Ship shortage pushes up price of raw materials (Wall Street Journal)

Bulk Carrier - Sabrina_I

Robert Guy Matthews wrote an interesting Page One article for today’s Wall Street Journal, Ship Shortage Pushes Up Price of Raw Materials (subscription required).

The article sites increased demand for ships from booming manufacturing economies in China, India and other developing nations. This has caused the cost of raw materials transportation to escalate significantly.

The average price of renting a ship to carry raw materials from Brazil to China has nearly tripled to $180,000 a day from $65,000 a year ago. In some cases, ocean shipping can be more expensive than the cargo itself. Iron ore, for example, costs about $60 a ton, but ship owners typically are charging about $88 a ton to transport it from Brazil to Asia.

The article also cites traffic jams in port facilities around the world has lead to significant delays in loading and unloading ships which in turn can cause increased transportation costs.

Even when ships are available to carry the cargo, inadequate port facilities can cause delays, driving up the cost of shipments. At Brazilian ports, ships often wait offshore for as long as two weeks for their turn to load or unload, like airplanes sitting on a runway waiting for a gate.

Brazil isn’t the only source of bottlenecks. As of last week, 131 vessels were waiting to pick up or unload coal and iron ore at Australia’s main ports, according to the Global Ports Congestion Index, which tracks wait times world-wide.

Most American’s simply don’t understand or appreciate how much of what they purchase and consume every day is still dependent on maritime transportation.

Photo credit: Nate Sandel ©  2004

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Lassoing Polar Bears over at Tugster

One of my favorite bloggers is Will over at tugster. If you have any interest in maritime culture, you MUST read his blog everyday. tugster does a masterful job of poetically chronicling maritime life in New York Harbor and beyond.

Earlier this year I got the correct answer for one of his maritime mysteries. That meant that I could propose my own. Well, it took me a little while but get over there and check out Relief Crew 6. Good luck!

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"I love to Fish"

Bush signing striped bass protection President Bush visited the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, MD where he signed an Executive Order protecting striped bass and red drum fish.

“The Vice President tells me there’s a lot of fine fishing here, and I’m looking forward to going out and trying to catch some. I love to fish. And the good news there’s a lot of good fishing here is because the Secret Service won’t let me go hunting with him.”

White House Press Release.


“The striped bass — I don’t know if our citizens follow the striped bass, but it’s a good fish to catch. It’s a lot of fun. It’s also a good fish to eat. We’ve got to make sure we’ve got enough to catch as well as enough to eat.”

Does anyone else see the irony of the President going fishing after signing and Executive order protecting fish? Hmm.

(both photos from the White House website)

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Superyacht stalkers (Wall Street Journal)

Megayacht Octopus

Today’s Wall Street Journal (Oct. 19, 2007) has an interesting article about networks that keeps tabs on some of the largest yachts in the world despite their owners interest in preserving privacy. Stalkers of the High Seas was written by Robert Frank. (subscription required)

Paul Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, is famously private, especially when it comes to his 414-foot yacht, Octopus. His crew members have to sign confidentiality agreements, he has rarely if ever permitted the media to photograph the boat, and he prefers to sail in the world’s most remote waters.

Yet anyone visiting the Web site can find a wealth of information about Octopus. They learn that it spent the summer in Micronesia before motoring to Australia, South Africa and Barbados. Two weeks ago, the site says, Octopus was anchored off Bermuda. also has candid photographs of the ship. One shows it, with a helicopter on deck, sailing alongside Mr. Allen’s other megayacht, Tatoosh, off the coast of France. Another depicts the craft leaving the Antibes Yacht Club in France at sunset.

The article cites a number of web sites including, and Cruising these sites can be hours of fun (and frustration) thinking about how the toys of the super rich. According to ShowBoats International magazine, more than 370 yachts 120 feet or longer are under contract or construction, up from 188 in 2003. There are now 23 yachts on order longer than 250 feet. According to Showboats, yachts in the 200 to 250 foot range can cost upward of $1 million a meter to build. The current big spender on this super luxury item are Russians, followed by Saudis, Europeans and Americans.

One can only dream!

Wikipedia – Yacht Octopus

You HAVE to check this out this amazing PDF about Paul Allen’s megayacht Octopus!

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The contest winners are…

1st place – iPod Shuffle – Mike Maak, North East Business eXchange, Inc., Rochester, MA

2nd place – copy of Yankee’s People and Places by Irving and Electa Johnson and Lydia Edes to Mark Porter, Newport, RI

3rd place – copy of Sail Tall Ships! to Phil Mello, Mattapoisett, MA

Thanks to everyone who participated by voting on Sea-Fever stories over at Discoverer news site.

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"The need to be right"

Seth Godin, the master marketer and blogger extraordinaire, had an interesting post today entitled “The need to be right.” It really struck a chord as I prepare for a leadership development program that I will be delivering next week to a group of seasoned towboat captains.

In most situations, followers expect leaders to be “right.” This is particularly true in times of crisis and turmoil. It’s also true onboard a vessel where the captain is considered the ultimate authority and is expected to always be “right” by all stakeholders (crew, passengers, regulatory authorities, etc.)

However, leaders (and captains) are human, and therefore, can’t always be “right.” In fact, there can actually be a real danger when leaders think they are always “right” as demonstrated in Telstar Logistics post on the Pasha Bulker grounding in Australia.

In preparation for next week’s program I’ve been re-reading some of Ron Heifetz’s work on how leaders deal with adaptive challenges which can be defined as problems which “require new learning, innovation and new patterns of behavior.” (Parks – Leadership Can Be Taught – p. 10.) Heifetz refers to these as challenges as “swamp issues” because they can be messy, complex and defy easy / technical solutions. Adaptive challenges demand that leaders resist followers default desire for the leader to always be “right” and for many of us that isn’t easy. According to Heifetz, sometimes being the authority makes the job of leading even more difficult.

I’m looking forward to the program next week where I hope we are able to explore some of the real challenges these captains face in leading from a position of ultimate authority. If any readers have similar experiences, please consider sharing them with us here at the Center for Leader Development blog. Thanks.

Cross posted in The Center for Leader Development and Sea-Fever blogs.

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“Lessons I Have Learned” – Dame Ellen MacArthur (via BBC Sport)

The BBC Sport website has launched a new feature called “Lessons I Have Learned” which profiles “British sportsmen and women notorious for taking their sport, preparation and strategy to incredible levels. Each of them has looked back on their career and identified the 10 key lessons their life in sport has taught them.”

Yesterday, the series profiled around the world sailing legend Dame Ellen MacArthur.

BBC  Lessons I have learned_ellen_macarthur

Here are her lessons but make sure you visit the BBC website for her powerful stories about each.

  1. Never give up.
  2. Be as fully prepared as possible.
  3. Take strength from the team around you.
  4. It’s good to be frightened it keeps you on your toes.
  5. Don’t lose sight of your ultimate goal, stay focused.
  6. Never underestimate the power of the sea.
  7. Stay true to yourself and never lose sight of your values.
  8. Never forget those who have help you along the way.
  9. Always try to have fun.
  10. Always do your best.

Ellen’s accomplishments in her young life speak for themselves; she is truly a modern day hero and role model for young women. Her lessons are valuable to all of us: young and old, in sport and in business, with family, friends and colleagues.

Make sure you check out her beautiful website too.

(There is a video on the BBC website but I found it to be pretty poor quality and not worth the time or effort to download and watch.)

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National Post (Canada) reports that poor safety and fatigue may have contributed to Death aboard Tall Ship

Update (Oct. 17, 2007) – Oliver Moore of the Globe and Mail wrote “Stories don’t add up in death at sea – Company disputes investigator’s claims that crew was too tired, understaffed” According to the article, the Picton Castle has issued a press release refuting each of the safety issues cited in the Transportation Safety Board’s letter to the Cook Islands Maritime Authority about the casualty.

Update (Oct. 16, 2007) – CBC News reports that Picton Castle owners, Windward Isles Sailing Ship Company have responded to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s letter “disputing claims there were safety and operating violations when Laura Gainey was swept overboard and lost at sea.”


Charles Mandel of CanWest News Service wrote an article today for the National Post (Canada) entitled “Poor safety, fatigue may have led to Gainey death”

Laura Gainey This story focuses on a letter issued by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada about an incident that took place last December aboard the tall ship Picton Castle when Laura Gainey, a trainee/crew member, was washed overboard by a rogue wave. The vessel was making a transit from Lunenburg, NS, Canada to the Caribbean to prepare for the filming of the CBS’s short lived reality TV series, Pirate Master.

While the Picton Castle hails from Lunenburg, NS, she is registered in the Cook Islands whose maritime authority has responsibility for investigating the casualty; they have not yet made their report public.

According to the National Post article, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s letter states that Gainey had been up for 22 hours before the incident which may have caused her to be fatigued and been a contributing factor to her death. Additionally, the article states that the letter cites “a number of “safety issues,” including a lack of marine emergency training among the ship’s crew; absence of emergency crew drills; and the fact that crew did not make a regular practice of wearing safety harnesses on deck at night or during inclement weather while the ship was sailing.”

This was a tragic case for all involved, most especially the family, friends and shipmates of Laura Gainey. However, it must serve as a sober reminder that going to sea always has and always will carry a certain level of risk. It is an alien environment that challenges us and that is one reason why it is such an incredibly powerful teaching platform and learning experience. We need to take every step necessary to effectively manage, mitigate and eliminate the risk. After that, we must be forever vigilant regarding our own personal safety and that of our shipmates and the seaworthiness of the ship and her endeavour.

Again, our hearts and thoughts go out to Laura’s family, friends and shipmates.

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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution names first female president

WHOI logoThe Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has named Susan K. Avery as president and director. Dr. Avery becomes the ninth director in WHOI’s 77-year history, and the first woman to hold the position.

From a WHOI press release: “Avery has been a member of the faculty of the University of Colorado at Boulder since 1982, most recently holding the academic rank of professor of electrical and computer engineering. Her research interests include studies of atmospheric circulation and precipitation, climate variability and water resources, and the development of new radar techniques and instruments for remote sensing.”

Litter@sea: A tragedy in the making (Blog Action Day!)

Several weeks ago we were on a family holiday in Southwold, Suffolk, UK, one of the most magical places in the world. If you have never been there, you must go.

Southwold is a quaint, picturesque, seaside town on the East Coast of the England right at the border of Norfolk and Suffolk. The high street has all of the types of shops that you’d expect in a place like this: butchers, bakers, green grocers, art galleries and book stores. No big box stores need apply. There are some great restaurants and pubs including the Lord Nelson which was voted one of the top 10 in England recently by The Good Pub Guide.

Southwold rainbow

One of the beautiful things about Southwold is the magnificent beach that runs the length of the town from the famous Southwold Pier to the entrance to the harbour. To our family, the water always seems a little too cold and too rough for swimming; however, it is a wonderful place to spend the day reading a book in the sun while your children dig in the sand and build castles.

Here’s a picture of the Southwold Beach with my wife Jenny and daughter Joy right in the middle waving to my son Luke and me to come down and join them for fun in the sun and sand. Not too much competition for finding a spot to lay down a blanket on that brisk late summer day!

Mummy and Joy alone on the Southwold beach

That evening a ferocious storm roared into town turning the surf from blue to mocha in the process and I took these photos the following morning.

Mocha Sea Southwold 3

Mocha Sea Southwold 5

Mocha Sea with windsurfer Southwold

The wicked sea also will remind us that we have not taken care of her.  According to the  UN Atlas of the Oceans:

It has been estimated that there are over 17,000 pieces of plastic litter floating on every square kilometre of the world’s oceans. Solid waste, or litter, is dominated by plastics, but also includes glass, metals, and complex objects combining multiple substances, ranging from domestic and industrial appliances to ships. Of the total of some 8 million tonnes of solid waste entering the sea every day, about 5 million tonnes are thrown, or lost, from ships. The remainder comes from urban centres, and from remote centres of high affluence such as tourist centres. East Africa and the South Pacific have put solid wastes as second among their priority problems, second only to domestic sewage.

Well, sometimes the wicked sea will give us back some of our mess and it isn’t pretty. Here are some pictures of Southwold Beach after the storm. Needless to say,  there wasn’t much fun in the sun that day.

Sea litter - After the storm - Southwold

Sea litter - After the storm - Southwold 2

Sea litter - After the storm - Southwold 3

Sea litter - After the storm - Southwold 4

Ben Macintyre wrote a very powerful essay titled “Britannia’s cruel treatment of the waves” which speaks to the challenge of protecting the marine environment. Of course, this is not Great Britain’s problem alone. After all, we must not forget that the ocean connects us and we all share the burden and responsibility to keep it clean and healthy for our’s and generations to come.  Sea Change

Richard Girling, North Norfolk UK writer, has recently published a book entitled Sea Change: Britain’s Coastal Catastrophe. Here is a link to an interesting essay that he wrote for the June 10, 2007 issue of The Sunday Times,  If you go down to the sea today…

Nowhere in the UK is more than 72 miles from the sea. Every aspect of our lives – our diet, climate, politics, art, suspicion of foreigners – even the blood in our veins – is conditioned by it. As a people, we are not so much by the sea as of it. Transmuted through the deep-fat fryer, it taints the air in every city and town. It is our favourite day out, our pride and national identifier. We can’t know when our oldest ancestor first launched himself on a log. By some time between 1890BC and 1700BC, however, Bronze Age Britons were advanced in the art of building proper, internally braced planked boats with caulked seams and keels. We lagged behind the Egyptians, who had the technology at least 700 years earlier, but few nations on Earth have left a more powerful wake. When Julius Caesar arrived, he found an energetic maritime nation ploughing a well-furrowed sea and with a well-established tradition of shipbuilding.

The sea has been and probably always be man’s greatest natural resource. We really need to work harder at protecting it for ourselves and future generations. A day at the beach should be fun and safe every day; even after a ferocious storm.