MARCH 15, 2013 — Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar yesterday announced the findings of a Departmental review of Shell's 2012 Arctic operations. Salazar ordered the review in January (see earlier story) after a string of problems hit Shell's drilling program in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.
Post-season grounding of Kulluk was one of a string of problems to beset Shell's 2012 Alaska operations
The review focused on Shell's inability to obtain certification of its containment vessel, the Arctic Challenger, on a timely basis; the deployment difficulty of the Arctic Challenger's containment dome; and on what Interior calls "serious marine transport issues" associated with both of Shell's two drilling units, the Noble Discoverer and the Kulluk, including the grounding of the Kulluk off Kodiak Island during a towing operation.
Last month, Shell announced it would pause its exploration drilling activity for 2013 in Alaska's Beaufort and Chukchi Seas to prepare equipment and plans for a resumption of activity at a later stage (see earlier story).
The review team, led by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Tommy Beaudreau, included senior staff from several bureaus at the Department of the Interior as well as other federal agencies. The review team met with representatives from Shell as well as key contractors that Shell retained for work related to its Alaska operations, the State of Alaska, the Mayor of the North Slope Borough, and the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation. The review team also sought information from a broad range of other stakeholders and experts, including representatives from the oil and gas and maritime industries and conservation non-governmental organizations. The Department retained the international consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) to provide expertise and support in reviewing issues related to safety and operational management systems.
The assessment found that Shell entered the 2012 drilling season without having finalized key components of its program, including its Arctic Challenger containment system, which put pressure on Shell's operations and schedule and limited Shell from drilling into oil-bearing zones last summer. Weaknesses in Shell's management of contractors on whom they relied for many critical aspects of its program – including development of its containment system, emission controls to comply with air permits, and maritime operations – led to many of the problems that the company experienced.
"Shell simply did not maintain strong, direct oversight of some of its key contractors," said Beaudreau. "Working in the Arctic requires thorough advance planning and preparation, rigorous management focus, a close watch over contractors, and reliance on experienced, specialized operators who are familiar with the uniquely challenging conditions of the Alaskan offshore. In some areas Shell performed well, but in other areas they did not, and Alaska's harsh environment was unforgiving."
On February 27, 2013, Shell announced it has decided to pause its exploration drilling activity for 2013 in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas to focus on preparation of equipment and plans before resuming its Arctic exploration program.
The report recommends that the company should submit to the Department a comprehensive, integrated plan describing every phase of its operation from preparations through demobilization. The report also recommends that Shell complete a full third-party management system audit that will confirm that the company's management systems are appropriately tailored for Arctic conditions and that Shell has addressed the problems that it encountered during the 2012 drilling season.
The report also stresses the critical need for coordination – across the federal government and with State and local partners, as well as with companies, local communities and other stakeholders. It notes, as a success of the 2012 season, Shell's extensive efforts to communicate and minimize conflict with Alaska Native communities that rely on the ocean for subsistence use.
"We have held Shell to very high standards specific to the Arctic, including the requirement for in-theater subsea containment systems capable of responding in the event of an emergency, and coordinating across the federal government to review and oversee Arctic exploration," said Deputy Secretary of the Interior David J. Hayes, Chair of the Interagency Working Group on Domestic Energy Development and Permitting in Alaska, established by the President. "The report confirms that we need to continue using a cautious, coordinated approach that adopts specialized practices for conducting drilling and related operations in the Arctic."
In its conclusions, the report reinforces that an Arctic-specific model is necessary, and it recommends continuing work on safety and environmental practices appropriate for the Arctic. Shell's 2012 drilling program was subject to a number of Arctic-specific conditions and standards, such as requiring deployment of subsea containment systems as a prerequisite to drilling into hydrocarbon-bearing zones, limitations on the Chukchi Sea drilling season to provide time for open-water emergency response, a blackout on drilling activity during the subsistence hunts in the Beaufort Sea, and surrounding vessels with pre-laid boom during fuel transfers.
"Our findings reinforce the importance of taking a regionally-specific approach to offshore oil and gas exploration the Arctic," said Beaudreau. "We must recognize and account for the unique challenges of this region, which holds significant energy potential, but where issues like environmental and climate conditions, limited infrastructure, and the subsistence needs of North Slope communities demand specialized planning and consideration."
In addition to Interior's report, the U.S. Coast Guard is undertaking a comprehensive marine casualty investigation regarding the recent grounding of the drill rig Kulluk. The Coast Guard also provided technical assistance for the Interior report.
"We thank the U.S. Coast Guard for their collaboration in support of our report, and look forward to reviewing their findings as well," said James Watson, Director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
For a copy of the assessment, click HERE.
APRIL 24, 2013 — Crowley Maritime subsidiary Titan Salvage has successfully refloated the 262-foot containership M/V Danio from its stricken position on England's Northumberland coast, despite challenging sea and weather conditions.
Danio, which was carrying a load of timber and en route to Belgium from Scotland, ran aground at Farne Islands, an environmentally sensitive area, in early March. The onset of severe weather conditions prevented an immediate attempt to tow the Danio from the coastline.
As the Farne Islands – home to thousands of puffins and grey seals, as well as more than 20 bird species – is classified as a site of Special Scientific Interest (SSI), Titan took extra precautions to safeguard the environment.
Titan's commercial director Jason Bennett and his team of salvors took quick action to establish the safety of the vessel, immediately deploy a tugboat and prepare for a controlled and safe refloating operation.
Danio was ballasted down to the rocky sea bottom while the Titan team repaired damage to the vessel's skeg and other areas, which required cement boxing, shoring and patching before the vessel could be refloated and towed away.
Portable pumps were also installed and used during re-float and transit to safety.
Salvage Master Mark Loughlin, of C Waves, a London-based independent maritime and engineering consultancy contracted by the Titan alliance, transferred to Danio after initial assessment and remained on board alongside the crew throughout the operation. He was joined by Titan's salvage team, which worked in difficult conditions to ensure that the ship remained secure in the deteriorating weather conditions, which were marked by high seas and swells (up to seven meters), freezing rain and gale-force winds.
During a brief window of suitable tides, Danio was successfully refloated without incident with the assistance of the Titan-chartered tugboat Lomax.
"Titan worked quickly to ensure that there were sufficient people and equipment on site in a timely manner," said Rich Habib, Titan's managing director. "In addition to prioritizing protection of the environment, the two-week salvage job was successful in large part because of Titan's excellent working relationships with the authorities and client."
When it was determined that conditions were too extreme for supplies to be brought in via helicopter, Mr. Bennett and his team partnered with local fishermen who ferried in equipment and provisions. The Titan team also worked closely with Briggs Marine Environmental, which provided spill-prevention equipment, the U.K. Secretary of State's Representative for Maritime Salvage and Intervention (SOSREP), the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), the Environment Group (EG) and the National Trust, alongside the ship's owner and insurers, to ensure vessel security and environmental protection.
Hugh Shaw, the U.K. Secretary of State's Representative for Maritime Salvage and Intervention, said of the successful job: "I am delighted that the salvors have successfully re-floated the ship without any damage to the environment. I would like to take this opportunity to offer my thanks to all concerned with the operation. In particular I would like to thank Titan Salvage for their professionalism in carrying out the operation in the extremely difficult weather conditions experienced since the grounding."
No spills or damage to the region were reported as a result of the incident or salvage work.
FEBRUARY 11, 2013 — New Orleans headquartered Harvey Gulf International Marine LLC reports that it has signed a $100 million four year charter with DOF Subsea for its 310 ft multipurpose construction vessel Harvey Deep Sea. The vessel is presently under construction at Eastern Shipbuilding in Panama City, Florida. When completed this summer, the U.S. flag, Jones act compliant vessel, with its NOV AHC 165 ton crane, will be capable of delivering 100 tons of cargo to a 10,000 feet water depth.
In another development, Harvey Gulf said that it has now signed an agreement with Bollinger Shipyards to stretch five of its recently acquired OSV's from 230 feet to 270 feet in length, increasing their deck space to 10,000 square feet and cargo capacities to 10,000 barrels of liquid mud plus 10,000 cubic feet of dry bulk.
Harvey Gulf founder and CEO, Shane Guidry, commented "I am excited to not only expand our fleet and vessel capacities, but also keep this work and these jobs right here in Louisiana."
With the new contracts, Harvey Gulf will have vessels under construction or conversion at four different shipyards two in Louisiana, one in Florida and one in Mississippi.
The OSV stretches are not the only deal Harvey Gulf has agreed with Bollinger. It has also entered into an agreement to sell Bollinger one of its two dry docks, measuring 320 ft x 120 ft x 12 ft, with 9,000 long tons lifting ca
And in yet another development, Harvey Gulf also reports that it has signed a $100 million dollar for a four year charter with DOF Subsea for its 310 ft multipurpose construction vessel Harvey Deep Sea. The vessel is presently under construction at Eastern Shipbuilding in Panama City, Florida. When completed this summer, the U.S. flag, Jones act compliant vessel, with its NOV AHC 165 ton crane, will be capable of delivering 100 tons of cargo to a 10,000 feet water depth.
APRIL 23, 2013 — Moms keep Band-Aids in the house and the Norwegian Coastal Administration (NCA) keeps salvage patches aboard Emergency Towing Vessels (ETVs). The NCA has recently renewed its service agreement with Miko Marine for the emergency provision of magnetic and fabric patches for damaged vessels. Under the new 2013 agreement, Oslo-based Miko Marine will provide 24-hour technical support for the use of its range of patches, which are now carried aboard all five NCA Emergency Towing Vessels (ETVs).
Damaged trawler was refloated after application of Miko Marine patch
The new agreement ensures that patches are available for making emergency repairs to vessels with damage or hull integrity problems that may have been caused by collision or grounding or by defective valves and seals. The contract also includes an agreement for Miko Marine to provide emergency supervisory technical support in their use when and wherever required.
The NCA decision comes after several incidents where Miko expertise and products prevented the loss of vessels in Norwegian waters; notably the Puma, a nuclear fuel carrier that was at risk of sinking off the coast of Norway in December 2010.
The Puma experienced a leak in its engine room while sailing south along the coast of Norway following delivery of a cargo of spent nuclear fuel to Murmansk. When a valve burst on a pipe supplying sea water to the ship's sanitation system, the crew was unable to stop the flow of water into the engine room. The leak was, however, sealed by a Miko magnetic patch provided by the Norwegian Coastal Administration vessel KV Farm. It immediately stopped the in-flow of water and enabled the Puma to be escorted to Hammerfest for permanent repair.
Another major incident was narrowly avoided after two trawlers collided in the Arctic north of Norway. The Hundvåkøy was returning to port when it struck the Hordafor 4 and sustained major hull damage. The engine room flooded but the master successfully grounded his boat to prevent the total loss of the vessel and its cargo.
The NCA immediately sealed the large hole in the hull with a Miko patch. Both of the NCA vessels attending the incident were carrying a Miko Salvage Kit that included a six by two meter "hat shaped" fabric patch that could be used to cover protruding damage too irregular to be dealt with using a magnetic patch. By using this patch, virtually all of the boat's catch was saved and the engine room was pumped dry. This enabled the Hundvåkøy to be refloated and towed some 15 nm to the NATO quay at Sørreisa for more permanent repairs
The patch chosen for the repair was manufactured from a high strength fabric that combines polyester reinforced PVC with aramid. It is described as "hat-shaped" due to its design as a shallow bag with a brim that is held securely against the hull beneath flexible aluminum strips that are fixed by divers using an HD 200 underwater stapling tool. The bag-like capacity of the patch enables it to cover any irregular tearing of the hull while the brim ensures a strong and watertight seal.
Commenting on the renewal of the NCA agreement, Nicolai Michelsen, general manager of Miko Marine AS said; "We are very pleased to be able to supply the NCA with a product and a service with such obvious benefits. This is not a speculative gesture by the NCA but is one based on their hard experience that has repeatedly shown Miko magnetic and fabric patches to be capable of saving ships, livelihoods and the environment and we are proud to be able to work closely with them whenever the need arises."
Miko patches can be supplied individually to order or carried in packs that contain a variety of sizes. Salvage Kits and Tanker Kits each contain a range of patches that can provide temporary watertight repairs to hull damage caused by collision, corrosion or some other technical defect. They can also be used to seal damaged tanks to prevent oil escaping. The largest Miko fabric patch made to date measured 30 m x 15 m. Magnetic patches can also be used to seal thruster tunnels and sea chests so that work can be conducted inside without the expense required to put the vessel in dry dock.
MAY 8, 2013 – Senator John D. "Jay" Rockefeller IV (D. W.Va.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, is continuing his efforts to provide "robust oversight" of the cruise industry.
He has just sent letters to the three largest cruise line companies requesting information about their passenger safety, security, and health practices.
At least one of his previous letters to the industry proved highly effective.
In March Senator Rockefeller wrote to Micky Arison, CEO of Carnival Corporation, expressing his serious concerns surrounding recent Carnival cruise ship incidents and asking Mr. Arison if Carnival intended to reimburse federal taxpayers for the cost of responding to the Carnival Splendor or Triumph marine casualties.
On April 15, Carnival Corporation issued this statement:
Carnival Corporation is in the process of voluntarily submitting payment to the U.S. Treasury Department to reimburse the federal government for costs related to the Carnival Triumph and Splendor incidents. It should be clearly noted that at no point in time has Carnival stated it would refuse to reimburse federal agencies if they sought remuneration. Although no agencies have requested remuneration, the company has made the decision to voluntarily provide reimbursement to the federal government
Senator Rockefeller’s latest letters ask the cruise lines to provide specific information on such things as provision of back-up power systems, number of seats in lifeboats and on-board crime statistics.
You can access them here:
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