by Kim Yo Sep, Marketing Executive – Posh Terasea Offshore Pte Ltd
Sailaway Meeting - 9 Jan 2016
On Saturday, 9th Jan 2016 I embarked on a 13 day journey from Singapore to OPL Brunei on one of our premium anchor-handling tugs Salvigilant. She was to tow a jack-up rig Noble Sam Hartley and I was put on board to observe the operations as part of the initiation program. With no prior maritime experience, I was exposed to the marine towing operations and the hardships and challenges of life at sea.
Prior to hook-up, there was a pre-move meeting with clients Noble held on board the Rig. Myself, Kang Wee from operations and the 2 Posh captains – Captain Sergiy and Captain Teo attended. As we approached I was worried to climb a long ladder to board the rig only to find we will be going by 4 man lift moved by a crane which was called the Frog Lift. Like a leaping frog it jerked up 20m into the air with 4 people in it. About 30 people attended the meeting which discussed topics such as transit speed, distance, weather safety and communications were covered. Noble shared their expectations and instructions to Posh regarding the safe towing and positioning of the rig. The meeting was important because mutually agreeable adjustments to the original plan were made based on open discussion of our tugs capability and limitation as well as the captains’ recommendation and concern based on past experiences.
Hook-up and sailaway - 10 Jan 2016
At 0800 I went up to the bridge to observe the hook-up procedure. The captain, CO, deck cadet, pilot and 2E was present. On arrival at Noble Sam Hartley, 4 harbor tugs were in place to hold the rig and Posh Champion nominated as the lead tug was hooking up to the main bridle. After Posh Champion’s hook-up was completed, we moved in close to the port side of the rig and hooked up. The crane from the rig lowered the shackle and tow wire which was received by the 3 Abs and Bosun on the deck. The tugger winch on board pulled the shackle and wire through the 2 towing pins. After that the shark jaw was erected to hold the line in place and the Abs went to work to disassemble the original shackle and welded and fastened it to our shackle with towing wires. By 0900 the hookup was complete. Throughout the process there was constant radio communication between the rig, 2 tugs and pilot center. It was advised by Noble to keep low speed and short wire length until we were clear from the busy straits of Singapore. We had to adjust speed and course to maintain the right tension of the towing wires with Posh Champion. I took photos as I observed the skilled crew performing the hook up with safety and efficiency.
Salvigilant and POSH Champion towing out the Noble Sam Hartley from Singapore
Towing in open sea to Brunei – 11 – 16 Jan 2016
I was up on the bridge early at 0830hrs on 11th Jan 2016, just in time to see the 3 ABs on the deck to cover the tow wire with orange tube like sleeves at the instruction of the captain. Although the towing pins limited the movement of the wire, during the job it swung left and almost hit 1 AB’s head. It was a dangerous job, but a necessary one to prevent the expensive tow wire from being worn out by friction from stern roller.
Now that we were towing out in the open sea, not much activity was going on. Time to time a container vessel passed in the distance. In the afternoon, I went out to the front deck aisle to my favorite chair and saw an AB painting the lines on the floor down below. The ABs seemed to have many of such painting, chipping and cleaning works to do daily. The entire crew on board no doubt had their respective tasks to keep themselves busy, except for me being an observer.
One morning the ship was rolling considerably making me sea-sick. Later when I asked captain Sergiy about the wave height he took a look at the sea and said it would only be around 1.5m and that it was nothing. I could not imagine how much the ship would rock in 5m waves. Due to the waves and wind of 20 knots the ETA was delayed to 16th 1915 hours to my disappointment. I realized how big an impact current, wind and waves had especially when towing large and unstable jack-up rigs.
Crew on deck fixing towing sleeves
I visited the engine room during the shift of CE Zaw who gave me a short tour. I wanted to know how the vessel operated and what kind of work was done. I was impressed to hear that freshwater was created by evaporating the same seawater used to cooldown the main engines. It was also interesting to learn that the long shaft spinning at 750rpm powered by the 2 main engines were controlled by shaft generator reducing the spinning to about 100rpm generating electricity and turning the propellors. Within ten minutes, I was sweating and realized the engine room with so much heat, noise and dangerous machineries is a difficult working environment.
Fitter and engine cadet checking on lubeoil purifier
Unhook, Positioning, and Station-keeping - 17 Jan 2016 - 20 Jan 2016
The actual arrival at the offshore Brunei field was on midnight 17 Jan and Salvigilant temporarily disconnected with the rig at 0055 hours. There were lots of customs paperwork to be filled out and signed and afterwards we relayed it to Posh Champion by sliding a black plastic bag with the documents via a rope. Then the transfer to the rig was done using the frog lift. At 0915 we re-connected to the aft of rig to turn and position the rig. Salvigilant paid out 200m increasing tension slowly to 30T. Posh Champion applied 10T in a different direction resulting in a slow turning of the rig. While turning we also slowly towed towards the MLJ-3 platform which was only about 1nm away. This was a very slow process taking more than 2 hours. There were continuous radio communications adjusting the tension and direction and also information on water depths (64m) so that the rig could lower its 3 legs accordingly. Upon right location the captain ordered to spool in the wire for disconnection. It was done with much care as the connecting part of the wire to the rig was very short thus the captain had to maneuver the tug very close to the rig. By 17 Jan 1230 hours Salvigilant finally disconnected with Noble Sam Hartley and moved off to a distance for stand-by. The main job of towing and preliminary positioning was successfully completed. The remaining work scope of anchor handling and final positioning was carried out by 2 Lewek’s anchor-handling tugs while Posh Champion was still connected to hold the rig.
Transferring documents via Rope and Plastic Bag
My short 13 days life on Salvigilant with its 17 crew was a new experience during which I learned a lot about the workings of a tug boat and its gears, execution of the job by the crew, and the life out at sea in general. Going into the first point the tugboat, as it is our primary tool to make money we need to really take care of it with regular maintenance and housekeeping. We already have a good system and procedure for maintenance, but proper daily implementation by the crew is crucial in order to keep the tugboat and its gears in good condition. This brings out the second point of having capable, motivated and loyal crew on our vessels to carry out the job. Due to hard times in the offshore industry, crews are being laid off or are receiving reduced salary. Posh has done this to a lesser degree compared to other offshore companies. Posh should continue to care for the crew’s well-being with incentives and improving the quality of life on board. Finally, life out at sea is hard and could get lonely away from family and friends.
This short stint not only provided me with a great insight of what actually entails of life at seas and reinforced my greater appreciation to all of our crew working in tough and dynamic conditions at seas but also better equipped me to be able to communicate with our customers in a more professional manner.