Author: Rik van Hemmen

Welcome to a Dying Industry (1988)

  Jacksonville Shipyard was a well-known repair yard that was particularly well known for servicing the Jones Act tanker fleet and Gino Ferrari was its New York representative. Each Christmas season Gino hosted a reception at the Four Seasons restaurant for tanker Owners. Gino Ferrari was a close friend of the company and my father… Read more »

The Art of Graceful Disappearance

Wayne Thomas, my friend and colleague since 1986, and business partner for over 15 years, has decided to retire at the end of the month. Wayne has always been a world traveler and he has decided to roll up his house, store only his most essential possessions, and to live light at various places of… Read more »

Fatal Flaws in Design, or User Flaws?

  As noted in a prior blog, due to Anne’s disability I became immersed in wheelchair design. This blog is sort of a weird update and explains how design and user experience is a never ending interaction. It touches on subtleties that are extremely difficult to predict as far as design and user effectiveness is… Read more »

Pondering the Container Securing Conundrum

The combination of containers stowed on deck and containers stowed in holds inherently results in a container securing conundrum. Containers stowed on deck sit on hatch covers, and the covers needs to be larger than the size of the hatch that fits the containers. That means that it is not possible to fit a fixed… Read more »

From Booby Hatches to Pier, Jetty, Wharf or Quay?

Maritime terminology is a subject without limits. It has a lot of universality in basic words, but also suffers from massive regional variations that can be truly frustrating. With clients all over the world, we often engage in discussion in the office about what term to use for a specific concept or piece of equipment…. Read more »

So Big, So Small

When I speak about my shipping life with outsiders they are often most amazed by the size of ships. Engines that easily fit people within the cylinders, so many football fields in length etc. I rarely spend a lot of time thinking about it, but Jim Kline and I were working a project together. When… Read more »

World: What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate About Sustainability

A number of years ago I wrote a blog on the link between science, tinkering and innovation and discussed the need for goal setting in innovation. More recently I have been frustrated by the general apathy of the general population in creating a zero net carbon world, and this has been the subject of discussion… Read more »

Are We Properly Calculating Lashing Loads on Large Container Vessels?

We have been involved in quite a number of lost container cases in the last few years, especially on large (12,000 TEU plus) container vessels. Some of these cases show various deficiencies, but in other cases it appears that the lashings simply are not strong enough for normal vessel operations. That has led us down… Read more »

Going Gas to Diesel is Not Always One for One

  Note: The Waterpomptang family is fictitious and occasionally a Waterpomptang story appears on the M&O website. Some say their adventures resemble real events, but that is just a coincidence. Marina, Will, Shruti and Polara had joined Opa and Oma for an afternoon run. They all met at Froetjers, which was peacefully tied up at… Read more »

Zombie Proofing Aberration with a Kite

Last summer we were crossing Raritan Bay on Aberration and Abby pondered out loud: “I suppose this boat would be pretty good for the Zombie Apocalypse. If you have to, you can survive for quite a while.” On long runs it is fun to ponder such things, and it led to a detailed analysis of… Read more »

The Big Maritime Things in 2021

Another trip around the Sun, and a few moments to ponder it. This is my take for 2021. 1. Lack of Cooperation and Discipline I try to be diplomatic in my public pronouncements, but I will go full Dutch Uncle here. Our misery in 2021 was completely related to decisions by individuals who somehow have… Read more »

In Engineering the Simple Stuff can be Very Valuable

Many years ago, before I left high school, I read a book about a famous Dutch ocean sailor who was asked what his preferred size for a safe ocean crossing sailboat was and, without hesitation, he responded 44 feet. I worked as a yacht designer and found time and time again that 44 feet is… Read more »

Where are the Transportation Macro Designers?

Note: This article was first published in the November 2021 issue of Maritime Reporter and Engineering News. As naval architects and marine engineers we are familiar with the design spiral. While design is not truly a spiral, we use the concept to remind ourselves that all pieces of a ship design interact. The design spiral… Read more »

Breaking the Port Congestion Logjam

The present US West Coast container logjam is a system instability that will be studied for many years to come. At this stage there is no single cause for the logjam and the various analyses of the problem tend to result in across the chest finger pointing up or down the chain. Interestingly the problem… Read more »

Golden Ray Sanity Check; Tightropes are not a Proper Way to Cross an Ocean

  The National Transportation Safety Board issued their report on the Golden Ray capsize and, as is usually the case with those reports, it provides an interesting read. The NTSB provides a cause for the incident, incorrect stability calculation, and provides the following recommendations to the vessel operator: 1. Revise your safety management system to… Read more »

Time for a Closer Look at Offshore Wind Turbines

Offshore wind is inching closer to reality off the New Jersey coast. The public review process is underway and the big question is: “Will offshore wind make it past the public opinion barrier?” The advantages of offshore wind are most tightly focused to what now is becoming a screaming need to reduce carbon emissions. Wind… Read more »

Bilge Pump Switches; My Special Nightmare.

Jim Dolan and I had a discussion about a bilge pump repair that went awry and almost simultaneously we expressed frustration about the bizarre variety of bilge pump control installations in boats. We commiserated that in sinking investigations it was always a puzzle to actually figure out how the bilge pumps were configured and especially… Read more »

Aberration; Powerplant design

In my prior blog on Aberration I promised to write a discussion on the propulsion system and the whole powerplant design. It is probably most useful to describe the whole powerplant design process to see how things eventually came together. That makes it a long story, but should be an interesting opportunity to go down… Read more »

Separating Rotzooi from Technical Reality

  Note: The Waterpomptang family is fictitious and occasionally a Waterpomptang story appears on the M&O website. Some say their adventures resemble real events, but that is just a coincidence.   Bolle was comfortably seated in one of the creaky white oak surplus Liberty ship chairs in Willem’s office above the BuyLo Packy in Red… Read more »

Henk van Hemmen the Elder’s encounter with WWII

In the prior blog I discussed my grandfather’s favorite ship, the HEDEL. I got on the subject because of a weblink my Uncle Ed emailed me. The weblink my Uncle sent me actually referred to the JONGE WILLEM, a ship my grandfather sailed on immediately prior to World War II. During the depression he was… Read more »

Henk van Hemmen the Elder’s Hedel (TBT)

My Grandfather, Henk van Hemmen’s favorite ship was the HEDEL. She was built as AGIRA to LR class for the Norddeutscher Lloyd at AG Weser in 1930. During World War II she was named the SPREE and in 1944 she struck a mine. She was heavily damaged, but accepted as a reparation from Germany by… Read more »

Aberration; an Update and Personal Critique

Since my blog on Aberration in October last year, the concept has come to life and is now operating to a level where I can ponder my brilliance (right) and mistakes. As a designer it is particularly interesting and cathartic to find yourself on the receiving end of the design. I often write blogs to… Read more »

Leadership, Passion and Commercial Reality

I only met Leon Hess a few times and then only quickly, but our company has been deeply intertwined with Hess Oil almost since Hess Oil’s inception. Since Leon Hess grew up on the Jersey Shore, he also interacted with my wife’s grandfather (who was the Chairman of the First Merchant Bank of Asbury Park)… Read more »

The Rough Road to a New Reality. My First EV Long Haul

We have had our car charger at M&O now for a number of months, but today was the first day we had two cars “achargin”. I was fun to provide the hospitality to one of our friends who came to visit, especially since recently I made my first professional EV foray into the Pinebarrens of… Read more »

All the Work that Fits a Blog

Since we updated our website with a blog function in 2011, I more or less committed myself to posting a blog each month. Somehow, I more or less stuck with that commitment, but I just noticed that we did not post a new blog for January 2021. I also noticed that this happens to be… Read more »

Make Mine Half Size (A Late M&O Christmas Present)

As usual the Martin & Ottaway Christmas present is late. But maybe I should call it a New Year’s present anyway. This year it is a story. I wrote it late in the last century. It has sort of been published in various places, one of which was a website that I can no longer… Read more »

The Big Maritime Things in 2020

I ended my 2019 annual review with an admonition not to work like a robot or you will be replaced by one quickly. The comment was intended to warn engineers to be innovative or they will be replaced by robots. Now, at the end of 2020, I have a whole new vision of the effect… Read more »

If You Build It They Will Come

  The movie Field of Dreams was a little too dreamy for me, but the main line of the movie: “If you build it they will come”, never quite left me. In some cases it actually could be true. Within the office we have discussed using EV’s for company cars a number of times. While… Read more »

Alla Tsiring on Throw Back Thursday

Alla Tsiring’s adventures did not start when she joined Martin & Ottaway in 1994 as our book keeper. Her adventures started in Russia and included her escape with her husband Lenny during a period of Glasnost with intermediate stops at all sorts of interesting places. However, she had never gone on a ship survey during… Read more »

Hybrid Propulsion; Stinkpotting for Raghaulers

  Due to the fact that my wife became wheelchair bound recently, I am in the middle of the design and construction of a 35 foot hybrid propulsion wheel chair friendly catamaran. Together with the boat design and construction masters of Scarano boats, I am converting a 1996 medium to high performance 35 foot sailing… Read more »

Negotiations in Five Short Stories, Part Two

Note: The Waterpomptang family is fictitious and occasionally a Waterpomptang story appears on the M&O website. Some say their adventures resemble real events, but that is just a coincidence. This is Part 2, for Part 1 click here   After Truus came aboard, Marina took Froetjers out her slip and headed downriver to the Shrewsbury… Read more »

Negotiations in Five Short Stories, Part One

Note: The Waterpomptang family is fictitious and occasionally a Waterpomptang story appears on the M&O website. Some say their adventures resemble real events, but that is just a coincidence.   It was early morning at Watt & Fulton’s office above the BuyLo Packy in Red Bank. Willem was finishing his pork roll and egg sandwich… Read more »

So, How Much Cheaper is Containerization?

  Besides all other Coronavirus upheavals, it has also affected our intern program. Joseph Schwarz, starting Penn State Engineering Junior was supposed to join us for the summer, but with an office that practices social distancing a face to face internship became quite impractical. In order to provide Joe with a meaningful training experience it… Read more »

Pitching your Tent in Dog Doo

Living is nothing more than postponing the moment where you kill yourself. So far so good, but I have come really close a number of times. And retrospectively, mostly due to a lack of attention to the details. One that continues to stand out to me was when I was a student at Virginia Tech…. Read more »

Coronavirus; Why don’t we think through the problem first?

  While our coronavirus experience seems so novel, in the arc of maritime history, pandemics like this are far from unusual. Actually, the most unusual part of the present pandemic is that we have not had to deal with a pandemic like this for over 100 years. Taking into account that in those 100 years… Read more »

New Jersey Global Warming Data to Defeat Deniers

I was searching for some local rainfall information and came across a lovely meteorological summary of New Jersey weather posted on the NJ State Climatologist website. It provides a long listing of temperatures and rainfall, and Mirna captured New Jersey average temperatures since 1895 in the pictures below. In reviewing the data I found myself… Read more »

Introducing James “Jim” Kline

While Martin & Ottaway has always worked very closely with the United States Coast Guard, we have never had a Martin & Ottaway consultant with a United States Coast Guard background. There was never a specific reason for that, except to note that possibly the right mutual opportunity never presented itself. However, today,  it gives… Read more »

The Unpredictability of Innovation in Wheelchair Use

Standard wheelchairs have not changed in decades. It is a chair with wheels and has foot pads to support a person’s feet and to keep them from dragging on the ground. The foot pads are actually quite complicated, because they need to flip away when the person is being seated or stands up and they… Read more »

Death by Ship Value

Martin & Ottaway has been performing ship values since its formation in 1875. Our records go back to the late 1800’s and we have hung onto our historic records through all our office moves. A lot of our actual project work has now been digitized which is a huge space saver, but other paper records… Read more »

Build a Little, Test a Little and Learn a Lot; A Waterpomptang story

  Note: The Waterpomptang family is fictitious and occasionally a Waterpomptang story appears on the M&O website. Some say their adventures resemble real events, but that is just a coincidence.   It was early morning at Watt & Fulton’s office above the BuyLo Packy in Red Bank. After the VC investors had overcome their initial… Read more »

Hey UN! Here is your Golden Opportunity for Global Relevance

    Earlier this week the United Nations issued the “2020 World Economic Situations and Prospects report,” a high-level annual report. It is chock full of economic information collected by just about every United Nations Economic analysis body. The report has a foreword by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.  In it, he stresses the importance of… Read more »

The Big Maritime Thing(s) in 2019

I actually enjoy taking stock of a past year in its last few days. The office tends to be quiet and a few moments of introspection can be interesting. This year I did not have any real innovations or significant developments in mind as far as 2019 milestones are concerned. I wondered if 2019 was… Read more »

Marmaduke Redux

Marmaduke Surfaceblow was a much beloved character in a monthly column in the trade magazine Power Magazine. I very much enjoyed reading the stories. Marmaduke was a fictional character who was a ship’s engineer who became an engineering consultant. Marmaduke traveled the world and solved various power problems. The problems probably were actual technical problems… Read more »

Solar Math Update

I installed roof top solar on my house in July 2017 and wrote a blog about it promising to provide an update in a few months. I did not get to it until now, but after more than two years of operation it is even more fun to revisit the project to see how it… Read more »

Liberty Meats

By a weird coincidence my sister, Annemarie, came across this story that my father,  Henk van Hemmen, wrote on Veteran’s Day in 2004. “Liberty” Meats Looking into the history of warfare and battle ground victories it is a well-known fact that in general terms, the army that is well-fitted out and well-fed will have a tremendous… Read more »

Barbados: The Goldilocks Approach to Sustainability

Mathematically, worldwide sustainable energy is a real possibility, but it will require a very significant change in thinking, attitudes, efforts, and financial commitments to accomplish. All over the world we are encountering experiments, trials, and even significant changes in human attitudes, but, so far, we cannot point at an integrated success story of societal change…. Read more »

Environmental Game Theory, A Story About Endangered Birds

The wreck had spilled some heavy fuel oil and wildlife had been affected. The wreck was on the beach, waves were about 12 feet high and it was unlikely we would get a tow wire out to the tug offshore that day. I had asked a DEP employee to lay out an area of about… Read more »

The Mechanics of a Tank Barge Explosion

If there is a marine explosion, chances are Martin & Ottaway gets a call. An explosion investigation is hard work and requires a huge amount of data collection. It can be an exhausting and often confusing task. Today there are great tools to quickly build a model, but even with the best tools (drones, laser… Read more »