The fact that the actual incidence of oil cargo spills as a percentage of global shipments is minuscule can never be a reason for any relaxation in the constant vigilance and unerring drive for risk minimization which must be practiced in all fields of tanker shipping.
Certainly, there is no evidence of complacency. The industry's continual striving for improvements in vessel and system design, operating procedures, risk management processes and training has a powerful motivator in the increasing, manifold penalties associated with marine pollution. But professionalism and the striving to meet business objectives in a competitive world tend to be understated as the real drivers of advance, in an era in which oil shipping attracts public and political interest only for the times when things go wrong.
The tanker sector has constantly pushed the technical envelope, adopting innovative thinking to make the transportation of oil and products more efficient and safer. There is no let-up in that process, as evidenced in new breeds of crude carrier and distributive products traders now coming into service where design is underpinned by the perception of an inextricable link between transport efficiency, service dependability, vessel and system reliability, safety and environmental compatibility.
Nonetheless, as has been seen in recent years, major accidents to which environmental damage is attributed can be expected to impact fundamentally on future design, as legislators act in political deference to public outcry.
In a characteristically circumspect address to a recent Intertanko event in Rotterdam*, American Bureau of Shipping's (ABS) Executive Vice President Dr. Don Liu suggested that the next mandatory requirement to be imposed by the rulemakers in response to a casualty producing large-scale pollution could be system redundancy.
Dr. Liu said that most of the technological changes over the years in the tanker sector had been developed by the industry, for the industry, in response to market forces. But some were the outcome of regulatory mandate, most notably the wholesale switch to double-hull designs. He cited the Exxon Valdez casualty as providing "a classic example of the manner in which regulators respond to human error".
However, as human factor issues are more intangible for the type of immediate, legislative response to a casualty sought by governments, the rulemakers look for technical solutions, which, it is felt, might better avert future accidents.
In Dr. Liu's view, mandatory redundant systems could be the result of the response by regulators to the next high profile tanker casualty and ensuing pollution, especially if a double-hull tanker is involved. "We now have a redundant hull. The next step will be redundant engine rooms, possibly double hull engine rooms, redundant steering gear, two propellers, twin rudders, redundant navigation systems, perhaps even double collision bulkheads," he suggested.
Models for future designs can already be found, according to Don Liu: "They have been taking shape in U.S. shipyards and elsewhere with the first series of tankers, having many of these redundant features delivered to Polar Tankers from Avondale shipyard
. So will the next series of tankers for BP from NASSCO, to be followed by the innovative series of shuttle tankers for Conoco." While many of the projects have been driven by oil majors
, Concordia Maritime's V-Max series of VLCCs (very large crude carriers) was referred to as an example of innovative thinking on the part of the shipowning community. "If the case of the Amoco Cadiz were to occur today, there is no doubt in my mind that redundant system legislation would follow almost immediately," considered Dr. Liu.
He felt that mandatory introduction of such requirements would have an equally disruptive effect on the industry as the double-hull stipulations, with the fundamental difference in the nature of implementation. The double-hull process started with U.S. unilateral action in the shape of OPA 90, and continued a decade later with unilateral action on the part of the European Union, in the aftermath of the Erika disaster. With the redundant system approach, Don Liu considers that it will be worked out within IMO and will impact the global fleet from the outset.
*Tankers of Tomorrow, Intertanko Tanker Visions Panel, Rotterdam Tanker Event 2002.
New Force in Cargo Handling
A bold investment policy by TTS Technology of Bergen has hoisted the Norwegian group into the world's top three equipment suppliers in its specialized market segments. In many minds, the TTS name is synonymous with shipyard production systems
and design, which remains an important part of its activities. But diversification and acquisitions since 1997, reaching a new highpoint with the purchase of Hamworthy KSE's dry cargo division and takeover of cranemaker Hydralift Marine at the tail end of last year, has seen the emergence of a powerful new force in the market for shipboard equipment, including total vessel packages. Annual turnover has doubled to approximately $96.3 million as a result of the absorption of Hamworthy KSE and Hydralift Marine, and the group is set fair for income growth.
Headquartered in Gothenburg, the home of the erstwhile Kvaerner Ships' Equipment, the new TTS Dry Cargo Handling Division embraces the former Swedish and German cargo access specialist companies and Chinese joint venture of Hamworthy KSE, along with TTS' existing interests in the field, hitherto vested in TTS-Mongstad. The various cargo access firms have now been retitled TTS Ships Equipment, while the assimilated Shanghai operation has become TTS Hua Hai Ships Equipment.
The Marine Cranes Division
has been formed from the existing TTS-Norlift augmented by Hydralift Marine, while the long-established business in shipyard production and heavy load handling equipment as well as recently developed activities in container terminal systems have been vested in TTS Handling Systems.
With the new additions to the group, TTS Technology reckons that it has a 20-percent share of the global market for RoRo vessel access equipment and a 10-percent stake in hatch covers, ranking it second and third in the respective sectors of the industry league. It claims top slot in the worldwide market for shipboard service and tanker hose handling cranes, at a 35-percent penetration, and a leading position in supplying heavy load and shipyard production system equipment.
The group's overall Chinese presence is highly significant to its strategy of growth in core, niche sectors of the market. Besides the TTS Hua Hai Ships Equipment venture, which has been built up in such solid manner by the former Hamworthy KSE's Swedish cargo access specialists, in particular, the Norwegian group has its own crane company on the ground in the shape of TTS Plimsoll (Shanghai), a joint undertaking with Singapore-based Plimsoll.