Sunday, January 3, 2016

Big ships and big birds

Even though the San Jose Mercury-News annoyingly keeps mis-spelling the acronym of the shipping company in their article, they still ran a pretty nifty story about the new Benjamin Franklin:

The future of Pacific shipping loomed large on the bay Thursday as a giant container ship docked at the Port of Oakland.

At 1,310 feet in length, the CMA-CMG Benjamin Franklin would stand 50 feet higher than the Empire State Building. It can carry 18,000 20-foot-long cargo containers. Most such ships coming into U.S. ports carry 14,000 containers.

The ship, which came up the coast from Los Angeles, is the world's tenth largest and represents a drive to economize in shipping by building ever bigger, more efficient cargo carriers.

As I recall, the ability to handle ships like these was the justification for the big Port of Oakland dredging project:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finished dredging 870 acres of Bay floor last month. The work cleaned up a 50-foot-deep channel leading massive container ships into 50-foot-deep berths at the Port. That’s the desired clearance for thousand-foot-long vessels that could carry up to 14,000 20-foot cargo containers.

14,000; 18,000; what's the difference? Any way you look at it, these ships are enormous.

It's nice to see that the Port of Oakland, which has had a decades-long complicated relationship with the cities, counties, and region in which it resides, has been trying to find ways to work with that community.

Indeed, the port's press release gives its ecological responsibilities almost equal weight with its commercial responsibilities:

The Corps’ challenge: finding beneficial use of the residue -- river-borne sediment and shifting sands that sweep in with the tide. The answer in this case: the Montezuma Wetlands Restoration Project. Barges transported all of the dredged material 52 nautical miles northeast to this 2,400-acre marsh on Suisun Bay. Under regulations governing the Port, only 80% must actually be reclaimed.

Privately owned Montezuma Wetlands LLC is overseeing a project to restore the marsh with 1.75 million cubic yards of fill. The goal is to restore the site’s original surface height. The Montezuma Wetlands have subsided 10 feet since being diked and drained a century ago. With a fresh topcoat, the wetlands should provide a more inviting habitat for shorebirds and other wildlife.

It's not easy to be a coastal sea bird on the popular West Coast of North America.

If you haven't already done so, you might enjoy watching Pelican Dreams, a nicely-presented documentary about the complex life of the California Brown Pelican. It's a beautiful movie; I really enjoyed it.

We get lots of pelicans around our neighborhood, at the right times of the year, and this is one such time. On a recent walk around town, we saw not only pelicans but more than a dozen other migratory sea birds, taking the chance to rest in these gentle waters before resuming their task.

And as the shifting sands continue to sweep in and out with the tide, I'm sure the balance will swing back and forth as well.

But on a beautiful winter's afternoon as we walked along the bluffs at Point Pinole Regional Park, watching a White-Tailed Kite soar and swoop over the meadows, we talked about how beautiful this world was, and how lucky we were to live in it.

Happy New Year!

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