Tuesday, December 7, 2010

On Golden Seas - Updated: Safe Haven

Unalaska Community Broadcasting, KUCB FM/TV, reported the successful conclusion to the Tor Viking II's 500 mile (804 km) tow of the crippled bulk carrier M/V Golden Seas.

She was secured in Broad Bay, Unalaska Island adjacent to Dutch Harbor on Tuesday afternoon, December 7th, at 1 PM Alaska Standard Time (UTC -9).

KUCB news reports, "Technicians from AllSeas Marine are traveling from Anchorage to Unalaska, and repairs to the Golden Seas are expected be done by the end of the week. The Coast Guard will be overseeing the repairs.

Hopefully the Golden Seas will be continuing its voyage to the United Arab Emirates after leaving Dutch Harbor on Friday December 10th, according to spokesperson Adam Baylor

Well done! Through the combined efforts of the US Coast Guard and highly skilled professional mariners, a motor vessel was snatched from the jaws of the Bering Sea.

The "stars were aligned" on this incident. The Tor Viking II just happened to be in Dutch Harbor when the incident began, able to respond quickly. But the incident brings attention to the larger issue of maritime safety in the Aleutians.

Here is how our story began:

Port Townsend, Monday Dec 6th. Judging from the "headline" photo, Robert in Port Townsend has taken complete leave of his senses. What has this got to do with railroading?

Well, nothing. But saving the M/V Golden Seas from certain death in the Bering Sea is a real life drama where the stakes are high. And, just like with the "Deepwater Horizon" story, I promise you will find greater detail, right here on "Oil-Electric," than you'll ever find on the evening news!

Depending on the news station you watch, or newspaper you read, you may have heard about the high drama taking place in the Aleutian Islands concerning the rescue of the bulk carrier - not freighter, not tanker - bulk carrier M/V Golden Seas.

The M/V Golden Seas reported loss of power to the USCG at 12:15 AM on Friday, December 3, and was adrift north of Adak Island in the storm tossed Bering Sea.

Her turbocharger had blown. Initially powerless, the engineering department managed to restart the main engine. But without the turbocharger, she could only make 3 knots (3.5 mph). She was crippled and in immediate danger of drifting aground in the Aleutian Islands.

The M/V Golden Seas, owned and operated by Paragon Shipping, nee Iolcos Destiny, built by Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding for Iolcos Hellenic Maritime Enterprises, IMO number 9305104, launched in 2006. She is a bulk carrier with no loading or unloading appliances of her own. At 74,475 DWT (Dead Weight Tons), she is 738 feet long.

She departed Vancouver BC last week, destined for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with 60,000 tons of rapeseed. [See footnote below.]

But if she was headed for the UAE, what the heck was she doing north of the Aleutian Islands in the Bering Sea?

When we were little kids, Mom always impressed my sister and I with "The shortest distance between home and your destination is a straight line!" In other words, no dilly-dallying around! Go directly where you are supposed to be going!

In traveling over the ocean, that straight-line rule holds true up to a certain point. However, as distance increases, strange things begin to happen due to the curvature of the earth. The result is, on a flat surface, a straight line, or in geometic terms, a loxodrome, is the shortest distance between two points. (You remember Mercator et al.)

In long-range intercontinental voyages; from the West Coast to the Far East or the East coast to Europe, an orthodrome, in geometric terms, on a globe, sphere or the earth, is the shortest distance between two points. This is more familiar to us as a "Great Circle Route."

Remarkably, the Great Circle track routes vessels departing British Columbia, Puget Sound, the Bay Area, or Los Angeles in an arc, north of the Aleutians into the Bering Sea, via Unimak Pass.

And this is a busy track. More than two thousand vessels transit this route annually.

So that explains how the M/V Golden Seas found herself in deep doo-doo in the Bering Sea, on a voyage from Vancouver BC to the United Arab Emirates.

As the drama with the Golden Seas was playing out, two vessels were in Dutch Harbor, both under charter by Shell Oil in support of oil exploration in the Beaufort Sea. The Norwegian "Tor Viking II" and the American "Nanuq."

If you are a fan of Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch," you have seen Dutch Harbor many times. The show never mentions the name of the town, Unalaska, located on Unalaska Island. Unalaska's harbor is named "Dutch Harbor."

Perhaps they thought it would confuse the viewers. The Aleut people first inhabited the island of "Ounalashka," meaning "Near the Peninsula." As with most indigenous names, settlers had great difficulty in spelling or pronouncing indigenous names, finding it easier to apply phonetics. Hence, "Unalaska."

The Tor Viking II is owned and operated by Viking Supply Ships, a Norwegian company. She is an impressive vessel rated for unlimited world wide service, fitted with an ice breaker bow. The lengthy open after-deck is a service platform for anchor handling and re-supply of offshore oil rigs.

She has an unusual state of the art power plant, referred to as a CODAD propulsion system - COmbined Diesel and Diesel - also known as "father-son" or "mother -daughter." This places a pair of engines of differing horsepower into a common gearbox. Parallel side by side, she has twin propellers and rudders.

CODAD allows various combinations of engines and horsepower to be brought on line to meet demand, while allowing non-essential engines to be idled or shut down, resulting in fuel and emission savings. We are seeing versions of this with modern hybrid locomotives. Tor Viking II's combined output, running all four diesels, is an impressive 18,300 horsepower.

The Nanuq, a 301-foot, Arctic A-1 ice class, oil recovery platform supply vessel, built by Edison Chouest of Houma Louisiana, owned by Shell, is assisting in the rescue. In a pretty neat public relations gambit, Edison encouraged the residents of the village of Kaktovik, Alaska, to named the boat. [See footnote below.]

"Nanuq," translates as "polar bear" in their native Inuit language.

The 7,200 horsepower Nanuq was built to Shell's specifications by Edison Chouest Offshore, of Homana, Louisiana, and exceeds the highest standards of the United States Coast Guard for Arctic operations. To date, she is the most technologically advanced response vessel operating in the United States. With a crew compliment of 41, towing capabilities, and an onboard hospital, the Nanuq is the most uniquely equipped vessel of its kind.

Edison Chouest Offshore is no stranger to Oil-Electric. Remember the Joe Griffin story?

A US Coast Guard Sea King helicopter rendezvoused with the Tor Viking II, delivering a palletized Emergency Towing System.

The area is no stranger to marine casualties. Just to the south of Unalaksa, the PCC - Pure Car Carrier - Cougar Ace, came to grief when the engineering department accidentally caused the vessel to suddenly heel over, as they attempted to re-allocate ballast in stormy seas. The story of what to do with 4,703 new Mazda's is worthy reading.

The wreck of the M/V Seledang Ayu in May, 2005, claimed four lives and the downing of a US Coast Guard helicopter, stuck by a wave., The Seledang incident coated large areas of pristine and endangered environment with bunker diesel oil and hydraulic fluids.

Following the near grounding of the M/V Salica Frigo on March 9, 2007 the Mayor of Unalaska convened a Disabled Vessel workgroup to address the possibility of future groundings and to discuss local emergency response solutions. This initial meeting prompted the Emergency Towing System (ETS) workgroup; whose goal was to develop emergency towing capabilities for disabled vessels in the Aleutian Sub area.


Through their efforts, an Emergency Towing System - ETS - was developed, containing all the equipment and lines required to connect locally available tugboats to distressed vessels, allowing them to be towed out of harms way. Talk about proactive, rather than rely on State or Federal assistance, The City of Unalaska put together the first ETS system, suitable for vessels up to 50,000 DWT, which became the model.

This prompted the State to act, with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation purchasing a system capable of towing vessels greater than 50,000 DWT. ADEC maintains both packages staged in Unalaska, palletized and immediacy available to deliver to a causality by vessel or by helicopter.

Getting to the stranded vessel is the easy part. The trick is in passing a towline between the two vessels, bobbing erratically around in heavy seas. Included in that ETS package is a powerful rescue gun, used to fire a smaller diameter line to the distressed vessel.

Sounds easy. But it isn't. It very challenging. The smaller line is connected to the main towline, which the crew of the causality pulls aboard and secures. If they have power, like the Golden Seas does, that part in much easier, using a winch to retrieve the main towline.

By late Saturday, the Tor Viking had taken the Golden Seas in tow, with the Nanuq as escort and backup vessel.

To avoid continuing rough weather in the Bering Sea, the flotilla is in transit along a less direct route south of the Island Chain, with arrival in Dutch Harbor on Tuesday December 7th.

[Footnote rapeseed: Canola Oil is a Canadian invention. Rapeseed is used to make Canola oil. Because advertising "rape" oil has the potential to discomfit people, "Canola Oil" was adopted. Pure rape oil is an industrial oil. It is not a food.

However, the rapeseed plant, part of the mustard family, was genetically engineered in Canada, creating a strain that produces a seed safe for human consumption. The name "Canola" was derived from,Canadian oil, low acid" in 1978."

Footnote Nanuq: Edison Chouest is active in the Gulf of Mexico and is now becoming a player in Alaska through Royal Dutch Shell, which has purchased the Nanuq, and ordered a second from the company in support of its arctic oil and gas exploration program. When the icebreaker contract was announced in July 2009, Chouest spokesman Lonnie Thibodeaux told the Louisiana news site HoumaToday.com the project "could be small in comparison to what could come down the line."

Edison Chouest has become a major player in Shell's offshore exploration plans, with the company building state-of-the-art vessels equipped with the best technology available, said Curtis Smith, a Shell spokesman. The company built and operates Shell's existing ice-class anchor handler, The Nanuq, which Shell considers the centerpiece of its oil-spill response fleet, he said.

Shell is paying Edison Chouest $150 million for another arctic-class, ice-breaking supply ship, which will be the largest and most sophisticated vessel the company has ever built, according to Houmatoday.com. It's expected to take 1,000 employees two years and more than two million man-hours to build.

Shell's contract with Edison Chouest is not only an economic boom for the shipbuilder's home state of Louisiana but also for Alaska, where residents are helping operate Shell's ships, Smith said.

"The Nanuq was fully crewed by Alaskans and other Alaskans, including residents from Kaktovik and the North Slope, have been recruited to work/train on the (Edison Chouest fleet) around the world," Smith said in an e-mail. "It's our view this is a good example of the value proposition offshore exploration brings to the state -- especially coastal communities."

Contact Jill Burke at jill(at)alaskadispatch.com This e-mail address is being protected from spam]

3 Comments - Click here:

Unknown said...

Correction for you, the USCG doesn't fly any Sea King helocopters. In Alaska they fly HH-60 Jayhawks (a specialized variant of the Blackhawk airframe) out of Air Station Kodiak . The logistics of search and rescue in Alaska are astounding given the distances involved and the fact that they only have two air stations in the state with a few outlying facilities to support temporary basing of aircraft. I suspect you could disappear down whole new path researching Coast Guard operations in Alaska.

I have been enjoying reading the blog.

Robert in Port Townsend said...

Thank you for your comment. Where I came up with that information has me stymied. I am very fastidious about my research.

I would not have created "Sea King" on my own. It is a specific type of aircraft. And I would not have known how the ETS would get from the warehouse to the Tor Viking.

I am befuddled.

But, I am taking the "day off" - after all, it's Christmas!

Will comb my notes later.

Glad you enjoy the Blog!

Robert in Port Townsend said...

However, Ross, I do have a correction for you, that I can document. The 17th Dist is flying MH-60T, not HH-60.

Reference: http://www.uscg.mil/acquisition/programs/pdf/mh60t.pdf

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