Clay Maitland

On a quest for quality in shipping

Queue for Service

By Michael Grey

Posted on | November 22, 2014 | No Comments

All sorts of curious excuses are being advanced for the queue of containerships waiting off terminals and not just at the ports of southern California. It’s the Christmas rush. It’s the blooming authorities with all sorts of new regulations for terminal safety. It’s the idle longshoremen. It’s the first Christmas since 2008 when the ships have been fully laden, not to mention the enormous ships which have entered service since the lights went out in Lehman Brothers. There is probably a little sprinkling of all of these behind these aggravating delays. It is not quite such a problem in Europe, as there is rather more choice of port, and a few new terminals anxious to demonstrate their abilities.

We should perhaps welcome these occasional interruptions to the smooth passage of merchant ships as it is the one chance the general public ever really gets to appreciate them. If you have empty shelves in a mid-west department store, being able to blame it on the marine deliver system actually makes people know it is there, just as a fleet of enormous box-boats rolling gently in the swell off Long Beach and not going anywhere, might be a salutary reminder to Californians of their dependence upon ships.

Mind you, I’m not surprised that MarAd stepped in when the lines tried to slap on a congestion surcharge onto cargo that was actually on its way across the Pacific. You can see the lines’ point, as they will have to pick up the bills for the delays, but it is a bit like ordering something by mail order, and finding that the price has gone up when it is delivered.

Value Subtracted

By Michael Grey

Posted on | November 13, 2014 | No Comments

Shipping folk fond of history occasionally point out the useful fact that the cost of carrying a ton of cargo from Shanghai to the London River aboard the clipper Cutty Sark was sixty times that earned by a modern containership carrying the same weight in one of its boxes. You can argue forever about the relative importance of world trade then and now, but the fact remains that the rewards for sea carriers, except in rare circumstances, are by comparison so derisory, one wonders why they bother. This thought broke through the background chatter at the recent Capital Link CSR Forum in London, listening to one of the keynote speakers suggesting that besides reducing CO2 levels and the lives lost in maritime accidents, the lowering of freight cost levels would be… Continue reading

Designed for Death?

By Michael Grey

Posted on | November 7, 2014 | No Comments

Yet another death in a lifeboat, aboard the cruise ship Coral Princess in Colon, when a boat fell from its falls, killing a seaman and injuring the boatswain. These would be skilled people, used to handling boats aboard a vessel which would use its tenders regularly to take passengers ashore in anchorage ports. Why cannot this steady loss of life, aboard craft which were supposedly designed to save it, be stopped? By grim coincidence, as the crew of the cruise ship were mourning their loss, safety expert and accident investigator Captain Denis Barber was speaking to naval architects in London about the failure of the maritime regulatory establishment to deal effectively with this ongoing tragedy. Captain Barber, who has personally investigated two separate fatal lifeboat incidents aboard Bahamas flag ships, has… Continue reading

Save the Data!

By Michael Grey

Posted on | October 27, 2014 | No Comments

When vessel data recorders were first mandated, it is fair to say that there was some disquiet afloat. This was the maritime equivalent of the dreaded “spy in the cab” that scrutinised the lives of road hauliers, except that one’s very conversations at 0200 on a stormy winter’s night, when the antecedents of the owner might be discussed less respectfully than he might wish were being recorded. The fact that they might then be played back ashore at the end of the voyage, when one’s promotion was being considered, seemed a bit worrying.

In fact VDRs have largely been accepted and sensible people see the advantages they can bring, in everything from disputes about the weather to near miss situations. Most of us learned from an early age that… Continue reading

Terminal illness

By Michael Grey

Posted on | October 11, 2014 | No Comments

What would you think about a port that would not admit you until you signed a bit of paper which said that anything that could conceivably happen to your ship while alongside, was your liability? It could be entirely due to the negligence of the port’s employees that your ship was damaged, or that the quayside was dented, but it would be all your fault and because you had signed some nonsensical form purporting to be a “condition of use”, it would be no use pursuing a claim against the port. In the very least, you would think the practice was outrageous, and moreover in breach of the Civil Liability Convention. But , grinding your teeth in rage, you would advise the master to sign this disgraceful piece of paper, as… Continue reading

Mussel bound

By Michael Grey

Posted on | September 22, 2014 | No Comments

Well before my time, I must stress, ships running light into the Baltic from the ports of the Low Countries used to ballast with the small house-bricks that distinguish buildings in those parts. It accounts for why port cities in the Baltic had a sort of Dutch look about them. Deep water sailing ships would use sand and there are beaches in the Antipodes which were unloaded from wool clippers before they filled up for home. And in more recent times, general cargo ships running west over the North Atlantic in winter would load a few thousand of tons of coal slag, just to be on the safe side. But water ballast, first carried by a deep thinking UK East Coast collier owner in the middle of the 19th century, became… Continue reading

Alaska ro-ro voyage demonstrates value of U.S. mariners, pollution controls

By Clay

Posted on | September 11, 2014 | No Comments

Last year, at a Coast Guard Foundation dinner in Seattle, Carleen Lyden-Kluss and I bid on and won a one-way trip aboard Midnight Sun, a ro-ro trailer ship operating between Tacoma, Wash., and Anchorage, Alaska. Our attention was attracted by the fact that Midnight Sun’s owner, Totem Ocean Trailer Express (TOTE), a member of the Saltchuk group of companies, has a well-earned reputation for innovation combined with careful attention to efficiency and performance. Midnight Sun is one of two Orca class ships, purpose-built for the Alaska trade. Carleen and I have been active in advocating a need for growing attention to Alaska’s maritime future, including its growing maritime connections with the “Lower 48”and with the expanding economies of Asia. As co-founders of the North American Marine Environment Protection Association (NAMEPA)… Continue reading

Ash Readiness?

By Michael Grey

Posted on | August 26, 2014 | No Comments

There are warning signals emanating from Iceland where, under a glacier, another volcano with an unpronounceable name is showing signs of violent activity. Many of us will have memories of the extraordinary confusion caused in the aviation industry by the last emanations of Icelandic ash, a couple of years go. Those caught abroad while aviation came to a halt still dine out happily, boring their hosts with their accounts of how they made it home, even though it took many days and several different modes of transport. It is worth recalling the contribution of the ferries to this emergency, aided and abetted by the odd cruise ship pressed into service and the useful if unexpected revenue stream these ship operators discovered, as people accustomed to aeroplanes found that there were… Continue reading

Yielding, not cracking

By Michael Grey

Posted on | August 18, 2014 | No Comments

Years ago a former shipmate in command of a big channel ferry said that what would make his life inestimably easier would be if naval architects could incorporate a wide belt of rubber around the bows of his ship. This he said would enable him to approach the berth with much more confidence and speed, instead of worrying about the consequences should the pitch controls stick or there be a small miscalculation of his distance off. Ideally he would have opted for a sort of supersize Rigid Inflatable structure, although he recognised the limitations this might have for a drive-through ferry. It is just that his thick steel belting was somewhat unyielding for a ship that he was berthing several times a day. My friend is now retired but… Continue reading

Maritime TV’s ‘Mondays with Maitland’ – A Call for a National Maritime Education Conference in 2015 in DC

By Clay

Posted on | July 28, 2014 | No Comments

In this 19th interview in the series, Clay Maitland discusses importance of fostering communication between maritime educational professionals in this country, from the maritime high schools and vocational schools though the union institutions and the maritime academies, to compare notes on curricula and interface with industry. He proposes a large-scale National Maritime Education Conference to be held in Washington D.C. in the September-October 2015 timeframe… Continue reading
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