Wednesday, August 31, 2011

a whirlwind stirs

After a month and a half of captivity in the UAE, I'm breaking out of this place. Starting September 4, you can follow my travels from the UAE to the UK where I'll stop in London and Southampton for business meetings. From London, I return to the UAE for a quick meeting about upgrading one of our vessels to DPS-2, and then I really escape to New York for a few days. New York is followed by Georgia, where I'll be packing for the great move out to Houston. My unloading time in H-Town is short lived because I'll be flying to Portland, ME in order to drive to the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath. Bath is followed by a long car ride to Newport for the Newport Boat Show. While in Rhode Island, I'll visit the Hinckley facility in Portsmouth to checkout the T-24R, Haida's new tender. (Haven't heard of the T-24R, you say? That's because it, like Haida, is one of a kind.)

This job is definitely living up to the Chairman's "You're second office is an airplane" description. I can feel the winds picking up now. This job is definitely going to be a wild ride.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

making waves goes full time

Just as Aaron Sorkin returns to prime time with a show about cable TV news, Making Waves is going full time. For the last two years, I've been interning for an offshore logistics company in the heart of the Arabian Gulf. As of July, I'm now gainfully employed as the company's naval architect and marine engineer.

While this is pretty stellar for me, the whole affair is even more stellar (read: stellar-er) for you. As the boss said when I moved into my Houston office, "Houston is your home base, but your office is an airplane." I travel often. (In fact, in September I'll hit a new city every 2.5 days from September 3-20...) All of that traveling means great pictures and stories (can you say TCNs on a plane?) for you. I can't wait to share, so I hope that you're ready to go full time. Making Waves certainly is.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

for all you boat people

In the spirit of the tour dubai series, it's time for a few engineering escapades. Martin Oliver, the company's Middle East Manager, has been keen to ensure that Tophi and I have been taken to see some of the marine engineering feats undertaken in this fine country.

Recently, Martin, Tophi, and I made way for the Dubai office of the American Bureau of Shipping. We met the office's Chief Engineer and Principal Surveyor-- two very nice gentlemen. They offered us additional contacts at other companies that would be willing to show us new offshore platform construction. After hearing about what's happening for ABS out here, we quickly moved on to the day's main attraction: Dubai Maritime City.

Most developments in Dubai revolve around some central theme that makes each development "(theme) City." There's Festival City, Media City, Internet City, Ice City... er, that one was canceled..., and the list continues. Dubai Maritime City is a revolutionary concept. Combine the grit of sandblasting and dry docking with the glamor of cosmopolitan living, and you get an idea that makes dollar signs flash in front of Dubai World.

Behold the conceptual rendering of Dubai Maritime City. The shipyard is conveniently upwind of the beautiful apartment towers.

When ground broke several years ago, Dubai was riding a flash flood of growth. Two years ago the flood waters (aka economy) receded, and the municipality, through its multiple shell companies, was left holding the (empty) bag. Construction on the DMC's commercial and residential precincts slowed while Dubai World continued scraping away at the shipyard.

Construction of the two Synchrolift tables is seen in the foreground.

When we visited DMC, cameras were not allowed, so I don't have any present-day pictures. The Synchrolift tables are both operating, and we had the opportunity to see a 2780-tonne Saudi offshore diving support vessel undock. The yard has two Synchro-lift tables: one 6000-tonne and one 3000-tonne. The 6000-tonne lift can accommodate vessels 130 m long with a 35 m beam. 

At present, 49 vessels are berthed or docked at the DMC. The operations manager and dock master have a goal of serving 100 vessels on the same day.

The DMC is conveniently located directly on the Gulf. Unlike its predecessor, ships need not time their arrivals and departures with the openings of the Dubai Creek floating bridge. This may be the best feature about the new facility.

Time will only tell if the Dubai Maritime City will live up to its lofty conceptual render. I do think that Synchrolift tables are a fascinating way to conduct a docking. There are definite space advantages to being able to lift a vessel, roll it to a dry berth, and continue docking other vessels. What does the greater maritime community think? (Shout out to WebbieNews readers!!)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

all roads lead to abu dhabi

I've had more opportunities during this trip to the UAE to live life drive in the fast lane. When Captain Scott had to leave for a few days, I was given the keys to one of the company cars so that Tophi and I could get to work each day. Those few days went by accident free, and now it appears that I can be trusted behind the wheel. Visitors don't normally drive when they come to the Emirates. Local drivers are notoriously aggressive, but I have had training during my years on Long Island. A recent survey asked UAE drivers (mostly men) what they thought about their driving abilities. Almost 25% of those surveyed admitted that they engage in "risky" driving behavior -- the other 75% lied.

Recently, Tophi and I had the pleasure of taking the Sharjah Transport bus from Sharjah to Abu Dhabi. The trip takes about 2 hours and costs $15 round trip. As we crossed through the familiar portion of Dubai, there's a sign that reminds drivers that ALL roads lead to Abu Dhabi, so there isn't a need to be in a certain lane (read: stay in your own lane, you reckless driver, you.)

We arrived at the Abu Dhabi Central Bus Station after a little over two hours of riding in a packed motor coach. Tophi tells me that the bus was better than he expected.

Abu Dhabi's Sheik Khalifa recently declared that the city be divided into zones and sectors to aid navigation. There are no longer street names; signs like the one shown here are oh so helpful.

We walked past an air quality monitoring station that read, "Breathe Easy. We are monitoring the air."

I found the entrance gates to this park to be interesting. I think that they are tea kettles.

Abu Dhabi has its own share of unfinished projects. The Abu Dhabi Swimming Beach Extension project used dredging machines to increase the beach area.

Abu Dhabi's Corniche Street Beach is divided into different areas: private, family, and public. You have to pay to use the private and family beaches. The paywalled beaches were pretty empty.

We walked down to the Emirates Palace Hotel, but we didn't try to enter. There was a big event, and we would have looked quite out of place. The hotel was originally intended to be a sheik's palace, but he turned it down. I guess it wasn't big enough...

Tophi thinks that this is the service entrance to the Emirates Palace.

Abu Dhabi has its share of superlatives, too. This flagpole is the world's tallest, over 139 meters high.

Abu Dhabi was a refreshing change after seeing Ajman, Sharjah, and Dubai. The people in this emirate seem more active and must enjoy a higher quality of life. There are fewer unfinished projects, so Abu Dhabi doesn't have a skyline of construction cranes.

Monday, January 31, 2011

sharjah after the storm

The winter months in the UAE bring relief from the 120°F summer. Winter is also the "rainy season." I say "rainy" because the average annual rainfall in the coastal region of the UAE is less than 5 inches. (A south Georgia thunderstorm laughs at the puny rain clouds of the Emirates.)

With hardly any rain, there is little reason to invest in a proper drainage system. When it does precipitate, the rain amounts to a light drizzle. After several days of on again, off again drizzle, Mother Nature opened up on January 28.

Tophi and I were just about to head out for a walk to neighboring emirate Ajman when the storm hit. The power was knocked out, and our hotel's restaurant was leaking badly around the doors and windows. We were trapped in the restaurant until things settled down. We watched outdoor furniture slide around as the sky turned a dark gray.

As we ventured out, the streets were flooding, and drivers didn't know quite what to do. All of the palm trees were deformed from the wind.

The remains of a beach fair got blown around. See that carousel? It was going around backwards like something from a Stephen King novel.

Where's the palm tree?

Oh! What's it doing there?

The wind uprooted several of the palm trees that line the road.

Debris was blown onto the streets in many places.

This flooded bus station was on the way to Ajman.

The sign reads "Apex Dewatering" in front of a construction site. The water is above the curb in this picture.

The wind was pretty intense, and construction sites were easy targets for damage. The sad part is that many of these sites were abandoned anyway -- who knows when this will get cleaned up.

Just as the southern communities in the United States were not equipped to deal with this winter's storms, the UAE is unprepared for a deluge. Most of the streets don't have drainage systems because usually the water can evaporate quickly enough.

The Met Office forecasts more storms are on their way. I'll keep you posted with more photos. There are more photos from our walk after the storm here.