They sit anchored off the sea ports of Singapore and southern Malaysia; virtual “ghost ships” with no crews or cargos, and nowhere to sail. The ships, all kinds of merchant cargo vessels, come in all sizes, including mammoth tankers and other bulk carrier vessels, container vessels without their usual number of 40 foot “high cube” cargo containers on board, and many other types as well.
These ships, all victims of the ongoing world economic slump, were once plying the high seas between ports in Europe and the U.K., to and from the Far East when world trade was still good – compared to now anyway.
But what makes this present situation even more serious is not the huge losses that international shipping companies like P &O Ned Lloyd and Maersk are now stuck with, but the great amount of environmental damage that these ships are causing to the sea and marine life .
They are leaking oil and other pollutants from the ships’ bilges as well as large amounts of trash that the ships’ crews threw overboard before they themselves had to literally abandon ship due to no work being available for them.
I caught this sad story on both CNN and Sky News, which included interviews with local fishermen who say that their catches have now dwindled to almost nothing due to the pollution and damage to their nets by so many ships anchored in one place.
The fisherman believe that the ships are cursed, hence the term “ghost ships” that they have given to these ships, which include the nearly new 1,000 foot long Maersk vessel Arwa, a giant super tanker that only initiated its maiden voyage in September, 2008, when the world recession first hit. It now sits forlorn about 50 miles (75 km) off the coast of Singapore. And fuel oil expelled from its giant storage tanks alone is causing enough pollution to damage the seacoasts and marine life in the waters it is anchored in for years to come.
How this will effect merchant fleets like Israel’s Zim Lines is already being shown as the fortunes of the Ofer family, who own the majority stake in the lines’ merchant ships, have dwindled along with those of other merchant marine companies.
The sight of large Zim container and bulk cargo vessels anchored off Israel’s two main ports of Haifa and Ashdod is fast becoming reality with resulting damage to our already suffering marine life when these ships empty their bilges as well.
Merchant marine vessels, along with passenger cruise ships, already account for a good portion of marine pollution – even when at sea. But with so many of them now anchored off ports like Singapore and Haifa, the resulting pollution problems are only bound to get worse.
We guess it’s good news that the chemical company Dow, normally considered an evil by environmentalists is investing in BioPetroClean’s technology to lick up oil in the Seven Seas.
(Photo via Sky News)