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preventable causes. It is estimated that 10 to 20 bulk carriers are lost annually due to structural failures.5 This is clearly an unacceptable rate of loss and, presumably, something that can be remedied, as evidenced by a postmortem of the Derbyshire disaster discussed later in this chapter.
General cargo ships are the third most numerous type of vessels in the global fleet, but their numbers are declining and more are being sent to the ship breakers (scrap yards) each year than are being built each year. The decline in their numbers is due to the fact that greater volumes of goods are being carried by bulk carriers and container ships.
Container ships are among the largest vessels sailing the seas today, second only to the largest tankers. They also constitute the fastest-growing segment of marine transport. From 2000 to 2005, nearly 900 new vessels were added to the fleet. More than 300 vessels have a capacity of 5,000 TEUs and 15 vessels have 8,000-TEU or greater capacity.6 The largest container ships in service in 2005—such as CSCL Asia and the P&O Nedlloyd Mondrian carry 8,500 TEUs.
Thanks to Captains Jon Harrison and Mark Remijan, I was able to visit APL China on one of her stops in the Port of Los Angeles. She has a rating of 4,832 TEUs and is 905 feet long with a beam of 132 feet. Harrison and Remijan alternate as masters of APL China, working a shift of 70 days—the time it takes for the vessel to make two roundtrips between ports on the West Coast of the United States and ports in Asia.
Harrison and Remijan took me on a tour of the vessel, from the engine room to the bridge. Containers are stored below deck in a series of bays with racks, nine layers high. The containers are attached to each other and to the racks by a latching mechanism at each corner called an interbox connector (IBC). On deck are seven layers—the first three layers secured by lashings in addition to the interbox connectors. It takes roughly three days to unload and reload the ship. In the captain’s cabin are several computers with satellite links for downloading the latest weather information. On my visit, one computer screen displayed the ship’s most recent track across the Pacific—a smooth crossing, no rough weather.