Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.


by Jace 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?

A wannabee travel log.
by Jace on Wed Feb 16th, 2011 at 03:41:22 PM EST
very enjoyable, whimsy is a pleasant change of pace these days...

dunkirk~papeete R/T?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Feb 16th, 2011 at 07:19:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
dunkirk~papeete R/T?

You'd have to go to Oz and back since the ship only stops there on the westbound leg. Not sure about layovers longer than the two days in port but you could probably go one way and fly back.

by Jace on Wed Feb 16th, 2011 at 07:47:54 PM EST
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And as I should have said earlier, thanks. I needed a change of pace too.
by Jace on Wed Feb 16th, 2011 at 09:55:14 PM EST
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European Tribune - Ship
Anyone else want to come along?


by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Feb 16th, 2011 at 04:33:24 PM EST
How much out of my reach are the round trip tickets?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Feb 16th, 2011 at 05:23:33 PM EST
I've got an e-mail into the shipping company to find out more. From what I've seen elsewhere, figure on $100/day. I think with this particular route you can sign up for any particular leg.
by Jace on Wed Feb 16th, 2011 at 07:30:52 PM EST
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So here's the scoop: all in Euros, it's 110 per person per day for double occupancy, 120 per day for single occupancy (in a double cabin), 135 per day single alone in cabin. For trips less than 10 days, the first two listed above go up by 20 Euros each.

Four of the six ships in the service (the Manet, Matisse, La Tour and Utrillo) have three cabins each. Two of them even have a pool! Kingston is the only place you can't get on or off the boat.

They also have cabins available on the following services out of the US: the Columbus Loop, Amerigo Express, Indamex and Pacific Express 3. Chances are there are other services available from Europe.

by Jace on Thu Feb 17th, 2011 at 10:42:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was going to say those prices sounded insane for a cargo ship, but if there is a pool involved...

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Feb 18th, 2011 at 01:22:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've not priced freighter travel in 20 years or so, but I knew the prices were set to eventually go low orbit the last trip I took.
 If I thought there was the slightest chance of the ship being wheelchair accessible I'd sell my car and do it.
I was 69 on Feb. 15, but I can pass for less, and I'm still fairly tough.
But, -alas.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat Feb 19th, 2011 at 08:13:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can one purchase a round trip but spend it over several circuits of the ship, staying ~ 84 days in each desired stop?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Feb 16th, 2011 at 05:41:56 PM EST
212. Cargoes by John Masefield. Monroe, Harriet, ed. 1917. The New Poetry: An Anthology
QUINQUIREME of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.        5
Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amethysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.        10
Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke-stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Feb 16th, 2011 at 06:56:10 PM EST
How "Rites of spring" and "Goodbye to all that".

How pre-post-modern, as it were.

by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Wed Feb 16th, 2011 at 07:08:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd forgotten that. I was forced to learn it by heart when I was a kid, and regurgitate it with appropriately meaningful diction in some poetry recitation contest.

I liked "Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir" though. No one knew what it meant, least of all me. (I still don't want to know).

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Feb 17th, 2011 at 03:42:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would def enjoy that. Especially with the odd layover.

Though being a cool temperae species, I would prefer a visit to Tristan de Cunha!

by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Wed Feb 16th, 2011 at 07:19:41 PM EST

I like the idea of visiting Edinburgh-of-the-Seven-Seas.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Feb 16th, 2011 at 07:24:35 PM EST
I like the idea of visiting Inaccessible Island.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Feb 16th, 2011 at 07:58:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Pretty much impossible to land on it. Plus, it's a strict nature reserve. If you moved to Tristan and married an Islander, you children could go there and collect albatross eggs, but that's about it.

Edinburgh of the Seven Seas would be a fine place to retreat for six months or so, write that book you were planning, and go all The Shining. You'd need to really love potatoes.

I read a very interesting small book on the subject of the Island, published only recently. It is possible, but difficult to visit. You have to take ship on the one and only vessel that plies thither from Cape Town, and  schedules are not exacly regular. It would be a major adventure, though.

by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Wed Feb 16th, 2011 at 11:28:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Inaccessible Island looks like the place to go! That or the Pitcairn Islands with a total population of 48. I heard they had a serious labor shortage a few years ago when, after an alcohol induced punch up, four people ended up in jail.
by Jace on Wed Feb 16th, 2011 at 08:01:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not sure I'd really want to go to the Pitcairns.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Feb 17th, 2011 at 03:55:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I must have gotten the cleaned up, handed down version of that tale. A sad ending when there's no land or resources to sack.
by Jace on Thu Feb 17th, 2011 at 07:22:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A bit of a saga here.
by Jace on Wed Feb 16th, 2011 at 07:33:23 PM EST
So $10k+ to live on a tramp steamer. Been there, done that, got the headache. Never again. Suggest talking to someone who's actually done it and isn't bonkers to start with.

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!
by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Fri Feb 18th, 2011 at 03:48:51 AM EST
So tell us the story. After opening the box, you could at lest least give us a summary.

A tramp steamer has no regular itinerary or, sometimes, home port, but hires cargo through an agent, or, for the shabbier end of the spectrum, by walking the dock to find a cargo. These guys, however, are the elite ships. No comparison.

In 1986 (i think) I crewed on a freighter as third engineer, for a short time. The Captain was a friend from Puerto Rico, where we lived at the time, and helped me take the exam, and get my license. We carried ten passengers. They ate in our crew's mess,the food was incredible from our Puerto Rican chef. There was no pool, but the passenger accommodations were quite nice. Our captain was superb, allowing the passengers the run of the ship, including the bridge- far more of the ship that I saw, I can tell you. Third engineer is the George. Ask me, and I'll tell you what a George is.
He even juggled our schedule so we could stay in Santo Domingo(the city) two extra days so two passengers could attend a wedding. That was OK with me- Santo Domingo has, in my opinion, the loveliest women in the world. It's the complex genetic mix, I think.
Generally, you'll find a good relationship between the few passengers and the crew, who are often starved for new company, new faces. We were far below these elite ships in terms of accommodations, and our Caribbean route was nice but far less spectacular.
Nowadays, and even then, most of the crew would be provided by a service, and would be Korean, or from another cheap labor place. The captain, the Exec, the Chief Engineer would be often from one of the wealthy corners of the world- British, American etc.
My ship was one of the last holdouts to avoid that system. It was the death of the American merchant marine.
Enough storytelling. Makes my heart long for the smell of bunker C and salt water, and the ubiquitous distant undercurrent of the ship's generators, the--
Ah, hell.
No headache, and I'd probably vote Republican to do it again.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat Feb 19th, 2011 at 10:05:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"overseas" trip.

I was ten years old, taken along by two elder brothers on a high-school cruise. The schools had hired a boat, the Kuala Lumpur, which mostly served for hauling Malaysian pilgrims to Mecca.

Auckland - Tonga - Fiji (Suva and Nuku'alofa) - Samoa - Noumea - Auckland.

The ship's top speed being about twelve knots, we spent most of the time at sea, with short, educational trips ashore.

Regrettably prosaic, I'm afraid.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Feb 18th, 2011 at 07:50:25 PM EST
Dear Lord.
What an Itinerary.
Count me in. They can hoist me aboard in a cargo net, and I'll crawl wherever I need to go- or I'll take my muscle chair in the net.
How do you know all this? Do you work in shipping? The view out your window sounds pretty good, for an old man who has spent his life around and on the water.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat Feb 19th, 2011 at 08:04:28 AM EST
I'm in transportation but in the rail business. Even though I work mainly on passenger equipment these days, I've always preferred freight. With not much of that in these parts and a great view of NY harbor, I keep keeps tabs on the waterfront. That plus friends and family who've worked on the tugs in the harbor.
by Jace on Sat Feb 19th, 2011 at 09:16:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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