Maritime Memos - January 2012

USS Ponce to Become a Floating Base

The Navy has put out an RFP, with a very quick turnaround, for conversion of the 40-year-old USS Ponce, (LPD 15), which was due to be decommissioned on March 30, to what they are calling an Afloat Forward Staging Base, or AFSB.  Find it here.  Sounds like a more expensive version of an MLP to me and, sure enough, the Navy is apparently planning to modify the MLP design to allow either the third MLP or a currently unplanned fourth MLP to become an AFSB.  Read the story in Defense News here January 29, 2012.

RFP Out for Dismantling Three Carriers

Now here's an interesting project.  The Navy wants a single contractor to dismantle the Forrestal (CV 59), the Independence (CV 62) and the Constellation (CV 64).  Read the FBO announcement here.  Not many yards have the physical resources to do a job like this, apart from the unique management skills.  How much will this cost?  $80 million each?  Are they worth that much in scrap?   Why not give them to our impoverished allies?  I guess nobody wants ships that big.  Reef them, sink them as targets, take them out into really deep water and pull the plug?  Can't do any of those any more - the greenies wouldn't like it.  January 27, 2012.

P.S.: I'm told that my figure of $80 million is off by a factor well over three.  So I know diddly about the recycling biz.  Anyway, if the lightweight of one of these ships is about 60,000 tons, a price of $24 million per ship would represent about $400 per lightweight ton.  It will be interesting to see what the bids are.  January 30, 2012.

Changes in the Navy's Shipbuilding Program

As far as one can tell from Secretary Panetta's statement, the new defense strategy will mean that the Navy's shipbuilding programs will experience the following changes:

  • CVN: no change

  • SSBN: delayed two years

  • SSN: one boat dropped from the FYDP but not deleted; Block 5 boats to carry cruise missiles

  • DDG: no change

  • LHA: second ship delayed one year

  • LPD: no change

  • LSC: two ships dropped from the FYDP but not deleted

  • JHSV: eight ships dropped from the FYDP but not necessarily deleted

  • MPS: no change

Bad news for Austal, but, all in all, it could have been a lot worse.  January 27, 2012.

Rocket Ship Takes Out Bridge

The Delta Mariner hit the Eggner's Ferry (Highway 68) bridge over the Tennessee River last night, taking out two spans of it, fortunately without any casualties.  Read the story on WKDZ here.  The Delta Mariner is a unique shallow-draft/low-air-draft ship, built by Halter in 1998, which is operated by Foss for Boeing: she generally carries rockets and other stuff from Boeing's plant in Decatur AL down the Tenn-Tom to Mobile and thence to either Cape Canaveral in Florida or Vandenburg AFB in California.  See the pictures on Foss' web site here.  In this case, she was way upstream of Decatur, not far south of the Tennessee's junction with the Ohio River.  January 27, 2012.

McCreary Moves Up

Only three months after joining BAE Systems, Richard McCreary has moved up to become Vice President and General Manager of BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards.  Ever the glutton for punishment, he will continue to be VP Commercial Business Development for BAE Systems Ship Repair.  Richard replaces Dan Welch, who is retiring.  Good move.  January 26, 2012.

Not Alang

The Atlantic published a series of pictures yesterday of the TK Bremen, a small cargo ship which grounded on a beach in France last month and which has already been almost completely recycled.  No particular message here, just look at these terrific pictures.  See them here.  In a world in which so many people use a cell phone to take really crappy pictures, it's nice to know that there are still a few real photographers around.  January 25, 2012.

Can the Costa Concordia Be Saved?

There is a really excellent graphic in the National Post today that addresses the difficulties of salvaging the Costa Concordia.  See it here January 23, 2012.

The Costa Concordia's Wild Ride

The Dutch company, QPS, which makes Qastor navigation software, has recreated the doomed ship's track from the AIS data.  See it here or go to QPS' web site here.  This is astounding.  It seems clear that the ship lost power after the initial grounding.  It also explains why the damage was on her port side but she ended up lying on her starboard side.  As I said earlier, a whole lot of questions arise that are not related to the master's bizarre behavior.  January 23/24, 2012.

Landing Craft Grounded in Maui

In a welcome contrast to more news of the Costa Concordia, we can report that LCM 8540, built by Rohr in the early 70s, ran up on the beach in Maui earlier this week.  Read the story on KITV and see a video here.  No word on what her captain was doing at the time.  January 20, 2012.

Another Refinery Closing

The 500,000-bpd Hess/PDVSA refinery on St. Croix, for which the six Jacksonville-class ITBs were built, will close next month.  Read the announcement here.  January 18, 2012.

President of RINA Resigns

The fallout has started already.  Enrico Scerni, the President of RINA, quit yesterday after saying that everybody knew that captains routinely “take a bow” as they pass Giglio.  Read the story in Genova 24 here January 18, 2012.

Leevac Changes Its Name

LEEVAC Industries, the shipyard in Jennings LA, and LEEVAC Shipbuilding and Repair, the shipyard in Calcasieu LA, have consolidated and both are now LEEVAC Shipyards, LLC.  Makes sense to me.  Read the announcement here January 17, 2012.

Costa's Gone

I reckon Costa's gone, don't you?  They will lose so much business as a result of this fiasco that it would take them years to recover.  Carnival won't sit still for that.  They will close it down and transfer the ships and routes to one or more of the other subsidiary companies.  Without those silly stovepipe stacks, of course.  January 17, 2012.

Seacor Takes Over Trailer Bridge

Seacor and two investment companies are bailing out Trailer Bridge in return for control.  Read the report in the JoC here.  This is excellent news.  Now, how about taking over Horizon too?  January 17, 2012.

Blame the Master But ......

So they are going to put the blame for the Costa Concordia disaster on her Captain.  Fair enough. But there may be just a few technical questions that need answering, don't you think?  Yeeeeees.  It will be interesting to watch Carnival and Fincantieri and RINA dancing around questions that are nothing to do with the Captain's alleged negligence, such as the power failure and the widespread flooding and the crew's training and the lack of emergency drills and probably a bunch more that haven't surfaced yet.  January 16, 2012.

Stackley Goes After HII

Reuters reports that ASN Sean Stackley is leaning on HII to get the costs of the CVN and LPD programs under better control.  Read the story here.  I particularly like this quote from HII's Mike Petters:  "Until those ships (the LPDs) are gone, and until we get Avondale wound down and closed, we sleep with one eye open on all those programs."  Read the ASN's full statement on DefPro Daily here.  January 15, 2012.

Five-Year-Old Cruise Ship Wrecked

How exactly could a post-Panamax cruise ship - the Costa Concordia, built by Fincantieri in 2006 at a cost of over $500 million - be so totally and catastrophically wrecked, with such terrible loss of life?  What was a ship with a 26-foot draft doing there?  What happened to two-compartment subdivision?  What happened to all the back-up systems?  Why did she roll to starboard when the gash appears to be in the port side?  What have Costa Line (owned by Carnival), Fincantieri and RINA (the Italian class society) got to say for themselves? 

Could such a disaster happen here?  In the islands?  In the Florida Keys?  In Alaska?  How can we say that it couldn't?  Of course it could and in fact nearly did, only two weeks ago, when the MSC Poesia, also with a 26-foot draft, ran onto a reef in the Bahamas that was in 15 feet of water.  Read about that hereJanuary 14/15, 2012.

Downsizing Government

It seems from today's news that the Democrats now agree with the Republicans that the federal government's too big and needs to be streamlined.  So this would be a good time, would it not, to act on my oft-repeated suggestion that we should merge all the various departments and agencies that are involved with the commercial marine industry and its infrastructure?  I'm talking about the civil activities of the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, plus the Maritime Administration, the Federal Maritime Commission, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and NOAA.  Let's put them all in the Department of the Interior, with an Assistant Secretary in charge.  January 13, 2012.

Navy Accepts Lorenzen

Military Sealift Command reports that the range instrumentation ship Howard O. Lorenzen, (T-AGM 25), has finally been accepted.  Read the announcement here.  Built by VT Halter Marine to replace the 60-year-old Observation Island, she was rejected back in June, but has apparently now been fixed.  January 13, 2012.

MARAD Gets an Executive Director

Reliable sources say that Joel Szabat, who is currently Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy, has been appointed Executive Director of MARAD.  This is odd, because there is no such position in MARAD and there are several senior vacancies in the existing organization structure, but no doubt all will be made clear soon.  Mr. Szabat appears to be highly qualified - read his bio here - just not qualified for a job in MARAD.  Never a dull moment.  January 11, 2012.

Coast Guard Academy Needs More Space

According to the local press, the Coast Guard Academy needs to expand its facilities but the city of New London doesn't want to accommodate it.  Read the story on WTNH here.  I suppose that it's only a matter of time before someone suggests that the Coast Guard Academy might merge with the Merchant Marine Academy.  Not me, of course.  January 9, 2012.

Historic 75-Year-Old Yacht Sinks

The 93-foot Gypsy Queen, built on City Island in 1936 by Henry B. Nevins, has sunk in Steamboat Slough, near Everett WA.  Read the report from Washington State's Department of Ecology here.  January 6, 2012.

More Strange Names

The Secretary of the Navy continues to stir up the old guard with his non-standard approach to the naming of ships.   First it was the T-AKEs, the LCSs and the JHSVs: now it's the Mobile Landing Platforms.  They will be named Montford Point, John Glenn and Lewis B. Puller.  Read the announcement here.  Read one blog's reaction to it here January 6, 2012.

A Strategic Plan for Kings Point

DoT and MARAD have initiated the development of a strategic plan for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.  Read MARAD's announcement here.  Good.  Now, how about a new and meaningful strategic plan for an effective Maritime Administration?  (Read the current plan, published in 2008, here.)  January 5, 2012.

Nome Tanker Gets Waiver

The Russian tanker Renda got its Jones Act waiver and is on its way from Dutch Harbor to Nome.  Read the story on KTUU here January 5, 2012.

124' x 40' LonglinerAlaska Ship to Build a Longliner

Alaska Longline Company has ordered a new factory longliner - similar to the one on the right - for service in the Bering Sea.  The 136-foot Jensen-designed vessel will be built by Alaska Ship & Drydock and delivered in 2013.  It appears to be the first to be ordered as a result of the recent changes to the American Fisheries Act, which are expected to stimulate renewal of the Alaskan fleet: read a summary of the changes here January 3, 2012.

Keppel O&M Gets Into the Wind Too

AMFELS' parent, Keppel O&M, has bought half of the Norwegian company OWEC Tower AS, which designs offshore wind towers.  Read the press release here.  Will we see them built in Brownsville?  January 3, 2012.

Italian Cable Ship in the Hudson

It's interesting to see Pirelli's cable ship Giulio Verne working in the Hudson River.  It's not long since we had cable layers in the U.S. fleet but, except for the Navy's Zeus, (T-ARC 7) - built by NASSCO in 1985 and primarily a cable repair ship - they've all now been flagged out or sold.  By my count, there are 68 large cable ships in the world fleet, including seven that belong to a U.S. company - TE Connectivity (formerly Tyco).  January 3, 2012.

A Wish List for 2012

Some developments to push for in the New Year:

  • Somebody with financial strength will buy Horizon Lines and order some new ships

  • At least one Great Lakes operator will order some dry bulk ATBs

  • Our multitude of industry associations will get together and start working as a team

  • MARAD will drop the "National Marine Highway" and focus on revitalizing the existing trades

  • DoT, the Corps and the Congress will start rebuilding our maritime infrastructure

  • The industry will enthusiastically embrace everything "green" that makes economic sense

  • SecDoT will fire Matsuda and hire somebody with relevant capability and experience

  • The Navy will finally work out that it is going to have to settle for fewer and simpler ships

There's a bunch more things we should be doing, but these will do for starters.  Don't hold your breath.

January 1, 2012.

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