Guest post: A menace on the high seas

Originally a comment by Freeminder on Stuck.

I served as a Deck Officer on containerships (usually known as ‘boxboats’) for several years.

Evergreen, as a shipping line, was, and still is, regarded as a menace on the high seas. I saw an Evergreen ship run aground just outside Port Suez about twenty years ago, amongst other mishaps. The Evergreen ships were blatant in their recklessness: cutting across shipping lanes, ignoring the ‘Rules of the Road’ and even cutting through prohibited areas to save time. Sometimes we wondered if there was anyone on watch on the bridge…several times we had to alter course to avoid collisions, even when we had right of way or arrived at the pilot station on our allotted time (they would literally barge their way in).

The Suez Canal is very narrow in parts and sometimes it didn’t help that the pilots would speed up or slow down depending how much they were bribed (normally US Dollars, whiskey or Marlboros) by the Master of the vessel. They would openly demand this just for turning up on the bridge. Refusal to give them anything would delay passage or bring in other serious problems. I joke not, the pilots frequently left the bridge for twenty minutes and prayed, often during manoeuvres into the lakes, anchorages or passing points. The boxboats are very high sided even when not fully loaded (‘windage’) which can make them difficult to keep on a course at low speed (steerage was lost at about 5-6knots). However, in this case I think the blame lies solely with the canal pilot. If moving too slowly,in strong winds, (which I have experienced there) the ship would have started swinging off course. Speeding up would have brought it back on track. Having been through it over twenty times, its nickname of Sewage Canal is rightly earned. As for the corruption of the other authorities…we all nicknamed Misr (Egypt) as Misery.

As for alternative power supply, Pliny is right. Nukes need specialists and lots of them, and armed guards (cargo ships go to virtually every nation with a seaport, including PROC, Iran and other unfriendlies. Commercial ships are normally built cheap for a 25 year life, and then get scrapped. There were funnel emission scrubbers on my company’s ships. These big ships can run for about a month without refuelling, at 24knots or more. Cargo ships are usually in a rush, operating at full tilt between ports. We could get through 3000+ tonnes of fuel a month. We normally had a crew of about 20. So in terms of efficiency, very, very cost-effective.

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