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More container ship facts

2021-01-16 04:43 GMT

From the book Ninety Percent of Everything, one of the most interesting non-fiction books I have ever read. There are some container ship observations and container ship stories here too, not just container ship facts.

On the Maersk Kendal, the ship she went on,

If Kendal discharged her containers onto trucks, the line of traffic would be sixty miles long.
Its parent company A. P. Møller–Maersk is Denmark’s largest company, its sales equal to 20 percent of Denmark’s GDP.
I like that Maersk is a first name. It’s like a massive global corporation named Derek.
The engine produces 51,480 kilowatts, which is 80,000 horsepower. This is equivalent to one thousand family saloons or eighty Formula One cars.

Container ships and the environment,

Compared with planes and trucks, ships are the greenest of mass transport. Shipping produces 11 grams of CO2 per ton per mile, a tenth of what trucks contribute. Air freight produces a great deal more, emitting 1,193 grams per ton per mile. Sending a container from Shanghai to Le Havre emits fewer greenhouse gases than the truck that takes the container on to Lyon.
The International Maritime Organization calls maritime transport a “relatively small contributor to atmospheric emissions.” It would be, if the industry weren’t so enormous. Shipping is not benign because there is so much of it. It emits a billion tons of carbon a year and nearly 4 percent of greenhouse gases (although rival sides have different figures). That is more than all aviation and road transport. A giant ship can emit as much pollution into the atmosphere as a coal-fired power station. In 2009, it was calculated that the largest fifteen ships could be emitting as much as 760 million cars. Add shipping to the list of polluting countries and it comes in sixth. Ships create more pollution than Germany.

My favorite chapters, on piracy,

Until we reach the high-risk piracy area on the far side of Suez, watch officers have relatively little to watch out for. This is how Marius describes his watch keeping: “You look at the radar, nothing. The sea, nothing. The sky, nothing.

Apparently crossing the Suez canal requires the ship to take on temporary Suez crew,

The Suez crew is something of a scam: they are supposed to board every ship in case the vessel has to tie up. Apparently they have particular rope skills. There is also a special Suez electrician whose job is to tend to the searchlight that is also obligatory and placed on my fo’c’sle perch. The captain has never had to use either the electrician or the rope-skilled crew in forty-two years of coming through and views them as an income-generating scheme to add to the already significant fees. Kendal must also take a Suez pilot. This one is fat and sleepy. At lunchtime, he asks what is for lunch, so the captain rings down to the galley and conveys the menu: split pea soup (without pork, after a previous cook caused chaos with Muslims), spaghetti bolognese, fish cakes, french fries.
“Yes,” replies the pilot.
“The captain is nonplussed. “Everything?”
“Yes, everything.”
Two thousand seafarers die at sea every year.
The European Union calculates that two thousand containers are lost every year

They don’t know what’s in the containers, but the dangerous ones go inside, so smart!

Stowage has to be calculated to accommodate the risk, so some boxes shouldn’t be stored aft where pirates can fire at them. Imagine an RPG meeting that metal, those self-heating chemicals: what a prospect.

There are not very many military ships on anti-pirate watch. This story is very on brand,

He says that when the Americans first arrived in the Gulf of Aden, they wanted to get involved in everything. Anything that looked worrying, off they would go to check it out. Once an American voice came over Channel 16, trying to hail someone. “Merchant vessel, this is the coalition warship, what is your position?” Marius could see who they were trying to reach: a boat going about 4 knots, which means it was hardly going at all. It was obviously some little fishing craft puttering along. Anyone would know that. But the warship was new and kept calling to the merchant vessel, until someone took pity, got on Channel 16, and said, “It’s a dhow. It won’t have VHF or GPS. They navigate by the stars.” The story still makes Marius laugh. “I pictured it like this giant, huge guy leaning over and shouting at a tiny mouse.

A container ship crew member’s thoughts on pirates,

I tell him the latest figures of piracy: 544 seafarers taken hostage in the first six months of 2010, with 360 still being held. Thirteen ships hijacked. “Yes,” Archimedes says. “I know all that. A friend was held hostage for three months. But it was good. Double pay! Overtime!” The Greek owners paid for three months’ vacation afterward. The captivity was fine; the pirates were harmless. Harmless with guns? He grins again. Guns just for protection. They don’t want to shoot you. Julius, a fellow AB, is also tranquil. “These pirates are not like Rambo or the Taliban. Then I would be afraid. But they are just normal people with guns.
Forty-two thousand merchant vessels come through the High Risk Area every year, and the distances to patrol are dizzying. An EU-NAVFOR commander compared his force’s task to patrolling western Europe with a couple of police cars whose top speed is miles an hour.

One anti-pirate warship was named the Vasco da Gama,

In a café in Mombasa, a local man says to me with genuine contempt: “You have been on a warship called Vasco da Gama hunting pirates? But Vasco da Gama was a pirate.

I don’t know why I found this terminology so funny,

Pirates began to hijack dhows, larger fishing vessels that could serve as mother ships, that can carry dozens of passengers or hostages, travel farther, and hold more fuel barrels. Now the pirates could hunt for weeks, not days, towing a couple of skiffs with them, so that they stopped being pirates and became a PAG (Pirate Action Group).


In 2010, Harvard Business School chose Somali piracy as the best business model of the year.
Each year, Lloyd’s List catalogues the one hundred most important people in shipping. I thought the most illuminating feature of its 2010 list was that it included only one woman. But attention focused on the fourth place on the list, because that was given to Garaad, one of the three most notorious pirates.
The ransom is sometimes not the biggest cost in freeing a ship. John Chase’s team charges $3,000 a day for negotiation, a fee regulated by the insurance industry. But then there is the drop. Before, when the amounts were smaller, it could be sent out in tugs or boats, like the goats. A million dollars could fit into a rucksack. When the crude tanker Irene was released for $13 million, the cash weighed as much as a gorilla.

There are boarder pirates, there are hostage guarding pirates, there are hostage negotiating pirates, and then there are accountant pirates. Lots of headcount.

Pirates use logbooks and accountants. The accountant on Marida Marguerite had been there all along, tallying how many goats had come on board, what the rice cost, making notes. Chirag reckons 150 to 200 people arrived during the next twenty-four hours to get their payment. A village of people come to be paid for services rendered.


Released ships have been attacked by rival pirate groups on their way home. I read about letters of safe passage given by pirates to released ships like old-fashioned passports. Marida Marguerite’s pirates left behind a phone number instead. Call if any other pirates attack, and they will leave you alone.

Fair Trade is less cool than you think,

The position of the Fairtrade Foundation is one of defeat. The complexities and realities of shipping are too overwhelming. “We work with nearly nine hundred producer organizations in sixty countries across the developing world,” a spokesperson said, “who ship to thousands of traders in over twenty different markets. Incorporating shipping requirements into our standards and certification processes would add to auditing costs.


The most notorious whale disposal incident occurred in 1970, when the Oregon State Highway Division was tasked with destroying a forty-five-foot sperm whale that had arrived on the beach at Florence. Perhaps because of their experience with moving large boulders, the highway officials decided to use dynamite. A crowd gathered, the charges were blown, and then everyone ran as giant chunks of blubber rained from the sky and crushed the Oldsmobile 88 of Walter Umenhoefer, who became known as “the blubber victim” forevermore, to his annoyance.

:( bad for whales

Ambient noise in the deep ocean was increasing by 3 decibels every decade. Every ten years, noise from commercial shipping had doubled.


Sniffer dogs sniff. If they can sniff on land, why not on water? She contacted Barbara Davenport in Washington State, who runs a sniffer dog training company. Davenport gets her dogs from city pounds or humane societies, because the worst pets often make the best sniffer dogs: they are rambunctious and lively and have a strong desire to play... The dog had to learn not to jump out of the boat when it tracked the scent.