Supertankers and giant cargo ships are the backbone of our global consumer society. Hundreds of meters long, ferrying millions of tons of goods across the globe, the sheer size of these immense vessels is awe inspiring. Construction of one such behemoth is a fascinating feat of engineering. However, the destruction and final resting place of these steel giants is even more intriguing.
Even when such a ship is not seaworthy anymore, and repairs are not economically viable, the raw material it is constructed from has some value. Nowadays ship-breaking yards tend to be located in third world countries, places far out of sight of the consumers whose supermarkets they helped supply, and where labor is cheap and environmental protection laws are lax.
There ships are chipped down bit by bit, usually by hand, and stripped of every last bit of value. Fauzdarhat, 20 kilometers northwest of Chittagong in Bangladesh, is where many of the world’s ships go to die.
The discovery of an ancient harbor on the Red Sea proves ancient Egyptians mastered oceangoing technology and launched a series of ambitious expeditions to far-off lands.
The scenes carved into a wall of the ancient Egyptian temple at Deir el-Bahri tell of a remarkable sea voyage. A fleet of cargo ships bearing exotic plants, animals, and precious incense navigates through high-crested waves on a journey from a mysterious land known as Punt or “the Land of God.” The carvings were commissioned by Hatshepsut, ancient Egypt’s greatest female pharaoh, who controlled Egypt for more than two decades in the 15th century B.C. She ruled some 2 million people and oversaw one of most powerful empires of the ancient world.
The exact meaning of the detailed carvings has divided Egyptologists ever since they were discovered in the mid-19th century. “Some people have argued that Punt was inland and not on the sea, or a fictitious place altogether,” Oxford Egyptologist John Baines says. Recently, however, a series of remarkable discoveries on a desolate stretch of the Red Sea coast has settled the debate, proving once and for all that the masterful building skills of the ancient Egyptians applied to oceangoing ships as well as to pyramids. Read more.
Mediterranean Ships Equipped to Detect and Avoid Cetaceans
As steam-powered ship technology evolved in the 1800s, reports of ships striking whales began to appear. The number of collision has steadily increased through the years, especially with the rapid globalization of the planet and the ever-increasing number of bigger, faster, louder ships on the water. In the case of endangered, endemic or geographically-isolated cetacean populations in particular, these collisions pose a significant conservation threat.
Over the last 40 years, scientists have estimated that about seventy cetaceans are dead following a collision with cargo ships traveling through the Mediterranean. To reduce these numbers, a French organization “Souffleurs d'Ecume” has been developing for the last 7 years a navigation system that would allow ships to receive real time information on the position of cetaceans along their shipping route.
Over 10 cargo ships are already equipped with the Repcet System - Reperage en temps reel des Cetaces, - as they often navigate very close to the Pelagos Sanctuary, extending between France, Italy and Monaco, and where over 3,000 cetaceans migrate to each year to feed and reproduce.
The Repcet System operates in a very simple manner: each observation of a marine mammal by a crew member is transmitted in real time by satellite to a server. This server then gathers all the data and diffuses alerts to all ships equipped with Repcet and that may be susceptible to encounter the animals.
The collaborative nature of the system means it relies on the density of commercial maritime traffic. Other vessels are also welcome to voluntarily contribute to the system by reporting cetacean sightings, especially military vessels, scientists at sea, whale watching operators, and pleasure boaters.
Nevertheless, members of the Souffleurs d'Ecume organization realize that Repcet is not the ultimate solution, and they encourage ships to reduce their speeds around crucial cetaceans locations. But it remains hard to convince shipping companies to reduce their speeds, as it would result in an increased transit time for cargo ships and potentially a loss of money.
Collisions with vessels are the number one cause of mortality of whales in the Mediterranean. Noise pollution, water pollution and increased sea temperatures are further causes of distress for cetaceans in the area. Hopefully, Repcet will encounter success around the Mediterranean, and might be developed for many more cargos traveling around the world.
The computer, tablet, or smart phone you’re reading this post on comes from a factory in Asia on a cargo ship. In fact, most things you buy come on such ships - and because of rising demand in Europe and the US, cargo ships get bigger and bigger.
↳ “Final report of the commercial starship Nostromo, third officer reporting. The other members of the crew, Kane, Lambert, Parker, Brett, Ash and Captain Dallas, are dead. Cargo and ship destroyed. I should reach the frontier in about six weeks. With a little luck, the network will pick me up. This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off.”