Posted by: Craig | April 27, 2008

What’s that brown fog?

2000, Sunday evening (27th April)

52°  47’N 3º 45’E

48nm North(ish) of Hook of Holland

Heading 210º speed 14.5kts


As we are heading to get to the Zeebrugge pilot station in the early hours of Monday morning (0300), the engine revs are adjusted to maintain an arrival time. This creates a discussion on the bridge about what this should be. I am told that the best fuel consumption comes if the Man B&W engine turns at about 85 rpm, and I am told that this is better for the environment (less fuel burnt, less emissions of course). Additionally if the revs go below a certain level, the engineers need to go below to make adjustments.

However the optimum engine conditions, which are where the engine performs best, is at 105 rpm, according to the Korean shipyards manual, and from the engineer’s experience at about 96, so a compromise has been agreed on at 101.5 rpm.

Captain Falkenberg tells me that if the company’s fleet drops its speed by a couple of knots, then WWL would need to bring another vessel into service to counter for the drop in freight capacity.

As we are discussing the optimal environmental speed for the vessel, we are passing through the traffic separation scheme near Vlieland, on the Dutch coast, with spindly gas platforms passing down the port and starboard sides.

In the calm, dull slate-grey afternoon sky there is a distinct smudge of brown lying just above the skyline. A reminder of the pollution from the gas flares in the region, perhaps. I can’t actually see any flares lit, but it is a thought to check if the sulphur emissions rules brought into force for shipping, apply to gas and oil rigs with their flares in the North Sea.

I notice that both Ellinor and the Captain talk about the environment in a different way to how I heard it talked about in the early nineties on oil tankers ( we had jokes then about ships being able to follow a seabed trail of garbage on certain runs).

Both officers are aware of the slightly odd situation of carrying cars around the world because people do not want a home grown variety, while wanting to be environmental. Both Wallenius Marine and Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics have shown me their environmental credentials, and it is impressive, they have won awards for their efforts, but I think the fact they are Scandinavian plays a strong role in this ethical belief.

A cynic could think that they have a guilty conscience for transporting polluting cars around the world, but Swedes and Norwegians do have a different mind set, and within their culture there is an inbuilt belief in the right to access a clean environment.



  1. best wishes to all, on and of ships,

    the brown cloudy, smudge has been around for years on the seapassages between the continent and Britain.

    sometimes it was so irritating that some officers on cruise vessels and overnight ferries advised pax. to get inside the vessel in the evenings to avoid problems for breathing.

    Martin Minnebo Belgium


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