Thursday, January 17, 2019

More Yantian

One reason I shifted from my paper version of Shipfax to a blog nearly ten years ago, was that I could reduce the amount of correspondence required to answer questions. All that letter writing took away from valuable ship watching time!

But the questions keep rolling in - now by e-mail. However I can also answer those via the blog.

1. The mysterious arrival of the crew.

Press reports announced the arrival of the Filipino crew of Yantian Express in Halifax on January 14. They were welcomed in Halifax by the Mission to Seafarers, and were flown home. Glad to be alive no doubt, but sadly out of work at least for a time.

However there was no mention of how they actually got to Halifax from mid-ocean. We know they were evacuated from the Yantian Express by the SMIT Nicobar but that tug was on scene until recently (it has since been relieved and is en route to Veracruz, Mexico).

The only explanation I can offer is that the sister ship Dalian Express, en route to Halifax, must have deviated slightly from its normal course and conducted a mid-ocean transfer. Dalian Express arrived in Halifax on Sunday January 13.

Why this operation was not explained by the press is certainly mysterious. However news is controlled this days, so we only learn what we are meant to learn.

The ships officers were not included in the evacuees that landed in Halifax. They have remained with the ship - mostly to control machinery I would say, to preserve refrigerated cargo and perhaps to steer  the ship.The officer alone would not able to rig a long distance tow line - that would be the work of the salvors.

2. Why is the ship's position always referenced to Halifax

Yes the ship may be closer to Bermuda but Halifax was the destination  of the ship and some proportion of its cargo. Salvors and shipowners, not to mention cargo owners, would like the ship to land at its destination port if only to simplify matters. Landing the ship and cargo in Bermuda would be a massive headache, if only due to the space and equipment needed to unload.

Ships in distress often want to get into the nearest port before they breakup or sink, but in this case there is not the same sense of urgency as far as we can tell. The first concern is to control and contain the fire. When that is done, the ship will be safe to tow anywhere.

Looking at prevailing winds and currents, and the effort required to tow a very big ship, a decision may be made to go to a port other than Halifax but that decision may not need to be made for a while. As long as the ship is generally headed northwest (that is toward eastern North America) they are making progress. It does not take much course deviation from that far out to shift to New York or Halifax.

3. What is with the tugs?

This what I know:

Atlantic Enterprise is en route back to Newark. I have no explanation of what its role might have been. If the plywood over the winch control house windows indicates damage to the winch controls themselves, that damage was not repaired in Halifax, and it returned to sea still with the plywood panels over the windows.

SMIT Nicobar was en route to Mexico when it was called in to assist. It has been released to continue on its way now that fleet mate Sovereign has arrived.

Maersk Mobiliser has exceptional capabilities and as the most powerful tug would be the most likely tug to tow the ship, but it is hired at a daily rate. Sovereign on the other hand is a SMIT company tug, and might be more economical. Then Maersk Mobilizer could use is greater  firefighting capability and be a base for firefighters, salvors, etc., There might also be less expensive resources available or if Mobiliser has other commitments, it could be relieved.

Horizon Star has additional resources aboard to assist. Its helicopter platform might be of use when it is closer to land, but as of now they are way beyond the flying range of any shore based helicopters.

Firefighting is the primary effort now. That would be followed by controlling drift if the wind is hampering fire fighting. Only then would towing to destination become a priority.

As I stated in the first post on this topic, fires on container ships are notoriously difficult to fight - particularly if they are deep seated within the ship.

End of Question Period.


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