Issue 185


1. Sour taste

A HAPLESS Venezuelan exporter of citrus fruit has been revealed as one of the first people to be trapped by the rigorous US enforcement of the ISPS code. It is assumed he was the victim of a malicious hoax.

Five containerloads of lemons were shipped from La Guaira to Newark but, while the ship was still at sea, the US Coast Guard received an anonymous tip-off alleging that the fruit was contaminated by an unknown biological agent. Even though there was no corroboration for this information, the USCG took no chances. The ship was held at anchor for almost a week while the coastguard undertook extensive checks, none of which revealed the presence of any biological hazard. The ship was eventually allowed to berth under supervision.

The containers were screened using the customs’ latest technology and were then fumigated with chlorine dioxide to destroy any biological agents that might have been present. The lemons were then destroyed at a local incinerator. The coastguard originally considered destroying the refrigerated containers as well, but relented and allowed the containers back into service.

The TT Club, writing in its latest ‘TT Talk’ newsletter, says, “It is alas a sign of the times that, whereas a few years ago, such a tip-off might have led to a thorough screening of the consignment by public health officials, the current ‘take no risks whatsoever’ attitude means that perfectly healthy cargo has to be destroyed, as well as, perhaps, some uncontaminated – but rather expensive – containers on the basis of
uncorroborated information. The kids who once got their kicks by making hoax calls to the fire station can now graduate to a bigger and more expensive stage on which to exercise their misguided talents.

2. Ice risk

LONDON law firm Lawrence Graham says shipping interests looking to operate or charter vessels which are likely to trade in heavily iced-up waters should check carefully that they have the right ship, the right ice class and the right crew.

Writing in the latest issue of the firm’s Shipping Lawgram, Imogen Rumbold, Lawrence Graham shipping partner, says there is some doubt about what ‘ice class’ means, and about where the expertise to navigate new tonnage in ice is going to come from.

Noting that the huge amount of oil now exported by Russia moves from ports subject to icing-up, and is carried in tankers which must pass environmentally sensitive areas, she says, “Ice navigation requires exceptionally strong, powerful and specially equipped ships, but it also requires skilled and experienced officers to handle the ships, and experienced ice-breaker and tug crews and pilots to help them. There are always delays and problems in ice, but these manageable delays can become major problems very quickly if inexperienced seafarers are involved.”

Rumbold also points out that there is no international agreement or consensus on the meaning of ‘ice-strengthened’. She says, “There are differences between the different nations bordering the Baltic as to what constitutes ice class, and differences between the major classification societies on the interpretation of ice class rules. This led to a number of problems last year, when an average ice winter caused delays for a number of ships that perhaps should not have been there.

“Talks between nations and class societies to harmonise ice class requirements are under way, but at a glacial pace. Until some international agreement is reached, both owners and charterers need to ask detailed questions to ensure that the ship they are to build or charter is built, equipped and managed for the type of ice and temperatures it will meet on the trades in which they want to deploy it.”


3. No proper look-out

THE Maritime Safety Authority of New Zealand has found that the grounding of a passenger vessel during a cruise on Lake Wakatipu in February this year was due to the master failing to keep a proper look-out.

The master has been severely censured for the failure, and for not having the necessary qualifications. He has also been warned that, if his conduct is questioned again, he may be prosecuted. The owners and operators of the vessel, the ‘Queenstown Express’, have also been severely censured for failing to ensure that the master was properly qualified and for not having established procedures to ensure that the vessel was maintained according to maritime rules and regulations.

Three passengers were injured in the accident, during which the bow of the vessel was also damaged. At the time of the grounding, the master was giving passengers a demonstration of the operation of the radar and echo sounder.

4. Latins step up PSC

PORT State Control inspections, with particular emphasis on compliance with the ISPS Code, are being stepped up in Brazil until the end of January 2005. The initiative has been taken as part of the Vina del Mar Agreement on Port State Control, which covers the Latin American region. The frequency of Port State Control inspections in Brazil – and in other Latin/South American countries covered by Vina del Mar – can be expected to increase significantly during this period.

5. Ship finance recruitment

INTERNATIONAL maritime recruitment specialist Spinnaker Consulting, and leading ship finance consultant Eurofin, have formed a joint venture specialising in the recruitment of personnel in ship finance-related markets.

Spinnaker Finance will focus on the placement of senior, experienced ship finance professionals, using advanced search techniques embodying the exclusivity and confidentiality for which both Spinnaker and Eurofin are renowned throughout the shipping markets.

6. Warping analysis

LEADING classification society Bureau Veritas says detailed warping analysis is the key to a crack-free new generation of containerships.

“Some large containerships appear to be suffering cracking of longitudinals caused by fatigue and warping stress,” says Pierre de Livois, technical director of Bureau Veritas Marine Division. “We are pleased that the many panamax and post-panamax containerships built with BV class show that extensive Finite Element Model analysis and attention to fatigue and structural details at the building stage have paid off. They are not showing this typical cracking in the side longitudinals.”

7. People & Places

ROTTERDAM-based Novatug has strengthened its management team with a new general manager and naval architect – Rolf Kievits and Robert Rodenburg, respectively.

8. Retiring figure

TO the English Maid last week, on a freezing cold night in London, to celebrate the retirement of Jerry Smith, after “27 years of representing the Liberian flag”.

The English Maid is an old Dutch barge permanently moored on the Thames. Jerry Smith is a young-looking sixty-something who is not permanently moored on the Thames. He says he is looking forward to retirement. But has been an integral part of shipping all his life, so far, and he has never been retiring and is unlikely to start now. He would be sadly missed if he were not going to carry on his involvement in shipping at some level, initially by representing Liberia at the ILO.

Give our regards to Poughkeepsie, Jerry.

Advent season

NEVER mind the carols and decorations that have been with us since early November. For maritime lawyers, the advent season really began with Hill Taylor Dickinson’s Christmas bash at Lloyd’s last week. Held in a room only slightly too small for the hordes of lawyers, clients, insurance types, and accountants, plus the odd journalist (he knows who he is), there was not a turkey or a mince-pie in sight. There were just lots of people enjoying themselves, which is just how your correspondent (who can be a bit of a Scrooge) likes it.

Cold facts

YOUR editor woke this morning with a nasty cold, so it would be advisable not to get too close to him. It is nothing to worry about, thank you, but it was not the best preparation, it must be said, for yet another press release from the persistent Plimsoll Publishing.

Plimsoll’s latest release looks at “the fastest growing and fastest declining companies in the UK Sea Transport industry”. It says of the 165 fastest risers that, “The purists will read this list and be surprised at some of the names”. Your editor is not a purist and is never surprised by anything. Furthermore, he cannot think of 165 companies in the UK Sea Transport industry, with or without capital letters, never mind that there are apparently another 174 companies at “the bottom of the growth list”.

Starve a cold, feed a fever, they say, but your editor continues to be fed a steady supply of meaningless information.

Plain English

THE Plain English Campaign was 25 years old yesterday. To mark the occasion, its supporters voted the 1998 draft National Minimum Wage Regulations as their favourite example of gobbledygook.

The regulations said, “The hours of non-hours work worked by a worker in a pay reference period shall be the total of the number of hours spent by him during the pay reference period in carrying out the duties required of him under his contract to do non-hours work.”

Second place (and your editor’s favourite) went to a 1989 document by STC Technology Limited which explained, “There is an unavoidable conflict of terminology in naming the classes Class and Instantation. Instantation is not itself a real instance but a class (namely, the class of all real instances). Likewise, Class is not a class of real instances but a class of classes (namely, the class of all classes of real instances). Instantation could be renamed Class and Class renamed Type to avoid this. In that case, the members of Class would not be classes and the members of Type would not be types.”

Your editor is pleased that there is somebody watching over gobbledygook. Without a watchdog, we would have more people like the salesman who rang the offices of the maritime advocate yesterday and asked, “And who should I attention that to?”

Vintage whine

IT comes as no surprise to discover that more than fifty per cent (or half) of adults in Britain admitted that they avoided ordering certain wines because they could not pronounce their names (the names of the wines, that is). In this way, Gewurztraminer and Pouilly Fume are left to gather dust in the cellar, while Chardonnay and house red go down a storm.

Your editor, of course, is a man who appreciates the boudoir of the grape. He can distinguish vineyard, vintage, and slope (south or north-facing) in the twinkling of an eye, and nobody was more pleased than he when Blue Nun recently came back into vogue. It is not an inherited thing, since your editor’s brother buys purely on colour (red) and strength (choose anything under 14.5 per cent proof and you stand accused of batting for the other side). No, it is just a little thing called style.


AS an accomplished linguist, your editor cannot understand why anybody should be afraid to pronounce foreign words. There are few languages your editor doesn’t speak fluently, and he believes that all languages can be mastered with just a little application and concentration. Some years ago, for example, he worked out that Indonesian is simply English with every second word repeated, the whole delivered with a slightly French accent, German is English spoken backwards with every third word omitted and replaced by a diphthong (or diptych for the artistically minded), and Dutch is soon cleared up with a good strong linctus.

Several years ago, somebody invented a language called Seaspeak, which is one of the few tongues your editor has failed to master. Somebody at the time (and it might have been your editor) said it was a good idea. But it hasn’t caught on. You never hear it spoken these days.

A quick search of Amazon reveals that the Seaspeak manual is a ‘hard-to-find title’ that can be obtained for £1.95 from any good greengrocer. The only review on the Amazon page reads, “I have read this book, I think.” And a Google search reveals, “This page does not yet exist.”

Your editor is left wondering what happened to Seaspeak. Perhaps the clues are there, however. Take a simple line such as, “Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams.” Here it is in Seaspeak: “Belay the scuppers, Jim, and trim the topsail, smart as paint.” (If you haven’t got a topsail, a ha’penny will do.)

This is not to say that Seaspeak is dead. It may yet become the universal language. If it does, your editor is going to make sure, this time, that he concentrates, and that he gets a room overlooking the sports pavilion.

Passing resemblance

THESE days, you can buy EVERYTHING on the internet, provided you have enough money. Last week, a piece of breakfast cereal resembling ET was sold for £415. This is small beer, mind, to the £15,000 paid earlier for a toasted sandwich that looked like the Virgin Mary.

We may be sitting on a fortune. Your editor has a pontefract cake at home that is the spitting image of a young Sammy Davis Jr.

Quote of the Week

“I could not fail to disagree with you less.” (English politician Boris Johnson, winner of the Plain English Campaign’s annual ‘Foot in Mouth’ award for the most baffling statement by a public figure.

Longest Train Journey of the Week

Southbound trains from Uxbridge do not stop at Wembley Park until February 2005. (The Times, London)

Job of the Week

Volunteer Toe-Nail Cutters Required (London Evening Standard)

Best Email Offer of the Week

Become very desirable – fast

Best Question-and-Answer Sessions of the Week

Q: What ‘A’ is a word used to describe the lesser shock following the main shock of an earthquake?

A: Avalanche

Q: Which name of a North American fruit is also the first name of one of author Mark Twain’s most famous characters?

A: Jack

Q: Which word is traditionally displayed in a public lavatory to show that a cubicle is occupied?

A: Busy

Q: Which word beginning with ‘P’ is used to describe a small garland of flowers?

A: Punch

(BBC TV, The Weakest Link)