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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Icebreaker Aiviq Joins Shell Oil Drillships

Shell Oil's brand new icebreaker-class anchor handling tug supply vessel, M/V Aiviq, entered Elliott Bay this morning and tied up at Vigor Shipyards, where two Shell drillships, Kulluk and Noble Discoverer, are currently winding up extensive modifications before departing for the Arctic later this month.



According to Marinelink.com, the 118-meter Aiviq is among the most advanced and powerful non-military icebreakers afloat. We suspect the Aiviq will accompany the two drillships on their voyage to the Arctic.

In our May 31 post, we reported that the Greenpeace vessel Esperanza had entered Elliott Bay and anchored off Duwamish Head, just outside the 1,000-meter drillship safety zone established by a federal district court judge. Yesterday, Esperanza lifted anchor and departed Elliott Bay. A short while later, she passed through the Hiram Chittenden Locks into the Ship Canal, which links Puget Sound with Lake Union and Lake Washington. Marinetraffic.com reports that she is currently moored on the north side and at the east end of the Ship Canal, just west of Gas Works Park.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Greenpeace M/V Esperanza in Elliott Bay

M/V Esperanza, the largest vessel in the Greenpeace fleet, entered Elliott Bay yesterday and is at anchor off Duwamish Head.


It appears that Esperanza is shadowing two drillships, Kulluk and Noble Discoverer, that are operated by Shell Oil Co. and undergoing extensive modifications at Seattle's Vigor Shipyards. It was reported late last week by the Seattle PI that modifications to the Kulluk will be completed by June 1. According to the West Seattle Blog, both drillships are scheduled to depart in June for Arctic waters.


Melting sea ice in the Arctic has made it possible for oil companies to conduct offshore exploration in areas not previously open to drilling. Greenpeace opposes these activities.

In February 2012, seven Greenpeace activists including actress Lucy Lawless boarded Noble Discoverer in the port of Taranaki, New Zealand. http://gcaptain.com/greenpeace-save-arctic-crown/?40722. Lawless and the other protestors were arrested following a four-day occupation of the vessel.

In March 2012, a U.S District Court in Alaska issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting Greenpeace from breaking into or trespassing on Kulluk, Noble Discoverer, and 17 other vessels when located within U.S. navigable and territorial waters, i.e., within 12 miles from shore. The injunction also prohibits Greenpeace from interfering with the operation, movement or progress of these vessels and establishes a 1,000-meter safety zone around both Kulluk and Noble Discoverer. On May 29, the injunction's protection was extended to all areas with 200 miles from shore.

At present, Esperanza appears to be anchored about 1 nautical mile from Vigor Shipyards, where Kulluk and Noble Discoverer are berthed -- just beyond the 1,000-meter safety zone established by the injunction.

In a related development, the Alaska Journal of Commerce reports that on May 25 the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the government's approval of an exploration plan filed by Shell to explore its offshore leases in the Arctic.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Heroic Rescue Ship Anchors in Elliott Bay




Ocean Titan is a 119.8-meter LOA heavy-lift, box-hold multipurpose vessel owned and operated by Intermarine LLC, a New Orleans-based shipping company. The ship is distinguished by two electro-hydraulic cranes on its port side that enable loading and unloading at ports that lack dockside facilities. Ocean Titan entered Elliott Bay yesterday and is currently anchored at the south end of the bay, off Harbor Island.

In December 2011, the crew of Ocean Titan rescued seven crew members of the bulk carrier M/V Florece after that vessel sank in heavy seas in the Bay of Biscay following a collision with the tanker M/V Afrodite. A gripping description of the rescue appears in this news release issued by the American Maritime Officers, a national labor union affiliated with the Seafarers International Union of North America.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Waterfront Ferris Wheel (update)

Erection of the Pier 57 waterfront ferris wheel discussed in our May 11 post is now well under way. The wheel's eight legs were lifted into place earlier this week.


And yesterday and today, the 175-foot-high wheel was assembled piece-by-piece.




The gondolas are next.

In our May 11 post, we noted that Pier 57 is zoned "Urban Harborfront" and is subject to the provisions of the City of Seattle's so-called "Seattle Shoreline Master Program." Shoreline development may not be undertaken unless consistent with the master program. In brief, the program allows development that (a) serves the needs of waterborne commerce, (b) facilitates waterfront revitalization, (c) provides opportunities for public access and recreational enjoyment, (d) preserves and enhances elements of historical and cultural significance, and (e) preserves views of Elliott Bay and the land forms beyond. (emphasis added) Seattle Municipal Code 23.60.220.C.8.

In its decision issued in November 2011, Seattle's Department of Planning and Development (DPD) found the ferris wheel to be consistent with "existing retail and entertainment-type uses on Pier 57." The DPD also found that the wheel "will facilitate the revitalization of Downtown's waterfront and provide opportunities for public access and recreational enjoyment of the shoreline." The DPD made no finding in respect of (a) waterborne commerce, (b) historic and cultural significance, or (c) view preservation. In these respects, the decision seems to us to be flawed.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

2012 Seattle Maritime Festival

The 2012 Seattle Maritime Festival was held today at the downtown Seattle waterfront, off Pier 66. The festival is presented by the Seattle Propeller Club. Its principal sponsor this year was Vigor Industrial, a leading provider of shipbuilding, ship repair and marine and fabrication services in the Pacific Northwest. 


The festival began with a display by the Seattle Fire Department fireboat Leschi, which was immediately followed by a tugboat ballet featuring several Foss and Crowley tugs that we see regularly on Elliott Bay.




Later, a US Coast Guard MH-65C Dolphin helicopter from Port Angeles, WA performed a sea/air helicopter rescue demonstration using a mannequin rather than a live person. No need for alarm.






The US Oil & Refining Seattle Tugboat Race Championships brought the festival to an exciting conclusion.

The Class C Limited Tug race was won by the US Army Small Tug Scholarie (ST 905), based in Tacoma.


Other Class C participants included – well, judge for yourself why they were entered in the Class C race.




The Class B Harbor Tug race was won by Ocean Eagle, a 33.5-meter tug owned by Dahl Tug & Barge, Seattle. Ocean Eagle barely edged out Galene and several other harbor tugs in a close contest for the championship.




Friday, May 11, 2012

Celebrity Infinity – 1st Cruise Ship of 2012 Season

The Celebrity Infinity arrived at Pier 66 this morning. She is the first cruise ship of the season to tie up at the Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal. See the schedule published by the Port of Seattle for the complete 2012 cruise ship sailing calendar.





It’s awe-inspiring to see how the pilots guide these huge ships and lay them up against the dock in perfect position without any assistance from tugs. This morning, the Infinity pilot positioned the ship perpendicular to the dock, bow-in and perhaps only 100 feet out, and then gently used his stern thrusters to push the stern around to starboard until the ship was parallel to the dock – all while maintaining slight overall momentum toward the dock. The ship reached, and became parallel to, the dock at precisely the same time. It was beautiful to watch. And all in extremely slow motion. The pilots who guide these ships are true professionals in every sense of that word.

Waterfront Ferris Wheel – Attraction or Eyesore?

The Elliott Bay waterfront skyline is about to change. Construction of a ferris wheel at the waterward end of Pier 57 began in early April, with completion scheduled for June, just in time to take advantage of the summer tourist season. The wheel will stand 175 feet high -- the equivalent of a 17-story building, according to The Seattle Times. Pier 57 was built in 1902 as a rail loading facility for a sawmill and has since been renovated as a historical site and recreational destination.

The wheel foundation consists of eight legs radiating from a central axle. The structural legs will be mounted on steel plate foundations that tie into steel trusses mounted above the pier support. The wheel will support 41 enclosed, air-conditioned gondolas. See Analysis and Decision of the Director of the Department of Planning and Development, City of Seattle

Supports for the ferris wheel were delivered to the construction site on flatbed trucks at the end of April (see below). The wheel and gondolas will begin arriving in a matter of days.




Pier 57 is zoned "Urban Harborfront" and is subject to the provisions of the City of Seattle's so-called "Seattle Shoreline Master Program." Shoreline development may not be undertaken unless consistent with the master program. In brief, the program allows development that (a) serves the needs of waterborne commerce, (b) facilitates waterfront revitalization, (c) provides opportunities for public access and recreational enjoyment, (d) preserves and enhances elements of historical and cultural significance, and (e) preserves views of Elliott Bay and the land forms beyond. (emphasis added) Seattle Municipal Code 23.60.220.C.8.

In its decision issued in November 2011, Seattle's Department of Planning and Development (DPD) found the ferris wheel to be consistent with "existing retail and entertainment-type uses on Pier 57." The DPD also found that the wheel "will facilitate the revitalization of Downtown's waterfront and provide opportunities for public access and recreational enjoyment of the shoreline." The DPD made no finding in respect of (a) waterborne commerce, (b) historic and cultural significance, or (c) view preservation. In these respects, the decision seems to us to be flawed.

The normal height limit in the Urban Harborfront environment is 50 feet. Seattle Municipal Code 23.60.692. However, an exception may be granted by the DPD for "cranes, gantries, mobile conveyors and similar equipment necessary for the functions of . . . permitted commercial . . . activities . . . , provided such structures [are] designed to minimize view obstruction." The DPD concluded that the ferris wheel height was necessary to the wheel's use and, because the wheel will be positioned in a generally perpendicular orientation to Alaskan Way to minimize view obstruction, granted an exception to the 50-foot requirement.

Because we did not participate in the ferris wheel planning process, it is difficult for us to substitute our judgment for that of the DPD. While the wheel will clearly provide "opportunities for public access and recreational enjoyment," one wonders how the DPD could have found that it will preserve and enhance "elements of historical and cultural significance." Moreover, while the wheel's positioning perpendicular to Alaskan Way will minimize view obstruction from properties directly inland from Pier 57, such positioning will maximize view obstruction from properties to the north and south of Pier 57, adding a carnival-like element to what is, at present, a working-waterfront identity.

At best, the ferris wheel will be an attraction that draws thousands more to the waterfront area. At worst, it will be an eyesore that detracts significantly from the iconic nature of Seattle's historic waterfront skyline. Perhaps it will be both. We'll form our own opinion in about six weeks' time.