U.K. Standby Vessels Set For Winter Deployment
U.K. stands by its vessels This winter is expected to bring the positioning of three standby towing vessels at strategic locations around the U.K. for operation by Her Majesty's Coast Guard. This projection follows recommendations made by Lord Donaldson in his report on the stranding and loss of Braer and the ship's entire crude oil cargo.
Although there has been much discussion and indeed close cooperation between the British and Dutch governments over the question of standby vessels, within the EC, only the U.K. is protected by anchor handling/towing supply (AHTS) ships rather than the dedicated salvage tugs. It is claimed that AHTS has greater operational effectiveness and versatility and is more economical to operate due to lower manning levels. Specialist salvage crews can be sent out to ships by helicopter if circumstances require.
The latest vessel to enter service in the emergency towing vessel (ETV) role is the 222-ft. (67.7-m), Singapore-built Far Minara, introduced to cover the stormy Western Approaches. Howard Smith Salvage, contracted by the British Coast Guard Agency to provide the service, positioned the 12,240-hp vessel at Falmouth in October. Equipped with four Bergen diesels, the vessel is a more powerful version of the 10,000-hp Far Turbot, which the company and its Aberdeen-based partner Farstad Shipping operates from Dover, close to the busy sea lanes of the E n g l i s h Channel.
Far Minara, a highly maneuverable vessel with twin CP propellers in nozzles, two b o w t h r u s t e r s and a stern thruster, called at Howard Smith's homeport of Hull earlier this month to take on specialized salvage equipment. The vessel will be under the command of officers who have already gained experience in emergency operations on Far Turbot. J o h n R u t h e r f o r d , chief executive of Howard Smith,said: "This additional contract shows the U.K. has found the right combination of established salvage skills and powerful but versatile vessels to fill the ETV role. The last two winters have given the Coast Guard and ourselves valuable experience in various exercises, as well as real emergencies to prove that the AHTS type of vessel meets the requirement." Howard Smith's salvage manager, Capt. Mark Hoddinott, added: "We are fortunate to have been able to get an even more powerful AHTS with 127 tons continuous bollard pull for the planned third ETV station. The extra power and wide area of operation will give us the opportunity to explore even further what these vessels are able to achieve." Capt. Hoddinott also explained to MR /EN the primary reasons behind the British government's decision to opt for this type of vessel. "In addition to the obvious essential of abundant bollard pull, an AHTS is incomparably better than the salvage tug in terms of maneuverability — crucial when attempting to get a line onboard a casualty in open sea. The large aft deck offers immense versatility in the subsidiary but important roles such as pollution response and survivor recovery. For example, Far Turbot — stationed on the cross channel ferry routes — has a hospital and inside accommodation for 210 survivors and many more on deck," he said. "At Howard Smith we thoroughly agree with the government's policy in this respect." During our discussions with Capt. Hoddinott, he advised that Far Minara was at that very moment standing by an incapacitated German coaster in a Force 10 northwesterly 15 miles off Plymouth. Laden with Irish stone, the 3,000-dwt vessel had water in its fuel.
The other standby vessel to take up its operational position is the 12,720-bhp Portosalvo, which arrived on station at Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, off the northwest coast of Scotland, on October 3. The vessel will reportedly serve at Stornoway until March 1997.
Operated by the CorySmitWijsmuller (CSW) consortium, Portosalvo, with a bollard pull of 147 tons, will provide emergency coverage for Northwest Scotland, including the Minches. The British Coast Guard's contract with CSW is a renewal of a similar contract carried out last year, when the vessel employed was 127- ton bollard pull Smit Lloyd Safe. The six months during which Portosalvo will be on station are those forcasted with the worst weather, when emergency situations are likely to occur. Although Portosalvo is managed by CSW — an Anglo-Dutch consortium of three leading towage and salvage companies, Cory Towage, of the U.K.; Smit Tak, of the Netherlands; and Wij smuller Salvage, also of the Netherlands — the vessel, like its counterparts to the south and west, is under the operational direction of the British Coast Guard, immediately available to respond to that agency's requirements.
At the time Portosalvo took up station the ship was registered in Italy, but will reportedly be reflagged under the British 'Red Ensign', an operation scheduled for completion in November. The ship's British crew of 12 includes two cadet/students undertaking the Merchant Navy training course at Lewis Castle College. This practical experience will complement the education they have received ashore.
The 227 ft. (69.3 m) long Portosalvo is powered by four B&W Alpha diesel engines, each developing 3,180 bhp, driving twin CP propellers in Kort nozzles. The vessel can operate on any combination of engines allowing maximum fuel economy, and with all four engines in use at continuous service rating, achieves a speed of 15.4 knots. Maneuverability is enhanced by two bowthrusters — one of 6.5 tons and one of five tons and a five-ton stern thruster.
Control of the main engines, steering gear and all thrusters is effected from fixed positions at the forward and aft ends of the wheelhouse, and there is also a portable joystick controller that can be used anywhere on the bridge, and overrides the fixed controls. The tug master is thus able to control operations from the most suitable position for the particular task being undertaken.
Built by Appledore Shipyard as Wimpey Seahorse, the vessel is classed by Lloyd's Register and equipped to FiFil standards. The vessel's towing equipment includes a Brattvaag three drum waterfall type winch, each drum with a pull of 260 tons and a brake holding power of 400 tons. The main towing drum has a capacity of 1,225 yds. (1,150 m) of wire, 70 mm in diameter.