The Norwegian Coastal Administration (Kystverket) has signed a contract with Miko Marine AS to become the first national agency to purchase the ShipArrestor system. The two packages ordered are due for delivery this summer and feature sea anchors that can be deployed on ships by helicopter. The systems will help protect Norway’s coastline against the pollution and other hazards caused when ships lose engine power and drift before running aground. By dramatically slowing the ship’s rate of drift, the ShipArrestor creates more time in which it can be reached by a rescue tug. If a vessel loses power when in mid-ocean and is in no immediate danger of grounding, a ShipArrestor can be used to turn it into the wind. This will prevent the dangerous rolling that has been responsible for ships such as the Prestige and the Erica to breaking-up due to the stresses of lying side-on to the waves.
The development of the ShipArrestor now means that even in extreme conditions, a connection can be restored with a ship that is drifting without any crew on board. This is achieved by a helicopter lowering the chain loop of a ShipArrestor around the winches and bollards on the foredeck of the drifting ship. The helicopter then flies upwind and drops the ShipArrestor and its towline into the sea where the package opens to release a parachute-shaped sea anchor that immediately creates the resistance needed to turn the ship’s bow into the wind. This is an operation within the expertise of any search and rescue helicopter pilot and it can work for any size of ship from a trawler to a supertanker. The anchors themselves have been developed in conjunction with Coppins Sea Anchors Ltd of New Zealand which is a recognised world leader in sea anchor technology. Tests have subsequently shown that a 30-meter diameter nylon parachute sea anchor can quickly turn a 100,000 ton tanker into the wind and reduce its drift speed by 50 percent.
Once the ShipArrestor is in the water it also has the immediate effect of preventing the severe rolling motion that can be so damaging to the ship and to any crew remaining on board. By slowing the rate at which the ship will drift towards the shore, the ShipArrestor increases the time available for an emergency towing vessel (ETV) to reach it. The tug is then able to pick up the sea anchor and line and tow the ship out of danger. This is seen as particularly valuable for countries where a reduced ETV availability means that longer passage times may be needed for the nearest tug to reach the drifting ship.
The ShipArrestors were developed in Oslo, Norway, by salvage specialists Miko Marine which led a consortium of eight European organizations partly funded by the European Union. This included companies from France, Germany, Netherlands and Austria as well as the Norwegian Institute of Technology and the UK’s Ship Stability Research Centre which all applied their individual expertise to the challenge.
“We have been very pleased with the outcome of this project,” said Nicolai Michelsen, general manager of Miko Marine. “It shows what can be achieved when different countries and organizations combine their skills to address a problem that is faced by every one of us. Norway has become the first to adopt the system but we are confident that other maritime administrations will follow suit as they realise that their own coastal economies and natural resources face the same risks from pollution and loss of life.”
The Miko ShipArrestors will be stored on helicopter stations at Hammerfest above the Arctic circle in Norway and at the Kystverket station at Fedje just north of Bergen. Commenting on the purchase, Ola Jordheim, chief engineer and project manager for the ShipArrestor explained how the Norwegian Coastal Administration (NCA) has been addressing the potential risks arising from increased tanker traffic passing down its coast en-route from Murmansk in northern Russia. “We hope that this will further strengthen our preparedness to deal with any incident,” he said and explained that much work had already been done by the NCA to meet recommendations made in 2003 by Det Norske Veritas. It had then warned of the pollution risks arising from the increased shipment of oil along Norway’s coast. A major Vessel Traffic System (VTS) has since been established in Hammerfest which oversees the movement of ships anywhere along Norway’s 2000 nautical mile long coast. A traffic separation scheme is now strictly monitored by a coastal radar chain and by AIS (Automatic Identification System) data which are used together to ensure that loaded southbound tankers remain at least 30-miles away from the coast.
Despite the distance created by the traffic separation scheme the broad surface area of modern tankers and other vessels such as cruise ships means that they can offer extensive wind resistance. A typical cruise ship can have a superstructure that creates a sail area greater than that of the largest sailing clipper and this can cause it to drift quickly in strong winds. The ShipArrestor will, however, turn its bow into the wind to dramatically reduce its rate of drift and thereby create more time for an ETV to reach it before it impacts onto the Norwegian coast.
“We hope that we will never need to use our ShipArrestor systems but our experience suggests otherwise,” said Ola Jordheim who can recall several incidents around the coast of Norway where the system would have prevented ships coming to grief. “A notable one occurred in 2005 when the tanker Fjord Champion caught fire and lost power. The crew had to evacuate the ship which subsequently ran aground on the southern tip of Norway. This is the sort of situation that ShipArrestor has been designed to prevent and we are looking forward to when our two systems are delivered in the summer. This will be followed by a short training program for our personnel and for helicopter crews and we are expecting that the ShipArrestors will be available to protect ships and our coastline by the autumn of this year. The unpredictable nature of maritime safety makes absolute guarantees impossible but the availability of the ShipArrestor now gives Norway a much better chance of protecting itself against disaster. ”