Saturday, May 28, 2011

Vale Brazil: The Biggest Ship in the World


Port Townsend, today. Back in December, I wrote about the coming of the world’s largest ships, the “Valemax400,000 dead weight ton iron ore carriers.

Delivered from Rongsheng Yards in China, March 1st, the first of the giants, Vale Brazil, has just departed Ponta da Madeira (PDM) at Sao Luis, Brazil, with her first revenue cargo of iron ore, destined for China.

IMO 9488918

Billed as the “Largest Ship in the World,” Vale (pronounced “Valley”) has taken a bold step forward in the highly competitive iron ore market, taking delivery of the first of 16 VLOC’s – Very Large Ore Carriers.

This allows Vale to control the total cost of delivering iron ore, from the mine complex at Carajas, via the mining railroad, the Estrada de Ferro Carajas (EFC,) through the massive terminal at PDM, thence on to their customer on their own ships.

The entire operation has been thoroughly documented in this blog. The three part series begins with "A Whale: The Rail Connection."

One of my readers in Brazil connected me with Eric Azevedo. Eric had posted photo’s of his cousin, on board the Vale Brazil, on his blog. His photos can hardly begin to convey the immense size of this vessel.

On her way to PDM, she made a photo op stop in Rio on May 7th. an opportunity for the Vale to show off their new vessel. The banner reads: "Vale Brazil. The Biggest Mining Ship in the World."

Vale is proudly showing off the Brazil at their web site. When you bring up the site, be sure to view all the tabs, most especially the tab “Differentials.” There you will find a two-minute “music video” displaying the vessel in all her glory!

The music video sound track is "She" sung by French singer Charles Aznavour. And there is a slide show feature in the upper left panel.

Checking Vale’s Vessel Position Report issued this morning (May 28) we see a familiar name. One of “A Whale’s” sister ships, the “D Whale.” She is scheduled to arrive at Ponte de Madeira (PDM) from Taranto, Italy, on June 10th.

Next we spot the “
Berge Stahl” who up to now was at the top of the food chain. She is scheduled to arrive at PDM, from Europort, on June 15th.

And, Vale’s shining star, the Vale Brazil, has just
completed taking on her first revenue load, 389,053 metric tons of iron ore. That is 30,000 tons more than the capacity of the Berge Stahl, and not even her full capacity of 400,000 metric tons.

China has completed one 400,000 dead weight ton terminal at Qingdao, and rushing to complete, as near as I can determine, at least two more such terminals. Fully laden, the Vale Brazil draws about 72 feet of water (like parking next to a six story high building!) The depth alongside the new terminal Pier 4 at PDM is 75 feet.

The Vale Brazil is en route to Qingdao, China. The voyage of 12,088 nautical miles will take approximately 36 days, arriving in Qingdao on July 11th.

I appreciate Eric Azevedo allowing me to share the photographs of the Vale Brazil. Although Eric’s Blog is written in Portuguese, translation is a snap with Babel Fish. Simply plug in the http address, select the “from” and “to” languages, and boom! You can share Eric’s love of seafaring!

Also to Cristiano Oliveira. Cristiano was a big help in providing photos and technical assistance on the “A Whale Rail” connection series.

[Ed Note: For the sake of brevity, I purposely avoided the subject of "biggest ships." But for the record, the longest ship to sail the seas was the Mont, at 1,504 feet. But she was reduced to razor blades at Alang India in 2010. The next longest ship still in service is the container ship Emma Maersk, at 1,302 feet. Then there are two "TI" tankers, the "Europe" and "Oceania" at 1,202 feet. Two sisters are not transporting crude, having been converted to FSO's - Floating Storage & Offshore loading vessels, the Africa and Asia.]

UPDATE: The Vale Brasil was stopped in Durban, South Africa. After a day or so, she was re-routed to Taranto, Italy, instead of Dalian, China. Go to: Biggest Ore Carrier Delivery to Biggest Steel Mill.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

"By the Mark, Twain!"

"By the mark, twain," indicating a sounding of two (twain) fathoms, or 12 feet - safe water for a riverboat's passage. And so Samuel Clemens - Mark Twain - filled our childhood memories with exciting Mississippi River boat pilots and the challenges they faced. Of the river adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

With the Mississippi River running at record levels, I grew curious as to how this impacts the passage of river "tows."

As one who grew up in a "tugboat" family, I cannot help but smile a little, every time I think about a quirk in maritime terminology between coast-wise towing and river "towing." Here in the Pacific Northwest - as elsewhere - a tugboat tows, that is to say, pulls a barge.

On our river systems, including the mighty Columbia, a towboat pushes, rather than tows barges. It would be more sensible to call them push boats, but we live in a world full of peculiarities.

It takes years for a riverboat pilot to earn his "ticket," the U. S. Coast Guard document that certifies minimum knowledge has been acquired, to allow the person to operate a towboat on the river.

Pilots License, Samuel Clemens

In "Life on the Mississippi," Mark Twain provides a provocative insight as to the extraordinary memory a skilled riverboat pilot needed, in his day, to earn a license to operate a steamboat the 1,200 miles to New Orleans:

One cannot easily realize what a tremendous thing it is to know every trivial detail of twelve hundred miles of river and know it with absolute exactness.

If you will take the longest street in New York, and travel up and down it, conning its features patiently until you know every house and window and door and lamp-post and big and little sign by heart, and know them so accurately that you can instantly name the one you are abreast of when you are set down at random in that street in the middle of an inky black night, you will then have a tolerable notion of the amount and the exactness of a pilot's knowledge who carries the Mississippi River in his head.

And then if you will go on until you know every street crossing, the character, size, and position of the crossing-stones, and the varying depth of mud in each of those numberless places, you will have some idea of what the pilot must know in order to keep a Mississippi steamer out of trouble.

Next, if you will take half of the signs in that long street, and CHANGE THEIR PLACES once a month, and still manage to know their new positions accurately on dark nights, and keep up with these repeated changes without making any mistakes, you will understand what is required of a pilot's peerless memory by the fickle Mississippi.

During the high water on the Mississippi, pilots face an extraordinary challenge due to the increase in water flow.

As an example, in order for the rudder to steer the vessel, water has to flow past it.

In still water, once a vessel begins forward movement, two to three miles per hour, she will begin to respond to directional change.

In addition to water flowing past a rudder, two additional laws of physics act on the vessel; "Advance and Transfer."

Forward travel, from the point the rudder is turned, is referred to as "Advance." This is simply a function of speed and mass of the vessel, which wants to continue on a straight line.

The distance it takes for a vessel to finally adjust to a new course is called "Transfer." For many vessels, extensive "sea trials" are conducted to create "Advance Tables" for given speeds and rudder settings.

Now consider the radical changes
in the physics of rudder and "Advance and Transfer" when the body of water is moving! If that body of water is moving at 10 or 12 miles per hour, a vessel at rest will not respond to rudder movement, but drift at the speed of the current.

There can be no meaningful response to the rudder until the vessel is moving, up to a third faster that the current!

Here is a video taken last year, a pilots eye view clearly demonstrating advance and transfer as he lines up to pass under the Vicksburg bridges.

The first bridge is the 1930 Rail/highway Bridge, the second is the I20/US 80 1973 structure. Keep you eye on the changing angles by watching the bridge piers.

Remember as you watch these videos: The towboat and tow HAVE to be moving at least a third faster that the rushing river, for there to be ANY steering control with the rudders! This occupation is not for the faint of heart!

I located another remarkable video of a towboat and her barges, as the river dashes her past Vicksburg last week. Care to take a guess as to how fast the river is flowing? Can you imagine being the pilot moving this tow - in this maelstrom? As you watch the video, two things become apparent, rapidly.
  • First, the woman who shot the video suddenly realizes that she has to change camera locations quickly to watch the drama unfold, as the pilot navigates the curve in the river and the bridges!
  • Second, pay attention to the effects of the river as the barges are caught broadside by the current. And remember the physics of "Advance and Transfer." This is a remarkable record of a remarkable feat of piloting on the Mighty Mississippi River.
Battling the current upstream presents another set of problems. The navigation channel through many of the bends on the Mississippi River becomes so narrow and the current so swift that a barge tow has to use a method of maneuvering called flanking.

Flanking involves a series of engine thrusts against the current. The barge tow actually pivots through the bend instead of directly steering. Thus, long periods of time are required to navigate through relatively short stretches of the river. More fuel is required by these towboats because of this flanking.

And this does not begin to address the issue of "How do you corral a runaway barge, careening downriver?

"When I was a boy, there was but one permanent ambition among my comrades in our village on the west bank of the Mississippi River. That was, to be a steamboat man."
[from "Life on the Mississippi" by Mark Twain]

Monday, May 23, 2011

Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad Station

Port Townsend, today. While monitoring the Mississippi River's Great Flood of 2011, I found this photo on the Blog of Marian Phillips. Ms. Phillips graciously granted permission for the "headline photo."It shows a railroad station in harms way. [Click on photos to enlarge.]

Marian is a former employee of the US Army Corps of Engineers and a lifetime resident of Vicksburg Mississippi. She shares my distress seeing the historic (1907) structure taking a hit like this.

Looking carefully at the photo above, you can see a "filler" was constructed between two segments of the flood wall, excluding the station! From my "arm chair perspective," a row of HESCO Baskets may have protected the structure.

This article is a logical extension of a previous post, since this was the "Vicksburg" end of the Vicksburg, Shreveport & Pacific Railroad.

Well, almost the end of the VS&PR.

Passengers traveling across the states de-trained at Delta Point, the eastern terminus of VS&PR, and boarded a Mississippi & Yazoo River Packet Company Parisot Line steamboat across the river to Kleinston Landing - Vicksburg - Mississippi a distance of about a mile.

In Vicksburg, passengers could continue east to Jackson on the Alabama & Vicksburg Railroad, later the Meridian & Vicksburg. Or board the Yazoo & Mississippi River Valley Railroad, a north-south connector and subsidiary of the Illinois Central.

Freight traffic faced a different set of problems.

The VS&PR had earlier switched from 5' 6"gauge to 4' 8½". But, the Meridian & Vicksburg, nee Alabama & Vicksburg, was 5'0" gauge. So. There was no point in building a transfer barge.

Because of these miss-matched gauges, freight had to be unloaded from boxcars, raised by elevators to the top the levees, and loaded onto barges to cross the Mississippi. Then off loaded from barges, down the elevator, and reloaded into boxcars.

Finally, on October 22, 1885, the gauge of the entire line from Meridian to Vicksburg - 152 miles, including sidings, - was changed in about 16 hours.

With rail gauges matching on both sides of the Mississippi, steamboats began transporting rail traffic across the river from Delta Point to Kleinston Landing - Vicksburg.

On April 28, 1930, the first bridge to cross the Mississippi between Memphis, Tennessee and the Gulf of Mexico, opened at Vicksburg, linking Vicksburg to Delta.

The bridge was constructed to carry not only rail traffic, by now, the - Illinois Central - but also US Highway 80. The two-mile long span has an 18-foot wide concrete motor vehicle lane, side by side with the single line railroad. Vertical clearance for river traffic is more than 100 feet.

Today, the railroad, now the Kansas City Southern/Norfolk Southern, still uses the span. But Interstate 20 US 80, is carried on a parallel span completed in February 1973.

Many students of railway history are convinced that had it not been for the Civil War, the Vicksburg Route would have been a link in the first transcontinental railroad. Known as "The Thirty-Second Parallel Route," the route extending from Charleston, South Carolina to San Diego, California, through Vicksburg, Shreveport, Fort Worth, had been the dream of engineers and the theme of statesmen from the time of the great California gold rush until the outbreak of the war.

Now, the east - west corridor is operated by the Kansas City Southern. A joint venture between Kansas City Southern (60%) and Norfolk Southern (40%), created the "Meridian Speedway." The "speedway" runs 320 miles from Meridian Mississippi to Shreveport Louisiana. Heavily rehabilitated, the design capacity can accommodate up to 45 trains a day, with a 65 mile per hour roadbed.

And so that's how we arrive at today's story of the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley railroad station in Vicksburg.

The Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad became a subsidiary of the Illinois Central in 1892. The Y&MV ran its last train on May 1, 1984. From what I can determine, the station was abandoned in the late 1950's.

Students of architecture will tell you this is a fine example of "Colonial Revival." The structure was completed in 1907. The building was purchased by the City of Vicksburg in 2001. A grant of $1.6m was obtained to restore the 3-story, 14,000 square foot building and create a heritage museum, combining the history of the River and the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad.

Unfortunately, the station is at a lower grade below town, and was engulfed a few days ago, by the adjacent Yazoo River. For a while, the Yazoo River actually flowed backward, yielding to pressure from the Mississippi.

These photos require studying for a few moments, to appreciate the careful attention to art and form detail using brick. A lost art form for sure.

Ms. Phillips tells me plans are still in the works to have the station/museum open this coming fall - providing the water goes away! Checking the river gauge this morning shows the Mississippi is still slightly above the 1927 flood.

And still no answer to the provocative question, why wasn't the structure protected from flooding?

I am grateful for the assistance and photographs from Marian Phillips and Leland Weiss in writing this article.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Eyjafjallajokull Volcano

Port Townsend, today. I have been baffled by the large number of visitors to this blog, referred to Oil-Electric by Google searches for "Eyjafjallajokull" volcano. I finally figured it out this morning when cruising the through international newspapers web sites.

There has been another volcano come to life in Iceland. And our impotent main stream media has all but overlooked it.

The "true grit" of our whiz-bang newsreaders was robustly tested with the disruptive eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland last April. They met their match attempting to pronounce the name of the volcano.

Now, a year later, they are confounded with yet another challenging name, as the Grimsvotn volcano sent a plume of ash, smoke and steam 12 miles (20 kilometers) into the air.

The eruption of Grimsvotn is far larger than a year ago, when Eyjafjallajokull volcano upended travel plans for 10 million people around the world. However, scientists say it is unlikely to have the same widespread effect.

This is Grimsvotn's largest eruption for 100 years.

The Eyjafjallajokull's volcanic activity last April created such a challenge for news readers, they finally gave up, referring to Eyjafjallajokull as simply "the volcano in Iceland."

Worse, some newsreaders, in an attempt to "patch" around the "ash belcher" further demonstrated educational deficiencies with references like "the Iceland volcano." The correct rendition of course would be "the Icelandic volcano."

At any rate, there have been one or two who are bravely using the phonetic spelling guide wire services provide with the story. And that, too, has interesting results! Listening to the stalwart BBC-4 Radio, and BBC Foreign Service shortwave broadcasts, in the inimitable stiff upper lip British spirit, their announcers at least take a run at it, with hilarious results!

Considering there are an estimated 3,000 or fewer souls on Planet Earth who speak traditional Icelandic, perhaps we should temper our remarks. We tend to try and make things harder than they are, just because we may be intimidated by foreign names.


See Also:
May 18, 1980 Mt St Helens: The BN Connection

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Armed Forces Day 2011

President Harry S. Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service in support of our country.

In August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days. The single-day celebration stemmed from the unification of the Armed Forces under one department -- the Department of Defense.

I volunteered to enter the US Air Force, with the promise that I would be sent to Armed Forces Radio-TV school. But the "silly-willies" (civilians working in Base Personnel) miss-categorized me, sending to Ground Radio Operator school.

The outcome of that scenario doomed me to wander the jungles of South-East Asia with a back pack radio, calling in air strikes!

I'm smiling with joy that I finally, cleverly, flunked out of Ground Radio Operator school, and was being reassigned from Keesler AFB, Mississippi, for On the Job Training as a Personnel Specialist at Hamilton AFB, just north of "Baghdad by the Bay" - San Francisco!

The outcome of that scenario was much much better!

To all active duty and former military personnel, "Thank You!"

See Also:
Prince Rupert's Armored Train