Monday, June 1, 2009

CBC Information Morning/ Harbour Watcher

As you know I am CBC Information Morning's Harbour Watcher in Halifax.
My usual spot has been pre-empted this week due to ongoing coverage of the provincial election. I usually appear at 6:40 am on alternate Tuesdays to report on something of interest in Halifax Harbour. This week the Tuesday Information Morning broadcast will be from a remote location, and thus Don Connolly will not be in the studio for our usual session.
I will be on next week instead.
I am not sure if I will return the following week to get back on the usual schedule or if it will be two weeks later. We will see.
So what was I going to talk about tomorrow?

Topic #1 - the herring seiner fleet is back. Every year the herring fleet follows the migratory fish as they work their way up the coast. This week the fish are close enough to Halifax, to make Halifax the base for the seiners. The boats fish at night and come into port in the morning to unload to tanker trucks. The fish are pumped out of the boats into the trucks, and then driven away to the herring plants in southwestern Nova Scotia or New Brunswick.
The boats catch the fish in a purse seine, a large circular net, which is set around the fish and drawn close to gather the fish in. Each boat is equipped with a seine skiff, that takes one end of the net out and after coralling the fish, brings the end of the net back to the boat. The top and bottom of the net are drawn in - forming a purse shaped bag - which is lifted onto the boat. The fish are emptied out into the boat's fish hold.
The larger seiners are fitted with pumps and conveyors to transfer the fish to trucks, and the smaller seiners rely on mobile shore based pumps.
Herring is a versatile fish - their scales are used in paint, nail polish, and other finishes, their roe is highly valued in Japan for food and their carcasses are rendered for feed.

Topic#2 - the yacht UNITY is in port again for a visit. The luxurious 130 footer has been in port several times over the years, usually to coincide with a concert in Halifax (such as Elton John last year and Cirque de Soleil this year.)
Most of these large yachts are owned anonymously, to protect the privacy of their owners. This one one however is widely known to belong to Elena Ford, the great great gandaughter of Henry Ford. The yacht is based in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, and after wintering in Florida, makes the trek to the Great Lakes each summer. It is tied up at Queen's wharf, just north of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

Topic#3 - shipping business. We have been following the ups and downs of the world shipping business. This week the charter rates for bulk carriers continue to rise, and there have also been many purchases of these ships, mostly by Chinese owners. China seems to be stockpiling bulk commodities such as iron ore and coal, while the prices are low.
Tanker owners are still having a hard time, with many large tankers accepting charter rates that are below operating costs. This at least gives the owners some cash flow, and is preferrable to laying up the ships. China is importing large quantities of crude oil, but the tanker market is still quite depressed.
Ship scrapping continues apace despite worries about new environmental regulations, which may prevent shipbreakers from operating on open beaches. The new regs may require them to work in enclosed docks, which would put the Indian and Pakistani breakers out of business.
Container ships are having the hardest times, with more than 10% of the world's fleet tied up for lack of work. Container lines are returning chartered ships to their owners, and there is no alternative but to put the ships in layup. The layup fleet represents 1.3 million TEUs of capacity, and consists of more than 500 ships at last count. Even though many older ships are going to the scrap yard, new ships are still being delivered and owners are cutting back capacity to meet reduced demand. Until the demand for consumer goods in the US and Europe increases, the container business will remain depressed.
Several shipping companies are in dire financial straits and many owners of tankers, container ships and bulk carriers are cancelling new build orders, and paying huge penalties. Shipyards, particularly in the west, including eastern Europe, but also Korea are facing major cutbacks in their order books.

Stay tuned!

Infomation Morning is aired on CBC Radio 1, 90.5FM in Halifax, but is also live streamed to the internet.

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