Falmouth Shipping Activities…
April 7, 2014
From the view out of the Rathgowry Guesthouse windows, many of our guests see and hear the boats moored in the bay just off Gyllyngvase Beach. Some of the most asked questions are ‘what are they doing’ and ‘why are they there for so long’? Well, your hosts here at The Rathgowry hate to disappoint, so here is some (fairly specific) information for you to digest. My husband is quite into his boating and so kindly gathered the following for you all.
Falmouth port boasts one of the world’s largest natural deep-water harbours. Some say it is the 3rd deepest in the world. Falmouth is the part of the largest ship-repair complex in the UK with 3 large docks and extensive alongside deepwater berthing providing capacity for vessels up to 100,000 tonnes.
With its deepwater harbour, Falmouth and it’s bay is able to offer significant sheltered anchorages to a number of vessels while awaiting orders, seeking shelter or undertaking stores and crew changes. Indeed, the port has the UK’s largest offshore bunkering (fuelling) facility, providing all grades of marine fuels.
The largest tanker in the world, the ULCC (Ultra Large Crude Carrier) TI Europe, dwarves the bunkering tanker Paxoi in Falmouth Bay where she spent a few days at anchor awaiting orders after refueling.
From 2007 all ships operating within 5 degrees West (Falmouth is 5.0700° W) were legally required to use low sulphur fuel. Since July 2010, ships sailing through an Emission Control Area (ECA) have been required to burn 1.0% Low sulphur fuel oil (LSFO). This will be reduced further, to 0.1% sulphur distillate marine fuel, from 2015 onwards. To accomplish this, ships must have segregated tanks on board for the storage of the Heavy Sulphur Fuel Oil (HSFO) that will be used as bunker fuel when outside an ECA, and then additional tanks that store LSFO for use when inside the limits of an ECA.
Unfortunately, once the LSO is loaded onboard the rules require that it is used by the vessel, for a number of hours, to allow it to work completely through the engine system, ensuring that all HSFO in the system is burned off.
In 2012 more than 1,000 vessels anchored in Falmouth Bay, a majority of which loaded bunkers.
Two pilot boats are normally operated within the Port and vessels can expect pilots to board either from ARROW, a 16m launch with high visibility white superstructure, or L K MITCHELL, a 17m launch with orange superstructure. As much as 50% of the pilots work involves bunkering. Whether or not vessels require a pilot depends on what they are carrying, their size, and precisely where in the bay they are going.
The dangers of the Falmouth pilot’s role is illustrated by a tragic incident in September 1974 when the storm battered ferry ship Eagle, with 170 passengers, limped into Falmouth Bay and called for a pilot. The pilot cutter Kernow made for her, with duty pilot Captain Laurie Mitchell on board; although he managed to get onto the ship’s rope ladder from the launch, in mountainous seas, he was thrown or fell from the lurching ship and was caught between ship and the pilot cutter and was lost. The aircrew-man of a helicopter which assisted in the search, said later that when he was in the water, the waves were so high that a tug could not be seen a few yards away. The pilot cutter (L.K. Mitchell, pictured right) was named in Captain Mitchell’s memory.
Falmouth is also popular destination for Cruise Liners, being not only a large port, but also one of the few with deep-water along-side facilities, allowing liners to land their passenger without the need for boats to ferry passengers ashore. A current hot topic for debate is the requirement to restart dredging in the main harbour area, in order that the newer generation of larger cruise ships remains able to come alongside and use Falmouth as a destination port.
There is an excellent tool available on the internet that allows users to view, in real time, the shipping in the area, either underway or at anchor. It uses a vessel’s own AIS information as transmitted. It is also available as an app for smart phones etc. and can be found or viewed at www.marinetraffic.com
We hope you found this interesting! There is always lots going on in Falmouth Bay at all times of the year, so why not book your stay at The Rathgowry Guesthouse, your home away from home…
You can book with us online or call us directly on +44(0)1326 313482.