Saturday, October 31, 2009


A driving force


A "tender" Lifeboat

This has been quite an interesting day already. It started out this morning with my first cup of coffee and the morning paper here at NAUTICAL LOG. So far so good, then reading the paper, which in our case is "The Miami Herald", I get to Section C the Business section and headline 'World's Largest Cruise Ship'. Here we go again I thought and turned to page 3C, - well I have to admit the thing is huge! In this latest case the thing is MS "Oasis of the Seas" and she really is the largest. Before NAUTICAL LOG gets to its concerns about this vessel and they are many, lets have a look at her. Owned by Royal Caribbean International, Flag State Bahamas, trading in the Caribbean, cost US$ 1.4 billion - sounds like a bailout check/cheque - the first passenger ship over 200,000 GRT. Length: 361.8 metres, 1187 feet. Beam: 63.4 metres, 208 feet. Height: 72 metres, 236 feet above the waterline. Draft: 9.1 metres, 30 feet, quite shallow actually so as to have ease of entry - well relatively - into Caribbean and South Florida Ports. Decks: 16 passenger decks alone and with all the amenities of a Theme park or a Las Vegas hotel and then some. Speed: 22.6 knots (nautical miles per hour), 41.9 km/h, 26.0 mph. Now for it - the Capacity is 5400 passengers or with additional persons in cabin 6296 and a crew to look after them of 2165. That is for a possible total of 8461 persons - yes indeed 8461 persons!

Now maybe you know why NAUTICAL LOG is just a little uneasy about all this. As a former cruise ship Safety Officer one tends to think and plan for the time - hopefully never - all these 8461 persons have to be evacuated in an emergency. Clearly MS "Oasis of the Seas" is legally equipped to accomplish this but the problem is not the number of Survival Craft but getting the persons into them and moving off to a safe distance from the ship. So lets worry about it, lets look at some figures and studies that have been done by and for the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

If one allows just 1 minute for each person to step from the Lifeboat Evacuation Point into the lifeboat, which hold 372 persons each, this accounts for 6696 persons leaving 1765 persons for rafts for the total 8461. Dividing by the number of Evacuation Points gives a fairly practical idea of how long the best evacuation time will be. For the 18 Lifeboat Evacuation Points it works out for a total of about 6.25 person/minutes. Please note this time is the EMBARKATION time taken only - NOT the total ABANDON SHIP time. The ABANDON SHIP time is from the sounding of the General Alarm Signal to complete evacuation of all persons clear of the vessel.

To this you will have to factor how many rafts are assigned per Raft Evacuation Point, as one raft is filled it must be lowered to the waterline, cast off, hoist recovered, next raft hooked up and the exercise repeated until all rafts assigned have been used. Is a picture beginning to form of what it will be like? Now NAUTICAL LOG counted nine lifeboats hung on davits on the Port side in the photograph so there will also be nine on the Starboard side. It really does not matter what the actual number is as there will be more than sufficient for all persons on board as required by the maritime law SOLAS. We have no information on the Raft evacuation system, it may well be aircraft style "chute and scoot" which will speed things up, if the passengers cooperate to slide down the 72 metres, 236 feet chute height listed in the ship details above. Like we said the ship has a Theme park design. However NAUTICAL LOG thinks it is unlikely passengers will be assigned to rafts and these will be used only by crew members. Each lifeboat will need 16 crew each for a total of 288 crew members assigned to handle the lifeboats.

The problems start with the arousing of everybody when the General Alarm is set off, then getting the persons to the Assembly/Mustering Stations, then moving them to the Evacuation Points, then boarding them into Survival Craft. Think about families separated, missing children, ADA passengers and keeping the quite normal panic in a situation like this under some control, these are persons in most cases who have never even been in a ship before. In addition you have language communication problems, alcohol and medication consumed to consider. Think of the reactions during 9/11 and let me tell you those folks were absolutely first class in their behaviour that day.

Now some points from studies; NAUTICAL LOG just quotes them and shall let you judge them for yourselves:

" A number of catalysts have brought passenger evacuation to the forefront of European shipbuilding priorities, triggering a need for the development of tools and procedures in support of performance based design for evacuation to ensure a cost-effective treatment of this important issue."

"Such consequences are bound to reach intolerable levels when addressing new concepts such as cruise liners carrying well over 5000 passengers."

" for example determine the behaviour of a mother searching for her lost child before abandoning ship, the father taking a leadership role in a crisis, the child following parents, members of a family forming a group and so on".

Above we addressed the issue of boarding the Survival Craft and allowed 1 minute per person. Clearly this is unrealistic and the results of some mustering exercises, with just 3492 fit persons, indicated the time taken was from 7 minutes to 28 minutes. However the time taken to empty the Assembly/Mustering Stations was consistent at 7 to 9 minutes which is very good to know - or is it? Of course they could have left the Assembly/Mustering Station to crowd up at the Evacuation Points fighting to get aboard a lifeboat or raft. The 7 minutes to clear an Assembly/Mustering Station does not match up very effectively with a possible 28 minutes at an Evacuation Point. The whole idea of the Assembly/Mustering Station is to control the flow to the Evacuation Points and prevent crowding up while launching Survival Craft. These exercises were conducted on vessels a fraction the size of MS "Oasis of the Seas" with its 8461 persons. Please note there was no breakdown in the Exercise Report of ADA and other passengers, their mobility or their knowledge of ships, rather it was a best case scenario exercise. No comfort to an experienced cruise ship Safety Officer whatsoever.

One should remember that unlike what was accomplished by the New York City Transit Officers getting people off and out of World Trade Center trains by alternate routes, there is only one way off a ship - by the Survival Craft down into the water.

So bigger is better - not. These vessels have gone beyond a practical safety level for passenger evacuation in spite of having dedicated, well trained Officers, Crew and Staff and believe me they are first class people.

Monday 11/02/2009
There are a series of excellent short and effective videos about MS "Oasis of the Seas" at Included is the simulator training Officers receive at the STAR Center, Dania, FL. Also amongst these videos you will see one with CAPT. William Wright explaining the vessels lifeboats which were designed especially for MS "Oasis of the Seas". With the ship very well explained the website is worth a visit.

Tuesday 11/03/2009
Text reviewed and edited to incorporate Lifeboat data received this morning. Still awaiting Raft data.

Good Watch

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


The photographs above are revealing in several ways, lets have a look. Clearly the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) vessel JS "Kurama" impacted the Korean container ship MS "Carina Star" just aft of the turn of the fo'cs'le on the Starboard side. Please note that's the Starboard side, thus it appears JS "Kurama" would have shown "Carina Star" the red port sidelight and "Carina Star" would have shown JS "Kurama" the green starboard sidelight. This impact point would tend to suggest that JS "Kurama" was the 'stand-on' vessel and the MS "Carina Star" is the 'giving-way' vessel. Until there is a complete plot of the tracks made good of both these vessels and the position in the Kanmon Strait of the point of collision no determination can actually be made.

As a result of this impact there was severe bow damage to JS "Kurama" and in addition a massive fire occurred. As a result of 50 years service at sea and over a two decades as a Safety Officer in cruise ships my first thought was a paint locker explosion and fire. Noting the intensity and colour of the flames tended to confirm that is what happened. Reading today the initial Japanese report of the Inquiry this was indeed confirmed by the Japanese investigating officers.

During the many fire drills held during my years at sea I would say about every third drill was a 'paint locker fire' and those drills were conducted weekly. Similarly USCG Inspection drills usually had a paint locker fire as part of that busy day in a passenger ship.

For those of you not so familiar with a ships layout the Paint Locker is usually forward in the fo'c'sle. There have been several suggestions and redesigns over the years for alternative locations. No matter were it is placed it is clearly a fire hazard and should have a special and dedicated fire suppression system.

If you look at the deck markings of JS "Kurama" there is clearly a strong safety culture in the JMSDF. Even pathways fore and aft and athwartships are marked within white lines passing clear of deck fittings, her guns et cetera. All crew are properly equipped for fire-fighting and in the after event photos are wearing hard hats.

Yet we have the paint locker fire because the Paint Locker is in the classic position of forward in the fo'c'sle and if it had a dedicated fire-suppression system it was most likely rendered inoperable by the collision impact. So fellow mariners we can all learn from this.

Look around your vessel;
  • where is your paint stored
  • is it secured properly
  • is there a dedicated fire-suppression system
  • what would happen if you had a similar collision
  • what is the paint made of
  • read your 'manufacturers product data sheets'
  • finally have a plan ready

  • now go drill, drill, drill

Good Watch.


The following -M- Notices came out recently from the United Kingdom to assist mariners, they are obtainable from the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

MSN 1821 (M)

MGN 401 (M+F)
MIN 357 (M)

It appears linking to the MCA to obtain the Notices is not exactly user-friendly. If you need the message try for a PDF download. MSN 1821 is particularly useful it is a worldwide list of MCA approved medical facilities for pre-employment medical examinations.

Good Watch.

Monday, October 26, 2009


NAUTICAL LOG has now reached a milestone of sorts. We changed the appearance of our 'Site Meter' logo to show the total number of visitors - just over 4500. Also our Operating System is now Windows 7 which was launched on October 22nd. 2009.

While this may not be a particularly large number of visitors we are excited by the diversity of countries and organizations. Our audience ranges from the just curious to students researching papers and professionals requiring information.

At this time we would like to draw your attention to our 'PUBLICATIONS' listing. It contains data of both interest and professional usage. Most important is the 'PASSAGE PLANNING GUIDE' which is an International Maritime Organization (IMO) requirement now for all vessels to prepare before proceeding to sea.

By sending an e-mail to we can reply immediately with the data you require. NAUTICAL LOG looks forward to your visits, opinions and requests for Posts on subjects you would like to read about.

Good Watch

Friday, October 23, 2009


The nautical world is indeed surprisingly small and remarkably interconnected. I have been offline for a week due to a virus eating up my operating system and crashing it. Knowing the importance of NAUTICAL LOG to everyone - right - I decided that a new PC was called for. As a cost effective solution to my problem I decided to await the launch of Windows 7 on Thursday 22nd. So it was I purchased a new PC loaded with Windows 7 and here we are underway once again.

While checking on visitors to the Blog in my absence I noticed one from Hong Kong who was looking for information about "The Lady Gwendolen Law". Those of you used to keeping a good lookout on watch know this is one of the ships in the photo below "All Three In". As the result of a collision between MV "The Lady Gwendolen" and the coastal tanker MV "Freshfield" in the River Mersey in fog in November 1961 things ended up in Admiralty Court. During the application to 'Limit Liability' under British Admiralty Law the owner-managers, Guinness Brewery, ran into legal problems. Without wallowing in the details, Limitation was denied and this in turn set a standard for future management of vessels. All very interesting but so what, - well my father was Assistant Traffic Manager of Guinness at that time and part of their vessels management team. It happened that I was studying for Master's at Warsash during the Appeal Court hearing so he and I spent time at the Admiralty Court on The Strand, London. For a future Master it was a 'teaching moment' to be remembered.

Also at that time the casks of Guinness stout were taken by barge from the Brewery berth on the Liffey downriver an Irish mile to the vessels berthed at Dublins Custom House Quay. The casks also travelled by lorries, through Dublin's crowded city streets, to the vessel's in addition to the barge traffic.

To quote the Irish writer Tim Magennis, who wrote an interesting article about the barges, 'Sic transit gloria' and the barge traffic which operated from 1873 to 1961 is now long gone, which is sad. No more do we hear those Dubliners leaning over the bridges as the barges passed underneath calling "Hey Mister, bring us back a parrot". Those of you who read James Joyce know of the wit and repartee of Dubliners, and yes both he and I are alumni (jesuit victims?) of Clongowes Wood College, Naas, Co. Kildare. Again I was, thanks to my Dad, able to make a couple of river trips on the barges in the 1950's. The last barge to go was "Clonsilla" and her barge bell was presented to my Dad. My sister, Trich Boucher Street, has the bell now in her house at Glandore, Co. Cork so it is in good hands - but no parrot!!

Good Watch.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


There has been an Amendment to the "Rules of the Nautical Road" which addresses DISTRESS SIGNALS.

NAUTICAL LOG has posted the exact MIN 1781 (M+F) as received just now from MCA in UK. MCA has a new distribution system for its M Notices as of OCTOBER 01, 2009. These can now be received from as described in MSN 362 (M+F).

Once registered the M Notices are sent as each is issued so that you are always up-to-date as required by IMO Regulations.
As a result of requests for explanation of the meaning of (M+F) This indicates;
"Notice to all Owners, Masters, Skippers, Officers and Crews of Merchant Ships, Fishing Vessels, Pleasure Vessels, Yachts and Other Seagoing Craft."

Good Watch