Maersk Line

Accidents at Sea

Any landlubber can bring a ship to sea. But it takes a true mariner to bring her safely home.

Any landlubber can bring a ship to sea. But it takes a true mariner to bring her safely home.

On May 07, the Maersk ship Safemarine Meru collided with a German container ship, the Northern Jasper in the South China Sea. Miraculously there were no deaths or serious injuries on either ship.

With a fire aboard the Meru, the crew of twenty-two transferred to the German ship which apparently suffered no damage. Chinese fireboats arrived at the scene and extinguished the blaze, and later in the week the Meru was towed seventy-eight nautical miles to the Port of Ningbo.

Tragically, the same day, seemingly not far from where the freighters collided, a Maltese freighter collided with a Chinese fishing boat, the Lu Rong Yu. Two died and seventeen are missing. Several nations including Japan and the Philippines have complained about the wanton disregard for safety on the part of Chinese fishing boats.

The cause of the two accidents are under investigation, and without credible witnesses, blame may never be properly fixed.

Going to sea either as a professional mariner or a traveler is always a risky proposition. There is a saying, “What the sea wants, the sea will have.” But those who go down to the sea, don’t have to make it easy for her.

Ask almost anyone in the shipping industry and those who investigate accidents, and most will tell you the same thing. Accidents at sea are generally caused by three things. Mechanical failure, human error, or weather. Often it’s a combination of all three.

Sometimes the crew members in charge of navigation and piloting are not paying attention on the bridge. That’s why the more eyes there the better. What’s worse than an inattentive crew on a ship is an inattentive crew on a ship coming the other direction.

Long hours, boredom, and ennui also contribute to collisions. Navigators who have logged thousands of hours on the bridge have their routine down pat. But as we all know, we lose out edge when we don’t double check ourselves. Assuming everything is fine is the mother of all screw-ups.

Distractions also play a role in accidents. A conversation. A spilled cup of coffee. A personal problem. Though they seem insignificant, they can, indeed, be contributing factors to a disaster at sea just like an automobile accident on the highway.

How often was a captain in a hurry, wanting nothing more than to get the ship docked and complete the journey? That’s understandable. But not at the expense of safety. Coming in too quickly to port or not wanting to burn more fuel than necessary puts everyone at risk on board and in port.

Unfamiliarity with a region has also been a contributing factor to disasters at sea. A strange harbor, river, or bay. Currents peculiar to a certain area can wreak havoc on a ship’s steering. Hidden rocks, sandbars, or jetties covered by a moon tide often lie waiting for the unsuspecting mariner.

When the Tek Sing set out from Xiamen, China to Indonesia in 1822, the trip went smoothly. Then the captain decided to take a shortcut through the Gaspar Strait to save time. Unfamiliar with the area, he hit a shallow reef. The impact ripped the ship to pieces and over 1,400 died. Continue reading →

King Neptune’s Realm Revisited

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…We’re a little more than two weeks into the new year, and King Neptune is already making waves. We’ve had hurricane Alex in the North Atlantic, lashing out at the Azores. We haven’t seen the likes of a January hurricane since 1955. To make matters worse, Tropical storm Pauli formed off Hawaii last week, only the third time this has happened in forty years. Let’s hope we haven’t awakened the wrath of King Neptune. He’s got plenty to be angry about.

…Last week you read about some of the things we need to focus on this year. This week I’d like to direct your attention to a few others. If we continue to make progress, Neptune will have a lot to smile about come December, and who knows? Maybe he’ll go back to sleep. .

… Ocean acidification. Given the size of the sea, this may seem like a pretty remote threat, but the stark truth is, it’s impacting our seas and the creatures in them. When we burn fossil fuels, the carbon dioxide falls not only back to earth but the sea. The oceans can absorb only so much of this crap till it becomes more and more acidic, affecting every single species of life from coral to sharks and whales. The more we reduce our carbon imprint, the healthier the seas will be.

…The slaughter of bottlenose dolphins at Taiji Cove in Japan. Last year over 500 dolphins were driven into the cove where they splashed helplessly in nets trying to reach others in their pod. A 100 were then slaughtered, many driven onto a beach where their spines were cut, supposedly so they’d experience less pain. How’s that for being compassionate!

…The environmental group Sea Shepherd launched Operation Henkaku on September 01 last year. If you want to help stop this barbaric travesty, you can do two things: watch their videos, one of which is a livestream, at www.seashepherd.org; second, you can donate to help bring their efforts to fruition. Mailing address is Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, PO Box 96059, Washington, DC 20090-6059.

…The release of bottlenose dolphins and whales held in captivity across the globe. Performing stupid tricks aren’t the only unnatural acts these helpless creatures are forced to endure. These highly social animals are often inbred to keep the travesty going.

…If you ever swam with a dolphin or applauded at a SeaWorld when it did cute tricks, you’re part of the problem. Perhaps you never considered that these highly social animals crave each other’s company not isolated in a prison of concrete and water. They may not be ordering lattes with their cousins at Starbucks or gathering for services on Sunday, but the presence of these animals in the ocean is just as sacred as what any humans do in church.  When will you see the light, brothers and sisters, and work for their release? Continue reading →