Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Fidley Watch - Flotsam

USCG Funding
The opinion piece by Clay Maitland on page 46 of this issue notes that theUS Coast Guard is the only uniformed service not exempted from the Obama administration’s ‘spending freeze.’ All current branches of the US military deserve to be fully funded – not the least of which is the agency in charge of maritime safety, maritime security, maritime mobility, national defense and protection of our natural resources – surely ahead of dubious pork-barrel social programs.

Heat Sink
When soldering transistors or diodes to an electronic circuit board, one attaches a temporary ‘heat sink’– usually a finned block of aluminum, to draw the heat of the soldering iron away from sensitive components. BP’s Tony Hayward fits the bill. A more continental title would be ‘whipping boy’– a young boy who was assigned to a prince and was punished when the prince misbehaved or fell behind in his schooling.

Either way, poor Tony is being cast adrift after having borne the brunt of American ire during the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

On May 27th, President Obama claimed responsibility for the mess: “In case you’re wondering who’s responsible, I take responsibility. It is my job to make sure that everything is done to shut this down.”

A week later, he promised, “If laws were broken, leading to death and destruction, my solemn pledge is, we will bring those responsible to justice.”

Nonetheless, at press time Tony Hayward, heat sink/whipping boy, was facing dismissal and a paltry severance package of  15 million, or US$19.5 million. Not bad for barely three months of abuse.

Skimmers for the Gulf
The ‘damn hole’ is apparently plugged, at press time, but there is a big cleanup job ahead in the Gulf of Mexico. Not surprisingly, expertise and equipment to deal with the spill are being sought on the West Coast. The US West Coast has been at the center of oil spill expertise since 1989, when the Exxon Valdez changed the face of the maritime industry, and companies like Kvichak Marine Industries, which specializes in aluminum fast ferries, pilot boats and research vessels, have also become experts in the field of marine oil spill response.

Kvichak has been asked to build 30 skimmers for the Gulf, equipped with Kvichak/Marco Filterbelt oil and debris recovery systems.

The company has already sent two of the boats south, and 28 more will be built at a rate of three a week.

A crew of four can operate the skimmers in 15 feet of water or less, and under optimal conditions can pick up 1,000 barrels of oil a day. The skimmers cost between $300,000 and $400,000 each, meaning the 30 boats could bring about $10 million in sales to the Seattle company. It pays to specialize.

Like Oil Upon Troubled Waters
The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) won’t take enforcement action against Asiana Airlines after one of its jets had to jettison roughly 5,000 gallons of fuel over Puget Sound during an emergency shortly after takeoff from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on April 29, 2009.

Because the fuel release occurred as part of an emergency operation to safely land the plane and save lives, Ecology won’t levy penalties or fines. On the other hand, the tugboat company that spilled TWO GALLONS of diesel during a refueling accident wasn’t so lucky.

Ecology has fined a local Seattle company $15,500 for an April 13, 2009 spill of two gallons of diesel fuel to the East Waterway off Harbor Island in Seattle.

According to the State, the incident involved crew inattention during a fuel transfer between two tug boats. $7,750 per gallon. Tony Hayward got off lucky.

Cap’n Trade
The Climate Bill has been tabled, as US Senate leaders took the controversial ‘cap and trade’ energy bill off the docket last month. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will bring a limited package of oil spill response and energy measures to the floor early this month, delaying action until at least this fall on a broader proposal that would impose greenhouse gas limits on power plants, according to senior Senate Democratic aides. According to Washington insider online journal The Hill, aides insist Reid’s decision is a nod to the packed floor schedule the Senate faces before it leaves in two weeks for the August recess, and that he has not abandoned plans to try and bring up a broader climate and energy plan later in the

James Taylor, senior fellow for Environment Policy at The Heartland Institute, believes the senators initially supporting cap-and-trade felt the public backlash. “What it shows is that our elected representatives fear their constituents more than they do the party leadership,” he says, “and that’s a good thing.”

Nevertheless, many believe the failure of Congress to pass climate change legislation will just lead to the imposition of similar carbon-dioxide restrictions by the Environmental Protection Agency, bypassing transparency, accountability and any possibility of checks and balances.

We would be remiss if we passed up the opportunity to mention the recent congregation of long-time maritime industry professionals at Saint Anne’s Catholic Church, at the top of Queen Anne Hill in Seattle, who gathered to swap stories, anecdotes and fond memories of ZF Marine’s Tom Katica. Given the opportunity, Tom would have stolen the show. Fair winds and following seas, Tom.

Chris Philips, Managing Editor