Saturday, August 2, 2008

Short Seas

Cargo operations started this morning in Germany. It's the summer holiday season and another ship had priority so it was slow going. By the time I was heading to bed after going ashore they had started discharging our high/heavy cargoes from the main deck. This always results in a mess of chain lashings, 5 ton straps, wheel chocks, garbage and rubber mats. Standing the mid watch ensures that I get to clean up the gear so the holds are ready to go for the next stevedoring operation. The holds for Ro Ro cargo require a mastery of organization. The securing equipment needs to always be available and out of the way and mustn't be allowed to get over stowed creating a shortage of straps or chains in another part of the ship. The ship's own equipment; forklift, deck sweeper, deck lifters of which we have three, and the John Deer "Gator" have to be dealt with similarly.

Fortunately in Bremerhaven the labor does not work 24 hours a day as in other ports I've encountered so we are provided down time to clean up. Once this is wrapped up in a few hours I can get to the bridge and catch up on paperwork and getting the charts set up for the next leg of the voyage.

Unlike our last stay here the sun was out so I spent the afternoon in town reveling in the summer weather. I spent a good hour and a half hiking around the canals and waterfronts. I happened upon the maritime museum but decided I'd rather sit outside and have dinner for the first time in weeks. This was not a mistake as the egg battered white fish I ordered was great. It had a full cup of small pink prawns dumped on top that were sweet and unlike any other oversized krill I've ever eaten. The entrie came with melted butter, boiled potatoes and a salad with cucumber dill dressing. The meal was 21 euro so not exactly cheap but worth it. I would have a hard time sailing over four thousand miles of ocean and not get to taste the fish on the other side.

The auto terminal is an impressive place. My view from the bridge looks out over the river with the southern end of the world's longest container quay in between. I counted forty gantry cranes! The lock sits to my left adjacent to a swing bridge which allows entry to the canal that runs closer to down town Bremerhaven. The container terminal is accessed from the river, the non-tidal basin reserved for Ro/Ro vessels with ramps that would become unworkable at the extremes of the tide. You can fit five ships in the basin at a time and there is rarely less than three. The smaller coastwise, Short Seas Shipping vessels enter the canal and moor closer to town.

The coast wise traffic is prolific. There is so much in the way of shipping activity here it makes me envious. Dozens of small Ro/Ro ships ferry automobiles and lorries from ports all over continental Europe. Instead of having massive highway and bridge infrastructure allowing large scale trucking as we do in the U.S. Europe transports its freight by sea and inland waterways as much as possible. It's more efficient and environmentally friendly as well as cheaper with out the wear and tear on roadways. And though these coastal freighters are crewed much like our tug and barge fleets in the states, they still provide a large amount of maritime jobs for the masses. Europe is very similar to Japan in this regard. I think the only industrialized maritime nation missing out on the action is my own. This topic interests me immensely and is something I'd like to learn more about. There is a rising volume to the discussion of increasing our maritime infrastructure and encouraging Short Sea Shipping in the United States. The sooner the better given how quickly our delapitaed bridges like the one that was in Minneapolis are being repaired.

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