Well, we got away from Nigeria okay, though a final search before we left revealed one optimistic stowaway who had to be put ashore before we departed, but at least he got a square meal in the mess room first! We rendezvoused with a refuelling barge to ‘top up’ before finally leaving Nigerian waters for the open ocean. The guys have started on the transit tasks, including some modification works as well as a catch-up on routine maintenance that can’t be done when we are operational. Two chaps from GTC, the testing and certification company we use, are also onboard to do the six monthly certification of all the equipment. This includes cutting back samples of the crane and winch wires which will be sent ashore when we arrive in Tampa for destruct tests to ensure that they are still up to their specification. I’m looking at an ongoing problem with the reel drive system to see if I can find a software solution to control the effects of unbalanced loads. This is in the wake of an attempted hydraulic solution which, although looked good on paper, failed to deliver in practice. The solution that I’m looking at would not be a complete fix of the problem (that would require physically balancing the loads, which I’ve always maintained would be the correct engineering solution) but it would rather be a method of getting the best out of the capabilities of the existing system with the minimum of operator intervention. This morning we had a conference call with the support engineer in the office to catch up on the on-going and proposed work-scope for the transit and immediate arrival in the US, then in the afternoon we had a safety meeting. At the end of the conference call, the engineer asked for a few minutes with just myself to discuss my future plans. The company has a new ship coming along, and I, along with others, had expressed an interest in moving on to it. One of my colleagues has already been offered a position and the reason for the conversation was to explain to me why I had not (at least, not at this time). Primarily, there was only one position available of the level that would be compatible with myself, and this had been given to my equally ranked colleague, as he has previously expressed an interest in moving on before the request for volunteers for the new vessel. My bosses had discussed my move, but felt that anything else would not be the best use of me and it would also have left them facing the prospect of replacing two key personnel at the same time. (as one other was replaced only a few months ago, it would also have meant 3 of the 4 supervisors having less than 1 years experience in the position) My boss also mentioned that the one who had moved on previously was not happy with his move. He said that we could look at things again in, say, six months time and see if there was any openings available on other vessels then. I told him that I didn’t want a move for the sake of the move itself, I didn’t want to be doing the same thing just with different people on a different boat, and that I was looking for something new if I were to move, which was something he understood. I reminded him of the sense of success and accomplishment that we (he and I) had had when we built the company’s last trenching machine and that how I felt that that had been the greatest technical achievement of my career. He agreed that it had been the same for him too. He then went on to say that management are in negotiations at the moment for yet another new vessel, basically to take over the role of the chartered vessel that we are on now. If that comes to fruition then there will obviously be a big project at the end of 2008/ beginning of 2009 to take the existing VLS and carousels off the current ship and install and commission them on the new ship. He obviously wanted me to bear in mind the new challenges that that would present. I told him that although a move was high in my mind I wasn’t looking to move on completely, i.e. leave the company, and whatever I ended up doing I wanted it to be a progression and new challenge, not necessarily in rank, but in technical content, which I guess the next new vessel will be. Meanwhile, on the ship now, we are preparing for what’s likely to be a fairly boring Christmas. I think we’ll turn to in the morning, just for a head count and then knock off for the day! Christmas lunch is planned for 2pm and then a buffet in the evening, unfortunately it will be ‘dry’. Bummer.

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