The Secret Language of Ships
April 12, 2018 6:54 PM   Subscribe

 
That was neat! The "scarepirates" are a nice touch.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 7:01 PM on April 12 [3 favorites]


I can't believe how many fascinating facts are packed into this quite short article. Wonderful photos too. I'm going to spend a bit more time hunting these marks down next time I take a ferry, where there are lots of these ships too. Thank you for posting!
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 7:06 PM on April 12 [10 favorites]


I**love** this! Every day, I take the ferry through the Oakland Estuary, past the Port of Oakland, and try to figure out the markings on the ships. Thank you for posting!
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:15 PM on April 12


That whole secret world is fascinating.
posted by bongo_x at 7:18 PM on April 12 [1 favorite]


The whole ladder bit is unreal.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:19 PM on April 12 [5 favorites]


If you find this interesting you may also like MarineTraffic.com, which tracks ships in real time. The APL New Mexico mentioned in this article is currently moored in Norfolk.
posted by Hey Dean Yeager! at 7:26 PM on April 12 [7 favorites]


This was a lot of really neat, really arcane information about something we see on a not-infrequent basis, all packed into a tidy article.

I'm a sucker for anything that compresses a ton of information into a tiny space. If you like this sort of thing, you might also like the Daily Racing Form, even if you're not into horse racing. (I'm not, but I love parsing the Daily Racing Form.)
posted by mudpuppie at 7:35 PM on April 12 [5 favorites]


Fantastic stuff! For those interested, there are also great resources on things like how to anchor a mega-ship
posted by greenhornet at 7:52 PM on April 12 [9 favorites]


Interesting stuff. Thanks for posting.
posted by veggieboy at 8:00 PM on April 12


[just add fog!]
posted by clavdivs at 8:03 PM on April 12 [2 favorites]


Great link! I've always been curious about the various markings. (And I'm related to various ship people - looking forward to casually busting out my new-found understanding the next time we're watching a ship being manoeuvered into port. Thanks!)
posted by chappell, ambrose at 8:19 PM on April 12


awesome, I have totally sent this to my Dad, he'll love it!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:25 PM on April 12


Ha, combining two previous comments, I will both send this to my dad and be excited to know more about the ships I see all all the time at Port of Oakland. Super cool.
posted by mrmurbles at 8:28 PM on April 12 [1 favorite]


This was excellent! The asides about the anti-rat devices, dummies etc were fascinating also. Thanks for posting, great read!
posted by lemonade at 8:37 PM on April 12


This is a fun link. Thanks!
posted by azpenguin at 8:58 PM on April 12


This was cool! I’ve been interested in container ships ever since I discovered the existence of time lapse videos recorded on board them (I think it was a post on MetaFilter, actually), which turned out to be way more interesting than I ever would have thought.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:58 PM on April 12 [24 favorites]


Very educational! I love ships of all kinds and now I know a lot more than I did. I really like the fact that one can search on IMO numbers.
posted by rmmcclay at 10:16 PM on April 12


Count me in the "more great stuff I'm sending to Dad that won't lead to a political argument again, hopefully."
posted by nestor_makhno at 10:30 PM on April 12 [5 favorites]


Well, I can't send this to my Dad, as I don't have the AT&T plan that offers afterlife access, but that was a brilliant example of how articles like this should be done. It is taut and only offers extra clarification when needed since it feels safe that people wouldn't be reading such an article if they weren't intelligent inquisitive types.
posted by Samizdata at 11:26 PM on April 12 [14 favorites]


How could those dummies be effective as anything other than talismans for the crew?

When the article said "look at the crewmember on the extreme right" I was confused... I looked up at the photo and saw an obviously bogus mannequin, and got confused trying to work out if they meant the guys down on the lower decks...

Surely pirates have binoculars and common sense?
posted by Meatbomb at 11:37 PM on April 12 [3 favorites]


I'm not a boat person, really, but this article was a terribly good read, and the photos were gorgeous; the rainbow rust around the pigeonholes and the oil tanker under a purple-grey sky were my favorites.
posted by lesser weasel at 11:44 PM on April 12


> Meatbomb:
"How could those dummies be effective as anything other than talismans for the crew?

When the article said "look at the crewmember on the extreme right" I was confused... I looked up at the photo and saw an obviously bogus mannequin, and got confused trying to work out if they meant the guys down on the lower decks...

Surely pirates have binoculars and common sense?"


I think they are moving on a moving surface, and there's not a lot of time to analyze the target before they see you and start calling for help. (Not a pirate, but this is my tactical analysis.)
posted by Samizdata at 12:02 AM on April 13 [7 favorites]


I discovered the existence of time lapse videos recorded on board them (I think it was a post on MetaFilter, actually), which turned out to be way more interesting than I ever would have thought.

Those videos were amazing. Thank you.
posted by SageLeVoid at 12:12 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


I think they are moving on a moving surface, and there's not a lot of time to analyze the target before they see you and start calling for help. (Not a pirate, but this is my tactical analysis.)

As well, I would suspect at least sometimes the dummy is placed supine on the deck and a living crew member stands watch at the same place. Same principle as the Panopticon: if you’re never sure if someone is watching, you’re more likely to be on your best behaviour.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:32 AM on April 13 [3 favorites]


Once the tug has fastened a line to the bitt, it will exert no more than 50 tonnes of pulling pressure as it helps the ship brake or negotiate docking.

Now I need a similarly helpful article on tugs. How does a tug (captain) know how many tonnes of pressure it is exerting? I'm assuming the simple answer is that there is an indicator that tells them but I definitely need more information here.
posted by jontyjago at 1:56 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: Not a pirate, but this is my tactical analysis.
posted by chavenet at 3:57 AM on April 13 [29 favorites]


Fantastic article, thank you for sharing!
posted by infini at 4:13 AM on April 13


MexicanYenta's timelapse links are amazing.
I live in London, so I forgot that the stars could look like that!

I also live on a boat, which is about 8 containers big if you stack them edge to edge, which gives some scale to the enormousness of these things.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:17 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


On the subject of shipping containers, Alexis Madrigal's podcast was pretty great.
posted by zamboni at 4:28 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


Getting off the ship, pilots let go of the ladder and use what’s called a manrope to rappel onto the deck of the pilot boat. That way they’re less likely to be crushed between the pilot boat and ship

YOU JUST END THE ARTICLE LIKE THAT.

And I thought dealing with MoPac traffic in Austin was bad...
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:09 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


"How could those dummies be effective as anything other than talismans for the crew?

The local subway bike rack cage has a large cartoonish cutout of an officer at the far end. Turns out bike theft dropped significantly when it was installed.
posted by sammyo at 5:55 AM on April 13 [5 favorites]


Not a pirate, but this is my tactical analysis.

Now I need someone to begin an answer with: "IAAP. IANYP."
posted by The Bellman at 6:12 AM on April 13 [11 favorites]


Now I need someone to begin an answer with: "IAAP. IANYP."

Surely that is "I(RRRR)AP, I(RRRR)NYP"
posted by koolkat at 6:27 AM on April 13 [25 favorites]


I love everything about this, but I would really like someone with knowledge of bow thruster locations to help me out here.

" BT|FP tells you that the bow thruster (BT) is behind the forepeak (FP), the forwardmost part of the ship. "

What are the other options here? This sounds like "the BT is behind the front" which is also where everything else is, because that's what front means. Do they mean immediately behind the front? I have no real idea what a Bow Thruster is, apart from it thrusts the bow? Or it's the front-est thruster (in which case wouldn't it be the Fore Thruster?) I will Google this because now I'm more interested in bow thruster locations than in doing my actual work.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:20 AM on April 13


Yeah, I work in the maritime industry and have done a half dozen or so pilot ridealongs before in a prior job.

Had a pilot once, to his great satisfaction, spend most of the morning faking a oh-shit-my-wife-is-leaving-me shell shock. Why, you ask? Because I didn't know about Texas Chicken. ... wherein, in severely width-restricted channels (think, two 90 ft wide tankers passing each other in a 300 ft wide channel), vessels aim for each other, point right at the respective center-bow and, at the last second... each pull to starboard so that the hydrodynamic pressure keeps a type of reverse suction between the sides of the channel and the two vessels. Bloody nerve wracking, but kind of hilarious in retrospect.

The ladders are fun though. ... especially when they don't mention until afterwards that when the sea state is heavy (think, waves), yeah, sometimes the pilot boat you just stepped off of tries to chase you up the ship and if it catches you the Law of Gross Tonnage will apply...
posted by Seeba at 7:25 AM on April 13 [9 favorites]


Chesty_a_arthur, short version - bow thrusters are directional thrusters that let you push water in directions (and in conditions, usually below the minimum rate of speed for the rudder/main-engine to effective turn the ship) that it otherwise couldn't. It's especially good when you're close to a quay and are basically drifting, so still can make minor corrections.
posted by Seeba at 7:29 AM on April 13 [1 favorite]


What are the other options here? This sounds like "the BT is behind the front" which is also where everything else is

Pretty sure I've seen documentaries about ships that had bow thrusters on the bulbous bow that were actually in front of the topmost pointy bit of the bow.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 7:38 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


Always wondered about Pilots and their ship boardings. I am a land lubber, but that seems like a pretty harrowing part of the job.

Interesting article.
posted by microm3gas at 7:53 AM on April 13




This was fascinating!

I was struck by this detail:

Curious about those yellow-green, fortune-cookie-shaped objects along the lines? They’re anti-rat devices, foiling rodent attempts to scrabble from dock to line to ship.

It appears I need to add "rats ziplining around the world" to my list of things to be at least mildly concerned about.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:57 AM on April 13


It appears I need to add "rats ziplining around the world" to my list of things to be at least mildly concerned about.

The mid 14th century nods vigorously.
posted by The Gaffer at 8:01 AM on April 13 [20 favorites]


"How could those dummies be effective as anything other than talismans for the crew?

Hey, it worked in Beau Geste.
posted by Naberius at 8:15 AM on April 13


Not a pirate, but this is my tactical analysis.

You've reminded me of my favorite terrible pirate joke:

"You know what a pirate's favorite letter is?"

"It's R--"

"Nay, it be the C!"
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 8:18 AM on April 13 [5 favorites]


It appears I need to add "rats ziplining around the world" to my list of things to be at least mildly concerned about.

The mid 14th century nods vigorously.


Indeed, there are quite a few species of extinct bird who might have wished that we had paid more attention to the problem back then.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:21 AM on April 13 [5 favorites]


It appears I need to add "rats ziplining around the world" to my list of things to be at least mildly concerned about.

As a lifelong New Yorker, I'll tell you that you can stop worrying about rats. It's over. They won.
posted by The Bellman at 8:21 AM on April 13 [3 favorites]


If you find this interesting you may also like MarineTraffic.com, which tracks ships in real time

And if you find that interesting, I would also recommend cargolaw.com, which keeps their old Gallery of Transport Loss online even though it hasn't been updated in 5-6 years now and looks like it teleported in from Geocities circa 1997.

When a container ship has an accident or loses its cargo, it's usually pretty spectacular.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:41 AM on April 13 [5 favorites]


MexicanYenta's timelapse links are amazing.

YES AGREED. i'm assuming that's the south china sea but i'm not gonna pretend to know for sure.

also idk why after a lifetime of living literally in only port cities it would surprise me to see so much 24h activity in shipping lanes but here we are.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:55 AM on April 13 [1 favorite]


You've reminded me of my favorite terrible pirate joke:

"You know what a pirate's favorite letter is?"

"It's R--"

"Nay, it be the C!"


But without P, they're irate.
posted by azpenguin at 9:51 AM on April 13 [4 favorites]


Surely that is "I(RRRR)AP, I(RRRR)NYP"

"There be cannons, captain!" shouted the pirate.... "Are! Are!" replied the grammar captain...
posted by DreamerFi at 10:11 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


One thing I've always wondered is why some ships have DOUBLE HULL in huge letters on the side.
posted by ssmith at 10:20 AM on April 13


Double-hulls are most commonly seen on oil tankers as a precaution against spills. (In low-velocity impacts, the outer hull will be damaged but the inner hull which contains the oil will not.)

At a guess, I'd assume that the double hull marking is more of a reminder for dry dock workers than tug operators. However, each hull on a double hull tanker is usually slightly thinner than the single hull of a more standard container vessel, so it may well be an important bit of info for tug operators so they know to approach more gingerly.

It'd be nice to hear from someone with direct experience!
posted by tobascodagama at 10:58 AM on April 13 [1 favorite]


How does a tug (captain) know how many tonnes of pressure it is exerting?

If it's anything like other rigging jobs I've been privy to, you usually choose a line that has a breaking tension lower than the that of the fixture. So for a 50 ton bit you might only put a 25 ton line on it, depending on the safety factors you care about. That way the line breaks before you rip the fixture out of the boat.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:00 AM on April 13 [4 favorites]


Nay, a pirate's favorite letter is not R, nor even the C. 'Tis a letter of marque and reprisal.
posted by Lexica at 11:09 AM on April 13 [9 favorites]


I edit a admiralty law newsletter and I'm always learning something new (maritime law is unlike any other law--their bar is a different world). This was really fascinating.
posted by ceejaytee at 11:12 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


maritime law is unlike any other law--their bar is a different world

The best thing about maritime law, in my limited experience as a boring old general commercial litigator, is how proud maritime lawyers are of the fact that their particular area of practice is so completely batshit.
posted by The Bellman at 12:24 PM on April 13 [4 favorites]


Maersk has some cool videos of container ships on their Vimeo channel. And searching for Maersk on YouTube will give the good and the bad that comes with container shipping and big ships in general.
posted by CosmicRayCharles at 1:12 PM on April 13 [1 favorite]


Is there a place I can learn about how strange maritime law is?
posted by caphector at 1:12 PM on April 13 [4 favorites]


maybe a newsletter of some kind
posted by poffin boffin at 2:55 PM on April 13 [6 favorites]


This was great!

Once or twice a year a tugboat captain shows up to play in my local ultimate frisbee game. I'll try to save up all your questions to ask him next time I see him.
posted by Drab_Parts at 3:13 PM on April 13 [1 favorite]


Here's a New Yorker article that's partly about port pilots.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:12 PM on April 13 [1 favorite]


'Tis a letter of marque and reprisal.

Thanks to this post I've fallen into a container shipping video rabbit hole, and just now learned that Ron Paul advocated issuing letters of marque and reprisal to combat terrorists and pirates in Congress no fewer than three times between 2001 and 2009, including the failed Marque and Reprisal Act of 2001.
posted by mubba at 10:59 AM on April 14 [4 favorites]


Down the same rabbit hole, I found this site with statistics (about 700 containers lost overboard per year), and news such as this video taken last week Bosphorus Strait Mansion Destroyed
posted by MovableBookLady at 12:51 PM on April 14 [4 favorites]


Holy shit. It’s easy to underestimate how much momentum ships that big have at low speeds.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:31 PM on April 15


great article. Ships are so freaking massive. I still find them almost terrifying up close. Yet they can still be tossed around by weather.

Now I need to add a Plimsoll Line to our 19' trailer-sailor.
posted by Artful Codger at 4:46 PM on April 15


Nay, a pirate's favorite letter is not R, nor even the C. 'Tis a letter of marque and reprisal.

Ah, but then they're not pirates but privateers, thank you very much.
posted by acb at 3:10 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


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