2007 Plimsoll Awards go to class society group, longtime safety advocate, winch maker

May 14, 2007 12:00 AM
The editors of Professional Mariner presented three Samuel Plimsoll awards for outstanding safety achievement on March 20 at the Connecticut Maritime Association's Shipping 2007 conference in Stamford, Conn.

The individual award for outstanding service went to Richard C. Hiscock. Currently serving as Senior Professional Staff for the U.S. House of Representative's Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, Hiscock has spent his entire professional life advocating for improved maritime safety to protect lives and property at sea.

The organizational award for outstanding service went to the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) for the introduction in 2006 of the new Common Structural Rules for tankers and bulkers. The rules eliminate the opportunity
Richard Hiscock with the award for outstanding service by an individual. [Brian Gauvin photos]
for shipyards to force the classification societies to compete on the basis of lower structural standards.

The innovation award was presented to Markey Machinery Company, Inc. Thanks to the newest Markey winches, assist tugs can safely move the latest generation of large containerships and tankers because of the greatly reduced risk of breaking hawser lines.

The awards are presented annually by Professional Mariner to honor organizations and individuals whose efforts have had a substantial impact on mariner safety and well-being.

Like Samuel Plimsoll, the 19th century Member of Parliament in Britain whose work led to the requirement for load lines on ships, Richard Hiscock spent most of his professional life working diligently to make the world safer for mariners. He began his nautical career working on a 37-foot lobster boat. Ever since that time, he has identified with  mariners and the dangers they face.

Hiscock has written about maritime safety and testified before Congress on such things as marine inspections, lifesaving gear, and search and rescue programs. He served as executive director of the U.S. Lifesaving Manufacturers Association and was a founding member of the Marine Safety Foundation.

The Marine Safety Foundation is "dedicated to advancing the safety of life and property at sea through research, education and coordination." That sentence aptly describes Hiscock himself. He has been a tireless figure working relentlessly to gather and disseminate the information decision-makers need to understand maritime safety problems and find solutions.

In 2001 the IACS members agreed to develop common rules for tankers and bulk carriers. According to the classification societies, these common rules represent the most fundamental change in the classification system since its inception almost 200 years ago.

Before the rules were adopted, shipyards and designers, with the assistance of computer analysis, were able to generate specifications that met the lowest
Markey Machinery President Blaine Dempke holds the award for innovation. [Brian Gauvin photos]
classification standards. But this approach meant that class societies were often forced into competing on the basis of which society would approve the least steel weight. As these "light scantling" ships aged and experienced corrosion, ship owners would have to pursue the most rigorous maintenance and repair programs if they were to remain in conformance with class rules.

 In developing the new common rules, more stringent fatigue standards were adopted; and whenever there was a discrepancy regarding existing standards, the societies agreed to adopt the more stringent standard. This approach should mean that the next generation of tankers and bulkers will be more robust.

Like the Plimsoll mark that stopped unsafe overloading, the common rules will ensure that tankers and bulkers will remain safe their whole working lives.

In 2002 Markey, which is based in Seattle, began producing the DESS electric render-recover hawser winch. The features of this 250-hp winch for escort tugs included constant-tension line pulls, automatic inhaul/payout and hands-free control at up to three times the tug's bollard pull. This pioneering winch required the development of new braking components, motor controls and drive transmission. In combination with synthetic hawsers, Markey's winches made it possible for assist tugs to safely handle much greater loads in a variety of  conditions.

These winches have substantially reduced the risks of broken hawsers. That means the mariners who work on these tugs are safer. And the general public and the environment are better protected against the severe harm that can ensue when a tug loses control of a ship because of a broken line.

Markey is now developing a 760-hp version of the winch that will allow tugs to assist large LNG tankers in conditions of offshore swell that previously would have been considered too extreme to allow for safe docking.
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