So here, at the end of the year, I have spent a few moments pondering the maritime events that affected my life. As usual, this is a personal list, but checking back against prior lists I am surprised that this list making can be very unpredictable. It almost seems that these annual lists carry a hidden common thread, and this year it seems the things that affected me most are not as clearly eventful as prior years. Instead they appear to be subtle, occasionally disturbing and occasionally promising and sometimes both.
Here we go:
This one is actually very promising. The Port of New York and New Jersey is a unique port because it is operated by a bi-state authority. As such, there is a lot of pushing and pulling (and occasional scandals) but at the end it still manages a really dynamic port. The port provides over 300,000 direct jobs and is possibly the largest single commercial driver in our area. This economic machine needs new people who will make their careers in this port, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is driving this with their Two States/One Port educational project. This project was started in 2014 and if the project takes off in 2015, it will almost certainly be copied in many ports around the world.
January 2015 is the official date for the last voyage completions of single skin tankers in international trade (not that I have seen too many of those lately). This process started in 1990, and now 25 years later we will only talk about single skin tankers as a thing of the past. Last major tanker disaster? The single skin Prestige in 2002. Yup.
It is owned by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, and it is not called the Freedom Tower. It is called One World Trade Center and rightly so. This building re-establishes what the original buildings symbolized; the power and resilience of international trade. People started moving in last month and I can’t wait to visit it in 2015.
4. Methane Slip
Early this year I read an article about methane slip and its effect with regard to advantages and disadvantages of natural gas as a ship fuel. I commented on the article in a blog and actually pretty much forgot about until I noticed that the blog article gets an unusually large amount of hits. For some reason the article is a top result for “methane slip” in search engines. Time for somebody to write a Wikipedia article on marine methane slip to take the top search spot.
The methane slip blog suggests that natural gas will only be an interim, still imperfect, fuel. Hydrogen is the best fuel from a sustainability point of view, and eventually hydrogen should become our fuel of choice. That means we need to build a hydrogen infrastructure. There is no marine hydrogen infrastructure, but Toyota is taking the first valiant step for hydrogen powered cars. It is no Tesla in looks, but I signed up for one. Hurry up Toyota!
Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter wanted to achieve energy independence when they were President, but it became sidelined along the way. However, today it sure looks like we are well our way to energy independence in the United States. Great news, right? Well maybe not. Trading commodities, including energy, forces us to get along with other countries. If we can grow our own food and produce our own energy, will that still motivate the US to be the world’s policeman for better or worse?
So when I write this, the price of oil is hovering around $60 per barrel. Great! Cheap gas! Really? It better not delay my Hydrogen Toyota.
8. ECA .1% Sulfur Fuel
On January 15, 2015 there will be only two types of fuel that are legal in worldwide international trade. High sulfur fuel offshore and 0.1% sulfur content fuel in ECA areas. That is good from a crew point of view, .1% sulfur fuel is MGO. Operating ships on either one or the other is much easier than operating a ship on high sulfur and low sulfur HFO and MGO depending on what part of the world your ship happens to visit. Meanwhile, how we are actually going to be able to find, bunker, store and consume all that 0.1% sulfur fuel is still a little bit fuzzy, but I am sure this too will pass.
I never expected that after the Costa Concordia disaster it would take only take two years for an even mindblowingly weirder, deadlier and stupider disaster to occur. The Costa Concordia was a serious shipboard failure, and, at its root, it was most directly related to weird shipboard stupidity. The Sewol disaster was a nationwide maritime systematic failure where there simply is not enough time in a day to identify all the players that had a hand in the creation of this disaster. To have the Korean Coast Guard opine a day after the incident that a sudden turn caused a vessel to capsize is an immediate stark indication that we are in for a bumpy ride as far as truth is concerned. The vessel Master was given a 36 year sentence, but so far nothing about punishment for those who put the Master, crew and passengers on a ship that could not have been seaworthy when it left port.
And then there is some unambiguous 2014 good news. The Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, after almost a century, retired their weighty, but musty flagship publication “Marine Technology” and a number of years ago embarked on a mission to provide its members with a technical magazine (rather unconventionally named: (mt) )that they could be proud of. Well its excellence is being noticed, and (mt) was an Eddie and an Ozzie award finalist this year.