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