Ships In Port

February 8, 2009, 10:19 am
Filed under: Ships

There is a ship out at Pier 2. But because it is so heavily backlit by the morning sun, I can’t read the name. Fortunately, has some information that can help. The site provides a Google map mashup of dozens of harbors and the ships that are in port. The one for Portland Harbor currently shows that the Kometik tanker is in port (more about that later). But it also shows that some smaller tugs (ANDREW MCALLISTER, FOURNIER GIRLS, STAMFORD) that are moving around the harbor. I should say that the maps are updated every few seconds automatically so you can “watch” them live.

How do they do this? According to their FAQs:

As from December 2004, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) requires all vessels over 299GT to carry an AIS transponder on board, which transmits their position, speed and course, among some other static information, such as vessel’s name, dimensions and voyage details.

This is pretty amazing because the AIS transponder transmits a signal of about 20 nautical miles, meaning that anyone with an AIS receiver can get information about the ships within that area. Or kind of. This graphic (from the Cover Your Area section) shows what you actually need to contribute to these lives maps. Note the ethereal internet cloud.

They say that you actually don’t need an internet connection to contribute, but I could resist posting the internet cloud which I’m sure most people use to access and contribute this data. Anyway, the information picked up via the VHF Antenna and Receiver get added to the maps in real time, giving us a pretty amazing tool for tracking and watching the ships in port. The receivers seem to be a bit expensive (+$150) so we’re lucky that someone has already got one dedicated to Portland Harbor.

Another interesting element of this is that the data transmitted is updated every time a ship leaves port, which means the system is highly dependent on the crews, who are responsible for updating their transponders. Finally! a real connection to the crews!

Beyond location information the site offers photos (which anyone can upload) and data about  where they’re going and what they’re carrying. I’ve added a new page (in the links section) which supplies a link to the mashups provided by

So, what about the Kometik? Well it is a 126,646 deadweight tanker owned by Canship Ugland Ltd. whose ship, the Mattea, I blogged about a few weeks ago. Like the Mattea, it flies under the Canadian flag and operates out of St. John’s in Newfoundland. It was built by Samsung Heavy Industries Co. Ltd. (amazing graphic on their site!) in their Koje Shipyard.

The Kometik has an unfortunate history. As this report from 2006 notes:

One person has died and another has been seriously injured following a fire onboard a JJ Ugland-managed tanker in Canada on Saturday. The two men were doing welding repairs on the 126,600-dwt shuttle tanker “Kometik” (built 1997) as it was anchored in Conception Bay, Newfoundland, when the blaze broke out in the cargo area. One man died as a result of burns received, while the other man, who was working for East Coast Marine, was rushed to hospital with 50% burns to his body. The incident happened on Saturday morning as the ship was waiting to load a cargo of crude oil. There were 30 people on-board but the ship contained no cargo at the time of the blaze. The fire was quickly brought under control and the vessel is running under its own power.

This case went to trial and resulted in the owners of the ship paying a few hundred thousand dollars in fines and admitting that it failed to follow certain safety procedures that would have likely prevented the incident. This was an important story in Newfoundland and was recently covered by The Telegram, The Western Star, and the CBC which highlight the anger of the surviving welder and the widow of the deceased.

It’s a pretty sad story with a wholly preventable tragedy. It’s indicative of the dangers of working on-board tanker ships and the widespread irresponsibility of their owners. Welcome to Portland, Kometik.


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Just wanted to mention that I enjoy your blog. Have visited many times from Vigorous North. Keep up the good work!

Comment by Corey Templeton

Thanks for the kind words, Corey. I’ve been keeping an eye on your blog too. Your post about the Conway Daily Sun caught my eye because, apparently, the “editorial office” is next to my apartment on St. Lawrence street.

Comment by shipsinport

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