Clay Maitland

On a quest for quality in shipping

A lucky escape

By Michael Grey

Posted on | June 29, 2015 | 1 Comment

It is hard to think of an accident with a greater potential for serious loss of life than a collision involving a passenger ship and a tanker. The Dona Paz- Vector collision which killed 4386 people in 1987 was the world’s worst peacetime marine disaster and inevitably casts its terrible shadow over any incident involving these ship types.

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Ropes’ end

By Michael Grey

Posted on | June 22, 2015 | No Comments

Everyone knows about the inadvisability of standing in a bight of mooring rope and the fact that mooring and unmooring, with its huge stresses and tensions on ropes and wires, along with a lot of unguarded machinery is a potentially hazardous evolution. Accident statistics reveal that a depressing number of deaths and injuries occur during this most routine of seafaring tasks. When a rope or wire parts, or someone gets trapped in a winch or capstan, injuries will be generally horribly severe.

It is interesting to see that the IMO has taken the initiative in asking its member states and non-governmental organisations to take a look at the way ships are fastened to the quay and to see if some real innovation might be introduced to reduce… Continue reading

The migrant problem

By Michael Grey

Posted on | June 17, 2015 | No Comments

No great decisions over “unsafe mixed migration by sea” were taken at the latest meeting of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee, despite plenty of agreement about the urgency of the situation. But how is a UN technical organisation ever going to materially change things, when the main political bodies in both New York and in Brussels are unable to propose anything that will really make a difference to this modern-day Exodus? Merchant shipping must adapt and “go with the flow” just as it always has, using common sense and seamanship when desperate people on dangerous craft are sighted.

At the same time, there is a sort of feeling in Europe that we are moving towards some sort of crisis over the migrants, with Italy, which has borne… Continue reading

The right moment

By Michael Grey

Posted on | June 11, 2015 | No Comments

There has been, unsurprisingly since the Costa Concordia loss, much talk about the need to improve damaged stability on ships. More subdivision, cross-flooding arrangements and means of providing more pumping capacity are all being discussed. But what about intact stability and its importance in keeping a ship safely upright and afloat? Is this being properly taught and its principles understood by people who operate ships day by day?

It could be that, as in other aspects of ship operation, stability is being taken out of the hands of people who would once work it out longhand, but who now rely entirely on what their computer tells them. But what if the data fed in is deficient, or there is no understanding of the effects of phenomena like… Continue reading

Fire down below

By Michael Grey

Posted on | June 2, 2015 | No Comments

Heat, oxygen and something to burn are the classic ingredients of the “fire triangle” which comes near the beginning of every firefighting course. Take just one of the three away, and presto, combustion cannot take place. It is easier said than done, of course and a blazing semi-trailer on the vehicle deck of a ferry is not a good place to have to start the basic training.

Too many trucks catch fire, as any long-haul motorway journey reveals. They ignite for the same reasons as any other engine occasionally burns, when a fuel pipe or hydraulic line under pressure springs a leak and jet of liquid sprays over something very hot. But they also seem to burn because of something flammable in the load that has been… Continue reading

Testing technology

By Michael Grey

Posted on | May 28, 2015 | No Comments

We have had navigational simulators available for the best part of half a century. They began with relatively simple devices for training and testing competence with radars, but have graduated over the years to replicate pretty well every task in bridge, engine or cargo control room. They are proven and enable experience to be gained safely and fast. They are available in every conceivable form, with programs available to enable a team to practice taking a big ship into an unfamiliar port , conducting ship to ship or monobuoy cargo transfer operations or even “rehearsing” a difficult or safety critical maintenance task. They deliver utterly authentic teaching, better every year as computer generated imagery and even “motion” can be provided.

So why doesn’t the maritime industry employ simulators in… Continue reading

Spot the Hazard

By Michael Grey

Posted on | May 14, 2015 | No Comments

Safety is largely a matter of awareness and anything that can be done to promote this is worth doing. Pointing out the frightful consequences of inattention and a casual attitude to safety can be effective, with the lesson underlined by reports of actual casualties. Notices, posters, placards, and signage all transmit safety messages quite effectively, although the impact will reduce with time. Safety DVDs and films slotted in among the entertainment have been tried and found effective. Humour has been used on occasion, although it may not always transmit between cultures as we don’t all necessarily laugh at the same things.

What about cash – rewarding people for accident-free service? This has also been tried in the past, with safety bonuses being paid for so many days… Continue reading

One-eyed men

By Michael Grey

Posted on | May 13, 2015 | 1 Comment

The current daily rate for a capesize bulk carrier, we are told, comes to less than you need to pay the crew. And although rates for tankers and container ships have been worse, such is our lack of proper perspective that even these are portrayed as a story of improvement, rather that the disgrace they really represent. Thoughts of that saying about the identity of the sovereign “in the country of the blind” come to mind. Do we really want shipping to be free at the point of use?

We are reassured by the well-worn suggestions that these are merely expressions of the perpetual volatility that governs our markets and we should not be too worried about the current crisis. After all, containerships offering some half a… Continue reading

On The Front Line

By Michael Grey

Posted on | May 5, 2015 | No Comments

It’s not much fun going to sea today. You probably might reflect, if you are serving aboard the Rickmers containership Maersk Tigris, that you didn’t go to sea to have shots across your bow and end up getting a hard time at an Iranian anchorage. It seems a curious way of mediating a commercial dispute over a few boxes which allegedly went adrift nearly ten years ago. One might have thought that maritime legal processes had advanced beyond the use of medium calibre weaponry.

But there again, you probably didn’t go to sea to sail down the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, and be worried about what the heroic aviators of the Royal Saudi Air Force might be making of your progress, as they fly over… Continue reading

Back In The Headlines

By Michael Grey

Posted on | April 23, 2015 | No Comments

What a difference a tragedy makes. At the beginning of this month it was hard to find any media, or apparently any European government, remotely interested in the plight of refugees and asylum seekers trying to cross the Mediterranean in all manner of unsuitable craft. A fortnight later and at least one thousand deaths, and people are scrambling all over the story.

Not that the appalling news has generated anything much in the way of practical assistance, with the bulk of the rescues still being undertaken by the hard-pressed Italian authorities and merchant ships on transit. It has been suggested that the people smugglers, who of course are being identified as the villains in this grim tale, are now running out of suitable boats and economising on fuel. They… Continue reading

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