Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Thursday, October 11, 2018
SHIVER ME TIMBERS! I NEVER SAW ANYTHING LIKE IT!!
But though it may look weird it will help save the planet.
From the Economist
AN OIL tanker that ferries nearly 110,000 tonnes of the black stuff between the Middle East and Europe does not sound like a green ship. But Maersk Pelican is unique among the world’s biggest cargo ships in that it does not rely on fossil fuels alone for propulsion. On September 29th it arrived in Saudi Arabia on its first voyage since the installation of two 30-metre rotor sails.
Coal- and oil-powered cargo ships wiped out wind power in the 19th century. But interest in wind propulsion, and in rotor sails in particular, is growing as shipping lines seek ways to slash fuel bills. Placed on a ship’s decks, these giant rotating cylinders propel it using the “Magnus effect”, the force that causes a spinning ball to curve through the air.
The concept was demonstrated by Anton Flettner, a German engineer, in the 1920s, but rotor sails failed to catch on, partly because coal was a cheap alternative. The first ones he made were metal and so heavy that they slowed ships.
The rotor sails that Norsepower, a Finnish firm, has developed are made of carbon fibre and are far lighter, says Tuomas Riski, its chief executive. They are also automated, so no extra sailors are needed to operate them, unlike Flettner’s version. As well as Maersk Pelican, Norsepower has already fitted them to several other ships, including Estraden, a ferry which operates between the Netherlands and Britain, and Viking Grace, which sails between Sweden and Finland.
The interest in the sails comes because they can slash fuel bills and emissions, says Tommy Thomassen, chief technical officer of Maersk Tankers. The Maersk Pelican’s two rotor sails will cut its fuel bills by 7-10%, he forecasts; if it added two more that could rise to 15-20%. Such savings help with another priority for the shipping industry; complying with new climate-change targets. In April the International Maritime Organisation, a UN agency, agreed to cut by half the global shipping sector’s carbon emissions from 2008 levels by 2050.
Sails can make serious contributions to that target. Most other technologies (such as adding bulbous bows) shave only a few percent off fuel bills. Electric batteries cannot store enough energy for long sea voyages.
Upfront costs remain a problem. Norsepower’s rotor sails cost €1m-2m ($1.15m-2.3m) to install; it takes five years on average to earn that back in lower fuel bills. Mr Riski hopes to slash that figure to three years by making the sails more cheaply in China. It would then become worthwhile for charterers, which only tend to lease ships for under three years, to install them.
Rotor sails are not the only ones about. Modern versions of the sort of sails fitted to conventional ships, as well as kites attached to the front of the vessel, have also been mooted as energy-saving solutions. But these are a health-and-safety risk to sailors in bad weather. Wind power may be back in fashion but no one needs to mount the rigging.
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
|Super yacht Queen K|
A small item in today's paper caught my eye, because the theme seemed eerily familiar.
OLIGARCH'S US ASSETS SEIZED IN FBI SANCTIONS CRACKDOWN, it was headlined, going on to say that the FBI has reportedly frozen the US assets of Oleg Deripaska, the Russian oligarch, in a continued crackdown on Vladimir Putin's allies.
The industrialist, worth an estimated US$3.3 billion, was placed on a list of individuals sanctioned by the US treasury in April -- April 2018, that is. Deripaska's US assets, which include a Central Park town house bought for $42.5 million in 2008 -- are now frozen. And what was really interesting about that town house, is that it is the address of Dasha Abramovich, the ex-wife of Roman Abramovich, who reportedly was found lurking inside there, along with her children.
I have already written about Abramovich, who sold super-yacht Luna to a fellow oligarch, Akhmedov, who was also involved in a bizarre divorce case. And, guess what, according to the New York Post, Roman Abramovich is now dating Polina Deripaska, the estranged wife of Oleg. And this very strange wife-swap could be part of a convoluted tax- and sanction-avoiding deal.
So, who is Oleg Deripaska?
Radio Free Europe sums up his story in a few succinct words: he is a billionaire tycoon who throws lavish parties, has been barred from the United States, and did business with Paul Manaforte, Trump's one-time campaign chair. He also -- though under the radar, as it were -- has very close ties with the Putin administration. And much of this has been conducted on his yacht, Queen K, pictured above.
Queen K is a 72.60m (238.19ft) motor yacht, custom built in 2004 by the German company, Lurssen Yachts. She was designed by Espen Oeino with Lurssen Yachts developing the naval architecture, and the interior design was created by Donald Starkey. Her current flag is that of the Cayman Islands. Nine suites accommodate up to 18 guests, on cruises of up to 5000 nautical miles without refueling, while all the time 21 crew members look after the privileged passengers. And, just in case she runs into trouble, she has a support craft, named Sputnik.
Interestingly, too, the name of her owner is generally given as "unknown." Super Yacht Fan. however, is convinced it is Oleg Deripaska, along with other intriguing details. So, if the Department of Justice gets involved, as it did with the case of the super-yacht Equanimity, the Queen K is within its grasp -- according to Vessel Finder (which has many technical details of the craft), she is currently in the eastern Mediterranean, a bit south of Cyprus.
Deripaska has another yacht, named Selenga, which was launched in 2016, after a number of unusual difficulties.
According to Yacht Harbour, her construction began in 2007, at a Ulan-Ude-based shipyard. But then the GFC (Great Financial Crisis) intervened. Deripaska lost a huge amount of money, and the yacht had to be put on hold while he recouped his fortunes. In 2014 the outer build was finally complete, but then it was found that the local water was too shallow to carry the yacht to her intended marina in lake Baikal.
So a custom-built dock had to be built, to carry her there, in rather undignified fashion.
But at least it meant it was easy to finish off her interior, designed by Igor Lobanov.
Selenga can accommodate 12 guests in one master, 2 VIP, 1 twin and 2 guest cabins. Rather bizarrely, the owner's cabin is divided into two, one being a master bedroom, and the other a yoga room.
Unlike Queen K, Selenga is not vulnerable to seizure, if the DoJ should take an interest an appropriating her. Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater lake (by volume) in the world, is located in Southern Siberia.
Thursday, October 4, 2018
Gorgeous ship, isn't she? L'Austral, one of a fleet of small luxury vessels specializing in taking small groups to the sub-Antarctic. The trouble is, much of the southern ocean is protected territory, hedged around with rules and regulations. And the captain of this lovely vessel has been fined for hitting a rock in one of those protected zones.
Tuesday, October 2, 2018
For the last 25+ years I have been a huge fan of cyanotypes by Robert A. Schaefer Jr., and every now and then the world takes notice of his amazing talent.
The latest is ViaNolaVie, a site in New Orleans.
Look up at the sky. What do you see? Blaring sun? Dark clouds promising torrential downpours and rain-soaked socks for everyone who thought, It’s beautiful out. It’s not going to rain. For photographer Robert Schaefer and artist Jennifer Shaw, that sky provides them with all they need to make a photograph. But not just any photograph. They make cyanotypes," the writer, Kelley Crawford records.
Fascinating new details of pre-European settlement in New Zealand are revealed --
Much of the South Island of New Zealand is tussock country -- swathes of tall grasses where once tall trees reigned. It has been known for a couple of centuries that it was fire that created this landscape, but only now is it proven that the fires were set by humans.
And, believe it or not, it is by tracing human poo in the ashy sediments.
Two studies of lake bottoms near Wanaka and Queenstown has turned up human faecal matter in the same layers as charcoal and ash from the burning.
a team of nine researchers, from Italy, the USA and New Zealand, did the sampling. The result: little or no evidence of widespread burning before AD1280, the date that Polynesians first arrived in Aotearoa (plus or minus 20 years). The only traces of previous burning probably came from lightning strikes, or burning ash blown over from wild-fire-prone Australia. Up until that era, podocarp forests reigned supreme.
But then, about 1350, fire blazed across the plains -- or so the researchers report in the journal Scientific Reports. The ash is abundant in the sedimentary layer of that time -- as is coprosterol, a trace of human stools that lasts for centuries. And why that date? Presumably because a giant chook -- the moa (Polynesian word for chicken) -- was on the verge of being hunted to extinction, and a major food source was gone.
A pity, that. I would have liked to have seen a moa -- though not to eat, as I am sure they tasted like chicken. Back in the day, tales drifted into the European colonial settlements that a moa had been sighted -- there was the little girl, for instance, who reported seeing "a huge chicken with legs like a Roman soldier." According to a reminiscence in Fulbright in New Zealand, this tale set American Fulbrighter Max Carmen to wondering aloud what he would do if he saw a moa. Take a photograph, of course! But no, a friend argued. A photo could be faked, so no one would believe it. It would have to be shot, to provide final proof of the existence of the last living moa.
But, Carmen mused, how would anyone know that it was indeed "the last living moa"?
But, as to those great fires, there could have been another reason for their deliberate setting. According to archaeologist Atholl Anderson and fellow Maori scholars, the fires could have been deliberately launched to promote the growth of bracken, the roots of which were a major source of carbohydrate, back in the day.
Friday, September 28, 2018
Having received some interesting responses to yesterday's post, "Are all the owners of super yachts evil?" I decided to do some research. So I hit google with the same line that is the title of this post, and got some really interesting hits.
There was the super yacht crew that had to be rescued!! -- by no less than two tugboats and the cruise ship Carnival Spirit.
And then there was the case of the Serena III, where the US Coast Guard retrieved all on board just moments before the super yacht foundered.
And one mustn't ignore the sad story of the loss of the Nadine, the real super yacht in the film Wolf of Wall Street.
But then I came across what I was really after, a story of a super yacht actually carrying out a philanthropic mission -- the response of the mega-yacht Dragonfly (pictured) when a hurricane hit the islands of Vanuatu.
But was the man who masterminded the mercy dash the owner, Google co-founder Sergey Brin?
By all accounts, he was the man who gave the nod, after receiving a plea by phone, and who paid for the supplies the ship delivered, but the man behind the idea was the ship's skipper, Mike Gregory, which was something that didn't really surprise me.
After all, watching out for others has been part of seafarers' culture ever since men (and women) first went to sea.
And so it didn't surprise me, either, when I found that Captain Mark Drewelow, who has been skippering fancy yachts for over twenty years, has founded an organization, Yacht Aid Global, with the specific aim of using mega-yachts to help out in emergencies.
A laudable venture. It is a pity that, considering the deep pockets of the ships' owners, Drewelow and his colleagues are forced to beg for donations.
Thursday, September 27, 2018
After all the fuss about the super-yacht Equanimity (pictured), presumably owned by shadowy billionaire Jho Low, center-stage in the Malaysian money-laundering IMDB scandal, and now posted as the second-most talked-about ship in the world (after the Titanic), it is hard not to think that super-yachts belong to the Bad.
After all, as the London Times, points out, these yachts have featured in every movie about billionaire nasties vs the law.
But, as the writer --- Quentin Bargate, founder and senior partner of a law firm that specializes in super-yacht contracts-- also ruminates, it is not just these mega-yachts that carry a BOT (British Overseas Territory) flag. Indeed, I can concur, having been on at least two cruise ships that have suddenly changed the flag from whatever was the current one to somewhere more obscure in a tropical sea. The ceremony was nice, but was otherwise mysterious.
However, it definitely has benefits -- financial benefits that apply to the lowly small-yacht owner, as well as the cruise line and the crook. As Bargate points out, "The choice of flag state should be considered one of the most important decisions in yacht ownership. It will affect the regulations that the owner and vessel are subject to, including construction, inspection, regulatory compliance regimes and, of course, taxation and liability protections. The benefits of registering a vessel under a recognised offshore flag state are clear and considerable."
And, naturally, there are advantages to the flag state, too. By registering with a BOT, the yacht owner can be expected to tender for repairs, bunkering, vitualing and other support services, as well as taking advantage of the restaurants, shops, and so forth on shore.
These BOT islands, with their shipyards and chandleries, are known collectively as the Red Ensign Group, which advertises itself as using the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency regulations for construction, safety and employment. Obviously, if this is followed to the letter, there are huge advantages in safety and the well-being of the crews.
Interestingly, though, by opting into the flag, and the Red Ensign Group, the yacht owner takes on the responsibility of responding to any local emergency.
Does this happen? Historically, it is the little ships that have displayed gallantry, epitomized in the Dunkirk rescue effort. I have yet to hear of any super-dooper mega-yacht taking on distressed seamen, rescuing refugees, or sending aid on shore during times of flood and storm.
Interested? A recent sale negotiated by Bargate-Murray was of the super-yacht Palladium, purchased by Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov for a reputed 200 million US dollars.
I wonder how many refugee centers, children's hospitals, and rural schools that kind of money would have bought?
Wednesday, September 26, 2018
From the Daily Mail online
Chilling never-before-seen pictures have emerged that show the first shots of the Second World War being fired.
The heart-stopping images show the Nazi battleship SMS Schleswig-Holstein sending shots blazing towards Danzig harbour on Poland's Westerplatte peninsula at close range in the early hours of September 1, 1939.
Fired at dawn, the shots began the Nazi invasion of Poland and saw Britain declare war on Germany for a second time two days later.
They triggered the six-year conflict that tore Europe, Japan and the USA apart and left 70 million people dead.
The black and white snaps were taken by a German sailor and have ended up in the hands of a British historian who came across them on research trips to the country in the 1960s.
An album of them is now up for auction in Ashford, Kent and are expected to sell tomorrow for £250.
The shots marked the beginning of the Battle of Westerplatte, the first battle of the Second World War, which after seven days of fighting saw Poland fall to the Nazis.
It saw German Army, naval and air forces attack the country at Danzig, bombing Poland's Military Transit Depot on the Westerplatte peninsula.
The heroic efforts to by Polish forces are still celebrated to this day and Westerplatte soon became a symbol of Polish resistance.
Matthew Tredwin, of C&T Auctioneers where the images of the battle are going under the hammer, said: 'It is a fascinating album and very historical as it seems to record the very first shots fired in anger in the Second World War.
'The pictures are clearly captioned identifying the German ship and the attack on the Westerplatte peninsula.
'An overwhelming message you take from flicking through the album is the contempt German servicemen held against their enemies from the very start of the war.
'There are lots of photographs taken on board Scharnhorst showing the might of her guns as well as her crew happily posing for the camera after the sinking of a Royal Navy ship.
'There are also images that show the ship completely iced up from when it carried out patrols in the north Atlantic in the winter of 1939. It is one of the finest captioned albums of its kind that that I have come across
Friday, September 21, 2018
DECADES OF NAME CHANGE ...
In the old days the lovely old-style museum in the historic Bond Store, on Wellington's waterfront, was known as the Maritime Museum of Wellington. Then, when the very good National Maritime Museum in Auckland got its "National" status, a name-change had to be contemplated, and our museum became the Museum of Wellington, City and Sea.
Ponderous, I admit. Now, it is simply known as Wellington Museum, but it is just as great. And it has recently been voted one of the top 50 museums in the world.
And it is free. And it is in easy walking distance of the cruise shuttle bus stops. If the shuttle stops in Wakefield Street, at the i-Site, an ambassador will direct you to the waterfront, where you can traipse north to Queen's Wharf, where the museum sits on the corner of the access to the city.
If you are decanted on Lambton Quay, near the Old Government House, an ambassador will direct you to Featherston Street, where an easy walk will take you south to Queen's Wharf, where the museum dominates the entry.
There are all kinds of reasons to visit this museum, quite apart from the clean, handy restrooms, and the extremely tempting and well-laid-out gift shop. The museum itself is a revelation of our colonial past.
We paid one of our many visits yesterday, to check the latest offerings with the extremely helpful young man in reception. First, as he reminded us, the museum will open an hour early -- at 9 a.m. -- on cruise ship days. Second, he recommended that after entering via the Bond Store (watch for the rat and the cat!) the tour should start at the top, in the newly created Attic. And yes, there is an elevator.