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The Future of Shipping Fuels, Ireland's last Engineless Sailing Schooner & Lots More

7th September 2012
The Future of Shipping Fuels, Ireland's last Engineless Sailing Schooner & Lots More

#thisislandnation – The future of shipping fuels, Ireland's last engineless sailing schooner, galley slaves in Russia, locating the newest lifeboats and GPS disruption all in This Island Nation this week.


The United States Navy uses 80,000 barrels of oil a day. The total fuel consumption of world shipping is not known, but several shipping lines have introduced 'slow steaming' to reduce oil usage because of increasing costs. Maersk, one of the world's biggest shipping companies and the US Navy have been jointly exploring the possibility of developing 'green fuels'. Maersk has 1,300 vessels in its fleet. This year the Maersk Kalmar, a 300 metre-long container vessel completed a 6,500 nautical-mile voyage from Germany to India burning 30 tonnes of a fuel developed from algae in an its auxiliary engines under test by engineers. Fuel properties were similar to marine gas oil according to Maersk engineers carrying out experiments on board.

Two years ago the US Navy tested its first algae-based fuel and has been engaged in research for several years. In the UK researchers at the University of Bath have been experimenting on the commercial production of biodiesel from algae. Maersk, a Danish company, has been given a grant of 112 million Kroner by the Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation for continuing research into the production of bio-based fuels for the global shipping industry.


The last sailing schooner to trade in Irish waters was the Brooklands which operated without an engine and was a familiar sight in Cork Harbour as she emerged from her home port in the north-eastern corner of the harbour, heading for the open sea. The Creenan family owned Brooklands and sailed her out of Ballinacurra which closed as a port for commercial operations in the early 60s. Brooklands and the Creenans will never be forgotten in the maritime annals of Cork Harbour.

She was originally known as the Susan Vittery and traded along the Irish South coast. At the age of 43 John Creenan of Ballinacurra became her Master. In July of 1920 her name was changed to Brooklands. She was bought by John Creenan for £1,300 in the currency of the time and noted as a three-masted double topsail schooner, capable of carrying 226 tons of cargo.


Richard Scott's new book on the last of the Western Sea Traders

"Captain John liked her and reckoned on making her pay, even without an engine," writes Richard Scott in a new book which was launched in Creenan's family pub in Ballinacurra that was packed with a big attendance from all over the country for the occasion. "Irish Sea Schooner Twilight" is the story of the Western Seas Traders and their last years. These were the vessels which saw the end of sailing traders, as steam and engine power replaced them. They traded coastwise around the Bristol Channel, some across to France, mostly between Ireland and Britain and began to disappear from the seas around the late 50s. Life was tough and dangerous for the seafarers who sailed these vessels.

Dick Scott shipped aboard Brooklands and was the man who wrote the definitive book about the Galway Hookers. He died at the age of 81, so this new book for which he had carried out meticulous research over very many years is also a posthumous tribute to a great marine writer.

He recalls sailing the ship up to Penrose Quay in Cork City to discharge cargo: "Christie knew his vessel well and every detail of the narrows past Fort Camden and Carlisle. We were on the living deck of a remarkable schooner that had first sailed these same waters over ninety years earlier. After discharging cargo the Skipper of a steam collier offered Christie a tow downriver. Off Whitepoint we heaved in our warp as our friends on the collier blew farewell on their ship's hooter and we were on our own, sailing past Cobh, surprising a fleet of yachts as they gave way for the passage of this great sailing vessel, Christie at the wheel, calmly taking the Brooklands towards Ballinacurra where we were to load silica clay for transport to Dublin.'

The days of being without an engine meant that, without a favourable wind, they had to anchor for the night before they could get to Ballinacurra!

"Off the north east corner of Great Island we rounded up at the Crab Hole and dropped anchor for the night. Next day we took assistance from a small motorboat to work the tide two miles up the Ballinacurra River narrows to our berth near Bennett's malt stores as Cecil Gregory's Arklow schooner Venturer passed outward bound."

What an amazing vision of other times, two schooners passing each other in the river between Ballinacurra and East Ferry.

The book is published by Black Dwarf Publications.


Russian President Vladimir Putin has compared ruling Russia to being a "galley slave", but his job comes with four luxury yachts, top of the range of which has five decks, a huge bathroom in marble, jacuzzis and other opulence. Another yacht of the fleet is 53.7 metres long has a spa pool and a wine cellar.

Russian Opposition Leader, Boris Nemtsov, said that it was "no wonder that Putin wanted to hang onto the Presidency!" The office also has a fleet of 58 planes and 20 homes. Nemtsov has listed the details in a report titled, rather ironically, "The Life of a Galley Slave!"


Baltimore's new lifeboat, RNLB Alan Massey, will be named and dedicated at a ceremony in the West Cork village on Saturday afternoon, September 22.

On Tuesday, September 25, at its Poole headquarters in the UK the RNLI will reveal its most advanced class of lifeboat – the Shannon, the first RNLI all-weather lifeboat to be powered by water jets instead of propellers and capable of a speed of 25 knots - 50% faster than the lifeboats it replaces. The Shannon class follows a 45-year tradition of naming RNLI lifeboats after rivers or stretches of water. This is the first time that the name of an Irish river has been used.


It is planned to build fifty of the new boats over the next ten years. It will improve the safety and welfare of the volunteer crews, with shock-absorbing seats and computer monitoring and operating system. The RNLI has so far named only UK stations to receive Shannon class boats. They are: Dungeness, Hoylake, Ilfracombe, Llandudno, Lowestoft, Montrose, Scarborough, Skegness, Selsey, St Ives, and Swanage. Other stations are to be confirmed.


The Chairman of the international shipping offers' union, Nautilus, has warned that GPS electronic navigation could be lost for "months at a time" during the next two years. Ulrich Jurgens claims that high levels of solar activity could add to the problems already being experienced from attempts to jam GPS signals, which are being increasingly reported by criminal gangs involved in drug-running trying to frustrate security forces. Mariners could suddenly be looking at blank electronic screens, he has said, advising that "paperless vessels," without older-style charts, could be "lost at sea," unable to identify their position if depending totally on electronic navigation.


Published in Island Nation Team

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