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Whale watching in the Azores by inflatable

Bill Herbert, Wendy Thompson and Jose Henrique Azevedo have formed a Portuguese company to take interested groups on whale and dolphin watching trips off the island of Faial in the Azores. All three directors recently came to the U.K. to try out the waterjet- propelled rigid inflatable they had ordered from Delta Power Services, and to learn more about fast craft handling from the experts at Lowestoft Maritime College.

The 27.6-ft. (8.4-m) craft, to be named Neptuno, has a maximum beam of 9.8 ft. (3 m), including the two 1.75-ft. (534-mm) diameter inflatable sponsons. Located just aft of amidship, under a hinged cover, is a flexibly mounted Caterpillar 3126TA marine diesel capable of delivering 370-hp at 2,600 rpm, coupled to a Hamilton 291 waterjet via a Twin Disc MG 507A-1 down angle gearbox and vibration-reducing, Centa-flex coupling.

The steering and instrumentation console is located directly aft of the engine and the helmsman's backrest is mounted on another fiberglass molding, square in plan, which houses special hydrophonic whale listening equipment. During trials, the vessel achieved its design speed of 40 knots with three persons onboard for special filming and photography sessions. But for group excursions, the craft will carry 18 people at 23 knots.

According to Hamilton U.K.'s David Eaton, these widely differing characteristics required extreme care in the choice of impeller. The Twin Disc marine gear selected has a ratio of 0.92:1, thus increasing the maximum jet impeller speed to 2,826 rpm which, claimed Mr. Eaton, assisted in obtaining the best results. Mr. Herbert explained that Delta was approached to design the vessel in accordance with established ideas, based on his own whole and dolphin watching experience. "The RIB is simply the best boat to enable us to successfully conduct our project, and the use of o waterjet minimizes waterborne noise pollution. Dolphins and whales live in a world of sound, so we are trying to alleviate the impact of our presence in their world when in close contort," he said. The three owners, who call their company Baleia A Vista Actividades Turisticas Recreativas Lda. — said that the vessel performs above their expectations.

Cross-Channel battle escalates Although still operating at a substantial loss, the tunnel linking England and France is grabbing an increasing share of the crosschannel traffic and forcing ferry companies to adopt bolder marketing initiatives. Faster vessels are being planned and land-based operations streamlined to match the advantages currently offered by the "chunnel." Although many observers believe that rationalization of ferry capacity is urgently required, either through merger or agreement, a third ferry company has joined the big two — P&O and Siena — on the popular short Dover-Calais route, with extensively refurbished vessels.

The new enterprise is the result of the end of the pooling arrangement between France's lending operator SNAT ond Stena Sealink. Dubbed SeaFrance, the company has brought existing vessels into service under the new names SeaFrance Cezanne and SeaFrance Renoir, following major refits at the SNACH yard in Le Havre, which cost a total of S6 million. The majority of the modification work wos carried out on SeaFrance Renoir (formerly Co/e d'Azur), where a complete new mezzanine deck was added to the aft bar, the duty-free shop rebuilt and increased in size by 30 percent and the forward bar extended.

The declared aim of SeaFrance is to attract British customers to the traditional French atmosphere. Managing director Robin Wilkins believes strongly that the British who visit mainland Europe are attracted to continental offerings including the wine, food, fashion and style.

"SeaFrance passengers will not have to travel to Calais to enjoy France — it greets them from the moment they step on board," he added.

A more innovative experiment in increasing customer appeal, as yet only installed aboard SeaFrance Cezanne, is an area developed by London's acclaimed Science Museum. Comprising interactive galleries which are designed to provide younger passengers with an exciting and stimulating experience of science and technology, the floating science museum is intended to be both educational and fun.

Employing these two vessels, SeaFrance is offering 14 departures per doy ond with a third freight ship, is capable of a combined daily capacity of 34,000 passengers, 8,300 cars and 2,400 trucks. Its announced goal is to capture 12 percent of the market or around 2.7 million passengers.

ISU announces pollution survey results in London The International Salvage Union (ISU) chose the grandiose setting of the U.K. Institute of Directors on London's Pall Mall to announce the results of its annual pollution prevention survey. MR/EN wos on hand to hear ISU President Arnold Witte outline the moin findings of the report. He was assisted in answering a large number of probing questions by Legal Advisor Archie Bishop and Special Adviso, Michael Lacey.

Mr. Witte, who claims that ISU represents more than 90 percent of the salvage companies of consequence throughout the world, drew attention to the fact that members had responded to 141 vessels in need during 1995,21 of which were tankers. Seven of these fell into the VLCC or ULCC category.

"The total oil cargoes involved amounted to 1,977,800 tons of crude oil. But for the intervention of salvors, a significant proportion of this oil would have polluted the ocean," he affirmed.

"Ships' bunkers also pose a pollution threat and ISU salvors assisted vessels carrying a total of 54,123 tons of fuel. Some vessels had as much os 3,500 tons of bunker fuel on board," said Mr. Witte.

Twenty-one ship-to-ship transfer operations were reportedly completed during the year, including the transfer of 330,000 tons in one incident involving a damaged ULCC. Sulfuric and hydrochloric acids, isobutylene ond ammonium nitrate were among the 56,365 tons of chemical cargo onboard 14 assisted vessels.

"Recent casualties have emphasized the need to continue to work closely with governments, the shipping industry and its insurers in order to deliver effective pollution prevention services," said Mr. Witte. "However, there is still a fundamental issue. Salvage cover needs to be reinforced if environmentally sensitive coastlines are to be protected." The ISU also invited discussion on the allocation of salvage and pollution liabilities on a casualty. With an obvious reference to the inadequacies of Article 14 of the 1989 Convention on Salvage as interpreted by the British High Court in the now famous Nagasaki Spirit case, the president pointed out that many ISU members had expanded their activities to include a formidable pollution response. "There must be a certainty, however, that the underwriting community will work towards a prompt and fair allocation of payments," Mr. Witte added.

 
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