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View Full Version : The Sapphire Sea and a Maritime Tragedy



David Andrews
January 3rd, 2013, 07:56 PM
The first draft of "Offshore" is finished and renamed after the anchor-handling supply boat at its centre, Sapphire Sea, and I've printed out a hard copy to study later.
In the meantime I've turned to another incomplete story I wrote in 1985 when ships were disappearing off the east coast of South Africa. Mainly bulk carriers loaded with iron ore from Australia, they were labelled "Ships of Shame" in a union campaign that focused on the operating conditions on board.
Common factors were their age and the reduced thickness of their plates due to the use of higher tensile steel and most technical people suspected the cause lay in the combination of these two factors and the high permeability of the iron ore cargoes they carried. Iron ore ships are notorious for the speed in which they sink if the hull is breached and this accounted for the lack of any emergency signals from the ship. They just disappeared without trace.
I'd been offered a job as Engineer Superintendent in a small company that ran several similar ships and turned it down because they couldn't understand the risks involved and I was not satisfied by their financial structure. They were sailing very close to the wind and I foresaw this would create problems in the near future (I was right, they failed financially less than three years later).
However the situation fascinated me and I began writing "A Maritime Tragedy" about an Engineer Superintendent in such a company and the pressures he may have felt. A good man, he did his best, but succumbed to pressure and felt the guilt intensely.