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Shipping Forecast

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  1. This is more a sign of changing times and markets. When HFD set up there were far fewer holiday home companies out there, the internet was less well used, and a desire to expand the holiday market in France. Today the competition is huge and easily discoverable online. Not only do you have the established / larger players like Chez Nous, Gites de France, Homes To Go etc, other large players have extended out out in to the home letting space like Booking.com, Cottages.com et al, plus much easier to create multiple niche players with the common backend, just a different marketing front to appeal to different types of people. And if you have a masochistic streak, for not much money (less than a ferry ticket) you can buy the software to run your own holiday lettings company. Savvy property owners renting to holiday makers are signed up with more than one booking company anyway, so HFD going is going to make little difference to them apart from property owners not having to deal with another listing site. If property owners are not signed up to anyone else, HFD has given plenty of time to sign up for other property rental services, especially as peak booking time is 2-3 months away. And savvy ferry travellers will get their own CV card if it is worth it. We haven't used HFD in years as there are so many alternatives, but then again we always try to go direct to homeowner so they don't pay the massive rental site fees, so they make more money and we get a small discount as well. To use that horrible phrase; win-win. Businesses always should look at the bottom line as making profit enables reinvestment, otherwise it is the ever decreasing circle of doom. Looking at the market today with the massive competition, HFD may have once been a large contributor to the BF business, could now be just breaking even or losing money. It may even be better to close HFD and get the extra revenue from CV purchases, no additional overheads, cash straight to the bottom line depending on how it is accounted for. I doubt CV will go as membership programs are one of best ways to keep a customer base, as long as the benefits have value, but what form this takes will change no doubt to follow the market.
  2. Crewing, propulsion, capital costs etc plus making use of new available technologies were factored in. Does involve some software though 😉.
  3. Software provides the ultimate in flexibility and control and provides far more options if designed, written and implemented properly. Most of the issues results from ill defined initial specifications and constant re-specification due to siloing and not thinking thoroughly about complexity / all use cases (why was arcing not dealt with thoroughly in the design brief of the signalling software ... obvious to anyone working on electrified rail systems) and poor testing regimes. The most recent high profile direct comparison of well written and poorly written software is SpaceX's Dragon and Boeing's Starliner capsule, where SpaceX was and is very successful and Boeing's mission had to be aborted within minutes of launch due to very poor software, endemic in the company with the unfortunate Boeing 737 MAX as well. There is too much asset sweating and JIT extremes now instead of the goal being optimal operations. Nor is there an understanding of operating parameters are just that and limits do not mean all the time, they are limits, except to shortsighted MBAs and accountants who have no real world understanding but seem to inhabit a lot of decision making processes. You can see the thought process now, 42 knots means ... with no allowance for error or exception. There should always be contingency, better to arrive early than always late. NEX should have been worked up over a period of days or even weeks to establish new operating parameters if needed and produce a longer term running plan. As for the IoW, the ferry companies and their behaviour seems to be increasing support for the IoW tunnel again, I wonder if it will become an inevitability? As for private or public sector is better, when there is too much power concentrated in the hands of a few, state, private sector or unions, more often than not leads to the consequent degradation of service for users / customers. CalMac is a dogs breakfast of state ownership of assets / control combined with a tendered private operator. We were involved in a study a while back looking at the optimum between higher capacity, service levels, costs and the influence of new technology combined with demand and public expectation, fewer and fewer larger vessels has many downsides especially on high cost long service life mobile infrastructure including providing less long term security against market changes. There are several scenarios which show smaller and more often across the channel would be better than bigger and less frequent.
  4. IIRC they dropped the pods for more of a Turbo Electric arrangement with twin shafts with two motors per shaft, each shaft / propeller able to deliver 50,000 hp (~37MW). This was instead of four 20MW pods. Also IIRC the two new hydrographic vessels are the first RN ships to feature modern propulsion pods.
  5. Yes, podded propulsion went through a sticky patch as power increased and the original design of thrust bearing could not be scaled up due to the eccentric oscillations in the shaft causing them to misalign. Updated thrust bearing designs with roller bearings etc have mitigated the issue. New designs including rim driven rotors which look more like aircraft engines providing concentrated directional thrust are coming onto the market too. Still early days though.
  6. I was thinking more modern flexible propulsion systems but as you say electric propulsion in some form has been around for ages. There is nothing totally new, just things before their time (maybe). Either electric way would have been a greater step forward.
  7. The railways realised this in the sixties albeit without the use of batteries. None of this is new technology. Not only diesel electrics railway locomotives from the sixties, ‘shaftless’ podded propulsion comes from the late 1980s. The first podded cruise ship launched at the end of the nineties with over 100 Azipod (there are other manufacturers available) cruise ships now alone, never mind all the other shipping with podded propulsion installed. Depending on who is doing the figures electrically driven propulsion gives 8 to 15% increase in efficiency while reducing maintenance costs. All E-Flexers could have been built using this proven technology with four, or even six smaller gen-sets, providing load adjusted efficient running and importantly redundancy, with dual pods and battery support. With design forethought as battery capabilities improve the ability to replace gen-sets with battery banks for longer electric running with the ability for higher power charging, improving efficiency further and most importantly reducing operating costs massively.
  8. Hence my question, could they have swapped? What is announced is not always what happens. Could a new life shortening issue have arisen in service on Normandie, realised better returns faster etc, and swapped around. If not the pictures are the wrong way round with window layout, upper bow garage door etc. This is a step forward, but could have been an opportunity to step forward again (2 steps). Disassociate power from propulsion and save on all the moving gubbins in-between. If just shore power then typically lightweight but ship battery charging tends to be larger like at Helsingborg and Helsingør for the Aurora and Tycho Brahe (ForSea ferries). Each is an automatic robot arm with charging plugs attached in tower structure to allow the arm to rise and fall with the tides. When the ramp is released a signal is sent automatically to the charging mechanism to plug in delivering 10kV at 600A (~6MW), and vice versa when departing. The new e-flexer ships are have an 8MW charging capacity, a step up again. Both ships interestingly (IIRC) are both from the nineties having been converted to battery power in the 2010's. This would put them about the same vintage as Normandie and Bretagne.
  9. It looks like they have been waiting for the new EU shipping energy directive before confirming the order as the two ships tick a lot of boxes.
  10. Is Bretagne II definitely arriving first? Could the first be the Normandie replacement as she has been worked harder and the need for lane space greater? Bretagne could be life extended for an extra season with her current vacation in Le Havre. I also see that there will be 10 MWh of batteries, with an 8 MWh shore supply connection ability to charge the batteries as well as provide hotel services. It will be interesting to see how the the shore supply is set up and if can be expanded easily. Also quoted is a top speed of 17.5 knots on batteries, so they could be pathfinders to further electrification, otherwise passengers may be a little alarmed with high speed port entry. A little disappointing in the connected hybrid system but suspect generator electric Azipod type propulsion is a step too far on what is obviously a successful design if more are being ordered. Apparently ammonia ready too.
  11. Spot the difference (there are a few) ... NB275 (E-Flexer no. 11) - ETD 2024 NB278 (E-Flexer no. 12) - ETD 2025 First clues to internal layout differences?
  12. France's unique travel status will be more than the variant or infection rate concerns and not straightforward. France has the largest variety of travel connections to the UK and a gateway to more freedom to travel within the EU / other areas of the world. A number of factors will be at play, for example - the number of travel connections make France a back door into the UK with less onerous restrictions than other routes and intelligence has shown travellers are using France as a stop off point to avoid hotel quarantine or similar. - information from travellers last year rushing back to beat quarantines showed France being used as an escape corridor for the panicking (marauding) masses, so a form of crowd control - could even be request from France to help limit infection vectors, easier to control people departing from the UK. This could also be in return for a friendlier stance on some matter. - there is a new variant mutation seen but not yet confirmed in it's extent or harm. We do not have all the information and the published information does not necessary show this. The red list rumours circulating everywhere didn't just happen, they were specific so would have been a leak, and should have been a warning to travel companies and those travelling. The Friday night update release would indicate the government will not of made this decision lightly and they have put off a decision as long as possible. So maybe this should be viewed more positively as a classic British diplomatic / political fudge. The unique status awarded to France allows people the freedom to travel to a country of concern but with some strings.
  13. Just had a quick look at the electrical distribution map around Ouistreham, St Malo and Roscoff. St Malo is unlikely to have issues with power as there are grid lines connecting the Rance Tidal Barrage to France's grid network running through the south of St Malo, with a branch going north into the city ending at a grid substation 2.4 km (1.5 miles) from the port. The nearest local primary substation around 880m away. Not far if a new direct connection to the grid is required. For Ouistreham too, the nearest local primary substations are around 880m away if the port does not have sufficient capacity already. For Roscoff there is little information available. If a new direct connection to the HV grid is required, Roscoff has a grid connection 4.8 miles (7.7 km) away, while Ouistreham is a little further at 5 miles (8 km) down the canal. And if the UK in is step with the EU, the power supply to Portsmouth will probably need re-enforcing to cope with evening rush hour. The primary DNO substation is around 400m away on the other side of the M275. If that or the cabling cannot be uprated to cope, the nearest grid supply is 2.3 miles away over the bridge. All this has been on cards for a while, so hopefully ports will already have made plans. An alternative of course is the next new ferries will be hybrid in some form, running on battery power in port and LNG, or even ammonia if they can develop the technology fast enough, for the main crossing. Will BF and others hold on to their older ships until such times these forms of propulsion are cheaper propositions nearer the 2030 deadline.
  14. For many the reality of ferry travel is a distant memory and dream. From being a relatively frequent traveller to not being on board for 18 months feels strange, and it is looking like it could be 2 years before gracing a linkspan again. For those who last travelled in the summer of 2019 it could easily be three years before boarding once more. Some of the ships we love and those we love a little less have been vacationing on the canals and quaysides for a similar amount of time, becoming silent memorials to a bygone age of free travel filled with joie de vivre, bread rolls and man's best friend. There are a lucky few who can travel or travel for work, but most of us are still in the terminal waiting to for permission board for our next travel adventure. Some have given up and gone home, some are snoozing in the quiet corner, a few reading or away with their own thoughts as life intrudes, while rest make small talk which as time goes on drifts slightly to keep the conversation flowing. When that clarion call from above allowing us to board, to continue our travels freely again unencumbered by an acronym salad of bank depleting tests, we will be ready for plenty of good ferry rapport reporting, retorting and reimporting items to avoid the tax.
  15. The overwhelming reason for extracting crude oil is to fuel the transport industry with petrol, diesel and kerosene making up a very large percentage of that. Everything else is the extra (bonus?) depending on which crude is used and how it is refined. The how much part is a bit of a piece of string question. Hydrocarbons as a fuel source cover a wide range of energy sources. At the top end of the grade scale you have the gases (methane, ethane etc) followed by petrol, naphtha (mainly for chemical production), kerosene and diesel in the middle, then marine fuels to bitumen residue (solid hydrocarbons at standard temperatures) at the bottom. Some of the lighter products like methane are thought of as a nuisance so just burnt off and not even utilised even though they have some intrinsic value. Hydrocarbons make 97/98% of crude oil, so at it crudest you need 1.02/1.03 gallons of the correct crude fraction / grade to make one gallon of petrol, diesel etc. However it is not quite that simple as crude oil is not a consistent product. Each oil field location has a specific combination of the hydrocarbon grades above making the oil more or less desirable. So you get a combination of Light, Medium and Heavy crude - Light crude consists mainly of the lighter fractions of hydrocarbons (gases, petrol) worth more money, whereas heavy crude has more of the sticky, very viscous hydrocarbons (marine fuel oil, bitumen) requiring more processing so has a lower price. Medium is between the two! and Sweet and Sour crude - Sweet crude has a low sulphur content and requires less refining and gets the highest prices. Sour crude has more sulphur and other contaminates in. The name comes form when they used to taste the oil in the initial production to determine the quality. For example, North Sea Brent is a light sweet crude oil, whereas the Canada's WCS crude is heavy sour. Therefore the important question is what is the percentage of each hydrocarbon grade in the crude oil from each field and how much processing does it require? This then sets the basic price structure before the oil traders get involved. Obviously due to the much higher demand for petrol, kerosene and diesel the lighter crudes like Saudi and North Sea crude are the most in demand and has a higher price than the heavy sour crude found in bituminous oil sands of Canada and Venezuela. To help meet demand for the more popular products - petrol, kerosene, diesel - and as the demand for the denser hydrocarbons products is lower, the refineries also crack, or break up the heavier oils, to produce the high demand, higher price lighter hydrocarbons. This makes these products more expensive as extra processing is needed so avoided where possible. Bunker fuels are at the bottom of the pile just above carbon black / bitumen residue and these are the real less wanted extras. They also tend to be the sourer products with more contaminants in, hence not so good for the environment. But they are cheap compared to the higher priced lighter hydrocarbons so out of sight, out of mind. Gaseous hydrocarbons or natural gas (superb greenwashing there) tend to come from separate gas fields like those in the southern North Sea as they require little processing apart from removing contaminants and water from the gas to produce dry natural gas for use. Gas from separate gas fields is better quality than the gas from crude oil reservoirs.
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