Maritime Monday 235; Uranus in Collision

Monkey Fist
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October 11, 2010





Handout photo issued by the French Navy in Brest, France, 08 October 2010, showing the YM Uranus heavily listing after having collided with another ship. YM Uranus was carrying a cargo of heavy Pygas, a type of gasoline, when she hit a Panamanian bulk container off the Brittany coast, France, overnight. The fuel tanker is in trouble, still afloat, but listing badly to port, early morning 08 October. The crew were all safely evacuated from Uranus. A French frigate and a tug are close by Uranus and engineers are assessing if Uranus can be towed to port without any spillage. There were no immediate reports of pollution from Uranus in the Channel.

imageA 30x magnification of a Moon jellyfish – one of the images in a new coffee table book by Dr Richard Kirby featuring the microscopic marvels that inhabit the sea around the British isles. The book is called "Ocean Drifters, a secret world beneath the waves". Picture: Dr Richard Kirby  (source)


Telegraph UK – BBC presenters attempt to sail a five and a half ton boat made of ice. The project for science show Bang Goes The Theory was meant to test an extraordinary concept, put forward during World War II, that ships could be made from frozen water.

In the event of steel stocks running out in the 1940s, inventor Geoffrey Pyke suggested it was possible to make an unsinkable aircraft carrier using a material called Pykrete, made of both ice and wood pulp.

The mixture could be moulded into any shape and, with a slow melting rate, it was thought perfect for seafaring vessels. The BBC decided to put Pyke’s theory to the test by mixing 5,000 litres of water with the hefty material hemp and freezing it in a 20 feet-long boat-shaped mould.

It took three weeks to freeze it in one of the UK’s largest ice warehouses, in Tilbury, Essex, before it was ready for launch in Gosport, Hants. The plan was to sail the boat, complete with outboard, to Cowes in the Isle of Wight with the show’s presenters, Jem Stansfield, Liz Bonnin, Dallas Campbell and Dr Yan Wong, on board…

Captain Killed by Pirates, Confirms Shipowner

Nine crew members in custody as police investigate killing

It has been confirmed that the Sri Lankan captain of the UAE owned ship was killed in a pirate attack.

Sunil Dharmaratne was captaining the vessel Ocean Trite along with seven other Sri Lankans and two Indian nationals and was carrying petroleum products from Iran when the incident occurred. "It was definitely a pirate attack. The incident occurred on September 26," said Hassan the owner of Alco Shipping.

The vessel arrived at Hamriya Port on Sunday. Sharjah police meanwhile have detained the remaining crew men, consisting of seven Sri Lankans and two Indians for questioning.


Chilean Miners Prepare for Life After Dark – To the 33 men trapped in a Chilean mine, recent news that they might be rescued as early as 10 October must bring great cheer. But the effects of living underground for so long still need to be carefully managed.

"As soon as the miners comes out, they will get some introduction to a family member, a quick health survey and a physical, to make sure there’s no immediate medical concerns," says Michael Duncan, NASA’s deputy chief medical officer, whose expertise Chile sought following the disaster on 5 August.

Simply having lived in the dark for more than two months will have taken a toll.


Chinese Pedigree – A dredger leaves a dry dock in Taizhou, a city along the Yangtze River in east China’s Jiangsu Province, on Saturday. With a dredging capacity of 5,000 cubic meters an hour, the dredger, designed by Taizhou Huaxia Machinery Manufacturing Co, is China’s first ocean dredging engineering ship whose intellectual property rights are owned fully by the country.  (

Chittagong: 3 Killed at Ship Breaking Yard

Straights Times – Three workers of a ship-breaking yard were crushed to death and another injured when a heavy iron plate fell on them at Madambibir Hat under Sitakunda upazila in the district yesterday.

With this, at least 34 workers were killed and several others injured in the last 18 months in 16 accidents in 16 shipyards, mostly due to explosions and coming in contact with toxic materials in ships.

A heavy iron plate suddenly fell on the three workers leaving them dead on the spot around 7.00pm while working at the yard of Sima Steel, owned by one Mohammad Shafi, said Abdur Razzak, sub-inspector of Sitakunda Police Station. 

Clay Maitland: In Praise of Politeness

mikethumbby Michael Grey

It is not very original, but true nonetheless, to state that the modern shipmaster is rich in responsibility, but grossly impoverished in his authority.

This may fit in nicely with 21st century egalitarian notions, which seek to diminish the last vestiges of authority from the shipmaster’s traditional role, but don’t produce happier shipmasters.

“Permission to come aboard, Sir?” When was this polite inquiry last heard at the top of a gangway, acknowledging the absolute authority of the master to grand admission to “his” ship ? I would suggest that it is very rarely heard, as the accommodation ladder resounds with the heavy tread of those who march aboard in port to throw their weight around.

And if you think about it for a minute, there can be no practical reason to suppose that the modern shipmaster is actually “in charge” of a ship, when so  many extraneous persons take upon themselves the authority to tell him what to do.

Coast Guard Rescues 10 from Sinking Cargo Shipimage

KeysNet – Six water-logged seamen and a ship’s dog arrived at Key West International Airport aboard a U.S. Coast Guard rescue helicopter early Thursday after a cargo ship capsized and broke apart on Cay Sal Bank.

The 206-foot Mystic went down near the Damas Cays, on the east side of the Cay Sal Bank, about 60 miles from the Florida Keys. All 10 people aboard the ship were rescued by responding Coast Guard boats and aircraft. A Coast Guard HC-144 helicopter that left from the Marathon airport took part in the rescue.


Cold is the Sea – The Battle of the Atlantic: Hell and High Water

"…for it was the weather that was the most violent enemy of all. For eight days they steamed straight into a westerly gale: five hundred miles at a grindingly slow pace, buffeting through a weight of wind that seemed to have a personal spite in every blow it dealt." 

-Nicholas Monsarrat, The Cruel Sea.

It was the logistics train that saved Europe. From 1939-1945, lightly armed, newly built Liberty Ships  and an array of Allied (mostly British and Commonwealth)  naval vessels with air support constituted the "sinews of war" that brought gas, guns, food, ammunition and everything else a ground army needs to win, to the shores of Britain, Africa, North Russia and then later, continental Europe.

German Admiral Karl Donitz identified the logistics lines across the North Atlantic as the center of gravity for the Allied war effort against the Third Reich.


The Triumph of Death by Pieter Brueghel, c. 1562  (source)

Discovery News: Black Death Blamed on Bacteria

Anthropologists said on Friday they had confirmed long-running suspicions that a germ called Yersinia pestis caused the plague that wiped out an estimated third of Europe’s population in the Middle Ages.

albrechtdurer_death_and_the_landsknecht[1] Teeth and bones sampled from 76 skeletons found in "plague pits" in France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands and sequenced for DNA intrusion are conclusive evidence that Y. pestis was to blame, they said.

The study, published in the open-access journal PLoS Pathogens, also sheds unexpected light on the geographical route taken by the germ, which is believed to have originated in central or southern Asia before arriving in Europe through trade.

"The history of this pandemic is much more complicated than we had previously thought," said Stephanie Haensch, a co-leader of the research, at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany.

The map of Y. pestis’ death march in Western Europe starts in November 1347, presumably driven by fleas living on rats which crept on land from a merchant ship docked at the Mediterranean French port of Marseille.

Eight Longshoremen Charged With Smuggling Cocaine

image NY Times – Eight dockworkers at ports in New York and New Jersey helped smuggle millions of dollars worth of cocaine that was eventually sold on the streets of New York City, federal prosecutors said on Tuesday.

The longshoremen used their access to secure areas of the ports to unload drugs from Panama without detection from law enforcement authorities, said Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan. In some cases, unloading a single duffel bag of cocaine would earn a longshoreman as much as his entire year’s salary, Mr. Bharara said.

The charges came about two years after the overhaul of the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, the agency that was supposed to prevent corruption at the ports, but instead became a sideshow of misconduct. More than 1.3 metric tons of coke — valued at more than $34 million — were seized at the port and in Panama during the course of the investigation.

Empty Ferry Ablaze in Baltic Sea After Explosion


AP – Oct. 9: A firefighting vessel tries to extinguish a fire on the car ferry Lisco Gloria in the Baltic Sea. The Lithuanian-flagged ferry had more than 200 people on board and was traveling from the German port of Kiel to Klaipeda, Lithuania.

BERLIN –  A 650-foot ferry was ablaze in the Baltic Sea on Saturday after an explosion on the upper deck, and firefighting ships were spraying the vessel with water to keep it from breaking apart and spilling some 170 tons of fuel, officials said.

There were 249 people aboard who were rescued by six ships that moved in to help after the explosion on the Lisco Gloria around midnight. Three were taken to hospitals by helicopter and another 26 were slightly injured, police said.  German officials and the ferry operator said the blast was not a terror attack, but appeared to have been a technical mishap.

imageA spectacular jellyfish found near the Great Barrier Reef. Image: Gary Cranitch

imageThis see-through, swimming sea cucumber was spotted at 2,500 meters deep in the Celebes Sea. Image: Laurence Madin, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

First Marine Census Describes the Wonders–and Troubles–of the Seas

Marine scientists have completed the first ever census of the myriad creatures living in the world’s deep blue seas, a monumental accomplishment that took 2,700 researchers 10 years to accomplish.

While the scientists didn’t count every single fish head, they now know more than ever before about what kinds of life inhabit the oceans, what lives where, and the number of creatures that remain. They hope that this sound science will produce sound decisions on environmental policy and fishery management.

The Census of Marine Life was officially launched in 2000. After a decade of work, some of the most interesting findings are the delineations of the ocean’s unknowns. For example, the Census upped the estimate of the number of known marine species to nearly 250,000, but still couldn’t estimate the total number of species in the ocean. It might be millions, the report says, or tens or hundreds of millions, when all the ocean’s microbes are accounted for.

From the “Well, There’s a Surprise,” Department: Fraudulent Claims Surface in  Gulf Coast

imageNatural disasters, it is said, bring out the best in people. Victims put aside differences and unite for a common cause, helping neighbors through difficult times, but disasters can also bring out the worst in people, as they see the help offered as a way to get rich quick.

Residents of the Gulf Coast were portrayed for months as innocent victims of a careless corporate polluter’s mismanagement. Fishermen and tour operators told of lost jobs, restaurants were shut down, and the economy in many affected areas was devastated.

That halo has begun to tarnish as many residents line up to file fraudulent claims of compensation offered by British Petroleum.


An aerial view of rescue team members crossing a pontoon-bridge replacing the original bridge washed away by a sludge flood Kolontar, 167 kms southwest of Budapest, Hungary. Photo by EPA/BGNES

Hungary Fears New Burst of Toxic Sludge

Sofia News Agency – Hungarian PM Viktor Orban has announced it was "very likely" that the wall of the reservoir of the alumina plant would collapse, releasing a new wave of the red toxic sludge.

"It is in very bad shape and our estimation is that the wall could fall down. It is very likely that it will happen. One consequence is that human lives could be in danger," Orban said, as cited by the BBC.

On Monday, about 700,000 cu m of chemical sludge escaped from the Ajkal Timfoldgyar plant, when a reservoir of the alumina plant broke and flooded some villages with toxic red mud.

Obran has stated that another 500,000 cu m of waste could escape if the reservoir wall collapses.


Life Raft Makes Sea Water Drinkable

Discovery News — As a young girl growing up in Massachusetts, Kim Hoffman spent many summers on her parent’s sailboat. Sometimes she would stare at the water and think, "There’s got to be a way to turn the seemingly endless ocean into viable drinking water."

In graduate school at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, she designed a life raft that could do just that. Hoffman’s Sea Kettle, which recently made the shortlist of this year’s James Dyson Award competition, could mean the difference between life and death for a person stranded at sea.

The Sea Kettle is meant to be an insulated, sturdy shelter able to turn sea water into fresh water. A person using the raft operates hand pumps within the cabin in order to draw sea water into a plastic reservoir on the roof. Heat from the sun causes the water to evaporate. The salt-free water vapor from the evaporated seawater can be captured and collected in containers within the raft’s walls.

Long Beach, CA – Experts Say Local Ports Will Maintain Dominance Despite Panama Canal Expansion

LONG BEACH – Fundamental shifts in global trade patterns present a growing challenge to Long Beach and Los Angeles as they seek to maintain their long-held position as North America’s top seaport.

Expansion of the Panama Canal, fierce competition from Canadian and East Coast ports and new manufacturing centers outside Asia are expected to significantly impact the flow of goods in coming years, possibly undermining industries dependent on trade through San Pedro Bay.

"The global recession has forced everyone to reassess their business practices, and they’re not done yet," said Mary Brooks, a trade and transportation expert at Dalhousie University in Canada. "Many changes are under way." Brooks was one of several international trade experts who spoke at a packed town-hall meeting this week at Cal State Long Beach.

Mumbai Cops Launch Probe After 2 Electrocuted at Dry Dock

Mumbai Mirror – Death of two persons by electrocution within a span of four days at the dry dock of Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) has compelled the Yellow Gate police to launch a probe into the adherence to safety standards at the repair facility.

Mahendra Singh, 29, a labourer, got electrocuted on September 22. The chain of a crane while it was lifting a metal sheet broke and cut an electrical cable lying on the ground. The plate conducted electricity and electrocuted Singh when he came in contact with the sheet.

Three days later, on September 25, Kashinath Chiplunkar, 51, was servicing a crane when he was electrocuted. He succumbed to the injuries during treatment.


The MV Taku, left, and the MV Coho as seen from the air: built in the same Seattle shipyard about four years apart and with the same design plans.

MV Coho has Chance Encounter with Look-Alike

Peninsula Daily News – EVER WONDER WHAT it would be like to turn a corner, and come face to face with your look-alike?

The Port Angeles-based MV Coho was leaving Victoria’s Inner Harbour last Sunday when that happened. As she made her way out of the harbor, she happened upon a vessel of the Alaska Marine Highway System that no doubt had some passengers doing a double take.

The MV Taku, a near identical twin to the Coho and built in the same Seattle shipyard about three years apart, was conducting lifeboat drills east of Ogden Point at the exit from Victoria Harbour when the two vessels had their chance encounter.

The two ships maneuvered within a couple of hundred yards of each other, and the captains exchanged greetings in turn by blowing their ship’s whistle.


imageThis just in from the Teheran Bureau: Iran’s Navy has taken delivery of a squadron’s worth of new flying boats. Designed and built in Iran, the aquatic aircraft, called the Bavar-2, will be operated by the happy folks from Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).

New Flying Boats Join Iran’s Navy, Look Like Toys

According to Iran’s official news agency:

The ceremony was attended by Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi and Commander of IRGC Naval Forces Ali Fadavi, during which Vahidi elaborated on the features of the new home-made flying boats.

"Bavar 2… is a surface-moving flying boat and performs patrol and reconnaissance missions on the sea," Vahidi said, adding that the vessels are equipped with machine gun, night goggles, and reconnaissance equipment to record and send the desired images and data.

Too bad they look like something sold in kit form from an advertisement in an old issue of Popular Mechanics.  (via TelstarLogistics)

*see also: Stylish Wooden Toys of Giant Modern Ships

imagePort Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial, about 30 miles northeast of San Francisco, was the site of the most damaging home-front accident of World War II, and played a key role in the early days of the Civil-Rights movement. The National Memorial was dedicated in 1994. Christopher Reynolds | Los Angeles Times

Port Chicago is Site of Devastating WW II Homefront Tragedy

CONCORD, Calif. — The bombs erupted along Pier No. 1, thousands of them, about 30 miles northeast of San Francisco. And 66 years later, you still can spot a few twisted hunks of metal near water’s edge, an American flag snapping in the wind overhead.

This is Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial, the newest unit in the national park system and the scene of the bloodiest 20th-century California war story that millions of Californians never have heard. It covers just 5 acres, surrounded by a military base, between Suisun Bay and the blond hills of Contra Costa County.

"You won’t see much of anything," the Rev. Diana McDaniel, president of the Friends of Port Chicago, tells first-time visitors. "But you’ll feel something."

imageWindows at the Brattleboro Museum & Arts Center look onto the riverfront site that is the exhibition’s subject. Photos: Chris Whitmore

Renewing the Riverfront

Design Observer – An exhibition on revitalizing a derelict patch of Brattleboro, Vermont, grows from a mix of interdisciplinary expertise and community ideas.

Circle stickers have been in high demand at the Brattleboro Museum & Arts Center in Brattleboro, Vermont. Visitors to the “Renewing the Riverfront” exhibition, organized by a multidisciplinary workshop under the auspices of Marlboro College and its Center for Creative Solutions (CCS), have been using the adhesive dots to show support for their favorite proposals for the town’s waterfront, arrayed on walls of a gallery here.

Museum-goers have not only voted for a number of the proposals that the CCS team has offered up — from a riverside boardwalk to a performance space — they’ve also posted ideas of their own on blank note cards on hand, and planted dots of approval on some of those, too. A “river museum,” scribbled one visitor, earning a smattering of dots. “Outdoor seating next to the river,” suggested another. “Paved space for skaters/bladers/BMXers,” urged a third.

Recently this 1.3-acre sliver of waterfront has been the testing ground for a type of creative, open-ended, collaborative visioning as well as the subject of lively discussion among the residents of the town. “The idea was not to lay down a solution, but to help the community see potential and possibilities,” said Michael Singer, co-organizer of the Brattleboro workshop.

RRS Discovery Expedition to Trace South Atlantic’s Vital Nutrients’

imageRRS Discovery sets sail for the South Atlantic on 17 October to investigate the metals vital to marine life. These metal micronutrients act as fertilizers in the ocean affecting global climate and in turn, societies and economies around the world.

The 39-day expedition leaves Cape Town crossing the South Atlantic to Montevideo studying the processes that supply metals, such as iron and zinc, which are essential ‘fuel’ for ocean ecosystems.

Some 24 scientists from ten UK institutes, all part of the UK-GEOTRACES consortium, will be aboard the Discovery, one of the Natural Environment Research Council’s royal research vessels, to collect samples and carry out experiments.


Sea Shepherd Leader Paul Watson and Ady Gil Skipper Peter Bethune Offer Very Different Takes on Ship’s Sinking

imageWELLINGTON, New Zealand — Sea Shepherd deliberately sank its own high-tech protest boat after a January collision with a Japanese whaling ship to gain sympathy, the former skipper alleged Thursday in a public spat with the conservation group’s founder.

New Zealander Peter Bethune said the futuristic trimaran Ady Gil was salvageable after the crash, but that he was ordered by Sea Shepherd head Paul Watson to scuttle it. Watson denied the claim, saying the decision was Bethune’s.

The exchange has exposed a bitter falling-out between Bethune, who shot to international prominence because of the high-seas drama, and Watson, the figurehead of Sea Shepherd’s campaign against Japan’s Antarctic whaling program.

Sea Stories from Hawsepiper

image It’s difficult to believe that my dad isn’t going to be there when I get home later this week. It’s been almost two weeks since he died. As a family, we had been preparing ourselves for 25 years, when he was first told that his heart was working on borrowed time.

He’d been dodging bullets in the form of cancer, heart disease and diabetes for that whole time. A childhood spent in orphanages and foster homes left him exposed to polio and rheumatic fever as a kid, though it took 50 years for that to catch up with him. He was 76, and had been married to my mom for just shy of 49 years.

My father sailed in the heyday of the ‘tin can’ navy, when tiny WWII-era destroyers were the workhorses of the US Navy fleet. He remains the most widely-travelled man I know of, having visited almost every coastal nation in the world.

Speed Is Safety and Salvation

October 10, 2010: Insurance companies and their security consultants have come up with more ways to avoid getting taken by pirates off the coast of Somalia.

The most important bit of advice is that most of the ships captured had ignored recommended security measures, while passing through the Gulf of Aden, or elsewhere along the Somali coast. Even after a decade of piracy off the Somali coast, about a quarter of the merchant ships moving through this danger zone just take their chances, and ignore all security advice. The odds aren’t bad. About one in 500 ships passing through the area are captured by pirates. But closer to one in a hundred are attacked or threatened.

The pirates have learned to seek out the unprepared merchant ships, knowing that these will be easier to get aboard and capture. Thus these ships that are just playing the percentages, have a higher risk (closer to one in 200) or being captured.

The latest recommendations were based on an analysis of ships that were captured, and those that were attacked, or approached by pirates, and escaped. One of the more important new rules is that the easiest way to avoid pirates was to travel at high speed (over 33 kilometers/18 knots an hour). The speed boats the pirates currently use cannot match that speed, and are small enough to have problems with the wake formed by a large ship moving at that speed.


Spy Photos of Navy’s New “Piranha” Unmanned Surface Vessel

Puget Sound Maritime – I linked to Deborah Bach’s article earlier today. Hot tipper Tom Elliott sent us these photos he took over the weekend. Thanks, Tom!

Stowaways on a Cargo Ship to Anywhere

A representative from the Canada Border Services Agency recounted the events as follows:

The cargo ship, the MSC Lugano, left Casablanca, Morocco, on Sept. 26, headed for Canada. On Oct. 4, Canadian authorities received a fax indicating two migrants were found on board. Later, a new fax said there were nine aboard, and all were apparently Iraqi. The next day, more information arrived saying they were, in fact, Moroccan. When the ship arrived at about 1 a.m. Oct. 7 at the Port of Montreal, RCMP and CBSA agents were there to meet it.

That night, in an interview with the agents, the young man said no one helped them make the trip. In other words, this was no human smuggling operation. He told agents he had no idea as to the boat’s destination.

He further told agents he didn’t want to return to Morocco, and giving some indication as to his state of mind, he said “he hadn’t slept for seven days,” the CBSA representative recounted.

imageTowmasters Photo of the WeekSomewhere in the Mighty Gulf Stream

imageThis week on Tugster – What does it take to accommodate vessels of increasing depth?  Call in the machines that can chew through bedrock at the bottom of the harbor.  Call in the cutter suction head and give it new teeth as often as they are required.

Thrifty Brits Make Natural Gas out of Sewage and Beer-Brewing Leftovers

80 Beats – How to make natural gas? Flush the toilet, and wait three weeks. At least that’s the plan for homes involved in the Didcot Renewable Gas Project, which will be recycling residents’ waste into renewable natural gas, aka “biogas“.

Gearóid Lane, managing director of communities and new energy at British Gas, said: “This renewable gas project is a real milestone in Britain’s energy history, and will help customers and the environment alike. Renewable gas has the potential to make a significant contribution to meeting the UK’s energy needs. Gas from sewage is just one part of a bigger project, which will see us using brewery and food waste and farm slurry to generate gas to heat homes.” [The Guardian]

Unofficial CG Blog: Piracy Countermeasures

Reuters is reporting some new countermeasures are emerging in response to piracy in the Indian Ocean.

First there is the idea of providing a “panic room” where the crew can take refuge, preventing the pirates from taking them as hostages before help can arrive and the second is the possibility of contracted security or, “private navies.”

“The ships will be armed with deck mounted machine guns, more formidable than anything currently used by the pirates. They may also have unmanned drones and a small airship for surveillance.”

Using the engine room as a “panic room” made possible the recapture of the Antigua-Barbuda-flagged, German–owned vessel M/V Magellan Star by U. S. Marines from USS Dubuque (LPD 8). Referring to “panic rooms” or “citadels” the article talks about the “need to be bullet-proof, contain food stocks, communications equipment and ideally a system to immobilize the ship.”


image1171111111111[1] Monkey Fist is a smack-talking, potty mouthed, Yankee hating, Red Sox fan in Portland, Maine.  In addition to compiling Maritime Monday, she blogs about nautical art and history, and marine science on Adventures of the Blackgang. Submit story ideas, news links, photographs, or items of interest to her at [email protected].  She can also out-belch any man.

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