety and welfare.

For the past 60 years, the IMO has been the principal maritime organisation securing the safety of seafarers and the ships they serve on and the protection of the marine environment.

While we have not always agreed on the best method to achieve these goals, and particularly about the role of flags of convenience, the ITF, and its affiliated seafarer unions, together with the representatives of good shipowners and maritime nations, have worked closely together to eradicate sub-standard shipping and guarantee ships which are seaworthy and equipped with properly qualified crews.

The most important current item on the IMO agenda for the ITF is the review of the STCW Convention and the Resolution on the Principles of Safe Manning, but this does not weaken our commitment to measures combating piracy, to tackle the problems of rescuing refugees at sea or the reduction of emissions and pollution from ships.

The IMO has adopted a comprehensive regulatory framework but as the United Nations secretary-general’s report on ocean affairs and the law of the sea makes clear, there is a compelling need to address inadequate flag state enforcement. It is a tragedy in this industry that flag states, on whom the legal responsibility for the conditions on board their ship lies, too often have to wait for port states to do the enforcing for them.

Unfortunately, new international regulations designed to increase the safety at sea, protect the environment and ensure the security of the public have exacerbated another problem — attracting new young workers to begin a career at sea and keeping existing seafarers in the industry.

The maritime industry is becoming increasingly aware of the growing shortage of qualified seafarers yet appears to have no solution to an anticipated growth of seagoing trade of 60% by 2020.

The industry is aware of the problems of recruitment that have been driven up by a highly competitive globalised shipping market that has concentrated on cutting costs while expecting more intensive work for longer hours and at the same time higher technical standards from seafarers to enable them to cope with advanced technology.

Gone are the expectations of an adventurous life, visiting and going ashore in interesting ports with a rewarding and fulfilling secure career. Young people joining shipping today see an industry with a poor public image, high personal training costs for an entrant, often excessive hours of work with little quality social life, no access to the modern communication systems we all take for granted, and a risk of being incarcerated as a criminal for doing little more than their job.

The globalised economy and just-in-time production systems where time is everything, combined with the new maritime security regime has made it increasingly hard for crew members to secure shore leave. We have also seen the introduction of new visa requirements by some states, and discrimination against seafarers from a few countries, which have meant that even if the ship stays longer in port they have no chance to leave it.

Many seafarers feel like second class citizens and see their work place as a prison. This needs to be addressed urgently.

That is also why the increasingly close co-operation between the IMO and the ILO — the United Nations agency which sets and enforces social standards — is so important.

That is why the adoption of the ILO Maritime Labour Convention 2006 was so important. When it comes into force, this convention — which received overwhelming support from seafarers, shipowners and governments — will provide the true fourth pillar of international maritime regulation alongside Solas STCW and Marpol. And it will be, for the first time in the ILO’s history, a truly enforceable convention using port states whenever flag states do not meet their responsibilities. It has to be a universal standard which every responsible member state of the ILO will ensure is observed in practice as well as on paper.

This industry must find ways to attract young people to sea and to retain existing seafarers. The ITF is ready to work with any flag state and any shipowner organisation to achieve this end.

We believe we can work with the IMO to improve the working and living conditions of future seafarers and, at the same time, ensure it is a safe and fulfilling career for professionals. However, there needs to be greater co-operation between the international agencies concerned.

The ITF would like to see a pro-active approach to improve the image of the industry by securing real change. This would include:

• enabling seafarers to feel confident that they can make a decision on the grounds of safety without fear of criminalisation or retaliation of a professional or employment nature;

• taking the competitive influence out of decisions on safe manning and hours of work and rest, to eliminate excessive hours of work and the unacceptable causes of fatigue;

• building ships with the safety of the seafarer in mind, a healthy environment, realistic social provisions and taking into account that the ships will need to accommodate the expectations of seafarers in 20 years’ time;

• ensure the seafarer is respected as a crucial cog in enhancing the wealth of each country by facilitating the bulk of trade and can get access ashore without undue restrictions; and

• taking measures to ensure that we really do address the human element and make a difference to the day to day lives of seafarers on board the world’s fleet.

This would require the IMO to look beyond its remit and seek to address fundamental problems in co-operation with other international agencies and organisation.

The future work of the IMO should give emphasis to making it a profession young people want to work in, without reducing safety and training standards. This will require giving a much great emphasis to the needs of seafarers and what their expectations are.

The ITF will work closely with the IMO to this end.

David Cockroft is general-secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation.

Captains’ rewards are outweighed by the risks

Posted: Wed Jun 25, 2008 5:42 pm
by The Dieselduck
Captains’ rewards are outweighed by the risks
23 June 2008 Lloyds List

IT’S THE way of the world. You are a captain of industry, richly rewarded with a vast package of shares and a mind-boggling salary, accompanied by colossal annual bonuses and other financial accoutrements which your board of directors has been persuaded is necessary to prevent the ‘world-class’ manager you are going off and accepting something equally juicy.

Well, in this risk taking world of corporate excitement, you are forced to go against your better judgement and take a risk.

It turns out that you have made a colossal cock-up, which costs the company millions in terms of reputation and share value.

So you are forced to depart, but fortunately with a massive financial cushion of cash and unimpaired pension rights, while your current enormous bonus is available to gild the lily and ice the cake. It’s a hard old life.

You are the captain of a ro-ro ferry, coming into a tight port with difficult wind conditions. In your risk taking world of operational excitement risks are what you are paid to take, but on this occasion you miscalculate the strength of the wind and you make what is called in the profession a “hard landing”, holing the ship and damaging the ramp.

The company is generous enough not to fire you, but busts you back to second mate after a suspension while the accident is investigated, your salary plummeting from $86,000 per annum to $63,000.

I suppose you might consider yourself lucky not to be prosecuted for criminal damage, or worse, if one of your passengers had tumbled down the stairs It’s a hard old life.

Increasingly, the world is being divided into those who we believe to be risk takers, but are tremendously insulated against the consequences of any risk, and those who, because of their profession, take real risks every day of the week, and are punished severely if they ever make a mistake.

And one of the problems is that among the former category, and indeed among those who really do not take any risks whatever, there are those calling for higher penalties and more rigorous prosecution under criminal law of those in the latter category, whose jobs entail the risk of a mistake or a miscalculation.

Curiously, the sort of financial insulation enjoyed by captains of industry does not appear to be available for captains of ships. It’s a hard old life.

UK approaching crisis in ratings levels, unions warn

Posted: Wed Jun 25, 2008 5:43 pm
by The Dieselduck
UK approaching crisis in ratings levels, unions warn
Double-digit fall in 2007 set to be followed by 40% decline by 2023
David Osler, 20 June 2008 Lloyds List

UK SEAFARER numbers suffered a double-digit percentage fall in 2007, despite recent government-backed initiatives to boost maritime employment, according to figures released by the Department for Transport yesterday.

To make matters worse, things are projected to deteriorate in the years to 2023, with a decline of 40% predicted.

The announcement sparked immediate demands for action from maritime unions, which argued that the situation has now reached crisis point. But the Chamber of Shipping responded that union demands would further destroy jobs if implemented.

The DfT statistics show that, as of last year, about 23,500 UK nationals were seafarers working regularly at sea. Included in this tally are 12,100 certificated deck and engine officers, assuming a retirement age of 62; 800 uncertificated technical officers; 1,000 uncertificated ‘hotel & other’ officers; 4,000 deck and engine room ratings; 4,100 catering/hotel ratings; and 1,400 trainees.

The overall total is about 9% down on 2002, the earliest year for which estimates are available for all groups, and about 13% lower than in 2006.

The number of certificated officers in 2007 was 15% lower than in 1997. However, the certification system for deck and engine officers has been expanded in recent years, and if the newly eligible groups are excluded, the overall decrease since 1997 is 21%.

The number of certificated officers was 11% lower in 2007 than in 2006, although the DfT believes this difference may be exaggerated by a surge in certificate revalidations prior to February 2002, the deadline for certification under STCW95.

One of the few reasons for optimism is that there were 730 new entrant officer cadets, the highest number since the current system began in 1999. Provisional figures for new starts in 2007-208 are higher again, standing at 800.

Worryingly, ratings job numbers are 14% down on 2002. The number of deck and engine room ratings was 18% lower, and the number of catering/hotel ratings was 6% lower.

Demographics is a point of concern. In 2007, over two-thirds of certificated officers were over 40. The pattern for deck and engine room ratings is similar.

Projections have been made to 2023 of the number of UK certificated officers, based on assumptions about wastage rates, retirement age and cadet intake. The number is projected to decline by more than 40% by 2023, largely due to the high average age of officers currently employed.

Ratings union RMT maintained that the minimum wage should apply to the industry, that exemption from the Race Relations Act should end and that tonnage tax should be linked to employment.

“The decline in UK rating numbers has reached crisis point and ministers must act now if we are to stop UK maritime skills disappearing altogether,” RMT general secretary Bob Crow said.

Chamber of Shipping head of labour affairs Tim Springett said employers acknowledged the falling numbers. But he added: “The restrictive legislative measures put forward today by the RMT would do nothing to help. They would merely discourage operators from flagging their ships in the UK.

“Ship operators must compete in international markets and any measures that force UK operators to pay seafarers above market rates will simply play into the hands of their competitors.”

An unfair world

Posted: Wed Jul 02, 2008 10:36 am
by The Dieselduck
An unfair world
30 June 2008 Lloyds List

THERE will be something of a sense of profound relief at the conclusion of the trial in South Korea of the various personnel involved in the collision of the anchored very large crude carrier Hebei Spirit with the crane barge Samsung 1.

At least the tanker’s two senior officers were completely exonerated as a result of the court’s deliberations published last week. Master Jasprit Chawla and chief officer Syam Chetan will hopefully be repatriated. One only hopes that the two will not be so dispirited by their experience that they will leave the sea with alacrity. The industry needs good professionals such as they, and can ill afford to lose them. They would not, however, be the first to conclude that the penchant for criminalising everyone involved in incidents is now so real and so all-pervasive, that only the very rash will put up with such a risky profession.

And while the two tanker officers will be hopefully enjoying some real leave at the conclusion of their ordeal, the other two players in the drama, namely the two tug skippers whose charge went so badly out of control last December, will be starting gaol sentences of three- and one-year respectively. They have already been confined during the pre-trial period, so their grim change of fortunes after their conviction may not seem so strange.

But it is worth considering that while their seamanship may have been flawed, and their judgement possibly deficient as they towed Korea’s biggest crane barge out to sea that day, only the cruel and revengeful society we have become could consider their action to have been ‘criminal’. They too were professionals doing a difficult job, but who have paid heavily for their professional error.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but one wonders about the pressure those two skippers were under to deliver the gigantic crane to the civil engineering contract up the coast. Evidently, they believed that they had sufficient horsepower to counteract the advertised weather, or they would not, surely, have departed the safety of Daesan Port.

Had there been a telephone call pointing out, although safety “remained the absolute priority”, the prime importance of “prompt delivery”, and how there would be “deep disappointment” in the event of these expectations not being realised. Every shipmaster is faced with this sort of difficult dilemma, some on a fairly regular basis. How each deals with it depends on the character of the master, but also, to some extent, on the sort of company he is working for.

It is also worth considering that in the end, the two tug skippers will be ruined, criminalised, and imprisoned primarily because a wire rope parted. How often, we might reflect, one’s fate depends on a towrope not breaking, or the engine not breaking down at a critical part of the voyage, or the anchor not dragging. And while one’s life might depend on these matters in the risky adventure that is marine transport, one’s liberty, at least in a decent and civilised society, should not be so dependent.

Will tug skippers be better tug skippers as a result of the harsh treatment meted out by the South Korean court? It is difficult to see how, unless, perhaps, they will refuse to take the sort of risks that are necessary for navigation and which cannot be eliminated if ships are ever to put to sea.

The Korean tug skippers are paying the sort of price that is demanded by a vengeful society of those who pollute. There was indeed substantial pollution, which occasioned all manner of local unrest and anger, and the gaoling of the two skippers is, in its way, a sop to the public, which has been baying for revenge. It is no more than might be expected, in virtually every part of the world, where there is an absolute intolerance of any sort of error.

It was this absolute intolerance that demanded that the two tanker officers be put on trial in this fashion, with prosecutors demanding that they be jailed for their part in the affair. And it is when you see this sort of demand that sensible people really do ask whether this sort of court should ever be in a position to make judgements on matters of professional error.

Once, these matters were decided before professional assessors, who had knowledge and expertise. Such professional assessors would have known the situation that faced each of the participants. They would have known, because they had been in the same situation, of the sort of pressure on masters to sail, regardless of the weather.

They would have also known that the last thing a VLCC master will do, when threatened by a drifting craft ahead, is to steam towards the not under command barge, picking up his anchor. They would also have known that you don’t handle a quarter million tonner like a speedboat, or surge stern first, neatly severing the bitter end of a chain deep in a cable locker. In short, professional assessors would have recognised the excellent seamanship exhibited by Capt Chawla and Mr Chetan, both before the impact and in the aftermath, when they moved fast and positively to minimise spillage. And once the evidence had been collected, they would have congratulated the two officers and sent them on their way.

It was not a matter of these assessors in maritime courts of inquiry being a soft touch to professional peers. Look back at old cases and you see plenty of evidence that they were remarkably hard-nosed, as they dealt with, suspended and even cancelled the certificates of those they believed had been in some way professionally negligent. Sometimes they seemed downright unfair, suspending the certificates of officers who had been honestly lost in poor visibility, before the days of electronic navigation, or who had been merely overwhelmed by the circumstances of bad weather and blown onto a lee shore.

They may have been hard, but at least they knew what it was like to have been in such a situation, rather than the sort of abstract scenario envisaged by criminal lawyers, a profession, it is worth noting, where risks, at least of the sort considered routine by tanker officers, are largely unknown.

Perhaps that is unfair, too. But maybe we need to retain a sense of proportion about these matters. Nobody lost their lives in the Hebei Spirit incident, other than a suicidal fish farmer. The frightful loss of the Sulpicio ferry with more than 800 lives gives a terrible insight into the risks that are still run in ferry operations in Philippine waters, where typhoons are to be confronted.

For years, we have been talking about the need to do something dramatic, or even incremental, to help Philippine ferry passengers enjoy a higher level of safety. It was thought that bigger and more powerful ships might help and the ex-Japanese Princess of the Stars was a sizeable vessel, built in 1984, and might have been thought less vulnerable than her smaller sisters. But when the full force of the typhoon raged right across the central Phillipines and the track of the ill-fated ship, the size of the ship became almost academic. Driven ashore and capsized, there was little chance, it seemed, of an orderly evacuation. It was every man, woman and child for themselves, and more than 800 remain missing.

There is all manner of wisdom offered after tragedies of this magnitude. People have already asked why the laden ferry had been at sea, if a top category typhoon was in the vicinity.

But revolving tropical storms are notably fickle, their direction still quite impossible to forecast with any accuracy. You might know where they are, but you never know where they are going. Brilliant instruments, clever forecasters and enormous computers still cannot produce a reliable track for these terrifying storms. It might have raged up the east coast of Luzon, or plunged westwards into the Sulu Sea. Instead, it smashed across Iloilo, recurved into the Sebuyan Sea and northwards across urban Manila.

Even a big ship was left with no sea room, nowhere to run, even if the dangerous quadrant could be computed. If the Princess of the Stars indeed lost power and was blown ashore, or was driven ashore before losing power, it is reminder of the very real power of the natural world in these intemperate latitudes.

It is also a reminder of the fact that in these poor but ferry-dependent countries, the populations do not enjoy the protection vouchsafed to us in more wealthy countries. In the European Union, teams of experts are working on ferry designs that will minimise the risks that these poor people take every time they take an inter-island voyage. All known hazards are analysed and all are mitigated through clever design. Such a ship would be as near to unsinkable as can be imagined: if all else failed, the passengers being kept safe until the vessel can be brought to port. Damage stability that anticipates every possible damage, fire safety that contains every outbreak, evacuation systems that will provide for every eventuality, and because there are the resources, eventually such a revolutionary ships will be constructed, to manifold expressions of delight.

But for the millions of people in the Philippines who have to hop between islands, not least because they live on them, such amazing ships would be an aspiration that could not be fulfilled, even in the medium term.

It is difficult to conceive of any way that people who have such a need of safer ferry transport can have this facilitated. Safety for them must, of necessity, be incremental, making do with what they can afford, their domestic regulators balancing need with practicality. And that is not fair, either.

UK Seafarer Statistics 2007

Posted: Wed Jul 02, 2008 11:19 am
by The Dieselduck
UK Seafarer Statistics 2007

The latest annual National Statistics on seafarers produced by the
Department for Transport were released today according to the
arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.

In 2007, about 23,500 UK nationals were seafarers working regularly at
sea, consisting of:

12,100 certificated deck and engine officers (assuming a retirement age
of 62)
800 uncertificated technical officers
1,000 uncertificated 'hotel & other' officers
4,000 deck and engine room ratings
4,100 catering/hotel ratings and
1,400 trainees in training

Of these, about two thirds held qualifications related to handling ships
or their engines ('deck' or 'engine' officers and ratings), while the
remainder were employed for other duties (e.g. technical or hotel
staff), or were trainees.

The total number of UK seafarers active at sea in 2007 was about 9 per
cent lower than in 2002, the earliest year for which estimates are
available for all groups and about 13 per cent lower than in 2006.

The number of certificated officers in 2007 was 15 per cent lower than
in 1997. However, the certification system for deck and engine officers
has been expanded in recent years, and if the newly eligible groups are
excluded, the overall decrease since 1997 is 21 per cent.

The number of certificated officers was 11 per cent lower in 2007 than
in 2006, but this difference may be exaggerated by a surge in
certificate revalidations prior to February 2002, the deadline for
certification under STCW95. (Certificates are valid for 5 years, and if
not renewed, certificates issued in this period will have expired by
June 2007.)

In 2006/7, there were around 730 new entrant officer cadets, the highest
number since the current system began in 1999. Provisional figures for
new starts in 2007/8 are higher again, standing at 800.

The number of uncertificated technical officers has remained fairly
steady, at about 700 to 800, since 2003. The number of uncertificated
officers with hotel and other specialisations is more variable, and
decreased from 1,700 to 1,000 between 2006 and 2007.

The overall number of UK ratings in 2007 was about 14 per cent lower
than in 2002. The number of deck and engine room ratings was 18 per cent
lower, and the number of catering/hotel ratings was 6 per cent lower.

In 2007 over two thirds of certificated officers were aged over 40. The
pattern for deck and engine room ratings is similar.

Projections have been made to 2023 of the number of UK certificated
officers, based on assumptions about wastage rates, retirement age and
cadet intake. The number is projected to decline by more than 40 per
cent by 2023, largely due to the high average age of officers currently
in employment.

New monthly updates for Sea Passenger statistics
From 24 July 2008, DfT will be updating its international sea passenger
statistics monthly via a spreadsheet on its Transport Statistics web site:
http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/statistics/da ... assengers/.

The first issue will include monthly figures for sea passengers entering
and leaving the country on ferry services, up to May 2008. Monthly
updates will be issued thereafter on the second Thursday of each month.

This is a new service - sea passenger statistics are currently only
published annually. The existing annual sea passenger bulletin providing
more detailed analysis after the end of each calendar year will be
retained. The 2007 edition, published on 29 May, can also be found at
the above web address.

Newbuilds failing on basic safety conditions

Posted: Wed Jul 02, 2008 11:20 am
by The Dieselduck
Newbuilds failing on basic safety conditions
Sandra Speares, 11 June 2008 Lloyds List

THE quality of newbuildings coming into service is a hot topic and one of particular concern to Dutch surveying firm Touw, writes Sandra Speares.

One big area of expertise for the century-old company is risk management and Aristo Vallianatos, whose firm, Marinco Survey, is part of the Touw group, says that if one considers ships being built today from the risk management perspective, none of them are safe.

He takes as an example 13,000 teu ships being built with one propeller. In the event of an engine failure, he says “no salvage company in the world could stop the ship and they haven’t got the equipment to discharge the cargo”.

Such comments echo those of other companies involved in the salvage arena which claim that they do not have the capabilities to deal with the new-generation containerships, or indeed the new-generation cruiseships.

Although some operators are committed to building ships with maximum redundancy for power plant, Mr Vallianatos feels that Solas requirements do not go far enough.

If he feels unhappy about modern ship designs, he also raises concerns about the crews. Not only have crews reduced in size, placing more pressure on those onboard, but shortages of new cadets for the future is now a major issue.

Given the amount of newbuildings on order at present, estimates of how many new crew will be needed by 2012 vary widely, but figures in the region of 100,000 are frequently mentioned. According to Mr Vallianatos, there are insufficient numbers of crew onboard ships already.

With some masters calling at six ports in a week, some companies are appointing pilots to help out, he says.

Touw managing director Maup Hoppzak adds that crews are under increasing pressure because of the number of inspections taking place.

Although there have been attempts to limit the number of inspections, perhaps by collaboration between oil majors, the two men believe that the only answer would be an independent institution that could act on behalf of the International Maritime Organization as a single point for inspections.

Controlling and policing compliance with conventions is also an area where IMO should have an enforcement role in assisting flag states, according to Mr Vallianatos.

“For the time being, there continues to be widespread resistance to granting the IMO any enforcement authority of this kind,” he says, adding that flag states are delegating responsibility to class societies when it is the flag state, not the class society, which has the enforcement role.

Class societies on their own have not and can not maintain the safety of ships under all circumstances, he says. This is due to a number of causes, notably: class dependence on the shipowners or for newbuildings on shipyards; conflict of interest as class is often carrying out statutory surveys and issuing certificates on behalf of flag states; classification rules and regulations and procedures are the absolute minimum standards; and class has little or no authority to implement and enforce regulations.

Class societies are, willingly or unwillingly, the Achilles heel of safety assurance, he says.

Training is another issue Mr Vallianatos raises. Training levels need to be catered to the age of the ship, and the different factors that need to be taken into consideration when dealing with a new ship as opposed to older tonnage. The ships of today leave very little margin for error and “the smallest mistake can lead to a disaster”.

Although some commentators have suggested that the traditional 30-year life of a ship is now closer to 15 years in the current environment, Mr Vallianatos thinks this is an exaggeration, though much depends on the amount of high-tensile steel used in construction.

“I have seen 12-year-old ships that are ready for the scrap yard,” Mr Vallianatos says

Ten thousand new ships minus sailors equals chaos

Posted: Wed Jul 02, 2008 11:21 am
by The Dieselduck
Ten thousand new ships minus sailors equals chaos

The crewing crisis is growing, with warnings from ship managers getting increasingly dire. Marcus Hand examines the views of major ship and Crewing managers on the issue, and what, if any, solutions are at hand

23 May 2008 Lloyds List

THE shipping industry may be experiencing its greatest boom in living memory, but it is not all good news and some sectors are struggling to cope.

The inaugural Lloyd’s List Seafarers 2008 event in Singapore was both sobering and, at times, profoundly worrying as speakers and delegates struggled with the growing shortage of qualified senior officers.

Reflecting the general sentiment that things were set to get worse, slides flashed up the possibility of brand new LNG carriers laid up because they had no crew, or even worse having run aground due to poorly trained and inexperienced officers, employed onboard as the only available option.

The credit crunch may be taking its toll on some newbuilding plans, and question marks remain over the ability of some new yards to actually build ships at all, but the simple fact is that the industry is facing a massive flood of newbuildings over the next few years. At the same time, scrapping volumes are likely to continue to be extremely low unless the current boom comes to a screeching halt.

The result could be 10,000 new ships over the next few years that would require some 400,000 crew, taking into account time off.

The situation was grimly summed up by Intermanager president Ole Stene: “As a crew manager it worries me that the dash for cash among our crews, coupled with the seemingless bottomless pockets of the major owners, is all culminating in a situation that is running out of control — and the industry and the seafarers will suffer in the end.

“The lack of a pan-industry approach to long-term seafarer recruitment and nurturing has colluded with the short-term attitude towards the valuing and development of traditional seafarer recruitment grounds to create a sort of pillage mentality to the training and recruitment of seafarers into today’s industry.”

Sharply rising wages are being driven by owners poaching staff, managers and crewing agents, in a bid to meet their manning requirements.

“Poaching is being rampantly practised by many owners, agents and managers, and it is not a viable solution, we are only creating a major problem,” says Magsaysay Maritime Corp chief operating officer, Marlon Rono.

A similar sentiment was expressed by Neptune Shipmanagement Services’ director of training Yeow Kok Kean: “Poaching is not only a quick fix, it introduces a new problem.”

However, poaching is not a problem that industry executives see as going away, if anything it is just set to get worse as a quick fix to a problem that requires many years of investment to overcome.

Mr Stene believes an equilibrium between demand and supply for seafarers will only return if there is a significant drop in freight rates, certainly something that is not being seen at the moment as both dry bulk and tanker shipping rates remain at heady levels.

“While we all wait for the equilibrium to happen, the richer and bolder of us are happy to go into the market and poach the resource instead of utilising that increased wage carrot and investing it in quality investment and training of young people into our industry,” he states.

“Without doubt, the issue of poaching is a natural result of the lack of commitment from the industry to face the future problems as the operators are all too interested to cut their costs when times are bad and to collect their money when times are good.”

Recent times have seen a good number of shipping companies put money into training centres in countries such as the Philippines, India and even Singapore. However, these will take many years to provide the recruits needed, while as it is often noted a South Korean shipyard can build a ship in eight months.

The provision of cadet berths, or more precisely the unwillingness of owners to provide them, is major sore point among ship and crew managers.

“Shipowners think nothing about investing $120m in a new ship. But you look at their eyebrows rise when you ask them to increase the management fee or worse still, pay for a cadet berth of one of their ships being delivered out of a shipyard into third party management,” says Mr Stene.

Mr Rono adds: “Very few owners took cadets, leaving thousands of students from seafaring colleges unable to complete their qualifications.”

Intermanager is taking steps among its own members to try to ensure at least a minimum level of cadet berth provision. Each Intermanager member will be required to provide at least one cadet berth per ship it has under full management as a condition of membership of the trade association.

Some owners, such as NYK and MISC, have been investing in training ships. Thoresen Thai Agencies director Andrew Airey revealed that the company is to put a “training deck” on two newbuildings it plans to order. This would enable it to offer life at sea training for up to 18 cadets on a single vessel at one go.

One of the issues facing owners looking to such solutions is that major shipyards build vessels to standard designs, which do not accommodate such concepts.

Cadet berths and training schemes are all very well, but the industry has to find people to fill these positions in the first place. Junior officers can be fast-tracked and ratings can be identified as potential candidates to become officers, but in the longer term such solutions will just shift the problem further down the chain. There is also the very real danger that this will result in inexperienced officers, which results in more casualties, something insurers are already reporting.

The industry needs to secure young people at an early age and persuade them of the advantages of a career in shipping.

“We do strongly need people — we need the highest and the brightest to work in this highly technical profession,” says Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement’s chief operating officer Rajaish Bajpaee.

Mr Rono notes that in this, shipping is competing with a large number of other industries for talent, many of which themselves are facing a shortage of skilled labour, such as airlines not having enough pilots and hotels not having enough staff.

In promoting a career in seafaring delegates at the conference were presented with something of conundrum — on the one hand seafarers were portrayed as forgotten by the organisation they worked for, offered little in the way of a career path, and the possibility of criminalisation for merely doing their job; and on the other promoting this as an exciting career option to young people.

Wilhelmsen Maritime Services International Maritime Training Centre head Yashoverman Sharma pointed to the fact seafarers were not even generally recognised in the organisational set-up of shipping companies. “If you look at an organisation structure they don’t even show seafarers,” Capt Sharma says.

Various speakers brought up the downsides of seafaring, including long periods away from family and friends, the fact that most ships do not provide the modern forms of communication that workers on land take for granted, and not being allowed to leave the ship when in port due to security measures.

It was also noted that while historically seafaring was a way to see the world, it is today perfectly possible to see the world in many other careers such as banking and IT, with international travel and overseas posting now a staple part of many such professions.

“I think if seafarers have a choice they will walk away from this profession. Those who will stay will only work for the highest price,” warns Mr Bajpaee.

Despite these misgivings about some aspects of the life of a modern seafarer, there was little doubt that the industry has to reach out to young people and present it as an attractive career option.

“We need to get the message across that shipping is not about being cooped up in a cabin 16 hours a day. It is about being part of a vibrant, totally integrated and highly professional business that offers vast rewards in terms of high quality training, comradeship, value and a good rate of pay — actually very, very good rates of pay if you take today’s levels into account,” says Mr Stene.

A key point was seen as catching people at an earlier age than the industry does at present and then providing a full career path, including a work life after seafaring. “We are very much selling this as a full maritime career,” says Mr Airey.

With the lengthy training required, and the investment needed for this, the commitment to seafaring as a career is highly important in terms of the long-term provision of seafarers. “As an industry we need to address the recruitment situation earlier in the education process,” says Mr Stene. “We need to inform and educate our very young and we need to nurture them so we can effectively and wisely plan a recruitment strategy for the future.

“Shipping is not like any other industry — because of the safety implications and the bands of regulations, entrants have to be committed to it as a career.”

Seafarer shortage hits shore jobs

Posted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 9:35 am
by The Dieselduck
Fairplay 01 October 2008
Seafarer shortage hits shore jobs

THE SEAFARER shortage has now fed its way through to a serious shortfall in staff on shore, Bob Bishop, CEO of shipmanagement at V. Ships, said today.

Speaking at the ITIC forum in London, Bishop said the concern is being exacerbated by lack of experienced ship officers.

“Fewer young people are going to sea, and those at sea make enough money to leave earlier,” he told delegates. “A decade ago officers left for sea with 15 years’ experience – but now that’s down to 7½ years.”

Other problems are unrealistic promotion expectations and a lack of rule compliance among seafarers, he warned: “We can no longer rely on the fact that seafarers have gained sufficient experience at sea.”

Among the sectors with an experience shortage is surveying, especially when supervising newbuilding projects at Asian yards, he added.

Crew crisis ‘will leave ships idle’

Posted: Tue Oct 07, 2008 12:11 pm
by The Dieselduck
Crew crisis ‘will leave ships idle’ - InterManager boss calls for long-term strategy
Keith Wallis, 7 October 2008 Lloyds List

SHIPOWNERS and managers need to implement a long-term strategy to recruit and retain seafarers or risk severe crew shortages in the future, the head of InterManager, the International Ship Managers’ Association, warned yesterday.

President Ole Stene said: “Seafarers are no longer a commodity that can be traded and undervalued. They are a valuable asset that is in decline.” He warned the 250 people attending the 33rd Interferry annual conference in Hong Kong that “soon some ships will be lying idle” because owners and managers “can’t supply competent crews to the ships”.

Mr Stene, who is also managing director of Aboitiz Jebsen Bulk Transport, said about 400,000 seafarers and 45,000 new officers would be needed to crew the 10,000 vessels that are forecast to join the global merchant fleet in the next three years.

He added that while the total number of newbuildings may change as a result of the credit crisis, the fact that so many seafarers would be needed was a “daunting and very worrying prospect”.

Pointing out the challenges of training and recruiting sufficient seafarers from Asia, he said a Filipino master of a liquefied natural gas carrier can earn $250,000 a year, or “nearly six times the salary” of Philippines president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

But Filipinos are choosing alternative careers, such as being doctors and IT professionals, which are also highly paid.

The situation was similar in India, where shipping had to compete with industries such as telecommunications.

In China, an expanding national fleet and competition from other sectors also presented problems in recruiting sufficient seafarers who, like Indonesian seafarers, had to overcome English language barriers, Mr Stene said.

His comments were echoed by Nelson Yu, Royal Institution of Naval Architects Hong Kong branch chairman, who said the territory alone needed 200 officers to crew 20 new fast ferries that will enter service in the next few years.

By comparison, there are just 150 officers crewing Hong Kong’s existing fast ferries and more than 60% of those are over 51 years old.

Mr Yu thought one of the solutions to the shortage was for cadets and junior officers in their twenties to go into schools and colleges to tell students about life at sea. He thought there also needed to be good scholarship, sponsorship and retraining programmes.

Mr Stene added that shipowners and managers had a fixation about making “short-term decisions based on short-term costs and benefits”.

Mr Stene believed far more effort needed to be put into training and the development of a long-term career path that would allow “well trained and experienced seafarers to go ashore” to train the next generation.

Crew crisis

Posted: Thu Oct 09, 2008 10:02 am
by The Dieselduck
Crew crisis
8 October 2008 Lloyds List

EVEN as the shipping industry frets over the prospect of newbuilding cancellations, just how it is going to crew those that do actually get delivered remains a major question.

Recent events in financial markets have overshadowed more practical issues that have worried the industry over the last 24 months, but in manning centres such as the Philippines the availability of future crew is still a very major concern.

Manila-based Intermanager president Ole Stene warned earlier this week that ships could very soon be lying idle as ship managers will not be able to find enough competent crew to man them.

With an estimated 400,000 seafarers and 45,000 new officers required to crew 10,000 vessel Mr Stene believes that even with newbuilding cancellations it is still a “daunting and very worrying prospect”.

Officials from the manning industry in the Philippines continue to call for the shipowners to work with them on a national basis to develop seafarers of the future much as the Japanese have done now for many years.

However the spectre of global financial crisis that now looms over shipping could lead to the exact opposite happening.

The last few years have seen an unprecedented level of investment in future manpower training by many individual owners in the Philippines and elsewhere. While it may not be as much as the industry needs as a whole the important thing is investments have been made.

However they were also made against a backdrop an industry flush with cash, the question is will these investments in training continue to be made if money is tight and shipping markets hit a cyclical downturn?

Yes there may be fewer newbuildings but there be even fewer new competent seafarers as training budgets get hit.