Sunday, November 10, 2013

The secret world of cargo ships

THE BRIDGE OF a modern ship is a shock on first encounter. Although this place is still known as the wheelhouse, the wheel at the helm is not wooden and impressive, but mundane plastic, the kind that would suit a video arcade game. Nearly all else is automated. A bank of screens contains radar, ECDIS — an electronic chart system — and AIS, an automatic identification system that transmits the ship's name, speed and heading, and other details to other ships, port authorities, and well-equipped pirates. There is radio, a gyrocompass and magnetic compass, a tachometer and echo sounder.

On a modern shipping vessel, what's in the hold is unknown — even to the people moving it.

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