Clay Maitland

On a quest for quality in shipping

Shallow water – deep trouble

In days of dead reckoning, thick weather and a certain imprecision about where the dickens you were, the occasional grounding was easy to explain and probably attracted a good deal of comment from thoughtful seafarers, who thought “there, but the grace of God, go I”. Continue reading

Death off Cebu

There is an awful inevitability about the sinking off Cebu with heavy loss of life of the Philippine domestic ferry St Thomas of Aquinas, after a collision with a cargo vessel. Both ships were 41 years old, sizeable relics of the developed world shipping operations that passed them on to the maritime developing nation, whose owners find it difficult to afford anything better. Continue reading

Hansa Brandenburg fire highlights design flaws

This week’s containership fire was located once again in the Indian Ocean, with the Hansa Brandenburg abandoned by her crew, after the container deck stacks ignited and blazed in an exceedingly alarming manner.

One can hardly blame them for evacuating the vessel, with the container stowage immediately forward of the accommodation aboard what might be better described as a geared, multi-purpose vessel, which just happened to be so unlucky as to be carrying containers on deck.

In one of these ships designed by naval architects who had probably never been to sea, the crew of the HB lived in a narrow, multidecked steel tower, perched on the after part of the ship abaft the sternframe.

They had nowhere else to go other than over the side… Continue reading

SS Great Britain: A lesson for modern-day ship design?

A few days holiday last week, one of which was spent in and around the Great Britain, the ship built by Brunel in 1843, and which miraculously has been restored in the very dock where she was built in the port of Bristol. Far bigger than any ship that had been ever constructed, she provoked arguments about “gigantism” in the contemporary maritime community that might resonate rather well today. Continue reading

Watertight bulkheads – full of holes.

It is not a brilliant idea, once you have installed a watertight bulkhead of sufficient strength to withstand the sea, should it be lapping at one side of it, to then drill it full of holes to accommodate pipe and cable runs. And while you obviously have to pierce such bulkheads for very good technical reasons, there are ways of going about it that do not effectively render the barrier about as much use as a colander (possibly a more relevant comparison than a chocolate teapot). Continue reading

Schooner rigged, or what?

How many people would you estimate as being adequate for the safe manning of a 6000grt ship, a sizeable lump of metal by any standards, although a minnow by comparison with the monsters wandering around the world today?

The Netherlands maritime administration will happily issue a Safe Manning Certificate which will permit this ship to trade with just six souls aboard. Master and Mate, Chief Engineer, cook and two sailors, which seems quite generous – to the owner.

As I write this I have at hand the manning arrangements for a 3194gt general cargo ship commanded in the Indian trades by a relative, 75 years ago. Aboard this busy little ship there were no fewer than 108 crew, which is illustrative perhaps of the leaps in productivity that… Continue reading

Slow, slow, slow the boat

What a mess we are getting into as we seek to balance the demands of the atmosphere with that of marine safety, the charterer and even the requirements of those whose cargo may be aboard the ship Continue reading

How technology expands awareness

I visited the headquarters of MAIB yesterday, the United Kingdom government’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch, located in Southampton.

The MAIB people are using advanced systems for recovery and analysis of a growing menu of electronic “black box” data, much of it carried aboard modern commercial and passenger ships.

The growing use of diverse electronic monitoring systems, ashore and afloat, is expanding “maritime domain awareness” to track the actions of people, processes and things.

Regulators can access a growing array of sophisticated on-board monitoring technology to tell us what actually happened (read: accidents).

Moreover, we are now acquiring the means to monitor what’s happening on board and under way, right now, in real time.

No more “magic pipes”?

It means that the investigation of casualties… Continue reading

Now wipe your feet

There are some days when you feel that the lunatics really have taken charge of the asylum. That estimable watcher of Washington Dennis Bryant notes in his excellent newsletter that the US Maritime Administration is seeking “interested offerors to conduct a study of the safety, economic and environmental issues of vessels to be conducted with double hulls.” Continue reading

Piffle at Posidonia

Posidonia has been and gone again and the organisers deserve congratulations for their efforts at putting on a show that perhaps demonstrated that all was not completely lost in the economic wreckage of Greece. Continue reading

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