Tag Archives: Basil M Karatzas

China’s Maritime History and Admiral Zheng He’s Treasure Ships

In the last fifteen years, China has made an impressive entrance to the international maritime scene. From chartering and trading to vessel ownership and shipbuilding, China has captured a substantial worldwide market share. As an example, in the following graph, in the newbuilding industry, its worldwide market share by deadweight of newbuilding deliveries went from negligible at the turn of the century to appr. 20% a decade ago and now stands at 40%.

Historical newbuilding deliveries, China (PRC) and world, market share. Graph credit: Karatzas Marine Advisors

To the casual observer, it would seem that the maritime industry is just another industry where China has started dominating the market given some competitive advantage; that China saw a business opportunity in this industry and they just moved in. If clothing and manufacturing for everyday articles can now take place in China, why not for ships?

However, for shipping, one can say that China has had a time-honored relation with the seas and the waters, inland and its two huge rivers, coastal and also ocean navigation. As a short proof for that, one can be reminded that Chinese invented the compass approximately around 200 BC during the Han Dynasty, allowing for the first time ships to navigate away from the coast. Chinese first invented the dry-dock in the tenth century AD, while dry-docks were introduced to European shipbuilding in the late fifteen-century in Portsmouth, England[i]. Similarly, the concept of building ships with watertight compartments (bulkheads) is attributed to shipbuilders of the Ming Dynasty based on their observations that bamboo trees are light and hollow inside and are made of the isolated chambers in the trunk. Only if the shipbuilders of the RMS Titanic had paid closer attention to such seemingly irrelevant observation! 

The Treasure Ships

The Chinese historic navigational achievements that is known in the West are the Treasure Ships of the eunuch Admiral Zheng He who in 1418, in the early Ming Dynasty, reached the east coast of Africa (at Malindi, in today’s Kenya) with an estimated fleet of three hundred boats consisting of vessels as large as four-hundred-foot long with nine-masts (bao chuan or treasure ships) and manned with 28,000 sailors.

The Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama landed on the east African coast in 1498, seventy years after Zheng He’s landing, the first European to reach these parts of the world; de Gama, upon his arrival in east Africa, was regaled by village elders with tales of white “ghosts” of ships with silk sails that had reached their shores several decades earlier.

The treasure ships had watertight bulwark compartments, a Chinese innovation, a stern post and a “balanced” rudder position forward of the stern post, both Chinese naval innovations that were not introduced in the west until many centuries later. The vessels had nine masts and were square-rigged and brightly painted hulls. They had “dragon eyes” on the prow and phoenix patterns on the hull for auspiciousness, the underwater part of the hull was whitewashed and the waterline was painted red with a sun-and-moon frieze. Although treasure ships were equipped with canons, they were primarily intended for luxurious accommodations, literally and figuratively, acting as the flagships of the fleet. The treasure ships were a handful in the fleet, which was dominated by the presence of “horse ships” (eight-masted, some 339 ft long) to carry horses for trading, “supply ships” (seven-masted, some 257 ft long) for food and provisions for the 28,000 crews of the fleet, and “troop transport” ships (six-masted, some 220 ft long) carrying soldiers. In addition, there were escort ships, warships, patrol boats, even tanker boats for the provision of fresh water. Communications at sea among the fleet vessels was via an elaborate system of sight and sound signals, while “teachers who know foreign books” – translators – (tong yi fan shu jiao yu guan) were onboard to facilitate communications with other peoples.

Between 1403 and 1407 under the instruction of the Yongle emperor, 1,681 ocean-going vessels were built at the Suzhou shipyards and Longjiang. Vessels were also built at shipyards in the provinces of Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Zhejiang, Hunan and Guangdong. It is estimated that between twenty and thirty thousand people were living and working in the shipyards at the time as carpenters, ironsmiths, caulkers, sail and rope makers.

Zheng He’s treasure ship and Columbus’ St. Maria. Source: When China Ruled the Seas. Image credit: Levathes, Louise: When China Ruled the Waves: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne (1405 – 1433); Oxford University Press, 1994

The treasure ships (bao chuan) or dragon boats (long chuan) of Admiral Zheng He were a combination of previous ship designs of shachuan (sandboats with flattened hull bottom) and fuchuan vessels (dragon ships with a deep keel, partially resembling that of a sailboat); and these treasure ships were grandiose in scale: “44 zhang 4 chi long and 18 zhang wide.” There is a historical discrepancy in terms of the exact size of the vessels, but present estimates place the vessels at approx. 390-408 ft. long and 160-166 ft. wide. In modern terms, such a vessel would have been too big to pass through the old Panama Canal locks, which until a couple of years ago was an industry standard. The dimensions of the treasure ships “444” were symbolic and lucky, four being the symbol of the Earth and its four “corners.” There were four “seas,” four cardinal directions, four seasons, and according to Confucianism, four bonds or virtues (si wei): propriety, integrity, righteousness and modesty.

The scale of the treasure ships was monumental but not unheard of: the ke zhou (guest ships) of the Song Emperor Huizong were 10 zhang long and the shen zhou (spirit ships) for emissarial missions were 30 zhang long; Tang Dynasty ships were 20 zhang long. Ships that Khubilai Khan built had ten sails and could accommodate 1,000 people. For riverboats, during the Song Dynasty, Xihu zhou chuan (West Lake Ships) were longer than 50 zhang.

While the sheer dimensions of the treasure ships draw our awe today, one has to wonder about the ability of the Ming Dynasty to logistically support such tremendous and elaborate expeditions. As Admiral Zheng He’s last expeditions required close to 30,000 crew, one has to wonder about the planning and ability to support so many people living in the open seas for months at a time, properly provisioned for, managed and led. Several centuries later, building just a ship of war with eight hundred (800) crew was known to be a major undertaking for any king when Britain ruled the waves.

The admiral and captain aboard the treasure fleet were appointed individually by the emperor and were empowered with the right to “kill or let alive.” Unlike the expeditions of Vasco de Gama and Christopher Columbus that involved a handful of small caravels, the treasure ship expedition resembled an autonomous, magnificent force with the intent to explore and trade, but also to impress and convey the power of the emperor in the early Ming Dynasty.

Ships in China prior to the Ming Dynasty

Starting from the Yin people in China, and the Han Empire later, Chinese built lou chuan (castle or deck ships), navy ships with oarsmen believed to resemble ancient Greek triremes; there were also qiao chuan (bridge ships), navy ships that were used as fighting platforms for men and horses. As early as in the early centuries A.D., the Chinese were aware of basic principles of winds and currents in the Pacific Ocean, and there is historical evidence of shipbuilding in the coastal provinces of Guangdong, Fujian and Zhejiang since the Han Dynasty. In the Tang Empire, Chang’an was established as a mighty metropolis by the Yellow River in north China. However, with active trade with regions in the Indian Ocean such as sandalwood from India and Java, frankincense from Somalia, dates and pistachio nuts from Persia, black pepper from Burma, and the spice ports of Malaya and Sumatra; the Indian Ocean, in general, was an active link for trading China’s porcelain just as overland routes were critical for the silk trading. The Chinese, via the spice ports in the Indian Ocean in the Tang Dynasty, were indirectly exposed to the Persian cultures since the latter was reaching these same ports in the Indian Ocean with their Ceylonese ships (triangular lateen ships). Hence, active trade was during that time that the Bureau of Merchant Shipping was established in the eighth century in Guangzhou to ensure for proper taxation and avoidance of contraband. Around the same time, the Grand Canal was completed linking the north and south and facilitating international trade via the Central Asian Silk Route. River navigation was so active then that during storms in 721 and 751, it was reported that more than 1,000 boats were destroyed on each instance.[ii]

In the Song Dynasty, so-called “sea falcon vessels” were developed, mostly for inland and river navigation; these vessels had a flat bottom and floating leeboards in the shape of a bird’s wings that offered stability and could also be used to navigate the vessel. Improved versions of these vessels had paddle-wheels (probably another Chinese invention.) Navy ships (“flying tiger warships”) had eight wheels that were powered by forty men on treadmills allowing for the vessels to navigate smoothly on the water “like a dragon” and instilling fear in the enemy with their appearance and maneuverability. When gunpowder was invented, these naval ships in the Song Dynasty were the first to utilize gun powder onboard when fighting the enemy.

Ships that were first built at Longjiang to travel from China to Korea in the shallow Yellow Sea during this period were known as shachuan (sandboats) that had flat bottoms to prevent them from sticking in the sand (fang sha ping di chuan, or “flat-bottom-boat-that-prevents-running-into-the sand). However, such vessels were not suitable sailing in the open seas. Shipwrights from the Fujian developed a new technique for a V-shaped hull with a deep keel “sharp like a knife” that could cut through big waves. These fuchuan vessels had four decks, four masts, nine sails, a crew of 250 to 300 sailors, and the prow and the stern were positioned high above the waves. While the deep keel of a fuchuan vessel was referred to as the “dragon bone,” the prow brought the anthropomorphic feature of eyes (“dragon eyes”) so that the vessels could “see” where they were heading.

When the Dragon Throne Met the West

The treasure fleet of Admiral Zheng He and the small fleet of the explorer Vasco de Gama never met in Africa, outside China, although Vasco de Gama got to see for himself China’s fading maritime prowess when he eventually reached mainland China. From a philosophical point of view, however, these are several interesting questions to ponder that could had affected the course of history. Had Vasco de Gama’s and Zheng He’s fleets met in Africa in the early 15th century, would Vasco de Gama and the Europeans simply be intimidated by the strength of the Chinese fleet (hundreds of vessels for a Chinese vs. three battered caravels for the Europeans)? Would the size of the Chinese vessels (approximately five times longer and with nine masts) forced the Europeans to never attempt sail eastwards out of sheer fear of the unknown empire east threaten the Europeans? Would He had been tempted to destroy de Gama’s fleet, and possibly delay at the very least for decades or centuries, Europe’s reach to China? Irrespective of what may had happened if the two fleets had met, Chinese naval superiority at that time was unquestionable, the result of constant progress in trade and engineering in Ming China.


[i] Levathes, Louise: When China Ruled the Waves: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne (1405 – 1433); Oxford University Press, 1994.

[ii] Ebrey, Patricia Bukley, China Cambridge Illustrated History, 2nd Edition, 2010; p120


IMPORTANT DISCLAIMERS:  Vessel descriptions (if any) are provided in good faith and believed to be correct and accurate but no assurances, warranties or representations are made herewith. Vessel descriptions (if any) are provided for entertainment  purposes only. We have no responsibility whatsoever for any errors / omissions in vessel description.

Access to this blog signifies the reader’s irrevocable acceptance of this disclaimer. No part of this blog can be reproduced by any means and under any circumstances, whatsoever, in whole or in part, without proper attribution or the consent of the copyright and trademark holders of this website. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that information herewithin has been received from sources believed to be reliable and such information is believed to be accurate at the time of publishing, no warranties or assurances whatsoever are made in reference to accuracy or completeness of said information, and no liability whatsoever will be accepted for taking or failing to take any action upon any information contained in any part of this website.  Thank you for the consideration.

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Images of ‘Stratford Pt. Lighthouse’, Stratford, CT

Stratford Point Light is a historic lighthouse in Stratford, Connecticut, United States, at the mouth of the Housatonic River. The original Stratford Point Lighthouse was built in 1822. In 1855 a fifth order lens was added to the 28-foot (8.5 m) wooden tower. In 1881, the tower and dwelling were razed and replaced with a 35-foot (11 m) tall, brick lined cast-iron tower and equipped with a third order Fresnel lens. The second tower was one of the first prefabricated cylindrical lighthouses in the country and remains active.

The lighthouse sits on a 4-acre (1.6 ha) tract at the southeastern tip of Stratford Point. Marking the entrance to Stratford Harbor, the lighthouse is off Prospect Drive from the airport. Grounds around the lighthouse are closed to the public.

Address: 1275 Prospect Dr, Stratford, CT 06615-7946

Latitude: 41° 09′ 07″ N
Longitude: 73° 06′ 12″ W

Stratford was involved in shipbuilding and the oyster industries, so Stratford Point lighthouse, was built in 1821 to accommodate the increasing traffic and the consistent foggy weather in the area. The lighthouse is sometimes referred to as “Lordship Light,” as the light is stationed on land that was part of an early settlement called Lordship.

The light was automated in 1970 with a modern beacon. It is an active aid to navigation and is used for Coast Guard housing.

The lighthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 29, 1990.

Station established: 1822
Present lighthouse built: 1881
Automated: 1970

Construction material: Cast iron with brick lining

Height of tower: 35 feet
Height of focal plane: 52 feet

Optics:
1855: Fifth-order Fresnel lens
1881: Third-order Fresnel lens
1906: Fourth-order Fresnel lens

‘Stratford Pt. Lighthouse, Est. 1882’ – living history. Image credit: Karatzas Images

‘Stratford Pt. Lighthouse, Est. 1882’ – living history. Image credit: Karatzas Images

‘Stratford Pt. Lighthouse, Est. 1882’ – living history. Image credit: Karatzas Images

‘Stratford Pt. Lighthouse, Est. 1882’ – living history. Image credit: Karatzas Images

‘Stratford Pt. Lighthouse, Est. 1882’ – living history. Image credit: Karatzas Images

‘Stratford Pt. Lighthouse, Est. 1882’ – living history. Image credit: Karatzas Images

‘Stratford Pt. Lighthouse, Est. 1882’ – living history. Image credit: Karatzas Images

‘Stratford Pt. Lighthouse, Est. 1882’ – living history. Image credit: Karatzas Images

‘Stratford Pt. Lighthouse, Est. 1882’ – living history. Image credit: Karatzas Images

‘Stratford Pt. Lighthouse, Est. 1882’ – living history. Image credit: Karatzas Images

‘Stratford Pt. Lighthouse, Est. 1882’ – living history. Image credit: Karatzas Images

‘Stratford Pt. Lighthouse, Est. 1882’ – living history. Image credit: Karatzas Images

© 2013 – present Basil M Karatzas & Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co.  All Rights Reserved.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMERS:  Vessel description is provided in good faith and is believed to be correct and accurate but no assurances, warranties or representations are made herewith. Vessel description is provided for entertainment  purposes only. We have no responsibility whatsoever for any errors / omissions in vessel description.

Access to this blog signifies the reader’s irrevocable acceptance of this disclaimer. No part of this blog can be reproduced by any means and under any circumstances, whatsoever, in whole or in part, without proper attribution or the consent of the copyright and trademark holders of this website. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that information herewithin has been received from sources believed to be reliable and such information is believed to be accurate at the time of publishing, no warranties or assurances whatsoever are made in reference to accuracy or completeness of said information, and no liability whatsoever will be accepted for taking or failing to take any action upon any information contained in any part of this website.  Thank you for the consideration.

Images posted on this blog are typically minimally processed gpeg images of lower resolution. Original images are typically shot in RAW format, which can be provided upon special request.

Images of ‘Highland Light’ at North Truro, Cape Cod (2)

The Highland Light (previously known as Cape Cod Light), an active lighthouse on the Cape Cod National Seashore in North Truro, Massachusetts, on the Outer Cape Code, is the oldest and tallest lighthouse on Cape Cod, and the 20th lighthouse built in the USA. It is owned by the National Park Service (a Cape Cod National Seashore property) and cared for by the Highland Museum and Lighthouse, Inc., while the United States Coast Guard operates the light itself. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Highland Light Station.

In 1700, the town of Truro, Massachusetts, nine miles east of Race Point at the tip of Cape Cod, began its history under a different name—one it easily earned: “Dangerfield.” Even in calm weather, fishermen could suddenly find upon approaching land such a swell breaking that they dared not attempt to come ashore.

“I found that it would not do to speak of shipwrecks in the area, for almost every family had lost someone at sea,” Henry David Thoreau would later write about Truro in the December 1864 issue of Atlantic Monthly. “‘Who lives in that house?’ I inquired. ‘Three widows,’ was the reply. The stranger and the inhabitant view the shore with very different eyes. The former may have come to see and admire the ocean in a storm; but the latter looks on it as the scene where his nearest relatives were wrecked.”

Blindingly dense summer fogs lasting till midday that turn (in Thoreau’s words) “one’s beard into a wet napkin about the throat” provide conditions that to this day challenge even the most experienced mariner. The letter Reverend James Freemen wrote petitioning for a lighthouse near Truro stated that in 1794 more vessels were wrecked on the east shore of Truro than in all of Cape Cod.

On May 17th 1796, President George Washington signed the bill, along with $8,000 budget, authorizing a wood lighthouse to warn ships about the dangerous coastline between Cape Ann and Nantucket. It was the first light on Cape Cod, situated on ten acres on the Highlands of North Truro, was usually the first light seen when approaching the entrance of Massachusetts Bay from Europe.

The nation’s first eclipser was installed in the lantern room to differentiate Highland Light from others on the way to Boston, but delays in receiving it pushed the inaugural illumination back to January 15, 1798. With a focal plane of 180 feet above the sea, the light, with its array of lamps and reflectors, had the potential to be seen up to twenty-four miles, but the haze that often hung over the cape reduced the light’s visibility. Sperm whale oil was initially used in the light, but the fuel was later changed to lard.

In 1833, the wood structure was replaced by brick and in 1840 a new lantern and lighting apparatus was installed. In 1857 the lighthouse was declared dangerous and demolished, and for a total cost of $17,000, the current 66 foot brick tower was constructed, with a first order Fresnel lens from Paris. Along with the lighthouse, there was a keeper’s building and a generator shed, both of which can still be seen today.

In 1854, $25,000 was budgeted to rebuild Cape Cod Lighthouse on a proper site and to fit it with the “best approved illuminating apparatus to serve as substitution for three lights at Nauset Beach.”

Construction did not begin until 1856 on a new sixty-six-foot tower and a dwelling for the head keeper and a double-dwelling for his two assistants. The lighthouse was completed in October 1857, for $17,000, which included a new first-order Fresnel lens that produced a fixed white light. Before the addition of the first-order lens, the station had employed just one keeper.
The sixty-nine winding steps leading to the lantern room could be quite tricky for man.
In 1873, $5,000 was allocated for the station to receive a first-class Daboll trumpet fog horn that gave blasts of eight seconds, with intervals between them of thirty seconds. A frame engine-house, measuring twelve feet by twenty-four feet, was built for the fog signal along with a fuel shed.

At the turn of the nineteenth century, duplicate four-horsepower oil engines with compressors replaced the old caloric engines, reducing the time needed to produce the first blast of the fog signal from forty-five to ten minutes. In 1929, an electrically operated air oscillator fog signal was installed at the station as mariners complained that the old reed horns could hardly be heard above the heavy surf crashing on the beach below the station. Power for operating the new signal was furnished by a direct-current generator, driven by a four-cycle, internal-combustion engine that ran on kerosene.

On June 6, 1900, Congress appropriated $15,000 for changing the light’s characteristic from fixed to flashing. The new Barbier, Benard & Turenne first-order Fresnel lens had four panels of 0.92 meter focal distance, revolved in mercury, and gave, every five seconds, flashes of about 192,000 candlepower nearly one-half second in duration. While the new lens was being installed, the light from a third-order lens was exhibited atop a temporary tower erected near the lighthouse. After the new light was exhibited on October 10, 1901, the temporary tower was sold at auction.

In 1946, the Fresnel lens was replaced with a Crouse-Hinds, double-drum, rotating DCB-36 aerobeacon, which was in turn replaced during the automation process in 1987 with a Crouse-Hinds DCB-224 rotating beacon. The Fresnel lens was mostly destroyed during its removal, but a piece is on display at the lighthouse.

By the 1960s, the assistant keeper’s double-dwelling and fog horn building had been removed, and Keeper Isaac Small’s original ten acres had shrunk to little more than two. In the early 1990s, erosion seriously threatened the light. While in 1806, the tower had stood 510 feet from the cliff, by 1989, that distance had shrunk to just 128 feet.

Highland Lighthouse attracted visitors even when it was staffed by resident keepers. In 1922, 7,300 people registered at the lighthouse. Highland Museum and Lighthouse, Inc. was formed in 1998 as a non-profit to partner with the National Park Service in running a gift shop in the keeper’s dwelling and in offering tours of the lighthouse. After fifteen years in this role, the non-profit lost its contract due to operational issues, and on January 1, 2014, Eastern National was awarded the contract for operating the lighthouse.
The present location of the lighthouse is not the original site as beach erosion had rendered the original location dangerous. The structure was moved 450 feet (140 m) to the west from the cliff’s edge. The move was undertaken in 1996 at a cost of $1.5 million. The 430-ton structure was successfully moved intact on I-beams greased with Ivory soap.

Formerly a location associated with notable danger, the lighthouse presently is surrounded by an oceanfront golf course, the Highland Golf Course. After an errant golf ball broke a window, they were replaced with unbreakable material. The lighthouse grounds are open year-round on Highland Light Road in Truro, with tours and the museum available by the National Park Service during the summer months.

Highland Light Station is located on Highland Rd. in North Truro. Traveling north on Rte. 6, take the “Cape Cod/Highland Rd.” exit; turn right onto Highland Rd. and follow to the Highland Lighthouse area. Highland Light Station is situated on grounds owned by the National Park Service as part of the Cape Cod National Seashore and is managed by the Truro Historical Society. The grounds are open all year and the lighthouse is open May-October. A trip to the light station allows the visitor to enjoy the Interpretive Center, watch a 10-minute video and climb the lighthouse tower for a small fee. For further information, visit the Truro Historical Society‘s website or call 508-487-1121.

Sources:

Previously posted pictures by Karatzas Images of Lighthouse ‘Highland Light’ from 2014 can be seen here.

Cape Cod (Highland), MA, LighhouseFriends.com

Maritime History of Massachusetts 

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Highland Light (Cape Cod Light) at N. Truro at dawn on a winter morning. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Highland Light (Cape Cod Light) at N. Truro at dawn on a winter morning. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Highland Light (Cape Cod Light) at N. Truro at dawn on a winter morning. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Highland Light (Cape Cod Light) at N. Truro at dawn on a winter morning. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Highland Light (Cape Cod Light) at N. Truro at sunrise on a winter morning. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Highland Light (Cape Cod Light) at N. Truro at sunrise on a winter morning. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Highland Light (Cape Cod Light) at N. Truro at sunrise on a winter morning. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Highland Light (Cape Cod Light) at N. Truro at sunrise on a winter morning. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Highland Light (Cape Cod Light) at N. Truro on a winter morning. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Highland Light (Cape Cod Light) at N. Truro on a winter morning. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Highland Light (Cape Cod Light) at N. Truro; details of windows and thickness of walls. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Highland Light (Cape Cod Light) at N. Truro on a winter morning. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Highland Light (Cape Cod Light) at N. Truro on a winter morning. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Highland Light (Cape Cod Light) at N. Truro on a winter morning. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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The Atlantic Ocean and the cliffs that were putting three widows in a house… Image credit: Karatzas Images


© 2013 – present Basil M Karatzas & Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co.  All Rights Reserved.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMERS:  Vessel description is provided in good faith and is believed to be correct and accurate but no assurances, warranties or representations are made herewith. Vessel description is provided for entertainment  purposes only. We have no responsibility whatsoever for any errors / omissions in vessel description.

Access to this blog signifies the reader’s irrevocable acceptance of this disclaimer. No part of this blog can be reproduced by any means and under any circumstances, whatsoever, in whole or in part, without proper attribution or the consent of the copyright and trademark holders of this website. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that information herewithin has been received from sources believed to be reliable and such information is believed to be accurate at the time of publishing, no warranties or assurances whatsoever are made in reference to accuracy or completeness of said information, and no liability whatsoever will be accepted for taking or failing to take any action upon any information contained in any part of this website.  Thank you for the consideration.

Images posted on this blog are typically minimally processed gpeg images of lower resolution. Original images are typically shot in RAW format, which can be provided upon special request.

Flying Qatar Airways on (Shipping) Business

One of the real benefits of working in the shipping industry is the pleasure of frequent traveling, as far as we are concerned. Flying around the world to visit with clients, business associates and friends, on a frequent basis, is the trademark of a successful shipping person. After all, shipping is an industry that requires social interaction and educated faith in the counter-party, as one of premises of our business has been “Our Word Is Our Bond”. It takes many years of experience and traveling, personal interaction and due diligence for a shipping professional to know when a words equals unequivocally to a bond.

When it comes to traveling, we considered ourselves experienced ‘road warriors’ having achieved gold and diamond memberships with several airlines, hotel chains, rental car companies, etc over our years in shipping. After 9/11, traveling is not as painless as one may have wished, but again, we have been about the seven seas and five ocean and the seven continents; well, almost… As such, we have been accustomed to certain inconveniences of modern travel and have built a list of preferred ‘vendors’.

But again, being open minded, pleased trying new venues and routes and localities.

We were really excited when our travel agent offered a booking on Qatar Airways for a trip to Southeast Asia and Far East / Japan, and we were looking forward to be through a new transport hub, Doha’s Hamad International Airport. Having now experienced some of the trip, we are typing this posting to express that we are just a tad disappointed with the overall experience, so much so that we post this ‘evaluation’ analysis on our blog, typically dealing with maritime matters.

The flight QR704 was planned to depart JFK Airport from New York on Saturday April 2nd at 11:14 EDT, arriving at Doha Hamad Intenrational Airport at 06:45 local time next day, and at 7:30 am to depart for Singapore on Flight QR944; a bit tight connection, but based on our travel experience, we have caught tighter scheduled in busier airports. Soon, however, things started going wrong. The airplane didn’t connect to the departing gate until about an hour before scheduled departure – indicating that the delay was an airline issue and not an airport issue; the crew were waiting along with the passengers at Gate 4 well passed the scheduled departure time, too. All in all, NO public announcement update was offered until 45 minutes passed the scheduled time; eventually, the flight took of at 12:30 pm, appr. 75 minutes delayed. Still, we thought, we were OK on time. The flight landed at 7:10 am local time in Doha, that is 20 minutes before our scheduled connect flight. In short, we missed the connect flight, and we were referred to the ground crew to ‘feel our pain’.

To make a long story short, the next flight for Qatar Airways from Doha to Singapore was not until 20:15 pm, QR942, THIRTEEN long hours later. An alternative option was offered through Dubai, but it was only shaving a couple of hours; that’s all.

The irony of the thing is that our Flight QR942 was delayed AGAIN, with the board showing departure at 21:15 hours, local time Doha, as the new departure time; to make a long story ever shorter, eventually Flight QR942 departed at 22:20 hours from Doha, a whole FIFTEEN hour delay form original schedule, arriving to Singapore late in Monday morning (instead of Sunday night) as planned – and having to cancel three business meetings in Singapore on Monday morning. And, having left New York on Saturday morning, we arrived in Singapore on Monday morning, two days later and FIFTEEN hours behind schedule.

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Traditional Dhow sailing boats in Doha. Image Credit: Karatzas Maritime Images.

Again, flights are known to be getting delayed, but here, two flights we ever got to fly in our whole life with Qatar Airways were delayed by way of more than one hour, each. Two for two!

To further exaggerate the pain, no proper announcements or explanations were offered to keep passengers updated for the delays with BOTH occasions. Probably, passengers like to stay in the dark, some may presume?

There were FIVE people in the NY flight heading eventually to Singapore, and ALL FIVE missed their flight; so, misery does love company – in this case, Qatar Airways’ company, we presume? There were people in the New York flight who were heading to Johannesburg and Sydney, and as far as we can tell, they also missed their connect flights.  Thus, we were not the only ones to be highly inconvenienced.

We have been in similar situations in the past, but, as in the case with a Lufthansa fight in Frankfurt in January from Athens to new York, ground crew were at the gate to pick up late arriving passengers and lead them through airport shortcuts and past long lines to their connect flights; on several cases, connect flights were delayed just to accommodate the tardy arrivals, just this Lufthansa case. But, this was not the case with Qatar Airways. No people on the ground to help, no effort to delay the connect flight by fifteen minutes in order for FIVE people to make the connect flight to Singapore. NO EFFORT WHATSOEVER!

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Dhow sailing boats against the Doha skyline. Image Credit: Karatzas Maritime Images.

The strange thing is that Qatar Airways and Doha wish to advertise themselves as major contenders in the travel industry, BUT if there is a FOURTEEN-hour gap to connect the hub (Doha) with a major airport (Singapore), it seems there is a major connectivity problem; other hubs and airlines have much more frequent flights to major cities like Singapore. Qatar Airways and Hamad International Airport cannot possibly compete in a connected world if there are such blatant gaps in their network (two miserably delayed flights, no announcements, fifteen hours for connect flight to a major city like Singapore).

We were offered a free stay at an airport hotel in Doha, but we would rather first get herpes before we stay at another airport hotel… We would rather had been on time to Singapore on Sunday evening, to relax and prepare for Monday’s morning. And, without trying to be pompous, our stay in Singapore was scheduled at the Shangri-la Hotel… what a trade! Does Qatar Airways gets to pay for the lost night we paid for the Shangri-La?

And, for everyone wondering whether the 2014-delivery Hamad International Airport is a pleasure to pass through, we can spare them the agony. Mundane architecture and outlay, only a handful of restaurants, extremely limited shopping, too few restrooms that are too hard to spot, and power plugs for laptops and smart phones that had no power, at least at Gate C2 for the QR942; a sorry experience really, having no way to re-charge a phone after being delayed for FIFTEEN hours, in-between to long-haul flights.

And, despite the fact that in both cases the airplanes were modern Airbuses A350, we found the overall experience flying Qatar Airways rather un-inspiring, to be polite. The overall experience has left much to be desired, and likely not to be repeated.

As much as we enjoyed Doha (Souq Waqif and Corniche and watching Dhow sailing boats – while doing some sight-seeing, making the best of a bad situation,) again, we’d rather had gone as planned with our lives. Taking TWO days to fly from New York to Singapore is an un-acceptable experience in our modern world that moves fast.

Hopefully Qatar Airways will get to do the right thing next time…

Doha skyline_APR2016_BMK_8371 @

Doha skyline. Image Credit: Karatzas Maritime Images.


© 2013 – present Basil M Karatzas & Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co.  All Rights Reserved.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:  Access to this blog signifies the reader’s irrevocable acceptance of this disclaimer. No part of this blog can be reproduced by any means and under any circumstances, whatsoever, in whole or in part, without proper attribution or the consent of the copyright and trademark holders of this website. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that information here within has been received from sources believed to be reliable and such information is believed to be accurate at the time of publishing, no warranties or assurances whatsoever are made in reference to accuracy or completeness of said information, and no liability whatsoever will be accepted for taking or failing to take any action upon any information contained in any part of this website.  Thank you for the consideration.

 

Key West Beach Rules

Treasure Hunting in Key West, Florida…

Of writers and poets and pirates                                                                                                           who walked the dirt beneath this path                                                                                                  each carrying a pocket full of dreams.                                                                                                    And none as unusual as yours,                                                                                                              but all of which came true.                                                                                                                                                  David L. Sloan                                                                                                                                                

Kew West_There's no place I'd rather be

Key West, There’s no place I’d rather be

Of poets and dreamers_SLOAN

Of writers, poets and pirates…

Write your worries in the sand

Write your worries in the sand… and let the sea wash them away

You can shake the sand off your shoes

Sand never leaves the soul…

Happines is

Toes in the water…

Home is where the ocean meets the shore

Where the ocean meets the shore…

sandy toes and salty kisses

Sandy toes and salty kisses!

Go jump in the ocean

Go jump in the ocean! – Can never be taken as an insult!

If you are lucky enough to be at the beach

if you are lucky enough to be at the beach…

On beach time

On beach time…

Beach rules

Beach rules…

Beach rules 2

And, more beach rules…

Captain's Rules

And, some Captain’s rules…

Crew knows best

The crew knows best!

same ship...different day

Same ship…different day! Not a good motto for a shipbroker!

No working on drinking hours

No working during drinking hours! – Well, how a shipbroker is supposed to get anything done then?

Dream require wide open seas

Wild dreams, open seas!

Inner compass

Inner compass!

Best ships are friendships

Best ships are friendSHIPS!

Shell warehouse

She sells sea shells by the sea shore! Key West!

Bart Roberts

‘In an honest service there is thin commons, low wages and hard labor; in this plenty and satiety, pleasure and ease, liberty and power… No, a merry life and a short one will be my motto.’                                                                                  Captain Bartholomew ‘Black Bart’ Roberts, Pirate

As legendary Steve Jobs once said: ‘It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the Navy’!


 

© 2013-2015 Basil M Karatzas & Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co.  All Rights Reserved.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:  Access to this blog signifies the reader’s irrevocable acceptance of this disclaimer. No part of this blog can be reproduced by any means and under any circumstances, whatsoever, in whole or in part, without proper attribution or the consent of the copyright and trademark holders of this website. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that information here within has been received from sources believed to be reliable and such information is believed to be accurate at the time of publishing, no warranties or assurances whatsoever are made in reference to accuracy or completeness of said information, and no liability whatsoever will be accepted for taking or failing to take any action upon any information contained in any part of this website.  Thank you for the consideration.

Shipping IPOs

Capital markets and shipping IPOs are once again a hot topic in shipping; high prospects and expectations from a new crop of shipping companies, quite a few now sponsored by institutional investors. Hopefully, this new round of shipping IPOs will manage to bring to the public markets a more distinguished management style than the shipping IPOs of the last decade.

Interesting article in the Tanker Operator magazine, June 2014 issue.

2014-05may-to-shipping-ipos-timing-quality

Tanker Operator article on shipping IPOs – May 2014

Please feel free to access the article in pdf here!

Trireme_picture JUN2014

A watchful eye in shipping!© 2013-2014 Basil M Karatzas & Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co.  All Rights Reserved.


 

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:  Access to this blog signifies the reader’s irrevocable acceptance of this disclaimer. No part of this blog can be reproduced by any means and under any circumstances, whatsoever, in whole or in part, without proper attribution or the consent of the copyright and trademark holders of this website. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that information here within has been received from sources believed to be reliable and such information is believed to be accurate at the time of publishing, no warranties or assurances whatsoever are made in reference to accuracy or completeness of said information, and no liability whatsoever will be accepted for taking or failing to take any action upon any information contained in any part of this website.  Thank you for the consideration.

 

Media Mentions for Basil Karatzas

We are taking pride to always be up-to-date with our business , and, if possible, a little ahead, as famously once a highly successful executive of a top notch company presciently said. At the shipping finance advisory and ship broking firm Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co., we measure our success not only by the number and size of the transactions we work on and successfully conclude, and the caliber of the shipowners and clients we work with, but also by the times we were honored to provide current market information, insight, opinion and counsel to maritime, finance and trade topics to highly respected publications.

A few recent articles where Basil M. Karatzas and Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co. were in the press:

Monetary controls in Greece squeeze consumers and business, June 29th, 2015, The New York Times. Basil Karatzas is quoted in reference to the impact of the bank closings and imposition of capital controls may have to the shipping industry. Link to a pdf version of the article can be found here.

Ships scrapped as freight rates fall, June 12, 2015, The Wall Street Journal. Basil Karatzas is quoted in reference to increased levels of demolition of older vessels in a weak freight environment and the impact on the shipping markets. Link to a pdf version of the article can be found here.

Costly bet on big cargo ships comes up short, June 1, 2015, the Wall Street Journal. Containerships have more than doubled in size in the last seven years, and ambitions are high for even bigger ships; however efficiencies are not always commensurate as the rest of the supply chain has to improve. Link to a pdf version of the article can be found here.

Financial distress plagues dry-bulk carriers, June 16, 2015, Daily Bankruptcy Review, Dow Jones. Article on page 10. With dry-bulk freight rates hovering at 30-year lows, most types of dry bulk vessels are operating below cash breakeven; once the seasonally slow summer is over, filings in the US and elsewhere can get a second wave.

Additional links to articles and media mentions for Basil Karatzas and Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co. can be found on the Shipping Finance by Karatzas Marine blog by following the link here.

Happy reading!


© 2013-2015 Basil M Karatzas & Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co.  All Rights Reserved.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:  Access to this blog signifies the reader’s irrevocable acceptance of this disclaimer. No part of this blog can be reproduced by any means and under any circumstances, whatsoever, in whole or in part, without proper attribution or the consent of the copyright and trademark holders of this website. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that information here within has been received from sources believed to be reliable and such information is believed to be accurate at the time of publishing, no warranties or assurances whatsoever are made in reference to accuracy or completeness of said information, and no liability whatsoever will be accepted for taking or failing to take any action upon any information contained in any part of this website.  Thank you for the consideration.

2015 06JUN29 NYT Monetary Controls in Greece Squeeze Consumers and Businesses_HL

2015 06JUN13 WSJ Ships Scrapped as Freight Rates Fall_HL

2015 06JUN01 WSJ Costly Bet on Big Cargo Ships Comes Up Short_HL

2015 06JUN16 DAILY BANKRUPTCY REVIEW Financial Distress Plagues Dry-Bulk Carriers

Third party copyrights are fully acknowledged and attributed as stated or required.