Rik van Hemmen's blog

As noted in an earlier blog, we love loadouts, they are a uniquely satisfying engineering exercise and often bring out the best in all participants.

 

Loadouts are complex projects that need to be designed and guided by experienced personnel, but even the highest level of experience cannot always prevent a mishap.

 

For a number of years we have been involved in the resolution of such a mishap and our involvement resulted in the discovery of a potential loadout failure mode that needs to be further disseminated in the industry to prevent a reoccurrence.

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Ships, cars and airplanes are all quite reliable, but since they move and ocassionally behave in unexpected ways, it is necessary to provide emergency systems to protect passengers or crew, or allow passengers and crew to escape.

 

There are many such systems like seatbelts, air bags, escape slides, life rafts and life boats. The design and operation of such systems is always complex and often includes complex trade offs and, due to the inherent safety of boats and airplanes, only allows limited actual testing. Some systems are incredibly cost effective (seatbelts) others are effective, but carry high additional costs and can be questioned with regard to cost and safety effectiveness (such as air bags).

 

Marine evacuation systems (MES), and particularly marine evacuation chutes belong in that latter category and this blog raises some issues we have encountered.

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Ignorance is very pervasive and fighting ignorant behavior can be very exhausting. Jonathan Swift is believed to have said that you cannot reason someone out of something they were not first reasoned into. If that statement is true, and it certainly contains a lot of truth as far as I can see, it means that opinions and judgments need to be based on reasoning before they are made.

 

It also should not be forgotten that reasoning should be based on correct data. I have previously mentioned Hans Rosling as an example of clear thinking based on good data and mentioned his excellent TED lectures. (After this blog, if I have the energy, I plan to discuss a TED lecture by Boyan Slat that is nothing short of incredibly awful)

 

Hans Rosling passed away in 2017 but his interesting and amusing TED lectures live on and he deals with devastating ignorance in   “How not to be ignorant”. Hans and his son Ola provide some very direct guidance as to how one can make more accurate judgments on world events and developments even with limited data. The lecture is a delight, but, after looking at world trends, the lecture concludes with four very simple guidelines that almost automatically allow any person to make much more accurate world judgments without access to data on the subject.

 

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Except for the passenger ship terminal above 42nd street, commercial ship operations in Manhattan have pretty much come to an end.

 

One of the last commercial shipping terminals to be built on Manhattan was Marine and Aviation Pier 40. It was built in 1962 at a cost of $18 million expressly for the use of Holland America Line, which for the previous 73 years had docked at Hoboken. For its time, it was ultra modern and designed to handle passengers and cargo.

 

Holland America Line signed a 20 year lease at $1.2 million per year, but by 1966 the passenger trade was rapidly declining and cargo trade was containerizing which made Manhattan a terribly unsuitable location. In 1966 Holland America Line merged its cargo business into ACL and they moved to Port Newark in New Jersey, and around the same time the passenger ships moved to the passenger ship terminal.

 

Whenever my father passed the terminal he would tell me that this move was the worst real estate deal ever made by Dutchmen. Which means that Manhattan is both the location of the best Dutch real estate deal and the worst Dutch real estate deal ever.

 

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As surveyors we rush around the world on short notice, arrive at some distant port and then are asked to look at a damage situation or some technical or operational problem. We crawl into tight and dirty spaces and end op taken pictures or measurements of broken components.

 

Often we rush back to catch the next plane. But every now and then you get a glimpse of something that makes you realize that technology is a wonderful thing. It is immensely creative and, if we are lucky, we technologists get to put our heart and souls into creating objects that in many ways are indistinguishable from the greatest art created by man and that can leave a lasting impression.

 

I was dealing with a crankshaft damage on a large diesel engine and when I stood up inside the lifted entablature I felt like I was inside a Cathedral of Internal Combustion. It was quite beautiful; it radiated power and passion by its creators and provided a nice space for a little contemplation.

 

 

 

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Rik van Hemmen's picture
Friday, August 14th, 2015

What's So Funny About ORB's?

During the MAX1 conference Captain Tim Sullivan of Hornbeck Offshore sprung a surprise on us. His presentation dealt with Hornbeck’s very impressive efforts at improving MARPOL compliance and then towards the end of the presentation he mentioned that they needed to simplify their Oil Record Book guidance and therefore had handed all their stuff to a professional manual writer. He then held up a little booklet that looked quite familiar to us, but actually was a brand new version of a well known concept.

 

Hornbeck Offshore had commissioned Todd Brock (famous author of “Building Chicken Coops for Dummies”) and the Publisher John Wiley & Sons to produce “Oil Record Book for Dummies”!

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In the MAX1 study survey we included a few questions where we asked crews to tell us what their favorite Oily Water Separator brands are. We were very hesitant to include that question because there could be all types of weird bias and we would need a huge sample to makes sense of data where there could be as many as 40 brands and even more models mentioned.

The survey was very successful, but the “favorite brand of OWS” question was not very effective. We wanted to include that question because there is a real problem with brand specific customer feedback in OWS equipment.  Some OWS manufacturers may have great working relationships with certain ship owners, but, overall, shipowners simply buy what the shipyard deems a good deal, or they themselves specify a brand with little or no feedback from their crews.

 

The lack of feedback, on a systems design level, is very ineffective.  read more »

Today, August 11, 2015, was a landmark day for Martin & Ottaway. Traditionally M&O used a report numbering system. Once a report was issued, it was provided with a sequential report number, but when I joined the firm in 1988, keeping track of projects by ship’s names until the report was issued became an unmanageable task, and that year we started a case number system. We simply took the last report number and for each case in progress we assigned sequential numbers.

 

We made a case book and when a project started we took out a case number.  To make the number easily identifiable, Henk van Hemmen suggested we precede each case number with the initials “WT” to honor William T. Ottaway who had started the report numbering sequence in 1961.

 

In 1988 we started with case number WT-17593 (which would have been the next report number that day) for a ship named the Aconcagua. Harry Ottaway told me he and his father had started with report number 10000 in 1961, which would convert to a little less than 300 reports per year. Often one project results in one report, but that is just a loose association.  

 

When we moved to Red Bank in 1995, we had reached case number WT-19541. This was roughly 2000 cases in 7 years, which converts to a little less than 300 cases per year. Because we had moved to New Jersey, we decided we would start with a clean sheet and our next case was numbered WT-20000.

 

Today we opened case number WT-25000, 5000 cases in 20 years! read more »

With great pleasure Martin & Ottaway announces that Jim van Langen has joined the firm as an engineering and management consultant.

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This story will makes two important points about technical reasoning that in the heat of combat, disasters, disputes, commerce, parenting or politics often get overlooked.

 

They are:

 

1.If your starting data is flawed, the rest of your argument becomes inherently flawed

2.Just because one thing looks like the other, it does not mean that they are comparable.

 

The problem is that it is so easy to hide these issues in clever packaging. Only when somebody carefully analyzes the argument and looks at the underlying data, will it become apparent that it is fatally flawed.

The example I will use is a TED lecture by Malcolm Gladwell. Malcolm Gladwell is the author of "Blink, the Power of Thinking without Thinking" and other popular observational works and TED is an organization that organizes symposia where smart people listen to other smart people who discuss unusual discoveries or insights. A TED lecture is about 15 minutes and there are some truly incredibly useful lectures such as the Hans Rosling lectures, but not all TED lectures rise to that level.

 

So that is the setting; here is the story..... read more »