Life at a slower pace

There is plenty of time to do nothing. Life is so busy these days that any chance to just sit and watch is good for the soul. On a cargo ship there is plenty of time. The crew go about their work, whatever that is, and us passengers can roam and sit, and generally take it easy. It’s only about 550 miles to Japan, but we are taking nearly two days to get there. Bliss.

A cargo or container ship can come in all sorts of sizes and carry everything the modern world needs, from gas and oil, to clothes and bananas, or camper vans. There are thousands of container ships traveling the seas of the world every day. For logistics companies the world over, if you need to get a container somewhere fast, fly it there. Everything else goes on a ship like this. One big misconception is that travelling by ship is cheaper than flying. This is simply not true. Most container ships cost US$80 – 140 per day, per person. Remember that this includes three meals a day, a cabin and the transport itself.

Schedules onboard revolve around mealtimes which, if you travel on some of the French ships, can be a gourmet delight. Apart from the meals, the rest of the day is pretty much your own. After all of the driving and having to get somewhere quick, this is a bit of a shock. I can;t help thinking that my virtual self is asleep most of the first day! Personally, I would head up to the bridge and have a good old chat with the Captain on sea navigation. Actually, if you knew me well, I would go and tell the Captain about sea navigation and probably explain where he may be going wrong.

My ship (Yes, it’s mine now.) is hauling about 2000 containers eastward towards Japan and then onto the west coast of America. The value of the cargo can reach £300 million. Container ships are designed in such a manner that no space is wasted. Their capacity is measured in TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units), the number of 20-foot containers (each 20×8½x8½, or 6×2.6×2.6m) a vessel can carry, even though the majority of containers used today are 40 feet (12m) in length. Above a certain size, container ships do not carry their own loading gear, so loading and unloading can only be done at ports with the necessary cranes. However, smaller ships with capacities up to 2,900 TEUs are often equipped with their own cranes.

Tomorrow we get into Japan and I make my first trip across the islands. I won’t spoil the news, so I’m off for a drink with the other passengers in the lounge, and then I will get some sleep.

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