Wed Feb 16th, 2011 at 03:40:53 PM EST
The container ship CMA-CGM Utrillo is in port today. She arrived this morning after leaving Dunkerque about two weeks ago. Her stop is nothing out of the ordinary; just one of over 2,000 container ship calls in the port of New York this year.
The Utrillo is a relatively small container ship, only 30,000 DWT with a capacity of about 2,200 20-foot containers. She's owned by a British company, flagged in Cyprus and operated by a French line. Again, nothing out of the ordinary. So why is it that when I look out my window at this ship, I want to immediately run over to it and hop on board?
The answer of course lies in is where this ship is going. The Utrillo is one of six ships on what is rather misleadingly called the "Panama Direct service". Roughly every two weeks one of these ships arrives in New York and then sets off first for Savannah, Georgia followed by Kingston, Jamaica and then a couple of stops in Panama. She'll be bringing in food and supplies to Jamaica and Panama before loading up with raw materials and locally produced (cheap) products for those of us fortunate to be in the first world. All pretty straight forward so far.
After crossing the Panama Canal and then ten days of sailing across the Pacific, things will get much more interesting. First up is a stop in Papeete. No, Tahiti (or French Polynesia if you prefer) doesn't look like this anymore. There were only 193 of those tests and they ended years ago! Tahiti now is what it should be: a beautiful drain on the French economy (if you're going to spend money...). After dropping off containers loaded with supplies from the motherland and maybe picking up a few with vanilla and fish, it's back out to sea.
It takes about a week to get to the next port of call: the even more exotic Lautoka, Fiji. Mind you, not all of Fiji is a tropical paradise. There's the industry by the port plus a rather large military and a chaotic government (who's in charge these days anyway?). But I'll forget about all that as I walk to the beach while the ship unloads empty plastic bottles to be filled with Fiji water. Thanks to this ship, I can get that very same water at my local deli for just over a dollar a bottle!
Just before the start of spring up here in the northern hemisphere, the Utrillo will arrive at her next stop: Noumea, New Calendonia. Another one time French colony, New Caledonia is known for its extremely diverse yet highly endangered flora and fauna. But that's not what this ship is about. New Caledonia has nickel, lots of it. Already the fifth largest producer, more strip mines are on the way! The Utrillo will be unloading food for the locals and supplies for the nickel plants but she won't be taking on any ore while in port, she's too small for that!
It can only get more mundane after stopping in Papeete, Lautoka and Noumea (sounds like a narrow gauge railroad!), and sure enough, next up are calls in Sydney and Melbourne followed by a couple of stops in New Zealand. Then it's the long trip back across the Pacific to the canal before circling the North Atlantic. All told, it will take the Utrillo 84 days to complete her voyage arriving back in New York on May 12. I hear she has passenger accomodations. Anyone else want to come along?