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May 03, 2014

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chris y

Jesus.

shah8

It's very hard not to think that this pretty much totally will doom the Park administration. It's just so sheerly malign, corrupt, and murderous neglect. You know those crew members left so fast because they were always aware that this was an intensely unsafe job. But the workers never had the power to effectively insist on safety...

ajay

Every disaster has a hundred fathers... dreadful story. I don't know that the Park administration will take the flak though. From the linked post, the shipping company and the captain and first officer seem to be most at fault. I can't see an argument that the captain was so demoralised by his lack of a robust working hours agreement that he had no choice but to kill two hundred people through culpable incompetence.

Phil

There's a folk song about encountering a pirate ship which features the memorable line

"Oh Lord, cried our captain, what will we do now?"

As a friend of mine commented, You're the captain - if you don't bloody know...

The captain's contractual arrangements obviously can't exonerate him, but there is a point about what you get if you pay peanuts. The harassed, inexperienced, overworked, underpaid idiot on the bridge is still to blame for doing his job appallingly badly, but there's plenty of blame to go round.

Guano

"I can't see an argument that the captain was so demoralised by his lack of a robust working hours agreement that he had no choice but to kill two hundred people through culpable incompetence."

I'm not sure that that's the argument. Safety-critical activities should have a stable workforce. If necessary they should be able to stop the job if conditions are not met. The fact that the captain (who was in fact the relief captain for two boats) was an casual worker is an illustration of the problem.

shah8

ajay, this particular disaster is just waaaaaaaay beyond what occurs in other significant industrial accidents. For example, in other mass casualty ferry events, really, really bad luck and unusual circumstances tend to play a dominant role. Ships going out in heavy storms. Ships doing salutes too close to the shore. Ship designed for one context was unusually inappropriate for another. Final Destination style luck and bad choices.

In contrast, the Sewol was utterly unseaworthy, and all it took was a little speeding in a strong current area. Moreover, it was unseaworthy as a specific virtue for value extraction. Not only that, there had to have been utterly malign neglect by various regulatory agencies for this ship to be sailing. In no other shipping accident I can think of or find was there such a "pick up sticks" attitude in modification (up to and including dumping ballast water for cargo) and in neglect.

Alex

The whole "oh, let's fiddle with the ship, what can possibly go wrong" approach to naval architecture is amazingly insane, and especially in a country that builds enormous numbers of huge ships all the time.

That said, there is a direct pathway from the zero hours contract to the disaster; remember Colgan Air 3407? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colgan_Air_Flight_3407

Both pilots were moonlighting at other jobs to make ends meet, and one of them had taken two flights as a nonrevenue passenger to get to work that morning. I wonder how long the captain had been awake?

ajay

I am a bit confused why shah8 thinks that this is such an outlier. Casual workers, unpleasant working conditions, dodgy approaches to regulation, wobbly marine architecture... these sorts of things happen quite frequently in the shipping business. They don't all register their tankers in Liberia because they like the climate, you know. The unusual thing is that it happened with a Korean-flagged, Korean-crewed, Korean-owned ship in Korean waters, rather than a Panama-flagged, Filipino-crewed, Greek-owned ship out in the mid-Atlantic or something.

Chris Williams

Surely it's an outlier because it's a ferry? ISTR that in the last decade or so, mass ferry deaths have tended mainly to happen in the life-is-cheap-and-government-is-corrupt places off the S and E Asian coasts. ROK, I imagine, had been hoping that they'd moved out of the licagic zone already.

'Small badly loaded/maintained/navigated cargo ship sinks, 15 sea crew scramble to safety and are rescued' is a perennial story - this one was different because as well it had 400 passengers (and a number of passenger-facing crew, nearly all of whom appear to have perished doing their jobs) on it.

ajay

mass ferry deaths have tended mainly to happen in the life-is-cheap-and-government-is-corrupt places

The Philippines, Egypt and Indonesia, sure. The Estonia disaster was, what, 20 years ago now. And Italy, of course (Costa Concordia). And a gloomy succession of migrant boats heading for Lampedusa.

But, then again, where else do you get lots of people regularly going long distances by ferry? If the Filipinos were richer, they'd fly from island to island. I'm fairly surprised to find the Koreans doing it, to be honest.

Igor Belanov

This country must be positively third world then. As far as I'm aware the Hull-Zeebrugge and Hull-Rotterdam ferries are still going strong. And those people who choose to take the ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao must do it because they like the notoriously calm waters of the Bay of Biscay.

dsquared

As far as I'm aware the Hull-Zeebrugge and Hull-Rotterdam ferries are still going strong.

Those really are mainly freight connections though, even more so than the Irish ferries. They wouldn't be anywhere near economically viable based on their passenger traffic.

Igor Belanov

There are still quite a lot of people who use those lines though, rather than flying to Amsterdam or Brussels.

ajay

Mostly, though, people with cars, I should imagine. I can't think there are many passenger-only trips from Hull to Zeebrugge happening.

dsquared

"Quite a lot" is in the eye of the beholder. Port of Hull's publicity material suggests it handles 1 million passengers a year (ie 2800 a day) and 10 million tonnes of freight. Dover, by comparison, handles 12 million passengers and 25 million tonnes of freight. An awful lot of the passengers going from Hull-Rotterdam are lorry drivers. (Not least because neither Zeebrugge nor Rotterdam are exactly holiday destinations)

Igor Belanov

The clue is in the name 'ZeeBRUGGE'. Bruges is a very popular holiday destination. As is Amsterdam, about a hour by coach from Rotterdam (and quite a few coaches leave Europoort for Amsterdam after each sailing).

dsquared

Bruges is a very popular holiday destination

It attracts a total of three million visitors per year, according to its tourist board. I don't believe that even a fifth of them are Yorkshiremen travelling by boat.

Per wikipedia, MS Pride of Rotterdam is set up to carry 250 cars and 400 trailers. Can't get figures for Pride of Bruges or Pride of York because they don't have separate trailer decks, but I doubt they will be very much different. These are lorry ships that carry passengers, not passenger ships that carry freight.

Igor Belanov

I'm not denying that the primary focus of North Sea Ferries is on freight. But there are a lot of passengers that capitalise on the fact that they can use those ships for travel to places such as Bruges and Amsterdam. I was basically replying to your insinuation that nobody would travel to Zeebrugge and Rotterdam because they are not holiday destinations. Neither is Gatwick.
Essentially, what I am trying to say is that travel by boat is not the preserve of third world countries. Many people find that they don't mind the extra time for a more comfortable and relaxing journey (with a crew that is well trained and permanently employed) and for many folk up our way it is the most convenient way of getting to the Low Countries.

Richard J

Anecdote: as kids, mum and dad found it a lot easier to take the Hull:Zeebrugge crossing and get a fresh start in the morning for the drive down to the south of France rather than spend six hours getting down to Dover first...

Chris Williams

Last time I did it by sea, it was on the Stena line from Harwich - 1200 passengers fit into those things. Admittedly they also have 5.5 lane kilometers underneath them, But if that was all lorries, at 20m per lorry it would require just 280 berths. Biggest ship I've ever been on, knocking Ark Royal #4 off the top spot.

But anyway - what about CalMac? Scots are not especially poor, and they do ferries all the time. Heavily regulated, secure-job ferries. See also Scillies, Lundy, Isle of Wight, etc.

dsquared

Anecdote: as kids, mum and dad found it a lot easier to take the Hull:Zeebrugge crossing and get a fresh start in the morning for the drive down to the south of France rather than spend six hours getting down to Dover first...

And then Ryanair was invented.

dsquared

I mean, I actually worked on the ferries when I was a teenager, for a company which, like so many of them, doesn't exist any more. Ajay is right; they have been basically done for in the UK as a means of passenger transport, by the invention of cheap air travel and the Channel Tunnel. The Hull-Zeebrugge route now has one sailing per day. In the 1970s there were multiple ferry operators and multiple sailings. World's moved on.

Guano

It is still possible to cross the Channel or the North Sea by ferry as a foot passenger (or with a cycle) but you have to plan carefully. Some ferries only carry passengers who are in cars or driving lorries, for reasons that are unclear. I think that the numbers are now so low that it isn't worthwhile making arrangements for them. And don't expect to find a station nearby (or even a bus to the station) when you get to the other side.

ajay

Ajay is right; they have been basically done for in the UK as a means of passenger transport, by the invention of cheap air travel and the Channel Tunnel.

The exception, I think, is the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland, where the Cal Mac and P&O ferries are all still pretty busy with passengers as well as freight.

chris y

People do go Hull-Zeebrugge on foot quite a lot. Mostly it's stag/hen parties heading for Bruges or Amsterdam. The logic is that if you're going from Leeds or Manchester or even Newcastle you can get pissed all hours cheaply and there's always some twat who doesn't like flying.

This is not, however, a sufficient customer base to keep a company solvent. Lorries from the M62 corridor are.

dsquared

I think that the numbers are now so low that it isn't worthwhile making arrangements for them

Basically you're taking up a space (in the notional lifeboat) that could be occupied by a lorry driver paying ten times the fare. They've reduced the capacity down to the number of freight passengers (or freight plus cars), so there's no spare capacity for foot passengers.

Richard J

And then Ryanair was invented.

Yeah, that did occur to me - these days, aspirational Northeners would just pack their brats into a plane and hire a car...

How does the Larne-Stranraer ferry crossing do these days?

(Again with the anecdotes; I used to do some work with P&O post their acquisition by Dubai World; by this point, all that was left in the UK was a few development sites and some very pretty model ships in the offices.)

Chris Williams

Stena clearly haven't got the memo - Harwich/Hook ferries are 60kt, with accom for 1200. Given they have 5.5 lane km also, that would equate to 250 lorry drivers if it was merely lorries. Clearly they are built for substantial car traffic. Very little foot traffic, although there are rail stations at both ends: terminals have waiting room for a hundred (even smaller than _Midi_!) and the only time I've used it, there were about ten people in total.

We appear to arguing about an edited aside, though - the point is, ever since the Free Enterprise disaster, whatever their capacity ferries operating in NW Europe all seem to be regulated and reliant on a full-time workforce. In this sense they are unlike the remaining small cargo ships. The ROK took the compliance regime of the latter and applied it to ferries.

(PS - there is marvellous data about the relationship between the profitability of liners in the 1960s and their propensity to sink, catch fire, run aground on the way to the breakers, etc, all while remarkably heavily insured.)

Alex

And then Ryanair was invented.

You'll struggle to get your car on one of those.

Very little foot traffic, although there are rail stations at both ends: terminals have waiting room for a hundred (even smaller than _Midi_!) and the only time I've used it, there were about ten people in total.

Stena promotes boat-train tickets on posters on the Tube. Does that help? (Although I think they're high-speed catamarans rather than big Ro-Ro ships.)

Anyway, someone has already got to the point, which is that the North Sea ferry is a great excuse for a pissup.

Alex

Also, lane kilometres are such a schlachtenbummler unit of measurement.

ajay

And then Ryanair was invented.
You'll struggle to get your car on one of those.

Last time I visited the folks, my father mentioned the first time he went to France: he and a friend flew over with his friend's car* which was apparently a thing you could do in the 1960s at a price which made it competitive with taking the ferry. Clearly this was before economics was invented.

(*They flew in an aircraft that also carried the car, I mean. My father was not friends with Cdr. Caractacus Pott, RN.)

Alex

Yes, there used to be at least one airline that flew cars from Southend and Lydd over to France. They operated Bristol Freighters, I think. I have no idea how it was meant to make money, unless the explanation was something to do with "cheap fuel" and "surplus WW2/Cold War airframes".

Alex

Ah: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aviation_Traders_Carvair

"The Bristol Freighter's main drawback was its limited payload, in terms of the number of cars that fitted into a single aircraft. Even the "long-nosed" Mark 32 was able to accommodate only three cars (in addition to 20 passengers). This made carrying cars by air a very tricky business. If a booked car failed to turn up, the flight instantly became unprofitable as a result of the one-third cut in payload. This situation was made worse by the increasing average length of British cars during the 1950s"

ajay

Must be that one - he mentioned flying from Lydd.

And what an extraordinary looking aircraft. Like a neotenous Boeing 747.

ajay

And, indeed, it does say "Air ferries were popular during the 1950s, when they were significantly faster and not much more expensive than the sea ferries."

Richard J

Worth remembering that although the first Roro ferry came into service on the Channel in '53 (Wikipedia tells me), my mum still went on ferry holidays where the cars had to be winched on board into the early 60s - a plane wouldn't have been that much more cumbersome/expensive.

ajay

Richard, I've been on ferries (in the UK) where they had to winch the cars on board. Also, on ferries which went to islands where they didn't have a pier that could take a ferry, so the ferry would heave to out at sea and open the side loading door, and you would have to jump through on to a smaller boat (the "flit boat") which took you in to the jetty. A neat trick, especially if you were travelling with a bicycle.

dsquared

Googling around, I think the reason for the Harwich/Hook ships being designed as they are (and they are very new ships, so clearly it's on purpose) is that they are the preferred route for all those coaches you see clogging up narrow streets in London. That's why the cabin/lanekm ratio is so high I guess. The Stena Britannica and Stena Hollandica replaced a bunch of high-speed cats which used to do the same route, so I am guessing they have got a very high market share in Europe/UK coach travel.

dsquared

(which of course means that a high percentage of the passenger traffic will be accession-state migrant workers)

ajay

Yes, that makes sense...

nick s

North Sea ferries in northern England are pretty much gone: the only destination from Newcastle these days is to Amsterdam, and the last Scandinavian route to Bergen closed in 2008. And it's not necessarily cheap to fly when you're a distance from the big Ryanair or Easyjet hubs: there's a flight from Newcastle to Stavangar, but it's used by (and priced for) workers on the rigs. Time for a disruptive longboat startup.

Phil

I'm not motivated enough to look it up right now, but when we went to Bruges last year we looked into car ferry options from both the South & the East coast, and found they were much more limited than I expected. At least one 'common knowledge' ferry route - the kind of route you know without thinking about it - wasn't running at all, or not for pax; I thought it was Harwich-HofH, but (judging from this thread) I guess not. Also, what was running was insanely expensive - a family of four on Eurostar, plus connection to London, was perhaps very very slightly dearer than one car across the North Sea, and much more convenient. (Although it did preclude my dreamed-of Westvleteren side trip.)

jamie

going back on topic, things have got really weird:

'The fallout from the ferry disaster last month is becoming increasingly bizarre and has now cost a veteran soap actress her job.

Jeon Yang-ja is suspected of being close to the dubious de facto owner of the ferry operator, Yoo Byung-eon, who is also the founder of a religious cult.'

http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2014/05/08/2014050801980.html

nick s

And the soap actress apparently ran an organic supermarket.

des von bladet

I take the Harwich-Hook of Holland ferry once or twice a year; it is handy to have the car when visiting Britain, and it was particularly handy when we started doing it and we needed to bring all sorts of baby paraphernalia.

The truckers have a separate road and separate facilities (canteen and lounge); the coach trippers muck in with the rest of us, and in half a dozen or more I have only seen one or two sets of them, both apparently from East Asia.

I used to smoke, and smoking is only allowed in the designated areas, and we often go for Christmas when you really don't want to be outside on the deck, and even then there were only ever a couple of Slavic die-hards in the smoking room.

I guess the accession staters usually book by coach, but that Eurolines or whoever favours a different sea crossing, or perhaps they take the day boat - on the night boat, which I favour, it is required to book a cabin. (Good luck finding out from their web site.)

The ferry from Esbjerg to Hull and that from Hull to Newcastle have both recently ceased to operate. You could probably find a Kipper or a Libertoonian willing to blame the prohibitive cost of health and safety regulations.

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