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Watching big ships

maersk20.jpg

It is presently 2.42 am in Seoul. I am suffering from jetlag (Making an eastern journey with a nine hour time difference is especially brutal). I went to bed at about 6pm yesterday evening, and I have therefore just woken up, and I have a few hours to while away, . Buying an international power adaptor in the largest electronics market in Asia did not turn out to be particularly difficult, so thankfully I do not have to ration electrons this morning and I have my laptop and the internet. This makes lying awake in a foreign city with jetlag somewhat more bearable than it has been at some times in the past, and it makes the hour I spent making sure that the versions of my music and photo libraries, my e-mail archive, and various other things that are stored on my laptop were fully up to date were well worth it.

In a way, though, this is kind of relaxing. I have no other obligations for the next few hours. The last few months have been extraordinarily hectic for me. My team at work has been seriously understaffed (we have had great difficulty hiring good people), it has been bonus season, and the total workload has risen. I have been working ridiculous hours, and things like blogging have been lost in the rush. Suddenly, though, I am on holiday, and due to the absence of any GSM mobile phone networks in Korea my mobile phone and Blackberry suddenly don’t work, so my colleagues do not know how to contact me even if they wanted to. I am out of touch and have no immediate obligations to anybody, particularly when jetlagged early on a Sunday morning.

However, I do have an obligation to the people of Samizdata. I am yet to explain why I was in Denmark on November 11.

The reason is actually fairly simple. I went to see Emma Maersk, the largest container ship in the world, at the end of its first trip from Europe to Asia and back. After being built in the shipyards of the Danish city of Odense and being christened on August 12, the ship had sailed from its home port of Aarhus to Gothenburg, Bremerhaven, Rotterdam, Algeciras, the Suez Canal, Singapore, Yantian (Shenzhen), Kobe, Nagoya, Yokohama, Yantian, Hong Kong, Tanjung Pelepas, the Suez Canal, Felixstowe, Rotterdam, Bremerhaven and Gothenburg, and was scheduled to arrive back in Aarhus at 1pm on November 11. Upon reading about the ship in various places, I thought it would be nice to go and actually look at her. I could have gone to see her in Felixstowe in Suffolk on November 4, but that was a weekday. In any event, low cost air travel in Europe has reached the point where it is no harder or more expensive to go to Aarhus than it is to go to Felixstowe, so I thought “what the heck” and spent about $60 on a return plane ticket.

After getting to Aarhus, and a semi-leisurely half hour in a coffee house, I headed down to the port. The AP Moller terminal was on the far side of the port, and I knew I would have a lovely view of the ship across the harbour if she were in the berth closest to the harbour entrance. If she was to dock at a berth further up the port, there would be other terminals in the way. But in any event, I would have a nice view as she sailed into the harbour. I might have to wait in the cold for an hour or so, but I would at least see her come in, which was why I was in port.

However, I was thoroughly confused when I walked to the harbour and saw this.

Maersk1.jpg

Yes, it was a big container ship in Maersk livery that looked exactly like the pictures of the Emma Maersk I had seen in photographs, but it was there prior to the scheduled arrival time, and it was not carrying a large load of containers, as one would expect if it had just sailed in from China. I knew that Maersk were building more ships in the same class, but I had not realised that any were completed. So I spent the next couple of hours wondering whether Emma Maersk had arrived early and had been rapidly unloaded (but container ships like this are never completely unloaded), whether I was confusing a smaller ship in a different class with Emma Maersk, or whether a new ship had arrived in port prior to its maiden voyage. Only one of these explanations made consistent sense, but I did not want to miss seeing what I had come for, regardless of explanations and sense.

In any event, the view was not very good. I needed to walk around the harbour to get a better view, at least to the extent that I was permitted to. (People tend to sometimes get nervous these days when you wander around and take photographs of critical infrastructure). And I wasn’t sure where the roads went, and stuff like that. However, I gradually made my way around the port, towards the outer breakwater and the AP Moller terminal.

maersk3.jpg

Didn’t I see you in Tallinn?

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I do like the observation that I could be prosecuted. Presumably, after they figured out I was a banker/blogger/ship spotter/Danish cheese fan/beer drinker, I would not have been prosecuted, but it was in truth a good thing that I turned around and left the Secure Maritime Area, because I would not have otherwise reached the outer breakwater in time

When I got there, I now had a much better view of the AP Moller terminal, the ship already in port, and the open sea. And look what was sailing towards port?

maersk6.jpg
maersk7.jpg

Clearly, this was Emma Maersk. When I got closer to the other ship, I was able to see the name painted on the side, which was “Estelle Maersk”.

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She is a sister ship of Emma Maersk, and I later discovered that she was in Aarhus resolving a little propeller trouble prior to her maiden voyage. But for the moment my attention was elsewhere. A race was on. I was at the opposite end of the port to where Emma Maersk was heading. I wanted to get the best possible view as she sailed (or, in fact, was towed) in.

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And what is interesting about this last photograph? Well, look at all the cars parked down at the end. The ship spotters of Denmark were out in force to see this magnificent ship sail into port.

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Actually, looking at people moving around in the AP Moller terminal itself was interesting. The arrival of the Emma Maersk was clearly a big event. People came outside to watch. There was a little viewing deck on top of one of the buildings, and this was crowded. Watching a ship likle this was not yet routine, and this was splendid, because we should never forget how remarkable are many of the things of the modern world.

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I have to admit I have a lot of respect for people who take their small children to look at container ships.
maersk17.jpg

And we have the two largest ships in the world in port side by side. I suspect that does not often happen, and I had some luck. In fact, I had a lot of luck, for I would have seen a lot less if Emma Maersk had not ultimately been two hours late into port.

As it was, though, it was cold, and I was very tired. I needed beer. I walked out of the port, found a fine Danish pub, and had a couple of half litre glasses of Tuborg. I did also want to look at Emma Maersk from the other side of the harbour, and to watch her being unloaded, but I did need rest, which took time. I got there in the end, but by that time there was not much light, and people can argue about the artistic merit of the resulting photograph.

maersk21.jpg

I actually have a lot more to write on this subject. I want to use a discussion of the Emma Maersk as a context to attack the anti-globalist protectionism of the Guardian, and to discuss the economics of container shipping more generally. However, I think this post has gone on for long enough. It is now just after 6am, and it is time to go and seek some breakfast. I will get part 2 finished sometime between now and Christmas.

19 comments to Watching big ships

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Michael, by my calculation, you hold the record for the most hours flown by any Samizdata contributor during the past 12 months, although one or two folk may come close. I mean, you probably have more hours now than Chuck Yeager!

    That is one big mother of a ship.

  • ResidentAlien

    Thanks for the pictures. I worked in container shipping for 10 years and still ike to keep up with the latest developments. If I remember correctly, the Emma Maersk has a capacity of about 9,000 TEU (Twenty Foor Equivalent Units.) There has been discussion before of a so-called Malaccamax class of ships at around 18,000 TEU capacity. The name comes from the fact that this would be the biggest size of vessel that could safely navigate the Malacca straits.

    The technology to build very large ships has been around for some time; oil tankers are bigger still, it just has not made economic sense to build so big until recently. Other than geographical constraints, the vessel operators need to be sure that the port can handle the ship; in terms of crane capacity and the onward transport infrastructure (9,000 TEU equals at least 4,500 trucks) – ideally within a 24 hour window!

  • Rob

    I’m to assume this electronics market is the TechMart? It’s heaven if you ask me! I’m going there tomorrow in fact.

  • ResidentAlien: Maersk quote the capacity of the Emma Maersk class as 11,000 TEU. However, they quote their numbers in a funny way – that 11,000 is the number it can carry if all containers are at their maximum allowed weight. In terms of volume, they haven’t disclosed the capacity, but the general belief appears to be that it is around 14,000 TEU.

    And totally off topic. Australia have regained the Ashes. YEEEEAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Nick M

    Michael,
    As a fairly regular flier of the Atlantic I winced when you quoted 9 hours east. I’m always 100% fine going to America but the return is evil despite the jetstream making it somewhat quicker. At Ringway, I sat down and wept. Well, almost, it was too cold and I needed a taxi home. It was about 30C when I got on the Embraer 170 in FL and about 5C when I got off the A330 at Manchester. The experience was brutal but I keep on doing it because with the dollar as low as it is how can I afford not to?

  • Offenders could be prosecuted

    In the UK that would be “Offenders will be asked to accept a caution and have two officers spend 20minutes filling out stop and search documentation after being detained in a rank portakabin for 3 hours.“.

  • Rob: I was actually referring to the cluster of shops and markets at Yongsan. I did go to the Techno Market today, but that is definitely smaller in terms of total space. (I managed to get out without buying a new laptop, thankfully. I did want to for a moment).

  • Kim du Toit

    So, you needed beer and had to settle for Tuborg?

    Poor man.

    Give me Wadworth 6X, any day.

  • Gormie

    Other than geographical constraints, the vessel operators need to be sure that the port can handle the ship; in terms of crane capacity and the onward transport infrastructure (9,000 TEU equals at least 4,500 trucks) – ideally within a 24 hour window!

    Actually, the port of Aarhus was expanded to almost twice its prior size just in order to be capable of handling the large containerships from Maersk.

    I live across the harbor with a superb view of the terminal and LOVE to watch these huge ships arrive (every saturday). I also brought my son…..

  • The Emma Maersk was actually in Felixstowe on 5 November – the weekend – good views from Shotley, my parents took some pictures for me.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/omcoc/291729213/

    It was then in Felixstowe again recently, so I got to see it finally!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/omcoc/348856901/

    Still prefer the big Coscos though…

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/omcoc/131846269/

  • CKD_Sputnik

    Impressive… yes, but nonetheless – the BIGGEST ship on earth is the “Knock Nevis” – a Norwegian owned oil-tanker :-)

  • bigboat

    i like big, very very very big ships, aha!

  • Cody Garrett

    http://keyetv.com/topstories/local_story_171144206.html

    Big ship runs aground (with video).

    Nice wave action — by the way, great site.

    Cody Garrett
    keyetv.com
    Austin, TX

  • She caught on fir during shipyard, some really interesting photos and video of the Emma Maersk during the fire here:
    Emma Maersk

    Here’s her engine room:
    Ship’s Engine Room

  • the grim reaper pointing at duncan rouleau and his family, like jonah weiland, michael hull, todd callender, ismail kadare, janetmck, arron shutt, george doran, elizabeth shea, andy shaw, tom beland, kenley darling, quinling harlequin, david shapiro, cecil pennyton, joe lalich, dave karlotski, justin daniels davis, john mark pool, jose alvarez, dee finney, antonia vladimirova, katie bazor, amanda dee, jeff dee, reverend jeremy taylor, d.min, christina marie sanford, jean patrick charrey, greg titus, mike kenney, brian, bill of the massive bri, lawrence forman, micheru mathys, dana tillusz, George Tramountanas, diana hughey, as one heart photography, artdizion, nick field, Heuva, michael doran, Konstantin Ternianov, janet mcknight, Laurie Behncke, richard starkings, joe kelly, larry clow, robert winer, m.d., rohn price, jean patrick charrey got Fazile Zahir got Zespó³ Doradców Gospodarczych, dan kaps, these are all duncan rouleaus children, he wrote a book, with the stolen name ministry of dreams, they, most, posted his article, or stole, the name ministry of dreams to make prophet fall, all release ruint, this is duncan rouleaus family, they want Gods servant to fall,

  • the grim reaper pointing at duncan rouleau and his family, like jonah weiland, michael hull, todd callender, ismail kadare, janetmck, arron shutt, george doran, elizabeth shea, andy shaw, tom beland, kenley darling, quinling harlequin, david shapiro, cecil pennyton, joe lalich, dave karlotski, justin daniels davis, john mark pool, jose alvarez, dee finney, antonia vladimirova, katie bazor, amanda dee, jeff dee, reverend jeremy taylor, d.min, christina marie sanford, jean patrick charrey got Fazile Zahir got Zespó³ Doradców Gospodarczych, “TOR”, Spó³ka, greg titus, mike kenney, brian, bill of the massive bri, lawrence forman, micheru mathys, dana tillusz, George Tramountanas, nick field, Heuva, michael doran, Fazile Zahir, Konstantin Ternianov, janet mcknight, Laurie Behncke, Heuva, Zespó³ Doradców Gospodarczych, “TOR”, Spóka, Fazile Zahir richard starkings, joe kelly, mike hull, daniel kaps, diana hughey, Richard E. Lauersdorf, Zespó³ Doradców Gospodarczych, “TOR”, Spó³ka, robert winer, paul dixon, rohn price, diana hughey, dan kaps, larry clow, these are all duncan rouleaus children, he wrote a book, with the stolen name ministry of dreams, they, most, posted his article, or stole, the name ministry of dreams to make prophet fall, all release ruint, this is duncan rouleaus family, they want Gods servant to fall,

  • write reverend jeremy taylor, m.a. and ask him why he hates God so much he stole the name ministry of dreams to make Gods servant fall, here is google cache: Dreams: Community MinistryStruggles with Racism & Sexism, Give Birth to the Community Ministry of Dreams. In my increasing distress I thought about simply canceling the rest of the …
    http://www.jeremytaylor.com/pages/communityministry.html – 47k – Cached – Similar pages , d.min jeremy taylor has never been saved saith the Lord, and has indignation against God’s people, show dr. jeremy taylor his wicked ness, and avoid, like sistermoonshine13, and john mark pool, dr. bill hamon and mike murdock all stole like dee finney the God spoken name ministry of dreams, I the LOrd will ruin you all who take and make you run to remove and reverend jeremy taylor and antonia vladimirova openly mocked and lie, but watch them release saith God

  • Geno Iyana

    the ship is very bi and my cours is stewarding

  • Mario TOKMAYIER

    The video about the fire is outstanding, I have been making chains for 55 years now and therefore connected to the ship building industry.
    Did not have a clue that a ship that size was in construction.
    Thankyou for the chance of stating my opinion.