Saturday, December 31, 2011

Got doors?

Got a roll on - roll off in class? You've got a new rule

Not all rules come out of the International Maritime Organization nor federally regulated maritime administrations. In this case there is a new survey requirement for shell and/or inner doors of both passenger and cargo roll on - roll off ships which comes from the International Association of Classification Societies in the form of a Unified Requirement.

IACS UR Z24 is the new survey requirement for Shell and Inner doors of roll on - roll off ships, both cargo and passenger. (You'll have to scroll down to page 711 of a rather large PDF to get to the details). When this UR first hit table in November 2010 it seemed to refer only to ships fitted with a self-stowed loading ramp. Then a member of the IACS pointed out that "some ro-ro ships are not fitted with a loading ramp, but rather utilize a shore-based ramp since these vessels are on a common trade route." In July 2011, the IACS amended UR Z24 to include all ro-ro and ropax ships with shell doors, (bow, side and stern), leading to a ro-ro deck or special category space.

Generally, this survey requirement is pretty typical although there are some points which might give some operators a few moments of pause:

Door structures, securing, supporting, locking device, welds and sockets are subject to non-destructive testing. The maximum wear allowed beyond as-built thickness is 15 percent.

Door seals will be inspected and water tested. (More on this below).

Hinges, bearings and thrust bearings will be measured and, if not accessible to a surveyor, dismantled to gain access.

Vehicle deck drainage systems with storm valves or non-return valves will have to be dismantled.

The other usual things will also be carried out:

Correct panel lights, including a panel lamp test on all door operating and indicator panels; closed-circuit TV cameras; water leak detection system (if fitted); and, system isolation when not in use.

The following couple of items are going to give a couple of different companies a few moments of grief:

Confirmation that the operating panels are inaccessible to unauthorized persons. (That means denying possible access to all operating panels by people who should not be anywhere near them, such as passengers and uninvolved crew).

Verification that a notice plate giving instructions to the effect that all securing devices are to be closed and locked before leaving harbour is placed at each operating panel and supplemented by warning indicator lights. (That should be self-explanatory but you'd be surprised at how many ropax ships have no such instructions posted).

Weathertight doors
This may be one of the most misunderstood definitions in the ro-ro community. Too often seafarers interpret weathertight to mean "rainproof", and that is simply not the case.

Weathertight doors are required to be able to withstand the most severe maritime conditions when the ship is at sea including pressure from wave action and prevent the ingress of water onto the cargo/vehicle deck. Even in a damaged state, if the door is partially submerged, it is expected to withstand water to a pressure of 0.35 bar (5 lbs per square inch) to a height of 3.5 meters measured from the bottom of the door.

This is where the door seals come into play and the water testing of doors may create some issues. Weathertight doors are expected to keep water off the ro-ro deck under even the most extreme conditions. If any water finds its way through the seals during a hose test there is a very good chance the door does not meet the standard.

Door movement
How many ways can inward opening ro-ro deck doors be described as dangerous?

Of course, you could be like Washington State Ferries and simply not bother with doors at all.

More than scrap value

And only 40 percent of the asking price.

The two former Albion ferries have been sold to Tidal Towing of Port Coquitlam.
TransLink spokesman Drew Snider confirmed in a news release that Tidal Towing purchased the MV Kulleet and MV Klatawa.
Price for both: $400,000

Kulleet and Klatawa are class sisterships of BC Ferries Klitsa (formerly Denman Queen).

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Too much spin. Not enough fact.

Thanks to On The Waterfront and The Gazeteer we get the semi-informed opinion of  British Columbia's GlobalBC (television) chief political reporter. (You might want to read those two blogs first and then come back to what I have to say. Both take the position that the attempt to diminish an uncontrolled crash into the berth is spouting the BC Ferries party line).

I agree, because Mr. Baldry's lack of attention to facts impeaches any other point he might have been trying to make.

Of course, four "hard" landings so far this year seems excessive. But BC Ferries responds that its fleet sails more than 187,000 times a year and averages about a dozen hard landings (of various degrees) a year, which seems to put things in perspective.
And what perspective would that be? As OTW pointed out early, this isn't about odds. It's about making sure your passengers are delivered safely to their destination every single time. And, as you can see from her post I linked to at the top, Washington State Ferries, the other large North American ferry operator, is claiming two "hard landings" in two years.

As for odds, they aren't a part of the picture in this industry. I am required to navigate something considerably larger than a BC Ferry over or around thousands of rocks safely. If I wish to retain any semblance of my position on the bridge of a ship, I am absolutely required to miss every single one. I do not have, (and no professional mariner has), the luxury of using a ratio of rocks hit to rocks missed to justify a single event of running aground.

Mr. Baldry goes on to lay out costs and tosses this in:
An extra $1 million a year in additional operating costs is courtesy of Transport Canada's staffing rules on vessels.
That's what is called a "drive-by statement". Because it reads as some punitive measure imposed on BC Ferries by the nasty federal regulator it throws a haze on the truth, either intentionally on Mr. Baldry's part or because he just isn't in possession of the facts. He is clearly talking about the requirement for Minimum Safe Manning Documents, an international requirement to which Canada must subscribe to keep its merchant marine, even its domestic fleets, within the treaty framework of the International Maritime Organization. In short, a MSM Document lists the minimum number and least allowable qualification of members of a ship's crew required to safely operate the vessel while responding to an emergency.

Further, Mr. Baldry seems to have swallowed somebody's propaganda. BC Ferries worked with Transport Canada and chose to reduce passenger capacity instead of increase crew complement to meet the requirements of minimum safe manning. The impact of the regulation requiring minimum safe manning was minimal on BC Ferries in terms of crew size. Additionally, in order to keep crew complement at the pre-MSM levels BC Ferries upgraded the lifesaving, evacuation and fire-fighting systems on only two minor vessels. 
The federal agency's new sewage treatment rules come into effect next summer, and BC Ferries has been required to spend more than $60 million to comply with them.
Once again, he carries out a "drive-by". BC Ferries, and all other ship/boat operators in Canada have had 8 years to bring themselves up to compliance with this international requirement. Up to now Canada has not been in compliance with the IMO Pollution Convention even though we had ratified the treaty.

Mr. Baldry then goes on to say this:
For example, does there really need to be 16 trips a day between Nanaimo and Gabriola Island? Does there need to be almost 30 trips a day from Salt Spring Island to various locations? For that matter, does Salt Spring Island really need three ferry terminals?
Now, the very idea of chopping even one money losing sailing on these routes does, of course, elicit howls of rage from those who live on those islands.

I suppose if you live in Vancouver or Victoria or Nanaimo, those routes probably don't matter all that much. And, it has been very much a BC Ferries party line, ever since they were severed from the ministry. The fact, however, is that the routes Baldry suggests might be able to be eliminated or reduced are former Ministry of Transport and Highways routes. BC Ferries acquired them in 1985 when they took over the MOTH fleet, its routes and its personnel. The truth is, those islands are a part of British Columbia and the residents are citizens. To increase their isolation, (let the "if you choose to live on an island" howls begin), is to violate the compact that was established when BC Ferries acquired the MOTH ferry operations.

Perhaps the most egregious line in Mr. Baldry's piece is this:
The most recent crash will be investigated and perhaps lessons will be learned from it and that will be that (until the next serious hard landing or accident). 
Cavalier and dismissive. 14 people killed on or by BC Ferries? Corollary damage. They'll never be any better than what they are. You could be next.

I don't see Keith Baldry being consulted on maritime safety anytime soon.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

About that Assumed Average Weight Per Person thing

Updated below ...

There has been a lot of mirth about the US Coast Guard regulation requiring passenger vessels to alter stability calculations in relation to the "Assumed Average Weight Per Person".

Effective 1 December 2011, the Assumed Average Weight Per Person was increased from 160 lbs. to 185 lbs. The impact on US flagged passenger vessels is significant, particularly smaller types. In Washington State the ferry system declared that (rather than weigh every passenger) they would be reducing their passenger capacity to stay within the stability criteria established for each ship. (I'm not sure about the heeling moment that would occur in a ship like the Puyallup if everyone ran to one side).

It's not just Americans

In fact, during the notification phase the USCG received several submissions. At least two recommended that the AAWPP be increased to 187 lbs., the actual average weight of American adults.

Before anyone starts pointing too quickly at the population of the US there should be some heed paid to decisions by the International Maritime Organization's Maritime Safety Committee. The MSC made amendments to the International Life Saving Appliances code taking effect in October 2010 and then again to take effect 1 January 2012.

Under international rules the former average assumed weight of occupants of lifeboats, liferafts and rescue boats was 75 kg (165 lbs). Effective Oct 2010 the new assumed average weight of all persons, worldwide, getting into a lifeboat became 82.5 kg (182 lbs). As of 1 January 2012 the new mass of 82.5 kg per person applies to all survival craft, worldwide.

Looks like we're all getting fatter.

Good question:  From Christina, in comments, about life jackets and whether there have been any changes to match the changes in survival craft. The answer is, YES. Go here for details.

New requirements for the carriage of additional equipment, also effective July 1, 2010,
have been introduced under the SOLAS Convention, as follows:

•     On all ships where adult lifejackets are not designed to fit persons weighing up to 140 kg with a chest girth of up to 1,750 mm, suitable accessories are to be provided that allow the lifejacket to be secured to such persons.
•     All passenger ships are to be provided with lifejackets for “infants”.
Update 30/12: The infant lifejacket requirement noted above prompted an offline question: How many?
The answer is as follows:
1. For vessels on voyages under 24 hours: 2.5 percent of the total passengers.
2. For vessels on voyages of 24 hours or greater: An approved "infant" lifejacket for every infant onboard.
Infant lifejackets should be marked INFANT.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

High drama off the Antarctic ice shelf

The crew of the 48 meter Russian fishing vessel Sparta have spent the last week struggling to keep their ship upright and afloat.

Luckily, or perhaps just thankfully, there was help nearby and they're no longer on their own. The South Korean ice-breaker Araon has arrived to assist in making repairs and, temporarily at least, bring the fishing vessel's stability condition back to a point where they can make their way to safety.

The question, once the Sparta is safe, is what she was doing there in the first place?

The Sparta was in the Ross Sea off the Antarctic ice shelf fishing for Patagonian Toothfish, a species of sea bass which brings anywhere from US$50 - 60 per kg. In the process of her expedition she struck Antarctic ice and punched a significant hole in her hull well below the waterline. She has a second hole in her bulbous bow which is not expected to prevent her progress to a safe port.

This is "Gold Rush" fishing.

The Sparta is a 24-year old, single-skinned trawler/long-liner. Hardly the class of vessel that should be inhabiting the ice infested waters of the Antarctic. She has liferafts but no lifeboats. In waters that cold liferafts would be near useless. She is a typically underpowered fishing vessel designed for a completely different kind of service. Had the Royal New Zealand Air Force not dropped pumps to her she would likely have sunk and, despite only having a portion of her 180 tonnes of fuel onboard, would have created an unprecedented environmental mess in an area where clean-up would have been near impossible.

She was licensed to fish in the Antarctic closed ecosystem by the Commission on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

Friday, December 23, 2011

About that awesome ferry crash

Yes, well. The BC Ferries Super C class ships were described by the corporation itself as being awesome. I'm reckoning you know that's not what I mean.

The 21 December crash into Berth 1 at Duke Point was awesome. And before anybody tries to correct me, 5 knots headlong into the ramp is not a "hard landing"; it's a crash.

Some initial reading
There has been a fairly busy exchange of information going on at On The Waterfront by Vancouver journalist Christina Montgomery. This initial post is merely an expansion of some of the information there and I would recommend reading through the posts and the comments related to the crash of Coastal Inspiration.

Different ship - same gremlin
BC Ferries reports that an electronic failure occurred preventing the pitch control on the drive propeller to respond to bridge controls. That means that this is the second time a Super C has lost pitch control when approaching a berth. Coastal Renaissance experienced something similar two years ago. The difference there was that the ship was well back from the berth and the problem occurred as the ship was supposed to be slowing to make its approach. When the ship failed to slow in response to bridge command it sent senior engineers scrambling and the problem was rectified before the landing was affected.

The decision that saved a few million bucks
The Super Cs are propelled by a diesel-electric machinery system. In simple terms "prime movers" generate electrical propulsion power which is transferred to electric drive motors. In a decision which caused Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft, (the builder), some concern, the drive motors run at a constant speed turning shafts at either end which mount variable pitch propellers. Speed is controlled by changing the pitch angle of the propeller blades. In transit mode the "forward" propeller is feathered to reduce drag and the ship is driven by the "aft" motor, shaft and propeller. To reduce speed in transit mode the pitch angle on the drive propeller blades is reduced to give it less bite. While this is effective and efficient, the motor, shaft and propeller continue to turn at full speed - and therein lies a problem. If, for any reason, the pitch on the propeller blades does not come off when the controls are worked, the ship will not slow.

FSG was apparently not thrilled with the decision to use constant speed motors. Nor was ABS, the classification society overseeing much of the construction. A better option would have been to install variable frequency drives with cyclo converters or tap converters to control the electrical output to the drive motors and thus be able to control the speed of the drive shaft. If the propeller blade pitch fails to come off when commanded, the shaft speed could be reduced or even stopped thus slowing the ship.

The problem boiled down to dollars and euros. Variable frequency drives would have come in somewhat more expensive and the maintenance requirements for cyclo or tap converters is relatively high. BC Ferries went for the cheaper, much simpler propulsion system. 

The kicker here is that BC Ferries knew all about this. In December 2007 BCFS was handed a report prepared by the firm of consulting engineers The Glosten Associates Inc., who were contracted to conduct a due diligence review of the Super C construction. They highlighted an area of concern entitled Propulsion System Reliability and it now appears those concerns were well founded. From that report:

There was considerable discussion at the site regarding the use of constant-speed propulsion motors instead of variable-frequency drives. While the constant speed motors simplify the overall system and eliminate the high maintenance cyclo converters, it results in the propulsion machinery running at full RPM all the time. The primary drawback is at the dock; when the nearly-feathered propeller is rotating at full RPM, any failure in pitch control could have severe consequences. This system has been fully reviewed and completely accepted, so while we do not suggest any physical changes, BCF should fully understand the pitch control reliability and failure modes, and consider including this topic in their vessel training program.

So, save money on simpler propulsion. Spend a lot more rebuilding a destroyed terminal berth.

Added: At least one reader here is interpreting the above incorrectly. Seems to think I believe that the forward system is engaged when the ship is in Transit mode (Mode 1). That is not the case. When the ship reverts to Transit mode from Harbour mode, after switching to Normal, the forward drive motor is disengaged, the shaft is braked and the propeller is feathered to reduce drag. My point, (and the issue pointed out by the surveying engineers), was that the drive propeller, which is nearly-feathered as the ship approaches the berth is running at full RPM. If a pitch control failure occurs the ship is suddenly launched forward.