Here on the Mærsk Recorder we are currently working on a wind farm project off the coast of Germany. It’s interesting work and can often be quite a delicate process; the cables we are laying are very easily damaged and extremely costly. As such we have very strict weather limits, these are imposed to protect the crew from being injured by unexpected loads, twists or torsion. Also to protect the equipment we are using, as mentioned the cable is costly but so is the equipment that manages it. Although most of the equipment is quite robust the amount of weight and pressure they have to withstand can be quite high so unexpected movements caused by bad weather can increase that pressure considerably and easily cause damage.
We also impose these weather limits to protect the environment around us, we often work within about 8-10 metres from a turbine foundation or substation and if the ship were to hit one it could be catastrophic. There are also many other vessels working in the area so we always have to be mindful of what’s going on around us. We aim to never operate outside the vessels capability and the weather limits reflect that. As such we are quite often ‘waiting on weather’ in fact we are now, if we weren’t I’d be concerned I couldn’t submit this on time because so far this trip we have worked non stop and the days are feeling very long and the nights too short!
The weather at sea is ever changing and things have gotten a little easier for us in recent years because modern technology provides us with much more accurate information and detailed forecasts. These are very important as they enable us to consider if we have enough time to do a job safely. Just yesterday we had mirror seas, like looking out across a millpond but yet today the seas are up and the wind is gusting 45 knots. Thankfully we managed to lay our power cable in time before the weather hit, but had there been any delay and we’d have been in trouble.
Of course I’m no stranger to ‘waiting on weather’ it is quite common in the offshore industry and with the huge unpredictable seas when I was working in the Southern ocean we quite often found ourselves seeking shelter and waiting for better working weather. This hasn’t always been the case though…
I worked on container vessels for 5 years and during this time I was subjected to some pretty extreme weather. I always enjoyed a nice long sea passage across the Pacific or Indian Ocean, lovely warm weather, warm seas to fill the swimming pool with and maybe a barbecue during the crossing. But certain times of the year they could be hell and of course we sail on through regardless.
Cargo ships work to such strict time schedules that they simply cannot afford to ‘wait on weather’ so whether it be the South West Monsoon season, tropical revolving storm, typhoon or hurricane we just had to keep going and things quite often got bumpy and sometime even scary as I’m sure you can imagine. Thankfully we were often provided with advisories of route changes that the captain could consider in order to avoid horrendous weather often it worked out well other times definitely not so much. I seem to remember an anchor coming loose and causing huge damage to the bow of the ship whilst pitching and rolling heavily.
I do feel that I’ve been fairly lucky, only twice in my life have I messaged home to say my goodbyes utterly convinced we wouldn’t see morning. I know some stories, even fairly recent ones of those that didn’t and they often bring home the realisation that this job can often be as dangerous as it is exciting but sometimes all you can do is batten the hatches and prepare to ride it out.