14 May 2009

Shipping accident waiting to happen?

The threat of collisions is rising as one of the largest fleets of ships ever gathered idles just outside Singapore, one of the world's busiest ports. This includes hundreds of cargo ships - 100,000 to 300,000 tonnes each.
Container ship off Cyrene Reef
So many ships have congregated here - 735, according to AIS Live tracking service of Lloyd's Register-Fairplay Research - that shipping lines are becoming concerned about near misses and collisions in one of the world's most congested waterways.

Why gather at Singapore?
Vessels have flocked to Singapore because it has few storms, excellent ship repair teams, cheap fuel from its own refinery and, most important, proximity to Asian ports that might eventually have cargo to ship.

What are some of the effects of this flock of idle ships?
'Illegal parking' by large ships are a threat to safe navigation. PSA said many vessels were staying just outside the port's limits, where they do not have to pay port fees. Singapore has complained to the countries of registry about 10 to 15 ships that have anchored in sea lanes in violation of international rules in the last two weeks.

Also, encrusting marinelife grow much faster on the undersides of vessels in warm water. 'You end up with the hanging gardens of Babylon on the bottom and that affects your speed,' said Tim Huxley, the chief executive of Wah Kwong Maritime Transport, a shipping line based in Hong Kong. One of the company's freighters became so overgrown that it was barely able to outrun pirates off Somalia recently, Mr Huxley said. The freighter escaped with 91 bullet holes in it.

Full article on the wildsingapore news blog.

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