Saturday, December 31, 2011

"The Moving Finger Writes, and Having Writ, Moves On ..."

Greetings from Port Townsend, dear reader.

So, the question became one of "What could I present as an entertaining overture to 2012?"

I thought of the pedestrian "blubbery year-in-review" or "pontifical resolutions" or "best-of-the-blog" themes. None flipped my switch!

Then I came across my "YouTube" file. And my switch flipped!

I remember the days of yore, when the family gathered around the console television set to watch our favorite programs, "broadcast in black and white and compatible color." Among them, Lawrence Welk.

Back in "those" days, producers included color consultants to advise on the dressing of performers in relationship to backgrounds and show theme. A lost art, demonstrated by junk TV we are offered today.

Four years later in 1957, the phrase was changed on NBC, to "in living color." ABC and CBS had various carnations.

Over time, I have collected dozens of YouTube videos. Not ordinary videos, but videos that "catch your attention." Videos of remarkable operations. Videos of unusual events. Videos that are absolutely "one of a kind."

It was difficult, but I whittled my collection down to 12 for you to chose the "Best of Robert's Picks" best from. You get to participate! There is a ballot at the end of the post, wherein you can vote for what you believe to be the "Best of Robert's Picks."

I know there are superficial "Blog Flier's" who do not expend the time nor patience to appreciate the richness of a Blog. But for the sincere reader, who truly appreciate the effort expended to communicate with you, you will be rewarded with memorable videos.

[YouTube Hints: You may not be familiar with a feature that allows you to fill your monitor screen. Simply "click" the odd shaped button (four diverging arrows) located at the bottom right corner of the viewer playback screen. Two other screen sizes are offered with the screen icons. The snow flake icon adds snow to your playback. You may see a small red dialog icon. That allow you to turn on of off, screen notations. To return to "normal" screen size, press the "ESCape" key.]

"And the candidates for the First Annual "Oil-Electric YouTube Video Award" are ..."

1. Buenos Aries tsunami! (0:58)

2. More locomotive water sports! A Diesel Hydraulic chugs through Thai floodwater. (5:37)

3. Rail fans in Brasil know how to enjoy a 330-car ore train! Estrada de Ferro Carajas Vale iron ore train - up close. Very close! (5:01)

4. Bamboo Railway, Battambang, Cambodia. Single track. No dispatcher. No Positive Train Control! (3:00)

5. Since there is no local passenger service in the area of Braganza Ghats, India, passengers enjoy the trip in the open air! Five WDG4's whining in full dynamic braking! (8:56)

6. Does it get any better? Having a camera rolling during a slow motion train derailment! CSX Central Avenue Derailment, New Orleans. (5:46) [Ed Note: See "Anatomy"]

7. From the "Land Down Under." Stall on Porcupine Hill. 28 cars must have felt like 999! If you love EMD 16V-567C's - you will love this sequence! Crank up the volume! Victoria Railways S303 leads an agonizing climb, with an engineer who knows how to play the throttles! The first two units are representative of two versions based on the General Motors E9, built in Australia under license. Lead unit with an "A" end only; followed by a double "A" cab unit.

The stall was caused when the 4th unit, a GM G8, [ed note: now you know what was in between the GP7 and GP9] expired. (8:38)

In the second clip, third unit back, watch for the flashing red wheel slip light, illuminating the cab in both G8's! Excellent sound, used a tripod, and did not diddle with pans and zooms! (3:44) (Same train; counts as one vote.)

8. Talk about having a camera at "the right place at the right time." Adds a new dimension to "Always Expect A Train!" Hard to believe, but in all that wreckage, one woman sustained minor injuries. (1:14)

9. Like the "slow motion derailment," how often do you capture video of the earth slipping away beneath your feet? Somewhere in Ontario, things go bad! (3:31)

10. Few rail fans are fortunate to capture a Rail Grinding Train grinding. Fewer are fortunate to see the sparkly beauty at night. (2:30) But is rare to have this view from a Loram Rail Grinding train, at night, in snow! (1:24) (Same train; counts as one vote.)

11. Re-railing an SD40-2. The result of a rail lying over. There is a lot to appreciate in this clip. Look at the placement of wedges, not only under the wheels, but also under the rail. These carmen are good! (9:16)

12. Finally, something from the Maritime Files. Rescue Tug Abeille Flandre off the Normandy Coast. I first viewed this dramatic sequence on the Discovery Channel several years ago, in a program "Wild, Wild Seas." Dimenhydrinate won't help here! (3:18) Here her sister, the newer and larger Abeille Bourbon, is captured during an actual rescue. Click the red dialog icon to get rid of the annoying on screen dialog. (6:17)

Hope you enjoyed the videos. Best sure to vote your favorite!

And Best Wishes for a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Follow the Yellow Silk Road!

I seem to be running further and further behind in the articles that require publishing. But breaking news events crossing my desk shove "works in progress" to the back of the queue!

This article will "connect the dots" between the significance of the opening a a new rail line, to the overall development of Afghanistan's astonishing mineral wealth potential, with a number of countries plans for profiteering, including the US. So bear with me.

[This story will mean more to you, if you are old enough to remember Air America and the Golden Triangle.]

My investigation began with an article published in the Turkmenistan Tourism Newswire back in August 2011. In that issue, a story by Nicklas Norling heralds an event that, to the best of my knowledge, never made it to the USA by our increasingly impotent news gathering organizations. Norling wrote:

"The opening of Afghanistan's first major railroad in August promises transformative economic and geopolitical changes that are yet to be fully understood. The recent completion of a railroad line from the Afghan-Uzbek border to Mazar-i-Sharif will be complemented by a railroad from Iran.

"Along with railroads planned by China and Pakistan, this will create economic synergies as Afghanistan is integrated with the railroads of its neighbors. Geopolitically, the Afghan railroads dovetail with China's massive railroad program in Central Asia, Pakistan and Iran.

Further, as Iran, Pakistan and Russia are hedging their bets on a U.S. troop withdrawal, railroads will strengthen their influence in Afghanistan. The railroad frenzy should be seen in this light."

So, does this mean someday soon, we will be train chasing General Motors SD70's or General Electric "Toaster Ovens" in Afghanistan? I think not. There are too many competent locomotive designers and manufactures in Russia, Europe and Asia capable of supplying modern locomotives. Two of the bigger players include:
  • Bryansk Machine Building Plant manufactures diesel-electric and electric locomotives. BMBP in Russia is the largest manufacturer of rolling stock in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), as well as marine engines.
  • China South Locomotive and Rolling Stock Corporation (CSR) in China, is another major player, with recent deliveries in the CIS.

The Back Story

December 24, 1979. Russian troops entered Afghanistan, ostensibly to support the seated Afghan government involved in a civil war with the Mujaheddin.

The Amu Darya, [Darya = river] forming the border between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, posed a major obstacle for supporting the Russian initiative. Material and supplies had to be barged across the river to support the Russian troops.

1982. The Russians compete the "Friendship Bridge." The bridge is 820 meters (2,690 feet) long and 15 meters (49 feet) wide. A single rail line bisects the motor vehicle lanes. Enters Afghanistan at Hairatan.

February 16, 1989. The last Russians leave Afghanistan, crossing Friendship Bridge, led by Lt. Gen. Boris V. Gromov. The Russian Army had been in country nine years and 50 days.

September 9, 2001. President Bush signs detailed plans for a worldwide war against al-Qaida two days before Sept. 11th, but did not have the chance to launch his plan before the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

October 1, 2001. US troops finally invade Afghanistan.

December 9, 2001. Following extensive repairs, Uzbek and Afghan authorities reopen Friendship Bridge, and sign an agreement on the passage of humanitarian cargo across the structure.

Dirt Trails to Steel Rails

The most famous trade routes in Eurasia were known collectively known as the Silk Road. The Silk Road was not one well-established road, but a complex, constantly-changing network of land and sea routes between China, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and Europe that was in operation roughly from the 1st century B.C. to the A.D. 15th century.

The name "Silk Road" was coined in 1870 by German geographer Ferdinand van Richthofen, the uncle of the WWI German Ace, Red Baron. [] Afghanistan was part of that ancient network. Now, in 2011, Afghanistan finds itself in the center of a dramatic revival of the Silk Road, with steel rails replacing dirt trails.

Afghanistan made several feeble attempts to build a railroad. The efforts were short lived, and faded into obscurity. In recent years, a number of studies have been completed, many of which came to the same conclusion. For the county to flourish, it had to establish a rail transportation system.

The nearest "port of entry" for rail is Termez, just across the Friendship Bridge from Afghanistan, in neighboring Uzbekistan. The relationship between the United States and Uzbekistan has been battered by human rights abuses. (Where else in the world is boiling a human in oil recognized as a form of punishment?) Undeterred by such trivial matters, General Motors recently opened an engine plant in Tashkent.

This warm "touchie-feelie" relationship brought about by the railroad project, is in sharp contrast to the fact that the border between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan is the second "most intense" border in the world, eclipsed only by the North - South Korean border!

It consists of a barbed wire fence and a second, taller, 380-volt electrified barbed-wire fence, land mines and a patrol of heavily armed Uzbek soldiers! It stretches along the entire Uzbek-Afghan frontier stretching 209 km (130 miles) defined by the Amu River, from Turkmenistan to Tajikistan.

The Hairatan-Mazar-i-Sharif rail project is the first substantial common carrier railroad project in Afghanistan. The 75km (46 mile) rail link connects Hairatan on the Uzbekistan-Afghan border to the city of Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan. The state-owned Uzbekistanllari (UTY) built the project.

The Hairatan - Mazar-i-Sharif railway line is built on a flat plain and has an elevation of 350 to 550m. (1,148 to 1,804 feet.) It is a featureless, barren land with no natural vegetation. The railroad is a 1,520mm (4'8½") standard gauge with passing loops at every 20km (12 miles.) Each loop is 1.7km (1 mile) long and designed to accommodate trains with 100 wagons (cars.)

Construction began in January 22, 2010 and was completed in May 2010. The first train consisting of one locomotive and seven coaches traveled the line on August 21, 2011.

Estimated cost was (USD) $170m, of which the Asian Development Bank (ADB) provided $165m. The Afghan Government provided the remaining $5m.

[Ed Note: How did they raise $5M? From US tax payers?]

The rail line was constructed by [U]Uzbekistan [T]temir [Y]yullari - Uzbekistan Railways (UTY). UTY will operate the Hairatan to Mazar-i-Sharif line until such time as Afghans can be trained to operate locomotives. To be clear - Afghanistan does not own locomotives or rolling stock.

The state railway company Uzbekistan Railways (UTY) is one of the largest in Central Asian region. It was established in 1994.

The rail project did not require any new investments in rolling stock because Uzbekistan vehicles have been used. Uzbekistan obtained its railway fleet from the Soviet Union during the separation in 1991.

If the Russian built TEM2 looks suspiciously like an early ALCo product, your suspicion is correct. Tobias Köhler, wrote:

"The Alco RSD 1 were built from 1942, some delivered to the US Army, 70 were shipped to the Soviet Railways and further diesel developments. The Russian TEM series were derived from them."

Helmut Uttenthaler wrote:

"Four years ago [August, 2007] Uzbekistan opened the new line Tashguzar - Kumkurgan. With this line, they connected Termez (from where the line to Afghanistan starts) to the rest of the Uzbek railway network. Before that, trains had to go via Turkmenistan to reach Termez." Study map below.

Is the War in Afghanistan a profit driven "Resource War?"

Afghan officials believed the American estimates of the value of Afghanistan's mineral deposits - nearly $1 trillion -were too conservative, and that they could be worth as much as $3 trillion.

(Gee. I wonder if the American Taxpayers can recoup some of the money we've sent to keep Afghanistan afloat?)

Complicating the development of Afghanistan's mineral deposits is rampant corruption in the private sector and government, a raging insurgency -Taliban - that threaten personnel and transportation, and a lack of highway and rail infrastructure.

From an article appearing in the New York Times last year:

"It has long been known that Afghanistan had significant deposits of gemstones, copper and other minerals, but United States officials say they have discovered and documented major, previously unknown deposits, including copper, iron, gold and industrial metals like lithium.

"But executives with international mining firms said in interviews that while they believed that Afghanistan's mineral deposits held great potential, their businesses were not planning to move into the country until the war was over and the country more stable.

"There are huge deposits there," said David Beatty, chief executive of Rio-Novo Gold, a mining company based in Toronto. "But as chief executive, would I send a team to Kandahar? And then call a guy's wife after he gets shot? No."

Indeed, Afghanistan expects to rely on international economic aid until 2025, The Washington Post reports. I wonder if the "average tax payer" is even aware of just what we are sending to Afghanistan, while our kids are sharing beat up school books!

Among those lining up for the Fête Costumée: China, Japan, South Korea and India.

Within an hours drive from Kabul, two massive iron ore reserves have been identified, the Hajigak iron ore deposit and the Syadara iron ore deposit. Last month, Afghanistan awarded a number of concessions for mineral development. India and Canada will begin developing the Hajigak Iron Ore Deposit. Canada's Kilo Goldmines, Ltd. was included, based on their outstanding record of resource development.

New Chinese mining camp in Afghanistan. Note protective wall.

Meanwhile, China Metallurgical Group has signed an agreement to construct 718 km (446 mile) rail line from Afghanistan to Pakistan.

Notice the recently completed Hairatan - Mazar-i-Sharif, forms the hub for north-south and east-west rail infrastructure development.

And the BBC Business News reported today (Dec 26, 2011) "China has gained potential access to millions of barrels of oil after it won approval for oil exploration and extraction in Afghanistan. Afghans approved an agreement allowing China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) to develop a field holding an estimated 87 million barrels of oil."

So. Where does the United States figure in this modern day land rush for Afghanistan's mineral wealth? Well, back in January 2011, Afghan Krystal Natural Resources announced it had signed a USD $50M deal [ed note: "Where did they get that money?" I understood they were broke] backed by foreign investors, to develop the country's second gold mine, a project the government hopes will attract more money to the war-torn region.

Question. Who could those "foreign investors" be?

None other than J P Morgan. You remember JP Morgan. This Wall Street gangster was the recipients of a USD $2.75t (trillion) bailout from the Fed (read US taxpayers!)

Like you, I thought once bin-Laden was slain, the United States would begin withdrawing from Afghanistan. Nope!

So. The question becomes one of, "How long do you think the United States will have troops stationed in Afghanistan?" After all, someone is going to have to protect profiteer JP Morgan's latest investment!

Hairatan-Mazar-i-Sharif Railroad

Suggested Reading:
I hope this article has stimulated your desire to learn more about Afghanistan. And while I believe our troops should have been on the next bus out of town after bin Laden was assassinated, I made a conscious effort not to politicize this story. On the other hand. a spade IS a spade.

However! If you can "connect the dots," and "read between the lines," you, like me, will be totally stunned to realize the implications of mineral development affecting the economic growth potential for Afghanistan and foreign profiteering.

Technical details for TEM2

"A Russia Classic, based on the ALCo RS-1, 70 were shipped to Soviet Railways." The TEM2 is a refinement of the TEM1. The TEM1 was based on the Alco RSD-1. As a "hood unit," use in the Russian climate was difficult. The fact is, many Russian engineers favored Baldwin diesel designs over ALCo to mimic.

In the end, Joseph Stalin gave the order to build a comparable locomotive based on RSD-1. And many were built! The Penzenskiy works set about manufacturing the TEM1 Classin 1951, and a more advanced version as shown here, the TEM2 Class, began production in 1960. Mass production of this Class began in 1968 at Bryansk Machine. Turbo charging increased horsepower 1,000 hp to 1,200 hp. (TEM1 migration to TEM2).
  • Production dates: prototypes 1960, production 1967 - 1989
  • Numbers built: thousands (A GP-9 phenomena)
  • Gauge: "Russian gauge, 1520 mm (4′ 11) commonly rounded up to 5' gauge.
  • Users: Eesti Raudtee EVR, RZD, Sillamäe Sadam, Spacecom, Transoil, et al!
  • Seen in: Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, probably much of the ex. Eastern Europe and anywhere where 1520 mm (4'11") gauge is common.
  • Engine: Penza PD1, 4 stroke 6 cylinder, turbocharged PD1M available from 1968.
  • Throttle Positions including idle: 16
  • Power output: 880 kW (1,180 Hp) at 750 rpm
  • Transmission: Diesel electric DC
  • Traction motors: ETM EDT-340V>ED-104B-ED118A, 108 kW x 6
  • Tractive Effort: 206 kN at slow speeds (46,311 pounds)
  • Wheel arrangement: Co'Co'
  • Wheel diameter: 1050 mm (41.3")
  • Maximum operational speed where possible: 100 km/h (62 mph)
  • Length: 17 m
  • Height: 14'-04"
  • Width: 9'-11"
  • Center Bolster: 33'-00" / 32'-05"
  • Center Front Truck to Front Pilot: 9'-03" / 6'-11"
  • Center Rear Truck to Rear Pilot: 9'-03" / 6'-07"
  • Distance between Truck Centers: 43'-06" / 36'-06"
  • Weight: 120 - 125 metric tons (132 to 137 short tons US)
  • Axle weight max: 20,6 tons
  • Range of Ages : 7-18 years
  • Transmashholding TEM2 Rebuild Program, including ECP brake system.
"TEM" stands in this case for:
• [T] teplovoz (diesel locomotive)
• s[E] elektricheskoj peredachej (with electrical transmission)
• [M] manevrovyj (Rangierer)
Thus, the TEM2 is a diesel electric Rangierlokomotive, in the case an advancement of the TEM1.(from "westring")

"Russian" SA3 couplers

The Russian SA3 coupler was introduced during the rebuilding of the railway network in Soviet Union after WWII used on the whole broad gauge network, including Finland and Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Iraq and on Malmbanan in Sweden for ore trains. And now, Afghanistan.

Couplers interconnect similar to the AAR or Janney coupler. There is a lot of information on this page. Be sure to click the animated .gif, clearly demonstrating the connect. (Use Bablefish to translate Russian to English.)

Russian trains are rarely longer than about 750m (2,460 ft),rarely exceed a maximum tonnage of about 6,000 tons.

Force to break the SA-3 coupler is about 300 tons (2.9 MN; 660,000 foot/pounds.)

Maximum allowed tractive effort to the SA-3 is limited to 135 tonnes-force (1.32 MN; 298,000 foot/pounds.)

The proposed European automatic coupler is compatible with the Russian coupler but with automatic air, control and power connections.

Last, but certainly not least, an article as complex as this could not be possible without the valuable input from a number of sources, including Tobias Köhler, Helmut Uttenthaler, and Jim Sender. Thank you, Gentlemen!

For more of America disappearing in the rear view mirror, read.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas 2011

Seasons Greetings from Robert (and GingerSnap) in Port Townsend! We hope you are able to make the best of whatever situation life may find you in at this time.

My mom made the wreath and Santa locomotive back in the 1960's. It has survived a dozen marriages and hundreds of moves. It recently won First Prize in the annual "decorate your front door contest" where I dwell.

And what is Christmas without Christmas music! One of my favorites back in the days when I was a country-western deejay. From 1970, "Country" Charlie Pride!

Wednesday is the first day of Summer. That is, if you live in Brasil, South Africa, or Australia. Here in the Northern Territories, it is the first day of winter. From now on, the days will be getting longer, by an average of two minutes per day. Time to get the tank tops and shorts in the washer!

Monday, December 12, 2011

All Gone!

It's an overcast Tuesday afternoon, March 28, 1961, just west of Ellensburg, Washington. Four General Electric box cabs, E39A-D, plus three General Motors GP9's have been stopped to pickup train orders.

The fireman kept motioning to me, so after I took the shot, I headed over to see what he was trying to communicate. He was saying, "Watch out for rattle snakes!"

Then the growlers begin to moan and groan easing into the grade ahead. The conductor grabs his set of flimseys on the fly. Every amp will be needed for the Cascade crossing ahead, before descending to Black River Junction.

Soon the train is gone. And now, it's all gone ...

Click on photo of E39 for your FREE 2012 O-E calendar!

Friday, December 9, 2011

"Zhen Hua 9" - What's wrong with this picture?

Several days ago, our hometown newspaper, the Port Townsend Leader, featured a photo of the Zhen Hua 9 entering Puget Sound with three massive container cranes, the first of six, bound for the Port of Seattle's Terminal 18.

She looks a little tender with 185 foot high cranes rising high above her deck, as compared to her 41 foot draft. But like Seattle's Space Needle, her center of gravity is surprisingly low.

But there is more behind the dramatic photograph than meets the eye. The real question is "What is wrong with this photograph?" Plenty.

  • Each of the cranes are built by Zhangiagang Port Machinery Company (ZPMC), a division of Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Company, Ltd., headquartered in Shanghai.
  • Each crane is valued at approximately USD $9m.
  • Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries also owns and operates Shanghai Zenhua Shipping Company, operating the Zhen Hua 9, built in Japan, manned by largely Chinese crews.
  • The new generation of long-reach container cranes is necessary to service a new generation of "Super Panamax" container ships, scheduled to be built in either China or South Korea.
  • These ships will carry more containers, carrying almost everything you see in your local WalMart, K-Mart and so on.
  • As compared to our top five exports to China, including computers, crop production, chemicals, transportation equipment and machinery.
  • A hefty number of containers are never re-filled with US goods to go back to China. Those are seen stacked in huge numbers around Seattle and Tacoma, as well as Portland - virtually any container port. The number of idle containers reflects the imbalance of trade.
  • In 2010, China was our third largest export country, following Canada and Mexico.
Empty containers. They came here loaded. But there is nothing to ship.

That is part of what is wrong with this photograph of the Zhen Hua 9 passing Port Wilson. Pretty sad state of affairs that our government policies and trade agreements have failed to place the USA first! Not to mention the corporate greed and desire to establish a world economy, with correspondingly flat line wages world wide.

Special Purpose Vessels

Shanghai Zhenhua Shipping Company operates a fleet 28 Special Purpose Vessels, that, through April 2010, had delivered more than 3,781 material handling cranes world wide.

Zhen Hua 9 was built in Japan, IMO:8021971, entering service in February, 2005. Records show that through April, 2010, this vessel had delivered:
  • 76 Quayside Container Cranes (similar to photo)
  • 61 Rubber-tired Gantry Cranes
  • 63 Rail Mounted Gantry Cranes (RMG), similar to BNSF's RMG, one of four operating at Seattle International Gateway.Three more ZPMC cranes will be delivered to Seattle's SSA Terminal 18 in 2014.

Life without a Container Crane!

click on photo for video

Crane Delivery Considerations

click photo for time lapse video

Not all deliveries are trouble free, as demonstrated by the grounding of Zhen Hua 10 off Rotterdam in 2008. I mentioned "tender" at the beginning of this article. "Tender" is used by nautical types to reflect the "tipsy" motion of a vessel. There are serious considerations given to container crane transport.

The Zhen Hua 10 lost her anchor while awaiting delivery to the Port of Rotterdam. She ended up stranded on the beach.The video is a remarkable demonstration of how stable these loads are, despite the visual presentation! She eventually completed her delivery!


This video demonstrates how a similar type crane is unloaded from the Zhen Hua 13 onto the quay - pier. This explains why these special purpose vessels feature a lower freeboard - sit lower in the water, than a typical cargo vessel.

In the video, you will see a torch cutting through a brace. These cranes are literally welded to the deck of the vessel to stabilize them in transit.


  • Those three S-T-S container cranes are the first of six ordered by SSA Marine. Estimated cost per crane, USD $9m.
  • SSA Marine is a "Carrix Enterprise."
  • Carrix and SSA continue to be controlled by the Smith family, whose forebears founded the company in Bellingham in the 1940s.
  • Goldman Sachs Infrastructure Partners has committed to a significant equity investment in the Company, positioning Carrix to capitalize on the substantial growth opportunity in the global port operations industry. Source: Bellingham Herald.

Goldman-Sachs. Sounds familiar?

In closing, a couple of questions. Serious questions. "What happened to America's steel making ability; what happened to America's bridge building expertise; what happened to America's ship building capacity?"

ZPMC successfully completed the steel structure of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. So one of the most famous Bay Area crossings is labeled with “Made in China."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pearl Harbor Rememberance Day

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Vale Beijing's Maiden Voyage Cut Short!

The Vale Beijing, only a few months old, is one in a series of 400,000 dead weight ton (dwt) Very Large Ore Carriers (VLOC) ordered by Vale (pronounced "Valley") of Brasil. She had just arrived from the builders yard, and taking on her first load of iron ore, at Vales massive Ponta da Madeira Iron Ore Terminal near São Luís, Brasil.

Vale's Estrada de Ferro Carajás (EFC) railroad delivers iron ore from Vale's mining complex at Carajás. A state of the art Heavy Haul corridor extends 892 kilometers (554 miles) to Vale's Ponta da Madeira (PDM) maritime terminal complex facilities located near Sao Luis.

The Vale Beijing berthed at Ponta da Madeira, Pier 1, Vales Deepwater berth, last Friday at 09:28 local. She was scheduled to load 384,300 metric tons of iron ore, and depart today (Dec 6th) at 10:00 local.

Instead, it was discovered there was an apparent leak in the ballast system. Fearing a repeat of the disastrous Trade Daring incident, tugs were summoned, and the Vale Beijing was towed clear of Pier 1. Pier 1 is utilized by the new generation 400,000 dead weight tonners, and the Europort shuttle runner, Berge Stahl.

The OBO (Oil Bulk Ore) Trade Daring broke her back - literally snapped in half - whilst loading iron ore at Ponta da Madeira (PDM) on November 11, 1994. Their deepwater pier was obstructed for more than six weeks while the wreckage was removed. The vessel ended up in two sections, which were scuttled off the coast of Brazil.

According to Jan Berghuis, "250 kilograms (550 pounds) of explosives were needed to sink the broken bulk carrier. Unusual job for Heerema / Retriever crew. What you see on this picture is not the actual explosion. It is ore coming out of the collapsing hatches during sinking."

Vale Beijing loading at PDM

Det Norske Veritas (DNV), a global risk management organization, classified the Vale Beijing, as an "Easy Loading" vessel. This refers to ballast pumps and piping of dimensions sufficient to cope with this synchronized system of moving ballast while loading or discharging iron ore at very high rates (13,500 tonnes per hour is standard) in any one of the ship's seven vast cargo holds.

In other words, the weight of ballast water discharge has to equal the weight of iron ore being loaded in the holds, to prevent destructive stresses and forces on the hull. This is referred to as "loading tons per hour" specification.

Because PDM is an export only terminal, there are no ship unloaders on the quay. If she needs to be partially or completely unloaded to affect repairs, barge mounted clamshell excavator will be required to off load and lighter her cargo to shore.

A late report in Brazil's O Globo newspaper states that water is being pumped from the ballast system, and that a team of technicians from South Korea's STX Pan Ocean are enroute to PDM.

A late report in O Globo Wednesday afternoon states: "The situation is very serious. For the time being, we do not have a final solution for this. We really want to understand what happened. Cracks in two tanks of the ballast have affected the stability of the boat."

Video EFC ore train courtesy Fernando Cunha.