Search This Blog

Monday, October 28, 2019

Did the great Herman Melville bowl in ten-pin alleys?

Well, it seems that after Herman Melville jumped ship from the Acushnet, and eventually arrived in Honolulu after other misadventures, he worked as a "pin boy" in a bowling alley, and with surreptitious practice became quite adept.

It seems plausible enough, as his whaling experience would have included learning how to heave a harpoon, and keep look out with a sharp eye, but how strange!

And here is a very amusing and well researched meditation on the subject by Christopher Benfey.

During the summer of 1843, when he was twenty-three and had not yet published a word -- it begins -- Herman Melville worked as a pinsetter in a bowling alley in Honolulu and, according to the Melville authority Hershel Parker, “at quiet times picked up some skill as a bowler.” During the ensuing years, Melville, whose 200th birthday we are celebrating this year, became our most eloquent poet of the dead-end job. Billy Budd is hung from the yardarm; Moby-Dick drags the crew of the Pequod to the bottom of the sea. Bartleby, who goes blind mindlessly copying legal documents, worked previously as “a subordinate clerk in the Dead Letter Office” in Washington, D.C. “Conceive a man by nature and misfortune prone to a pallid hopelessness,” Melville writes, “can any business seem more fitted to heighten it than that of continually handling these dead letters, and assorting them for the flames?” 
True enough, but in the annals of futility, the Sisyphean job of setting up pins in a bowling alley seems particularly pointless. You set up the pins; they’re knocked down; you set them up again, politely returning the bowl to the bowler. Before the invention of the automatic pinsetting machine, adopted during the 1950s, pins were reset by poorly paid pinsetters, also known as pinboys or pin-monkeys. The sociologist and photographer Lewis Hine, documenting child labor for a decade from 1908, took several pictures of anxious boys watching for balls barreling down the alleys, as though they themselves were the pins. 
Melville, apparently, was one of their forebears. He had deserted his whaling ship—another dead-end job—in the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia and had made his way to the disreputable port of Honolulu, where he was appalled by the treatment of the native islanders. “Not until I visited Honolulu,” he wrote sardonically, “was I aware of the fact that the small remnant of the natives had been civilized into draught horses, and evangelized into beasts of burden.” There he found a job as a clerk in a general store—he’d previously clerked, briefly, in his brother’s fur-cap shop in Albany, New York—and supplemented his income at a bowling alley.  
It should be said that the sole evidence for Melville’s career as a pinsetter comes from a letter published in 1850 in the Lansingburgh Democrat (Lansingburgh is the town near Albany where Melville lived for several years). The letter-writer, one H.R. Hawkins of Honolulu, mentions meeting someone who claimed to be “well acquainted” with Melville, “and knew him at a time when he was setting up pins in a ball alley.” 
So, is it likely?  Read the rest, and see what you think.

Meantime, here is Ron's wonderful painting of the Acushnet, which now hangs in the Melville Bed and Breakfast House in New Bedford.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Whale-watchers enjoy a most unusual sighting

Spinner dolphins -- out of Moorea -- and playful humpbacks -- out of Sydney -- have been my favorite sightings, but a group of whale-watching tourists at Kaikoura (New Zealand) had an extraordinary treat.

They sighted two whales of a species so rare that it wasn't even named until the mid-twentieth century.

From Stuff NZ

It is one of the world's rarest whales, having been spotted only a handful of times in the wild. Still, one lucky boatful of tourists in Kaikōura has enjoyed an "extraordinary encounter" with a pair of Shepherd's beaked whales.

It is named after George Shepherd after he discovered a whale he had never seen before washed ashore at Ōhāwe near Hāwera in 1933. The then curator of the Wanganui Museum notified the  Dominion Museum in Wellington, and two years later Tasmacetus shepherdii, aka Shepherd's beaked, was christened.

Little is known about the species, and it has never been studied extensively. What limited knowledge about Shepherd's beaked comes from beached and stranded whales.

So that makes the sighting off the shores of Kaikōura on Wednesday even more "incredible", according to Alex Cuff from Whale Watch Kaikōura.

"One of our boats came across the two individuals early in the morning just after 7am, while out tracking," Cuff said.

"Our Sea Crew Guide Annika spotted a dorsal fin at the corner of her eye then was able to watch the whales surface 4-5 times. On the same day as these whales were sighted, guests also saw two Humpback whales breaching, a mother and her calf. A spectacular and not so common sight to see!

The species generally live in deep offshore waters, well away from coasts.

"This species generally lives in deep offshore waters, well away from coasts. However, where there is a narrow continental shelf, such as the case in Kaikōura with the Hikurangi Trench, the species can sometimes be found closer to shore."

It is believed the stealth of Shepherd's beaked whales helped them to evade whalers during the whaling era, but Cuff says more contemporary issues threaten.

"Like many other cetaceans, they are unable to avoid plastic, global warming and man-made noise which are their largest threats."

This isn't the first time that the tour company has spotted the elusive whale. They have been seen twice, on Christmas Eve 2017 and a few days later on January 2, 2018.

"On the same day as these whales were sighted, guests also saw two Humpback whales breaching, a mother and her calf."

"Since Whale Watch Kaikōura was formed in 1987, 30 years at sea exploring the Kaikōura Canyon has only resulted in sporadic sightings of Beaked whales, let alone the rare and elusive Shepherd's Beaked whale."

The area is a haven for all manner of sea life, as the waters are nutrient-rich.

"Kaikōura is one of the few places in the world where Sperm whales can be seen year-round and close to shore. They congregate here because the 3km deep Kaikōura Canyon runs right up against the coast creating a rare system of sea currents that sustain an incredibly rich marine food chain," added Cuff.

To see photos and a video hit the LINK

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Sail saves the seas

Tres Hombres, a modern sail-driven freighter
In the early days of America, as it was in Europe and Australia -- and any busy settlement -- transport was by sea. Roads were primitive and communication was difficult.  Men, women, and their families loaded the produce of their orchards and farms onto little sloops and bigger schooners, and sailed off to market.  When their own crops had been sold, they bought goods on speculation, hoping to find happy customers back home.

In effect, these sail-driven vessels were sea-going trucks, carrying coal, salt, sugar, barrel staves and steel.  When the loads were bigger and the markets more distant, these sailing ships became bigger, turning into windjammers and clippers.  And, much more glamorous than container ships and tankers, they used a totally renewable natural fuel -- the winds that blow with regularity about the globe.

And muscle-power, of course.  They needed much bigger crews than their modern freighter equivalents, and there was a tough side to the life.  They were casual about what they threw overboard, too -- but they did not burn any oil at all, let alone the dirty bunker oil favored by freighters.  And there is a quiet return to this manner of transport, as reported by The Guardian.

They fan out across the seas like a giant maritime dance, a ballet of tens of thousands of vessels delivering the physical stuff that has become indispensable to our way of life: commodities and cars, white goods and gas and grains, timber and technology.
But shipping – a vast industry that moves trillions of pounds-worth of goods each year – is facing an environmental reckoning. Ships burn the dirtiest oil, known as bunker fuel; a waste product from the refinery process, literally scraping the bottom of the barrel, the crud in crude. It’s so thick that you could walk on it at room temperature.
As a result, shipping is a major polluter – responsible for about 2.5% of global carbon emissions. Not surprisingly, innovators are starting to wonder if there is another way -- and one is Will Templeman, a scientist turned entrepreneur.  As he points out, about 90% of what people eat is carried from another land.
Templeman’s eureka moment came during a visit to the supermarket when he was agonising over the food miles in his trolley. He wondered if it would be possible to transport things such as coffee and chocolate with zero emissions. Then he remembered that this was how goods used to travel. By sailing ship.
A quick online search revealed that a Dutch company was doing exactly that.
The owners of Fairtransport were inspired to revive sail cargo after witnessing at first hand the yellow smog caused by commercial vessels. They restored two ships, a 70-year-old minesweeper renamed the Tres Hombres and a wooden ketch called Nordlys that dates back to 1873.
Templeman arranged to board the Tres Hombres, sailing from the Azores to the Netherlands. “I was watching the ocean and it came like a ghost ship through the dawn mist. It looked like a pirate vessel. I was so excited.”
He dreamed of launching his own ship but realised that the first step was to make full use of the sailing vessels already in service.

He set up as a broker and together with his business partner, Will Adeney, went in pursuit of products to sell. They found their perfect olive oil in Portugal and arranged to have it shipped to Devon on board the Nordlys. They later sourced coffee beans in Colombia, and shipped them to Europe on the Tres Hombres. Their business, Shipped by Sail, was born.
It joined a growing network of brokers and sailors passionate about transporting goods by wind power. The next step: to boost demand for this kind of transportation.
“Consumers already understand organic produce and fair trade, and the next step is clean transport,” says Cornelius Bockermann, who founded Timbercoast, a German sail cargo company that has restored a schooner from 1920, and is now refitting a second.
Clean transport is the missing link, as many so-called sustainable or ethical goods are currently carried on ships that pollute the air and sea. The perfect example of this is plant-based meat, shipped around the world from California.

Will Templeman, left, and Will Adeney
 Will Templeman, left, and Will Adeney on board De Gallant.

British couple Marcus and Freya Pomeroy-Rowden built their ship, Grayhound, as a replica of an 18th-century lugger, and carry cargo between the UK and France, bringing West Country ale to Brittany and French wine to Cornwall. They supply small businesses along the way, for example providing wines to Dibble & Grub on the Isles of Scilly. The couple enjoy the lifestyle of spending months at sea, making a living, while making a difference.
Marcus says they’re bringing trade back to a human scale. “We’re taking quality products and transporting them direct to a distributor. We can understand and explain the whole chain for our products, from manufacture to the table.”
In France, TransOceanic Wind Transport has developed a labelling system with a voyage number, allowing the customer to see how products reached them.
Broker Alex Geldenhuys launched New Dawn Traders in the UK about six years ago and is still developing her “voyage co-op” model, bringing together farmers, ships and buyers.

Geldenhuys has been inspired by local food communities and vegetable box schemes and wants to extend that movement overseas, building relationships with distant farmers to bring ethically produced, high-quality produce to the UK with a carbon footprint that is close to zero. She is seeking “port allies” to promote the idea in coastal communities, encouraging customers to pre-order products from the ships and turning collection events at the docks into celebrations of the whole process.
A few weeks ago a French schooner, De Gallant, sailed into Bristol laden with produce from Portugal; the first time a tall ship had brought cargo to the city for decades. It was an emotional moment for Geldenhuys and the climax of years of work.“It was beautiful to watch her sailing in under the suspension bridge,” she says. Local people milled around the ship, sampling olive oil, almonds and wines.
Is that a sign of the future?

It looks more and more likely.

Read the Rest

Monday, October 14, 2019

Cruise ship companies finding new challenges

I remember the first time I cruised into the little village of Akaroa, in the South Island of New Zealand.  It was also the first time a modern cruise had called there.

We were on the Pacific Sun, and had been scheduled to make port at Lyttelton.  However, it was February 2011, and a destructive earthquake had just hit Christchurch and destroyed the port, so a hasty reschedule had been made.

The people of Akaroa were as surprised as we were.  The weather wasn't even nice, as you can see in the misty photo above.  However, they coped gallantly, with very few resources.  Since then, I have heard stories of passengers being stranded in town by a sudden storm, and being hosted in the local school -- and also stories of the great markets and agricultural shows that visitors have enjoyed.  It has turned into a very popular destination.

The last time I cruised into the harbor, was earlier this year.  I couldn't get over how the town had blossomed.  Plenty of attractions, lots to do, and wonderful fish and chips.  One cannot help but conclude that the cruise ship industry has done the town some good.  And that the local businesses will be sorry when Lyttelton is up and running again.

However, there are environmental considerations.

Reported by Radio New Zealand.

More research is needed on the environmental impact of cruise ships in Akaroa Harbour, Canterbury regional harbourmaster Jim Dilley says.
No caption
Further research is needed to investigate whether cruise ship propellors and anchors are causing environmental harm in Akaroa Harbour, a report has found. Photo: Valeriy Tretyakov/ 123rf
An Environmental Risk Assessment report was commissioned by Environment Canterbury to address concerns from the Akaroa community that cruise ship operations could damage the seabed and degrade water quality.
"The preliminary findings are that any potential effects can be appropriately managed, but it does highlight that the available research is not sufficient to provide a definitive answer, and recommends further research be conducted," Mr Dilley said.
"Environment Canterbury will require the cruise industry to provide an independent scientific study during the next 24 months, which we believe will identify exactly what is taking place and will allow us to address any concerns."
Akaroa Harbour has "very high" ecological values, with rare Hector's dolphins, many threatened seabirds, a marine mammal sanctuary and several areas of outstanding or significant natural value, the report stated.
The harbourmaster's office and the cruise ship industry worked with community groups and Christchurch City Council to identify concerns and ensure risk mitigations are in place for the upcoming cruise season.
New Zealand Cruise Association chief executive Kevin O'Sullivan said the report indicated there were already adequate controls in place.
The number of cruise ships was likely to go down in Akaroa Harbour once repairs to Lyttelton's terminal were completed, Mr O'Sullivan said.
About 90 cruise ships visited Akaroa in the season between October 2018 and April this year, up from 75 the previous year.
Some locals said the small village was also struggling to cope with the massive influx of visitors, with as many as three cruise ships a day arriving at times.
Akaroa is home to about 600 people, but its population increases by 4000 during the peak of the cruise season.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Britain's most magical bookstore

From the Financial Times

Postcard from . . . Alnwick: Britain’s most magical bookshop

Housed in the Northumbrian town’s former station, Barter Books is a convivial treasure trove


Credit: Matthew Cook
© Matthew Cook

When I enter Barter Books it seems appropriate that “End of the Line” by The Traveling Wilburys is drifting across the airwaves. The shop is cannily housed within the exquisite former railway station in the Northumbrian town of Alnwick. Designed in 1887 by William Bell, it has all the architectural flourishes of grand, industrial Victorian style, but the station fell foul of the Beeching Cuts in the 1960s, signalling, quite literally, the end of the line.

That a small market town in the north-east of England should ever have had such a station in the first place seems somewhat incongruous but then Alnwick is no ordinary market town. As the seat through the centuries of the Dukes of Northumberland, as home to the ancient, iconic Alnwick Castle (the second largest inhabited castle in England after Windsor) and more recently the refashioned Alnwick Gardens, the town has a distinguished pedigree and a long list of royal visitors, many of whom, in a few, brief decades, arrived by train. An impressive station was, therefore, an absolute necessity.

Barter Books capitalises, of course, on Alnwick’s fame and visitors, but the story behind the shop, the dedication of its owners and the sheer scale — as one of the biggest and best second-hand book outlets in the country — has bestowed upon it a status all of its own.

Stuart and Mary Manley, in their seventies, are an unusual couple. He, down-to-earth, County Durham born and bred with his heart in manufacturing, model railways and cricket; she, delightfully eccentric, American and with a deep knowledge of art and literature. Her throwaway line that she hasn’t read a book since they opened is undoubtedly tongue-in-cheek; his throwaway line that when he first saw her on a plane from the States and was “completely transfixed” is undoubtedly true. Together they are maverick and brilliant.

From humble beginnings in 1991, when Mary opened a second-hand bookshop in the front room of the old station where Stuart was running a small manufacturing business, Barter Books has grown and grown. It now has some 350,000 books, taking up most of the original station. Old waiting rooms have been restored (open fires included, lit during winter) to provide seating and a café, the old ticket office is designated for children’s books. A “parlour” for cakes, coffee and ice cream is due to open this month. The main hall — including the former platform area — houses row upon row of bookshelves, arranged by genre.

The system is simple — or at least on the face of it. Visitors bring in unwanted books (strictly no more than two small shopping bags per person per visit) which are assessed and valued on the spot. Those deemed unacceptable — mainly out-of-date reference books such as encyclopedias, atlases or dictionaries — are politely turned down, along with authors or titles that have been mass produced in excess of demand, Fifty Shades of Grey being an obvious example. Most books worth something are exchanged either for books of equivalent value or for a voucher to be used on another occasion. Cash buys can be made, too.

While the average price for a book is £10 there are, of course, rare books that crop up from time to time. “We are not antiquarian booksellers,” Stuart says firmly. “And we don’t do six-figure books,” adds Mary, over a so-called Alan Bennett omelette in the former first-class gentlemen’s waiting room. Nevertheless they’ve had some pretty valuable encounters, some of which are displayed in glass cases at the far end of the store — a signed and illustrated limited edition, for example, of Treasure Island for £4,400 — and some of which are kept in a secret room in the back, such as The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, Kelmscott Press Edition 1896 — yours for £39,000.

In an unlikely spot at the entrance to the loos is a rare, original second world war poster bearing the words “Keep Calm & Carry On” — made famous by the Manleys who were the first to produce facsimile posters and merchandise of this now ubiquitous slogan. “It made us no money,” says Stuart wistfully, “but it’s a valuable piece of Barter Books history.” For sure, I think, but in many ways it’s almost the least interesting aspect of this remarkable place. I could spend hours, days, weeks rummaging through this treasure trove, listening to a classic soundtrack from yesteryear. Forget the Harry Potter madness up the road at Alnwick Castle — all the magic is here.
With thanks to Don Gilling

Why don't we celebrate Tupaia?

Guest post from Brian Easton 

'Why Don't We Celebrate The Arrival Of Tupaia In New Zealand?'

Brian Easton
While we celebrate, some with mixed feelings, that 250 years ago on 8 October, 1769, James Cook stepped ashore in New Zealand, the standard narrative portrays it as meeting (or clash) between two peoples. In fact there were three, for on the Endeavour were a high chief and priest, Tupaia, and his assistant, Taiata, from Tahiti.

We tend to underplay the significance of Tupaia. The first volume of the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (published in 1990), gave a lot of space to Cook but ignored the Tahitian. Twenty-seven years later it commissioned an entry from Joan Druett, who wrote his biography, Tupaia: the Remarkable Story of Captain Cook’s Polynesian Navigator (published in 2011).

Probably, the Maori saw the situation the other way around. (I have to write ‘probably’ because we have not any contemporary Maori sources. One of the frustrations is that we have meticulous accounts from Cook and some of his crew, but they knew no or little Tahitian and no Maori and interpreted events from a very Eurocentric perspective.) It seems likely that Maori thought of Tupaia was the chief of the boat; Cook was just the captain.

Their universal admiration arose in part from Tupaia’s ability to communicate with them. The proto-Maori came from East Polynesia so Maori has a common root with Tahitian. Tupaia was able to translate between English and Maori; on various occasions that skill facilitated relations between ship and iwi.

It is a curious that while the two Polynesian languages had been diverging for almost 500 years – the proto-Maori arrived around 1300 – Tupaia coped. That is as far back as 1500 in today’s terms with the additional complication that both languages would have evolved since then. There had been no communication between the two peoples in the gap, and no written records. One theory is that Tupaia’s training for priesthood, included learning a very old version of the Tahitian language – like an English graduate learning Early English – which was closer to the root from which Maori derived. Whatever, he must have been an extraordinary linguist.

That was not his only accomplishment. He was an acute observer which makes him our first anthropologist – Eurocentrics may disagree. (I wonder if Tupaia has a special status in the Polynesian Society.) Sadly he (and Taiata) died in Batavia (Jakarta) as Cook returned to England – he was about fifty – so we have no idea what he would have thought of late eighteenth-century England.

Tupaia told Cook that Maori knew little of their ancient religions. They proved very keen to learn. He gave sermons to hundreds – presumably in Maori. We know little of their contents because the reports are by the English crew. How come he knew so much more than the local tohunga who were deeply respectful of his learning?

We may have misunderstood the migration from East Polynesia. Perhaps only younger Polynesians came, Probably most had a twenty-year-old’s knowledge of their culture, Any priests were curates not the bishop that Tupaia was with a deep learning from years spent with colleagues at the equivalent of the religious college on Ra’iatea (Rangiatea).

The impression we have is that Maori cosmology was more sophisticated fifty years later before it became contaminated with Christianity (and so what we know of it is not the true old-time religion). Did Tupaia inject some of the sophistication?

We will never know, but there are hints that he impacted on the cultural memory. I find it difficult to believe that the inhabitants of the migration canoes were driven out following civil strife; the thirty-day journey is so long. However we know that is exactly what happened to Tupaia. Some Maori say their ancestral island was Ra’iatea, the island Tupaia came from.

Tupaia had a magnetic attraction for Maori. They wept bitterly when Cook told them on his second voyage that Tupaia was dead. Younger generation Maori affectionately told stories about the man despite never having met him,

Alas those stories seem largely forgotten, and today’s Maori account of the arrival of the Endeavour usually parallels the English-centred one. Some Maori add that the arrival was bad for their people to the point of proposing that the statues of Cook be pulled down. I am not sure what their alterative account is. Jean de Surville arrived only a couple of months after Cook – their ships passed within 40 kilometres of one another.

Some have overlaid the Cook story with the Columbus story which sees his arrival in the Americas as the beginning of an extremely destructive invasion by Europeans; I am not sure ours was as destructive although there is no question that the Maori population suffered greatly from the muskets and diseases the Europeans brought.

The adoption of the Columbus perspective is typical of much of the national dialogue. The colonial cringer borrows stories from overseas and does not bother adapting them for New Zealand circumstances. Columbus had no Tupaia; Cook did but we have almost written him out of the story, despite that it would have been a very different story without him.

I am not a great fan for pulling down statues. Relocate them, yes. Better still, put up some statues of Tupaia.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Horrors at Sea

Mary Wallis, a seafaring wife in the nineteenth century, once observed that captains were men who left their souls at home.  As others remarked, there was no God the far side of Cape Horn . . . and these comments were borne out by tragic reality.  It was even almost acceptable -- the most remarkable feature in this drawing of a flogging on board ship is the boredom shown by the victim's shipmates.  It was an everyday occurrence, it seems, and justice for brutal treatment was certainly not expected from any official body on shore.

There were men who did rise up and protest.  At sea, this was futile.  My study of an unusually sadistic captain, In the Wake of Madness, described the rebellion of the entire foremast crew when the young black steward was being tortured.  It ended up with the seamen themselves being hounded and beaten.  All they could do was run away -- the best option, because then they were not forced to watch the eventual murder of that steward.  It was inevitable, perhaps, that the captain would be murdered himself, by terrified Pacific Islanders.  Much more unusual was the trial of the one Islander who survived the fracas that followed.  An intelligent lawyer learned the reason for the assassination, and procured the poor fellow's release.

But, as I said, that was extraordinary.  And such enlightenment could only be found on land.

Conditions on sailing ships became even worse. As steam began to take over from canvas late in the century, expenses had to be cut to the bone to make the squareriggers profitable, and ill treatment of crews became so commonplace that in September 1888 the National Seamen's Union of America began to publish a "Red Record," which reported cases of extreme brutality, along with the names of the captains and mates involved.  Captain "Shotgun" James Murphy was one: he refused to reduce sail to rescue a seaman who had fallen overboard. There were two suicides and a murder on the Gatherer of Bath, Maine, and the first officer, "Black" Charles Watts, was sentenced to prison.

Again, this was unusual, as there was no law at sea.  Order was kept by the captain and officers, who ruled with their fists.  But, has this awful situation lapsed with time?  Unfortunately, not. Though passengers on orderly liners and cruise ships would never guess it, brutal treatment of seamen is still widespread today, on fishing boats in particular.

Correspondent Malcolm Shein very thoughtfully sent me a chapter from a new book by American investigative journalist Ian Urbina,  The Outlaw Ocean, which describes a horrifying situation on Korean fishing boats in New Zealand waters.

And this is how it begins:

On the night of 14 August 2010, the captain of a South Korean trawler, the Oyang 70, left Port Chalmers, New Zealand, for what would be his final journey. The ship was bound for fishing grounds about 400 miles east in the southern Pacific Ocean. When it arrived three days later, the captain, a 42-year-old man named Shin Hyeon-gi, ordered his crew to cast the net over the vessel’s rusty stern. As the men worked furiously on the illuminated deck, the ship soon began hoisting in thousands of pounds of a lithe, slender fish called southern blue whiting, which writhed and flapped across the deck. With each haul, the silvery mound of fish grew. ...
What follows is a terrifying litany of abuse -- of not just the foundering of the Oyang 70 through the shocking seamanship of the captain, but of men literally worked to death, of appalling working conditions, of poor food, sexual predation, and blackmail.  As Urbina describes, the New Zealand government did its best to amend the awful situation -- but the fishing fleet simply moved on.
"In August 2014, the parliament passed a law expelling all foreign fishing vessels from its national waters. Fishing companies had two years to comply, and were given the option of “reflagging” to New Zealand and operating under its full legal jurisdiction.
"The law was meant to better protect the roughly 1,500 foreign nationals working on foreign-chartered vessels in its waters by forcing these ships to comply with New Zealand’s labour standards. It was a bold move, because it would cost New Zealand hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign investment as fishing companies moved elsewhere rather than shoulder the added burden and cost of the new regulations. To fish in New Zealand’s waters, all crew had to be provided with access to personalised bank accounts in which to deposit wages, observers would be required on virtually all foreign-owned fishing vessels, and there would be independent audits of wages.
"The existence of forced labour on fishing ships was not a revelation. Stories of sea slavery had been reported for more than a decade on boats from Thailand, Taiwan and elsewhere. But no country had ever acted as aggressively as New Zealand did in response.
"Still, seafarer unions and lawyers for the fishing boat workers questioned whether the government had gone far enough. They argued that the effect of New Zealand’s law would be to push bad behaviour elsewhere as the worst scofflaws simply opted to leave New Zealand’s waters and set up shop in jurisdictions that exert even less control over foreign fishing fleets. The Oyang 75 subsequently travelled to east Africa, near Mauritius, while the Oyang 77 sailed to an area near the Falkland Islands..."
Compulsive reading.  Don't miss it.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Cruise ship pollution to be monitored in New Zealand

It seems increasingly evident that the drive for mega-ships in the cruise industry is going to meet a lot of problems.  And New Zealand is in the forefront of the drive for better, cleaner, less polluting ships.  Interestingly, when the Sea Princess was in Callao, Peru, in July, divers spent hours filming the underwater part of the hull, because the ship was going to sail into New Zealand waters in August.  It was a rule, or so the captain said.

These restrictions are not going to go away, as Tracy Neal, Nelson reporter for Radio New Zealand, informs us.

Suspended in an observation dome, high above the deck of a large cruise ship, passenger Russell Wells was puzzled by what he saw.
Ovation of the Seas
The Ovation of the Seas' smoky funnels did not go unnoticed when it was in New Zealand. Photo: Supplied / Russell Wells
The Ovation of the Seas, steaming through pristine Canadian waters, was belching out thick blue smoke from one of its funnels.
"It was a quite sustained, blue exhaust. It seemed to be out of only one of the funnels but it lasted a long time so you would have expected it to clear," he said.
"If it was an engine doing that it would have been pretty obvious and I would have thought they would have shut it down."
The Wellington-based mechanical tradesman who once worked on diesel engines in the rail industry knows a thing or two about emissions.
Mr Wells wondered if the ship might have been burning a stack of rubbish.
"Well, that was my question because I don't see why you'd run a ... what appeared to be defective diesel engine for that length of time."
The association that represented international liners, said strict international maritime laws governed how shipping companies managed waste.
The Cruise Lines International Association said that cruise ships globally recycled 80,000 tonnes of paper, plastic, aluminium and glass each year.
"Due to the efforts of highly trained waste management professionals on board, some cruise ships repurpose 100 percent of the waste generated on board, by reducing, reusing, donating, recycling and converting waste into energy," the association said in a statement.
A Norwegian green technology firm Scanship said modern cruise ships generated as much waste as a small town, and had developed efficient ways of disposing of rubbish.
It said most ships used an onboard incinerator to burn waste and there were strict laws around the disposal of ash.
The Ovation of the Seas belonged to the third-largest class of cruise ships on the planet. It carried almost 5000 passengers and was one of Royal Caribbean Cruises' newest vessels.
And its smoky funnels did not go unnoticed when it was in New Zealand.
Southland harbourmaster Lyndon Cleaver said the Ovation did have a few issues last season, linked to it not running its exhaust cleaning system properly.
"We received a number of complaints last cruise ship season, in particular on cruise ship exhaust emissions in Milford Sound, and the inversion layer they were creating in there."
Despite several attempts to reach Royal Caribbean's public relations office in Sydney, to ask if the Ovation had an onboard incinerator, RNZ has so far had no response.
Mr Cleaver said he had been on board a number of cruise ships to carry out environmental checks, and they had "very good" recycling systems, governed by deeds of agreement, particularly when operating in highly sensitive environments.
Cruise ships coming to New Zealand from January next year will meet new clean-burning standards, aimed at reducing fuel emissions.
Cruise ship passenger Russell Wells said that onboard waste disposal methods were at least an improvement on those used by shipping when he emigrated from England as a youngster in the late 1960s.
"In those days, we used to see all these cardboard boxed full of egg containers and stuff like that just thrown off the stern of the ship - just dumped at sea, and that, I presume was the norm.
"Eventually I assume it all sank."
The waste that could not be incinerated was bundled up and stored until it could be offloaded at the next port of call, where it was treated and sent to landfill.
Ports of Auckland said in a statement it had to be collected by a contractor approved by the Ministry for Primary Industries.
"The rubbish is all treated as quarantine waste and goes to an approved facility where it goes through an autoclave (heat treatment) and then into landfill.
"Where deemed clean, cruise ships are able to recycle paper and glass but this has to have been pre-inspected by MPI," a port company spokesman said.
Mr Cleaver said they would continue to keep a close watch on the cruise industry.
"We have to keep them honest. It's our reputation that's at stake and we have a World Heritage Site such as Fiordland National Park, and we want to look after it."