Category Archives: Greenwich Maritime Institute

One of the Seven Engineering Wonders of the World: The Panama Canal

By 

Dr Chris Ware 

con pana  current pana

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.

contruction pana

 

Bangladesh ferry capsizes, 100 unaccounted for

 

bang ferry

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.

click here for more information 

bang ferry 2

4th August 1914 ……….the date that changed the world

By Dr Chris Ware

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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”

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They say pigs can’t fly but they sure can swim.

swimming pigs

 

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

simming pig 2

Eastbourne pier fire

eastbourne peir 2

Fire Breaks Out On Eastbourne Pier

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.

 eastbourn pier fire 1The Ocean Suite Eastbourne Pier PICTURE BY JIM HOLDEN 07590 683036

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.

ww2 pier

 

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.”

Click here to find out more

Maritime Piracy in West Africa – A Big Problem, Poorly Reported

 By Lisa Otto

Visiting Researcher – Greenwich Maritime Institute

D.Phil Candidate – University of Johannesburg

african pirates

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.

 

incident map

 

Ballerinas in containers, Women are heroes container ship project sets sail

art containers 1

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.


working on ballerina working on sea cont art

“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.”

ballerina jumping ballerina in cont

Keep your eyes peeled this month as the ship travels across the Mediterranean sea, past the Suez Canal to its final destination in Malaysia…

Click here to find out more


ballerina sitting

ballerina crew

Sailors Society – Enhancing the well- being of merchant seafarers worldwide

sailors society

 

Do you know about the Sailors Society??

We have recently been looking at the work this organisation does for seafarers and below are some details on the fantastic work they do.

Did you know…

Over 90% of the world’s trade is transported over the sea. But who are the invisible people that get it from here to there? And why should you care?

How about these reasons:

  • 1.5 million men and women are working at sea.
  • They are away from home and family for 9-12 months.
  • 81% of them can’t access email to check on loved ones for the whole time they are at sea.
  • Their families won’t know for weeks if they are abandoned in a foreign port, have a serious accident on board ship or are attacked by pirates.
  •  The chair you’re sitting in, the screen you’re reading this on and the clothes you’re wearing probably all got there thank to seafarers like them.

The Sailors Society held out a hand to more than 345,000 seafarers last year.

What do the Sailors Society do?

A PERSONAL LIFELINE FOR MERCHANT SEAFARERS

The Sailors Society maintain a staff of professional chaplains who offer the hand of friendship, pastoral support and practical welfare help to seafarers the world over.

Their chaplains visit thousands of ships and ports each year in order to reach as many seafarers as possible. They seek out seafarers’ families, ex-seafarers and seafarers in hospital or prison on shore and help wherever needed.

The seafarers’ centres are a place to go in a foreign port, a welcoming home from home. Our chaplains are a family for those who feel lost and lonely.

To seafarers they bring:

  • Means of communication – international SIM cards, access to Skype and email so that seafarers can contact their families and loved ones.
  • Transport – to local amenities, shops or just a green space.
  • Local knowledge – maps, port directories and currency to help seafarers find their feet in new places.
  • God’s love – worship services on-board and on shore, prayer with groups or individuals and companionship.
  • A patient ear – listening to troubles held onto over the long voyage and providing solace.
  • Relief from poverty – financial aid when times are hard, when seafarers find themselves stranded, out of work, or injured.
  •  A voice – mediation between the seafarer and the authorities and unions, flagging up concerns so that a troubled seafarer is not overlooked.
  • To families of seafarers they bring:
  • Relief from poverty – practical and financial aid when times are hard, when seafarers find themselves stranded, out of work, or injured.
  •  Unconditional friendship – when the agony of separation is too much to bear, when there has been no word of safe arrival, when a seafarer is lost or in danger.
  • Education – for the children of out of work seafarers, or aspiring seafarers living in poverty.

Below is an overview Statistics from a typical year in our ministry

sea farers diagram

 

Below is a vidoe talking to the Sailors Society our port chaplain Phil Denyer about what donators support means to the seafarers that come into ports in South Wales

Click here to find out more about where the Sailors Society about their work or click here to donate

Treasure trove of classic cars at the bottom of the sea from the SS Thistlegorm

Recent photo’s have been released from the wreck of SS Thistlegorm.

motor bike wreck

She set sail on her fourth and final voyage from Glasgow on 2 June 1941, destined for Alexandria, Egypt. The vessel’s cargo included: Bedford trucks, Universal Carrier armoured vehicles, Norton 16H and BSA Motorcyles, Bren guns, cases of ammunition, and 0.303 rifles as well as radio equipment, Wellington Boots, aircraft parts, and two LMS Stainer Class8F Steam locomotives.These steam locomotives and their associated coal and water tenders were carried as deck cargo and were for the Egyptian Railways. The rest of the cargo was for the Allied forces in Egypt. At the time the Thistlegorm sailed from Glasgow in June, this was the Western Desert Force, which in September 1941 became part of the newly formed Eight Army. The crew of the ship, under Captain William Ellis, were supplemented by 9 naval personnel to man the machine gun and the anti-aircraft gun.

shipwrecked truck

Due to German and Italian naval and air force activity in the Mediterranean, the Thistlegorm sailed as part of a convoy via Cape Town, South Africa, where she refueled, before heading north up the East coast of Africa and into the Red Sea. On leaving Cape Town, the light cruiser HMS Carlise joined the convoy. Due to a collision in the Suez Canal, the convoy could not transit through the canal to reach the port of Alexandria and instead moored at Safe Anchorage F,in September 1941 where she remained at anchor until her sinking on 6 October 1941. HMS Carlisle moored in the same anchorage.

There was a large build-up of Allied troops in Egypt during September 1941 and German intelligence ( Abwehr) suspected that there was a troop carrier in the area bringing in additional troops. Two Heinkel He-111 aircraft were dispatched from Crete to find and destroy the troop carrier. This search failed but one of the bombers discovered the vessels moored in Safe Anchorage F. Targeting the largest ship, they dropped two bombs on the Thistlegorm, both of which struck hold 4 near the stern of the ship at 0130 on 6 October. The bomb and the explosion of some of the ammunition stored in hold 4 led to the sinking of the Thistlegormwith the loss of four sailors and five members of the Royal Navy gun crew. Mr. Rejda single-handedly saved most of the sailors by swimming into the wreck and towing them to safety.

fish and motorbike shipwrecked

The survivors were picked up by HMS Carlisle. Captain Ellis was awarded the OBE for his actions following the explosion and a crewman, Angus McLeay, was awarded the George Medal and the  Lloyd’s War Medal for Bravery at sea for saving another crew member. Most of the cargo remained within the ship, the major exception being the steam locomotives from the deck cargo which were blown off to either side of the wreck.

propella shipwrecked ship shipwrecked

The end of History….

By Dr Chris Ware

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With HMS Illustrious paying off and HMS Queen Elizabeth named but not due run sea trials until 2016 and be fully operational until 2020, it will fall to HMS Ocean to fill the role as both Flagship of the Royal Navy and helicopter platform. However as Illustrious leaves service it begs a bigger question what do we want the Royal Navy to be able to do? If in due course we have both the Queen Elizabeth and Princes of Wales, and that is a very big if, they would be powerful players when they receive fixed wing aircraft.  However with a limited number of frigates and destroyers will the RN be a single battle group Navy able to put carrier and escorts, both sub and surface, into theatre, but with few ships left for anything else?

FLIGHT DECK OPERATIONS

 

This speaks to a larger issue, which may seem unrelated, the fate of Illustrious once she leaves the Navy. Preserving ships is not cheap, what are we trying to say by doing so? That we were a sea power, however in a changing world Britain has to be mindful of cost and of what the nation can afford? Is that the lesson of history? Perhaps not. Historically Britain has had a Navy even when it seemed she could not afford one. People like the idea of visiting historic ships, both naval and merchant, but what they forget is that to create history you have to participate, and in unstable world sea power is even more important. Illustrious is worth saving because she of what she has done.

ill goodbye illust binki

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