Wednesday, April 17, 2013

NO MORE SHIPS

The under construction Quantum of the Seas.


The 91 metre arm of  "The North Star".

 
Metacentric height , centre of gravity and centre of buoyancy of a vessel

At NAUTICAL LOG as we return to our nautical Posts we were shocked to learn - well it was more surprised as the cruise lines are failing to shock the nautical world anymore.  What did we learn? It was that they will not be building any more ships for cruising.  Oh! they will be building vessels but unfortunately for those who work and travel in them they will NOT be ships.

Perhaps to clarify that statement we should define the parameters of ship and vessel.  In the nautical world they may be described as;

Ship: A vessel of considerable size for deep-water navigation.
Vessel: A floating entity for use on water.

Taking those definitions into consideration we saw on Tuesday April 16, 2013 the public introduction of the ultimate floating entity, a contraption owned by RCCL cruise line being built in Papenburg, Germany.  There in and of itself is a problem as the shipyard at Papenburg is on a high risk river, the Ems, for the construction and floating out of very large vessels.  Having draft and size restrictions in manoeuvring the channel of the Ems river from shipyard to sea.  There have been some close calls in the past with cruise vessels being built at Meyer-Werft - however excellent a Yard it is.  (Visit "Google Earth" to see the area.)

It is clear that however well constructed these RCCL vessels may be they are not designed for ocean voyaging, that is the 'deep-water navigation' which defines a ship.  During the maiden crossing from the shipyard to Fort Lauderdale, FL the RCCL Oasis of the Seas was seriously damaged in what was typical Atlantic Ocean heavy weather.  They had interior furniture, fittings and objects come loose being thrown around endangering those on board.  Also its lifeboats were damaged which led to a serious safety problem because if the RCCL Oasis of the Seas were to be abandoned the lifeboats are what are used to do so.  It seems curious that one should abandon a huge vessel and get into these little lifeboats to escape death by sinking in a large vessel but that is what is done. 

So as a former cruise line Safety Officer you can imagine that NAUTICAL LOG is NOT encouraged by all of this - but wait there is more!! 

One is led to conclude that this vessel RCCL Quantum of the Seas has been designed by hotel resort architects who to comply with the International Maritime Regulations covering the design and construction of passenger vessels used maritime CAD with all the required Apps to tell them when they violated these Regulations.  There are all sorts of goodies for the 'guests' (hotel term for passengers) to enjoy and most are if not quite acceptable at least bearable.  To the absolute horror of NAUTICAL LOG and one suspects other seafarers experienced in passenger ship operation and navigation there is the ultimate object being an accident waiting to happen.  RCCL calls it the "The North Star" and says it is a reminder of the "London Eye" wheel.  Now there is a rather risky reference as that too has had its moments and it is firmly attached to the land alongside the Thames River in London, England.

NAUTICAL LOG has placed a virtual picture of "The North Star" above.  It is a crane with a glass box attached which is raised and swung out over the vessels side - at least that is what RCCL showed us on Tuesday.  What this does for the vessels stability factor is a mystery for it is a 91 metre (300 feet) lever acting to tilt the vessel over on its side.  One surmises that there must be a ballast tank below sea level to counter this tilt effect, it must be quite sophisticated to adjust to the motion of raising and swinging this thing from Port to Starboard overside in addition to the natural motion of a vessel at sea underway.  One also hopes that there is a highly trained, experienced crane operator and NOT some well-meaning third world crewmember assigned to this duty.

Which brings us full circle to Papenburg, Germany.  Remember above how we said there were draft restrictions in the channel of the Ems river leading from the shipyard to the sea.  This means that this 168,000 tonne vessel of some 20 decks has to be built within a draft limitation of 8.5 metres (28 feet), which in turn means relatively shallow draft for its size, which further means that the metacentric height is at the cusp of the required stability factor number of the Regulations for deep-water navigation passenger ships - no reservation amount.  So with that 91 metre (300 feet) lever "The North Star"coming into play NAUTICAL LOG with 60 years of seagoing experience has, to say the least, a certain unease about its usage.

As a local maritime lawyer said in his Blog, for which there is a link in 'My Blog List' this vessel should keep all the maritime lawyers employed for decades.  One further wonders how the USCG can possibly deal with all this from the Marine Safety aspect when it is well know to all of us seafarers in the South Florida maritime community if they try to control the cruise industry in any way their transfer will be immediate from South Florida to a lighthouse in Alaska.  But if they cooperate then they stand an excellent chance of being selected to Command the USCG 7th. District and advance to Commandant of the USCG from which one retires to a cushy position in the Oil and Gas or Cruise industries with a corner office in Houston, TX., Carnival Group, Doral, FL. or RCCL, Port of Miami, FL.- no disrespect intended to some very fine and decent Officers. Do not believe this?  then follow the career paths of recent such USCG Senior Officers.

Well there it is, some explanations with a few harsh words for these latest floating contraptions which are heading for a disaster in the not too distant future.  The Carnival Group vessels are busy setting the pattern for what can and does happen but thanks to USCG and USN personnel the big one has been avoided - so far.  Sadly it will not be until one of these vessels is lost with the appalling inevitable loss of life that will result that change will be forced.  The International Maritime Organization (IMO) which should be well ahead of the game and restrict these floating hotel resorts construction does nothing - actually after an event the maritime world can wait for ten years to even hear a peep out of them.

As always NAUTICAL LOG looks forward to your comments and perhaps a different point of view to all of this.

Good Watch.

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