Linky Friday: Oh, What Fresh Hell Is This Edition

Andrew Donaldson

Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonder and Home.

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5 Responses

  1. Avatar Oscar Gordon

    I posted this link on Jaybirds weekend plans post, but here is the important part of the FT article as to why the ship is so stuck.

    Lataire wrote his dissertation on a similar phenomenon as a ship passes close to a bank: the bank effect. The water speeds up, the pressure drops, the stern pulls into the bank and, particularly in shallow water, the bow gets pushed away. Stern one way, bow the other. A boat that had been steaming is suddenly spinning. It’s a well-identified phenomenon; in 2009 Ghent University’s Shallow Water Knowledge Centre put together a whole conference about it. Clever pilots on the Elbe, according to Lataire, will use it to shoot around a bend.

    However: the more water a ship displaces, the stronger the effect. And the closer the side of the hull is to the shore, the stronger the effect. The bigger the ship, the faster the bow shoots away from the bank.

    Most of the research and design on ship hulls goes into efficiency and stability at sea. But at sea is not where the Ever Given got stuck. And ships have gotten big, fast, which means the consequences of shallow-water hydrodynamics are changing by the year. In 2007, Lataire points out, the biggest container ships carried 8,000 containers. Some ships are now close to 25,000 containers. The Ever Given, finished by Imabari Shipbuilding in Japan in 2018, carries just over 20,000 containers.

    By any historical standards, the Ever Given is a monster. But it’s a monster in a specific way: it’s fat. The more containers you can stack on a single ship, the cheaper the marginal cost of each new container. But the specific engineering of container ships mean that they can’t get longer; they have to get wider. An oil tanker is a shoe box with a lid: hull on the bottom, oil in the middle, deck on top. But a container ship is a shoebox without a lid: hull on the bottom, then containers all the way up. It’s not as strong without the lid.

    There are definitely hydrodynamic forces in the open ocean, it’s just that the ocean is usually in charge of them. And the biggest stress on a ship’s hull in heavy weather happens along the longitudinal bending moment — lengthwise, between the bow and the stern. The longer a ship gets, the worse the stress gets when a wave pushes up in the wrong place. As far as length goes for container ships, “we are at the limitations of welding and steel quality,” says Lataire. “I will not say that it is impossible to weld thicker plates, but in a way this is the economic limit.”

    So container ships can’t get longer, and they can’t stack any more containers fore and aft. Instead, they stack them taller. And wider. Container ships haven’t become monster long; they’ve become monster beamy. Ever Given, for example, is too beamy for the Panama Canal. This is why we need big towing tanks in Belgium dragging tiny models of container ships through the water to figure out what happens: we keep making bigger ships, but we’re still learning how big ships work.

    So now you understand why Evert Lataire spent the morning looking at a YouTube video of Ever Given’s location on VesselFinder. The trouble starts around 0:10. The ship is moving north, with westerly winds — they are coming from the ship’s left, pushing it to the right. To compensate, the ship has adjusted its heading to the left, into the wind, to make sure the combination of screw and wind continue to push it at the correct bearing, towards the Mediterranean. Sometimes in a boat, if you are getting pushed right, you need to head left to go straight.

    Then, around 0:14, the ship lurches left, into the wind. Lataire thinks there might have been not a gust, but a temporary lull, meaning the Ever Given was overadjusted to its left, moved to the left, and its beamy hull began to hug the windward bank. Then everything happens quickly, in a way that looks a lot like the bank effect. Bow shoots away from the bank. Stern continues to hug the bank and move north. Ship spins. Bow bulb punches through the riprap.

    Trade comes to a halt.

    Wind definitely played a role, but there was probably something else happening, too. The ships keep getting bigger. But everything on Earth stays


  2. Avatar Oscar Gordon

    L7: They admitted as much in open court, that they can’t win without rigging the game in their favor.Report

  3. Avatar Michael Cain

    LF1: As introduced, HR1 looked like a disaster for the western vote by mail states. The House at least cleaned up the language: the objectionable terms “absentee ballot” and “precinct” have largely disappeared from the version that went to the Senate. I still think it needs more work. At least to my reading, it is still possible that it does not allow the western model of vote by mail being the default with in-person voting intended to handle the few exceptions.

    The NYTimes and WaPo occasionally marvel that nearly half of the ballots cast in November 2020 were distributed by mail. They don’t notice that in the 13-state West, >90% of ballots cast were distributed by mail, and that will likely continue in the future.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain

      And if you ask them, they will wonder what are these 13 western states you speak of, isn’t it all just CA?Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Oscar Gordon

        Granted, the split is roughly California 40M and the rest combined 32M. OTOH, only 2 of the 17 western (D) Senators are from California, something I keep saying Schumer needs to remember. (And only 8 of the 17 from states with a Pacific coast. These are strange times for someone who moved to the Mountain West 30+ years ago.)Report

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