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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Phillipine Ferry Capsizes with More Than 700 Passengers and Crew

Full Story from the New York Times here.


Monday, June 23, 2008


When the Coast Guard and the Marine Electronics Industry forced satellite EPIRB technology on the general seagoing public I was the first to cry foul. Inshore mariners, professional and recreational, had to give up their VHF beacons for the way more expensive Sat-devices. The new EPIRBS were ten times the cost of VHF EPIRBS, and they were geared more for deep sea rescues. They're still more appropriate for finding people who get in trouble way out there where the waters are deep and the traffic is thin. I've been saying it for years: Inshore mariners need a VHF EPIRB that will initiate a rescue response in seconds and minutes and not hours or longer. If you're trap fishing three miles from shore and you get wrapped up in a warp and yanked over the side, the 406 mHz EPIRB attached to your wheelhouse roof is about as much help to you right now as your anchor. Thank you Mobilarm for the V100 VPIRB.


Interesting Boats: Rockland Lobster Boat Races June 22, 2008

The 2008 Lobster Boat Races in Rockland started late due to heavy fog. That didn't stop spectators and racers from getting a leg up on the action. Boats rafted early, and racers were ready to go by the time the fog scaled at about 11:30. Here are the details from Village Soup complete story with photos and results. Click Here for Story!


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Young Killer Whale Dies at SeaWorld in San Antonio

The 2-1/2 year-old female Orca that died on Monday was the second killer whale to die at the San Antonio facility. The other one, a 14 year old male, died last October.

An necroscopy will take four to six weeks. In the meantime, we can speculate.

  • A disease or some other pathological cause, e.g. genetic defect.
  • Trauma -- from another whale or from a self-inflicted injury.
  • A toxicological cause, chemical or environmental. Toxic habitat.
  • Depression. She was rejected by her mother and was, after all, a captive animal.
  • Foul play.

Two dead whales in less than a year at the same location. I'd say that was something to look into.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Corrected AP Story on Sailor's Rescue in GoM

Here from TBO.

Abridged version:

Keel fell off racing sailboat. Vessel sank quickly. C0-captain died heroically. Five spent 26 hours clinging to each other in 84 degree waters of Gulf before being rescued by CG helicopter.


Cancun Catamaran Sinks

A Cancun catamaran, the Sea Star, sank with 126 passengers aboard leaving one young woman from Texas hospitalized in a vegetative state. Initial reports claim the vessel was overloaded but owners say the cat could carry 250 passengers. You can find a photo of the vessel here.

I can't comment on whether the vessel can carry 80, as some people are saying, or 250, as the owners say, not without more info. What I can say is that certificates are written specifically with designations for capacities on upper and lower decks. Could be the upper deck had a capacity of 80 and that there were 126 people up there at the time of the accident.

I mentioned once in another post of a ferry ride I took from Cancun to Isla de Mujeres. The ferry was a large wooden held together with coast of paint. If I had been a Mexican Transportation Safety Inspector I would have condemned the thing on the spot.

Pictures of the Sea Star suggest it was a more modern vessel and in much better condition than the ferry I was on.


Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone Increases

Researchers and scientists at LSU have confirmed a report that the size of the dead zone off the Texas and Louisiana coasts has increased to over 10,000 square miles. This is the largest it has been since these measurements were first taken some 23 years ago.

The dead zone -- now the size of Massachusetts -- is an area created by organic run off from the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. This run off has depleted oxygen levels to a state that is insufficient to support even the most basic of marine life.

Researchers blame the 17 to 21 percent increase from last year on added pressure from the industrialized farming of products used in the making of bio-fuels.

This is a clear case of environmental lobbying efforts gone horribly wrong. I'm all for reducing the need for foreign oil. I'm all for creating alternative fuels. But for years now the evidence has been piling up against a corn-based bio-fuel technology. Let's put a stop to it now before we turn the entire Gulf into a cesspool.


Friday, June 06, 2008

Indonesian Divers Missing

There's news this morning of another diver mishap. Five divers from Great Britain, Sweden and France disappeared Thursday in the waters off Komodo National Park east of Bali. I haven't been able to determine yet whether this was a shore-based dive or a boat charter dive. At the moment, there is little more to report, other than the divers have been missing for about a day, having been swept away by strong currents.

You may remember an incident back in May when two divers in Australia were swept away from their charter boat, the Pacific Star. The two were eventually rescued but not until they had spent 20 or so hours adrift together in the treacherous waters of The Great Barrier Reef. Investigators looking into the incident are concerned the captain of the Pacific Star waited too long to contact authorities. I would also be pretty concerned by the fact that according to recent reports he had left the scene and was already on his way back to port when he called in the alert. If true, that goes beyond stupid. For more on this particular incident, check my previous post here, and go to the story at CDNN here.

In my previous post on the Australian incident I discussed the time delay, saying it wasn't that strange. We were originally informed the two were in the water for 20 hours and that the rescue went on for 18 hours. Take out actually dive time, about an hour, and the fifteen or so minutes it takes to realize someone is missing, and you only have a 45 minute delay. But now we're told there was a 3-hour delay in contacting authorities and that the charter boat captain had actually left the scene and was on his way back to shore with the rest of his charter party. If true, I can't imagine what the hell was going on in his head. Was he thinking he had to get the others back? Or did he write the missing divers off as dead after only 3 hours? Something is not right with this story and I'm thinking there are a lot of divers speculating and wanting to place blame on the charter boat captain and the charter company. Let's just wait and see how this shakes out.

Either way, let me reiterate what I said in my previous post on the subject. If you have an emergency situation, an injury aboard, a lost diver, a fire, flooding, whatever -- Place the call to rescue authorities immediately! Get them mobilized and ready to sortie. You can always call them back if the situation resolves on its own or by your own hands.

Meanwhile, maybe someone will tell us whether these divers in Indonesia were shore diving or diving from a boat. There's a big difference.



Thursday, June 05, 2008

Oil Spill Threatens Uruguay, Argentina...

Two ships collided off the coast of Montevideo, Uruguay causing a 21 kilometer long fuel oil spill. No one was injured in the collision but one of the fuel tanks aboard the Greek vessel, Syros, was ruptured. The other ship is the Malta-flagged Sea Bird. Info on both ships from PSIX below:

Vessel Information: Vessel Particulars:

Vessel Name: SYROS
VIN: 7917953
Hull Number:
Vessel Flag: GREECE
Vessel Call Sign: SYBJ
Build Year: 1981
Service: Freight Ship
Length: 731.6 ft
Breadth: 105.6 ft
Depth: 58.4 ft
Alternate VINs:
IMO Number: 7917953

Service Information: Tonnage Information:

Service: In Service
Out Of Service Date: N/A
Last Removed From Service By: N/A
Deadweight: 60194
Gross Tonnage(GRT): 35038
Net Tonnage(NRT): 20808
Gross Tonnage(GT ITC): 35038
Cargo Authority:

Vessel Documents and Certifications
DocumentAgencyDate IssuedExpiration Date
ISM - Document Of ComplianceGR May 14, 2007May 14, 2012
International Oil Pollution Prevention CertificateLR February 13, 2007April 11, 2010
SOLAS Cargo Ship Safety Equipment CertificateLR January 24, 2007April 11, 2010
International Load Line CertificateLR April 20, 2005April 11, 2010
SOLAS Cargo Ship Safety Construction CertificateLR April 20, 2005April 11, 2010
SOLAS Cargo Ship Safety Radio CertificateLR April 20, 2005April 11, 2010
Classification DocumentLR April 20, 2005
ISM - Safety Management CertificateGOV August 21, 2003October 27, 2008
ISM - Document Of ComplianceGOV May 17, 2002May 14, 2007
International Oil Pollution Prevention CertificateLR July 25, 2000April 11, 2005
Load Line Certificate (Coastwise)LR July 25, 2000April 11, 2005
Classification DocumentLR July 25, 2000April 11, 2005
Tonnage Certificate, InternationalLR December 11, 1998

Vessel Information: Vessel Particulars:

Vessel Name: SEA BIRD
VIN: 8117328
Hull Number:
Vessel Flag: MALTA
Vessel Call Sign: 9HQZ5
Build Year: 1984
Service: Freight Ship
Length: 736.1 ft
Breadth: 105.6 ft
Depth: 59.1 ft
Alternate VINs: CG000581
IMO Number: 8117328

Service Information: Tonnage Information:

Service: In Service
Out Of Service Date: N/A
Last Removed From Service By: N/A
Deadweight: 63788
Gross Tonnage(GRT):
Net Tonnage(NRT):
Gross Tonnage(GT ITC): 35915
Cargo Authority:

Vessel Documents and Certifications
DocumentAgencyDate IssuedExpiration Date
International Load Line CertificateBV March 31, 2007April 8, 2012
International Oil Pollution Prevention CertificateBV March 31, 2007April 8, 2012
SOLAS Cargo Ship Safety Radio CertificateBV March 31, 2007April 8, 2012
Classification DocumentBV March 31, 2007April 8, 2012
ISM - Document Of ComplianceLR July 3, 2004March 27, 2008
ISM - Safety Management CertificateLR September 19, 2003June 30, 2008
Load Line Certificate (Coastwise) July 16, 2002April 8, 2007
Tonnage Certificate, InternationalBV January 7, 1998

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

French Fishermen Protest Fuel Prices

Click photo for story.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

So You Want To Be A Charter Boat Captain, Chapter 2

Having chosen to ignore perfectly good advice and become a charter boat skipper it's time now to make some hard and fast decisions about what kind of a boat business you want to own and run. Do you want to go the full Monty and buy or build a USCG Inspected Passenger Vessel, or will you be happy with a six-pack boat? For those who don't know, the difference is substantial. It's like the difference between running a barbecue in your back yard and opening a full-service restaurant.

A small USCG inspected passenger boat under 100 gross tons, known as a T-Boat or a K-boat (the latter for overnight passengers or boats with more than 150 passengers; H-boat for vessels over 100 GT) as designated in the Code of Federal Regulations, must meet certain regulatory standards. These are checked routinely on your boat by the U.S. Coast Guard. A safety inspection is every 12 months, while a hull and engineering inspection is every 18 months to two years; the latter depends on what type of vessel you own and of what material it was constructed. Wood vessels with plank on frame construction and marine fastenings are required to have more frequent inspections.

The Coast Guard doesn't conduct these inspections for free like they do for the recreational and commercial fishing sectors. You have to pay annually. The fee is based on the size of the vessel and/or the number of passengers you carry. Although the fee will increase like everything else does, I can tell you that at the moment the fee for a passenger vessel of less than 49 passengers is about $800. That includes the annual safety inspection as well.

Most skippers look on these inspections as a matter of course and appreciate the extra sets of eyes they get to look over their boats. Others, however, get a little adversarial during the inspections. Without question, a bad attitude during an inspection does little to expedite the process. I would no sooner get short with a Coast Guard Inspector than tell an IRS auditor what to do with their briefcase. Besides, these guys are just doing their job, and in fact, they're helping you out. If you comply with all the US Coast Guard guidelines and regulations for T-boats or K-boats, you're limiting your exposure to liability. The bottom line in this business is to make sure you run a boat that is in full compliance with the law. Any infraction, however small, will end up biting you in the ass if something like an accident ends up happening aboard the vessel.

Granted, you will have Coast Guard personnel on your boat who are cutting their inspection teeth on your nickel. Get over it. It's all part of the process. Some of these men and women are young and inexperienced and it behooves you to be patient and do you best to help them understand the systems and equipment you have aboard. If you have any problems, simply go to the guy in charge of the inspection (usually a Master Chief or Leutenant) and explain your logic. Not all boats are created equal and not all inspectors will require a strict adherence to the letter of the law. There is some wiggle room, and the logical, most appropriate way of doing things aboard your vessel will prevail.

As far as the six-pack or 6-passenger boat is concerned, my advice is to comply with the same guidelines and regulations set-up for T-boats. Other than the construction requirements (rail heights, bulkheads, watertight doors, seating, etc.), you're better off with a boat that's thoroughly CFR compliant. In fact, I would consider the standards as minimums for six-pack vessels. In many respects, six-pack boats find themselves in even more extreme situations than sub-chapter T boats.

So, whether you decide to go with a USCG Inspected passenger boat or a six-pack boat, my advice is to adhere to the standards set down by the USCG in the Code of Federal Regulations for Small Passengers Vessels. It might not be possible or necessary in a six-pack boat to do it in terms of design, construction, and stability, but from a safety, equipment and systems installation standpoint, you can't go wrong.