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Double Dutch

by Jace Tue May 24th, 2011 at 03:08:13 PM EST

I don't want to look out my window today. If I did, I'd see through the haze that the harbor's filled with ships including a most unusual pair from the Netherlands. Well one's flagged in Curacao, I'm not sure if that still counts as being Dutch.

Biggest, fastest, most unusual cargo, I like to know all about these types of ships. They fascinate me in part because of their sheer audacity. You can haul a city's worth of cars, a mountain top of coal or a whole day's worth of oil (if you're Portugal), all in one ship! That there are 1.43 billion tons of shipping capacity available everyday in the dry bulk market alone is truly staggering! But then there are other ships that I'd rather not know much about at all. One of them is half of this Dutch duo out there in the anchorage today.


The Blue Marlin is an ungainly beast. Big enough to carry everything from a destroyed destroyer to oil platforms, she travels the world in search of the big and unusual.

You would think then that she came to right spot. You know us New Yorkers, we'll be the first to admit that we're not just the biggest and the baddest but the most unusual too. But this is just a front, we don't make anything big here and we never really did. We're traders, like always, ever since the days of New Amsterdam. If the Marlin is searching for big or unusual freight, I can't imagine a less likely place to look.

At 24 kg per capita, they like to eat meat in Kuwait. They're almost up there with Australia (34 kg), the US (37 kg) and Canada (29 kg) but well behind the Argentinians (54 kg). The difference between little, tiny Kuwait and these other countries is not just size: Kuwait doesn't grow their own, producing a mere 5% of their total meat demand. Aside from the Saudis who boast the world's largest dairy farm, there are not a whole lot of cows growing out there in the desert.

This is where the Shorthorn Express comes in. She has five decks with a maximum loading area of 3,841 square meters. No automated or mechanical loading equipment is needed, the cargo or more correctly, the property is movable, it walks on and off the ship. She is a livestock carrier.

The Dutch shipping company Vroon has been in the overseas livestock transport business for some 50 years. The size and the speed of their ships has grown considerably over the last 20 years. Their oldest ships, conversions mostly from car carriers, can only hit 10-11 knots and have less than 2,000 square meters of loading space. With 1.15 square meters needed per cow, that's, well, not a lot of cows. The Shorthorn can carry twice as many cows per trip and with a 50% increase in speed. When you've got 10,000 nautical miles to go to get to the Gulf with more cows waiting, speed and size are essential. The next generation will be bigger and, thanks to a new bow form, some 10% faster.

It takes up to a year to prepare a shipment of livestock. The animals have to gathered from far and wide and then sent through various inspections and quarantines before they too can walk onto that ship. The water, the grass, specially grown in places like southern Ontario, also must be driven to the port when the time is right. Care must be given when loading the animals, you don't want the ramp to be too steep for example. Stress is not the property owner's friend, it increases premature mortality and decreases quality. This then is a special type of logistics.

Livestock barges used to be just another freight vessel in New York harbor. Every day they'd carry animals from the rail head in New Jersey to the slaughterhouses in Manhattan. Like the iron horses and wooden stock cars that brought them to the Jersey waterfront, much less the animals themselves, these barges are long, long gone. The cobblestone streets that were once lined with abattoirs, now feature the fashionable shops of the edgy sounding Meat Packing district. The few live animals that are brought into the city's markets now come by truck. All else that occurred here seems to be forgotten.

Philadelphia, that gritty city 150 km down the turnpike from here, that city of brotherly love, is now the livestock shipping leader of the east. The Shorthorn is a regular visitor to Philly having been there already once this year. Over her career, she's surely carried many tens if not hundreds of thousands of square meters of cargo some thousands of nautical miles from the docks on Delaware Avenue. Perhaps she's on her way there again, stopping in for a quick visit with her Dutch mate just across the upper bay. Or perhaps the port of New York is back in this trade. As of now, I don't know.

I've always liked Philly. As a child my father would take me and my brother there just to ride the streetcars. It was and is an anachronism, a city so bad it's good. But not always. The same holds true for knowledge. That I know all about this ship, its cargo, its life on board and off is troubling to me. I feel somehow complicit. Outside the haze is starting to lift, it's becoming clearer, but I still can't stand to look. I might just see how much I know.

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Not to be confused with the 'real' Double Dutch.
by Jace on Tue May 24th, 2011 at 04:18:05 PM EST
This is the real double dutch
by rootless2 on Fri May 27th, 2011 at 11:00:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Another good one, Jace. Thanks.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed May 25th, 2011 at 01:28:52 AM EST
"how much I know" is what made a mostly-vegetarian of me. If we could go back to the family farm, I'd probably change that, but you can't tell how an animal's been treated when looking at its muscle through cellophane.  But if my hosts serve meat, I eat a bit.

Your diary is a lovely read. Thank you.

'tis strange I should be old and neither wise nor valiant. From "The Maid's Tragedy" by Beaumont & Fletcher

by Wife of Bath (kareninaustin at g mail dot com) on Wed May 25th, 2011 at 11:34:20 AM EST

Nice one.

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed May 25th, 2011 at 04:06:47 PM EST
A friend recently back from Argentina commented, "They garnish their meat dishes with 2 or 3 other kinds of meat."

He loved Buenos Aires, yet was blown away by the culture and beauty of Bolivia right next door.

I must go.

by Upstate NY on Wed May 25th, 2011 at 04:48:19 PM EST
After 18 months of trolling on a motorcycle travel forum (which includes a lot of travel blogs), yeah, Bolivia is what I'm most looking forward to.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed May 25th, 2011 at 05:06:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have nice memories of those restaurants in Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil), were for a fixed price, they keep serving you delicious grilled pieces of meat until you say enough...

"L'homme fut sûrement le voeu le plus fou des ténèbres " René Char
by Melanchthon on Thu May 26th, 2011 at 11:17:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I knew a restaurant like that in Newark, NJ (Brazilian of course).
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Thu May 26th, 2011 at 12:39:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jace, fyi, check this out Here.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed May 25th, 2011 at 05:11:29 PM EST
Nice. I've been helping muck out a barge lately, that's bad enough! Shipyards are great places to climb about and photograph, if not work.  
by Jace on Wed May 25th, 2011 at 10:05:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Curacao is an autonomous member state of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, penultimate island west of the Lesser Antilles, though a resident and Crunchyroll member has to remind Crunchyroll tech support every once in a while since a few (of the majority) of their simulcasts licensed to go to the Netherlands are not licensed to Latin America and the Caribbean, and sometimes the ABC islands are erroneously left out of the database.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed May 25th, 2011 at 07:57:54 PM EST
And Aruba now has an amazing wind farm! (and Curaçao is working on something similar).



Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu May 26th, 2011 at 04:08:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Quite ~ now how to get them to the Windward Islands.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu May 26th, 2011 at 08:48:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - Comments - Double Dutch
If the Marlin is searching for big or unusual freight,

Maybe to move a Too Big To Fail Wall street bank...

"L'homme fut sûrement le voeu le plus fou des ténèbres " René Char

by Melanchthon on Thu May 26th, 2011 at 11:23:28 AM EST
To an offshore location perhaps.
by Jace on Thu May 26th, 2011 at 01:37:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Where it will see if it can float alone?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat May 28th, 2011 at 11:14:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It reminds me the days when I was working on a gas rig in the North Sea. We used to build the platforms with the help of heavy crane barges like this one:



"L'homme fut sûrement le voeu le plus fou des ténèbres " René Char

by Melanchthon on Thu May 26th, 2011 at 05:43:08 PM EST
these diaries are great.
by rootless2 on Fri May 27th, 2011 at 09:28:36 PM EST
It turns out the Marlin is (still) here in NY to pick up seven oil barges and five tugboats. They were sold to a Nigerian company by Reinauer Transportation. They tried to load the equipment onto the Marlin (in the Upper Bay) on Sunday with no luck. It seems quite the process to move a bunch of obsolete equipment.
by Jace on Tue May 31st, 2011 at 12:26:32 PM EST


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