Friday, June 27, 2008

The Voyage Home

[I may be back in the UK, but I have four more half-written pieces which I'll be posting up over the next month or so, so do come back.]

This ship is way, way bigger and way way friendlier than the first. It now occurs to me that the captain of the last vessel was maybe a bit depressed, which led to the less-than-joyful atmosphere on board. This captain's loads more cheerful. He gave us a barbecue & party which I understand is more common ship behaviour than not to have one like last time. After the meal, the captain and the three oldish German passengers left. I chatted with the Russians and Ukrainians on my table until I got bored of the sexual innuendo (not long), and then went to hang out with the Filipinos. I know I wouldn't want to spend an evening being the only woman drinking and dancing with a bunch of Colombian men, so it was like a breath of fresh air being in such a surprisingly unsexually-charged atmosphere. Everyone so polite and respectful. Marvellous.

The ship has the capacity to carry 2100 containers, including 350 refrigerated. Both the captain and chief mate said they took no interest in what was inside them, they just knew there were some avocados.

This ship can burns to 90 metric tonnes of fuel per day. A lot, huh? For those about to suggest that it doesn't sound any more environmentally friendly than aeroplanes, my response is that if there were no passengers, the cargo ships would still go. The increase in demand for air travel has a direct effect on the amount of planes in our skies. What affects freight transport is how much stuff we buy.

A thousand pounds for the ticket seems like a crazy amount to me, and was far, far crazier to all the Colombian taxi drivers who asked me about it (the last one did a satisfying amount of incredulous thigh-slapping during the conversation). But if you consider the fuel costs around 600 dollars a tonne, and that merely going through the Panama Canal costs 120 000 dollars for a vessel this size, given the paperwork and hassle involved, it's not surprising that most vessels do not bother to take passengers.

My favourite fact about the boat is that the seven Ukrainian and three Russian staff only have three names between them (3 Sergeys, 3 Igors and 4 Oleksandrs). The ten Filipinos get a name each.

[Photos of the BBQ courtesy of one of the Oleksandrs. The only Ukrainian on board who spoke Ukrainian.]

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