Whale struck by cargo ship

When a container vessel arrived at the Port of Oakland late last week, the local mainstream media feasted on news that the body of a dead whale was draped across the ship’s bow.

By Patrick Burnson · September 20, 2010

According to reports, the ship had been steaming in at such a high rate of speed that the creature was unable to move out of the way.

And who provided this “fact”? None other than a marine biologist working for the National Marine Fisheries Service. The biologist, it should be noted, was unable to even identify what kind of whale had been dragged in.

No member of the commercial shipping community was interviewed, and no evidence as to just how fast the ship was traveling was reported.

Instead, readers were told that “a whale was hit with such force that its body was wedged into the bow for miles, even as the vessel docked.”

Then the reporter admits: “No one is quite sure how it happened.”

The article concludes by having the same biologist suggest that vessels reduce their speed. He then states that this is unlikely since, for ship operators, “time is money.”

Had the reporter bothered to do more research he would have known that the trend today is for cargo vessels to reduce their speed to save money. Indeed, “slow steaming” is in such vogue now, that it is unlikely ships will ever return to speeds greater than 22 knots.

This is not only good for the bottom line, but also saves energy and reduces CO2 emissions.

Of course, this story won’t support a sensationalized headline or produce dramatic photo ops. And the general public won’t read a piece of news related to ocean-borne commerce again until there’s another act of fate to be blamed on shipping companies.


About the Author

Patrick Burnson
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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