Author: Rik van Hemmen

Hydrogen As The Ultimate Fuel (Maxi Taxi 10)

Our intern Matt Stern is guest blogging on some background research he did at our office on hydrogen fuel before he gets ready to start his junior year at the Bronx High School of Science: In modern times, we have become accustomed to using fossil fuels as our source of energy for road transportation. But,… Read more »

Wood Technology Never Gets Old

Wood is a truly wonderful material, not just for its beauty, but also for its excellent engineering characteristics. While wood technology has been around for thousands of years for boat construction purposes, wood technology is still developing today. In August of 1999, Woodenboat magazine published an article on a novel type of wooden mast construction…. Read more »

Sprawl, the Infrastructure Trap, and A Real World Solution (Maxi Taxi 9)

A Time magazine article by Leigh Gallagher highlights a problem that we deal with on a daily basis but that pretty much stays just below our awareness horizon. In the article Mr. Gallagher describes a professional epiphany of a town engineer with regard to town planning codes that exhibits itself as suburban sprawl. The issue… Read more »

Deep Culture

At Martin & Ottaway occasionaly we see all aspects of our culture come together in a single project. This photo pays witness to such an event. Consider: The Engineering Attitude: We can do this, we have the tools, and we sure don’t need to use the written instructions. Frugality: Why pay for chair assembly if… Read more »

Container Archeology

Last week I found myself in Skagway on a cruise ship stop and hopped a ride on the White Pass & Yukon railroad. This railroad was a vital connection between the Pacific and the Yukon River gold fields. It starts in Skagway, the most northeast corner of the Alaskan Inside Passage, goes through the White… Read more »

Let’s Not Confuse Innovation and Disruption With Progress

I just read Jill Lepore’s excellent article about disruption and innovation. She very carefully tears apart some recent trendy thinking about innovation and pretty much concludes that one cannot predict where innovation or disruptive technologies will come from and that, inevitably, any innovation or disruptive technology will pretty much find itself in the buggy whip… Read more »

New Jersey Makes, The World Takes

The actual slogan is “Trenton Makes, the World Takes”, and even in that form it is still a pretty weird slogan. The slogan originated very early in the 20th century when Trenton, NJ just about made anything, and it is supposed to mean: “Trenton makes the stuff that the rest of the world buys”. I… Read more »

Lettie G. Howard, An Exercise In Educational Excellence.

Education in maritime is in a class by itself for too many reasons to count. Bottom line; maritime education works, and people are starting to take notice. The strength of maritime education lies in integration. Basically it allows students to engage in multiple learning experiences simultaneously. Instead of one hour of language, one hour of… Read more »

Methane Slip and The Marine Industry

2021 Update: I posted this blog in 2014 and at the end wondered if Hydrogen is a green house gas. I figured to search the internet to see if there were any updates. I found one reference (actually first published in 2006) that indicates that Hydrogen has an indirect greenhouse effect that should be managed,… Read more »

OPA 90 Salvage Requirement Lessons

The OPA 90 Salvage Response regulations have now been in effect for a number of years and while there has not yet been a major US incident that tests the system to the limit, there have been a few smaller incidents where some lessons are being learned. The most central issue in the US Salvage… Read more »

How To Get The Job Done 350 Years Later

It may have become evident that I am of the opinion that the maritime community is a tower of strength for the spirit of cooperation, jointness and just getting the job done. I will provide yet another example of this, but first let me set the stage. This year is the 350th anniversary of the… Read more »

NAME Computer Programs In The “I Am Not Dead Yet” Category

As a naval architect and marine engineer I have slowly drifted into a bizarre conundrum that actually may be an industry wide problem that is ripe for an industry wide solution. What I am talking about is a loss of all those really great NAME engineering computer programs that were developed in the 70’s, 80’s… Read more »

Goodbye Goltens New York

This week is a sad week for New York Maritime. Engine repairer extraordinaire, Goltens, has announced that they will be closing their shop in Brooklyn. Goltens New York was the last classic marine engine repair shop in the port of New York. Maritime is an incredibly dynamic business and we all know that nothing stays… Read more »

Sheer Efficient Madness

There is absolutely nothing so absolutely awesome as ice boating. It was the greatest thrill in the world 200 years ago and it still is today, and I have no problem betting that it will be still be an astonishing thrill 200 years from now. Ice boating is insane fun, but it is not just… Read more »

Rudderless Behavior

Technology failures are inevitable. The trick is to keep failures to a minimum and to keep failures in the “mostly harmless” category. Certain types of equipment can fail and the failure does not result in consequences that are too serious, while other types of equipment failures can make a mess of things almost right away…. Read more »

Historic Vessel Redux

Occasionally we draw attention to ships that are historically significant. Sometimes it seems like we are simply whistling into a storm. Ship preservation costs money and undoubtedly it is a difficult discussion to decide which vessels are worthy of preservation and which should be, at best, turned, into artificial reefs, but, overall, our country is… Read more »

USS Somerset, The Real Lesson of 9/11

On March 1, 2014 the USS Somerset (LPD-25) will be commissioned in Philadelphia. The Somerset is the third and final San Antonio Class vessel named after 9/11 locations. The other two vessels of the same class that preceded the USS Somerset are the USS New York and the USS Arlington.  The names of the earlier… Read more »

A Fatigue Engineering Joke

There is a Cold War (remember, that was before 1989) engineering joke that goes as follows: The Russians had built a brand new huge airplane, and it was the pride of Russia, but they had a continuous problem with fatigue fracturing at the wing to fuselage connection. They tried everything and it just kept fracturing…. Read more »

Always Good and Clean Engineering

I remember standing at the Newport News Shipyard gate in the 90’s next to Dorothy the tugboat and reading the shipyard’s motto: “We will build good ships here — at a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but always good ships” This motto was apparently coined by Collis Huntington, founder of… Read more »

MARPOL Also Requires Shore Cooperation

I really enjoy Dennis Bryant’s Daily Newsletter, his format allows me to scan it very quickly and if a mental alarm goes off, he provides some additional info. The December 20, 2013 newsletter issue made mention of MARPOL reception facilities inadequacies. The write up referred to a USCG Houston Marine Safety Information Bulletin issued by COTP… Read more »

The Big Maritime Things In 2013

The year is not quite over, but, since I wrote a 2012 top 10 Maritime Things blog, I now feel somewhat driven to think about a 2013 top 10. Like last year, the subjects I am picking may not be entirely 2013 subjects, but they certainly came to the fore to me in this year…. Read more »

A Maritime Holiday Gift, 2013

From 1995 to 2010 our holiday newsletter always included a small sketch made by Henk van Hemmen. This year we decided to recapture those pictures we could find in our old files and republish them. Henk always drew these pictures with a thought towards those of us who are at sea or in foreign ports… Read more »

Solar Conestogas

Powering cars with solar cells installed on the car is an intriguing proposition, but unless we drive for very high efficiencies with resulting uncomfortable and impractical cars such as solar racers, it will probably not be possible to power cars with solar cells to the extent that we power cars with chemical fuels such as… Read more »

Better Ship Electric Arrangements

The SNAME annual meeting is a high speed knowledge exchange fest and the last annual meeting in Seattle may quite possibly have been the best one yet. I always get the printed version of the proceedings and leaf through the papers on the flight home. My proceedings need to be the printed versions because I… Read more »

The Art Of Octoberfest

I finally made it to my first Motor Services Hugo Stamp Octoberfest (one of our very favorite diesel shops). This spectacular party has been a long standing annual tradition by MSHS at their beautiful facility in Fort Lauderdale and has been attended by many a Martin & Ottaway surveyor over the years. While it occurs… Read more »

Not Within A Thousand Years Will Man Ever Fly. (Wilbur Wright 1901)

110 years after the first powered flight, I revisited Kitty Hawk with my college roommate John Mitchell and our wives. In the 31 years since my last visit, the surrounding area had become much more urbanized, but the park itself still tasted like that modest test facility that the Wright brothers had put together in… Read more »

Is There a New Wind Blowing In Technology? Is It Efficiopunk?

The march of technology is not a straight line. It can take leaps (internet), occasionally stop completely (dark ages), depend on big project steps and raw power (Apollo), or occasionally it seems to do a jitterbug and move all over the place at the same time. When it jitterbugs it seems the world belongs to… Read more »

Getting Lost Is No Big Deal. Not Knowing That You Are Lost Can Kill You

Accident analysis is a strange and complex task. Often blame is considered to be the motivator for an accident analysis, but the most interesting and useful purpose of an accident analysis is to tease the universally useful gems out of the huge pile of information that tends to get generated during an accident analysis. I… Read more »

Are Five Foot Wide Maxi Taxi Roads The End Of Driving Fun?

Some people pondering five foot wide roads (or, at best, roads a little wider than 60 inches) populated with Maxi Taxis may think it would spell the end of driver excitement. Personally, having owned a Triumph Spitfire (57 inches wide) and always having coveted the original Mini Coopers  (55 inches wide), I doubt that is actually the… Read more »

In Praise Of High School Engineering Interns

Engineering is an unusual profession. While it is often thought to be related to math and science and thought to be exact, it actually is a very complex blend of perspiration, inspiration, communication, confusion, calculation and evaluation and the math and science is only a tiny part of a much larger whole. This makes it… Read more »

Maritime Magic

There is something almost magic about maritime. Except for, possibly, forest fire fighting (which is not as big as maritime) I cannot think of any industry where there is such a tradition of seamless cooperation as in maritime. This project was not large by our normal standards, but it clearly provides a picture of what… Read more »

Maybe This Is A Solution To The Maritime Language Problem

The weak English translation of the MIT Costa Concordia report made me wonder about the use of English as a more universal communication system. While driving to a project, I was listening to National Public Radio, and there was a bit about Voice of America broadcasts. I never realized that Voice of America programs cannot… Read more »

Paddlewheelers, Salvors and Designers

On the way to a paddle wheeler passenger vessel project at Cape Girardeau, I passed Vicksburg and decided to stay the night. The next morning I took a quick drive through the Vicksburg battle field and came upon the USS Cairo, the remains of a Civil War era ironclad river gunboat that is now beautifully… Read more »

Costa Concordia and QESTH

A while ago Wayne Thomas forwarded the “Costa Concordia Report on the Safety Technical Investigation” to everybody in the office and only just now did I have a chance to read it. While the report is not dated or specifically identified as “final” it appears this is an English language version of the last word… Read more »

George F. Chandler III (1940-2013) In Memoriam

On Thursday May 23, 2013, the firm and I lost a close friend, and the maritime community lost a distinguished professional with the passing of George Chandler. George Chandler was an admiralty attorney with Hill Rivkins in New York and Houston, but George’s connection with Martin & Ottaway and its people go back to 1976,… Read more »

What Is The Cost Of Efficient Transportation? (Maxi Taxi 5)

Not too long ago only a small proportion of humanity had access to vast resources (which actually equates to access to energy). Although the very rich could travel by ocean liner between continents, poorer people’s action radii were very much smaller. For most of humanity’s existence a human might be tied to a very small… Read more »

Waterproofing New York City

When unusual events occur we often get asked to assist on unusual remedial projects. As marine guys we never expected to get called in on 9/11, but we were, and after Sandy we have been asked to assist with waterproofing design of NewYork City subway stations. This is interesting work, because it allows us to… Read more »

How Safe Is Automated Driving? (Maxi Taxi 4)

Automated driving is central to the Maxi Taxi concept. Although the Maxi Taxi ferry concept does not specifically require full automated driving, the ferry concept, at a minimum, will use automated parking type technology to load and unload the ferries automatically with human drivers on public roads. However, the Maxi Taxi concept will really come into… Read more »

Why Not Supply Purified ISO Heavy Fuel to Ships?

(Updated 31 November 2016) M&O loves training new consultants. We look for people who are smart, with great basic training and, most of all, people who are inherently inquisitive and will ask the questions that lead to new knowledge for all of us. So, we are in the middle of dealing with a heavy fuel… Read more »

Will That Five Foot Width Work? (Maxi Taxi 3)

This is our third blog on the Maxi Taxi concept, for earlier blogs on Maxi Taxi go to: Containerizing People Transportation (Maxi Taxi 1) What Needs to be Standardized? (Maxi Taxi 2) The Maxi Taxi concept has chosen five feet as the working standardization width for the system, which would result in road lane widths… Read more »

The Really Big Picture

The April issue of (mt), the SNAME house magazine, will feature an article by Dr. Wayne Neu, professor of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering at Virginia Tech. Dr. Neu updated the classic 1950’s Gabrielli – von Karman plot using more recent vehicle data collected by the students in one of his classes. The Gabrielli – von… Read more »

The Greatest Show On Earth

Boat shows tend to depress me. It is important to stay up with the latest trends, but most boat shows focus so heavily on consumer products that it is difficult to extract real joy from them. My friend and fellow boat lover Captain Dannie Schade, owner of Classic Boat Rides, convinced me and our wives… Read more »

What Needs To Be Standardized? (Maxi Taxi 2)

In the Maxi Taxi 1 blog we introduced the Maxi Taxi concept as a thought experiment to explore how people transportation can be made to be more efficient by whole system design. The Maxi Taxi is a passenger transportation concept that, through standardization, aims to rapidly increase system efficiencies. System efficiencies are different from component… Read more »

Disaster? DO The OODA Loop

A disaster like the Costa Concordia opens a wide variety of investigations and undoubtedly many people are very busy in analyzing what caused the vessel to strike the reef and to capsize, but striking reefs and capsizing actually is nothing new and, on a technical level, actually is pretty well understood. What is much more… Read more »

Containerizing People Transportation (Maxi Taxi 1)

We call this peculiar car a Maxi Taxi. Maxi Taxis are just a concept that was turned into this computer model by our intern Zach Davis (Harry Ottaway’s grandson!), but they are an interesting concept and have features that are pretty much available today. The Maxi Taxi concept rests on the success of containerization and… Read more »

The Thrill Of The Cutting Edge

Corporate longevity might imply tradition, but actually, and especially in the maritime industry, longevity is directly related to staying on the cutting edge and being involved in the next big thing. On March 5 and 6, 2013 Martin & Ottaway will be a minor sponsor of the Marine Log 2013 Offshore Alternatives Conference at the… Read more »

So How Are Those Sandy Claims Working Out?

The damages caused by Super Storm Sandy have resulted in a heavy load of assignments from underwriters with regard to damages to marinas, boats and associated infrastructure. It has been a pleasure working with our underwriter clients who all have been very eager in resolving often very complex damage issues as rapidly as possible and… Read more »

Holiday Art

During the new year season we receive good wishes from people all over the world and all the cards we receive we display around the office for a few weeks to get us in the holiday spirit, and to reminds us of all our friends around the world. Many are quite pretty and inspired. This year… Read more »

The Big Maritime Things In 2012

At the end of 2012 we can look back and see it has been another interesting year in our industry. Here are ten things, in no particular order of importance, that stand out for me: 1. Planet Solar There is no doubt that we can get around the world by sail, but what if we were to… Read more »

A Maritime Holiday Gift

Holiday gift giving is always difficult, but you know what they say, it is not the size of the gift, it is the thought that counts. What to give to those who love maritime, and that can be given to all our many friends anywhere around the world? Books are nice, but they need to… Read more »