The world’s cargo ships are getting big, really big. No surprise, perhaps, given the volume of goods produced in Asia and consumed in Europe and the US. But are these giant symbols of the world’s trade imbalance growing beyond all reason?
What is blue, a quarter of a mile long, and taller than London’s Olympic stadium?
The answer – this year’s new class of container ship, the Triple E. When it goes into service this June, it will be the largest vessel ploughing the sea.Each will contain as much steel as eight Eiffel Towers and have a capacity equivalent to 18,000 20-foot containers (TEU).If those containers were placed in Times Square in New York, they would rise above billboards, streetlights and some buildings.Or, to put it another way, they would fill more than 30 trains, each a mile long and stacked two containers high. Inside those containers, you could fit 36,000 cars or 863 million tins of baked beans.
he Triple E will not be the largest ship ever built. That accolade goes to an “ultra-large crude carrier” (ULCC) built in the 1970s, but all supertankers more than 400m (440 yards) long were scrapped years ago, some after less than a decade of service. Only a couple of shorter ULCCs are still in use. But giant container ships are still being built in large numbers – and they are still growing.
It’s 25 years since the biggest became too wide for the Panama Canal. These first “post-Panamax” ships, carrying 4,300 TEU, had roughly quarter of the capacity of the current record holder – the 16,020 TEU Marco Polo, launched in November by CMA CGM.
In the shipping industry there is already talk of a class of ship that would run aground in the Suez canal, but would just pass through another bottleneck of international trade – the Strait of Malacca, between Malaysia and Indonesia. The “Malaccamax” would carry 30,000 containers.
The current crop of ultra-large container vessels can navigate the Suez – just – but they are only able to dock at a handful of the world’s ports. No American harbour is equipped to handle them.
The sole purpose of the soon-to-be-launched Triple E ships will be to run what’s called a pendulum service for Maersk – the largest shipping company in the world – between Asia and Europe.
They arrive in Europe full, and when they leave a significant proportion of containers carry nothing but air. (At any given moment about 20% of all containers on the world’s seas are empty.)
“Ships have been getting bigger for many years,” says Paul Davey from Hutchison Ports, which operates Felixstowe in the UK, one of the likely ports of call of the Triple E.
“The challenge for ports is to invest ahead of the shipping capacity coming on-stream, and to try and be one step ahead of the game.”
Overcapacity in the world’s ports means there is huge competition for business. Operators cannot afford to get left behind, says Marc Levinson, author of The Box – How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger.
“The ports are placed in a difficult competitive position here because the carriers are basically saying to them, ‘If you don’t expand – if you don’t build new wharves and deepen the harbours and get high speed cranes, we’ll take our business someplace else.'”
These big beasts of the sea present ports with other challenges too.
Ship owners also want vessels to be unloaded and loaded within 24 hours, which has various knock-on effects. More space is needed to store the containers in the harbour, and onward connections by road, rail and ship need to be strengthened to cope with the huge surge in traffic.
Felixstowe, which handles 42% of the UK’s container trade, has 58 train movements a day, but plans to double that after it opens a third rail terminal later this year.
Bigger vessels also behave differently in the water. The wash created by a large ship can be enough to cause other ships moored in a harbour to break free – just as the passenger liner SS City of New York did in 1912 when the Titanic set out on her maiden voyage.
“These days with the increase in traffic, we experience this more and more often,” says Marco Pluijm, a port engineer working for Bechtel. “A simple thing you can do is just slow ships down and add some tug boats for better manoeuvring – but that all has cost implications.”
There are currently 163 ships on the world’s seas with a capacity over 10,000 TEU – but 120 more are on order, including Maersk’s fleet of 20 Triple Es.
Bearing in mind that the carbon footprint of international shipping is roughly equivalent to that of aviation – some 2.7% of the world’s man-made CO2 emissions in the year 2000, according to the International Maritime Organization – the prospect of these leviathans carving up the oceans in ever greater numbers is likely to be a source of concern for green consumers.
Maersk, however, argues that the Triple E is the most environmentally friendly container ship yet. (The three Es in the name stand for economy of scale, energy efficiency and environmentally improved.)
Although it will only be three metres longer and three metres wider than the 15,500-TEU Emma Maersk, its squarer profile allows it to carry 16% more cargo.
Re-designed engines, an improved waste-heat recovery system, and a speed cap at 23 knots – down from 25 – will produce 50% less carbon dioxide per container shipped than average on the Asia-Europe route, Maersk calculates.
“When you get bigger ships, you can more efficiently carry more cargo, so the carbon footprint you get per tonne of cargo is smaller,” says Unni Einemo from the online trade publication Sustainable Shipping. “So on that basis, big is beautiful.”
To achieve maximum fuel efficiency, however, a ship has to be fully loaded.
“They are massive ships, and a really big ship running half-full is probably less energy-efficient overall than a smaller ship running with a full set of containers,” says Einemo.
Maersk’s Triple Es will be going into service at a time when growth in the volume of goods to be shipped is comparatively low – some experts don’t expect it to pick up until 2015. But the world’s container fleet capacity is expected to grow by 9.5% this year alone, as Maersk and others receive the ships they ordered years ago.
Some of the extra capacity will be absorbed in the new practice of slow steaming – industry-speak for sailing more slowly. Sailing at 12-15 knots instead of 20-24 knots brings enormous savings on fuel – but it does mean that extra ships are required to transport the same volume of goods in the same timescale.
Maersk are counting on container trade continuing to grow at 5-6% – less than half the growth rate of seven years ago, but enough to recoup the company’s investment in the Triple Es, which cost $190m (£123m) each.
“The history of container shipping involves ship lines taking huge gambles,” says Marc Levinson, who points to a trend for some American and European companies to move manufacturing back from Asia.
“There are a lot of people in the shipping industry who aren’t sure that Maersk is on the right track,” he says.
Jean-Paul Rodrigue at Hofstra University believes that big container ships like the Triple E will prove their value on specific trade routes, nonetheless.
“Each time a new generation comes along, there’s the argument ‘Oh is this going a little too far this time – is there enough port trade to justify this?'” he says.
“But each time the ship class was able to put itself in the system and provide a pretty good service.”
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by Richard Scott,
Visiting Lecturer, Greenwich Maritime Institute and MD, Bulk Shipping Analysis
It could be called ‘the China decade’. World seaborne trade maintained a four percent average annual rate of growth during the past ten years, slightly better than the previous ten-year average. This achievement was especially notable in the light of the global economy’s evolution, featuring a wrenching severe recession. But trade growth at that rate would have been impossible without China’s super-size contribution.
During the past decade, from 2003 to 2013, in numerous highly visible ways, global maritime activities which already had been penetrated were then dominated by China’s presence. This pattern is still ongoing, and signs suggest that it will continue for many years ahead. One of the most important aspects of the trend is the phenomenal expansion of China’s seaborne trade, especially imports.
Other countries contributed rising import demand to world trade as well, but none as spectacularly as China. Until 2008, the global economy as a whole was advancing at a robust pace, providing a broadly favourable backdrop for seaborne imports into most areas. After the 2009 recession, economic activity picked up again, although beyond the initial rebound many countries struggled to make further progress against prevailing headwinds. These were difficult circumstances for trade to resume brisk and sustained expansion, yet that is what happened: world seaborne trade as a whole averaged over four percent growth in 2011 to 2013, returning to its ‘normal’ trajectory.
Goliath task for the shipping industry
Commercial shipping’s existence is mainly related to transporting cargoes. Rapid expansion of trade in goods explains why the world fleet of ships saw such strong growth over the past ten years. The huge trade enlargement recorded was remarkable, since this period included the global ‘Great Recession’ in late 2008, continuing through 2009, following the world financial crisis. That slump was widely seen as the most damaging setback for the world economy since the Great Depression in the 1930s. Global economic activity contracted, world seaborne trade was badly weakened and, unusually for an individual year, 2009 saw an actual decline in annual trade volume.
A few statistics emphasise how the pattern of trade evolved in the past decade. In 2003, world seaborne trade – including dry bulk commodities, oil, liquefied gas, manufactured goods (mainly container shipments) and all other cargoes – totalled 6,676 million tonnes. Ten years later, in 2013, the overall total reached an estimated 9,914mt, based on Clarksons Research calculations, cumulatively a 48.5 percent rise. Looking at individual years, a break in the trend is immediately evident. In 2009 there was a four percent reduction from the previous twelve months, followed by a swift ten percent bounceback in 2010. The general pattern was very positive including, significantly, the latest few years of the period up to 2013.
That is the broad picture, but the development pattern among the individual cargo sectors differed markedly. What is abundantly clear is that dry bulk trade made the biggest contribution to the overall advance. Global dry bulk commodity movements, which comprised 2,453mt (37 percent of the total) in 2003, expanded by seventy-six percent to an estimated 4,309mt in 2013, raising their share of the total to 43 percent. Container shipments also grew rapidly, rising by ninety percent, reaching 1,524mt. The second largest sector, oil (crude oil plus processed oil products) was a laggard, growing by a relatively modest twenty-one percent to 2,834mt over the ten years’ period.
A large part of this expansion, particularly in the dry bulk sector, was attributable to China’s multiplying appetite for imports. An especially valuable contribution to the global seaborne trade trend was seen in 2009. As already mentioned, trade declined in that year, but the downturn might have been much worse than actually occurred. A huge jump in China’s dry bulk commodity purchases, completely opposite to the pattern elsewhere, prevented a much greater overall decline.
Sea trade in the ten years ending 2013 as a whole was strengthened by many other countries needing increasing imports. A particularly substantial volume of imported cargo movements was added in Asia, alongside China’s additional volumes. Numerous countries in this region, including India, South Korea, Taiwan and smaller buyers, greatly raised purchases of dry bulks, oil, gas and manufactures. Further cargo import quantities were contributed by countries elsewhere around the world.
Figures for seaborne trade compiled by UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) emphasise how the Asian region led global cargo movements growth. Roughly four-fifths of the entire growth in trade recorded during the period from 2003 to 2012 (currently the latest year for which these statistics are available) was attributable to extra imports into Asia. Another feature, related to the remaining approximately one-fifth of trade growth, is evidence of a reduction in Europe’s imports, a decreasing tendency in North America and a flattish trend in Japan. By contrast both the Middle East area, and a group of all other countries together, showed considerable imports increases.
The real giant awakes
China’s share of global seaborne trade has risen enormously, resulting from its imports growth comprising a very large proportion of world imports growth. As well as providing more cargoes for a greatly increasing China-owned fleet of ships, this upsurge benefited many independent shipowners in numerous countries and, through part of the period, proved highly profitable. Since 2008, however, variable overcapacity in world shipping markets has suppressed earnings for shipping investors.
In the early 2000s, China’s imports of all cargoes – dry bulks, oil, gas and manufactured goods (mostly container shipments) – comprised 5-6 percent of the world seaborne trade total. Global import demand then was still dominated by European countries, Japan and other Asian countries. Starting in 2003, rapid and sustained expansion in China began. Within ten years, a relatively short historical period, a dramatic transformation had occurred. This resulted in China’s share of world seaborne trade expanding almost fourfold from the early millennium, reaching an estimated 20.4 percent in 2013.
The giant’s emergence as an economic powerhouse affecting the world had occurred earlier. In a memorable comment attributed to him, the famous nineteenth century French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte foreshadowed the eventual impact when he suggested that China’s awakening would shake the world. But such a cataclysmic event was a long time coming. It started happening in 1979 when China’s paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, began opening up the economy to world trade, bringing the country’s extended ‘slumber’ to a close.
By the 1990s successive reforms had enabled the Chinese economy to achieve many years of very rapid expansion. Because this development was partly based on export sales, particularly manufactured goods, China became a major and then dominant supplier of these products to the world market. There were huge consequences for the maritime scene: seaborne trade patterns in the container shipping sector changed greatly. The world’s new ‘workshop’ became solidly established. But an even larger impact on global maritime trade was still some way ahead, in the new millennium.
During the early 2000s China began focusing on additional external raw materials and fuels supplies amid rapidly expanding industrial output. More agricultural products were also needed. Although domestic resources of many commodities were widely available, these were insufficient in volume and sometimes in quality as well. Industries including steelmaking, power generation, aluminium smelting, and animal feed manufacturing started placing much heavier emphasis on seeking supplies from foreign sources. The strong advance in quantities imported was the result.
Growing annual seaborne imports into China also formed rising percentages of the upwards overall global trade volumes trend. Statistics illustrate how significant this pattern has been for the global shipping industry, which now depends upon China for a substantial proportion of its bulk carrier, tanker and other ship employment. In 2003 China’s seaborne imports totalled just under 500 million tonnes, within a global total of 6,680mt. By 2013 the China volume had risen to 2,026mt within a global 9,914mt total. These Clarksons Research figures emphasise China’s significance for shipping companies, indicating that, during the 2003-2013 period, annual world seaborne trade rose by 49 percent, while within this volume China’s element increased by 305 percent.
The figures quoted here underline how world seaborne trade has risen greatly, and how a large part of that expansion reflected China’s much more rapidly growing imports. From the angle of additional ship employment created, this point is reinforced by looking at the percentages showing what proportion of growth in world seaborne trade volume during the ten years’ period was comprised of China’s expanding imports. It then becomes even more abundantly clear why global shipping industry players are so intently focused on how Chinese industry and agriculture is progressing, the implications for imports, and the evolving relationship between ‘home’ domestic commodity output and import demand.
As already outlined, global seaborne trade grew substantially from 2003 to 2013. Arguably the most spectacular positive feature during the period was that almost one half (47 percent) of the expansion was contributed by additional imports into China. For dry bulk commodities, the contribution was even larger, and therefore even more striking. China’s extra imports of these commodities (raw materials, fuels, other bulk industrial products, soyabeans and other bulk agricultural products), formed fully two-thirds or 66 percent of overall world seaborne trade growth within the sector. Consequently, shipping industry participants are still transfixed by the China theme.
In a range of key individual trades – iron ore, steam coal (used mainly in power stations), soyabeans, bauxite/alumina, nickel ore, crude oil – China has become either by far the biggest importer or one of the biggest. Expanding Chinese import volumes have been, or in some cases continue to be, the main component of global growth in large-scale trades. Shipowners, charterers, brokers and analysts as well as many others are therefore always looking for any clues about key influences: how demand for the products made by relevant industries are developing, what impact there will be on output levels, and what other factors will determine how much raw materials and other inputs will change as a result.
Among individual commodities, iron ore imports into China experienced, over the past ten years, one of the most dazzling performances ever seen in the long history of global maritime trade. China’s iron ore imports have become gigantic, employing a vast armada of bulk carriers, after rising well over five-fold, from 148mt in 2003 to 820mt in 2013. As a result, these now have a dominant role in world seaborne iron ore movements (one of the largest commodity trades), comprising about two-thirds of the total. Moreover, the 2014 China volume could exceed 900mt. Another example of a large volume trade is coal imports, which rose steeply by over seven-fold in the past five years, from 44mt in 2008 to 327mt in 2013. Crude oil and products imports into China by sea in the past ten years also increased robustly, more than doubling from 114mt, to 293mt last year.
A galloping horse
What seems clear is that China will remain a prominent part of global seaborne trade, and probably a key contributor to its growth, over many years into the future. That is not just a wildly optimistic appraisal. Certainly the country’s economic activity is slowing, and the trend may persist, consistent with a maturing economy. This feature reflects the switch of emphasis, from a demand viewpoint, towards consumer spending and away from capital investment (especially infrastructure projects) and exports. Looking at the economy’s supply side, a switch from manufacturing towards services is foreseen. But, while these forces will restrain production of goods with high raw materials content, further growth in imported natural resources and energy is likely.
The Year of the Horse, 2014, in China seems set to prove another period of increases in many commodity imports, and that trend may continue in the medium term at least. There are positive indicators, although the earlier gallop may be moderating towards a fast trot. Nevertheless, there are also reasons for caution or uncertainty about the outlook. Several questions arise. How rapidly will the economy grow in the years ahead? What, precisely, will be the relationship between economic activity and seaborne trade? Is growth in import demand for commodities likely to continue outpacing production increases in dependent industries? How will foreign purchases of agricultural commodities evolve? Answers involve a complex range of factors which are far from easy to assess reliably.
Also relevant to the general picture of world maritime trade’s progress is the contribution of other prominent players around the globe. A detailed examination of export suppliers is beyond the scope of this article. As import generating areas, other Asian countries, and Japan and Europe as well as the USA are particularly significant. Also, some emerging economies in the Middle East, South America and Africa are becoming more prominent influences. Currently the advanced economies group (mainly Europe, USA and Japan) is still having difficulty shaking off the long term debilitating effects of the 2009 recession and its problematical aftermath, with adverse implications for seaborne trade. Until there is a stronger import purchases trend in these countries, world seaborne trade’s great reliance and concentrated focus on China will persist.
PhD Candidate, Maritime Studies
It was on May when I received an invitation to attend the opening of a very unique and interesting exhibition. The Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation was inviting me to attend the opening of Lord Admiral Nelson’s naval exhibition taking place at the Hellenic Maritime Museum in Piraeus, Greece for a limited time only. The private collection is permanently exhibited in a neoclassical mansion in Piraeus, at the premises of the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation and consists of books, paintings, personal items, dispatches, autograph letters and more. The collection belongs to the Greek shipowner Panos Laskaridis, President of the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation. It took Laskaridis thirty years to collect these items through auctions and other collectors and it was a result of admiration and appreciation of the British maritime history. Parts of the collection have been exhibited during the 200th Anniversary celebration of the Battle of Trafalgar in 2005 in London, Athens, Cephalonia and the Falkland Islands.
During my visit at the museum I met Mr Steven Coobs, responsible for the collection, who gave me an interview and also guided me through the exhibits. Mr Coobs explained that Nelson’s private collection has been one of the biggest collections outside the United Kingdom and its importance to the public is remarkable. The collection contains a selection of nearly 800 books, all dedicated to Horatio Nelson and the Napoleonic Wars. Placed in glass display cases someone can see documents and newspapers of the same period talking about the Siege of Malta (1798-1800), the Battle of Cape St. Vincent (1797), the Battle of the Nile (1798), the Battle of Copenhagen (1807) and the Battle of Trafalgar (1805). But the most interesting among the documents are probably the autograph diary of Admiral Lord Collingwood, the autograph diary of Thomas Fletcher, who was a gunner aboard HMS Defense at the Battle of Trafalgar, and also a few pages from the diaries of HMS Naid and HMS Swiftsure.
The Foundation’s outstanding collection encompasses a wide range of painting, flags and banners from the period of the Napoleonic Wars as well. One of the exhibits is the framed fragment of Lord Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory. Moreover, among the exhibits someone can see some of his personal items, like his special cutlery set. It was constructed after Nelson lost his right arm at the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife in 1797 and its usage is aimed for one handed people. Although Nelson was not naturally left-handed, he managed to write again and finally build up to the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. It is easy to detect the dramatic change in his handwriting especially in his first letters. The collection contains two letters written by the naval commander which refer to Admiral Cornwallis and Admiral Collingwood, and his correspondence with Lady Hamilton which reveals different aspects of his character.
While walking through the exhibition room Mr Coobs asked me if I am ready to see something unique. Suddenly, I had in front me about thirty ship models made almost entirely from bones. The bone ship models were constructed during the period of the Napoleonic Wars by French war-prisoners and became very famous among the British artistic crowd. Mr Coobs explained that during the Napoleonic Wars over 10,000 prisoners were held captive in Britain and some of them had remained locked away for over a decade. Encouraged by the captors the prisoners were allowed to produce small objects d’art and sell them afterwards at the camps’ periodic civilian open markets. Very popular were the models representing British naval ships. All the models were constructed mostly from cattle bones kept by the prisoners from the food rations issued by the British, which they boiled until they became soft and ductile. Each ship model would normally take about a year to complete and that makes them unique. The prisoners used the large bones to carve the body of the ship and by using pieces of wood they used to create the finely detailed cannons and masts. For the sail rigging they used their own hair or threads taken from their bed clothes.
Similarly interesting is the Scrimshaw Collection which also belongs to the Laskaridis Foundation and is dated back to the 19th century. These handmade crafts were created by whalers who would patiently carve the teeth and bones of whales and other marine mammals. These crafts were normally created at sea and would later be donated to friends and family. The decorated or engraved bones and ivories depict various aspects of life in land and at sea, a seaman’s adventures, various ships and whales of course.
Dr Chris Ware
One hundred years ago today ( 15 August) the Panama Canal was opened to traffic, no longer would vessel have to round Cape Horn against prevailing Westerly wind instead they would transit the 49 miles from Atlantic( Caribbean) to Pacific. The idea not new would only be realised at the end of the 19th Century when first the French sort drive a series of cuts and locks across the Isthmus, this first effort would end in Bankruptcy and a large death total, upward of 22,000 died from fever.
It would be the United States which would, in 1904, take over the project and take a lease on a strip land across Panama, and complete the work by 1914.This allowed the American’s to move the Warships from the Atlantic to the Pacific and allowed the increasing trade of the West Coast of the US to follow East and vice versa. Now the Canal is being widened and there is talk that Nicaragua is looking to build a canal. % 25 percent of the world tonnage is built to Panamax standard, ships which can transit the Canal, however less than 2% per year actually do so, the remodel Canal will allow large ships with better hull forms to be built and run. If the Pharos of Alexandria and the Colossus of Rhodes were wonders of the ancient world, the Panama Canal stand as one of the engineering wonders of the 20th century and beyond.
A ferry with about 200 passengers on board capsized in Bangladesh on Monday in a river southwest of the capital, Dhaka, and about 100 people were unaccounted for, the chief of the district administration said.
Low-lying Bangladesh, with extensive inland waterways and slack safety standards, has an appalling record of ferry accidents, with casualties sometimes running into the hundreds.
Overcrowding is a common factor in many of the accidents and each time there is an accident the government vows to toughen regulations.
Mohammad Saiful Hasan Badal, deputy commissioner of Munshiganj district, said about 100 passengers had been rescued from the vessel after it went down in the Padma river.
Two women had been taken to hospital and died and the remainder of those on board were unaccounted for, he said. There was a possibility some had swum to the riverbank
“Most of the passengers were coming back to the city after celebrating Eid al-Fitr,” Saiful told Reuters, referring to the festival marking the end of the Ramadan fasting month.
Teams from the Inland Water Transport Authority, fire brigade and the army were helping with the rescue about 30 km (18 miles) southwest of Dhaka.
The stretch of river where the ferry sank was deep and the weather was bad meaning there was no sign of the boat under the choppy water.
Survivor Mohammad Suman told Reuters two of his brothers and a sister were missing.
“We were five altogether and I and another survived by jumping from the ferry,” he said.
In March 2012, a ferry sank near the same spot, killing at least 145 people.
By Dr Chris Ware
For the better part of the last one hundred years the 4 August has passed , if not unnoticed at least with a relatively low key statement that it was the start of the bloodiest war, in sheer numbers , that Britain , had been engaged in. Centenaries touch something within us which fifty or ninety years do not. This is history writ large yet we can still be connected, almost every family had someone who was involved in some way or another.
A war which stretched from the Pacific to the Arctic bounded by the world’s oceans but whose centre was Europe, Scylla and Charybdis, men-and-women inexorable caught up in it, only to be devoured. And a hundred years later what, after all the upheaval, the fall of empires and the birth of new nations, are we remembering? The death of millions, the change in the world order, the idea that a League of Nations would solve the issues by negotiation, violence would after all be forgotten as a way to resolve disputes: Perhaps George Santayana’s words should ring out loud and long “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”
Its Friday afternoon so we have all been looking forward to what the weekend holds. One of these day dreams would be sunny ourselves on a far away island with shimmering white sands and crystal blue waters, however how would you feel about sharing this space with some swimming pigs………
You might have thought about swimming with dolphins, fish, even maybe sharks, but wild pigs?
Well, the day wild pigs swim has arrived on the Bahamian archipelago of Exuma. The island called Big Major Cay is affectionately nicknamed Pig Island because that is where the wild pigs roam free on land and water.
The pigs are said to have been dropped off on Big Major Cay by a group of sailors who wanted to come back and cook them.The sailors, though, never returned; the pigs survived on excess food dumped from passing ships.
One other legend has it that the pigs were survivors of a shipwreck and managed to swim to shore, while another claims that the pigs had escaped from a nearby islet.
Others suggest that the pigs were part of a business scheme to attract tourists to the Bahamas. The pigs are now fed by locals and tourists and the island is unofficially known as Pig Beach by the locals
Whatever the story is the island is worth trotting over to visit to experience swimming with the swines
Fire crews have saved two thirds of Eastbourne Pier after fire destroyed part of the structure, leaving a metal skeleton.
The blaze broke out on Wednesday afternoon behind some wood paneling in the arcade building.
Just after 3pm a fire took hold in the wooden wall panels of the former 900-seat music pavilion and ballroom, which is now an amusement arcade. Thick black smoke was soon billowing up into the sky which, until then, had been the blue of a perfect day at the seaside. Holidaymakers on the beach watched as 60 firemen, later increased to 80, struggled to douse the flames which engulfed the near end of the 330-yard pier.
The fire was initially described by authorities as “small” and there were even cheers when the first engines arrived. But any hope of stopping the destruction of the town’s Grade II* listed landmark faded quickly as a fierce blaze stripped it back to a smouldering metal shell.
Despite the devastation, the pier was safely evacuated and nobody was injured, but a police cordon was repeatedly pushed back along the promenade as loud explosions emanated from the inferno.
It is 148 years since the first pile of Eastbourne Pier was driven into the sea bed. Designed by Eugenius Birch, the Victorian architect who crafted much of Britain’s south coast, the pier was officially opened by Lord Edward Cavendish on June 13 1870.
It was the age of expansion, when seaside towns across the country were following the example set by Ryde pier on the Isle of Wight — 200 years old this week — and constructing increasingly elaborate wood and wrought iron edifices that jutted further and further out to sea.
Eastbourne was no exception. By 1888, the first 400-seat theatre had been built on the pier at a cost of £250 at the seaward end. A 1,000-seat theatre, bar, camera obscura and pier office complex followed, and in 1925, the music pavilion was constructed at the shoreward end.
But the elements have long inspired against the pier. In 1877, a New Year’s Day storm washed part of the shoreward end away. A century later, hurricane damage tore through the landing stage.
According to Tim Wardley, the chairman of the National Piers Society, the “constant onslaught of Mother Nature” has halved the number of British piers to just 61 over the course of a century.
Fire presents the gravest risk. The pier’s Pavilion Theatre was destroyed by a blaze in 1970.
Further along the coast, Southend Pier, the longest pleasure pier in the world at 2,360 yds, was devastated by its fourth fire in 50 years in 2005, destroying a pub, restaurant, fish and chip shop as well as an arcade and train station. The Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare was badly damaged by a blaze in 2008, while in 2010, the Grade II-listed Hastings Pier was almost completely destroyed.
In May 2002, more than £1.5 million of damage was caused to a pier in Hunstanton, Norfolk, when it was engulfed in flames.
Some piers do recover, such as Weston-super-Mare which was reopened by Princess Anne in 2011.
In 2003, the 148-year-old West Pier in Brighton was left a mass of derelict metal by two major blazes within two months.
In February, part of the ruin collapsed after being battered by winds of up to 70mph and rough seas. The pier, which is not maintained, was shut in 1975 after being deemed unsafe. Its crumbling skeleton, still standing sentinel not far from the shore, is slowly being reclaimed by the sea.
But each time Eastbourne Pier’s sturdy foundations have come under threat, it has so far stood firm.
Even when the order came in World War Two to blow up the pier in an attempt to stop it being used to aid an enemy invasion, the building was spared and gun platforms were instead installed in its theatre to ward off German ships.
Five years ago, the pier was put up for sale for £5 million, but a successful summer season ensued and it was taken off the market just months later. Still the crowds come to enjoy the sort of attractions that only the English seaside can provide. The pier’s Victorian camera obscura remains in situ as the last surviving working example on a pier left in the world.
In two weeks, Eastbourne’s annual air show, Airbourne – the town’s biggest tourist event held on the seafront – was due to draw in tens of thousands of visitors.
They may still come, but this summer season has been blighted for holidaymakers and residents of Eastbourne alike.
On Wednesday evening, Stephen Lloyd, the Liberal Democrat MP for Eastbourne, said: “I hope and pray that our wonderful pier has not been lost forever.”
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By Lisa Otto
Visiting Researcher – Greenwich Maritime Institute
D.Phil Candidate – University of Johannesburg
The problem of maritime piracy in West Africa has grown significantly in recent years such that it has come to constitute the world’s most troubling piratical hotspot, with incidents occurring across the Gulf of Guinea region. According to the UK Chamber of Shipping, incidents climbed to 62 in 2012 while coming in at 51 in 2013, and this as the European Union Institute for Security Studies estimates that only a third of pirate attacks were reported, suggesting that the breadth of the problem may be far greater than we imagine.
The word piracy, however, is a bit of a misnomer in the West African case as the model of piracy at play targets vessels within territorial waters rather than on the high seas, revolving around the sub-region’s oil industry, but has all the same gained the moniker of ‘petro-piracy’. As such, this model is glaringly distinguishable from its more famous Somali counterpart, which is perhaps one of the reasons that legal expert Douglas Guilfoyle, for one, has preferred to refer to ‘piracies’ rather than the more generalist ‘piracy’.
Indeed, the Gulf of Guinea model of piracy is unique in its focus on oil, with kidnap-for-ransom being conducted as more of a side-business than being the main slant of operations. The vast majority of attacks have emanated from Nigeria, where small and opportunistic gangs initially robbed berthed vessels of personal effects and money, which were then resold at local markets, but since then, incidents have become more frequent, have been perpetrated by larger groups and shifted to be directed specifically toward the oil industry.
The legacy of oil in Nigeria’s Niger Delta in particular has had an important role to play in the rise of petro-piracy as environmental degradation further marginalised communities already bereft of economic opportunities, in the context of a social development landscape where oil rents have not made their way back to the populace in the form of political goods. This has driven locals to organised criminal groups and sent them to sea for the theft of oil products, contributed to by large-scale onshore oil bunkering operations that thieve approximately 200,000 barrels of oil per day. In fact, the Nigerian economy loses around US$12 billion in oil annually as a result, with the illicit product, sometimes crudely refined, making its way into sub-regional and international markets.
Despite the sheer scale of these activities, West African piracy does not enjoy nearly as much media coverage or academic attention as its erstwhile Somali counterpart. Perhaps oil theft and petro-piracy is not as ‘sexy’ to report on than Hollywood-worthy Captain Phillips-esque hostage sagas, but the phenomenon nonetheless presents a sizeable economic and security challenge whose impacts reach far beyond Nigerian shores.
This, of course, has consequences for the application of solutions to the problem, as poor reportage may impact upon the will of potential partners to act. Having said this however, several instruments for the combat of piracy are in place at a sub-regional level, assisted by the likes of the International Maritime Ogranisation, but need greater impetus for their application.
This is not helped by the alarming prevalence of corruption in Nigeria, with political and military officials, as well as even oil companies being implicated and involved in these crimes, effectively benefiting from competing interests on either side of formal – informal and legal – illegal divides. Whilst these issues speak to more complex and deeply entrenched maladies of the country’s political fabric which need solving in their right, greater awareness of the problem of maritime piracy in West African can play a crucial role in mounting public pressure to fight against the tide of petro-piracy there, and spur a greater sense of willingness for action amongst actors locally, those in the sub-region as well as their partners in the international community.
Earlier this month French street artist and human rights champion JR launched one of his most unique projects yet when a giant shipping container ship set sail from le Havre, France to Malaysia. Adorned with the giant eyes of a Kenyan woman living in the Kibera Slums along with an image of a ballet dancer from his recent Les BosquetsNYC ballet production, the giant moving artwork served as the culmination of his Women Are Heroesart project that began in 2007.
“In 2007, I started Women Are Heroes to pay tribute to those who play an essential role in society, but who are the primary victims of war, crime, rape or political and religious fanaticism,” explains the artist. “I pasted portraits and eyes of women on a train in Kenya, a Favela in Brazil, and a demolished house in Cambodia. They gave their trust and asked for a single promise to make their story travel with me. I did it, on the bridges of Paris and the walls of Phnom penh, the building of New York, etc. I wanted to finish Women Are Heroes with a ship leaving a port, with a huge image which would look microscopic after a few minutes, with the idea of these women who stay in their villages and face difficulties in the regions torn by wars and poverty facing the infinity of the ocean. I have no idea of what is in the containers on the boat: stuff from people leaving a country to build a different life in another region, goods that will be transformed, worn, or eaten in a different country. I have no idea where and how people will see this artwork, but I am sure that some women far away will feel something today.”
Keep your eyes peeled this month as the ship travels across the Mediterranean sea, past the Suez Canal to its final destination in Malaysia…
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