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.