19-Jan-2006 -- A few days ago I took over command in Genova (Italy) on a real brand new ship. The "Confluence Boat" for the next months will be the "CABO PRIOR", a container carrier built recently by the "Aker Shipyard" in Wismar, on the Baltic coast of Germany.
Needless to say that this ship, - from her bow to her stern and from her masthead to her keel -, is equipped with all the most recent and modern technical achievements human engineering can provide, and now I have been finally and irrevocably been kicked from the idyllic and romantic 1970-ies into the 21st century. The radars in the navigating bridge have of course built-in GPS and ECDIS (Electronic Chart Display) functions.
The ship is chartered by the biggest French ship operator, well known as the "CMA-CGM" (Compagnie Maritime d’Affrètement – Compagnie Générale Maritime), with its headquarters at Marseille. The present employment of the "Cabo Prior" is carrying containers between several ports in the Western Mediterranean (Genova, Livorno, Fos-sur-Mer, Barcelona, and Valencia) and the east coast of South America (Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, Santos, Paranaguá, Rio Grande do Sul, Montevideo, and Buenos Aires). From Europe to South America large quantities of empty so-called "reefer containers" are carried. Reefer containers are huge refrigerators/deep freezers, and after being filled with frozen meat and poultry in Brazil and Argentina, they will be carried back to Europe.
En route from Fos-sur-Mer, a huge industrial port near Marseille (France), to the Spanish port of Valencia this morning we visited 40N 1E. This Confluence is far offshore, but as the visibility was very good, we could see something:
The closest land, about 30 km WSW, is a small group of volcanic islands named Islas Columbretes. Isla Columbrete Grande, the largest one, attains an elevation of 67 metres and lies at the NE end of the group. Other smaller islets are Islote Ferrera, Islote La Horadada and Islote El Bergantin. The group extends about 7 km from N to S. The islets are in most places steep-to and the greater parts are inaccessible.
But even the coast of the Spanish mainland was visible, especially to the WNW and to the NW, where Rio Ebro, one of Spain's largest rivers, flows into the sea and forms a huge delta.
Above I have spoken about the high level of technique and automation of the "Cabo Prior". However, one thing shipbuilders did not manage to achieve so far: the maintenance-free ship. Salty air and water and the thereof resulting continuous process of corrosion is still the arch-enemy of every ship built of steel, and thus painting and painting again from early in the morning to the late afternoon from the very beginning of her construction, 365 days a year, is and remains the major task for all sailors.
By the way, this is my 200th confluence visit. ;-)