April 02, 2021

Open Thread 75

It's time once again for our usual open thread. Talk about whatever you want, even if it's not naval/military related.

I have no particular plans to write on the MV Ever Given incident specifically, although salvage in general remains on my list of topics to cover some day. I will say, however, that I am extremely happy at the fact that the importance of seaborne trade was at least briefly in the spotlight.

2018 overhauls are the Early Battlecruisers, Why do we need so many ships?, ASW in WWI, SYWTBABB - Design Part 1, The Pursuit of the Goeben and Breslau and Operation Staple Head. 2019 overhauls are Auxiliaries Part 5, Commercial Aviation Part 10, German Guided Bombs Part 4, The Spanish-American War Part 3, Naval Fiction, SYWTBABB Construction Part 2 and The Philadelphia Experiment. 2020 overhauls are Falklands Part 20, Southern Commerce Raiding Part 2, Merchant Ships - General Cargo and Lord Nelson's review of SS Anne.


  1. April 02, 2021ike said...

    Since the Suez Authority has such a bad reputation, if the Europeans wanted a new canal, say through Israeli territory, what do you think it would cost with modern machinery? (Ignore for a moment the fact if would lead to war.)

  2. April 02, 2021Johan Larson said...

    Anyone have a link to a solid estimate of how much the Suez blockage actually cost? This strikes me as something that is difficult to estimate, since it is trying to put a price on delay rather than outright loss.

  3. April 02, 2021Ian Argent said...

    The SCA is holding Ever Given until a report is completed as to the causes, at which point they claim to want to get USD$1 Billion out of someone for the event. Hard lines for anyone with a container aboard, I suppose.

  4. April 02, 2021redRover said...


    It depends if you want to flood the Dead Sea or not, as well as if you want a sea level connection to support SuezMax ships, or if you can accept locks and a Panamax / Panamax 2 envelope.

    The shortest way is probably to draw a straight line from Eliat to just north of Gaza, with appropriate locks and meanders to minimize digging costs. (Or I suppose an extremely prohibitive amount of digging to get a sea level passage.) However, locks are sort of problematic because Israel is in a desert, so the extra water to refill the locks would have to be pumped up at great cost.

    However, the other option, which would likely cause (several) wars would be to open a short canal to the Dead Sea, flood the Dead Sea Valley, and then create another shorter canal over more promising terrain near Afula and the Carmel River.

    Alternatively, you could run a normal canal at ~100M elevation along the Israeli side of the border, with locks at Haifa and Eliat.

    Regardless, they all seem cost prohibitive relative to just sailing around Africa, or train shipments across Asia.

  5. April 02, 2021ike said...


    Is the ground around Eliat a lot stonier than around Suez? I guess most of northern Egypt is literally made of Nile sediment...

  6. April 02, 2021Johan Larson said...

    A straight-line canal, wholly within Israeli territory, from Eliat to Ashkelon, would be about 240 km long.

  7. April 02, 2021ike said...

    RE: Cost estimates

    A back of the envelope approach: Cost = X1(Size of Europe-Asia shipping industry: annual) x X2(fraction of the year the canal is closed + length of voyage) x X3(length of suez route / legnth of the Cape route) + retooling cost

    X1:I can't find good numbers for the size of the industry. I am seeing about 9b$ for just containers. Lets just say the total is 17b$ and Europe-to-Asia is 40% of that. X1= ~7b$

    X2: This varies depending on the ports in question. In Europe the biggest port is Rotterdam, though I am sure some trade goes to Mediterranean ports. For spit-balling prurpoes, let's use Lisbon as the average. In Asia some trade is going to the far-east and some to Ormuz. Let's call Singapore the average. estimates: 7.2knm vs 10.7knm X2= ~1.5

    X3: Cape route take about a month and a half. Let's say it takes about that long to get everything running again. X3= ~.25

    Retooling / disruption costs: who knows? maybe tripple the total?

    Cost = 7b$ x 1.5 x 0.25 x 4 = 10.5b$? These numbers are garbage, but should be in the ball park.

  8. April 02, 2021ike said...

    Looking that over, I messed up. It should be:

    X2 = (voyage via Cape / voyage via Suez -1) So my estimate is 3 times too big

  9. April 02, 2021bean said...

    I think the big determinant of cost would be what set of environmental rules you'd have to comply with. It would be a lot cheaper if we assume the environmental rules in use when the current canal was built would still be in force.

  10. April 02, 2021Neal said...

    Perhaps Bean has touched on this before, but an article or two that I have run across has mentioned what seems to be a lack of thorough initial and recurrent training in what might be labeled Bridge Resource Management if I might adapt the term from aviation's Cockpit Resource Management (CRM).

    The CRM concept and training has been a blue ribbon success that partnered governmental aviation agencies, industry, pilot's unions, and other stakeholders. Basically constant training in emphasizing "what's right" and not "who's right."

    Do any of you know if civilian shipping and military naval forces have this concept and that the articles I read are wrong, or is the concept of Master/Captain as a god still deeply entrenched in operations?

    In CRM the Captain's authority remains, but a spirit of questioning, if necessary, is encouraged. Does that exist in shipping?

    I remember a dark foggy night in Cairo 31 years ago when the jumpseater screamed out "STOP" so loudly my ears are still ringing. Captain slammed on the brakes--the right move I can assure you and no hard feelings. Would a Naval Captain be so quick to take such a command from a subordinate?

  11. April 02, 2021bean said...

    Probably not. In general (and Blackshoe is going to be able to speak with a lot more authority on this than I can) the naval/maritime world is generally behind the aviation world in matters like that. I'm sure it's been looked at, but culture takes a while to change, and I'm not sure the resources have been applied. Add in that most merchant mariners come from countries that have historically had cultural issues with implementing CRM even in aviation, and I don't think the prognosis is bright.

  12. April 02, 2021ike said...

    @bean I would ask what environmental toes you could step on digging a ditch through uninhabited desert... I don't want to know do I?

  13. April 03, 2021bean said...

    You really don't. CatCube is probably the best person to give the full rant, but the environmental process today soaks up a tremendous amount of time and money, particularly because I'm sure that this new canal would be a major threat to the Negev Desert Bat-Winged Three-Horned Nose Toad, or some other useless piece of wildlife that will suddenly become vital to the future of the planet.

  14. April 03, 2021AlexT said...

    Yeah, who needs wildlife when you can get Arab oil and Chinese baubles 10% cheaper.

    That's the problem with really big life support systems - they seem unbreakable.

  15. April 03, 2021Anonymous said...

    If a creature has so few left that it is endangered losing it probably won't break a really big life support system (but may have local consequences) and life is pretty adaptable.

    Looking at a map of Israel it is possible to do it within Israel's internationally recognized borders so maybe a war wouldn't be started over it but it is very mountainous, 60 m TBMs might be needed to have a sea level canal usable by Suezmax ships.

  16. April 03, 2021Johan Larson said...

    One thing that would need looking into for an Israeli canal is aquifers. If the canal runs over an aquifer that many people get water from, and the salt water from the canal started seeping into it, that would be a huge problem.

  17. April 03, 2021bean said...

    @Alex T

    The tone of my comment was probably too close to CW for policy here. I apologize.

  18. April 03, 2021Alsadius said...

    I suspect that the health and safety rules might even be more costly than the environmental rules for a big earth-moving project like that.

  19. April 03, 2021Ian Argent said...

    I skimmed an article the other day that claimed than there's lip service paid to A Bridge Resource Management a la CRM, but that it is a polish on a coprolith in actual fact.

  20. April 04, 2021AlexT said...

    @bean Same. Came out way too salty. Wasn't meant as CW, for what that's worth, merely as (strong) pushback.

  21. April 05, 2021ec429 said...

    60 m TBMs might be needed to have a sea level canal usable by Suezmax ships.

    Careful, you'll give Elon Musk ideas.

  22. April 05, 2021Neal said...

    Interesting video on how they freed the Ever Given: https://youtu.be/zf4qVJ65ghA

    I had never thought about the surface area that all the containers offer up to a crosswind...quite a bit if his calculations are correct.

  23. April 06, 2021Johan Larson said...


    Hey, that's a really good video.

  24. April 06, 2021Ian Argent said...

    Ah - I still had the article open in a tab


  25. April 06, 2021Blackshoe said...

    BRM (and yes it's called BRM, and yes, it's basically stolen wholesale from CRM) is a thing. Think I went through the class twice? I know the CIVMARs swear by it, but I'm not sure I can tell you anything I remembered (though that might not be the classes fault). I mostly vaguely recall learning about lots of theory and obvious if not always useful ideas. Generally speaking, the CO/Master are still gods. The Navy has tried to foster an attitude of forceful backup to try and change that, but it comes down to the CO supporting that attitude. I can think of three collisions (including one that I was onboard the ship involved for, even though AKSHUALLY it was an allision) where the problem was fundamentally rooted in "the CO made a call, and it turned out to be the wrong one and no one could change that".

    In the civilian world, my understanding is that among the big issues WRT creating a more questioning culture is a) it's hard to see the need since unlike aviation accidents, maritime accidents that can be traced to bad decision making rarely kill hundreds of people quickly, and b) enforcement. Given that most of the crews are coming from non-first world countries and most of the ships are flagged from decidedly not-first world countries (eg Panama, Ever Given's flag state), it's hard to come up with a way to enforce that requirement. And, as bean noted, you'd have to change a lot of cultures that might not be easy to do either.

    Also confounding things is that it occurred in the Suez Canal. Famously, there are two places where a USN CO does not have ultimate authority for driving his ship: pulling into drydock and the Panama Canal (pilots take responsibility in both cases). The Suez isn't quite that rigid, but the pilots there still have lots of authority; that (and the general relationsihp between pilot and captain in ports) is something that doesn't quite carry over into the aviation world (I think? Or maybe ATC does have that authority?).

    I do look forward to the SCA's report that will completely exonerate their pilots of any wrongdoing no matter what. FWIW, in the other allision I was onboard a ship for, that was the ship driven by civilian mariners, and the fault was mostly of the civilian pilot (IIRC).

  26. April 06, 2021Ian Argent said...

    I was shocked by the fact(oid) thrown out about how:

    According to the insurer Allianz, 41 large ships were lost in 2019, and 46 in 2018. Over the past decade, about 100 big vessels have been lost annually.

    That's a LOT of steel and air, not to mention cargo.

    Of course, "big vessels" is not defined.

  27. April 06, 2021Blackshoe said...

    In other news, currently reading a book called A Man and His Ship, about William Francis Gibbs. There was a discussion about how Gibbs' father was involved in trying to sell something called Marsden Cellulose, which was made of ground up coconut shells and apparently used as some kind of water-extruding material. Or that was the theory, anyway. It apparently didn't work well. But corn did!

  28. April 06, 2021Neal said...

    Thank you Ian for that link. Those numbers are indeed eye-opening.

    Yes, Johan, the creator of that video did a good job. I don't know him by anything but his work, but I have seen a couple of his other plots, such as Guadalcanal, and found them to be nice graphic summations of events.

    Thank you Blackshoe, as always. for your insights and expertise in these matters.

    Is there a ranking system for mishaps at sea? In the aviation world a mishap, incident, and accident all have somewhat different meanings depending on the severity and/or loss of life/lives. The military, at least AF, uses Class A, B, and C or did back in those far distant times of "in my day." At an estimated 9 billion dollars a day the Ever Given sure went above and beyond in the cost category even though, fortunately no lives were lost...

    Also, what are the reporting requirements? In the international aviation world normally a preliminary report is issued at the 30 day mark and interim reports as needed until the final one is printed at some date down the road. Can we expect anything similar in this incident or will it, as you hint at, get buried under whitewash?

  29. April 07, 2021AlphaGamma said...


    Is there a ranking system for mishaps at sea? In the aviation world a mishap, incident, and accident all have somewhat different meanings depending on the severity and/or loss of life/lives.

    The IMO has one, which is used by the accident investigation services of most countries.

    A Very Serious Marine Casualty involves total loss of the ship, loss of life, or severe pollution.

    A Serious Marine Casualty (the category the Ever Given falls into AIUI) is any other incident resulting in either pollution, damage rendering the ship unseaworthy, or a breakdown necessitating towage or shore assistance.

    A Marine Casualty is anything else that results in injury to a person, damage to a ship or property, or stranding or disabling of a ship.

    A Marine Incident is something that could cause loss of life or a vessel or serious property damage, but didn't (such as a close-quarters situation).

  30. April 07, 2021AlphaGamma said...

    @Neal- as for publication, there is a requirement to investigate serious marine casualties (and publish the investigation) "as quickly as practical". I don't think international law sets a fixed timeline for this, though individual countries may have their own laws.

  31. April 07, 2021Blackshoe said...

    @Ian: per their Annual Safety & Shipping Report for 2020, a large vessel is "over 100 gross tons".

  32. April 07, 2021Ian Argent said...

    @Blackshoe: I found that out late last night and am somewhat disappointed. That's the size of a really small Channel ferry vessel, I think?

    I mean, the article is basically comparing apples (large passenger jets) to oranges (small and cargo vessels) Cargo vessels and small aircraft have a much worse safety record than the bigger jets

  33. April 07, 2021AlphaGamma said...

    @IanArgent- 100 GT is more like a decent size harbour ferry!

    The Dover-Calais ferries are mostly quite big (about 25000 GT). Even the tiny ferries serving Scottish islands are usually at least a couple of hundred GT.

  34. April 07, 2021Blackshoe said...

    To put it in comparison, and to use an example probably relevant to me and no one else, the Block Island ferries mostly clock in at 97/98 GT, so...just a smidge bigger than that.

    Reporting accidents for vessels over 100GT might make sense from an insurance perspective (eg "That's what we cover as an insurance agency") and I can see it as a way of filtering out most things that aren't coastal vessels, but as a taxonomic shorthand for "crashes in the maritime world...it leaves a lot to be desired.

  35. April 07, 2021Ian Argent said...

    The Staten Island car ferries are 2-3kT gross, and even their "small" passenger ferries are 300 tons gross.

  36. April 07, 2021Neal said...

    Excellent discussion going on here. Thanks @Alpha for that accident/incident info.

  37. April 09, 2021echo said...

    So re. the nuclear cruiser Burke we were designing in the propulsion article. Would IEP really be necessary? How easy is CONLAG, similar to what the type 23 uses with CODLAG?
    I'm not an engineer, but aren't electric motors generally pretty forgiving about running at different speeds, as long as they've got load? Would they mind running faster on the same gearing as you clutched in the gas turbines?

    Seems like it would be more space-efficient while still running quiet at low speed, and having plenty of electrical generation for radars, lasers, disco balls, railguns, etc.

  38. April 09, 2021redRover said...


    Depends how big the disco balls are!

    For my money, straight nuclear with IEP is the way to go.

    I have no particular insight into the engineering, but I think generally mixing systems ends up in a much more expensive place than just oversizing a single system, especially since fuel is basically free. (i.e. if you're developing a new reactor, the cost difference between a 60k and an 80k reactor is probably negligible. The advantage of the various mixed systems are in fuel savings and being able to use existing units of power, vs having GE custom design a new turbine.)

    The gas turbine (in my opinion) should be there for standby power when the reactor is shut down and to provide some sort of minimal limping power if needed, not as a normal source of propulsion.

  39. April 09, 2021bean said...

    Would it be totally necessary? Probably not, but it might well still be desirable. It means you have full control over your electricity, so you can run the really big disco ball if you need to. But it costs more. I think my counterpoint would be the Type 26, which is CODLOG instead of CODLAG, for reasons that aren't 100% clear at this point. There might be more trouble with "And" systems given current tech than is obvious, and in that case, it presumably made more sense to just chuck the diesel-electric bit at high speed and use a bigger turbine (I think with the DL part serving as a sort of mini-IEP in that case) but I'm not sure you'd do the same with nuclear.

  40. April 10, 2021Lambert said...

    The impression I get is that if you were to do a quick-and-dirty conversion from CODLOG to CODLAG, you'd barely get a higher top speed. The diesel-electric side is designed to run efficiently and quietly. Using it to supplemement a GT at full power is a long way outside its design envelope. You'd either need complex gearing to turn the sort of mechanical power the motors want to produce into the sort that the propellor shaft wants to consume or you'd need to accept the sort of compromises inherent to designing a proper CODLAG propulsion system.
    The other benefit is that you can run at full speed and still have all your diesel generators available to power everything other than propulsion. Might not be important now but it'll future-proof the design in case laser CIWS becomes the thing to use.

  41. April 12, 2021FXBDM said...

    I recently saw a factoid claiming that at the end of WW2, the Canadian Navy was the fifth largest in the world (no precision on whether this was by number of ships, manpower, or tonnage). Much of that is owing to so many major navies slowly rusting on the bottom of various seas and oceans, of course.

    I tried to find statistics to determine who #3 and #4 were (1 and 2 presumably being the USN and RN) but I could only find Canadian sources talking about #5 and not much else. Does anyone have a good source that could resolve the dilemma?

    FWIW my uninformed guesses would be Australia and either the USSR or possibly France after reuniting the fleets and adding a few reparations kriegsmarine units.

  42. April 12, 2021bean said...

    The Soviets and French were the ones ahead of them. I've seen a source, but don't have it to hand.

  43. April 12, 2021ike said...

    Being bigger than the Red Fleet doesn't really seem like something to be proud of in '44... Though I guess they got a fair number of captured ships in the peace.

  44. April 13, 2021echo said...

    Instead, the engine was boosted to 35,000 horsepower output; Makin Island has the first such LM-2500s.

    Oh neat, I didn't know the navy had already started using the modernized turbines. That bodes well for some improvements to the Burkes.
    Apparently the Makin Island runs on its diesel-electric system at 12 knots 75% of the time? That's as slow as our local ferry boats!

  45. April 13, 2021bean said...

    Not necessarily. The problem is that if everything downstream of the turbine (gearboxes and props, mostly) is designed to take 25,000 SHP, throwing 35,000 SHP at it is just going to break things. Changing all that out is going to be a pain, and the Navy so far hasn't seen much reason to do so. If you have a clean-sheet design like Makin Island, you'll build it so the current turbines can be used.

  46. April 14, 2021echo said...

    Yeah, I phrased that badly. I really just meant there's going to be institutional knowledge with using the updated turbines.
    Was assuming the future cruiser is going to be basically a stretched/flight IV Burke, given the way their cleansheet designs have been turning out. And that there'd be enough changes to justify a new drivetrain.

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