Saturday, December 02, 2006

Got an interesting question from a fellow ship watcher today. I've asked the bar pilots for a reply -- will post the answer when I get it. In the meantime, if anyone can shed light on this it would be great.

Listener JoeSixPack wrote:

"There was a lot of activity on the river yesterday, and I was wondering what it was all about. My son and I were having lunch at the Wet Dog and saw the Coast Guard helo hovering very close to a ship out in the anchorage area. It spent a lot of time there, too. The same ship had what looked like a small tug on her starboard side aft. The ship seemed like she was swinging on her anchor the way they do when the tide changes, but she swung back and forth several times (through about 90 Degrees). Was she trying to work her way off a sand bar? The helicopter stayed close to the ship for quite some time. What was that all about?"

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Thanks to JoeSixpack (who posted a comment below on our list of shipwatching sites)for another good shipwatching spot,the Safeway parking lot in Astoria. It's right next to the wonderful Riverwalk too, and has a great view of the anchorage area east of downtown. The anchorage is a dredged out portion of the river north of the shipping channel that's always kept deep enough to anchor ships. You can see the area outlined on the nautical chart for this area. They have paper charts at Englund Marine for about $20.

Will answer your questions about the current. etc. Friday on the Ship Report and then post it on the blog. I think some of it has to do with the fact that the most recent storm coincided with Spring Tides, or higher than normal tides. That has to do with the moon. But there may be more to it here locally. I'll find out.

If anyone else knows of any good shipwatching spots or any other nautical info you'd like to share with the Ship Report, post a comment on the blog or email I'll be happy to share it with our Ship Report community!


Monday, November 06, 2006

Ship Report Listener questions/comments 11/3/06

Cool Ship Watching Spots around the region:

This comes from local listener Geo:

• Bridges: Astoria Megler and New Youngs Bay – access is limited
• Neahkanie Mt parking lot at the roadside viewing area south of Seaside. It’s about 40 miles to the horizon from there. Also good for whale watching with binocs.
• Observation deck, South Jetty, Fort Stevens State Park. Good view of the bar
• Astoria Column on land or from the top of the tower
• Jim Crow Point on the CR – view from the beach to the Astoria Megler Bridge. Accessible only by boat.
• Lewis and Clark Bridge in Longview. You can park at the end of the bridge and walk out on it.
• Kelly Point – confluence of Columbia and Willamette rivers. Auto access, a favorite kayaking spot
• Swan Island in Portland, see ships in drydock. Accessible by boat.
• Cape Disappointment State Park – visitor center or the lighthouse out on the cape.

Some others I’ve heard about, and/or noticed myself

• Tansy Point in Warrenton/Hammond – Ships turn here to make the run to the Astoria Megler Bridge. Car carriers lean in the wind here. Can be interesting to watch the ships negotiate the turn.
• The Riverwalk in downtown Astoria, especially toward the West End of town where the channel seems to be closer to the shore.
• East Mooring Basin breakwater – good place to see anchored ships
• Seamen’s Memorial behind the River Theater in Astoria.
• Jones Beach – west of Clatskanie off highway 30 (turn north at the Korean Restaurant). Sandy beach with close proximity to shipping channel. Great place for a close-up look at ships as they go by.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Hello fellow bloggers,

Here are today's Listener Questions/Answers 10/27/06:

Q: More on a question from last week about the speeds ships travel at sea, and travel times between ports.

A: This is from Capt Robert Johnson, Columbia River Bar Pilot:

• How fast does a ship run out at sea?

The speed depends on the ships. Most bulk carriers and tankers make about 14 knots if the weather is under force 4-5. As the weather increase the speed goes down. Car carriers normally make 17-18 knots although the newer ones are a bit faster, up to 20 knots. Container ships are 21 to 23 with some of the newer ones up in the 25-26 range.

• How long does it take to travel by ship from the Panama Canal to the mouth of the Columbia?

It is about 3,870 miles to Panama from Portland so an 11.5 day voyage for bulkers. We get some panamax ships loading wheat here for Egypt that go down and through the canal. We have one container line that goes to the Med and they would make the trip in about 8.5 days but they stop in California and Mexico along the way.

• How long from Japan to Astoria?

It is 4,590 miles to Kobe, which is sort of the middle of the Japanese ports. For a bulker that is almost a 16 day voyage and especially in the winter it will be one or two days longer due to weather. The car ships will make the voyage in about 12.2 days and the container ships in only 8.6 days. During a westbound voyage they must advance the clocks 5 hours and the retard the day when crossing the date line. That means a bulker has a one hour clock change every two or three days. For container ships they must change the clocks every day plus some. It makes for a very tired crew. It is especially bad when eastbound as then you lose sleep with each clock change.
Q: Most people in Astoria have seen the river pilot launch the Arrow 2 – she’s the lovely green and while boat that takes pilots to and from ships passing downtown Astoria. Where is the bar transport pilot boat berthed?
A: Thought this would be a good opportunity to do a quick overview of area pilot facilities and equipment:
• The Columbia River Pilots Astoria HQ is at the bottom of 14th St. on the waterfront. Their main home base is in Portland. The Arrow 2 is berthed at that 14th St. location. You can see her from the Riverwalk to the right of Baked Alaska when she’s at the dock. She takes river and bar pilots to and from vessels as they pass Astoria. The reason for this is the river pilots’ jurisdiction extends upriver from approximately the Astoria Megler Bridge, and the Bar Pilot jurisdiction goes from the bridge to the bar and beyond.

• The Columbia River Bar Pilots are an entirely separate organization from the River Pilots. Their HQ is upriver a little, to the left of the CRMM. Both organizations use the River Pilot HQ facilities to get on and off the river. Up until recently, both organizations shared the 14th St buildings.

• There are two pilot boats that are used to take bar pilots out to sea to meet ships and assist pilots in getting off ships that are leaving the river. Those two boats, the Chinook and the Columbia, are berthed at a separate private dock next to the Hammond Marina. Right now the bar pilots are investigating replacing the Columbia, the older of the two boats, with a newer, faster boat. The Chinook is a state of the art fast boat that is self righting and propelled by jet drive. She’s fast but not nearly as cozy and atmospheric as the lovely Columbia, which has wooden brightwork and comfy accommodations.

• The other, newest component is the bar pilot helicopter. That operates out of the Astoria Regional Airport in Warrenton. It’s the one that doesn’t look like a Coast Guard Helo. The Pilots won a safety award for having this aircraft.

One often overlooked aspect of bar pilot operations is the incredible support crews that make all this happen behind the scenes. The pilot boat operators and deckhands, and the helicopter crews, are very impressive unsung heroes in this operation. I’ve been out at sea and on the river on the pilot boats, and gone up in the helicopter -- and these guys really know their stuff. I’d trust them with my life anytime.

Next week...more on gypsum, cool shipwatching spots, and a great book recommendation - a good read about a famous maritime disaster...

Thanks for listening and blogging!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Hi all,

Thought I'd post the listener questions I answered on the air today:

1. Ratio of import to export traffic on the Columbia?

Port of Portland: about 1:1 overall

Autos mostly import
Steel is all import
Wheat is all export – some in containers
Soda Ash and Potash are all export

2. Do ships ever arrive empty?

Yes, bulk ships arrive empty and load wheat, bulk minerals. Optimal is to have vessels arrive full and leave full with another cargo.

3. Are car carriers strictly for cars, and do they unload and return to their point of origin empty?

Many of the car carriers are allocated to specific trades for specific manufacturers.

Car carriers depending on their configuration, can carry farm equipment, trucks. But most of the car carriers calling on the Port of Portland are exclusively carrying finished autos only. After Portland they call on Ports in CA or Canada, but almost always return to Japan and Korea mostly empty.

Auto ships are called PCCs in the trade: Pure Car Carriers

3. Do ships every switch cargo? i.e. – soda ash to wheat?

If the cargo is food grade, then the vessel hold needs to be thoroughly cleaned prior to loading. What often happens though, is that certain vessels are chartered for a period of time and then are dedicated to a specific industrial use. Like carrying soda ash or potash or wheat. Charter hires will try to get cargo in both directions.

Note from a listener about gypsum, loaded here in Rainier:

“You note that gypsum is often the cargo, and that it's used for wallboard. Yes, but did you know that gypsum is also used in making pills? The "stuff" in a hard pill -- like an aspirin or cold tablet -- is called an "excipient." Most excipients are gypsum because it readily accepts dies/coloring, can be pressed into hard, durable shapes, active ingredient neutral, digestable (although when you "take with food" sometimes it's to dilute the excipient because a big gypsum tab will make you nauseous), can be "split" easily for dose mgmt. and it dissolves in water.”

4. How fast do ships go at sea? (note: answers assume good weather and great circle routes)

15 kts average. A slow ship 12, fast ship 23 kts. Ships on the river keep their speed down to avoid wake damage. But they have to go fast enough to maintain headway.

5. How long to travel by ship from Panama Canal to CR?

Nine days on a fast ship, 2 weeks on a slow one.

6. How long to travel from Japan to CR?

Fast ship, 7-8 days, slow one, 2 weeks

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Ship Report 10/10/06

Some additional info from today's report:

The Captain HA Downing is a double-hulled tanker built in 1996.

While most people in our listening area are familiar with the Bar and River Pilots who work on the Columbia, there are also two bar pilots who assist large commercial vessels entering Gray's Harbor. The Port of Gray's Harbor has 4 terminals. Wood chips are among the cargos they handle there.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Some additional info from Friday's Ship Report:

The commercial shipping vessel Frosti will be at Pier 2 in Astoria today. She's a fishing boat but also has a history of doing fisheries research, so she may be here for that purpose. The Car Carrier Harmony Ace will be by early this afternoon. She's a sister ship of the Cougar Ace, the car ship that got in trouble off the Aleutians this summer. Ballast water problems are believed to have caused her to list severely to one side. The Coast Guard evacuated her crew, and salvagers towed her to Portland earlier this month.

The Alpha Happiness is a Panamax bulk carrier arriving today to anchor off Astoria. She's just large enough to fit in the Panama Canal (106 ft wide) hence her designation as Panamax. She'll be out there with another bulk carrier, a Handy-Size ship called the Vinca that's been there several days. The way to tell the two apart (aside from their names which are generally painted on the bow and stern): Panamax ships are larger (700 ft +), and have seven hatches running bow to stern on deck. Handy-size vessels are in the 600 ft range and have cranes and other apparatus on deck to handle cargo.

The car carrier Texas Highway will be by later today carrying Toyotas.

The Chemical Tanker SMT Chemical Explorer is anchored off Astoria until tonight. At first from the listing on the bar pilot schedule I thought she was a tug/barge combo, but clearly she looks like a ship, and apparently is. She's owned by Seattle based Crowley, and is a Jones Act vessel, meaning she is US owned and licensed. She has all US officers and by law 75 percent of her crew must be US citizens. This is unusual in that most of the vessels we see in the Columbia are foreign flagged, many of them registered in Panama.

Hope the fog lifts so we can see some of these vessels!