Category Archives: Greenwich Maritime Institute

How is Lego helping us understand movements in the Ocean?


lego 1 lego 2

A container filled with millions of Lego pieces fell into the sea off Cornwall in 1997. But instead of remaining at the bottom of the ocean, they are still washing up on Cornish beaches today – offering an insight into the mysterious world of oceans and tides.

On 13th February 1997 the container ship Tokio Express was hit by a wave described by its captain as  a “once in a 100-year phenomenon”, tilting the ship 60 degrees one way, then 40 degrees back.

As a result, 62 containers were lost overboard about 20 miles off Land’s End – and one of them was filled with nearly 4.8m pieces of Lego, bound for New York.

No-one knows exactly what happened next, or even what was in the other 61 containers, but shortly after that some of those Lego pieces began washing up in both the north and south coasts of Cornwall. They’re still coming in today.

lego 3 lego 4

A quirk of fate meant many of the Lego items were nautical-themed, so locals and tourists alike started finding miniature cutlasses, flippers, spear guns, seagrass and scuba gear as well as the dragons and the daisies.

US oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer has tracked the story of the Lego since it was spilled. “The mystery is where they’ve ended up. After 17 years they’ve only been definitely reported off the coast of Cornwall,” he says.

It takes three years for sea debris to cross the Atlantic ocean, from Land’s End to Florida. Undoubtedly some Lego has crossed and it’s most likely some has gone around the world. But there isn’t any proof that it has arrived as yet.

“I go to beachcombing events in Florida and they show me Lego – but it’s the wrong kind. It’s all local stuff kids have left behind.”

Since 1997, those pieces could have drifted 62,000 miles, he says. It’s 24,000 miles around the equator, meaning they could be on any beach on earth. Theoretically, the pieces of Lego could keep going around the ocean for centuries.

“The most profound lesson I’ve learned from the Lego story is that things that go to the bottom of the sea don’t always stay there,” Ebbesmeyer adds. The incident is a perfect example of how even when inside a steel container, sunken items don’t stay sunken. They can be carried around the world, seemingly randomly, but subject to the planet’s currents and tides.

“Tracking currents is like tracking ghosts – you can’t see them. You can only see where flotsam started and where it ended up.

For more details on the story visit the BBC 

Accidents do not just happen at sea

By Dr Chris Ware

 isle of white collapse isle of white deck

A sultry evening in July and a routine crossing from Portsmouth to Fishbourne, on the Isle of Wight, should both literally as well as figuratively, be ‘plain sailing’. At 22-30 the St Helen was unloading at Fishbourne , in the same way as she had over the past 24 years, the mezzanine car deck dropped approximately 8 feet twisting as it did. Three passengers and one member of the crew were injured. However what it highlights once again is that something as straightforward as a crossing of the Solent is not that at all, it is four miles of open water with a major shipping lane running East-West and subject to  short steep seas which can be brought about by the prevailing winds.

However it was none of these which caused the accident on the 18th July.  What precisely did happened is not clear from the published reports the deck was part way down then it dropped, for those in their cars a frightening experience, for the crew at the forwarded end of the ramp terrifying. Was this mechanical failure, or human error? The Marine Accident Investigation will, it is to be hoped get to the bottom of this. It is a timely reminder that ferries work in a dynamic environment and are subject to stress and strains, which the passengers, as they sample the delights of the lounge, be that coffee, tea, or something stronger do not necessarily, appreciate. A Ferry is a complex system where everything needs to work as planned be it human or mechanical.

An Isle of Wight ferry arriving at Fishbourne

The art of teaching war- have you booked your place???


July 22nd 6pm with wine reception Chris Bellamy

At The Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich 

booking email: 

How do you force someone to fight for you – to go to war? This and other questions will be addressed at a free public lecture by a military expert and University of Greenwich academic.

Professor Chris Bellamy is Director of the university’s Greenwich Maritime Institute, in the Faculty of Architecture, Construction & Humanities. An award-winning author and former defence correspondent at The Independent, Chris is also an expert on Russia and the former Soviet Union. His views have been widely sought by media over the current tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

Don’t try this at home…: Teaching War, 400 BC to the present takes place at the university’s Greenwich Campus on Tuesday 22 July 2014 at 6pm.

Chris says: “Warfare – the use of violence for political ends – is as old as recorded history and, some would argue, is the ‘dark side of civilisation’. Warfare requires communities organised on some scale and a measure of authority to force people to participate in an exhausting, terrifying, arduous and often tedious activity which runs against many of our natural instincts.

“From the beginnings of recorded civilisation the communities most successful in armed conflict triumphed through better organisation, equipment, training, tactics, and the conceptual component – an intellectual understanding of the nature and processes of warfare. To win in battle, and in warfare more generally, training and education are key.”

Technology, technique and science all feature strongly in the history of war. Examples developed and explored by Chris during his 13 years as a teacher at the Defence Academy of the UK at Shrivenham reveal that, until relatively recently, one combatant seldom had a decisive technological edge over another. It was discipline, training and technique– how they used it – that determined success.

Chris has taught these ideas to students, including many serving members of the armed forces, for many years. He will present a number of case studies, including analysis of the leap from mechanical energy – bows and arrows and catapults, to chemical energy – guns and rockets. Chris will also discuss the importance of indirect fire – artillery firing at targets which those manning the guns cannot see.

Without this development in technique the First World War, the start of which is being commemorated this year, could not have happened as it did. Yet very few historians understand what indirect fire is, or mention its decisive role in shaping the fighting on land, particularly on the Western front.

Don’t try this at home…: Teaching War, 400 BC to the present. University of Greenwich Maritime Institute, presented with the Centre for the Study of Play and Recreation. Tuesday 22 July 2014, 6pm until 7.30 pm. Room 080, Queen Anne Court, University of Greenwich, Old Royal Naval College, SE10, 9LS. To be followed by a wine reception.

All are welcome to this free lecture but to book a place for the wine reception, please contact the Greenwich Maritime Institute on

This lecture precedes the 36th Annual Conference of the International Standing Committee for the History of Education, Education, War and Peace, to be held at the Institute of Education, University of London, 23–26 July 2014.

Mary Clare Martin, Ewa Sidorenko and Leticia Fernandez-Fontecha Rumeu, of the Department of Education and Community Studies, will be speaking on a panel at the ISCHE conference, entitled Survival, Pain and Memory: recovering experiences of war, peace and education in Spain, Poland, Gibraltar and Britain, 1902-1950.


China moves oil rig from dispute areas with Vietnam

oil rig ships

China says the oil rig that sparked a major diplomatic row with Vietnam by drilling in disputed waters has finished work and is being removed.

In a statement, China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) said it would now assess the data collected by the rig.

China moved the rig into waters near the Paracel Islands – which Vietnam also claims – in May.

The row over the rig led to clashes between ships from the two nations and major anti-China riots in Vietnam.

Vietnam’s coast guard told Reuters news agency that the rig was now moving away towards China’s Hainan island.

Coast Guard Chief of Staff Admiral Ngo Ngoc Thu said the rig had been moving since late on Tuesday. A senior fisheries official also confirmed that the rig was under way.

The news that the rig was moving came in a CNPC statement carried by China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.

“Signs of oil and gas were found in the operation,” Xinhua quoted the statement as saying, and CNPC “will assess the data collected and decide on the next step”.

China moved its Haiyang Shiyou 981 oil rig into South China Sea waters west of the disputed Paracel Islands in early May, an action the US described as “provocative” and “aggressive”.

Government ships from China and Vietnam then clashed there on several occasions, bumping and exchanging water cannon fire as Vietnam sought to block Chinese drilling operations.

Vietnam also saw three days of anti-China unrest during which angry workers targeted foreign-owned factories in some areas, leaving at least two people dead and dozens injured. Several factories were burned down or damaged.

Both nations claim the Paracel islands and in 1974 fought a brief but bloody war over them.

The introduction of the rig came amid broader tensions between Beijing and South East Asian nations over the South China Sea.

China’s maritime territorial claims overlap those of several of its neighbours and in recent years it has sought to assert these claims in a more muscular fashion.

Ties with Hanoi and Manila have been particularly badly hit. The Philippines is currently taking China to an international court over the issue.

A statement by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei on the rig’s removal pointed out that “the Xisha [Paracel] Islands are integral parts of China” and that the drilling operation was in “indisputable” waters which fell within China’s jurisdiction.

China “firmly opposes Vietnam’s unjustified disruptions” to operations, he added.


more details here

oil rig dispute map

Cutty Sark Replica project – What is it?


design documents
Who we are?

The initiators of the project are a team of highly motivated people, with high quality knowledge of building traditional ships, operating them with all the logistics and P.R., all with long standing experience in all the different aspects of the Tall Ship’s world, headed by Captain Vladimir Martus, owner and builder of the ‘Shtandart’, a replica of the first naval vessel of Russia, built by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703.Vladimir Martus has constructed this vessel, launched her in the year 2000 and ever since she is sailing the seas as one of the few traditionally built replica ships in the world.


To reconstruct, maintain and exploit a replica of the clipper ship ‘Cutty Sark’ as an operational sailing vessel and a living memorial to the era of sailing ships. to encourage education and training in seamanship of young persons of all nations. to provide facilities for the promotion of sail-powered shipping as an environmentally friendly alternative.


The Cutty Sark Replica is an international project

As the original Cutty Sark was constructed from materials that came from various countries and during her active life she sailed the seven seas, we want this project to be international in all its different aspects.
It should also be accessible to people of all nations and all walks of life, and when finished sail the world as an ambassador not of just one country, but as a living proof of unity between people with heart and soul for traditional ships and the seas.


cutty sark replica post



Costa Concordia – what will remain?

 costa sunk

By Dr Chris Ware


On 13 January 2012 Costa Concordia collided with rocks and went over on her beam ends sinking in shallow water off the Island of Giglio. What followed was both a farce and a tragedy, a Captain who left his vessel only to be ordered by the Coast Guard to return, and the deaths of thirty two people. The ships herself would be both an object of morbid fascination, as well as, potentially,   an ecological time bomb.   What was set in train was to be the largest salvage attempt on any vessel, it is perhaps pure coincidence that today 14th July is Bastille Day, the date set by the weather rather than any other consideration. The Concordia had previously been righted, having first had much of the fuel oil pumped out, and a platform built on the seabed on which she would rest.


With caissons and bracing wires attached she will be slowly raised 1.5 meters, as much to see if the hull, distorted and holed by collision, will stay intact, before she would be raise further and one last search made for the one member of the crew who was not found, a reminder, amongst all the engineering marvels on display, of the human cost. And what next, Costa Concordia will be towed to the mainland at a genteel 2 knots and then docked and dismantled.  After all this what will remain? Perhaps some small pieces of the vessel on the seabed off the Island of Giglio; iconic pictures of a leviathan of the sea stricken as much by hubris as the rocks which tore into her hull and lives irrevocably changed.

The ecosystem of the English Channel has been transformed by fishing, report shows







A new report (10th July 2014) shows that many fish species, especially those at the top of the food chain, are faring badly in the English Channel.

The report’s authors say that this is evidence of “fishing down the food chain”. Since the 1940s, commonly-landed fish like spurdog, cod, and ling have come to be replaced in fishermens’ nets by fish such as small spotted catsharks, and shellfish such as scallops, crabs and lobster.

The authors recommend a network of fisheries closures to help get the ecosystem back on the path to recovery.

Dr Jean-Luc Solandt, MCS senior biodiversity policy officer, says “This report adds evidence to what we have known for a number of years now – that the huge efforts of fishing boats from many nations are continuing to fish down the food chain in the English Channel – and elsewhere. We really need governments to take on board the urgent need to better protect our seas”.

Dr Solandt continues “There isn’t one square kilometre of the English Channel that is protected from all forms of fishing. Recently the government has applied pressure to stop destructive fishing in protected areas where reefs exist in the English Channel. This demonstrates that recovery is possible if areas are closed to damaging fishing gear.”

Overfishing and the Replacement of Demersal Finfish by Shellfish: An Example from the English Channel Molfese C,  Beare D,  Hall-Spencer JM  (2014)  PLoS ONE 9(7): e101506. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0101506 Read the report at

A number of Channel sites are timetabled for consultation as “Marine conservation Zones” in Spring 2015. MCS will be keeping up the pressure on Government to designate these sites, and will be seeking your support nearer the time.

For more information visit the Marine Conservation Society


Merchant Vessels warned to beware hire of Armed Guards against pirates

Serious Flaws in Security as Nigerian Factions Squabble Over Primacy 


nigerian guard photo

NIGERIA – The situation with regard to piracy, hijackings and theft of all types from freight and passenger vessels and particularly those concerned with energy extraction, transiting the waters off the country’s coast is already dangerous and confused enough without an element of political infighting and the confusion which has arisen when personnel from different branches of local law enforcement have clashed over who has primacy on the open sea. Last October a skiff approaching a Romanian owned oil tanker was fired on by the Nigerian police security team aboard which believed it to be manned by a pirate group. The boat actually contained a Nigerian Naval patrol which drove the shooters into the vessel’s citadel from which they were later extracted and arrested.

This is just one of many similar incidents which have arisen as confusion over where geographical jurisdiction starts and finishes is made more difficult by ‘private’ security escort arrangements with officials made by shady middle men. Certainly the Nigerian Navy seemingly has charge of matters in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) an area extending up to 200 nautical miles seawards from the coasts of Nigeria within which the country’s authorities reserve the right to regulate by law any and all actions which they see fit.

The problem is, which authorities? The Navy also has powers extending to inshore waters when acting as part of the Niger Delta Joint Task Force whilst the Nigerian Maritime Safety Agency (NIMASA), also seems to claim some interest in anything occurring within the EEZ.

NIMASA is run by Mr. Ziakede P. Akpobolokemi, whose current agency is allegedly linked to Government Ekpemupolo, poacher turned gamekeeper and the billionaire who was formerly a commander (and alleged military quartermaster) of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) who now, after receiving amnesty five years ago, is alleged to be the power behind Global West Vessel Specialist Ltd. which offers security surveillance in the EEZ acting for NIMASA.

NIMASA in turn is linked to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) which says it collaborates closely with other government security agencies, namely the Marine Police and the Nigerian Navy, to regularly patrol and provide air surveillance for water fronts and river channels to battle the menace of piracy in and around the country’s ports. In addition, the port management department says it provides high speed patrol boats to assist the ‘security agencies’ in their patrols and surveillance.

It seems ‘arrangements’ have been made with all and sundry to protect private shipping, a job many have proved woefully inadequate at, with Nigerian Maritime Police being hired out under ‘private’ contracts only to be subsequently arrested and detained by the Navy which has been charged by new leadership to clean up the whole scene.

One of the groups most affected by the disastrous security situation in the region are the members of the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) which is currently seeking written confirmation from the Nigerian authorities of how it sees the situation. The BIMCO view is explained fully in a recent statement to its members which reads:

“BIMCO members operating vessels within the Nigerian EEZ and territorial waters should be aware that they may be at risk of potentially significant liabilities and delays if they employ armed guards on board their vessels who are sourced from the Nigerian Marine Police, the Nigerian Police or the Joint Task Force (JTF). The Nigerian Navy only provides vessel escorts and it is understood to have sole primacy and authority in territorial waters and the EEZ, BIMCO has been advised that the Nigerian Navy does not provide or permit armed guards on merchant vessels.

“The Navy has seemingly begun enforcing its alleged authority to prevent the employment of armed guards on board and this has resulted in the arrest of members of the Nigerian Marine Police and consequent delays to the vessel and unresolved liabilities placed on the owners. This appears to apply regardless of whether the armed guard policemen are sourced by an agent or a private military security company (PMSC).

“There have also been reports of incidents of ‘blue on blue’ where policemen have opened fire on Nigerian Naval vessels believing they were pirates and where seafarers have been killed or injured in the crossfire. Apparently, the Marine Police and Police only have primacy and jurisdiction in ‘riverine’ areas and ports and harbours out to the fairway buoy and no further.

“The JTF against terrorists, is a combined task force of navy and police, with a specific role to counter oil theft and smuggling in the Delta. The JTF is understood to have no jurisdiction outside this remit. The transit of supply vessels up the Bonny River to Port Harcourt is arranged by the JTF and these ships go in convoys (for a charge) whilst the offshore oil export Terminals are patrolled by private security units or the Nigerian Navy.

“It would seem that the only legitimate method of acquiring armed security protection in territorial waters and the EEZ of Nigeria is by utilising the services of the Nigerian Navy (although, this seems to exclude armed guards on board vessels).”


Sourced – /

Chinese Students at Sea. Tall Ships Regatta 2014 to London

by Wing Chan

wing ships

First China team in the Tall Ships Races.

Largest event in London since the Olympics. 10 crew on a crowded yacht hoping to get on.

Why are we doing this ?

Sail Training has been going on in Europe for over 100 years. The Tall Ships Races started in 1956 and many nations of the world are involved and have a sail training organisation. Except China.

The documentary will show Chinese, in China and elsewhere, and eveyone else, what sail training is about.

We want your supprt, financial or otherwise, to take sail training to China.

Working hypothesis and interpretation

In life, I believe that young adults can benefit from the character building experience of a voyage on a sail training vessel. Furthermore, if the crew are from many different nationalities, then they will be able to understand cultural differences. Sail training is the most arduous environment for learning teamwork and leadership short of warfare. These are the words of HRH Prince Phillip.

Our documentary will show this in action by filming the crew of a small yacht, which will participate in the 2014 Tall Ships’ Regatta between Falmouth, Cornwall and Greenwich, London. There will be 6 Chinese and 4 non-Chinese on board. Except for the skipper, all the “trainees” are between 18 and 25.

In our modern society, most people are wary of meeting with and working with strangers. On a sail training vessel, the crew must quickly learn to “pull together” as a team. Our documentary will follow the progress of our trainees as they adjust to each other’s skills and attitudes. They must “learn the ropes”, together. Even if the crew members do not seem to get on, the team dynamics of the vessel means that they will invariably set aside their differences when the team is challenged by another team. They will support each other in their tasks when they have to “batten down the hatches”. They will stand by each other to the “bitter end”. Many metaphors in the English language are derived from the times of sailing ships. . There are many lessons to be learnt on a sail training ship, which are invaluable in a young adult’s future life. Real life is not just “plain sailing”. With modern technology, global media coverage and air travel, the world is now a small place- we are “all in the same boat”.

Ultimately, I want the audience to feel and understand that sail training has a significant role to play in the education of young adults, not just Chinese, but all young adults, regardless of race, religion or gender. This will be shown by the character development of the trainees during their voyage. The youth of today are the leaders of mankind in the future.

The documentary’s environment

The film will be mainly shot on a 44 foot yacht called the Emerald Star. This is not as large as some other sail training Tall Ships, but the phrase often used is that a ship does not have to be big to be tall. We have chartered the vessel from a commercial company and this is cost effective. It also allows us to be in charge of the allocation of crew, structuring the sailing around the documentary and we control our own destiny.

The focus will be on the interaction of the crew, not just footage of boats in the water A similar documentary was produced in 1982

We want to capture the way that our trainees interact with each other and mature over a short space of time.

The following background information will need to be incorporated to allow the audience to understand the enclosed world, which we intend to present. The information will emerge through interviews with the yacht’s skipper – Simon Layton and another ship’s captain – Chris Blake OBE. We will be filming an interview with someone from the China Maritime Institute, Greenwich University, which will comment on the way the world is linked by the sea. There will also be a senior representative of Sail Training International. They will be filmed speaking to camera and provide voice-overs to footage of sailing ships at sea and historical footage.

The below video is just a bit of fun, to give you an idea of what ships and young adults upon them look like. There are many videos of boats sailing. That is NOT what we are just doing.We want to show the interaction of our crewHow they get on with each other – or not.

This project involves some very passionate and committed people who want to educate and give experiences especially aimed at 18-24′s but in order to do this they need support.  Even just a small donation goes towards helping this fantastic project as they try to achive thier aims,

If you would like to find out more and offer your financial support just click here 

Free screening of The Moo Man

moo man


Here at the Greenwich Maritime Institute we like to keep abreast of moments in all industries that can effect our work from any angles.  We get involved in various projects, very recently the TourFish conference , a very successful event linking together Food, Fisheries and Tourism looking at new opportunities for sustainable development.

From this we have been looking at the food industry and we have come across the story of Stephen Hook and his film The Moo Man.

The remarkable story of a maverick farmer and his unruly cows, filmed over four years on the marshes of the Pevensey Levels.

In an attempt to save his family farm, Stephen Hook decides to turn his back on the cost cutting dairies and supermarkets, and instead stay small and keep his close relationship with the herd.
However farmer Hook’s plans to save the farm do not always go down well with his 55 spirited cows. The result is a laugh-out-loud, emotional roller-coaster of a journey.

If you would like to see this film there is a special screening being held on Wednesday 2nd July at 18:30 at European Commission  followed by a reception.

Organic milk refreshments will be served at the event!

This is a free event however places are limited to Click here to register for you space.



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