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Friday 3 September 2021

Merchant Navy Day


We now come round to another Merchant Navy Day. The 3rd of September was chosen as the day as the first merchant vessel to be sunk in WWII. War was finally declared at 11:00 and just a few hours later, at a little after 19:40 north west of Ireland the Anchor/Donaldson Line ships 'Athenia' was struck by a torpedo on her port side on passage to Montreal from Liverpool. The passenger liner had aboard 1418, including crew and 117 were lost, 98 passengers and 19 crew. In all the UK Merchant Navy lost 1554 ships, with many more damaged beyond repair. Over 29,000 seamen were lost.

The SS Athenia took 14 hours to sink.

However this year we had the stranding of the 'Ever Given' in the Suez Canal. Whilst nobody was killed, and no vessel lost the impact of this one incident had exceedingly far reaching effects. Around 12% of Global trade passes through the Suez Canal every day, as well as one million barrels of oil and 8% of the worlds LNG. There was a major disruption with $9.6 billion of world trade being held up. That is $400 Million a day and $6.7 million an hour, every day of the year. It is said that the effects of this halt in trade will be felt at Christmas too.

Ever Given is one of the largest container ships in the world. Her keel was l;aid on 25th December 2018

Times have changed; 
SS Athenia was steam turbine driven, was built in Glasgow in 1923 with a GRT of 13,465t and 160.4 mts long with a speed of 15kts., and registered in Glasgow. She carried emigrants and passengers across the Atlantic and had 315 crew aboard. There was no such thing as modern containers.
The 'Ever Given' was built in 2018 in Japan with a GT of 220,940t and a length of 400mts and a speed of 22.8 kts. She is registered in Panama and runs between China and Europe carrying up to 20,124 TEU (equivalent of 20' containers). She has a crew of 25.
We have to remember the sacrifice of our Merchant Seamen in times of war but the loss of ships goes on and is hardly known. In 2020 49 ships were lost of all flags, and such is the way of the world I can not find out how many seamen lost their lives. In 2019 no UK registered vessel over 100GT was lost but three seamen lost their lives. It is often only when there is an oil spill, or an incident results in the loss of passengers that it is felt newsworthy enough.

This goes to show the importance of marine trade to the way the world works, and the importance of seamen of all nations to keep it going. They suffered badly during the first year of COVID 19 pandemic as they weren't able to get on or off their ships and so were stranded a long way from home, with few people to champion their cause.

Now that the regime has changed in Afghanistan will we return to the years after the 9/11 outrage when every ship was seen to be a terrorist threat and no crew allowed ashore? The semen of the world always seem to be the common denominator with all world events, and it never seems to in their favour.

When you are watching your TV, eating your take away or getting dressed to go out just think about how all the 'stuff' gets here and that you are doing things that the average seamen oin a ship can not do for much of his time aboard.