Blow-by-blow Account of STS Collision

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After a breakfast briefing on tanker market trends by Patrick Tye, senior analyst at shipbroker EA Gibson, Day 2 of Tanker Shipping & Trade’s annual conference got under way with an insightful review by Andrew Cassels, director of the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF).  He focused on safety improvements over many years that have reduced the number of explosions on tankers and revealed that OCIMF will be publishing guidelines aimed at encouraging all ships that carry volatile cargoes eventually to be fitted with inert gas systems.  At present, only those larger than 8,000 dwt need to be fitted, a figure that he described as arbitrary.

He was followed by a presentation by Natalie Costello, vice president chartering and commercial operations at BP Shipping, who offered her expectations for the future of tanker trades.  Population growth will mean that the demand for hydrocarbons will increase, especially in developing countries, but Ms Costello said that the 21stCentury will be the age of gas and renewables.

BP is setting up its Oil & Gas Climate Initiative and she welcomed IMO’s decision to implement the global 0.5 per cent sulphur cap on marine fuels in 2020.  In the context of encouraging greener shipping, “we cannot underestimate the impact” of that decision, she said.

The conference’s technology forum started by looking at mooring line selection and management, with advice from two experts from Samson Ropes – Robin Collett, general sales manager, EMEA, and Bernabe Gallardo, an application engineer.  They underlined the importance of checking the quality of the fibres that have been used in a synthetic rope and offered advice on when to change a rope: its external appearance may not be a good indicator of its internal condition.

Staying with technology, Rudolf Holtbecker, general manager, business and application development at Winterthur Gas & Diesel, outlined the spectrum of issues that tanker operators need to consider in the current trading and environmental environment.  From slow steaming and its impact on engine design, allowing safe operation down to 10 per cent full load, and the effect that the sulphur cap on fuels will bring to lube selection.  Scrubbers will be an alternative, he agreed, but they are bulky and expensive, with some careful calculations needed to assess them against the price difference between low sulphur fuel and high sulphur HFO.

A regular feature of Riviera Maritime Media conferences is an online question-asking platform, which makes it possible for delegates to submit questions while presentations are in progress and to ‘like’ questions that others have submitted.  An analysis at the end of the event showed the next session, on ship-to-ship (STS) transfer, had prompted some of the most liked questions of the whole event, underlying its importance to tanker operators.

Alexandros Glykas, naval architect and marine engineer for the consultant Dynamarine, spoke about the fast growth in STS operations and the support services around it and outlined some of the risks and considerations needed when planning for STS operations.

George Devereese of Thomas Miller – which manages the UK P&I Club – gave a dramatic presentation detailing the blow-by-blow events that led to a collision between two vessels during a STS operation.  The problem stemmed back to a failure in bridge team management, he said, urging delegates to take a risk-based approach to planning such operations.

His theme was picked up by Alasdair Adamson, senior nautical assessor for STS specialist Union Maritime, who memorably described the process of setting up an STS transfer as a “controlled collision”.  He agreed that risk assessments are vital but reminded delegates that these must be dynamic assessments, because the conditions constantly change during an operation.

In discussion, there was a suggestion from the floor that STS operations should not be carried out at night.  While the panel agreed that it can be more difficult to assess ship speed at night, the prevailing view was that a competent crew should be able to manage STS at night.

A final session looked at ice operations, a topical subject with IMO’s Polar Code due to come into force on 1 January 2017.

Kostas Ladas, general manager of the Liberian Registry, explained the background to the code – a Liberia-flagged cruise ship sinking in the Antarctic in 2007.  The subsequent investigation revealed a list of shortcomings that prompted the need for a specific code for such waters.

With increased use of routes such as the Northern Sea Route and the North West Passage, there will be a growing need for such guidance – especially since much of the waters in these areas is still uncharted.  “Stick to the routes,” was his advice.

Michael Kingston, a partner at the law firm DWF, reviewed the insurance industry’s concerns about polar operations.  He had played a key role in developing the Polar Code.  There are some significant insurance issues for ships that venture into these waters, he said, including the possibility they may not have P&I cover.  There is a need for a single regime covering ice operations that is common to all the nations around the North Polar region, he said, and a meeting is scheduled for next April to discuss best practice in the region.

One practical consideration during polar operations is ballast water treatment in cold situations.  Nicos Constantinou of ballast water management system manufacturer Ecochlor and Andreas Kokkotos, co-founder of Argo Navis Marine Consulting, described an installation on a tanker operating in cold regions.  Ecochlor’s system was chosen for this installation because its operating system, which uses chlorine dioxide, will operate at low temperatures. For this installation, deckhouses were built to hold some of the equipment, which then had to be heated.

Component details, such as the plastic piping, also required particular consideration for this application.  It proved to be an enthralling end to the day and to the conference.

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Source: Tanker Shipping & Trade

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