Clay Maitland

On a quest for quality in shipping

A lucky escape

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.

So the collision in the Dardanelles between the cruise ship Celestyal Cristal and the naphtha laden STI Pimlico had the potential to be everyone’s worst nightmare, but there were no injuries aboard either ship, despite structural damage. The cruise vessel’s steeply raked bow sliced into the tanker’s port side top strake amidships, while photographs of the vessel also show a sizeable penetration below the V-shaped incision and damage to… Continue reading

Ropes’ end

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

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

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

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