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Shipping Shock, Figaro, Tall Ship Crew, Dead Sailors & Seaweed Kayaking

23rd November 2012
Shipping Shock, Figaro, Tall Ship Crew, Dead Sailors & Seaweed Kayaking

#islandnation – A major world shipping shock, a Corkman Figaro-ing, a tall ship crew drawing their guns in port, remembering 235 dead sailors in Donegal, seaweed kayaking and an Irish Volvo crewman goes it alone around the world, all in your THIS ISLAND NATION round-up this week.

SHIPPING INDUSTRY SHOCK

More than a thousand ships owned by Maersk sail the world's oceans every day, so the decision by this huge Danish conglomerate, A.P. Moeller-Maersk, not to continue investing in shipping has shocked the industry. The world's biggest container ship operator announced this week that it will instead focus on its oil, drilling rigs and ports units.

"We will move away from the shipping side of things and go towards the higher profit generators and more stable businesses," the company's Chief Executive, Nils Andersen, said announcing this major shift in strategy. The company's container business has been affected by a slowdown in routes between Europe and Asia where it has cut capacity amid a volatile outlook for the industry.

Maersk Line, the conglomerate's container shipping unit, has struggled with profitability due to the global economic slowdown and an oversupply of vessels for world trade of which its size makes it a barometer. The Maersk fleet carries more than 15 per cent of all sea-borne containers. Last year it suffered a net loss of $540 million, while the oil division reported a profit of $2.1 billion, the drilling unit earned $495 million and ports which it owns made $649 million.

"Over the next five years we are not going to invest significant amounts in Maersk Line. We have sufficient capacity to grow in line with the market. We will move away from shipping towards the higher profit generators," Nils Andersen said.

Most shipowners are experiencing difficulties in the current economic situation. Some of have been trying to raise their rates, as well as cutting costs to counter falling ship charters due to the over-supply of vessels. It is feared that this situation will continue.

Sailing – FIGARO-ING FROM CORK

It is great to see another Irish sailor launching himself onto the international short-handed offshore racing scene. Twenty-one-year-old Cork sailor David Kenefick from Currabinny and a member of the Royal Cork Yacht Club at Crosshaven where he learned the sport has entered the French Figaro sailing programme, the tough arena where top Irish sailor Damian Foxall first came to prominence. Shorthanded offshore sailing is popular in France with big races like the Vendée Globe and Route de Rhum enjoying major media coverage and attracting thousands of spectators. Winning sailors become household names. A frequent visitor to Irish ports the Figaro has been sailed for 44 years. Next year will be only the fourth time an Irish sailor is involved. Three Irish skippers have competed in the past Damian Foxall (1997 & 1998); Marcus Hutchinson (1998 & 2000); Paul O'Riain (2007). Damian has since won the two-handed Round-the-World Barcelona non-stop race and been on this year's winning Volvo Round the World yacht.

"I'm really excited about the Figaro campaign," David said. "The number of offshore legends that have taken part is unbelievable. I know how tough it is going to be. I am beginning to appreciate the complexity and the need to manage myself, my fitness and my commercial programme," David said.

The sport of shorthanded offshore racing requires total commitment and years of practice, preparation and competition before skippers get to competitive level.

Tall Ships – CREW DRAW GUNS IN PORT

With the Argentinean rugby team in Ireland, the country's tall ship, Libertad, used as a training vessel by their Navy, is detained in the port of Tema in Ghana after a USA hedge fund took legal action. NML Capital, owned by billionaire Paul Singer, claims to be owed $370 million since the Argentine Government's default on bonds dating back to 2001. It wants $20m. before the ship is released but has been described by the Argentineans as a "vulture fund" which refused a restructuring deal last year that would have imposed losses of 65 per cent on bondholders.

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Ghana has been accused of breaking maritime law and Argentina is taking the detention of Libertad to the International Court of Justice and the United Nations. Sailors aboard Libertad drew guns to prevent Tema harbour authorities moving the ship to a less busy part of the port to allow other ships access. The authorities then cut off the ship's power and water supplies, described by Argentina's Minister for Defence as "a violation of the most basic human rights." The crew is being moved off the ship and brought home. Libertad has visited Ireland several times. Argentina has lost court battles in the USA against paying bondholders. On December 2 next it has said it will pay $3 billion but only to bondholders who accepted restructuring of their debts at a loss.

History – REMEMBERING 235 DEAD SAILORS IN DONEGAL

The 235 officers and crew of HMS Saldanha which was shipwrecked in Lough Swilly in December 1811 will be remembered by the people of Donegal at a ceremony on Sunday, December 2 at 3 pm. A graveside memorial will be dedicated and Portsalon Golf Club is helping to host and run the event to which the organising committee say that everyone is welcome.

Environment – SEAWEED KAYAKING

I have met kayakers in various places during my sailing along the West Cork coastline. Close to the water, impelled by the power of their arms, they seemed quite cheerful about their exploits and the sport in which they were taking part. At anchor on a pleasant evening in Castletownshend this summer a group passed by, the scene lit by moonlight, the gentle sound of their paddles on the water, the swish of hulls as their kayaks caressed the sea, they seemed to be nocturnal water people, melting away under the stars, leaving only a gradually disappearing trail of phosphorescence behind them.

Jim Kennedy who owns and runs Atlantic Sea Kayaking Based at Reen Pier near Union Hall since 1995 and operating courses all around the coast is a strong enthusiast for the sport for which he says no one is too old. Next year, one of the courses he plans is "Foraging for seaweed from a Kayak," using the kayaks to access t areas where sea vegetables grow in abundance, identify "and learn how to sustainably harvest cook some of the seaweeds we find from the natural organic food source by which we are surrounded."

Adventure – IRISH VOLVO CREWMAN GOES ALONE

Chinese sailor Guo Chuan was the media crew member on the Irish entry, Green Dragon, in the 2008-2009 Volvo Race, becoming the first person from China to sail around the world. Now he is doing another circumnavigation, this time alone, having set out this week from Qingdao, the coastal city in east China's Shandong province, where during the Volvo he had been given a hero's welcome when the Irish/Chinese entry arrived there. This time he is on a solo, non-stop sail around the globe at the age of 47. He was in Galway this summer at the Volvo Race with his boat to promote the voyage plan - across the Pacific to Cape Horn in Chile, into the Atlantic, then the Indian Ocean via the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa before crossing the islands of Indonesia to return to the starting point in Qingdao.

"I have been preparing for this for about three years. It has been step-by-step, learning the skills, finding the right boat, preparing the boat and training with a coach," he said.

Guo holds a Master's Degree in aircraft control from the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics and worked on China's commercial satellite launch projects. His life changed on a trip to Hong Kong in 2000 and a day's sailing at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club - the first time he had ever been out on a boat.

"I had no real idea about sailing but I really knew in my heart straight away from that day that I wanted to learn," he said.

Your comments on THIS ISLAND NATION are very welcome. Email: [email protected]

TWITTER @TomMacSweeney

Published in Island Nation
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