The World of Bulk Carriers
Bulk carriers are large-scale trade ships designed for marine transportation of bulk goods. Bulk carriers do not carry containers, but mainly bulk goods, which are stored in holds, , each containing thousands of tons. The largest bulk carriers are used for transporting coal, metal ores and sometimes grain.
Shipping coal to Israel utilizes two types of ships: Panamax and Capesize. A Capesize ship can carry over 200,000 tons (including the weight of the ship itself) and a Panamax ship can carry over 80,000 tons.
The depth of a coal ship (below sea level) is similar to that of a six-story building. The height of each hold (coal warehouse) is around 18 meters, and the capacity of each hold is 18,000-20,000 tons.
Current-day trade ships are manned mainly by Philippine and Chinese staff, wearing overall uniforms and security helmets. Their job is to maintain the ship during the voyage and the anchoring at various ports, navigate the ship to its destination according to the shipping contract, and coordinate the ship’s arrival with destination ports and marine fuel stations.
In some ports around the world, unloading is performed at sea, using designated rafts, and the ship’s crew is not permitted to go ashore, even briefly. When unloading is completed, the ship continues its voyage to the next destination.
Piracy is still a security problem in modern-day trade. Pirate ships thrive mainly in remote areas, or in areas where civil anarchy hampers law enforcement. Modern-day pirates take control of giant ships by carrying weapons and threatening the ship’s crew. Following the ship takeover, they blackmail ship owners and demand ransom in return for the ship and its valuable cargo.
The Israel National Coal Company sometimes alters ship routes for fear of pirate attacks.
In order to avoid endangering the crew and the precious coal cargos on their way to Israel, the Israeli National Coal company often extends ship routes, thus avoiding the Bab El Mandeb pass (Eden Strait) and the Suez Canal. This area is considered to be a prime target for attacks by pirates from Somalia. Although the extension of the journey increases its cost, the company also considers the high toll charged for passing through the Suez Canal and the risk of endangering the cargo and crew.