Maritime Memos - January 2013

USG's 123-ft. WPB Suit Thrown Out

A federal judge in New  Orleans has thrown out the Government's False Claims Act suit against Bollinger Shipyards in which it was alleged that Bollinger misrepresented the facts surrounding the disastrous attempt to stretch eight Island-class patrol boats.  Read the story here Read the judge's full 40-page order on PACER here January 31, 2013.

So Much for Wind Power

The Daily Telegraph reports today that an 80-foot wind turbine in southwest England was blown over by a 50-mph wind yesterday.  Read the story here.  Is that ironic or what?  Better stick to fossil fuels, guys.  January 30, 2013.

Fewer Spills

The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation, (ITOPF), has updated its statistics to include 2012 - quick work, ITOPF - and the trend continues downward.  See the chart on the right, or, if you can't read that, click here to go to their Statistics page, where the whole story is succinctly presented, with excellent illustrations.  Good news.  January 30, 2013.

LaHood Not Staying After All

Contrary to last week's report, it now appears that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is leaving after all.  Read the DoT announcement hereJanuary 29, 2013.

USS Guardian to Be Scrapped in Place

Defense News reports that the USS Guardian, (MCM 5), is to be broken up in place rather than lifted off the reef.  Read the story here.  Sad.  January 29, 2013.

Anyone Want a Free Ferry?

This is amazing.  Alaska's Matanuska-Susitna Borough is now offering the notorious Lockheed Martin ferry-to-nowhere Susitna to any governmental entity that will take it.  Free.  Just come and get it.  Please.  Pleeeeeease.  Read their solicitation here.  What a fiasco this project has been!  Who's to blame?  The Alaskans presumably thought they were getting a functional, economical boat but they never set up the terminals and related operating environment that it requires.  You can't blame the shipyard, which just built what it was contracted to build.  And you can't even blame ONR, who get crazy projects like this dumped on them by the idiot Congress all the time, although one might wish that they would speak up occasionally.  No, most of the blame goes to Lockheed Martin and its congressional lackeys.  Doesn't anyone in that company remember why they got out of shipbuilding back in the 1980s?  Whose brilliant idea was it for them to get back in?  January 28, 2013.

Liberty Maritime Sues MARAD

Marine Log reports that the inimitable Phil Shapiro's Liberty Maritime Corporation is suing MARAD for misapplication of the rules of the Maritime Security Program, or MSP, to the detriment of Liberty's business.  Read the story here.  This should be interesting and could result in the opening up of several other cans of worms.  More to come.  January 28, 2013.

Subs for Taiwan?  Why Not?

Shipbuilder(s) Country For # Type Design Disp.
DCNS Cherbourg France France 6 SSN Barracuda 4,765
DCNS/Navantia France/Spain Brazil 4 SS Scorpene 2,000
HDW/Nordseewerke Germany Germany 2 SS Type 212A 1,450
Hellenic Shipyards Greece Greece 5 SS Type 214 1,690
Mazagon Dock India India 6 SS Scorpene 1,870
Fincantieri Muggiano Italy Italy 2 SS Type 212A 1,450
Kawasaki/Mitsubishi Japan Japan 5 SS Soryu 2,900
Hyundai/Daewoo South Korea South Korea 6 SS Type 214 1,690
Golcuk NSY Turkey Turkey 6 SS Type 214 1,690
BAE Barrow U.K. U.K. 6 SSN Astute 7,000

Defense News reports that the subject of Taiwan's need for eight conventionally-powered attack submarines has raised its head again, 12 years after the Bush/Cheney team promised to supply them.  Read the story here.  There is, of course, no rational reason why a U.S. shipyard should not build these boats.  The principal objections come from the Navy, which seems to think that, if a U.S. shipyard were to build a non-nuclear submarine for export, it might accidentally incorporate top secret features of nuclear submarines, resulting in the immediate end of the world as we know it.   This being ridiculous, it's safe to say that the Navy's real concern is that, if a U.S. shipyard were to start building non-nuclear subs for, say, a quarter of the cost of nuclear subs, some members of the Congress might decide that the U.S. Navy should have a few of them and cut back on the expensive SSNs.  In that respect, the Navy might be right.  In reality, there is no reason why Bath or Ingalls or NASSCO should not build non-nuclear submarines: it ain't that hard.  And it doesn't have to be a U.S. design: they could build a European design under license.  At present, I count 48 submarines under construction or on order from 13 non-US/non-Chinese shipyards, as shown in the table below.  Note that RDM, the Dutch submarine builder, went out of business about eight years ago, but someone presumably owns their designs.  This is not an insuperable problem, it's just one that has been unnecessarily complicated by folk with a self-serving agenda.  January 28, 2013.

USS Guardian a Goner?

In this connection, I have been reminded that the USNS Chauvenet, (T-AGS 29), also ran on a reef in the Sulu Sea, back in 1982, and was only salvaged with the greatest difficulty, in an effort that took three weeks.  January 23, 2013.

P.S.:  Finally, this story has made it into the major media: read the coverage on CNN here.  The news is not good: the Navy is planning to lift the Guardian off the reef and seems to be signaling that she's too badly damaged to repair.  Note also what I should have mentioned before: this is a wooden-hulled ship.  She was a product of that fine yard, Peterson Builders, who turned out 11 of the 14 ships of this class, Marinette Marine building the other three.  January 25, 2013.

The latest word is that the USS Guardian, (MCM 5), is still aground on that reef in the Sulu Sea, is badly holed, is flooded to the tide line, its bulkheads are failing and the weather is terrible.  See the picture on the right, from the Armed Forces of the Philippines.  Not good.

LaHood Staying

Bloomberg News reports that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has decided to stay on for as long as the Prez wants him.  Read the story here.  He had earlier - back in October 2011 - said that he would move on at the end of the first term.  He must be having fun.  OK, Ray, you can stay, but only if you get rid of Matsuda and promise to elevate the maritime industry to the same level of attention and funding as the road and rail industries.  January 22, 2013.

USS Guardian Still Aground

It's now been five days since the USS Guardian, (MCM 5), ran aground in the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, in the middle of the Sulu Sea, in the middle of the Philippines archipelago, miles and miles from any port.  She seems to be fairly well stuck on the reef.  Not that you would know about this from the U.S. media.  And there hasn't been much from the Navy about what they are doing about it.  January 22, 2013.

How to Move a Dry-Dock

P.S.:  A reader reminds me that YFD 6 later became AFDM 3 and ended up at Bender Shipbuilding, in Mobile AL.  Click here to see her now, sitting on the bottom of the Mobile River.  January 22, 2013.

P.P.S.:  I am told that this type of transit of dry-docks through the Canal was not uncommon.  I just had not heard about it before and I imagine that nor had most of you.  Anyway here's another one of interest.  In 1975, the former ARD 20, the White Sands, was moved through the Ballard Locks into Lake Union, for use by Marine Power & Equipment.  Read more and see a whole bunch of great pictures here.  MPE is long gone and the ARD 20 is now at Lake Union Dry Dock.  See it on Google here.  January 22, corrected January 23, 2013.

Working on the never-ending task of filling gaps in the tables on the other web site, I tripped over this.  In the summer of 1945, the USS Alarka, (YTB 229), fresh out of Greenport Basin & Construction Company, and the USS Umpqua, (ATA 209), built in 1944 by Gulfport Boiler, moved the YFD 6, a floating dry-dock, through the Panama Canal.  Since the three-section dock was 661 feet long and 116 feet in breadth overall, the always-imaginative Seabees turned each section on its side for transit, as shown in the picture.  Is that neat or what?  A lot simpler than going round the Horn.  January 21, edited January 22, 2013.

Coast Guard Rescues Pussy Cat

The Savannah Morning News reports that the Coast Guard rescued a pussy cat from a sailboat 38 miles offshore on Saturday.  Read the story here.  The pussy cat, curiously named Tommy Girl, is OK, as is his/her pet human, who was crewing.  No news, however, of the owl.  January 21, 2013.

Research Ship Sinks in Gulf

Tampa Bay's Channel 9 reports that the research vessel Seaprobe sank in the Gulf on Friday, the Coast Guard rescuing the crew of 12, all of whom seem to be OK, although three are described as having "minor injuries".  Read the story here.  The Seaprobe was built in 1974 by Burton Shipyard, in Port Arthur, as the OSV Barents Seahorse.  She was owned by Fugro Geosciences, of Houston.  January 21, 2013.

Let's Expand the Jones Act

All this talk about repealing the Build-American part of the Jones Act is obviously not going anywhere, especially as long as the rest of the Act remains in place.  I mean, how do you justify screwing one half of the maritime industry and not the other half?  The maritime industry in the U.S.A. is more expensive than it is in China: get used to it.  The thing is, though, there are sectors of the U.S. maritime industry that are not covered by the Jones Act or the PVSA, because they don't involve the carriage of goods or people: drill rigs, floating platforms, specialized OSVs, construction vessels, cable layers, fire boats, for example.  The only reason the law only applies to vessels carrying cargo and/or people is that, back in 1920, we didn't have any vessels that didn't carry cargo and/or people, or hardly any.  It is relevant, therefore, that we amended the Jones Act in the 1970s to include dredges.  Clearly it can be done.  So, how about amending it again to include all vessels and floating structures operating in U.S. waters?  That would stimulate the economy a tad.  January 18, 2013.

MCM Aground in the Philippines

The USS Guardian, (MCM 5), ran aground on Tubbataha Reef yesterday, after leaving Olongapo.  This news doesn't seem to have made it to either the general or the industry media but here is the Navy's announcement.  The crew has been taken off, which seems to indicate that she's hard aground and not coming off any time soon.  What is it with the current generation of ship drivers that they keep wrecking our beautiful ships?  January 18, 2013.

The Greeks Have Another Idea

P.S.:  And a head tax on cruise ship passengers too.  January 18, 2013.

Sometimes one worries about the Greeks but once in a while they come up with a good idea.  Democracy, for example: what a concept!  Anyway, Bloomberg reports today that the Greeks are planning to levy a tonnage tax on foreign-flag ships managed by companies based in Greece.  Read the story here.  Now there's an idea.  Why don't we do that?  That's a rhetorical question of course, you knew that: don't write and tell me why it's a terrible idea.  But it would be nice if all those foreign-flag shipping companies that get to move our trade were making some small contribution to our economic health.  Is it time to resuscitate the Ford Administration's plan to levy a tonnage tax on oil and gas imported in foreign-flag ships?  And/or on incoming containers?  Or what?  January 16, 2013.

Vigor Drops WSF Ferry

Seattle's Channel 5 reports that the two-year-old ferry Chetzemoka came off the blocks yesterday in the dry-dock at Vigor Industrial's Seattle shipyard, better known as Todd Seattle.  Read the story here The extent of the damage is unclear.  Not good.  January 16, 2013.

Israel to Buy Korean OPVs?

P.S.:  By the way, my spies say that the OPV - officially designated an FMC -  that VTHM is building for Egypt - pictured above - is far exceeding the Navy's expectations.  If so, let's buy some for the US Navy.  They are less than half the price of an LCS: why not cut back on LCSs and build some FMCs?  People keep telling me that a somewhat simpler FMC would work particularly well if you put four of them in a task force led by an LCS.  Let's try it.  January 15, 2013.

Defense News reports that Israel is planning to buy four OPVs from a Korean shipbuilder.  Read the announcement here U.S. yards were deemed to be too expensive.  Huh.  We give Egypt $1.3 billion a year in Military Assistance and they buy US-built OPVs. We give Israel $2.8 billion a year in Military Assistance and they don't buy US-built OPVs because they're too expensive.  Something seems to be out of whack here.  Of course they don't have to buy US-built OPVs, but they buy plenty of other stuff through the FMS program, so why not OPVs?  We want Israel to have the best of everything, right?  Doesn't that include OPVs?  January 15, 2013.

Seacor to Spin Off Era Helicopters

Following up on last month's cash dividend, Seacor is now giving its Gulf of Mexico helicopter operation to its stockholders.  Shares in Era Group, Inc., will be distributed to Seacor's stockholders on a one-for-one basis at the end of this month.  Read the announcement here and visit the company here.  Intriguing.  What will their next move be?  January 15, 2013.

Vigor Buys a Big Dock

As predicted here in November, Vigor Industrial - why is it called Vigor Industrial and not Vigor Industries, seeing as how Industrial is an adjective? - has ordered a big floating dock from a Chinese shipyard.  Read the announcement here.  The market for this dock is a mystery to me, but shoot, what do I know?  Who financed it?  Are you insane?  This dock, as we pointed out before, is almost identical to the one that Vigor - then called Cascade General - used to have in Portland - see the photo on the right - but couldn't get work for - I wonder why - and which they sold to Grand Bahama Shipyard in 2001, thus effectively helping a foreign shipyard to kill the USEC cruise ship repair market.  Read some of the discussion of that sale here.  Those guys at Vigor must be so proud of their clear-headed decision-making.  January 14, 2013.

More Bad News from Canadian Shipbuilding

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had a harrowing report on Saturday - read it here - that seems to indicate that the Canadian Government is screwing up its small vessel construction program even more royally than it has already screwed up the big ship program.  Note the comments of the Nova Scotia Boat Builders Association to the effect that the government's approach was more appropriate to the procurement of destroyers than to boatbuilding and effectively deters most boatbuilders from competing.  Note also that the Government responded to the NSBBA by taking two years to produce a 17-page PowerPoint presentation.  Gollee!  If we think that the U.S. Government is a mess, don't even consider moving to Canada.   January 14, 2013.

More Nonsense about Avondale

The CEO of HII, Mike Petters, was quoted by Reuters on Wednesday on the subject of the Avondale shipyard.  Read the story here.  He starts off by suggesting that Avondale might have a future in offshore construction, despite its inaccessible location, although he covers himself to some extent by recognizing that shipbuilders have a lousy track record of penetrating other industries, the most egregious example of which being, of course, Ingalls.  Petters is wrong about the workforce too, although I suppose he's obliged to say nice things.  Regardless of how good the workforce might have been, if they're down to 2000 people today, most of the best workers are already gone.  The fact is that there is no market for this shipyard any more.  There is only one thing to do with it and, with their last ship in the water, they should be doing it now, not just talking.  They should be working with the State to turn the whole thing into an industrial park, inviting proposals for leases of individual parts of this huge facility.  If they had started this process two years ago, their laid-off shipyard workers might have had somewhere to go.  It's reminiscent of what happened with the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.  When its closure was announced, it had 7,500 employees.  By the time the politicians and the Metal Trades Council had got through trying to block the yard's closure, they were down to a maintenance crew, and the new tenant, Kvaerner, (Aker's predecessor), had to train its workforce from scratch.  January 12, 2013.

And Funny Numbers in Pascagoula

Station WKRG in Mobile AL reports that someone at Ingalls Shipbuilding has been fudging the numbers.  Read the story here.  Let us hope that this is a small-scale, isolated, incident and not the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  January 12, 2013.

Lehman Buys IMECO

The latest company in our industry to be snapped up by J. F. Lehman & Company is IMECO, of Iron Mountain MI, which designs and installs HVAC, cargo handling, steering, propulsion and fire suppression systems in ships.  Read the announcement here.  Other companies owned by the former SECNAV's little outfit include ACR Electronics, Defense Venture Group, Doss Aviation, Drew Marine, National Response Corporation and US Joiner.  January 5, 2013.

Spearhead Out of Dry Dock

The first JHSV, USNS Spearhead, was undocked this morning, at BAE's yard in Mobile AL.  Finally!  Now she should soon be heading to her home port of Little Creek VA.  January 4, 2013.

Dry-Docking the Kulluk

I'm sure that everyone in the industry is following the saga of the drilling barge (not drillship) Kulluk with fingers crossed that it comes to a quick conclusion, with minimum after-effects for all concerned.  One interesting question that arises from the probability that she has bottom damage is, "How on earth do you dry-dock this beast?"  The conical-hull Kulluk is 260 feet in diameter at the main deck, so she won't fit in any dry-dock.  She was designed by Earl & Wright, SEDCO's engineering operation, for Canada's Gulf Beaudril: see an excellent collection of pictures and drawings here.  She has a lightweight of 17,500 tons and a light draft of 26 feet: who's got a platform that can be submerged by 30 to 32 feet and then lift 17,500 tons?  Well Keppel has, but it's in Singapore.  By the way, the Kulluk was built by Mitsui, in its Tamano yard, presumably occupying two of their inclined ways, because she is too wide to have been built on one, or in any of their graving docks.  It was probably intended that, like most drilling rigs, it would never be necessary to dry-dock her, in the conventional sense.  I guess she could be docked on a heavy-lift ship, if absolutely necessary, although the charter would be pretty expensive January 3, corrected January 4, 2013.

Eliminate the Jones Act? - Part 2

Yesterday's memo only addressed the Build-American issue, because that was all that Bloomberg addressed and that is what the Hawaiians have been targeting.  But if we are - just hypothetically, mind you - going to eliminate the Build-American principle, thereby screwing the U.S. shipbuilding industry, we should also eliminate the US-citizen ownership and US-citizen crewing provisions as well.  What would hurt our national security to have a Dutch barge operator on the inland waterways or a Norwegian OSV operator in the Gulf of Mexico?  The Reagan Administration opened up the U.S. foreign-trade fleet to foreign-built ships operated by foreign shipping companies, effectively putting five or six large U.S. shipyards and five or six large U.S. ship operators out of business, and the nation seems to have survived.  And eliminating the US-citizen crewing requirement would have minimal impact because crews would still need to comply with U.S. immigration and labor laws.  January 3, 2013.

Eliminate the Jones Act?

There was an interesting and stimulating, if not entirely accurate, editorial on Bloomberg News yesterday that essentially said that it's time to dump the Jones Act.  Read the article here.  I tend to agree that much of the original thinking that gave birth to the Jones Act is now redundant and non-applicable, even though Adam Smith made protection of the maritime industry the only acceptable exception to his free trade principles.  In addition, if I lived in Hawaii, I too would be ticked off at the extra costs involved.  But the question of whether or not to do away with the Jones Act is actually only half of a two-part question: the other half is "How do we do that?"  If the Jones Act were to be repealed today, those operators who have not built any ships lately would be free to buy Chinese-built ships and would then be in an advantageous competitive position relative to those operators who bit the bullet and renewed their fleets with US-built ships.  So, any transition to this hypothetical competitive world must be structured in some way that protects the companies with the high-cost assets.  It's not hard to postulate ways of doing this, and yes, it may require different approaches for the different industry sectors, some being significantly less competitive than others, but I don't hear anyone talking about it.  I imagine that the position of the various industry sectors is basically "Forget it: the Jones Act ain't going away", as they've been saying for years, but the walls may be closing in and it's better to be prepared than otherwise.  How about an industry-wide strategy session?  January 2, 2013.

 

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